What is Buddhism?
Buddhisms core belief system can be understood by understanding the three basic teachings of Buddha:
- The Three Universal Truths
- The Four Noble Truths
- The Noble Eightfold Path
The Three Universal Truths:
- Nothing is lost in the universe
- Everything Changes
- The Law of Cause and Effect
The Four Noble Truths:
- Dukkha: Suffering exists: Life is suffering. Suffering is real and almost universal. Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, and the impermanence of pleasure.
- Samudaya: There is a cause of suffering. Suffering is due to attachment. It is the desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.
- Nirodha: There is an end to suffering. Attachment can be overcome. Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (Nibbana). The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving.
- Magga: In order to end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path. There is a path for accomplishing this.
The Noble Eightfold Path:
- Samma Ditthi: Right Understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Right View is the true understanding of the four noble truths.
- Samma Sankappa: Right thinking; following the right path in life. Right Aspiration is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness. These two are referred to as Prajna, or Wisdom. Sila: Virtue, morality:
- Samma Vaca: Right speech: No lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language. Right Speech involves abstaining from lying, gossiping, or hurtful talk.
- Samma Kammanta: Right conduct or Right Action involves abstaining from hurtful behaviors, such as killing, stealing, and careless sex. These are called the Five Precepts.
- Samma Ajiva: Right livelihood: Support yourself without harming others. Right Livelihood means making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals. These three are referred to as Shila, or Morality. Samadhi: Concentration, meditation:
- Samma Vayama: Right Effort: Promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts. Right Effort is a matter of exerting oneself in regards to the content of one's mind: Bad qualities should be abandoned and prevented from arising again. Good qualities should be enacted and nurtured.
- Samma Sati: Right Mindfulness: Become aware of your body, mind and feelings. Right Mindfulness is the focusing of one's attention on one's body, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness in such a way as to overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.
- Samma Samadhi: Right Concentration: Meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness. Right Concentration is meditating in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness
Who, or what is Buddha?
Growing up, the Buddha was exceptionally intelligent and compassionate. Tall, strong, and handsome, the Buddha belonged to the Warrior caste. His father was king who ruled the tribe, known to be financially poor and on the outskirts geographically. His mother died seven days after giving birth to him, but a holy man prophesized great things for the young Siddhartha (meaning "he who achieves his aim").The holy man predicted Buddha would either be a great king, military leader or he would be a great spiritual leader.
You may have already guessed how Buddha turned out.
Buddha was hidden away by his father to protect him from the harsh reality of the outside world. Religion, war and poverty were all unknown by the young prince, until the age of 29.
He was confronted with the realism of mortality and suffering. On a rare outing from his luxurious palace, he saw someone desperately sick. The next day, he saw a decrepit old man, and finally a dead person. He soon became aware that this was the fate of everyone, his loved ones and including himself .
This experience, mixed with the meeting of a man meditating, took him on the journey to seek enlightenment. His eyes had met the meditators, and their minds linked, prompting the prince to seek enlightenment through the mind. He left the royal life behind and over the next six years, he met many talented meditation teachers and mastered their techniques.
The prince spent many years meditating, even training his body through fasting and strict routine, inflicting pain upon himself and refusing water.
None of this was giving him the satisfaction he was seeking.
Then one day when a young girl offered him a bowl of rice. As he accepted it, he suddenly realised that punishment and plainness was not the way to achieve the satisfaction he sought, and that living under harsh physical constraints was not helping him achieve spiritual release. So he had his rice, drank water and bathed in the river. From then on, the prince encouraged people to follow a path of balance instead of one characterised by extremism. He called this path the Middle Way.
The Prince decided he will focus and reflect upon his thoughts through meditation until he found his way. He remained in the same place for several days underneath a tree, which lead him to battle demons and find understanding.
Soon a picture began to form in his mind of all that occurred in the universe, and Siddhartha finally saw the answer to the questions of suffering that he had been seeking for so many years. In that moment of pure enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha ("he who is awake").
After his enlightenment, Buddha traveled on foot throughout northern India. He taught constantly for forty-five years. People of all castes and professions, from kings to courtesans, were drawn to him. He answered their questions, always pointing towards that which is ultimately real.
Where is Buddhism Practiced?
Buddhism is a religion practiced by an estimated 535 million people as of the representing 9% to 10% of the world's total population. China is the country with the largest population of Buddhists, approximately 244 million or 18.2% of its total population.
Countries with largest Buddhist population: (source - Wikipedia)
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