Questions on Buddhism

Buddha

I just received some questions on Buddhism by a student who is working on her final project for her class on Religion. These are very good questions. I would like to post these questions and answers here:

1. In your perspective, what is the way of the Buddha?

From my perspective Buddha’s way is an effort to enable a person to overcome suffering. The core of his teaching is to look at things just as they are without assuming anything.

2. What made you decide to practice Buddhism?

I am an engineer and knowledge has always fascinated me. I have studied all major religions and have looked closely at their actual applicability. I am simply practicing what makes sense to me, and what is useful. It happens to be the core ideas expressed in Buddhism. But I must say that these ideas overlap with ideas from other religions. In short, knowledge cannot be limited to any particular label.

3. Was Buddhism a natural part of your life or did you seek it out?

My natural tendency has always been to question what is inconsistent and to seek out consistency in understanding. This has led me to Buddhism. But even in Buddhism there are many different interpretations. I am generating my own understanding of Buddhism that appears consistent to me. Actually this is exactly what Buddha recommended. One must develop one’s own understanding.

4. What are the benefits of Buddhism to a person’s peace, soul, happiness, compassion, empathy, health, perceptions and impacts of this world?

The following is a quote from the book “BUDDHA” by Karen Armstrong,
“If you look at things just as they are, you gradually gain the insight that makes the suffering more tolerable. It does not prevent the suffering that comes from growing old, getting sick, etc., but you can be peaceful in its presence. Following those insights you naturally develop a conduct that enhances peace and happiness.”

5. How is Buddhism taught to its followers?

Buddhism is a major religion, which is now 2600 years old. At first it was taught by Buddha giving sermons to his disciples. After Buddha’s death all his teachings were written down and were made available through well-organized “sanghas.” A sangha is a community of Buddhist monks.

Today, one may study Buddhism by oneself.  There is excellent literature available on Buddhism in all different media. Buddhism is not faith based. It is knowledge-based. There is no faith-conversion required in Buddhism. A person may study Buddhism because it appeals to him or her. The person does not have to believe in Buddhism. He is not required to follow any rituals.

6. How do people worship?

There is no worship per se, because there is no God in Buddhism. There is only respect for knowledge and understanding. Buddha is revered as the founder of Buddhism. There are monasteries and temples, but these are there only to facilitate study and practice of Buddhism.

7. What does one need to do if they are interested in learning Buddhism?

There is a lot of literature available on Buddhism in its original Pali language, which is also translated in most other languages. There are many commentaries written on Buddhism. For beginners I shall recommend reading the following two books.

What the Buddha taught by Walpola Rahula
Buddha by Karen Armstrong

8. Does Buddhism proselytize?

No.

9. Are there any inconsistencies in Buddhism, such as prejudices?

None that I know of.

10. What is the success rate for those wanting to follow the Buddhist path?

At its peak Buddhism is said to have civilized three-quarters of the population of the world. Buddhism has influenced many religions that have followed since. Buddhism is a path of peace, and it has been very successful in bringing about that peace  on a social basis as well as on an individual basis.

11. How does one reach enlightenment?

One reaches enlightenment by understanding the four Noble Truths of Buddha. The fourth Noble Truth lays out an eight-fold path to follow. The following e-book describes it in simple terms:

What the Buddha taught by Walpola Rahula

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