Learn about Buddhism

Written by: 
Alex Maldonado

Six percent of Hawaiian residents adhere to Buddhism, a faith of Asian origin, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. Buddhism is established upon the teachings of an Indian prince named Siddhartha, explained Piyadassi Thera, a famous Buddhist author.

Thera wrote about Siddhartha’s life: he was born to an extremely protective father who hid him away in a palace so he would never see old age, sickness, or death. Eventually the young prince left his sheltered life behind and encountered the things his father wished to shield him from. Siddhartha was deeply troubled by the difficulties he came across and wanted to find a way to eliminate anguish from the world, Thera wrote.

Later in his life, Siddhartha encountered a monk who seemed to be especially peaceful and happy. The prince learned the monk had given up all his desire for earthly pleasures in search of freedom from worldly suffering, taught Thera. Siddhartha was inspired by the monk, gave up his desires, and spent the next six years searching for the path to enlightenment through meditation, Thera explained.

According to buddhanet.net, “As he meditated, Siddhartha let go of all outside disturbances and memories of pleasures from the past. He let go of all worldly thoughts and turned his mind to finding the ultimate truth about life. He asked himself, ‘How does suffering start? How can one be free from suffering?’”

Siddhartha began to think about how his life started and saw himself in a previous life. Then he saw how beings are born and reborn based on their karma, which is a belief system that teaches people will be rewarded in a next life based on how they acted in their current life, according to The Buddha Dharma Education Association.

Siddhartha then saw doing good deeds would lead a person to peace and away from sorrow. “Finally, he became completely free from thinking in a way that caused him any suffering. This freedom is called nirvana. At the age of 35, Siddhartha became the Buddha, ‘the Supreme Enlightened One,’” it says on buddhanet.net.

After Siddhartha became Buddha, he went about teaching the path to nirvana he had discovered, building a following that is now 488 million people strong, according to Thera and research by the Pew Research Center.

The ultimate goal in Buddhism is to reach this state of nirvana, which is the end of the rebirthing cycle, reads buddhanet.net. “The word nirvana comes from the Pali word meaning ‘to blow out’ and refers
to the extinguishing of the fires of greed, hatred and delusion.” Nirvana is what Siddhartha himself described as “the ultimate happiness,” and is something anyone can attain if his instructions are followed sincerely and carefully, wrote The Buddha Dharma Education Association.

The words and teachings of Siddhartha, after he became the Buddha, are recorded in the Pali Canon, which is used as scripture by most Buddhists, explained Stop Khemthorn, a senior majoring in international cultural studies from Bangkok, Thailand. Khemthorn was a Buddhist before converting to the LDS faith.

Khemthorn explained many Buddhist men in their 20s will decide to go to a Buddhist temple and serve as a monk for a short period of time, which is similar to the LDS missionary program. “They leave home and stay in the temple, learn the scriptures, and preach the doctrine. When they become a monk, they also need to keep special monk commandments.” Khemthorn said most monks serve in a temple for around a month, but there is no limit for how long one can stay.

One of the core beliefs studied by Buddhists worldwide is what Jo-Ann Ozaki calls the law of causation. Ozaki is the director of ritual and education at the Rissho Kosei-Kai Buddhist Church of Hawaii. “In the law of causation, I am responsible for everything that happens to me. If I change my action to you, you will change your reaction to me. I cannot change anyone but myself, so I should change myself and everyone will change because of what I put out,” explained Ozaki.

Ozaki explained how the law of causation is all about accountability. She said if person A hits person B and person B hits person A back, person A has no right to be mad at person B.
This is because person B only hit person A because person A hit first. The law of causation is knowing not to hit person B in the first place, not only to respect person B, but also to remove the possibility of person B hitting back, Ozaki continued.

Another cherished doctrine Ozaki discussed is the belief in respecting and being grateful for all things, both animate and inanimate. She elaborated by saying everything has a piece of the Buddha in it. He was the creator of everything on the earth before he came down in his incarnate form; as such, there is a little bit of him in everything, she explained. Buddhists believe in being grateful for all things tangible, as well as their knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings and their ancestors who gave them life, Ozaki said.

Khemthorn described the Buddhist belief of reincarnation, an ideology common throughout other South Asian religions. “[Buddhists] believe celebrities and other good-looking people did a lot of good merits in their previous life, which is why they got a pretty face and a good job in this life,” Khemthorn explained. He also said if a person does enough bad things in their lives, there is a chance they will be born again in the form of an animal after they die.

Along with the previously mentioned principles, Buddhism relies on a series of commandments known as the five precepts: “Do not kill, steal, be unfaithful to [your spouse], lie, or take intoxicants.” Disobeying the precepts gives the offender negative karma and distances them from their enlightenment, according to The Buddha Dharma Education Association.

Uploaded May 6, 2016