Theological Reflection Paper Buddhism

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To listen to this voice may help one move towards the happiness that is, as the Dalai Lama continually remind one, what all humanity seeks (Watson).

The basic doctrines of early Buddhism, which remain common to all Buddhism, include the "four noble truths": existence is suffering (dukhka); suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment (trishna); there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and there is a path to the cessation of suffering, the "eightfold path" of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Buddhism characteristically describes reality in terms of process and relation rather than entity or substance. Experience is analyzed into five aggregates (skandhas). The first, form (rupa), refers to material existence; the following four, sensations (vedana), perceptions (samjna), psychic constructs (samskara), and consciousness (vijnana), refer to psychological processes. The central Buddhist teaching of non-self (anatman) asserts that in the five aggregates no independently existent, immutable self, or soul, can be found. All phenomena arise in interrelation and in dependence on causes and conditions, and thus are subject to inevitable decay and cessation. The casual conditions are defined in a 12-membered chain called dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) whose links are: ignorance, predisposition, consciousness, name-form, the senses, contact, craving, grasping, becoming, birth, old age, and death, whence again ignorance ("Buddhism").

Buddhist meditation (dhyana, or bhavana) is divided into two different categories: samatha and vipassana. Samatha means "tranquility," and involves focusing or concentrating on a single object or thought. With practice, the person meditating develops a sharp ability to concentrate on one object for a long period of time. This stills the mind and brings a sense of peace and tranquility. Vipassana, or "insight" meditation, is somewhat different. The mind is allowed to focus on a broader field of mental and physical experiences. From this observation, the mediator arrives at an insight into the truths of Buddhism. Meditation practices differ. Most people meditate by sitting quietly, cross-legged with a straight back, and breathing deeply while relaxing the body. To help them focus, they might concentrate on a particular sensation in the body, or on a sacred phrase, called a mantra. But for all who meditate, the goal is the…[continue]

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