[ MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2004 01:53:39 AM ]
A true follower of the Tathagata does not found his trust upon austerities or rituals, but believes in the giving up the idea of self and relies wholeheartedly on amitabha, the unbounded light of truth, says Paul Carus in The Gospel of Buddha.
Two extremes should be avoided by a recluse: indulgence in sensual pleasures and addiction to self-mortification. Abandoning both these extremes the Tathagata has comprehended the Middle Path promoting sight and knowledge and tends to peace, higher wisdom, enlightenment and Nirvana.
What the Buddha spoke at Sarnath in his first sermon, the Dharmachakrapravartana
or Turning of the Wheel of Law, put forth the Middle Way, the Four
Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Buddha said that the way
to salvation was not dependent on God or Divine Grace but on understanding
the way things really are. It is essentially concerned with man,
or rather with all living, suffering beings caught in the treadmill
of desire and craving.
Phra Peter Pannapadipo, an English Monk in Thailand wrote: “By following Buddha’s teachings, I feel profoundly content —with my environment, my life and with everything that life throws at me, including its ending... what more could anybody want?
Buddhism is not centred on a god, rather, it is a system of philosophy and a code of morality. Moreover, the achievement of enlightenment is the goal of every being, so eventually, we will all reach Buddhahood.
In India, Buddhism evolved and spread rapidly after it was embraced by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. Although Buddhism spread throughout Asia it remained virtually unknown in the West until recent times. Western knowledge of Buddhism emanated through three main channels: the labour of western scholars; the work of philosophers, intellectuals, writers and artists; and the arrival of Asian immigrants who brought various forms of Buddhism with them to America and Europe.
The reasons why the West finds Buddhism attractive are complex, and have as much to do with the cultural history of the West as with the characteristics of Buddhism. One of the most popular western interpretations of Buddhism is that it is a rational philosophy, and materialistic developments in the West have created a climate of science and secular liberation which is favourable to Buddhism.
Few Buddhist doctrines are in direct conflict with science. Recent discoveries in quantum physics suggest that science is slowly coming round to a view of reality not unlike that described in Buddhist philosophy. Works such as Frijof Capra’s The Tao of Physics have revealed interesting parallels between the conceptual worlds of theore-tical physics and eastern thought.
Buddhism is undogmatic, even to the extent of instructing its followers not to accept its teachings uncritically but always to test them in the light of their own experience. Although it asks that its followers take certain basic teachings on trust in the initial stages, and adopt a positive and open-minded attitude, Buddhism is more concerned with the development of understanding than the acceptance of credal formulas. The fact that Buddhism imposes few confessional, ritual, or other requirements on its followers makes it easy to live as a Buddhist in a pluralistic milieu and this minimises the likelihood of overt conflict with secular values.
It would be inadequate to define Buddhism simply as a philosophy, a way of life or a code of ethics. It includes all these things and more: A great deal depends on the perspective of the seeker.