Buddhism is a religion to over 300 million people. The name comes from the word ‘budhi,’ meaning to awaken. Buddhist religion is unlike other contemporary religions in that, to many, it is more of a philosophy based on understanding and practice than a faith-based religion. Buddhism explains a purpose to this life and practices that lead to inner peace and happiness. In Buddhism, all “gods” are impermanent higher beings who are subject to rebirth. They are not creators or deities with absolute power. The Buddha was not a god, nor did he ever claim to be.
Who was Buddha?
The Buddha was Siddhartha Gotama, born into a royal family in what is now Nepal, in the year 563 BC. Before he turned 30, he came to accept that the wealth and luxury into which he was born would never guarantee him happiness, and so he left home to study different philosophies. After six years of diligent study and meditation, Buddha finally reached what he called ‘the middle path,’ or enlightenment. After finding enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism.
While the Buddha was not an absolute deity, this fact doesn’t stop Buddhists from keeping artistic depictions of him nearby. In fact, bronze sitting Buddha statues are popular and fundamental decorative pieces for bringing mindfulness and prosperity into any home. The bronze sitting Buddhist statue is considered good luck to all who rub his belly.
Main Beliefs of Buddhism
The main beliefs of Buddhism can be summed up with the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths say that life is suffering, suffering is caused by craving, suffering can be overcome to reach happiness and the only way to end suffering is through the Noble Eightfold Path. Following the Noble Eightfold Path means being moral, focusing on the mind and on full awareness of thoughts and actions, developing compassion for others and understanding the Four Noble Truths.
Buddhism in Western Society
Buddhism has become popular in western countries for several reasons. In practice, Buddhism encourages a deep understanding of the human mind. Psychologists and neuroscientists around the world are beginning to discover there are effective mental health benefits to Buddhist practices.
Meditation, a fundamental practice in Buddhism, is based on guided breathing to obtain mindfulness, the state of objective awareness of the present moment. Meditation helps with seeing bad thoughts and negative emotions such as jealousy, fear and disappointment in an objective way. When one meditates, one becomes able to separate the self from these negative thoughts, letting them pass without feeling connected to them. Meditation has been proven by neuroscientists to increase cognitive functions including focus, retention and happiness. Mindfulness is not an easy state to reach, however. It takes practice and discipline.