Buddhism facts and terms




Buddhism facts and terms


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Buddhism facts and terms


The Buddhist Belief

Buddhism began with a man called Siddartha Gotama who lived nearly 2500 years ago.  He was a famous teacher and he preached against war and class, helping people whether they were rich or poor. He made peace between people and did his best to help people who were unhappy or suffering in their minds.


Gotama taught people to look at the results of their thoughts and actions.  He showed them that if they acted wisely and well they could live happier lives.  Men and women who continue to follow Gotama’s teaching and example are called Buddhists.


The Life of the Buddha


Many legends surround the Buddha’s birth.  It is said that the earth was flooded with light and the blind were able to see; the lame walked and the prisoners were freed from their chains.


Stories are told that the baby, Siddartha Gotama, was born 2500 years ago.  He was the son of King Sudhodana, the ruler of a small kingdom in north-east India, near the country that is today called Nepal.   The people he ruled were known as the Shakyas.


Fortune tellers told the King what the future held for his son.  They all agreed that if Gotama stayed in the world he would become a great emperor, ruler of all India but if he decided to lead a holy life he would not become an emperor.  The King wanted his son to be the Emperor and so gave him everything he wanted to keep him happy.


When Gotama was a young man he married his cousin and in time they had a baby son.  Although he loved his wife and son, he was bored with having to stay in the palace all the time.  All the riches he had meant nothing to him.  He wanted to find out more about life. 


The fortune tellers had told the King not to let Gotama see an old man, a sick man or a dead man.  So the King had ordered that the old, sick and dead should not be allowed near the prince.


One day when Gotama was out in his chariot he saw a hobbling old man.  He asked his charioteer about this and he said that old age comes to everyone.  The next day they saw a man who was pale and ill sitting beside the road and on the third day they saw a dead body with the family weeping around it.  Gotama was really disturbed by what he had seen.  On the fourth day he saw a man with a shaven head and a yellow robe who looked serene and wise.  This was an ascetic – someone who had no home and sheltered in caves, begging enough food for one meal a day.  The ascetic tried to live a pure life and understand the reason for existence.  Gotama decided to live like this.


Gotama’s Search


Gotama left the palace secretly and rode to the edge of a forest.  He met many famous teachers but they did not have the answer to human suffering.  Some wandering ascetics told him he should starve and then he would see the truth.  So he ate very little – one grain of rice a day, it is said – but he simply became weak and ill.  A milkmaid gave him food and after eating it he felt so much better that he vowed never to starve again.  He would take the middle way – never too much nor too little.


Buddhism in the world


Buddhists try to protect and help every living creature and organism.  The Buddha said: “You should cease to do evil, learn to do good and clarify your mind.”  Nobody finds it easy to clarify and control their mind and Buddhists have found that they need methods and exercises to help them.  The best way, which many practise, is to learn to pay attention to what is actually seen or heard or felt without letting any past memories or future plans get in the way. The word ‘Buddha’ means ‘awakened’ and ‘flourishing’


The Five Promises


There are no rules in Buddhism; no ‘musts’ or ‘must nots’.  But Buddhists understand that everything the do has its own result, so they try to make sensible choices.  They believe that a bad action will not only affect the person who does it but also many other people.  So they try to make their actions fit properly into the situation.  To help them remember to act well, they can make five promises, called precepts:


  • Not to harm any living thing
  • Not to take what is not given
  • Not to live in an over-excited way
  • Not to say unkind things
  • Not to take drugs or drink which will cloud the mind.


Because they do not like killing, most Buddhists are vegetarians.  They believe that people should live in a balanced harmony with all nature.


Make Offerings


Buddhism is a religion without a God and people often wonder then who do pray to.  The answer is that most Buddhists pray to the Buddha within themselves.  They believe that the enlightened nature of the Buddha is their own real nature that they have not yet been able to reach.  So when they pray it is to that deepest part of themselves.


In Sri Lanka and Thailand the temples are always open and many people go in during the day.  They bring flowers for the Buddha statue or light a candle to show their love and respect.   Usually they bow to show their gratitude for the Buddha’s teaching. Then they sit for a while in prayer.  Sometimes they put rice in front of the Buddha or light an incense stick.  These are also ways of honouring the Buddha.


In Tibet prayer is going on most of the time.  Tibetans pray in a special way.  They believe that when certain sounds and words, called mantras, are said many times they arose good vibrations within the person.  In Dublin, the Samye Trust community follow the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism.


Leaving the World


Buddhists believe in reincarnation.  This means that they believe that after death a person is reborn again.  This happens until a person reaches a high enough state of enlightenment (that they live a good enough life) to reach Nirvana.


Source : http://resources.teachnet.ie/joconnell/docs/buddhism.doc

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Buddhism facts and terms


Buddhism: Facts and Terms


Number of Buddhists worldwide: circa 350 million; 98% live in Asia—Mahayana Buddhism (“Northern Buddhism”) 62%; Theravada Buddhism (“Southern Buddhism”) 38%


Buddhists are in majority of population in countries of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Japan and have significant minority representation in Nepal, China, South Korea, and Singapore


Circa 700,000 monks and nuns worldwide; men outnumber women 6-1


Founded by: Siddhartha, 563-483 BCE (son of a warrior-caste parents in the Himalayan foothills of northern India); as such Buddhism has its roots in Hinduism (hence you will note similar terms and concepts at points, e.g., karma, reincarnation, dharma); his life is the paradigm for the individual Buddhists quest for enlightenment


Siddhartha after embracing an ascetic life of questing after enlightenment is known by a number of names including:

            Buddha (because he ultimately found enlightenment under the bo/bodhi “enlightenment” tree)

            Gautama Buddha (using his family surname)

            Shakyamuni/muni “the sage” (using his family’s clan name, Shakyas)


Dharma—ultimate truth and the teachings that lead to it


Stupas—relic mound shrine which are pilgrimage sites for Buddhists


Sangha—“monastic community”—a key feature of Buddhist societies where devout men and women renounce the world to live a life devoted to the teachings of Buddhism, meditation and the performance of rituals; lay Buddhists can gain merit through making donations to the sangha


Buddhists societies typically marked out by: relic shrines as centers of community ritual and economy; monasteries as refuges for meditation, study, and access to material resources; and sangha members who assumed leadership roles in the community’s spiritual instruction and ritual life


Conversion to Buddhism—accomplished by reciting the following (also used to affirm devotion and start rituals):

            Buddham Saranam Gacchami “I go to refuge in the Buddha”

            Dharmam Saranam Gacchami “I go to refuge in the teachings”

            Sangham Saranam Gacchami “I go for refuge in the community”


Nirvana—a state in which desires are extinguished, it represents escape from the world of ongoing rebirth and suffering; it can be achieved through moral living and meditation, ultimately the cultivation of prajna “insight”


Four Noble Truths (earliest and most enduring formulation of Buddha’s teaching)

1. All life entails suffering

                        Response: make most of spiritual opportunities of a human birth by showing compassion and kindness to alleviate suffering of all beings


2. The cause of suffering is desire

            Makes plain the need for renunciation, detachment and asceticism


            3. Removing desire removes suffering

                        The sangha is the ultimate refuge for individuals who wish to remove themselves from the world of desire


            4. The way for removing desire is to follow the Eightfold Path

                        The cure for the human condition (the constant cycle of rebirth, suffering and redeath) is achieved through moral practice, meditation, and the cultivation of the prajna, the progressive path to nirvana


Eightfold Path


  1. Right Views (especially of the Four Noble Truths)
  2. Right Thought (thought shaped by detachment from hatred and cruelty)
  3. Right Speech (refrains from lies, gossip, and frovility)
  4. Right Action (no killing, stealing, and harming)
  5. Right Livelihood (not earning a living through astrology, magic or careers that inflict harm or kill)
  6. Right Effort (to clear and calm mind)
  7. Right Mindfulness (Buddhist meditation that observes clearly the mind and body and cultivates detachment)
  8. Right Concentration (advanced meditation that attains the mastery of trance states)


Typically categorized as follows:

            Morality (Shila)—Right Speech, Action, and Livelihood

            Meditation (Dhyana)—Right Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration

            Insight (Prajna)—Views and Thoughts


Karma—a doctrine of destiny; carries from over from one life to the next, the “karma calculus” can be changed through making new punya (“merit”) or pap (“demerit”)


Lay Buddhists most influenced by doctrine of “Four Conditions” and “Four Good Deeds”

Four Conditions (to seek): 1. Wealth (by legal means), 2. Good renown in society, 3. Long life, 4. Birth in Heaven


Four Good Deeds (to use wealth for): 1. Make family and friends happy, 2.ensure security against worldly dangers, 3.make offerings to family, friends, gods, and ghosts, 4. support worthy religious people


Source : http://people.stfx.ca/areimer/RELS120/Buddhism.doc

Web site link: http://people.stfx.ca/areimer/RELS120Class.htm

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