Buddhism | What Is It?

[Page updated: 8 January 2024]

Origins of Buddhism / Buddha

Buddhism started to be called “Buddhism” a long time ago, about 2557 years ago when the first Buddha sat under a tree in India and became enlightened. That is, the Buddha became free from mental pain caused by attachment to mental phenomena.

When the Buddha sat under the tree he focused on his breath. When one focuses on the breath for a period of time, and is well practiced – eventually all thoughts in the mind stop.

Though it might seem a very unnatural state of mind, in Buddhism this is part of the goal because once the thoughts stop churning about in the mind – the mind becomes more aware, free, and responsive without the memories of the past or the hope of the future enchaining it.

Buddhism is the study of what Buddha did to free the mind from suffering. Buddha gave a lot of talks to help people come to the same state of being that he attained – and many have since then. They too are said to be arahants or “Buddhas” but, really the first Buddha is the one that was referred to and is referred to as “Buddha”. Others were said to have attained arahantship.

Buddhism in Thailand is practiced in a couple of different ways. Thai Buddhism follows the Theravada style of Buddhism and yet there are a couple of schools of training.

Some Theravadans believe that one need only sit and meditate in order to attain enlightenment. Others believe you must also add “mindfulness” of the present moment.

Some schools of Buddhism are very strict and go only by what the Buddha originally said. Others also take into account what other enlightened persons have said as well.

Some in Buddhism believe in spirits, good luck, seeing the future, in protection pendants and tattoos, and many other other-worldly experiences.

Buddhist Philosophy

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At its base level, I believe that Buddhism is a scientific philosophy that is a way of life and a way of guiding people’s lives based on what the Buddha said… Basically, we’re to read what the Buddha said, try it – and it revise it a little – in case we missed the meaning… try again, try again… if it doesn’t work for us – we can throw it away. Buddha said, “If you meet the Buddha on the trail, kill him.”

Meaning – there is nothing important about the Buddha or what he has said if it doesn’t apply to your own situation. Try it, if it works – keep it – practice it, if not, throw it away like trash and find some other way to practice.

Buddhism says our entire life should be like this – trying things, seeing if they work well for us – and discarding them if they don’t.

Buddhism is an intelligent, rational, logical religion above all else. The belief in magic pendants and pendants can also be very rational and logical to some people. In fact, here in Thailand, there are many more who believe in the power of Buddhist good luck pendants and pendants than people who don’t believe in them.

Buddhists in Thailand are a little different from Buddhists in China, Malaysia, Burma, and India. Visit Thailand if you get a chance and see what Buddhism is to Thais. It’s quite a wonderful way to live life.

The Original “Buddha”

“The Buddha,” the original Buddha, was from India. His name was Gautama Siddhartha. This Buddha lived approximately 2552 years ago. The Thai calendar follows this notion, as this year is 2552, not 2009 to Thai people. Of course, they use 2009 in many instances to help foreign visitors here to understand what they’re talking about.

Buddha was said to have sat under a type of tree called a “Bodhi” tree where he became enlightened. To say the Buddha was “enlightened” is to say he became free from suffering. The Buddha’s mind no longer was chained by attachment to things… to ideas, to beliefs, to opinions. Siddhartha Buddha saw reality as it truly is – free from the cravings that are usually part of the mind.

Thais in Thailand respect the original Buddha most of all, but they also have other Thai monks that are VERY important to them.

Important Thai Buddhist Figures:

  • Buddha (also spelled, “Budda” or “Budha”)
  • Luang Pu Thuat
  • Pra Upakut
  • Aj. Jumnien (Vipassana Meditation teacher in the south)
  • Kwan Yin (Gwan Yin) – goddess of compassion
  • Ganesh – an elephant, of prime importance to Indians, Thais respect them – but don’t revere them as much as the Indians do.

Because the Buddha transcended this mind we all have, he was able to teach others the path to liberation – to become like him – with a mind free from suffering, attachment, and craving.

Meditating on the breath is a favorite pastime for many Thai people here in Thailand. There are numerous Vipassana retreats that go for 10 days usually and that are attended by many foreigners visiting the country.

The original Buddha is the ultimate figure in Buddhism, but, there have been other Buddhas to come after him.

Want to read about the history of the Buddha?

If you are interested in learning more about meditation – which can lead you to enlightenment please have a look around the site here for some links to other Buddhism articles and information.


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