The Life of Siddharta Guatama
Early Life of Siddharta Guatama
Buddhism was founded on the teachings of Siddharta Guatama, often referred to in Buddhism as Shakyamuni Buddha. Born in the 5th century BCE, Siddharta Guatama was a spoiled prince. The traditional story of the Buddha’s life is that his father did not want him to see the suffering of the world, and kept him inside the compound. Upon viewing the outside world, Siddharta discovered pain, old age, and death. He snuck out, and pursued the ascetic life.
After discovering the Middle Way, the Buddha gave up the ascetic life, realizing it was not his path to enlightenment. At age 35, Siddharta sat under a pipal tree, known today as the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India. He vowed to meditate until he reached enlightenment. After 49 days of meditation, he reached the state of nirvana, or enlightenment. After obtaining a state of enlightenment, he was known to his followers as “Buddha,” or “awakened one.”
Post-Enlightenment Buddha and Death of Shakyamuni Buddha
For the 45 years after this incident, the Buddha traveled the area spreading his teachings. Teaching people of all castes, the Buddha refused to subscribe to the caste system, and included laborers, merchants, and criminals alike. At 80 years old, Shakyamuni Buddha passed away. The cause of this death is unclear, as some claim it to be food poisoning while others claim it was from old age.
Basic Buddhist Ideas
One of the most basic and essential of the Buddhist teachings is that of “dukkha.” Commonly translated to suffering or unsatisfactoriness, dukkha is actually the opposite of sukha, or pleasure, serenity, or happiness. Although dukkha is most often called suffering in English, it is more accurately a state of discomfort, dis-ease, or displeasure. Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh explains dukkha with a great analogy. He says dukkha is like sitting on a carriage on which the wheel isn’t perfectly round. At first, the ride is a little bumpy, and may be fun or entertaining. Eventually, the ride becomes discomforting, and even irritating. Dukkha is the foundation of the Four Noble Truths.
Four Noble Truths
The most fundamental of the Buddha’s teachings is that of the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths do not have one set translation into English, but essentially are:
3. The truth of the cessation of dukkha
4. The truth of the path away from dukkha (The Noble Eightfold Path)
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path is another of the Buddha’s most important teachings, and as the fourth Noble Truth, is the path out of dukkha. It is also commonly referred to as the path to enlightenment. The Noble Eightfold Path is a path of eight steps as follows:
1. Right View
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
2. Mindfulness of Feelings
3. Mindfulness of the Mind
4. Mindfulness of Mental Phenomena
The Three Jewels
Sometimes known as the Three Refuges or the Triple Gem, the Three Jewels are the three things that Buddhists look to guidance for, or take refuge in. The Three Refuges are:
1. The Buddha
2. The Dharma
3. The Sangha
The Five Precepts essentially are the Buddhist code of ethics. Although they may differ slightly between Mahayana and Theravada traditions, the Five Precepts are:
1. I undertake the precept to refrain from the taking of any life.
2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
4. I undertake the precept to refrain from wrong speech.
5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating substances.
The Four Brahma-Viharas
The Ten Paramitas
1. Dana (Generosity)
2. Sila (Morality)
3. Nekkhamma (Renunciation)
4. Panna (Insight)
5. Viriya (Diligence)
6. Khanti (Patience, Acceptance)
7. Sacca (Honesty)
8. Adhitthana (Determination)
9. Metta (Loving-Kindness)
10. Upekkha (Equanimity)
The Middle Way
The Middle Way is a term used by the Buddha to describe the path to liberation. After living as both a prince and an ascetic, the Buddha discovered that the path to enlightenment was through moderation. First used in the Buddha’s primary teaching after reaching enlightenment, The Middle Way is essentially finding balance between full pleasure of senses and self-mortification.
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