desire for pleasure, riches, power, or fame. And the path to overcoming desire, attachment, and craving is meditation upon the truth of existence, a meditation that brings us enlightenment.
That is why Siddhartha got called the Buddha, a title that means “The Enlightened One.”
Buddhist lore says the Buddha could have been content with his own enlightenment, but out of compassion decided to teach others the truth he had found.
Followers who accepted his teaching, he organized into a monastic community in which they were shielded from the world’s temptations of attachment and craving and provided disciplined meditation until they also could realize enlightenment.
At first Buddhism made provision for only its monastic community, but it eventually gained lay supporters and propounded an ethical life also for such non-monastic adherents.
In Thailand, for example, it has become an ideal for many laymen to spend a few months in a monastic setting before returning to lay life.
Buddhism eventually spread north of India into Tibet, China, Korea and Japan, but in quite radically modified forms. It actually died out in India, the land of its birth. It has come to the West only in modern times, appealing to quite a few Americans in the 1970s era of student unrest.
Buddhism has one basic thing in common with Christianity that not enough people recognize — the conviction that there is something wrong in human nature or human thinking that needs to be changed and can be changed.
Christianity has sometimes called it original sin, a doctrine Islam rejects.
Buddhism calls for transformation in our thinking, something which Christianity also calls for, a teaching many Christians neglect to notice in their own faith.
Marlin Jeschke is professor emeritus of Religion & Philosophy at Goshen College.