Buddhism: Religion of Goodness, Ethics, and Change
Buddhism is one of the most popular religions in the world, with over 500 million followers. It was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha, in India over 2,500 years ago.
Buddhism contains very many revelations of ultimate reality. This contrast should not be taken as though every religion has got a different meaning. The fact is that the religious teachings do not need to be contradictory but Buddhism does put more emphasis on some aspects than others. For example, Buddhism does not believe in a personal God but it does believe in impersonal transcendent Being. In addition, Buddhism emphasises good over evil and sees the ethical self-nature as more important than the substantial self.
2. Nature of self in Buddhism
The Buddha taught that there is no permanent, unchanging self or soul (anatta). This teaching is often misunderstood to mean that there is no self at all or that we are just empty. However, what the Buddha actually taught is that the sense of self is just aillusion created by our mind.
The illusion of self arises because we identify with our thoughts and emotions, which are constantly changing. We think “I am angry” or “I am happy”, but these are just states of mind that come and go. We are not our thoughts or emotions – we are the awareness that witnesses them.
When we realise that we are not our thoughts or emotions, we can see that they are just transient phenomena that arise and pass away. This understanding frees us from reactivity and suffering because we no longer identify with them.
3. Death and afterlife in Buddhism
The Buddha taught that life is impermanent and subject to change (anicca). This includes our thoughts, emotions and physical bodies – everything is constantly changing and nothing lasts forever.
Change is inevitable and death is the ultimate change. Therefore, the Buddha taught that we should not fear death because it is a natural part of life. What we should fear is rebirth into suffering because this can be avoided through spiritual practice.
The Buddha also taught that there is no immortal soul or self that survives death (anatta). When we die, our body and mind disperse back into the elements from which they came. There is no permanent ‘thing’ that goes to another realm – what we call ‘rebirth’ is simply the continuation of our karma into another lifetime.
4. Ethics in Buddhism
Ethics are an important part of Buddhism because they form the basis of our actions and determine whether those actions will lead to happiness or suffering for ourselves and others. The basic ethical principles in Buddhism are known as the Five Precepts:
– To refrain from taking life (ahimsa)
– To refrain from taking what is not given (asteya)
– To refrain from sexual misconduct (brahmacharya)
– To refrain from false speech (satya)
– To refrain from intoxicants (samadhi)
These precepts are not commandments but rather guidelines for ethical behaviour. They are based on the understanding that our actions have consequences and that we will experience the fruits of our actions in this life or in future lives.
The Five Precepts are not the only guidelines for ethical behaviour in Buddhism – there are also many other teachings on right speech, right action and right livelihood. The important thing is to develop an ethical outlook on life and to act in ways that are beneficial to ourselves and others.
Buddhism is a religion that emphasises good over evil, ethics over substance, and change over permanence. It is a religion that teaches us to see through the illusion of self and to live in accordance with natural laws. And it is a religion that provides us with guidelines for ethical behaviour so that we can create happiness for ourselves and others.