What Is Buddhism?

Greater in battle
than the man who would conquer
a thousand-thousand men,
is he who would conquer
just one —
himself.

- Gautama Buddha, Dhammapada, 103

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and teachings of The Buddha. Two and a half thousand years ago a young man meditated on life and death and found enlightenment. In that moment he saw his past lives spread out before him and he realised that all life, indeed the very fabric of existence, was made of suffering. That man was Siddhartha Gautama but we know him as The Buddha. He taught us that we have not one but many lives and are constantly reborn in different forms according to the laws of Karma: an immortality that binds us to a cosmic treadmill of death, decay, rebirth and suffering from which the only escape is Nirvana. Buddhism was quickly established as a major religion in South East Asia but now two millenia later it is one of the fastest growing religions of the Western world. Why has it captured the spirit of our times? Is it because there is no compulsion to believe in God? And what is it that Western converts hope to get from Buddhism - truth and enlightenment or simply a spiritual satisfaction that Western religion cannot provide?

Listen to the In Our Time episode on The Buddha

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

Buddhism is a set of methods that helps us to develop our full human potential by understanding the true nature of reality.

Founded 2,500 years ago in India by Siddhartha Gautama – better known as Buddha – Buddhism spread throughout Asia and is now the world’s fourth largest religion. Buddha spent most of his life teaching the methods for awakening that he had realized, so that others could become enlightened Buddhas themselves. He saw that while everyone is equal in their ability to become a Buddha, people also differ vastly in their preferences, interests and talents. Respecting this, he taught a wide variety of ways to overcome one’s limitations and realize one’s full potential. Different aspects were emphasized in each culture that adopted Buddhism and although there are many forms of Buddhism, they all share its basic teachings...

Continue reading Berzin and Lindén's article: What Is Buddhism?

Further Reading

The Buddha (fl. circa 450 BCE) is the individual whose teachings form the basis of the Buddhist tradition. These teachings, preserved in texts known as the Nikāyas or Āgamas, concern the quest for liberation from suffering. While the ultimate aim of the Buddha's teachings is thus to help individuals attain the good life, his analysis of the source of suffering centrally involves claims concerning the nature of persons, as well as how we acquire knowledge about the world and our place in it. These teachings formed the basis of a philosophical tradition that developed and defended a variety of sophisticated theories in metaphysics and epistemology...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on The Buddha by Mark Siderits

Related Topics

If you’re interested in Buddhism, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

Daoism | The Good Life | Indian PhilosophyMindfulness | Schopenhauer

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