Did you know that Buddhism is one of the world's major religions and that it began in India around 500 B.C.? It was started by a teacher called the Buddha. Today most Buddhists live in Tibet, Japan, China, Sri Lanka, the Korean Peninsula, and mainland Southeast Asia.
1200 years ago, an Indian prince named Siddhartha was born in Lumbini,
a kingdom that is now part of the country of Nepal. His father wanted
him to be a great ruler and taught him everything a king should know.
At Siddhartha's birth, a wise man had prophesied that the prince would
grow up to be a great ruler or, if he saw the sorrows of life, a great
Desperate to make him a great king, Siddhartha's father,
ordered that no one sick or old could come near the palace. The prince,
though he was not allowed to go outside, was brought up in a life of
great luxury. Restless in the confines of the palace, one day,
Siddhartha secretly went out to see the city with his loyal charioteer,
Chanda. On his journey, he saw an old person, a sick person, a dead
body, and a monk.
Back in the palace, Siddhartha began to wonder
why all people grow old and die. Soon he left the palace for good, in
search of answers to his questions. His friends advised him to fast. He
tried it and starved, deciding that fasting did not help. Instead, he
meditated continuously for 49 days and nights until he attained Nirvana
or enlightenment, an understanding of the world and man's place in it.
He came to be known as the Buddha and taught those around him for the
next 35 years, until he left the material world (known as 'parinirvana'
in Buddhism) at the age of 80. His last words were "All things change.
Keep up your effort." Buddhists, the 376 million followers of Buddha,
believe that a Buddha appears once every 320,000 years.
of all Buddhists is to reach Nirvana. Death, for a Buddhist, is not the
end. Buddhists believe in re-birth. To attain Nirvana, we must
break the cycle of birth and rebirth, which is only possible when a
person is free from ignorance, hatred and greed. Buddhists believe that
everyone can reach enlightenment. However, many young boys and girls
train to be monks and nuns from an early age.
They willingly give up all material possessions except the following eight objects:
are two main types of Buddhists: Thervada and Mahayana Buddhists.
Thervada means 'teachings of the elders'. Thervada Buddhism teaches
that every person must reach enlightenment on their own. Thervada
Buddhists do not pray to Buddha, instead they model their life on his.
They believe that the best way to live is as a monk or a nun, in order
to focus better on the religious side of life. Thervada Buddhism is now
practiced mostly in Sri Lanka.
- a bowl to receive alms
- a belt
- a razor
- a needle and a ball of thread
- a water filter
- a walking stick
- a tooth pick
Mahayana means 'great vehicle'.
Mahayana Buddhism teaches that there are different ways to attain
Nirvana. Mahayana Buddhists follow the same basic teachings as Thervada
Buddhists. Besides the Buddha (and the ones to come), Mahayana
Buddhists also believe in Bodhisatvas - people who have entered Nirvana
but chose to be re-born in order to teach others. The main branches of
Mahayana Buddhism are Zen Buddhism (practiced widely in Japan), Tibetan
Buddhism (whose followers believe that the Dalai Lama is a Bodhisatva),
and Pure Land Buddhism practiced in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
worship in monasteries. Many monasteries are like small villages or
towns where monks dwell. The most important part of a monastery is the
shrine where the idol of Buddha is kept. Many Buddhists also worship at
Stupas. A Stupa is a building shaped like a rounded hill. Ten stupas in
the Indian sub-continent are believed to contain the remains of Buddha.