Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Buddhism: The Buddha
Abstract: A brief summary of Buddha's life is given together with Huston Smith's brief assessment of Buddhism as a religion.
I. Huston Smith* notes that there are only two persons in the
history of the world that we wonder what they were rather than who
2. As I come to the end of this sentence, think of yourself thinking of this sentence.
2. His upbringing was luxurious; he was extremely handsome; he married at 16--well-born on both sides.
3. He was destined for wealth, power, and prestige--like Siddhartha in Hesse's novel, he had everything going for him.
2. A body racked with disease: the fact of illness.
3. A corpse: the fact of death.
4. A monk with a shaven head: the fact of withdrawal from the world.
Thus, the inescapable facts of disease, decrepitude, and death made him realize that happiness cannot be found on this earth as Maya.
2. He exhibited enormous will power through his asceticism.
3. As a result of his self-torture, Buddha proposed a "middle way" between asceticism and indulgence.
2. Ritual--celebration of the origin of the religion.
3. Speculation--the sense of wonder.
4. Tradition--the institutions and practices to perpetuate the faith.
5. God's transcendence and power--our existence is contingent upon God.
6. Mystery, magic, mysticism, and miracles.
2. Devoid of ritual: one of the fetters which bind our spirit.
3. Devoid of speculation: "The Noble Silence." He flatly refused to discuss metaphysics such as "Is the world finite?" or "What is the relation between the soul and the body?"
5. As opposed to God, he taught a religion of intense self-effort; no Gods can be counted on--even the Buddha, himself, cannot be counted on.
6. Devoid of the supernatural: he taught a religion of personal experience.
* Huston Smith, The World's Religions (New York; HarperCollins, 1991).
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