Minority Experience

Attending a religious denomination which is exactly opposite to your belief is a new experience in my part. I am able to attend a Buddhist church. Its belief is on the teachings of Buddha. According to Buddhism, liberation is attained through understanding and practice of the Four Noble Truths:

– There is suffering in life.

– Suffering is caused by desire for pleasure, existence, and prosperity.

– Suffering and rebirth cease when one ceases such desires, leading to enlightenment, or Nirvana, a blessed state in which peace, harmony, and joy are attained.

The way, or path, to Nirvana is the Eightfold Path, summarized as:

  • Right understanding
  • Right thoughts
  • Right speech
  • Right conduct
  • Right occupation
  • Right meditation
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right effort

The Eightfold Path is also called the Middle Way—because of its emphasis on avoiding such extremes as following sensuous pleasures on the one hand, and self-punishment on the other. The Buddhist must at all times observe the high moral principles described in the Eightfold path, which emphasizes nonviolence and the brotherhood of all.

Perhaps the best-known Buddhist scriptures are the Tripitaka (“Three Baskets”), first written down in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in authoritative edition was prepared by the Sixth Buddhist Council at Rangoon, Burma, in 1954-56. The three Pitakas are about four times as long as the Bible.

In addition, according to one of the Buddhist believers say that there are two kinds of Buddhism and these are the Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. He said that Mahayana means “large vehicle.” It is a less austere system than Theravada Buddhism and emphasizes liberation for everyone. Many Mahayana Buddhists believe in liberation through good faith and good works. Their object is not only to obtain a personal Nirvana, but to help others to that goal.

The Mahayana branch has developed a system of ideal Buddhas, or enlightened ones. The most important Buddha is the Amitaba, or Amida, Buddha, to whom members can appeal for deliverance. Some Mahana Buddhists also believe in a goddess, a symbol of compassion, who is called Kwan Yin in China and Kwannon in Japan.

While the name Theravada means “the way of the elders.” It is an austere religion that requires solitude, meditation, and self-mastery through which each member hopes to achieve Nirvana. Because of these requirements, the possibility of liberation is limited to a few. Many of its followers are monks and nuns who spend most of their time in meditation and teaching. Theravada Buddhism is sometimes called “Hinayana Buddhism,” Hinayana meaning “small vehicle,” but this term is not accepted by followers of the religion.

This experience widens my horizon regarding the Buddhist community.  It gives me the chance to internalize why such religion exists and there are people who remain faithful to the religion.

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