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Instead of focusing on praying to one all-powerful God or trying to develop a clear picture of heaven and hell Buddhists instead believe in focusing their attention on attaining spiritual enlightenment in order to gain a deep understanding about life.
Buddhism is one of the largest religions in the world. It was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as The Buddha (or the ”awakened one”) after attaining enlightenment.
Siddhartha Gautama was born into a rich Nepalese family in 580 B.C. After living many years in luxury, sheltered from many of the harsh realities of human existence, he decided to venture outside the compound in which he lived and was shocked when he was confronted with age, sickness, death and suffering. He decided then and there to devote his life to finding a way to alleviate human suffering.
Siddhartha decided to take up a new life as a homeless beggar in order to practice extreme asceticism and self-discipline but after years of living life in this way he still had no sense of peace.
Finally at age 35 he sat beneath a Bodhi tree to meditate and after a lengthy meditation he is said to have attained Enlightenment. As he became Enlightened the Buddha became aware of what he called ”The Four Noble Truths” and the ”Eightfold Path”.
The Four Noble Truths
#1- Suffering: The realization that human life is steeped in suffering.
#2- An Explanation of the Origin of Suffering: This Noble Truth explains that all suffering is caused by yearning for things we can’t have and indulging in insatiable desires.
#3- Ending Suffering: This Noble Truth explains that suffering will end once humans are able to overcome cravings and insatiable desires. Everything is impermanent so humans must detach themselves from things of the world.
#4- The Noble Eightfold Path: A means by which to overcome cravings and desires and put an end to suffering.
The Eightfold Path Involves:
- Having the right knowledge to compose a virtuous life plan.
- Having the right aspirations to realize this plan.
- Having the right speech so as not to utter anything cruel or hurtful to others.
- Having the right behavior or the right action when it comes to dealing with others.
- Having the right livelihood and only taking up occupations that promote life.
- Having the right effort to achieve spiritual growth.
- Having the right mindfulness to maintain that growth.
- Having the right concentration or contemplation, which will eventually lead to the ability to overcome cravings and transcend worldly suffering.
Those who strictly adhere to the Eightfold Path have a chance at achieving Nirvana, which is a spiritual state in which the bonds of human existence are cut away so that suffering can be extinguished.
There are quite a few different versions of Buddhism including Zen Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism.