The characteristics of Buddhism and how they contribute to the creation of a dynamic, living religious tradition.

Essay by kaiaponA+, March 2006

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Buddhism is the religion followed by approximately 300 million people worldwide. To many, Buddhism is very much intense and goes beyond 'religion', more of a 'philosophical system' or 'way of life'. Making up, or setting the foundations of this 'philosophical system' are characteristics such as Buddhist beliefs and ethics. These features then have a strong hold on the lives of Buddhist followers and allow religious theory to become a living practice.

To begin with, Buddhist beliefs are one of, if not, the strongest characteristic of the religion. Buddhism as a whole is structured around fundamental beliefs such as the Four Noble Truths. These are 'Dukka', suffering exists, 'Samudaya', the cause of suffering is desire, 'Nirodha', there is an end to suffering through extinguishing all desire and 'Magga', in order to end suffering you must follow the Eight-Fold Path.

Hence, the Eight-Fold Path is another core Buddhist belief. It is as follows;

1. Right knowledge and understanding

2. Right attitude, purpose and thought

3. Right speech

4. Right conduct

5. Right way of living

6. Right effort

7. Right awareness

8. Right composure/meditation

It is thought that by keeping abreast with the Eight-Fold Path, one is on their way to 'Enlightenment', or as it is often referred to, 'Nirvana'.

Nirvana, meaning the state of final liberation from suffering, is just another of the many beliefs incorporated with Buddhism. In addition to the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path, Buddhist believe too in reincarnation, the concept that people are reborn after death, and karma, the concept that actions have consequences; so our lives are conditioned by our past actions.

Furthermore in contrast with the above beliefs are Buddhist ethics. Moral conduct for Buddhists is told by the Five Precepts. The Five Precepts identify the aspirations of the...