Religious Understanding – Part 3 (Buddhism)

Well, I have learned a ton about Buddhism over the last few weeks and it has truly been enlightening (pun intended). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to actually go to the Buddhist temple. I called them but they couldn’t speak English so I couldn’t get the information I needed. If anyone has been to a Buddhist temple and could let me know some information about it, I am still willing to go. However, the temple is usually used mostly by Buddhist priests/monks, not as a ‘place of worship’ like Christian churches, so I don’t think not going was too much of a hindrance in understanding the lay-people who practice Buddhism.

After all the research I did over the past few weeks, the bare bones of the Buddhist philosophy is the following:

The Four Noble Truths:
1. The Noble Truth of Suffering: Suffering exists.
2. The Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering: Craving for the desires of the senses causes suffering.
3. The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering: To be free of suffering, get rid of this craving: this is Nirvana.
4. The Noble Truth that leads to the Extinction of Suffering: The Eightfold Path leads to the ending of suffering

Eightfold Path:
1. Right Views: Accept the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
2. Right Resolve: Renounce the pleasures of the senses.
3. Right Speech: Do not lie; do not slander or abuse anyone.
4. Right Behavior: Do not destroy any living creature; do not steal; abstain from unlawful sexual acts.
5. Right Occupation: Earn your livelihood in a way that will harm no one.
6. Right Effort: Prevent evil qualities and strive to acquire good qualities.
7. Right Contemplation: Be observant, strenuous, contemplative, and free of desire and sorrow.
8. Right Meditation: Enter the four degrees of meditation.

Five Precepts:
1. Kill no living thing.
2. Do not steal.
3. Abstain from sexual misconduct
4. Do not lie.
5. Do not drink intoxicants or take drugs.

So first off, I was thrown off by the fact that the above has a lot of great things to say. My struggle comes in however, when I try to find any Buddhists who only practice these principles. Although these seem to be the “bare bones,” I have yet to find anyone writing that only affirms the above. Oftentimes there are more mystical Hinduism or folk religion overtones thrown in. One author even said that Buddhism was meant to piggyback on Hinduism. There are so many different cultural variations it’s hard to get a grasp on the singular Buddhism. My questions and concerns come in because of a website I found that had a practicing Buddhist Sensei that was also a practicing ordained Jesuit priest. I had heard of Christian Buddhists in college but of course, I wrote them off without a second thought, even though I had no idea what Buddhists believed. Anyway, I am still wrestling with whether it is possible. I do have some issues with some of the principles above (notion of sin [natural state of man], notion of senses being inherently bad, etc.) but I don’t know if they are enough to deem them absolutely incompatible with Christianity. Any research or recommending reading would be appreciated. Again, I don’t want to become a Buddhist or anything, but I do want to be able to understand and relate.

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