In most countries of Asia, Buddhism is a widely practiced religion.Also, outside Asia, Buddhism has achieved a remarkable presence.There are different forms of Buddhism, but each draws its origin fromBuddha’s life experiences, the spirit, as well as his teachingsalso known as Dharma (Smith, 2009). Therefore, Buddhism came to bedue to various contemporary conditions combined. This paper gives areview of not only the cultural and social conditions that led to thebirth and development of Buddhism in various parts of the world, butalso the current modern conditions that influence the growing ofBuddhism in the West.
TheRise Of Buddhism
The origin of Buddhism is attributed to the life experiences ofBuddha also known as Siddhartha Gautama, who began his teachings atSarnath, at the age of twenty-nine. According to Smith (2009), as ason of a king, his father provided him with pleasures and luxuries asa way of obstructing him from becoming a renouncer. In his chariotrides, he realized that people were experiencing all kinds ofsufferings such as death, illness, religious recluse, and old age.After realizing there was a very big difference between his luxuriouslife and human sufferings, he came to the realization that all thegratification he got from the pleasures of the earth were not onlyshort-lived, but they also worked to conceal the human sufferings. Hegathered several teachers, and together they practiced severeabstention from food, but later they realized this action was addingmore suffering. After that, they took food and meditated under atree. After some time, he got the enlightenment also referred to asNirvana (salvation), which imparted him with the knowledge of thecause of sufferings and how to let them out (Bloomfield, 1892). Thisprocess became the basis for the doctrine of the eight-fold path andfour noble truths (Bloomfield, 1892).
Before Buddhism, there was another religion Brahmana, which creatednegative social conditions that led to the suffering of people andpoverty. Due to the changing economy, the Aryans` social structureswere changing day by day. In such a dynamic stage, the Brahmanicalreligion was becoming out of tune with the changing social life ofthe people (Bloomfield, 1892). The Shreshthi and Ganapati had so muchwealth that they requested to be put on a high status in the society,but the request was declined by the hereditary caste system.Bloomfield (1892) suggested that the cultural artisan class was alsonot happy with the treatment they got from the then rules. Theartisan felt like they were treated like the Sudras (Smith, 2009).
The contact between people of different parts of the country loosenedthe bond of different tribes. The Brahmanical religion could not keepup with this pace. This religion added many challenges to the peopleinstead of helping them to come up with solutions to theirchallenges. First, it encouraged expensive sacrifices of cows thatwere too expensive for the peasants who relied on bullocks and oxenfor agricultural practices. Brahmanical Sastras banned voyages andoppressed women (Bloomfield, 1892). Consequently, Buddhism came tobreak all these social problems by preaching the doctrine ofnon-violence, and many people became attracted to it.
BuddhismIn The West
Today, Buddhism has gained a surge of interest in the western world.The scientific approach of Buddha has attracted westerners to it. TheAmerican people who joined this religion acknowledged that theisticbeliefs are based on believing the unknown while Buddhism is apractical religion, which has an impact on an individual’s life.The modern generation has the urge to see things and experience forthemselves (Virtbauer, 2012). The modern conditions such as poverty,diseases, and disabilities make people question other religions`validity. Buddhism offers an experiential wisdom that encouragesquestioning before acceptance (Virtbauer, 2012).
Moreover, the growth of technology such as the internet has made iteasy for the westerners to gain the knowledge of Buddhism throughvarious websites. Buddhism is also a loving religion to all livingthings, and its teachings are presented by example. Buddhism is alsowidely practiced in physical and mental therapies, in environmentaland political reforms, in organizations for stress management, incriminal justice system, and also in sports.
Bloomfield, M.(April 3, 1892). The essentials of Buddhist doctrine and ethics.International Journal of Ethics, 2(3), 313-326.
Smith, H. (2009).The World`s Religions, Revised and Updated: A ConciseIntroduction. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Virtbauer, G.(2012). The Western reception of Buddhism as a psychological andethical system: Developments, dialogues, and perspectives. MentalHealth, Religion, and Culture, 15(3), 251-263.