RELG 120 Importance of a Historical Myth Essay
First, this week, I asked you to complete a 5-minute meditation with me. So, I would like to hear from you how it went! Was it easy or hard? Were you able to create spaces between your thoughts when you just focused on your breath? What could be some benefits to meditation? And how do you think it helps Buddhists achieve greater awareness of the world and eventually enlightenment?
Second, last week you heard the story of Siddhartha Gautama – the prince who lived a life of complete hedonism, then renounced it all to find enlightenment. This story is central to Buddhism, but many devout Buddhists say that it’s probably not “true” in a historical sense, and that whether or not the story actually happened doesn’t even matter.
For them, the story is important because it teaches an important truth about how to live one’s life – one shouldn’t live completely for pleasure and oneself, but also one shouldn’t deny themselves everything. Neither of these paths leads to enlightenment. One should follow the example of the Buddha, even if he wasn’t a real historical figure.
Can a myth be important even if it’s not historically true? Can you think of any other examples of stories or myths in religion or society that are probably not actually true, but are important nonetheless?
This is connected to another central idea of Buddhism, which is the rejection of blind belief. The Buddha taught that you shouldn’t believe anything unless it has proven to be true for yourself. He told his disciples never to believe his teachings, but to try it out for themselves and see if it helps them find greater calm and clarity in their lives.
Is this an appropriate attitude for a religion? Or should a religious tradition include some sense of faith or trust in the tradition/teacher that they don’t question EVERYTHING a religious authority figure says?