Buddhism, it is a religion that sprouted nearly over-night and is based on one man. This man was re-named: Buddha. Buddha was no different from any other man; except for he was “awake”. Based on their beliefs and practices, Buddhism is a religion for people who do not need the comfort of a solid answer to the question, “what happens after we are dead?”, because Buddhists are in heaven on Earth.
Buddha changed the concept of religion by destroying the six historical aspects of a successful religion. The two aspects Buddha destroyed that particularly caught my attention, where the destruction of the sixth aspect, mystery, and the fifth, the sovereignty and grace of God.
Buddha called the aspect of mystery and mysticism in religion, “a short cut to an easy answer”. Buddhism is pragmatic and seeks to solve problems in the present. From what I have learned in my religion class, it seems that mystery can lead to confusion in the followers of a religion. Within Buddhism, how to live is clearly executed through the Four Noble Truths, the Eight Fold Path, and the concept of Nirvana.
When Buddha destroyed the fifth aspect, the sovereignty and grace of God, it became very clear to me, that Buddhism is very different. Buddha was scientific in finding the cause and effect of existence. Buddha destroyed the sovereignty and grace of God by “preaching religion of intense self effort and freedom”, and in regards to Hinduism, he called the notion, “perverted by fatalism”. Buddha pressed emphasis on the now. He wanted his followers to live here now, and not to worry about anything else. The followers of Buddha have no need to dwell on the concept of heaven, or their next reincarnation. Their focus is on calming the senses, and getting to the point where daily suffering rolls off of them like leaves in a rainstorm.
What the Buddha taught is strange to categorize as a religion, he taught us The Four Noble Truths, which are truly un-deniable facts of life. Life is suffering; we all suffer in one way or another. We all have desires that are selfish, and could cause us pain. Desires themselves are painful. But there is hope to escape this, and the cure is not allegiance to God.
The cure is the Eight Fold Path, and there is no better way to wording for it than that. The Eight Fold path is the only path, and it leads to Nirvana. To follow the path you must; form good habits, acquire the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, know what you want, and follow the path with vitality and ardor. To follow the path, you must also use your speech for charity and intellect, live in the direction of spiritual progress, focus your will, conquer your mind, and conduct the right “absorption”.
With the Eight Fold Path, Buddha gives an in-depth manual, if you will, for getting through life’s obstacles. Without any deities, Gods, or concept of one all-knowing God, Buddhism provides not only a much focused religion, but a deeply spiritual code of ethics. Seeing as they do not believe in a permanent soul, and stress the impermanence of life, this religion is one that pre-pares you for life, in the consideration that other religions are pre-paring you for death.
And Buddhists go even deeper into turning this life into Nirvana when they turn to Zen Buddhism. I found this incredibly interesting because Zen is such an extreme version of Buddhism. Becoming Zen is more of an experience rather than a way of life. Nirvana, meaning ‘extinction’, is the goal in Buddhism. Nirvana is essentially achieving a level of detachment from life’s suffering. It is a step into something much larger, this larger thing being “satori”, or enlightenment. In Zen Buddhism, satori is the goal.
In classic Buddhist fashion, those following Zen follow a path and what they acquire from this journey is used to flourish their present. Zen uses satori to bring endless joy and the feeling of the infinite into the now. The three fold path in Zen, are the final steps to a life of Heaven on Earth. Although Buddhists would never word it that way, the concept is still one in the same.
At first I did not see Buddhism as a religion. There is not a God or gods to worship. There is not a book you need to read or to follow. There are not any Armageddon prophecies, or deities or anything of the sort. Then I realized and understood that Buddhism is an actual manual for spiritual freedom. Buddhism is at a glance, a moral code. But in practice or study, it is easy to see that Buddhism is highly scientific. Buddhism opens the doors to the castle without making you memorize a story or live your life in confession. Buddhism breeds peace out of chaos with a simple moral system (or path) that breaks the chains of suffering in our daily lives.
It must be said that Buddhism is highly esoteric to its true followers. Yet even just a faint understanding of their philosophy is perpetually interesting and vivid. For a comparatively quiet religion, Buddhism speaks volumes of wisdom. Even the shortest phrase from a Zen master could be studied for an extensive period of time. The teachings of Buddhism are so esoteric because it seems the only way to truly know them, is to become them.