Religions of all types have played a role in every aspect of humanity’s existence, survival, and development. As the world becomes less separated by borders, and people come together through travel or even the internet, society is influenced by the beliefs and cultures of different people. Buddhism is a religion that has influenced many parts of the world, with its spread seemingly renewed in recent years.
What is Buddhism?
Buddhism originated in India nearly 2500 years ago. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Also known as Buddha Dharma, this religion is also considered a philosophical tradition attributed to the life and teachings of the Buddha or the “Awakened One.” There are many classes on Buddhism where students can learn the origins and practices of the religion.
Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha, was born wealthy and had an easy life. However, he was moved by the suffering of the world and gave up his lavish lifestyle. He spent six years searching for the idea of the “Middle Way,” or a life without deprivation or indulgences. He felt the right life was to be just in the middle. This journey and his teachings throughout are the basis of Buddhism.
The Four Noble Truths
In Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths are at the center of the teachings. These truths are all based on the suffering of the world and the goal to end those sufferings. The Four Noble Truths are:
- The truth of suffering.
- The truth of the cause of suffering.
- The truth of the end of suffering.
- The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.
Basically, life is suffering, but there is a cause for that suffering that can be ended if the right path is followed. Buddhism teaches that path to help end suffering and reach Nirvana. Nirvana is the state of eternal happiness. By utilizing meditation and following the Noble Eightfold Path, everyone can reach Nirvana.
How has Buddhism Influenced the World?
Although Buddhism started in India, the practice spread across the eastern parts of the world due to the growth of trade. The Silk Road was a network of trade routes to China that began in 130 BCE. As traders traveled along this route, so did the teachings of the Buddha.
Not only did the teachings of generosity and spiritual enlightenment spread to other parts of the world, but the religion was strengthened in India by the exchange of goods and ideas between the different societies. Trade and relations also strengthened, and religious artifacts and temples can be found throughout the east.
How has Buddhism Influenced Western Cultures?
Buddhism is more than simply a religion, it is also a life philosophy on how to treat one’s self and others. Much of Buddhism teaches peace and generosity. It challenges its followers to seek personal enlightenment and help guide others on that same path. Everyone comes from suffering, and everyone deserves to have that suffering end.
These beliefs, especially due to the turmoil, wars, and other sufferings faced throughout time, have attracted many people to the religion. Even those who consider themselves atheists have found wisdom in the teachings of Buddha.
Although the teachings of today have taken on a more secular turn, the main tenets of the religion still prevail. These teachings have greatly influenced those in the Western world and have caused many people to seek answers to the many questions of life through the teachings of Buddha.