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Ethics – Different Perspectives – by Adnan Hasani (week 4)

Buddhism as a religion

In the academic study of religion as a phenomenon in history the term religion can be considered in its different aspects: it can be an inner experience, a theology, and a way of life. According to Aldous Huxley, religion is, among other things, a system of education, by means which human being may train them, first to make desirable changes in their own personalities and society.

The Buddha’s message as a religious way of life: “Keeping away from all evil deeds, cultivation of life by doing good deeds and purification of mind from mental impurities”.

It was in a religious climate such as this that the Buddha appeared. As a prince living in the lap of luxury he started to think very deeply on why living being suffer in this world. What is the cause of this suffering? He asked. One day while he was sitting under a tree as a young boy he saw a snake suddenly appear and caught a frog. As the snake and the frog were struggling, an eagle swooped down from the sky and took away the snake with the frog still in its mouth. That incident was the turning point for the young prince to renounce the worldly life. He began to think about how living beings on the earth and in the water survive preying on each other. One life form tries to grab and the other tries to escape and this eternal battle will continue as long as the world exists. This never ending proves of hunting, and self-preservation is the basis of our unhappiness. It is the source of all suffering. The Prince decided that he would discover the meant to end this suffering.

The young prince studied under various religious teachers and learnt everything they had taught but was unable to discover how to end suffering. He spent many years wondering this question. Finally at the end of age 29 he seriously contemplated on old age, sickness, death and freedom through renunciation and decided that without giving up his worldly preoccupations and his responsibilities and pleasures it would be impossible for him to find the answer. That is why he had to leave the palace in what is known as “The Great Renunciation”.

According to the researchers 2600 years ago there were already 62 religion cults in India. Was it necessary another religion to be introduced to the people, in which Buddha could not find the answer to his question. However, The Buddha used the existing religious terms at that time in India, because it was the best way that his listeners would follow him. Dharma, Karma, Nirvana are some words which are common to all religious groups during his time. The Buddha gave very unique meanings and interpretations to those existing religious terms. Dharma meant that which holds up, upholds, supports. Karma, means action. If a person commits a bad action that it will be impossible for that person to escape from bad effects. Nirvana, means no more carving, no more attachment and no more selfishness. A person cannot experience Nirvana because we have carving, attachment and selfishness. Source: Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc: Buddhanet’s e-book library.

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