By: Alexandra Guinney and Tamer Begum
With over 360 million followers Buddhism is one of the world’s largest religions. It was founded in Northeastern India in 520 BC by a young prince named Siddharta Guatama. Buddhism is a religion and an applied philosophy. The faith does not endorse the existence of a soul, nor does it endorse that worldly things are permanent or the existence of worldly happiness. It goes by following the middle path which is a balance between every aspect of life.
Buddhism is a guide towards eliminating suffering through the eight-fold path that is guided by the four noble truths and the five main moral codes. The purpose for this essay is to describe the ways in which Buddhists play out their everyday lives, the steps to take towards achieving enlightenment, and ways in which we can apply this belief to our daily life and travels.
Nam Dokmai, a young boy living in Thailand, and practicing the Buddhist lifestyle describes his point of view from what he experiences everyday. In Thailand about 95% are Buddhist “so we see it in life everyday for example we see monks walking around everyday, we have to do chanting everyday at school but we don’t have to go to church every Sunday. But we do go to temple every important day like our birthday, Buddhist holidays, or when someone dies etc.”( Dokmai, N, 2007) Buddhist worship is one of the ways to bring peace of mind. When worshiping, a Buddhist should concentrate on the virtues of the Triple Holy Gems, being the Lord Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. At the closing of your devotions you express words of kindness to all of mankind. In Thailand every family has an altar at home that usually consists of an image of Buddha. The altar at home is usually comprised of an image of Buddha, a pot of incense sticks, a pair of candlesticks and a pair of flower vases.
Buddhists worship twice a day; in the morning and again at night, bowing down in front of the altar before their chanting and praying begin. In the morning the ideal time to go through the ritual is before leaving home to take part in your daily routine. The first step to a morning meditation is to light the candle situated to the right of the Buddha image then the candle to the left. Next, an individual would light three incense sticks afterwards sitting very still with the body straight and firm, and then bowing down in the “Ben-jang-kha-pradit” manner, which is when the forehead, palms and knees are flush with the floor. Then the chanting begins with a recitation expressing reverence and respect for the Triple Holy Gems, bowing down three times as a finale. At night a Buddhist would do the same ritual only it would consist of expressing good wishes towards man kind in general, as well as reflecting on the day. Mediation is essential in all divisions of Buddhism. There are many different types of meditation; Mindfulness of breathing, Zen meditation, loving kindness meditation ect.
Understanding how the daily routine and rituals are practiced is a crucial part of understanding the path towards enlightenment, and the lifestyle of the Buddhist community. The path towards enlightenment consists of life times of persistent practicing, following, and abiding by the eight fold path with the understanding of the four noble truths.
The eight fold path is a set of eight principal teachings to eliminate suffering in ones life and consists of:
- Right View- To understand wholesome deeds, unwholesome deeds and comprehend the law of Karma.
- Right Intention- The intention of non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion.
- Right Speech- Abstaining from false speech, malicious speech, harsh speech and idle chatter.
- Right Action- Abstaining from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.
- Right Livelihood- Abstaining from wrong and corrupt means of livelihood.
- Right Effort- Awakening zeal for abandoning of unwholesome states and arising & sustaining of wholesome states.
- Right Mindfulness- The four foundations of mindfulness (satipattana) namely contemplation on body, contemplation on feelings, contemplation on mind and contemplation on mind-objects.
- Right Concentration- Abandoning of five hindrances namely lust, ill-will sloth-torpor, worry-agitation and doubt through jhanas.
Becoming mindful of these principals on a daily basis is a vital aspect of self awakening and is the foundation of the Buddhist way of life. Every individual that is a part of the Buddhist community strives towards perfecting these principals, and it shows the devotion and commitment of each individual to their ancient religion.
And the Four Noble Truths are ways to explore human suffering, and are described as the underlying basis that all life is marked by suffering. The truths are that:
- Suffering exists.
- Suffering is caused by desire and attachment.
- Suffering can be eliminated.
- In order to eliminate suffering one must follow the Noble eight fold path.
When one chooses to become Buddhist they have acknowledged the Four Noble Truths to be the first teachings, and understand that they are the underlying of all living creatures. However, Buddhist or not, acknowledging the fact that we are destined to endure different levels of suffering in this lifetime which plays an important role in achieving life long sense of happiness.
“This is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five precepts subject to clinging are suffering.”
To fully adopt the Buddhist way of life, one must abide by the five precepts, which are:
- Do not kill.
- Do not steal.
- Do not engage in sexual misconduct.
- Do not lie.
- Do not overindulge in any mind altering substances.
Another important aspect of Buddhism, and a vital part in achieving enlightenment, is by being willing to accept reincarnation or rebirth in the six realms of existence. These are:
- Hell beings;
- Hungry ghosts; Animals;
- Human beings;
It is important to know that these are states of mind, not actual places. Where you go in these six realms or states of mind, is decided by your Karma. Karma basically means your actions have consequences, and that human beings must be responsible for their past and present actions. In Western society Karma is the law that every cause has an effect. This simple law explains a number of things present in our world like: inequality, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life while others live till old age. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being accountable for their past and present actions.
Buddhism teaches that the answers to our problems are within ourselves not outside of ourselves. Back in the day the Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings and discover for themselves. Therefore, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed concept of beliefs which is to be accepted in its whole, and more of teachings in which each person learns and uses in their own way. Buddhism can be comprehended and tested by anyone.
Now that we understand the many different aspects of this complex religion and way of life, we can discover ways to implement the teachings of Buddha into our personal lives and international experiences. Ways in which we as a group can apply these teachings towards our upcoming travels are by being kind to everyone we meet and taking into account karma, we should apply the aspects of the eight fold path, and simply remembering to practice daily meditations. By doing so we can better equip ourselves for cultivating thoughts of compassion towards all people we encounter, and will develop a sense of happiness in the present moment. All in all “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.”
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