Nowadays religion and spirituality are important sources of world views and views of life. Both of them constitute not only creative political, but also social forces that greatly influence on people during the whole period of mankind existence. I can say that religion or religious inquiry ĒĒ is something that all people have in common virtually. People have wondered about the meaning of life since Adam was a boy and they interested in this meaning to the present day. In all corners of the world and in all eras of history people have own beliefs, faith in higher power and question if there is anyone or anything ďout thereĒĚ.¬† We have learned a lot of information about religion and as for me the best way to remember all information and understand its main essence is a personal connection with a real person who will explain major aspects of own religion and show its main advantages. I think that visitation of a real religious site will give me an opportunity to learn much more about chosen religion. Thereby, the main purposes of my paper are the interviewing person of chosen faith and than compare and contrast this faith with other religion that I was familiar with through my class. I chose Buddhism and Christianity as religions for my analysis.
I think that in the first place it is necessary remember the definition of concept ďreligionĒĚ and then it will be easier to talk about different kinds of religions and compare two of them. According to Asad (1993) the concept ďreligionĒĚ in general meaning ďis a system of human thought which usually includes a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power, deity or deities, or ultimate truth.ĒĚ The term ďreligionĒĚ, however, refers not only to the personal practices that directed to communal faith, but also it refers to different group rituals and communication stemming from shared religious convictions. The notion ďreligionĒĚ is sometimes used except the word ďfaithĒĚ and usually these words consider interchangeable variants. I think that there is one big difference lies between them and this difference is caused by the specific behaviors which are the part of religious system.
I want to begin this paragraph from the famous quotation observing: ďOne thing I teach: suffering and the end of suffering. It is just ill and the ceasing of ill that I proclaim.ĒĚ – The Buddha. Buddhism was founded in India 2,500 years ago. Nowadays Buddhism remains the prevalent religion of the Far East and also in the West its popularity increases year after year. Over centuries Buddhism has developed into a wide variety of forms and different directions have appeared. Though, I mention that all religious Buddhist’s groups are in existence and share a great respect for the teachings of the Buddha, ďThe Enlightened One.ĒĚ As follows from the utterance the Buddha gave can be directly applied in life. We know that all buddhistic schools are united by previous statement, but their difference concludes in fact that each of them situated at the own level of life principles understanding. The main aim of all studies and schools is comprehensive development of a person – conscious use of body, speech and mind.
As buddhistic studies are many-sided and based on experience, but not on a faith, not enough to be limited on the description of its maintenance. Its features become visible only by comparison to other world views. At the same time approaching the studies of the Buddha is needed ridding of too hard views, because plenitude of its wisdom it is impossible to describe as ďthis, but not thatĒĚ. For example, many people suppose that Buddhism is a philosophy. And it is right position, but only in that sense, that buddhistic studies are perfect consistently.
A clarity and free-thinking are important pre-conditions of buddhistic way, and successful development only perfects them. Studies are the instrument in opening of all inherent human’s mind capabilities, including logical thinking. However why is it then impossible to name it a philosophy? The answer concludes in fact that changes have irreversible character and they make it different from philosophy. If in philosophy we work with concepts and statements, successfully lining them up, and then lay books back onto a shelf, the studies of the Buddha go deeper in our mind and they even go out outside concepts, producing irreversible changes in a body, speech and mind. It gives the key to events that daily takes place inwardly and round us, and promotes the level of our awareness in such way. At the use of buddhistic looks and facilities many hard presentations dissolve at first, after a trust increases to that all what be going on and has certain sense, and a man changes gradually – becomes less tense, and his actions all anymore come as though from certain his own middle.
There are many sites with information about Buddhism, but during the preparation for my work I have chosen the site www.buddhiststudies.org.au, because it is very interesting site and I have found there a person to obtain an interview. It is the site of Australasian Association of Buddhist Studies (AABC) and it has free membership for all scientists and students who are interested in Buddhism. I noticed that the AABS has own logo and it is not a simple logo, but the logo with a special meaning and own long history, because it is an abstraction of a votive stupa from the Kusana period (3rd c. CE) found in North Western India. There are many interesting information in AABS’s site presented and www.buddhiststudies.org.au proclaims the next aims: ďThe aim of the Australasian Association of Buddhist Studies is to promote the academic study of Buddhism in the Australasian region. It is anticipated this will be achieved:
√ľ¬†¬†¬†¬† through the organization of events, such as seminars and conferences
√ľ¬†¬†¬†¬† by making available information and resources relevant to Buddhist studies
√ľ¬†¬†¬†¬† by fostering links between scholars and students within the region
√ľ¬†¬†¬†¬† by fostering links between different disciplines working in the field of Buddhist studies
√ľ¬†¬†¬†¬† by fostering links between local and international scholars.ĒĚ
I registered the previously described site and interviewed one of its members. This person wished to stay anonymous and I respect this wish and don’t want to permit his name (I will call him Anonymous in the text). Summarizing received answers I could conclude that every person could choose Buddhism as own religion and take conversion into this religion. It is not only a religion but also a philosophy or Ēėway of life’ for many Buddhists. As we know philosophy ďmeans love of wisdomĒĚ and main principles of this ďwisdom’s loveĒĚ are the part of Buddhist’s religion. Anonymous emphasized them as:
√ľ¬†¬†¬†¬† ďto lead a moral life,
√ľ¬†¬†¬†¬† to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
√ľ¬†¬†¬†¬† to develop wisdom and understanding.ĒĚ
I would never think Buddhism has so deep roots in religious world and before my conversation with Anonymous I knew only that Buddhism is a kind of spiritual tradition and that’s why it focuses on personal spiritual development. I want to mention that this religion attracts many people due to possibility understand the world better and buddhistic spiritual practices allow to look deep insight into the true nature of life and may be to look into own internal world. Anonymous explained me that Buddhism teaches that all life and all events in our life are interconnected, so compassion is natural and even important.
All buddhistic live concerned on the certain laws of their studies and these studies usually called Buddhists’ Studies. These main principles are in accord with the teaching of the Buddha’s lie in three things: to do no evil, to cultivate good and to purify one’s mind. Anonymous told me that he likes Buddhism and it is the state of his mind now, because this religion makes him the person who he wanted to be through his whole life and only in meditations he could develop own internal world and understood the truth. Due to Anonymous words I understood that Buddhism teaches practical methods (such as meditation) which enable people to realize and utilize its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives and to develop the qualities of Wisdom and Compassion. Many religious studies proclaim that the world truth are permanent, but in Buddhism we find statements which face to another position, I mean these teaches show that nothing is fixed or permanent and change is always possible. Buddhism has own truth and path like every religion, for example, www.webspace.ship.edu demonstrates The Four Noble Truth that consist in:
1. ďLife is suffering;
2. Suffering is due to attachment;
3. Attachment can be overcome;
4. There is a path for accomplishing thisĒĚ and the previously named source proposes to read The Eightfold Path that reflects the next points:
ď1. Right view is the true understanding of the four noble truths.
2. Right aspiration is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness.
These two are referred to as prajna, or wisdom.
3. Right speech involves abstaining from lying, gossiping, or hurtful talk.
4. Right action involves abstaining from hurtful behaviors, such as killing, stealing, and careless sex.
5. Right livelihood means making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals.
These three are referred to as shila, or morality.
6. Right effort is a matter of exerting oneself in regards to the content of one’s mind: Bad qualities should be abandoned and prevented from arising again; Good qualities should be enacted and nurtured.
7. Right mindfulness is the focusing of one’s attention on one’s body, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness in such a way as to overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.
8. Right concentration is meditating in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness.
The last three are known as Samadhi, or meditation.ĒĚ
I understood from my conversation with Anonymous that he knows all above stated information by heart and he lives in concordance with all of them. Frankly speaking, I was admired with my interlocutor’s deep religious knowledge and I think that it was a very informative interview that helped me to understand Buddhism with more details and I received new knowledge in personal contact. I want to add that when I asked about the sense of the Buddha’s studies my interlocutor he answered that maybe the Buddha diffuses the “psychology” on many lives. He teaches that events and feelings reasons of which can not be understood within the framework of only one life can be the results of acts of past lives. Accordingly, today by the ideas, we determine the future in which will regenerate words and businesses. There is popular concept in Buddhism and it is named karma, and explains why creatures are situated in so different life situations, on internal and external levels. Coming from this notion everybody experiences is the result of own karma – that results of the past actions, words and ideas, – work is begun with the high level of independence and responsibility for own life. Not for all people these knowledge is clear, in particular case at a difficult vital situation, but Buddha teaches that reason of sufferings is not evil, but thoughtlessness. Therefore main purpose is to delete ignorance that the acts of creatures conduced to everlasting happiness which all people in any case search constantly. And studies of Buddha are a guide-book for all who are on the way of search.
In this paragraph we will compare and contrast above described religion, I mean to compare Buddhism with Christianity. At first I want begin from the main fact that Buddhists do not believe in any god, and the philosophy is probably best described as a pantheistic worldview. Buddhism in many cases teaches nothing about creation or a beginning, or an end of existence, because it has another aim and another destination. In spite of this we can notice that it embraces notion reincarnation without any attempt to explain it and understand its origin.
The Christian Bible has another structure and I can say that it contradicts buddhistic teachings of Nirvana and reincarnation. The teaches of the Bible proclaim that each person is created by God and after death a soul will spend eternity in heaven or in hell, depends from the person’s behavior intra vitam. In comparison to these Christianity’s beliefs we can contradict Buddhist’s believe that the soul is uncreated, eternal, and its boundaries will ultimately be extinguished in the state of Nirvana. According to the main religious principles described at www.windmillministries.org we see that ďthe Buddha gave an eight-fold path to live a better life, without cravings and desires that cause suffering. Jesus gave us a similar set of instructions to improve life in the Sermon on the Mount, but Jesus adds to that God’s power (by the Holy Spirit) and authority, and ultimately God’s grace in the plan of redemption.ĒĚ Thus, in this paragraph we define the main differences between these two religions and it will be good to find out the similar features between them too. There are some shared beliefs between Buddhism and Christianity and they consist in the next statements. For example, I have two quotations from Buddhist’s texts and two quotations from Christianity’s studies. ¬†Using these quotations I want to show their similar features. Ethic of Reciprocity proclaims: ďa state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?ĒĚ Samyutta Nikaya v. 353. and ďHurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.ĒĚ Udana-Varga 5:18. These comparisons go closely to Christianity’s Golden Rule, which is seen in: ďTherefore all things whatsoever yet would that men should do to you, do you even so to them.ĒĚ Matthew 7:12. and ďĒ¶and don’t do what you hateĒ¶ĒĚ Gospel of Thomas 6.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned it is possible to conclude that the best way to understand religion that you are not familiar with is own research work and conversation with a person who believes in it. I think that the interview with the real representative of Buddhism changed my point of view and my attitude to Buddhism, because I found out a lot of interesting facts. I like the path to Enlightenment that Anonymous described to me, because through his words I understood that it is a way to the development of morality through meditation and certain rules implementation. I compared and contrasted two different religious directions and we will never say that one of them is better or vice versa, because both of them are important and they are part of our world. Nowadays it is very important to respect representatives of all religions and be patient and calm in all life situations.