Buddhism: Religion Profile
The religion of Buddhism was started by Siddhartha Gautama in the sixth century B.C. Siddhartha would later become known as Buddha which means The Enlightened One. Buddha was born to wealthy parents and received a good education. However, he became unsatisfied after leaving the palace and viewing the suffering in the world. Buddha then set out on a quest to find the meaning and the end of all suffering. Buddha's quest took him all through India where he was exposed to the teaching and values of Hinduism. As Buddha tried to find peace through the elements of Hinduism, he experienced an enlightenment which revealed to him three different cycles of life. In the first stage of enlightenment Siddhartha saw his previous life pass before him. Next, he experienced the cycle of birth, death, and regeneration. This would become one of the key elements to Buddhism called reincarnation. In the third cycle of enlightenment, four truths were revealed to Buddha which would become the foundational elements of Buddhism. These truths included an understanding of suffering, the reasons for suffering, and how to eliminate suffering by following the path of enlightenment. After his enlightenment experience, Buddha began to preach all over India and draw quite a gathering. Buddha called his path to enlightenment the Middle Way, because it rejected the extremes of the other religions.
As Buddha preached throughout India he taught four major truths. The first of the four major truths of Buddhism teaches that suffering is the most basic of all human elements. It teaches that all human suffering is due to Karma or events that have happened in the past. The second major truth of Buddhism teaches that all suffering is born out of a desire for material things, and that people value material things too much. The third major truth says that mankind can begin the path of enlightenment by rejecting material things and ultimately eliminate all suffering. After understanding the causes of suffering, Buddhism teaches that enlightenment can be achieved by following the eight-fold path. This path involves living a moral live through self-discipline, right speech, right actions, mental discipline, right effort, right awareness, right knowledge and understanding, and meditation.
The goal of all Buddhists is to ultimately reach Nirvana. This level of Buddhism can only be achieved through multiple levels of reincarnation. Reincarnation occurs each time a person dies, and if that person followed the eight-fold path, then each reincarnation will take them closer to Nirvana. The law of Karma dictates how each person will be reincarnated from life to life. Karma is the law of morality, and is equivocal to the laws of cause and effect. Buddhism teaches that if a person does enough good in this life, he will be rewarded with less suffering in the next. And this process will eventually result in Nirvana.