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INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM


Buddhism is a religion to about 500 million people around the world. The word comes from 'budhi', 'to awaken'. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago. Founder of the Buddhism was Gautama Buddha. The religion Buddhism is based on Gauthama Buddha’s teachings.

 

Table of Contents

 

Introduction

Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, was born into a royal family in Lumbini near Kapila Vastu, in the sixth century 563 B.C. in what is now modern Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Sakya people and Siddhartha grew up living the extravagant life of a young prince. According to custom, he married at the young age of sixteen to a girl named Yasodhara. His father had ordered that he live a life of total seclusion, but one day Siddhartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the reality of the inevitable suffering of life.

 

Four realities of life

According to legend, an astrologer foretold his father, the king, that young Gautama would give up the throne and luxury and renounce the world the day he would see four things (i) an old man, (ii) a sick man, (iii) a diseased man and (iv) a dead man. Hence, the king confined Gautama in a special palace which was provided with all worldly pleasures. He was married at the age of sixteen to Yasoddhra.

 

At the age of 29 after the birth of his first son, Gautama on the same day saw an old man, a sick man, a diseased man and a dead man. The impact of the dark side of life made him renounce the world that same night and he left his wife and son and became a penniless wanderer. He realized that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness.

 

He studied and practiced Hindu discipline initially, and later, Jainism. For several years he observed rigorous fasting along with extreme self-mortification. On realizing that tormenting his body did not bring him closer to true wisdom, he resumed eating normally and abandoned asceticism.

 

The Buddha or The Enlightened One

At the age of 35, one evening as he sat beneath a giant fig tree (Bodh tree), he felt that he had found the solution to his problem and felt that he had attained enlightenment. Thus, he came to be known as 'Gautama', 'The Buddha', or 'The Enlightened One'.

 

Later, he spent 45 years in preaching the truth that he felt he had discovered. He travelled from city to city bare-footed, clean-headed, with nothing more on his self than his saffron robe, walking stick and begging bowl.

 

For six years, Siddhartha submitted himself to rigorous ascetic practices, studying and following different methods of meditation with various religious teachers. But he was never fully satisfied. One day, however, he was offered a bowl of rice from a young girl and he accepted it. In that moment, he realized that physical austerities were not the means to achieve liberation. From then on, he encouraged people to follow a path of balance rather than extremism. He called this The Middle Way.

 

After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism — called the Dhamma, or Truth — until his death. He died at the age of 80 in the year 483 BC.

 

Sects

Buddhism is divided into two sects ie,

1.      Hinayana and

2.      Mahayana [1]

 

Buddhist Scriptures

 Historical criticism has proved that the original teachings of Buddha can never be known. It seems that Gautama Buddha's teachings were memorized by his disciples. After Buddha's death a council was held at Rajagaha so that the words of Buddha could be recited and agreed upon. There were differences of opinion and conflicting memories in the council. Opinion of Kayshapa and Ananda who were prominent disciples of Buddha were given preference. A hundred years later, a second council at Vesali was held. Only after 400 years, after the death of Buddha were his teachings and doctrines written down. Little attention was paid regarding its authenticity, genuineness and purity.

 

Buddhist Scriptures can be divided into Pali and Sanskrit Literature.

 

Teachings of Buddha

A. Noble Truths
 
The principal teachings of Gautama Buddha can be summarised in what the Buddhists call the 'Four Noble Truths'.

First - There is suffering and misery in life .

Second - The cause of this suffering and misery is desire.

Third - Suffering and misery can be removed by removing desire.

Fourth - Desire can be removed by following the Eight Fold Path.
 
 
B. The Noble Eight Fold Path
 
(i) Right Views

(ii) Right Thoughts

(iii) Right Speech

(iv) Right Actions

(v) Right Livelihood

(vi) Right Efforts

(vii) Right Mindfulness

(viii) Right Meditation
 
 
C. Nirvana
 
Nirvana' literally means "blowing out" or "extinction". According to Buddhism, this is the ultimate goal of life and can be described in various words. It is a cessation of all sorrows, which can be achieved by removing desire by following the Eight Fold Path. [2]

 

See Also

BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES; CONCEPT OF GOD in Buddhism; Prophet MUHAMMAD IN BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES; Teachings of Buddhism;

 

References

[1] http://www.islamawareness.net/Buddhism/gautam.html

[2] http://irf.net/Buddhism.html

 

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