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a. A devotee stands in front of a statue of Buddha in Sri Lanka. In contrast to Islam, which forbids depictions of Muhammad and God, representations of the Buddha are common where Buddhism is practiced.
b. The Dalai Lama, shown here greeting Tibetans, serves as the spiritual authority of Tibet, but he has lived in exile since China invaded and occupied the region in 1959. Tibetan Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the bodhisattva of mercy and that when he dies his spirit will be reincarnated and enter a child.
Buddhism Buddhism remains closely associated with East and Southeast Asia. In China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, Buddhism is prevalent but mixes with other local traditions, including Confucianism. The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BCE), was raised a Hindu prince and rather sheltered from the sufferings of the sick and the problem of poverty. Tradition maintains that he was troubled by the suffering he saw and, out of compassion, gave up his life of comfort and sought a way to end human suffering. Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment while meditating. This marks his transformation into the Buddha, literally the enlightened one. After this, he began to teach and acquire disciples. His teachings are recorded in different documents, the oldest of which is the Tripitaka. Buddhists believe that suffering is linked to reincarnation, and they seek to attain nirvana, escape from the cycle of death and rebirth. The Buddha’s teachings centered on the Four Noble Truths: 1. Life brings suffering. 2. Desire causes this suffering.
136 CHAPTER 5 Geographies of Religion
3. This suffering can be overcome and nirvana can be attained. 4. Disciplining the mind and body by practicing proper thinking and behavior ends this suffering and leads to nirvana. There are three major branches within Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantrayana Buddhism. Theravada means “Way of the Elders,” and this form of Buddhism cultivates a monastic approach that emphasizes the study of Buddhist scripture and the practice of disciplined behavior. Meditation forms an important part of this effort. Theravada Buddhism maintains a greater presence in the island country of Sri Lanka as well as the mainland Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. Theravada Buddhists account for fewer than 40% of all Buddhists. Mahayana, meaning “Great Vehicle,” broadened the appeal of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhists believe that the Buddha is a compassionate deity and that Mahayana Buddhism provides a way for believers to be saved from the cycle of rebirth. Devotion to bodhisattvas (“Buddhas-to-be”) also distinguishes this branch of the religion. Bodhisattvas are celestial
Published on Sep 3, 2013