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A Look at Buddhism

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Essay title: A Look at Buddhism

A Look at Buddhism

Jaclyn Tate

Axia College University of Phoenix

Buddhism is a set of philosophies and teachings that is often described as a religion. It is also known as “Buddha Dharma” or “Dhamma”, which means “teachings of the awakened one”. The earliest known origin of Buddhism began in the 5th century BCE (before the current or common era) with the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, also referred to as Buddha. The primary teachings of Buddhism concern the search for enlightenment. Everything in the Buddhist religion revolves around this search which calls for a life of love, justice, kindness to one another, and transcendence of the material world.

Siddhartha was born in Lumbini, a city in Ancient India, in what is now Nepal. The traditionally accepted account of his life says Siddhartha was born a prince, the son of King Suddhodona. King Suddhodona was visited by a wise man shortly after Siddhartha’s birth and was told that his son would grow up to be either a great king or a holy man. Determined to ensure his son’s future as a great king, King Suddhodona shielded his son from the unpleasant realities of everyday life. Siddhartha was constantly surrounded by beauty and health. Despite his father’s efforts, however, Siddhartha discovered the suffering of the common man when he was 29 years old. On various trips outside the palace where he was raised, he encountered an elderly man, a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and a monk. These encounters are commonly referred to as the “Four Sights”. Reportedly, Siddhartha was distressed by these sightings and sought to overcome death, old age, and disease by living the life of a monk. He escaped the palace, leaving behind his wife and infant son, to live the life of a mendicant (an ascetic who relies exclusively on charitable donations to survive).He gave away his clothing and his horse, and cut his hair. For six years, Siddhartha experimented with extreme asceticism, which included fasting, holding the breath, and purposely exposing the body to pain. He soon found, however, that these practices offered no genuine spiritual benefits. (WildMind, 2000) After abandoning asceticism, Siddhartha concentrated on meditation and is said to have discovered what Buddhists refer to as the “Middle Way”, which is a path of moderation between self-indulgence and self-mortification. In the town of Bodh Gaya, Siddhartha decided that he would sit under a certain fig tree as long as it would take for the answers to the problem of suffering to come. He is said to have begun a meditation that lasted for 49 days, at the end of which he attained “bodhi” (awakening or enlightenment). After the attainment of bodhi, Siddhartha was known as the Buddha, which means “one who is awake”, and spent the rest of his life teaching his insights. Over the years, his teachings expanded and became the religion that is now called Buddhism

Buddhism, like many religions, has evolved over the year and is now divided into three classifications; Theravada, East Asian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. Theravada is the oldest surviving Buddhist school and is the predominant religion of Sri Lanka and most of Southeast Asia. Theravada teaches Pali (teaching of analysis) and says that inspiration must come from experience, critical investigation, and reasoning as opposed to blind faith. In Theravada, the cause of human suffering is craving and the defilements; anger, ill will, aversion, greed, jealousy, conceit, hatred, fear, sensual desire, obsession, passion, irritation, distraction, vengeance, depression, anxiety, and clinging to the body. Enlightenment is said to come from repeated meditation to lift oneself from these defilements. Each person is responsible for their own enlightenment and whether this process takes a single lifetime or multiple lifetimes is entirely up to the individual. If at the end of a single lifetime, a person has not reached enlightenment, they will be reincarnated and can continue their search until they have achieved their goal. (Bullitt, John, 2005)

East Asian Buddhism is the collective term for schools of Buddhism that originated in East Asia. These schools include Chinese Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, and Vietnamese Buddhism; each school has incorporated their own beliefs and beliefs of other religions into Buddhism. Chinese Buddhism, for example, has incorporated some ideas of Confucianism and Taoism. Korean Buddhism is a blending of Korea’s native Shamanism and Buddhism. Japanese and Vietnamese Buddhism has, over the centuries, been divided into three separate schools, including Amidist, Nichiren, and Zen Buddhism. (Walsh, John, 2005)


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