This post is not promoting any one particular religion, or religion as such, as I prefer to leave it to your own interpretation of WHO or WHAT constitutes a PRIME CREATOR, or if you choose to disagree completely. That’s a highly personal choice and suffice to say that anyone or any system that demands your blind loyalty and/or obedience and allegiance is not aligned with the fundamental concept that we are all sovereign beings on our own sacred paths, regardless if we choose to believe in a GOD/HIGHER POWER/PRIME CREATOR or NOT.
Five hundred years before Jesus Christ first dipped his toes into the Sea of Galilee and a full two and a half thousand years before Rhonda Byrne brought us all the precepts of “The Secret”, as delivered to us through the internet, a book and film, one man strode this earth, like a colossus, spreading his message of love, understanding and inner strength. That man was Gautama Buddha – the founder of Buddhism and one of the first of the great philosophers and leaders of world thought. Over this and the next three blogs I will introduce you to the simple philosophies of this profoundly wise man and demonstrate the impact he has had on our modern-day world with many of his ancient precepts which are now taking deeper root in our consciousness. In future blogs I will look at some specific precepts of Buddhism, not as a religion, but as a way of living and interacting with the Universe. Buddhism, like Hinduism, which was beginning to emerge at the same time, both have their roots in Vedic principles.
Today, however, I want to concentrate on the man himself – Gautama Buddha (born Sidharrtha Gautama). There is plenty of argument about when Buddha was born and when he died but there is little argument about the difference he made in the society of the time. Born sometime between 583 and 480 BCE, Buddha is said to have died somewhere between 483 and 400 BCE at age 80, but his legacy stretches across the centuries to this very day. He was born in Lumbini, of the Shakya Republic in what is now modern-day Nepal, into a wealthy influential family but as he grew up he became especially upset at the extent of suffering in the world, so he renounced his privileged life. Buddha [which means Enlightened One] became a monk, a mendicant (a beggar), a sage, and whilst sitting in contemplation under a fig tree – (the Bodhi Tree of Awakening) he had insights that became the basis of his philosophies, teachings and religious/spiritual leadership
His main impact on the society of the time was to teach that there was a “middle way” between typical sensual self-indulgence and severe self-discipline and denial, which was the common belief amongst the people of the region. The basic concept Buddha brought to the world was the idea that the purpose of life was to seek “ultimate enlightenment” as described in Buddha’s discourse – “The Noble Eightfold Path”. There are many tales of Buddha’s life. How many of them are true or not is perhaps moot; what matters most are the teachings and the philosophies he has left behind. One particularly famous event occurred, it is told; of Buddha seating himself under a “pipal [old sacred fig]” tree, in Bodh Gaya, India. He vowed to never arise from that tree until he had found the “truth”. His companions decided Buddha had just given up and left him to it. After forty-nine days of meditation, at the age of thirty-five, he was said to have attained “enlightenment” at which point he became “The Buddha” or the “Awakened One”. It is said, at that time, that Buddha completely understood and had insight into the “Four Noble Truths” and thereby achieving freedom from the endless cycle of rebirth, suffering and dying again, which is a key concept in Hinduism. He would later develop this idea into training the mind (meditation or “dhyana”) as required to take a person to nirvana. Nirvana is characterised as the process of extinguishing the fires of desire, hatred, and ignorance that keep the cycle of suffering and rebirth going. Once Nirvana has been reached it is said a person has lost all personal identity and no boundaries remain to the mind. In this state the person is said to possess the “Ten Characteristics” belonging to every Buddha. As I said earlier, I will be delving much more into the actual study and beliefs of Buddhism in the next blogs, suffice it to say that Gautama Buddha and his Buddhism; like Jesus Christ and Christianity, and Muhammad and Islam, has stood the test of time. After two-and-a-half millennium have passed there are said to be almost five-hundred million practising Buddhists in the world, the bulk of them in Asia. That makes it the world’s fourth largest religion behind Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.
Meanwhile, it is deeply sad to witness, some of the ways in which humanity has perverted their pure thoughts, and ideals for life, to their own means. Buddha’s teachings of peace, love, respect and self-introspection, one day came to be totally ignored, by some of his followers, intent on racial or cultural genocide. The same points can be made about the other religions also. It is deeply disappointing that a religion which greatest precept is; “love thy neighbour as thyself,” should use their beliefs to subjugate, dominate, or completely eliminate whole other classes of humanity. We are surely reaching a stage on this beautiful planet where religious tolerance needs to flourish, and we focus on our commonality, community and connectedness rather than our divisions/barriers and illusions of separateness.
Before I go today, I want to share some of Buddha’s insights that have made a direct impact on my life. Like Einstein, Buddha is one of those historical figures who are attributed with many more “quotes” than they probably ever made in their lifetime. That aside, however, these ten quotes that I share here are, in my opinion, guidelines for life and for achieving personal fulfilment, whether or not, you follow the full precepts of the Buddha’s teachings. I’ve always said; “if just a large enough proportion of humanity followed these precepts, what a wonderful world we would live in.”
- You will not be punished for your anger – you will be punished by your anger.
- He has the most, who is most content with the least.
- Every day is a new day! No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.
- No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
- Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.
- Pain is certain –suffering is optional.
- The only real failure in life is to not be true to the best one knows.
- Give, even if you only have a little.
- Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think.
- Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
That last quote is one that took me, personally, a while to come to grips with but when I finally realised, I had to let go of my anger, what an enormous difference it made in my life. When we let go, we create space for something new and better to arrive!
As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of “The Buddha” and that this has just brushed the surface of his teachings. Over the next few weeks we will delve a little more deeply into three aspects of Buddhism that particularly fascinate me:
- The Cycle of Rebirth (Reincarnation):
- Samadhi / Dyhana (Meditation), and;
- Sila – Buddhist Ethics (Ways of Living)
Be sure to catch these next three blogs. You can sign up here to ensure you never miss a single one of our blogs, and of course if it all gets a bit yawn inducing, you can always switch us off!
Even if Buddhism doesn’t appeal to you, personally, as a religion, I reckon you’ll find something of interest to your everyday life in these up coming articles.
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Please, also, do feel free to check out my fictional “whodunit”, paranormal novel, Spirit of Prophecy. Many of the concepts discussed in these blogs are presented in a fictional setting in Spirit of Prophecy. Just click on the photo below to find out more.