‘Buddhism’ began 2500 years ago in Ancient India. Buddhism can be considered a framework for living a more satisfying, meaningful life. Because it address fundamental concerns about the human condition, Buddhism is as accessible and relevant to us as it was to people in ancient times. Buddhism is often referred to as The Three Jewels, three precious treasures that Buddhists look to for inspiration and guidance. These jewels are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Buddhism began with Siddhartha Gautama, a man who lived in India 2,600 years ago. Siddhartha Gautama was born a prince, and in early adulthood became troubled by the realities of old age, sickness, and death. He left his riches to devote his life to spiritual exploration and practice. Through his contemplations and meditations, Gautama came to a deep insight into the nature of life, which freed him from suffering and allowed him to live in complete joy. Upon his enlightenment, Gautama became known as the Buddha, or ‘the Awakened One.’ He then spent the rest of his life wandering India, teaching what he learned to people from all walks of life. Many of his disciples gained Enlightenment, and they, in turn, taught others. In this way the Buddha’s teaching has continued to the present day.
The Dharma is the collection of teachings that help us to live with greater awareness, to become kinder and more compassionate, and to be fully responsible for our own spiritual welfare. Eventually the Dharma can lead us to the same awakening that the Buddha was able to realize.
Important features of the Dharma include:
- Everything changes; nothing remains the same from one moment to the next. Although there is stability and continuity in many things, ultimately nothing lasts forever: not material possessions, nor our lifestyles with their particular configurations of job, home, friendships and relationships. A full understanding of this truth of impermanence is the basis for wisdom in Buddhism.
- Practices such as mindful awareness, meditation, and ethical living can help us embrace life as it is, freeing us from the pain of unfulfilled desires. The majority of Buddhist teachings guide us in these practices.
- All human beings, regardless of background or circumstance, are capable of deepening their awareness and growing in wisdom and compassion. Buddhist teachings are accessible and relevant to people of all ages and from all walks of life.
The Sangha is the spiritual community of individuals striving to live in accordance with Buddhist principles. Members of the sangha share the joys and challenges of living a spiritual life, encouraging and supporting one another in our endeavors.