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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?


Propositional Religions 2 -
Intro, Hinduism, Buddhism


Propositional Religions 1 - Deism, Pantheism, and Naturalism
Propositional Religions 2 - Intro, Hinduism, Buddhism
Propositional Religions 3 - Jainism, Taoism
Propositional Religions 4 - Shintoism, Confucianism
Propositional Religions 5 - Sikhism
Propositional Religions 6 - Babism and Baha'ism, Zoroastrianism
Propositional Religions 7 - Neopaganism, Mysticism (Syncretism)
Propositional Religions 8 - Mysticism
Propositional Religions 9 - Mysticism, Gnosticism, Neoplatonism

Introduction
| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3




Propositional Religions

We will now begin our examination of religions, beginning with particular Propositional religions. In all cases we will follow the two-step process that we have developed earlier. It is helpful to once again briefly restate this process as we begin our investigation.

First, we will seek to determine whether or not a religion is available to objective verification of the accuracy of its truth claims. This will involve evaluating whether a religion can be traced to verifiably historical figures and events (historicity). And this will involve evaluating whether those historical figures and events provide objective evidence in support of the claims of that religion.

Second, if a religion does provide objective evidence for evaluating the accuracy of its beliefs, we will examine that evidence to see if it does, in fact, demonstrate that the religion's claims are accurate.

Any religion, which either does not provide objective evidence in support of its claims or whose evidence is does not demonstrate the accuracy of its claims, will be rejected. Any religion, which does provide objective evidence in support of its claims and whose evidence demonstrates the accuracy of its claims will be accepted.

With that said we will proceed to our first candidate for analysis, Hinduism.


Hinduism

In accordance with the process we have defined repeatedly above we will begin our evaluation of Hinduism by assessing its historicity or, seeing if it has historically identifiable origins.

"Hinduism - Western term for the religious beliefs and practices of the vast majority of the people of India. One of the oldest living religions in the world, Hinduism is unique among the world religions in that it had no single founder but grew over a period of 4,000 years in syncretism with the religious and cultural movements of the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism is composed of innumerable sects and has no well-defined ecclesiastical organization. Its two most general features are the caste system and acceptance of the Veda as the most sacred scriptures." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - Hinduism is a synthesis of the religion brought into India by the Aryans (c.1500 B.C.) and indigenous religion." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions; it has neither a beginning or founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, or organization. Every attempt at a specific definition of Hinduism has proved unsatisfactory in one way or another, the more so because the finest scholars of Hinduism, including Hindus themselves, have emphasized different aspects of the whole." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The history of Hinduism began in India about 1500 BC. Although its literature can be traced only to before 1000 BC, evidence of Hinduism's earlier antecedents is derived from archaeology, comparative philology, and comparative religion." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The earliest literary source for the history of Hinduism is the Rigveda (Rgveda), the hymns of which were chiefly composed during the last two or three centuries of the 2nd millennium BC. The religious life reflected in this text is not that of Hinduism but of an earlier sacrificial religious system, generally known as Brahmanism or Vedism , which developed in India among Aryan invaders." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Before they entered the Indian subcontinent (c. 1500 BC), the Aryans were in close contact with the ancestors of the Iranians, as evidenced by similarities between Sanskrit and the earliest surviving Iranian languages. Thus, the religion of the Rigveda contains elements from three evolutionary strata: an early element common to most of the Indo-European tribes; a later element held in common with the early Iranians; and an element acquired in the Indian subcontinent itself, after the main Aryan migrations. Hinduism arose from the continued accretion of further elements derived from the original non-Aryan inhabitants, from outside sources, and from the geniuses of individual reformers at all periods." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The development of Hinduism can be interpreted as a constant interaction between the religion of the upper social groups, represented by the Brahmans (priests and teachers), and the religion of other groups. From the time of the Aryan invasion (c. 1500 BC) the indigenous inhabitants of the subcontinent have tended to adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms. This has developed from the desire of lower-class groups to rise on the social ladder by adopting the ways and beliefs of the higher castes. This process, sometimes called "Sanskritization," began in Vedic times when non-Aryan chieftains accepted the ministrations of Brahmans and thus achieved social status for themselves and their subjects. It was probably the principal method by which Hinduism spread through the subcontinent and into Southeast Asia. Sanskritization still continues in the form of the conversion of tribal groups, and it is reflected by the persistent tendency of low-caste Hindus to try to raise their status by adopting high-caste customs, such as wearing the sacred cord and becoming vegetarians." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Thus, the history of Hinduism can be interpreted as the imposition of orthodox custom upon wider and wider ranges of people and, complementarily, as the survival of features of non-Aryan religions that gained strength steadily until they were adapted by the Brahmans." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The prehistoric culture of the Indus Valley arose in the latter centuries of the 3rd millennium BC from the metal-using village cultures of the region. There is considerable evidence of the religious life of the Indus people, but until their writing is deciphered its interpretation is speculative. Enough evidence exists, however, to show that several features of later Hinduism had prehistoric origins." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Other interpretations of the remains of the Harappa culture are more speculative and, if accepted, would indicate that many features of later Hinduism were already in existence 4,000 years ago." - Britannica.com

The above resources inform us that Hinduism's origins are not completely understood or historically identifiable. As far as we know Hinduism has no discernable founder and we cannot pinpoint exactly when it began. We can approximate the relative time frame for the emergence of early Hindu beliefs and how these beliefs arose from an interaction between the beliefs of the native peoples of the Indian subcontinent and those of the Aryan nomads that entered the region sometime during the 2nd millennium B.C. (around 1500 B.C. perhaps). But we do not have sufficient information to determine with any exactness when, why, or by whom the various precursory religions, which contributed to early Hinduism, were first proposed themselves.

The lack of clarity regarding the origin and initial proposition of Hinduism's contributing beliefs is further complicated by the late dating of available sacred Hindu texts.

"Veda - oldest scriptures of Hinduism and the most ancient religious texts in an Indo-European language. The authority of the Veda as stating the essential truths of Hinduism is still accepted to some extent by all Hindus. The Veda is the literature of the Aryans who invaded NW India c.1500 B.C. and pertains to the fire sacrifice that constituted their religion. The Vedic hymns were probably first compiled after a period of about 500 years during which the invaders assimilated various native religious ideas. The end of the Vedic period is about 500 B.C. Tradition ascribes the authorship of the hymns to inspired seer-poets (rishis). - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - Perhaps the defining characteristic of Hindu belief is the recognition of the Veda, the most ancient body of religious literature, as an absolute authority revealing fundamental and unassailable truth. At the same time, however, its content has long been practically unknown to most Hindus, and it is seldom drawn upon for literal information or advice. Still, it is venerated from a distance by every traditional Hindu, and those Indians who reject its authority (such as Buddhists and Jains) are regarded as unfaithful to their tradition." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Hindus disagree about the way (marga) to final emancipation (moksha). Three paths to salvation (variously valued but nonexclusive) are presented in an extremely influential religious text, the Bhagavadgita ("Song of the Lord"; c. 200 BC), according to which it is not acts themselves but the desire for their results that produces karma and thus attachment."- Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The earliest literary source for the history of Hinduism is the Rigveda (Rgveda), the hymns of which were chiefly composed during the last two or three centuries of the 2nd millennium BC. The religious life reflected in this text is not that of Hinduism but of an earlier sacrificial religious system, generally known as Brahmanism or Vedism , which developed in India among Aryan invaders." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Aryans of the early Vedic period left few material remains, but they left a very important literary record called the Rigveda. Its 1,028 hymns are distributed throughout 10 books, of which the first and the last are the most recent." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Rigveda ("Wisdom of the Verses") is not a unitary work, and its composition may have taken several centuries. In its form at the time of its final edition it reflects a well-developed religious system. The date commonly given for the final recension of the Rigveda is 1000 BC. During the next two or three centuries the Rigveda was supplemented by three other Vedas and, still later, by Vedic texts called the Brahmanas and the Upanishads (see below Sacred texts: Vedas." - Britannica.com

As the above references all inform us the earliest available written sources, (including Bhagavadgita and the Vedas) which document ancient pre-Hindu and Hindu beliefs all come from a period of 500-1300 years after the approximate origin of pre-Hindu and Hindu beliefs.

This lack of information regarding how, why, and by whom the pre-Hindu and Hindu beliefs originated puts us at a series disadvantage for finding and examining any possible evidence, which could objectively verify whether those beliefs are accurate. So, without such objectively verifiable evidence, we must ask what means Hinduism does rely upon in order for people to understand and accept its views as true?

Hinduism heavily emphasizes the necessity of the subjective, personal experience (rather than reasonable evaluation of objective evidence) as the means for individuals to know the ultimate truth and reality of the universe.

"Hinduism - Although the search for moksha has never been the goal of more than a small minority of Hindus, liberation was a religious ideal that affected all lives. Moksha determined not only the hierarchical values of Indian social institutions and religious doctrines and practices but also the function of Indian philosophy, which is to discuss what one must do to find true fulfillment and what one has to realize, by direct experience, in order to escape from samsara (bondage) and obtain spiritual freedom." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Magic rites, animal worship, and belief in demons are often combined with the worship of more or less personal gods or with mysticism, asceticism, and abstract and profound theological systems or esoteric doctrines." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Hindus are inclined to revere the divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant, allowing others—including both Hindus and non-Hindus—whatever beliefs suit them best...Because religious truth is said to transcend all verbal definition, it is not conceived in dogmatic terms." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Hindus disagree about the way (marga) to final emancipation (moksha). Three paths to salvation (variously valued but nonexclusive) are presented in an extremely influential religious text, the Bhagavadgita ("Song of the Lord"; c. 200 BC), according to which it is not acts themselves but the desire for their results that produces karma and thus attachment. These three ways to salvation are (1) the karma-marga ("the path of duties"), the disinterested discharge of ritual and social obligations; (2) the jnana-marga ("the path of knowledge"), the use of meditative concentration preceded by a long and systematic ethical and contemplative training, yoga, to gain a supra-intellectual insight into one's identity with brahman; and (3) the bhakti-marga ("the path of devotion"), the devotion to a personal God. These ways are regarded as suited to various types of people." - Britannica.com

The above quotes all confirm the fundamental importance of subjective experience as the critical means by which the Hindu understands the truth of his religious views. Besides such personal experiences no objective evidence is offered by which we might substantiate Hinduism's claims about the nature of God and the universe. Because of the obscurity of its origins, its subsequent dependence upon subjective experience, and its lack of objective evidence by which we might corroborate its claims, we are without any verifiable means or sound reason to accept Hinduism as an accurate view of God. As such, we are forced to reject the claims of Hinduism.

Before we move on to our next candidate however, we should first take the opportunity to highlight a defining characteristic of Hinduism, its incorporation of other religious ideas into a single belief system. We will cover this topic in more detail later in our study, but because Hinduism plays an important role in the development of several other religions that we will study shortly, it is important to establish this trait before we continue.

"Hinduism - In the middle of the first millennium B.C., an ossified Brahmanism was challenged by heterodox, i.e., non-Vedic, systems, notably Buddhism and Jainism. The priestly elite responded by creating a synthesis that accepted yogic practices and their goals, recognized the gods and image worship of popular devotional movements, and adopted greater concern for the daily life of the people." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - the beliefs, practices, and socioreligious institutions of the Hindus (originally, the inhabitants of the land of the Indus River). Introduced in about 1830 by British writers, the term properly denotes the Indian civilization of approximately the last 2,000 years, which evolved from Vedism, the religion of the Indo-European peoples who settled in India in the last centuries of the 2nd millennium BC. Because it integrates a variety of elements, Hinduism constitutes a complex but largely continuous whole and has religious, social, economic, literary, and artistic aspects. As a religion, Hinduism is a composite of diverse doctrines, cults, and ways of life." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any. It is axiomatic that no religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded—it is merely combined with the new ideas that arise in response to it. Hindus are inclined to revere the divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant, allowing others—including both Hindus and non-Hindus—whatever beliefs suit them best. A Hindu may embrace a non-Hindu religion without ceasing to be a Hindu, and because Hindus are disposed to think synthetically and to regard other forms of worship, strange gods, and divergent doctrines as inadequate rather than wrong or objectionable, they tend to believe that the highest divine powers complement one another. Few religious ideas are considered to be irreconcilable. The core of religion does not depend on the existence or nonexistence of God or on whether there is one god or many. Because religious truth is said to transcend all verbal definition, it is not conceived in dogmatic terms. Moreover, the tendency of Hindus to distinguish themselves from others on the basis of practice (orthopraxy) rather than doctrine (orthodoxy) further de-emphasizes doctrinal differences. " - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Hinduism is both a civilization and a congregation of religions; it has neither a beginning or founder, nor a central authority, hierarchy, or organization." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Rigveda contains many other Indo-European elements, such as the worship of male sky gods with sacrifices and the existence of the old sky god Dyaus, whose name is cognate with those of the classical Zeus of Greece and Jupiter of Rome ("Father Jove"). The Vedic heaven, the "world of the fathers," resembled the Germanic Valhalla and seems also to be an Indo-European inheritance." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Indo-Iranian element in later Hinduism is chiefly found in the initiatory ceremony (upanayana) performed by boys of the three upper classes, a rite both in Hinduism and in Zoroastrianism that involves the tying of a sacred cord. The Vedic god Varuna, now an unimportant sea god, appears in the Rigveda as sharing many features of the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda ("Wise Lord"); the hallucinogenic sacred drink soma corresponds to the sacred haoma of Zoroastrianism." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Central Asian nomads who entered India in the two centuries before and after the beginning of the Christian Era might have influenced the growth of devotional Hinduism out of Vedic religion. The classical Western world directly affected Hindu religious art, and several features of Hinduism can be traced to Zoroastrianism. The influence of later Chinese Taoism on Tantric Hinduism (an esoteric system of rituals for spiritual power) has been suggested, though not proved. In more recent centuries, the influence of Islam and Christianity on Hinduism can be seen." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The Aryan conquerors lived side by side with the indigenous inhabitants of the subcontinent, and many features of Hinduism, as distinct from Vedic religion, may have been adapted from the religions of the non-Aryan peoples of India. The phallic emblem of the god Siva arose from a combination of the phallic aspects of the Vedic god Indra and a non-Vedic icon of early popular fertility cults. Many features of Hindu mythology and several of the lesser gods—such as Ganesa , an elephant-headed god, and Hanuman , the monkey god—were incorporated into Hinduism and assimilated into the appropriate Vedic gods by this means." - Britannica.com

We can see that Hinduism as a religion is heavily dependent upon the synthesis of theological views borrowed from other sources. Its origin, historical development, and general principles all openly involve this fusion of elements from other religious systems into its own beliefs and practices. Besides the incorporation of its precursor, the Vedic religion of the Aryans, Hinduism has also adopted and shared elements found in Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism. Each of these four religions will be examined as we continue with this study.

Some of the beliefs that Hinduism shares can be seen in the following quotes and will become more obvious as we look at some of these other religions.

"Hinduism - Their basic principle is varna-ashrama-dharma, or dharma in accordance with varna (class or caste) and ashrama (stage of life). The four classes are the Brahmans, Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (farmers and merchants), and Shudras (laborers). The four stages of life are brahmacharya or celibate student life (originally for study of the Veda), grihastha or householdership, vanaprastha or forest hermitage, and sannyasa, complete renunciation of all ties with society and pursuit of spiritual liberation. (In practical terms these stages were not strictly adhered to. The two main alternatives have continued to be householdership and the ascetic life.) The entire system was conceived as ideally ensuring both the proper function of society as an integrated whole and the fulfillment of the individual's needs through his lifetime. The post-Vedic Puranas deal with these themes. They also elaborate the myths of the popular gods. They describe the universe as undergoing an eternally repeated cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution, represented by the trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer as aspects of the Supreme." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Hinduism - Magic rites, animal worship, and belief in demons are often combined with the worship of more or less personal gods or with mysticism, asceticism, and abstract and profound theological systems or esoteric doctrines. The worship of local deities does not exclude the belief in pan-Indian higher gods or even in a single high God. Such local deities are also frequently looked upon as manifestations of a high God." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Also characteristic of Hinduism is the belief in the power of the Brahmans, a priestly class possessing spiritual supremacy by birth. As special manifestations of religious power and as bearers and teachers of the Veda, Brahmans are considered to represent the ideal of ritual purity and social prestige." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Hindus believe in an uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent, and all-embracing principle, which, "comprising in itself being and non-being," is the sole reality, the ultimate cause and foundation, source, and goal of all existence. This ultimate reality is called brahman. As the All, brahman causes the universe and all beings to emanate from itself, transforms itself into the universe, or assumes its appearance. Brahman is in all things and is the Self (atman) of all living beings. Brahman is the creator, preserver, or transformer and reabsorber of everything. Although it is Being in itself, without attributes and qualities and hence impersonal, it may also be conceived of as a personal high God, usually as Vishnu (Vis nu) or Siva. This fundamental belief in and the essentially religious search for ultimate reality—i.e., the One that is the All—have continued almost unaltered for more than 30 centuries and have been the central focus of India's spiritual life." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Hindus generally accept the doctrine of transmigration and rebirth and the complementary belief in karma, or previous acts as the factor that determines the condition into which a being, after a stay in heaven or hell, is reborn in one form or another. The whole process of rebirths is called samsara. Any earthly process is viewed as cyclic, and all worldly existence is subject to the cycle. Samsara has no beginning and, in most cases, no end; it is not a cycle of progress or a process of purification but a matter of perpetual attachment. Karma, acting like a clockwork that, while running down, always winds itself up, binds the atmans (selves) of beings to the world and compels them to go through an endless series of births and deaths." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Although those Hindus who particularly worship either Vishnu or Siva generally consider one or the other as their "favourite god" (istadevata) and as the Lord (Isana) and Brahman in its personal aspect, Vishnu is often regarded as a special manifestation of the preservative aspect of the Supreme and Siva as that of the destructive function. Another deity, Brahma, the creator, remains in the background as a demiurge. These three great figures (Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva) constitute the so-called Hindu Trinity (Trimurti, "the One or Whole with Three Forms"). This conception attempts to synthesize and harmonize the conviction that the Supreme Power is singular with the plurality of gods in daily religious worship. Although the concept of the Trimurti assigns a position of special importance to some great gods, it never has become a living element in the religion of the people. Moreover, Brahma has had no major cult since ancient times, and many Hindus worship neither Siva nor Vishnu but one or more of the innumerable other Hindu gods." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Although the search for moksha has never been the goal of more than a small minority of Hindus, liberation was a religious ideal that affected all lives. Moksha determined not only the hierarchical values of Indian social institutions and religious doctrines and practices but also the function of Indian philosophy, which is to discuss what one must do to find true fulfillment and what one has to realize, by direct experience, in order to escape from samsara (bondage) and obtain spiritual freedom." - Britannica.com

"Nirvana - in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, a state of supreme liberation and bliss, contrasted to samsara or bondage in the repeating cycle of death and rebirth... The word in Sanskrit refers to the going out of a flame once its fuel has been consumed; it thus suggests both the end of suffering and the cessation of desires that perpetuate bondage." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Buddhism - Buddhism accepts the pan-Indian presupposition of samsara, in which living beings are trapped in a continual cycle of birth-and-death, with the momentum to rebirth provided by one's previous physical and mental actions (see karma). The release from this cycle of rebirth and suffering is the total transcendence called nirvana." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Aspects of Hindu belief that are worth noting are its view of God as All in All, that the goal of human existence is to loose the self, transcend the material world and become one with God (often called nirvana), the notion of cyclical nature of the universe including the process of birth, death, and rebirth called samsura, and karma. Several of these beliefs can be found within Buddhism, which is the next religion that we will examine.


Buddhism

Having completed our analysis of Hinduism it makes sense to proceed to our second Propositional religion, Buddhism. The reason that this progression makes sense is that Buddhism originates out of the Hinduism of India of the sixth century B.C. Although Buddhism has some disagreements with Hinduism, like its rejection of the Hindu caste system that structured ancient Indian society, Buddhism is merely an outgrowth of Hindu thought as the following quotes all confirm.

"Hinduism - The century from about 550 BC onward was a period of great change in the religious life of India. This century saw the rise of breakaway sects of ascetics who denied the authority of the Vedas and of the Brahmans and who followed founders claiming to have discovered the secret of obtaining release from transmigration. By far the most important of these were Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha, and Vardhamana, called Mahavira ("Great Hero"), the great teacher of Jainism (see also Buddha; Jainism)." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - Around 500 BC asceticism became widespread, and increasing numbers of intelligent young men "gave up the world" to search for release from transmigration by achieving a state of psychic security." - Britannica.com

"Hinduism - The 3rd century BC was the period of the Mauryan empire, the first great empire of India. Its early rulers were heterodox, and Asoka (reigned c. 265-238 BC), the third and most famous of the Mauryan rulers, was a professed Buddhist. Although there is no doubt that Asoka's patronage of Buddhism did much to spread that religion, his inscriptions recognize the Brahmans as worthy of respect." - Britannica.com

As an outgrowth of Hinduism, Buddhism incorporates many of Hinduism's guiding principles and foundational beliefs. This will become more apparent as we begin our brief overview of origin and basic beliefs of Buddhism. The following quotes discuss the founder and origin of Buddhism.

"Buddhism - religion and philosophy that developed from the teachings of the Buddha Gautama (or Gotama), who lived as early as the 6th century BC. Spreading from India to Central and Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, Buddhism has played a central role in the spiritual, cultural, and social life of the Eastern world and during the 20th century has spread to the West." - Britannica.com

"Buddhism - Buddhist tradition tells how Siddhartha Gautama, born a prince and raised in luxury, renounced the world at the age of 29 to search for an ultimate solution to the problem of the suffering innate in the human condition. After six years of spiritual discipline he achieved the supreme enlightment and spent the remaining 45 years of his life teaching and establishing a community of monks and nuns, the sangha, to continue his work." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Buddha - The term buddha, literally meaning "awakened one" or "enlightened one," is not a proper name but rather a title, such as messiah (the Christ). Thus, the term should be accompanied by an article, such as "the Buddha" or "a buddha" (because of a belief that there will be innumerable buddhas in the future as there have been in the past). The Buddha who belongs to the present world era was born into the Gotama (in Pali), or Gautama (in Sanskrit), clan and is often referred to as Gotama. When the term the Buddha is used, it is generally assumed that it refers to Gotama the Buddha." - Britannica.com

"Buddha - According to virtually all Buddhist traditions, the Buddha lived many lives before his birth as Gotama; these previous lives are described in stories called Jatakas that play an important role in Buddhist art and education. Most Buddhists also affirm that the Buddha's life was continued in his teachings and his relics. The following account, however, focuses on the Buddha's "historical" life from his birth as Gotama to his death some 80 years later." - Britannica.com

"Buddha - The Buddha was born in the 6th or 5th century BC in the kingdom of the Sakyas, on the borders of present-day Nepal and India. As the son of Suddhodana, the king, and Mahamaya, the queen, the Buddha thus came from a Khattiya family (i.e., the warrior caste or ruling class)." - Britannica.com

"Buddha - The Buddha next addressed the monks and requested them three times to ask him if they had any doubt or question that they wished clarified, but they all remained silent. The Buddha then addressed the monks: "Then, bhikkhus, I address you now: transient are all conditioned things. Try to accomplish your aim with diligence." These were the last words of the Tathagata. A week later, his body was cremated by the Mallas in Kusinara." - Britannica.com

"Buddha - [Skt.,=the enlightened One], usual title given to the founder of Buddhism. He is also called the Tathagata [he who has come thus], Bhagavat [the Lord], and Sugata [well-gone]. He probably lived from 563 to 483 B.C. The story of his life is overlaid with legend, the earliest written accounts dating 200 years after his death (see Buddhist literature)." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Buddha - he reached enlightenment, becoming a Buddha at the age of 35...For the remainder of his life he traveled and taught in the Gangetic plain, instructing disciples and giving his teaching to all who came to him, regardless of caste or religion. He spent much of his time in monasteries donated to the sangha, or community of monks, by wealthy lay devotees. Tradition says that he died at the age of 80. He appointed no successor but on his deathbed told his disciples to maintain the sangha and achieve their own liberation by relying on his teaching. He was cremated and his relics divided among eight groups, who deposited them in shrines called stupas." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

These common resource materials provide a great deal of information on the founder and origin of Buddhism. Buddhism was founded in India by Siddhartha Gautama during the 5th century B.C. (approximately 563 to 483 B.C.). Gautama is referred to by the title Buddha, which means "enlightened one." Although he is said to have lived many lives before being born as Gautama, a prince of the ruling family, Buddha left his family estate at the age of 29. When he was 35 years old, Gautama is said to have achieved enlightenment and become the Buddha. He continued to live and teach for the rest of his life and died and was cremated at the age of 80 years old.

The following quotes discuss the basic tenets of Buddhism.

"Buddhism - a religion of eastern and central Asia growing out of the teaching of Gautama Buddha that suffering is inherent in life and that one can be liberated from it by mental and moral self-purification." - Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary

"Buddhism - The basic doctrines of early Buddhism, which remain common to all Buddhism, include the "four noble truths": existence is suffering (dukhka); suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment (trishna); there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and there is a path to the cessation of suffering, the 'eightfold path' of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Buddhism - The ideal of early Buddhism was the perfected saintly sage, arahant or arhat, who attained liberation by purifying self of all defilements and desires." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Buddhism - Buddhism accepts the pan-Indian presupposition of samsara, in which living beings are trapped in a continual cycle of birth-and-death, with the momentum to rebirth provided by one's previous physical and mental actions (see karma). The release from this cycle of rebirth and suffering is the total transcendence called nirvana." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Nirvana - in Indian religious thought, the supreme goal of the meditation disciplines. The concept is most characteristic of Buddhism, in which it signifies the transcendent state of freedom achieved by the extinction of desire and of individual consciousness. According to the Buddhist analysis of the human situation, delusions of egocentricity and their resultant desires bind man to a continuous round of rebirths and its consequent suffering (dukkha). It is release from these bonds that constitutes Enlightenment, or the experience of Nirva na." - Britannica.com

"Buddhism - The Buddha left indeterminate questions regarding the destiny of persons who have reached this ultimate goal. He even refused to speculate as to whether such purified saints, after death, continued to exist or ceased to exist. Such questions, he maintained, were not relevant to the practice of the path and could not in any event be answered from within the confines of ordinary human existence. Though it is true that the Buddha avoided discussion of the ultimate condition that lay beyond the categories of the phenomenal world, he often affirmed the reality of the religious goal. For example, he is reported to have said: "There is an unborn, an unoriginated, an unmade, an uncompounded; were there not, there would be no escape from the world of the born, the originated, the made, and the compounded." In his teaching, the Buddha strongly asserted that the ontological status and character of the unconditioned nirvana cannot be delineated in a way that does not distort or misrepresent it. But what is more important is that he asserted with even more insistence that nirvana can be experienced—and experienced in this present existence—by those who, knowing the Buddhist truth, practice the Buddhist path." - Britannica.com

One of the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism is the "four noble truths." These are 1) existence is suffering, 2) suffering has cause, 3) there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana, and 4) there is a path to the cessation of suffering. The path to the cessation of suffering is known as the "the eightfold path." By following this path the Buddhist can attain the state of enlightenment or nirvana, in which one who has attained wisdom becomes liberated from the bondage of the material world and its cycle of life and death and transcends beyond individual consciousness into a state of harmony. As we can see it is accurate to conclude that Buddhism is an outgrowth of ancient Hindu beliefs, from which it borrows heavily, especially regarding fundamental views of God, the universe, and humanity's relation to both.

But can we consider Gautama and his teachings historical? Yes, by comparing the standards we defined above for historicity with the available information about Buddhism, we can in fact consider it to have historically identifiable origins.

"Buddhism - After the Buddha's death his teachings were orally transmitted until the 1st cent. B.C., when they were first committed to writing (see Buddhist literature; Pali). Conflicting opinions about monastic practice as well as religious and philosophical issues, especially concerning the analyses of experience elaborated as the systems of Abhidharma, probably caused differing sects to flourish rapidly. Knowledge of early differences is limited, however, because the earliest extant written version of the scriptures (1st cent. A.D.) is the Pali canon of the Theravada school of Sri Lanka." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Sanskrit Tripitaka - the total canon of the southern schools of Buddhism, somewhat pejoratively dubbed Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle) by the self-styled Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) schools; for the latter, the canon constitutes a preliminary body of teachings, analogous to the Old Testament in Christianity. The books of this southern canon were nearly all written in India within 500 years of the time of the Buddha (between about 500 BC and the beginning of the Christian Era). - Britannica.com

"Buddha - The version of the story presented here is based on the Pali Tipitaka, which is recognized by scholars as the earliest extant record of the Buddha's discourses, and on the later Pali commentaries. The style and technique of these ancient texts, followed in this biography, provide arecord—sometimes symbolic, sometimes legendary, and always graphic—of the life of the revered Teacher." - Britannica.com

As the above quotes state, the records of Gautama's life and teachings are provided to us from the sacred writings of Buddhism. This record was orally transmitted from the time Gautama's death until sometime in the 2nd or 1st century B.C. The earliest surviving and complete written version of Buddhist scripture is from the Sri Lankan Theravada School. It was written in 29-17 B.C., between 450-500 years after Gautama's death.

For reference here are the three requirements for historicity that we discovered earlier.

1.At least two copies of supposed original manuscripts must survive into modern times.
2. Surviving copies of the original manuscripts must be written within 1400 years or so after the figures and events they describe.
3. The supposed original documents can be written by people who were first, second, or third-hand witnesses to the events, or who were more than two generations or even five hundred years removed from the actual persons or events that they are describing.

From all of this we can see that the historical documentation for the existence and teaching of Siddhartha Gautama is limited, dating to several centuries after his death by persons who were many generations removed and without first or second-hand knowledge of him. Nevertheless, the criteria we established earlier for determining historicity of ancient figures does permit us to accept Siddhartha Gautama as a real historical person who actually was a royal prince who vacated his noble life and title and who is responsible for spreading the teaching of early Buddhism.

So we have answered our first criterion, does Buddhism have historically identifiable origins? It does. However, as we stated earlier, just because a religion has historically identifiable origins in real persons and events does not mean that that religion has an accurate view of God. Concluding that Siddhartha Gautama was a historical figure does not mean that his teachings are correct.

In order to determine if Buddhism's view of God is correct we now have to engage our second criterion. We have to evaluate if there is any means of verifying the accuracy of Gautama's claims. If there is no objective evidence to be examined then we will have to reject the Buddhist view of God because without any means of objectively verifying Gautama's claims, we would not be able to determine whether or not the Buddhist understanding of God is accurate or reliable.

However if we find that Buddhism does provide objective evidence for the accuracy of its claims, then we can analyze that evidence to see if it does in fact lend support to the accuracy of the Buddhist view of God. If it does we may accept Buddhist teachings as accurate and reliable views of God. If it does not we will reject Buddhist teachings because we will not have any reason to accept it as an accurate and reliable view of God.

So, does Buddhism provide any objective evidence to verify its claims? No, in fact, it does not. We cannot objectively determine whether or not Gautama actually achieved any supposed state of enlightenment at age 35 or at any time during his life. We cannot objectively know if anyone has reached as state of enlightened knowledge and harmony with the universe. Even within Buddhism, there is no suggested external, physical manifestation of enlightenment, which we might look for or evaluate. Thus, Buddhism doesn't even offer any evidence to substantiate that enlightenment has occurred, either for Siddhartha Gautama or any other person.

Additionally, there is nothing from what we might historically accept about Gautama's life that would objectively confirm that his religious views are accurate or reliable. The most remarkable thing that may accept that he did was to forsake the noble life of his family at age 29. Though this act may be commendable there is nothing about it that would indicate that Gautama's teaching about God are correct especially when we consider the cultural and historical context in which Gautama lived. But even without considering this content, it is apparent that a person's decision to leave a life of luxury and comfort says nothing about the accuracy of their worldview.

And there is nothing remarkable about the Gautama's death that would confirm the accuracy of his views. Instead, Buddhism holds that Gautama, the Buddha, the enlightened one died at the age of 80 and was cremated. And, as we saw earlier, Gautama himself refrained from teaching on the afterlife of those who had achieved nirvana.

"Buddhism - The Buddha left indeterminate questions regarding the destiny of persons who have reached this ultimate goal. He even refused to speculate as to whether such purified saints, after death, continued to exist or ceased to exist. Such questions, he maintained, were not relevant to the practice of the path and could not in any event be answered from within the confines of ordinary human existence. Though it is true that the Buddha avoided discussion of the ultimate condition that lay beyond the categories of the phenomenal world, he often affirmed the reality of the religious goal. For example, he is reported to have said: "There is an unborn, an unoriginated, an unmade, an uncompounded; were there not, there would be no escape from the world of the born, the originated, the made, and the compounded." In his teaching, the Buddha strongly asserted that the ontological status and character of the unconditioned nirvana cannot be delineated in a way that does not distort or misrepresent it. But what is more important is that he asserted with even more insistence that nirvana can be experienced—and experienced in this present existence—by those who, knowing the Buddhist truth, practice the Buddhist path." - Britannica.com

So we can see that for Buddhism, like its predecessor Hinduism, the only means of verifying its teachings are the subjective, experiences of individuals who commit themselves to the Buddhist path. And because of this dependence upon the subjective experience of the individual, the acceptance of Buddhist views is entirely an exercise in circular reasoning.

What compels someone to believe that Buddhism is true? That person's presupposition that Buddhism it true. Therefore, the belief in Buddhism is merely a self-supported process completely dependent upon first presuming the accuracy of unverified propositions.

From all of this we have no choice, but to reject the religious views of Buddhism. We must do this for one of two reasons. Either Buddhism offers no objective evidence for the accuracy of its claims and so provides no objective reason for those claims to be accepted as accurate. Or the objective evidence that we do have for Buddhism lends no objective support to the conclusion that Buddhism is correct. What we know of Gautama simply portrays the life of a man, who lived, died, and taught in a manner that is not significantly different from other men. This will become more apparent as we continue forward in this study looking at some religious movements that developed as contemporaries of Buddhism in the same geographic area. But for now, we can conclude that we have no sound reason for the acceptance of the Buddhist view of God.

Having dismissed the Buddhist view of God because of insufficient reasonable evidence to accept its claims as accurate, we will now proceed to examine our next Propositional religion, Jainism.


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