Buddhism has been the core religion in Chinese culture for over one thousand years. The relationship between the Chinese and Buddhism is very close, and in every aspect, the Chinese culture influenced Buddhism in the same breadth the Buddhism has influenced it. The religion originated in India; therefore, the Chinese had difficulties understanding some of the Indian cultural aspects enshrined in Buddhism (Shuttle 2). In the process, the Chinese modified and influenced the practices of Buddhism, which eventually altered the real teaching of Buddha. In fact, there are many misunderstandings about Buddhism in China among the non-Buddhists and Buddhists. Those who do not know the origin of Buddhism find it difficult to understand it, and they view it as a religion of negativity. Many followers may practice the rituals without understanding the teaching of Buddhism. Therefore, those who believe in it may not necessarily be followers of the religion, and those who criticize it may not be criticizing the actual context of Buddha’s teachings. The research paper will offer a persuasive argument demonstrating that Buddhism is not a negative religion.
Life is Suffering
Buddha tells us that ‘life is suffering’. If someone does not understand the truth, then one may be fooled to believe that life is meaningless. In this context, an individual may become pessimistic and negative about his/her existence. The misunderstanding of this religion has been commonplace even among Buddhists. When people encounter a situation that makes them feel pain, it is said that suffering exists. Indeed, this should not be generalized to mean that all life is suffering since there are many situations that bring happiness to our lives (Shuttle 3).
We may say that noise is disturbing, but when noise comes as a sweet melody, then happiness is demonstrated. When individuals are poor, sick, or separated from a loved one, we consider them suffering. On the other hand, when individuals are wealthy, healthy, and living together with their families, happiness is demonstrated. In fact, where there is happiness, suffering must exist, thus, if we only view life as suffering, then we entangle ourselves in the context that Buddhism is negative.
According to Buddha, life is about suffering, meaning ‘Impermanence, therefore, suffering’. In essence, this means that everything is changeable and impermanent, as suffering is temporary and ever-changing. Just as a healthy body cannot live forever, it will become weak, sick, old, and eventually die. If you are wealthy, you cannot maintain the wealth forever, sometimes, you may become poor, and your status may also change. When Buddha says sufferings, the meaning is about imperfection and impermanence. Therefore, Buddhists must comprehend the real meaning of suffering and know that life is not perfect to avoid developing a negative and pessimistic view of life.
The non-ultimate and imperfect life can be changed to an ultimate and perfect one if Buddhism is practiced according to the Buddha’s instructions. Eventually, the state of perfect joy, purity, and personality will be achieved (Faure 14). Permanent will mean everlasting, personality will mean freedom, and joy will mean happiness and peacefulness. Hence, Buddhism is not about negativity, its main aim is to overcome suffering and ensure the transformation into a life that exhibits purity, joy, freedom, and permanent peacefulness.
Buddha indicates that everything is empty. Many people think that everything is empty, void, and without anything. Since everything is void and senseless, an individual does not have to do good or evil. In fact, many people vaguely understand the concept of emptiness. Thus, they end up leading an aimless and empty life. In essence, ‘emptiness’ in Buddhism is the fundamental philosophy that Buddhists understand in realizing the truth of emptiness. The true meaning of emptiness does not mean the ‘existence of nothing’ at all, but it includes everything. (Griffiths 14).
Buddhism does not demonstrate negativity at all because there are clear teachings about the concept of what is wrong or right, cause and effect, and good and evil. Individuals are encouraged to abstain from the wrong, start doing the right and refrain from doing the evils by redirecting their efforts towards the right path. People who do good will benefit from the good effect and attain Buddhahood in their pursuit of doing good, a clear demonstration of cause and effect. If we deem everything empty, then the teaching of Buddha will not be relevant since good, evil, karma, saints, and worldly people exist. Therefore, why would Buddha insist that everything is empty? Could this be the reason individuals consider Buddhism negative? What does emptiness imply? In fact, all those questions are answered by the Buddha’s teachings.
Things exist because of conditions and causes, and they have no unchangeable and real identity; thus, they are empty. Good, evil, right, or wrong is not unchangeable and permanent, but they exist because of conditions and causes. Their existence depends upon conditions, and they continue to undergo changes with the changes of conditions and causes. They do not exhibit a constant form, and therefore they are empty. Another example to demonstrate the Buddha’s concept of emptiness is the use of a mirror (Griffiths 18).
When an individual is facing a mirror, the image is formed by various conditions. In fact, the image is not a real object, but it is clear to us that it exists because we can see it. Therefore, we cannot say that the image does not exist. In essence, the concept of emptiness is viewed as this truth, which states that things arise because there are conditions and causes that facilitate their existence. When Buddha defines everything as void and empty, he means that the existence of things depends on conditions and causes. A Buddhist must experience and realize the emptiness and understand that there exist the laws of good and evil and cause and effect. Therefore, understanding the two truths will confirm that existence and emptiness are equivalent and consequently affirm that Buddhism is not a negative religion.
Buddhism is ‘Useless to the Society
Many individuals believe that since Buddhism is negative, it is, therefore, useless to society. In fact, many benefits are connected with other religions like Christianity. They build schools and hospitals that contribute to the welfare of society. Since Buddhism does not promote the social welfare of society, it is considered pessimistic and negative. Indeed, this concept is wrong because many monks and nuns are lecturers and principals of major universities and high schools. There are also charitable works that the Sangha of the temple or monastery organizes. In addition, Buddhists in many countries maintain a close relationship with charitable works and the development of education in society (Cohen 28).
In essence, many Buddhists in China were lazy and irresponsible, although these were not part of the Buddha’s teachings. Therefore, we cannot state that Buddhism is not beneficial to society, but it is clear that Chinese Buddhists have not played their roles in fulfilling their responsibility as true followers of Buddha. Hence, those who think Buddhism is negative should understand that the core teaching of Buddha is relieving the suffering of the people in the world.
Cohen, Richard. Beyond enlightenment: Buddhism, religion, modernity. Routledge, 2006. Print.
Faure, Bernard. The Power of Denial: Buddhism, Purity and Gender. Princeton University Press, 2009. Print.
Griffiths, Paul J. “Buddhism.” A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Ed. Charles Taliaferro, Paul Draper, & Philip L. Quinn. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 13-22.
Shuttle, Jerry. “Encyclopedia of Buddhism.” Library Journal 133.7 (2008): 1-4. Print.