Buddhism appeared 2500 years ago in the southeastern India. Over time, it has become influential countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand, Tibet, China. It is assumed that there are approximately more than 300 Buddhists in the world. Siddhartha Gautama who was the founder of Buddhism lived in Kapilavatsu, India. Additionally, the word “buddha’’ means that illuminated or aroused. Historical sources indicates that, Buddha has always used the oral style while teaching the people the basic beliefs of Buddhism. There is not God and spirit concept in Buddhism, so it emphasizes the development of human morality. Thus, some people say that Buddhism is a religion, other people have said that it is religious order, and philosophical trend. Therefore, taking into account all the views and all the aspects of Buddhism, we can say that it is a pagan doctrine and it rejects the existence of afterlife, hell, paradise and angels. According to Buddhism, “after death human’s soul is either reborn into another body or reach the nirvana” (Buddhism on the Afterlife). This paper will mainly focus on the death and afterlife in Buddhism which is based on a belief in Karma, Reincarnation and Nirvana.
First of all, Buddhism is the only universal religion that has never fought to make itself accepted in the world and the salvation of human beings belong to them, not to their God. Because in Buddhism karma doctrine is considered the basis of faith. Consequently, if humans belong to their actions it will lead to salvation or happy ending. The goal of Buddhism is to know and develop itself. The main aim is not to have an afterlife, but to reach Nirvana and a constant happiness. As a result, Buddhism teaches the malignancy of existence that arises from unawareness and intense desires. Thus, the existence of God is not argued by Buddha and he did not reject the God, but the Gods that the Brahmans qualified in his time. In fact, Buddhists claimed that the world is not the world of God. The world has arisen from desires and ambitions of people, so they reject earthy things. The understanding of karma and reincarnation are the two mechanisms that regulate people’s lives in Buddhism. In the Sanskrit language the word Karma means action and is stated as a “law of cause and effect’’. According to Karma, what a person had done in the past it will surely come to him in the future. In Karma human should act without waiting for reward means that person’s behavior comes from his/her own will not from the caste system in which he or she lives. As a result, in my opinion, all human beings specify their own rules with their actions. Notwithstanding, Karma is existed before the Buddhism, it is enlarged by the Buddha and Sangha community. One of the bad consequences of Karma is that people’s weaknesses, poverty are shown as a consequence of their moral mistakes. In other words, if a person is poor or disabled, because he or she made some mistakes in his or her previous life and consequently deserve to live in this life and in this manner. From the point of my view, every action, every thought, generates reactions in our mind. In general we should not forget that every thought, every action that we do is nothing more than the amount of our past. When we think , say or act our previous actions, thoughts made us think and act like this. Putting simply, we can summarize the karma doctrine when we say “what goes around comes around”
Furthermore, the main belief of karma is the reincarnation which is the idea that people are re-born with different bodies with the same soul. Reincarnation refers to Samsara that soul pass from one body to another and human comes to the life again. Only one way to get rid of reincarnation is to reach nirvana. Hence, the idea of moving soul from one body to another is important for Buddhists. According to Buddhism, if person has acted in a good manner, that person’s soul lives happily in the next life and the person who has acted in a bad manner his or her soul will encounter with sadness in the next life. In the reincarnation the person who commits a sin does not go to hell and he or she is not punished. In my opinion, though there is no logic in the reincarnation, the important reason why reincarnation has so many advocates around the world is that many people who do not believe in religion and deny the existence of God and just because they try to overcome the fear of death with this way.
Moreover, the salvation from karma and reincarnation is to reach nirvana. Retrieving the nirvana means that person gets rid of the all distress and reach a comfortable life. Nirvana is the annihilation of individualistic desire and the deflation of pain which is the part of separation, also it has always been accepted as a way to the happiness. The understanding of nirvana appeared by Siddhartha Gautama 25 centuries ago. According to Buddhism, people can reach nirvana while they are still in this world and regardless of social class, every person can attain salvation. As mentioned above, soul of the person does not die and pass another body, so the migration of soul emphasizes continuous pain. More clearly, this pain can be ended up with the enlightenment. Therefore, when person’s enlightened soul pass to nirvana, the soul of the person is allayed from suffering, also soul migration ends. There is an understanding in the Buddhism that the human beings born for the death and die for the birth. The rebirth and death continue till reaching the nirvana. Although, for Buddhists Nirvana means getting rid of internal pain and passion, person who reaches the Nirvana also get suffer. For example, we are aware of that even Buddha got a serious illness and suffered. As a result, we can say that reaching Nirvana is more about the frame of mind that can be actualized while living.
Finally, there is not acceptance of God in Buddhism, so many researchers acknowledged Buddhism as an atheist religion. Another issue that Buddha had claimed in his time is that everyone should accept the doctrine of Karma and rebirth, also try to somehow get out of birth and death circle. Therefore, being educated and enlightened is the basic aim of success. Based on Karma doctrine, reincarnation is the belief that soul is separate from body. According to this belief the person’s soul is born as high or low with in its degree. In regard to what people act they reborn in the form of animal, plants, people or God. This birth takes place in a cause and effect relationship and every human being is responsible for their actions. Karma and Reincarnation is the necessary beliefs in order to reach nirvana. In the sense of karma and reincarnation every Buddhist’s actions have a provision which is the Nirvana. Nirvana has a different concept of death and afterlife, so it is a position that can be reached while in this world rather than afterlife. It is believed that one day all the creatures will reach Nirvana. As long as people place their lives in a correct way and get rid of their tension desires.