Buddha which means enlightened one or the awakened is the titled conferred to Siddhartha Gautama. It is believed that he lived in Nepal between the sixth and fourth centuries. During that time, he tried different teachings but could not find any that was acceptable to him.
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One night while in meditation, he found the answers he was seeking thereby achieving awareness. This is what made him become Buddha. His life serves as the foundation of the Buddhist religion. Enlightenment, personal knowledge, and experiences and communal learning are integral parts of a religion. They help to shape people’s personal experiences while practicing their religions. This essay will look at the life of Buddha and his contribution to Buddhism. The essay will examine enlightenment and the path to it, how reflective learning coupled with personal knowledge guides our spiritual lives.
Buddha was born in royalty. His father was a king. Opulence and seclusion characterized his life. This is because his father did not want him to know about human hardships or religion. By the time he was twenty, he was married and ignorant of realities of life. In his late twenties, he ventured outside the seclusion of the palace and was confronted with human suffering. He met an old man. Subsequent trips yielded a diseased person and a corpse. All these led him to abandon the opulence of the palace and take up life as an ascetic. He wished to learn more about human suffering and seek ways to overcome fear. He left his wife and son behind. When several years passed and the answers he was seeking did not come to him, Buddha increased his efforts. This saw him endure more pain and suffering. He nearly starved because of fasting. Later, he realized it was not working. So, he abandoned that lifestyle and sought another path to understanding. One night Buddha sat under a tree and vowed not to get up until the truths he was seeking came to him. He meditated and remained there for days. Soon he underwent enlightenment. Answers to questions of human suffering became clear. He became the Buddha. For the rest of his life, Buddha spent it preaching the Dharma, which are teachings of Buddha. This he did in order to lead others to that path of enlightenment. This became the foundations of Buddhism (The Biography.com website, 2015).
Monks, pilgrims, and wanderers are known for their Spartan lifestyles. Their abandonment of unnecessary world engagements for the freedom of their minds and spirits against self. Monks are known to live in secluded regions that are not easily accessible. Wanderers and pilgrims make journeys that can be hard with no creature comforts. Some go to areas that are not actively populated. They can get as far away from the rest of humanity as possible to minimize distraction. This is for meditation and communion with nature. In seeking enlightenment, some methods are also included. These include long periods of fasting, prayers, chants, and meditations. Dharma being the moral code of the universe and individuals in society is used to define duties and responsibilities. These duties and responsibilities can be universal or individual. As an example; duties and responsibilities of a woman in society are not the same as a man’s or a child’s. But all of them have universal duties like honesty and respect. Nirvana is the state one achieves when he or she is free of shackles like ignorance, desire, and passion. It is the state each should aspire to attain. In religious experience, personal experience is used as an affirmation of one’s religious beliefs. The sense of freedom that comes when one prays for forgiveness, the experience of rain after fervent prayers for rain, surviving an accident after praying for safe travels. These are just some examples of personal experiences that reaffirms one religious experience; in this case, it is the power of prayers and the belief of having someone above looking after us.
In reflective learning, a scholar does not just read but must take a step back and reflect on what he or she has read. When it comes to religion, reflective learning plays a big role. This role is in understanding what the religion is teaching and either accepting or rejecting it. Currently, a lot of what world religions are teaching is critically interrogated. It is not simply okay to accept what is being taught. People are changing religions because the one they were on did not address their concerns adequately. Others go a step further and form their denominations or sects that properly align with what they have learned. Some even opt out of the religion of any kind altogether. Protestant churches were formed because not everyone agreed with what the Catholic Church was teaching at the time. Others still use what they have learned over time or have been taught by various influences in their lives to guide their spiritual journey. To stem this, religions are being forced to adapt their messages to make it more agreeable with changing times (Molloy, 2012).
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