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A Study of the Cults--a Christian Perspective #3
Let us now look at the teachings of Gautama Buddah. Buddah was born in 563 BC near the border of Napal and India. Gautama was his family name. Buddah was his title which means “enlightened one”. Sometimes his followers call him Tathagata (Truth-Winner) or Bhagara (Lord).
Much legend and myth surround the life of Buddah. So much so that it is impossible to at times separate the truth from the myth. Apparently Buddah was born a prince and for most of his young life was spoiled behind palace walls. Sheltered, he was never allowed to roam from the palace. One day he escaped over the palace walls and met a man that was bent with age and suffering. This was Buddah’s first experience with the real world. For the first time, he understood poverty and the frailty of human existence.
Once again he stole away from the palace and came face to face with disease and death—things he had never seen or been aware of before. On another occasion he met a shave headed monk who completely uprooted Buddah’s idea of wealth and luxury. He knew there was more to life than what he had experienced in the palace.
His search for peace led him in many directions. Finally on his thirty-fifth birthday, he sat down under a tree in the forest under the light of the full moon and vowed, “Until I have attained understanding, I will not rise from here.” According to legend, that night he went into a trance and his divine eye was quickened. He was able to remember all of his past incarnations. When he awoke he became the “enlightened one”, the “buddah”.
For all the simplicity that it claims, Buddhism is a very complicated belief system. Buddah’s simple three statements take in more than meets the eye. 1.) Existence is suffering. 2.) Desire causes suffering. 3.) Ridding all desire ends suffering. At this point Buddah brings in the conclusion to his three statements. Desire can be eliminated if one follows Buddah’s Eightfold path. Buddah’s insights became known as the Four Noble Truths. Buddhism was to be the Middle Way between asceticism and hedonism.
He then developed eight steps to salvation. They are as follows: 1.) Right belief—(correctly understanding the Four Noble Truths free of illusion and superstition 2.) Right Resolve—maintaining pure motives 3.) Right Speech—speaking truthfully 4.) Right Conduct—living peacefully and honestly 5.) Right Livelihood—choosing an occupation that harms no one. 6.) Right Effort—seeking knowledge with self-control 7.) Right Thought—keeping an active, self-critical mind, and 8.) Right Concentration--practicing meditation and Raja yoga (the perception of the divine Self is obscured by the disturbances of the mind. If the mind can be made still and pure, the Self will automatically, instantaneously, shine forth).
This is only the beginning. In addition to the Four Noble Laws and the Eightfold Path, there are also six other detailed laws that must be followed by the devout Buddhist. 1.) The state of Arahatship (being worthy) contains 37 precepts, 29 in addition to the Four Noble Laws and the Eightfold Path. 2.) Five obstacles hinders one’s apporach to enlightenment—sloth, pride, malice, lust, doubt 3.) Three refuges must be affirmed by all who belong to the Sangha (Brotherhood of monks). They are refuge in Buddha, refuge in the dharma (doctrine) and refuge in the Sangha. There are also 227 other regulation which must be observed including that of never touching a woman (including their mother) and drinking unstrained water (lest they kill anything living. 4.) Man has no soul, but exists in five conditions—body, feeling, ideas, will, and pure consciousness.
Keeping the Ten Commandments of Buddhism is also necessary. They exclude killing, stealing, adultery, lying, drinking intoxicating beverages, eating after noon, attending plays or musicals, using personal adornment or perfume, sleeping on a comfortable bed, owning gold or silver. The last five apply only to the Sangha.
There are three principles that must be applied in the Buddhist’s search for nirvana. The first principle includes 31 planes of existence ranging from Higher Spiritual Beings to Beings-in Torment (similar to purgatory). The second principle teaches an individual’s spiritual plane is determined by karma. The third and last principle promises “complete awareness”. Even within this final level, there are four separate stages of “complete awareness”. It makes me wonder what complete really means.