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Buddhism

The teachings of Siddhartha Gautama

Siddhartha Gautama was born in north India around 560 years before the birth of Jesus Christ and many scholars generally put the time of his birth or enlightenment as about 500bc.

Disturbing emotions not only disturb our own state of mind, they also disturb the minds of others. Self-centredness gives rise to fear and insecurity, which in turn creates distrust. This is why having an altruistic attitude brings a great sense of happiness and peace of mind.

His life was one of wealth, luxury and privilege. But after becoming aware of the suffering of the common people, he became so concerned, that he made it his mission to find a solution to end human suffering and in order to do this, he became a spiritual aspirant or seeker of knowledge.

As an ascetic* and spent time with followers of various spiritual traditions, trying out their practises and during an intense meditation he achieved complete awakening (Nirvana) which gave him insight into the nature and cause of human suffering and how to end it.

He described the cause of suffering as ignorance; this must have been obvious as education was mostly for the privileged and not universal. Life at this time was very simple, people lived by fishing hunting and growing crops, but it was also the beginning of a more cosmopolitan lifestyle when people began to wear cotton clothing.

To eliminate suffering he advised that practitioners learn to recognise and accept The Four Noble Truths, and take actions to end suffering by following the Eight Fold Path which would lead to the state of supreme liberation called Nirvana.

He became renowned for this achievement so much so that his peers saw him as a saint and after his death, the monks who knew him collated and wrote down his teachings which form the basis of Buddhism today.

Please note that Buddhism is not considered by Buddhists to be a religion, rather it is an experiment, a subject that you take on and try out and if it works for you, then wonderful, your suffering will lessen and eventually cease altogether, although this may take several lifetimes.

There is nothing to believe in, or pray to unless you choose to believe in an afterlife in which the Buddha still exists. Following Buddhist practices is to accept the possibility that there is an end to suffering and being appreciative of those who have walked before and testify the validity of the path.

Buddhist teachings fill many thousands of books which are all based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path.

* ascetic - a person who dedicates his or her life to a pursuit of contemplative or spiritual ideals

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