Buddhism is not well understood among in the Christian world, but its message is as relevant today than it was when Siddhartha Gautama began preaching his insights.
Today’s world is complicated. The need to “make a living” often takes away the time that so many need to reflect on what really matters. Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism all share a common thread and that is the potential that all people possess. Everyone, no matter what his status, has the same chance to reach a state of perfection. While perfection cannot be achieved, striving for it should be the goal rather than accumulating money. Whether the aim of life is to get to Heaven or reaching the state of Nirvana as espoused by the Buddha, everyone should be constantly improving themselves physically, mentally and spiritually.
Buddhism asks us to be introspective. We are already perfect, but we must draw out that perfection like Michaelangelo carving out David from a block of marble. The trouble is that most people fear to look inside themselves for they would see the many flaws they possess. It’s human nature to believe that we don’t need to change. Many people find excuses to stay where they are with all their faults and sins. They “get busy” as a way to stop thinking about what they need to do to improve themselves. Or they use religion as a crutch. They go to church and drop a few dollars in the collection plate believing that this makes them religious. They believe that because Christ died for their sins, they don’t need to live a Christian lifestyle the other six days of the week.
Meditation is not well understood.
A hectic life is the accepted norm and sitting quietly in meditation is not something many people enjoy doing as it forces them to be introspective. But a quiet mind is free of worries and anxiety, two problems that affect the mental health of many people. Meditation is a useful tool that helps focus on spiritual principles.
Analyze all the major religions and you see they preach the need to stop to reflect on life and the human potential. Whether that’s via kneeling prayer in Sunday church services, prostrating yourself six times a day or quietly sitting cross-legged, the need is there to take time out for reflection. Those who feel they must be on the go constantly often experience burnout. They rank among the majority who go through life anxious and worried. High blood pressure, depression and many mental and physical disorders are the signs that people are living senselessly with no real concept as to what life means beyond the acquisition of a dollar.
The Four Noble Truths may seem simplistic, but they outline the steps necessary to find true peace and happiness.
The Eightfold Path expresses much the same laws as in the Ten Commandments. The concepts of Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, and the other five concepts mimic Christian principles.
Buddhism espouses the concept of following the Middle Way. As humans, we tend to swing from one extreme to another. Siddhartha, on his path to enlightenment, came from a rich family and sought to find enlightenment by starving himself. He came to the conclusion that extremes should be avoided. He understood that the basic nature of man is to be helpful and caring. Today’s world is filled with greed, vanity and the lust for power, none of which provides happiness and fulfillment.
While Buddhism does not reflect the belief in God, it still holds the self-evident truths of man’s nature and how all sentient beings should live. In that, it has as much relevance to today as it did in the past.