Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Buddhist Beliefs." Faithology.com. Faithology, 4 March 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.
Elacqua, J., et. al. (2013, Mar 4). Buddhist Beliefs. Faithology.
Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Buddhist Beliefs" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 4, 2013.
Faithology, LLC, 2012. (Accessed Jun 19, 2013).. Buddhist Beliefs.
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- Last Updated: March 4, 2013
- Originally Published: July 15, 2012
The Buddhist religion consists of roughly 370 million adherents throughout the world. The origins of Buddhism are traced to their founder, Siddhartha Gautama, who lived during the 5th century BCE in India. Before his death, Gautama was believed to have attained enlightenment, and with it, the title " ." Buddhism focuses on the attainment of spiritual enlightenment through meditation and cultivating a lifestyle free of desires and attachments.
Since Gautama's death, the Buddhist religion has been transmitted throughout Asia and altered significantly in the process. Generally, Buddhists are divided into three main groups, or yanas, based on the type of Buddhism to which they adhere. While a number of classification systems exist, the most widely accepted classification of divisions within Buddhism is as follows:
- Early Buddhism (Hinayana ): the form of Buddhism practiced by Siddhartha Gautama, his disciples, and their descendants. This form of Buddhism is presently practiced in and parts of Southeast Asia.
- Mahayana Buddhism: a movement that began around the 1st century CE in India. This division is the most popular form of Buddhism practiced throughout East Asia, most commonly in China, Korea, and Japan.
- Vajrayana Buddhism: an extension of the Mahayana movement characterized by a wealth of practices. This form of Buddhism is practiced chiefly in Tibet and Japan.
These three groups often follow drastically different doctrines. Despite these major differences, the beliefs of each group are all related and are extensions of each other:
Having evolved from Indian Brahmanism, Buddhism shares a number of philosophical beliefs with Hinduism. These shared concepts include:
- Dharma, the natural law that illustrates the role of each person in Indian society. In Buddhism, this word also refers to the Buddhist scriptures.
- Karma, the doctrine that one's actions in life have a cosmic and lasting effect by which individuals are judged at the end of their lives.
- Samsara, the cycle of rebirth through which all Buddhists travel after death. Buddhists may be reincarnated as greater or lesser sentient beings depending on the karma that they accumulated prior to death.
- yoga, meditation, and fasting. These practices are an integral component in some Buddhist practices. practices, which include isolation,
Oppositely, as a reaction to Indian Brahmanism, Buddhists also reject core elements of Hindu doctrine, including:
- While Buddhists recognize the body of Hindu sacred texts, they do not or revere them as the Hindus do.
- Buddhists wholly reject the idea of caste, the strict social class system prevalent throughout India.
- Buddhists also reject the idea of anatman, the notion that there is no enduring or eternal spiritual essence present inside sentient beings. , the Hindu notion of an enduring spiritual self. Instead, Buddhists preach
- While Buddhists seek an end to the cycle of nirvana. Attainment of also allows one to become a buddha. , they do not embrace the Hindu doctrine of moksha. Instead, they seek release from the rebirth cycle (samsara) in the form of enlightenment, or
Some Buddhist doctrine does not have a Brahmanic or Hindu precedent. These concepts include the following:
All Buddhists revere a collection of texts generally referred to as the "Buddhist
- The early Buddhist canon is called the . It is composed in .
- The Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist canon is similarly called the Tripitaka. While some portions of this canon exist in Sanskrit, it largely survives in Chinese and Tibetan translations.
- Buddhism is often described as a non-theistic religion because there is technically no such thing as a Buddhist deity. However, the Hindu deities play active roles in early Buddhist and scriptures. Furthermore, in the Mahayana and Vajrayana divisions, various buddhas and bodhisattvas are venerated and worshiped with the same religious fervor as deities of any other religion. Thus, for all intents and purposes, buddhas and bodhisattvas do arguably function as deities.
- The most basic teaching of Buddhism involves the acceptance of universal suffering. Buddhists teach that the goal of life is to attain freedom from this suffering in the form of nirvana. These teachings are expounded in doctrines known as the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path. The belief in a karmic chain of dependent origination is closely related.
- The foremost quality practiced throughout Buddhism is the virtue of compassion. Regardless of the sect to which a Buddhist belongs, compassion always plays a major role in the religion.
- All Buddhists revere a collection of texts generally referred to as the "Buddhist
The Mahayana and Vajrayana divisions of Buddhism adhere to additional doctrines that are not present in early Buddhism. Some of these beliefs include:
- Emptiness: According to this belief, every aspect of the world is void. That is to say that reality is an illusion constructed by the mind. Attachment to anything in the physical world must cease in order for one to embrace buddhahood.
- Original Enlightenment: This Japanese-only belief suggests that every aspect of the world and every sentient being already manifest enlightenment. Everyday actions are perceived as a result of this enlightenment.
- Tathagata Garbha: This doctrine states that every sentient being contains within itself the inner potential to become a buddha, even though that potential may not always be realized.
- Upaya: According to this belief, buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other beings may use unconventional means as necessary in order to either save sentient beings or help them to attain enlightenment.
- : This doctrine, present only in Japanese Buddhism, states that the deities of the Shinto religion are actually lesser manifestations of more universal Buddhist deities. These Buddhist deities are said to have taken the form of the Shinto deities in order to assist the Japanese people in attaining enlightenment.