Essay, Research Paper: Buddhism


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In Life there is suffering. This spurs on the unending search for universal
truth and meaning. Jodo Shinsu is an answer to this search. The
"practice" of Jodo Shinshu is the recitation of the Nembutsu with
self-reflection. It involves hearing the call of Amida Buddha, the Buddha of
Eternal Life and Infinite Light, Compassion and Wisdom, within others' or ours
recitation of the Name. Which calls us to raise our spiritual perspectives
beyond immediate ego interests to universal concerns for compassion, justice in
the human community and concern for the life of nature. The hole of life is
Nembutsu. A life lived in awareness, that we ourselves are the expressions, the
manifestations, of interdependence and compassion and dedicated to bringing that
reality to others as we have experienced it. The Nembutsu is a spiritual shrine,
which can be transported and reverenced wherever one may be. Time or space does
not bind religious practice. Rather, from within the deep recesses of one's
spirit the call of Amida Buddha can be heard, bringing our attention back to the
very source of life itself, and evidencing its presence in the very act of
living itself. Buddhism is one of the
world's great religions. The religion is based on the teaching of Siddhartha
Gautama, commonly known as The Buddha, who lived approximately 557 BC to 477 BC.
The word "Buddha" means a Supremely Enlightened One or Fully Awakened
One (also a Tathagata) who has won the realization of the True Permanent
Absolute Reality, the ultimate truth. Buddhism is built on a framework that
consists of the Four Noble Truths, four fundamental principles of nature (Dhamma)
that emerged from the Buddha's honest and penetrating assessment of the human
condition and that serve to define the entire scope of Buddhist practice. These
truths are not fixed dogmatic principles, but living experiences to be explored
individually in the heart of the sincere spiritual seeker: To each of these
Noble Truths the Buddha assigned a specific task, which the practitioner is to
carry out. The first Noble Truth is to be comprehended dukkha (suffering,
unsatisfactoriness, and stress): life is fundamentally fraught with
unsatisfactoriness and disappointment of every description. The second is the
cause of dukkha: the cause of this dissatisfaction is tanha (craving) in all its
forms. The third is the cessation of dukkha: an end to all that
unsatisfactoriness can be found through the relinquishment and abandonment of
the cravings. The full realization of the third Noble Truth paves the way for
the direct penetration of Nirvana, the transcendent freedom that stands as the
final goal of all the Buddha's teachings. The last of the Noble Truths (the
Noble Eight fold Path), contains a prescription for the relief of our
unhappiness and for our eventual release once and for all from the painful and
wearisome cycle of birth and death (samsara) to which through our own ignorance
(avijja) of the Four Noble Truths we have been bound for countless aeons. The
Noble Eight fold Path offers a comprehensive practical guide to the development
of those wholesome qualities and skills in the human heart that must be
cultivated in order to bring the practitioner to the final goal, the supreme
freedom and happiness of Nirvana. The eight qualities to be developed are Right
View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort,
Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. The Quality of Right View is to
aspire to attain realization of perfect wisdom, the ultimate true permanent
reality. Abstain from all evil acts of thought, to attain the total destruction
of all cravings. The Quality Of Right Resolve is to renounce all manifesting,
all constructions, all that is "created" make-believe, to develop
dispassion, total detachment, absolute renunciation, self-surrender. To bring
about the cessation of all "created" realities. To self-realize is the
incomparable awakening of self. To win the freedom of mind, the freedom through
perfect intuitive wisdom, the sane and immune emancipation of will. Right Speech
is to abstain from all lying speech, all perjurious speech, all evil abusive
speech and all frivolous speech. To engage in speech and discussion that
pertains to and leads to Nirvana, to what's actually permanent and real. Right
Action is to abstain from all killing of all creatures, abstain from all
stealing, abstain from all sensual and sexual misconduct, abstain from all evil
acts, and abstain from all forms of intoxication. Right Living is to abstain
from all evil methods of livelihood. Right Effort is to destroy all evil states
of mind that has already arisen. To keep new evil states of mind from arising
and to maintain and grow good states of mind that have already arisen. Nurture
good states of mind that have not yet arisen, such as loving kindness for all
beings, compassion and pity for all creatures, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
Right Mindfulness is to contemplate as impermanent, ill and selfless: body,
feelings, perception, mind, consciousness, thought, mental states, mental
objects and mental activity. To grow revulsion for the world, seeing it for the
decaying creation that it is, and to grow dispassion, total detachment, calm,
tranquillity, seeing that everything is not itself. To disregard all that is
perceived, remaining aloof from both the pleasures as well as the pains. Arising
from the creation of senses and sensuality. Right Concentration to be aloof from
the world, aloof from evil states, aloof from all sensations from the senses.
Dwelling in solitude, seclusion, ardent, diligent, self-resolute, and develop
one-pointed-ness of mind through intense meditation and reflection. Progress
along the path does not follow a simple linear trajectory. Rather, development
of each aspect of the Noble Eight fold Path encourages the refinement and
strengthening of the others, leading the practitioner ever forward in an upward
spiral of spiritual maturity that culminates in Awakening. Seen from another
point of view, the long journey on the path to Awakening begins in earnest with
the first tentative stirrings of right view, the first flickering of wisdom.
Therefore, one recognizes both the validity of the first Noble Truth and the
inevitability of the law of karma, the universal law of cause and effect. Once
one begins to see that harmful actions inevitably bring about harmful results,
and wholesome actions ultimately bring about wholesome results, the desire
naturally grows to live a skilful, morally upright life, to take seriously the
practice of sila. The confidence built from this preliminary understanding
inclines the follower to put one's trust more deeply in the teachings. The
follower becomes a "Buddhist" upon expressing an inner resolve to
"take refuge" in the Triple Gem: the Buddha (both the historical
Buddha and one's own innate potential for Awakening). The Dhamma (both the
teachings of the historical Buddha and the ultimate Truth towards which they
point), and the Sangha (both the monastic community that has protected the
teachings and put them into practice since the Buddha's day, and all those who
have achieved at least some degree of Awakening). With one's feet thus firmly
planted on the ground by taking refuge, and with the help of an admirable friend
(kalyanamitta) to help show the way, one can set out along the Path, confident
that one is indeed following in the footsteps left by the Buddha himself. The
Buddha based his teachings on a frank assessment of our plight as humans: there
is unsatisfactoriness and suffering in the world. No one can argue this fact. If
the Buddha's teachings were to stop here, we might indeed regard them as
pessimistic and life as utterly hopeless. But, like a doctor who prescribes a
remedy for an illness, the Buddha offers hope (the third Noble Truth) and a cure
(the fourth Noble Truth). In the Buddha's later teachings, as reflected in the
profound and wonderful Mahayana (Great Vehicle) sutras, Sakyamuni was said to
reveal that he was actually an incarnation of the eternal Buddha, whom Shin
Buddhists refer to and worship as Amida Buddha. Those sutras also make many
references to transcendent Bodhisattvas, or Buddhas-to-be, who act
compassionately to relieve suffering in all of its various forms. They are true
friends of humankind. To accomplish their goal of eliminating suffering in all
sentient beings, and helping all to attain the perfect peace and enlightenment
of Buddhahood, Bodhisattvas diligently practice the Six Perfections (or
Paramitas): charity, observance of the Buddhist precepts, patience, zeal,
meditation, and wisdom. These are described in inspirational poetic form in The
Threefold Lotus Sutra (published by Kosei). The following is a small example:
"For infinite past eons, the World-honored One has practiced all manner of
virtues with effort to bring benefit to us human beings. Unsparing of his person
as of his possessions, he gave all, his head, eyes, and brain, to people as
alms. Keeping the Buddhas' precepts of purity, he never did any harm, even at
the cost of his life. He never became angry, even though beaten with sword and
staff, or though cursed and abused. He never became tired, in spite of long
exertion. He kept his mind at peace day and night, and was always in meditation.
Learning all the Law-ways, with his deep wisdom he has seen into the capacity of
living beings." Within the Mahayana tradition, an extraordinary Bodhisattva
named Dharmakara, who was intensely aware that most people would have an
impossible time consistently adhering to the Buddhist precepts. Dharmakara
Bodhisattva therefore created an easy path to enlightenment, thus becoming Amida
Buddha, the Universal Buddha of Infinite Light and Infinite Life. (Light refers
to his wisdom, and his eternal life refers to his infinite compassion for all
sentient beings. These are the two primary attributes of Buddhahood: wisdom and
compassion.) Dharmakara Bodhisattva felt great compassion for those of us unable
to fulfill the practices necessary to achieve enlightenment on our own. He
therefore resolved that he would give up his own attainment of Buddhahood
unless, when he became a Buddha, he could establish a land free of all
suffering, where anyone with faith in him could be reborn. Then he backed up
this Great Universal Vow with the massive power of innumerable virtues and good
deeds, which he performed over many eons of time. Dharmakara successfully
fulfilled his Great Vow, and became Amida Buddha. In the Larger Pure Land Sutra,
which Shinran referred to in his masterwork, the Kyogyoshinsho, as the True
Teaching, Sakyamuni describes in detail the wondrous world in the western part
of the universe which Amida created, a world free from defilement and pain.
Amida says to us, in essence, "You who rely on the saving power of my
embrace, rather than on your own self-efforts toward spiritual perfection, will
assuredly gain birth in my paradise when your earthly life ends. You will
immediately, at that time, attain Buddhahood!"
To enter in, and then transcend, eight higher states of consciousness that lead
to increasing intuitive wisdom, insight and direct super-knowledge, and to
destroying the addictions and cravings, and to realizing true reality,
effectively piercing the shell of ignorance and delusion. As one attains the
higher states of mind, consciousness, the true nature of how things really are
can be seen clearly, both intuitively and with supreme effort, by direct
super-knowledge, true reality unfolding, and self enlightenment of self by self.
Surrounded by myriad phenomena, we live and die, do good and evil deeds. But
what is our status in this universe after all? There are two relationships that
exist in this universe, that is the relationship between the creative God and
the human and that with all his creatures. The God empowers the human to rule
and control the other creatures by authority of God of the creation. Thus, in
front of God, the position of the human is utterly dependent. However, in
comparison to the other creatures, we are full of authority and pompous
presumption. If we exclude the God, the concept of this religion becomes
entirely devoid of meaning. Buddhists believe the myriad beings created
everything in this universe. The Law of Cause and Effect stipulates that
whatever deed an individual performs, the result of that deed goes to him or her
alone. Whatever deeds a group or persons perform, the group will bear the
result. Such a doctrine is diametrically opposite to theistic teachings.
Therefore, all Buddha-dharma practitioners should understand two things: 1. All
the chaos and suffering in this world are the results of evil deeds performed by
the human in the past. In order to make this world a pure and stately place to
live in, the only hope lies in our refraining from evil and doing all that is
good. Individually speaking if some one should suffer from being uneducated
lives in poor family circumstances, or chronic illness, then these are the
influences of my past or present karmic forces. Therefore if we wish to live in
peace and happiness, then all of must strive very hard to perform good acts. If
humans were the Creation, we would have no power of our own. Instead we would
have to follow the decision and will made by the creator. Buddhism believes that
all events that take place are due to reverberations of our own karmic forces.
Thus we are capable of changing ourselves, even to the extent of changing the
world, or community around them. 2. After we are convinced of the Buddhist
doctrine of karmic conditional causation, that whether the world is foul or
pure, whether our careers are a success or failure, these are the results of our
bygone karmic forces; then we will not then blame the unfavorable situation on
heaven or others. We can change and improve our karma. If we start toward the
direction performing wholesome acts from this very moment, then our future will
be full of brightness. This is the basic way of life taught by Buddhism. The
Buddhist doctrines "I create this world", and "all of us create
this world', is a view of life based of freedom and self-determination. The
Buddhist human relationship is neither one of master-slave, nor that of
father-and-son. Those who awaken first and advance the farthest on the path to
enlightenment are the teachers. Those who are late in awaking are the students.
Thus, a socio-cultral structure built on the Buddha-dharma must necessarily be
one of teacher-friend relationship, and is most consistent with the spirit of
freedom and democracy. When Buddhism states that "I" can make the
world, it is different from the creation of the world by God. When the Creator
creates the human being and other myriad creatures, he creates them from
nothing. This is in contradiction to moral-causation law of creation. Buddhism
holds that it is our karmic forces of mental activities and thoughts that create
the world. If we perform good deeds, then we are capable of realizing a pure and
idealistic world. In practicing Buddhism from establishing faith and to
experiencing enlightenment, there are stages of understanding and practice. The
terms practice and understanding and self-explanatory. But there are infinite
numbers and boundless ways of understanding and practicing Buddhism. I will
expound only the two most essential points: continuity of birth and death, and
mutual accretion of all entities. Continuity of birth and death explains that
the life is impermanent and continuos. This is consistent with the truth that
all phenomena are impermanent. From childhood to old age, life is continuously
changing. Although it is constantly changing, the state in the future is
different to the present, the life forms of the present and future are forever
inter-connecting, thus life maintains its seemingly identical and continuos
individuality. In a broad sense, death in this life marks the beginning of the
next new life. Death is not the end of all existence. For example, when we go to
bed tonight, we will wake up tomorrow morning again. Having understood this
truth, then we can deeply believe in the Law of Conservation of Karmic Fruit
(conditions of rebirth depending on previous karmic conduct). In terms of
present time, the success or failure of our undertakings will depend on whether
we receive proper upbringing and schooling. In addition, if we do not make an
effort at young age to learn and master a skill, or we are not hard at work,
then we will have no means to make a living at older age. Extending this simple
principle, it shows that if we do not behave well and fail to cultivate
blessed-rewards in this life, then we will face unfavorable living conditions in
our future rebirths. In other words, we have to behave well this life so that in
future rebirths we will be better off, more intelligent and happy. This fact of
continuity of birth and death, and the truth that every phenomenon is
impermanent will help us to make an effort to uplift ourselves. Now we come to
mutual accretion of all entities. Here accretion means strengthening or growth
through mutual dependence. No person can live independently in a society, as
there must be mutual dependence and support among individuals. For example,
young children depend on their parents for upbringing and guidance and when the
parents grow old, they in turn, will need the support and care from their
children. By the same token, all branched of activities in the society, such as
agriculture, industry, commerce, politics, depend on the other for its growth.
According to Buddhism, in the universe we have an intimate relationship with all
sentient being residing in all dharma-realms (forms of existence). It is
possible that other sentient beings have been our parents, brothers, and sisters
in the infinite past. Due to the influence of Karma, our living existence and
circumstances now differ to that of the past, therefore we do not recognize each
other. When we gain an understanding of mutual accretion, then we can cultivate
the virtue of helping and love each other.. This in turn will lead us to a
harmonious and happy co-existence wit others. Next we can talk a little about
altruistic acts. According to the principle of mutual accretion, an individual
cannot exist away from the masses. In order to find happiness and security for
ourselves, we must first seek security and happiness for the masses. In terms of
a family, you are one of its members, and in respect to a society, again you are
one of its members. Only when the family is happy and secure can you find
happiness and security for yourself. If everyone in society is peaceful and
happy, then you will have a real peace and happiness. The aim of practising the
Dharma of course is to be released from samsara. But the emphasis should be of
benefitting others as well as oneself. The release from samsara achieved by
practitioners who emphasise self-emancipation only is not final. It is like a
pedestrian who runs a short distance and hastens to rest by the roadside. This
attitude of hurrying towards a goal can actually result in slower progress. Even
as the turtle and the rabbit raced in the well-known fable, the rabbit runs
fast, but is too anxious to rest and sleep and he is left behind in the end.
Similarly, if we are too anxious to be released from samsara and suffering to
secure happiness only for ourselves, the path we follow will prove to be a
tortuous one. Those who sincerely develop the mind of Bodhi and make the effort
to practise the perfection of the Bodhisattva, must equip themselves towards
certain aspects. The essentials are: faith and determination, loving kindness
and compassion, and wisdom. Without the foundation of Bodhisattva teachings,
one's faith and determination will be similar to benevolence and knowledge in
Confucianism; one's loving kindness and compassion will resemble the faith and
wisdom of the Sravakas; and one's wisdom will be equivalent to faith and love in
Christianity. The only practice that can fully convey the Truth of Buddha's
teaching, and can become the supreme way of practice for human beings, in the
practice of the Bodhisattva-the unification of faith and determination, loving
kindness and compassion and wisdom. These three themes supplement each other and
lead one to the attainment of perfection.
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