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What Buddhists Believe

What Buddhists Believe

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Published by: Animesh_Singh1 on Jan 05, 2012
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In Buddhism, bad actions are merely termed as unskillful
or unwholesome, and not as sinful.

BUDDHISTS do not regard humans as sinful by nature or

‘in rebellion against god’. Every human being is a person

of great worth who has within him or herself a vast store of

Leading a Buddhist Life ! 255

good as well as evil habits. The good in a person is always waiting

for a suitable opportunity to flower and to ripen. Remember the

saying, ‘There is so much that is good in the worst of us and so

much that is bad in the best of us.’

Buddhism teaches that everyone is responsible for his or her

own good and bad deeds, and that each individual can mould his

or her own destiny. Says the Buddha, ‘These evil deeds were only

done by you, not by your parents, friends, or relatives; and you

yourself will reap the painful results.’ (DHAMMAPADA 165)

Our sorrow is of our own making and is not handed down as a

family curse or an original sin of a mythical primeval ancestor.

Buddhists do not accept the belief that this world is merely a place

of trial and testing. This world can be made a place where we can

attain the highest perfection. And perfection is synonymous with

happiness. To the Buddha, human beings are not an experiment in

life created by somebody and who can be done away with when

unwanted. If a sin could be forgiven, people could take advantage

and commit more and more sins. The Buddhist has no reason to

believe that the sinner can escape the consequences of his or her

actions by the grace of an external power. If we thrust our hand

into a furnace, the hand will be burnt, and all the prayer in the

world will not remove the scars. The same is with the person who

walks into the fires of evil action. This is not to say that every

wrong doing will automatically be followed by a predictable reaction.

Evil actions are prompted by evil states of mind. If one purifies the

mind, then the effects of previous actions can be reduced or

eradicated all together. The Buddha’s approach to the problems of

256 ! WHAT BUDDHISTS BELIEVE

suffering is not imaginary, speculative or metaphysical, but essentially

empirical and impartial.

According to Buddhism, there is no such thing as “sin” as

explained by other religions. In these religions sin is a trangression

of a law laid down by a Divine law giver. To the Buddhists, sin is

unskilful or unwholesome action—Akusala Karma which creates

Papa—the downfall of people. The wicked person is an ignorant

one who needs instruction more than punishment and

condemnation. That person is not regarded as violating god’s will

or as a person who must beg for divine mercy and forgiveness.

What is needed is only guidance for enlightenment.

All that is necessary is for someone to help them to use their

reason to realise that they are responsible for their wrong action

and that they must pay for the consequences. Therefore the belief

in confession is foreign to Buddhism, although Buddhists are

encouraged to acknowledge their wrong doings and remind

themselves not to repeat their mistakes.

The purpose of the Buddha’s appearance in this world is not to

wash away the sins committed by human beings nor to punish or to

destroy wicked people, but to make them understand how foolish it

is to commit evil and to point out the consequences of such evil

deeds. Therefore there are no commandments in Buddhism, since

no one can control another’s spiritual upliftment. The Buddha has

encouraged us to develop and use our understanding. He has shown

us the path for our liberation from suffering. The precepts that we

undertake to observe are not commandments: they are observed

voluntarily. The Buddha’s Teaching is this: ‘Pay attention; take this

Leading a Buddhist Life ! 257

advice and think it over. If you think it is suitable for you to practise

My advice, then try to practise it. You can see the results through

your own experience.’ There is no religious value in blindly observing

any commandment without proper conviction and understanding.

However, we should not take advantage of the liberty given by the

Buddha to do anything we like. It is our duty to behave as cultured,

civilised and understanding human beings to lead a religious life. If

we can understand this, commandments are not important. As an

enlightened teacher, the Buddha advised us how to lead a pure life

without imposing commandments and using the fear of punishment.

The Five Precepts that a Buddhist takes as part of the daily practice

are therefore not commandments. They are by definition training

rules which one voluntarily undertakes for spiritual development.

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