(Exerts from “Brief Introduction to Buddhism” Kenryu Tsuji, BCA Bureau of Buddhist Education)
Founder of Buddhism
Gautama, the Buddha was born in 566 B.C. a son of a wealthy and powerful king, Suddhodana, ruler of the Sakya clan, at Kapilavastu in the current state of Nepal, India. He was named Siddhartha, which means “He who has attained his aim”.
At the age of 29 he left this comfortable environment to find salvation for himself and his fellow men. For six years he resolved to ascetic practices subjecting his body to severe disciplines, he realized that the extremes of asceticism led one nowhere. The truest path to enlightenment, he found, lay in patient and systematic examination of all aspects of life, and discovering the solution to its sufferings.
Quietly meditating under the Bodhi Tree, he developed a deep spiritual insight into the nature of existence. Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. He spent his remaining forty five years in a labor of love and compassion, spreading the Teachings throughout India.
Teachings of the Buddha
Four Characteristics of Life
- ANITYA (impermanence). Life is constantly changing. Impermanence is a law of the universe.
- ANATMAN (no permanent substance). Changes take place because nothing has a permanent substance. There is no permanent entity in man which separates him from others, the ego, self or soul.
- DUHKHA (suffering). We suffer, when we desire things to be permanent. The Buddha taught the existence of suffering but He also taught the way of deliverance from suffering - the faithful following of the Eightfold Noble Path.
- NIRVANA (true peace). True peace is found by acceptance and understanding that change is part of life itself. Nirvana means the extinction of desire. Desire is the sinful grasping state of mind and heart which makes man desire this illusory world. When he extinguishes this fire of desire, he attains the peace of Nirvana.
Four Noble Truths
Truth of Suffering. Misery is common to all. Suffering is old age, illness, death, presence of objects we hate, separation from objects we love and not attaining what we desire.
Truth of the Cause of Suffering. Misery is caused by ourselves. Through ignorance, we do not see things in their true light. We desire things that are impossible, we thirst for pleasure, we thirst for existence and we thirst for prosperity.
Truth of the Ending of Suffering. Misery can be brought to an end by complete cessation of human desires and thirsts. Perfect Peace in our life can be found through Enlightenment.
Truth of the Path to the Ending of Suffering. Enlightenment can be found by following a Path which leads to the cessation of suffering. The Eightfold Path provides us guidance in the ending of suffering.
The Eightfold Noble Path
The Buddha used the Eightfold Noble Path as the outline of a course of practice to bring about the cessation of suffering and to bring about enlightenment - Nirvana.
- Right Views - right understanding of the Buddha’s Dharma
- Right Aspirations - high and noble aims
- Right Speech - speaking of kind words
- Right Conduct - right behavior
- Right Livelihood - honest, professional life
- Right Effort - perseverance in goodness
- Right Mindfulness - right use of the intellect
- Right Meditation - meditation on the Buddha and Dharma
Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning action. On a physical plane karma acts as the law of cause and effect and on a moral plane, it is the ”law of the conservation of moral energy”. It follows from this law that the seeds of good or evil planted by man must necessarily be reaped by him.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought; it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a good thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.”
Man is the sole creator and the builder of his destiny. He is completely free to mold his future from actions based on sound
The ideal man is the Bodhisattva - an aspirant to Buddhahood, who is ever willing to give up even his own salvation for the salvation of his fellow man. The supreme purpose of his life is not the pursuit of wealth and pleasure but the increase of his own virtue and wisdom as well as that of his fellow man.