Buddhism is a way of life taught by The Buddha, which means Enlightened One. The Buddha was originally a man named Siddharah Guatama. This article references a bit of history on this man and the philosophies he promoted.
There are many legends surrounding Buddhism, but essentially Guatama was born into wealth and not content with his life, he left his wife and children in search of truth. Consequently he experienced the other extreme of poverty. Determined to find truth, he deprived himself and sat under a tree to pontificate or die.
His quest leads him to the conclusion called the middle of the road theory. Life is not about riches, nor suffering, but rather one should keep focused on the median to find contentment and peace. He devised what is known as the four fold truths and eight paths to enlightenment. He rose from the tree, declared himself as The Buddha, obtained five disciples and the philosophies have been spreading since.
The four fold truths, are to live is to suffer, desire causes suffering, eliminating attachments ends suffering, and the need to follow the eight paths toward enlightenment. The eight paths to eliminate pain are: intentions, speech, actions, livelihood, efforts, mindfulness, and concentration.
Suffering, according to the middle way theory, is what caused by the two extremes of affluence and poverty and avoiding luxury and self-depravation is the solution. Suffering occurs when one longs for things that they do not have and this suffering can be eliminated by simply not longing for them.
The eight paths state one must first accept the views of the noble truths. The Buddhist attempts develop the right willpower to resist or renounce pleasures, and harm no person or living thing. Speech involves never slandering or telling things that are untrue. Actions involve interaction between others and the world around us, never causing harm to others and controlling sexual urges. Earning a living that does not take advantage of others, and abandoning evil qualities for good qualities are keys to proper livelihood and effort. Finally mindfulness and concentration involve letting go of desires and pain and focusing on meditative skills.
Buddhist considers God as an impersonal concept. Jesus, who claimed to be God, was simply a spiritual master. Everyone is a collection of the universe living in a temporary state and sin is the holding on to that which is temporal. This is where Buddhism differs from Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
Oddly enough, some 400 years before Guatama became enlightened and founded Buddhism, there was another man named Solomon, son of King David. Solomon is stated to be the wisest of men who ever lived. Many of the teachings of Guatama, regarding moderation, human relations, perspectives, and so on, are truths that were known and discussed for centuries prior in the Mosaic Law.
Solomon is presumed to have wrote Ecclesiastes, which has the infamous verses of “Vanities of vanities” and “There is nothing new under the son” and “to everything there is a time and a season.” The first part of his book (now divided into the first six chapters, though the original text did not include chapter breaks), describes the world as a dismal and sorrowful place. Just like The Buddha tried to understand and figure out.
The remaining five chapters of Ecclesiastes, again written some 400 years prior to The Buddha’s enlightenment, discuss how Solomon’s life long experiment to find truth has drawn him to the conclusion that life and all that is in it is meaningless apart from a personal God. Solomon addresses the same issues of life, but does so by theory and practice through living life and experiencing it with an enlightenment that works in all scenarios and with all classes of people. Guatama, the Buddha, engages in self-mortification and denial while sitting under a fig tree theorizing to come up with the middle of the road perspective.
Solomon, centuries earlier, simplifies and solves Guatama’s four fold truths by stating everything one does should not be done apart from God. Applying Solomon’s wisdom to Guatama’s enlightenment, the result is: Life is beautiful, desires can be in alignment with life, attachments can be healthy, and the eight paths become automatic to one’s nature.
Buddhism offers many practical insights and philosophies, though are not actually original, and in some case not even practical. It is founded by a man who was not content with his life, and had gone from one extreme to another only to end up in the middle promoting moderation, discipline, self-control, and respect for things and others. These concepts are no different than those of other religions, the perspective of God, purpose for practicing these philosophies and intended benefit are what differentiates Buddhism from other religions.
Buddhism, like all religions, is focused inward with the goal of attaining enlightenment or higher spiritual plane. It’s important to note, however, Jesus, recognized as a “spiritual master” within Buddhism, taught that the focus is not inward but on a personal God working through human kind from His Spirit consuming them from the inside out. In Buddhism one reaches a level of spiritual mastery equivalent to the universal God, whereas Jesus taught that a personal God sent Himself incarnate to be human so God could once again reach humankind.
This historical synopsis of Guatama’s life and the comparison and contrast between teachings of Solomon and Christ is intended to give a better insight into the concepts of Buddhism. Like all belief systems, there are much deeper aspects to it and many different derivatives and branches that have evolved over the centuries. Buddhism is a way of life for millions, though it is often shrouded in mystery and legends, it is a way of life that one man discovered and passed on to others who chose to believe likewise or similar.