Essay on Buddhism and Islam

1. Buddha’s principle of Anatta or “No soul” is one of the major teachings of Buddhism. The doctrine of Anatta states that there is no eternal soul, thus, it is impossible to say that a person has a soul; however, Anatta also rejects the material theory, which states that a person doesn’t have a soul.

Followers of Buddhism believe that the human soul is constantly reborn. Thus the soul cannot be substantial. Buddha defined soul as a combination of human internal forces, including perception, feeling, mind (consciousness) and body matter. These components of the human internal world constantly vary. Thus, the combination of them is always different and does not match the previous combination. The Buddha states that human consciousness depends on all these forces and cannot exist separately from them. The doctrine of Anatta is over 2500 years old, but it remains an object of study for many scientists as well as other two principles of Buddhism – Anicca (impermanence or transience) and Dukkha (sorrow).

According to the Buddha’s teaching nothing in the world is absolute and everything is interdependent and conditioned by something. The theory of Anatta is critical in Buddhism and is significant to the Buddha’s teaching of compassion or unconditional love. To understand the interdependence of these two theories it is necessary to realize that there is no such a term as “self” in Buddhism. Thus, the followers of Buddhism are not selfish and can provide everybody with unconditional love and compassion. Only after understanding that there is no “self” a person can become loving and compassionate. The reason which made the Buddha teach is his love towards the whole world. He taught for the good of many people rather than for the good of only a few ones. And he wanted all people to become “selfless” and feel love for everybody. There are two main qualities that a person should possess to live in harmony. A person should know posses such a quality as Karuna (compassion) and (Panna) as wisdom. When the Buddha spoke about compassion, he meant kindness, love, tolerance and other positive emotions, which help a person to become happy. That’s why he believed that misconception of “self” was at the root of all human sufferings. Selfish and egotistical people suffer because they are concerned about themselves because they think that their “ego” is in the center of the Universe, and obviously it is not so. The Buddha taught people to be compassionate and wise, to reject all pleasures and live for people rather than for themselves. The Buddha stated that only people who realized this “truth” would be able to become the happiest beings in the world. A correct conception of “self” and “ego” will inevitably lead to the endless happiness, to Nirvana. People who are free from selfish desires, ignorance, and pride, will become pure and full of love and compassion – and this is the key to happiness according to Buddha.

Ethical theory of Buddha includes Four Noble Truths, which determine the whole teaching of Buddha. The First Noble Truth is Dukkha, which means that life is suffering. Indeed, the Buddha states that life is suffering and only people who can reach Nirvana will be free from suffering, thus, will be happy. The Second Noble Truth is that human pain is caused by our misconception of “self” or “ego”; while the Third Noble Truth explains how to avoid suffering, stating that the only remedy for pain is selflessness. The Fourth Noble Truth describes how to reach the cure for affliction. It says that it is necessary to follow Eightfold Noble Path, which means performing correct deeds and thoughts. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism define essential principles of this religion, explaining what a person should do and what he should avoid doing to reach Nirvana.

I agree with some of the principles of Buddhism, however, not all of them. I don’t think that life is constant suffering. Of course, there is a lot of suffering in life, but there are a lot of good things too. I agree with such statement of the Buddha as it is necessary to feel compassion towards people because it makes you feel good when you love somebody and have no conflicts with other people.

2. Like any other religion, Islam has certain basic principles that all Muslim people should follow. These principles are called the Five Pillars of Islam. The First Pillar states that there is no god except Allah who should be worshiped, and Muhammad is the prophecy of God. This declaration of faith is called “Shahada,” meaning that Muslim people don’t recognize any other gods besides their God. The Second Pillar is called “Salat,” which is the name of the daily obligatory prayers that should be performed five times a day by all Muslims. All the prayers should be pronounced according to the set patterns and should be accompanied by kneeling and bows. Usually, the prayers are led by the person who knows Quran and performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and twilight. The Third Pillar of Islam is “Zakat,” which means given charity to the needy people. It is one of the most important principles of Islam, which states that everything belongs to God. People who give charity are being purified and encourage further growth of their possessions. There is no set amount of “Zakat” that should be paid by Muslim people, and every person can determine himself the amount of charity to be given to the poorest. Usually, it accounts 1-2 percent of the personal income. The Fourth Pillar is the Fast, which should be performed by all Muslims during the month of Ramadan.

Muslims must refrain from drink, food, and sex from sunrise till sunset. Fast is obligatory for everybody. However, there are some exceptions, as elderly, sick and pregnant women. Muslims are required to fast because it leads to self-purification and understanding of people who experience famine. The Fifth Pillar of Islam is Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to the holy city of Muslims – Makkah. This pilgrimage is performed annually by thousands of Muslims; however, it is required only for those who can show it. Every follower of Islam should perform Hajj at least once in his/her life. People wear simple clothes while pilgrimage in order is underlining that everybody is equal in the face of God.

Public and private life of Muslims is governed with the help of the Islamic Law (Sharia), which controls family and property interests of Muslims all over the world.

Another important concept in Islam is Jihad, which can be interpreted as the “Holy War.” The primary purpose of Jihad is to spread Islam among other people and protect this religion from any encroachment and interference. However, there are some other interpretations of Jihad existing nowadays. Different terrorist organizations use Jihad to hide their real goals of gaining control over the whole world, which leads to many military conflicts nowadays. Not all Muslim people are terrorists just because they are Muslim. People who faithfully follow any religion cannot kill innocent people thinking that they accomplish what their god told them to. It is not so. It’s just a vague excuse, which covers more serious motivation. Everybody knows that religion should comfort people’s souls, should show them the right way in life, but it shouldn’t make them aggressive, and it usually doesn’t. People who want be offensive will be dynamic, no matter which religion they belong to. That’s why it is necessary to understand what Jihad is, and not confuse Jihad with terrorism widely existing in the modern world.

Because of these misunderstandings Muslims experience unequal treatment in some of the Western countries. Such disputes usually lead to further conflicts between people and their religious beliefs.

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