Buddhism is probably the most tolerant religion in the world, as its teachings can coexist with any other religion’s. However, this is not a characteristic of other religions. The Buddhist teaching of God is neither agnostic nor vague, but clear and logical.
Buddhism was created by Siddhartha Gautama, who was born in the sixth century B.C. in what is now modern Nepal. Siddhartha grew up living the extravagant life of a young prince.
His father was Suddhodana and was the ruler of the Sakya people. According to custom, he married a young girl named Yasodhara at the age of sixteen. His father had ordered that he live a life of total seclusion, but one day Siddhartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the harsh reality of life and universal suffering. At age twenty-nine, he left his kingdom and new-born son to lead a plain, reclusive life and determine a way to relieve this universal suffering.
Siddhartha meditated under a bodhi tree for six years, but he was never fully satisfied. One day, however, he was offered a bowl of rice from a young girl and he accepted it. At that moment, he realized that physical harshness was not a means of achieving liberation. From then on, he encouraged people to follow a path of balance rather than extremism.
He called this “Devotion to the pleasures of sense, a low practice of villagers, a practice unworthy, unprofitable, the way of the world [on one hand]; and [on the other] devotionto self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable. By avoiding these two extremes the Tathagata [or Buddha] has gained knowledge of that middle path which giveth vision, which giveth knowledge, which causeth calm, special knowledge, enlightenment, Nibbana [or Nirvana].” (Smart 236) That night, Siddhartha sat under the bodhi tree and medi- tated until dawn. He purified his mind of all evil thoughts and attained Enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, thus earning the title Buddha, or “Enlightened One.
” For the re- mainder of his eighty years, the Buddha preached the dharma in an effort to help other people also reach Enlightenment. The Buddha objectively examined the phenomena of life. Studying effects and tracing their causes, he produced a science of living which ranks with any other science known to man. He de- scribed life to be one and indivisible.
Man, he declared, can become Buddha, Enlightened, by the principle of Enlightenment within. This process is simply to become what you are, to de- velop to the full innate Buddha-Mind by destroying the igno- rance, sin, and evils of human nature. According to the Buddha, all forms of life can be shown to have three characteristics in common; impermanence, suffering, and an absence of a permanent soul which separates itself from other forms of life. The Buddha also pointed out that nothing is the same as it was only a moment ago.
Everyone and everything are constantly changing. There is no rest within the universe, only a ceaseless becoming and never-ending change. Buddhism denies that man has an im- mortal soul. The Enlightenment which dwells in life does not belong to only one form.
Man is always changing and entirely Buddhism is a natural religion. It does not violate either the mind or the body. The Buddha became aware that men are born and die according to their good or evil actions, according to their self-created Karma–the consequences of good or evil acts. Even though there are several different forms of Buddhism that have come into existence since Buddha’s death, there is still a basic essence that all Buddhists agree with.
All Buddhists rec- ognize four basic noble truths. The first noble truth of the world is dhukka, or suffering. The second truth is tanha, or desire, which is the cause of suffering. The third truth is that in order to free oneself from suffering, one must overcome desire.
The fourth truth tells us how this can be accomplished through the eight-fold path. The eight-fold path is the means to achieve liberation from suffering. It helps one weed out cravings and ignorance, to overcome rebirth, old age, disease, death, sorrows, lamentation, grief, and despair. It helps to end mass misery and aids people in attaining Nirvana, or salva- The most simple teaching of the Buddha was to do good, to avoid evil, and to purify the heart.
According to Buddha, the hearts of ordinary men are not pure. They are filled with greed, ill will, and delusion. Greed and hatred are impurities caused by desires, and ignorance is the cause of delusion, es- pecially delusion of self. Ignorance, in fact, is the cause of desire and thus the primary cause of all suffering and of re- birth.
The Buddha said that one may purify his heart: 1. By practicing self-control and self-restraint 2. By meditating upon one’s own self 3. By following the Eight-Fold Path that leads to the end of all suffering All of these points are the basic essence of Buddhism.
They help people understand the worlds of suffering, personal or otherwise, and how to overcome that suffering. Buddhism is a simple religion that focuses on changing the evil of man and society into a good entity. It brings a message of salvation and hope to whoever will follow its path.