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Buddhism, founded by Siddhartha Gautama in the late 6th century B.C.E, is an essential religion in most parts of Asia (Harvey, 2012). Over the decades, from the point of its formation, the doctrine has undergone vast transformations. Each of those transformations is often an attempt to draw from the teachings of Buddha, the founder of the religion, as a basis for their religious lives. The Buddha was not a god, and his philosophy did not entail any theistic worldview. The main aim of his teachings was the liberation of sentient beings from the suffering on earth. After his revelation, Buddha decided to share his experience with others and encouraged them to follow the Middle Path(Elverskog, 2010).
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History of the Religion
The Buddha traveled throughout northeastern India for a few decades, sharing his philosophy with anyone who was interested, irrespective of their gender. Upon his death, his last wish to his followers was to ensure that they continued to share awareness of his philosophy and teachings, which helped in the spreading of the religion across different parts of Asia. Like all other religions, Buddhism has several different traditions. However, all the different traditions share fundamental beliefs. One of the core beliefs of the faith is the idea of reincarnation- the concept of people being reborn after they die. According to the teachings of the Buddha, most people often go through many cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. Through the incarnation process, an individual may return after death repetitively. In rebirth, a person may not essentially come back the same way they did in the past life. The Buddha compared the concept to the idea of a leaf falling from a tree. Once the withering leaf falls, it will eventually be replaced by a new leaf. Although the foliage will be like the one that fell off, it will not be identical to the original leaf.
Buddhism is practically extinct in India, and this is because of the all-embracing nature of Hinduism and Muslim invasions. The extinction eventually proved a significant stressor on the way of lives for the monks in the region. However, as a religion, Buddhism has demonstrated its viability and practical spirituality in the parts of Asia that the practice continues today (Harvey, 2012). Over the years, the followers of the religion have grown smaller, explained by the spread of other religious traditions from other parts of the world.
Morals and Values of the Religion
Buddhism involves three basic teachings– the three universal truths, the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path (Elverskog, 2010). The three universal truths include three key concepts that the followers must accept in their path to practicing Buddhism. These include the views that nothing gets lost in this universe and the general law of cause and effect. These truths exist not only to guide people in how they live their lives but also extends to the nature of the relationships between people.
The noble eightfold path exists to guide people to end their suffering. The eight parts of the way to liberation are further grouped into three core elements of the Buddhist practice- wisdom, moral conduct, and mental discipline. The eightfold path included the right effort, right livelihood, right action, right speech, right thought, proper understanding, right mindfulness, and right concentration. All the teachings of the Buddha in one way or the other comes back to this path in guiding people in ways through which to embrace the suffering of this world.
Buddhism is a religion that focuses on the truthful definition of human nature and the reality of life around us. The Buddha, or “the enlightened one” focused his teachings on the elimination of human suffering through an understanding of the true nature of the world. Another fundamental belief of Buddhism is the idea of reincarnation, which relates to the concept of one being born again after death.
All Buddhists live by five core precepts, which to some extent could act like the ten commandments of the religion (Harvey, 2012). The first precept is that one shall not kill. Insome cases, it can be translated as the absence of violence within the community or the idea of not harming one another. The second warns against stealing, which is generally explained to mean the avoidance of any form of fraud or economic exploitation. The third precept is not to lie, often interpreted not to engage in any type ofname calling, gossip or anything along that line. The fourth is do not misuse sex. For the monks and nuns in the religion, this is a law that encourages celibacy (Raguin, Bangdel& Peters, 2010).
The other principle has to do with the laity. It is a rule that generally discourages people against adultery, sexual harassment or sexual exploitation, even in marriage. Lastly, there is the precept that warns against the consumption of alcohol and other drugs. The general concern is that use of alcohol, and other drugs could cloud the mind of the consumer and result in one engaging in sinful activities. Besides, for those who intend to join the monastic life, there are five additional precepts that one must incorporate into their daily lives (Mollier, 2008).
The common misconception among people is that Buddhism is atheistic, which is not true. Despite the disbelief in the idea of the existence of God as the creator of the earth, the Buddha did not completely rule out the existence of God or gods.
Buddhism vs. Islam
There are several critical areas in which the two religions differ. The first area to consider has to do with the belief of God. Buddhists generally reject the existence of an omnipresent and all-powerful being who created the world. On the other hand, Muslims believe in the presence of God who is the real creator (Raguin, Bangdel& Peters, 2010). The means of salvation is another area in which the two religions differ. Buddhists believe in the path of enlightenment, which ultimately allows one to discover the truth about life and reach Nirvana, at which point, one will not be reborn again. The means of salvation for Muslims, on the other hand, relates to the belief in God, the fear of God, repentance and acting in a way that is right in the eyes of God. All these actions, in the long run, aim to ensure that one gets God’s Mercy.
Moreover, the goals of the two religions also vary considerably. The primarypurpose of Buddhism is to enable one to achieve enlightenment and to be released from the cycle of death and rebirth eventually. After the process, one will finally reach Nirvana. On the other hand, for Islam, the primary goal of Muslims is to make sure one meets the responsibilities and gifts of his/her life by abiding to the Holy Quran. Muslims often work hard to serve and to fulfill the course for justice, trustworthiness, compassion, and love for God’s creations on earth(Raguin, Bangdel& Peters, 2010).
Lastly, the belief in the idea of life after death vastly varies across the two religions. One of the central tenets in Buddhism is the idea of rebirth. The religion believes in the concept of people being stuck in an endless cycle from birth to living, to death and then to be reborn again. One’s achievement of the Nirvana can only break this cycle, and consequently escape the sufferings prevalent on earth (Mollier, 2008). Islam does not believe in the idea of life after death. Based on the teachings of the religion, everyone is created with a purpose to fulfill. After one dies and meets their maker, they will receive judgment and either be rewarded or punished for their evil deeds.