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The Buddha, His Dharma, and The Contemporary World
Buddhism is a religion that focuses on various traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices based on Siddharta Gautama’s teachings or the “Buddha.” The founder of Buddhism, Gautama, lived a life that was filled with turmoil and internal struggle. He escaped a life of privilege and wealth so that he could find the solution to existential suffering. In essence, Gautama’s experiences had a profound influence on the nature of Buddhist beliefs and practices. The common theme that emerges from the life of Gautama is that suffering exists in the world while suffering has an origin and cessation.
Gautama encouraged practice, mediation, and observation to counter negative thoughts and emotions. He advocated achieving unity of mind and body to overcome wickedness and temptation. Moreover, he believed in the concept of questioning beliefs and practicing them before accepting them.
This paper aims to critically explore the extent to which Gautama’s experiences influenced the teachings, beliefs, and values of Buddhism. It will also identify that a Buddhist identity can be constructed despite multiple schools and sects. The paper will use several valid references to arrive at robust conclusions.
Experiences of Siddharta Gautama on Buddhist Beliefs and Practices
Gautama Buddha’s primary influence has been to promote good and abstain from evil while striving to purify the heart. Love, kindness, humanity, patience, wisdom, and compassion are the core traits of Buddhism. However, the primary concept has been ahimsa’s harmlessness, which is strongly correlated with compassion. The compassionate desire to prevent harm to anything in the world is the central tenet of Buddhism (Albahari, 2006).
Gautama was given the title “Buddha,” which refers to being in a state of awakening. Buddhism asserts that many individuals were assigned this title. Specifically, it relates to the individual who has identified the path towards nirvana and strives to end suffering. Moreover, the Buddha is considered any individual who disseminates the knowledge about ending suffering in the world (Gethin, 1998).
Traditional accounts of Gautama assert that he was born in a privileged position with affluence and power. He suffered from an internal crisis regarding the nature of existential suffering. Subsequently, Gautama left his life and family to pursue the path of enlightenment and became a student of many ascetics (Gethin, 1998).
However, there was an internal schism inside him as the ascetics’ teachings proved unsatisfactory to satisfy his spiritual yearning. The use of insight and meditational practice helped him achieve a state of enlightenment that combated all forms of suffering. The remaining part of Buddha’s life was concerned with spreading these teachings to different parts of the world. Gautama’s experiences were a reaction to the state of dissatisfaction in North India concerning traditional religious practices (Ronkin, 2005).
The ritualism propagated by the Brahmins of Hinduism was formalistic and devoid of any spiritual meaning for Gautama. Research states that such dissatisfaction appears in Gautama and Hindu traditions like Upanishads, which assert that rebirth is influenced by karma’s causal laws (Ronkin, 2005).
In other words, good actions will lead to pleasure, while evil actions will cause negative implications for the individual. There was a struggle to explain how the endless cycle of rebirth and suffering could be ended in the Hindu traditions. Gautama asserted that there was no concept of “I” or “mine,” with non-self (anatman) being essential for his followers. The idea of anatman is powerful because it involves the presence of a self that is transcendent.
Consequently, Gautama’s primary quest to find a solution to existential suffering was that through good actions and beliefs, people would be liberated from the endless cycle of rebirth (Ronkin, 2005). Gautama’s earlier experiences revolved around the notion of despair and disillusionment. His worries about temptation and wickedness meant that he was in a constant state of striving to find the answer to the question of existential suffering (Gombrich, 1996).
He seeks to find a way to feel rejuvenated and regenerated. This means that it is only by following the right path that the spiritual struggle can be won. In essence, Buddha teaches that it is through hard work and struggle that success can be attained within a short period. Buddha’s concept was that suffering existed while it also had an origin, and it could be ended. There was a path towards the cessation of suffering, according to Buddha. The causes of suffering are traditionally outlined in Buddhism to be around twelve (Gowans, 2003).
However, some of these links have been identified as being a later compilation. Nevertheless, Buddha analyzed suffering by stating that it resulted from the psychophysical elements that ignore the basic characteristics of sentient existence, such as suffering and non-self. The interaction of the individual with the environment means that they will form attachments in desire and aversion.
Consequently, ignorance is strengthened in the context of sentient existence. The result is rebirth and the endless cycle of old age, disease, and death (Harvey, 1995). Gautama’s life experiences were the key to escaping this vicious cycle by realizing the truth about sentient existence. This realization was considered a difficult task as desire and ignorance have become deeply entrenched in individuals’ minds.
Gautama found the path towards enlightenment through various methods that would help replace such habits with those that allowed individuals to have a broad view of the external environment. Meditation training is also encouraged by Gautama as it helps the individual to enhance their observation skills (Harvey, 1995).
Philosophical rationality is an essence of Buddhism, transmitted from Gautama, who insisted that individuals should question every belief and practice on themselves. He was against the concept of blind faith as questioning and practice are parts of Buddhist ideas. Gautama’s experiences taught him that nothing is lost in the universe. This means that everything is transformed into something else (Gowans, 2003).
In essence, this is a significant influence on Buddhism’s teachings as it means that animals or living things should not be killed or harmed by fellow human beings. Gautama’s influence also enabled Buddhism to focus on the concept that everything changes, whether animals, humans, plants, ideas, or anything. This is an important concept that means Gautama’s endeavors to find wisdom and enlightenment constantly changed as he experienced different things and found the path towards enlightenment (Gowans, 2003).
Gautama considered himself to be a redeemed and regenerated person who achieved the concept of enlightenment. He sought to accept the new nature, which was all about striving to escape suffering by adhering to the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddhist identity is about the inner strength of the followers of Buddhism.
The concept of a Buddhist identity can be found in the various schools of thought prevalent in Buddhism, such as the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. A central theme of all schools of Buddhism is the belief about Gautama as being the founder of the religion (Harvey, 2012).
Moreover, this means that Gautama is venerated as a compassionate, intelligent, tolerant, and wise leader who helped outline the path towards living a life filled with esteem, grace, and tolerance. Another common element in the schools and sects of Buddhism is the goal of achieving enlightenment and spirituality. The spiritual struggle is filled with obstacles, but it is eventually, through faith and resilience, that an individual can overcome them. A person’s spiritual struggle will have overwhelmed him if they do not adequately practice restraint and patience (Murti, 2013).
The only way forward is to overcome the despair and agony that has a crushing impact on the soul. The message is clear that stubborn habits can be fought through an efficient and effective strategy. Additionally, individuals can hope to achieve understanding and love by recognizing that actions can be influenced by anger and self-centeredness.
Understanding the intentions of humans is essential in Buddhism because they can either be positive or negative. It is essential to realize the negative intentions that the individual will overcome problems efficiently (Bapat, 2016). This deliverance is a special gift because it represents the triumph against existential suffering. It also increases the faith of the individuals.
With the right intentions and actions, individuals can improve their lives and create a better society. The Theravada and Mahayana traditions recognize the Middle way, dependent origination, Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, and the Three marks of existence because they are concerned with properly organizing thoughts, developing observational abilities, and developing insight into the nature of humanity (Bapat, 2016).
Thus, a Buddhist identity emerges where practical steps towards training and meditation can help individuals achieve liberation and enlightenment. In essence, the Buddhist identity teaches that suffering power cannot be overcome without transforming oneself from narrow-minded thoughts and instincts. Individuals inevitably can cultivate a life of attention, patience, and preservation, leading to putting in the right efforts (Queen, 2012).
The body is considered to be a burden on the soul. The state of anxiety that exists has an impact on the soul. The sentence does not refer to being in a state of anxiety due to the burdens and calamities of life but due to the effect of sin and corruption. The evil morals and temptations are something that causes men to become liable to death. These evil actions and morals are something that causes humans to become filthy and stinking dead bodies. Consequently, the evil thoughts and actions seek to capture the mind and heart, which creates dissatisfaction in the individuals’ minds (Lopez, 2009).
This does not mean that the Buddhists should be in despair and ignorance. Still, they should express the soul’s ultimate desires: cultivating the right thoughts, observing through a broad perspective, and developing the ability to refrain from evil and promote good actions. This is a central theme of the different schools of Buddhism that helps to create a Buddhist identity. The current freedom is simply the first step in the road where more incredible things will come. Hence the deliverance is incomplete and partial according to Buddhism (Lopez, 2009).
Buddhists are to face the struggle against evil temptations and actions. It is a continuous journey for individuals as they strive to attain spirituality and deliverance. The Buddhist identity asserts the development of the presence of the mind to develop awareness about physical processes and cognitive thoughts. The ability to remain focused is important because concentration helps the individual contemplate the reality of existence and avoid evil temptations and actions (Queen, 2012).
The common Buddhist identity provides an outline for the individuals to live a life filled with truth and chastity. The mind represents the inner man who has been reinvigorated and renewed through patience and forbearance. The flesh is something that is associated with the wicked actions that a human being does. Nature is imprinted in the mind, helping to regenerate and rejuvenate humans like newborns (Queen, 2012).
The differences in Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism are reflected in some core concepts and practices. Theravada is considered to be rationalist and historical. It does not have many rituals and rites because it emphasizes asceticism while withdrawing from worldly affairs. It helps the individual focus on the meaning and purpose of life (Queen, 2012).
In contrast, Mahayana focuses on rituals and mysticism while considering Buddhists to live in the external world. This is an essential theme in Mahayana because living in the world is not considered a source of temptation because individuals can live completely moral and righteous lives while participating in society’s affairs.
In essence, Buddha teaches that success can be attained through hard work and struggle within a short period. Buddha’s concept was that suffering existed while it also had an origin, and it could be ended. There was a path towards the cessation of suffering, according to Buddha. The causes of suffering are traditionally outlined in Buddhism to be around twelve.
However, some of these links have been identified as being a later compilation. Nevertheless, Buddha analyzed suffering by stating that it resulted from the psychophysical elements that ignore the essential characteristics of sentient existence, such as suffering and non-self.
Albahari, Miri, 2006. Analytical Buddhism, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Bapat, P.V., 2016. 2500 years of Buddhism. Publications Division Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
Gethin, Rupert, 1998. The Foundations of Buddhism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gombrich, Richard F., 1996. How Buddhism Began, London: Athlone.
Gowans, Christopher, 2003. Philosophy of the Buddha, London: Routledge.
Harvey, P., 2012. An introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, history, and practices. Cambridge University Press.
Harvey, Peter, 1995. The Selfless Mind, Richmond, UK: Curzon.
Lopez Jr, D.S. ed., 2009. Critical Terms for the study of Buddhism. University of Chicago Press.
Murti, T.R.V., 2013. The central philosophy of Buddhism: A study of the Madhyamika system. Routledge.
Queen, C.S. ed., 2012. Engaged Buddhism in the west. Simon and Schuster.
Ronkin, Noa, 2005. Early Buddhist Metaphysics, London: Routledge