Australian Buddhist Mission Inc.
PO Box 16 Cherrybrook NSW 2126
What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is one of the major world religions and has its origins more than 2,500 years ago when Siddhattha Gotama was fully awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35. He came to be known as the Buddha. The word Buddha comes from the root word 'budh', meaning 'to know or to awaken'.
Who was the Buddha?
The Buddha was a fully enlightened teacher who was born into a royal family in northern India, in 563 BC. Known as Siddhattha Gotama, he realised at the age of 29 that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings, religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found 'the middle path' and gained enlightenment. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the Dhamma, or Truth - until his passing away at the age of 80. He taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience. His teachings (the Dhamma) came to be known as Buddhism and is maintained by the Sangha, the community of monks and nuns.
How Can Buddhism Help Me?
Buddhism provides a clear sense of purpose and direction in life, it explains apparent injustice and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of life which leads to true happiness.
Do Buddhists Worship Idols?
Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. When Buddhists bow they are actually venerating or showing their respect and appreciation for the triple gem (the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha). Bowing is an expression of reverence, humility and gratitude.
Is Buddhism a Religion?
To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or way of life. It is a philosophy because philosophy means 'love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:
* to lead a moral life,
* to be mindful and aware of thoughts, speech and actions, and
* to develop wisdom and understanding.
Are Other Religions Wrong?
Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings of other religions, but Buddhism goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like 'Christian', 'Moslem', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'. Hence, no wars have been fought in the name of Buddhism. This is also why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, but instead, explain if an explanation is sought.
Are There Different Types of Buddhism?
There are different schools within Buddhism such as Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Whilst all maintain the basic teachings, the emphasis and interpretation may vary to accommodate the needs of individual aspirants with different traditional and cultural backgrounds, and may also vary due to different levels of development and understanding.
Why is Buddhism Becoming Popular?
Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries for a number of reasons. Firstly, Buddhism has holistic answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes (for those who are interested) a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists and therapists have found to be very advanced and effective.
Is Buddhism Scientific?
Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of Buddhism fits into this definition, because the Four Noble Truths (see below) can be tested and proven by anyone. In fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching rather than simply accept his teaching. Buddhism depends more on understanding and practice than faith. Although Buddhism is realistic and objective, it goes beyond the limits of modern day science in its explanations.
What did the Buddha Teach?
The Dhamma can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
What is the First Noble Truth?
The first truth is that life is unsatisfactory (dukkha), that is, life encompasses pain, old age, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness, frustrations, fear, embarrassment, disappointment, anger, etc. This is an irrefutable fact which cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because it views all things as transient and changing. Buddhism is also optimistic in that it explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.
What is the Second Noble Truth?
The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectations, or we do not get something we want, etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your desires. Attachment and craving deprive us of contentment and happiness, and lead to physical and mental suffering. A lifetime of desires and craving, and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be reborn. On the other hand craving for non-existence can lead to suicide.
What is the Third Noble Truth?
The third truth is that suffering and all forms of unsatisfactoriness can be overcome with the cessation of craving, which leads to the realisation of the ultimate state of Nirvana. In other words, if there is no craving, there is no attachment, then there is no becoming, no rebirth, no old age, no sickness and death.
What is the Fourth Noble Truth?
The fourth truth is the way or path to the complete cessation of suffering. This is called the Noble Eight-fold Path.
What is the Noble Eight-fold Path?
In summary, the Noble Eight-fold Path is being moral (through what we say and do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion (concern) for others.
What Are the 5 Precepts?
The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the basic five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from false and harsh speech, and to avoid intoxication (ie, losing mindfulness).
What is Wisdom?
Buddhism teaches that wisdom consists of Right Thought and Right Understanding. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are inter-dependent, incomplete, impermanent and do not constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told, but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective and unbigoted mind. Wisdom is intelligence with understanding.
What is Compassion?
Compassion is the wish for the well-being of suffering beings. This motivates us to help others with consoling speech and kind actions. Compassion includes the qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, empathy, concern and caring.
What is Karma?
Karma means volition - or an intentional action expressed in thought, speech or bodily action. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life, etc. According to the law of Karma, good begets good, evil begets evil. We are what we are as a result of our past thoughts, speech and actions. What we will be in the future will be the result of our present thoughts, speech and actions.
How do I Become a Buddhist?
Formal conversion to Buddhism is not necessary, because one's label or category is less important than "avoiding evil, doing good and purifying the mind". Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone because the solutions to our problems are within ourselves, not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers to test the teachings for themselves (not just taking his word). Buddhism encourages personal responsibility for one's own actions.