Buddhism: Science and Secularism. By: Jos éphine Tan-Yan and Dany Wolf. Secularism. The concept of secularism is vague and I’m going to define what kind of secularism I intend to present.
Buddhism: Science and Secularism
By: Joséphine Tan-Yan and Dany Wolf
Because of King Ashoka, Buddhism spread from Afghanistan to the Bay of Bengal and from the Himalayan foothills to the island of Ceylon ( Sri Lanka). His reign ended in 232 and his empire collapsed a short period later.
After the Gangetic plains were ravaged, Ceylon became the centre of Theravada discipline.
The island embraced Buddhism quickly and by 100 B.C.E. sangha started to gain support from the kings and influenced the politics.
Because of this support, monks from Ceylon were able to institute “reforms” in various countries that ensured the survival of Theravada Buddhism (in countries like Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia)
As I explained before, because of the help brought by Ceylon, the majority of Southeast Asia was under the influence of Theravada Buddhism. Because of that influence, leaders were able to impose a Buddhist order that made the people following the Dharma on their territories and the building of stupa.
This form of Buddhist state survived until the modern era when new ideas and political systems emerged.
Mahayana Buddhism reached Japan in the 6th century and progressed slowly.
In the 12th and 13th century accommodation with the local beliefs were made, and two schools erupted: the Rinzai Zen school (under monk Eisai) and the Soto Zen school (under monk Dogen). Both views grew quickly among the aristocracy and the warriors who at the time controlled Japanese society.
Still during this period a prophetic and charismatic monk named Nichiren created a new school, which was very popular for its simplicity and low demands.
With the arrival of Christians and colonialism, Buddhists were forced to find new protection and adapt to the changes of the new era. In general, in most countries where Buddhism was strong, colonial and postcolonial governments sought to eliminate sources of political dissent by imposing on the sangha regulation and restriction.
The solution was increasing the involvement of the lay society in Buddhist institutions and spiritual practice, this motivated some laity to take the place of former royal patrons. The lay reformers insisted that monks respect the sangha rules and help the start of schools.
As well as in Thailand new interpretations of “True Buddhism” was made by lay reformers, insisting that the genuine centre of faith was a quest for mind salvation which swayed Buddhism away from politics.
During the modernization of Japan, during which the Shinto was promoted as national faith, nationalist movements tried to destroy Buddhism in Japan. Despite its 1400 years in Japan, Buddhism was criticized as “foreign religion” and “unnatural”.
In response of those criticisms, Buddhists instated reforms. For example the Zen school pronounced themselves in favour for nationalism and militarism in hopes of survival.
Buddhism does not assert nor depend upon the existence of a God
Buddhism is a superstition-free moral ideal; it conforms to the scientific view of an ordered universe ruled by law (Dharma) – a system both moral and physical where everything seems to work itself out inexorable over vast periods of time without divine intervention (karma)
Buddhism assumes no belief in gods who could alter the workings of this natural law
Buddhism is a religion of self-help with all depending on the individual working out his/her own salvation
“original” Buddhism was seen as the “Protestantism of Asia” and Buddha as another Luther who swept away the superstitions and rituals of an older, corrupted form and took religion back to its pure and simple origins
Buddhism presents an attractive personal founder who led life of great self-sacrifice