What do Tiger Woods, Orlando Bloom and Steve Jobs all have in common? They’re all Buddhists!
Buddhism focuses on spiritual development and is absent of worship to any God or deity. The goal of this religion is to reach nirvana by following a similar life path as Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha, in his journey towards enlightenment in the 6th century BC. Nirvana is translated as “extinguish and is understood to mean a passing into another kind of existence. The path to enlightenment is reached through the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom. Buddhism is over 2,500 years old and there are 376 million followers worldwide.
Buddhism focuses on the idea that nothing is permanent and that everything in life is always changing. Life is endless and always subject to the three states called tilakhana. These states are impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. The three states are the sign of our existence which is endless. Buddhists believe that the major form of suffering in life is believing that a good thing can last. Nothing stays in a state of good or bad forever.
The Buddha was Siddhartha Gaurtama, a member of the royal family. Gaurtama lived a rich and privileged life and rarely left his enclosed area. When he did one day he encountered an old man, a sick man, and a corpse and understood the suffering of the world He decided to become a monk and adopted extreme asceticism. After years of understanding that asceticism was not the answer, Gaurtama began following the idea of the “Middle Way”; living a life that is absent of both luxury and poverty. Gaurtama was enlightened and is now known as the Buddha which is translated to the “awakened one.”
The two largest schools of Buddhism are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. Although there are a number of different Buddhist schools they all seek englightenment.
Most of the Buddha’s teachings are translated into The Four Noble Truths which are central to Buddhism. These are the truths the Buddha understood on his path to enlightenment through meditation:
- Dukkha: the truth is suffering
- Samudaya: the truth of the origin
- Nirodha: the truth of the cessation of suffering
- Magga: the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering
Buddhism asks us to understand that suffering is a part of life and that the origin of that suffering is truth. In the third Noble Truth, the Buddha promists a cure for the suffering and the fourth Noble Truth is what fixes truth, the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path is a guideline of how to live ethically and free of suffering in pursuit of truth. Through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path Buddhists achieve a higher level of existence and can reach Nirvana. The eight parts of the Path are not steps that go in order, but instead principles that work together.
- right view
- right intention
- right speech
- right action
- right livelihood
- right effort
- right mindfulness
- right concentration
Another central concept in Buddhism is karma. The idea behind karma is that what we have done in our past lives can affect our current life in either a positive or negative manner. Buddhism usually explains this idea in relation to good and bad seeds. Good seeds lead good fruit while bad seeds yield bad fruit. Karma decides where the person is born in their next life. A life of good karma can lead to being born among the heavenly while bad karma can lead to rebirth as an animal or in hell. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to get out of the rebirth cycle. It is through our own actions that we determine which way we move in our next life. Motives should be based on: compassion, kindness, sympathy, mindfulness and wisdom.
Worship takes place at a Buddhist temple although you do not have to go to the temple to worship. Many Buddhists have a room at their home that is dedicated to worship. Temples are designed to symbolize the five elements: fire, air, earth, water and wisdom. Usually worshipers sit barefoot on the floor facing an image of the Buddha.
Meditation is another central aspect of Buddhism. It is a mental and physical course of action that helps a person to separate their thoughts and feelings. Meditation is good therapy for mental and physical health. Meditation is the idea of simply being and not thing.
“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”
– The Buddha