"Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity" Albert Einstein
About 500 B.C. or, 2,500 years old
In India (Asia)
Gautama Siddhartha, or the Buddha "the enlightened One"
Buddhism was founded in Northern India by the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. He was born circa 563 in Lumbini which is in modern-day Nepal. At the age of 29, he left his wife, children and political involvement’s in order to seek truth; was an accepted practice at the time for some men to leave their family and lead the life of an ascetic. He studied Brahminism, but ultimately rejected it. In 535 BCE, he reached enlightenment and assumed the title Buddha (one who has awakened). He is also referred to as the Sakyamuni, (sage of the Sakya clan). He promoted The Middle Way, rejecting both extremes of the mortification of the flesh and of hedonism as paths toward the state of Nirvana. He had many disciples and accumulated a large public following by the time of his death in his early 80’s in 483 BCE.
Two and a half centuries later, a council of Buddhist monks collected his teachings and the oral traditions of the faith into written form, called the Tripitaka. This included a very large collection of commentaries and traditions; most are called Sutras (discourses).
The Tripitaka, Anguttara-Nikaya, DhammaPada, Sutta-Nipatta, Samyutta-Nikayaand many others.
"Buddham Sharanam Ghachhami . Sangam Sharanam Ghachhami "
# OF FOLLOWERS:
Over 330 million people throughout China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, IndoChina, Korea and Tibet.
GIST of BUDDHISM:
The goal of life is "Nirvana" or, Salvation — freedom from the cycle of birth and death and all that is in between on this planet. To achieve this goal, Buddha taught the following:-
1. THE NOBLE TRUTH OF SUFFERING == Life is pain . being born is painful, growing old is pain and sickness is pain and so is death. Union with what we dislike is pain, Separation from what we like is pain and, Not getting what we desire is pain. This is the essential nature of life !
2. THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE CAUSE OF PAIN == It is the motivation of desire that lead to rebirth and further suffering, together with delight and passion. "DESIRE IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL SUFFERING".
3. THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE CESSATION OF PAIN == The complete cessation of desires, the forsaking, relinquishing and detaching of ourselves from desire and craving will automatically end cycles of pleasure and pain, the wheel of birth and rebirth.
4. THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE PATH THAT LEADS TO THE ENDING OF PAIN == This is the Noble Eight-fold Path == right belief, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.
1. The Supreme is completely transcendent and can be described as "Shoonya" — a void or state of nonbeing.
2. The Four Noble Truths: (a) suffering exists, (b) desire is the cause of suffering, (3) suffering may be ended by the annihilation of desire, (d) that to end desire one must follow the 8-Fold path.
3. The 8-Fold Path: right believe, right aims, right speech, right actions, right occupation, right endeavour, right mindfulness and right meditation.
4. Life’s aim is to end suffering through the annihilation of individual existence and absorption into "nirvana" the Real.
5. Belief in the "Middle Path" — living moderately, avoiding extremes of luxury and asceticism.
6. The Greatness of self-giving love and compassion toward all creatures that live, because its merit exceeds the merit of giving of offerings to the Gods.
7. Belief in the sanctity of the Buddha and in the sacred scriptures of Buddhism: Tripitaka (Three Baskets of Wisdom), and/or the Mahayana Sutras.
8. Belief that man’s true nature is divine and eternal, yet the individuality is subject to the change that affects all forms and is therefore transient, dissolving at liberation into nirvana.
9. Belief in Dharma — (the Way), Karma (cause and effect), reincarnation, the sanga (company of seekers), and the passage on earth as an opportunity to end the cycle of birth and d
Buddhism, like most of the great religions of the world, is divided into a number of different traditions. We will deal in this essay with Theravada Buddhism.
Buddhism is a religion which shares few concepts with Christianity. For example, they do not believe in a transcendent or immanent or any other type of God or Gods, the need for a personal savior, the power of prayer, eternal life in a heaven or hell after death, etc. They do believe in reincarnation: the concept that one must go through many cycles of birth, living, and death. After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana.
The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths may be described (somewhat simplicity) as:
to be fully understood: the universality of suffering
to be abandoned: the desire to have and control things which causes suffering
to be made visible: the supreme truth and final liberation of nirvana which is achieved as the cause of suffering is eliminated. The mind experiences complete freedom and liberation
to be brought into being: the truth of the eightfold ariya path leading to the cessation of suffering.
His Eightfold Path consists of:
Buddhism is not a single monolithic religion. Many of its adherents have combined the teachings of the Buddha with local religious rituals, beliefs and customs. Little conflict occurs, because Buddhism at its core is a philosophical system to which such additions can be easily grafted.
After the Buddha’s death, splits occurred. There are now three main systems of thought within Buddhism which are geographically and philosophically separate. Each tradition in turn has many sects. One source (J.R. Hinnels, A Handbook of Living Religions, Penguin, 1991) divides the religion into three main groups by their location:
Southern Buddhism (known as Therevada Buddhism) has 100 million followers, mainly in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and parts of Vietnam. It started in Sri Lanka when Buddhist missionaries arrived from India. They promoted the Vibhajjavada school (Separative Teaching). By the 15th century, this form of the religion reached almost its present extent.
Concepts and practices include:
Dana – thoughtful, ceremonial giving
Sila – accepting Buddhist teaching and following it in practice; refraining from killing, stealing, wrong behavior, use of drugs. On special days, three additional precepts may be added, restricting adornment, entertainment and comfort.
Karma – the balance of accumulated sin and merit, which will determine ones future in the present life, and the nature of the next life to come.
The Cosmos – consists of billions of worlds grouped into clusters; clusters are grouped into galaxies, which are themselves grouped into super-galaxies. The universe also has many levels: four underworlds and 21 heavenly realms.
Paritta – ritual chanting
Worship – of relics of a Buddha, of items made by a Buddha, or of symbolic relics.
Festivals – days of the full moon, and three other days during the lunar cycle are celebrated. There is a new year’s festival, and celebrations tied to the agricultural year.
Pilgrimages – particularly to Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and India.
Eastern Buddhism is the predominant religion in China, Japan, Korea and much of Vietnam. Buddhism’s Mahayana tradition entered China during the Han dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE). It found initial acceptance there among the workers; later, it gradually penetrated the ruling class. Buddhism reached Japan in the 6th century. It underwent severe repression during the 1960’s in China during the Cultural Revolution.
Eastern Buddhism contains many distinct schools: T’ein-t’ai, Hua-yen, Pure Land teachings, and the Meditation school. They celebrate New Years, harvest festivals, and five anniversaries from the lives of Buddha and of the Bodhissattva Kuan-yin. They also engage in Dana, Sila, Chanting. Worship and Pilgrimage.
Northern Buddhism has perhaps 10 million adherents in parts of China, Mongolia, Russia and Tibet. It entered Tibet circa 640 CE. Conflict with the native Tibetan religion of Bon caused it to go largely underground until its revival in the 11th century. The heads of the Gelu school of Buddhist teaching became the Dalai Lama, and ruled Tibet. It has been, until recently, wrongly dismissed as a degenerate form of Buddhism
Ceremony and ritual are emphasized. They also engage in Dana, Sila, Chanting. Worship and Pilgrimage. They developed the practice of searching out a young child at the time of death of an important teacher. The child is believed to be the successor to the deceased teacher. They celebrate New Years, harvest festivals and anniversaries of five important events in the life of the Buddha. Buddhist and Tibetan culture suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution when an attempt was made to destroy all religious belief.
Buddhism in the West
Southern Buddhism became established in Europe early in this century. The Zen Buddhist tradition of Eastern Buddhism has also developed a large following, particularly in North America. Canadian Buddhists totaled 163,415 in the 1991 census.
Author: B.A. Robinson