Buddhism

 
History. The name Buddhism comes from the word 'budhi' which means 'to wake up' and thus Buddhism is the philosophy of awakening. This philosophy has its origins in the experience of the man Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, who was himself awakened at the age of 35. Buddhism is now 2,500 years old and has about 350 million followers worldwide. Until a hundred years ago Buddhism was mainly an Asian philosophy but increasingly it is gaining adherents in Europe, Australia and America.

Two thousand five hundred and fifty years ago, the historical Buddha enjoyed unique circumstances for passing on his teachings. Born into a highly developed culture, he was surrounded by exceedingly gifted people. After reaching enlightenment, he shared his methods for discovering the mind for a full forty-five years. It is for this reason that his teachings, called the Dharma, are so vast.

The Kanjur, Buddha´s own words, consists of 108 volumes containing 84,000 helpful teachings. Later commentaries on these teachings, the Tenjur, amount to another 254 equally thick books. This makes Buddha´s final evaluation of his life understandable: "I can die happily. I did not hold one single teaching in a closed hand. Everything that may benefit you I have already given." His very last statement sets Buddhism apart from what is otherwise called religion: "Now, don´t believe my words because a Buddha told you, but examine them well. Be a light onto yourselves." There are two main branches of Buddhism, Theravada and Mahayana. Theravada developed first and adheres to the original teachings of the Buddha, and Mahayana developed much later and uses a wider set of scriptures.

Beliefs and Practices. Buddhists are followers of the Buddha, who was not a God, but rather a spiritual guide. Buddha shows his followers how to free themselves form the cycle of death and rebirth to a state of enlightenment. All of the many teachings of the Buddha centre on the Four Noble Truths, just as the rim and spokes of a wheel centres on the hub. They are called 'Four' because there are four of them. They are called 'Noble' because they ennoble one who understands them and they are called 'Truths' because, corresponding with reality, they are true.
  • The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering. To live, you must suffer. It is impossible to live without experiencing some kind of suffering. We have to endure physical suffering like sickness, injury, tiredness, old age and eventually death and we have to endure psychological suffering like loneliness, frustrations, fear, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, etc.
  • The Second Noble Truth is that all suffering is caused by craving. When we look at psychological suffering, it is easy to see how it is caused by craving. When we want something but are unable to get it, we feel frustrated. When we expect someone to live up to our expectation and they do not, we feel let down and disappointed. When we want others to like us and they don't, we feel hurt. Even when we want something and are able to get it, this does not often lead to happiness either because it is not long before we feel bored with that thing, lose interest in it and commence to want something else. Put simply, the Second Noble Truth says that getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness.
  • The Third Noble Truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness attained. This is perhaps the most important of the Four Noble Truths because in it the Buddha reassures us that true happiness and contentment are possible. When we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time, enjoying without restlessly wanting the experiences that life offers us, patiently enduring the problems that life involves, without fear, hatred and anger, then we become happy and free. Then, and then only, do we begin to live fully. Because we are no longer obsessed with satisfying our own selfish wants, we find that we have so much time to help others fulfil their needs. This state is called Nirvana. We are free from psychological suffering.
  • The Fourth Noble Truth is the Path leading to the overcoming of suffering. This path is called the Noble Eightfold Path and consists of Perfect Understanding, Perfect Thought, Perfect Speech, Perfect Action, Perfect Livelihood, Perfect Effort, Perfect Mindfulness, and Perfect Concentration. Buddhist practice consist of practising these eight things until they become more complete. You will notice that the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path cover every aspect of life: the intellectual, the ethical and economic and the psychological and therefore contains everything a person needs to lead a good life and to develop spiritually.

Calendar. The calendar of Zen Buddhism festivals is located at http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVLPages/ZenPages/ZenCalendar.html

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