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About 3,000 years ago, Buddha left his future kingdom in northern India to embrace a life of renunciation and monkhood. After leading a sheltered life for a long time, he was shocked to see the incredible poverty and suffering outside his walls. So he decided to find a solution to all this suffering and left. After many years of seeking, he finally found ‘enlightenment’ — a profound state in which a person’s consciousness is radically transformed.
Here some of the truths he discovered and taught his disciples.
1) The Law of Karma, or cause and effect.
According to Buddha, everyone receives good, bad, or appropriate life experiences according to the nature of their actions, thoughts, and disposition. The entire point of enlightenment is to find freedom from the chaotic, endless cycle of karma. This is the true definition of heaven in Buddhism, as it encompasses complete mastery of the self. The mind becomes a clear, undisturbed lake, free from disturbing emotional ripples.
2) Buddhism was created because of dissatisfaction with Hinduism.
Buddha was born into a Hindu household, in a Hindu kingdom, in a Hindu country. In short: Hinduism was the religion of everyone he met and knew. Yet this beloved religion was in the grips of the caste-system and rampant corruption. This is why Hinduism simply could not satisfy his hunger to find ‘pure’ truth. After leaving his home and pursuing his own path, he found his own answers, which later became the very foundation of Buddhist principles.
3) Buddha is not a god.
Many people have a serious misconception of Buddhism — they believe Buddha is a god. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Buddha was and still is considered a spiritual guide and teacher. All kinds of people, all over the world, look up to Buddha’s teachings for wisdom and guidance.
4) Non-attachment is not limiting.
Lots of people have heard the concept non-attachment in Buddhism, but few understand what it really means. They assume that it a life of solidarity, without relationships or fun of any kind. How boring! And wrong. It means to be in the world, but not OF the world. Bug difference. If practiced correctly and regularly, it can lead to very fulfilling relationships.
5) Buddhism and science are in harmony.
To the surprise of many scientists, most of the assertions Buddha made 3,000 years ago have been born out in scientific studies. There are too many to go in depth here, but psychology, and the theory of relativity. Buddhism is even promoted as a science by notable thought-leaders. You can read a full rundown of the similarities here.
6) Reincarnation is not an absolute rule.
Many people mistakenly believe that reincarnation is a full, set-in-stone rule within Buddhism. Actually, it’s not. Reincarnation is based on the concept of a certain ‘essence’ or ‘soul’ transfers from lifetime to lifetime until enlightenment is discovered. This theory does mesh well with the concept of karma; however, it’s not necessary in order to lead a mindful life on a dedicated spiritual path. Reincarnation is simply a stepping stone that informs the Buddhist path, and is simply not necessary to the actual application of Buddha’s teachings.
7) Buddhists may or may not believe in god.
Some Buddhists believe in God, but others are agnostic. Yet, few others believe in demigods like Hindus do. Whether they believe in God or not, they make it a point to meditate on their own selves to find the higher truth, beyond an accepted belief. Like Hinduism or any other religion in the world, Buddhism has a multitude of different traditions. It’s in the core philosophy of Buddhism (e.g. Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads in Hinduism) that a seeker can truly rely on for wisdom and direction.
8) Vegetarianism is not necessary.
Many schools of Buddhism preach non-violence and motivate all their students to turn vegetarians. However, the fact is vegetarianism is NOT an absolute requirement or commandment for Buddhists. To eat or not to eat meat is a personal choice in Buddhism. A Buddhist can quit eating meat when he or she has a reason or feels an inner calling to do so. Many Buddhists eat meat; but they are extremely conscious about it.
This post originally appeared on Sivana East.
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