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Buddhism Paper

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Approximately 350 million people in the world today are practicing Buddhist, making Buddhism the fourth largest of the world's religions. Buddhism began in northern India approximately 2,500 years ago. Its founder, Siddhartha Gautama, lived from about 566 to about 480 B.C. The son of an Indian warrior-king, Gautama led a life of luxury in his early years, enjoying the privileges of his caste. But eventually he tired of the affluence and ease, and set out what some might call a "vision quest." After encountering an old man, an ill man, a corpse and an ascetic, Gautama became convinced that suffering lay at the heart of all existence, stemming principally from the human ego's attachment to the transitory things of this world. He renounced his princely title and became a monk, freeing himself of possessions in the hope of comprehending the truth, and finding a path toward enlightenment and liberation. The culmination of his search came while meditating beneath a fig tree (known to Buddhists as a Bo tree, the tree of enlightenment), where he experienced a breakthrough in understanding. Following this epiphany, Gautama taught people a new way to live. He became known as the Buddha, or the "Enlighten One". His teachings are known as dharma, which means "protection" and teaches that by practicing dharma, one can protect themselves from suffering and problems. All problems experienced during daily life originate in ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practice dharma. Practicing Dharma is the supreme method for improving the quality of human life. The quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness.

Since its conception, Buddhism has spread to countries all over the world, both in its Asian homeland and beyond. In each place, it has adapted to local traditions and merged with local beliefs which have brought about many changes as well as challenges.

Working for a Japanese Pharmaceutical Company has given me the opportunity to learn about Buddhism and its practice from a Japanese colleague named Hirofumi Seino. Hirofumi is currently in the United States as an expatriate from our headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. I mentioned to Hirofumi that I was currently in a World Religion class and that I was writing a research paper on Buddhism. I told him a little bit about the course and asked him if he would allow me the privilege to interview him for my paper. He agreed and I had an opportunity to meet with him on two occasions in his office on December 4th and 6th of this year.

Hirofumi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. The teachings of Buddhism were taught to him at an early age as both his father and grandfather were Buddhist priests. His home was a Buddhist temple and at the age of nine, both he and his older brother received the ritual to become a priest. Although Hirofumi did not continue to pursue priesthood, his brother however, moved on and attended a Buddhist school and is now a Buddhist priest. His grandfather was a professor at a Buddhism school and was head priest of a small temple. Hirofumi remembers his grandfather as being a very taciturn and frugal individual who was highly respected. His grandfather later reached a prominent Buddhist priest position in a famous Buddhist temple recognized for practicing Buddhism in its greatest form. While here in the United States, Hirofumi does not attend a Buddhist temple. He practices Buddhism in the privacy of his home.

During my conversation with Hirofumi, he explained that the basic doctrines of early Buddhism which remain common among Buddhists today include the "Four Noble Truths:" which state that all of life is marked by suffering, suffering is caused by desire and attachment, suffering can be stopped and the way to end all suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path as Hirofumi explained to me, is a series of eight stages that lead to the end of desire. The first of these are attainable in everyday life; the latter ones however, are more difficult as they require more effort and concentration. The Eightfold Path is: right opinion, right intentions, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. The first of these "right opinion" as Hirofumi further explained, concerns understanding the Four Truths. Then through your right intention, a person decides to set his or her life on the correct path which is to be emancipated from all worldly desires and worries. Hirofumi mention that these teachings were at the heart of his childhood. Together they form the Dharma or the doctrine of Buddhism and are still practiced today. While listening to Hirofumi tell me about the Buddhism doctrines of the Four Nobel Truths and The Eightfold Path, I could not help but compare them to The Ten Commandments of my Christian faith. The Ten Commandments are found in the Bible's Old Testament at Exodus, Chapter 20. They were given directly by God to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt.

I mentioned to Hirofumi that in my Christian faith, I have a Bible that I use when I pray and that I study to help me to keep God's teachings. I then inquired if Buddhism had such a book to guide him in his daily walk as a Buddhist. He informed me that Buddhism teachings are in books called "sutras". These books contain written scriptures, most of which are very difficult to read. Similar to church denominations, he mentioned that in Buddhism there are many branches of Buddhism. Within these branches are different Buddha's that



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