Buddhism: What and Who is it?
What is it?
Buddhism goes all the way back around 2500 years to when Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha ( as he was later to become known as) was born, in an area we now call Nepal. One of the most basic teachings of the Buddha is impermanence. It is that life is always moving, changing and flowing. Buddhists call this the Dharma (truth).
Buddha "awakened" to the Dharma while meditating under a Bodhi tree. When the truth (Dharma) had humbled him he had realized that himself and all living things would someday be destroyed by impermanence. When the unavoidable changes like death and sickness happen to us and everybody asks “Why do I deserve this” or “Why me” Buddha had now devoted his life to helping others to also awaken to the truth and end their suffering.
Buddhist practices like meditation are meant to help change oneself in order to develop awareness, compassion and wisdom. Although some people don’t see Buddhism as a traditional religion because there is no worship of a creator god. It is still a guide for a better you. It is welcoming to all people regardless of race, nationality, gender and homosexuality. I add that because I feel there is nothing against homosexuality in Buddhism, not that I have found anyway. If there was something against it then it wouldn't be very compassionate of a religion as I thought and definitely not tolerant of differences. I feel someones sexual preferences shouldn't exclude them from anything they want to attain in life and there’s my little rant about that.
There is about 350 million Buddhist world wide, that is 6%. Making Buddhism the 4th largest religion. With all the forms of Buddhism there can be found, all revolve around non-violence, lack of dogma, tolerance of differences and usually the practice of meditation.
What makes Buddhism so different from other religions is first off other religions are centered around a god or gods. But Buddhism is non-theistic (absence of, rejection of, theism or any personal gods or god). Buddha taught that believing in god had no use if you were seeking enlightenment. The Buddha said that we should not believe doctrines just because we read them or they are taught by priests but instead Buddha taught how we can realize the truth for ourselves. The focus of Buddhism is practice rather then believe and that practice is of the Eightfold Path.
The founder of Buddhism himself Siddhartha Gautama. He was said to of been brought up by his mothers younger sister, Mahapajapati Gotami and was destined the life of a prince, having three palaces build for him. His father King Suddhodana, wished for his son to be the next Great King, was said to of shielded him from religious teachings and human suffering.
When Siddhartha was 29 he left the palace, regardless of his father trying to shield him from the worlds suffering. After leaving he had seen a old man, when the driver of his chariot had told him that everybody gets old, the prince had gone on many more trips outside the palace. Running into a dead man, diseased man and a ascetic. Seeing these people depressed him and he strove to overcome aging, death, sickness and the life of a ascetic.
Siddhartha went through a period of his life of becoming a ascetic. He began by begging in the streets. He was then recognized by King Bimbisara who had offered Siddhartha a throne after hearing about his journey. Which Siddhartha had rejected, but did say he would visit after he had reached enlightenment.
Continuing down his path he and five companions had tried finding enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods, including food and practiced self-mortification. After nearly starving himself to death, by only eating a leaf or a nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and just about drowned. After this he decided to reconsider his chosen path. It was then he remembered a moment back when he was a child, seeing his father begin plowing. He had a concentrated and focused state that was refreshing (jhana, or Zen).
Siddhartha to Buddha
Siddhartha's enlightenment was said to of taken place after meditation under a Bodhi tree which took 49 days. In that time of meditation he was said to of reminisced in all his previous deaths and births and reliving them in full. Realizing then that everything is in a loop of birth, death and re-birth and controlled by the laws of karma.
During his time of meditation Mara (the evil one) was said to of tried to seduce him with his two daughters. Which had failed as well as lightning, winds and heavy rain. Which none of them distracted Siddhartha from his state. Finally, a demonic army was sent. Which Siddhartha also triumphed over. After Siddhartha's struggles he had realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it. He had the the highest wisdom and comprehended things as they were. he had become the Buddha.