The focus of Buddhism is Oneself, not in a self-centered manner, but to reflect within oneself, instead of looking critically at others. The great Zen master, Dogen, said, “To study Buddhism is to study the self.” By this, Dogen pointed to the central focus of the Buddhist teachings, which is to see into oneself.
The Historical Buddha
Buddhism began in India, nearly 2,600 years ago with a man, Siddhartha Gautama, who did exactly that: looked deep into himself. Through such deep introspection, he came to realize a profound truth. He came to see the world around him beyond the ego-centered viewpoint. This insight allowed him to see the great Oneness of life, the interconnectedness of all beings, animate and inanimate. It was the insight of great wisdom and compassion, the contents of enlightenment. Through his enlightenment, the Buddha (Shakyamuni Buddha) discovered the real meaning of peace and happiness in life. After his enlightenment, the Buddha shared his insight and teachings with the people of India for the next 45 years.
The Spread and Development of Buddhism
The teaching of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha spread throughout India, and then across the Asian continent over the course of these past 2,600 years. Buddhism flowed into China, Korea and Japan. It flowed into Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma and Vietnam. Now, the flow of the Dharma is reaching and permeating the thought and lives of people in the West.
The Purpose of the Buddha’s Teachings
Buddhism has been carried and transmitted over the many centuries because of its timeless and enduring message to the spiritual needs of human beings. The Buddha’s teaching seeks to help all beings find true peace, happiness and well-being. It does not require that we follow doctrines, beliefs or creeds, but simply encourages us to listen to the Dharma (teachings) and, if we find them to be true through our own life experiences, then to follow them.
The Path of True Happiness
All beings seek happiness, but we don’t always know where to find it. Actually, Buddhism teaches us that we look for it in all the wrong places. True happiness is not something we can find outside of ourselves, but it is something that we can discover within ourselves..
The way of life of Buddhism is this unfolding of the real meaning of happiness, the real meaning of our lives and our existence. It enables us to live a dynamic and fulfilling life, a life of deep gratitude, reverence and humility.
The Four Noble Truths/The Eightfold Path
The first and most profound teaching of the Buddha is the Four Noble Truths.
- Life is Suffering: pain, frustration, agitation, jealousy
- The Origin of Suffering is ignorance, selfishness, craving
- The Cessation of Suffering, or perfect peace, can be achieved through the elimination of ignorance, selfishness and craving
- The Path to extinguish ignorance, selfishness and craving is the Eightfold Path:
- Right Views
- Right Thought
- Right Speech
- Right Conduct
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Meditation
*Source: Midwest Buddhist Temple