How Buddhism Survives in the 21st Century
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How To Be Buddhist In The 21st Century

A rundown of the Type B religion's existence in our Type A world.

How To Be Buddhist In The 21st Century

Practicing a religion focused on being non-materialistic and achieving liberation in an increasingly materialistic and restrictive world is not an easy task. Buddhism, a nearly 2600-year-old religion, follows a set of traditions which share the goal of reaching a state of enlightenment by overcoming basic human suffering and rebirth. There are many branches of Buddhism from Zen, a meditation centered practice of the religion, to Mahayana, a form of Buddhism that focuses on scriptures, mantras, and the teachings of the Buddha. Most well known for attempting to achieve a truly Type B personality, Buddhists use religion as a way to teach themselves to exist solely as a human being and let go of their worldly possessions.

These teachings are contradicted every day in the media as we watch stock brokers fighting for every last penny on the market, material-motivated criminals break the law, and a government continues to restrict its constituents. The original teachings of the Buddha provide no outline for how to deal with a world that continues to spiral in the direction opposite of enlightenment, but this is a problem that twenty-first-century Buddhists face.

So how do modern Buddhists deal with a dilemma as large as this? They don't. As obscure as it may seem, Buddhism appears to remain unaffected as its polar opposite consumes our global society. The original teachings on which Buddhism was founded to emphasize the individual and his or her emotions and existence in the world, and human emotion and existence continue to remain unchanged. Therefore, the practice of Buddhism and its prominence in society and global culture lives on, unscathed by the horrors of a materialistic Western presence.

The only teaching present in Buddhism that appears to be manipulated by the world is the concept of karma. Karma is the idea that using action to add positive morality to the universe results in that action coming full circle and the positive energy returning to the user (and the same can be said for evil actions). The concept of morality and how it is interpreted has changed over time, so it is understandable that a Buddhist who conducts an action with supposedly positive moral standing now would not be judged as kindly by the universe 2000 years ago.

And then there is the day to day practices of Buddhists in the modern age. As a recreational follower of the teachings of the Buddha, I go through the same process of meditation and try to achieve the same goal of enlightenment that monks did centuries ago. The practice of the religion for each individual has not changed since about 600 B.C.E. because ultimately everyone who adopts the teachings of the Buddha is doing so to learn how to become more "human" and less "person."

So yes, the materialism that surrounds Buddhists in the modern age does add some difficulty to the practice of their religion; however, no matter the extent of this societal change, the original ideas on which Buddhism was founded will never shift because they deal with the soul of an individual.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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