History and Origin
The origin of Buddhism is grateful to the historical Buddha, who was known as Siddhartha Gautam in his young age. Siddhartha Gautam was born in Lumbini (present day Nepal) during 5th century B.C. He was born to King Suddhodana and Gautami. Siddhartha got married to Yasodhara and had one son named Rahula from this marriage.
When Siddhartha was a child, a holy man predicted that he will either become a great conqueror or a great spiritual teacher. King Suddhodana wanted Siddhartha to become the former one so he built the entire establishment in such a way that there was happiness and only happiness all around. Siddhartha did not know what pain and suffering meant. However, once while strolling around, Siddhartha happened to see people who were hungry, sad, poor, ill and so on. He realized that the truth was far different from what he knew and thus he went on his journey of seeking the truth.
During this journey, Siddhartha Gautama leaded a sect called the Sramanas who wandered all around. This sect came to be known as Sangha then on. Post demise of Siddhartha Gautama, this sect took the shape of a religion-like structure and the teachings of Siddhartha became the centre and thus evolved Buddhism.
As a religion in India
Dating back to the 300s BC, King Asoka converted himself into a Buddhist. This accelerated the spread of Buddhism in India even more. Asoka persuaded a lot of other Indians to become Buddhists. Monasteries were set up in a number of places by Buddhist monks. Some of these monasteries were developed into centres for scholarship and research. Nalanda university in north-east India is one such example where people from as far as China got enrolled to study with the Buddhists.
Just as there are holy man in Hinduism and saints in Christianity, Bodhisatvas are people in Buddhist religion, who are special or closer to God than ordinary people. According to Buddhism, the core goal of one’s existence, one’s life was to become enlightened and liberate one’s self from the vicious circle of birth and death. Enlightenment refers to being one with God or attain Nirvana. Bodhisatvas were those people who were enlightened but preferred to remain on Earth to guide other people towards enlightenment. Kuanyin and Jizo are one of the famous Bodhisatvas.
Teachings of Buddha
When Buddha saw unhappiness and helplessness all around, he was deeply troubled with some questions in his mind. Why did the leaf fall? Why did the birds die? What caused suffering to the ill animal? He wanted to know the cause of suffering around him.
The answers to all these questions were manifested to Buddha during his enlightenment. He transformed this manifestation in the form of three simple truths such that even a layman can understand.
1. Nothing is lost in the universe
It is a universal truth that nothing is actually lost. That is to say, matter turns into energy, energy turns into matter. For instance, the seed produces plant, plant produces seed. One human gives birth to another human. A leaf turns into soil. In simple words, everything is transformed from one form to another. Nothing is destroyed or lost.
2. Change is the rule
Another universal truth according to the Buddha is that everything changes incessantly in the world. Life moves on continuously amidst all these changes. Just like a river flows without bothering what kind of obstacles fall on her way – through the mountains, smooth surfaces, through soil, stones and finally meets the ocean.
At the end, what remains there, is the change itself. The biggest example of this is – the existence of dinosaurs. Though these creatures became extinct, life on Earth continued with the existence of human and other creatures. The end of dinosaurs did not mark the end of life.
3. Law of Karma
One can never touch water without creating ripples in it. Yes, the rule of cause and effect implies here. This rule is called the law of Karma by the Buddha. Nothing happens unless and until we don’t deserve it. As you sow, so you reap. If we do good things, good things will happen to us. If we do evil to others, bad will follow in future. This is the law of Karma.
“The kind of seed sown will produce that kind of fruit.
Those who do good will reap good results.
Those who do evil will reap evil results.
If you carefully plant a good seed,
You will joyfully gather good fruit.”
The Bodhi Tree
Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment under a peepal tree. After enlightenment of the Buddha, this tree was called the Tree of Enlightenment. This place is located in Bodhgaya, present day Bihar. The parent tree is no longer alive there however people visit Bodhgaya even today to see the tree born out of the parent tree.
The noble eightfold path
During his first discourse, the Buddha explained the Dharma Wheel with eight spokes in it. He said that the eight spokes on the Dharma wheel represented the noble eightfold path. He further explained what each of the spokes represented.
1. Right View
The right view implies vision of the Buddha that is to see life through the eyes of wisdom and compassion.
2. Right Thought
Buddha says that we become what we think. Thus, he emphasizes on keeping the thoughts kind and clear so that they bring strength and goodness.
3. Right Speech
Humble and kind words earn us trust and respect from others. Similarly, few words of help or favour can create wonders.
4. Right Conduct
Conduct is the overall behaviour that reflects our character. According to the Buddha, keeping the right conduct is one of the dharma wheels.
5. Right Livelihood
Everyone needs to earn livelihood. But one must not do this at the cost of others or by harming them. Seeking happiness at the cost of others fetches you bad karmas. So it is better to find an earning resource carefully.
6. Right Effort
A valuable life is the one which goes in the direction of goodwill. One has to go towards making the right efforts in the right direction that is for the welfare of all.
7. Right Mindfulness
Right mindfulness indicates to look for the right thoughts, words, and actions and be careful about the same.
8. Right Concentration
Concentration brings a sense of calmness and tranquility as the focus is on one thought only. It brings immense peace of mind.
Here are few quotes from the Buddha which bring about a synopsis of the message that he wanted to convey to the mankind.
”What we think, we become.” -Buddha
”You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” -Buddha
”Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” -Buddha
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