Buddhism is one of the prominent world religions. It is mainly practiced in South Asia. It is ranged the fourth largest world religion after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism (Robinson). According to the estimates, the number of Buddhist followers in the world is between 350 and 1500 million. Though it has relatively a large number of followers, there have been questions about whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy. Whether or not Buddhism is a religion, it is dependant on how religion is defined. Buddhism religion has always being questioned whether it practices the right thing or not (Prince.org). In this paper, we will be able to discuss on the history of Buddhism, religious concepts, belief and practices relating to Buddhism.
History of Buddhism
The history of Buddhism religion can be traced back in the life of Buddha in the 16th century BCE and has continued up to now. It comprises of many teachings and practices. The birth of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama begins the history of Buddhism religion. Buddha left home when he was at the age of 29 to look for enlightenment after a life of self denial, discipline and meditation he was able to ease his pain and suffering. He then took the responsibility of going around the world and teaching people on how to achieve enlightenment (Boeree). Due to his teachings, Buddhism was able to spread all through the world which led to establishment of a religion.
After the death of Buddha, five monks met in their first council where they debated on the teachings of Buddha and came up with the final version (Boeree). However, this was not written down and this can be evidenced by the fact that the teachings of Buddhism remained as an oral tradition for more than 200 years (Boeree). As time went by, the unity which was initially among Buddhism began to subsidize leading to different traditions in Buddhism religion
Beliefs of Buddhism
Buddhism can be termed as a great religion which is divided in to various traditions. However, all these traditions have been found to share almost the same beliefs. The first belief of Buddhism is reincarnation in this belief, it is explained that once people die, they usually reborn again (Robinson). They believe that people go through many cycles of birth, living, death and rebirth. Especially for those practicing Buddhism, they are able to differentiate between rebirth and reincarnation. When they consider reincarnation, the individuals are likely to recur repeatedly. However, for rebirth, it is not a must that the person returns to the earth as the same entity. In this believe, they explain it using the example of a leaf. This is where a leaf withers, and it is replaced by another one which is the same but not identical (Robinson). They belief that if a person undergoes many of these cycles and releases their attachment to desire and self, he/she are likely to attain Nirvana which is a state of liberation and freedom from any kind of suffering.
They belief that death is part of life and takes place always as far as one is existing. Therefore individuals should be aware of this and accept this changing process. They also believe that time does not move from beginning to end in a straight line but moves in a cycle and has no beginning or end and individuals and other things just exist (Robinson). They believe that the universe always existed and will always exist. Although the universe will always exist, it will undergo cycles of destruction and creation over and over. In this case, they believe that any child who is born is not a new being but a soul which previously existed.
They belief that the state of mind of an individual during their time of death is very crucial as it determines where the rebirth of that particular person will take place (Robinson). During the time of death, the dying person is surrounded by family, friends, and monks who recite scriptures which enable the person to meditate as they die. Their dead are buried through cremation after three days. During these days there is a lot scripture reading. After death, individuals can be reborn in either of the six realms including; heavens, asuras or titans, humans, animals, preta or hungry gods, or the hell realms (Robinson).
They have their most crucial symbol which is Samsara also known as the wheel of life. This is the determinant of nature of the life one lives. Their lord of time is called Mahakala holds Samsara and symbolizes life and death (Robinson). At the center of the wheel, there are three cardinal sins where rooster represents passion, pig represents stupidity and snake represents hatred. Those with bad karma are at the right side while those with good karma are at the left.
Trainings or Practices of Buddhism
First is Sila which comprises of virtue, good conduct, and morality which is grounded in to principles of equality and reciprocity. Second is Samadhi which consists of concentration, meditation, and mental development (Robinson). They belief that mental development is very crucial as it helps in attaining personal freedom and maintaining good conduct. Third is Prajna comprising of discernment, insight, wisdom and enlightenment (Robinson). Wisdom is very important among those who practice Buddhism and they believe that it can only be attained in purity and calmness.
The Noble Truths
The noble truths discussed by Buddhism major so much on human suffering. The first is Dukkha which states that suffering happens to everyone is caused by many thinks like pin, sickness among others (Robinson). Second is Samudaya which puts forward that suffering has its own causes and can occur in many forms like desire for something, or fear. Fourth is Nirodha which explains that there is no end to suffering. For suffering to end, the person must have attained Nirvana (Robinson). Fourth is Magga which explains that for one to put to an end any kind of suffering, they must act in accordance to Eightfold Path.
The Five Percepts
These are like the Ten Commandments applied in Christianity but they are in form of recommendation and therefore individuals are should use their intelligence in order to decide how to act. The five include; do not kill, do not steal, do not lie, do not misuse sex, and do not consume either alcohol or any other drug (Robinson). In addition to these five, they are others who do not want to lead a family life. They should not take untimely meals, dance, sing, music, use of garlands, perfumes, high seats and accept gold or silver.
The Eightfold Path
• Panna comprising of discernment and wisdom (Robinson)
1. Samma ditthi where individuals are required to fully understand the four noble truths.
2. Samma sankappa which requires individuals think right which helps them to lead a good life.
• Sila consisting of virtue and mortality (Robinson)
3. Samma vaca where individuals should engage in good speech
4. Samma kammanta which requires individuals to conduct themselves well with the help of five concepts
5. Samma ajiva where individuals are supposed to earn their livelihood without harming others.
• Samadhi which comprises of concentration and medication (Robinson)
6. Samma vayama where followers are supposed to have good thoughts
7. Samma sati to ensure that individuals are aware of themselves.
8. Samma Samadhi which requires individuals to meditate and concentrate in order to attain consciousness.
Traditions of Buddhism
Theravada Buddhism which is also known as Southern Buddhism which was mainly by missionaries from India. It was first well practiced in Sri Lanka and then spread to other areas (Robinson). It has concepts like Dana, Sila, karma, cosmos, paritta, worship, festivals and pilgrimages. Mahayana Buddhism also called Northern Buddhism which is dominant in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Vajrayana Buddhism also called Tantric Buddhism which is mostly practiced in parts of China, Mongolia, Russia and Tibet (Robinson). This tradition is criticized as being degenerated. They put a lot of emphasis on ceremonies and rituals.
Boeree, George. The History of Buddhism. 1999. 29 June 2011 <http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/buddhahist.html>.
Prince.org. Buddhism: The Concept of No-Self. 2011. 29 June 2011 <http://prince.org/msg/105/336803?&pg=1>.
Robinson, A. Buddhism : A Brief Discussion of Buddhist Traditions: East and West. 2008. 29 June 2011 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/buddhism2.htm>.
Robinson, A. Buddhism’s Core beliefs. 2009. 29 June 2011 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/buddhism1.htm>.
Robinson, A. Religions of the World. 2011. 29 June 2011 <http://www.religioustolerance.org/buddhism.htm>.