Theological Reflection Paper Buddhism

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Buddhism, religion and philosophy founded in India c.525 B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. There are over 300 million Buddhists worldwide. One of the great world religions, it is divided into two main schools: the Theravada or Hinayana in Sri Lanka and SE Asia, and the Mahayana in China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan. A third school, the Vajrayana, has a long tradition in Tibet and Japan. Buddhism has largely disappeared from its country of origin, India, except for the presence there of many refugees from the Tibet region of China and a small number of converts from the lower castes of Hinduism ("Buddhism").

Buddhism is a blend of philosophy, religious belief and educational principles that focuses on personal spiritual development. Although the distinction may be somewhat blurred, strictly speaking, Buddhists do not worship gods or deities, and the Golden Buddha's people pray to are supposed to be merely aids to understanding and contemplation. Because it is not a religion in the conventional sense, people are encouraged to question its teachings and to seek insight for themselves. It is an education, one leading to insight into the true nature of life. The aim of Buddhist practices is to become free of suffering and to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness and wisdom. Originating in India, Buddhism gradually spread throughout Asia to Central Asia, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, as well as the East Asian countries of China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan ("BUDDHISM").

Buddhism has faced a double challenge in each culture it has entered: to remain true to the core of its teachings and to express these in a way that responds to the needs of the new situation. Just as Tibetan Buddhism has a different flavor from that of China and of Japan, so any emergent Western form of Buddhism must inevitably change as it engages with the Western world. Western science is one of the major new influences with which Buddhist beliefs must contend and converse, and the Western emphasis on the individual brings in another new dimension. An important third influence is, surely, feminism. A…[continue]

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