What are the basic tenets of Buddhism?

SHIROU KUNIHIRA, SDA Theological Seminary

1. Life of Buddha Gautama

A. Not much is known of his life.

1. Modern scholars generally place his death at 483 B.C. He probably lived around 560 B.c. to 480 )3.c., the time of Daniel and Ezekiel.
2. Tradition gives dates: 852, 652, 353, and 252 B.C.
3. Buddhists themselves are not interested in claiming the historicity of the life of Buddha.

Believers may sometimes think of Bud­dha as a personal being, but the official Buddhist theology does nothing to en­courage such a view.

4. Buddhism is not based on historical facts of God's leading in the history of man or God's revelation in the life of the Saviour as claimed by Christianity Buddhism is a mysticism. Faith is from within. No objective revelation of God is needed. Any man at any time may have the same experience when he is shown how.

B. It seems that he lived in the northeast of India.

C. Shakyamuni (the sage from the tribe of the Shaky as) is another name.

D. Traditional view:

1. He was a son of a rich rajah of the Shakya clan.
2. He was reared in luxury, and by order of his father was kept from the knowl­edge of sickness, poverty, and death.
3. One day he went out of the castle and saw four sufferings of humanity: To be born, to be sick, to age, and to die.
4. He decided to find the truth to solve the suffering of life. He left his wife, his son, and his friends.
5. He became a hermit, lived alone, medi­tated under a bodha tree, reached the knowledge of the cause of sufferings, and the way to escape from them.

This experience of discovering the light and truth through meditation is an im­portant feature of Buddhism.

6. He never went back to his wife, but she became his disciple.

Buddhist priests live an ascetic life. Cer­tain sects have renounced asceticism for the priests.

7. On his deathbed he told his disciples that even if he died, he would live for­ever in his teachings.

Concept of Buddha in Buddhist Theology

1. The Buddha is an enlightened soul em­bodied in Gautama.
2. The Buddha was reincarnated many times before he appeared as Gautama.

He had undergone many births, and had experienced the world as an animal, as a man, and as a god. He had shared the com­mon fate of all those lives.

Through that experience he matured in his spiritual perfection.

He had a long journey of transmigration which took more than three "KaIpas." One Kalpa is said to be 1,344,000 years or 1,280,­000,000 years.

Concept of God in Buddhism

1. It has been said that Buddhism is athe­istic, or that it could not be a religion be­cause it knew no God.
2. Buddhist tradition does not exactly deny the existence of a creator. It is not really interested to know who created the uni­verse.
3. Buddhism is essentially a system of ethics and wisdom of life. It is chiefly interested in the way of releasing men from suffering.

D. Nirvana is permanent, imperishable, im­movable, ageless, deathless, unborn, power, happiness, refuge, truth, and the supreme reality.

It is the good, the supreme goal and the consummation of our life.

1. The Buddha is the personal embodiment of Nirvana.
2. Monotheism has no appeal to Buddhists, but they do not object to adopting local deities into their religious life to supply their needs and to protect them from vari­ous misfortunes.

One god is busy with certain obligations, so there ought to be different gods for dif­ferent purposes.

IV. The Four Holy Truths

  1. The essence of the doctrine accepted by all schools of Buddhism is called the four holy Truths.
  2. It was first preached by Shakyamuni im­mediately after he reached the enlighten­ment.
  3. What is the holy Truth of ill?
  4. Birth is ill, decay is ill, sickness is ill, death is ill.
  5. To be conjoined with what one dislikes means suffering.
  6. To be disjoined from what one likes means suffering.
  7. Not to get what one wants also means suffering.

In short, all grasping at any of the five skandhas involves suffering.

D. What is the holy Truth of the origin of ill? It is the craving that leads to rebirth, ac­companied by delight and greed, seeking its delight now here, now there. Craving for sensuous experience, craving to perpetuate oneself, craving for extinction.

E. What is the holy Truth of the stopping of ill?

It is the complete stopping of that craving, the withdrawal from it, the renouncing of it, throwing it back, liberation from it, non-attachment to it.

F. What is the holy Truth of the steps that lead to the stopping of ill?

  1. Right views
  2. Right intentions
  3. Right speech
  4. Right conduct
  5. Right occupation
  6. Right effort, or obedience
  7. Right memory
  8. Right meditation

G. What is ill?

1. All existence is evil. Why? Because it is full of suffering.

It is human nature to avoid the dark side of the world. So the first truth is not self-evident. We must do violence to our ingrained habits of thought and reach a reluctant mind.

A mind must grasp the universality of suffering and discard the belief that some happiness can be found in this world. There are obvious sufferings, which are recognized by unpleasant feelings or by reactions of avoidance and hate.

2. There are four kinds of concealed suffer­ing, which lie in what seems pleasant, but which are ill underneath.

3. Something that, while pleasant, in­volves the suffering of others.
4. Something that, while pleasant, is tied up with anxiety, since one is afraid of losing it.
5. Something that, while pleasant, binds us still further to conditions that make a great deal of suffering inevitable.
6. The pleasures derived from anything included in the skandhas are of no value in satisfying the inmost longings of the heart.

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SHIROU KUNIHIRA, SDA Theological Seminary

May 1956

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