Here is a religion that never cared about God, but survived 2500 years and still practiced by about 500 million followers worldwide. It is the story of one enlightened man, his fearless journey in search of truth behind the misery of life; and the way of life he taught to the common people. He is none other than Buddha, the great master, the embodiment of love and compassion, and who was even ready to sacrifice his body for an innocent goat. Though he did not accept God in his noble path, Buddha is being worshipped as incarnation of God, by the people worldwide.

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Buddha’s Life

About 2500 years ago on a full moon day Siddhartha Gautama was born in a royal family in Kapilavastu. King Suddhodana of Shakya clan was his father and Queen Maya Devi his mother. At the age of 16 he was married to Yasodhara and they had a son named Rahul. After living in the extreme luxuries of palace, at the age of 29 he had a desire to see the outside world. On his trips he saw real life with its different faces such as sickness, old age and death; and felt himself within the heart that he should not enjoy luxurious life in the palace when people were suffering in the outside world.

Abandoning the luxuries and lavishness of royal life, he stepped out of the kingdom, and started the life of a wandering monk. He wanted to help people and end their misery. He was determined to find truth. By eating almost nothing and facing harsh poverty, he practiced meditation expecting a solution for his deep rooted problem. But he could not get the answer. Experiencing the extreme positions of both luxury and poverty, he understood the vanity of those paths and finally decided to adopt the ‘Middle Way’ to seek the truth. After deep meditation, sitting under a pipal tree, known as Bodhi tree, in Bodh Gaya, on a full moon day, at the age of 35, he became enlightened and came to known as Buddha.

In the beginning there were Buddha and his five disciples and the journey continued for next forty five years through different parts of the country, spreading is teachings and helping all kinds of people, including beggars and kings. For 80 years he lived in this world with fearless thinking and unselfish service, with a brain filled with infinite knowledge and a heart filled with innocent love.  

Buddha’s Teachings

It is believed that Buddhism is neither theistic nor atheistic, but is agnostic. It was said that when asked about the existence of God, Buddha used to keep silent without himself denying or accepting the existence of God. In other cases, it is also reported to have said that the Noble Eight-fold path of enlightenment did not require a belief in God; God was a superstition created by the priest class. As per Buddha all ceremonies, worships and prayer were pure nonsense. The concept of God makes people weak because they depend on God for everything.

Buddha understood why people suffered and how they could overcome suffering. With his boundless heart and great intellect he taught everyone how to live to attain peace of mind. He became one among the masses, knew their feelings and talked in their language so that everyone could understand. He advised them to stay away from blind faith and to accept his words only after they convinced themselves that his teachings were right.

The Three Universal Truths

The three universal truths applicable to everything, as per Buddhism, are given below. It may be noted that these are similar to the modern scientific laws.

  1. In the universe everything is converted from one state to another, but never lost. Life is a cyclic process that repeats.Tree produces seed and seed creates tree; matter becomes energy and energy becomes matter. Everything in the universe consists of the same thing. Hence if we destroy something we are destroying ourselves.  
  2. Change is the law of the nature. Everything is continuously changing. Life is compared to a river changing every moment, sometimes slow, sometimes swift, sometimes smooth, sometimes rocky, sometimes safe and sometimes dangerous.
  3. The law of cause and effect governs our life. For every action, known as karma, we get the results either good or bad depending upon our action. We are the products of what we think and what we do and hence we should be careful about our thoughts and deeds for creating a bright future.

The Four Noble Truths

When Buddha was enlightened he became fully aware about the Truth he was searching for all those times – the cause of sufferings and the methods to eliminate them. These realizations are known as the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. By mastering these truths one can attain Nirvana, the ultimate goal, a state where mind is perfectly peaceful and completely free from ignorance, greed and all negative qualities, which everyone can attain in this very life itself.  Interference of a God is not required to attain Nirvana. The Four Noble Truths are as follows.

  1. Life consists of suffering: Suffering is an unavoidable thing in life. Sickness, old age and death are the main things we suffer. Anything that destroys the happiness in our life makes us suffer.
  2. Suffering has a cause: Ignorance about the law of cause and effect makes us suffer. Involved in luxury we become greedy and desire for extreme luxury and unnecessary pleasures that are harmful to us. Once we do not get what we want, we suffer. We are diverting from the middle path and are looking for the extreme and that leads to suffering.
  3. Suffering can be brought to an end: We can lead a life without suffering if we decide to do so. If we can stay away from our desire for unwanted things and become conscious about our thoughts and deeds we can put an end to suffering.
  4. The Path to End Suffering: The Noble Eight-fold Path otherwise called the Middle Way can be followed that will end all sufferings.

The Noble Eight-fold Path

  1. Right View:  We should view the world through the right eyes, through righteousness and compassion.
  2. Right Thought: We are the products of our thoughts and hence the right thoughts are necessary to develop good character.
  3. Right Speech: Words are powerful and influence our life very significantly. We should speak kind words to everyone. The word already spoken cannot be taken back and hence it is very important to be careful about our speech.
  4. Right Conduct: Our conduct reflects our culture and our real nature. The way behave determines our success and position in the society.
  5. Right Livelihood: The job we select for our earning should be such that it should not harm others. Getting happiness by making others unhappy is not a good practice.
  6. Right effort: Whatever efforts we do should do well to others. Harmful efforts will waste a valuable life.
  7. Right Mindfulness: We should be the masters of our thoughts, words and deeds; but should never allow our mind to control us.
  8. Right Concentration: Concentration is to be practiced which is the essential for success in life. Right concentration will help in deep meditation and result in quiet and peaceful state of mind.

Conclusions

In Hinduism God is everywhere; in Vedas, in epics, and in Gita; God is there in the sanctity of temples and in the outcry of the souls; God is there in the rumbles of thunders and flickering of lightning; God is there in the minute atoms and in the gigantic stars; and God is there in every heart-beat and in every breath of life. And, whatever may be the progress of science, whatever may be the reasoning power of human mind, God will rule over the heart of humans so long as the fear of death and miseries exist in the world.  Weakness of human mind is the strength of God. The forlorn cry rising from the bottom of the heart will never cease so long as there is weakness. May be that is one of the reasons why Buddhism, the religion that did not entertain God, diminished in India, the land of its origin.

Buddha;… I have deep respect to that great person for his compassion, courage and intelligence. Castes or customs, Gods or priests, nothing had the power to conquer him, nor was he willing to bow his head down in front of any superstitious shadows. And of course, he came to the world not to establish righteousness by destroying anybody, but to save people from their ignorance and selfishness, and help them reach the ultimate goal of life without the interference of a personal God. His glory will be praised forever and his teachings will always be remembered.

Listen to the following powerful and high spirited words of Buddha the Great:

Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Image Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seokguram_Buddha.JPG


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