While growing up, my mother raised me as Catholic. Throughout my childhood, my mother made it seem as if there was no other acceptable religion in the world. My mother and I would go to Church every Sunday morning for an hour to hear mass and pray. Our Sundays mass became the highlight and absolute obligation of the week. At Church there were groups of all ages who gathered to learn about the Catholic religion. My mother encouraged me to assist to the group for kids and teenagers with the purpose to learn about God and to read Scripture. The idea of learning about God; the figure you would see at church crucified in the cross, seem to be very intriguing to me.
When growing up I started questioning about a lot of things. Many of those things were associated with events that occurred in a day to day basis, but mostly about God, the creator. I would question about the meaning of life and the existence of humanity on earth, evilness in people, inequality in the world and poverty amongst other things. Everything seemed to be very confusing and contradicting to what I was learning from my mentors at Church, they pictured life being the opposite as I questioned. According to the Church and the Bible, evil exist and could only be overthrown by having faith in God (Jesus Christ) by following the teachings of the Bible, by praying, loving and respecting all living things. The older I would get the more questions I would have without any answers.
Growing up as the only child of a single mother wasn't easy. The community at church didn’t seem to accept the fact that my mom was a single mother raising a kid on her own. The father figure missing in our lives made it more difficult for us to fit not only at church but with other families as well. My mother did not cared much about what people talked about us but she was more concerned about me getting hurt by their comments there were rude church members and strong staring aside from the not welcoming vive. I had few friends and all were scared off by comments from other kids about me not having a father. The awareness of being criticized by the narrow minded church community made my mother and I decide to stop attending church.
Throughout the years without attending any other church or practicing other religions but Catholicism, we sustained having faith in God and practiced Catholic prayers almost every day before going to sleep. Mom and I continue to believe and pray to the supreme God (Jesus Christ) that had always existed in our minds and hearts.
Up to this point, I have been exposed to only Catholicism and was unaware of other faiths, religions and believe. It was not until I moved to San Francisco when I was exposed to more than the Catholicism I had been exposed to in the past. Yet, there was something in me that prevented me from really trying to experience other faiths. I came to find out that it was the fear of God's disapproval for being curious in believes that were not my own which was indoctrinated strongly in me while growing up. Even though, I stopped being a member of the Catholic church organization over two decades ago, there was still an obstacle in me that prevented me from exploring other faiths. Yet, since I have not been a member of a particular religion for so long, I still had this wondering mind that wanted to have the spiritual side of myself being fulfilled.
A couple a year's ago I decided to have a radical change in my life. I felt I needed a change of career path and made the choice to go back to school. Luckily enough I was admitted to a Catholic school in Belmont, California to pursue a degree in Computer Science.
At first I was a little skeptical about the fact it was a Catholic university due to the bad experience I had in the past. As part of a Catholic university there are religion and philosophy class requirements. So, as part of the school’s curriculum I was encouraged to take the classes needed for my major at City College of San Francisco. Even though I was a little anxious about taking a class in philosophies of religion, it opened up my eyes to a diversity of other believes and practices. By learning about religion and reading the books assigned in class, I have to admit that the majority of the religions didn't catch my attention with the exception of one, Buddhism.
As soon as I started studying the collection of doctrines of the Buddha I became more absorbed in the religion. I was absorbed in how Buddhism is so different from other religions. Knowing the fundamental focus of most religions is Deity, Buddhism is non-theistic. Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment, this was mesmerizing to me.
Worshiping Buddha is core to the Buddhist morality and to all Buddhist practices. Every aspect in the historical records indicates that the Mahavastu is more dependable that the pali canon. Faith in Buddha is the starting point of conversion and pursuing the path. Moreover, belief in Buddha is regarded as faith in a single god. According to samsara, Buddha is not as other gods, and He is not subject to the rebirth. His humanity is a more complex issue. He is seen as being treated as a normal human by all those whom he encounters, though with the highest regards by his followers.
Nevertheless, the span of time between his actual life and the documented record is such that most details are lost. Insignificant facts came through to the modern humanity: Buddha advocated for agreeable environments in which one is supposed to feed others from his bowl. What is more, at some point Buddha suffered backache, which indicated his humanity. He makes an exemplum of his plainly human and dying body affirming that all compounded things are liable to dissolution. There are plain assertions that Buddha is not a human being. Strictly, the refutation is that Buddha will be a human being or a form of a being in his future life. Such denial is based on the claim that Buddha is referring to what he is at any given time. As long as Buddha is in any sense not a human being, it is in the view that he has enjoyed the unusual karmic history until his enlightenment, and that his rebirth is the matter of this process, without sexual intercourse. To this end, a simple conclusion would be that Buddha is a human being, though not a corporate one.
This view fits with the fact that complexity and status of Buddha are regarded as indescribable. The question of where Buddha goes after his has remained unanswered for decades. This has been the case because it is considered unprofitable, and, at the same time, it is considered that Buddha is sui-generis, classified under no specific category. Furthermore, Buddha represents the nominal within the realm of miracles, confessing of none of the predication applicable only to miracles. Although not a god, Buddha is omnipresent and worshipped in a way indistinguishable from that of god. According to the comparative study of religions that works in a structured way, and that within its structure has room for God, in the case of Buddhism it is occupied by Buddha.
In other words, Buddha is regarded as an object of devotion and rendered a god, though this is not the blind devotion that is often the case with Hindu divinities. Buddha is also a paradigm. It is also tempting to conclude that the record presents Buddha as a type of perfected human being. This would be sufficiently enough if it were possible for a thought to be conceived in narratives. As it is, scholars strain against the impossibilities of accomplishing this goal. Classic actions are presented, with a good example of the following story. Buddha finds bhikkhu ill and forsaken by the others, apparently suffering from dysentery. With his assistant, Ananda, Buddha attends to the sick man and then expresses his concern to those who have forsaken the sick man.
According to Buddha, those who wish to attend to him should do so by attending to the needy in their societies, because such devotion is taken for granted by many. As a result, such exemplary life should allow one to experience the eternal happiness. Buddha is regularly associated with the Dharma presenting it as an object of significant concern and as a ruler.
Thus, there is an aspect in which Buddhist ethics may establish itself. Its assertions based on the acceptance are not greatly disregarded if its founder is not regarded in the accounts. At the same time, Buddha’s followers make a commitment to devotion, orientation, practices and beliefs, which are complexity and find their solid principles in Buddha. It is at this point that commitments, doctrinal affirmations and exertions come together. It is in this aspect of worship of Buddha where there is seal and the solder. The enduring popular appeal of Buddhism would have never been attained without such fusion.
According to the Tibetan structure, there are three aspects or kinds of conduct in practicing Buddhism. First, there are the Pratimosksha vows of the hinavana that are exercised by the ordinary nuns and monks. Second, there is the bodhisattvas who are the experts on the hinayana path and have taken the vow to attend to all beings who attain enlightenment even before they themselves have attained such enlightenment.
Finally, there is the conduct of the vajravana experts who are committed to the vows of specific practices. Whatever form of vow one is committed to in Buddhism, there are ten aspects to be avoided and an equal number of things to adhere to. The ten dishonorable or negative actions are avoided because they are harmful to individual and the society, while the ten virtuous actions are embraced because they are considered beneficial not only for oneself, but also to others. These virtuous and dishonorable actions are categorized into three categories of conduct: conducts of mind, conducts of speech and those of body.
Further, there are simple practices and special exercise of good conduct of virtuous conduct of mind, speech and body. The simple exercise of good conduct is where one appreciates the shortcomings of practicing negative actions and withdraws from them. On the other hand, special exercise of good conduct is where one not only withdraws from exercising negative actions, but also begins to exercise positive actions. According to simple virtuous conduct, one has to abstain from the three negative practices of the body, equal number of negative actions of mind, and four negative actions of speech.
The Principle of Avoiding Taking a Life
According to Buddhism, one must avoid taking of life. In this concept, there are four steps that complete this negative action. There has to be the recipient of action, the motivation, the actual action, and the completion of the action. Without the four steps, the act of murder will not be considered a negative action. For the killing to happen, there must be an actual being who has been be killed. This can range from a small insect to a psychologically, emotionally and physically developed being, such as human. This object must be capable of experiencing suffering and sensations. For some religion, such as Jains, plants are considered as sentient beings and should not be killed. However, in Buddhism, plant are not living beings. Therefore, killing can only happen to animals that can experience suffering. Thus, for this act to be considered negative, it must be directed against a living being that experiences suffering and has a mind.
Do Not Take What Is not Yours
The idea of the negative action of stealing is in taking an item that belongs to someone else. Such object must have a real owner who has the sense of owning the object. Moreover, its value must be quantifiable. If it has no quantifiable value to the owner and losing such an object would make no significant difference to the owner, then taking it cannot be a negative action. If the object has no owner, then taking it is not harmful.
There are some religions that believed that if one obtains an object, it must have been in the possession of someone else. Thus, some believe that if one lived in an isolated valley and drank water from a spring, this act would amount to stealing, since one would be taking what had not been given to him. However, according to Buddhism, this action is not considered stealing. It is only stealing when one obtains something without permission.
Avoiding Sexual Misconduct
Just like stealing and killing, sexual misconduct creates a sense of sorrow in the lives of partners. If a loved companion is psychologically harmed, it is not good. Thus, according to Buddhism, one must avoid causing suffering through sexual misconduct to others. This aspect is important both in the present life and after rebirth. Instead, happiness and peace are appraised.
The actual action of deceiving is complete with an intention to deprive someone of truth. If one tells lies out of ignorance believing something to be true, then in Buddhism it is not a lie, as the motivation is not intentional. The completion of the act is where one speaks deceptively notwithstanding the recipient considering it to be a lie or not. The action is complete and there will be negative consequences. Therefore, by avoiding the action of lying, one is considered to be observing ordinary positive actions.
In Buddhism, where there are people living harmoniously, and through motivation of envy, pride, or anger, one intentionally says something that would turn them against each other, this amounts to slander. The objects of such action are people living in harmony. The motivation of such action is pride, envy, or anger and the desire to have discords for no apparent reason. The actual action is speaking something that turns individuals against each other. The completion of the action is ensuring a conflict. This action is to be avoided in Buddhism. Avoiding speech that brings discord among people amounts to a positive practice.
Avoiding Harsh Words
The real recipient of harsh words is an individual who is able to understand what is said. The motivation of speaking harsh words is anger and envy. Therefore, in Buddhism, speaking harsh words to others, no matter whether they are true or not, direct or indirect, completes the action. The completion of this negative action occurs when the recipient hears what is said and gets hurt. The outcome of having spoken harsh words is enmity. Therefore, one should at all times avoid using harsh words.
Avoiding Empty Talks
In Buddhism, the object of idle talks is someone who can understand what is said. The motivation behind such talk would be an irresistible desire to keep on talking even where there is no agenda, to praise oneself, or speak negatively about someone else. The completion of this action is in speaking idle or useless words that are understood by others, notwithstanding whether they are accepted or not.
Avoiding Greedy Thoughts
According to Buddhists, greediness is the obsession for things that belong to others. The negative motivation behind desiring things that belong to others forms the basis for all negative actions. This obsession is manifested through one’s speech and actions of desire, envy, or anger.
Avoiding Being Malicious
Maliciousness, just like greediness, is a practice of mind. For example, in a state of anger or envy, one desires for harm to happen to others, so that others would suffer and experience difficulties. Buddha’s believer must avoid any action that causes suffering of other people.
Avoiding Any Wrong View
The last negative practice to be avoided according to Buddhism is mistaken belief or any wrong view. This is where one has wrong perception regarding a specific thing. Buddhists should not allow themselves to fall into misconceptions. Instead, they ought to examine things and issues carefully to understand whether they are beneficial not only to them, but also to others.
In Buddhism, shila, which implies commitment to harmony, is to be embraced. A person may not attain complete calmness by exercising negative actions. For instance, in terms of killing, one may have an enemy whose death would make one’s existence more pleasant. However, if one harms the perceived enemy, it may be well discovered that there is no happiness in such an act. It is possible that the murderer’s family members are considered enemies by others, and he will become obsessed knowing that someone wishes death for his relatives. Therefore, causing harm to other in revenge may end up bringing more enemies rather than destroying them.
Alternatively, if one avoids all negative actions that may cause harm to others, there is no way for such a person to have enemies. Pursuing practices that are in harmony with dhama implies that the present life will be filled with calmness and will result into pleasant outcomes for one’s second life. Therefore, Buddhism has good teachings on complete harmony and good conducts. Of course, following perfect and complete aspects of correct practices may seem difficult, but a Buddhist should at all times try to exercise right conducts and forsake all wrong conducts for the sake of harmony.