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BUDDHISM

Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true
nature of reality. Buddhist practices like meditation are means of changing yourself in order
to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom. The experience developed
within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource
for all those who wish to follow a path a path which ultimately culminates in
Enlightenment or Buddhahood. An enlightened being sees the nature of reality absolutely
clearly, just as it is, and lives fully and naturally in accordance with that vision. This is the
goal of the Buddhist spiritual life, representing the end of suffering for anyone who attains it.
Because Buddhism does not include the idea of worshipping a creator god, some people do
not see it as a religion in the normal, Western sense. The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching
are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have
consequences; change is possible. So Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective
of race, nationality, caste, sexuality, or gender. It teaches practical methods which enable
people to realise and use its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully
responsible for their lives.
There are around 350 million Buddhists and a growing number of them are Westerners.
They follow many different forms of Buddhism, but all traditions are characterised by nonviolence, lack of dogma, tolerance of differences, and, usually, by the practice of meditation.
BUDDHA
Buddhism started with the Buddha. The word Buddha is a title, which means one who is
awake in the sense of having woken up to reality. The Buddha was born as Siddhartha
Gautama in Nepal around 2,500 years ago. He did not claim to be a god or a prophet. He
was a human being who became Enlightened, understanding life in the deepest way
possible.
Siddhartha was born into the royal family of a small kingdom on the Indian-Nepalese border.
According to the traditional story he had a privileged upbringing, but was jolted out of his
sheltered life on realising that life includes the harsh facts of old age, sickness, and death.

This prompted him to puzzle over the meaning of life. Eventually he felt impelled to leave
his palace and follow the traditional Indian path of the wandering holy man, a seeker after
Truth. He became very adept at meditation under various teachers, and then took up
ascetic practices. This was based on the belief that one could free the spirit by denying the
flesh. He practised austerities so determinedly that he almost starved to death.
But he still hadnt solved the mystery of life and death. True understanding seemed as far
away as ever. So he abandoned this way and looked into his own heart and mind; he
decided to trust his intuition and learn from direct experience. He sat down beneath a pipal
tree and vowed to stay there until hed gained Enlightenment. After 40 days, on the full
moon in May, Siddhartha finally attained ultimate Freedom.
Buddhists believe he reached a state of being that goes beyond anything else in the world.
If normal experience is based on conditions upbringing, psychology, opinions,
perceptions Enlightenment is Unconditioned. A Buddha is free from greed, hatred and
ignorance, and characterised by wisdom, compassion and freedom. Enlightenment brings
insight into the deepest workings of life, and therefore into the cause of human suffering
the problem that had initially set him on his spiritual quest.
During the remaining 45 years of his life, the Buddha travelled through much of northern
India, spreading his understanding. His teaching is known in the East as the Buddhadharma or teaching of the Enlightened One.
He reached people from all walks of life and many of his disciples gained Enlightenment.
They, in turn, taught others and in this way an unbroken chain of teaching has continued,
right down to the present day.
The Buddha was not a god and he made no claim to divinity. He was a human being who,
through tremendous effort of heart and mind, transformed all limitations. He affirmed the
potential of every being to reach Buddhahood. Buddhists see him as an ideal human being,
and a guide who can lead us all towards Enlightenment.
TEACHINGS
The Buddhas Noble Eightfold Path is a further unpacking of the Threefold Way and is
perhaps the most widely known of the Buddhas teachings. It is ancient, extending back to

the Buddhas first discourse and is highly valued as a treasury of wisdom and practical
guidance on how to live our lives. Traditionally the teaching is seen as highlighting eight
areas or limbs of right practice (Sangharakshita prefers perfect to right), which sit in
mutual relationship to one other and are each essential elements in an integrated approach
to the Dharma:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Right Understanding or Perfect Vision


Right Resolve or Perfect Emotion
Right Speech or Perfect Speech
Right Action or Perfect Action
Right Livelihood or Perfect Livelihood
Right Effort or Perfect Effort
Right Mindfulness or Perfect Awareness
Right Meditation or Perfect Samadhi

The Four Aryan (or Noble) Truths are perhaps the most basic formulation of the Buddhas
teaching. They are expressed as follows:

1. All existence is dukkha. The word dukkha has been variously translated as suffering,
anguish, pain, or unsatisfactoriness. The Buddhas insight was that our lives are a
struggle, and we do not find ultimate happiness or satisfaction in anything we experience.
This is the problem of existence.
2. The cause of dukkha is craving. The natural human tendency is to blame our difficulties
on things outside ourselves. But the Buddha says that their actual root is to be found in the
mind itself. In particular our tendency to grasp at things (or alternatively to push them away)
places us fundamentally at odds with the way life really is.
3. The cessation of dukkha comes with the cessation of craving. As we are the ultimate
cause of our difficulties, we are also the solution. We cannot change the things that happen
to us, but we can change our responses.
4. There is a path that leads from dukkha. Although the Buddha throws responsibility
back on to the individual he also taught methods through which we can change ourselves,
for example the Noble Eightfold Path.

HINDUISM
Hinduism is one of the oldest known organized religionsits sacred writings date as far back as
1400 to 1500 B.C. It is also one of the most diverse and complex, having millions of gods.
Hindus have a wide variety of core beliefs and exist in many different sects. Although it is the
third largest religion in the world, Hinduism exists primarily in India and Nepal.
The main texts of Hinduism are the Vedas (considered most important), Upanishadas, the
Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. These writings contain hymns, incantations, philosophies,
rituals, poems, and stories from which Hindus base their beliefs. Other texts used in Hinduism
include the Brahmanas, the Sutras, and the Aranyakas.
Though Hinduism is often understood as being polytheistic, supposedly recognizing as many as
330 million gods, it also has one god that is supremeBrahma. Brahma is an entity believed
to inhabit every portion of reality and existence throughout the entire universe. Brahma is both
impersonal and unknowable and is often believed to exist in three separate forms: Brahma
Creator; VishnuPreserver; and ShivaDestroyer. These facets of Brahma are also known
through the many other incarnations of each. It is difficult to summarize Hindu theology since
the various Hindu schools contain elements of almost every theological system. Hinduism can
be:
1) MonisticOnly one thing exists; Sankara's school
2) PantheisticOnly one divine thing exists so that God is identical to the world; Brahmanism
3) PanentheisticThe world is part of God; Ramanuja's School
4) TheisticOnly one God, distinct from Creation; Bhakti Hinduism.
Observing other schools, Hinduism can also be atheistic, deistic, or even nihilistic. With such
diversity included under the title Hindu, one may wonder what makes them Hindu in the first
place? About the only real issue is whether or not a belief system recognizes the Vedas as
sacred. If it does, then it is Hindu. If not, then it is not Hindu.

The Vedas are more than theology books. They contain a rich and colorful theo-mythology,
that is, a religious mythology which deliberately interweaves myth, theology, and history to
achieve a story-form religious root. This theo-mythology is so deeply rooted in India's history
and culture that to reject the Vedas is viewed as opposing India. Therefore, a belief system is
rejected by Hinduism if it does not embrace Indian culture to some extent. If the system accepts
Indian culture and its theo-mythical history, then it can be embraced as Hindu even if its
theology is theistic, nihilistic, or atheistic. This openness to contradiction can be a headache for
Westerners who seek logical consistency and rational defensibility in their religious views. But,
to be fair, Christians are no more logical when they claim belief in Yahweh yet live life as
practical atheists, denying Christ with their lives. For the Hindu the conflict is genuine logical
contradiction. For the Christian, the conflict is more likely simple hypocrisy.
Hinduism views mankind as divine. Because Brahma is everything, Hinduism asserts that
everyone is divine. Atman, or self, is one with Brahman. All of reality outside of Brahman is
considered mere illusion. The spiritual goal of a Hindu is to become one with Brahma, thus
ceasing to exist in its illusory form of individual self. This freedom is referred to as moksha.
Until moksha is achieved, a Hindu believes that he/she will be repeatedly reincarnated in order
that he/she may work towards self-realization of the truth (the truth being that only Brahman
exists, nothing else). How a person is reincarnated is determined by karma, which is a principle
of cause and effect governed by nature's balance. What one did in the past affects and
corresponds with what happens in the future, past and future lives included.

CHRISTIANITY
Christianity is the most popular religion in the world with over 2 billion adherents. 42 million
Britons see themselves as nominally Christian, and there are 6 million who are actively
practising.
Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Christians believe that God sent his Son to earth to save humanity from the
consequences of its sins.
One of the most important concepts in Christianity is that of Jesus giving his life
on the Cross (the Crucifixion) and rising from the dead on the third day (the
Resurrection).
Christians believe that there is only one God, but that there arethree elements to
this one God:

God the Father

God the Son

The Holy Spirit


Christians worship in churches.
Their spiritual leaders are called priests or ministers.
The Christian holy book is the Bible, and consists of the Old and New
Testaments.
Christian holy days such as Easter and Christmas are important milestones in
the Western secular calendar

God, Jesus and the saints


God
Christians believe that there is only one God, whom they call Father as Jesus Christ taught
them.
Jesus
Christians recognise Jesus as the Son of God who was sent to save mankind from death and
sin.
Jesus Christ taught that he was Son of God. His teachings can be summarised, briefly as the
love of God and love of one's neighbour.
Jesus said that he had come to fulfil God's law rather than teach it.
Justification by faith
Christians believe in justification by faith - that through their belief in Jesus as the Son of God,
and in his death and resurrection, they can have a right relationship with God whose
forgiveness was made once and for all through the death of Jesus Christ.
The Trinity
Christians believe in the Trinity - that is, in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Some confuse this and think that Christians believe in three separate gods, which they don't.
Christians believe that God took human form as Jesus Christ and that God is present today
through the work of the Holy Spirit and evident in the actions of believers.
Life after death
Christians believe that there is a life after earthly death.
While the actual nature of this life is not known, Christians believe that many spiritual
experiences in this life help to give them some idea of what eternal life will be like.
The Saints
These days, the word saint is most commonly used to refer to a Christian who has lived a
particularly good and holy life on earth, and with whom miracles are claimed to have been
associated after their death.
The formal title of Saint is conferred by the Roman Catholic andOrthodox Churches through a
process called canonisation.
Members of these Churches also believe that Saints created in this way can intercede with God
on behalf of people who are alive today. This is not accepted by most Protestants.
In the Bible, however, the word saint is used as a description of anyone who is a committed
believer, particularly by St. Paul in the New Testament (e.g. Ephesians 1.1. and 1.15).

Prayer and ritual


Prayer
Prayer is the means by which Christians communicate with their God.
The New Testament records that Jesus taught his disciples how to pray and that he encouraged them
to address God as Father. Christians believe that they continue this tradition.
Sometimes the prayers are formal and part of a ritual laid down for hundreds of years.
Others are personal and spontaneous, and come from personal or group need.
Whilst prayer is often directed to God as Father, as taught by Jesus, some traditions encourage prayer to
God through intermediaries such as saints and martyrs.
Prayers through Mary, as the mother of God, are central to some churches and form a traditional part of
their worship.

The Church
The Christian church is fundamental to believers. Although it has many faults it is recognised as God's
body on earth.
The church is the place where the Christian faith is nurtured and where the Holy Spirit is manifest on
earth.
It is where Christians are received into the faith and where they are brought together into one body
through the Eucharist.
Baptism
The Christian church believes in one baptism into the Christian church, whether this be as an infant or as
an adult, as an outward sign of an inward commitment to the teachings of Jesus.
Eucharist
Eucharist is a Greek word for thanksgiving. Its celebration is to commemorate the final meal that Jesus
took with his disciples before his death (the Last Supper).
This rite comes from the actions of Jesus who, at that meal, took bread and wine and asked his disciples
to consume them and continue to do so in memory of him.

At the meal, the wine represented his blood and the bread his body.
The Eucharist (also known as a Communion meal in some churches) is central to the Church and is
recognised as a sign of unity amongst Christians.
Different Churches understand and practice the Eucharist in different ways. As a result, the central ideas
of the Eucharist can cause disharmony rather than unity.
For example, the idea that Christ is present in the bread and wine is interpreted literally by some churches
and metaphorically by others. This has given rise to substantial and often irreconcilable disagreement.

The Trinity
Christian beliefs concerning God
There is only one God
God is a Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit
God is perfect
God is omnipotent
God is everywhere
God knows everything
God created the universe

God keeps the universe going


God intervenes in the universe
God loves everyone unconditionally (though people have to comply with various
conditions in order to achieve salvation)
Human beings can get to know God through prayer, worship, love, and mystical
experiences
Human beings can get to know God through God's grace - that is through his love and his
power

God the Son


God lived on earth as Jesus
Jesus was both wholly God and wholly human
Jesus was born to a human woman, Mary, but conceived of the Holy Spirit
Because Jesus was wholly human he was subject to pain, suffering, and sorrow like other
human beings
Jesus was executed by crucifixion but rose from the dead at the Resurrection
Jesus's life provides a perfect example of how God wants people to live
Jesus died on the Cross so that those who believe in him will be forgiven all their sins

God the Holy Spirit


After the Resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for only a few days before going up into
Heaven
Jesus promised that he would stay with his followers, so after he went to Heaven he sent
his Spirit to guide them
The Holy Spirit continues to guide, comfort, and encourage Christians