What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is a path of teaching and practice. Buddhist
practices such as meditation are means of changing oneself in
order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and
wisdom. The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition
over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource
for all those who wish to follow the path of spiritual
development. Ultimately, the Buddhist path culminates in
Enlightenment or Buddhahood.
Who was the Buddha?
The word Buddha is a title not a name. It means 'one
who is awake' in the sense of having 'woken up to reality'. The
title was first given to a man called Siddharta Guatemala,
who lived about 2,500 years ago in Northern India. When he
was 35 he found Enlightenment whist in profound mediation,
after searching for years. In the next 45 years of his life
he spent it traveling through India teaching his way of life.
His teaching is known as Buddha-dharma.
Traveling from place to place, the Buddha gained many
disciples. They also taught of the enlightment, and the chain
has continued on to this present day.
The Buddha was not a God, and he made no claim to
divinity. There is no concept of a creator in Buddhism. He was
a human being who, thought tremendous efforts, transformed
The state of Enlightenment which he reached has three
main facets. It is a state of wisdom, of insight into the true
nature of things. It is also a source or boundless compassion,
manifesting itself in activity for the benefit of all beings. and
it the total liberation of all the energies of the mind and the
body so they are at the service of the fully conscious mind.
What Happened After the Buddha's Death?
Buddhism died out in India a thousand years ago, though it
has recently revived. In the last century Buddhism has
emphatically arrived in the West and up to one million
westerners have become Buddhists.
What Does Buddhism Teach?
Buddhism sees life as being in process of constant change
and its practices aim to take advantage of this fact. It
means that one can change for the better. The decisive factor
in changing ourselves is the mind and Buddhism has developed
many methods for working on the mind. Most importantly,
Buddhists practice meditation which is a way of developing more
positive states of mind which are characterized by calm,
concentration, awareness, and emotions such as friendliness.
How do you become a Buddhist?
To become a Buddhist in the full sense means committing
oneself to the central ideas of Buddhism. The Buddhist path is
open to all equally: men and women, young and old, people
of all nationalities, races and backgrounds.
Rebirth in the Six Realms
Buddhism teaches that birth, death and rebirth are part
of the continuing process of change. The is similar to the
continuous process of growth, decay, and replacement of cells
in ones' body. According to medical experts, after every
seven years, all the cells in one's body are replaced by new
At the moment of death, and the body can no longer
survive, the mind is separated from the body. At that time, the
craving for lives causes one to seek a new existence, and the
karma done previously determine the place of one's rebirth.
There are six realms which one may be reborn after
death. They are the realms of gods, the demigods, human
beings, animals, hungry ghosts, and the hells.
In general, wholesome actions like good conduct, charity,
a and mental development, are the cause of rebirth in the
happy realms of gods, demigods, and human beings. On the
other hand, unwholesome actions like immoral conduct,
miserliness and cruelty cause rebirth in the unhappy realm of
animals, hungry ghosts and the hells.
Of all the six realms, the realm of human beings is
considered the most desirable. In the realm of human beings,
the conditions for attaining Nirvana are better. In general,
in the unhappy realms, the suffering of living beings is so intense
and their ignorance so great that they are unable to
recognize the Truth and follow the path to attain freedom.
Alternatively, living beings in the realms of the gods and
demigods experience so much happiness and have so many
distractions that they do not think of rebirth until it is too
late. Then they may be reborn in one of the lower realms
of suffering. In the realm of human beings, however, people
experience both happiness and suffering, and are intelligent
enough to recognize the Truth and follow the path to attain
freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, one is
indeed fortunate to be born as a human being, and should
remember that the principal cause of birth in the realm is
The Cycle of Birth and Death
The Buddha pointed out that whenever one is reborn,
whether as a human being, as an animal, or as a god, non of
these states of exticence is permanent. The average life span
of the living beings in the six realms of existence differ but
none of them lasts forever. Eventually, rebirth will take
place. The realm into which one is reborn and one's
conditions of rebirth are determined by ones' past and present
actions. This is the law of Karma at work.
Because of the force of their karma, people are born
are reborn endlessly, in one realm of existence or in
another. The Buddha declared that there is no permanent
rest in the cycle of birth and death. It is only when one
follows the Noble Eightfold path taught by the Buddha and
eventually attains Nirvana, that one finally becomes free
from the ceaseless cycle and gains supreme and permanent
Karma is the law of moral causation. It is action and
reaction in the ethical realm. It is natural law that every
action produces a certain effect. So if one performs
wholesome actions, one will experience happiness. on the other
hand, if one performs unwholesome actions, one will experience
suffering. The is the law of cause and effect at work. In
this way, the effect of one's past karma determine that nature
of one's present situation in life.