Buddhism is what we call the original teachings and discipline established by the Buddha, as well as the family of separate but related movements that have grown out of those early beginnings and spread in a vast and complex diversity of forms throughout the world. They all have at their core the Buddha’s preoccupation with suffering and its end.
The man who was to become the Buddha was born Prince Siddhattha Gotama in India over 2500 years ago. Brought up in royal splendour it wasn’t long before an awareness of the inevitability of old age, sickness and death led to him
abandoning his palaces in search of truth. At the age of thirty-five, after six years of searching, he seated himself beneath a
great tree and focused on his breathing. When his mind had reached a state of heightened clarity he investigated the cause of suffering. He thus penetrated to the fundamental level of reality and came to know suffering’s cause and thereby its end. It is from this point that we know him as the Buddha – the ‘One who Knows’, the ‘Awakened One’. For the next forty-five years until his passing he wandered Northern India teaching people how they too could be free from suffering.
The Four Noble Truths
At the heart of the Buddha’s teachings are the Four Noble Truths.
1. suffering; unsatisfactoriness
Life is inherently unsatisfactory and experienced as suffering: we are subject to birth, aging, sickness and death. Even the happiness and pleasant experiences are unsatisfactory since they all must pass.
2. The cause of suffering Craving, according to the Buddha, is the root of suffering. We crave for pleasure, to exist, to not exist and for things to be other than they are.
3. The end of suffering This is the goal of Buddhist practice. The Buddha used the term ‘nibbana’ (Nirvana) which literally means ‘extinguishing’, i.e. The extinguishing of the fire of craving. Nibbana is freedom from all greed, hatred and delusion. Nibbana is neither annihilation, nor an eternal heaven.
4. The path leading to the end of suffering This is the noble eightfold path: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.
Blind faith is anathema to Buddhism. The Buddha cautioned his followers against merely believing his words, instead encouraging them to actively probe and investigate. Scriptures may point the way to truth but it is down to each individual to realise it for themselves through direct knowledge.
God, The soul and creation
Buddhism is a non-theistic religion that does not recognise a creator God. The Buddha held that such a belief is a deluded one. In contrast to relying on forces outside oneself, Buddhist teaching emphasises personal responsibility.
Regarding the origin of things, he taught that no beginning can be found, and that to search for such is the way to madness.
Central to the Buddha’s teaching is the doctrine of‘anatta’ – ‘no-self’, ‘no-soul’, which states that beings are an ever-changing, evolving combination of mind and matter, within which no permanent entity or essence abides.
Karma and Rebirth
Karma means action, the results of which depend upon the intention behind the action. Actions that are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion bring about suffering; whereas those rooted in generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom bring happiness. The Law of Karma highlights the fact that we alone are responsible for our own happiness and suffering. Rebirth is conditioned by the actions that we perform through our life.
Loving – Kindness and Compassion
The Buddha taught that we should try at all times to be harmless, and to act out of loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves and all beings everywhere.