Top 10 Facts About Buddhism
Written by: Catalogs.com Editorial Staff
April 4, 2011
Filed Under Spirituality
Contributed by Marnely Rodriguez, Catalogs.com Top 10 Guru
“All conditioned things are impermanent” — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.”
With that quote begins the wisdom…and many of the misconceptions..of Buddhism. In the hands of too many New Age “Buddhists”, that simple statement has been twisted to mean everything from “Nothing matters” to “Our goal is to not care about anyone or anything except our own enlightenment.”
Wrong! The reality of Buddhism is that it is a complex and compassionate practice that results in a very high level of awareness, with a focus on loving kindness, not detachment. Interested in learning more? There is so much that can’t be even mentioned in a brief article, but for those who are looking for a place to start, here are 10 facts of Buddhism, along with some resources to take you further along the path.
10. Siddharta Gautama
A priviliged and sheltered Indian prince, Siddharta Gautama, is credited with bringing the tools of enlightenment to people. His parents had attempted to protect their son from realizing that sickness, death and suffering existed. But an accidental lapse in that plan was all it took to send the young seeker out into the world to try to understand life, death and pain. He tried many paths, including near starvation, but ultimately, all proved useless. Finally, he sat down beneath a tree, vowing to remain there until he understood why people suffer. Days later, he rose as the Buddha or “the Enlightened one”, and immediately began sharing his newly-gained knowledge with others.
9. Fourth largest religion worldwide
Today there are over 360 million followers of Buddhism worldwide, after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The countries with the largest Buddhist populations are China, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. In the U.S., Buddhism is one of the fastest growing spiritual practices, with an estimated 170% growth from the 1900′s to the first decade of the 2000′s
8. There is not one official Buddhism
Although demographic tables lump all followers of the Buddha’s teachings into one heading, the truth is that there is no singular or “official” version of Buddhism. And it’s more than just minor variations in practice. Some Buddhist practices invoke dieties. Some eschew the entire concept of dieties. Some emphasize monastic life, while others see Buddhism as a practice for an engaged life.
7. Five precepts
One of the foundational elements of Buddhism is known as the Five Precepts. Like the Judeo/Christian 10 Commandments, these simple rules form the core of acceptable, ethical behavior. The Five Precepts are:
Do not kill.
Do not steal
Do not engage in sexual misconduct.
Do not lie.
Do not use intoxicants.
Buddhism’s original language was Pali. But today, even esoteric Buddhist writings are available in many languages worldwide. Dharma talks (lessons) are given in local languages in Buddhist centers and online. Chanting may be done in a variety of languages, depending on the choices of the community. Some opt for ancient tongues, while others prefer contemporary language.
5. Four noble truths
What the Buddha discerned in his moment of enlightenment is summarized within the Four Noble Truths
Suffering arises from attachment to desires
Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path
4. Noble eightfold path
If suffering is to be reduced, a path is needed. In Buddhism, that path is The Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of:
Right View – Seeing the world and life as it is
Right Thought – Similar to emotional intelligence
Right Speech – Clear, truthful, compassionate, free from harm
Right Conduct – Not exploiting one’s self or others
Right Livelihood – Ethical occupation that does not harm or exploit self or others
Right Effort – Directing one’s energies towards creative, good ends
Right Mindfulness – Cultivating awareness and an ability to be in the present moment
Right Meditational Attainment – Completeness. Unity of action and intention. Focus.
Buddha is not a god, but an Enlightened man. Statues of Buddha are popular and inspirational decorative items for people who aspire to follow the Buddha’s teachings.
Buddhism is divided into three major divisions and these are: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana
Theravada, a word that means “Doctrine of the Elders,” is focused on Pali scriptures, which were transcribed from the oral tradition as taught by the Buddha to his contemporaries.
Mahayana, which included Zen Buddhism, Tantric Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism is focused on thoughts and acts of compassion. Most practitioners also believe in the concept of bodhisattvas. These are people who have reached the level of pure enlightenment (like the Buddha) but have elected to remain in the circle of life in order to help others reach enlightenment. Seated meditation and walking meditation are key elements in these practices.
Vajrayana Buddhism is the most recent of the ancient forms of Buddhism. Here the emphasis is on physical movement and practices as a path to enlightenment. The practice relies heavily on chanting, ritual activities and Tantra as a means to access a higher consciousness. But they do not neglect the intellectual aspect…Vajrayana practitioners are also usually well-schooled in Mahayana and Theraveda texts and sutras.
The ultimate goal of practicing Buddhism is to obtain Enlightenment and to bring an end to suffering for one’s self and for all people. It is not, as some popular websites claim, a path that seeks to extinguish caring, love, families, friendship or anything else of value.
More than a religion, Buddhism is a spiritually-focused lifestyle, which can guide practitioners towards a more unified, loving and peaceful existence.