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I am interested in Theravada Buddhism.

What are some concrete reasons as to why one should become a Buddhist?

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    The great hair styles... 😃 Jul 30 at 6:22
  • To become what you already are.
    – Ande Falke
    Jul 30 at 11:07
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    buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/44065/… check out those answers, there's really not much consensus on what makes a Buddhist. Jul 30 at 20:14
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    You don't "become" a Buddhist. It's not an identity, it's a way of exploring what identity means.
    – WillyWonka
    Jul 30 at 20:38
  • @WillyWonka - it would be good if you could expand that wise comment into an answer! ;-)
    – Max
    Jul 30 at 21:05
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Why Become Buddhist?

A fully enlightened Buddha's teaching is the only thing that bring about complete cessation of suffering. Nothing else can do that. Doesn't really matter if the word "Buddhist" is used. What's important is that the teaching contains "The Four Noble Truths" since only such a teaching can issue liberation from the rounds of suffering for good.

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There is no word in Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, Korean, Japanese,... that corresponds to the Wester "-ist" qualifier.

For example, in Chinese & Japanese, the term used is 佛教徒 (Ch: Fójiào tú, J: Bukkyōto), lit. "Buddhist teachings people".

Also, in many Oriental countries there is no exclusive attribute: I've seen Thai people worship both a Buddha and a Ganesh statue; I know Japanese people that would identify simultaneously as Shinto and Buddhist.

I just wanted to get that stated first, because it's important to answer your question. Buddhism is not an "-ism" like other "-isms" in Western context. It is not a religion in the sense that requires anything supernatural to operate. It is more a method, a philosophy than a religion in the Western, Abrahamic sense.

"Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Therefore, to become a Buddh-ist (the Budh* root means "to awaken"), implies a volition to understand reality as the historical Buddha did. This should be the foremost concrete reason for someone to take up practice. The recommended way to attain this goal is meditation. There are additional recommendations to facilitate this goal, but none of them take the form of "divine edicts" or leading to "sins" if not followed for lay people. You do not have to accept any doctrine at face value - in fact, the Buddha stressed you should examine everything for yourself in the Kālāma Sutra:

Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing (anussava),

nor upon tradition (paramparā),

nor upon rumor (itikirā),

nor upon what is in a scripture (piṭaka-sampadāna)

nor upon surmise (takka-hetu),

nor upon an axiom (naya-hetu),

nor upon specious reasoning (ākāra-parivitakka),

nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over (diṭṭhi- nijjhān-akkh-antiyā),

nor upon another's seeming ability (bhabba-rūpatāya),

nor upon the consideration, The monk is our teacher (samaṇo no garū)

Kalamas, when you yourselves know: "These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness," enter on and abide in them.'

Secondary reasons include:

  • transcendence into Nirvana, breaking the cycle of rebirth (although some Buddhist schools will take the vow not to enter into Nirvana until all sentient beings are saved)
  • reduce suffering in a meaningful, genuine way through compassion
  • a framework to make informed choices that benefit not just yourself
  • a renewed view on the world once you have experienced śūnyatā (terribly translated as "emptiness" in English)
  • a renewed view on yourself and the illusions that surround your self-image

but everything should start with a genuine desire to understand the true nature of reality, self, and the mind. And even then, one can practice and not call themselves Buddhist.

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  • Good answer! Just out of interest, how did śūnyatā come to be translated as emptiness?
    – Max
    Jul 30 at 10:06
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    Several branches of Buddhism attribute very different meanings to śūnyatā . In Theravada, it often refers to the non-self, while in Mahayana it refers more to "all things are void of intrinsic existence and nature (svabhava)". Linguistically, it derives from the root śvi, meaning "hollow". I guess "hollowness" didn't click with early translators?
    – Codosaur
    Jul 30 at 11:31
  • I actually know muslims who do not consider Buddhism to be a religion opposed to Islam. Jul 31 at 13:40
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Why become a Buddhist?

It would be to heed the advice and guidance given by that benevolent man with good eyesight standing on the bank, who wishes you permanent freedom from suffering.

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "Suppose a man was being carried along by the flow of a river, lovely & alluring. And then another man with good eyesight, standing on the bank, on seeing him would say: 'My good man, even though you are being carried along by the flow of a river, lovely & alluring, further down from here is a pool with waves & whirlpools, with monsters & demons. On reaching that pool you will suffer death or death-like pain.' Then the first man, on hearing the words of the second man, would make an effort with his hands & feet to go against the flow.

"I have given you this simile to illustrate a meaning. The meaning is this: the flow of the river stands for craving. Lovely & alluring stands for the six internal sense-media. The pool further down stands for the five lower fetters. The waves stand for anger & distress. The whirlpools stand for the five strings of sensuality. The monsters & demons stand for the opposite sex. Against the flow stands for renunciation. Making an effort with hands & feet stands for the arousing of persistence. The man with good eyesight standing on the bank stands for the Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened."
Iti 109

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I am interested in Theravada Buddhism. What are some concrete reasons as to why one should become a Buddhist?

Reason:

  • What are you looking for (searching) in your life? If your answer is “wealth or love or a successful business” or anything like that, I would again ask what are you looking within those? If you keep digging like this you will come to the answer “Satisfaction”. Everyone is looking for Satisfaction in their lives. That person can be a terrorist or a president or a parent or an Olympic athlete or who ever, what they are looking for is “the Satisfaction”. Now based on this if you think deeper, have you found anyone who is satisfied with their whole life by achieving something. As an example is Bill Gates satisfied with his whole life? He might be satisfied as a businessman but that doesn’t make Bill is satisfied with everything he has or he is. Why is that? Because people are looking for Satisfaction throughout their lives but they are not looking it in the correct place. Due to that they won’t be satisfied with everything. We always think A will satisfy me so we run after A, after we achieve A we keep running after B because the Satisfaction we got from A is not enough (basically A has not make us satisfied, if it did why we even want to run after B). Likewise we keep running after C, D,…. until we die, assuming next thing will quench our thirst of Satisfaction. Unfortunately it will never happen. Because real Satisfaction is not in this outer world. It’s in our inner world. It’s called Nivana (Enlightenment) and what Nivana is and what’s the path to Nivana is clearly mentioned in real Buddhism (which is labeled as Theravada). If you think this view gives your some concrete reason, I might explain this further.

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