Buddhism and the seven dimensions

Essay by paulius_the_greatHigh School, 11th grade March 2004

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Since the beginning of time humans have endeavoured to explain the causes and reasons behind their existence. As a result of this thirst for knowledge many different beliefs and values have been formulated with the aim of explaining this age-old question. Most of these beliefs are prevalent today in the form of institutionalised religions. In order to gain an understanding of the word 'religion', we need to fully analyse and compare the components of religions in order to gain a more cultivated understanding of this enigmatic term. An extremely valuable way of classifying religion and its many aspects is through the Seven Dimensions, developed by Ninian Smart. (See Appendix 1) These dimensions explore the many aspects of religion in a systematic and logical way. This theory of classifying religions can be lucidly applied to the Buddhist tradition in order to gain a wider understanding. The core element of Buddhism is the Experiential Dimension, as the ultimate goal of all Buddhists is to attain Enlightenment or Nirvana.

The other aspects of the faith all concern the achievement of this experience. However, in stating this, the other dimensions are still important to Buddhists but exert less significance.

The Experiential Dimension of Buddhism is essentially the most important of all the dimensions as the core belief of Buddhism concerns obtaining the experience of Enlightenment. " The Buddha's personal experience of gaining enlightenment is the bedrock of the entire Buddhist tradition." (Keown, 1996: 7) Enlightenment is achieved by an adherent realising the truth by expelling all suffering. "Indeed the simplest definition of nirvana-in-this-life is as the end of greed, hatred and delusion." (Keown, 1996: 7) The way an adherent goes about expelling all suffering is contained in the Buddhist doctrines. However in stating this, Buddha warned that doctrines, without being validated by personal experience,