Are you a dedicated Buddhist but lack the necessary facts to drive home your points? Here are mind-blowing facts you need to know as a core member of the Buddhist community.
Certainly, we have simplified this article into five basic subheadings to make it understandable for all.
- Basic Buddhist Facts
- Facts About the Buddha
- Buddhist Belief Facts
- Facts on Buddhist Culture
- Timeline Facts
Basic Buddhist facts
- Western scholars coined the term ‘Buddhism’ in the year 1830. As a matter of fact, Buddhists do not refer to their religion as “Buddhism.”
- Buddhism originated from around 400BC with the historical individual known as the Buddha.
- The first mention of the Buddha in Western writing is in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, 2 AD.
- The Buddha founded an order of monks and nuns known as the Sangha who have preserved his teachings down to the present day.
- Buddhism is a great and internally diverse tradition with two main branches. Above all, it has over 360 million followers. As a result, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world.
- In Buddhism, there is no single holy book. Rather, extensive scriptures have been preserved in many Asian languages.
- Buddhism has an emphasis on meditation and mindfulness. Hence, many people often consider Buddhism to be a form of psychology rather than a religion.
- Many traditional Buddhists believe in reincarnation and rebirth. However, modern Buddhists believe that one can abandon this idea without losing any central value.
- From reincarnation to kaons to the selection of the Dali Lama. Buddhism is a fascinating and unique way of life with a few surprises in store for those unfamiliar with it.
- Arising from the ancient teachings of the Buddha. It is currently the 4th largest religion in the world. Furthermore, it is with over 495 million adherents. Therefore, representing 7 percent of the global population. This spread out across every country in the world.
- Buddhism may seem to be all about meditation, calmness, and quiet monasteries. But, it also has as many new quirks as the other major belief systems of the world.
Facts About Buddha
- The title “Buddha,” refers to an enlightened person. That is to say, one who awakened from their ignorance and achieved freedom from suffering. Hence, there is more than one Buddha.
- In Buddhism, they refer to the historical figure as “the Buddha”. In addition, he was born near the Ganges River basin in ancient Northern India. And, this is what we know today as Nepal.
- Before he became the Buddha, his name was Siddhartha Gautama. Most noteworthy, his given name means “he who achieves his aim”. Also, he came from a royal family.
- The life of the Buddha before enlightenment was one of luxury, sheltered and protected from the suffering and violence of the world.
- Around the age of 29, Siddhartha witnessed suffering for the very first time. This was while on a chariot ride outside his family palace. Consequently, the experience had a profound effect on the man. And because of it, he subsequently renounced his wealth and royalties. As a result, he began a quest to find the cause of human suffering. And finally to have a solution for it.
- For six years, he sought out the best teachers of meditation. Most importantly, he lived a life marked by the denial of his wants. Also, he begged for food in the streets.
- Siddhartha Gautama produced in him a feeling of weakness and ill health. Hence, he suffered, and so concluded that this was not the way.
More Facts On The Buddha
- Siddhartha sought the truth of suffering in yogic meditation. But, in this too, he was still not satisfied.
- Eventually, Siddhartha settled on what Buddhists call the Middle Way. Certainly, this is a path of moderation that steers an individual away from extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.
- Siddhartha sat beneath a pipal tree, where he vowed not to arise until he found the truth. But, he saw it and arose enlightened after 49 days of meditation. As a result, he wrote down what he learned. Hence, the writings, later on, became the basis for Buddhism.
- Most modern scholars agree that the historical Buddha was alive between about 563 to 483 BCE. That means the teachings of Buddhism have been passed down for over 2,500 years.
Buddhist Belief Facts
There Is No Buddhist God
Buddhists do not believe in a supreme being or creator god. Hence, one significant difference between Buddhism and other major religions is the lack of a central deity.
There Is No Single Holy Book
Buddhism is unlike the other major religions of the world. Consequently, Buddhists have no single holy book from which all of its teachings come. Instead, there is a considerable number of texts and teachings. But, few are accepted as authentic and authoritative.
Buddhist Scriptures Are Sutras
Buddhist refer to their scriptures as sutras. Thus, meaning “thread.” This title indicates that the work is a sermon given by the Buddha. Or, maybe by one of his disciples.
There is a multitude of sutras. And, this ranges in size from a few lines to that of a book with a series of volumes. Beyond this, there are countless fables, rules for monks and nuns. And, of course, commentaries.
Buddhism Has Two Primary Schools
Buddhism split into two primary schools around 2,000 years ago. As a result, they became what we know today as Theravada and Mahayana. Hence, Buddhist scriptures divided into canons for each of these schools. And, to go even further, the Mahayana canon splits between the Chinese rule and the Tibetan canon.
Buddhist Has No Divinity
Siddhartha was just a man. Although, an enlightened one. He made no claims to divinity at all. Buddhists follow his teachings and try to live as he did. However, they do not worship him.
The Buddha’s Teaching Do Not Contrast to Other Faith
Interestingly, the Buddha does not contrast the teachings of other faiths. Hence, he encourages Buddhists to not take his word for anything. Instead, to go find out what works for themselves. Therefore, Buddhism is all about exploring beliefs. Also, understanding them, and testing those beliefs against experience.
Buddhism Understands Human Nature
Buddhism centers on the correct understanding of human nature and ultimate reality. So, the Buddha was, after all, called the “Enlightened One.” Even more, he taught that the way to remove suffering begins with understanding the true nature of the world.
Buddhist Knowledge Is Practical
The Buddha considered knowledge important. However, only insofar as it remains practical. Consequently, he rejected speculation about such matters as God. Likewise, matters such as the nature of the universe, and the afterlife also. Therefore, he urged his followers to focus instead on the Four Noble Truths. That is the only way by which they can free themselves from suffering.
Buddhism on the Afterlife
According to Buddhism, after death one is either reborn into another body (reincarnated) or enters nirvana. Most importantly, Only Buddha’s (those who have attained enlightenment) will achieve nirvana.
Buddhist Gods & Deities
The Buddha’s teachings and Theravada Buddhism are atheistic. Although, it does not deny the existence of gods in Mahayana Buddhism. In any way, the universe is populated with celestial Buddhas and bodhisattvas. And, of course, worshipped as gods and goddesses.
The Four Noble Truths
In his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, the Buddha taught the “Four Noble Truths”. Certainly, this forms the foundation of belief for all branches of Buddhism.
Buddhism is Not Atheistic
One general doctrine agreed upon by Buddhists is: “We do not believe in the mere hearsay that a God created and is ruling the world”. However, disbelief in a creator God does not mean that Buddhism is atheistic.
Noble Eightfold Path
According to the fourth Noble Truth, one can permanently escape suffering by following the Noble Eightfold Path. The word “right” in these eight items designates “true” or “correct.” To distinguish the Buddhist way from others. It is not enough to gain knowledge. It must be the right knowledge.
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism are viz:
- existence is suffering
- the cause of suffering is craving and attachment
- suffering ceases at some point and turns to Nirvana (liberation or total bliss) and
- there is a path to Nirvana which is made up of eight steps, sometimes called the Eightfold Path.
The Meaning of Life in Buddhism
- In Buddhism, the purpose of life is to end suffering. As a result, the Buddha taught that humans suffer because we continually strive after things that do not give lasting happiness.
- Buddhists believe in reincarnation and that one must stop the cycle of rebirth as suffering. Above all, selfish individuals must reach Nirvana, which is the highest point and the end of the self.
- Karma is the belief that good deeds will revisit the individuals that do it. Similarly, so is applicable to evil acts/behavior. Thus, this is the basis for living a good, moral life.
- The Pali Tipitaka is the earliest collection of sacred Buddhist writings. And, used mostly in the Theravada school. Further, the translation means the “Three Baskets.”
Facts on Buddhist Culture
Buddhist culture is exemplified through Buddhist art, Buddhist architecture, Buddhist music, and Buddhist cuisine. More so, this is as Buddhism expanded from the Indian subcontinent. Most importantly, it adopted the artistic and cultural elements of host countries in other parts of Asia.
These are surprising facts about Buddhist culture
- Buddhist Economics does not work to maximize consumption. Instead, it promotes human well-being. This lies in a simple, purposeful and dutiful life, in which one can earn a rightful livelihood.
- Human beings must remain true to their heritage and avoid materialistic pursuit. Hence, mechanical and redundant work that deprives the soul of meaningful search is overlooked.
- Buddhism consider women becoming part of the active workforce as a failure of the economic system. Basically, women have to be looking after the children.
Buddhism and Healthcare
- For Buddhism, mental health is of supreme importance. As a result, individuals must strive towards improving this by practicing non-violence. In addition, refraining from sexual misconduct and lying also helps.
- Buddhist traditions do acknowledge physical ill-being. Consequently, pain and suffering are inevitable just like death. Hence, Buddhism does not prohibit taking any form of medication.
- The best way to cure a disease is to improve one’s diet by practicing vegetarianism. As a result, it reflects the non-violent means of living.
- Buddhism also lays great stress on fasting on particular days which helps revitalize the physical and spiritual being.
- Any form of organ transplant has been viewed as a supreme form of generosity as well.
- In India, Buddhist art flourished and even influenced the development of Hindu architecture. This is so until Buddhism almost disappeared around the 10th century with the expansion of Hinduism and Islam.
- In the earliest form of Buddhist art, the Buddha was not represented in human form. Instead, Buddhists used signs and symbols such as footprints or an empty throne to represent the Buddha.
- From the 5th century B.C. to the 1st century B.C. Indian artists would make sculptures which revolved around the themes of the historical life of the Buddha. Also, this includes the previous lives of the Buddha.
- There was a phase called aniconic phase. Generally, this phase started in the 1st century CE. Subsequently, the Buddha was given realistic human features and proportions.
- Buddhist religious architecture most remarkably developed in South Asia in the 3rd century BCE.
- Two types of structures associated with early Buddhism includes stupas and viharas. Although, the initial function of a stupa was the veneration and safeguarding of the relics of the Buddha.
- The earliest existing example of a stupa is in Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh). However, following changes in religious practice, Stupas became part of chaitya-grihas (stupa halls).
- The beginnings of the Buddhist school of architecture can be traced back to B.C. 255. Basically, this was when the Mauryan emperor Asoka established Buddhism as the state religion of his massive empire. In addition, he encouraged the use of architectural monuments to spread Buddhism in different places.
- The second type of architecture unique to Buddhism is the Vihara. Most of all, the Vihara is a Buddhist monastery that also contains a dwelling hall for the monks.
- Buddhist music prominently includes Honkyoku, Buddhist chant, and Shomyo. Thus, Honkyoku is the pieces of shakuhachiyoku for enlightenment and alms as early as the 13th century.
- Shomyo is a style of Japanese Buddhist chant mainly in the Tendai and Shingon sects. It has two methods: Ryokyoku and rikkyoku, described as difficult and easy to remember, respectively.
- Many ritual musical instruments are used in association with Buddhist practice. This includes singing bowls, bells, tingsha, drums, cymbals, wind instruments, and others.
- Buddhist music developed when Buddhism spread to Tibet. Therefore, the Tibetan traditions of Buddhism encouraged the use of song and dance in certain ceremonies.
- Buddhist cuisine is cooking mainly for the believers of Buddhism. Most of all, Buddhist refer to it as zhāi cài (zhāi means “purification” or “discipline.”)
- Buddhists do not kill animals, and many also do not eat meat. But, they may eat only those who died naturally. Also, they only eat from species where the consumption of brethren is not troubling to the still living.
- Buddhism forbids alcohol and other intoxicants because they may result in violations of the “Five Moral Precepts.” I.e., no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying or partaking of intoxicants
- Some Buddhist sects in China and Vietnam forbid onions, garlic, scallions, chives, and leeks. Even more, they are known as “the five pungent spices.” The spices are likely to lead to anger (raw) and passion (cooked). In addition, their odor can also repel Gods. And, on the other hand, attract hungry ghosts and demons.
- Buddhism gives strict adherence to vegetarians like the priests, monks, nuns. And, also, those who feel they are on the Bodhisattva path, except in some schools and sects.
- Features of Buddhist Tibetan festivals may include the traditional cham dance. Moreover, this also features in some Buddhist festivals in India and Bhutan.
- Many festivals of Nepal are religious festivals involving Buddhism and many Burmese traditional festivals. Further, Lunar New Year festivals of Buddhist countries in East, South and Southeast Asia include some aspects of Buddhist culture. However, in consideration, they are cultural festivals as opposed to religious ones.
- In 563-483 BC – Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha, lives in India. However, others believe he lived about 100 years later, from 448 to 368 BC.
- In 563 India is in religious disarray at the time of Buddhism’s creation. Most of all, people had become dissatisfied with Hinduism.
- 150 AD – Trade brings Indian people and beliefs to Asia, particularly China.
- 3rd century – Teachings of Buddha became translated to Chinese.
- The 4th century –Buddhism came to Korea.
- The 6th century – Buddhism entered Japan.
- 1100-1200 – Muslims dominate India. Consequently, Buddhism became a minor religion in the country.
- In the 1800s – Buddhism became introduced in the United States. Generally, on the west coast.
- 1959 – Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader in Tibet, flees to India to escape Chinese rule.
You see, Buddhism is a simple model of living a comfortable life. Thus, we have documented these facts to give you more insights about Buddhist practice, origin, and culture. Hence, serving as a blueprint for all Buddhist who are biased with non-verifiable facts.
Indeed, it is also a boatload of wisdom for all Buddhist who are bent on spreading Buddhism to all parts of the world.
However, presently Buddhism remains a minor religion in its country of origin India. And, with about eight million followers. Or 0.8% of the total Indian population.
Conclusively, these are the basic Buddhist facts which everyone with interest in Buddhism should know.