THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT
Out of all the belief systems that exists, Buddhism as a philosophy, is perhaps the most popular comprehensive set of guidelines that people choose to navigate modern life. It is easy to follow and is made-up of four noble truths. The first truth is that all human life is built on a combination of sufferings. Here, suffering is not referred to just in terms of the physical, but the mental too - as in insecurities, disappointments, and setbacks. The second truth is that suffering is caused by excessive desires. The third is the belief that suffering could be controlled. And the fourth is the enlightenment on how to end it. Liberation from hardship could be achieved using meditation or the power of positive thought. Fundamentally, Buddhism reinvented the meaning of karma, by emphasising that it is the intent to do good that will impact your past or future existence, despite how rich or poor you are. Quintessentially, in Buddhism actions and intentions are the driving force behind your destiny. You cannot blame any celestial powers for your mishaps. Thus, the condition of your life can only be determined by the choices you make. It is the reason why so many people can relate to the rules of Buddhism, and its mandate is thought to have formed the foundation of many other religions around the world. However, Buddhism is also seen as a selfish commitment to spirituality, because it encourages people to detach themselves from the physical world around them. Nonetheless, it is described as a path to enlightenment.
This relates to the period when the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius was born in 551 BC. There was chaos all around him with different societies locked in a brutal fight for power. Like Socrates, Confucius become deeply troubled by the state of humanity. He started to think about the disintegration of moral values in society. And when he began travelling around China, he came across the highly cultured men practising a religion known as Taoism. Tao meaning ‘path’, which is a philosophical and spiritual belief that promotes the ideals of living in harmony with nature. However, Confucius was not convinced that the way to an orderly society is by rejecting civilisation and living in isolation in the wilderness. So, he set about discovering his own understanding of an ideal society. Instantly, he realised that a positive mindset will change the way people behaved and was the way to cultivate a productive community. In other words, Confucius was telling people that instead of becoming a mechanical sponge that absorbs whatever the system feeds them, they must try and put the fundamentals of virtue they learnt from their own existence into practice.
Where the ancient Chinese philosopher hit the right tone is by associating the fundamentals of a well-structured family with leadership. In principle, he was saying that for the system to succeed, it must nurture people the same way a father nurtures his son. However, where he went wrong was to exclude the pivotal role women played in the upbringing of a family. But, he did acknowledge that human connections and the way we treat each other determine the kind of society we live in. He underscored the importance of sharing values through education, in spreading peace and harmony. Unfortunately, the idea of promoting the power of the individual was a threat undermining the power of the collective which was more important to rulers. So he became an enemy of the state. By the turn of the 20th century, China witnessed an uprising against the strict rules of obedience the ancient Chinese philosopher was thought to have left behind. But all Confucius was trying to do was reinstate confidence and self-belief in a society broken down by domineering, autocratic, and selfish emperors.