This weekend is Buddha’s birthday and the celebrations are in full swing – a festival is starting to bustle right outside my workplace door. For a religion based on the teachings of one man who came to be called ‘enlightened one,’ or ‘Buddha’ who, after seven years spent travelling as an ascetic, came to realise three revelations or ‘enlightenments’ while sitting under a fig tree, the Asian world in particular has gone crazy.
Buddhists don’t believe in higher deities or a creator but rather, follow a proposed path toward freedom from suffering though reflection on the nature of our existence. It’s a life dependant on self-redemption.
Recognising Four Noble Truths is where the life of Buddhism begins.
1. Suffering is universal.
2. The root of suffering is desire – our craving for and clinging to transient phenomena.
3. It is possible for suffering to cease and to reach what is called ‘Nirvana.’
4. An Eightfold Path (outlined below) is the solution to end suffering.
The Eightfold Path incorporates:
– Understanding of the Buddha’s view of life (The Four Noble Truths).
– Having an attitude where goodwill and peace takes the place of desire and hate.
– Communicating in a way that is wise, truthful, kind, helpful and harmonious.
– Taking responsibility and accepting the consequences for one’s own actions.
– Having an occupation and livelihood that doesn’t harm others.
– Consistently striving to overcome unhelpful motivations and cultivate wholesome ones.
– Considering all things with care and acting, speaking and thinking with awareness not desire.
– Meditation or reflection on Buddhist beliefs.
There are three important concepts of Buddhism.
Karama is a fluid representation of the good and bad that we perform in our lives. Buddhism teaches that those who do good, become good and vice versa. Actions have consequences. The law of consequence is not a divine judgement. You get what you give. What you give in this life directly affects what you become in the next just as this life is an image of what you were in a previous one.
The cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.
An eternal state of being where the laws of Karma and Samsara cease to exist. It’s not a place, but rather a state of being – you can reach Nirvana while living in your present life. It’s the end of suffering and desire.
The Buddha described Nirvana like this:
‘..A condition, where there is neither earth nor water, neither air nor light, neither limitless space nor limitless time, neither any kind of being, neither ideation or non-ideation, neither this world nor that world. There is neither arising nor passing away nor dying, neither cause nor effect, neither change nor stand still.’
Buddhism teaches that no one can cleanse you, nor can anyone defile you..there is no one who can rid you of your sins but you. The responsibility of Karma, Samsara and Nirvana is your own.
In essence, reality doesn’t exist. Nothing exists. Life is ‘maya’ – an illusion which we must break from to reach enlightenment (Nirvana). According to Buddhism, the biggest problem humanity faces is our own inability to see through the daydream.
Have you ever watched the Matrix? The basic principle in the Matrix films is that what most people think of as reality is actually a computer simulation – our perception of reality doesn’t match entirely what reality really is.
Back to Buddha’s birthday festival outside. It’s very colourful…there are fake flowers, artwork, Buddha statues, food that smells amazing and pools to throw your money in. But as I walked through it, I couldn’t stop the sadness from creeping through me as I watched a lady with clasped hands and closed eyes throw a coin into a plastic fountain. I couldn’t stop the sadness as I overheard a female monk telling a passerby about her destiny. And to be honest, I didn’t even try to stop the sadness from overwhelming me when I saw the hundreds of school children traipsing through the stalls, being taught about the wonderful man by the name of Buddha.
It felt hopeless. It felt hopeless because the aim of Buddhism is to escape a desperate and doomed world by pretending it doesn’t exist. It felt hopeless because Buddhism teaches that the fix for a broken humanity comes from humanity itself.
The reality is that reality exists.
The reality is that you’re not going to come back after death and have another chance to gain a higher level of satisfaction by doing good things.
The reality is that evil isn’t an accident which, by having an attitude of peace and goodwill, will disappear. Sooner or later your patience will run out.
Suffering and evil are real. They’re horrible and they’re enslaving. They’re not escapable in this life or able to be dealt with using human minds and standards.
Buddhism doesn’t provide an out to a mundane existence – it numbs all feeling toward it by teaching that reality, purpose and truth are relative to each individual and up to that individual to deal with themselves.
The reality is that Jesus Christ, who was crucified and then rose from the dead, is the centrepiece of reality. And He has given us hope.
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.
Thank you Jesus for saving me – so I don’t have to create a false security ahead of terrifying destruction.