Buddhism Is Distinct From Most Other Religions Essay

Pages: 3 (1036 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Buddhism is distinct from most other religions in that it does not hold with the idea of a personal God. Instead it concentrates on individual spiritual development and the search for enlightenment, based on the teachings and experience of Siddhartha Gautama, a sixth-century BCE royal prince turned wandering monk who confronted head on the question of human suffering. Many consider Buddhism a philosophy, not a religion, especially in the United States. Some people believe one can practice Buddhism and still be associated with another religion. There is no conflict because the focus is not on worship and service in the name of a deity, but mindfulness, compassion, and generosity, which can be practiced by anyone, including Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Jews. Although studies show that most Americans actually know little about Buddhism -- less than one percent of Americans identify themselves as practitioners -- the religion holds positive associations for many. While there is nothing wrong with positive associations, they are based on what Americans think they know about Buddhism, rather than what they truly understand. Jeff Wilson, Associate Professor of religious and East Asian studies at Canada's Reinison University College, claims there is selectivism in the application of Buddhist ideas. He qualifies his statement by saying it is not necessarily a bad thing, since Buddhism is associated with kindness, peace and tranquility. Still, embracing Buddhism as Americans do also means there are some misconceptions.

Essay on Buddhism Is Distinct From Most Other Religions Assignment

Buddhism was introduced in the United States by Asian immigrants who worked the California gold mines in the mid-nineteenth century. Books and artifacts brought to the West increased interest. More Buddhists started arriving after the 1965 Immigration Act and Americans started taking a greater interest in Eastern religions (Bailey, 2010). The "peace and love" aspects of Buddhism were embraced by the hippie movement. The generation that criticized capitalists as "sell-outs" embraced the story of Siddhartha, a prince who renounced his worldly goods in favor of spiritual pursuits. Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon with films such as Seven Years in Tibet and more subtle testaments to Buddhism such as Star Wars and The Matrix. As pointed out in Humanities magazine, most companies avoid associating their products with organized religion, yet GNC markets a dietary supplement as "Fully Empowered Zen." A Master Card commercial features a meditating woman. Even caffeine-loaded Red Bull promises "the ways of meditation" (Bailey, 2010).

The charisma of the current Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, has done much to engender favorable attitudes toward Buddhists who, according to recent polls, are less discriminated against than are Christians (Bailey). The Dalai Lama has appeared in a televised interview on 60 Minutes and met with a number of celebrities, including Richard Gere and Barbara Walters. This familiarity with the Dalai Lama may lead people to believe that they understand Buddhism better than they actually do. The popularity of selected elements of Buddhism in the west may actually hinder Buddhism's ability to liberate people fully from suffering if they never go further to discover the deeper nature (Wilson, 2011).

One aspect of Buddhism that may surprise many is meditation. Although it is widely considered a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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