HIST 1111 – Buddhism


This is Western Civilization. My name is Dr. Long; this video is part five
of the series on world religions and this video is on Buddhism. Now as a religion, Buddhism comes out of Hinduism. Buddhism shares common assumptions with Hinduism,
such as Samsara; reincarnation; and karma. Both Buddhism and Hinduism are Eastern religions. The founder of Buddhism was Siddhartha Gautama,
who lived approximately from 566 to 486 BCE. He was later called the Buddha, which means
the enlightened one. Now Buddhist scriptures, which were written
over five hundred years after his death, give us an account of his life. Siddhartha Gautama was born into a noble Hindu
family in northern India around the 4th century BCE. According to traditional Buddhist stories,
miracles were associated with his birth as well as several aspects of his life. As a young man, Siddhartha was on a quest
for enlightenment and he had several teachers in his quest. After successfully facing many temptations,
Siddhartha was said to have obtained spiritual enlightenment, after a night of deep meditation
under a Bodhi tree. The term, Buddha, which again means enlightened
one, was then applied to him and is the name that is generally associated with him thereafter. Buddha then went around teaching, preaching,
and making followers in northern India, many of whom would later become the first Buddhist
monks. According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha
lived to the age of 80 and he died after passing through several meditative trances and he
died serene and self-composed. Reportedly, the Buddha’s final words before
dying and reaching nirvana were, quote – Decay is inherent in all things. Be sure to strive with clarity of mind for
nirvana – and this goes to a key Buddhist teaching, that life is always changing and
that change is a constant feature of life. Now Buddhism spread after the Buddha’s lifetime,
particularly in the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. Unlike Hinduism, but similar to Christianity,
Buddhism was a missionary beginning from the very beginning and it spread primarily on
trade routes to much of the rest of Asia. Now as a religious teacher, the Buddha accepted
many aspects of Hinduism and it came out of Hinduism, and these include the importance
of dharma, doing one’s duty; the idea of karma, that bad deeds will hurt one’s rebirth
in the next life; and the whole idea of Samsara and reincarnation. In fact, Buddhism teaches that through the
cycles of reincarnation we have all at one point been each other’s mothers and fathers
and even each other’s sons and daughters. However, Buddha also rejected some key aspects
of Hinduism – most notably the entire caste system, which he saw as wrong and erroneous,
along with the Hindu priesthood and many Hindu rituals. Now this marked a profound break with Hinduism
and as a result, Buddhism developed into its own religion, without a formal priesthood
and especially without a caste s system. Now in a certain sense, Buddha began as a
reformer who ended up the founder of a new religion. Now Buddhism, as a religion, approaches the
question of evil and suffering with its own unique answer, and for Buddhism the cause
of evil, the cause of suffering is ultimately desire and craving. Desire leads to wrong action and wrong action
leads to suffering. So the ultimate goal in Buddhism is to break
desire, to break craving, and break the entire cycle of death and rebirth that goes on endlessly. Buddhists believe in six cycles of rebirth
after one dies – one of which is a version of hell, actually – and they believe that
you are reborn, that at some point you can break the cycle of rebirth and – death and
rebirth. The ultimate goal is to reach enlightenment,
a perfect state of peace and harmony that is considered nirvana. Now the term nirvana means extinction; it
is considered a spiritual state free of desire and especially free of suffering. So the goal of Buddhism is not to reach unity
with ultimate reality, with Brahman – which you see in Hinduism. Nor is it the goal to obtain forgiveness of
sins with God because Buddhism doesn’t really focus on God or even necessarily believe in
god. Rather the goal is to reach the state of nirvana,
and nirvana is an impersonal state; it is neither god nor ultimate reality, it is simply
a state free of suffering and desire. Buddhists are also discouraged from speculating
too much about nirvana, but certainly the idea is that is free of suffering. Buddhism does have its’ own gods and goddesses,
although they are seen as limited figures in the grand scheme, and Buddhism is sometimes
even described – depending on who you talk to – as a religion without god entirely. Now Buddhism recognizes four truths about
the world that it calls the four noble truths, and these four noble truths are first, the
truth of suffering, that life is full of suffering; second, the truth of arising, or that the
origin of suffering is desire – so realizing that suffering comes out of desire; third,
the truth of cessation, that the cessation of suffering comes after a cessation of desire;
and fourth, the truth of the path, that the path that you should follow to nirvana is
to cease your desire and to end suffering entirely. Now to end suffering and the cycle of reincarnation
and ultimately arrive at nirvana, Buddhists are supposed to follow what is called the
noble eight-fold path – the noble eight-fold path – and these eight practices include:
1, right understanding; 2, right intention; 3, right speech; 4, right conduct; 5, right
occupation; 6, right endeavor; 7, right contemplation; and 8 and final, right concentration. So the noble eight-fold paths are positive
actions and a moral code that one can use to earn merit and move forward toward this
idea of nirvana. Your own personal actions are seen as taking
you toward nirvana. Now meditation is also very important in Buddhism,
both for monks and nuns, those who decide to devote their entire life to a spiritual
life, and for lay people – both men and women – those who live kind of an ordinary
life as Buddhists. Now remember, the Buddha himself was said
to have achieved enlightenment through meditation. Meditation is a way to empty oneself, and
it is seen as key to reaching nirvana. All schools of Buddhism, no matter what their
different perspectives, emphasize meditation and have different meditation techniques. On the other hand, to avoid gaining karma
from bad deeds, Buddhists are supposed to avoid immoral actions, and again Buddhism
is a heavily moralistic religion. Buddhism includes what are called the five
precepts or five immoral actions that one is to especially avoid and these five precepts
or five really heavily immoral actions are considered first, killing; second, stealing;
third, sexual immorality; fourth, lying; and fifth, taking intoxicants. Now like Christianity, monasticism – both
for men and women, is important in Buddhism. While Buddhist monks and nuns engage in fasting
and lean towards vegetarianism in their diet, as it is associated with nonviolence, Buddhism
as a whole is not strictly vegetarian – particularly in comparison to Hinduism. There are two main branches or schools of
Buddhist that developed over time, and scholars are not entirely sure how they arose to be
separate branches or schools of Hinduism and what has been called the schism in Buddhism. It is thought that the divisions in Buddhism
perhaps came from disputes among monks. The oldest and most traditional school or
branch of Buddhism is Theravada Buddhism, and the word Theravada means the teaching
of the elders. So again, it’s the oldest and more traditional
school of Buddhism. As a school of Buddhism, the central figure
in Theravada Buddhism is the monk and there’s a big stress on monasticism – both for men
and women; there’s a great deal of emphasis on the monastic life. Obtaining nirvana is seen as one’s own personal
responsibility and to do so, sooner or later, it’s believed that you need to take up the
monastic lifestyle – either in this life or in one of your next lives. On a related note – Theravada Buddhism sees
the Buddha as a great man and enlightened, but it mainly sees him as a good example to
follow. He is seen still as a man, not as a savior. Theravada Buddhism spread through merchants
and missionaries beginning in the 3rd century BCE and it spread from northern India to Sri
Lanka to Burma and to Thailand. The second and the youngest branch or school
of Buddhism is Mahayana Buddhism and it is actually the largest school or branch of Buddhism
today. The name Mahayana means the great vehicle. Now it is a more personal form of Buddhism. It sees the Buddha as a more semi-divine figure. Buddha is seen as a compassionate being who
actually has postponed his entrance into nirvana to help others obtain their own spiritual
path that will lead to nirvana, and the idea is that the Buddha has stayed behind before
finally reaching nirvana so he can help others – he is so compassionate, he has not actually
entered nirvana yet. So Mahayana Buddhism sees the Buddha as a
kind of savior figure, and there are some parallels that scholars have noted between
Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity – how Mahayana Buddhists see Buddha and how Christians
see Jesus. Although it is highly unlikely that these
two religious groups had anything, any contact or shared ideas – as they developed entirely
separately. Now Mahayana Buddhists offer prayers to the
Buddha and they seek his assistance. Statues of the Buddha and temples to him – that
are dedicated to him – are part of their devotion. They also believe in other holy men and women,
who have reached enlightenment like the Buddha, and these other holy people, who likewise
can help you spiritually on your path to nirvana are called Bodhisattvas, and so in addition
to the Buddha there are a host of Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism – and again, these
are holy men and women who one can pray to, one can seek their divine assistance from,
to help you in your path to nirvana – and again, this is another aspect that makes Mahayana
Buddhism very personal and very intimate. And Mahayana Buddhism believes there are many
different Bodhisattvas. Now Mahayana Buddhism spread from India along
the trade routes in Central Asia, including the Silk Road. It spread to China and from there to the rest
of East Asia, primarily Korea and Japan. One branch of Mahayana Buddhism is what is
called the Vajrayana school, and this is a term that means thunderbolt. The Vajrayana school is common in Mongolia
and especially in Tibet. Now, in general, as a religion – Buddhism
does not have a central authority figure; there’s no pope of Buddhism. However, in Tibet – Tibetan Buddhism does
include an important monk and leader, known as the Dalai Lama, and he is closely associated
both with Tibetan Buddhism and with the Tibetan nation. Well let’s make a few concluding points
about Buddhism. As an Eastern religion, Buddhism shares many
common assumptions with Hinduism – such as the notion of karma; Samsara; and reincarnation. Nonetheless, it has many big differences with
Hinduism that make it a separate religion all together, most notably it denies the Hindu
caste system; it denies the Hindu priesthood; and Buddhism subscribes to the notion of nirvana
instead of reaching unity with Brahman, that you see in Hinduism. Now as with other world religions, part of
the growth and spread of Buddhism, including the development of different branches or schools
of its religion – such as Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, just as Christianity and
Islam grew and developed different branches and splits after becoming distinctive religions
– so too, did Buddhism. Today Buddhism has over five-hundred-million
adherents in the world, mostly in Asia, but it has come to have some popularity in the
West as well. And I’ll stop with this observation. Thanks for watching.

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