Last Update: 28 Jan 2012

A Simple Guide to Help Know
the Buddha

The Blessing

The Buddhist Monk Blessing

The merit which you have done.
May you be free from enmity and danger.
May you be free from mental suffering.
May you be free from physical suffering.
And may you take care of yourself happily.
May your parent, relative, friends, and every living being be happy.
Love and Peace be with you.

Jump Sation

[Introduction]      [About Buddha]      [Buddha's Early Life]
[Buddha's Search For a Meaningful Life]      [Buddha Discovers The Middle Way]
[Conquering all Distractions]      [Attaining Enlightenment]      [Awakened One]
[Buddha's Good Qualities]      [Emanations of Buddha]      [The Supreme Emanation]
[The Wheel of Dharma ]      [ ]Practicing the Buddha's Teaching - the Dharma]
[Training the Mind]      [Is Buddha a Man or God?]
[If Buddha is Not a God, Why Do People Worship Him?]

Introduction: I have attempted to summarize a great deal of information and put it into an understanding format. I may have left out some important information which is significant but I didn't feel it added anything to what I was trying to portray or it may have made the information more complex and confusing. For this I apologize because I don't want the information to be misleading. If you want to see the original source of my information just click on any of the links listed. A Google search of any word or term has been most productive.

About Buddha

Every living being has the same basic wish - to be happy and to avoid suffering. Even newborn babies, animals, and insects have this wish. It has been our main wish since beginning of time and it is with us all the time, even during our sleep. We spend our whole life working hard to fulfill this wish.

Since this world evolved, human beings have spent much time and energy improving external conditions in their search for happiness and a solution to their many problems. What has been the result?

Instead of their wishes being fulfilled, human suffering and disappointment has continued to increase while the experience of happiness and peace is decreasing. This clearly shows that we need to find a true method for gaining pure happiness and freedom from misery.

When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the inside of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems we must learn to control our mind. This is the essence of Buddhism.

Buddha's Early Life

Buddha's Birth

The Buddha who is the founder of the Buddhist religion is "Shakyamuni ". Buddha Skakyamuni was born as a royal prince in 624 BC in northern India which is now part of Nepal. His mother's name was Queen Mayadevi and his father's name was King Shuddhodana.

The Queens Dream

One night, Queen Mayadevi dreamed that a white elephant descended from heaven and entered her womb. The white elephant entering her womb indicated that on that very night she had conceived a child who was a pure and powerful being. When she gave birth to the child, instead of experiencing pain the queen experienced a special, pure vision in which she stood holding the branch of a tree with her right hand while the gods Brahma and Indra (Hindu gods) took the child painlessly from her side.

The Kings Delight

When the king saw the child he invited a Brahmin seer to make predictions about the prince's future. The seer told the king, "The child will either grow up to be a leader of many nations or the boy would become a Buddha, and his beneficial influence will pervade the thousand million worlds like the rays of the sun." King Shuddhodana, of course wanted Prince Siddhartha to become a great leader and did everything in his power to raise him accordingly.

The Young Prince

As the young prince grew up he mastered all the traditional arts and sciences without needing any instruction. He knew sixty-four languages, each with their own alphabet, and he was also very skilled at mathematics. He once told his father that he could count all the atoms in the world in the time it takes to draw a single breath. Although he did not need to study, he did so to please his father and to benefit others. At his father's request he joined a school where, in addition to various academic subjects, he became skilled at sports such as martial arts and archery. The prince would take every opportunity to convey spiritual meanings and to encourage others to follow spiritual paths. At one time, when he was taking part in an archery contest, he declared, "With the bow of meditative concentration I will fire the arrow of wisdom and kill the tiger of ignorance in living beings." He then released the arrow and it flew straight through five iron tigers and seven trees before disappearing into the earth! By witnessing demonstrations such as this, thousands of people developed faith in the prince.

Witnessing Suffering

Sometimes Prince Siddhartha would go into the capital city of his father's kingdom to see how the people lived. During these visits he came into contact with many old people and sick people, and on one occasion he saw a corpse. These encounters left a deep impression on his mind and led him to realize that all living beings without exception have to experience the sufferings of birth, sickness, ageing and death. Because he understood the laws of reincarnation he also realized that they experience these sufferings not just once, but again and again, in life after life without cessation. Seeing how all living beings are trapped in this vicious circle of suffering he felt deep compassion for them, and he developed a sincere wish to free all of them from their suffering. Realizing that only a fully enlightened Buddha has the wisdom and the power to help all living beings in this way, he resolved to leave the palace and retire to the solitude of the forest where he would engage in profound meditation until he attained enlightenment.

Prince Siddhartha's Marriage

When the people of the kingdom realized that the prince intended to leave the palace they requested the king to arrange a marriage for him in the hope that this would cause him to change his mind. The king agreed and soon found him a suitable bride. Prince Siddhartha, however, had no attachment to worldly pleasures because he realized that objects of attachment are like poisonous flowers, which initially appear to be attractive but eventually give rise to great pain. His resolve to leave the palace and to attain enlightenment remained unchanged, but to fulfill his father's wishes and to bring temporary benefit to the people, he agreed to marry Yasodhara. However, even though he remained in the palace as a royal prince, he devoted all his time and energy to serving the people in whatever way he could.

Prince Siddhartha's Request

When he was twenty-nine years old, the prince had a vision in which all the Buddhas of the ten directions appeared to him and spoke in unison saying, "Previously you resolved to become a Conqueror Buddha so that you could help all living beings trapped in the cycle of suffering. Now is the time for you to accomplish this." The prince went immediately to his parents and told them of his intention: "I wish to retire to a peaceful place in the forest where I can engage in deep meditation and quickly attain full enlightenment. Once I have attained enlightenment I shall be able to repay the kindness of all living beings, and especially the great kindness that you have shown me. Therefore I request your permission to leave the palace." His parents were shocked, and the king refused to grant his permission. Prince Siddhartha said to his father "Father, if you can give me permanent freedom from the sufferings of birth, sickness, ageing and death I shall stay in the palace; but if you cannot I must leave and make my human life meaningful."

Prince Siddhartha's Escape

The king tried all means to prevent his son from leaving the palace. In the hope that the prince might change his mind, he surrounded him with a retinue of beautiful women, dancers, singer, and musicians, who day and night used their charms to please him; and in case the prince might attempt a secret escape he posted guards around the palace walls. However, the prince's determination to leave the palace and enter a life of meditation could not be shaken. One night he used his miracle powers to send the guards and attendants into a deep sleep while he made his escape from the palace with the help of a trusted aide. After they had traveled about six miles, the prince dismounted from his horse and bade farewell to his aide. He then cut off his hair and threw it into the sky, where it was caught by the gods of the Land of the Thirty-three Heavens. One of the gods then offered the prince the saffron robes of a religious mendicant. The prince accepted these and gave his royal garments to the god in exchange. In this way he ordained himself as a monk.

Buddha's Search
for a Meaningful Life

Buddha's Early Search

Siddhartha initially went to Rajagaha and began his ascetic life by begging for alms in the street. Having been recognized by the men of King Bimbisara, Bimbisara offered him the throne after hearing of Siddhartha's quest. Siddhartha rejected the offer, but promised to visit his kingdom of Magadha first, upon attaining enlightenment.

Siddhartha left Rajagaha and practiced under two hermit teachers. After mastering the teachings of Alara Kalama , Siddhartha was asked by Kalama to succeed him, but moved on after being unsatisfied with his practices. He then became a student of Udaka Ramaputta , but although he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness and was asked to succeed Ramaputta, he was still not satisfied with his path, and moved on.

Siddhartha and a group of five companions led by Kaundinya then set out to take their austerities even further. They tried to find enlightenment through near total deprivation of worldly goods, including food, practicing self-mortification. After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned. Siddhartha began to reconsider his path. Then, he remembered a moment in childhood in which he had been watching his father start the season's plowing. Looking near his feet he noticed the insects that lived there and realized that they would die or be displaced by the plowing. He then realized that all life is connected. With this revelation he attained a concentrated and focused state that was blissful and refreshing.

Buddha Discovers The Middle Way

After asceticism and concentrating on meditation and awareness of breathing in and out, Siddhartha is said to have discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way - a path of moderation away from the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. He accepted a little milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata, who wrongly believed him to be the spirit that had granted her a wish, such was his emaciated appearance. Kaundinya, and the other four companions left him beliving that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined.

Siddhartha then made his way to a place near Bodh Gaya in India, where he found a suitable site for meditation. There he remained, emphasizing a meditation called "space-like concentration on the Dharmakaya" in which he focused single-pointedly on the ultimate nature of all phenomena.
After having training in this meditation for the past six years he realized that he was very close to attaining full enlightenment, and so he walked to Bodh Gaya where, on the full moon day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar, he seated himself beneath the Bodhi Tree in the meditation posture and vowed not to rise from meditation until he had attained perfect enlightenment. With this determination he entered the space-like concentration on the Dharmakaya.
Buddha teaching under the Bodhi tree

After 49 days meditating, at the age of 35, he attained Enlightenment. Siddhartha from then on, was known as the Buddha or "Awakened One" or "The Enlightened One."

At this point, he is believed to have realized complete awakening and insight into the nature and cause of human suffering which was ignorance, along with steps necessary to eliminate it. This was then categorized into 'Four Noble Truths'; the state of supreme liberation-possible for any being-was called Nirvana. He then allegedly came to possess the Ten Characteristics, which are said to belong to every Buddha.

Conquering all Distractions

As dusk fell, the Demon Mara, the chief of all the demons, tried to disturb Siddhartha's concentration by conjuring up many fearful apparitions. He manifested hosts of terrifying demons, some throwing spears, some firing arrows, some trying to burn him with fire, and some hurling boulders and even mountains at him. Through the force of his concentration, the weapons, rocks, and mountains appeared to him as a rain of fragrant flowers, and the raging fires became like offerings of rainbow lights.

Seeing that Siddhartha could not be frightened into abandoning his meditation, Mara tried instead to distract him by manifesting countless beautiful women, but Siddhartha responded by developing even deeper concentration. In this way he triumphed over all the demons of this world, which is why he subsequently became known as a "Conqueror Buddha."

Demon tempting Buddha with beautiful women

Attaining Enlightenment

Siddhartha then continued with his meditation until dawn, when he attained the varja-like concentration. With this concentration, which is the very last mind of a limited being, he removed the final veils of ignorance from his mind and in the next moment became a Buddha, a fully enlightened being.

Awakened One

In general, 'Buddha' means 'Awakened One', someone who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and sees things as they really are. A Buddha is a person who is completely free from all faults and mental obstructions. Moreover, Buddha has great compassion which is completely impartial, embracing all living beings without discrimination.

He benefits all living beings without exception by emanating various forms throughout the universe, and by bestowing his blessings on their minds. Through receiving Buddha's blessings, all being, even the lowliest animals, sometimes develop peaceful and virtuous states of mind. Eventually, through meeting an emanation of Buddha in the form of a Spiritual Guide, everyone will have the opportunity to enter the path to liberation and enlightenment. As the great Indian Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna said, there is no one who has not received help from Buddha.

Buddha's Good Qualities

It is impossible to describe all the good qualities of a Buddha. A Buddha's compassion, wisdom, and power are completely beyond conception. With nothing left to obscure his mind, he sees all phenomena throughout the universe as clearly as he sees a jewel held in the palm of his hand. Through the force of his or her compassion, a Buddha spontaneously does whatever is appropriate to benefit others. He has no need to think about what is the best way to help living beings - he naturally and effortlessly acts in the most beneficial way. Just as the sun does not need to motivate itself to radiate light and heat but does so simply because light and heat are its very nature, so a Buddha does not need to motivate himself to benefit others but does so simply because being beneficial is his very nature.

Emanations of Buddha

Like the reflections of the moon that effortlessly appear in any body of still water, a Buddha's emanations spontaneously appear wherever living beings' minds are capable of perceiving them. Buddhas can emanate in any form whatsoever to help living beings. Sometimes they manifest as Buddhists and sometimes as non-Buddhists. They can manifest as women or men, monarchs or tramps, law-abiding citizens or criminals. They can even manifest as animals, as wind or rain, or as mountains or islands. Unless we are a Buddha ourself we cannot possibly say who or what is an emanation of a Buddha.

The Supreme Emanation

Of all the ways in which a Buddha helps living beings, the supreme way is by emanation as a Spiritual Guide. Through his or her teachings and immaculate example, an authentic Spiritual Guide leads his or her disciples along the spiritual path to liberation and enlightenment. If we meet a qualified Mahayana Spiritual Guide and put into practice everything he or she teaches, we shall definitely attain full enlightenment and become a Conqueror Buddha. We shall then be in a position to repay the kindness of all living beings by liberating them from the sufferings of the ciycle of birth, death and rebirth and leading them to the supreme bliss of Buddhahood.

Turning The Wheel of Dharma

After he had attained enlightenment, as a result of requests Buddha rose from meditation and taught the so-called first “Wheel of Dharma.” These teachings, which include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and other discourses, are the principal source of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, of Buddhism. Later, Buddha taught the second and third Wheels of Dharma, which include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the Sutra Discriminating the Intention, respectively. These teachingsare the source of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, of Buddhism. In the Hinayana teachings, Buddha explains how to attain liberation from suffering for oneself alone. In the Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others. Both traditions flourished in Asia, at first in India and then gradually in other surrounding countries, including Tibet. Now they are also beginning to flourish in the West.

Buddha’s teachings, which are known as “Dharma”, are likened to a wheel that moves from country to country in accordance with changing conditions and people’s karmic inclinations. The external forms of presenting Buddhism may change as it meets with different cultures and societies, but its essential authenticity is ensured through the continuation of an unbroken lineage of realized practitioners. Buddha’s teachings are said to be like a precious wheel because, wherever they spread, the people in that area have the opportunity to control their minds by putting them into practice.

Practicing Buddha's Teachings - Dharma

Dharma refers to the body of teaching expounded by Buddha. By practicing Buddha's teachings we protect ourself from suffering and problems. All the problems we experience during daily life originate from ignorance, and the method for eliminating ignorance is to practice Dharma.

Practicing the teachings of Buddha is the supreme method for improving the quality of our human life. The quality of life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness. For example, in the past many Buddhists lived in poor and underdeveloped countries, but they were able to find pure, lasting happiness by practicing what Buddha had taught.

If we integrate Buddha's teachings into our daily life we will be able to solve all our inner problems and attain a truly peaceful mind. Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible. If we first establish peace within our minds by training in spiritual paths, outer peace will come naturally; but if we do not, world peace will never be achieved, no matter how many people campaign for it.

In the practice of training the mind, we rely upon our own inner strength rather than upon external conditions. We do not need to wait for better conditions before starting to practise, because we can transform any circumstances, whether good or bad, into the path to liberation and enlightenment. If we wait until we find perfect conditions, we will never begin our study and practice of Dharma. Moreover, if we are preoccupied with creating perfect external conditions, we will never find the time to meditate because we will be too busy trying to fulfil our insatiable desires. For example, we may have a very agreeable partner, but because of our discontented mind still look around for someone else, or we may have a good car, but still want a bigger and more expensive model. Again, our present job may be very good, but out of discontent we still want a better one. If we pursue all our desires, there will be little or no time for Dharma practice.

Apply the principal practice at this time. At the moment we have a precious human life, but it is uncertain how long it will last. We should think, "Since it would be a great tragedy to waste this rare opportunity, I must use it in a meaningful way." It is pointless to work just for material wealth. Even if we were to become very rich, we would still have to experience the sufferings of the ciycle of birth, death and rebirth. There are many wealthy people who have great problems and worries. We should think: "The greatest purpose of this life is to provide a means for attaining liberation and enlightenment. The only way to attain these is by practising Dharma. Among Dharma practices, the supreme practice is training the mind. Therefore, I must practise training the mind now."

Is The Buddha Man or God?

The commonly accepted definition of the term "God" is of a being who rules and created the universe. The Buddha of the early texts gives arguments refuting the existence of such a being.

Statements from modern Theravadins that the Buddha was "just a human" are often intended to contrast their view of him with those of the original teachings of the Buddha in the Mahayana sutras, and with Christian views of Jesus. According to the Canon, Gotama was born as a human, albeit highly spiritually developed as a result of the previous lives in the career of the bodhisatta. With his enlightenment, however, he perfected and transcended his human condition. When asked whether he was a god or a human, he replied that he had eliminated the deep-rooted unconscious traits that would make him either one, and should instead be called a Buddha; one who had grown up in the world but had now gone beyond it, as a lotus grows from the water but blossoms above it, unsoiled. The lotus flower
A common misconception among non-Buddhists is that the Buddha is the Buddhist counterpart to "God." Buddhism however, is in general non-theistic, in the sense of not teaching the existence of a supreme creator god or depending on any supreme being for enlightenment. The Buddha is a guide and teacher who points the way to enlightenment, however the struggle for enlightenment is one's own.

Buddhism itself generally ignores the question regarding the origin of life. The Buddha regarding the origin of life has said "Conjecture about [the origin of]the world . . . would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it." The Buddha also compared the question of the origin of life - as well as many other metaphysical questions - to the parable of the poison arrow: a man is shot with a poison arrow, but before the doctor pulls it out, he wants to know who shot it (arguing the existence of God), where the arrow came from (where the universe and/or God came from) why that person shot it (why God created the universe), etc. If the doctor keeps asking these questions before the arrow is pulled out, the Buddha reasoned, the patient will die before he gets the answers. Buddhism is less concerned with answering questions like the origin of life, and more concerned with the goal of saving oneself and other beings from suffering by attaining Nirvana (Enlightenment).

Modern day Buddhists, such as the Dalai Lama, don't perceive a conflict between Buddhism and science and consider they are complementary means of understanding the world around us.

If The Buddha Is Not A God, Then Why Do People Worship Him?

There are different types of worship. When someone worships a god, they praise him or her, making offerings and ask for favours, believing that the god will hear their praise, receive their offerings and answer their prayers. Buddhists do not indulge in this kind of worship.

The other kind of worship is when we show respect to someone or something we admire. When a teacher walks into a room we stand up, when we meet a dignitary we shake hands,when the national anthem is played we salute. These are all gestures of respect and worship and indicate our admiration for persons and things.

We must always be aware of and respect cultural differences. In Hinduism their gods are refered to as "Lords". There is the "Trinity" of Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and the beloved Lord Ganesha and Lord Hanuman

This is the type of worship Buddhist practise. A statue of the Buddha with its hands rested gently in its lap and its compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. The perfume of incense reminds us of the pervading influence of virtue, the lamp reminds us of light of knowledge and the flowers which soon fade and die, reminds us of impermanence. When we bow, we express our gratitude to the Buddha for what his teachings have given us. This is the nature of Buddhist worship.

(Editor's note, May 3, 2010: This page is now being construction so come back again.
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