An ancient religion that originated from India more than 2000 years ago. Siddharth Gautama was the founder of Buddhism who was also known as the Buddha. Buddhism’s influence is growing all over the world but its major prominence is in South East Asia. Buddha can be described as a term which means the enlightened one or the awakened one as the religion is based on the spiritual awakening because in Buddhism people are seen as asleep and unaware.
Buddhism is less focused on the individual and more focused on the complete foundation as it targets the personalities of human beings rather than making them follow a specific person. In Buddhism, the guide for transforming a human being which a follower can use is called, the Dhamma which consists of the discoveries by Buddha of reality and cosmic law orderliness. Buddhist practice focuses on the sole goal of Nirvana as that is salvation and can only be achieved through understanding, Dhamma.
Buddhism also has a huge number of monks and nuns like other religions who make up the community which is called Sangha. Monks and nuns follow a slightly different code from each other but they can all be traced back to the early tradition called Theravada. “The main teachings of Buddhism are contained in the Suttas, which in the Pali Canon are divided into five Nikāyas or ‘Collections’, the first four (sixteen volumes) generally being the older.” (Page 3).
The teachings can be found in the section called Vinaya, Suttas, and Abhidhamma. The most detailed and systematic one is sutta-teachings. Buddhism has a lot of focus on spirituality and how humans can develop that. Interestingly, Buddhism has adopted every culture and is not dependent on a complete Buddhist society. Buddhists have also coexisted with Confucianism and under communist regimes. Regarding the total population of Buddhists in the world, “This gives an overall total of around 535 million Buddhists in the world – 7.8 percent of the total 2010 world population of 6,852 million – though in East Asia.” (Page 6).
For the accurate dates of how old Buddhism is and when it was founded is a little off because of no proper record method. But sources tell Gautama passed away when he was eighty and the Pali sources of Theravada Buddhism have a different number of 218 years old. Gautama Buddha was realized to be a man who left his family for benefitting all beings and he educated his family after returning. In Buddhism humans are not on that stage to achieve the life to life efficacy of Karma. But all the followers should experience Karma in their current life where they can experience good or bad things.
There are four true realities in Buddhism for the spiritually ennobled which are, Dukkha, which represents physical or mental pain that human beings are subject to, second, the origination of Dukkha, third, the cessation of dukkha (nirodha) and lastly, the path that leads to cessation which is called magge. Buddha also in his sermon mentioned that these four realities are extremely important and the first reality should be fully understood, the second one should be abandoned, the third one should be personally experienced and the fourth one should developed and polished in every human being. Buddha was also known as the spiritual physician because his methods were also like physicians. He wanted to cure everyone from Dukkha as he was cured.
The concept of Dukkha is explained in Buddhism through five factors that analyze the term. Starting from Rupa which referest to the material aspect of existence. In Buddhism every being has four elements which are wind (motion), earth (literally), fire (heat) and water (cohesion). The second factor is Vedana which is also known as feeling. The broader meaning of this term explains the sensations that arise mentally or physically in a person. The third factor is Sanna which labels things for humans. It is a tool for humans to be conscious of. It includes perception, cognition, mental labelling and interpretation. The fourth is snkharas which conists of actions and intentions that shape the character. Lastly, the fifth one is Vinnana, which is the basic awareness of a mental object.
Another important term and teaching by Buddha was the Anatta-Lakkhana Sutta. Buddhism teaching focuses on the spiritual journey human beings have and the change of person’s permanent change inside to be pure. Lastly, the non-self-teaching in Buddhism is based on mental and physical states. It is a complicated teaching and Buddha also told that, “But within such a conventional, empirical self, he taught that no permanent, substantial, independent, metaphysical Self could be found.” Page 60.
Jainism in India is an old religion which has around 4 million followers in India. The community was founded by Jena Mahavira based on a belief system that stated that the “universe exists as a series of layers, both heavens, and hells. It had no beginning and will have no end.” (PP 1). Moreover, Jainism also shares some similar beliefs as Hindus, like Karma where everyone is bound within the universe by their Karma.
However, the meaning of Karma in Jainism is a little different as Jains believes Karma is bad overall unlike Hindus who believe karma depends on good or bad deeds. Another similar feature of Jains to Hindus is the liberation which is called Moksha. Moksha in Jainism can be achieved through enlightenment and for that, a follower has to go through the process of asceticism. By Moksha, a follower can be liberated from an endless succession of lives through incarnation. In addition to that, the three basic principles or fundamentals of Jainism include the Right faith, right knowledge, and right action. These fundamentals are also known as the Ratnas (jewels).
Jains live a very modest and controlled life where sexual pleasures are strictly for procreation only, they follow a vegetarian diet and don’t consume any root vegetables because of the living creatures that they might contain. They are also extremely peaceful and promote nonviolence mentally, physically and verbally. Finally, like every other religion Jains also have monks who cover their mouths, walk barefoot and sweep the floor so they don’t kill insects on the floors to save themselves from bad Karma.
Another old religion that originated in India, is Sikhism which is currently the 5th largest religion in the world with almost 25 million people. It was founded in the 15th century by Baba Guru Nanak who was born into a Hindu family. The religion is based on monotheism and doesn’t share the same beliefs as Hindus or Jains. It believes that human birth just happens once and ego is the biggest challenge human’s face. The traditional wear for Sikhs is where men wear turbans and the sacred temple is known as the Gurdwara wear followers cover their heads and enter bare feet. The five symbols in Sikhism are known as, Kes, Kirpan, Kanga, kara, and kashera.
Kes is related to unshorn hair which teaches humility and eliminates the ego. A kirpan is the sword of mercy, Sikhs carry a small dagger tied to their waist which represents righteousness, to control anger, protect, help the needy and be peaceful. Kanga is the wooden comb which reminds us that materialistic gain is nothing as compared to the spiritual awakening worldly attachments that will fade away one day. The Kara is an iron bangle the Sikhs wear on their wrist which reminds them of their moral obligations of being helpful and respects their leader. Lastly, the Kashera is are the long breeches that are in the innerwear to control the lust.
Sikhism: As discussed earlier Sikhism is an old religion that originated from the sub-continent. Currently, it is the 5th largest religion and most of the Sikhs live in India. Sikh beliefs: Sikhs have a belief in one eternal creator who exists within creation who is everywhere and in every aspect of this universe. Moreover, for Sikh followers, one can experience God by meditating and being morally pure. In Sikhism “Ik Onkar” is a famous term that is a symbol which represents one supreme reality.
Sikhism Foundation: Baba Guru Nanak founded Sikhism around 1500 A.D, in the region of Punjab. Sikh philosophy was a rejection of Hindu beliefs like the caste system, and Baba Guru Nanak was a preacher of equality and humanity. He also talked about worshipping one God instead of millions of Gods in Hinduism.
Sikh Beliefs about Prophets and Scriptures: Sikhs have ten founders which are spiritual masters and the book that Sikhs follow is called Guru Granth which leads the followers to spiritual advancement and enlightenment. Guru Granth is the most vital Guru which leads to spiritual salvation and creates that connection with the creator. The scripture contains 1430 pages/parts and is written poetically. It is derived and compiled with writings of Sikh Gurus, Muslims, and Hindus. The Ten Gurus in Sikhism: Guru Nanak Dev, Guru Angad Dev, Guru Amar Das, Guru Ram Das, Guru Arjan Dev, Guru Hargobind, Guru Har Rai, Guru Har Krishan, Guru Teg Bahadur and Guru Gobind Singh.
Afterlife and Prayer: In Sikh belief, the followers pray and meditate to purify the soul from things like ego, and ignorance. Prayers are performed silently and loudly in groups. When Sikhs meditate they recite words or phrases repeatedly while praying can be done by reading selected verses daily. Secondly, Sikhs believe that humans can’t liberate themselves even if they pray or meditate and the only way to liberation is through God’s freedom from rebirth. “In Sikh theology, Mann explained, moral living prepares the soul to receive God’s grace. But God could decide to save a scoundrel, or flick a mensch back to be reborn.” – Washington Post.
Other major Beliefs: Sikhs also believe in sharing their income which is known as Das Vand. Das Vand in Sikhism means donating the tenth of one’s income. These donations and gifts are contributions for the community and given in the way of God. Sikhs also like all other major religions have a worshipping place called a Gurdwara. Similar to baptism, Sikhs have the Amrit ceremony which includes a drink mixed with a sword containing sugar and water. The candidates drink that Amrit and the purpose of it are to end their old ways of living and surrendering their ego and entering a pure world. Lastly, the most important term is Khalsa which means pure and once the Amrit ceremony is done on an individual that person is now under the Khalsa code of conduct and has to live a pure life.