"With our thoughts, we make the world." -Buddha

An individual's beliefs are personal and make them unique in comparison to others; they cannot be reputed or judged.

Also, it has been discovered through extensive research and surveying that those who are more religious enjoy more enjoyable than others. 

How so?

Since devout religious people exert sincere effort to follow fundamental doctrines that draw them closer to a supreme being they have good relationships with their peers, develop an openness to other cultures and traditions, and are better equipped to deal with identity or personal crises.

Therefore, to educate our interested readers about the history of world religions, we will spend some time analysing the origins, doctrines, and additional information on the world's fourth-biggest faith in terms of followers: Buddhism.

Origins of Buddhism

Buddhas
Buddhism originates from the teachings of Buddha. (Source: Unsplash)

Since Buddhism has over 500 million followers and encompasses 7% of the entire world population, it is a dominant religion that is worthy of study to understand the background of so many people spread across the earth.

Predominantly practised in Sri Lanka and distinct parts of Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos, Buddhism is a religion that includes a large variety of traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices.

The overwhelming majority of customs and traditions followed by Buddhists stem from the original teachings of the Buddha. 

When did Buddhism begin? 

While Buddhism is not as ancient as Hinduism in any way, its roots have been discovered to go as far back as the latter half of the 6th-century B.C.E.

The teachings of Buddhism originate from Siddhartha Gautama or "the Buddha". 

Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563 B.C.E in a place near the Himalayan foothills, and later on, he began teaching around Benares. The "Buddha" was raised and informed during a time where the Hindu ideal of renunciation of family and friends by holy persons seeking Truth first became widespread.

According to the teachings of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama was the warrior son of a king and queen. His life experiences and visions made him realise intriguing aspects of human beings and their suffering. For example, after moments of reflection, Gautama saw the stark contrast between his life and human suffering that made him realise that all the pleasures on earth were transitory, and could only mildly mask human pain that is inescapable all individuals.

Therefore, to try to escape human suffering, he left his family and went to the woods with several other teachers to reject the society he was part of to such a point that they nearly died of starvation. After realising that starving himself with his companions would not solve any of the world's suffering and deep-rooted issues, he ate and meditated under a tree.

While there have been many theories as to how long "Buddha" stayed under the tree to meditate, some say only a day while others claim it was more like six months, he finally found the correct answers to the causes of suffering and its permanent release.

What was it? 

Nirvana. Reaching Nirvana is a state of enlightenment that all devout Buddhists strive to achieve to deal with the world's many problems of suffering.

After Siddhartha Gautama reached Nirvana, he became formerly known as the "Buddha" and began to teach to as many as possible. His essential doctrines include the Four Noble Truths and Eight-Fold Path that have been followed by Buddhists down to this day.

Before concluding this section, it is essential to state that although many of Buddha's activities and teachings took place in the 6th century B.C.E, an account of his life was not released until the 1st or 2nd century by Ashvaghosa. The ancient writings about Buddha are known as the Buddha Charita.

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The Primary Doctrines of Buddhism

Similar to all major religions, denominations, and personal beliefs, Buddhism has many primary doctrines that are unlike any other customs or traditions practised by other faiths.

It is essential to mention that the majority of Buddhist beliefs revolve around the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth; mainly by attaining Nirvana or a path of Buddhahood.

Since there are so many intriguing doctrines encompassed in Buddhism, it is crucial to focus on some of the most noteworthy. In the following list, we will consider the Four Noble Truths in further detail:

  • Dukkha: the first noble truth is known in English as the truth of suffering. When analysing suffering Buddhists recognise that there are three kinds of pain that correspond to the three sights Buddha saw. What are they? Old age, sickness, and death. Buddhists understand that life often fails to live up to our expectations; satisfaction is only temporary. By accepting this first truth, Buddhist are neither optimistic nor pessimistic but realistic.
  • Samudāya: the second noble truth is that of the origin of suffering. Many people's daily problems may be from simple causes such as thirst, hunger, sadness, or the loss of a loved one. However, Buddha has identified the exact purpose of suffering, and it is much more deeply rooted than one might think. The root of all pain comes from desire or tanhā. Also known as the three roots of evil, greed and ambition, ignorance and hatred, are the cause of suffering.
  • Nirodha: the third noble truth is known as the cessation of suffering. Buddha taught that the only way to let go of desire is to be unattached. Nirvana can only be reached if the three fires of desire are extinguished. Reaching enlightenment is worth not being attached to anything since it means compassion for all living things.
  • Magga: known as the path to the cessation of suffering, the final noble truth is a set of principles called the Eightfold Path. Also known as the Middle Way, the Eightfold Path avoids indulgence. In the following list, we will consider more information about the Eightfold Path.

Deeply entrenched in Buddhist beliefs is the Eightfold Path. The following are the eight stages that should not be taken in order but are instead there to strengthen and reinforce each other:

  1. Sammā ditthi: known in English as the right understanding, which is accepting Buddhist teachings. Buddha never wanted his followers to believe his teachings blindly; instead, they were to judge for themselves if they were right.
  2. Sammā san̄kappa: can be understood in English as the right intention or commitment to cultivating the right attitudes.
  3. Sammā vācā: the right speech; which means that practitioners should avoid harmful speech, slander, or gossip and focus on speaking correctly of people.
  4. Sammā kammanta: the fourth part or step is known as the right action, which is behaving peacefully and harmoniously together avoiding any stealing, killing, or sexual overindulgence.
  5. Sammā ājīva: known in English as the right livelihood, devout Buddhists following this path will work hard to avoid earning a living in ways that cause harm to other people or animals.
  6. Sammā vāyāma: the right effort is a fundamental step that involves cultivating positive thoughts and staying away from unwholesome states and their development in the future.
  7. Sammā sati: known in English as the right mindfulness, followers exert themselves to develop an awareness of the body, sensations, feelings, and state of mind.
  8. Sammā samādhi: the right concentration is developing the mental focus necessary for the eightfold path.

By working hard to complete all of the required tasks of the eightfold path, Buddhists set themselves up for enlightenment that is necessary for true happiness in life.

Before concluding, it is essential to state that there are many more other Buddhist beliefs that are fundamental to the entire structure of Buddhism.

Supplementary Information About Buddhism

Although the world's major religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism could not be more different, they are similar in their structure.

How so? 

Well, it is essential to mention that even though the beliefs and doctrines differ, there are specific categories that remain the same such as places of worship, holy books, prominent figures, and iconic symbol.

Even though not all religions meet in a place called a church, they at least have a sacred space where there beliefs are cherished. 

Therefore, without further ado, we will consider supplementary information about the Buddhist faith.

Places of Worship

symbols of world religions
Temples are where Buddhists worship their deities. (Source: Unsplash)

The following is the most common sacred space where Buddhists worship:

  • Buddhist Temple: the followers of Buddhism worship their deities in areas known as temples across the world. Sacred Buddhist structures may be called vihara, chaitya stupa, wat, and pagoda. Temples represent the purest environment of Buddha.

Holy Writings

Christians read the Bible, Muslims examine the Qur'an, and Buddhists analyse the following ancient text for insight:

  • Pali Canon: also known as the Tripitaka, the Pali Canon is an important Buddhist holy book that includes many of Buddha's discourses and teachings. Pali Canon means "the word of Buddha" when translated. Also, it is essential to state that different sects of Buddhism follow canonical and noncanonical scriptures to a varying degree.

Key Figures of Buddhism

The succeeding people are some of the most recognisable figures of Buddhism:

  • Gautama Buddha: probably the most essential Buddhist of all time since the teachings of Buddhism were based on his philosophies and thoughts.
  • Dalai Lama: the 14th Dalai Lama is perhaps the most famous Buddhist still alive. Born as Lhamo Dhondup, he was identified as the reincarnation of the past Dalai Lama when he was only two years old.

Buddhist Symbols

symbols of Buddhism
The dharma wheel has eight spokes and typically represents Buddhism. (Source: pixabay)

Like all denominations and faiths, Buddhism has a few symbols that are different from all else. The following are the most iconic Buddhist symbols:

  • The Dharma Wheel: also known as the Dhamma Chakka, it is often used to represent Buddha himself and is now the universal symbol of Buddhism. The Dharma Wheel has eight spokes which represent Buddha's Eightfold Path.
  • The Eternal Knot: the intertwining of lines on the eternal knot is said to symbolise how everything is connected to each other; according to the knot, religion and secular affairs, as well as compassion and wisdom.

By carefully analysing Buddhism, individuals become more familiar with intriguing aspects that are so ordinary for people in other continents such as Asia.

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