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Buddhism – A Brief Description


Buddha Stone Image In Ellora Caves India


A Concise Summary of What Buddhism Is (And Is Not)
  • Buddhists do not believe in the existence of a 'God'. Buddha, is not regarded as a 'God' or an agent of a 'God'. Buddha was a teacher who told followers how to think for themselves. Accordingly the culture is one where individuals are not be subjugated by religious authorities as is the case with the Christian, Jewish or Islam religions.
  • The essence of this culture has two principal themes, first, one must understand the difference between reality and self delusion, and second, one must understand the nature of cause and effect, that is, to understand whatever one does or fails to do now will have implications later, not only in the very short term, but the very long term.
  • Buddhist culture is such that people do not mix self delusion in their thoughts and conversation. This is seen as foolish. Good examples of self delusion include arrogance, superiority beliefs, social status, etc. Some cultures do not make the distinction. The distinction is made in business matters as well as private relationships. Buddhist culture enables followers to better self distinguish their emotional desires with a cautious respect for reality.
  • Buddhist culture also calls for detachment. In some societies if people want something they have to have it whatever, in fact they strive to become part of what they seek, be it a status symbol object like a motor car or a position of social recognition. They become in their minds what they seek to obtain, the delusion is over whelming.
  • Buddhism is like Daoism and Shintoism in that each rejects belief in a 'God'. This is why they are compatible and often co-exist in temples in China and Japan.




Buddha Image At Wat Phra Singh Chiang Mai


  • Buddhism is an ancient meditative religion in which a practitioner seeks liberation from suffering. Suffering in ancient India is defined as illicit or excessive attachment to worldly material possessions or worldly desires like monetary gain or sense pleasures. This suffering, called duhkha in Buddhism, is an existential discontentment.
  • Through the constant craving for temporary goals, like acquiring worldly possession or experiencing brief sense enjoyments, a Buddhist human being damns himself into future rebirths in lower orders of life. For example, a human man who over-indulges in luxurious items and sense cravings in one life may be reborn as a hungry ghost in the next life. In Buddhism, a hungry ghost, he would be cursed with an enormous stomach and a very tiny mouth, not to mention the inability to consume food since he would be a ghost. The constant craving of this Buddhist hungry ghost would lead to a great deal of suffering (duhkha).
  • In this way, Buddhism as a religion seeks to alleviate these symptoms of suffering. The Buddha himself taught Buddhism to be akin to a medical diagnoses. First, there is a problem. Once identified, a Buddhist targets the problem using the proper treatment or medicine. Buddhism suggests a general remedy for the problems and torments of life: the reduction of potential problems and tormentors. For many, becoming a monk or nun is the ultimate treatment to life’s problems. For others, like Buddhist lay people, the Buddha suggests living a highly moral life.
  • Buddhism advocates a middle way between the luxuries of the rich, which create many problems, and a life of poverty which does not fully allow a Buddhist to achieve focus on what is truly wrong. In brief, Buddhism is a meditative religion because it teaches its practitioners to reflect upon the problems and treat them accordingly. Meditation does not always include sitting with ones eyes closed. In fact, most Buddhist teachers suggest incorporating the core principles of meditation in every aspect of life. Solitary meditation in a silent location does not work for everyone and as such the pragmatic solution is to utilize Buddhism wherever one can. A Japanese Zen Buddhist uses meditation to improve their cooking and gardening skills whereas a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner may recite mantras, or holy words repeatedly chanted and blessed by a teacher, to induce a calming state of mind to alleviate stress. 
  • Buddhism is a very old religion from India. However, Buddhism has adapted and become one of the most modern religions in the world. Why? Buddhism is extremely flexible and can accommodate busy professionals or solitary monks or nuns. In every country that Buddhism has migrated to people have made Buddhism their own. At the core is the Buddha’s medical diagnosis: find the problem and solve it. Although the Buddha also taught the laws of rebirth and liberation from suffering using a moral life, these foundational teachings are easy to understand and apply to nearly every facet of life. 
  • To be a Buddhist one does not have to chant or meditate or even actively think about the Buddha. To be a Buddhist, one must find the middle way between over indulgence and extreme denial. At its heart, Buddhism may be called the world’s oldest psychological prognosis to self-improvement. In different countries this attitude manifests itself in a variety of colorful ways.


A Matter Of Fact Statement About Buddhism

Buddhism

  • Buddhism is a philosophy or nontheistic religion which includes a variety of spiritual practices, beliefs and traditions based on teachings of Gautama Buddha, also called the Buddha. As per Buddhist tradition, the Buddha lived between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE in eastern India. Buddhists consider him as an awakened or enlightened teacher.
  • Two main branches of Buddhism are: Theravada ("The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle"). Vajrayana is a part of Mahayana. Theravada is widely followed in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. Mahayana is widely followed throughout East Asia. Buddhism is among the world's major religions. China, India, Bhutan, Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Japan are countries with significant Buddhist populations.

Life of the Buddha

  • Siddhartha Gautama was born in the fifth century BCE. It is believed that shortly after the birth of Prince Gautama, an astrologer met the young prince's father, Suddhodana and predicted that Siddhartha would either reject the material world to grow into a sacred man or become a great king depending on what he saw outside the palace walls.
  • Suddhodana wanted his son become a king, for that reason he disallowed his son to leave the palace grounds. But in spite of his father's efforts, Gautama went outside the palace several times and saw sufferings of ordinary people, meeting an ascetic holy man, a corpse, a sick man and an old man. These experiences encouraged Gautama to give up royal life and take up a spiritual search.
  • Initially Gautama studied with famous religious teachers who taught him meditative attainments. But Gautama found that they didn’t provide a long-lasting end to suffering. He next tried an extreme asceticism. Gautama underwent prolonged exposure to pain, breath-holding and fasting. In the process he virtually starved himself to death. He accepted rice and milk from a village girl and changed his method. He devoted himself to anapanasati meditation, through which he learned a path of moderation between the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence.
  • At the age of 35, he sat under a tree called the Bodhi Tree in the town of Bodh Gaya and swore not to stand up before attaining enlightenment. After several days, he finally demolished the shackles of his mind, thus liberating himself from the cycle of suffering and rebirth, and stood up as a completely enlightened being. Soon after that, he attracted a group of followers and established a monastic order. He gave his first sermon in Sarnath, India. As the Buddha, he spent the rest of his life traveling throughout the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent and teaching the path of awakening. He died in Kushinagar, India at the age of 80.

Buddhist concepts

Saṃsara

  • In Buddhism, samsara is defined as the repetitive cycle of birth and death. Specially, samsara refers to the practice of cycling through one rebirth after another. According to the Buddhist view, liberation from samsara is possible by following the Buddhist path.

Karma

  • In Buddhism, Karma is the force which drives the cycle of suffering and rebirth for each being. Skillful, good deeds and unskillful, bad actions come to fruition either in this life or in a subsequent rebirth. Karma specially refers to those actions of mind, speech or body which originate from mental intent and bring about a result.
  • In Theravada Buddhism there can’t be forgiveness or divine salvation for one's karma, because it’s a purely impersonal process which is a part of the universe. In Mahayana Buddhism, the texts of specific Mahayana sutras assert that the reading or just the hearing of their texts can obliterate great swathes of negative karma.

Rebirth

  • Rebirth means a process from conception to death. As per Buddhism, ultimately there is no such thing as a self independent from the rest of the universe. According to Theravadins, each rebirth takes place within one of five fields or six according to other schools. As per Tibetan and East Asian Buddhism, there is an intermediate state between one life and the next.



Suffering's causes and solution

The Four Noble Truths 

  • The lessons on the Four Noble Truths are considered as fundamental to the lessons of Buddhism and are believed to provide a theoretical framework for Buddhist thought. The four truths are:
  1. The reality of dukkha (unsatisfactoriness, anxiety, suffering)
  2. The reality of the source of dukkha
  3. The reality of the termination of dukkha
  4. The reality of the path leading to the termination of dukkha
  • The first truth describes the characteristics of dukkha. Dukkha is usually translated as "unease", "unsatisfactoriness", "anxiety", "suffering" etc.
  • The second reality is that the source of dukkha can be identified. The third noble truth is that the complete end of dukkha is possible, and the fourth noble truth finds a path to this termination.

Noble Eightfold Path

  • The Noble Eightfold Path, the 4th of the Buddha's Noble Truths, comprises a set of 8 interrelated conditions or factors, that when developed together, lead to the termination of dukkha. These 8 factors are:
  1. Right View: Viewing reality as it is, not just as it looks to be.
  2. Right Intention: Intention of harmlessness, freedom and renunciation.
  3. Right Speech: Speaking in a non-hurtful and truthful way.
  4. Right Action: Acting in a non-harmful way.
  5. Right Livelihood: A non-harmful livelihood.
  6. Right Effort: Making an effort to improve.
  7. Right Mindfulness: Awareness to see things for what they are with clear consciousness without any craving or aversion.
  8. Right Concentration: Correct concentration or meditation.
  • The Dharmachakra represents the Noble Eightfold Path.