According to Webster’s definition, Buddhism is not a religion. It states that
religion is the belief in or worship of God or gods(Webster’s New World Dictionary
pg.505). The Buddha was not a god(About Buddhism pg.1). There is no theology, no
worship of a deity or deification of the Buddha(Butter pg.1) in Buddhism. Therefore
Buddhists don’t pray to a creator god(Buddhism FAQ’s pg.1). Consequently, Buddhism
is catagorized as a philosophy, but is still regarded it as a religion. The name Buddhism
comes from the word ‘budhi’ which means to wake up and thus Buddhism is the
philosophy of awakening(What is Buddhism pg.1). Fittingly, buddha literally means
‘awakened one'( Buddhist Basics pg.1).
Buddha are aimed soley to liberate sentient beings from suffering(About
Buddhism pg.1). They dedicate their lives to showing others the way to end the viscous
cycle of samsara, or reincarnation. Buddha are enlightened beings who had the
opportunity to reach the ultimate goal, but turned back to help the rest of the world get to
where they were.
The ultimate goal is to attain Nirvana. Nirvana simply means cessation(The Goal
pg.1). It is the cessation of passion, aggression and ignorance(The Goal pg.1).
Nirvana is the highest happiness(What is Buddhism pg.5). It has become equated with a
sort of Eastern version of heaven.(The Goal pg.1). The way to reach Nirvana is to
become empty, to become enpty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure, and sorrow- to let the
Self die(Hesse pg.11). Freedom from the Self liberates(About Buddhism pg.1). Once
Nirvana is achieved one can escape the cyclical repetition of life, in which one is
reincarnated over and over again.
In Buddhism, the world is in flux, coming into existence and passing
away(Buddhist Basics pg.5). It is a continuous cycle. Time is often viewed to be like
that of a river. If you’ve seen a river you’d have seen that the water continually flowed
and flowed and yet it was always there; It was always the same yet every moment it was
new(Hesse pg.83). Breaking this cycle was the main goal of the Buddha. This has been
the way of thinking in Buddhism, since its beginning.
Buddhism emerged in India more than 2.5 thousand years ago as a religious and
philosophical teaching(Buddhism pg.1). In fact Buddhism is the most ancient of the
four world religions(Buddhism pg.1). They have many followers. Although an exact
number cannot be calculated, for various reasons, one can speak of approximately 400
billion lay practitioners and 1 billion Buddhist monks and nuns in the world(Buddhism
pg.1). Buddhism was not started by the first Buddha, for there have been many
Buddha(Buddhist Basics pg.1), but by the historical Buddha.
Siddartha fasting as a Samana.
The historical Buddha was born in approximately 563 B.C.E. in Northern
India(Who is Buddha pg.1). His birth took place in the towm of Kapilavastu (located in
today’s Nepal)(Introduction to Buddhism pg.2). He was named Siddartha, which
means ‘he whose aim is accomplished'(Introduction to Buddhism pg.2). Siddartha’s
parents were King Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, who ruled the Sakyas(Introduction to
Buddhism pg. 2). Being the historical Buddha, his compassion and patience were
legendary(What is Buddhism pg. 3). He is seen as a timeless mirror of mind’s inherent
potential(Who is Buddha pg.1). His teaching make being fearless, joyful, and
kind(Who is Buddha pg 1). Although Buddha felt that nobody finds salvation through
teachings(Buddhism FAQ’s pg.1), he did have Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha; the
law of the Buddha(FAQ’S pg.1). Because of the way he felt about teachings, Buddha
strongly encouraged his followers to ‘be a lamp unto themselves’ and put his teachings to a
test(Buddhist Basics pg.2). His Dharma consisted of The Four Noble Truths and The
Eightfold Path. These are the central teachings of the Buddha(Tokyo n.pag.).
Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
The First Noble Truth is that there is suffering. If people were to look at their own
lives and the world around them they would realize that life is full of suffering. We suffer
because we are constantly struggling to survive(Butter pg.2). Suffering may be Physical
or Mental(Tokyo n.pag.). Physical suffering comes in many different forms. An example
of such suffering is aged people. They cannot hear as well, see as far or clearly, or move
as limberly as they used to be able to. The truth is that the suffering of birth, old age,
sickness, and death is unavoidable(Tokyo n.pag.). Besides physical suffering, there are
also various forms of mental suffering. This suffering usually occurs due to one’s
attraction to impermanent pleasures. An example of this is a person finding a new friend
and being elated