the world, as its teaching can coexist with any other religion. Other religions, on the other hand, do not possess this characteristic and cannot accommodate Buddhism at the same time. The Buddhist teaching of God is neither agnostic nor vague, but clear and logical.
Buddhism began this way: Siddhartha Gautama was born in the sixth century B.C. in what is now modern Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Sakya people and Siddhartha grew up living the extravagant life of a young prince. According to custom, he married at the age of sixteen to a young girl named Yasodhara. His father had ordered that he live a life of total seclusion, but one day Siddhartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the harsh reality of life and universal suffering. The next day, at age twenty-nine, he left his kingdom and new-born son to lead and plain, reclusive life and determine a way to relieve this universal suffering.
For six years, Siddhartha meditated under a bodhi tree, but he was never fully satisfied. One day, however, he was offered a bowl of rice from a young girl and he accepted it. In that moment, he realized that physical harshness was not a means of achieving liberation. From then on, he encouraged people to follow a path of balance rather than extremism. He called this the Middle Way.
Devotion to the pleasures of sense, a low practice of villagers, a practice unworthy, unprofitable, the way of the world [on one hand]; and [on the other] devotion to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.
By avoiding these two extremes the Tathagata [or Buddha] has gained knowledge of that middle path which giveth vision, which giveth knowledge, which causeth calm, special knowledge, enlightenment, Nibbana [or Nirvana]. (Smart 236)
That night, Siddhartha sat under the bodhi tree and meditated until dawn. He purified his mind of all evil thoughts and attained Enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, thus earning the title Buddha, or Enlightened One. For the remainder of his eighty years, the Buddha preached the dharma in an effort to help other people reach Enlightenment.
The Buddha examined the phenomenal life objectively. Studying effects and tracing their causes, he produced a science of living which ranks with any other science known to man. He describes life to be one and indivisible. Man, he declared, can become Buddha, Enlightened, by the principle of Enlightenment within. This process is simply to become what you are, to develop to the full innate Buddha-Mind by destroying the ignorance, sin and evils of human nature. All forms of life, according to the Buddha, can be shown to have three characteristics in common; impermanence, suffering, and an absence of permanent soul which separates us from other forms of life.
The Buddha also pointed out that nothing is the same as is was only a moment ago. Everything is changing. Even the hills are being worn away, and every human particle is being replaced every seven years. There is no finality or rest within the universe, only a ceaseless becoming and never-ending change. Buddhism denies that man has an immortal soul. The Enlightenment which dwells in life does not belong to one form of life. Man is always changing and entirely mortal.
In addition, Buddhism is a natural religion. It does not violate either mind or body. The Buddha became aware that men are born and die according to their good or evil actions, according to their self-created Karma — the consequences of good or evil deeds.
Even though there are several different forms of Buddhism that have come into existence since Buddhas death, there is still a basic essence that all Buddhists agree with. All Buddhists recognize these. In all, there are four basic noble truths. The first noble truth of the world according to Buddha is dhukka, or suffering. The second truth is tanha, or desire, which is the cause of suffering. The third truth is that in order to free oneself from suffering, one must overcome desire. The fourth truth tells us how this can be accomplished through the eight-fold path.
According to Buddha, the eight-fold path is the means to achieve liberation from suffering. It helps one weed out cravings and ignorance, to overcome rebirth, old age, disease, death, sorrows, lamentation, grief and despair. It helps to end mass misery and aids people in attaining Nirvana, or salvation. Specifically, this path includes:
1. Right View
2. Right Thought
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
The most simple teaching of the Buddha was to do good, to avoid evil and to purify the heart. According to Buddha, the hearts of ordinary men are not pure. They are filled with greed, ill will and delusion. Greed and hatred are impurities caused by desires, and ignorance is the cause of delusion, especially delusion of self. Ignorance, in fact, is the cause of desire and thus the primary cause of all suffering and of rebirth. The Buddha said that one may purify his heart:
1. By practicing self-control and self-restraint
2. By meditating upon ones own self
3. By following the Eight-Fold Path that leads to the end of all suffering
All of these points are the basic essence of Buddhism. They help people understand the worlds of suffering, personal or otherwise, and how to overcome that suffering. Buddhism is a simple religion that focuses on changing the evil of man and society into good. It bring a message of salvation and hope to whoever will follow its paths.