Buddhism is a commonly practiced religion, in fact, it's the fourth largest religion in the world following Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. It's the religion of the Dalai Lama (though he's Tibetan Buddhist and I am going to a different sect than his this Sunday), a number of celebrities, and possibly many people you know. Yet for how common and exposed the religion is, it's not widely understood.
If you ask most Americans about Buddhism, a few images come to mind, Zen, monks in burgundy or saffron robes, statues of a serene man in lotus position or a jolly fat man laughing. They may know of the Dalai Lama or that it's a path to enlightenment, but that's often it.
Here's a quick list of some key points about Buddhism:
- Buddhism was founded by a man named Siddhartha Gautama in India in the fifth to sixth century B.C.E. (B.C.). Siddhartha was a noble man who upon seeing the suffering outside the palace decided he wanted to find a way to end suffering. He tried living an extreme lifestyle as a monk in the Hindu monasteries and seeking it elsewhere. But it was his discovery of the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path which led him to enlightenment. He became the Buddha after that, which means 'the Enlightened One."
- The Four Noble Truths are as follows:
- The truth that suffering exists.
- The truth that suffering has a cause, it is craving and attachment.
- The truth that suffering can end.
- The truth that there is a path out of suffering, the Eightfold Path.
- Right view - perceiving the reality of ourselves and how we relate to the world around us.
- Right intention - that your intention should be directed to towards enlightenment.
- Right speech - taking care that your words do not harm either yourself or others.
- Right action - taking care that your actions do not harm either yourself or others.
- Right livelihood - taking care your life and life's work cultivate wholesomeness and good.
- Right effort - that your passions should be directed towards enlightenment and the betterment of our world.
- Right mindedness - your mind should be disciplined to look past delusion and attachment.
- Right concentration - that you discipline yourself to perceive reality as it is.
The sect of Buddhism I will be visiting this Sunday is called Jodo Shinshu. They are a branch of what is called Pure Land Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism is a form of Buddhism with some unique traits that include:
- Devotion to the Amida Buddha (Amitabha) who is the Buddha of Infinite Light. The Amida Buddha is one of many buddhas. In many sects of Buddhism there are many buddhas as the term simply means one who is enlightened. These buddhas can be anything from examples to live your life by to something akin to gods or saints to whom prayers can be offered.
- Belief that the ability of humanity to follow the teachings of Buddha and draw closer to enlightenment deteriorates through the generations. Thus they turn to the Amida Buddha to deliver them.
- If you trust in the Amida Buddha, he will deliver you to the Pure Land. The Pure Land is a haven where one may more easily achieve enlightenment (viewed metaphorically though I do believe there's a literal dimension to this too among some believers.)
I'm quite excited to see this service. They're celebrating Nirvana Day this Sunday which celebrates the death of Buddha and his complete entering into Nirvana. I expect lots of chanting and rich symbolism. I'm also excited to see pets get blessed as their website's calendar says they will be doing.
Until next time, peace be with you.