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MORAL STUDIES: ASSIGNMENT 1

BUDDHISM

According to Padmasiri de Silva (Peter Singer, 1991), the founder of Buddhism is Buddha (563483 BC). 'Buddha' was the title given to a prince when he attained 'enlightenment', i.e. obtained inspiration and deep consciousness. Buddha's real name was Siddhartha and his family name Gautama. Siddhartha Gautama's father was a king of the state of Sakyas in north India (now known as Nepal). Siddhartha left the palace at the age of 29 years and became an ascetic (someone who leads a simple and strict way of life because of his religious beliefs). Various social issues, like the Indian caste system, the sacrifice of animals, the power struggle among the major kings, disturbed the young prince. However, Siddhartha was more concerned with the perennial problems that plagued mankind, viz. sickness, suffering and death. In his search for answers to these issues, Siddhartha tried to adopt various ways of life and techniques of reflection and meditation which he learned from various teachers. At last, he came upon a comprehensive system of meditation which enabled a person to attain a state of calmness and to develop insight. This development of insight focuses on three important aspects, viz. (1) Impermanence, (2) Suffering, (3) Egolessness. Through his practice of this sort of meditation, Siddhartha attained 'enlightenment9 when he was 35f and was bestowed the honorific title 'Buddha' which means the bearer of light'. Buddha propagated his teachings for 45 years until his death. Buddhist teachings were disseminated to followers by word of mouth until the first century AD. They were then written on ola' leaves in the Pali language. Later, they were edited and published by the Pali Text Society. Among the most well - known of Buddha's teachings were the Vinaya Pitaka concerning the disciplinary regulations for Buddhist priests, and the

MORAL STUDIES: ASSIGNMENT 1

Sutta Pitaka which deals with the foundation of Buddha's teachings. A systematic doctrine edited by reviewers of Buddha's work is Abhidhamma Pltaka. These three works arc the main sources of Buddhism and are a guide to the ethical conduct of a Buddhist. The earliest tradition In Buddhism is known as Theravada' Buddhism which is practised in Southeast Asia, viz. Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Ceylon. Another tradition, 'Manayana' , meaning 'the Greater Vehicle' , is found in Nepal, China, Korea and Japan. Meanwhile, there is the 'Hinayana' tradition which means the 'Lesser Vehicle' and the 'Tantrayana' or the 'Esoteric Vehicle* practised in Tibet and Mongolia.

Buddhist Ethics The followers of Buddhism are called Buddhists. Buddhist ethics refers to the analysis and thoughts of Buddha about ethical issues and subsequent reflections about these issues. Buddha emphasises ethics in the social dimension. He also sees ethics as a requirement of the Individual in bringing about a way of life that is valuable and virtuous and that practises meditation. Medication exercise calls for full concentration on what one is doing, without being disturbed by other thoughts. The development of meditation influences daily life and improves the individual's morality. To understand Buddhist ethics, we need to focus on the Four Noble Truths which are Buddha's basic message. Buddha teaches that life is unsatisfactory and full of suffering or dukkha (a Pali term). This suffering includes physical pain, psychological conflict, worry and the impermanence in the world.This aspect of impermanence is related to egolessness. What we call the 'Individual' or 'L', according to Buddha, is really a combination of physical and psychological factors which are constantly changing. If a person decides on a feeling that is permanent on something that is constantly changing, he will be frustrated when he meets with change, destruction or loss. The complex thing that we call Individual' also faces suffering. If as 'Individuals' we hope for a life that is full of pleasure and happiness, it would be difficult for us to accept the fact that we need to face sickness, sadness and suffering. In such conditions, the three doctrines of Buddha, Impermanence, suffering and egolessness are related to one another. The Four Noble Truths and Its component, the Noble Eightfold Path are related with the diagnosis of human suffering called dukkha. The idea of morality and society In Buddhist ethics cannot be removed from this basic teaching of Buddha. There are people who see the meaning of dukkha as a pessimistic view. However, an ideal moral ethics system is proposed by Buddha for mankind to live in ultimate happiness, or 'nirvana' . Buddha allows ordinary people to seek riches in a way that is correct, without being overwhelmed by greed; to obtain comfort and pleasure, and to practise noble deeds. On the other hand, those who practise ascetic lives must exercise great control over their needs and

MORAL STUDIES: ASSIGNMENT 1

desires and strive to attain 'nirvana' , i.e. release from all suffering. Buddha does not agree with hedonism which considers having pleasure as the most important thing in life. Buddha also criticises the materialists who do not believe in the afterlife because they practise a hedonistic way of life focusing on satisfying their desires without caring for moral values. Buddha does not agree with the way of life that is full of pleasure as well as the way of life that punishes oneself. He suggests the 'Middle Path' in the Four Noble Truths . The first noble truth Is that life is full of suffering, the second, the cause of the suffering, the third is the ending of the suffering (or attainment of nirvana),and the fourth is the way to end the suffering (the Noble Eightfold Path).The Noble Eightfold Path encompasses the following:

1. Right understanding 2. Right thought 3. Right speech 4. Right bodily action 5. Right Llvelihood 6. Right effort 7. Right mindfulness 8. Right concentration An important aspect about the NOble Eightfold Path is that all the details can be categorised into 3 parts: a) 1 and 2 about wisdom or panna b) 3 to 5 about ethical conduct or sila c) 6 to 8 about mental training or samadhi In short, the Noble Eightfold Path is a scheme with a three-level moral training for the practice of noble values, meditation, and wisdom and the avoidance of evil. The Noble Eightfold Path can be considered the Middle Path between two extremes. The first extreme is the over-indulgence in pleasure and the subsequent suffering. The second extreme is the belief that the soul of an individual is permanent forever and that it will be destroyed after death. According to the Noble Eightfold Path an individual can attain the Buddhist's ultimate ideal 'nirvana\'. At this stage, the individual will not be born again as any other living creature. This means that the individual will end his association with the world. Buddhist Teachings and Human Development According to the book Theravada, Buddhist teachings do not specifically explain or form human development theories (J.C. Marek), but they contain records of Buddha's own views about human

MORAL STUDIES: ASSIGNMENT 1

behaviour and how behaviour can be improved. This has given rise to wide views about the characteristics of human beings. Studies of the main ideologies in religious teachings have shown that great emphasis has been placed on the upbringing and moral education of children. Buddha himself did not write any books but his followers wrote many books about the religion. Thls includes the Trlpltaka which contains a great deal of features found in the Hindu religion. In reality, Buddhism adopted much of the Hindu ideology, changing aspects it found unsuitable. For example, in the chapter 'Sutta Pitaka' in the book Trlptaka, Buddhism gives extenslve empirical explanation, relying on practical experience rather than theories. Buddhists believe in the notion of karma (that your actions In this world affects your future lives) and reincarnation (rebirth). According to the book Samyutta-Nlkarya (Ed, 1957, Vol. 28), Buddha himself did not answer any question which required proof and which could not be detected by human senses. This includes spirit universe', heaven, and hell.Thls means that people only need to accept (or reject) metaphysical facts like these without having to look for proof. Buddhists are very much concerned with 'karma' and 'rebirth' and these notions influence their actions and behaviour. They believe that good deeds are reciprocated with goodness and bad deeds with what is bad. This makes Buddhists do good, like helping the poor and the handicapped, In the hope that such deeds will be reciprocated In the next life (Anguttara-Nlkarya 1957, vol. 36). Buddhism stresses the Importance of tho environment In the development and formation of human Individuality. It encourages people to lead clean lives, associating with those who have high morals and shunning those who are immoral.