Buddhism

Religions, Cults & Worldviews: Valuable Answers for Valid Questions.

Quick Facts about the Buddhist Religion

“All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, and the sheep did not listen to them. I (Jesus) am the door, no one comes to the Father but by Me” – Jesus, John 10:8,9

Buddhism sprang from Hinduism but denies the authority of the Vedas. Because of the continual change and sects and factions, it can no longer be called a religion but rather, like Hinduism, a family of religions. The following graphic contains fast facts on Buddhism.

Adherents Of Buddhism
Approximately 375 million
Buddhism Founded
560 B.C.
Origin of Buddhism
Siddhartha Guatama (The Buddha) was a discontented Hindu born about 583 B.C. in Northeastern India to a wealthy ruler. His father sought to make him a prince and surrounded him with comforts and nice things and kept difficult and bad things far from him. He had three transforming events which led to his leaving Hinduism and founding a school of disciples/followers himself.
Buddhism Philosophy of Religion
Buddhism is essentially atheist or "nontheist" in that Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) deemed belief in a deity of any kind to be "non-essential" and that the chief goal to mankind is to end one's self of suffering. According to the Buddhist Catechism by H.S. Olcott: The Universe was evolved, not created; it functions according to law, not by the power of any God. The Buddhist is monistic (denies the existence of personal Creator).
Buddhism and the Problem of Evil:
Evil exists due to ignorance and this ignorance fosters the belief that a rebirth is necessary (Buddha's answer to Hinduism which he rejected). This ignorance can be dispelled and sorrow removed by observing the following "Four Jewels Of Buddhism"
  1. Truth of pain – Dukkha In the five components of existence (birth, old age, sickness, death, emotion (sorrow etc.), are painful.
  2. Cause of pain - Cravings: the cause of rebirth, combined with pleasure and lust – for passion, existence, non-existence etc.
  3. Cessation of Pain – no craving, abandonment, non-attachment, forsaking.
  4. Path to Cessation of Pain – The “Noble Eight-fold Path”
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Founder of Buddhism

Siddhartha Guatama: He was discontented Hindu born about 583 B.C. in Northeastern India to a wealthy ruler. He experienced three transforming events:

Event #1: Four Passing Sights

On a journey to see the world Siddhartha saw four troubling sights:

                  1. A decrepit old man

                  2. A sick man

                  3. A corpse on its way to cremation

                  4. A monk begging food

Event #2: The Great Renunciation

Siddhartha reasoned that the only happy one of the four passing sights was the monk begging for food and thereafter Siddhartha renounced his wealth and position to become an ascetic monk. He was miserable while supposedly living on a grain of rice per day so he renounced this monk's lifestyle as well.

Event #3: The Englightenment

Siddhartha continued on his journey for spiritual truth and one day while he sat under a fig tree, deep in meditation, he achieved what he called, nirvana. Which as a Hindu, is the supposed "highest god-consciousness" possible. Guatama achieved this so-called enlightenment and was renamed “The Buddha” (enlightened one) and after this, the fig tree was called the Bodhi or Bo Tree (tree of wisdom).

Main Sects of Buddhism

Sect from Latin 'secta' meaning cut or separate path of discipline, Buddhist sects are Theravada, Mahayana, Lamaism and Zen Buddhists. It is important to understand these sects prior to learning about the basics of Buddhism as each sect will have a variation on these fundamentals.

Theravada

This is an early Buddhism sect which is nearly extinct in India but prevalent in Sri Lanka and some parts of southeast Asia.

  1. Key virtue is wisdom
  2. Religion is a full-time job (mostly for monks)
  3. Eschews ritual prayer is meditation and vice versa.
  4. This sect believes there is no God, only Nirvana. Buddha is a saint.

  5. The Theravada sect places an emphasis on man as an individual and on his own in the universe.

Mahayana

This is a later Buddhist sect which was prevalent in China & Japan (and parts of Southeast Asia). China’s communist revolution would find a readily-compatible religious belief system in Buddhism.

  1. Key virtue for the Mahayana Buddhist is karuna (compassion)
  2. Religion is relevant to everyday life (for all)
  3. Esteems ritual
  4. Prayer is even petitionary
  5. This sect believes that Buddha is a savior (in some extreme Mahayana groups, he is god)

  6. The Mahayana sect places an emphasis on man’s involvement with others to help them achieve enlightenment because mankind is not alone in the universe.

Lamaism (Tibetan)

Lamaist Buddhism began in the 7th century AD. It primarily combines Mahayana Buddhism and Tibetan Animism (Occultism).

  1. Lamas are priests
  2. The chief priest is the Dalai Lama who is worshipped as the reincarnation of the Buddha (Bodhisattva Chenresi)
  3. This sect believes that Buddha is a savior & “a god” as well as his incarnation.
    1. The Dalai Lama who claims to be only a reflection of one’s self which is a reflection of divinity.

Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism which was derived from Bodhidharma, a wandering Buddhist master living in India 600 B.C

Bodhidharma claimed that the basic tenets of Buddhism are not derived from the scriptures but rather transmitted from mind to mind and need no explanation in words.

  1. Zen has no sacred scriptures for use in teachings but accept any writings Buddhist or not.
  2. Bodhidharma claims (as many Hindu gurus claim) “Look within, you are the Buddha.”
  3. Most famous recent work: Zen Buddhism and the art of motorcycle maintenance introduced Zen Buddhism to a whole new generation of westerners in the eighties and nineties.

Authoritatitve Writings of Buddhism

There are varying books of authoritative value across the sects of Buddhism:

The three main sects of Buddhism have their own approach to authoritative sacred writings and can be broken down by the following groupings:

  1. Theravada
  2. Mahayana
  3. Dhammadada

Theravada: Tripitaka “The Three Baskets”

This set of writings is respected by the Theravada Buddhists. It sometimes is called the Pali canon is 11 times the size of the Bible. It consists of:

            1. Vinaya Pitaka – discipline basket. contains rules forr the higher class
            2. Sutta Pitaka – teaching basket. contains discourses of the Buddha
            3. Abidhamma Pitaka – metaphysical basket. contains Buddhist theology

Mahayana: Pali Canon

These scriptures were originally written in Sanskrit and paralleled the Pali canon but have since been translated and added to by the Chinese, Nepalese, and Tibetan people.

            1. The Chinese canon alone is nearly 5000 volumes.

            2. Nearly any charismatic Mahayana leader’s teachings tend to be fully accepted by his followers as ‘scripture’ making it nearly impossible to learn (much less follow) the voluminous and contradictory writings of the Mahayana Buddhist.

Dhammapada: Sayings of the Buddha

He from whom the delights of the senses fall away as water from the petal of the lotus or a mustard seed from the point of a needle – him do I call Brahmana. (priests and/or scholars of the highest Indian caste)

He who in this world has shaken off the two chains; the chain of Good and the chain of Evil; who is pure and exempt from suffering and passion – him I call Brahmana

He who has rejected that which causes pleasure and that which causes suffering, he who is impassive, liberated from all germs, the hero who has raised himself above all worlds – him do I call a Brahmana

Buddhist Religious Practices

The Eight-Fold Path or "Middle Path"

All Buddhists adhere to the Middle Path – another name for the 8-fold path to avoid the two extremes:

            1. Right view
            2. Right intention
            3. Right speech
            4. Right action
            5. Right livelihood
            6. Right effort
            7. Right mindfulness
            8. Right concentration

“That, conjoined with passion & luxury which is low, vulgar, common, ignoble and useless.” – Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) c.f. Catholicism

“That, conjoined with self-torture which is painful, ignoble, & useless”

Five Precepts:

The obstacles to the attainment of good karma can be overcome by observing the following:

            1. Kill no living thing

            2. Do not steal

            3. Do not commit adultery

            4. Tell no lies

            5. Do not drink intoxicants or take drugs

Buddhist View of the Afterlife

The afterlife is, like Hinduism, a series of life after life after life etc until Nirvana is achieved. All sects of Buddhists believe in this emancipation from the reincarnation cycle of Hindusm via their own self effort.

A Final Analysis of the Buddhist idea of Afterlife

Like Hinduism, the Buddhist view of the after life was created to answer the question "where do we go when we die?" but unfortunately, repeated death and rebirth by the rules of karma only perpetuates "ignorance" which is needed by someone else to bring the Buddhist to "wisdom" or "enlightenment".

  1. Because of this perpetuation, this view of the afterlife doesn't really work to resolve the issue but rather keeps the cycle going and going.
  2. This bondage of self-effort is contrary to what the God of Creation reveals of Himself in the Bible where He clearly communicates that Christ died once for all sinners
  3. The God of Christianity carries out all the effort whereas in Buddhism the burden of the effort to eliminate suffering is on the Buddhist.

References

          1. Johnstone, Patrick Operation World 2001
          2. Mcdowell, Josh & Don Stewart Handbook of Today’s Religions 1983
          3. Geisler, Norman Christian Apologetics 1983
          4. Smith, Huston The Religions of Man 1958 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
          5. Offner, Clark B. The World’s Religions 1976 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
          6. Noss, John B. Man’s Religions 1969 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
          7. Hume, Robert E. The World’s Living Religions 1959 as reprinted in Handbook of Today’s Religions
          8. Wordsworth, Encyclopedia of World Religions 1999
          9. Smith, Huston Great Religions of the World, National Geographic Society 1971
          10. www.adherents.com: created circa January 2000. Last modified 28 August 2005.