Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who Was Buddha or Siddhartha Gautama?

Founder of Buddhism, Pāli: Gotama Buddha or Gautama Buddha was a spiritual instructor in ancient India, between an estimated 563 BCE and 483 BCE (possibly even a century later).

An excellent book on Buddha’s life is, “Introduction to Buddhism,” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. He discusses how Buddha being the founder of the Buddhist religion called Buddha Shakyamuni, after Buddha’s real last name “Shakya” combined with “Muni” for Able One. A lesson in history tells the story of his life:

History Lesson

Long ago around 624 BC, King Shuddhodana and Queen Mayadevi Lumbini reigned in an area now belonging to Nepal, then referred to as northern India.
The queen has a dream one evening that a white elephant came down from the heavens or more specifically Tushita heaven, the Pure Land of Buddha Maitreya, and penetrated her womb. This elephant told the queen that she was had just conceived a baby, a powerful and pure being, from the same place the elephant was from, Tushita heaven, the Pure Land of Buddha Maitreya.

When Queen Mayadevi went into labor, she did not suffer painfully as most women do with birthing pains. Instead, the queen encountered or was a part of a vision, said to be pure and special. In this vision, she was standing with a branch of a tree held in her right hand. While this was going on, gods Indra and Brahma lifted the baby effortlessly and without pain from her, and ceremoniously honored him, AKA Buddha Skakyamuni, offering ritual ablutions to him.

Royal prince Buddha Skakyamuni was born. Or more to point, when the King Shuddhodana saw his son and felt as though he had fulfillment of his own wishes, he named his young prince "Siddhartha."

The king asked for predictions about his son’s future from a Brahmin seer. And the seer conducted a careful investigation.

He found that the prince could become either a world ruler or chakravatin king, or a Buddha, fully enlightened. But the reign of chakravatin kings is over, so he would surely become a Buddha. And the prince would influence and help many, many people worldwide just like the sun’s rays.

And so it has come to pass and Buddha has indeed influenced many, many people around the globe. His reach seems to be similar to that of the sun’s rays after all.

By Tony Ha

Monday, August 18, 2008

Types of Buddhism

There are two types of Buddhas. And both seemingly reach a level of enlightenment called Nirvana, the end of suffering (while still alive here on Earth) and acquire some supernatural powers. This is a brief about both types of Buddhas.

In the Pali Canon, a collection of 16 volumes containing12,800 pages of translation about communications about the study of Buddha Dharma’s ideaology / spirituality, the transcripts reference two types of Buddhas. These are Samyaksambuddha or Sammasambuddha and Pratyeka Buddha or Paccekabuddha. A brief description of each follows.

Samyaksambuddhas (Pali: Sammasambuddha)

Students of this order reach Buddhahood. Then they teach other people about the truth or enlightenment of Buddha Dharma and teaching his methodology / philosophy / ideology / religion, guiding them to a sense of spiritual awakening. Siddhartha Gautama, referred to as The Historical Buddha, fits in this category type, described as a Samyak-sambuddha.

Pratyekabuddhas (Pali: Paccekabuddha)

Somewhat similar to the Samyaksambuddhas above in that they reach the state of Nervana with powers, this type of Buddha is also known as Silent Buddhas, becuase they decided to not share their knowledge with others.

Disciples of a Sammasambuddha are called Savakas (hearers or followers) or Arahants (Noble One). These terms have slightly varied meanings but can all be used to describe the enlightened disciple. Anubuddha is a rarely used term, but was used by the Buddha in the Khuddakapatha as to those who become Buddhas after being given instruction. Enlightened disciples attain Nirvana and Parinirvana as the two types of Buddhas do. The most generally used term for them is Arahant.

One 12th century Theravadin commentary uses the term Savakabuddha to describe the enlightened disciple. According to this scripture there are 3 types of Buddhas. In this case, however, the common definition of the meaning of the word Buddha (as one who discovers the Dhamma without a teacher) does not apply any more. Mainstream Theravadin and Mahayana scriptures do not recognize this term and state there are only two kinds of Buddha.

Tony Ha is a freelance writer who writes about buddhism. He loves to write about buddhism & he thinks about the pali canon a lot.