The History of Buddhism

Many years before the birth of Christ, there lived a prince. He was largely protected from the world by his father not wishing his son to experience bad things. However, the son took the inevitable route of youth and was curious about the world around him and outside of the palace. He ventured into that world and experienced the suffering of mankind. It troubled him. Siddhartha Gautama wanted to know why mankind suffered and what could be done to end that suffering. He wasn't a God. He was simply a prince trying to find solutions to a problem that seemed to be spoiling the lives of those people he witnessed. People often associate Buddhism with a religion, though it is, in fact, a philosophy based upon what Siddhartha found through meditating on this particular dilemma.

The Discovery Made by Siddhartha Gautama

He was able to discern from lengthy meditation clear answers. He learned that much of the suffering of mankind was imposed upon man due to man's own actions. In other words, if mankind was given a set of guidelines to live by, he would be able to lessen the amount of suffering that may otherwise make life hard. He devised this set of rules based on the premise that thee were four elements of truth that existed when it came to suffering:

  • Suffering exists
  • There is a cause for suffering
  • Suffering ends
  • The truth of the path leads to the end of suffering

You may now be wondering what path it is that leads to the end of suffering and this is outlined in the Eightfold Path of Buddhism. It will take a lot of learning to discipline yourself to keep within that path, but that's what Buddhists seek to do. This Eight Fold Path comprises:

  • Right Understanding
  • Right Intention
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration

How The Eight Fold Path Applies To Today's World

The eight fold path applies throughout the generations to form a set of disciplines that people need to follow in order to become happy and to lessen their own suffering. When people meditate, they concentrate the mind in an effort to reach "Nirvana" or understanding, and Buddhism today demands that you try to incorporate each of the items in the Eight Fold Path into your life. Thus, right understanding means looking beyond the surface. Right Intention means doing things for morally right reasons. Right speech applies to the way that you treat people and use your voice as an individual. Right Action applies to doing the right thing. Right Livelihood would include doing work that was beneficial to others. Right Effort would mean trying to become a better person. Right Mindfulness would be learning to be mindful. That's a hard one in today's commercial world. We are swept away into consumerism when being mindful means using your mind to feel satisfaction rather than depending upon the crutch of ownership. It means being close to nature and being able to appreciate each moment in life, without looking backward to the past or forward to that which has not yet happened. 

The last item on the list is Right Concentration. This refers to your discipline in all things. It doesn't refer to your ability or natural aptitude. It applies to being prepared to learn and to put in the amount of concentration needed to achieve. 

Starting Your Journey Into Buddhism

It is suggested that you learn how to meditate as this will add a new dimension to your life. It gives your mind time to relax and to put energy into having the right level of concentration. Joining a class or going to a retreat is the best way to start because you will be taught from scratch and will also have instruction to help you when you are doing something that may impede your progress. I would also suggest that you set enough time aside each day to meditate because meditation is a daily process and if treated in a less regular manner cannot benefit you in the same way.

Look over the Eight Fold Path and write down ways that you can incorporate the different elements into your life. Only you know what your weaknesses are. Perhaps you are too prone to reacting to people with anger or emotional response. Learn to observe rather than participate using emotional response. Learn empathy. You need to appreciate that three people within the same room may see the same event but that all will see it differently. Thus, you will learn to understand that other points of view occur all the way through life and not use bias when you are judging what is being said to you. 

When you start to delve into the Buddhist way, you find that your patience levels are increased and that you do not easily suffer from stress. You will also find that you have a happier outlook on life and are able to use this outlook to help in your communication skills and ability to help both yourself and others. The Buddhist philosophy is all about self-discipline and when you learn what your own weaknesses are and strengthen them through meditation and by following the Eight Fold Path, your life becomes much more rewarding and enjoyable.