Buddhism is a religion and philosophy that originated from India around 2,600 years ago. It was based on the wisdom of the Buddha.
The Buddha was born as Prince Siddharta Gautama in Lumbini (modern day Nepal). He enjoyed a life of luxury and pleasure as a prince until he became aware of the world’s suffering, which was largely due to people lacking what they need, sickness, old age, and death. He realized that his riches and pleasures are not enough to bring him true happiness. Right after, he led a life of extreme asceticism but also found that it’s not bringing him nearer to understanding true happiness. He then came to the conclusion that there must be a “middle-way” between indulgence and mortification, which will lead to true happiness or “enlightenment.”
The teachings of Buddhism can be summed up to the 4 Noble Truths and the 8 fold path.
The 4 Noble Truths are:
- The truth of suffering (Dukkha). Suffering is a part of our existence.
- The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudaya). Desire or craving is the source of suffering.
- The truth of the end of suffering (Nirodha). If we detach ourselves from craving we can attain true happiness.
- The truth of the path to the ending of suffering (Magga). Following the 8 fold path will lead to the end of suffering.
The Noble 8 fold paths are:
- Right Understanding
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Action
- Right Intention
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Concentration
- Right Speech
By following the 8 Fold Path one can achieve true happiness or enlightenment. Ceasing the pain of rebirth into another life of suffering.
Today there are two major schools of Buddhism, the Theravada and the Mahayana. These two schools still share the core teachings and practice of the Buddha Dharma even if they have different interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings.
Theravada is largely practiced in the southern asian countries of Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, and Thailand. This maybe the most orthodox school of Buddhism as it holds the earliest teachings of the Buddha.
Mahayana is practiced in different forms mostly in Japan, Korea, China and Tibet. We say different forms because Mahayana is not a single group but a variety of schools such as Zen, Pureland and Tibetan, to name a few.