Buddhism By: Kayla Tyson

Buddhists hold that suffering is caused by desire, which can be transcended through enlightenment, an elevated state of being that releases the individual from the cycle of birth and death. The faith was founded by the Indian prince Shakyamuni, or Siddhartha Gautama, who achieved enlightenment in the sixth or fifth century B.C. after renouncing his wealth, living as an ascetic and meditating under a bodhi tree – a symbol often found in depictions of him.

Main Deity: In Buddhism, wrathful deities are enlightened beings who take on wrathful forms in order to lead sentient beings to enlightenment. They are a notable feature of the iconography of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.

The basic doctrines of early Buddhism, which remain common to all Buddhism, include the "four noble truths": existence is suffering ( dukhka ); suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment ( trishna ); there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and there is a path to the cessation of suffering, the "eightfold path" of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Buddhism characteristically describes reality in terms of process and relation rather than entity or substance.
The Buddhist canon consists of the Sutras: the words and teachings of the Buddha. There are also a number of noncanonical Buddhist texts that provide supplementary teachings, rules of conduct and commentary on transitional states after death. The Tripitaka (Pali Canon), Mahayana Sutras and the Tibetan Book of the Dead are three major noncanonical Buddhist texts. The Pali Canon, which means “the word of Buddha,” includes some of the Buddha’s discourse, but it also incorporates the teachings of his pupils. Different sects of Buddhism follow canonical and noncanonical scriptures to varying degrees.
Buddhist attitudes of peace, mindfulness and care for all living creatures have come to be the concern of many groups in the West. Buddhist believe that all things should be looked after: the earth, plants, birds, insects and animals. This is close to the feeling among many people in recent years that the human race should stop polluting the atmosphere and destroying the surface of the earth by cutting down forests.

Growth: It was not until the second half of the twentieth century that Buddhist ideas reached a wider section of the American society. American servicemen returning from East Asia after the Second World War and Korean War, brought with them an interest in Asian culture which included Nichiren Shoshu and Zen Buddhism. The latter gained considerable popularity in the nineteen-sixties among literary and artistic groups in America and this helped to popularize Buddhism.

Sources: http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/texts http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhistworld/to-west.htm


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