Buddhism is a philosophical and religious doctrine originally pantheistic. Derived from Brahmanism, Buddhism was founded in India on the VI century B.C.E by Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, meaning “The awaked one”. He was a contemporary of Mahavira and came from the same warrior social class. At the age of twenty-nine, unsatisfied with his life of comfort and troubled by the suffering he saw around him, he left home to become a wandering ascetic. According to tradition, while meditating under a Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya, he reached enlightenment.
For the next forty five years, Buddha traveled through the Ganges Valley, propounding his ideas, refuting his adversaries, and attracting followers. In his first sermon the Buddha outlined his main message, summed up in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The basic insight of Buddhism is thus psychological. The deepest human longings can never be satisfied, and even those things that seem to give pleasure cause anxiety because we are afraid of losing them. Attachment to people and things causes sorrow and their loss. Those who achieved liberation throw the Eightfold Path are freed from the cycle of birth and death and enter the state called nirvana, a kind of blissful nothingness and freedom from reincarnation.
What is Buddhism?
Although Buddha accepted the Indian idea of reincarnation, he argued against belief in the integrity of the individual self or soul. He saw human beings as a collection of parts, physical and mental. As long as the parts remain combined, that combination can be called “I”. When that combination changes, as at death, the various parts remain in existence, ready to become the building blocks of different combinations.
As I mentioned above, Buddha main message is summed up in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are:
1. Pain and suffering, frustration, and anxiety are ugly but inescapable parts of human life.
2. Suffering and anxiety are caused by human desires and attachments.
3. People can understand these weaknesses and triumph over them.
4. This triumph is made possible by following a simple code of conduct, the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path is one of the Buddhist fundamental teachings, is the path that takes people to the end of suffering by reaching the Nirvana. All they have to do is take a series of steps, beginning with recognizing the universality of suffering (“right knowledge”), deciding to free themselves from it (“right purpose”), and then choosing “right conduct”, ”right speech”, “right livelihood”, and “right endeavor”. The seventh step is “right awareness”, constant contemplation of one’s deeds and words, giving full thought to their importance and whether they lead to enlightenment. The last step is “right contemplation”, which entails deep meditation on the impermanence of everything in the world.
Buddhism differed from Brahmanism and later Hinduism in that it ignored the caste system. Everyone, noble and peasant, educated and ignorant, male and female, could follow the Eightfold Path. Buddha emphasized that the path was important only because it led the traveler to enlightenment, not for its own sake. There was no harm in honoring local gods or observing traditional ceremonies, as long as one remembered the goal of enlightenment and did not let sacrifices become snares or attachments. The willingness of Buddhists to tolerate a wide variety of practices aided the spread of the religion.
The Buddha’s followers transmitted his teachings orally until they were written down. These scriptures are called sutras. There are three main branches or sutras of Buddhism, which are Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The Theravada School is one of the 19 Nikaja schools that Buddhism formed. It name means “Doctrine of the Elders”, because it base its practice and doctrine on the oldest of the surviving Buddhist canons. The Mahayana or