‘Bauddha Dharma’ or Buddhism is translated as the ‘Religion of the Buddha’ or the ‘Way of Buddha’. In order words, it means following the teachings of the enlightened one. Founded in the north-eastern part of India, between India and Nepal, Buddhism is beyond the ideas of organized religion. It is more like a philosophy of life as it focuses on mortality, wisdom and tolerance for others.
While other faiths strive to contain their members through Scripture, Buddhism teaches individuality and finding oneself. There are no strict commandments to govern or a book to follow. It is more like a journey of self-discovery wherein one gain knowledge about themselves along with the acquaintance with their inner spirit.
Buddhism has a colorful history which is shared all over the world. Here are some truly interesting facts about Buddhism you may not know:
1 – Siddhartha Gautama Was the “Real” Buddha
The true Buddha of Buddhism is Siddhartha Gautama of Lumbini, a twenty-nine-year-old prince from India. He was likely to become the king of several northern states of India, but he stepped out of his palace to see the real world. He studied many religions and practiced various meditation techniques before becoming ‘the enlightened one’. Siddhartha Gautama founded Buddhism.
Ironically, the word Siddhartha in Sanskrit means ‘He Who Achieves His Goal’, which is the core intent of Buddhism.
2 – ‘Happy’ Buddha is not a Buddha
Budai practiced Buddhism and was considered as an eccentric and good-spirited figure. Soon, he became the most recognizable face. It is said that Budai always had a smile on his face and he was so charismatic that children followed him wherever he went. His charismatic spirit represents Buddhism’s goal, and as a result, his face is known to be a one who is truly enlightened.
3 – No ‘Buddhahood’ for women
When Buddhism made its debut, some of the Buddha’s teachings regarding women were quite controversial. Unlike other religions that preached women should be subservient to their husbands, Buddha taught that husbands should respect their wives.
Buddhism encouraged women in participate and never excluded them from the religion. However, there were some caveats, like ‘Despite her dedication to the faith, a woman can never achieve true Buddhahood.’
4 – No Divine Creator
Buddhism believes in the concept of the human spirit that exists within, but the idea is more in conjunction with our consciousness rather than an entity. There is no ‘divine creator’ as per Buddhism. It does not believe in making our way up to the heaven and joining the ‘big guys’ upstairs’. Buddhism focuses on the journey of oneself to our enlightenment rather than seeking approval from a higher power.
5 – Sex is complicated subject
Buddhism encourages in exploring oneself and sex comes with some serious rules. If you are a Buddhist monk or a nun (often referred as Bhikkus and Bhikkunis respectively), you must keep the inner temple to yourself. Any act, including masturbation, is believed to prevent one from achieving supreme enlightenment.
However, for others who are practicing Buddhism, the rules are not very strict. The Buddha perceived craving for sex as a form of suffering. If sexual urges dominate a person, then he/she will not attain enlightenment.
6 – Not All Buddhists Are Focused on Reincarnation
It is not true that all Buddhists focus on reincarnation or life after death. The focus is ideally on one’s purpose in this life to reach enlightenment. Also, there is a common belief that Buddhism originated as a Pagan religion. However, this is not true either. Buddhists do not worship a God. Therefore, paganism, worship of any god besides a Christian one is different practice.
7 – Alcohol, Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Chives, and Scallions are not allowed
Just like sex, humans have a habit of over-indulging in particular food items. It is seen as a form of craving which is a suffering in Buddhism. There are some specific guidelines that one must follow if you wish to follow the path. Most followers do not enjoy alcohol. Many who over-indulge in rare shot-gunning beers state that they are the most enlightened when hammered. However, in Buddhism, it is seen as a form of an intoxicant which keeps one from being spiritually enlightened. Also, onions, garlic, leeks, chives and scallions are also considered as strong odors in Buddhist cuisine. These pungent odors are believed to incite passion and anger, both of which are considered as forms of suffering in Buddhism.
There is also a myth that all Buddhists are vegetarian. However, many Buddhist dishes contain meat as well. The Buddhists are not allowed to kill an animal and eat it themselves but procuring meat from elsewhere is permissible.
8 – Full Moon Day Is Sacred
Every religion has one uber-holiday of the year. Just like Christmas or Diwali, Buddhism celebrates the spiritual journey called Uposatha. It is a day meant for the cleansing of the defiled mind which is by the four lunar phases starting with the full moon. On this day, the Buddhist followers intensify their practice and reflect their goals to deepen their commitment to themselves and others.
9 – Buddhism-Themed Amusement Park
A Buddhist theme park called as the Suoi Tien Cultural Amusement Park is located just outside Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The park has roller coasters, an artificial beach and water park which is a glimpse of real happiness. This park offers a sense of contentment which can be achieved by all those who are practicing Buddhism until they attain spiritual nirvana.
Swathed in bright neon colors, the park is just like Disneyland on acid which will help you understand why there are people dressed as unicorns, dragons and Budai roaming around the park grounds.
10 – Viharas Are Sacred Places
Viharas are also called as Buddhist monasteries. They were created to help in housing monks who otherwise stayed in temporary shelters. The early forms were more than rock-cut caves carved along the trade routes that let the passing monks stay and practice their faith safely.
With time, viharas came into being. They were more than just a place for the wandering monks to stay and were temples themselves. There were viharas where the monks recruited students who wished to study Buddhism. The overall process of building viharas improved and the architects retain the aesthetics of those carved into the rock of caves even today.
11 – Famous Tooth of Buddha
According to a Sri Lankan legend, when Buddha died, he was cremated in 543 BCE. However, he left his left canine tooth for his followers. It is believed that whoever comes in possession of that tooth will have the right to rule the country. Many fights took place in the past, but ultimately the tooth ended up in the town of Kandy, Sri Lanka where it has been kept on display for over four hundred years.
12 – Significance of the Fig Tree
The ficus religion is a type of fig tree that grows only in southwest China. It is a kind of fig tree under which Siddhartha Gautama Buddha first achieved his spiritual enlightenment. Since then, the fig tree is regarded as the most sacred one and is celebrated as a symbol in Buddhism.
13 – Different Ways to Practice Buddhism
Buddhists can also practice puja, the act of worship either at home through a personal shrine or in a public temple just like other religions. At home, Buddhists create small areas or shrines that are dedicated to connecting with their faith. These memorials feature a statue of Buddha, different types of candles, flowers and incense burners.
Although this practice is private, Buddhists never worship at their shrine with their feet facing the Buddha as it is considered disrespectful. If the Buddhist are praying outside the home, they visit temples called as Pagodas. Pagodas are vaulting, tower-like structures just like the Stupas which are wider and circular.