Buddhism

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Introduction

Buddhism is the way of life initiated by an Indian sage named Siddhartha, who was born as a prince into the Sakya clan, in the sixth century BCE in North India. He became disillusioned with his privileged life when (at the age of twenty-nine) he first witnessed human suffering.

He spent the following six years seeking an understanding of the causes of suffering and a way of becoming free from suffering. When he finally attained enlightenment, he devoted his life to teaching others what he had discovered. The title, 'Buddha', can be translated as 'enlightened one'.

Sacred Text

The Buddha's teachings are divided into three main groups called the Three Baskets or Tripitaka. They are the Vinaya (rules of conduct or discipline), the Sutras (teachings given by the Buddha himself), and the Abhidharma (Buddhist science and philosophy).

Beliefs

Buddhism is not defined by a set of beliefs, but by a way of life.

The key to this way of life is the 'Four Noble Truths':

  • Life is characterised by suffering.
  • The cause of suffering is desire.
  • The cure for suffering is the extinction of desire.
  • It is the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the extinction of suffering.

The Noble Eightfold Path is:

  • Right understanding
  • Right thought
  • Right speech
  • Right action
  • Right livelihood
  • Right effort
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right concentration

Practices

Anybody who wishes to become a Buddhist must go through a short formal ceremony ('The Refuge Ceremony'), conducted by an authorized person belonging to one of the traditions or lineages (Hinayana, Mahayana or Vajrayana; see below)

The Basic Refuge is as follows

  • I go for refuge to the Buddha.
  • I go for refuge to the Dhamma (teaching).
  • I go for refuge to the Sangha (the spiritual community)

The Basic Commitments

During the ceremony, the candidate is asked to make a commitment to any one of the 'Five Precepts' for a minimum of twenty-four hours. A candidate is, of course, free to take any or all of these for as long as he or she likes.

The 'Five Precepts' are:

  • to abstain from killing living beings,
  • to abstain from taking things not given,
  • to abstain from sexual misconduct,
  • to abstain from false speech, and
  • to abstain from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.

There are three main teaching vehicles in Buddhism, the foundational or Hinayana Path, the Mahayana Path (which includes Zen), and the Vajrayana path. The Foundatonal Path focuses on self liberation, the Mahayana on altruism and working for the benefit of others and, the Vajrayana focuses on the meditation practices which bring about a rapid transformation in the mind. The foundational path is practiced in Sri Lanka, the Mahayana in most of South East Asia (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc), and the Vajrayana in Tibet.

Festivals

Each tradition has its own set of festivals, the main ones being centered on the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha.

To find out more visit: www.glasgowbuddhistcentre.com