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Buddhism is a religion..Buddhism is a philosophy based on the teachings Buddha, There is some debate as to the exact year that Buddhism was formed, but it is believed that the buddhism religion began in the 6th century B.C. in Nepal by Siddhartha Guatama. When Siddhartha was a young man, he left society and went to meditate on the causes and relief of human suffering. Six years later, Siddhartha achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha. He began to teach others how to achieve enlightenment, too. In the 3rd century B.C., the Indian emperor Ashoka spread Buddhism by sending missionaries to Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, and other parts of Asia. Gradually Buddhism has spread worldwide.

For two and a half thousand years, people have followed a buddhism religion based on the teachings of a man they called the Buddha, meaning the Enlightened One. The starting pint in Buddism is mankind and the way in which they suffer not just physical pain but the general feelings of dissatification with life, the craving to achieve or have something more, the fear of change and death. It seeks to give a person peace of mind and to encourage and develop loving compassion towards all living beings.

To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.

Buddhism is not a dogmatic religion in the sense that it does not required a person to accept fixed beliefs and ideas. It does not concern itself by debationg whether or not there is a God. It regards all such beliefs as secondary importance. The main thing is to help people overcome suffering and to achieve a full life. The goal of Buddism religion is enlightenment which means to be fully awake to the reality of life, to have an understanding of why there is suffering in the world and how it man be overcome. Buddhists claim that in the teaching of the Buddha they find a path which will eventually lead them to achieve this enlightement for themselves.

There is great variety within Buddhism. Ther are two main Branches of the religion - Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism in the North. Nevertheless there is a common basis to all Buddhism expressed in what is called the Triple Jewel (Tri Ratna). The Buddha ( the enlightened one), the Dharma (teaching) and the Sangha (community of monks.)

I look upon the judgements of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of
a dragon, and the rise and fall of belief as traces left by the four seasons.
Attributed to Buddha




Difference of opinons and arguments arising from time to time caused the formation of new sects. Finally there arose two sects of thought which are known as Hinayana and Mahyana. The Hinayana adhered more to the concept of four noble truths and eightfold paths which were primarly a philoshophy with rules of conducts and ethics. For them the worship of deities was secondary. The conception of Nirvana was the freedom from the cycle of rebirth. Hinayana got it's name because this doctrine is meant for the individual salvation where each person has to work out his own destiny comparatively few are able by their own efforts to obtain emancipation and chieve Nirvana. Hinayan Buddhism is alos called Theravada Buddhism.

Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism
Literal: School of the Elders (Small Vehicle)
Main Focus: Four Noble Truths, Meditation, Sage Buddha
Main adherents: Southeast Asia


Early Buddhism stressed that the goal of each individuals was to seek freedom from the chain of rebirth and thus from all sufferings and death. the word used to describe this goal was Nirvana. Although there were man different philosophical schools, the religion centered around the instituiton fo the monastery, with its ordained monks and a lay congregation that supported the monastery. the ritual were simple and minimum. Mediation and introspection were encouraged. Each individual sought his own Nirvana. where as in Mahayana Buddhism the concept of Boddhisatwa, the being who desired highest enlightnment for the welfare of other and his practice of six Parmita (Dana, Sila, Kshanti, Birya, Bhyana, Prajna ) is emphaised. The function of the Boddhisatwa was to postpone his own final leap into Nirvana and to remain in the round as long as a single sentient beings remained undelivered form suffering. This form of Buddhism came to be known as Mahayana (the great way) or the Boddhisatwyana.

The goal of Mahayana is attain buddhahood. The method of attaining was modified. Buddhism changed through Mahayana into an altruistic faith oriented system in wihch in addition to meditative practices, devotion to a Boddhisatwa was as an equally valid way to reach Buddhahood. The goal was now characterised as the state of Tatatha, emptiness and nonduality.

Mahayana Buddhism
Literal: Large Vehicle
Main Focus: Four Noble Truths, Meditation, Divine Buddha, Bodhisattvas.
Main adherents: China, Japan, and Korea
Subdivisions : Pure Land School, Tian Dai (China) or Tendai (Japan) Buddhism
Confucianism Influence
Chan (China) or Zen (Japan) Buddhism
Daoism Influence
Main Focus: Meditation, Chanting , Teacher-Student dialog, Sometimes influences Tea ceremoni.


Mahayan which is dominated by Mantras is known as mantryana. Tantrayana or Vajrayana. It is characterised as the path which leads to perfect enlightenment. Vajrayana literally means the adamantine path or vehicle, but its technical meaning is the 'Sunya Vahicle' where Sunya is used to special sense to represent vajra. Vajra also mens "Thunderbolt" or 'diamond' and Yana means 'Path, Way or Vehicle'.

Bajra, connoting diamond, was chosen as the name of the tantric Buddhist tradition because of the diamond's industructability as well as of its physical ability to cut through all substances. Vajrayana constitutes the last major stage in the development of Buddhism.

Vajrayana Buddhism accepts all assumptions of Mahayana, but expands and elaborates them futher adding a few of its own. the goal is now characterised as Boddhi Nature ( the matrix of Enlightment). Every sentient being is a potential Buddha, but he or she is unware of it beacuse of the dense fog of ignorance that clouds the mind. the fog is said to be discursive thought, which discriminates and polarises all concepts. Once it is moved Boddhi nature will emerge like a clear ligh. This state of reality it achieved by combining "Prajna" (Knowledge, wisdom or insight) with "Upaya" (means of fitness of action which is the same as karuna or compassion). Thus, both literally and figuratively, Vajrayana is the belief in the twin principles of insight and compassion and in their "Sahaja" (co-emergence) which leads one to the state of Mahasukha (greatbliss).

Vajrayana Buddhism
Literal: Diamond Vehicle
Main Focus: Meditation, Chanting, Enlightenment in one lifetime, Tibetan gods and demons, Religious visualizations, Philosophical debate, Ritual, Yoga, Tantric Sex.
Main adherents: Tibet.


Every religion has a set of ideas that serve as the basis for the teachings that it offers. These are called presuppositions. These are concepts about the nature of existence that are the basis for the teachings of the religion. For example, the major Judeo-Christian-Islamic presupposition is that there is a universal creator God who can affect our day to day existence. The Buddhist presuppositions originated in early philosophical and religious speculation that took place in India between 4500 and 2500 years ago. They are as follows:

A. The Buddhist theory of existence (ontology)
All physical existence is in a cycle much like the "big Bang" theory of modern astro-physics where all matter come together in a big ball and then explodes. It expands for billions of years and then collapses back into a ball for billions of years until it and explodes again. This the Buddhist system this cycle is called a kalpa and these cycles will repeat infinitely. The physical form of the world is a Vast mountain in the center of the universe, with all of the continents around it: At the top are 28 heaven worlds, next, below them there are the five realms of Mount Meru itself, after that there are alternating rings of mountains and seas and after that there is a great sea with the continents in it. Various heavenly beings live in the heaven worlds, humans animals and ghosts live on the continents, and beings who have been reborn in the hells live in six realms that are under the continents. They are not shown in this drawing.

All life emerges from disturbances in the dharma. Life is also eternal and any individual may be reborn an infinite number of times. He or she can be reborn as anything from a bacteria to a heavenly being in the highest heaven. The cycle of lives of an individual continues so often and in so many ways that some Buddhists have developed a saying. "Every being now alive has been your mother at some time in the past," and they really do mean to count all of the insects, and even earthworms.

The Buddhist theory of the end of the being/world/universe (eschatology) states that the universe will go on for all infinite time. World cycles, or kalpas, will repeat over and over and the life cycle of individual beings will repeat over and over- infinitely!

The Buddhist view of personal salvation (soteriology) is that the individual may escape the endless cycle of rebirths by attaining enlightenment. Enlightenment is essentially knowledge of how the system works and how the individual is literally identical with the totality of the universe. This knowledge is called enlightenment. It may be attained through:

1) faith
2) practice
3) ethical/moral behavior/well being

--All of these beliefs were in existence before the lifetime of the person we call the Buddha.

Its founder was Gotama Siddhartha who became known as the Buddha or "Enlightened One." He lived about 2500 years ago in a small kingdom in the Indian-Nepalese border region. There are four main events in his life.

1) The first was his birth which was accompanied by many good omens and events. After his birth, he grew up as a well educated prince of his kingdom and married a young woman who gave birth to their son. However, he tired of the princely life and, feeling dissatisfied, soon left home to become a wandering ascetic, a beggar. He joined a band of such beggars and wandered about from place to place seeking teaching from great masters. What he sought from these teachers was a special kind of knowledge that would allow him to understand the nature of the universe. For six years the young prince lived a beggar's life. During this time he nearly starved to death through deliberately depriving himself of food.

2) The second great event is his enlightenment in which he attained that special knowledge. There is a very long story of this event. Essentially it is as follows. Prince Gotama, having nearly starved to death from his ascetic practices, resolved to eat again and to then meditate (essentially sitting quietly and thinking about it) until he attained the knowledge that he was seeking. To gain this knowledge, he sat down under a big tree and begin to meditate. At one point in his meditations, an evil being, named Mara attacked the prince with an army of evil warriors representing hate, lust and greed. A great battle followed in which the weapons of the evil army turned into flowers and Mara, the evil being, was defeated. At the defeat of Mara, Prince Gotama had won the right to the knowledge he sought. That knowledge is called enlightenment or bodhi. Once he attained that knowledge, Gotama became known as the Buddha which means the "enlightened one." The name is actually the word bodhi combined with the verb ta, "to be," combined into one word, i.e. bodhi+ta = Buddha. So when we say Gotama the Buddha we are actually saying "Gotama the Enlightened One."

3) The third great event is the first sermon. After he had attained his special knowledge, Gotama the Buddha decided to teach his special way of attaining this knowledge to others. He went to a place known as the deer park where the ascetics who had been his former companions were living. They quickly realized that Gotama the Buddha had attained the special knowledge and asked him to teach them how to attain it. What he taught them will be talked about later. The act of teaching it to his former fellow ascetics is called the first sermon. From this first teaching arose all future teachings by Gotama the Buddha and his followers. He would teach for over forty years.

4) The fourth event is his last death, which is called the parinirvana. The word parinirvana means something quite different than just death. The Buddhists believe that an individual life force would live forever. It does this by being born and dying over and over again. If one has been good, he or she will be reborn in the higher levels of birth such as in the human realms or in the worlds of the heavenly beings. However, if one has been bad, he or she will be reborn in the lower levels of birth, as an animal, a ghost or even in one of many hells. To die to be reborn is ordinary death to the Buddhists. However the Buddha was not to be reborn again. Thus his death was like the flame of a candle going out. It was the cessation of all rebirths. Gotama the Buddha had attained his final release. What would happen to his individual being? He would reunite with the totality of the universe- like a drop of water falling into the ocean.


Based on the presuppositions we have just learned about buddhism, Gotama Buddha taught that others could also attain the special knowledge and thereby attain release from the cycle of rebirth by fully realizing the following.

The four noble truths:
1) Life is suffering - dukkha :Birth trauma, Illness, Old age, Fear of approaching death, Separation from what one loves, Stuck with what one hates.
2) The cause of suffering is desire-tanhan
3) The cure for suffering is to remove desire.
4) To remove desire, follow the eightfold path.

Eightfold Path:

1) Right Knowledge
Understand the Four Noble Truths
2) Right Thinking
Decide to set a life on the correct path
3) Right Speech
Don't lie
Don't criticize others unjustly
Don't use harsh language
Don't gossip
4) Right Conduct
Follow the Five Precepts
5)Right Livelihood
Earn a living that does not harm living things
6) Right Effort
Conquer all evil thoughts
Strive to maintain good thoughts
7) Right Mindfulness
Become intensely aware of all the states in body, feeling, and mind.
8) Right Concentration
Deep meditation to lead to a higher state of consciousness (enlightenment)

Five Precepts:

1) Do not kill
2) Do not steal
3) Do not lie
4) Do not be unchaste
5) Do not take drugs or drink intoxicants.

The Three Jewles

1) Buddham saranam gachami
# To the Buddha I go for refuge.
# Buddha is truth and example of path.

2) Dharmam saranam gachami
# To the Dharma I go for refuge.
# Dharma is teachings.

3) Sangham saranam gachami
# To my Sangha I go for refuse.
# Sangha is spiritual community.

The teachings of the Buddha as explained by the teachers who followed him is a truly vast subject. This covers thousands of volumes of literature and more than a hundred different approaches or sects of Buddhism. There are three divisions of major approaches and each of those major sub-schools is divided into many sub-schools. One can spend a lifetime learning about them.

Some believe that there will be very few Buddhas while others believe that there can be many Buddhas; others believe that to attain Buddhahood takes many thousands of lifetimes while others believe that one can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime; some believe in detailed and secret rituals while others believe in totally unstructured individual approaches. Yet others believe in rebirth in a kind of Buddhist paradise while some believe that the final attainment is to be made right here and now in this very life time. By Buddhist definition all these approaches are valid and each is free to follow the teachings of his or her own choosing.

In addition, as Buddhism was spread into countries near India and throughout the rest of Asia, adaptations to local concerns were made in the teachings. Thus a Thai Buddhist may believe one thing, a Tibetan Buddhist another and a Chinese yet another. All of this adaptation was done by the teachers who followed the original teachings of Gotama Buddha.

The community of followers is divided into four categories:
1) the male beggars or, as they are usually called, "monks."
2) the female beggars, or nuns
3) the male lay followers
4) the female lay followers

*Each order has its own rules, essentially defining right, views, intentions, speech, conduct and livelihood.

*The lay community is, as with all lay populations, deeply concerned with the problems of daily life and they have many rituals and ceremonies concerned with:
1) good health
2) prosperity
3) well being
4) death


From the outset Buddhism was a missionary religion. The Buddha travelled over a large area spreading his teachings, and explicitly charged his disciples to do likewise with the words: 'Go, monks, and wander for the good and welfare of the multitudes.' The spread of Buddhism was given a considerable boost in the third century BC when one of the greatest figures in Indian history -- Ashoka Maurya -- became emperor of India around 268 BC. Through conquest Ashoka extended the Mauryan empire, making it the largest Indian empire to be seen until the British Raj. After a bloody campaign on the east coast, in the region of present-day Orissa, he experienced remorse and turned to Buddhism. For the remainder of his long reign he ruled according to Buddhist principles, and under his patronage Buddhism flourished. As well as helping to establish Buddhism within India, Ashoka also dispatched ambassadors to the courts of rulers in the Near East and Macedonia, and, according to the Sinhalese chronicles, to South-East Asia. The record of these early missions is found in the stone inscriptions Ashoka left throughout his realm, which provide some of the most reliable data on early Indian history. It is not known with any certainty what became of the missions, but the ones to the West seem to have had little impact, as the earliest surviving mention of Buddhism in Western documents is found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria in the second century AD (earlier classical references to the Indian sarmanes and samanaioi may also refer to Buddhism).




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