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Comparative Analysis: Buddhism In India And China

1500 words - 6 pages

Comparative Analysis: Buddhism In India And China Buddhism is the non-theistic religion and philosophical system founded in North-East India in the sixth century by Gautama Siddharta (the Buddha). His followers seek to emulate his example of perfect morality, wisdom and compassion culminating in a transformation of consciousness known as enlightenment. Buddhism teaches that greed, hatred and delusion separate the individual from the true perception of the nature of things, causing him to remain tied to the bhavachakra (Ch’en, 1989). The apparent substantiality of all objects including the self is an illusion; everything mundane is temporary and ultimately unsatisfying. The central beliefs of Buddhism are based on Buddha’s Four Noble Truths the last of which is the Eightfold Noble Path, by which enlightenment may be attained and the individual self annihilated in Nirvana. Buddhism is not dogmatic, but through its long history has developed into many schools (Mahayana, Theravada and Zen) (Ch’en, 1989). With more than 500 million followers in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Japan and elsewhere in the Far East, Buddhism is also currently gaining adherents in the West too. The predominant forms however are Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, the former of which is practiced in China whereas the latter is prevalent in India. Both of these forms are significantly different from the other and the following essay will attempt to compare and contrast Buddhism in India and China. Theravada Buddhism is the old, conservative school, also called Hinayana by its detractors. Prevalent in India, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand, it emphasizes the ideal of the arhat – one who, as a monk, achieves enlightenment by his own efforts. In Theravada the Buddha is revered but not the Bodhisattvas, and only the oldest works, the Pali canon, are considered orthodox. In this form of Buddhism, the four noble truths are greatly emphasized upon, each of which can be summarized briefly here: (1) the first is a statement of the problem, of the affliction that must be remedied. It is Dukkha – “suffering” or “sorrow.” The problem is that human life is pervaded by suffering despite the fact that people experience pleasure (Conze, 1979). Nonetheless they are in constant physical pain and mental anguish. (2) What is the cause of this state of affairs? That is the second truth discovered by the Buddha. The reason why human existence is pervaded by sorrow is Tanha – “thirst, craving or desire.” This desire is caused by one’s excessive attachment to one’s ego (Conze, 1979). (3) The third truth states the remedy. Self-centered desire can be extinguished, and with it suffering. If the cause of sadness is egocentricity, emotional attachment to ourselves, maintaining the fiction of the Self, the remedy is to abolish the fiction, to abandon the Self. (4) How is it possible to attain such a state? That is the fourth truth, Marga: “the Path.” The Buddha spells out a concrete way of living, which, he...

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