Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Essay: Does Life after Death Exist?

Does Life after Death Exist: View on Different Concepts in Buddhism and Confucianism
Both China and India have very long histories, describing the life of people in these two countries since antiquity till today. China as well as India possesses many exciting and at the same time unique customs, traditions, and beliefs. People of both countries practice different religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, Christianity, and others. However, it’s not so unusual to compare beliefs of two countries, as we already know a lot of facts about Indian and Chinese religions and cultures. Thus, the current essay will explore the concepts of life and death in Buddhism, since it is the second widespread religion in India, teaching people rather unusual ways how to reach happiness, and concepts of life and death in Confucianism, because it was one of the main religions in ancient China, and had a great impact on cultural and social views of its people. The matter of life and death is addressed in all religions. Some of the religions state that there is life after death, emphasizing the importance of living a pious life because human souls go to heaven or hell after death, which is conditioned by person’s previous life. Others reject the idea of life after death, stating that human souls live forever, or that there is neither heaven nor hell, and that human souls might settle down in animals or plants. Thus, the matter of life after death remains a rather controversial one, provoking multiple disputes between religions. The main goal of this essay is to find out if life after death is possible, and how this concept is discussed in Buddhism and Confucianism.

Since the foundation of the first religion, people were trying to find out whether life after death exists, and where human souls go after their bodies are dead. Though there have been many advances in science and medicine, this question remains unanswered. Scientists treat the theory of life after death as something fantastic and impossible, while staunch followers of Christianity, for example, are sure about life after death, and their faith makes them live a more righteous life to avoid being sent to hell.

So, what the followers of Buddhism and Confucianism think about life after death? Buddhist views are different from those of other religions. First of all, Buddha’s teachings reject the existence of the soul in humans, because soul in Buddhism is equated to “self” or “ago,” and appears to be a negative concept in this religion. In Buddhism, a soul means a set of feelings and emotions of a person that is in constant movement and development. This principle in Buddhism is called Anatta, which rejects the material theory and the existence of a human soul. Followers of Buddhism believe that the human soul is constantly reborn. Thus the soul cannot be substantial. Buddha defined soul as a combination of human internal forces, including perception, feeling, mind (consciousness) and body matter. This is how Buddhists describe human life. As for death, Buddhists treat death as something inevitable. Thus, every person will die sooner or later. However, Buddha taught about different cycles of life. “This means they believe people do not live and die just once but can be reborn some times before reaching their end state” [1]. The followers of Buddhism treat death as the destruction of material, out of which humans are composed, but it’s not a negative concept in Buddhism. Buddhists are not afraid of death, as it is “a passage to rebirth in another realm such as the human world, a pure land or the flowering of the ultimate nature of the mind” [2]. Indeed, Buddha didn’t teach if life has its end, as he “was an agnostic on such matters and believed no-one could ever know for sure how life began and what it would be like at the end” [1].

Chinese philosopher established Confucianism and political activist K’ung Fu Tzu (Confucius), however, very often Confucianism is referred to not as a religion, but as a philosophical and ethical study. Originally, Confucius’s primary goal was to become a political leader of China, but when he failed to do that he decided to teach moral conduct to people. He wasn’t recognized as a significant figure during his lifetime, but his teachings played a major role in the development of China after his death, he was even ordered to be worshiped to by the Government, while his basic principles and concepts were added to the Chinese laws.

Confucianism views life and death not as religious concepts, but as social ones. Confucius devoted most of his studies to the examination of life, but not death. Thus, he rejected the idea of the existence of life after death. Confucius stated that “fate determines life and death, and wealth and nobleness are determined by heaven” [3]. The reason for exploring life rather than death Confucius explained by human lack of knowledge about life. Confucius even stated that man could be immortal; however, he didn’t provide us with enough facts to prove this statement. Neglecting life after death, Confucius emphasized the importance to live a righteous life by following specific patterns. According to Confucius people have to love and respect their parents, to do right things, to be benevolent and pious. Unlike Buddhism, Confucianism doesn’t treat life as suffering and doesn’t speak about a constant rebirth of the human soul.

Having spoken about both Confucianism and Buddhism, it is necessary to conclude. From my point of view, the existence of life after death is determined by human belief or disbelief in this concept. Different religions interpret the theory of life after death differently, supporting it or rejecting it. Buddhists believe in life after death, because for them death is just another phase of life, after which a person continues to live in another form. However, Confucianism, being a more materialistic concept, utterly rejects life after death, stating that it’s more important to live than die, and presuming that people can be immortal. Buddhists agree to suffer the whole life to reach Nirvana, while Confucians prefer to live a pious life just because it is correct, but not because they are afraid of going either to hell or heaven.

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