Buddhism is not a true religion but more an ethic and philosophy of behavior. Today, there are about 700,000,000 Buddhists located throughout Asia, and there are, to a much lesser extent, on other continents. The founder of Buddhism is Siddhartha Gautama – Buddha, born in Nepal around 560 BC. BC, and died 480 BC. Kr. Buddhism was named after him.
The life of Siddhartha Gautama – Buddha
The Buddha was born and raised in the Hindu religion, in another caste, the warrior caste. As a member of a respectable caste, his father was a wealthy man, so he raised the Buddha in great luxury. The Buddha’s father prophesied that his son would be either a great wanderer or a great ruler.
His father wanted to protect him from becoming homeless, so he kept him locked up in his castles (he had three castles: one for summer, another for winter, and a third for the rainy season), where he could only see happiness, luxury, health, beauty …, And they hid everything ugly from him. At 19, he married a beauty named Yašodara or Gopa, who gave him a son, Rahul. They lived happily, though isolated from others, for ten years.
But all this external happiness did not satisfy the Buddha. So he decided, despite his father’s command, to run away from home and see how other people were living. He sneaked out of the house four times and then left his father’s house forever. He met an older man on the first outing, on the second a sick man, on the third a funeral, and on the fourth a poor but joyful Hindu monk. He realized that not all people are young or healthy and that one does not live forever.
Siddhartha Gautama – Buddha Escaped From the Castle
So one night, inspired by a monk he met, he escaped from the castle and decided to live as a wandering beggar. He was 29 at the time. For the next six years, he tried in all possible ways to find an answer to the question of the meaning of life. He first began to suffer (torturing the body in various ways). Thus, e.g., five other friends, who also wanted to find what the Buddha did, fasted to exhaustion. He thought fasting would make sense. Legend has it that he fasted so much that he became “bone and skin” that even his hair fell off his arms and legs. However, he did not find the meaning of life. So he decided to eat again. That’s why his friends left him.
Thoroughly disappointed, he sat down under a Bodhi tree and decided not to move from there until enlightenment came to him. He sat and meditated for 49 days, during which time a demon tempted him, but after that time, he finally discovered the meaning. That is, as it is said in Buddhism, he experienced enlightenment. He was then 35 years old. Since then, he has been called Buddha. The word Buddha, in fact, means enlightened. And later, every Buddhist who reaches the degree to which the Buddha has achieved is called an enlightened one, that is, a Buddha.
Siddhartha Gautama – Buddha Spent the Next 45 Years Preaching and Died at the Age of 80
His two sermons in Benares are especially famous. These are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Way. They reveal the cause of human suffering and how to achieve liberation from that suffering.
Thus, e.g., The four noble truths interpret that 1. in life, everything is suffering, 2. the cause of human suffering is their desires, 3. suffering can be removed in case if one is freed from desire, and 4. desires can be removed by the so-called the middle way. This roughly means this: man feels life as suffering, and that is because he always wants something. Namely, when he achieves what he wants, he wants even more…, and that is actually suffering. This suffering can only stop if a person stops wanting, becomes satisfied with what he has, and for that, he does not have to become a beggar or an ascetic, but the real meaning is in the middle – neither too much nor too little.
Only a person who manages to master his desires and finds a middle ground can experience nirvana. Nirvana is, therefore, a state when man no longer has any desires, when he achieves complete peace. But during this life, this state cannot be fully attained. True nirvana, absolute peace, can only be achieved in death when man unites with the universe.
Briefly about Buddhist Science
Buddhism originated from Hinduism, so it took over some elements of Hindu doctrine. The Buddha, in fact, reformed Hinduism; that is, he accepted something, but he also rejected or changed something. Thus, e.g., Buddhists believe in reincarnation and the law of karma (everyone will be born in the next life in the form he deserved by his present way of life) but reject the division of society into castes and the strict Hindu way of asceticism.
In contrast to Hindu strict asceticism, Buddhists developed their own monastic (religious) way, “God” consecrated life. A Buddhist monk leaves life with family, friends, and acquaintances and dedicates himself to meditation. In most Buddhist sects, he must be unmarried.
Monks live in monasteries, from the alms of the faithful. Namely, they must have almost nothing of their own, and they must beg for food. In fact, they only have a dress, sandals, a 108-grain rosary (something like a rosary), a razor for shaving the beard and head, a needle, and a water strainer (so as not to swallow a fly – a living being).
They must eat the food they beg for by noon. Buddhists are regularly vegetarians, but they are obliged to eat what they beg for, even meat. Believers gladly endow them with food because that is how they gain merit.
Ordinary Buddhist men often spend a few weeks or even years in these monasteries to get closer to enlightenment themselves and then return to their worldly life.
The division of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism
Buddhism is not unique. After the Buddha’s death, it was divided into Theravada, the form of Buddhism that firmly adheres to the Buddha’s teachings, and Mahayana, i.e., many different sects that do not have the same doctrine in everything. The most famous are Zen Buddhism and Lamaism.
The teachings of Zen Buddhism inspire many people in the West. This teaching was based on the act of the Buddha. Namely, a legend says that once a disciple came to the Buddha, gave him a golden flower, and asked him to reveal the secret of his teaching. The Buddha lifted the flower high into the air and just watched it without a word. By doing so, he wanted to show that true wisdom is not in wise words but in focused, collected observation of the most ordinary, everyday things that surround us.
That is why Zen Buddhists believe that enlightenment cannot come from thinking and studying books but that after a long practice of composure, enlightenment suddenly flashes into a person. They believe that such enlightenment can only happen after at least ten years of observing things and pursuing a strict lifestyle.
Catholic Church and Buddhism
The Catholic Church teaches that one should appreciate what is noble and sacred in every religion, and there is undoubtedly a lot of such in Buddhism. But on the other hand, some elements are contrary to Christianity. Thus, e.g., Buddhism speaks of the need to attain enlightenment, not to achieve spirituality, the nearness of God. This means that Buddhists are not much interested in God, but in man, that is, the man himself comes to discover the truth about himself, not about God. From this, you can see that Buddhism is not a true religion but a philosophy. All the exercises and everything else that Buddhists do not have the dimension of revealing God. They do not have the dimension of understanding God as Savior and Redeemer. Still, everything is focused exclusively on personal spiritual enlightenment. In that sense, others do not have as much value, e.g., in Christianity, where the love of neighbor is one of the main aspects of everyday life. Also, the doctrine of reincarnation and the whole of Eastern thought simply do not consider Christ’s sacrifice, salvation, and eternal life, which Christ’s Paschal Mystery made possible for us. Nevertheless, Buddhist monasticism and the way of observing reality in Zen Buddhists and other sects can be a strong incentive for Christians to find the actual value of life themselves in this sense of simplicity.