It's a strange
fact that those who live closest to wonders of the world, like
the Great Barrier Reef of Australia or the Taj Mahal of India,
often take no notice of them at all. These incredible places
become too familiar; they seem too accessible and their magic
is somehow lost. People seem to think they can learn about the
wonders so close to them at any time, but so often never get
around to making a start.
habit we sometimes have of missing out on the wonders
that are with us in life all the time, simply because we ignore
them or just don't notice them at all that Buddhists
are hoping to avoid. Perhaps this is also the reason that Buddhism
is still popular and interesting to people all over the world
today, even though the Buddha first taught His ideas more than
2,500 years ago.
the world, many people have heard of Buddhism. You might have
heard the name of Buddha, perhaps you've even visited a Buddhist
temple or met people who call themselves Buddhists but
what is Buddhism really all about?
is taught as a way to the welfare and happiness of all using
keys to reveal the true nature of the world and practices to
maintain a right relationship with the self and with the world
and those in it. Buddhism is a religion, a series of practices
and a way of life based on the teachings of the Buddha who,
after achieving enlightenment, taught that the nature of the
world is constant change. Buddha taught that everything in the
world is impermanent and that it is the failure to understand
this true nature of life on Earth that leads to much of our
unhappiness, suffering and trouble. Buddhism is a way to correct
our view, conduct and expectations of life in order that we
can bring an end to suffering and share in the happiness, wisdom,
peace and Nirvana that Buddha himself discovered after following
the paths of the lessons he has since laid down as the foundations
life and His Teachings inspire individuals who practice Buddhism
to develop self-reliance, moral responsibility, tolerance, compassion,
wisdom and many other qualities that can enrich happiness and
make life more meaningful in today's world. Along with these
qualities, an understanding of the true nature of things will
enable the Buddhist to live in harmony with a changing world
and to enjoy the highest level of happiness.
It is sometimes
said that Buddhism focuses on the unhappy side of life or takes
a pessimistic view. This may be because the key teaching focuses
on the nature and causes of suffering. However, this is only
one side of the story. In focusing on suffering and its causes,
Buddhism is actually committed to realising and developing happiness.
There are many kinds of happiness recognized in Buddhism as
true and lasting. Some of these are contentment, freedom of
enjoyment, debtlessness and happiness from being good. However,
Buddhism is not optimistic either, it does not teach that the
world is full of happiness.
aim of Buddhism is to clear a Buddhist student's vision so that
they might see things as they really are. With this insight
to the true nature of things, a Buddhist can then understand
that there is no point in trying to change the world, but that
they are free to change themselves, their attitude to the world
and their part in it in ways which will lead to wisdom and happiness.
near Nepal on the full moon of May in 623 BC, Buddha was first
named Prince Siddhartha Gautama, meaning 'wish-fulfilled'. Following
a series of profound signs and prophecies about his important
spiritual future, Prince Siddhartha was well-educated, married
and lived a wealthy and happy life until four great omens changed
his views about existence.
his palace one day he came across first a decrepit old man,
then a diseased man, a corpse and a hermit these encounters,
known as The Four Sights, were the Prince's first awakening
to deeper truths about life.
At 29, he
left the royal court to wander the country as a monk searching
for a way to end suffering. There are many stories about Prince
Siddhartha's journeys and how they led him finally to Enlightenment,
which Buddhists describe as true insight into the meaning of
life and perfect peace. At 35, Prince Siddhartha achieved this
state of Enlightenment, also known as Buddhahood and Nirvana,
and lived from then on as the Buddha; teaching, serving humanity
and offering an example of a way of life and a state of mind
that we still know as Buddhism.
Buddhism began about 2,500 years ago, the Teachings are still
strong today, and there are growing numbers of students and
Buddhists all around the world. This is not a tradition of the
past, but a growing part of life in the modern world.
As a way
of life, Buddhism aims to teach people how to grow in maturity
and wisdom so that they may understand themselves better and
learn more about the world in which they live. Many Buddhist
studies teach about everyday life and how to cope with the events
and situations common to all people. From this basic level,
Buddhism aims to help its students develop attitudes towards
life that will improve their relationships with family, friends
and the people in our daily lives. Buddhist students also learn
practices to develop their minds so that they can experience
life in a true way, rather than as the mind imagines it to be.
draw on the story of the Buddha who showed through His own experience
that there is a way to end all suffering and attain supreme
happiness. The Buddha's teachings, because of this great secret,
offer Buddhists hope and the opportunity for a content and meaningful
Spirit of Free Inquiry (See the
Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry above)
The spirit of free inquiry is an important feature of Buddhism.
The Buddha encouraged people to investigate the truth of His
Teachings for themselves before accepting his ideas. He never
expected people to practise His Teaching out of 'blind faith'
and superstition, but instead encouraged a free spirit of
questions and contemplation. Buddhists believe that people
should accept and practise Teachings and lifestyles they find,
through their own experience, to be physically and mentally
Buddhism also stresses the importance of self-reliance and
individual effort. There are the two main ways that Buddhists
focus on self-reliance. Firstly, each person must work out
for themselves the way to end their own suffering and attain
happiness. And secondly, it is up to each person to realise
that it is their own actions that determine their future.
In Buddhists thinking, each individual's destiny is not determined
by an outside power but by the way we live our own lives and
our personal attitudes to suffering, happiness and the world
around us. This means that every one of us is responsible
for our own actions. Every one of us can progress or develop
only as much as our own efforts allow. Buddhists learn that
dedication, self-discipline and wise judgment are the keys
to reaching the highest goals in life.
Because Buddhism respects the right of all people to inquire
freely and to make their own choices, it also teaches tolerance
toward other faiths and ways of life. Buddhist students are
taught to live in harmony with everybody, regardless of race
All living things are equal to a Buddhist. Universal loving-kindness,
(a gentle and warm approach to life) together with a compassionate
attitude, are the main ways that Buddhists accept not only
other people, but all other creatures. All living things,
humans and animals alike, share the same environment
we are all part of the same world, as we know from learning
about the environment and about nature. If people want to
live happily, Buddhism teaches that we must each have concern
for the welfare of the other living things that we are here
sharing the world with.
There is no conflict between the discoveries of science, even
in the modern technological world of today, and the ancient
teachings of the Buddha. Buddhists agree that many things
He taught about 2,500 years ago have actually been proven
by science! The
importance of the power of the mind, the impermanence of things
even breakthroughs that seemed incredible to science
like the divisibility of the atom, the relativity of matter
and energy and the structure of the universe were all taught
by the Buddha even before science. A Buddhist does not ignore
the facts that science teaches about mankind and the universe,
but learns that modern thinking often has ancient roots.
is a strong faith that continues to grow and attract followers
all over the world. It began more than 2,500 years ago with
the story of Prince Siddhartha, who became Buddha after achieving
teachings describe a way to end suffering, achieve happiness
and live in harmony with all living things. Buddhist students
are encouraged to learn by investigation and experience, they
are taught that it is only through their own efforts that they
can achieve goals and peace. Buddhism teaches tolerance toward
other faiths, loving-kindness and compassion for all living
things. Buddhists respect and use science, they believe many
of the Buddha's teachings have been proven by science.