the world. The word comes from the Pali and Sanskrit word "budhi,'' meaning "to awaken.''
Buddhism's origins came about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was awakened, or enlightened, at the age of 35.
Here are some frequently asked questions about Buddhism.
Q: Is it a religion?
A: To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or "way of life.'' It is a philosophy because philosophy means "love of wisdom.'' The Buddhist path can be summed up as:
- To lead a moral life.
- To be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions.
- To develop wisdom and understanding.
Q: Who was the Buddha?
A: Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 B.C.
At the age of 29, he realized that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness. He explored the different teachings, religions and philosophies of the day to find the key to human happiness.
After six years of study and meditation, he finally found "the middle path'' and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism - called the Dhamma, or Truth - until his death at the age of 80.
Q: Was the Buddha a god?
A: No. Buddhists say he was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.
Q: Do Buddhists worship idols?
A: Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, but not in worship, nor to ask for favors.
A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in his lap and a compassionate smile reminds followers to strive to develop peace and love within themselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.
Q: Why are there different types of Buddhism?
A: There are many different types because the emphasis of Buddhism changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching - the Dhamma or truth. Two main forms are Tibetan Buddhism, which is led by the Dalai Lama, and Indian Buddhism.
Q: What did the Buddha teach?
A: The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-fold Path.
The first Truth is that life is suffering; life includes pain, aging, disease and ultimately death. The second Truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. The third Truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained by giving up useless craving and learning to live each day at a time.
The fourth Truth is that the Noble Eight-fold Path leads to the end of suffering. In summary, the Noble Eight-fold Path consists of being moral, focusing one's mind on being fully aware of one's thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.
Jo Collins Mathis,
From: Ann Arbor News