Today I present the fifth and final installment of the Convert a Friend series. I hope that you have enjoyed reading these guest posts as much as I have. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Michele Scott James’s Eastern Religions students for sharing their insights on Buddhism and Hinduism with the readers of Eclectic Spirituality.
In case you missed any of them, here is a list of articles in the series:
The following untitled post was written by Debora Rosado. As always, it is unedited for authenticity.
Buddhism is not a religion that requires devotion to any almighty deities (even though some have wanted to worship the Buddha as a powerful foreign god). It simply requires one to relinquish the notion of self and follow a path designed to provide a way out of the trap of cyclic existence. There are no sacrifices needed, no offerings (at least not fundamentally). It is a philosophy developed by a man thought to have had it all. For the first three decades of his life Siddhartha Gautama was a prince – royal and blinded to anything that isn’t pleasant. Gautama was rich and lavished with the best of what being royalty could offer and it wasn’t until he could see all the suffering outside his own palace that he decided to go out on his own and figure out what the meaning of life was. Sometimes it’s easier to name what things aren’t than what they are.
The central theme in Buddhism is that suffering is what is hindering us from attaining enlightenment, or Nirvana. The Buddha lays out a clear path that begins and ends with that suffering; following the Eightfold Path and practicing the Four Noble Truths, one can end the suffering and eventually attain Nirvana. Suffering is inevitable due to “…a basic misunderstanding of the workings of reality, people falsely imagine that some worldly things can bring them happiness. “ People never stop wanting things, never stop placing important things that are selfless, and hold attachments that bring them nothing more than, again, suffering. Suffering is inevitable and came into being in dependence upon causes and conditions, abide due to causes and conditions, and eventually pass away due to causes and conditions.
The Buddha set out a path through example that came to be the end of this suffering, the end of this “self.” The rules did not just come to him out of nowhere; these are rules created and applied to guide the practitioner to the right away. Gautama avoided killing living things, renounced the “taking of what is not given,” and stressed the negative aspects of stealing, comparing it to “grasping after what does not belong to him. Gautama, as I like to refer to him for it makes him like you or I, was a man that realized that false and harsh speech are unfavorable, and refused to participate in gossip. He focused instead on speaking at the right time, in accordance with the facts, with meaningful words with speech that is “…memorable, timely, well-illustrated, measured, and to the point.” These rules transcend the test of time, and therefore it Is with relative ease that one is able to apply these concepts to modern day life. And, perhaps, applying such a selfless approach to life can help with the stressors we see on a daily basis that can lead to suffering.
The most interesting aspect of Buddhism that I would stress to any person asking me about this religion is that everything is dependent on the self, even though it really isn’t. But it is. Everything revolves suffering but living in this universe is suffering. Suffering stems from ignorance, which depends on actions which depends on consciousness which depends on name and form. King Milinda tries to tackle the concept of name and form making up the whole being in his questions to the venerable Nagasena. It is important to remember that the self is void of form, feelings, discriminations, compositional factors and the consciousness that makes up human beings, but these qualities lack any enduring entity. None of these make up the self for there is nothing perfect and long-lasting in the self. Once one gives up the idea of the self, and looks inward and realizes that feelings, form, discriminations, compositional factors and one’s consciousness is what drives one towards suffering, then one is able to practice the detached way of the Buddha. The liberated person knows that their work in this world is done when they feel disgust for all these attributes. Seeing them with disgust creates aversion and through aversion one is liberated. It may not be in this lifetime, but the idea is that in the next lifetime, one would continue with the conditioning from the previous life – it’s an ongoing and constant effort to reach that level of awareness, and one that is much more realistic to follow than blind prayer. It is worked for, through conscious behavior, rightful speech, and extreme detachment practiced each day. It is a commitment, a discipline, a true understanding.