What is Buddhism?
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautam, a prince in North-East India. It can also be regarded as a philosophy or a way of life. Buddhism involves meditation, which is meant to change oneself by developing several qualities such as wisdom, kindness, awareness, and acceptance.
Over the thousands of years, Buddhism tradition has shown the path of enlightenment to many people. This path is also known as Buddhahood. According to Buddhism, an enlightened person is someone who visions things, not letting the ego dominate the better of him or her.
Buddhism doesn’t preach the idea of following or worshiping a figure, or a God. Also, the basic principles of Buddhism are very simple and practical. Buddhism doesn’t limit itself to a single race, but is open to anyone irrespective of the cast, creed, or nationality. Its teachings involve practical methods to transform one’s experience towards a spiritual life where change is recognized from within.
Buddhism is now the fourth most practiced religion in the world after Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. However, it wasn’t into practice until the beginning of the 19th century.
How did Buddhism begin?
Historians have different beliefs on the exact time of the origin of this religion. But it’s widely believed that it originated sometime between the 6th and the 4th century BC. It all begins when Siddhartha Gautam, a prince, gave away all the luxuries after seeing the sufferings of the common people. He renounced himself from the materialistic world. After spending a lot of time meditating, he got enlightened while meditating under a Bodhi tree. After this, prince Siddhartha, who was now called Buddha, began spreading the four noble truths. These four truths are said to be the first spokes in the wheel of Dharma.
The Wheel of Dharma
Buddha’s wheel symbol which explained Dharma, also known as the four truths, became a significant symbol in Buddhism. These four truths which still remain very much unexplained are:
The truth of suffering
The truth of the cause of suffering
The truth of the end of suffering
The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.
These four truths are considered to liberate mankind, eliminating all the sufferings and discomforts, ultimately leading to enlightenment.
The eight spokes in the wheel represent the eight steps towards enlightenment.
Buddhism Sacred Texts
Buddhism has a vast number of religious texts and scriptures which are commonly divided into two categories-conical and non-conical. Conical texts are believed to be the actual words and teachings of Buddha, whereas non-conical texts are a collection of histories, quotes, and other messages in Buddhism. However, Buddhism continuously disregards texts as the only way of enlightenment. It revolved more around one’s actions.
Tripitaka is the earliest known collection of the teachings of Buddha, and it is widely accepted by many followers. The word means three baskets, as the text was originally written on long leaves and sewed to be kept and preserved in the baskets. It is a vast collection of writing which comprises around 50 volumes.
Mahayana Sutras regard Tripika as the original sacred text. It adds Sutras which adds the Mahayana concepts to it. Mahayana (greater vehicle) is a sect of Buddhism along with Theravada (way of the elders) and Vajrayana (diamond vehicle). Most of the Mahayana texts were written between 200 BCE and 200 CE.
Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Tibetan Book of the Dead is mostly known in the West. It was written by a Tibetan monk and describes in detail the various stages of death from the Tibetan perspective. It explains the cycle of re-birth and the various opportunities and experiences at the stages of death and rebirth