Buddhism

Buddhism is a philosophy of life, the product of humanthought, not a revelation from God or about God.

Origin of Buddhism

Buddhism began as the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, aHindu prince of the Sakya tribe, born in northern India (now Nepal), who livedand died 25 centuries ago. At the age of 29, he ventured beyond the protectivewalls of the palace and saw for the first time a frail old man, a sick person,a dead body, and an ascetic. All this led him to abandon his kingly birthright,leave the palace and his wife of 13 years and his newborn son, and give himselfto extreme asceticism, which almost cost him his life. He then chose a ‘middlepath’ that avoided both self-mortification and self-indulgence, and whichculminated for him in ‘enlightenment’ through meditation. He became known asSakyamuni Buddha—meaning ‘the sage of the Sakyas’, or just ‘the Buddha’,meaning ‘the enlightened one’.

This does not mean he was a god, or a messenger/prophet fromGod. The Buddhist website buddhanet.net states: “A Buddha is not a god/God. Therelationship between a Buddha and his disciples and followers is that of ateacher and student.”12 Buddhism is thus aphilosophy of life, the product of human thought, not a revelation from God orabout God. Buddhist doctrine is known as the Dharma.

The Buddha’s ‘enlightenment’ included the Four Noble Truths.These are:

Life is suffering.

The origin of suffering is desire arising from greed, angerand ignorance.

Cessation from suffering is possible.

This can be achieved by following the Noble Eightfold pathof right living through self-effort.13

Karma

The concept of karma as a universal Law of Cause and Effectpervades Buddhism. Buddhist Venerable Master Hsing Yun explains:

These ladies believe they can earn good karma by giving foodeach day to Buddhist monks.

“All intentional acts of body, speech, and mind producekarmic retribution that will inevitably occur. … it is karma that keepssentient beings trapped in the cycle of birth and death. … Good karma[resulting from deeds which help other sentient beings] leads to rebirth as ahuman being or a heavenly being. On the other hand, bad karma is any actionthat harms or causes suffering to self or others. Very bad acts produce karmathat leads to rebirth in one of the three lower realms of existence (the realmsof hell, hungry ghosts, and animals).”14,15

And the Dalai Lama says:

“In Buddhism, this karmic causality is seen as a fundamentalnatural process and not as any kind of divine mechanism or a working out of apreordained design.”16

Karma generated in this life may arrive in this life, or inthe next life, or in some life beyond the next life “when the right conditionsarise”. Karmic causes and effects do not disappear, they cannot be forgiven,there are no exceptions, and bad karma and good karma cannot cancel each otherout. One life is not enough to pay for all of one’s karma. Reincarnation isthus an ongoing process of birth, death, and rebirth … with the prospect thatif you kill a chicken in this life, you face being reborn as a chicken in yournext life (see also Reincarnationvs Creation). Strict Buddhism calls for vegetarianism, because eating meatinvolves killing an animal. Westerners might wonder whether another reason couldbe the possibility that a frozen chicken in a supermarket just might beGrandpa!

Nirvana

For Buddhists, the only means of escaping from this cycle isto achieve nirvana. According to Buddhist authorities, this is not a heaven orparadise, but more like total oblivion.

“In Buddhism, it refers to the absolute extinction ofindividual existence, or of all afflictions and desires; it is the state ofliberation, beyond birth and death. It is also the final goal of Buddhism.”17

Achieving nirvana is through enlightenment, which means thatyou become a buddha, i.e. someone who has been purified of karma. This is onlypossible from the human realm. No saviour exists, not even Buddha. Each personmust get there solely by their own effort.