Buddhism was brought to light about 500 BC by Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism has not been described as a religion as such but rather as philosophy. The story of Siddhartha Gautama and how he brought Buddhism to limelight is quite moving.
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In this essay the thoughts of Siddhartha Gautama are explained and how the society reacted to his arguments. Generally this essay will briefly describe the achievements of Siddharta Gautama in his quest to attain enlightenment and how that impacted the society of his time and to some extent the current society.
The Life of Buddha
It is reported that Buddha was born in 563 B.C.E. It is also reported that Buddha was born with an ability to walk and talk; he walked about and cried, “I am supreme in the world. This is my last birth: henceforth there shall be no more birth for me!” (Warren 105). His father who was a king was informed that Siddhartha would end up being a monk but if he could be prevented then he could make a powerful king. His father determined to make Siddhartha a great king tried all means to prevent him from becoming a monk.
The king ensured that Siddhartha was contained within the palace walls far from the view of suffering in the society which could have moved his heart into being a monk. After marrying at the age of 19 and having a son, he wished to leave the palace and tour the area outside it. It is from this tour that he saw people suffering. It is reported that what he encountered on this tour changed his mind into wanting to be a monk (Warren 106).
The Great Renunciation
Siddhartha decided to change his life from the princely privileges to being a monk. After seeing the kind of suffering that people went through a strong desire grew within him to find a solution for human suffering. He did not believe the answer was in the palace and therefore at the age of 29 he started a journey to seek a way out of human suffering. He is said to have fasted for six years trying to understand the why suffering existed. It is recorded that he deprived his body so much that he could have easily died;
He held his breath until his head roared, ate little food-and what he did eat was sickening-endured painful body positions for lengthy periods, became entrusted with filth, and lost weight until his bones protruded and he could feel his bones protruded and he could feel his spine by pressing on his abdomen. (Warren 107)
It is said that he underwent such extreme measures that at one moment he almost died had Sujata not have come by and given him some food. It is said that the food he was given helped him to “regain the strength necessary to return to life” (Warren 107). Having risked death and not attained enlightenment Siddhartha decided to pick a different approach towards enlightenment.
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Moving away from the path of rigid asceticism, he engaged in meditation that had less bodily harm and succeeded in attaining enlightenment to become Buddha. Siddhartha’s experience of being enlightened has been described as thus:
His mind cleansed and concentrated, Siddhartha remembered his former existence-his names, roles in life, and sufferings. Early in the in the night he found knowledge dispelling ignorance.
Concentrating his powerful vision on the order of beings coming into existence and passing away, he interpreted the process in terms of their karma. In a third exploration, during the third watch, he concentrated on destruction of binding influence of desire that caused suffering. He realized that the destroying desire would eliminate suffering, leaving him free, awake, and enlightened. (Warren 107)
It is worth noting that according to Buddha the escape from suffering comes when one destroys desire.
Buddha carried out his ministry for forty five years moving from one region to another teaching Buddhism. Buddha’s ministry was based on some basic principles: “the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path, refuge in three jewels, the five precepts and the three marks of conditioned existence” (Buddhism 1).
The Four Noble Truths
These have been described has central to the philosophy of Buddhism. The first in this list is suffering. The argument is that all living things must undergo some form of suffering. The second truth points out selfish desires as the cause of suffering. The third truth describes a state that is above all the suffering with the forth truth showing a way out of such suffering (Boozer 247).
These truths have been described to be quite applicable even in the present context of life. The truth that life is suffering is applicable in present day life. It is literary impossible for a person to literary live a life which is full of happiness. Somehow in somebody’s life there must be some experiences of suffering either physically, psychologically or in any other way. The second truth attaches the origin of suffering in attachment that mankind forms with things around him/her.
People form attachment with things around them and forget to understand that these things are not permanent and as such when these things depart they end up causing suffering. The Nirodha which is the forth truth argues that suffering can be eliminated through eliminating passion. The third truth advocates for freedom from all “worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas” (Buddha 1).
The forth truth also called the Eightfold path advocates for attainment of self control. It is a strike of balance between “the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence and excessive self-mortification” (Buddha 1). There are eight factors that form the forth truth: “right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration” (Buddha 1).
Having the right view helps to make the right decisions. Having the right intention helps one to approach issues from an ethical point of view. Right speech helps to reduce enmity and sustain peace; right speech involves abstaining from all kinds of speech that can cause misunderstanding. All the other rights are meant to have a reducing effect on suffering by ensuring that people coexist in a friendly manner.
The Five Precepts
These are meant to help those dedicated to Buddhism avoid conducting themselves in immoral manners. The first precept restrains people from taking lives of living things, the second precept is directed at stopping stealing with the third precept meant to control the way people indulge in pleasures such as sexual activities. The forth precept refrains the wrong use of speech and the fifth precept retrains the use of intoxicating food such as alcohol which may lead to a person losing consciousness and violating the first four precepts.
Buddhism and the Society
The teaching of Buddha had a great effect on the society. The number of people who became adherents to this philosophy was huge. Women also joined as adherent and some of them became nun Buddhists (Hesse 20). The Buddhist philosophy teaches mankind how to live happily. No ruler could go against these teaching as they were very basic to ensuring that people lived peacefully in society. This must have been the reason for the philosophy’s spreading so fast. The philosophy of Buddha is very relevant even in today’s society.
If the teachings of Buddha are followed we could not be witnessing the kind of social evils that are present in today’s society. This explains why Buddhism philosophy still has a huge potential of being adopted by the people of the world.
White has explained that Buddhism is growing fast in the western countries and claims that this is so because Buddhism offers “answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies” (1). Buddhism has also been claimed to offer a good understanding of the human mind with prominent psychologists agreeing that the understanding offered is very effective and advanced (White 1).
Buddhism is a philosophy which advocates for mankind living happily by avoiding suffering. The philosophy advocates for people coexisting peacefully by avoiding hurting each other through wrong use of words or actions.
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The philosophy also teaches on forming weak attachment to things around us in order to avoid being hurt when these things are lost as they are not permanent. Buddhism has found a general acceptance among those who have listened and read about its principles as they are morally upright and worth to instil peace in a society.
Boozer, Celina. Heritage of Buddha: the story of Siddhartha Gautama. California: University of California, 1953. Print.
Buddha. Principles of Buddhism. Buddhist Tourism, 2007. Web.
Hesse, Hermann. Siddhartha an Indian Tale. New York: Wildside Press LLC, 2009. Print.
Warren, Matthews. World Religions. New York: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.
White, Brian. A Five Minute Introduction. Buddhist Studies, 1993. Web.