Buddhism may largely be considered to be an Eastern religion, but it has gained wide popularity in the West also. The beliefs and practices in Buddhism are very practical in nature. Buddhism has so much in common with Hinduism. Both of the religions teach Karma (cause and effect), Samsara (the re-incarnation cycle), and Maya (illusions).
Religious beliefs are very important in Buddhism. It defies the idea of worshipping a single God or God in one form. Unlike many other religions, Buddhism doesn’t have any doctrines about God.
Gautam Buddha, who is called the “Enlightened One” taught that to eliminate all the sufferings in the world, the faith in oneself is very important, though he also stated that knowledge is just a practical approach to the things around and not all the things can be gained with knowledge. He just urged his followers to follow the path of the four noble truths. Buddhism talks about the cycle of re-birth or Samsara, attainment of Nirvana, and other principles that are considered to be the founding pillars of Buddhism.
Buddhists believe in the cycle of rebirth, also known as Samsara, defines the cycle of birth in six different realms, whereas each realm can be described as a different physical and psychological form. Each of these realms is considered to be accompanied by dukkha or sufferings, and arising from avidhya or ignorance. From the perspective of Buddhism, liberation from all the pains and suffering can be achieved by the knowledge of the four truths. It is also believed that Nirvana (freedom from the cycle of re-birth) can be attained by following this path towards self-realization; thus relieving oneself from all the mayas or illusions of the world.
The Four Noble Truths
Buddhists believe in the four noble truths. The knowledge of these four noble truths is considered to set oneself on the path to the attainment of nirvana. The four noble truths are:
1. The truth of dukkha or suffering
2. The truth of origin of dukkha
3. The truth of the end of dukkha
4. The truth of the path that leads to the end of dukkha
These questions lead Prince Siddharta who later came to be known as Gautam Buddha to renounce his life as a prince and go in search of these truths. After continuous meditation, he is said to have found these truths, thus being called the “enlightened one”.
The Eight Noble Paths
The knowledge of these truths, which is also the fourth truth in the four noble truths, is said to be achieved by following the eight noble paths. The eight noble paths is also depicted in the Dharmachakra, which represents the teachings of Buddha. The eight noble paths are:
- Right View (or Right Understanding)
- Right Intention (or Right Thought)
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
The Buddhism Religious Books
There are many scriptures and books in Buddhism. But out of all, Tripitaka is the most popular as it is considered to be the words of Buddha. It is written in the ancient language called Pali. Pali is very close to the language Buddha himself spoke. The word Tripitaka is mad of two words-‘tri’ and ‘pitika’. Tri means three and pita means basket. The book contains three sections. The ancient scriptures were written on large leaves and then preserved in baskets. It consists of the earliest teachings of Buddhism although many commentaries have been added to it over the years.
Buddhists observe many holidays throughout the year, both of religious and cultural importance. Some of the main Buddhist festivals are:
This festival celebrates the birth of Gautam Buddha. It’s held on the first full mooning May and may vary according to the places. Buddhists celebrate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha on the same day.
- Magha Puja Day
This takes place on the third full moon of March. It celebrates an important event in the lives of Gautam Buddha,which is the fourfold assembly. It is also known as the Sangha day.
- Buddhist New Year
It marks the beginning of the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated on the first full moon in April. In some countries like Sri Lanka,Thailand, and Burma, the celebration lasts for three days.
This festival lasts for several days and takes place in the middle of April, which is the spring season. On these days, Buddhists clean their house and spray perfumed water at the monks.
- The Ploughing Festival
This festival takes play in May on a half-moon day. On this day, two white oxen plough the fields with a gold painted plough, followed by four girls dressed in white who throw seeds. The festival marks Buddha’s first experience of enlightenment on his walk of life when he was seven years old.
Buddha defied the idea of having an individual soul, and what we identify as the individual self or the ego is nothing more than just an illusion. The different faiths and believes that surround this religion has made it very diverse in nature, which is also the reason why it’s gaining wide popularity in the West.