Buddhist practices have flourished throughout Asia for thousands of years. These practices didn’t reach the Western culture until the late 19th century. However, over the past decade Buddhist teachings seemed to have an attraction within our rapidly changing culture. Unlike many religions, which focus only within their institutions, the Buddhist focus point is to achieve inner peace within one’s self, in which can have a profound rippling effect. The manifestation of Buddhism throughout the western culture has slowly been increasing and has become more accepted within ur political society.
In order to fully understand this manifestation, one must first understand Buddhism and where it came from. Buddhism began about 2,500 years ago in India when Siddhartha Gautama, a wealthy prince, became dissatisfied with his lavish lifestyle ( in class). Siddhartha left behind his wife and children to set out on a path to find the true virtues of life. In leaving his kingdom he cut off his hair and renounced the selfish lifestyle that he once led. Upon his Journey, Gautama saw sickness, old age, and death. He couldn’t understand how there could be happiness in world that was filled with suffering.
Within his search, he survived off a very limited diet, only eating roots and berries (in class). He grew even more dissatisfied when he realized that, “Neither my life of luxury in the palace nor my life as an ascetic in the forest is the way to freedom. ” As his impatience started to grow, he told himself that he would sit under a tree and would not walk away until he was free from suffering. Siddhartha fell into a deep meditation, in which he met copious amounts of evil that tried to lure him away from reaching his goal.
As the struggle subsided, he was free from suffering and gained supreme wisdom. It was this moment that he was known as Buddha. Upon his enlightenment, the Buddha and his followers spent the next forty-five years spreading Dharma, his teachings. Social class played no role in the path that the Buddha sought out to pave. His acceptance among all economic classes represents the amount of compassion that he had for every sentient being. He understood all of the hardships that everyone faced because he dealt with their true emotions.
The Buddha stressed to not believe in his teachings Just on blind faith. He encouraged his followers to meditate as well, for that is the only way for one to evelop their true virtue. Buddhism has been labeled as a religion, which is quite untrue. To an outsider it may seem that the Buddha is seen as a religious icon. However, for those who partake in meditative practices, the Buddha is viewed as a mental reinforcement and support. Buddhists don’t believe in supernatural spirits unlike every other religion etc. (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).
The Buddha stressed that everyone needs support to make sure that they stay on the right path. Before the Buddha died, he encouraged his followers to continue to support the novice beginners, because life is ull of illusions; if not guided in the right direction they could lose the wisdom that any teacher, parent, or coach. Within the basic teachings of Buddhism, it is understood that the universe is consistently changing, which history proves to be true. New ideas are born, and then eventually die off. For example, fashion, because it’s constantly changing.
Karma is one of the universal truths that explains life as a result of cause and effect. Basically, if you do good things, then good things will happen to you. If you do evil things then bad things will happen. Ones’ thoughts and actions will determine how the future plays out. Within Buddhism it is explained that ignorance, attachment, and aversion are the reasons for suffering (Rinpoche P. 1 17). Ignorance is the inability to see things for how they truly are. When perceptions are distorted, it causes disillusionment and makes one unable to recognize the infinite potential within the human mind.
Attachment is described as the perception of self and other. Attachment is an addictive trait that causes a compulsive dependency on external objects or experiences to generate an illusion of wholeness (Rinpoche P. 18). Aversion is the strong attachment one generates towards someone or something. To many this causes a sense of satisfaction and happiness once one has achieved their goal. Unfortunately, this attachment will cause an equally powerful fear if one fails get what they want or lose what they have gained.
Changes are inevitable, by trying to go against change will not only cause one to suffer but, it will hinder the infinite potential of happiness. Naturally, it is genetically within humans to differentiate self and other. This genetic is very similar to the reptilian gene, which is living Just to survive. When surviving is the only thing that matters, others are viewed as enemies, or as obstacles that may refrain one from achieving happiness (Rinpoche P. 105). Unfortunately, by feeding the ego, it causes a conflict of interest because we live in a world that depends on others.
For example, food, gas, clothes, or any kind of provided service. This often complicates the relationship with others and one’s self. In Buddhism it is understood that happiness is best when shared. One way to override the ego is developing a sense of compassion for one’s self and for others. Compassion is much ifferent from the ordinary sense, which means feeling sorry for others. But in Tibetan terms, compassion represents the spontaneous feeling of a connection with all sentient things. Once one has realized, that Just like them, everyone wants to achieve peace and avoid suffering.
Instead of seeing a particular individual as an enemy, one can see them in a different light, simply by realizing that he/she is Just trying to free themselves from suffering. Compassion is the recognition that everyone and everything is simply a reflection of everyone and everything (Rinpoche p. 174). Over the past few decades, anxiety has been a main health issue for Americans. Many have disputed on the causes of this mental affliction, whether it’s the economy, poor health, pressure at Jobs, or even stress within the household.
More than 18 percent of American adults are suffering from an anxiety disorder, which makes the United States the most anxious country in the world (Clark). Robert Leahy, a psychologist, said that “the average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s. ” Many ask well why is this? America, to many outsiders, is viewed as a land of opportunity and yet countries, such as Nigeria, that they are up to 5 times less likely to show significant signs of anxiety than Americans (Clark). It seems as though Americans are being forced to become more independent.
This goes back to the ego state of mind, separating self and other. When one alienates one’s self to protect their own interests, they miss the element of in-person connection (Clark). From the day a child is born, the child needs to receive affection. It has been shown in the past that if a new born was Just given food and shelter, he/she simply wouldn’t survive or they ould have serious social problems as that child reached adulthood. As time progresses, new technology will arise and material objects will continue to play a huge role for many Americans.
It is important to understand that one wants to free oneself from the sufferings from stress and anxiety, one needs to create some sort of a balance. Some may argue the fact that medication can help treat these sufferings but, in fact they do quite the opposite. Yes, it provides immediate results, but as time progresses, that particular person will build up a tolerance to the drug. Once this happens, many choose to increase the amount of dosage. This was cause many health risks physically and mentally. Physically, these drugs will wear down the stomach lining, which can cause ulcers and the breakdown of one’s liver.
Mentally, one will become extremely dependent on this drug, causing the anxiety/stress levels to increase even higher than before ever taking the medication. Though medications may help some, it makes many extremely dependent on a drug, which causes a fear that if he/she is not on the medication then they can’t cope or deal with everyday situations. The point that is being made here, is that by dealing with ones stress in a ognitive and logical way, it enables one to cope with their problems rather than running away from them. Facing fear is the only way to relieve it.
Mediation is great way to become in touch with themselves and reality. Much of the western culture is a melting pot, a mixture of many ethnicities and religions. Due to the increase in technology, it has made it easier for most of the population to develop a well-educated opinion on religion, politics, and health. Many of the Buddhists meditative practices have eased their way into the western culture because it doesn’t matter whether one is religious or not. Many psychologists have adopted mediation as a practice that they use on their patients.
Meditation has immense side effects Just on a physiological level. The Transcendental meditation is a technique used to reduce stress and strengthen the communication between the prefrontal cortex and other areas in the brain (tm. org). When one becomes at ease within the natural state of their mind a sense of openness is brought about. For many, compassion for one another grows tremendously which can enable a very stable life and work environment. Meditation is a way to self-regulate one’s self and iscover the inner workings within the mind.
There are many different methods in meditating but, the main ones are Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, and Right View. Each of these types helps generate new neurological activity within the brain, which can cause tremendous health benefits. Sara Lazar, a psychologist at Harvard University conducted a study that compared the brain activity between those who meditate and those who don’t (YudhiJit). Within her study she used magnetic resonance imaging scans to monitor the brain activity between both groups. Her senses, were thicker in the subjects who practiced meditation.
Lazar said, “The differences in the thickness were pronounced in older subjects, suggesting that regular practice of meditation might reduce normal age-related thinning of the brain” (YudhiJit). Stress and anxiety have become the nations modern epidemic. The United States spends more than $300 billion per year on trying to “fix” the anxiety and stress levels that are amongst many Americans (Clark). Mediation seems to be the perfect solution. The results are realistically astonishing. Why realistic? Because when meditating your not chasing a particular feeling, unlike many medications.
When one is able understand how the mind works and how it reacts in certain situations, it makes it much easier to cope with everyday problems. The reliance on materialistic objects never seems to satisfy the sense of wholeness that everyone is longing for. The best part about meditation, if practiced regularly, many seem to find that the sense of wholeness that he/she has been longing for has been their the whole time. Instead of complaining about the things he/she doesn’t have, one is able to see all of the wonderful aspects that they do have.
The sense of clarity is a more riceless asset than any iPod, computer, or television. Being able to expect the good and the bad is part of accepting one’s fears, anxiety, or stress. Stress and anxiety is only the bodies reaction to how the mind perceives a situation. For example, lets say two people get into an altercation and started a argument. The only reason that they are fghting is because the other individual poses as a threat, maybe due to his actions or something that he/she had said. Now what if they both spoke two completely different languages, would they still have gotten into a fght?