Sunday, August 28, 2005

Buddhism Defined

Buddhism Defined Cover Buddhism takes followers through progressive stages of dhyana, samapatti and samadhi. Dhyana is meditation, which leads to moral and Intellectual purification, and to detachment which leads to pure consciousness. The samapattis, or further dhyanas, lead through a progressive nullification of psychic, mental and emotional activity to a state which is perfect solitude, neither perception nor nonperception. This leads further to samadhi, Supernatural Consciousness and, finally, entrance into the ineffable nirvana. Many Buddhists understand the ultimate destiny and goal to be a heaven of bliss where one can enjoy eternity with the Bodhisattvas. Mahayana places less value on monasticism than Theravada and differs further in believing one can rely on the active help of other realized beings for salvation. Vajrayana, also called Tantric or Mantrayana Buddhism, stresses tantric rituals and yoga practices under the guidance of a guru. Its recognition of and involvement in the supernatural distinguishes it from other Buddhist schools.

Life's goal is nirvana. Toward that end, Buddha's teachings are capsulized in the Four Noble Truths, chatvari arya satyani:

1. THE TRUTH OF SUFFERING: Suffering, duhkha, is the central fact of life. Being born is pain, growing old is pain, sickness is pain, death is pain. Union with what we dislike is pain, separation from what we like is pain, not obtaining what we desire is pain.
2. THE TRUTH OF THE ORIGIN (SAMUDaYA) OF SUFFERING: The cause of suffering is the desire (icchha), craving (tanha) or thirst (trishna) for sensual pleasures, for existence and experience, for worldly possessions and power. This craving binds one to the wheel of rebirth, samsara.
3. THE TRUTH OF THE CESSATION (NIRODHA) OF SUFFERING: Suffering can be brought to an end only by the complete cessation of desires -- the forsaking, relinquishing and detaching of oneself from desire and craving.
4. THE TRUTH OF THE PATH (marga) TO ENDING SUFFERING: The means to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path (arya ashtanga marga), right belief, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.

FOUNDED: Buddhism began about 2,500 years ago in India.
FOUNDER: Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, or "Enlightened One."
MAJOR SCRIPTURES: The Tripitaka, Anguttara-Nikaya, Dhammapada, Sutta-Nipata, Samyutta-Nikaya and many others.
ADHERENTS: Over 300 million.
SECTS: Buddhism today is divided into three main sects: Theravada or Hinayana (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia), Mahayana (China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea), and Vajrayana (Tibet, Mongolia and Japan).

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