Tag Archives: Buddhism

Buddhism: following in the enlightened footsteps of Siddhartha Gautama

What do Tiger Woods, Orlando Bloom and Steve Jobs all have in common? They’re all Buddhists!

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Buddhism focuses on spiritual development and is absent of worship to any God or deity. The goal of this religion is to reach nirvana by following a similar life path as Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha, in his journey towards enlightenment in the 6th century BC. Nirvana is translated as “extinguish and is understood to mean a passing into another kind of existence.  The path to enlightenment is reached through the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhism is over 2,500 years old and there are 376 million followers worldwide.

Buddhism focuses on the idea that nothing is permanent and that everything in life is always changing. Life is endless and always subject to the three states called tilakhana. These states are impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. The three states are the sign of our existence which is endless. Buddhists believe that the major form of suffering in life is believing that a good thing can last. Nothing stays in a state of good or bad forever.

tumblr_ljebfrHAkg1qahnmzo1_500The Buddha was Siddhartha Gaurtama, a member of the royal family. Gaurtama lived a rich and privileged life and rarely left his enclosed area. When he did one day he encountered an old man, a sick man, and a corpse and understood the suffering of the world He decided to become a monk and adopted extreme asceticism. After years of understanding that asceticism was not the answer, Gaurtama began following the idea of the “Middle Way”; living a life that is absent of both luxury and poverty. Gaurtama was enlightened and is now known as the Buddha which is translated to the “awakened one.”

The two largest schools of Buddhism are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. Although there are a number of different Buddhist schools they all seek englightenment.

Most of the Buddha’s teachings are translated into The Four Noble Truths which are central to Buddhism. These are the truths the Buddha understood on his path to enlightenment through meditation:

  1. Dukkha: the truth is sufferingbuddhism
  2. Samudaya: the truth of the origin
  3. Nirodha: the truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. Magga: the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

Buddhism asks us to understand that suffering is a part of life and that the origin of that suffering is truth. In the third Noble Truth, the Buddha promists a cure for the suffering and the fourth Noble Truth is what fixes truth, the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path is a guideline of how to live ethically and free of suffering in pursuit of truth. Through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path Buddhists achieve a higher level of existence and can reach Nirvana. The eight parts of the Path are not steps that go in order, but instead principles that work together.

  1. right viewtumblr_m4jfup1pDQ1r0kx5qo1_1280
  2. right intention
  3. right speech
  4. right action
  5. right livelihood
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right concentration

Another central concept in Buddhism is karma. The idea behind karma is that what we have done in our past lives can affect our current life in either a positive or negative manner. Buddhism usually explains this idea in relation to good and bad seeds. Good seeds lead good fruit while bad seeds yield bad fruit. Karma decides where the person is born in their next life. A life of good karma can lead to being born among the heavenly while bad karma can lead to rebirth as an animal or in hell. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to get out of the rebirth cycle. It is through our own actions that we determine which way we move in our next life. Motives should be based on: compassion, kindness, sympathy, mindfulness and wisdom.

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Worship takes place at a Buddhist temple although you do not have to go to the temple to worship. Many Buddhists have a room at their home that is dedicated to worship. Temples are designed to symbolize the five elements: fire, air, earth, water and wisdom. Usually worshipers sit barefoot on the floor facing an image of the Buddha.

Meditation is another central aspect of Buddhism. It is a mental and physical course of action that helps a person to separate their thoughts and feelings. Meditation is good therapy for mental and physical health. Meditation is the idea of simply being and not thing.

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”

– The Buddha

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Unitarian Universalists: leaders in marriage equality

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Gay marriage is nothing new for Unitarian Universalists. Two female Unitarian ministers got national media attention in 2004 after illegally marrying gay couples without marriage licenses.

Unitarian Univeralism is an open-minded, individualistic approach to religion that grew out of the Protestant Reformation which began in Poland and Transylvania in the 1560s. There are about 800,000 Unitarian Universalists worldwide and 225,000 in the United States. Most Unitarians blend concepts from Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other humanistic and pagan, earth-centered religions. Unitarianism is a movement that is heavily influence by the ideas of Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Other famous Universalists include Sylvia Plath and John Quincy Adams.

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Unitarians are a highly tolerant group of people who are accepting of others beliefs. They believe that everyone is free to search for the meaning of life and come to conclusions in their own way. They stress that followers should seek truth and meaning through intellect and life. Unitarians believe that religions should be “broad, inclusive, and tolerant.”

There are no standard set of beliefs or central creed so people from all kinds of religions can be Unitarian Universalists. In Unitarian Universalism whatever you believe whatever you feel is right. The very core of Unitarian Universalism is that you have the freedom to believe what you believe. Unitarians are extremely skeptical that one religion could possess the whole truth. Unitarians believe that religion should be a blending of two or more ideologies, although most Unitarians identify with the idea of the Holy Spirit. Unitarians promote the Seven Principles and Purposes:

9ee46b917e874f661379d94aa66424daThe inherent worth and dignity of every person;

  • justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  • acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
  • a free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  • the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
  • the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all
  • respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Although there is no central creed, all Unitarians support freedom and religious thought. Religious ideas must be based on rational thought and formed through the conscience, thinking and life experiences. All Unitarians must also be tolerant of others religious beliefs. Unitarians have differing views of God, but most identify with one of the following:

  • the principle that unites all things
  • the ground of existence
  • the source of original and ongoing creation
  • the ultimate good
  • the ideals and aspirations of humanity
  • a loving power with which human beings can have a personal relationship
  • the still small voice within each of us
  • a great mystery

Unitarians see no conflict between faith and knowledge. Most believe that religion and science are rooted in one reality. They also reject original sin and do not believe that humans have fallen from grace. Unitarians also do not believe that we must be dependent on God for salvation.

061113_banner550One central belief in Unitarian Universalism is the belief that religion should make a difference and that actions speak louder than words. For these reasons, many Universalists are strongly active in social justice issues, like equal rights for gay couples and gender equality, and community work. Unitarians use gender-inclusive language and concepts from a wide range of religious and philosophical traditions. The Unitarians were the first group of people to accept women ministers in 1904.

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Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey went to court in 2004 after becoming the first two ministers to be prosecuted in the United States for performing same sex marraiges. Both women were Unitarian Universalists. They were charged with multiple accounts of marriage without a license. The two women would have faced fines up to $500 and a year in jail, but the charges were dropped later that year.

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