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Buddhism Essay Research Paper The BuddhaThe Buddha

Buddhism Essay, Research Paper The Buddha The Buddha was not a god. He was a human who by medidation and thought achieved enlightenment. Many Buddhists say that the wisdom which he taught and which has now

Buddhism Essay, Research Paper

The Buddha

The Buddha was not a god. He was a human who by medidation and thought achieved

enlightenment. Many Buddhists say that the wisdom which he taught and which has now

become Buddhist teaching and central to their beliefs, was not new and had been in the

world from the beginning of time, it required the Buddha to discover it and reveal it to

humanity.

Introduction

The Buddhist scriptures are very extensive. When the Buddha died at the age of 80, he

had completed 45 years of teaching. He had no successor, but his teachings lived on. They

were handed down by his followers who had memorised them, and passed on by word of

mouth for the next three or four centuries.

As is the case with most things passed on orally, the original teachings of the Buddha were

changed and elaborated through the years. Because of this, in 480BCE a council was held

at a place called Ragir. Some of the Buddhas closest friends and followers were part of the

council and they each tried to remember exactly what the Buddha had said. After many

long debates, a final version was agreed and specialists were employed to learn it by heart.

Introduction

The teachings continued to be handed down orally, and in 380 BCE another council was

called. This time there was a strong difference of opinion about how to interpret the

teachings of the Buddha. One group refused to accept the decision of the Council and left

the meeting. The monks who remained were known as the Elders. This move was the

beginning of the split in which the two main branches of Buddhism were born: Mahayana

and Theravada.

Buddhist temples

In Buddhist countries, and especially those of the Theravada tradition, the temple is the

most important building of the entire community. A temple usually has living quarters for

the monks, a sacred area for the monks to perform their rites, and a shrine containing

images of the Buddha with an altar for making offerings. The walls are usually painted

with scenes from legends about the life of the Buddha. There might be a stupa containing

relics of the Buddha and his disciples. There will normally be a preaching area where

monks can deliver sermons on special days.

Buddhist temples in Thailand are called wats, and almost every town has its own temple

which is cared for by the local community of monks.

The Buddhist tradition

Introduction

Buddhism began in India around 2,500 years ago. It broke away from the beliefs and

teachings of Hinduism. Buddhism teaches a way of life that avoids the extremes. These

include both those of self-indulgence and self-denial. The beliefs and practices of

Buddhism are based on the teachings of the Buddha, formerly Prince Gotama, who gave

up his worldly possessions to live the life of an ascetic while he searched for

enlightenment. One day, as he sat under a Bodhi tree, he achieved enlightenment. He had

found the answer to the cause of human suffering and how to overcome it.

In the Buddhist tradition there is no God or supreme deity. Buddhists pay the highest

respect to the Buddha but do not view him as a god.

The Dalai Lamas palace

The Dalai Lama is the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. He is a political as well as a religious

leader. Pilgrims to Tibet visit his palace which is now a monument to the Dalai Lama who

was forced to exile himself in India after the Chinese army marched into Tibet in 1959 and

imposed a Communist regime.

The Potala Palace is 3,400 metres up in the Tibetan mountains and can only be visited

with an official Chinese guide.

Just below the Palace, there is the Jokhang temple which is the most important temple in

Lhasa. Pilgrims often arrive there after many miles of trekking, and as they approach this

sacred city they prostrate themselves every few steps.

The Five Precepts

The basic rules for the lay person to observe are known as the Five Precepts

They involve refraining from:

destroying life,

taking what is not given,

impurity,

lying,

using intoxicating substances.

The Five Precepts

Buddhists promise to refrain from impurity. This precept warns people against sexual

misconduct such as adultery. The ideal life of a Buddhist is that of a monk, a life of

celibacy.

Buddhists promise not to lie. In its positive sense this precept is about speaking the truth.

There must be no confusion between truth and untruth as this will hinder a persons

progress toward enlightenment.

Buddhists promise to abstain from intoxicants as they tend to cloud the mind and make it

impossible for a person to be alert and aware of what is going on.

The Four Noble Truths

The Buddhas teaching has been summed up in the Four Noble Truths, however we

cannot know if the Buddha himself would have taught the Four Noble Truths in this way.

The Four Noble Truths

Dukkha

The first Noble Truth is dukkha. The nearest translation to dukkha is suffering. It relates

to everything that is unsatisfactory in the world – grief, fear, despair etc. It is about being

separated from the things we like and left with the things we do not like. All humans suffer

a life that is unsatisfactory as the pleasures of life do not last.

Samudaya

The second Noble Truth is samudaya, and this is the cause of dukkha: desire or craving

for things.

Nirodha

The third Noble Truth is nirodha. This is concerned with the removal of dukkha – if the

cause of dukkha is craving, then the way to get rid of dukkha is to get rid of craving or

desire.

Magga

The fourth Noble Truth is about how to remove dukkha. The way to do this is by

following Magga – the Noble Eightfold Path.

The early life of the Buddha

Buddhism began with the man we now know as the Buddha. He was an Indian prince

who lived 2,500 years ago. He was born Prince Siddattha Gotama. His father and mother,

King Suddhodana and Queen Maya ruled a small kingdom which lay at the foot of the

Himalayas. Queen Maya was out visiting her parents, she was passing through the

Lumbini Gardens when she gave birth to her son without any pain. Seven days after the

birth of Siddattha, Maya died, leaving him to be brought up by his aunt. Siddattha enjoyed

a life of luxury, he lived in beautiful palaces, wore the best clothes, and ate the best food.

His father had been told by a Brahmin that Siddattha would become either a great ruler or

a holy man of the forest. The king was anxious that Siddattha did not see anything in the

world that would make him want to live the life of a holy man. Siddattha was married to

Yasodhara at the age of sixteen, by which time his father had provided him with three

palaces and many gardens.

The life of the Buddha

The story of the life of the Buddha is probably a mixture of fact and legend. Buddhists do

not attach too much importance to the historical accuracy of the Buddhas life story as they

consider his teachings to be more important. The Buddha was born Prince Siddattha

Gotama. His father was Suddhodana and his mother was Maya. They were members of

the Kshatriya caste (rulers and warriors) and Suddhodana was ruler of the Sakya clan.

The early life of the Buddha

The young Siddattha Gotama enjoyed a life of luxury, he lived in beautiful palaces, wore

the best clothes, and ate the best food. His father had been told by a Brahmin that

Siddattha would become either a great ruler or a holy man of the forest. The king was

anxious that Siddattha did not see anything in the world that would make him want to live

the life of a holy man. Siddattha was married to Yashodhara at the age of sixteen, by

which time his father had provided him with three palaces and many gardens.

The early life of the Buddha

From his sheltered life of luxury, Siddattha had four experiences which were to seal his

destiny. Firstly, he was out riding in his carriage when he saw for the first time a very old

man who could hardly walk – and became aware for the first time of the suffering of

growing old. Siddattha then came across a very sick man who was completely unable to

do anything for himself, and for the first time he learned that people were liable to suffer

from illness and disease. On another occasion he saw a crowd of people who were

preparing a funeral pyre for a member of their family. He learned for the first time that

when people died, nobody ever saw them again. He began to wonder what was the point

of being born at all if life was subject to illness, suffering and eventual death. On the fourth

occasion when he was out, he saw a wandering holy man – an ascetic – a man who had

given up everything to live a life of discipline and simplicity.

The early life of the Buddha

After a time of anguished thought, he made the difficult decision to leave his wife and son

and to follow a religious life. Siddattha Gotama slipped out of the palace one night,

leaving behind his wife and son. He replaced his expensive robes with old faded clothes,

cut off his long hair, and gave his jewellery to the servant who had helped him to escape.

Carrying nothing but a begging bowl, he went off in search of the answers to the things

which puzzled him. For the next six years, Siddattha lived the life of an ascetic. He lived in

the forest with five others. He lived by begging his food and being very severe with

himself about how he lived. At one point he starved himself so much that he became like a

skeleton, but he discovered that this type of austerity did not lead him any closer to

enlightenment and began to take food again. When he did this, his five companions

thought he had given up his quest for enlightenment and they left him.

The Enlightenment

Alone and forsaken, Siddattha resolved to continue his search by himself. He came to a

place where a tree grew close to a tributary of the River Ganges – now known as Bodh

Gaya. Siddattha went to sit under the tree until it was time for him to beg for food. It is

said that enough food to last for 49 days was brought to him at the tree. While he was

there, Siddattha learned through a dream that his time was approaching. He decided to

stay there until he found the answer to his questions. While he was there he was attacked

by a demon, Mara, who tried to move him from the spot and deter him from his quest, but

the demon was unsuccessful. It was under the Bodhi tree that Siddattha attained

enlightenment. He went to seek out the five ascetics who had deserted him, and preached

his first sermon to them in the Deer Park at Varanasi (Benares). From then on he was

known as the Buddha, which means the Enlightened One. He founded the order of monks

called the Sangha, and preached and taught for forty years. He died at the age of eighty.

The Mahayana sangha

It is sometimes said that Mahayana Buddhism is more suited to lay-Buddhists than is

Theravada Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is sometimes referred to as the Four-fold

Sangha and includes the monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen of the Buddhist community.

The Mahayana community live in Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam and form the

northern Buddhist community.

Mahayana monks can be recognised by their dark red robes. They follow the same Vinaya

rules which have been observed and handed down by Theravada traditions but with four

additional ones: telling others about the Buddha, being peaceful and serene, proclaiming

the Buddhist way of life, and showing love for others (like the Buddha).

Mahayana scriptures

The Mahayana scriptures were written in Sanskrit not Pali (which is the language of the

Theravada scriptures). This accounts for the differences in spellings: Nirvana instead of

Nibbana, Sutra instead of Sutta, etc.

In the writings of the Mahayana Buddhists, Prince Siddattha took on a more mystical role.

These scriptures also introduce the idea of the Bodhisattva. Bodhi means enlightenment

and Sattva means essence. A Bodhisattva is a person who delays enlightenment ir order to

stay in contact with humans to help them along the path of Buddhism.

The Pranjaparamita Sutras

These sutras were written in Sanskrit between 100 BCE and 600 CE. They are thought to

be the perfect guide to achieving the wisdom of the Bodhisattva – wisdom which goes

beyond this world. The Pranjaparamita Sutras include the Diamond Sutra and the Heart

Sutra.

The Lotus Sutra

This sutra contains what Mahayana Buddhists believe to be the final teachings of the

Buddha.

Making offerings

In Buddhism, daily worship takes place both in the homes of individuals and in the

monasteries. When a worshipper enters a shrine room, they have already removed their

shoes. As they enter they put their hands together and walk towards the image of the

Buddha. They will take up a position of prostration before the image.

Offerings are then made. There are three main forms of offering: flowers, light and

incense. The worshipper says the words of the Three Refuges:

I go to the Buddha for Refuge.

I go to the Doctrine for Refuge.

I go to the Order for Refuge.

and recites the Precepts.

Statues of the Buddha

In almost every Buddhist temple there will be at least one statue of the Buddha. These

statues are not worshipped in their own right, as some people think. Rather, they serve as

a reminder to worshippers that the Buddha was an ordinary person who achieved

enlightenment. The statues are an ever-present reminder of the example set by the Buddha

- that all beings are Buddhas, and are capable of gaining enlightenment.

There are many different representations of the Buddha. Some of these reflect the

differing concerns of the branches of Buddhism. All images of the Buddha include mudras

(ritual hand gestures) which portray different qualities of the enlightened mind.

Mandalas

Mandalas are an aid to meditation. A mandala is a design within a circle. The design may

sometimes be a picture with figures, or a series of interwoven geometric shapes. The

shapes used are intended to direct thoughts. A popular form for a mandala is that of a

square within a circle. The square represents the earth and is not meant to be flat.

Mandalas are either hand painted, constructed in three-dimensional form or made from

different coloured grains or sands. The colours used represent different attributes of the

Buddha: white represents his purity; blue, the vastness of his teaching and the truth of

what he taught, and red represents his warmth and compassion.

A person using a mandala to meditate would concentrate on the small complex details and

try to continue seeing these details with the eyes closed.

Mandalas

Mandalas are an aid to meditation. A mandala is a design within a circle. The design may

sometimes be a picture with figures, or a series of interwoven geometric shapes. The

shapes used are intended to direct thoughts. A popular form for a mandala is that of a

square within a circle. The square represents the earth and is not meant to be flat.

Mandalas are either hand painted, constructed in three-dimensional form or made from

different coloured grains or sands. The colours used represent different attributes of the

Buddha: white represents his purity; blue, the vastness of his teaching and the truth of

what he taught, and red represents his warmth and compassion.

A person using a mandala to meditate would concentrate on the small complex details and

try to continue seeing these details with the eyes closed.

Mantras

A mantra is a sacred sound that is believed to create a special feeling of good. Tibetan

Buddhists pray by using certain sounds and words called mantras. When these sounds and

words are repeated over and over, they arouse good feelings within. If a mantra is

repeated often enough, it opens the mind to a higher state of consciousness. Mantras are

therefore an aid to meditation.

The most well known mantra is the Tibetan Aum mani padme, hum which is most often

translated as Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus.

The mantras are sometimes written on pieces of paper and placed into prayer wheels,

which themselves have mantras inscribed on them. As the Buddhist chants the mantra, the

wheel is turned. This is thought to release spiritual power. Some prayer wheels are

hand-held, while others are large cylinders and are housed in special racks or holders on

the outside of temples.

Statues of the Buddha

In almost every Buddhist temple there will be at least one statue of the Buddha. These

statues are not worshipped in their own right, as some people think. Rather, they serve as

a reminder to worshippers that the Buddha was an ordinary person who achieved

enlightenment. The statues are an ever-present reminder of the example set by the Buddha

- that all beings are Buddhas, and are capable of gaining enlightenment.

There are many different representations of the Buddha. Some of these reflect the

differing concerns of the branches of Buddhism. All images of the Buddha include mudras

(ritual hand gestures) which portray different qualities of the enlightened mind.

Thangka or Yantra

The use of thangkas (or yantras) is as an aid to visualisation in meditation. A thangka is a

hanging picture which has a central design, usually a Buddha or a bodhisatta on which the

meditator can focus his or her concentration. Some thangkas are painted on walls, and

some are designed and made on cloth so that they can be carried around. There will often

be a chant or an explanation to accompany the visualisation, and the words which are

chanted are an aid to concentration. Like the mandala, the creation of a thangka is often

seen as a method of awareness and meditaion.

Thangka or Yantra

The use of yantras (called thangkas in Tibet) is as an aid to visualisation in meditation. A

thangka is a hanging picture which has a central design, usually a Buddha or a bodhisatta

on which the meditator can focus his or her concentration. Some thangkas are painted on

walls, and some are designed and made on cloth so that they can be carried around. There

will often be a chant or an explanation to accompany the visualisation, and the words

which are chanted are an aid to concentration.

The Steps of Magga – the Eightfold Path are as follows:

Right view

This could also be interpreted as right understanding. It is about seeing things as they

really are. The Buddhist is urged to see the truth of things.

Right thought

This does not only involve the Buddhist in thinking good things, but it is concerned that

what is thought is free from selfish desires and ill will towards others.

Right speech

The Buddha taught that all words have consequences; therefore, every time a person

speaks, they could be the cause of either good or evil. The Buddhist should strive to avoid

harsh words or lying, and try to say good things.

Right action

The Buddha taught that deeds as well as words have consequences. Actions are performed

because they lead to liberation or release, and help a person to attain Nirvana. One way of

following this step is to leave the world and give up wanting anything.

Right way of life

The Buddha taught that a persons way of life must be the right one or else it will be

difficult to follow all the paths. For example, certain types of job would interfere with a

persons striving for freedom, and some occupations are morally wrong. In order to have a

chance, a person must have the right job and lifestyle.

Right effort

By right effort the Buddha was referring to effort of mind. Effort must be put into

rejecting anything which would interfere with a persons progress towards right meditation.

Right mindfulness

Buddhist teaching recommends that a person pays full attention to what he or she is doing.

It is important to be aware of what is going on and it is more important to give attention

to what is happening at present than to think about the past or the future.

Right concentration

This refers to meditation. It is achieved by concentrating the mind entirely on one thing.

The aim is to free the mind from any attachment. The Buddhist way to enlightenment is

through attention, and not through fantasy.

The Tibetan community

Tibet took on Buddhism as their state religion, taking it not just the way they would deal

with spiritual matters, but also the form of government for their country. Under this

system, Tibets spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was also the political leader. Lama is the

Tibetan name for a Buddhist monk.

The present Dalai Lama had to flee to India when Tibet was overrun by the Chinese Army

in 1959. However, he is still regarded as the leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, of whom

about 100,000 are also in exile. Nevertheless, Buddhism in Tibet is still thriving.

The Tibetan prayer wheel

This is a cylindrical barrel, hollow inside. It might be mounted on a wall or have a handle

so that it can be hand-held. Inside the prayer wheel, there are pieces of paper which have

mantras (chants) on them.

As the mantra is said, the prayer wheel is turned. This is said to release spiritual power

and protect the mind from thoughts of aggression or ill will.

Wesak in Tibet

This is a festival of lights, and lamps are lit everywhere. It is also a very strict day of

Buddhist observance where absolutely no meat is eaten, and where some lay-Buddhists

take on penances. These might take the form of going around any Buddhist sacred

monument in a clockwise direction, but by fully prostrating their bodies, and then standing

where their heads were, before repeating the process over and over again. Others have

been known to take vows of silence for up to seven days.

The young Siddattha Gotama enjoyed a life of luxury, he lived in beautiful palaces, wore

the best clothes, and ate the best food. His father had been told by a Brahmin that

Siddattha would become either a great ruler or a holy man of the forest. The king

was anxious that Siddattha did not see anything in the world that would make him want to

live the life of a holy man. Siddattha was married to Yashodhara at the age of sixteen, by

which time his father had provided him with three palaces and many gardens.

Basic beliefs

The basic teaching of the Buddha is to avoid extremes. There is nothing to be gained from

over indulgence in pleasure, nor in fanatical austerity and self-denial. The way of the

Buddha is the Middle Way. He said that life was like being on a wheel, with people

moving in a continuous cycle from birth, through life, to death, and then rebirth. He said

that craving and desire keep people on the wheel. The escape from this endless cycle is

enlightenment. The traditional way in which the Buddhas teaching has been handed down

is in the Four Noble Truths.

The use of thangkas (or yantras) is as an aid to visualisation in meditation. A thangka is a

hanging picture which has a central design, usually a Buddha or a bodhisatta on which the

meditator can focus his or her concentration. Some thangkas are painted

on walls, and some are designed and made on cloth so that they can be carried around.

There will often be a chant or an explanation to accompany the visualisation, and the

words which are chanted are an aid

to concentration. Like the mandala, the creation of a thangka is often seen as a method of

awareness and meditaion

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