September 24, 2014
Catfish and Mandala: Buddhism
Buddhism is amongst the oldest practiced religions in the world, predating Islam and Christianity. It was founded around the 5th century BCE by Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince turned ascetic. He lived a sheltered but privileged life until one day in his young adult life when he came across a sick and dying man. Left alarmed and perturbed by this sight, he set off as an ascetic to learn how to end suffering. Eventually reaching what Buddhist refer to as 'Nirvana', "a state of true and final enlightenment, he spent the rest of his life preaching his new found knowledge (). Since then, Buddhism has split in three sects: Theravada, the original sect; Mahayana, a later school; and Vajrayana, a derivative of Mahayana (). Though their fundamental beliefs in Gautama Buddha as the founder are the same, the three schools differ from each other in various ways theologically.
However, in the end, they all ultimately strive for the final goal of Enlightenment.
Theravada mean "Doctrine of the Elders," which is rather appropriate as it is the oldest school of Buddhism (). Adherents of Theravada believe in what is known as the 'Pali Canon' which is said to be the oldest of all Buddhist scripture. Written in the extinct language of Pali, the Cannon is reputed to be the actual words of the Buddha himself (). "The root of all suffering is attachment," is a prime example of Theravada thought in the Canon (Bodhipatska). The belief that all suffering stems from the root desire and attachment is held by all school and forms of Buddhism. The foundations of this Theravada belief, and indeed all of Buddhism, are The Four Noble Truths, which pursue the origin and cessation...