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Commonly asked questions about

Buddhism

By: Chris Kokot


Who started Buddhism? Why did they start it?
Where did they Start it? and how old is the Religion?

Buddhism was started by Siddattha Gotama (also known as "the" Buddha) at


approximately 600 BC Siddattha Gotama started it after reaching "Nirvana" (the
highest possible meditation state of relaxation) a spirit came to him and told him how,
when and where to start Buddhism, though it was not actually Buddhism at the time.
The spirit came to him to start the religion because of a prophecy foretold at the time
of his birth (he would either become a great king and rule the world, or start a religion)
and India was dying because of the hardships that surrounded it. His father kept him at
the palace away from everyone else so his son would rule the world, though Siddattha
escaped one day and decided never to come back, but help the poor people that he
saw.
  
Who is the Supreme Being?

No one really is the "Supreme Being" in Buddhism. The most important person
is Siddattha Gotama because he started the religion but otherwise Buddhists don't
have a "Supreme Being". Why, you may wonder? Buddhists don't worship anyone
because they meditate instead of worshiping someone to make their souls pure and so
they will not get attached emotionally and do something stupid like commit suicide.

What texts do Buddhists use?

To answer this question you must understand that there are 2 types of
Buddhism. Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. There is practically no difference but
there are still two types. In Theravada Buddhism there are 3 groups considered to be
holy scriptures known as " The Three Baskets" or "Tripitaka" . The first Pitaka is the
Vinaya Pitaka, "Discipline basket", and it contains rules for the higher class of
Buddhists. The Sutta Pitaka which is the second Pitaka, "Teaching basket", contains
the events and life of Siddattha Gotama. The last Pitaka is the Abidhamma Pitaka,
"Metaphysical basket", and it contains Buddhist theology. The total volume of these 3
books is about 11 times larger than the Bible.
In Mahayana Buddhism the scriptures are much more voluminous. Not much is
known about these books, but the little that is known I will try to present here.
Mahayana Buddhists believe the the Tipitaka is very limited, however still use it
though more exact and detailed. Mahayana Buddhists call their Sacred Scriptures
canons. The main canons are the Pali Canon and the Tibetan Canon but there are 5000
other canons as well.

What Guiding Rites/Rituals/Principles are used in Buddhism?

There are 3 main guiding sets of rules. The Noble Truths, The Noble Eightfold Path
and The Guiding Principles. 
Let us start with The Noble Truths. They are: 
1. The existence of suffering 
2. The cause of suffering 
3. The ending of suffering and 
4. The ending of all pain by way of the Eightfold Path. 
The first Noble Truth means that there is physical suffering and that without pain we
would not exist.
The second Noble Truth means that we do suffer for a reason and not just to suffer.
The third Noble Truth means that suffering does not go on forever and that it will
eventually end.
The last Noble Truth means that to end all pain and suffering follow the Eightfold
Path.
The Eightfold Path consists of the following: Perfect: Understanding, Thought,
Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration.
If you follow the Eightfold Path then you will eliminate all pain and suffering from
your life.
Lastly, the Guiding Principles. They are: not to take the life of any living
creature, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and
sensual overindulgence, to refrain from lies, to avoid losing mindfulness. Other
precepts that only apply to monks and nuns are: eat moderately and only at the
appointed time, Avoid that which excites the senses, do not wear adornments
(including perfume) , do not sleep in luxurious beds and accept no silver or gold.
These are the guiding principles to live your life without wrongdoing or sin.
What are the Beliefs of Buddhists? Do they have a Holy day each week 
(like Christians) or in the year and who is their leader?

Buddhists believe in the Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and the Guiding
Principles. Please Read the above section to find out about the beliefs of Buddhists. A
quick answer to the first and second part of the second question are no and yes.
According to Buddha, every day is holy or no day is holy. To simplify if you are
religious then every day should be holy and if you are not religious, then no day is
really holy for you. As for important days, there are 5 during the each year, Wesak,
Dharma day, Paranirvana day, Sangha day and Losar. I will explain these in order.
Wesak happens on January 5. It is the celebration of Buddha's birthday. During this
celebration statues are decorated and sometimes in different places there are
fireworks. Dharma day is on the full moon during May and celebrates the Buddha's
first teachings. Paranirvana day is the celebration of when Buddha passed into Nirvana
and it is celebrated in February. The Sangha is the community of Buddhists who are
trying to follow the path of enlightenment which is only known to the Sangha. They
are important to Buddhism because when they find the path of enlightenment then
they will share it with the whole Buddhist religion. They have a festival which is
celebrated on the full moon of November. Losar is the Tibetan New Year and is
celebrated on either the full moon of February or March.

Where is Buddhism practiced and how many Buddhists are there?

There are about 367,000,000 Buddhists in the world mainly in Asia. The


countries with the most Buddhists are: China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri
Lanka, South Korea, Taiwan, Cambodia and India. All the other countries have less
than 7,000,000 Buddhists.

Who and What are Important Figures or People in Buddhism?

Together there are a lot of important figures and people in Buddhism. Let's
divide it into people then figures. The important people in Buddhism are Buddhagosa,
Sariputra, Bodhidharma and the Sixth Patriarch. Buddhagosa was a major scholar for
Buddhism. His principle was to follow the way of purity and inspired others to follow
and also do so. Sariputra as one of the most highly praised disciples of buddha and on
at least one occasion was called a true spiritual son by the Buddha. He was also
declared chief assistant in turning the wheel on Dharma. Bodhidharma was the
transmitter of Zen to China, so he was the person who actually brought Buddhism to
China and made it so popular there. The Sixth Patriarch was the last official Patriarch.
He is one of the most important people in Buddhism. He founded
"Sudden Enlightenment" and wrote "Platform of Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch" which
became one of the most influential pieces of writing in meditative tradition. 
Now we can move on to explaining the important figures of Buddhism. They are
The Endless Knot, the Swastika and the Dharmachakra. The Endless Knot symbolizes
that life never ends and that it continues (from one generation to the other) and that
everyday is holy and the infinite wisdom and compassion. It also  a symbol that
signifies that all religions, not just Buddhism, one formed should never cease to exist,
if they teach good. In Buddhism the Swastika represents resignation. Usually found in
the images of Buddha on his chest, palms and soles of his feet. The 4 arms are to
remind the worshipper of the four possible places of rebirth, the animal or plant
world, hell, heaven or in the spirit world. The Dharmachakra representing the dharma
or Buddha's teachings to follow the path of enlightenment.

Does Buddha scorn the sense of a capital i?

Yes, it is actually true that Buddha thinks that using a capital i is wrong.
According to him it is one of the largest pains that the mind carries around. He thinks
that we should actually say I with a small i. Nobody knows why but supposedly it
carries a meaning of selfishness. 

Why do Buddhists Worship Symbols or Icons?

The reason is not really a good one but it is solely for the purpose of enhancing
meditation. For example, if you focus on the moral goodness of buddha in the hope
that you can aspire to accumulate moral goodness.