This post started out as a way to dispel myths about Buddhism. When I began writing it something else happened. I began to teach what I knew about Buddhism. Something I had hoped would happen eventually. I have been reading a new book by Lama Surya Das. Awakening to the Sacred is a book that I would recommend to anyone that is interested in Buddhism but comes from other schools of theological thought. But here is the post about myths on Buddhism.
I was twenty one or twenty two when I picked up the book on Buddhism the changed me. Raised in monotheistic society as most Americans I found myself feeling like I didn’t fit in since I was in my mid teens.
My first introduction that I remembered to Buddhism was “Awakening the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das. Lama Surya Das has put out books since this one but this is the one that changed my thinking and put me on the path of Buddhism. I didn’t understand the differences in Buddhist Traditions. Buddhist Traditions are like the different types of churches in Christianity.
Before I get started on the traditions I will talk about Buddha himself. The traditional or historical Buddha was born Siddhārtha Gautama in India and lived from 563 BCE to 483 BCE.
Siddhartha was born into a very wealthy family, when he was born a wise man told his father that Siddhartha would become a great holy man or a great king. Because of that Siddhartha’s father sheltered him from the outside world until he was twenty-nine. Siddhartha married his cousin through an arranged marriage. Siddhartha’s wife eventually gave birth to a son whom he named Fetter or shackle.
When Siddhartha was twenty-nine he saw an old man. When Siddhartha asked about the old man, he was told, “everyone gets old. Siddhartha went on more trips from the palace on these trips he saw an ascetic, a corpse and a diseased man. This had a profound effect on him. He had never seen anything like it before and he initially strove to overcome these things.
Siddhartha left the confines of the palace he knew and took up the life of an ascetic. As an ascetic he took up begging on the streets. He moved from teacher to teacher learning what he could from each. Eventually he discovered there is another path, the Middle Way.
Following the Middle path or middle way Siddhartha sat in front of a Bodhi tree where he meditated for forty-nine days, to anyone that has meditated for an hour this is amazing. At the age of thirty-five he was awakened. Guatama is known as the Buddha or Enlightened One.
Now we get to the myth, sorry for the lesson but it was necessary to show that Buddha was just a man like the rest of us.
The myth – Buddha is God! Wrong. Buddha was a man like anyone else who chose to push his mind and body to its limits to benefit the rest of us. Such as the mantra of a meditating Buddhist: I Take Refuge In the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha until I reach the state of enlightenment to the benefit of all sentient beings.
Then why do Buddhist sit in front of a statue of Buddha like they are praying? – It may look like praying. What they are actually doing is meditating. In Buddhism there is no Deity. There are Bodhisattva’s who are like the saints in Catholicism.
Over the next month or so I will talk about Buddhism on Thursdays it is my way spreading Dharma and teaching something that I’m passionate about.
Each week will be a different part of Buddhism and I am open to questions and suggestions.
Next week I will post about the different “Buddhas”.
Notes: A lot of this was from memory, what wasn’t I took from here.
For more information about Buddhism try these –
Buddhanet – Buddhist Education and Information Network. The link is here.
Beliefnet – A great site for every belief. Here is their Buddhism site – Here!
For more on Lama Surya Das – Follow the link here to his site!
For a great magazine and website Tricycle is my online Sangha or Spiritual Community. You can find them either at your local book store, library or online.