What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the
world. The word comes from 'budhi', 'to awaken'. It has its origins
about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha,
was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.
Is Buddhism a Religion?
To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy
or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means
love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:
lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.
How Can Buddhism Help Me?
Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice
and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice
or way of life that leads to true happiness.
Why is Buddhism Becoming Popular?
Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries for a number
of reasons, The first good reason is Buddhism has answers to many
of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes
(for those who are interested) a deep understanding of the human
mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists around
the world are now discovering to be both very advanced and effective.
Who Was the Buddha?
Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now
located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised 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. After six years of study and meditation he
finally found 'the middle path' and was enlightened. After enlightenment,
the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles
of Buddhism called the Dhamma, or Truth until his
death at the age of 80.
Was the Buddha a God?
He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a
path to enlightenment from his own experience.
Do Buddhists Worship Idols?
Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in
worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands
rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us
to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. Bowing to
the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.
Why are so Many Buddhist Countries Poor?
One of the Buddhist teachings is that wealth does not guarantee
happiness and also wealth is impermanent. The people of every
country suffer whether rich or poor, but those who understand
Buddhist teachings can find true happiness.
Are There Different Types of Buddhism?
There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis
changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What
does not vary is the essence of the teaching the Dhamma
Are Other Religions Wrong?
Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other
beliefs or religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings
of other religions but Buddhism goes further by providing a long
term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding.
Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like
'Christian', 'Moslem', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'; that is why there
have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That
is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain
if an explanation is sought.
Is Buddhism Scientific?
Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends
upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws.
The core of Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four
Noble truths (see below) can be tested and proven by anyone in
fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching
rather than accept his word as true. Buddhism depends more on
understanding than faith.
What did the Buddha Teach?
The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism
can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold
What is the First Noble Truth?
The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes
pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure
psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment,
disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot
be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism
is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how
suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.
What is the Second Noble Truth?
The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion.
We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation,
if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc.
In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness.
Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to
modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness.
A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to
continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the
individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering
because it causes us to be reborn.
What is the Third Noble Truth?
The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness
can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible.
lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a
time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we
can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to
help others. This is Nirvana.
What is the Fourth Noble Truth?
The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which
leads to the end of suffering.
What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?
In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what
we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully
aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding
the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.
What are the 5 Precepts?
The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main
five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take
anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and
sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to
avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.
What is Karma?
Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions
have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality
in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why
some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of
all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions.
How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is
summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2)
effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.
What is Wisdom?
Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion.
At one extreme, you could be a good hearted fool and at the other
extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism
uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing
that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and
do not constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing
what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth
and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind.
The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and
What is Compassion?
Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort,
sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand
others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.
How do I Become a Buddhist?
Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism
teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves
not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his
word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves.
ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility
for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less
of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety,
and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their
by Brian White 1993, with thanks to Ven S. Dhammika.