What Is Buddhism?
Buddhism is the philosophy of non-harm, of love and compassion for all sentient life. Siddhartha Gotama realised enlightenment, the true state of knowing at the age of 35, sitting under the famed Bodhi tree in northern India some 2,550 years ago. He shared his wisdom for another 45 years and gained many disciples and followers. He passed into what is termed parinirvana at the age of 80. He came to be know as Shakyamuni Buddha—the founder of Buddhism.
His teachings are founded on the realisation that all life is in suffering, that has identified causes, and a way to extinguish that suffering, by following, what he called the eight-fold path… these became known as the Four Noble Truths.
He explained how it is we are born, age and die in a relentless cycle called the Wheel of Life and by attaining enlightenment, the awareness of the true nature of ourselves, we can break that cycle and attain nirvana. He explained that our thoughts and actions determine what our future lives will be like, how the karma we accumulate travels with us, life to life, and we must nurture good actions and thoughts as often as possible in order to ensure good conditions in the future.
Buddhism is experiential in nature, meaning awareness comes from within each of us, from study and meditation, and is not something one simply imitates or learns. To be sure of acquiring the correct teachings and guidance however, it is always recommended that a student of Buddhism find a reliable and knowledgeable teacher, who practices the Buddha’s teachings in their daily activities – teaching by example is a fundamental method in Buddhism. There are numerous different ways to study and practice Buddhism and some have even been identified more as religion than philosophy (a love of wisdom), but since it is essentially a way of living, from one moment to the next, its philosophical foundation remains common to all.
The Buddhist clergy of monks and nuns, or Sangha, serve to help all other students of Buddhism to achieve realisation and enlightenment, being the source of teachings, guidance and support. Their centres often act as hubs for their respective communities and are always welcoming and friendly – such is the Buddhist way.
To gain a fuller understanding of what Buddhism actually is, you should endeavour to locate a dharma centre in your area and make an inquiry – if there is not one that meets your needs, then contacting the Buddhist Council of Queensland will help you connect with a suitable centre or group.