Buddhism – A different view over its evolution!

Born in a country where Buddhism is deemed the national faith, I am particularly curious about this religion. I try to discover Buddhism from different viewpoints, from both an orthodox view to an innovative view. This article summarizes the evolution of Buddhism as well as its impacts on society, culture and economy. Let’s begin with a retrospective view.

History of Buddhism in a nutshell!

Buddhism was born about 2,500 years ago in a country that used to be part of India but now belongs to Nepal. Its founder is Siddhartha Gautama or Shakyamuni, the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya, who reigned in Kapilavastu.  Siddhartha was believed to be a genius, with a lot of wonderful predictions about his future. He was raised in the palace. He led a luxurious and frivolous life until he was 29 years old. He was taught different things and became proficient in martial arts, literature, astronomy, etc. He also got married and had one son with his wife, who was selected from 500 girls presented to him in a ceremony.

However, when he was 29, he got out of the palace and experienced many miserable lives. These sufferings were so popular that they had imprinted on his mind. Thenceforth, he left the palace for the forest where he followed a spiritual life of meditation. At the age of 35, he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya in India. He believed that he had found out the nature of existence as well as the nature of suffering. Thus, he discovered the way to attain full enlightenment or liberation from suffering for oneself alone.

Doctrine of Buddhism

According to Buddhism doctrine, life is none other than misery. Buddha Shakyamuni explained the truth about suffering and the spiritual path to attain self-liberation from suffering and to lasting happiness. By following his instructions or the spiritual path, anyone can rescue himself from misery, transforming his confused and dull mind into a blissful mind of a Buddha.

Making the core of Buddhism doctrine are the four noble truths, which provide a conceptual framework for all of Buddhist thought. These four noble truths explain the nature of suffering, its causes, its cessation, and the path leading to its cessation. They are:

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering

The truth of suffering

According to Buddha Shakyamuni, human beings have 08 sufferings, which are associated with birth, growing old, illness, dying, living near hatred but far from beloved ones, wishing in vain, and holding five senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch).

-> Buddhism is a pessimistic philosophy

The truth of the origin of suffering

Suffering derives from a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards. In other words, the origin of suffering is explained as craving or thirst conditioned by ignorance. The root cause of suffering is identified as ignorance of the true nature of things.

The truth of the cessation of suffering

Buddhism confirms that it is possible for anyone to cease sufferings.

The truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering

The fourth noble truth identifies a path to the cessation of suffering, which is called “The Eight-fold Path”. It is the essence of Buddhist practices, including: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.

The Five Precepts

Regarding rules and regulations of Buddhism, the five precepts constitute the basic Buddhist code of ethics. They are commitments to abstain from harming living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication.

In general, Buddhism tells people to lead a good life. Most of its teachings are good. However, the nature of Buddhism does not reflect the natural life of human beings, in which all expectations are normal. The perception of life as an ocean full of sufferings is absolutely wrong. Thus, its doctrine is deemed unrealistic. For instance, sexual life is discouraged by Buddhist doctrine, whereas it is part of our daily lives.

The division of Buddhism

At the second summit of Buddhism followers, a number of followers required to modify Vinaya, one of the two most important contents of Buddhist scriptures (together with Dharma). They were expelled from the summit. This originated the division of Buddhism into Hinayana (or “Small Vehicle”) and Mahayana (or “Big Vehicle”).

Hinayana claimed that only monks could attain salvation while, according to Mahayana, all practitioners could be rescued. Mahayana supposed that, beside Shakyamuni, there existed other Buddhas like Adi-Buddha, Budai (the laughing Buddha). Moreover, anyone could become a Buddha. In fact, there had been many people attaining enlightenment. There were called bodhisattvas. They kept living on the planet to assist others on their paths.

-> It is Mahayana that has encouraged complex and costly rituals of Buddhism.

Buddhist expansion

Buddhism evolved as it spread from the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent through Central, East, and Southeast Asia. Nowadays, Buddhism, with its 02 main branches, is popular in China, Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam (Mahayana), Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, India, and Nepal (Hinayana or Theravada).

-> Buddhism is mostly popular in poor countries. In Korea and Japan, Buddhism does not play a dominant role in spiritual life.

Recession of Buddhism

Unreality is the very reason why Buddhism has fallen into recession right in the place where it was born. In India and Nepal today, Buddhist followers only account for a small proportion of the total population. Hinduism is the most widespread religion.

In fact, Buddhism is impractical and frivolous. Thus, it does not nurture innovation and development. Buddhist practitioners are told to be content with their current situations. Real life is not worth living. Human instinct is not respected.

-> Buddhism is a supportive religion for such regimes of dictatorship as China or Vietnam.

In these countries, Buddhism is encouraged to become the national religion. However, most people do not fully understand its tenets. People do not follow the instructions of Buddha. They still do terrible evils, telling lies and wasting time and money on costly rituals.

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