Sunday April 20 , 2014

SPIRITUAL PAGES - BUDDHISM / THE HIDDEN GLORY OF INDIA

 

 

 

ABOUT BUDDHISM


Shakyamuni

The origins can be traced to the teachings of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, who lived around 2,000 -  2,500 years ago in what is modern-day Nepal. Born Gautama Siddhartha and the son of a King and Queen -
At the age of 29, popular biographies say, Siddhartha left his palace to meet his subjects. Despite his father's efforts to hide from him the sick, aged and suffering, Siddhartha was said to have seen an old man. When his charioteer Channa explained to him that all people grew ol
d, the prince went on further trips beyond the palace. On these he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. These depressed him and  abandoned his sheltered, princely life where he saw only beauty   and sought instead to understand the inescapable sufferings of every human being — birth, aging, sickness and death—and the means by which these sufferings could be overcome.

Siddhartha and a group of five companions  are  said to have set out to take their austere lifestyle even further. They tried to find enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods, including food, practising self-mortification. After nearly starving himself to death by restricting his food intake to around a leaf or nut per day, he collapsed in a river while bathing and almost drowned. Siddhartha began to reconsider his path. Then, he remembered a moment in childhood in which he had been watching his father start the season's plowing. He attained a concentrated and focused state that was blissful and refreshing, the jhāna.


According to the early Buddhist texts, after realizing that meditative jhana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme asceticism didn't work, Gautama discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way  —a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. In a famous incident, after becoming starved and weakened, he is said to have accepted milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata. Such was his emaciated appearance that she wrongly believed him to be a spirit that had granted her a wish.

Following this incident, Gautama was famously seated under a Pipal Tree - now known as the Bodhi tree - in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth Kaundinya and four other companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment.  According to some traditions, this occurred in approximately the fifth lunar month, while, according to others, it was in the twelfth month. From that time, Gautama was known to his followers as the Buddha or "Awakened One" ("Buddha" is also sometimes translated as "The Enlightened One"). He is often referred to in Buddhism as Shakyamuni Buddha, or "The Awakened One of the Shakya Clan."

According to Buddhism, at the time of his awakening he realized complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it. These discoveries became known as the "Four Noble Truths", which are at the heart of Buddhist teaching. Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana, is believed to be possible for any being. The Buddha described Nirvāna as the perfect peace of a mind that's free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states, or "defilements" (kilesas). Nirvana is also regarded as the "end of the world", in that no personal identity or boundaries of the mind remain. In such a state, a being is said to possess the Ten Characteristics, belonging to every Buddha.

Following his enlightenment at age 30, he traveled throughout India for some 50 years, sharing the wisdom he had discovered. The term Buddha, or "enlightened one," is applied to any human being who realizes the eternity of life and the operation of cause and effect throughout the three existences of past, present and future.

Throughout Shakyamuni Buddha's life, he expounded many sutras, or teachings, the highest and most comprehensive being the Lotus Sutra. Shakyamuni stated that all of his teachings prior to the Lotus Sutra should be regarded as provisional; these teachings strove to awaken people to the impermanence of all phenomena in order to free them from the sufferings that arise from egoistic attachment to things that the passage of time will destroy or render meaningless.

As his essential teaching, revealed in the last eight years of his life, the Lotus Sutra teaches the existence of an innate and universal truth known as the Buddha nature, the manifestation of which enables one to enjoy absolute happiness and to act with boundless compassion. Rather than stressing impermanence and the consequent need to eliminate earthly desires and attachments, the Lotus Sutra asserts the ultimate reality of the Buddha nature inherent in all life. It is therefore a teaching which profoundly affirms the realities of daily life, and which naturally encourages an active engagement with others and with the whole of human society.

The Lotus Sutra is also unique among the teachings of Shakyamuni in that it makes the attainment of enlightenment a possibility open to all people—without distinction based on gender, race, social standing or education.

 

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

Nichiren taught that all the benefits of the wisdom contained in the Lotus Sutra can be realized by chanting its title [Nam] Myoho-renge-kyo. The universal law of life is expressed as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; reciting this allows each individual to tap into the wisdom of their life to reveal their Buddha nature. Chanting these words and excerpts from the Lotus Sutra is the core of this Buddhist practice, supported by study and helping others reveal their own Buddhahood. Faith, practice and study are the basics of Buddhist practice, pursuing activities for oneself and activities for the sake of others.
 

The Gohonzon

The Gohonzon, a scroll practitioners chant to, was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin and is depicted in Chinese characters embodying the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the life of Nichiren, as well as protective functions of the universe. The fundamental object of respect, the Gohonzon represents the enlightened life of each individual. Down the center are the characters Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and Nichiren's signature. This indicates the oneness of person and Mystic Law—that the condition of Buddhahood is a potential within and can be manifested by all people. SGI members enshrine a replica of the Gohonzon in their homes as a focal point for their daily practice. The Gohonzon's strength comes from the practitioner's faith—the Gohonzon functions as a spiritual mirror. Sitting in front of the Gohonzon and chanting enables a person to recognize and reveal his or her own Buddha nature, the unlimited potential and happiness of their life.
 
 

 

 

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