Buddhism Basics


Origin and History

Buddhism originated in India during the 6th century BCE; it is an interpretation of Hinduism but rejects the authority of the Veda’s and the Caste System. Buddhism is based on salvation and individuals efforts (Hopfe Religions 126).  The founder Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), was the son of a Raja and when he was born it was predicted that he would be a king. His father had good intentions but the fact that he sheltered Siddhartha, surrounding him with only youth, beauty and health did not play out as he expected. Siddhartha, a grown man, married with a child began to have visions and decided to leave his home in search of… (I am not sure he really knew).Leading a life of asceticism he searched for answers. At the age of around thirty-four, it was while meditating that he became enlightened, having a vision of the cycle of life…endless repetitions of birth, death and rebirth and that the soul did not exist. He shared this enlightenment with all he encountered, teaching that any person, regardless of race, caste or sex, could become enlightened, this gave him an enormous following.

It was simple: Follow the 5 Rules (avoid killing, stealing, lying improper sex conduct and intoxicants) the Nobel Truths and the Eight Fold Path (living a life of the right intention, speech, actions, livelihood, efforts, mindfulness and concentration). Buddha denied the importance of god(s), worship, and sacrifice. Upon Buddha’s death his followers split into 2 major sects: Theravada (traditionalists/conservatives) and Mahayana (expansive teachings/liberals). There are now also many sub divisions.



Buddha’s teachings became codified in various scriptures

  • Buddhavacana:the word of Buddha
  • The Theragatha:translated early writings
  • Sutras:discources attributed to Buddha
  • Pali Canon (Tripitaka): a collection of scriptures that include: Vinaya Pitaka-rules for monks and nuns, Sutta Pitaka-discources of Buddha and Abhidhamma Pitaka -philosophy, psychology and meta physical teachings. (wikipedia)


Modern Day Buddhism

Asian Nationalism gave rise to the revival of Buddhism after WWII and the collapse of colonial empires. Asian Nationalism was growing and with that came the pride of being a Buddhist. Modern day Buddhist teachings minimize sectarian differences and teach universal non-violence and compassion.


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