For the first time in the history of the world, the Buddha proclaimed an emancipation which each person could gain for him- or herself, during this life, without the least help from a personal god. The Buddha diligently taught the doctrine of self-reliance, of purity, of courtesy, of awakening, of enlightenment, of peace, of empathy, of universal love, respect, and the protection of all Living Beings. The Buddha strongly urged the necessity and importance of knowledge, because without wisdom Awakening can not be attained.
The Buddha said, "One is, indeed, his own savior, for what other savior would there be." Therefore, one should not depend on a savior as such, or on an almighty god, whom no one has ever seen, to direct him or her in the way to live one's life. One should not look to, or expect, a god to protect one from all the day-to-day obstacles in life. Thus, the Buddha explained the futility of expecting emancipation through a god.
The glory of Buddhism is it makes intellectual awakening an essential condition for the emancipation of humankind. In Buddhism, morality and intellectual awakening are inseparable from one another. While morality forms the basis of the higher life, knowledge and wisdom complete it. Dogmatic theology does not explain the world in such a manner, but leaves everything to the will of god, a will not understood by humankind.
According to Buddhism, without an understanding of the Law of Causality, as expressed in the Teaching on Dependent Origination, no one can be said to be moral unless one possesses an insight into these teachings. In this respect, Buddhism differs from all other religious beliefs. Monotheistic religions start with certain assumptions and are contradicted by the growth of knowledge. Buddhism has no assumptions and the teachings are deep because they stand on the firm rock of facts, not hearsay.
The Christians and other monotheistic religions believe in a salvation through a god who is the creator of the Universe.
There is no omnipotent god. Buddhist do not pray to any god for salvation. Death is followed by rebirth guided by the natural Law of Karma (volitional action). Buddhists know salvation is attained through the realization of Nirvana.
Religions such as Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam developed around the belief in a god or gods. As human intelligence grew, a questioning of these beliefs began to develop. An understanding of the lack of justice and fairness and rationality within these beliefs also began to grow and expand.
From a rational point of view, belief in a god gods makes less and less sense.
Buddhism is the first recorded missionary religion in the history of humanity. It carries a universal message of emancipation for all of humankind, all living beings. Bishop Gore, in his challenge to other religions, said, "It is Buddhism, as we find it actually recorded, not a hypothetical primitive system, which still forms a challenge to other religions."
Great Brahma is the personified creator god in Hinduism. According to Islam, Allah is the creator god and the sustainer of all beings. Judaism is centered on a belief in one god. Zoroastrianism believes in Ahura Mazda as the supreme god responsible for the creation of the world. On a logical point of view, one world has been created by many gods.
When one studies religion, one is lead to the conclusion that it appears as if people began to believe in a personified god as a vehicle for their departure from the world.
The belief found in these varied religions that their god is the creator of the world comes from their varied scriptures, which they all claim as true and exclusive.
Today, the intelligentsia, who have reviewed all the available facts about emancipation, have come to the conclusion that, similar to the belief in god, the creation legend must be regarded as an evolution of human imagination, which arose with the false interpretation of the phenomena of nature. These misunderstandings were rooted in a fear and ignorance of primitive humanity who became concerned with the fear of death.
Born as a man, living as a mortal, by his own exertion and intuition, the Buddha attained the supreme state of perfection, that is Buddhahood. Without keeping his awakening to himself, he proclaimed to the world the latent possibilities and the invincible power of the human mind. Instead of placing an unseen almighty god over humanity, and giving humanity a subservient position, in relation to such a conception of divine power, the Buddha demonstrated how humanity could attain the highest knowledge and Supreme Awakening by his own efforts, and seek emancipation by oneself, without offering prayers and sacrifices to a personal god or gods.
The Buddha never advocated the approach of the divine for emancipation after death. H. G. Wells (1866-1946), famed for his scientific fantasies, once said, "In some ways, Buddha was nearer to us in our needs. He was more lucid upon our individual importance to mankind than Jesus Christ, and less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality, and in approaching the divine for emancipation."
The Buddha said prayers begging for divine help serve no purpose and lead only to self-deceit.
The Buddha was not a god or a super-human being. Buddhism is, in actual sense, not a religion. The Buddha was a Sakyan Prince, who lived in the lap of luxury wanting nothing. He renounced the world at the age of 29 years, and having become a wandering ascetic, he spent six years leading the life of rigorous mortification of the flesh. Realizing the futility of the ascetic ideal, he followed the Middle Path rejecting the extremes of self-mortification and sensuous gratification, to become a Buddha. He did not believe in appealing to the divine to achieve his objective.
Buddhism is a moral philosophy and not a religion as such, though it is commonly referred to by that name. There is no religion without a god or gods, and polytheistic religions have a plurality of gods and goddesses. What is meant by religion is the belief in, the recognition of or an awakened sense of, a high unseen controlling power or powers, with devoted fidelity attached to it. In view of this, those who worship and pray to gods are morbidly or sentimentally religious. Buddhism is free from divine worship because there is no god to be approached.
Buddhist do not pray to the Buddha for salvation. To pray means to ask earnestly, to entreat and implore, to express one's desire to, or to commune with a god. Prayer and worship are common to most religions as an integral part to their approach towards the divine.
The philosophy of Buddhism is based on the Four Noble Truths. The last of these four truths is the Noble Eightfold Path which leads to Nirvana, the summum bonum in Buddhism.
The entire doctrine of the Buddha can be epitomized to fall within the Four Noble Truths:
1 . . . The Noble Truth of Dukkha.
2 . . . The Noble Truth of the Cause of Dukkha.
3 . . . The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Dukkha, and
4 . . . The Noble Truth of the Path leading to the cessation of Dukkha.
(Note: Dukkha is best used untranslated. Western scholars have translated the word as suffering
. A more complete understanding might be stress
, or dissatisfaction
The first step of the Four Noble Truths is to be comprehended.
The second step (which is desire) is to be eradicated.
The third step (which is Nirvana) is to be realized.
The Fourth Step (which is the Middle Path) is to be developed.