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Home: Religion: Buddhism: Who Is Buddha?.


Buddhism: Plain and Simple

A Zen priest, Steve Hagen has done a good job at putting the philosophy of Buddhism in a "plain and simple" package. This is a thorough examination of Buddhism, passed along to the reader through life examples, psychological tidbits, and entertaining stories from Buddhist teachers past and present. The simple, yet profound ideas presented in this book can truly be life-transforming.

Who is Buddha?

Who is Buddha and what are the origins of Buddhism and Buddhist Philosophy?. Buddha is a word in the ancient Indian languages Pali and Sanskrit which means "one who has become awake". It is derived from the verbal root "vbudh", meaning "to awaken."

The word "Buddha" denotes not just a single religious teacher who lived in a particular epoch, but a type of person, of which there have been many instances in the course of cosmic time. (As an analogy, the term "American President" refers not just to one man, but to everyone who has ever held the office of the American presidency.) The Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, then, is simply one member in the spiritual lineage of Buddhas, which stretches back into the dim recesses of the past and forward into the distant horizons of the future.

Gautama did not claim any divine status for himself, nor did he assert that he was inspired by a god or gods. He claimed to be not a personal saviour, but a teacher to guide those who choose to listen. A Buddha is any human being who has fully awakened to the true nature of existence, whose insight has totally transformed him or her beyond birth, death, and subsequent rebirth, and who is enabled to help others achieve the same enlightenment.

The principles by which a person can be led to enlightenment are known as the Buddhadharma, or simply the Dharma. Dharma in this sense of the rather complex term means, "law, doctrine, or truth." Anyone can attain what the Buddha attained regardless of age, gender, or caste. Indeed, Buddhists believe there have been many solitary buddhas (Pali pacceka-buddha; Sanskrit: pratyekabuddha) who achieved enlightenment on their own but did not go on to teach others.

According to one of the stories in the Sutta Nipata, the Buddha, too, was afraid to teach humans because he despaired of their limited capacity for understanding. The Vedic (early Hindu) god Indra, however, interceded, and requested that he teach despite this. That the historical Buddha did so is thus a mark of special compassion.

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