Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What is Buddhism?

Definition of Buddhism is very hard to explain, not only to those who are complete strangers to this religion but also to those who are scholars and practitioners of this religion. But there are also certain things that we know for sure about Buddhism. We know that Sidhhartha Buddha was the founder of this religion and he lived around 500 BC. Buddha was a charismatic figure who through his teachings laid the foundation of a religion that eventually has its presence all over the world.

Although Buddhism originated in India it is quite curious to know that this religion in the present day is more influential in other countries. First Buddhism spread to China, than to the East Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Sri lanka, Laos, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and many other countries. The Himalayan Kingdoms of Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Ladakh has also embraced Buddhism. In fact Buddhism has also made its footmarks in America.

There are various forms of Buddhism that is practiced in Asian Countries. In South East Asia the form of Buddhism that is practiced is known as Theravada or Hinayana. In East Asia the form of Buddhism that is practiced is called Mahayana. These forms of Buddhism are often called wheels or “Yanas”.

Although there are differences in the yanas of Buddhism it is difficult to do so in the real sense. The Theravada Buddhist believe that it is only Buddha who was the one who attained Enlightenment and after that it is impossible now to get enlightenment. The Tantric Buddhists believe that Enlightenment is possible as a matter of fact it also believes that enlightenment can be reached in this life only. This belief is in stark contrast with which most other yanas of Buddhism believe, i.e. Enlightenment is not possible in one lifetime but takes thousands of lifetimes.

American Buddhism is very interesting because of the fact there is a lot of confusion and as a result different people within America follow different yanas of Buddhism. Like for instance many follow Tibetan Buddhism while many other people also follow Chinese or Japanese Buddhism. Also like Asian Buddhism there is no practice of Alms here rather there is more stress on Meditation.

Buddhism is practiced in different types in different places primarily because of the varying kind of influence it has on different kinds of people. There are also various interpretations of Buddhism. Some believe it as a philosophy, some as religion, and some as faith based and mystical. Some people within Buddhism even believe that there is no good while some strongly believe that there is god.

Thus Buddhism is a very complex thing to be interpreted. In fact real interpretation perhaps lies in the writings of Buddha, his architecture and his teachings.