Every religion is different. They all do the things they do for different reasons. Buddhism is no exception to this. Catherine Albanese’s definition of religion is “A system of symbols (creed, code, cults) and by means of which people (community) orient themselves in the world with reference to both ordinary and extra ordinary values, powers, and meanings”. This definition is known as the “4 C’s”.
The “creed” are the beliefs within the religion. The “Four Noble Truths” is the core of Buddha’s teachings. The truths are as followed: The Truth of Suffering, The Truth of the Cause of Suffering, The Truth of the End of Suffering, and The Truth of the Path that Leads to the End of Suffering. Buddhist believe that Buddha wrote these four truths after witnessing four things: the suffering of an older man, the suffering of an ill man, the body of a deceased man, and the actions of an Ascetic (monk).
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The first truth acknowledges that suffering is inevitable, that everyone goes through it even when it seems otherwise; also, that suffering is to be done alone. One may help through the time; however, no one knows the suffering one is going through except the person going through it. The second truth recognizes the cause of suffering. Buddha claims that its root is desire and ignorance. Basically, one suffers due to human’s natural urge to gaining pleasure and material possessions. It’s also believed that the more one gains, the more the urge increase. “The stomach will never be filled, and our ignorance leads to suffering”. The third truth states that there is an end to suffering. One however must change their perception and reduce their link to desire, which will decrease the suffering. The intent of this truth is to understand the nature of life and control one’s desires. The fourth and final truth is the way to end suffering. Buddha makes clear that the “Noble Eight Paths” is the way to end suffering and are the guidelines for everyday life. This is similar to the Ten Commandments of Christianity (strict law).
The Eight-Fold Path goes a long with the Buddhism creed. The first path is the Right Understanding (Right View). This is seeing the world for what it is instead of what one wants it to be; at a broader level, direct personal experience will direct one to the right understanding. This mindset is only possible from freeing one from all uncleanliness and fully be developed through meditation. “The highest wisdom sees ultimate reality”, it is also said that knowing reality is of little value if it is not put to personal use in one’s life. The next path is the Right Intent. This is where one becomes committed. The right understanding shows what life really is, but the right intent drives one to decide what the heart wants. In order to have the right intent one must have grit and dedication for the journey itself. This path is only achieved through the heart and accept equality and compassion for all life, starting with oneself. The third path is Right Speech. This is simply appreciation of truth and awareness of what gossip and rumors can do to people. Never speak unkindly or in anger, but a way that moves one closer to a compassionate way of life. The fourth path is Right Action. This is noticing a need to take an ethical approach to life, such as not taking anything that isn’t given, respecting any pact made, etc. This path covers the five percepts Buddha had given. Next, is the fifth path which is the Right Livelihood. This path testifies that if one lacks respect for life, a barricade is put forth, apprehending progress to the spiritual path. Buddhism is about advocating equality to all beings and having respect to all life. Another part of this path is that one must take some form of work in the Buddhist community. Sixth is the Right Effort. This path is to promote joy and a positive attitude in a balanced way; meaning, the amount of effort should not be too nerve-wracking, too intolerant, or too relaxed. Instead, it should consist of a solid, cheerful determination. This is achieved by having a clear and honest thoughts and leaving out the jealousy and anger. Seventhly is the Right Mindfulness. This is basically a change in thinking. One must be attentive of the moment and focused, to be clear and concentrated at the given moment. This is also linked with meditation, a practice common done by Buddhist. By being aware of the world, it shows one how an old habit may still dominate one. The eighth and final path is the Right Concentration. This path indicates that one must select worthy ways for concentration of the mind. This enables one to see things that one was not able to see before. The right concentration merely turns the mind to focus on an object, which is the next part of meditation. By doing this, often, one will feel joy.
The “code” for Buddhism is very straightforward. These are known as the five precepts. The first is to not take a life. This ethic applies to all living beings, not just humans. All life has the right to be respected. The second is to not take things that aren’t given. This includes stealing but also not to take anything unless one is sure it is intended for them. Third, avoid sexual misconduct such as excessive sensational pleasure: greed and wrongdoings of sexual nature. Fourth is to refrain from false speech. This consists of lying, deceiving, slander, and hateful words towards a person. The fifth ethic is no intoxication, which is pretty much just alcohol and drugs. As those are the five basic precepts to Buddhism there are an additional three to those who follow the Theravadin (monk) tradition. The first additional precept is to withhold from taking food during unsuitable times, this being to not eat from noon to the next sunrise. The second addition ethic is no: dancing, singing, music or entertainment. Also, no perfumes, ornaments, or anything to embellish oneself. The last additional precept to Buddhism is to abstain from high/luxurious beds. Buddhist also have a certain viewpoint towards violence, war, and peace. The Dhammapada (collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse form and one of the most widely read and best-known Buddhist scriptures) says “Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily, the peaceful live giving up victory and defeat. Hatreds never cease by hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.”.
The third “C” is the “cultus”, which are the rituals/practices preformed. The purpose of these rituals is to aid the journey towards wisdom and to bring blessings to oneself and others. There are many rituals of Buddhism, however the main one is meditation. The purpose of this is to reach a peaceful state of mind and enter the spiritual world. Another ritual is worship, this can be done at home or at a temple. How they worship is by having a statue of Buddha and chant, pray, or listen/read religious texts. Offerings are also made: fruit, food, and flowers. By doing such this brings one closer to obtaining wisdom. However, Buddhist do not necessarily “worship” Buddha, but they respect him dearly.
The final “C” is “community”. Going into a Buddhist temple, what is most noticed is the peacefulness. It is also said that for those who visit, they get a feeling that “you’ve always wanted to do this”, and it’s the temple and the surrounding people that make it feel that way. In all Buddhist communities there is the allowance of nature to come through, after all, the elements of Buddhism are earth, wind, fire, and air.
Overall, Buddhism is to promote peace and compassion. The 4 C’s provided a definition of not only what religion is, but how to describe other religions, such as Buddhism. Between the Eightfold path, Four Noble Truths, meditation, worship, and the community, the definition of religion was explained in the Buddhism way of life.
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