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An Introduction to Buddhism
The Buddha was born as prince Siddhartha Gautama, to the family of Sakya king of Lumbini, in Nepal, approximately 566 BC. When he was twenty nine years old, he left the comforts of his home to seek the meaning of the suffering he saw around him. Initially he went through arduous yogic training and later abandoned the way of self-mortification and instead sat in mindful meditation beneath a bodhi tree.
On the full moon of May, with the rising of the morning star, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha, the enlightened one. The Buddha wandered the plains of northeastern India for 45 years more, teaching the path or Dharma he had realized in that moment. He died at the age of 80 in 486 BC.
The Basics of Buddhist Wisdom
The Four Noble Truths
1. Life is suffering;
2. Suffering is due to attachment;
3. Attachment can be overcome;
4. There is a path for accomplishing this.
Life is full of suffering or anguish . Attachment , also translated as desire, clinging, greed, craving, or lust is the main cause of this suffering . Because we and the world are imperfect & impermanent, we are forever "clinging" to things, each other, and ourselves, in a mistaken effort at permanence and this is the source of suffering . Hatred is its own kind of clinging. And finally there is avidya, ignorance or the refusal to see. Not fully understanding the impermanence of things is what leads us to cling in the first place.
The overcoming of the attachment- the nirvana or the enlightenment is possible . Nirvana or enlightenment is often thought to be either a Buddhist heaven or complete nothingness. Actually, it refers to the letting go of clinging, hatred, and ignorance, and the full acceptance of imperfection, impermanence, and interconnectedness. And there is a path to attain this state of enlightenment .
The Eightfold Path
- Right view is the true understanding of the four noble truths.
- Right aspiration is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness. These two are referred to as prajña, or wisdom.
- Right speech involves abstaining from lying, gossiping, or hurtful talk.
- Right action involves abstaining from hurtful behaviors, such as killing, stealing, and careless sex.
- Right livelihood means making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals. These three are refered to as shila, or morality.
- Right effort is a matter of exerting oneself in regards to the content of one's mind: Bad qualities should be abandoned and prevented from arising again; Good qualities should be enacted and nurtured.
- Right mindfulness is the focusing of one's attention on one's body, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness in such a way as to overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.
- Right concentration is meditating in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness. The last three are known as samadhi, or meditation.
Buddhism , as originally taught by the Buddha, does not ask you believe in abstract or hypothetical things, , projections and things not supported by logic or experience . It simply recognizes the laws of cause and effect that we see in the physical world.
‘’The effect of whatever we do, mentally , physically or verbally- gets stored in our body in a physical form . This effect of our doings stored in our body is also called Karma in Buddhism. Meditation simply helps to unleash this old, stored Karma and liberates us from the chain of case and effect .’’
Hinayana & Mahayana Traditions of Buddhism
The Hinayana ( Theravada ) tradition practices Buddhism in the original form as taught by the Buddha himself. This path to enlightenment is a very solitary endeavor. The main countries where the Theravada tradition is currently alive are Shri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Laos.
During the course of time, new rituals (others than taught by the Buddha), new practices and thoughts were introduced to Buddhism to help to get the enlightenment quicker and also different techniqes would help people of different types . . This tradition is called Mahayana . This is mainly practiced in China, Tibet , Korea, Japan and Vietnam . In China it is mixed up with Taoism and In Japan , Zen Buddhism is one example of Mahayana Buddhism .
The main Mahayana motivation is to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment. The main vow is to free all sentient beings from suffering. These vows are not taken for this life only, but for all future lives as well, until this goal is achieved. This is why the Lamas (spiritual teachers) take rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibetan Buddhism belongs to the Mahayana tradition of the Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism combines the essential teachings of Buddhism with Tantric and Shamanic, and material from an ancient Tibetan religion called Bon.
Tantric systems transform the basic human passions of desire and aversion for the purpose of spiritual development. Rather than denying such primal urges, tantra purifies them into wholesome and helpful forces. It is very much like trying to deal with a wild horse charging towards you. One way is denial: put up your hands and shout out, "stop, stop!" Probably you will be bowled over by the animal. Another, more clever, approach is to step aside and then jump on its back as it charges past you. In such a case, you have a chance to start coaxing it to move in certain directions, and over time you may be able to direct it into a stable. Truthfully, one needs some skill in both self-control and acceptance if one is to be successful with tantric work.
Tantra is widely used in Hiduism for spiritual development . Even sex is used as an instrument . The erotic carvings in the Hindu temples of India and Nepal should be understood in the same light . Tantra went to Tibet from India and played an important part in the development of what we know of today as Tibetan Buddhism .
Tibetan Tantra ( Vajrayana ) itself has various schools which can be grouped by the relative emphasis they place on working with exoteric and esoteric practices.
Tibetan Buddhism is strong in both monastic communities and among lay people.
The lay version has a strong emphasis on outwardly religious activities rather than the inner spiritual life: there is much ritual practice at temples, pilgrimage is popular - often including many prostrations, and prayers are repeated over and over - with the use of personal or public prayer wheels and flags. There are many festivals, and funerals are very important ceremonies.
Lay people provide physical support to the monasteries as well as relying on the monks to organise the rituals.
Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism
Nyingmapa: Founded by Padmasambhava, this is oldest sect, noted in the West for the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Kagyupa: Founded by Tilopa (988-1069), the Kagyupa tradition is headed by the Karmapa Lama. Important Kagyupa teachers include Naropa, Marpa, and Milarepa.
Sakyapa: Created by Gonchok Gyelpo (1034-1102) and his son Gunga Nyingpo (1092-1158).
Gelugpa: (The Virtuous School) Founded by Tsong Khapa Lobsang Drakpa (also called Je Rinpoche) (1357 - 1419), this tradition is headed by the Dalai Lama.