What is Buddhism? (1/5)

(Read time: 5 minutes)

There are close to eight billion unique individuals on this planet with their own unique views, their own approach to life, and their own thoughts and beliefs. Having a sense of appreciation, understanding and respect for others beliefs is vital for society to move forward in a progressive manner.

With this, I want to introduce a new section to PickUpACrayon called Beliefs. The idea behind it is quite simple – I would like it to be somewhere where people can read about world beliefs and a place where people can understand a little bit more about different faiths, practices and cultures. Hopefully one day others will use this platform to share their own stories, interactions and experiences with different beliefs, but for now I wanted to start with this first series on Buddhism.

What is Buddhism? What was the origination of Buddhism and what are the three universal truths? What are the four noble truths? What is the eight-fold path? And what are the different schools of Buddhism today? Throughout this 5-part series I will be looking into these exact questions.

Whilst the next post in this series will focus more on the origination of Buddhism, briefly explained here, the teachings of Buddhism were founded by Siddhārtha Gautama between 5th and 4th century BCE, where Gautama was given the title Buddha which means the awakened one. The very title suggests that individuals who are not Buddha’s are metaphorically asleep to the true reality of their existence. In Buddhism the meaning of life is to end suffering, where the teachings explain that we suffer because we attach ourselves onto effects that do not give us lasting happiness which results in a cycle of pursuing and suffering thus exponentiating the affliction.

Recognising this impermanence and freeing one’s self from attachment is the basis of the Buddhist teachings, summarised by the Four Noble Truths (this too will be discussed in a future post). Strictly speaking Siddhārtha Gautama did not teach Buddhism per se, he taught Dharma which is Sanskrit (Ancient Indo-Aryan language) for ‘truth’. The idea behind these teachings is to enable others to live a more conscious life in which they are awakened to the true nature of their reality and existence thus reaching Nirvana. The word Nirvana is Sanskrit for ‘extinction’ and refers to the dissolution of the delusions by which we are bound – whereby an individual who attains Nirvana is known as a Buddha.

Today Buddhism is formed of many different traditions however the core principles remain consistent. Samsara is a key belief and is known as the cycle of reincarnation, where the death of an individual leads to their energy passing into another form, a cycle from which Buddhists wish to be freed. Samsara is closely linked to the concept of Karma where one has an accumulation of action and reaction which has resulted in delusional attachments thus resulting in Samsara. Globally there are around half a billion people who practice Buddhism with the hope of reaching Nirvana. More simply, Nirvana is known as the mind state which gives a true insight into the nature of reality by understanding, accepting and being awake to the Four Noble Truths thus becoming free from the cycle of re-birth.

Put simply, Buddhism is a practice of spiritual development with the aim of understanding the true nature of one’s self. There are many different interpretations surrounding Buddhist philosophies and given there is not the central practice of worshipping a creator, rather than viewing it as a religion many view it as a way of life. For example, one can view Buddhism from an Eastern lens where it can be seen as a religion and it is practiced in a similar manner to other traditions in the West. Alternatively, one can view Buddhism through a philosophical lens where it can be seen as a way of life or instead from a psychological lens where it can be used as a tool in psychotherapy. Nevertheless, irrespective of the different interpretations of Buddhism, its objective in all its forms is to bring about a change in consciousness of who and what you are.

Please click here to see the next post in the series.

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