Buddhism: A Brief Introduction

Gotama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was known at the time simply as "Gotama" and that is how people called him. You can see this in the suttas (Theravāda Buddhist scriptures). He was born in 566 BCE in Lumbini, which is now in Nepal, among the Sakyans, whose descendants are now Nepalis (he was white-skinned). Disenchanted with princely life in his 29th year, he left his palace where he had been a prince, and his father, Suddhodana, chieftain of the Sakyans. He encountered four shocking sights which made his mind up to seek a cure for suffering and misfortunes, by learning at the feet of the greatest philosophers at the time. After he mastered their doctrines, which he found insufficient to overcome suffering and escape the round of rebirths, he set out on his own to discover these — and other things — alone.

After a particularly deep meditation on the Full Moon of May in his 35th year, he was able to remove all defilements of the mind and attain to Supreme Enlightenment: Buddhahood. This took place in Bodh Gaya in northeastern India. After his Enlightenment, he wondered whether he should teach or not, seeing that people, in general, are full of defilements and may not understand such profoundly deep philosophies. Brahma Sahampati, a heavenly being, read Gotama's mind, and begged Gotama to teach, saying that there are people and other beings with little dust in their eyes, who are capable of understanding such deep philosophies and teachings. Thus, Gotama agreed to teach and set out on a long journey to teach 5 special ascetics, who, he thought, would understand the Dhamma (The Buddha's teachings and philosophies).

After a 45-year-long teaching career, Lord Buddha, having taught countless people all across the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, finally passed away aged 80. He achieved his goal of escaping the round of rebirths, Saṃsāra.

His disciples, after his death, gathered to form the First Buddhist Council, and memorized the teachings of Lord Buddha which his faithful attendant, Ānanda, recited by heart.

Nowadays, Buddhism is widely followed in Southeast, East and North Asia, and is gradually, but surely, gaining a greater following in other parts of the World, especially, the Western World, seeing as the Buddhist teachings help people live a kinder, more compassionate and virtuous life, along with strategies for tackling suffering, misfortunes, problems and unsatisfactoriness. If people learn and apply the teachings learned from the scriptures, the books and the teachers, they will achieve happiness, prosperity and success in their day-to-day lives. Serious practitioners, aiming to put an end to suffering once and for all and escape Saṃsāra (the world of suffering and rebirth) can take heart in the real possibility of achieving Full Enlightenment by becoming Buddhist monks or nuns and training under the guidance of properly qualified Buddhist teachers. Thus Nibbāna (Full Enlightenment) is possible for anyone who is willing to undergo a long and strenuous spiritual practice for their own sake and for the benefit of mankind.