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The Soul and The Path to Righteousness

The concept of the soul is found in many different religions. Most notably, the soul is an integral part of Christianity and Hinduism. Yet, even if someone is an atheist he or she will be familiar with the notion of the soul because the culturally dominant religions prescribe to such a belief. Therefore, anyone born to such a culture will have a difficult time understanding religions that do not place emphasis on the soul. Yet, there are millions of people who prescribe to the religion of Buddhism and Buddhism does not profess a belief in the concept of a soul.

However, this does not mean that Buddhism lacks any spiritual dimensions. In particular, there is much spirituality that can be found in the Buddhist “Path to Righteousness” which is the eightfold path to enlightenment and nirvana. Understanding the concept of the soul along side Buddhism’s rejection of this concept, will yield a greater understanding of the very important Path to Righteousness. There are many components to Buddhism that center on spiritual beliefs and awakenings. However, Buddhism does not believe in transferring aspects of the self to any external icons.

Per Buddhist belief, the soul would be considered an external device. That is, the soul is a disembodied entity that exists on an ethereal plane. It is us, yet it is not us. It is our essence and our goal in life is to deliver the soul to eternal happiness in an afterlife. How we live in life is important but life and our existence on earth is secondary to what exists in the ethereal plane. In Buddhism, the notion that enlightenment and salvation can be achieved from The Soul and The Path to Righteousness – 2 an external source is an illusion. This is because anything considered external is an attachment.

Being overly dependent on attachments ultimately leads to suffering. Hence, Buddhism centers its attention on what it can perform in the real world as opposed to weighing opinions on the afterlife. The following passage provides an insight into the realm one must travel in order to follow the Path to Righteousness. The passage states we are to dwell “In a temple of emptiness. This temple is a spiritual temple, not a physical one. Temple refers to a spiritual dwelling place and not a physical one. ‘Temple’ refers to… a state of mind. This temple… is an ever-present mental state devoid of any ideas of self.

” (Bhikku, 34) This is a critical point because the notion of the soul centers on achieving eternal peace in heaven or the afterlife. However, in Buddhism, spirituality is to be attained on earth. Or, more accurately, spirituality is attained inside the mind. Now, this does not refer to any simplistic notion that life is how you look at things. Instead, it refers to training the mind to think and act in such a way that your thoughts and actions benefit you. Much of this connects to something known as the “Dharma Mind”. “Self-interest begins to arise in the very early days of life…

Almost all desires and ambitions of that young life will be driven by an urge to become something that has a sense of self at its root…. as adult we discover little outside of self-interest motivates us. ” (Smith 44 – 45) When we worry only about the physical world and self-interest, many types of The Soul and The Path to Righteousness – 3 avarice take over our lives. We become motivated by greed. This leads to jealousy and envy. When these emotions are ruling our lives, we can hardly act like enlightened individuals. More importantly, we are not walking a path to righteousness.

We are walking a path that can ultimately lead to our undoing and to self harm. Similarly, the notion of the soul is often connected to the notion of sin. When we sin, we commit harmful acts that ultimately bar us from the afterlife. However, these sinful actions will also create misery for us on earth. If you are prone to lying and stealing, there will be consequences to your actions in the here and now. Therefore, any path one takes to improve the soul also improves one’s life on earth as well. This is identical to following the Path to Righteousness.

Examining the righteous path of right speech details how there are similarities between sin and the soul and Buddhist theory. If you follow the concept of right speech, you will avoid lying because lying is hardly the type of speech that brings any long term rewards. Yes, a person can lie through his or her entire life in order to acquire multitudes of material gains. However, this is hardly right speech of right action. It is the complete inverse of anything right. In fact, such actions are the hallmark of someone that is controlled by desires and attachments of material things.

Therefore, anyone that prescribes to such notions can never become enlightened. The parallels between this notion and the concept of the soul are obvious. If there was a main difference, it would center on the appearance that Buddhism The Soul and The Path to Righteousness – 4 appeals to a more secular logic than spiritual religions. (The word appearance is a key point here. Religions, in general, are not dismissive of logic) “Buddhism is Buddha Shakyamm’s educational system, which is similar to that of Confucius for both presented similar viewpoints and methods. The goal of the Buddhist education is to attain wisdom.

” (Kung 4) Now, some may take offense at the statement since it implies only Buddhism is concerned with logic. However, this is not the case. Buddhism does not hold the only key to logic. However, it does use logic as its primary guide to achieving the Path of Righteousness. In other words, when a person studies and prescribes to Buddhist theories he or she is moving on the Path to Righteousness through cultivating a balanced, disciplined, and logical mind. In other religions, fear is often the motivating factor behind the decisions and thought processes they follow.

For example, in order to save the soul, one must avoid sin. If you sin, you will be condemned to hell. As such, it is fear that is the guiding factor in keeping someone on a righteous path. To a great extent, fear works. It is also, possibly, the easiest way to put someone on the right path. Eternal condemnation is enough to make anyone adjust their behavior. However, it does not always cultivate wisdom. How do we define wisdom? “Wisdom is described as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths or the understanding of dependent origination and so forth.

What is meant by this is that we speak of the attainment of wisdom. We are concerned with transforming these items of the doctrine from simple intellectual facts to real personal The Soul and The Path to Righteousness – 5 facts. We are interested in changing this knowledge from book learning to real living experience. ” (Santina, 69) Again, the cultivation of the spirit is achieved through learning through experience. That is, we cannot achieve right speech by fiat. In other words, reading that right speech is important does not give one the skill of proper speech.

One needs to develop these skills over an extended period of time. Is this an effective strategy? Consider the following: “Nations were able to predict whether a person’s future would be good, bad, disastrous or fortunate, based on their observations of the person’s speech and behavior. These can all be seen recorded in several history books. ” (Yuan, 51) In other words, following the logical and wisdom based path of enlightenment will yield success in life. In short, if you do the right things in life you will develop the enlightenment to be successful in life on a secular and spiritual level.

So, it is safe to say if one follows the concept of logic and wisdom, one can achieve the path to righteousness without any acknowledgement of a concept of the soul. This does not mean that religions that profess belief in the soul are flawed. The approach of these religions is different. However, their approach is not the only exclusive manner one can achieve a form of salvation. Buddhism presents its salvation in the form of a logical approach to developing wisdom as a way of attaining enlightenment. So, even though Buddhism lacks any notion of a soul, this is not an impediment to Buddhists achieving their ultimate goal of enlightenment.

Hence, the absence of the notion of a soul will not preclude the proper exploration of the Path to Righteousness. Works Cited Bhikku, Buddhadasa. BUDDHISM FOR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS. Bangkok: Dhamma Study and Practice Group, 1988. Kung, Chin. BUDDHISM AS AN EDUCATION. Richardson: Buddha Darma Education Association, 2004. Yuan, Liao-Fan. LIAO-FAN’S FOUR LESSON. Singapore: Buddha Dharma Education Foundation, 2000. Santina, Peter. FUNDAMENTALS OF BUDDHISM. Singapore: Buddha Dharma Education Foundation, 1984. Smith, David. DHARMA MIND, WORLDLY MIND. West Midlands: Aloka Publications, 2002.

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