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Buddhism is less a religion, and more a philosophy, a dedication to love and wisdom. A Buddhist’s main goals are to lead a moral life, be self-aware of thoughts and actions and their effects on others, and to cultivate understanding of themselves, the world, and the universe.
Buddhism comes from the teachings of “The Buddha,” Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Nepal, in 563 BC. At the age of 29, he realized a life of luxury did not guarantee happiness, and began studying the different teachings of religions and philosophies of his day, in search of the key to happiness. After six years of study and meditation, he found ‘the middle path’ and became enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent his life teaching the principles of Buddhism — called the Dhamma, or Truth — until his death at the age of 80.
The basic teachings of the Buddha can be summed up as the Four Noble Truths, and the Eight-fold Path to Enlightenment:
The Four Noble Truths
Life is suffering: pain, old age, disease, and death, are inescapable parts of human life, as well as psychological suffering such as fear, loneliness, frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, and anger. Buddhism accepts this as fact, and explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.
Suffering is caused by expectation and aversion. Expecting others to conform to our expectations, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want, etc. all result in some form of suffering. Rather than struggling to get what they want, Buddhists strive to modify their wants. Desire deprives us of contentment and happiness.
Suffering can be overcome. True happiness and contentment are possible when one learns to give up useless cravings and learn to live each day at a time. By not dwelling in the past or the imagined future, we can become happy and free, which will give us more time and energy to help others. Achieving this is called Nirvana.
The Noble Eight-Fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.
The Eight-Fold Path to Enlightenment
1. Right View: Buddhists acknowledge that our actions have consequences. Death is not the end, and our actions and beliefs will have consequences after death.
2. Right Resolve: A Buddhist might adopt the life of a religious mendicant, or beggar, in order to follow the path. This concept aims at peaceful renunciation, and introduces the individual into an environment of non-sensuality, loving kindness, and aids the contemplation of impermanence, suffering, and non-Self.
3. Right Speech: A Buddhist should speak no lies, manipulation, or cruel words.
4. Right Conduct: A Buddhist should not kill, steal, or engage in promiscuous sex.
5. Right Livelihood: Buddhists believe one should only possess what they need for survival, and reject unnecessary luxuries.
6. Right Effort: Buddhists practice self-awareness and mindfulness, and try to be diligent in dismissing or controlling sensual or material thoughts that disrupt meditation.
7. Right Mindfulness: Buddhism encourages mindfulness about impermanence of body, feeling and mind, as well as to experience the five aggregates (skandhas), the five hindrances, the four True Realities and seven factors of awakening.
8. Right samadhi: practicing four stages of meditation (dhyāna) culminating into unification of the mind.