“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy them” (Siddhartha Gautama). Siddhartha Gautamaalsoknown as the Buddha, was an Indian spiritual teacher whom found Buddhism in BCE (Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, n.d) Through his teachers he developed the Middle way which is the path towards self-indulgence and mortification to attain enlightenment (Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, n.d).
When a person reaches total enlightenment, they abandon their bodies and achieve nirvana which is the ultimate goal of his followers and believed to be what happened to Siddhartha Gautama (Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, n.d). Currently, Buddhism is followed by around 376 million people world wide who continue his traditions and hope to find the nature of life to someday reach nirvana (BBC 2009). The spiritual belief of Buddhism is different than most because they don’t believe in a personal God and instead try to reach their own morality and wisdom. Buddhism has a vast number of beliefs, ethics, customs, and subdivisions which are still practiced and celebrated today.
The four noble truths is one of many beliefs practiced by Buddhism. The Four Noble Truths are four principles by the Buddha which contain the essence of his teachings. The first truth, is the truth of suffering also known as Dukkha. To recognize the fact of suffering like sickness, death, and pain, is essential to the basic characteristics of Buddhism (BBC 2009). The second truth is the truth of the origin of suffering also known as Samudāya (BBC 2009). While, the third truth is the truth of cessation or the end of suffering known as Nirodha (BBC 2009). Lastly, the fourth truth is the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering known as Magga (BBC 2009). In the first two truths, the Buddha identified suffering while in the third he discussed that there is a cure. Meanwhile, in the fourth truth, it is the way to be released from suffering (BBC 2009). This is why the Buddha is commonly compared to as a physician.
Another main belief of Buddhism is Karma which is also a concept in many other religions. Karma is the concept that what you do in life now affects the future and will come back to you so of course there is good and bad karma or in the Buddhist belief good or bad fruit (BBC 2009). A difference to Karma by Buddhist belief is that karma can affect you in your next life and will determine their rebirth and their social status. For instance, good karma can result in a person being reborn as a heavenly realm (BBC 2009). However, if you have bad karma you can be birthed as an animal or be tormented in a hell realm (BBC 2009). Although, having good karma and being birthed to a heavenly realm is good karma, their ultimate goal is to escape rebirth. Overall, karma is determined by a persons actions and moral habits. Good karma is related to a persons own actions and are typically outcomes of kindness (BBC 2009). On the other hand, bad karma is related to actions of greed and delusions (BBC 2009). This is a prime reason they believe they can control their fate.
In addition, they believe in the Buddhist Wheel of Life or Wheel of Becoming also known as the Bhavachkra (BBC 2009). The wheel consist of the Buddhist views of the universe including the cycle of life, death, rebirth and suffering (BBC 2009). The wheel is divided into five realms. Yama is one realm on the wheel which is the Lord of Death and symbolises the impermanence of life (BBC 2009). This part of the wheel is in place to show that death is not the end. Another aspect on the wheel is the Three Fires, which are the causes of suffering. This includes greed, ignorance and hatred which reinforce each other (BBC 2009). An additional aspect on the wheel is the realm of humans which is put in place to show that humans have a chance of enlightenment since they are not in a hell realm but not a God (BBC 2009).
Next is the realm of hungry ghost which is put in place to show unfulfilled desires. The realm of animals is also on the wheel to show they are also involved in enlightenment. Although people don’t want to be reborn as an animal they still think everything and one should be treated properly (BBC 2009). Also, hell is represented on the wheel to show the torture involved in bad karma. The twelve stages of dependent originated is also shown around the rim of the wheel. This includes ignorance, willed action, conditioned consciousness, form and existence, senses, sense-impressions, sensation, craving, attachment, becoming, birth, and lastly old age to death (BBC 2009). Lastly, and of course, the Buddha is also shown on the wheel to show that he escaped the cycle and to show others the way (BBC 2009).
Another major belief they live by is the realms of the universe. In the Buddhist belief, the tragedy of existence altogether is that it is endless and can cause suffering (BBC 2009). This is due to the fact that they believe in reincarnation which in the lives you are reincarnated you can be suffering in (BBC 2009). The six realms which they believe to exist include heaven (devas), humanity, Titan or the angry gods (asuras), ghost (pretas), animal, and hell. In Heaven, it is home to the gods and involves blissfulness and consist of people who have lived long lives (BBC 2009). In the realm of humanity, likewise to what was stated before, it involves suffering due to the fact that it is endless.
Meanwhile, the realm of the Titans it is warlike beings which have angry impulses (BBC 2009). In the realm of hungry ghost also known as pretas, the realm has unhappy beings who are unable to leave humanity behind because of attachments to their past lives. On the other hand, the animal realm is even more undesirable because animals aren’t self aware and therefore cannot achieve liberation and are stuck in suffering of that life (BBC 2009). Lastly, the Hell realm is the worst of all as it involves the torturing of others (BBC 2009). However, compared to other religions this realm is not forever it is only until their bad karma is gone (BBC 2009). Altogether, the first two levels are the best to be born into. The following three levels involve some sort of ignorance and greed but Hell is the worst of them all (BBC 2009).
Moving on from the beliefs of Buddhist is their customs. Buddhist believe in Venerating the Buddha which is a tradition which can take form of the exchange of gifts, pilgrimage, and ordination. In the Theravada traditions, the Buddhist can give gifts to the Buddhist monks or to good causes (BBC 2009). They do this as it is believed to be beneficial and give them merit (BBC 2009). Pilgrimage is another important aspect of their customs as it is a sacred site and expresses Buddhist devotion to the Buddha and show spiritual discipline (Boisvert, Goldberg 2014). Ordination is another custom which involves two rites of passages which includes renunciation of the secular life and acceptance of onaticism as a novice (BBC 2009). For instance in the Theravada, becoming a monk and admitting the postulants.
Another custom which is frequently associated with Buddhism, is meditation. Mediation is important to the Buddhist belief as it is the process of separating a person from their thoughts in order to become truly aware (BBC 2009). Compared to other uses of mediation, the goal of a Buddhist is not to become in a hypotonic state and instead involves the body and mind and stilling it (BBC 2009). Methods of meditation involved breathing, chanting, the mandala, or concentrating on something in particular (BBC 2009).
The painting of the mandala, a symbolic picture of the universe, is another major custom in the Buddhist religion (BBC 2009). The mandala can be painted on various different things but is used to represent an imaginary place. One method used to construct the mandala is sand. Constructing a sand mandala is seen as very purifying and healing and is suppose to give positive energies (BBC 2009).
Holy days are also an important factor to the Buddhist religion. Dharma day is a very important celebration festival of the Buddhas first sermon (Welch 2016). This day, which takes place in July on the full moon, marks the beginning of Buddhism as it is the day the Buddha founded his discipline (Welch 2016). During his sermon, he performed rituals which are still used today to call the order of the monks (Welch 2016).. The activities of this day include pray, meditation,a dn listening to sermons (Welch 2016). However, for the monks, the festival is the beginning of their three month mandatory retreat (Welch 2016)
Another festival celebrated is Losar which is the Tibetan New Year (BBC 2009). Unlike other new years, Losar is celebrated for three days versus one. On the first day of Losar, it is centered around family (BBC 2009). However, on the second and third days it can involve friends as well and the exchange of gifts (BBC 2009). In this time, Tibetans visit monasteries and make offering, people perform activities which symbolise purification, buildings are cleaned, people wear new clothes, and food is prepared (BBC 2009). Also rituals are performed to make evil spirits go away for the new year as a new start (BBC 2009). Today, the Losar festival is known as the annual Buddhist festival.
Furthermore, Sangha day is another festival celebrated by Buddhist. In this festival, they celebrate and honor Sangha which is the Buddhist community (BBC 2009). They do so to show their committment to the Buddhist practices by celebrating the idea of and actual creation of a spiritual community (BBC 2009). The day of Sangha Day is celebrated because on that day the Buddha preached to 1,250 monks about his first sermon (BBC 2009). Celebrations for Sangha can include meditating, chanting, lighting oil lamps, and the exchange of gifts but can vary (BBC 2009). This festival is considered the second most important festival in the Buddhist religion and a time of celebration.
Moreover, the Kathnina festival is another holy day celebrated in this religion which in this case focuses on the monks. This festival occurs at the end of the Vassa and on this holy day, it represents the monks being able to move on as before this day, they remained in one place for three months (BBC 2009). While the monks move on and leave, the people often offer cloth to celebrate them between the vassa period and October 19th to November 16th (BBC 2009). This tradition is still continued today and they still offer the monks cloth as a gift which later the monks will sew into a robe (BBC 2009).
Likewise, Parinirvana is yet again another festival which is very important in the Buddhist religion. This festival marks the death of the Buddha which explains the name as the Buddha reached enlightenment (BBC 2009). Because he reached enlightenment it is a celebration and not a mournful day as they believe he is living free of suffering. Celebrations of this day involves meditation and visiting the Buddhist temples (BBC 2009). During this day, it is considered a social event which food and presents are exchanged but also a day of reflection (BBC 2009).
On the other hand, Wesak is the most important festival celebrated by Buddhist on the full moon and represents the birth of the Buddha which was 80 years after his death (BBC 2009). This festival unlike most has a vast amount of ways which it is celebrated. However, typically, Buddhist will go to the temple throughout the day and night (BBC 2009).
Moving on from Buddhist Holy Days, are the importance of certain people in this religion. The Dalai Lama is a very important person in this religion as they are the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism and they also use to be responsible for the governing og it as well. As Gelupa tradition of Tibetan is the largest group, the Dalai Lama is a name frequently heard (BBC 2009). This belief is that the Dalai Lama is a rebirth of the past Dalia Lama whose mission is to continue their work (BBC 2009). Their belief is that the first Dalia Lama was Gedun Brub following to Gendun Gyatso and currently TenzinGyatso (BBC 2009). In order to be chosen as a Dalai Lama, the original Dalai Lama must be dead and they search for his reincarnated self (BBC 2009). Therefore, someone who was born the day of the Dalai Lama’s death (BBC 2009).
Ways which they believe they find the reincarnated Dalai Lama is through dreams, smoke,a nd the oracle lake. For dreams, one of the other Lamas may picture a location or mark (BBC 2009). Meanwhile, if the Dalai Lama was cremated they will watch the direction that his smoke travels and go from there (BBC 2009). Lastly, the Lamas will travel to the holy oracle lake called Lhamo Lhasto and look for a sign there (BBC 2009). Once they have someone who they believe is the new Dhalia Lama, they test the boy by showing them numerous artifacts where one belongs to the previous Dhalia Lama and if they pick the correct one, then they believe it is the previous Dhalia Lama (BBC 2009). Overall, The Dhalia Lama is an extremely important person in the Buddhist religion and represent the cycle of life and wisdom though reincarnation.
Moreover, the Dalai Lama was the face of the Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is a subdivision of Buddhism which is a combined teaching of Mahayana, Shamanic, and Tantric Buddhism (BBC 2009). Clearly in this tradition they believe in the teaching of the Lama, however, they also believe in preoccupation between death and life, the importance of rituals and initiations, symbolism, the elements from early Tibetan faith, and mantras and meditation practice (BBC 2009).
Moving on to another topic is the subdivisions of the Buddhist religions. One subdivision is the Korean Zen Buddhism which is clearly significant in Korea (BBC 2009). Buddhism became prevalent in Korea in the 4th century CE and then widely spread throughout the three kingdoms (BBC 2009). However, in the 7th century CE is when Son was introduced and in the 9th century CE Son became the dominant form in Korea (BBC 2009). However, in 1392 CE Son became not as significant and was replaced with Confucianism (BBC 2009).
In Japan, Nichiren Buddhism movement was also prevalent. Compared to other forms of Buddhism, this tradition focuses more on a persons self and how they could be better and they believe in instant enlightenment meaning that anyone can achieve it (BBC 2009). This tradition consist of ten main principles which range from worst to best include hell, hunger, animality, anger, tranquility, learning, absorption, bodhisattva, and buddhahood (BBC 2009). Buddhahood is the ultimate state a person wishes to be in as the person would be considered to have compassion, wisdom, and humaneness (BBC 2009).
Theravada Buddhism is yet another subdivision of Buddhism which is most seen in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, and Thailand (BBC 2009). The Theravada beliefs include the supernatural, the Buddha, God, and the path to enlightenment. In terms of supernatural they believe that people should not result in the supernatural for their problems and instead use meditation to achieve enlightenment (BBC 2009) Similarly, they belive in the Buddha like all other Buddhist traditions and same for the Path to Enlightenment (BBC 2009). Meanwhile, in terms of God they don’t blieve in one creator and instead believes in spiritual beings (BBC 2009). They also have their own principles which includes refraining from harming living beings, taking what is not freely given, sexual misconduct , wrong speech, and intoxicating themselves (BBC 2009).
On the other hand, Zen Buddhism is a mix between Indian, Mahayana Buddhism, and Taoism (BBC 2009). It is mostlylocated in China, Korea, and Japan and they aim to discover the meaning of life (BBC 2009). In this tradition, they believe everyone is Buddha and anyone can be enlightened (BBC 2009). In order to practice zen, they focus on master to pupil learnings over scripture and focus on the student becoming more aware in life (BBC 2009). Overall, they aim to free their mind and to get out of the “mental loop” in order to achieve the foal of enlightenment (BBC 2009).
Mahayana Buddhism is a tradition which is strongest in Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia (BBC 2009). Similar to Zen, it is a mix of traditions which one of them is actually Zen and the rest are pure land and Tibetan Buddhism (BBC 2009). In this tradition, they believe in the three bodies of the Buddha which include Dharmakaya,Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya (BBC 2009). Dharmakaya is the belief that Buddha is transcendent and ultimately the same as the truth. Meanwhile, Sambhogakaya means that Buddha’s body is bliss (BBC 2009). Lastly, Nirmanakayameans that Buddha is just like any other human (BBC 2009).
Lastly, the subdivision Pure Land Buddhism which was involved in the mix is another tradition from Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism is a practice which is popular in China and Japan and is seen as a way to receive enlightenment if you can’t mediate (BBC 2009). They believe you can do so by enduring long rituals and overall just living a good honest lifestyle (BBC 2009). Differently than other traditions, they have mystical elements in their traditions which involves faith, trust, and relationships which is suppose to make the teachings more comforting (BBC 2009).
Overall, the religion Buddhism has many beliefs, customs, traditions, and subdivisions which vary in every location. However, the major themes of this tradition is that there is no one God, the journey to enlightenment, that nothing is permanent, finding ones true self, and reincarnation. Buddhism unlike other practices, is a practice which aims to make a person their best self and gives them a goal which is nirvana. This is the reason that Buddhism is still so popular as it is the path to wisdom and morality.