Buddhism and the truth about Suffering
The concept of Buddhism is easy to grasp, and yet is one of the most misunderstood religions in the world. The history of Buddhism is one laden with persecution, turmoil, and of course suffering. The basic principles of Buddhism, when correctly understood, will leave you with a bleak jaded outlook on the world. When compared to Christianity, the differences are numerous. However, with between 230 and 500 million believers the religion itself is worth studying.
Buddhism began with a man named Scrooge.. well it was actually Siddhartha Gautama, but their stories are very much the same. Siddhartha was a prince cut off from all the suffering that was occurring in his kingdom until one day he decided to go on an adventure. He roamed around and observed the suffering that took place in his kingdom and gained a few disciples who called him the Buddha, or “enlightened one.” After discovering the world wasn’t as peachy as he previously thought, he invented a religion in a fit of emo-rage, aptly named Buddhism after him (Historyworld.net).
The Great Buddha discovered that life was nothing but a dark abyss and he was spiraling downward because of his desires. He explains this with the four noble truths which are as follows:
1. Life as we know it is filled with suffering
2. Our earthly desires for pleasure cause suffering
3. We must end our desires to end our suffering
4. You must follow our eight step program to end suffering
The four “noble” truths make Buddhism possibly the worst religion for humankind ever invented. It is a great thing that all people are not Buddhists because the human race would go extinct if this were the case. However, let us continue with the eight-fold path. The path is broken up in three groups, the first consists of steps that “purify the mind” and allow people spiritual insight. The second group dictates our ethics and morality; this is what is most famous about Buddhism as it commands you to live entirely nonviolently. The third group is to help you become mentally disciplined and ready for nirvana, or enlightenment. If one follows the eight-fold path he will achieve Nirvana, or a state of complete bliss, free from suffering. If one does not achieve enlightenment, their soul is reborn for another go at it, which begs the question: If people throughout history have achieved Nirvana, wouldn’t there be less and less people on the earth, not more and more (Wikipedia.org)? Well, that’s the long and short of Buddhism, lets next examine how it stands up next to Christianity.
Some people argue that Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion, but it is to my understanding that it is indeed a religion, and thus comparable to other mainstream religions. While Buddhism brings its own brand of psychological trauma, it is one of the only religions that has no history of violence, and does not preach for violence upon outsiders. Christianity on the other hand condemns non-believers, adulterers, homosexuals, and foreigners. Buddhists also do not believe in a personal savior or God like Christians do, which is one of the fundamental differences and reasons people like to call it a philosophy (Skepticsannotatedbible). Both religions, however, agree that this life will never be perfect and one can only achieve bliss in the next life. While it is interesting to study and learn about subjectively, I am grateful I was not indoctrinated with this belief as a child.