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Understanding the Life and Teachings of Buddha

Science, philosophy, politics, and religion are frequent topics for writer and public speaker Catherine Giordano.

Gautama Buddha

A statue of Gautama Buddha (in Hong Kong)  depicts him in meditation.

A statue of Gautama Buddha (in Hong Kong) depicts him in meditation.

Who Was Buddha?

Buddha is purported to have been born in 563 BCE in the area of India now known as Nepal. Buddha is a title which means “The Awakened One” or the “Enlightened One.”

The actual name of Buddha is Siddhārtha Shakya, but he came to be known as Gautama Buddha (the Sanskrit form of his family name), Mahatma Buddha (Mahatma is a title for a good and wise person) or sometimes, Shakyamuni (a honorific meaning Sage of the Shakyans). He was born into a prominent family. His father was Śuddhodana, an elected chief of the Shakya clan. His mother’s name was Maya. From the time of his birth, Siddhārtha was seen as being destined to be a great king.

Buddha’s mother died within a few days of his birth, and he was raised by his mother’s younger sister. At the age of 16, his father arranged his marriage to a cousin who was his same age, Yaśodharā. They had a son named Rāhula.

The family was wealthy enough so that Siddhārtha’s father could provide for his son’s every need and want. Siddhārtha led a sheltered life never being allowed to leave the palace walls so that his father could shield him from knowledge of human suffering.

How Did Siddhārtha Become Buddha?

At the age of 29, Siddhārtha set out to discover the “real world.” For the first time, he encountered suffering, disease, and death. He rejected material wealth for the life of a mendicant living as an ascetic. He disdained worldly goods and at one point he took austerity so far that he nearly died of starvation.

He had studied with various teachers of enlightenment, but was always dissatisfied with their teachings and moved on to a new teacher. He eventually sought enlightenment on his own through meditation. He sat under a pipal tree—now known as the Bodhi tree—and vowed never to arise until he had found the truth.

At the age of 35, after six years of searching and five weeks meditating under the tree, he attained enlightenment. He came to an understanding of the “The Middle Way,” a path of moderation between the two extremes of self-indulgence and austerity. He now understood the cause of human suffering and how suffering could be ameliorated. He developed the “Dharma”—the universal doctrines for a good life, based upon the “Four Noble Truths” and the “Eightfold Path.”

Buddha feared others would not be able to properly practice this way of life since they were so immersed in ignorance, greed, and hatred. Nonetheless, he set out to become a teacher. For the remaining 45 years of his life, he traveled great distances across India with various disciples (Buddhist monks who were collectively known as the “sangha”) to teach others the Dharma—a kind of “cosmic law and order” which includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living.’’ Eventually, Buddha decided to allow women to become nuns because he came to believe they were just as capable as men of understanding the Dharma.

Buddha returned home twice: once when his son was seven years old and again when his father was dying. Buddha taught the Dharma to his family and they became practitioners.

At the age of 80 he predicted his own death and declared himself ready for death.

Buddha in Meditation

A depiction of Buddha meditating under the Bodhi tree.

A depiction of Buddha meditating under the Bodhi tree.

Was the Dharma a New Concept?

Like all great teachers, Gautama Buddha built upon the philosophies and religions of the past, and created something new. Some ideas are discarded, some ideas are reinterpreted, and some ideas are added. The result is a new philosophy which catches hold because it is ideally suited for the times. New philosophies often emerge in times of social turmoil when people are seeking something new.

Buddha was born a Hindu, and his philosophy reflects Hindu teachings. There are also strains of Jainism, another ancient religion in India, in the teachings of Buddha.

Gautama Buddha was seen as one in a long series of Buddhas who emerge at intervals to teach the same doctrine. After the death of each Buddha, the teachings flourish for a while and then fade away. After it is forgotten, a new Buddha arises to revive the Dharma. (One text names 24 Buddhas before Gautama Buddha.)

What Are the Four Noble Truths?

The Four Noble Truths are:

1. Suffering

We must acknowledge the existence of suffering--the unavoidable suffering (pain, disease, aging, death) and the psychological suffering caused by emotions (anger, jealousy, fear, frustration, etc.) Simply put: Into each life a little rain will fall.

2. Cause of suffering

We must acknowledge that the cause of suffering is wanting—we want good things in our lives and we want bad things out of our lives. We must understand that loss and gain and comfort and discomfort come and go. Simply put: If you want what you have, you will have what you want.

3. Cessation of suffering

Suffering can be overcome by giving up useless craving and by living in the present. We can also overcome suffering by silencing the mind that seems to want to constantly focus on the negative emotions and thus remove these emotions as a source of suffering. Simply put: Let it go. Just be.

4. The path that leads to the cessation of suffering

The Eightfold Path provides moral guidelines for each area of life. Simply put: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Buddhist Dharma Wheel

The dharma wheel illustrates the eightfold path.

The dharma wheel illustrates the eightfold path.

What is the Eightfold Path?

The Eightfold Path divides life into three main areas—wisdom, conduct, and concentration. It then divides each of those three into two or three subgroups.

“Wisdom” includes “right view” and “right intention.” These mean seeing things correctly and acting with good intentions.

“Conduct" is concerned with your relationships with others. It includes “right speech”, “right action,” and “right intention.” These mean speak honestly, behave with compassion towards others, and earn your living in an ethical way.

“Concentration” is about mindfulness. It includes “right effort,” “right mindfulness,” and “right meditation.” These mean do everything to the best of your ability. Keep your attention on what you are doing. (No multi-tasking.) Use meditation to clear your mind to improve your focus.

For a complete description of the Eightfold path, please see The Buddhist Eight-Fold Path for Modern Times.

What are the Five Precepts?

The five precepts are the moral and ethical code of Buddhism. They are guides for training one’s behavior—not commandments. They are warnings to not act in a way that will cause regret.

1. Avoid killing or harming other beings. Respect the right of all living beings, both human and non-human, to live their lives.

2. Avoid taking things not given. It warns against stealing, of course, but also of taking things that have not been freely given to you or are not meant for you to take.

3. Avoid sensual misconduct. This applies to sexual misconduct, but also to any overindulgence (such as gluttony).

4. Refrain from false speech. This means no lying, no deceiving, and no slandering of others.

5. Abstain from intoxication. This precept exists because intoxication could cause you to break the other four precepts.

The Conception of Buddha

According to myth, Buddha's mother dreamed of a white elephant when Buddha was conceived.

According to myth, Buddha's mother dreamed of a white elephant when Buddha was conceived.

Are There Mythical Elements to the Story of Buddha?

There are some mythical elements to the story about Buddha. Despite Buddha’s non-theistic teachings, it seems people have a love for superstition and will attach mythical elements to any revered person. There seems to be a need for a Teacher-God, a super-human being to lend authority to the teachings devised by men.

A story is told that his mother had a dream that a white elephant descended from heaven and entered her womb. This signified that she had conceived a child who was a pure and powerful being. In one story, she gave birth painlessly, as the gods, Brahma and Indra, removed the child from her side and then honored the infant with ritual ablutions. In another story, the queen is traveling with her courtiers and stops in a grove where trees are blossoming. As she touches the blossoms, her son is born. The infant takes seven steps and says, “I alone am the World-Honored One” as two streams of water descend from the havens to bathe them.

Buddha was described as an exceptionally intelligent child, so intelligent that he learned all the arts and sciences (including learning to speak 64 languages) without studying. He was also described as supremely skilled at sports, martial arts, and archery.

At the age of 29, Buddha disobeys his father and escapes the palace walls by using his magical powers to put all the palace guards to sleep. He learns for the first time that there is sickness and death in the world, and he is struck by a need to leave the palace and find a way to end human suffering. There are gods who help him on his journey and demons—especially one called Mara-- who torment him and try to prevent him from attaining enlightenment.

There are also super-powers and miraculous deeds attributed to Buddha. It is said that when Buddha attained enlightenment, rays emanated from his body to the very edges of space. It was believed that anyone who reached a sufficiently high state of enlightenment would be super-human.

However, Buddha is reported to have disdained miracles. He wanted people to adopt his philosophy by using their reason and not because of miracles.

Is Buddha a Myth or Did He Actually Exist?

Most scholars think that Buddha was a real person. I like to think that the bio above accurately recounts his life. Although we have nothing in writing that dates to his lifetime, the accounts of his life and teaching were related in epic poems, memorized by his followers, and passed down orally. There is not much variation in the factual accounts of Buddha's life--this unanimity suggests that the accounts are true. Moreover, there are a couple of mentions of Buddha in some documents going back to the third century BCE.

The Pali Canon is the earliest known written Buddhist text. It dates to 29 BCE, putting to paper the oral tradition that had been passed down for centuries.

What do you think?

What did Buddha Believe?

Buddha believed in personal responsibility. Spirituality comes from meditation, not from a Creator God.

Buddha believed in personal responsibility. Spirituality comes from meditation, not from a Creator God.

Is There a Supreme Being in Buddhism?

Despite the mythological elements added to the life story of Buddha, he did not teach the existence of a Supreme Being. He never declared himself to be a god, or a representative of a god, or as someone who could perform miracles. He was simply a human being teaching other human beings how to minimize suffering in their earthly lives.

Buddhism emphasizes the way of inquiry—using your intellect and reason to investigate claims. Buddha warned against forming beliefs based on tradition or because others say so (even if they are people in authority like your elders, your teachers, or your priests.) He urged people not to accept something because it is written in a Holy Book or because it is purported to come from a Supreme Being.

Buddhists believe that our universe is but one universe in a constant cycle of universes. When one ends, a new one simply begins. One cycle takes about 37 million years. A Creator God is not needed.

Our purpose in life does not come from outside of ourselves. Our purpose is to live our lives as well as we can while minimizing our suffering and maximizing our happiness by following the Eightfold Path.

Did Buddha Believe in a Soul?

There is no soul as we understand the term today. Buddhism understands the soul to be consciousness. It is not a permanent thing that can exist outside of the body—it is a manifestation of the thoughts and actions of a being and it ceases to exist when the being dies.

Although Buddha didn’t have the word “ego,” the sense of self that we call ego might be akin to a soul. The ego is the source of all human suffering because it is the ego that leads to the desire to control and acquire. It seeks gratification and feels disappointment. Buddhism wants to eradicate the “me-ness” of people through meditation so we can experience the peace of “one-ness.”

Did Buddha Believe in Karma and Reincarnation?

The law of karma says that actions have consequences. It we do bad (unwholesome) things, we will suffer. If we do good (wholesome) things, we will be happy. If we suffer a misfortune, we should look to our past actions for the cause.

Karma is an affirmation of the need to take personal responsibility for your life. It is a “reap-as-you-sow” philosophy. Simply put: "You get what you give," or "What goes around comes around."

Karma is also tied into the concept of reincarnation—the belief that a person is born many times until he reaches perfect enlightenment and the cycle ends. Reincarnation is incompatible with the teachings of Buddha which stressed a focus on the here-and-now and "anatta," the loss of the concept of self-hood.

I think reincarnation might have been incorporated into Buddhism after the time of Gautama Buddha. There are no references to it in his teachings.

Was Buddha an Atheist?

Buddha could be called an atheist in that he did not believe in any deities or in a soul that survives death.

An Encyclopedia of Buddhism

A Guide to Modern Buddhism

How Do You Become a Buddhist?

There is nothing special you have to do to become a Buddhist. Just start following the teachings of Buddha. Some people join a Buddhist community; others do not. You can even continue to be a member of another religion. Further, Buddhism is quite compatible with atheism.

While Buddhism is sometimes called a religion, it more like a philosophy than a religion. It is based on practice and individual experience rather than on a belief in a diety (or deities), specific theology, or dogma.

Today the three dominant strains of Buddhism are Theravada (the most ancient), Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Another major sect is Zen Buddhism, which grew out of Mahayana and has gained popularity in the West. If you want to become a Buddhist, take a look at the various sects and see which is right for you.

The Laughing Buddha

Why is Buddha often shown as fat?

Why is Buddha often shown as fat?

Fun Fact: Why is Buddha Sometimes Depicted as Fat?

Buddha is described as a very handsome man with a radiant complexion and the strong body of a warrior. His asceticism and vegetarian diet suggest that he would have been lean. So why is he so often depicted as fat?

The depiction of Buddha as a fat laughing man may have come from China. Buddha may have been confused with a sixth century Chinese monk named Budai, a quasi-deity who represented abundance and contentment and who was depicted as a fat and smiling man. Budai may have also been called Buddha, because Buddha is a title and so there are many Buddhas.

It may also be because in traditional China (as well as elsewhere) a chubby person signified good fortune and wealth.

The Laughing Buddha

Questions & Answers

Question: Do think Buddha's background influenced his teachings?

Answer: Yes, As the article explains Buddha was born into a wealthy family and sheltered from seeing the harsh realities of life. When he was old enough to venture outside the walls of the family compound, he was shocked by the poverty and desperation he saw. The contrast between his pampered life and the lives of those less fortunate led him on a quest to discover how mankind could lead a good life. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Question: Why do you think many people are influenced by Gautama Buddha's teachings?

Answer: I think the teachings of Buddha actually helps people. The teachings make a lot of sense. People become happier and healthier when they follow them, even if they don't follow 100%.

© 2015 Catherine Giordano

I welcome your comments. Please let me know what you think about Buddhism or about anything I discussed in this essay.

Sambriddhi on May 03, 2019:

Nepal is a nation in itself. There is no place as a state in INDIA called Nepal.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on June 16, 2018:

mahira: I'm so proud that you like my writings about Buddha.

mahira on June 15, 2018:

love this author and proud of lord buddha

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on May 06, 2018:

Karma is simply put "cause and effect" and "you get what you deserve." The cause might be your genetic inheritance, your environment, your thoughts, and your deeds. Good causes bring good effects. I think you have explained it well.

It is an idea that preceded Buddha, but I think Buddha stripped it of its mystical attributes (past lives) and emphasized the physical, social,and psychological. If you eat poorly, you will get sick; if you are angry a lot, you will be unhappy; if you are mean to other people, you will not have friends; if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you.

Alexander M on May 05, 2018:

I was wondering whats your thoughts on my particular interpretation of karma, as I don't have the liturgical knowledge to honestly critique my own theory.

I see karma as cause and effect but on a scientific level (ie; not mystical). 'Cause and Effect' I don't think became a common phrase til much later. Thus, one would literally have to use a term like karma to explain things like 'what comes up must come down'. I think the mystical aspect kind of comes into play when you talk about more complex and surreptitious ideas like social karma, self-actions effecting your sub-conscious perception, and most notably the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect is the hardest to convince someone because it's unreasonable and sounds counter-intuitive. If you pay meticulous attention, you can see a good cause making a roundabout good effect, but if you try to explain it from the outset not only is it unpredictable but it sounds unbelievable, so the idea of karma only really propagates if it is sold as something magical/mystical.

I think it's wrong to think of good-karma and bad-karma; it's a bit more objectively based. Many times good causes yield good effect, but it is entirely reasonable for a good cause to have a perceived 'bad' effect. I think we kind of just play the odds at trying to create 'good' effect.

But at any rate, I don't know if this is what Buddha preached. Please correct me if wrong.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 09, 2018:

derrick: I think of Buddhism as a quasi-religion because there is no deity, but the teachings of Buddha show people how to live a good life. I agree with you that the world would be a better place without theistic religions.

derrick on April 09, 2018:

This is great and I think that people should become Buddhist because it is tge only religion (if we can call it like that) which is actually based on philosophical facts. Unlike the 2 religions based on the Jewish God which wants to take over the world by replacing the other existing religions, Buddhism teaches to care about your own business. "What the other one belives in is not your business".

If instead of Muslims and Christians we had Buddhist, there would be no terrorists and many rebellions would be avoided.

The problem is that people need an "almighty-thingy" which created everything and influences their lives alors que it's totally not needed.

If I had been taught buddha instead of Jesus in since I was a kid, I think I'd have a better life voir being enlightened. Thanks for this very helpful and lovely composition....

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 01, 2017:

hailey mcfarlin: I'm glad you found my article helpful for your project and that it stimulated you to want to know more. There is only so much that can fit into one article.

hailey mcfarlin on December 01, 2017:

this is great!!!! im useing it on my project but maybe just a little more about his life sytle and what made him become a monk!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on August 22, 2017:

Rob: Buddha attempted to get people to move from Hinduism to a fact-based earth-based philosophy. There were no devotional elements. Later the Buddhist philosophy took on the trappings of many of the religions of Asia. Study the core teaching--the eightfold path. It is all about humans taking control of their own lives.

Rob on August 21, 2017:

Most Buddhists in the world practice a devotional form of the religion. People in the West believe the pared down philosophy is true Buddhism, not realizing that it's otherwise. This is worse than so-called "cultural appropriation;" this is taking a religion, removing the supernatural elements, and selling it as the real thing.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on August 18, 2017:

Jeetal: I'm glad that I am able to help you with your school assignment. If you wish to contact me via email, go to the top of the essay where my picture appears and click on "contact author." Good luck with your assignment.

Jeetal on August 17, 2017:

wow, Catherine.

good information for my assignment at school about buddhism

thank you soo much.

and well done.

and also can i have your email address if i need to clarify or ask you something?

thanks :)

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on March 22, 2017:

tienamphu: I am not a Buddhist, but I admire the teachings of Buddha, and I think they are still relevant to modern life. I admire you for living as a Buddhist. Thanks for commenting. It is special when a Buddhist compliments my essay on Buddhism.

tienamphu on March 20, 2017:

It is wonderful, Buddhism to help our hearts are comfortable, no longer feel the pain, suffering. I am also a Buddhist. Once again thank you for this really meaningful post

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on September 28, 2016:

Atanu.bar.dhan: Sati Pathana is the teaching of mindfulness. The teaching of mindfulness is briefly mentioned in this essay in the discussion of the eightfold path. Space did not permit a full discussion of mindfulness in this essay, but I have discussed in more depth in my other essay, " The Buddhist Eightfold Path for Modern Times."

Atanu.bar dhan@gmail.com on September 26, 2016:

The Most Important "thing" is missing, that is the Sati Patthana, the Central Teaching of the Buddha.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 29, 2016:

Mark Brewster: I'm so glad that you found this information useful. The same thing happened to me. As a child I decided I could want nothing so that nothing could be taken away from me. My teachers said I had an "I don't care attitude." Unknowingly, I had become a little Buddhist.

Mark Brewster on April 29, 2016:

Very enlightening...wish I could have gotten as much from reading "Siddhartha" as a young teen. Odd, though...without knowing it, there is a BIT of 'mirroring' of this deep story in my own life. Reaching a certain level of misery REQUIRED me to reach for these philosophies (without even knowing they were Buddhist!), just to maintain from day to day.

I'm glad to know there's an actual source I can explore to further my understanding of where I am. Thank you, friend Catherine.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 12, 2016:

Thank you Paul Kuehn for your added info, your praise and your shares. A share is the best compliment I can get. I love to read comments from people who have a personal story to tell on a topic. Giving to charity and helping others are admirable things to do and lifts the mood of the giver.

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on April 11, 2016:

Catherine, Thank you very much for sharing an excellent hub about Buddhism. Having lived in Thailand for several years, I see Theravada Buddhism practiced every day. My wife has an uncle who became a Buddhist monk at the age of 65 while still married. If Buddha was born in 563 BC, 2016 would be 2579 years after the birth of Buddha. In fact, the Buddhist calendar in Thailand says that this is the 2559 year of the Buddha. Monks here in Thailand live in temples and a lot of them hit the streets early in the morning receiving food in the form of alms given by ordinary people who are making merit by doing this. I am sharing this hub with HP followers and also with my Facebook followers.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on April 11, 2016:

fpherj48: Thank you so much for your praise for my work. You have perfectly summed up the benefits of Buddhism. My feeling is that people should learn about the principles that Buddha taught. You don't have to become Buddhist, but just keeping these principles in mind when you make decisions in your life will lead to greater happiness. It is always nice to hear from you because you usually add important insights and information to what I have written.

Suzie from Carson City on April 11, 2016:

Catherine.....You never fail to share wonderful, fascinating material. I can happily say I am somewhat familiar with Buddhism. I have 2 friends who adhere to these teachings. For the record, whether coincidental or not, these 2 individuals are by far, the happiest, healthiest, most relaxed and loving people I know.

What I LOVE most about this philosophy Catherine, is~ they do NOT preach, admonish, judge, condemn nor boast. What a wonderful, refreshing experience, coming from the hateful, judgemental vitriol & superiority crap of religious zealots!

Hope you have been well. Peace, Paula

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on February 15, 2016:

Gauray Oberoj: Thank you for letting me know that you loved this hub about the life and teachings of Buddha.

gaurav oberoi on February 13, 2016:

Very insightful and informative hub. I really loved it!!!!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on February 06, 2016:

ChitrangadaSharan Thank you for your praise and comment. I agree the Buddha's teachings are simple and would make the world a much better place if everyone followed them. It is not easy to live up to them in today's modern world, but it is good to keep them in mind at let them influence your behavior to some extent.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 06, 2016:

This is a very interesting, informative and educative hub.

The teachings of the Buddha, especially with regard to 'truth' and 'Dharma' offer the best guide of how to live your life ideally. It is much simpler to follow and understand than any other religion. If everyone lived their lives by these guidelines the World would be a much better and happier place.

I learnt a lot about Buddha through your very well written hub!

Thank you!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 09, 2016:

FlourishAnyway: Nice to hear from you. What I like about Buddhism is that you don't have to do it 100%. I find it useful to think about the teachings of Buddha and be influenced by them. I can't say that I am a Buddhist, but I do want to work on mindfulness. Thanks so much for your comment. I hope I helped you understand your friend a little better. I think she is happy in her new life.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 09, 2016:

Great hub. It most mirrors my own views. I know of someone who after many years of an unhappy marriage sold all her belongings and became a Buddhist nun. She surprised us all.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 09, 2016:

Ba Mu: I'm glad you enjoyed my hub. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub.

Ba Mu on January 09, 2016:

Its a great artucle on Buddha. There are few wisdom of Buddha in 'Life Puzzles' at http://www.puzzzy.com

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 05, 2016:

Say Yes To Life: Thanks for your comment. I am glad to hear of your interest in Buddhism. I consider it to be a philosophy and not a religion, although I know that some sects have added religious element to the teachings of Buddha. I agree with you that Buddha's teachings are very practical.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on January 04, 2016:

Hi Catherine! To answer your question, I actually have the golden buddha (quite heavy). I wish I could attach its picture here. But, it's one that represent peace and prosperity according to Thais.

Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on January 04, 2016:

About a year ago, I wrote four hubs on the world's 10 most practiced religions. Buddhism and Baha'i Faith are the only ones that are doing well. I am particularly impressed with Buddhism, because it is very practical as well as being liberal and accepting. I have recently joined a Buddhist community - their denomination is Mahayana Pure Land.

Buddhism and Baha'i Faith are currently the fastest growing religions in the world, and have the highest rate of satisfaction.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 02, 2016:

CriaSP: I'm so glad you found my essay about Buddha informative and enjoyable. Right after I finished writing this essay, I went to a friend's house for the first time and she had this beautiful bust of Buddha. She told me she is not a Buddhist, but she just likes having it. The next time I am at her house I am going to photograph it to use in one of my hubs. It's amazing how when get tuned in to something, you start to see it all over. Is you statue the authentic Buddha or the laughing Buddha. I think I'd like to have one of each.

CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on January 01, 2016:

I have a very nice figurine of a buddha in the house that I bought during one of my trips to Thailand. However, I didn't really know much about it except that they say, it brings good luck and that it symbolizes peace and prosperity.

This is a fascinating hub and indeed very informative. Thank you for awakening my knowledge. Happy New Year.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 01, 2016:

Quite possibly. I'm only saying what I know about it. The hub was informative though.

Happy new year by the way.

Lawrence

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 01, 2016:

Based on my research, I do not believe that Buddha taught anything about any kind of afterlife. There are many groups of Buddhists who do believe this, but these ideas were grafted on to what Buddha taught.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 01, 2016:

Catherine

Thanks for the reply. From what I understand of Buddhism the goal is to reach 'Nirvana' which is seen as unity with the cosmos! When the teaching got adopted I'm not sure, but it is there.

The refererence to 'Special' I wanted to say 'Unique' but that would imply only one where all three of the Abrahamic faiths teach that that the universe/existence is linear with a beginning and an end (I see this as inline with what science shows about the universe). I wasn't so much thinking about the existence of the afterlife though if I had I probably would have said the same about the afterlife.

You're right that the earliest Israelites didn't have much of an idea about the afterlife (the Sadducees in Jesus time). As for the quote from the recent pope, that's pretty close to what most christians believe but it doesn't mean a 'merging with the divine' so much as an absence of the 'flames' and a place where good doesn't exist!

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 01, 2016:

lawrence01: I also need to add that the Jewish faith does not include an afterlife so you are wrong to say that the Abrahamic religions are similar to the Hindu idea of nirvana. A recent Pope said that Heaven and Hell are not actual places, but just being with god or being separated from Him so in that respect Christianity and Islam believe that one's soul id merged with The Divine.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on January 01, 2016:

lawrence01: Buddhism as Buddha taught it has no concept of any kind of afterlife or any kind of divine. But suppose it did--why would that make the Abrahamic faiths "special" ? (I assume you said special in the sense of better.)

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 01, 2016:

Catherine

I found this hub interesting. I knew some about Buddhism so while some of the hub was new quite a bit of it I already knew.

Buddhism and Jainism can be practiced without ever 'invoking the divine' but as far as I understand Buddhism believes that the universe is eternal and the goal is to reach 'nirvana' where the soul (the conscious) is re-absorbed into the divine.

When I read about these faiths it shows me how special the Abrahamic faiths really are.

Enjoyed the hub

Lawrence

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 20, 2015:

aesta1: Thank you for your comment. I personally know only a few people who are Buddhist so I appreciate the information you provide about the Buddhists you have known. I do think there are similarities between what Buddha taught and some of the things Jesus says in the Bible. In each case, they are trying to teach people how to live a good life.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 20, 2015:

Having lived in some of these Buddhist countries, I find that people who profess Buddhism are more gentle. As my Buddhist friend said, they don't have to go to Church at the same time, they don't have to fast for many days, they feel they have more space to practice their own spirituality. The practices are similar to what Jesus preached. Like Buddha and Jesus, there are people who have reached enlightenment and live it.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 20, 2015:

DDE: Thank you do much for your comment and compliments. It is nice to hear that you found the hub interesting and informative.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 20, 2015:

Wow! A very interesting and informative topic. Different beliefs and an educational hub.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 17, 2015:

KenWu: Thanks for your comment and thanks for letting me know that you found my hub to be a good read. karma, samsara, and reincarnation are difficult to reconcile with Buddha's core teachings--the eightfold path--those concepts are not present. I thing they were Hindu beliefs grafted on to his teachings by others who came after him. The oldest known practices of Buddhism do not have these beliefs. If karma and rebirth exist at all in the philosophy of Buddha, they mean that bringing good into the world will bring good into your own life and that rebirth (not reincarnation) happens when we become "awakened." We become like a different person as we change our outlook on life. We have only one life. Many present day sects of Buddhism interpret it my way, but others impose supernatural beliefs. I don't think Buddha would approve of the latter sects.

KenWu from Malaysia on December 17, 2015:

This is a great article written on the Buddha. Clear and descriptive of the historical figure of Buddhism. Long but a good read if you have a cup of your joe next to your laptop.

I'm not sure whether I'm wrong or not but I think Buddhism touches reincarnation or rebirth. Some people say that reincarnation means the same person continues his profile life after life such as buddhism figures like Dalai Lama and Karmapa. Rebirth on the other hand, refers to the process of birth after death that every life is subjected to (well, at least in the teaching of Buddhism).

Karma is the seed of the wrong or rightful deed that one accumulates during his life time. The accumulated bad or good karma determines what happens next when he dies - according to the wheel of samsara.

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Have a good time and Christmas is around the corner. Wish you a Merry Christmas and happy new year! Happy holiday!

Ken

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 16, 2015:

Thanks so much annart. Your praise is a real pick-me-up. it is nice to hear that all the effort I put into the hub is noticed and appreciated.

I too think that Buddha's philosophy has a lot too offer. I sometimes say WWBD--what would Buddha do? I just skim the surface of his teachings. I think to do it fully is way beyond what I am capable of. However, the eight-fold path can be meaningful at whatever level an individual chooses.

Ann Carr from SW England on December 16, 2015:

Great hub, Catherine! Clearly explained step by step with an interesting background account.

I find this philosophy one of the most peaceful and wise that exist. Much is akin to the teaching of Christianity plus, as you say, extracts from some other religions and some parts totally new. To me, it has always seemed synonymous with peace and simplicity.

As always, your research and explanations are impeccable and your style imparts an enthusiasm and thoughtful consideration of the subject.

Good to see a new hub from you at last! You have been missed.

Ann

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 14, 2015:

Larry Rankin: thanks. It is nice to know I was missed. I planned this hub months ago, but I just never find the time to write. I'm planning to do two more before Christmas. I hope I meet my plan.

I agree--Buddhism is very simple. I call it a quasi-religion because he has some aspects of religion, but no deities or supernatural stuff. At least not the way Buddha taught it.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on December 14, 2015:

First off, I'm so glad to hear from you again. It's been too long.

Wonderful analysis. As for my personal opinion, I approach all religions the same. I enjoy studying them and I enjoy finding what bits of wisdom among the nonsense that I can.

Buddhism is my favorite organized religion for finding bits of wisdom. I like the idea of simplicity. I like the idea of finding satisfaction in not wanting.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 14, 2015:

Adrian: Thank you for taking the time to comment. I really struggled with the rebirth/reincarnation issue when I wrote this. I decided since it is not a Noble Truth, a Path, or a Precept, it must not have been part of Buddha's message. If Buddha had believed this, it would have been an important part of his teaching and I'm sure it would have been included in a prominent way. For that reason, I think it was those who came after him who inserted these Hindu beliefs into Buddhism.

The karma and rebirth happen during our earthly lives since each moment is a new moment. I like the analogy of "You never step into the same river twice." Our lives are like that river, in a constant state of flux.

Adrian on December 14, 2015:

Reincarnation doesn't exist as a Buddhist teaching, true, but rebirth does. The difference is that there is nothing to come into physical being in a new incarnation, but our ignorance and suffering can cause us to be "reborn" from moment to moment -- i.e., thrown back into the vicious cycle of samsara. Many Buddhists around the world take this teaching literally, viewing it to mean that we really do reincarnate, life after life, until we get it right and break the chains of karma. Others, especially in the West, see it more symbolically, as being pulled back down in this life into our suffering even as we struggle to do better. In that sense, which is what Stephen Batchelor gets at in his excellent book, and which is what the Buddha probably meant, the idea of reibrth is inextricably tied up with karma. If we lead a life not in accordance with the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, we will cause ourselves (and often others) to suffer. What people forget is that the Buddha spoke in terms his audience, mostly Hindu, would understand. As a result, people tend to think of rebirth and reincarnation as roughly the same thing, when I don't think that was ever the Buddha's intent.

Great article, by the way. You really summed up well all the important tenets of Buddhism.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 14, 2015:

bravewarrior: Thanks for your comment and your compliments. The more I learn about Buddha the more impressed I am. I agrre that we should all the the lessons of Buddha to heart. I don't think I could 100% live the Buddha lifestyle, but even just a little is a very good thing.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 14, 2015:

I agree with John. The basic philosophy of Buddhism is one we should all live by. Being kind to others, respecting life and letting positive thoughts and actions be your guide are fundamental.

You've presented very interesting information here, Catherine. I knew very little about Buddah until reading this. Well researched and well presented.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 13, 2015:

Venkatachari M: Thank you for your comment. I'm glad that I could contribute to your "enlightenment" about Buddha. Your praise is especially meaningful since you come from (and live in)India which was Buddhas's home.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on December 12, 2015:

Excellent hub. You have depicted the essence of Buddha so awesomely. I thought I knew much about him. But this hub enlightened me much more than I knew. Thanks for sharing it.

Catherine Giordano (author) from Orlando Florida on December 12, 2015:

Jodah: Thanks for your comment. I finally wrote something new and it is nice to hear from an old friend. I'm so glad that you share my appreciation for Buddha and his teachings. His teachings are still relevant 2500 years later.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on December 11, 2015:

This is a very interesting and educational hub Catherine. The teachings (truths and Dharma) of the Buddha offer the best guide of how to live your life and I see it as much simpler to follow and understand than any religion. If everyone lived their lives by these guidelines the world would be a much better place.