Buddhism started with the Buddha. The word ‘Buddha’ is a title, which means ‘one who is awake’ in the sense of having ‘woken up to reality’. The Buddha was born as Siddhartha Gautama in Nepal around 2,500 years ago. He did not claim to be a god or a prophet. He was a human being who became Enlightened, understanding life in the deepest way possible.
Siddhartha was born into the royal family of a small kingdom on the Indian-Nepalese border. According to the traditional story, he had a privileged upbringing but was jolted out of his sheltered life on realizing that life includes the harsh facts of old age, sickness, and death.
But he still hadn’t solved the mystery of life and death. True understanding seemed as far away as ever. So he abandoned this way and looked into his own heart and mind; he decided to trust his intuition and learn from direct experience. He sat down beneath a Bodhi tree and vowed to stay there until he’d gained Enlightenment on the full moon day in May, Siddhartha finally attained ultimate Freedom.
During the remaining 45 years of his life, the Buddha traveled through much of northern India, spreading his understanding. His teaching is known in the East as the Buddha-dharma or ‘teaching of the Enlightened One’.
Buddhists believe he reached a state of being that goes beyond anything else in the world. If normal experience is based on conditions upbringing, psychology, opinions, perceptions. Enlightenment is Unconditioned.
A Buddha is free from greed, hatred, and ignorance, and characterized by wisdom, compassion, and freedom. Enlightenment brings insight into the deepest workings of life, and therefore into the cause of human suffering the problem that had initially set him on his spiritual quest.
Soon after his Enlightenment the Buddha had a vision in which he saw the human race as a bed of lotus flowers. Some of the lotuses were still mired in the mud, others were just emerging from it, and others again were on the point of blooming. In other words, all people had the ability to unfold their potential and some needed just a little help to do so. So the Buddha decided to teach, and all of the teachings of Buddhism may be seen as attempts to fulfill this vision to help people grow towards Enlightenment.
Buddhism sees life as a process of constant change, and its practices aim to take advantage of this fact. It means that one can change for the better. The decisive factor in changing oneself is the mind, and Buddhism has developed many methods for working on the mind. Most importantly, Buddhists practice meditation, which is a way of developing more positive states of mind that are characterized by calm, concentration, awareness, and emotions such as friendliness. Using the awareness developed in meditation it is possible to have a fuller understanding of oneself, other people, and of life itself. Buddhists do not seek to ‘evangelise’ or coerce other people to adopt their religion, but they do seek to make its teachings available to whoever is interested, and people are free to takes much or as little as they feel ready for.
How to practice Buddhism in daily?
The Buddha describes the three central practices of Buddhism as Dana, Sila and Bhavana, or generosity, morality, and meditation. In addition, the development of the Ten Parami or perfections is considered crucial for the eventual attainment of Nirvana, generosity is one of them.
According to the Buddha, the ideal conditions of giving are to give a pure gift, with pure intentions to a pure recipient. A pure gift would be giving a gift that is proper: meaning proper for the time, person, circumstance, etc. and is earned by honest means. To give with pure intentions means to give with compassion, conviction, attentively, and without negatively affecting others. A pure recipient would be a virtuous person who would be worthy of a gift.
Another factor of giving the Buddha mentions is the state of mind when giving, namely, feeling joyous before, during, and after the act of giving. While it is useful to know these points in order to know how to practice generosity to the fullest, all of these factors don’t need to be met to be considered an act of generosity. One should still give even when the ideal conditions cannot be met.
Being generous in Buddhism doesn’t just cover the obvious: charity, alms, donations, etc. but also includes a variety of seemingly plain acts one wouldn’t normally consider an act of giving. Even something like putting in extra effort to make a customer happy at your day job or selling a product to someone with the thought that they would legitimately benefit from it are considered acts of generosity. It really is the thought that counts.
The Benefits of Giving
The Buddha explains that there are many benefits of giving, both in the here and now, such as being loved by others, as well as in the future. The most iconic future benefit that can be realized from giving in Buddhism involves the Buddhist concept of Karma. Buddhists believe that what is given is not lost, but is actually returned to the giver in the form of karmic rewards, most notably, wealth.
Essentially, according to Buddhist teachings, the ethical and moral principles are governed by examining whether a certain action, whether connected to body or speech is likely to be harmful to one's self or to others and thereby avoiding any actions which are likely to be harmful. In Buddhism, there is much talk of a skilled mind. A mind that is skilful avoids actions that are likely to cause suffering or remorse.
Moral conduct for Buddhists differs according to whether it applies to the laity or to the Sangha or clergy. A lay Buddhist should cultivate good conduct by training in what are known as the "Five Precepts". The five precepts are training rules, which, if one were to break any of them, one should be aware of the breech and examine how such a breech may be avoided in the future. The resultant of an action (often referred to as Karma) depends on the intention more than the action itself. Buddhism places a great emphasis on 'mind' and it is mental anguish such as remorse, anxiety, guilt etc. which is to be avoided in order to cultivate a calm and peaceful mind. The five precepts are:
1) To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. This precept applies to all living beings not just humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected.
2) To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given. This precept goes further than mere stealing. One should avoid taking anything unless one can be sure that is intended that it is for you.
3) To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct. This precept is often mistranslated or misinterpreted as relating only to sexual misconduct but it covers any overindulgence in any sensual pleasure such as gluttony as well as misconduct of a sexual nature.
4) To undertake the training to refrain from false speech. As well as avoiding lying and deceiving, this precept covers slander as well as speech which is not beneficial to the welfare of others.
5) To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness. This precept is in a special category as it does not infer any intrinsic evil in, say, alcohol itself but indulgence in such a substance could be the cause of breaking the other four precepts.
These are the basic precepts expected as a day to day training of any lay Buddhist. On special holy days, many Buddhists, especially those following the Theravada tradition, would observe three additional precepts with a strengthening of the third precept to be observing strict celibacy. The additional precepts are:
6) To abstain from taking food at inappropriate times. This would mean following the tradition of Theravadin monks and not eating from noon one day until sunrise the next.
7) To abstain from dancing, singing, music and entertainments as well as refraining from the use of perfumes, ornaments and other items used to adorn or beautify the person. Again, this and the next rule.
8) To undertake the training to abstain from using high or luxurious beds are rules regularly adopted by members of the Sangha and are followed by the layperson on special occasions.
The Buddhist clergy, known as the Sangha, are governed by 227 to 253 rules depending on the school or tradition for males or Bhikkhus and between 290 and 354 rules, depending on the school or tradition for females or Bhikkhunis. These rules, contained in the Vinaya or first collection of the Buddhist scriptures,, are divided into several groups, each entailing a penalty for their breech, depending on the seriousness of that breech. The first four rules for males and the first eight for females, known as Parajika or rules of defeat, entail expulsion from the Order immediately on their breech. The four applying to both sexes are: Sexual intercourse, killing a human being, stealing to the extent that it entails a gaol sentence and claiming miraculous or supernormal powers. Bhikkhunis' additional rules relate to various physical contacts with males with one relating to concealing from the order the defeat or parajika of another. Before his passing, the Buddha instructed that permission was granted for the abandonment or adjustment of minor rules should prevailing conditions demand such a change. These rules apply to all Sangha members irrespective of their Buddhist tradition.
Meditation is accessible to everyone as a way to train and develop the mind to become more stable, focused and effective. From a Buddhist point of view, meditation is also a practical way to bring happiness in life for laypeople and as a way for monastics to attain liberation.
Meditation can be explained at different levels of meaning. The meaning of the word ‘meditation’ can depend on whether it is meant as a practice or as a result of practice to bring about a sense of peace, ease, and purity. At its simplest, meditation is the ability of the mind to stay in a single mood extendedly without wandering a sort of true happiness which one can bring about oneself something which is advantageous for all to practice, bringing benefits in life including happiness, non-recklessness [appamaada], mindfulness [Sati], self-possession [Sampajañña] and wisdom [Paññaa] which is not beyond anyone’s power to practice easily.
Defined in terms of its outcomes: Meditation is the settling of the mind to continuous peace and unity exhibiting only purity, radiance, brightness and giving rise simultaneously to encouragement, morale, wisdom, and happiness.
Defined in terms of practice: Meditation means stability of mind at a single point or a state of mind unwavering from its point of focus mind.
Defined in Terms of the Body of Enlightenment: Meditation is a practice to still our mind at the centre of the body, to gently bring the mind back inside our body at ease, to prevent the mind being scattered by various emotions and thoughts whether it be thoughts of family, business, work, study, amusement, revelry, or any other thought to unify the mind on a single state within the body. Phrarajbhavanavisudh also ofter quotes the explanation of Phramonkolthepmuni who explained meditation as gently unifying the faculties of perception, memory, thought and cognition at a single point with comfortable feeling at the centre of the body. The concentration arises from a practice of mind to a standstill at the centre of the body.