- Religion and Philosophy
Buddhism-The Gentle Religion
Mount Kailash located in Tibet is a holy pilgrimage that most Indians practicing Hinduism wish to undertake at least once in their lifetime. They believe that their reigning deity Lord Shiva resides there with his eternal companion and consort Parvathi. To reach Mount Kailash and the adjacent sacred lake Manasarovar is a rather daunting task involving an arduous trek through the Himalayas if one were to travel from India. The other option is to fly up to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet,drive downward towards India and then reach the place. This is a story about some Indians who chose to take the Tibetan route.
When China invaded Tibet, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans and the great Buddhist philosopher and preacher Dalai Lama fled to India with his entire entourage of disciples and followers. Since then, he has resided in a small quaint town in the Himalayas, and is considered by the Tibetans and many other Buddhists as the reincarnation of Lord Buddha himself.
So the group who were driving down to Kailash stopped over at a small place for lunch. Not knowing the exact value of the exchange rate between the two currencies, they wanted to leave a rather large tip in Tibetan currency for the persons waiting on them. To their utter surprise, the waiters wished to be paid in lower denominations of Indian currency. When asked why, they came up with an explanation that left the travelers astounded. They felt that the chances of the lower denominations of Indian currency passing through the hands of Dalai Lama were far greater than the higher ones, and they thus wanted to take a chance at touching a bill that had perhaps passed through the hands of the Lama once. Such was their faith and devotion! The Indians made the trip, came back and recounted their tale in a leading newspaper of India.
The Dalai is worshiped as a living reincarnation of the Buddha even today. His preaching follows what Buddha once taught. The life and times of Buddha is inspiration enough for his followers to still seek God among humans rather than relying on a God that exists in a formless, all powerful entity that orchestrates everything in the universe from an unknown location called Heaven. The Buddhists believe that God exists in nature and among us. This is my tribute to a great religion that tries to pacify and join rather than trying to divide and separate through distinctive interpretations.
Origins of Buddhism
Buddha, or Buddha Shakyamuni as he is known from the royal lineage of Shakyas of which he was a descendant, was born in 624 BC (?) in present day Nepal. The word Muni means the 'Able One', so Shakyamuni denoted an Able One born to the royal family of Shakyas.
Siddhartha Gautama, as he was also known prior to his renunciation, was born to a great Indian king, His mother died seven days after childbirth, but there was a prophecy that he would either be a great king or a religious leader some day.
Fearing the second prophecy, Gautama's father shielded him from religion, hardship for survival, and the vagaries of the outside world within a palace where he resided exclusively with his servants and retinue. He was married by the age of 16, and lived in splendid isolation within the confines of the palace walls for the next 13 years.
One day, when he was around 29, he took his chariot outside the palace walls for the first time. He saw a very old man, which his charioteer recounted was everyone's destiny, that everyone would grow old some day. He then saw an ill man. a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. His charioteer once again explained the men, and said that the ascetic had renounced everything to overcome his fear of death. Siddhartha was greatly disturbed and anguished by what he saw, and the next day left his kingdom and family to pursue his path to relieve suffering and gain enlightenment.
Over the next six years, Siddhartha led an ascetic life along with five other ascetics. His dedication was so profound that the other ascetics became his followers in due course of time.When he still did not get answers, he redoubled his efforts at renunciation, starving himself of food and water at times, and enduring unbearable pain at other times.
One day while accepting a bowl of rice from a young girl, realization dawned on him that self denial was not the proper way to achieve salvation. He ate the rice, drank water and bathed in a river. His five followers felt Siddhartha had given up his asceticism and abandoned him, leaving Buddha to continue his search for truth and salvation alone.
Once, Siddhartha sat underneath a tree in a small village to rest after a long journey. While meditating there, he understood the real path to free oneself of suffering. He then began advocating the Middle Way, which really was a balanced path in life devoid of extreme means of self denial to achieve salvation and liberation.
He began being known as the Buddha, a Sanskrit word meaning a person who has been enlightened. Buddha spent the rest of his life preaching through the length and breadth of the country, and continued doing so until he passed away around 483 BC (?) at the old age of 80.
“You only lose what you cling to.”— ― Gautama Buddha
Teachings of Buddha
The Three Universal Truths
Buddha while meditating under a tree one day noticed that flowers were in full bloom while the trees were getting covered with new foliage. He was appreciating the beautiful world around him when he noticed a farmer beating his ox, an earthworm being eaten by a bird, and then an eagle swooping down and killing the bird. He started questioning himself about the necessity of killing another to survive in the world. After some inner search, he realized the three great truths that led to his subsequent enlightenment
1. Everything is accounted for in the universe
The very basic understanding of Buddhism is that the sum total of the universe is always constant. While a leaf that has fallen decays into the soil and then enriches it, a seed from the same tree sprouts and gives birth to a new plant. We are born to our parents and our children are born to us. The cycle of life progresses without hindrance, and that is what is really true and prevails in the world. For example, destruction leads to further destruction, while cheating others is a way of cheating ourselves. Buddha firmly believed in non-violence, and forbade killing animals to live in harmony with nature and the surrounding world.
2. Nothing around us is constant
Buddha also realized that everything around us is in a constant state of flux. Life is never steady, sometimes it flows without hindrance and other times is obstructed by failures and disappointments. Evolution has seen the extinction of some species and development of new ones, yet the world has remained unchanged and the flow of life unhindered.
3. Changes Due to Cause and Effect
Buddha explained "Karma" as something that happens as a consequence of our actions. Our life today is the result of our past deeds. The thoughts and actions we have today will ultimately determine the way we live later. Thus, every moment is new to us and we create new Karma through what we say and behave. This is similar to Newton's Third Law which says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is also where Buddhism and science seem to meet.
With this view, Buddha had said,
"The kind of seed sown
will produce that kind of fruit.
Those who do good will reap good results.
Those who do evil will reap evil results.
If you carefully plant a good seed,
You will joyfully gather good fruit."
“A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving and fearless then he is in truth called wise.”— ― Gautama Buddha
Basic Buddhist Teachings by Bikhu Ananda
The Five Basic Rules of Buddhism
Buddha himself framed the five basic rules for his followers and disciples. They are,
1. Respect life, do not kill anyone.
2. Respect property of others, do not steal.
3. Respect defined and pure nature as laid down by society, do not do any sexual misconduct.
4. Respect honesty, do not lie.
5. Respect a clear mind, do not intoxicate yourself.
What Is Buddhism?
“Whatever a monk keeps pursuing with his thinking and pondering, that becomes the inclination of his awareness.”
― Gautama Buddha
Relevance of Buddhism in Today's World
Buddhism promotes a simple way of living. The religion is based on five simple precepts of not to kill, steal, lie, to stay away from intoxicants, and not to engage in sexual relations outside societal norms. The religion makes one aware of the fundamental faults and weaknesses within a person that one should consciously try to avoid. It also explains the cause of most inter-personal problems being animosity, hatred and intolerance of others. When we practice self control, we are able to control the cause of such turmoil within. Buddha understood that hatred only begets furtherance, thus leading to ultimate destruction. To overcome that, he advocated leading a virtuous life entwined with love, kindness and compassion.
If we are able to lead a life that has been preached by Buddha, there will neither be hatred, nor rivalry, competition or intolerance in the world. To achieve that, the mind needs to be controlled through meditation to offer it a soothing calmness to tackle any adverse situation.That is essentially what the world needs today, rid of its tensions, mutual distrust, hatred and intolerance to make it a safer and better place to live now and forever.
“Purity or impurity depends on oneself,
No one can purify another.”— -Gautama Buddha
10 Celebrated Buddhists in the World
1. Tiger Woods
2. Orlando Bloom
3. Tina Turner
4. The Dalai Lama
5. Leonard Cohen
6. Herbie Hancock
7. Richard Gere
8. Kate Bosworth
9. Steven Seagal
10. Aung San Suu Kyi
Which Part of Buddhism Do You Like Best?
Note from the author-
Recent world events have been a cause of great concern to me. The clockwork like beheadings in the Middle East, the strife in Ukraine, killing of innocent children in Pakistan, and the disturbances in Chechnya and other parts of the world got me wondering whether any religion has really been born in peace and harmony. The major world religions have some violent events as precursors and related to them, be it crucification of Christ, Prophet Muhammad's wars with other clansmen, or the epic battles between Hindu Gods and the demons, to name a few. It got me looking at other religions in the world, and Buddhism was one religion that was born in peace and developed in brotherhood to relieve mankind of its sufferings in a peaceful, coexistence and mutual respect approach .
This is my humble tribute to Buddhism and its uniqueness and relevance in today's world. I hope you find my presentation suitable. As always, I would very much appreciate your comments to know if you have liked this and also to help me know you better.
With best wishes,