Miss City Discovers: My Thoughts on Buddhism (as learned from my Social Foundations Class)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Thoughts on Buddhism (as learned from my Social Foundations Class)

The Buddha Metteyya is the future Perfect One. When he enters the world, he will look to enlighten others, and to lead them to the path of Nibbana. He will teach the same ideals and principles of the former Buddha, which centers on the Dhamma, the doctorate, or the truth that transforms who you are. It is recognizing that there is no “I” and there is no ego. It is the awakening. The Buddha will try to guide others so that they will not be reincarnated, and will be freed from the wheel of rebirth. He will attempt to achieve this by teaching the four noble truths. They include suffering (Dukkha), the origin of suffering (Tanha), the cessation of suffering (Nibbana) and the eight fold path. However, I would choose not to become the Buddha Metteyya’s follower. I agree and positively reflect on aspects of the eight-fold path, and will genuinely consider them as I walk through my life, applying them to situations as I see fit. The main issue I find with Buddhism is the disconnect between it’s claim for feeling compassion for others, but not feeling love, connection, desire or attachment with other human beings.
The caste system in India was rigid, and important in the upbringing of the Buddha. At the top were the Brahmans, or priests, and they were closest to achieving liberation from reincarnation. Then came the Kshatriya, who were kings and warriors (the Buddha comes from this caste, as his parents are royalty). Following them were the Vaisya, usually merchants and farmers. Towards the bottom were the Sudra, or workers. At the very bottom of the social standing were the Untouchables. They called themselves the dalit.  Only the top three castes could read religious materials. Hinduism believed that upward social mobility comes through reincarnation. You must accumulate merit in order to move up and if people are in a lower caste, they believe they made mistakes in past lives. I certainly don’t agree with the idea that you must be locked into your social standing within Hinduism, and I understand how Buddhism was a superior choice since anyone could receive enlightenment, regardless of their social standing.
I question whether or not the Buddha felt love for his family during his early years. He was completely sheltered, lived on a great estate and his parents ensured that he never looked upon the sick, dead or old. At age 29, he leaves his home and sees this imminent part of life. He then renounces the material world, and decides to take on the yellow robe of a monk. Could he feel betrayed by his parents? I am skeptical of how someone can go from living in ultimate luxury, to renouncing all pleasures. I believe there had to be some feelings of regret or anger. How does the Buddha begin his path to enlightenment with feelings of negativity? To so easily give up those who cared and cherished you speaks great amounts about the character and mentality of a person. As someone who advocates heavily for the human relationship, and united existences, I wouldn’t want to follow one who can leave without a second thought.
In the Sangha, or community, those who are enlightened, or who are on the path of enlightenment, go the “middle way”. It is neither asceticism nor indulgence. The monks will walk through the towns with a bowl, silently begging for nourishment. They see this as a privilege and honor for those who feed them. This ideal sounds to me like the ego is present, which directly goes against the Dhamma. Eventually, the Buddha is enlightened under a tree. He then has to be somewhat convinced by the Brahma Sahampati to go teach the Dhamma and give his wisdom to others looking to be enlightened. “The world will be lost, the world will be utterly lost; for the mind of the Perfect One, accomplished and fully enlightened, favors inaction and not teaching the Dhamma” (38). An additional reason I wouldn’t prefer to follow the Buddha is because he claims he has kindheartedness for everyone, but how is it that he must be persuaded to bestow his wisdom on others? He harnesses a knowledge that liberates an entire being from ever having to suffer again. The Buddha doesn’t love because that is a form of attachment. He claims that attachments lead us to believe that there is an ego and a self. The notion of the self is an accretion of attachments that produce the illusion that there is a self. It’s built by tying together experiences, and assuming there’s a central point that ties them all together. If there is no self or no soul, what is reincarnated? The illusion then must be reincarnated, and the fact that we cling to the illusion, people cannot be released from the wheel of birth and death.
As much as I believe that much of what Buddhism expounds is conflicting, I do wish to take away some of the ideas of the eight-fold path. In my case, however, it’s only a four-fold path. I wish to follow the Right View because I believe living in the present is the only way to achieve contentedness. You mustn’t lodge in the past, nor can you try to expect the future. In fact, the fear of the future, and of what is to come, is what hinders people’s forward movement.
Attempting the Right Intention is also significant to me. Instinctively, I don’t look to purposely be cruel to anyone. I believe in karma, which states that the manner in which you act towards others will then return to you. But, this contradicts the idea that there is no “self”. Following Buddhism, being compassionate for all people is the right intention. “Even if bandits brutally severed him limb from limb with a two-handed saw, he who entertained hate in his heart on that account would not be the one who followed my teaching” (237). But what is compassion without genuine love?
In following the idea of Right Speech, I must abstain from “lying, slander, abuse and gossip” (238). Buddhism states that small talk is pointless, as it’s harboring the past. I want to be a truth teller. The implication of gossip is “I’m better than they are” and this boosts and enforces the ego, something I want to overcome with every ounce of my being on a daily basis.
The Right Effort is great determination towards non-corruption. I want to exert and arouse energy in myself and in others so that we can collectively achieve our deepest goals, desires, and ambitions. Of course, Buddhism says that looking to achieve something for the self is not on the path to enlightenment, but I don’t agree with that. The paradox in Buddhism in regards to the right effort is that if you don’t desire enlightenment, you cannot achieve it because you wouldn’t be on the path. But if you desire enlightenment, you can’t achieve it, because that is desire.
Unfortunately, a life governing that expels love, desire, attachment, ambition and trivial happiness is something I cannot partake in. The sections of Buddhism that I do agree with, and find refreshingly truthful and smart, I will apply to my life as best I can, only looking to have them help me achieve those desires and hopes I so desperately love to cling to.

Works Cited
Nanamoli, Bhikkhu. The Life of the Buddha. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1992. 


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