B U D D H I S M
FOUNDED: 6th Century B.C.
F 0 U N D ER: Sidhatta Gautama, called The Buddha (The Enlightened One), 563-483 B.C.
SACRED BOOKS: Tripifaka (The Three Baskets of Wisdom). The Tripitaka are divided into sermons, rules for the priesthood, and elaborations on Buddhist doctrine. Since the Tripitaka, so many volumes have been added to the Sacred Books of Buddhism that a mere listing of them would take up many pages.
NUMBER OF ADHERENTS: Figures vary from I 50,000,000 to 520,000,000. The difficulty in establishing the number of followers of Buddhism arises because so many are also Confucians and Taoists, and are counted twice or even three times.
DISTRIBUTION: Most Buddhists are in China, Japan, Ceylon, Thailand, Burma, Indo-China, Korea, and Mongolia. There are some Buddhists everywhere in the world. There are extremely few Buddhists in India, the birthplace of Buddhism.
BUDDHISTS IN THE UNITED STATES: About 165,000
SECT S: Buddhists are divided into followers of:
Hauayana and Mahayana, which might be compared to the Orthodox and Reform branches of other religions. In Tibet it developed into Larnantsm. In China and Japan, it combined with Confucianism, Taoism and Shinto.
The following selected excerpts will be from “HOW THE GREAT RELIG-IONS BEGAN” By Joseph Gaer (copyright 1929) However, we are using his Revised Version, Copyrighted 1956 by Joseph Gaer, Santa Monica, California. Publishers: Dodd, Mead & Company, New York.
B U D D H I S M
The Religion of the Enlightened One.
This is the True Law of Life,
said the Buddha:
From Good must come Good;
and from Evil must come evil.
I. A PRINCE IS BORN IN THE LAND OF THE SAKYAS
I N THE LAND OF INDIA, on the Plains of the Ganges at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains, there lived, about 2500 years ago, a clan of Hindus called the Sakyas, and their ruler King Sudhodanna Gautama.
King Sudhodanna lived in the Royal Palace in Kapilavista. He was wealthy, and healthy, and all his people loved him. And yet King Sudhodanna was not happy. He had no children.
Each day the King made sacrifices to the many, many gods the Hindus of those days believed in; he gave much in charity; and for many hours studied the Sacred Scriptures of his people. And each day he prayed for a son to rule his people after his death.
When the King was already about fifty years old, Queen Maya gave birth to a son, and he was named Sidhatta, Prince Sidhatta Gautama. When the news of the Prince’s birth became known over the small kingdom of the Sakyas, people from all over the land came to congratulate their King and Queen. On foot, on horseback, and on elephants they came to the Palace bringing with them gifts for their newly-born Prince.
Amongst the many visitors to the Palace came Seven Holy Men from the Himalaya Mountains. When Prince Sidhatta was shown to them, all the Seven Holy Men exclaimed at the same time: Such a beautiful child was never born before!” Then they looked at the little Prince again, and again they exclaimed together: He will grow up to be a very great man! What do you foretell for my son?” asked King Sudhodanna very proudly. “If he chooses a wordly life,” the Seven Holy Men replied, “he will become King of the World!
The great future for his baby-son foretold by such Holy Men made King Sudho-danna very happy. He ordered more sacrifices to be offered up to the gods, more alms to be given to the poor, and the celebration in the Palace to be continued for another seven days.
* * * * * * * * * *
3. THE PRINCE PUTS ON THE SACRED THREAD
W HEN Prince Sidhatta reached his twelfth birthday, a great celebration was arranged in the Royal Palace and many guests were invited. For at that
age, as the son of a good Hindu, the Prince had to put on the Sacred Thread, which is a sort of Confirmation.
Before the guests the Prince, like all the boys of his age who put on the Sacred Thread, took the Vow to become an earnest student of the Holy Books of his father’s religion.
When a boy puts on the Sacred Thread and takes the Vow of Allegiance to his religion, so the Hindus believe, he becomes born again, and from then on he is called a Twice-Born Hindu.
As soon as Sidhatta became a Twice-Born Hindu, being the King’s son, he was sent to the best known and most learned Priests in the Sakya Kingdom to receive from them his education.
In those days children of high Caste studied literature, grammar, mathematics, astronomy and other subjects. But most of their time was devoted to the study of religion.
The books they studied religion from were the Vedas, the Sacred Scriptures of their religion. These were very long books, written mostly in poetry. Besides the Vedas they had many other books explaining the Sacred Scriptures. And some of them are very hard to understand.
Before Prince Siddhartha could even begin to study all those books, he had to learn a new language. That was because all the Sacred Books of the Hindus were then
written not in the language they spoke, but in a very old language called Sanskrit.
As soon as Prince Siddhartha learned to read and understand Sanskrit, his teachers, the Priests, began to teach him the holy books that explained their religion, which is called: HINDUISM.
4.THE RELIGION CALLED HINDUISM
THE central creed of Hinduism is that there is one Universal Spirit, without beginning and without end, called Brahman, or World-Soul. This World-Soul is also called Trimutri, the Three-in-One God. He is called by that name because he is personified in:
(1) Brahma, the Creator
(2) Vishnu, the Preserver; and
(3) Shiva, the Destroyer.
Brahma, so the Hindus believe, created the first Man, named Manu; and then he created the first Woman, named Shatarupa. From them have sprung all mankind.
Not all the people in the world were equal, even though they all came from Manu. From the very beginning there were four different kinds of people. And the four different kinds of people came out of the one Manu in this manner: Out of Manu’s head came the best and holiest people in India, the Priests, called Brahrnins. Out of Manu’s hands came the next best people, which are the Kings and the Warriors. Out of Manu’s thighs came the craftsmen of the world. And out of Manu’s feet came the rest of the people who belonged to the lowest class.
That was how, so the Priests explained, Brahma, the Creator, made four different kinds of people, some better and some worse. The different kinds of people are called different Castes.
The higher the Caste one is born in, the more advantages in life one has. Only members of the highest Caste could be Priests and Teachers of Religion. People born into the lowest Caste could never become Priests, or Rulers, or have important positions of any kind. The higher the Caste one is born into, the more privileges one has. And the lower the Caste one is born into, the fewer advantages one has.
As time went on the Four Castes became divided into many more, until there were thousands of Castes in India.
If a man of low Caste is very good, and very clever, and very brave, is there no chance for him to enjoy the same advantages in life as of one of the higher Castes? “ the people asked. No,” said the Priests. If a man is born in one Caste he can never enjoy the advantages of a higher Caste.”
Then there is no use being good,” some people decided. Yes, there is! “ said the Priests. If you are good in this life, you will be rewarded in the next life.” “Which life? “ the people asked. As you all know,” said the Priests, every living
creature has a soul. This soul comes from the World-Soul, Brahman. Now, Brahman never dies, does he? And so the soul of living things that comes from the World-Soul never dies.”
“Then what happens to the soul, when a man dies?” “When a man dies, his soul comes out of his body and immediately enters into the body of a newly-born babe. If the man leads a good life, he is born again to a higher Caste. If he leads a very bad life, he is born again into a lower Caste.”
What if a man keeps on leading one bad life after another? “ some people asked. Then he keeps on being born again each time into a lower Caste. He might even be born sick and suffer all his life as a punishment for being bad. Or he might even be born as a dumb animal. A very, very bad man might be born again as an elephant. And if he is a bad elephant, when he dies he might be born again as a dog. And if he is a bad dog, he might go down and down until he is born again as a flea or a mosquito.”
(This belief that people’s souls enter again into another body after they die, the belief of souls being re-born again and again, is called Reincarnation.)
* * * * * * * * * * *
“If I could live like one of these monks,” thought Prince Sidhatta, and spend all my time thinking, maybe I could learn the truth about where suffering comes from, and how people ought to live in order to lead a good life. Until I discover that truth I will be unhappy.”
Then and there the Prince decided to leave the Palace and his family and his wealth, go out into the woods, and live like one of the poor monks. We have often heard of beggars wanting to become Princes. But here was a Prince in India who decided to become a beggar in order that he might search for the Wisdom of the World.
6. THE GREAT RENUNCIATION.
WHEN Prince Sidhatta announced that he was going to leave his home and become a beggar-monk, it was a great shock to his father. King Sudhodanna had hoped that his son would become the next king of the Sakyas, and he tried to persuade the Prince not to leave the Palace. But Sidhatta’s mind was made up.
Just at that time Princess Yosodhara gave birth to a boy. Now,” thought King Sudhodanna, my son will not leave home. His love for his first child will bind him to his home and keep him from becoming a beggar-monk.”
But King Sudhodanna was mistaken.
When the child was born, Sidhatta knew that unless he ran away from home before his love for his little son became too great, he would never discover the true Wisdom of Life.
One night he called in Channah and told him to get his favorite horse ready for a long journey. Immediately? “ asked Channah, surprised that his master should want to start out on a journey after midnight. Yes, immediately,” Sidhatta replied. And I want you to come with me . Get ready at once! At once!
When Channah left to carry out his orders, Prince Sidhatta entered Princess Yosodhara’s chamber. There he saw her asleep with her hand resting on the head of the sleeping child beside her. Prince Sidhatta looked lovingly at them, but he did not wake them. He was afraid his heart would weaken at his wife’s pleas to remain at home. He left the Palace with Channah and together they traveled in the direction of the Mogadah Kingdom. When they were a great distance from Kapilavista, they stopped and alighted from their horses. With Channah’s help, Sidhatta shaved his head and beard.
On seeing his master shaven like a beggar-monk, Channah began to weep. “ Now, , Channah, you return to the Palace, and I will start out on my journey, begging my food, and trying to learn the Truth of Life.” Yes, my Prince! I am no longer your Prince, Channah! I no longer want to be a ruler over people. I want to be as one of my fellow men that I may understand their lives, and discover how they ought to live in order to lead good happy lives.” Yes, my Prince! “Channah sobbed. Channah returned slowly to the Palace in Kapilavista, and Sidhatta started out down the dusty road on foot.
On the way he met a beggar. Come,” said the Prince to the beggar, let us change clothes!” The Prince gave the beggar his beautiful robes and put on the beggar’s clothes in exchange. Then Prince Sidhatta walked on, a beggar in search of the Wisdom of the World that would explain a of life to him.
That night, when Prince Sidhatta Gautama left home to become a beggar-monk, in the twenty-ninth year of his life, is known as the Night of the Great Renunciation.
7.THE LONG AND WEARY SEARCH
FOR SEVEN YEARS SIDHATTA WANDERED from place to place in search of Wisdom. His voice was gentle, conversation simple and wise. And all the people he met became his friends.
Once, as he sat in a grove of trees talking to some wandering monks, Bimbisara, King of Mogadah, came and listened to him. When Sidhatta ended, King Bimbisara said to him: Your words are wise. Come to my Palace and become my Chief Adviser! “If it were honor and riches that I sought, I would be King in a Kingdom of the Ganges,” Sidhatta replied. “But my search is for things that neither wealth nor honor can buy. For I am in search of the true Knowledge of Life.” “Then,” said King Bimbisara, promise me that when you find that wisdom, you will come and teach it to me! “I promise! “ said Sidhatta.
Then he left the grove and wandered on, until he reached the great teacher Alara.
“Teach me the Wisdom of the World! “said Sidhatta to Alara. Alara replied and said: “Study the Vedas. There you will find the Wisdom of the World! Sidhatta wandered on until he came to the great teacher Udaka. And of him, too, he asked:
“Teach me the Wisdom of the World!” Udaka aiso answered: “Study the Vedas, for in them all Wisdom is hidden.”
But Sidhatta had spent many years studying the Holy Scriptures, and in them he had found no explanation why the Brahman made people suffer illness, and old age, and death. When Sidhatta left the teacher, Udaka, he met five other monks who were also wandering about in search of wisdom. “In order to gain wisdom, it is written, we must improve our souls,” the five monks said. “And to improve our souls we have to torture and starve our bodies. Through great suffering of the body, the soul becomes improved. Such is the teaching of the Brahmins.” “If that is the way to gain wisdom,” said Sidhatta, I shall try that way.
He and the five monks went into a forest together, and there they remained for days. They starved themselves until their bodies became like skeletons, and their feet were too weak to carry them the shortest distance. One day Sidhatta fainted from hunger, and for a while his friends thought that he was dead. But he recovered., and as soon as he felt strong enough to speak, he said: From now on, brethren, I am going to stop starving and torturing myself.” When the other monks heard that, they said to each other: Surely Sidhatta is giving up the good life of a truly religious man! And they left him.
Sidhatta began to eat and drink, and slowly he regained his strength. The stronger he became the clearer his thoughts became. The teachings that order men to starve themselves in order to lead the good life, and in that way gain wisdom,” thought Sidhatta, “must be wrong. Because the stronger I get the clearer I can think about the world and about religion.” But where suffering came from, and how people ought to live to lead the good life, he still did not know.
Day after day, week after week, and month after month he wandered through the forests and towns, living on berries and fruit he found, and rice given him by the townspeople. Sometimes he became very tired of this way of living. He longed to see his wife and his little boy. Very often he made up his mind to give up his life as a beggar and return to the Palace. But Sidhatta knew that he would never be happy again in the Palace until he had learned how to end suffering for all mankind.
Once he sat down under a sort of wild fig-tree. Here,” he said to himself, I will sit and think of all that I was taught and of all that I have seen in my life. And of these I shall gain wisdom.”
For by that time Sidhatta realized that the wisdom and truth he was seeking were not something outside of himself, not some great mystery that was hidden away somewhere at the rainbow’s end. He realized that he could not get that wisdom by studying the Vedas, or by starving himself, or by sitting on nails and sharp stones, as some monks did. He now believed that the truth and wisdom a man seeks he can find within himself. All the wisdom and knowledge a man looks for, he thought, are in his own soul and there he ought to search for it.
Then he made a Vow: “Not until I gain this wisdom will I move from under this tree! For hours and hours Sidhatta sat under that tree, comparing the teachings of his religion, with all his experiences in life. Suddenly his face lit up with joy. “At last,” he exclaimed, I have found the Key of Wisdom! This is the First Law of Life: FROM GOOD MUST COME GOOD, AND FROM EVIL MUST COME EVIL.”
Sidhatta wondered why he had never thought of that before. For this Law of Life had been known to him all his life. It was one of the important teachings of Brahtninism through the Law of the Deed. But now he saw it in a new light. Now he discovered in it the beginning of the wisdom and truth of life that he had been searching for ever since he had left home.
All night long Sidhatta sat there thinking. With the First Law of Life as the Key to Wisdom, he found he could answer all the questions that had troubled him since he became a monk. The next morning Sidhatta realized that he was at the end of his long search for Wisdom. Now he was the BUDDHA, which means: The Enlightened One.
That night, on which Prince Sidhatta Gautama of the Sakya Kingdom became the Buddha (the Enlightened One), is called by his followers The Sacred Night. And the tree under which he sat during that night is known as the Bo Tree, the Tree of Wisdom.
8. THE SERMON AT BENARES
AFTER the Sacred Night the Buddha remained seven times seven days under the Bo Tree thinking of the First Law of Life, and the wisdom he had gained through that. When all his ideas were so clear to him that he was ready to answer questions about them, he decided to go out and teach them to the world.
First he went to the City of Benares to find the five monks who had desert-ed him when he began to eat and drink. These monks,” he thought, were seeking the truth like myself, and it is easier to teach those who want to learn than those who are not interested.”
When he arrived at Benares he found the five monks in a grove of trees outside of the city, sitting close together. They saw the Buddha coming, and said to each >other: Here comes Sidhatta who could not lead the life of a good monk. Let us ignore him. But when he came near, they greeted him and offered him a seat. Have you found the wisdom you were seeking? “ the monks asked. I have,” answered the Buddha. “What is the Wisdom of the World?” the monks asked. You all believe in Karma, in the Law of the Deed, don’t you?” the Buddha asked. “We do!” the five monks answered. “That is the beginning of Wisdom: From Good must come Good, and from Evil must come Evil. That is the First Law of Life, and all things that live are ruled by that Law.”
“But that is nothing new,” the monks protested. “But if that Law is true,” said the Buddha, “then sacrifices, prayers, and supplications must be foolish.” “Why so? “the monks asked. “Because,” said the Buddha, “water always flows downhill. Fire is always hot. Ice is always cold. Praying to all the gods in India will not make water flow uphill, or fire cold, or ice hot. That is because there are Laws in life that make these things as they are. So also that which is done, cannot be undone again. Prayers and sacrifices to the gods must therefore be useless.”
“That sounds true,” said the monks, agreeing with him. “If that is true,” said the Buddha, “then all the images representing the many gods are useless. If these gods have no power to change anything in the world, they should not be prayed to and worshipped. If a man does good, the results will be good. And if he does evil, the results will be evil, and all the gods in India cannot change that.” “That, too, sure sounds true,” the monks again agreed with him. “Now, if that is really true,” said the Buddha, “it must follow as the day follows night, that the Vedas, which tell people how to pray and how to sacrifice, are not holy. Our priests say to you that the Vedas and every word in them are holy. But I say to you that the Vedas are not Sacred Books.”
The monks looked at the Buddha in great surprise. No one in India had ever dared to say that the Vedas were not holy. “Yes,” the Buddha added, “the Vedas teach us to believe that Brahman created people in Castes. But that is not true to the First Law of Life. People are only divided into good people and bad people. They who are good, are good; and they who are bad, are bad. And it does not make any difference in what family they are born.”
“Then you do not believe Brahman divided the people into Castes? “ the monks asked in wonder. “I do not,” the Buddha answered. “I do not believe Brahman created anything. The world was not created by Brahman.” “Who then created the world?” the monks asked. “I believe that the world is going to exist forever and forever. It will never come to an end . And anything that has no end, has no beginning. The world was not created by anyone. The world always was.”
The monks were silent for a while, thinking of all the Buddha had said which was so different from the teachings they had studied and believed in all their lives. Suddenly the Buddha addressed the monks and said: “There are two extremes, 0 monks, to keep away from. One is a life of pleasure, that is selfish and ignoble. The other is a life of self-torture, and that, too, is unworthy. For these two roads do not lead to the Good Life.” “Then what is the road one should follow?” the monks asked. “Follow the Middle-Path! “ the Buddha answered. “How can one find the Middle-Path?” “By following the Eight-fold Path,” the Buddha said. “And what is the Eight-fold Path?” the monks asked.
The Eight-fold Path teaches the Eight Rules of Life:
Right Belief, which is the belief that Truth is the guide of Man;
Right Resolve, to be calm all the time and never to do harm to any living creature;
Right Speech, never to lie, never to slander anyone, and never to use coarse or harsh language;
Right Behavior, never to steal, never to kill, and never to do anything that one may later regret or be ashamed of;
Right Occupation, never to choose an occupation that is bad, like forgery, the hand- ling of stolen goods, usury, and the like;
Right Effort, always to strive after that which is good, and always to keep away from that which is evil;
Right Contemplation, always to be calm and not allow one’s thoughts to be master- ed by either joy or sorrow;
Right Concentration is then found when all the other rules have been followed and one has reached the stage of perfect peace.
This, 0 monks, is the Eight-fold Path!
Then he carefully explained again the Eight Rules of Life, and ended by telling them of the Five Commands of Uprightness:
Do not kill;
Do not steal;
Do not lie;
Do not commit adultery; and
Do not become intoxicated at any time.
When the Buddha had finished his explanations, the monks said to each other:
“Surely this is wisdom, and surely Sidhatta Gautama has become the Enlightened One: The Buddha. For he has set in motion the wheel of the True Law of Life, the Law that teaches mankind that the world is ruled by Justice.”
Then they bowed to the Buddha and told him that they wished to become his followers. The first sermon that the Buddha preached to the five monks is now famous amongst his followers as The Sermon at Benares.
9 .FROM GOOD MUST COME GOOD.
WHEN the five monks took the Vow to keep the Five Commands of Uprightness, and to believe, as the Buddha believed, that it is wrong to worship idols, that the Vedas were not sacred, and that people are not divided into Castes, but into good people and bad people, then the Buddha organized them into a Brotherhood of Monks.
To these monks he carefully explained all his teachings, and together they started out to spread them throughout the world. They called these teachings: BUDDHISM.
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