Founder: Siddhartha Gautama
Buddhism was founded in Northern India by
the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. He was born circa 563 B.C. in Lumbini which is
in modern-day Nepal. At the age of 29, he left his wife, children and political
involvements in order to seek truth. It was an accepted practice at the time for
some men to leave their family and lead the life of an ascetic. He studied
Brahmanism, but ultimately rejected it. In 535 B.C., he attained enlightenment
and assumed the title Buddha (one who has awakened). He concluded
that life is nothing but an experience plagued by sorrow.
He is also referred to as the Sakyamuni,
(sage of the Sakya clan). He promoted The Middle Way, rejecting
both extremes of the mortification of the flesh and of hedonism as paths toward
the state of Nirvana. He had many disciples and accumulated a large public
following by the time of his death in his early 80's in 483 B.C..
Two and a half centuries later, a
council of Buddhist monks collected his teachings and the oral traditions of the
faith into written form, called the Tripitaka. This included a very large
collection of commentaries and traditions; most are called Sutras (discourses). All of the Buddha's teachings,
collectively called the dharma, deal with one basic goal - how to escape samsara.
Samsara is the cycle of rebirths that is known more commonly as
reincarnation. Freedom from samsara leads to nirvana, which is commonly
thought of as a state of complete deliverance from pain and sorrow, a state of
bliss - the Eastern equivalent of heaven.
Buddhism, like most of the religions of
the world, is divided into a number of different traditions. However, most
traditions share a common set of fundamental beliefs. One fundamental belief
involves reincarnation: the concept that one must go through many cycles of
birth, living, and death. After many such cycles, if a person releases their
attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana - a state of
liberation and freedom from suffering. One may wonder though, how
nirvana can ever be reached when wanting to obtain nirvana is itself a desire that
must be abandoned?
Buddhism is a moral philosophy, an ethical way to live for
the here and now of this world to gain the ultimate state. It has more in common
with Humanism and Atheism
than its original religion Hinduism it separated from.
But Buddhism is not atheism just because they don’t believe in a personal God.
It is more like pantheism, there is a impersonal
force the void which is the ultimate.
Generally Buddhism does not believe in a
personal God or a divine being, it does not have worship, praying to, or
praising of a divine being (although some sects do.) It offers no form of
redemption, forgiveness, no heavenly hope, or a final judgment to those
practicing its system.
Buddha claimed to point to the right way to escape
suffering and attain enlightenment.
Buddha claimed to be the one to point the way to
Nirvana, an ultimate state in the afterlife, but it was up to each individual
to find his own way there.
If a Buddhist believes in God, he usually holds to a
pantheistic view. Many Buddhists view God as an impersonal force which
is made up of all living things and holds the universe together.
They believe that the world is an illusion
Most Buddhists believe their are many ways to God. The
emphasis is based on the path that we must work on by our own effort.
The goal of each Buddhist is the
attainment of the state of nirvana. This word means to extinguish or to blow out