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Buddhism Essay Examples



To understand the ways of Buddhism is to understand a concept of thinking that is rare.  While there is religion, legend and imagination attached to the life of the Buddha, the historical role of the Buddha himself plays a critical role in the understanding of the teachings and philosophy.  This paper will attempt to identify and examine the life of the Buddha, his teaching and philosophies through the Three Jewels.  There are Three Jewels to the creed of the Buddhist. Known as The trinity, these consist of the Buddha as the finder of the Truth, the Doctrine or dharma and the sangha, which is the Buddhist Community of monks.

The Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama was the Buddha and he (ca. 563-483 B.C.) served as an inspiration to millions of believers in the past and present.  Buddha, meaning “Enlighted One”, believed in an ultimate enlightenment called Nirvana.
According to Zurcher in his book called Buddhism Buddha chose his life from the time he was born.  “When the time came he made five surveys, choosing the moment for his descent, the right continent and birthplace, the clan into which he would be born and the persons who were to be his father and mother.  His father was Suddhodana of the Sakyas and his mother queen was Maya.  According to the legend the gods received the child in a golden net and bathed him.  It is said that while this took place the earth shook and trembled, the universe became illuminated, he stood up and declared ‘I am the highest one in the world-this is my last existence  (Zurcher 18)!

His birth was predicted, by brahmin soothsayers that he would become a universal monarch ruling over four continents or abandon the world and become an Enlightened One  (19).
It is said that the gods had sent the Bodhisattva, a ‘being destined to Enlightenment’, Four signs.  He saw an old man, a sick man, a corpse and a wandering ascetic. He discovered the first three to be forms of suffering and decay, which no man can escape.  When the Gods showed him the wandering monk on the fourth encounter he decided to, under divine inspiration to abandon the world at once.  After a spell, the Gods guided him to the ‘Tree of Enlightenment’.  It was here that he made ‘Let my skin, sinews and bones become dry, and the flesh and blood in my body dry up!  But I will never stir from this seat without having realized Supreme Enlightenment  (20).”  According to Zurcher, Buddha reached this ”Total Extinction’ (death) at age of eighty.

The dharma consists of many factors such as space and time, karma and rebirth, the non-existence of the ego, the Four Noble Truths, the monastic ideal, the disciples career, and causation  (Zurcher 26-29).

Space and time

Space and time is the notion of ones reality behind the world of limited and ephemeral existence, however the attainment of Buddhahood is extremely rare in both time and space because certain world systems do not accept the existence of a Buddha  (The Three Pillars of Zen, Kapleau 89).

Karma and rebirth

Karma and rebirth like time and space are not restricted to ideas of just Buddhism, says Christmas Humphreys in his book, Exploring Buddhism.  Karma says, no man has luck, whether good or bad, and nothing occurs by chance.  Coincidence is the ‘falling together’ of events by cause-effect, however obscure.  Rebirth is related with Karma, as it says that a man cannot escape his actions, even through death  (Humphreys 78).

Non-existence of the ego

“Buddhism denies the existence of both an eternal ‘world-soul’ and a permanent ‘self’ in man.  The individual is not a certain something ‘endowed with a number of qualities, but simply the sum of those qualities taken together, a bundle of elements without any permanent substratum such as a soul  (The Wisdom of Buddhism, Humphreys, 102).”

Four Noble Truths

“To bring about a change in the way man views himself in the world is the highest purpose of religion and philosophy. From the moment of his own awaking to his death, he attempts to show men how to transform themselves  (Stryk 56).”
1. Suffering:  birth, sickness, death, to be associated with what is unpleasant, to be dissociated from what is pleasant, and not to obtain ones desires.
2.  Origin of Suffering: thirst which leads to rebirth, the thirst for lust, thirst for existence, the thirst for ‘non-existence’
3.  Cessation of Suffering: It is the cessation of that thirst, its abandonment, its giving up, its forsaking, the release, and the detachment from thirst.
4.  Path of leading to Cessation of Suffering: it is called The Noble Eightfold Path  (Stryk 56).

The Monastic Ideal

This ideal is one of bodily and mental preparation.  One who leads an ascetic life can only reach the highest goal.  It is based on a life of uninterrupted religious practice and exertion, shielded from all disturbing influences and worldly cares  (Zucher 28).

The Disciple’s Career

The disciple’s career is divided into three phases: the practice of morality, mental concentration and the attainment of Wisdom
also, the release of knowledge called prajna.  There are rules that must be observed by the Buddha, these range from abstaining from killing, hurting, sexual contact, falsehood, frivolous speech and various kinds of amusements and material comforts.  The Buddha believes that actions are basically a mental phenomenon, therefore, those that seek release by outward acts are compared to dogs  (Zen: Dawn in the West 47).  The rest of the process is a mental one, where prolonged meditation helps him to dispel the five obstacles, worldly attachment, ill-will, insolence and apathy, distraction and mental disturbance and doubt  (Zurcher 54).


The theory of Causation is directly connected with the human fate.  The Buddha believes it forms a means to reach salvation.  All causation proceed from a cause  (Stryk 102).
According to Zurcher, the central idea is that the individual is no more than a collection of visible and invisible elements, and those elements are divided into five bundles, skandha, material body, sensation, perception, the aggregates and the consciousness.
The Sangha is the Community of Monks and makes up part of the Trinity from which it can not be separated.  Zurcher says that, salvation is to obtained by practicing the dharma in the secession of the monastery (Exploring Buddhism Humphreys).  The Sangha involves many facets such as the monastic rules, clergy and laity, ways of life, ceremonies, and the caste system.

Monastic Rules

The disciplinary rules are called the Vinaya.  These rules are binding for a members of the clergy.  It explains that anyone can join the sangha, provided it does not bring conflict into the community.  Such as fugitives, serfs, slaves, soldiers, and one who does not have parents’ permission.  Persons who have grave diseases or bodily defects are also not accepted (The Three Pillars of Zen, Kapleau 67).
It goes on to discuss the ten rules of training that a novice must observe.  They also must live for three monthly periods of retreat in a monastery or Vihara.  Each vihara belongs to a self-governing regional unit, a parish, and all monks perform mutual duties and responsibilities  (Zurcher 37).
Clergy and Laity
A sangha was one of absolute dependence on others, such as lay people.  It was the duty of the lay men to provide the sangha with material goods, including items such as construction, repair work and food.  Without this aid, orders could not exist, because the monks were not allowed to engage in agriculture or commerce, perform manual labor or possess money  (Stryk 38).

Monastic way of life

The monks lead a very ascetic life.  Material comforts were forbidden.  Small hours of sleep were allowed and his day was spent begging for food and spiritual exercises  (Exploring Buddhism 97).


Ceremonial meetings took place during the fortnightly fast-day, every month at the new moon and at the full moon.  It was during these meetings that confession was to be recited.  A second ceremony that took place was that of a transgression invitation.  If after the period of retreat one had offended another this was the chance to speak up and remove all ill wills.  The most important religious festival was celebrated in Theravada countries and held every year in memory of the birth, Enlightenment and Pari-nirvana of the Buddha  (Zurcher 18).

The Caste System

A caste system is a class hierarchy.  The caste system is viewed as non-existent in the Buddhist society.  When someone joins the sangha society they abandon the caste as well as the other attributes of secular life: his home and family, his social relations, his original habits and occupation, sometimes his surname.  All monks are equal whatever their former life would have been  (19).


In conclusion, Buddhism is not a philosophy.  It is not a rational explanation of the universe.  It does not answer questions such as, where did we come from?  From the trinity we can see that Buddhism is a mental training and discipline leading to salvation.  There is no God in which they worship.  Salvation comes from within.

Work Cited

Humphreys, Christmas.  Exploring Buddhism. (Illinois:  The Theosophical Publishing House, 1974).
Humphreys, Christmas. The Wisdom of Buddhism.  (New York: Random House, 1961).
Kapleau, Philip.  The Three Pillars of Zen.  (New York: Harper and Row, 1966).
Kapleau, Philip.  Zen: Dawn in the West.  (New York: Doubleday, 1979).
Stryk, Lucien.  World of the Buddha.  (New York: Doubleday, 1968).
Zurcher, E.  Buddhism.  (New York: St. Martins Press, 1962).

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