Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Smith Buddhism Assignment

1. What is the biggest problem faced when trying to understand some of the core ideas/beliefs of Buddhism?

The biggest problem in trying to understand Buddhism is that Buddha did not teach on certain topics such as cosmology but focused on developing a way to live one's life. He only taught about how to live a life that leads to ending suffering, but did not teach as much about more abstract metaphysical topics.

2. How does Smith describe/define nirvana? Is it possible to conceive of what Nirvana is? Why or Why not?

Smith explains that Nirvana has a duality of what is left once one reaches Nirvana. The negative view is that all of the finite things that restrict the infinite self have been destroyed. The positive view is that it is a state in which only the infinite self exists. Some believe that Nirvana can be interpreted to be the closest definition to a God-head that Buddhism has, but the Buddha never confirmed this belief in his teachings. According to Buddha and his followers, one cannot explain or conceive of what Nirvana is because it is a state in which nothing physical or finite exists, so there is no way for humans to understand it.

3. How/what is Anatta according to Smith?

Anatta is the Buddhist doctrine which says there is no permanent soul within each person. It does not mean that there is no soul, but the doctrine denies the traditional Hindu beliefs that it a "spiritual substance" that always has a separate identity. There is a sense of a soul in Buddhism, the concept of Anatta just clarifies that Buddhism does not hold the same view of the soul as Hinduism.

4. How does Smith describe the concept of transmigration and its relation to Karma?

In Buddhism, Transmigration is like a flame being passed from one candle to another indefinitely. There is always a flame, but it is not exactly the same flame as the flame that was on the first candle. This means that Buddhists view transmigration as a continuing cycle of events. One's present condition is due to Karma in the sense that what has already happened causes what is happening presently even if it was in a past life because the world is seen as a sequence of actions and affects of those actions. This also affirms the Buddhist concept that there is no spiritual substance transmitted from one life to the next.

5. According to Smith, why did the Buddha belabor the concept of Anicca?

The Buddha emphasized the concept of Anicca because he believed that if people really accepted this concept it would be easier for them to separate themselves from the physical world, making it easier to reach Nirvana.

6. What is the biggest problem, according to Smith, when trying to answer the question “Do Humans survive bodily death?”

It is hard to answer this question because human’s can only describe things within our physical parameters because that is the only consciousness we have ever known. The problem is that after death or once one has reached Nirvana, everything that we have experienced in the physical world is eliminated. This means that it is hard to describe what happens after death because the idea that the soul does survive bodily death usually makes humans think of a physical soul, which cannot exist after death.

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