A Brief Overview of Buddhism

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Buddhism is probably the most tolerant religion in the world, as its teachings can coexist with any other religions. Buddhism has a very long existence and history, starting in about 565 B.C. with the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. The religion has guidelines in two forms in which Buddhist followers must follow. These are the "Four Noble Truths" and the "Eightfold Path. It all started in about 565 B.C. when Siddhartha Gautama was born. He was a young Indian prince born to the ruler of a small kingdom that is now known as Nepal. Gautama's father was said to have been told by a prophet that if Gautama saw the sick, aged, dead, or poor he would become a religious leader. If he didn’t see these four things he would become an emperor. Because of this prophecy Gautama's father decided to isolate his son from the outside world, where he might "see how the other half lived", for the good of his empire and his citizens. Trying to shelter Gautama from all the four sights was impossible, and Gautama ventured out and that is when he eventually saw the four sights, which would, if experienced as it had been told to Gautama's father, lead the young prince to a religious leader. These sights or as how Buddhists refer to them "The Four Signs" were in turn, a sick man covered with terrible sores, an old man, a corpse, and a wandering monk. The sightings of these men made Gautama think of the suffering and inevitable death which comes to all people great and small. This brought further questioning such as the meaning of life and the ultimate fate of man. As time passed these thoughts became great burdens to Gautama and he increasingly became dissatisfied with the shallow dissolute life of the royal court in which he lived. Therefore at the age of 21, although married with a beautiful young son and also the heir to a very rich throne he forsook it all and became a traveling holy man. After a while of traveling as a holy man there was a great even that transformed Gautama into the Buddha (or the Enlightened One). Siddhartha had been meditating under a bodhi tree for six years, but had never been fully satisfied. Eventually at dawn it all began on Gautama's thirty-fifth birthday. He finally realized the essential truth about life and about the path to salvation. He realized that physical harshness of asceticism was not a means of achieving Enligh...

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...clothing from him, shaving his head and giving him a beggar-bowl along with a saffron-colored robe. These three things are all traditional symbols of a Buddhist monk. For those who become monks it is a life of poverty and celibacy. Before gaining the admittance into the monastery a monk must proclaim his faith by saying "I go to Buddha for refuge; I go to Dharma for refuge; I go to Sangha for refuge" by saying this a monk gives up his civil rights such as voting and being eligible for public services. Also a few sects permit marriage. This report was just a short overview of traditional Buddhism, the Buddha, its beliefs and its way of life. It did not include the two major sects; Theravada the conservative sect, and Mahayana the liberal sect. Much more could be said of Buddhism but there are so many more aspects that could be explored that it would take a twenty-page report and forever to do.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Hopfe, Lewis M. Religions of the World. New York: Macmillan Publi- shing Company, 1991. Mazour, Anatole G. and John M. Peoples. World History People and Nations Revised Edition. Orlando, Florida: Holt, Rinhart and Winston Inc., 1993. www.buddhanet.com

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