The 2-minute guide to (trying to understand) Buddhism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

The 2-minute guide to Buddhism

Buddhism represents many things to many people. It’s generally considered to be a religion, though others prefer to characterize it as a spiritual tradition, a philosophy, or a more general way of life. The philosophy has been co-opted somewhat in Western culture, what with the rise of “Tibet import” shops that sell Buddha statues, tapestries, incense, and other novelties that give Westerners a taste of Eastern mysticism—in material possessions, if not in practice.

But there’s far more to the Buddhist tradition than Gautama statues or abstract concepts of Zen, and given that an estimated 8-10 percent of the entire world population are Buddhists, it’s worth examining the practice in more detail.

What is Buddhism?

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Buddhism is one of the oldest and most widespread doctrines in the world. It unofficially began in ancient India, though it quickly grew and expanded throughout Asia to become a driving force for behavior, politics, art, and culture across the world.

At its core, Buddhism deals with the fundamental nature of humanity. Although it’s commonly thought of (in the West, at least,) as a strange form of mysticism, it’s actually quite pragmatic when compared to other major religions.

In Buddhism, there are no gods that demand worship, nor is there an afterlife to plan for. It doesn’t focus on questions like “why are we here?” and “who made us?” Instead, Buddhist teachings focus on our relationship with the natural world, the realities of life and death, and how we can ease our suffering while we’re here.

Buddhism is all about suffering

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Perhaps the most central tenet of Buddhist belief is that, as humans, suffering is unavoidable. We’ve all experienced it before. No matter how well we plan, how hard we work, or how many pleasures surround us, it’s impossible to escape suffering completely. Tragedy strikes us when we least expect it. We get something we want, only to find that we now want something else.

In short, our desire for health, wealth, happiness, and a perfect life makes us unhappy, and after plenty of suffering, we die. But it doesn’t stop there. While many religions view death as an end, in Buddhism, it’s only the beginning.

Karma, reincarnation, and samsara

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In Buddhism, death isn’t the end.  After our bodies die, we’re eventually “reborn” in a different form based on the actions we took in our life and in our previous lives. This is the concept of reincarnation; another key aspect of Buddhist philosophy.

Of course, the life we’re reborn into depends largely on our karma; the sum of all of our actions in all of our lives. Those who perform evil acts have poor karma, and it’s thought that these individuals are brought back as lower life forms. Those who do good works attain positive karma, and enjoy higher states of being throughout their lives.

This cycle of reincarnation based on our karma is called samsara. And in the Buddhist view, being stuck in samsara isn’t so great. It’s a non-stop cycle of death and rebirth, where we’re forced to endure lifetime after lifetime of unavoidable suffering.

It sounds rough to think about existence in those terms, but Buddhist philosophy isn’t so dark. Indeed, acknowledging this cycle is one of the first steps toward the highest goal of Buddhist tradition: achieving a state of Nirvana, or enlightenment, and escaping the cycle once and for all.

Escaping from the cycle of suffering

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Buddhists believe that the only true escape from samsara is by attaining enlightenment: a state of positive karma, knowledge, and wisdom that can only be achieved by completely eliminating one’s desire.

Of course, this process isn’t easy. Buddhist practitioners may spend their entire lives seeking enlightenment through rigorous discipline, study, and meditation, with nothing to show for it. Indeed, devout practitioners have no real expectation of achieving enlightenment in their own lifetimes, as they understand that their efforts in this life are only a small part of a larger whole.

Achieving enlightenment isn’t something that any practitioner can accomplish in a single life; by all Buddhist schools of thought, it’s a long process that many take hundreds, or thousands, of lifetimes to accomplish. In the span of human history, few people can claim to have achieved true enlightenment. One of the few with the truest claim is certainly the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama. Or as he’s more commonly known, the Buddha.

Who and what is a Buddha?

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“Buddha” means “enlightened,” in the simplest terms.

Therefore, being a “Buddha” just means being one who has achieved the prerequisite state of Nirvana. In theory, anyone could be a Buddha; they’re not thought to be gods, nor are they meant to be worshipped. A person who attains Buddhahood is simply any person who achieves this awakened state of being.

In human history, Siddhartha Gautama is considered the only “true” Buddha, though many have laid claim to Buddhahood over the years. It was Siddhartha Gautama who first attained enlightenment thousands of years ago, and he spent the rest of his life teaching his students how to do the same. After his death, his teachings were put to print and became the foundation of Buddhism as we know it today.

Understand the nature of Buddhism

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With all of the above in mind, it’s important to point out that Buddhism is a large, complicated system of beliefs. There are many schools of thought and sects with different rules, much as Christianity has multiple sects and denominations.

But regardless of the specific rule sets followed, much of Buddhism is built on a singular concept: By eliminating our desires, we eliminate suffering. And by doing so, we work toward lives of knowledge, serenity, and harmony with other people and the natural world.

(Poem: Theology/Philosophy) With Power Comes Dreams And Night Terrors

With Power Comes Dreams And Night Terrors

 

Kings like all people do dream dreams

Therein their Spirit is often much troubled

Their sleep and their conscience is tainted

Yet, can a King demand to be enlightened

 

Leaders can summon their Magicians and Sorcerers

Yet when they stand before the throne can they see

Do they know what the King in His dreams has seen

Can the night terrors of Power ever truly be explained

 

What can be done if the King is terrorized by a forgotten dream

Can forked tongues give enlightenment to what they have not seen

Frauds and Sorcerers, can you see your own end written on the wall

Are there truly Leaders, Magicians or Sorcerers worthy of great honor

 

Yet, shall that which is good be thrown into the fire if it has not been tried

A crazed Ruler shall punish all because of His own errors, ego and arrogance

He who lies to all and contradicts Himself leads His people to be slaughtered

The terrors of the night bring enlightenment to a Leader of wisdom and a conscience

 

 

 

 

 

Enlightenment Is Only Possible Through The Dalai Lama?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ONION NEWS)

I believe the best way for us to grow as human beings is to free ourselves from the anxieties and attachments of daily life. If we pursue practices and rituals that lead toward a oneness with existence, if we devote ourselves to mindfulness and...

I believe the best way for us to grow as human beings is to free ourselves from the anxieties and attachments of daily life. If we pursue practices and rituals that lead toward a oneness with existence, if we devote ourselves to mindfulness and meditation, then the cultivation of harmony is available to us all. However, if it is true spiritual enlightenment that you seek, you’re gonna have to get past me first.

For those with the patience and the commitment, a path to nirvana awaits, and I—His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet—am standing right in the middle of it, ready to throw down.

It will be a difficult journey, one upon which you must elevate yourself from excess and learn to derive pleasure from simplicity. There will be many obstacles to overcome, and often it will seem as though your greatest adversary lies within yourself. But in fact, your most determined foe is stronger, fiercer, and coming straight out of Dharamsala packing 600 years of reincarnated spiritual wisdom and a blazing left hook. And you’re gonna have to build up some serious inner strength before you take me on, because I bring the pain, and I don’t back down.

Is it the knowledge of the universe you seek? Do you wish to attain a realization of the interconnectedness of all things? Then you must possess kindness, perseverance, compassion, tolerance, and an iron jaw. Because the only way you’ll ever come to experience the metaphysical unity of mind and soul is by tangoing with yours truly, capiche?

You will find there is much to gain from leading a more mindful existence, one that allows you to center your thoughts and channel all your energy into coming at me with everything you’ve got. And you’re gonna need it, because once you step into the ring with me, you definitely won’t want to shift your attention away from the now.

You will know that life is suffering after I’m done with you.

A serene existence free of worry and strife awaits you if you can take down this lean, mean incarnation of the high bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. So come on. Let’s do this thing. You’ll become acquainted with the universal impermanence of being real quick.

I got nowhere else to be, compadre, and I’m ready to impart on you some serious teachings, if you get my drift. Perhaps you wish to learn release from feelings of longing. Then you must abandon your attachment to all material things, except, of course, your first-aid kit. Do you have what it takes to relinquish worldly desires? To abandon the idea of self? To surrender to that which you cannot control? To reach a state of utter tranquility? Okay, then. Nut up and take a swing.

It requires careful discipline to live a mindful life, but you will find there are great rewards in separating yourself from the physical experience of what I’m about to do to you. It’s you and me, buddy. If you want your enlightenment, come and get it. But I’m warning you, if you seek a state of pure transcendence, then the last thing you’re going to see is a flash of crimson robe as you hit the deck. And when you’re gripping your throbbing head trying to figure out what just happened, you can meditate on this: When your ass gets knocked to the ground and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?