I have considered myself to be a fairly religious person. I went to a Presbyterian elementary and middle school, a Christian School. At C.S. we had a religion class everyday. The difference from then and now is then we learned strictly about Christianity. I had never heard about evolution and other religions until I was in high school. I had only known that there was one God, and it was He to which we prayed. I knew that there was a heaven and a hell. The good people went to heaven and the bad to hell. In much more depth of course, but needless to say that was very naive. I had a Humanities class my sophomore year in high school. In this class we learned about all of the religions, how they operated, and what they believed. It was then that I took a deep interest in Buddhism. I didn’t know much, but what I did know seemed so much different and it really caught my eye.
Buddhism has two parts. These parts are Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. The first part is Mahayana. It can be defined as, ?’Large Raft’ Buddhism; one of the two branches of Buddhism, dominant in East Asia and Vietnam. So named because it’s people carry a large raft to carry people to enlightenment.? (Niwano, 87-88) And Theravada is defined as, ?’Way of the Elders’; surviving school of one of the two branches of Buddhism, found in Southeast Asia. Claims to bet he most ancient expression of Buddhist teaching. Called ?Hinayana’ by Mahayana Buddhist teachers.? (Niwano, 87-88)
The Theravada Buddhism has dated back to as late as sixth century B.C.E., and it’s was founded in one of the countries that it flourishes in today, Southeast Asia. There one founder of this school of Buddhism that is Siddhartha Gautama. He has shown people what is known as the ?middle way.? This path is a path of liberation from the cycle of rebirth. All Buddhists honor this man. No matter what type of Buddhism they believe the focus is on him. The believers may not know what the significance of his life is, but they do know that he is of great importance.
Siddhartha was born in about 563 B.C.E. He was a warrior in India. Siddhartha was raised in luxury to protect him from the bad parts of life. His father did this in hopes to raise religious questions in his mind. Guatama felt empty inside, so he decided to venture out into an unknown area. This is where he saw the ?four passing sights.? ?The first was a sorrowful, old man. The second was a man racked by illness. The third was a man being carried on a funeral pyre.? This was the first time that he had seen that life is not just pleasure and joy. But it does include bad things, such as misery, despair, and death. He then came to realize that this too would happen to him. He became almost depressed until one day he saw the fourth sight. ?His fourth sight was a mink calmly walking alone in a yellow robe.?(Encyc. Brit.) He was now determined to find out a better way to live. He wanted to finds a way to get out of the inevitable suffering. This was the beginning of a six-year quest. Through this quest, he established an order of nuns and monks. He was enlightened, said to have ?woken up?. His title was now Buddha. His middle way of thinking and living was a path between self-denial and self-indulgence. (Gombrish,23)
The major, sacred texts of Buddhism are known as ?Pali Canon.? There are thirty-one separate texts. These all came from five hundred years after Buddha died. Like many religious books, this book started as stories told by mouth, before they were written down. The scripture was broken down into baskets. The first basket included guidelines for being a monk. The second contained basic teachings of Buddha. The third focuses on an analysis of the nature of existence. (Gombrish, 23)
On the contrary, Mahayana Buddhism says that any person possesses the ability to become a Buddha. Also, it says that we are not in our own quest for freedom. Help