Buddhism originates in the life and teaching of the Buddha, whose proper name was Siddhartha Gautama. Born into a royal family in north India (now Nepal) in the fifth century B.C., Gautama was raised in the wealth and luxury befitting an aristocrat, but he soon found that worldly comfort is not enough to guarantee true happiness and contentment. In his twenty-ninth year, moved by the suffering to which humanity is prone, he renounced his life in the palace and set off to find the key to human happiness. After six years of struggle and ascetic practices, in his thirty-fifth year he discovered the path that leads to complete release from all bondage and misery. Pursuing this path, he attained Perfect Enlightenment, the consummation of his quest, and from that point on came to be known as the Buddha, the Awakened One. For the remaining forty-five years of his life he traveled all over northern India teaching others the Dharma, the truth that he discovered, and the path to Nirvana, the state of ultimate bliss. He also established a community of monks and nuns, called the Sangha, to carry on his teaching after his death. In his eightieth year the Buddha passed away peacefully, surrounded by his many devoted disciples.
Over the following centuries, the Buddha’s teaching spread throughout greater Asia, becoming the primary inspiration for Asian civilization and the source of its greatest intellectual, spiritual, and aesthetic achievements. Despite the passage of twenty-five centuries, the Buddha’s teaching remains as vitally relevant today as it was when first proclaimed. Clear, practical, and realistic, it offers a non-dogmatic path of spiritual development that emphasizes moral integrity, mental purification, and personal insight into the basic truths concerning the human condition. It is for such reasons that even today, in this age of science and technology, Buddhism is attracting an increasing number of followers both in the East and the West.
Further fundamental teachings on Buddhism:
- The Buddha’s Teaching As It Is
By Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Audio files of a series of ten lectures on the fundamental teachings of Early Buddhism.
- Gateway to the Dharma
By Ven. Jen-chun
Online book of essays pointing out the basic concepts that anyone studying Buddhism should understand.