Is Buddhism a Religion or a Way of Life?

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Religion or at least the tenets of any true religion should also be a way of life. So Buddhism is both. Buddhism has components of religion but also outlines various beliefs that can be used to guide the individual in life. The Buddha is revered and in Mahayana Buddhism, he is considered to be divine and human beings are thought to be incapable of understanding the full range of this omnipresent being. An interesting note is that Mahayana Buddhism sometimes looks at the three jewels, the Buddha, Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) and Sangha (the fellowship of Buddhist monks) as creating a trinity that becomes the complete and eternal Buddha.

Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Guatama around the early fourth century B.C.. Guatama was born a prince and was very sheltered from the harsh realities of life. When he was 29, he decided that he needed to leave the palace and luxury of his birth and meet his subjects. The experience had such a profound effect on him that he rejected his birthright and wealth and became an ascetic (a person who abstains from worldly pleasures in pursuit of spiritual goals). After his attempts at asceticism and meditation, Siddhartha Guatama discovered what he called the Middle Way. The Middle Way is moderation away from the extremes of self-imposed poverty and asceticism and self-indulgence. Shortly after, he became Enlightened and from then on was called the Buddha.

Buddhism relies on a belief in karma.

Karma is the personal responsibility that is that makes the individual accountable for the joy, pain, and suffering that they cause for others and is present in their own life. In Buddhism, there is no divine absolution of karma, but it is believed by Buddhists that following what is called the Noble Eight Fold Path can alleviate the suffering brought on by prior actions of the individual. So, in that way, Buddhism sees the redemption of an individual as a personal choice and one that can be controlled by each person merely by making the choice to take action and make choices that are based on the tenets of the religion. This is one of the major differences between Buddhism and Christianity. There is no salvation or forgiveness provided by a divine being or deity, it is simply a matter of self-determination.

The Noble Eight-Fold Path consists of:

1. Right View-which is the understanding of both good deeds and bad deeds along with the law
of Karma.

2. Right Intention-intentions that exclude greed, hatred, and delusion.

3. Right Speech-telling the truth without maliciousness, harshness or idle chatter

4. Right Action-actions that are proper and abstain from stealing, killing and sexual
misconduct.

5. Right Livelihood-earning a livelihood without corruption or wrong actions.

6. Right Effort-the effort and enthusiasm to transcend unwholesome states and replace and
maintain wholesome states.

7. Right Mindfulness-contemplation of body, feelings, mind and mind-objects.

8. Right Concentration-abandonment of hindrances of lust, bad will, laziness, worry and doubt
through jhanas (meditation).

Buddhism also has some tenets that are similar to the Ten Commandments in Christianity. These are called the five precepts. They are:

1. To refrain from taking life.

2. To refrain from stealing.

3. To refrain from sexual immorality.

4. To refrain from lying.

5. To refrain from the use of intoxicants

The reward of following Buddhism is the attainment of Bodhi or enlightenment which any Buddhist, laity or Sangha may achieve.

Even though Buddhism is a religion, it is also a way of life, providing a clear path toward good and right actions. A journey that often is blurred or distorted in other religions or spiritual ways of life.

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