We live in a curious society full of confusing and conflicting religious truths, practices, and beliefs. Consequently, sometimes it is hard to tell which path is the right one. Some of us seek diligently for the truth, while others quietly remain content in the space we know is familiar.
As much as we would like to believe we are in a world all our own, we actually live in an integrated community. People bring the religions of their homelands to the United States, introducing ideas that seem, oh so, familiar to us, but critical differences prompt many people to shun these new transplants and their beliefs, fearing corruption and the eternal flames of hell.
However, the truth of the matter is the world is a bit smaller than we would like to think. So, instead of hiding and trying to pray away people with their strange religious beliefs living in our neighborhoods, it might be helpful to do a little investigation about those curious practices.
Buddhism, one of the world’s oldest religions or ways of life, has been gradually introduced to the Western world.
Particularly in Black communities with large concentrations of Asian populations, Buddhism is sort of observed from the nail shop windows or in local Chinese food and fried chicken restaurants around the corner.
When you walk in, sometimes there’s a little big-bellied Buddha statuette, smiling at you from the cashier counter or the lingering smoke of incense catches the senses off-guard. But we never ask questions. We just go in, take care of business, pay the lady and get out.
Buddhism, like many other religions, is a way of life and being. It is more or less a philosophy that focuses on the daily practice of seeking peace and harmony. It was established in some time between 630 and 430 B.C. in northern India, or modern day Nepal. Siddhartha Gautama retreated to six years of spiritual pursuit through meditation.
Upon being enlightened, he taught the first Wheel of Dharma (a term that means truth). It is argued Buddhism and other Eastern religions stem from these principles, as well.
The Wheel of Dharma includes the Four Noble Truths: life means suffering; the cause of suffering is desire; suffering can be eliminated; and the path to ending suffering.
One who has entered into the life of Buddhism institutes five laws into his or her life: Abstinence from killing all forms of life, sexual misconduct, lies and deceit, theft, and intoxicants.
Ultimately, Buddhism is a path to lead a balanced way of living.
A common misconception about the practice is that Buddhists worship a god or gods. Instead of worshipping or concerning themselves with a god, Buddhists focus on righteous living. They do not believe in any prophets or divine intervention. They accept life as it comes and learn to be grateful for its many happenings.
Buddhism focuses on the universal truth and practical codes that all people can implement. Through meditation and walking a righteous life, Buddhists believe evil can be eliminated from an individual’s life. The goal is to remain peaceful and reach enlightenment.
The philosophy is constantly growing among popular culture due to its universal appeal. There is no dogma, no theology, no true foundations of a religion. It transcends all religions through its foundational principles of truth and peace. More people are also using meditation and chanting, common in Buddhist practices, as a form of therapy.
That little Buddha man who sits in the corners of some business establishments or on the mantle in some people’s homes is simply a symbol. Some would argue it is idol worship as some pray to Buddha, and others would argue it is simply showing respect. Buddha actually taught his followers not to worship him and not to treat him like a god. But who’s to judge?
As inconceivable as it seems, Black people around the world are adopting Buddhism as well. In fact, the Buddhist Nation is a group of Buddhists of African descent. They typically practice the path of Vibhajjavada, a practice that promotes analysis to lead to enlightenment.