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Buddhism in Today’s World

By Gaurav Manandhar at
buddhism

Buddhism: A Brief History

When Siddhartha Gautama was wandering in search of his answers about the cycle of birth, death, and the wheel of life; at that moment, they were experiencing Sramana movement. The Sramanas were against of Vedic teaching. They believed that the physical body and its desires are an obstacle to gain spiritual development and enlightenment. Siddhartha was also critic to Vedic teaching. At first, he followed austere lifestyle. At some point, he realized that austere lifestyle will only harm his body and his objective will not be accomplished. He then started to take some food again. This behavior led his followers believed him to be an impersonator.

All alone, Siddhartha Gautama meditate under the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya where he understood about the cycle of birth, death, and wheel of life. He was enlightened and then slowly he started to preach his learnings to his followers. At some point, he also included women to be his followers and that point Buddhism was open to all, rich-poor, man-woman, and low caste-high caste. The community would preach on various topics for about 9 months in a year visiting villages, towns, and cities and for 3 months they took a rest.

Buddhism in Today's world

Buddhism has definitely changed its nature in due course. When it was started, it was as a philosophy and later on, it was changed into a religion. Earlier, it was limited to a certain community. But Mauryan Indian Emperor Asoka The Great (304-232 BCE) turned Buddhism into the state religion of India. In the present context, it is assumed that there are about 350 million people (6% of the total people) who follows Buddhism. Buddhism is generally in hype due to its philosophy based on non-violence, insightful learning, and mindfulness.

Buddhism as Philosophy

In reality, Buddhism was originated as a philosophy. It teaches us how to end suffering by cutting out greed, hatred, and ignorance. It shares us - if people do bad things, they will get bad consequences. If people do good things, they will get good consequences. This causal effect relationship is reflected in the endless cycles of life, death, and rebirth. The ultimate goal of Buddhist is to reach the state of enlightenment and liberate oneself from endless reincarnation and suffering.

Beliefs of Buddhism

The three jewels:

  • The Buddha- the enlightened one
  • The Dharma- the way the Buddha taught to live our life
  • The Sangha- the group of monks and other people (community).

The four Nobel truths:

  • The first important teaching of Buddha. They are-
  • Life always involves suffering.
  • Reason for this suffering is an attachment.
  • Solution to the suffering is to stop the desires.
  • Steps to stop the desires are to follow Noble Eightfold Path.

Noble Eightfold Path:

  • Know and understand the four Noble Truths.
  • Give up all worldly things and don't harm others
  • Tell the truth, don't gossip, and don't talk badly about others.
  • Don't commit evil acts, like killing, stealing, or living an unclean life
  • Work for good and oppose evil
  • Do rewarding work
  • Make sure your mind keeps your senses under control
  • Practice meditation as a way of understanding reality.

Five Precepts:

  • I will not hurt a person or animal that is alive
  • I will not take anything if it was not given to me.
  • I will not engage in sexual misconduct
  • I will not lie or say things that hurt people.
  • I will not take intoxicants, like alcohol or drugs, causing heedless.

Buddhism as a religion:

Some of the people may not consider Buddhism as a religion, but reality is that most of the people in the east are following Buddhism as a religion. The arguments for Buddhism being a Religion are:

The Buddha did discuss metaphysical aspects of reality that are typically associated with religion- discussion of the afterlife and various realms of existence.

The Buddha also addressed various questions about a society which is seen as similar to religious questions, for e.g. why are there so many differences between people? Why is the world so unfair? The Buddha gave brief answers to the above questions in the Culakammavibhanga Sutra.

These discussions shares that Buddhism is also followed as a religion, not just as a philosophy.

The Strange thing in Buddhism religion is that there are non-vegetarians as well. They worship Buddha statues placed in the prayer hall, two times a day (morning and evening). It is believed that by placing Antique Buddha statues in the home welcome positive vibes. This suggests that they follow only as a religion, not as a philosophy or a way of life.

Buddhism as a basis for Therapeutic Interventions:

As Buddha mentions in Four Nobel Truth, life always involves suffering. To end suffering or for a solution, one must practice the Nobel Eightfold Path. For Buddhism, Nobel Eightfold Path itself is an intervention for a suffering. Practicing meditation, one of the eightfold path, has been popular as it has proven to be beneficial to both mental and physical well-being. Forgiveness and compassion are also practiced alongside meditation.

Features of Buddhism ethical and philosophical system is embedded with psychological terminology to form Buddhist psychology. Buddhist psychology has two therapeutic goals- healthy and virtuous life; and the ultimate goal of enlightenment.

A psychotherapy has also been established after a dialogue between Tibetan Buddhist Master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Western psychologists and psychiatrists, known as Contemplative psychotherapy.

In this approach, the therapist brings the therapeutic relationship qualities of mindfulness and compassion in order to help clients access their fundamental goodness and natural wisdom.

Ancient Buddhist practice, Mindfulness, is also widely used for therapeutic interventions.