Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who later became the Buddha, was born in 623 B.C.E. at Lumbini of present Southern Nepal (which was part of ancient India). After mindfully witnessing the reality of human suffering at the age of 29, he left his kingdom to search for the way to True Happiness for all beings.
On the Vesak full moon night of his 35th year, the ascetic Gautama entered deep meditation beneath the Bodhi tree and attained supreme Enlightenment, which enabled him to comprehend the true nature of life and the universe. This extraordinary achievement was the attainment of Buddhahood. Thereafter, he was known as the Buddha – ‘The Awakened One.’ Tirelessly leaching for 45 years till his passing into the bliss of Parinirvana at 80, the Buddha became the longest teaching founder of a world religion.
The Buddha’s teachings are collectively known as the Tripitaka. The earliest languages used to record them are Pali and Sanskrit. The Tripitaka consists of three sections:
- Sutras: Discourses and dialogues on how to lead a noble life to realize the ultimate truth
- Vinaya: Disciplinary codes for monastics and laity to cultivate the ultimate good
- Ahhidharma: Philosophy and psychology on the nature of the mind
The core of Buddhism is contained within the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, which can be summarized as the learning, practice and realization of Sila (Morality), Samadhi (Concentration) and Prajna (Wisdom).
The Dharma is riot for us to simply accept and believe in, but are for us to intelligently question and experience for ourselves. As the Buddha encouraged, ‘Ehipassiko’ — Don’t just believe; come and see! It is only through the practice of the Dharma that the inner Buddha within us can be known. As the Buddha taught, `He who sees the Dharma sees the Buddha.’
The Buddha’s teachings (the Dharma) contribute greatly to peace and harmony amongst different races and religions. They remind us that the values of ultimate truth and goodness are universal in nature, that they should be promoted for the development of wisdom and virtue, which are essential for the welfare of the world. As the sublime Dharma is timeless, its essence transcends all cultural barriers.
Loving-kindness, for instance, as cultivated through meditation, promotes non-violence which-all appreciates. The foundation of the Buddhist path recognizes that all sentient beings, be they humans or animals, seen or unseen. equally desire peace and happiness. Sharing an interdependent world, if humans wish to live happily in this world, they must cart tor the welfare of others too. As the Buddha taught:
Hatred can never be ceased by hatred
Hatred can only be ceased by love.
This is an eternal law.
Buddhism emphasizes on the importance of Dharma practice via thought, speech and deed. True Happiness for all is possible when there is the marriage of boundless compassion with immeasurable wisdom for all. Indeed. perfecting these qualities is possible for all beings, as historically exemplified by the Buddha.
Singapore Buddhist Federation