About buddhism
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  • 1. About Buddhism Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama , commonly known as the Buddha (“the awakened one”). Three major branches of Buddhism are recognized: Theravada , Mahayana and Vajrayana . Buddhist scriptures and texts exist in great variety, and unlike many religions, Buddhism has no single central text that is universally referred to by all traditions. The foundations of Buddhist tradition and practice are the Three Jewels : the Buddha, the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (the community). The Four Noble Truths , the first teachings of Gautama Buddha after attaining nirvana (state of mind free from suffering) are sometimes considered to contain the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. The Four Noble Truths
  • 2. emphasize that suffering (dukkha ) exists, and that it arises from attachment to desires. Cessation of desire leads to freedom from suffering, and freedom from suffering is achieved by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path . The number of Buddhists is estimated at around 350 million making it the world’s fourth largest religion. The Bhagavad Gita, the book that contains the tenets of Hindu philosophy and spirituality, is what I turned to for help with this question. As a conversation between the warrior Arjuna and his divine guide and charioteer Krishna, the Gita shows humans the path to self-actualization. Among terms important in thinking about the Gita are Brahman, the cosmic soul and
  • 3. essence of the universe, and Atman, the individual soul. Enlightenment is seeing life's true reality, realizing that the Brahman is equivalent to the Atman and that all souls are one. This intense focus inwards comes after freeing oneself from physical wants and desires. But considering true renunciation of physical desires in the manner of the Buddha and stereotypical ascetics seems contrary to the pursuit of something as worldly as money. Is it then wrong or at least undesirable to pursue money according to Hinduism and Buddhism? Can one achieve enlightenment while still
  • 4. functioning in the modern world? I found Mahatma Gandhi's commentary on the Gita to be valuable in clarifying these questions. Rather than placing religion as an enemy to material objects, Gandhi said that the Gita draws "no line of demarcation between salvation and worldly pursuits ... [It shows] that religion must rule even our worldly pursuits." Before reading Gandhi's commentary, I had a conversation in the car with my parents, uncle and grandfather about the place of money in Hinduism and Buddhism. At first, I thought that the pursuit and possession of
  • 5. money seemed to be completely contrary to everything I'd read about achieving enlightenment and self-actualization. However, my family explained to me a stance similar to Gandhi's: the Gita does not demand a retraction from the modern world into ascetic meditation. In fact, Krishna urged Arjuna to face and fulfill his life's duty as a warrior on the battlefield. Money is an essential unit for functioning in today's society. We can fulfill our duties and rightfully earn money by abandoning selfish motives and attachments to the results of our work. So then, is money in itself good or
  • 6. bad? With the help of my exploration into Indian philosophy, I think that "neither" is the right answer. Money is just a necessary unit for survival. The negatives associated with money are motivated by what the Bhagavad Gita warns against: concern for the results of our actions. Greed, jealousy or harmful ambition in work leads to excess and selfishness. In the end, people who live life for the sake of the ends of their actions bring pain and disillusionment to themselves. Although thousands, including myself, struggle in carrying it out, the Gita's message is simple. It is refreshing and empowering that
  • 7. the Bhagavad Gita and Hindu- Buddhist thought give us the power to mold our lives and achieve a state of higher awareness without sacrificing our place in a functional society.