Religion & World Religions (III)

The fourth noble truth is Buddha’s prescription to end all suffering, the eightfold path of self-development, which leads to the state of Buddhahood. This eightfold path consists of the following instructions :-

  • Right thoughts
  • Right speech
  • Right conduct
  • Right occupation
  • Right effort
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right meditation

This is the Brief outline of Buddhism and the teachings of Buddha. One of the major characteristics of Buddhist philosophy is its naturalistic feature. Being naturalistic in this context means truths are out there in nature, not in human imagination. So, in exploring truths, Buddhism explores nature. In the case of personhood, what is explored by Buddhism is the nature of human being. This leads to the questions concerning the basic concepts of human life such as: what is the meaning of person according to Buddhism; when personhood occurs; what should be counted as the violation of personhood. Normally, Buddhism is viewed as a religion that rejects the existence of the self. This sometimes leads to the understanding that there is no concept of person in Buddhist teaching. There are two meanings of personhood, as understood by Buddhism. One is the substantial meaning, and another is the non-substantial one. The Hindu theory of person can be cited as the example of the first. For Hinduism, the self (atman) is the essence of human life. The definition of personhood in Hinduism is based on this self. The self as taught by Hinduism is rejected by Buddhism as Buddhism states that human life is composed of the five aggregates namely materiality, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness; and these aggregates are not substances. But the rejection of the self does not mean that there is no concept of person in Buddhist teaching. Personhood according to Buddhism is still possible even though there is no self in human life. Buddhism defines personhood through psychological facts.Buddhism was psychological in its approach as opposed to ritualistic approach of Hinduism. It addressed the sufferings of man and offered suggestive remedies. Capra writes:-

“The Buddha was not interested in satisfying human curiosity about the origin of world, the nature of divine or similar questions. He was concerned exclusively in human situation with the suffering and frustration of human beings”

This is the Buddhist interpretation of human self, with its major focus on salvation. Thus in nutshell it can be said that Buddhism wh.ch was a modified or reactionary version of Hinduism made untiring (but partly unsuccessful) attempts to leverage all humans and to abrogate inequalities but owing to its kinship with Hinduism it maintained the theory of Maya (nonexistence) and the concept of illusory world (Lila). It deemed world and as illusory and birth and rebirth is a punishment for not realizing the non-existence of world. Influenced by prevalent conditions Buddha developed an elaborate theory of world (Sansar) with the basic postulate that this world is full of misery or sorrow (dukkha) and the impossibility to escape from this ebb of misery. In Ghalib’s language

QAYDAY HAYAT-O-BANDAY GHAM , ASAL MAY DONO EK HAIN

MAUT SE PEHLE AADMI GHAM SE NIJAAD PAAYE KYUN

As mentioned before in epilogue 2nd that east has been the cradle of all major religions of the world. From the soil of subcontinent, we now turn to Persia, where there arose a powerful a conscientious religion in the form of Zoroastrianism, around 1500 B.C. Originating over 3500 years ago in bronze age culture on the Asian steppes, it became the state religion of three mighty Iranian empires in succession, and so was endowed for many centuries with temporal power and wealth. Zoroastrianism was already old when it first entered recorded history; and it has its roots in a very distant past. Indeed, so tenaciousare the Iranians of tradition that there are elements in living Zoroastrianism which go back, it seems, to Indo-European times. These elements, blended with later revealed doctrines, make it a richly complex faith, knowledge of which increases understanding of man’s spiritual progress over millennia. Mary Boyce remarks”Zoroastrianism has been so named in the West because its prophet, Zarathustra, was known to the ancient Greeks as Zoroaster. He was an Iranian, and lived in what for his people were prehistoric times. It is impossible, therefore, to establish fixed dates for his life; but there is evidence to suggest that he flourished when the Stone Age was giving way for the Iranians to the Bronze Age, possibly, that is, between about 1700 and 1500 B.C”98. According to tradition Zoroaster was thirty, the time of ripe, wisdom, when revelation finally came to him. This great happening is alluded to in one of the Gathas and is tersely described in a Pahlavi work. Here it is said that Zoroaster, being at a gathering met to celebrate a spring festival, went at dawn to a river to fetch water for the haoma-ceremony. He waded in to draw it from midstream and when he returned to the bank – himself in a state of ritual purity, emerging from the pure element, water, in the freshness of a spring dawn – he had a vision. He saw on the bank a shining Being, who revealed himself as Vohu Manah ‘Good Purpose’ ;and this Being led Zoroaster into the presence of Ahura Mazda and five other radiant figures, before whom ‘he did not see his own shadow upon the earth, owing to their great light’ . And it was then,from this great heptad, that he received his revelation. Zoroaster laid great emphasis on moral and ethical aspects of society so as to escort humans from sinking shores to infinite horizons. His ethical teachings include professional ethics, ecological consciousness, importance to family structure, condemnation of bloodshed and treating animals tenderly. He taught that man’s actions are intimately governed by his intentions and depending on the nature of actions man either suffers or succeeds in future. Another prominent dictum of his was that man’s “self” plays an instrumental role in determining the course of his actions as well as his whole of life. Thus he laid great emphasis on self-discovery, self-control and self-reconstruction. This “self” is the consciousness of an individual that distinguishes him from rest of creatures. Zoroastrianism teaches to enlighten one’s self by astute deeds and noble thoughts, so that his enlightenment may illuminate the whole world. Thus via Asha Vahishta‘ we read “Let your light to shine that men may see your noble deeds arid glorify your guiding star Zarathustra, who illuminated for us the path to heaven”. One of the major evils prevalent during Zoroaster’s time was nature worshipping. People used to worship sun for it gave warmth, they worshipped earth for it provided them the grains to feed on and likewise they worshipped as many elements as are the phenomenon. To this end Zoroaster forbade and warned people of such corrupt practices and guided them to worship the only Supreme Being whom he referred as Ahura Mazda and whose description he gave as “He is the creator, the keeper and the maintainer, the discerner and the most beneficent spirit. He is the light and the source of light. He is the wisdom and intellect”. He keeps on ascribing such characteristics to Ahura and then asks his men to worship him and worship him alone. Thus they say:-

“Do not say that the Parsis were fire worshippers. They were the worshippers of Yazdan”

Amir Suhail Wani is a freelance columnist and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought.