Expert Answer:Harris And The Eastern Religions Philosophy Essay


Solved by verified expert:Choose ONE of the following questions:Option #1The Point of the LegendsThe details of Gautama’s life are entirely enshrouded in legend, and legend characteristically heavy with tendentious interpretation. Thus, for instance, the Four Passing Sights are rather spectacular, if somewhat obvious interpolations of doctrine. Similarly one might wonder the significance of the Gautama’s activities between the Great Going Forth and the Awakening. What’s the point, would you say?Option #2Harris and Eastern ReligionsApparently Sam Harris’ critique of religion is meant to be more harshly directed toward Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, than against Hinduism and Buddhism, true? How do you account for the fact that he seems so much more sympathetic to those “Eastern” religions, than to the great ‘Western” monotheisms?Instructions:Note: if you have no discipline to read and do not think critically, do not take this assignment. The essay must answer the question directly. Must have CRITICAL thoughts and DEEP analysis, Remember is philosophy.Requirements:1- The essay must have 500 to 600 words. -Good grammar and a structuring of sentences-.2- You must choose ONE of the two questions. 3- You must read the article BEFORE answering. Do not copy anything from the internet. They must be YOUR Own Thoughts.4- Do not cite too much. With one or two citations is enough.5- Read the articles.6- NOTE you must do the essay of 500 0r 600 words and send me an overall summary. * The professor in the middle of the week going to insert in my canvas a voice to explain how we can improve or critical writing. I will send you that voice so you can write how he want. You may noticed that I gave you 4 days to complete the assignment and this is the reason.


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hell were quenched. Even the cries of the beasts were hushed as peace
encircled the earth. Only Mara, the Evil One, did not rejoice.
III. Buddhism
The Man Who Woke Up
Buddhism begins with a man. In his later years, when India was afire
with his message and kings themselves were bowing before him,
people came to him even as they were to come to Jesus asking what he
was. 1 How many people have provoked this question—not “Who are
you?” with respect to name, origin, or ancestry, but “What are you?
What order of being do you belong to? What species do you
represent?” Not Caesar, certainly. Not Napoleon, or even Socrates.
Only two: Jesus and Buddha. When the people carried their
puzzlement to the Buddha himself, the answer he gave provided an
identity for his entire message.
“Are you a god?” they asked. “No.” “An angel?” “No.” “A saint?”
“No.” “Then what are you?”
Buddha answered, “I am awake.”
His answer became his title, for this is what Buddha means. The
Sanskrit root budh denotes both to wake up and to know. Buddha,
then, means the “Enlightened One,” or the “Awakened One.” While
the rest of the world was wrapped in the womb of sleep, dreaming a
dream known as the waking state of human life, one of their number
roused himself. Buddhism begins with a man who shook off the daze,
the doze, the dream-like vagaries of ordinary awareness. It begins with
a man who woke up.
His life has become encased in loving legend. We are told that the
worlds were flooded with light at his birth. The blind so longed to see
his glory that they received their sight; the deaf and mute conversed in
ecstasy of the things that were to come. Crooked became straight; the
lame walked. Prisoners were freed from their chains and the fires of
The historical facts of his life are roughly these: He was born around
563 B.C. in what is now Nepal, near the Indian border. His full name
was Siddhartha Gautama of the Sakyas. Siddhartha was his given
name, Gautama his surname, and Sakya the name of the clan to which
his family belonged. His father was a king, but as there were then
many kingdoms in the subcontinent of India, it would be more
accurate to think of him as a feudal lord. By the standards of the day
his upbringing was luxurious. “I wore garments of silk and my
attendants held a white umbrella over me. My unguents were always
from Banaras.” He appears to have been exceptionally handsome, for
there are numerous references to “the perfection of his visible body.”
At sixteen he married a neighboring princess, Yasodhara, who bore a
son whom they called Rahula.
He was, in short, a man who seemed to have everything: family, “the
venerable Gautama is well born on both sides, of pure descent”;
appearance, “handsome, inspiring trust, gifted with great beauty of
complexion, fair in color, fine in presence, stately to behold”; wealth,
“he had elephants and silver ornaments for his elephants.” He had a
model wife, “majestic as a queen of heaven, constant ever, cheerful
night and day, full of dignity and exceeding grace,” who bore him a
beautiful son. In addition, as heir to his father’s throne, he was
destined for fame and power.
Despite all this there settled over him in his twenties a discontent,
which was to lead to a complete break with his worldly estate.
The source of his discontent is impounded in the legend of The Four
Passing Sights, one of the most celebrated calls to adventure in all
world literature. When Siddhartha was born, so this story runs, his
Huston Smith: “Buddhism” – page 1 of 45
father summoned fortunetellers to find out what the future held for his
heir. All agreed that this was no usual child. His career, however, was
crossed with one basic ambiguity. If he remained with the world, he
would unify India and become her greatest conqueror, a Chakravartin
or Universal King. If, on the other hand, he forsook the world, he
would become not a world conqueror but a world redeemer. Faced
with this option, his father determined to steer his son toward the
former destiny. No effort was spared to keep the prince attached to the
world. Three palaces and 40,000 dancing girls were placed at his
disposal; strict orders were given that no ugliness intrude upon the
courtly pleasures. Specifically, the prince was to be shielded from
contact with sickness, decrepitude, and death; even when he went
riding, runners were to clear the roads of these sights. One day,
however, an old man was overlooked, or (as some versions have it)
miraculously incarnated by the gods to effect the needed lesson: a man
decrepit, broken-toothed, gray-haired, crooked and bent of body,
leaning on a staff, and trembling. That day Siddhartha learned the fact
of old age. Though the king extended his guard, on a second ride
Siddhartha encountered a body racked with disease, lying by the
roadside; and on a third journey, a corpse. Finally, on a fourth occasion
he saw a monk with shaven head, ochre robe, and bowl, and on that
day he learned of the life of withdrawal from the world. It is a legend,
this story, but like all legends it embodies an important truth. For the
teachings of the Buddha show unmistakably that it was the body’s
inescapable involvement with disease, decrepitude, and death that
made him despair of finding fulfillment on the physical plane. “Life is
subject to age and death. Where is the realm of life in which there is
neither age nor death?”
Once he had perceived the inevitability of bodily pain and passage,
fleshly pleasures lost their charm. The singsong of the dancing girls,
the lilt of lutes and cymbals, the sumptuous feasts and processions, the
elaborate celebration of festivals only mocked his brooding mind.
Flowers nodding in the sunshine and snows melting on the Himalayas
cried louder of the evanescence of worldly things. He determined to
quit the snare of distractions his palace had become and follow the call
of a truth-seeker. One night in his twenty-ninth year he made the
break, his Great Going Forth. Making his way in the post-midnight
hours to where his wife and son were locked in sleep, he bade them
both a silent goodbye, and then ordered the gatekeeper to bridle his
great white horse. The two mounted and rode off toward the forest.
Reaching its edge by daybreak, Gautama changed clothes with the
attendant who returned with the horse to break the news, while
Gautama shaved his head and, “clothed in ragged raiment,” plunged
into the forest in search of enlightenment.
Six years followed, during which his full energies were concentrated
toward this end. “How hard to live the life of the lonely forestdweller…to rejoice in solitude. Verily, the silent groves bear heavily
upon the monk who has not yet won to fixity of mind!” The words
bear poignant witness that his search was not easy. It appears to have
moved through three phases, without record as to how long each lasted
or how sharply the three were divided. His first act was to seek out
two of the foremost Hindu masters of the day and pick their minds for
the wisdom in their vast tradition. He learned a great deal—about raja
yoga especially, but about Hindu philosophy as well; so much in fact
that Hindus came to claim him as their own, holding that his criticisms
of the religion of his day were in the order of reforms and were less
important than his agreements. In time, however, he concluded that he
had learned all that these yogis could teach him.
His next step was to join a band of ascetics and give their way an
honest try. Was it his body that was holding him back? He would
break its power and crush its interference. A man of enormous will
Huston Smith: “Buddhism” – page 2 of 45
power, the Buddha-to-be outdid his associates in every austerity they
proposed. He ate so little—six grains of rice a day during one of his
fasts—that “when I thought I would touch the skin of my stomach I
actually took hold of my spine.” He would clench his teeth and press
his tongue to his palate until “sweat flowed from my armpits.” He
would hold his breath until it felt “as if a strap were being twisted
around my head.” 2 In the end he grew so weak that he fell into a
faint; and if the maiden Sujata had not been around to feed him some
warm rice gruel, he could easily have died.
This experience taught him the futility of asceticism. He had given this
experiment all anyone could, and it had not succeeded—it had not
brought enlightenment. But negative experiments carry their own
lessons, and in this case asceticism’s failure provided Gautama with
the first constructive plank for his program: the principle of the
Middle Way between the extremes of asceticism, on the one hand, and
indulgence on the other. It is the concept of the rationed life, in which
the body is given what it needs to function optimally, but no more.
Having turned his back on mortification, Gautama devoted the final
phase of his quest to a combination of rigorous thought and mystic
concentration along the lines of b. One evening near Gaya in northeast
India, south of the present city of Patna, he sat down under a peepul
tree that has come to be known as the Bo Tree (short for bodhi or
enlightenment). The place was later named the Immovable Spot, for
tradition reports that the Buddha, sensing that a breakthrough was
near, seated himself that epoch-making evening vowing not to arise
until enlightenment was his.
The records offer as the first event of the night a temptation scene
reminiscent of Jesus’ on the eve of his ministry. The Evil One,
realizing that his antagonist’s success was imminent, rushed to the
spot to disrupt his concentrations. He attacked first in the form of
Kama, the God of Desire, parading three voluptuous women with their
tempting retinues. When the Buddha-to-be remained unmoved, the
Tempter switched his guise to that of Mara, the Lord of Death. His
powerful hosts assailed the aspirant with hurricanes, torrential rains,
and showers of flaming rocks, but Gautama had so emptied himself of
his finite self that the weapons found no target to strike and turned into
flower petals as they entered his field of concentration. When, in final
desperation, Mara challenged his right to do what he was doing,
Gautama touched the earth with his right fingertip, whereupon the
earth responded, thundering, “I bear you witness” with a hundred, a
thousand, and a hundred thousand roars. Mara’s army fled in rout, and
the gods of heaven descended in rapture to tend the victor with
garlands and perfumes.
Thereafter, while the Bo Tree rained red blossoms that full-mooned
May night, Gautama’s meditation deepened through watch after watch
until, as the morning star glittered in the transparent sky of the east,
his mind pierced at last the bubble of the universe and shattered it to
naught, only, wonder of wonders, to find it miraculously restored with
the effulgence of true being. The Great Awakening had arrived.
Gautama’s being was transformed, and he emerged the Buddha. The
event was of cosmic import. All created things filled the morning air
with their rejoicings and the earth quaked six ways with wonder. Ten
thousand galaxies shuddered in awe as lotuses bloomed on every tree,
turning the entire universe into “a bouquet of flowers set whirling
through the air.” 3 The bliss of this vast experience kept the Buddha
rooted to the spot for seven entire days. On the eighth he tried to rise,
but another wave of bliss broke over him. For a total of forty-nine
days he was lost in rapture, after which his “glorious glance” opened
onto the world.
Huston Smith: “Buddhism” – page 3 of 45
Mara was waiting for him with one last temptation. He appealed this
time to what had always been Gautama’s strong point, his reason.
Mara did not argue the burden of reentering the world with its
banalities and obsessions. He posed a deeper challenge. Who could be
expected to understand truth as profound as that which the Buddha had
laid hold of? How could speech-defying revelation be translated into
words, or visions that shatter definitions be caged in language? In
short, how show what can only be found, teach what can only be
learned? Why bother to play the idiot before an uncomprehending
audience? Why not wash one’s hands of the whole hot world—be
done with the body and slip at once into nirvana? The argument was
so persuasive that it almost carried the day. At length, however, the
Buddha answered, “There will be some who will understand,” and
Mara was banished from his life forever.
Nearly half a century followed, during which the Buddha trudged the
dusty paths of India until his hair was white, step infirm, and body
nothing but a burst drum, preaching his ego-shattering, life-redeeming
message. He founded an order of monks and nuns, challenged the
deadness of brahmin society, and accepted in return the resentment,
queries, and bewilderment his stance provoked. His daily routine was
staggering. In addition to training monks and overseeing the affairs of
his order, he maintained an interminable schedule of public preaching
and private counseling, advising the perplexed, encouraging the
faithful, and comforting the distressed. “To him people come right
across the country from distant lands to ask questions, and he bids all
welcome.” Underlying his response to these pressures and enabling
him to stand up under them was the pattern of withdrawal and return
that is basic to all creativity. The Buddha withdrew for six years, then
returned for forty-five. But each year was likewise divided: nine
months in the world, followed by a three-month retreat with his monks
during the rainy season. His daily cycle, too, was patterned to this
mold. His public hours were long, but three times a day he withdrew,
to return his attention (through meditation) to its sacred source.
After an arduous ministry of forty-five years, at the age of eighty and
around the year 483 B.C., the Buddha died from dysentery after eating
a meal of dried boar’s flesh in the home of Cunda the smith. Even on
his deathbed his mind moved toward others. In the midst of his pain, it
occurred to him that Cunda might feel responsible for his death. His
last request, therefore, was that Cunda be informed that of all the
meals he had eaten during his long life, only two stood out as having
blessed him exceptionally. One was the meal whose strength had
enabled him to reach enlightenment under the Bo Tree, and the other
the one that was opening to him the final gates to nirvana. This is but
one of the deathbed scenes that The Book of the Great Decease has
preserved. Together they present a picture of a man who passed into
the state in which “ideas and consciousness cease to be” without the
slightest resistance. Two sentences from his valedictory have echoed
through the ages. “All compounded things decay. Work out your own
salvation with diligence.”
The Silent Sage
To understand Buddhism it is of utmost importance to gain some sense
of the impact of Buddha’s life on those who came within its orbit.
It is impossible to read the accounts of that life without emerging with
the impression that one has been in touch with one of the greatest
personalities of all time. The obvious veneration felt by almost all who
knew him is contagious, and the reader is soon caught up with his
disciples in the sense of being in the presence of something close to
wisdom incarnate.
Huston Smith: “Buddhism” – page 4 of 45
Perhaps the most striking thing about him was his combination of a
cool head and a warm heart, a blend that shielded him from
sentimentality on the one hand and indifference on the other. He was
undoubtedly one of the greatest rationalists of all times, resembling in
this respect no one as much as Socrates. Every problem that came his
way was automatically subjected to cool, dispassionate analysis. First,
it would be dissected into its component parts, after which these would
be reassembled in logical, architectonic order with their meaning and
import laid bare. He was a master of dialogue and dialectic, and
calmly confident. “That in disputation with anyone whomsoever I
could be thrown into confusion or embarrassment—there is no
possibility of such a thing.”
The remarkable fact, however, was the way this objective, critical
component of his character was balanced by a Franciscan tenderness
so strong as to have caused his message to be subtitled “a religion of
infinite compassion.” Whether he actually risked his life to free a goat
that was snagged on a precipitous mountainside may be historically
uncertain, but the act would certainly have been in character, for his
life was one continuous gift to the famished crowds. Indeed, his selfgiving so impressed his biographers that they could explain it only in
terms of a momentum that had acquired its trajectory in the animal
stages of his incarnations. The Jataka Tales have him sacrificing
himself for his herd when he was a stag, and hurling himself as a hare
into a fire to feed a starving brahmin. Dismiss these post facto
accounts as legends if we must; there is no question but that in his life
as the Buddha the springs of tenderness gushed abundant. Wanting to
draw the arrows of sorrow from everyone he met, he gave to each his
sympathy, his enlightenment, and the strange power of soul, which,
even when he did not speak a word, gripped the hearts of his visitors
and left them transformed.
Socially, the Buddha’s royal lineage and upbringing were of great
advantage. “Fine in presence,” he moved among kings and potentates
with ease, for he had been one of them. Yet his poise and
sophistication seem not to have distanced him from simple villagers.
Surface distinctions of class and caste meant so little to him that he
often appears not even to have noticed them. Regardless of how far
individuals had fallen or been rejected by society, they received from
the Buddha a respect that stemmed from the simple fact that they were
fellow human beings. Thus many an outcaste and derelict,
encountering for the first time the experience of being understood and
accepted, found self-respect emerging and gained status in the
community. “The venerable Gautama bids everyone welcome, is
congenial, conciliatory, not supercilious, accessible to all.” 4
There was indeed an amazing simplicity about this man before whom
kings bowed. Even when his reputation was at its highest he would be
seen, begging-bowl in hand, walking through streets and alleys with
the patience of one who knows the illusion of time. Like vine and
olive, two of the most symbolic plants that grow from the meagerest
of soils, his physical needs were minimal. Once at Alavi during the
frosts of winter he was found resting in meditation on a few leaves
gathered on a cattle path. “Rough is the ground trodden by the hoofs
of cattle; thin is the couch; light the monk’s yellow robe; sharp the
cutting wind of winter,” he admitted. “Yet I live happily with sublime
It is perhaps inaccurate to speak of Buddha as a modest man. John
Hay, who was President Lincoln’s secretary, said it was absurd to call
Lincoln modest, adding that “no great human being is
modest.”Certainly, the Buddha felt that he had risen to a plane of
understanding that was far above that of anyone else in his time. In
this respect he simply accepted his superiority and lived in the self-
Huston Smith: “Buddhism” – page 5 of 45
confidence this acceptance bequeathed. But this is different from
vanity or humorless conceit. At the final assembly of one of his
sangha’s (order’s) annual retreats, the Exalted One looked round over
the silent company and said, “Well, ye disciples, I summon you to say
whether you have any fault to find with me, whether in word or in
deed.” And when a favorite pupil exclaimed, “Such faith have I, Lord,
that methink …
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