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Buddha and Buddhism

Buddhism is one of the world's most interesting religions, and has been widely practiced throughout the Far East.  However, it has also recently become very popular amongst many people in the United States.  For example, actor Richard Gere as well as many other celebrities have embraced and promoted Buddhism's benefits.  The origins of Buddhism date back more than 2,000 years, and although Buddhism is now a religion all on its own it owes its spiritual "roots" to figures in Hinduism.  Buddhism, which has as its idol a statue of founder Siddhartha Gautama (who is most often called the Buddha), promotes a doctrine of peace, inner resolve and tranquility, and moral living, and following the teachings of the Buddha is said to bring peace and perfect spiritual harmony. 

"Buddha" is a word meaning, "supremely enlightened one" or one who has a fully awakened mind and spirit.  Siddhartha Gautama earned this term during the sixth century B.C. after a profound spiritual journey.  He came up with several tenets or truths, and these teachings have gone on to be the fundamental backbone of Buddhist doctrine.  These teachings have been interpreted somewhat differently in places where Buddhism has spread (such as Japan, for example) but the principles of Buddhism remains the same throughout: Buddhism is a quest for the reduction of suffering and pain through meditation and a quest for a simple life free of cravings.  

The Buddha is not considered a god, and Buddhists do not pray to him or his image for favors.  Instead, they meditate on how they can attain peace, love, and compassion within themselves.  Buddhism has five major precepts, and Buddhists strive to follow these precepts.  

They are: 

  1. Not to kill anything living  
  2. Tot to steal or take anything not freely given
  3. To abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence
  4. Not to lie
  5. To avoid the use of alcohol and drugs which cloud the mind and impair thought

By following these precepts and freeing themselves from cravings, Buddhists feel that they can attain Nirvana, a spiritual peace.  Once they have attained Nirvana and have realized that life is not about cravings, material things, or lust, Buddhists will then be able to use their time to improve the world.  The idol most commonly associated with Buddhism is the statue of Buddha with his arms folded in his lap and a beatific smile on his face.  The statue is said to represent Buddha's compassion and spiritual tranquility, and while Buddhists do not pray to the Buddha, they do nod their heads to the statue to acknowledge and thank Buddha for his teachings.  As more and more people discover Buddhism, the statue of Buddha is being found in many new households throughout the world.


The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City
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