RAMADAN MUSINGS: Understanding Buddhism

New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport

Asian Lite marks the Holy Month with a series of Ramadan Musings with Masarat Daud

New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport
New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport

While the month of Ramadan itself is an auspicious and sacred time, but these last ten days of the month are like holiness on steroids. Perhaps not the best way to describe them but it does come very close to that! The worship intensifies in these ten days, with many even going through ten days of prayers in isolation. Given the times we live in, I want these ten days to be about us and everyone else around us. We need to think about ourselves and our ability to embrace those who do not share our belief system. There is always much to be learnt.

I will be speaking to people of different faiths and no faiths over the next few days. Today, I speak to Rick Davis who follows Buddhist philosophy.

“I have always been interested in Buddhism since childhood through reading books from the library. I am now 67! I had felt calmness in the images and stories that intrigued me,” says Rick.

Rick Davis
Rick Davis

He practiced many forms of meditation and when he moved to Bangladesh in his 50s, he attended introductory teachings in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

“Unlike the Bible and the Koran, there is no single text in Buddhism. There are many teachings but they don’t exist as one book,” he adds.

“I have never considered it as a religion per se but it has always been a philosophy of life, with a focus on helping others and at the same time understanding myself and my own suffering,” he explains.

The four noble Truths in Buddhism are his guiding principles that he returns to for spiritual guidance. The teachings are centered around the idea of suffering and how can one overcome it.

Ramadan MusingsThe first truth is to understand suffering. That it is a fact of life. There are four unavoidable physical sufferings—birth, old age, sickness and death. There are also three forms of mental suffering; separation from the people we love; contact with people we dislike and frustration of desires. Happiness is real and comes in many ways, but happiness does not last forever and does not stop suffering. Buddhists believe that the way to end suffering is to first accept the fact that suffering is actually a fact of life.

The second noble truth is to understand the cause of suffering so we can end it. Craving and Ignorance are the two main causes of suffering. People suffer with their craving for the pleasures of the senses and become unsatisfied and disappointed until they can replace their cravings with new ones. People suffer too when they are unable to see the world as it really is and live with illusions about life and fears, hopes, facts and behaviours based on ignorance.

The third noble truth is to understand the truth of the end of suffering. Buddhists believe that Buddha did find an end to suffering, and that His teachings can bring the same experience. The key to ending suffering is to remove all desire, ill will and ignorance.

The last noble truth is to understand the path that ends suffering. The way to the end of suffering is called the Middle Path. It is an Eightfold Path involving understanding and practice of Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration, Right Attitude and Right View. These eight elements can be divided into three ways of practice; Good Conduct, Mental Development and Wisdom.

These are some great insights to add to our daily reflections and prayers. I hope that this is also a way to humanise others and afford them the same tolerance and respect, as we would like for ourselves.

(Masarat Daud is many things. A girl’s education campaigner, a TED speaker, a TEDx curator, a recent SOAS MA graduate and a politically-incorrect humourist currently based in London)