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Buddhism has been known as one of the oldest and most significant religions of the world. It practice dates back to the 5th Century BC and has been associated with the teachings and experiences of Siddharta Gautama who lived between 563 and 483 BC.
He was born into a royal family and was raised by his aunt following the demise of his mother shortly after his birth. His birth was considered mysterious but he found favor with his father and the priest who had foreseen that he would be a great teacher and a world ruler. Despite the father’s efforts to shelter him for this greatness, he escaped from home after witnessing the suffering of life, to follow after every teacher. He saw four passing sights namely that of an old man, sick man, a corpse and a sannyasin.
In the process he joined 5 others who had the same mission and begun to practice deep austerity. After these failed to work, he adopted moderation and was rejected by the fellow ‘seekers’. He had an enlightening experience under the Bodhi Tree and became a Buddha which meant the ‘enlightening one’.
The religion possesses various characteristic values that include moderate eating, no alcohol, a daily activity of walking or physical exercise, regular meditation, pure air, practical living, emphasis on what is useful and avoiding useless debates that simply wastes time.
There are the Three Jewels that are of high value in this religion. These include the Buddha which signifies the ideal human example, the Darma which is the sum total of Buddhist teachings and beliefs and the Sangha which represents the community of monks and nuns.
The subscribers of this religion esteem three aspects inn the world as marks of reality. Change, which constantly takes place on people, nature, friendships, death, birth, happiness, is something that people must learn to expect. They also believe there is no permanent identity. No person, possession or entity always stays the same. Everything goes through growth, recycling, rebirth and memories. Sufferings in form of disease or dissatisfaction are part of life and must be expected and accepted.
The religion operates on four basic truths which include: to live is to suffer, suffering comes from our desires, to end suffering, we must end our desires and that one can gain release from suffering by following the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path is a concept that gives the followers of this religion the right understanding on the cause and effect of suffering and desires, right intentions mainly on motives, right speech that deals with kindness and honesty, right action that requires good deeds, no misconduct, no crimes and no hurt. It also gives them the right to work to minimize harm to self and to others, right effort that entails striving for the best as well as improvement, right meditation which requires disciplined communion with nature and reality and the right contemplation to attain inner peace.
The advanced concepts of Buddhism include Ahimsa that means do no harm, The Soul which is rejected due to its permanent association with one being, Karma which is still associated through rebirth through personality traits and Nirvana which is the indescribable attainment of inner peace and release from the cycle of rebirth.
Buddhism has three branches which has various aspects. Thervada which means ‘the way of the elders’ was sought to preserve the original teachings, included large groups of monks who practiced renunciation and detachment. The origin dates back to early Sannyasins and has now spread to Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
Mahayana which denotes the big vehicle is a broadened view of Nirvana. The concepts of karuna which implies aspects of kindness and compassion and bothisattva which means the enlightened ones are entailed in this branch. It seeks nirvana for all while emphasizing on meditation, engages in discussions about life and values labor. It has spread to China, Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka and has incorporated Zen Buddhism.
The third branch is the Vajrayana which denotes the diamond vehicle. It is predominant in Tibet as it known as Tibetan Buddhism. It employs Tantric practices and lays emphasis on the body ‘forces’ and has moved away from celibacy. It engages the spiritual leaders commonly referred to as lama. There are practices called lama incarnations which are called Dalai Lama.