Facts about Buddhism

We found 28 facts about Buddhism

Science of the Awakened

Buddhism is a philosophical and religious system that originated in India around 500 BC. Its founder was Siddhartha Gautama of the Śakya lineage, known as Sakyamuni Buddha. Over five centuries, his teachings spread from within India to much of Asia before reaching the West in the 20th century. Today, Buddhism is the fourth religion globally, with some 500 million adherents.

Buddhism is a religion (philosophical and ethical system) in which the concept of a personal God plays a secondary role (or even none at all).

It is a non-theistic system that neither affirms nor denies the existence of a god.

The ultimate goal of all Buddhists is to achieve Enlightenment and liberation from the circle of successive incarnations.

Buddhism does not emphasize philosophical speculation but the direct experience gained through various practices that allow one to understand the nature of reality and the mind.

The founder and creator of the basic principles of this system was Siddhārtha Gautama (Sakyamuni Buddha), who probably lived between 563 and 483 BC.

He was probably the son of a prince of the Śāky family, the ruler of one of the city-states in northern India. However, his social background and details of his life are difficult to prove. Some stories about his life may have been invented and later inserted into Buddhist texts.

The term "Buddhism" is a Western neologism coined relatively recently by Western scholars.

Earlier in the East, the name dharma, sasana or buddahasasana was used to describe these practices.

Buddhism is based on the Four Noble Truths, the foundation of Buddhism, and the Eightfold Path, which is meant to lead to the cessation of suffering.

The Four Noble Truths arose from Buddha Siddhartha Gautama's " Awakening " experience (Enlightenment). Awakening is realized after prolonged meditation practice or suddenly. "Awakened" is "Buddha" in Sanskrit, and this was the name Gautama took when he began preaching his teachings.

The Buddha taught for 45 years.

He left no direct transmissions; all his knowledge was passed on to his disciples, who wrote it down or passed it on orally after his death.

He preached his teachings while traveling through northern India. At first, he mainly transmitted the teachings of Theravada (the longest-established Buddhist school among the early Buddhist schools, and its teachers derived their teachings directly from the Buddha), which were used to free oneself from one's suffering. The Great Way teachings, which emphasize the importance of wisdom and compassion to help oneself and others, are based on them. Finally, the Buddha gave the Vajrayana teachings (related to the practice of tantras), recognizing the nature of the mind.

One hundred years after the Buddha's death, Buddhism spread as far as Iran and Central Asia.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, Theravada Buddhism (Southern Buddhism) was known in Southeast Asian countries (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, and Bali). In contrast, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism (so-called Northern Buddhism) appeared in China, Japan, parts of Vietnam, Korea, Tibet, and in the early 16th century, also in Mongolia.

While Buddhism was developing in other countries, it paradoxically began to disappear in India.

This was associated with Islamic aggression against India. By 1100, Buddhism had been eliminated from Kashmir. Teachers and practitioners fled to Tibet and those countries that opened up to Buddhism, among others. Within a century, Muslims had overrun India, but Buddhist teachings survived in other countries, and books burned by Islamic followers were translated into other languages in Asian countries.

The influence of Buddhism on the culture of the countries that adopted it (ancient India, Japan, Tibet, China) was enormous.

Buddhist teachings spread thanks to merchants moving through various countries, and the Buddhist University of Nalanda became the center of India's intellectual life for many centuries. Moreover, the teachings of Buddhism were often supported by the rulers of the countries concerned, such as the Chinese emperors.

Buddhist scriptures were codified, which had a significant impact on the spread of these teachings outside India and provided a basis for the study of Buddhist philosophy.

In the 19th century, Buddhist texts were studied by British, French, German, and Russian scholars.

It happened that, influenced by the study of these texts, many Europeans abandoned their religion and converted to Buddhism, and in this way, the first Buddhist communities in Europe were established.

With the expulsion of lamas (spiritual teachers in Tibetan Buddhism) from Tibet by the Chinese, Buddhist teachings made their way to the West. In Western society in the 1960s, there were changes in the way of thinking, and perception of the world, and the search for the meaning and content of life began. Buddhism answered many of the questions asked by people in Western culture at the time, which led thousands of people in the 20th century to practice Buddhism and join Buddhist communities.

Today, the greatest spiritual opening to Buddhist teachings is in the western part of the world - in Asia interest in Buddhism is declining, especially after the destruction of Tibetan culture by the Chinese invasion in the 1950s and 1960s.

Although the original message of Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni) Buddha has grown over the years, with different teachings, practices, and emphasis on selected themes from his teachings, there are many common elements to all Buddhist traditions and schools.

The basic tenets of Buddhism are based on the Four Noble Truths, which were formulated by Shakyamuni Buddha during his first sermon to the five Ascetics in Gazelle Park, Sarnath (one of the four holiest sites in Buddhism), and are accepted by all Buddhist traditions. The sermon is called "Sermons on Getting the Dharma Wheel in Motion.

These Four Noble Truths arose from Buddha Shakyamuni's experience of "Awakening."

They are seen in Buddhism as a profound psychological analysis of reality and a methodology of conduct, not a philosophy. The Buddha told his monks that these Truths are real, and precise, which is why they are called noble.

  • The First Noble Truth of Suffering - speaks of the five clusters of existence associated with attachment to suffering
  • The Second Noble Truth about the Cause of Suffering - says that the cause of suffering is desire
  • Third Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering - the cessation of suffering is the complete disappearance and cessation, renunciation, abandonment, liberation, abandonment of desire
  • Fourth Noble Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering - the path to it is the Noble Eight-Step Path
The Noble Eight-Step Path is the set of basic precepts of Buddhism.

According to the Fourth Noble Truth, the path leads to liberation, peace, the extinction of suffering (dukkha), direct knowledge, Enlightenment, and nirvana (the term for a very advanced level of realization). It leads to the eradication of desires, aversions, and illusions. It consists of eight parts.

  • Right view - understanding the law of cause and effect, impermanence, and the desire to free all beings from suffering
  • Right thinking (resolve) - eradicating lust and unkindness, resolving to renounce ill will, and renouncing the infliction of all harm
  • Righteous word (speech) - abstaining from lying and detraction, using speech to benefit others
  • Righteous deed - involves observing the Five Precepts (not to take life, not to take what is not given, to lead a good sex life, not to use bad speech, not to intoxicate oneself with drinks and drugs that lead to inattention, to abstain from eating in the afternoon, not to use beautifying cosmetics, and not to sleep in high and luxurious beds)
  • Righteous earning - a righteous way of earning a living, so as not to break the commandments and bring harm to others (trade in weapons, living creatures, drugs, poisons), but also to refrain from fishing, butchery, military, falsehood, treachery, predicting the future, deception, exploitation
  • Righteous striving (effort) - striving for enlightenment
  • Right concentration - maintaining attentiveness in all one's endeavors
  • Rightful meditation - striving for states in which the "ego" disappears
Monks still follow an additional series of precepts, which are a deepening of the Five Precepts.

Monks must not touch a woman. To keep the body and mind pure, monks learn to respect all women and treat older women as mothers, peers as sisters, and younger women as daughters. In addition, monks don't use money ("gold and silver") and follow a series of rules of ethical behavior. They do not go to bed late, as this leads to suffering.

A correct understanding of the Four Noble Truths requires an understanding of the doctrine of impermanence and the absence of an eternal self.

This means that all phenomena lack a permanent "essence," that they exist in mutual interdependence and never independently of conditions.

"Awakening" (bodhi) is a term used by the Buddha to name his inner experience.

"Awakening" or "Enlightenment" is the understanding, the awakening from sleep, of ignorance and the experience of the Three Characteristics of Existence: impermanence, painfulness, and the absence of an unchanging self. Buddhists believe that upon reaching the state of bodhi, a being is freed from samsara, or the perpetual cycle of birth and death - awakening here means freedom from suffering.

To attain bodhi, one develops full perfection by skillfully applying 37 factors of liberation, called "Wings Toward Enlightenment." They consist of:

  • the four bases of mindfulness
  • the four kinds of right effort
  • the four bases of success
  • five spiritual abilities
  • five spiritual powers
  • Seven Factors of Awakening
At the moment of awakening, all lust, anger, delusion, ignorance, desire, and false belief in the self disappear.

All Buddhist traditions recognize three types of Awakening:

  • Full Awakening itself - "Perfect Self-Awakening."
  • Disciple Awakening - "Awakening Through Listening."
  • Silent Awakening - "Personal Enlightenment."
The extinction of suffering is referred to in Buddhism as Nirvana.

It is a state of liberation from the cycle of birth and death or samsara. A person who has attained the state of nirvana is said to be liberated from suffering and its causes because he or she has removed the ignorance that is the source of suffering, and there is no subsequent incarnation after death.

Sansara is a constant wandering, a wheel of birth and death, a cycle of reincarnation to which all living beings, including divine beings, are subject.

After each incarnation, the next incarnation is chosen according to the accumulated karma (cause understood in terms of the law of cause and effect). Liberation from samsara is achieved by walking the noble eightfold path, which leads to nirvana.

According to Buddhism, re-birth can take place in one of the six realms of re-birth.

These are gods, titans, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell. The first three are the lands of happy birth, the other three are the lands of unhappy birth. These lands are depicted on the wheel of life, the happy ones at the top, the unhappy ones at the bottom of the wheel.

According to Buddhism, after death, there is a disintegration of a person into five skandhas (clusters).

Buddhists accept that there is nothing unchanging that can pass into the next life. There is no eternal personal self, soul, or "atman" (soul understood as individual self). However, karma from a previous life can affect the next, according to the law of cause and effect.

The basis of all existence, according to Buddhism, is emptiness (siunjata).

Emptiness means the absence of a phenomenon's nature. Phenomena that have no essence of their manifest because they are dependent on many factors. They exist in a dependent way and have no real existence. This impermanence also applies to living beings, which also lack their substance (soul).

According to Buddhism, human beings are composed of five clusters, which disintegrate at the death of the physical body. In addition to these five clusters, there is the mind ("pure consciousness"), which is the only one that does not annihilate.

Buddhists believe that the effects of the actions they take will affect not only their present lives but also their future and future births.

According to them, people are entangled by their passions and sufferings in the world of illusions (Maya) and thus do not perceive the truth. If they reached it, they would not experience suffering, since all mental suffering is the result of seeing the world incorrectly. In the world of illusions, there is no lasting happiness, since every positive is loaded with a negative (birth - death, love - fear of losing it, pleasure - addiction, etc.) To truly live one must see things as they are.

To become a Buddhist, one must take refuge in the Three Jewels - this is the basis of the practice.

These jewels are: 

  • Buddha - this refers to both the historical figure of Buddha and the Buddha ideal. Taking refuge in this means believing in the Enlightenment achieved by the Buddha, trusting in his teachings, and being motivated to achieve a similar experience. Buddha means perfect wisdom and seeing reality as it is
  • Dharma - the Buddha's teachings leading to the cessation of suffering
  • Sangha - a gathering of monks and nuns, upholding the Buddha's teachings and providing examples of their truthfulness - these are all Dharma practitioners
To avoid negative karma, there are precepts in Buddhism - a set of recommendations for the unenlightened.

They are like a voluntary commitment and, according to the Buddha, it is good to follow them, but they cannot be imposed on anyone.

The main goal of Buddhists is the transformation of one's mind.

The main means of doing this is meditation, which is meant to give insight into the workings of the mind and the opportunity to develop concentration, mental clarity, and positive feelings. Through meditation, a person can gain insight into the nature of the world and can see the emptiness of all phenomena and the absence of self. Through it, he can get rid of desires and attachments.

The Buddha preached that liberation should be sought within oneself and that he achieved Enlightenment through meditation. In Buddhism, there are two main types of meditation: tranquility meditation (Samatha) and insight meditation (vipassana).

The Buddha figure often finds representation in Buddhist art.

This art includes sculptures, statues, bas-reliefs, paintings, mandalas (symbolic diagrams), architecture (stupas, monasteries, rock-cut caves), and its frequent subjects are scenes from the Buddha's life. Sculptures, statues, or paintings depicting the Buddha are called buddharupa in Sanskrit. They are meant not so much to commemorate a historical figure as to remind people of the latent potential to achieve Enlightenment, and to fill the viewer with peace of mind, to inspire him to achieve happiness.

Statues of Buddha depict him in various positions called Mundra, but the most common is the lotus position, symbolizing the perfect balance of thought.

The oldest Buddhist monument discovered is traces of a wooden structure dating back to the 6th century BC, the remains of the oldest Buddhist temple at the Buddha's birthplace.

Another monument is the Aśoka column in Lumbini, dating back to 249 BC. One of the earliest works of Buddhist art was the stupas, where relics of the Buddha would be kept.

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