This essay has a total of 2234 words and 9 pages.
"I am not a man. Those evil influences, those lusts, whose non-destruction would have individualised me as... a man, I have completely annihilated. Know, therefore... that I am a Buddha." - Gautama Buddha, from the Pali scriptures (Goddard, page 5)
Throughout history there have been hundreds of influential figures. Some are well-known for their charitableness or kindness, or for their supreme knowledge which contributed to the growth of humanity. Others are noted for their religious, literary, or cultural contributions to the world. Yet very few are known as all of these. One figure in particular could be called not only a religious founder, but a humanitarian and a philosopher as well. This is Siddharta Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha. Born in about 563 B.C.E. in the Indian Subcontinent, the Gautama Buddha founded a well-known religion and proved to be an extremely influential figure whose traditions and beliefs are held in high regards today. Without the unique teachings of the Gautama Buddha, the world would be different for people of all practices, for in the path of this one great man were many more who helped to pass down and spread his beliefs across many cultures.
As a young prince growing up in Kapilavastu, now known as Padeira, Gautama led an indulged life under the care of his maternal aunt and father. No pains were spared to make the course of his life smooth. At the age of sixteen he was married; his wife bore a son several years later. For twenty-five years Gautama was sheltered from the suffering of mankind. Yet one day he left the palace and immediately saw an aged man, a sick man, and a corpse by the roadside. Shocked by his first experience with sadness, the prince lost all joy in living. At the age of twenty- nine Gautama left his sleeping wife and son and rode away into the forest, impelled by a strong desire to find the origin of pain and suffering of mankind. This was known as the Night of the Great Renunciation. At first Gautama experimented with a life of ascetism, but found no solace in harsh penances. Finally he retired to the Bo tree, under which he sat for forty-nine days. As he meditated in solitude he experienced a spiritual awakening, known as "the enlightenment." He devoted the rest of his many years to the spread of his practices and ideas to better the lives of people everywhere.
Buddha was said to be a kind, humble, charismatic and magnetic person. This is demonstrated by the fact that throughout his life, he and his followers lived off of the food and drink that was offered to them by townspeople as they walked through the villages. Never did Buddha farm or purchase his own food, but he always accepted what was offered to him. This was probably very helpful to his cause because he was able to spread his ideas and live comfortably while mingling with all different types of people. He was also very approachable, for he was a man who never claimed to be more than a man, and whose teachings were rooted in ideas of kindness and love towards everyone and everything. Furthermore this magnetism, the quality that drew other people to him, could be one of the reasons for the spread of Buddhism during Gautama's lifetime. One instance where the quality of a "charismatic leader" came into effect was when the Buddha was returning from the Bo tree and was on his way to the city of Benares to preach his first sermon. On the way he met five of his former companions in the Deer Park, whom he had renounced along with ascetic practices. "When these five saw... the Buddha coming towards them, they agreed... not to rise in salutation, nor greet him, nor offer the customary refreshments when he came, for he had broken his first vow by giving up acetic practices. However, when the Tathagata (Buddha) approached them, they involuntarily rose from their seats and in spite of their resolution greeted him and offered... to do all that he might require." (Goddard, page 10). Immediately thereafter the Buddha preached his first sermon in Benares, which Buddhists hold in the same reverence as Christians do the Sermon on the Mount. These five companions became the first converts to Buddhism after hearing their teacher's explanation of how to escape suffering- by accepting the four noble truths, and following the eightfold path.
Undoubtedly was Buddha a charismatic, well-liked figure. During his lifetime he accumulated many followers from all walks of life, and in death a movement commemorating his teachings spread throughout Asia. A great instigator of this movement was Asoka, a monarch from about 274- 232 B.C.E., known for his contributions to Buddhism. Asoka was a devout Buddhist, yet insisted on tolerance toward all religious groups in his realm. At the time of his reign Buddhism was split into many sects and schools that Asoka attempted to meld into a uniform point of view. Through use of missionaries Asoka managed to spread the religion as far South as Ceylon and as far North as Kashmir. He also constructed monasteries, encouraged study of Buddhist scriptures, and had statements of Buddhist beliefs inscribed on pillars for all to read. Without these contributions Buddhism would have come close to dying out in the third century B.C.E. By putting so much weight on the importance of Buddhism, Asoka was able to recruit many new followers, turning a local religion into a widespread practice two hundred years after its founder's death. After Asoka's death his religious work was discontinued, but Buddhism was seen in a new light.
Other historical figures as well as Asoka have been greatly influenced by Buddhism. One of the most notable was Alan Watts, a 20th- century English author, teacher, and lecturer. His first book, The Spirit of Zen was published in 1936, and caught some attention in the United States, where he moved three years later. He taught at several institutions of higher learning and lectured on Zen. His most influential book was The Way of Zen , published in 1957. Nishida Kitaro was the leading Japanese scholar of the 20th- century as well. His writings attempt to assimilate Western philosophy into Buddhist theology. He was the author of Philosophical Essays, A Study of Good, and From the Acting to the Seeing Self. There were hundreds of others who devoted their lives to the spread and literature of Buddhism as well, from ancient times all the way to the 20th- century.
Why did Buddhism catch on so well? Though it is not, by any means, as widespread as Christianity, Buddh
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