Friday, January 6, 2012

Buddha

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Siddartha Gautama or Buddha was a unique and blessed individual who was able to see the world clearly. He was able to build upon the sorrow he experienced and witnessed and preached what must be done to attain happiness and nirvana. His sheltered life helped him to realize the discontent of the world. His genius saw what was clouding his path and the paths of millions of other lost souls. After Siddartha’s unique concentration, he was able to develop methods of achieving happiness. These theories included the well known Four Noble Trusts and the Eight Fold Path. Buddha’s influence has spread throughout the world and includes many different sects.

Siddartha Gautama was born in Nepal, India, just south of the Himalaya mountains to the leading chief of the Shakyas. He was born a Kshatriya. His name means “he who has accomplished his aim.” Legend says that when he was a born a seer or prophet came and predicted his greatness. He was born with several “abnormalities” that lead to his unique destiny. The seer said he was destined to be a great world leader or religious man who would save humanity. His father, fearing that Siddartha would not follow in his footsteps, sheltered his son and gave him great luxuries. Unfortunately, his attempts to protect Siddartha worked in the reverse sense. His sheltered life meant he was never exposed to the various hardships of life. Therefore, when he began to sneak out of the house as a young man, he witnessed and experienced things that tormented his soul. It is said that when he began travels outside his family enclave, Buddha saw a sick man, a poor man, a beggar and a corpse. After a sheltered life of twenty-nine years, those sights filled his soul with infinite sorrow and he left his palace, his wife, and his family. From this departure point, he was on a journey to find the “middle way.” He practiced yoga and meditation.

After Siddartha left the protected and opulent surroundings of palace life, he began his search for happiness. He first began by following a harsh ascetist way of life which included extreme fasting and wretched regimens of concentration or meditation. One of the great revelations of his life came to him upon hearing a music teacher talk about string tension. He realized that the only way to attain enlightenment was to find a balance between pleasure and work. This equilibrium is called the “Middle Way.” According to Buddha everything within a person’s body is linked. Therefore, if a person’s body is in a tormented state then inevitably his mind will be disrupted from its path of concentration. The middle path produces insight and knowledge and leads to peace, wisdom, enlightenment and nirvana. Siddartha then meditated under a tree and finally came to understand “samsara,” which is the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

With this information Siddartha began to call himself Buddha or “awakened one.” This is the time period when Buddha begins to preach about the Four Noble (Aryan) Truths which are

1. all human life is suffering

2. all suffering is caused by desire

3. human suffering can be ended by ending human desire

4. human suffering can be ended by following the Eight Fold Path

Nirvana can be achieved by following the Eight Fold Path. The Eight Fold Path is as follows right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Buddha had several less popular teachings which included the rather pessimistic Three Fold Character of the World and the optimistic Four Cardinal Truths.

After Buddha established his teachings, he preached the doctrine or dharma to his disciples. These disciples became bhikkus who followed him as he taught for several decades until he died at the age of 80. Several years after his death, his philosophy of Buddhism lingered in Asia and finally began to spread. When the doctrine hit Sri Lanka, it spread like wildfire. It spread into hundreds of sects and Sri Lanka kept the original beliefs of Buddha while Indonesia sects began to view Buddha as a god. In our current society, Buddhism is not viewed as a religion because no supreme beings are involved. These beliefs are still held in Sri Lanka where these Buddhist followers called themselves Theravada.

After being deeply involved in the research of Buddha and his beliefs, it is clear that Buddhism is not a religion but more of a therapy or way of life. Buddhism does not include worship or prayer. It does not involve sacrifice, war or violence. It includes teachings of friendship, compassion, joy, and equanimity the Four Cardinal Truths. Buddhism can be followed by anyone and all people may seek Nirvana through better living. Happiness and eternal bliss should be something that any person can achieve. The pursuit of happiness is a right guaranteed to all people, no matter their culture, environment, religion or family. Although Buddhism sounds wonderful to me, there is much pessimism and difficulties inherent in its doctrine. In order to deal with any problem, the first step is to admit what is wrong. To admit what is wrong is to disbelieve your current way of life and to bring tension and anxiety into your being. Additionally, Nirvana takes several lifetimes to achieve. As with any good idea, much effort is involved in conjunction with many hardships to bear and survive. This is the way of life for all living beings.



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