A philosophy for some people, a religion for other ones, Buddhism is for all its followers the way to wisdom. It’s a group of secular and religious philosophies whose founder was Buddha.
Founded in the North of India in the 6th century BC, Buddhism is one of the great world religions. Buddha’s doctrine consists in the theme of suffering and the means to get free of it. After spreading over India during several centuries, this religion has awakened the far East to a religious philosophy and original ethics.
Buddhism is not only based on reincarnation. A great deal of Buddhists don’t believe in it. The reincarnation was part of the philosophical environment of Buddha in the 5th century BC.
Buddha left no writings. Orally passed on by the faithful, its words were gathered in sacred texts.
Buddha’s doctrine is based of the idea of suffering which is thoroughly mingled with life. It asserts that the knowledge and the ethics allow the human being to reach a state of absolutely purity called nirvana.
Buddhism advocates four truths :
The pain is the companion of life : any being dies to be born again in another body. This cycle is governed by karma.
Pain awakens from thirst for life. Desire and passion are as many sources which feed covetousness and jealousy.
If we extinguish the desire, we annihilate the suffering.
The 4th truth is ethics of Buddhism. It means the “way of the eight virtues”. It recommends pure meditation, knowledge, truth and the good. It leads to nirvana.
The three schools of Buddhism
The Hinaymana or Theravada, or small vehicle, the one we take to reach nirvana. This obedience doesn’t recognize Buddha a divine nature and it keeps the way to nirvana for the only religious ones armed with strict ethics.
The Mahayana or big vehicle. Like Buddha, the followers of this school refuse temporarily (or definitely) to enter nirvana in order to help other humans to recognize illumination. This religion foresees salvation for all of them.
The Vajrayâna is the vehicle of Lightning and Diamond. It’s mostly spread in Tibet. This vehicle associates elements of indian yoga tradition and buddhian thought of Mahayâna.
Tibetan Buddhism was born in the 7th century. It’s a specific form of Buddhism based on the remains of the previous religion : on the bön (composed of chaman practices) and on the Vajrayana (imported from India) based on esoteric texts, the tantra and which requires mudras (symbolic gestures) and mantras (sacred formules told or activated by the rotation of prayer-mills where they are carved) and to mandalas (cosmic diagrams).
Political and religious chief of the tibetan people, the Dalaï Lama is, according to Buddhism, the incarnation of Bodhisattva : a person arrived on the brim of Awakening, but giving up Nirvana in the only aim to help all the human beings to get out of the cycle of existence. He is the archetype of compassion.
Meditation, saying prayers and offerings are the key concepts of Buddhism. Most of Buddhists are vegetarians because motivated by the worry of not making suffer or kill. The followers who wish enter monastic life are consecrated by a double ordination. The novice, at least 16 years old, promises to respect ten interdicts : no killing, no stealing, no fornicating, no alcoholic drinking, no eating during the forbidden hours, no dancing or singing, no making more attractive, no using a bed or a comfortable seat, no taking gold or silver. At the end of a more or less instruction, the novice undergoes a second ordination after having an exam. Nevertheless he can leave whenever he wants.
Karma : Our present experience is the result of our acts and past intentions, and future conditions depend on what we do today
Nirvana : means “extinction”. It supposes the experience of the delivery of rebirth and passage to any other existence condition.
Sutra : Group of esoteric instructions of Buddha. They are Buddha’s speeches on religions training and meditation.
Tantra : Instruction of Buddha concerning only listeners able to reach a particularly thorough knowledge. Only the main basic texts are called tantras but there are lots of such works we can qualify as tantric.
Mantras : Specific chantings to every principle of awakening that the permitted practicing human being repeats.