Buddhism - Background
Buddhism began in northeastern India and is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. The religion is 2,500 years old and is followed by 250 million Buddhists worldwide.
Buddhism is the main religion in many Asian countries. It is a religion about suffering and the need to get rid of it. A key concept of Buddhism is Nirvana, the most enlightend, and blissful state that someone can achieve. A state without suffering.
The Founder of the Religion
Buddhism is different from many other faiths because it is not centered ont he relationship between humanity and God. Buddhists do not believe in a personal creator God.
The Buddhist tradition is founded on and inspired by the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. He was called the Buddha and lived in the 4th or 5th century B.C. in India.
Siddhartha Gautama found the path to Enlightenment. By doing so he was led from the pain of suffereing and rebirth towards the path of Enlightenment and became know as the Buddha or 'awakened one'.
Siddhartha Guatama is known as the Buddha. He was born in the year 580 BCE in the village of Lumbini in Nepal. He was born into a royal family and for many years lived within the palace walls awau from the sufferings of life; sufferings such as sickness, age and death. He did not know what they were.
One day, after growing up, marrying and having a child, Siddhartha went outside the royal palace and saw, each for the first time, an old man, a sick man and a corpse. He was worried by what he saw. He learned that sickness, age and death were the inevitable fate of human beings - a fate no one could avoid.
Siddhartha has also seen as a monk and decided this was a sign that he should leave his protected royal life and live as a homeless Holy Man.
His travels showed him much more of the suffering of the world. He searched for a way to escape the inevitability of death, old age and pain by studying with religious men.
Symbols of Buddhism
The wheel of life symbolises the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The eight spokes remind people that the Buddha taught about the eight ways of life of the Eight Fold path.
The lotus flower symbolises purity and divine birth. The lotus flower grows in mud at the bottom of a pool, but rises above the surface to become a beautiful flower. Buddhists say this is how people should rise about everything which is dukkha. A flower may be very beautiful and have a wonderful scent, but it will soon wither and die which shows nothing lasts forever and nothing is perfect.
Buddhists worship at home or at a temple. Worshippers may sit on the floor barefoot facing an image of Buddha and chanting. It is very important that their feet face away from the image of Buddha. They listen to monks chanting from religious texts and take part in prayers.
At home Buddhists have a shrine. There will be a statue of Buddha, candles and an incense burner.
Buddhist temples come in many shapes. A typical Buddhist building is the Stupa (upside down bowl shape). All Buddhist temples contain an image or statue of the Buddha.
Their worship is called puja. They chant to show their love for Buddha. They make offerings of flowers, candles, incense and pure water at a shrine.
When alone Buddhist meditate and read from holy books.
The Three Signs of Being
1. Dukkha - nothing in life is perfect.
2. Annica - everything is changing, nothing will last forever - everything will eventually cease to exist.
3. Anatta - meaning there is no fixed self.