The Superior Path to Enlightenment
1. Compare and contrast the manners in which these Buddhist traditions Theravada, Nichiren Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Vajrayana see is the best way to enlightenment.
Buddhism came about to demonstrate the path to enlightenment, and liberation of the suffering that we all experience. Even though this ultimate goal courses through the various traditions, there are many different ways to reach enlightenment. In its development, Buddhism was faced with ever-changing times and circumstances that called for new and advanced forms of Buddhist practice and ideas. The adaptable base of the Buddhist doctrine allowed for people to engage in the religion on different levels, and develop multiple paths, that while they may diverge, they ultimately reach the goal of enlightenment.
Theravada Buddhism is the oldest surviving Buddhist school and adheres to the fundamental principles of the religion. The basic teachings of this tradition begin with the Four Noble Truths. These ascertain that craving causes suffering, which is inherent in all composite phenomenon, and the cessation of suffering is achieved by attaining nirvana. One must follow the Holy Eightfold Path to reach this ultimate, and universal, goal of enlightenment (Harvey, pg. 47). Unlike other later Buddhist developments, Theravada practices emphasized individual enlightenment, such that nirvana is realized from within, and without the aid of outside forces. Ultimately, the ideal is to become an Arhat, one who has achieved nirvana, and successfully liberated oneself from the cycle of birth, death and suffering, known as samsara (Harvey, pg. 64). Arhatship is sought after as the best means towards enlightenment, and this aspiration, along with the Mahayana Bodhisattva, is present throughout various forms of Buddhism.
Similar to the Theravada ideals of individual enlightenment and a non-devotional focus,...