The religion is named after Gautama Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (560 480 BC)
Place of origin:
Tripitaka: the Three Baskets of Wisdom, accepted by Mahayana branch
Pali Canon: accepted by Hinayana or Theravada branch
There is no one sacred place for all the Buddhists of the world. Pilgrimages are usually carried out in individual countries to local shrines and historic places.
Perahera: a festival held in August
Wesak (Kason): a festival in May celebrating Buddha’s birth
Buddhism was founded in India in the sixth century BC, at a time when the people of India had become disillusioned with the Hindu caste system and certain other Vedic teachings.
The founder of this new faith was Siddhartha Gautama who was a Hindu prince living in northern India. At a very young age, he became deeply affected by the great suffering and pain that existed in the world. He left his family, renounced his princely status and went out searching for the answers to these problems. He wandered from place to place in search of wisdom when, suddenly, he received enlightenment. Since that day he has been known as the Buddha or the Enlightened One.
Buddha lived for about eighty years and taught his new found wisdom all over India. For the next thousand years or so, Buddhism spread very rapidly in India and south east Asia. In every country, Buddhism adapted itself to the local conditions and absorbed many of the local beliefs and rituals. Over the years, many sects developed in Buddhism, two of which are very important:
Mahayana, Hinayana: or Greater Vehicle of Salvation, and (also called Theravada), or Lesser Vehicle of salvation
The Mahayana Buddhism is currently practiced in eastern Asia including China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Hinayana Buddhism is dominant in southern Asia including Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. A relatively minor sect, known as Northern Buddhism, flourishes in Tibet, Mongolia and the Himalayas.
Initially, Buddhism started as a reform movement within Hinduism but eventually became an independent religion. Buddhism was the first missionary religion of the world where the followers of Buddha carried this faith to other countries and peoples with a strong sense of universal mission. Buddhism shares a number of beliefs with the traditional Hinduism such as the doctrine of reincarnation and the Law of Karma. The main differences between the two faiths originate from the rejection by Buddhism of the Hindu caste system, of the authenticity of the Vedas, and of the belief that an individual soul must be united with the World Soul or Brahman. To many Hindus, Buddha still remains the ninth avatar or incarnation of their god Vishnu.
Following are the essential beliefs of Buddhism as the religion exists today:
In addition to the above, the Buddhists believe in the Four Noble Truths:
According to the First Noble Truth, there are many kinds of sufferings in this world including old age, illness, death, failure, separation, etc.
According to the Second Noble Truth, the cause of all these sufferings is the human desire which grasps for the wrong things.
According to the Third Noble Truth, all human suffering can be dissolved by getting rid of the human desire.
According to the Fourth Noble Truth, the desire can be rid of by following the Eightfold Path.
Among the extensive codes of Buddhism are the Ten Commandments and the Ten Perfections.
Worship is not considered extremely important in Buddhism and varies a great deal between Mahayana and Hinayana branches. Some forms of Buddhist worship are noted below:
Buddha strongly preached his followers to follow what he called the “Middle Way”. He told them to avoid both extremes. One extreme is to indulge in the pleasures and comforts of this material world and the other extreme is to starve oneself, go without sleep or inflict self punishment.
In the Buddhist philosophy of life, man can overcome the suffering in this world by controlling his desires and following the Eightfold Path. When man obtains perfect wisdom and masters his emotions and his self, he gains salvation and is ready for the final reward, that is nirvana.
Nirvana, in the Buddhist religion, is not only the blissful state in which all suffering ceases, but it also marks the release of the soul from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth.
Following are some of the sayings taken from the Buddhist sacred book, Tripitaka:
As we mentioned earlier, Buddhism started essentially as a reform movement within Hinduism. Gradually, however, Buddhism started to diverge away from Hinduism and reverence for Buddha increased so much that he began to be portrayed by his followers as a semi divine and, ultimately, as a celestial being.
Buddhism maintains belief in the process of reincarnation and the Law of Karma, as understood by the Hindus. Buddhism, however, rejects the Hindu caste system and the authenticity of the Vedas.
Buddhism of today places little emphasis on the concept of God. But then Buddhism has changed so much to adapt itself to the local conditions in the various countries, that it is almost impossible to ascertain with any great deal of accuracy what its original teachings used to be in this respect.
Buddhism is at once a philosophy of fife and a practical discipline. Although Buddhism lacks a well developed spiritual philosophy, it is an extremely humanistic religion and has found great popularity among the people in the western countries. What people find attractive in this religion is its great tolerance, its high moral and ethical standards, its relatively bloodless history and its concept of nirvana.