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1. The Buddha: Our Teacher
The Buddha was born in the Terai lowlands near the foothills of the Himalayas just inside the borders of modern-day Nepal. His people were known as the Sakyas and for this reason the Buddha is sometimes referred to as Sakyamuni or 'the sage of the Sakyas'. The Buddha's personal name was Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha Gautama is the founder of Buddhism. We call him the Buddha, "The Enlightened One". The Buddha has realized the real nature of life and the universal truth. He guides us to peace and happiness. His words and actions are good examples to follow.
2. Birth Of A Prince
More than 2500 years ago in Northern India, there was a King call Suddhodana and he had a Queen called Maya. One fine afternoon on the full-moon day of the fifth month while Maya was sleeping she dreamed that a white elephant carrying a white lotus in its trunk entered her side. The dream was interpreted to mean that she would bear a son who would be either a great emperor. Some time later, a baby boy was born to Maya. Just seven days after the birth, Maya died and the prince was raised by his mother's sister, Pajapati, who became King Suddhodana second wife. The Prince was kind and thoughtful when he was young.
3. Childhood Experience
One day, the Price saw a farmer in worn-out clothes, ploughing the field and whipping an ox. He came to understand the difficult life of living beings. He also saw a bird pecking at an earthworm and an eagle swooping down on the bird. He came to understand that living beings kill one another and only the strongest can survive. On another occasion, while in a woods, he rescued a swan wounded by his cousin. He understand that all beings wish to live and all have the right to live. We should understand this truth and avoid killing.
4. The Youth Prince's
In the palace, the prince received an all-round education. Being intelligent and eager to learn, the Prince became very good at studies and military skills. King Suddhodana wished that the Prince would one day come to the throne and become a hardworking and loving King. When he was of age, the Prince married a lovely, beautiful and gracious wife.
5. The Four Sights
One day, while on an excursion beyond the walls of the palace, the Prince met with an old man, a sick man and a dead man, and saw into their sufferings. He then came to understand that life is suffering and that all beings are subject to birth, old, sick and death. On another occasion, he came across an ascetic who looked calm and composed. The sight of the ascetic suggested to him that renunciation might be a way to end sufferings.
From then on, the Prince had a new outlook on life. he thought that one should not waste time and energy on sensual pleasures but should strive to work for the welfare of all beings instead.
Around the age of 29, the Prince gave up the luxurious palace life and departed from his wife and other loved ones. One night, the Prince rides on a white horse and set off in search of a solution to sufferings.
7. The Search For The Truth
After renunciation, the Prince went from place to place and learnt from many well-known teachers in his search for the Truth. However, he failed to find the Truth. He then began practicing self-torture, his body became very weak and yet his mind still could not find peace. Now, he came to understand that going to extremes is not the correct way of life, as it cannot solve the problem of sufferings. Only the Middle Path is the correct way of life. Then, after accepting an offering of milk-rice by a village girl. He then regained strength and started meditating under a Bodhi tree.
8. Overcoming The Evil One
When the Prince was meditating, various temptations appeared, seducing him to give up his struggle for the Truth, but he remained unmoved. He then directed his incomparable power of concentration to attaining the Truth. At last, he understood the cause of sufferings and found a way to remove it. In short, he had gained the supreme wisdom.
All this happened at day-break on the full-moon day of the fifth month in the year 588 B.C. The Prince attained enlightenment at the age of thirty five. From then on, his life were spent giving religious teachings and then on he was called the Buddha.
9. After Attaining The Truth
After attaining the Truth, the Buddha decided to spread. He spent time in teachings (Dharma) using different methods to suit the different inclinations of his listeners, so that they might be freed from sufferings.
The Buddha first spoke his teachings to his five former companions. They soon became his disciples and came to be known as the First Five Monks. Their conversion marked the beginning of the Sangha.
10. Turning The Wheel Of The Dharma
The Buddha taught the first five monks the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are the truths of suffering, its cause, its end and the path to the end. They are the fundamental teachings of Buddhism.
The Buddha pointed out that life is suffering and that suffering is caused by ignorance and desire. In order to end suffering, one has to follow the path shown by the Buddha, it is the Noble Eightfold Path.
11. The Path To Happiness
The Noble Eightfold Path means: Right Understanding (understanding the law of cause and effect); Right Thought (pure and kind thoughts); Right Speech (truthful and gentle speech); Right Action (good and law-abiding conduct); Right Livelihood (proper and purposeful occupation); Right Effort (striving to improve and progress); Right Mindfulness (mindful of thought and conduct); Right Meditation (practicing meditation to gain wisdom). If we can follow these guidelines on life, each of us will have a bright and happy future.
12. Spreading The Dharma
The Buddha went from place to place to teach, gathering round him the four types of followers (monks, nuns, male & female lay followers). The Buddha once used a smile to advise his followers. He said, "We must guard against the three fires of greed, hatred and ignorance, as they keep burning in our minds causing sufferings.
To put out the fire of greed, one must avoid the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-torture; to put out the fire of hatred, one must practice compassion; to put out the fire of ignorance, one must understand the Four Noble Truths and practice the Noble Eightfold Path.
13. Compassion And Equality
The Buddha emphasized in his teaching. He told us to concern for each other, to help each other. On one occasion, he himself helped clean the sores of a sick man who was deserted by his companions.
Buddhists hold that there is no distinction of class, race, nor that of man and animals. As Buddhism upholds the equality of all beings, so it does not approve of killing.
The Buddha laid stress on self-reliance. He said that everyone has the Buddha nature and everyone can become a Buddha provided he himself practices diligently.
14. Karma And Rebirth
The Buddha said that everyone is responsible for his own actions. Whatever one does is his own karma. Good karma brings good deeds, and bad karma brings about evil.
The Buddha also said that one can be reborn in any of the six realms. The six realms are the heavenly realms, the demi-god realms, the human realm, the animal realm, the hungry ghost realm and the hell realm. The karma of one's past determines which of the six realms he will be reborn in.
The Buddha showed us the Nobel Eightfold Path, by practicing which we can be freed from the cycle of birth and death, and attain the supreme happiness of Nirvana. Which is the ultimate goal of the Noble Eightfold Path.
15. The Passing Away Of The Buddha
For the sake of freeing beings from suffering and helping them to gain happiness, the Buddha went from place to place to teach until he was eighty years of age. On one full moon day, he passed away. Buddha died at a small town called Kusinara, lying on his right side between two Sal trees. Although it is often said that Buddha died from food poisoning after eating a meal donated by a lay follower.
Before passing away, the Buddha gathered around him with many of his disciples and told them. "All things are subject to change, strive on with diligence."
Would he appoint a successor? Who would lead the order after he was gone? In conversation with Ananda, his cousins and a loyal personal attendants, the Buddha stated there was no need for a successor since he had never regarded himself as the 'leader' of the order. Instead, the Dharma should be the guide after he was gone, and monks should hold fast to this and the Vinaya, the code of rules he had laid down for the regulation of monastic life.
Furthermore, in keeping with the Buddha's advice, each person should think for himself on matters of doctrine, cross-referencing views and opinions against the scriptures before deciding whether to accept them. There never arose a central source of authority in Buddhism on matters of doctrine, and no institution or body is authorized to promulgate dogmas and creeds for the religion as a whole.
The remains of the Buddha was cremated. His relics was then divided equally into eight parts and distributed to different parts of the land, to be enshrined in stupas.
(16) The Threefold Refuge
Although the Buddha had already left us, His teachings is still remain after many generations for the benefit of countless beings.
We must take refuge in the Triple Gem; going to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as refuge.
We must observe the five precepts: 1. No Killing; 2. No Stealing; 3. No Sexual Misconduct; 4. No Lying; 5. No Drinking of Alcohol.
We must remember the advice of the Buddha, That is, Do No Evil, Do Good, Purify the Mind.
Since its origins in India for more then two thousand five hundred years ago. Buddhism has not only spread throughout Asia, but also around the world.
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