What Is Buddhism?

When people think of religion, they usually think of a spiritual path involving a diety, as in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. This isn’t true of Buddhism, which was founded by an Indian prince, Gautama Siddhartha, over 2500 years ago. He made no claim to being a deity or worshipping one. His father, the king, had shielded him from scenes of poverty, illness and death when he was a boy, but he discovered the painful realities of human suffering when he traveled through his father’s kingdom on his own. The discovery led him to abandon his riches as a young man to travel the world in search of a way to relieve the suffering of others.

 Basis of Buddhism

Siddhartha’s quest for compassion, happiness and the meaning of life took long years of his own privation and suffering. When he finally believed he had attained enlightenment, he began to teach others about his spiritual path. By then people were calling him “Buddha” (“Enlightened One”). The Buddha claimed no supernatural powers. He claimed only to have found a way of life based on loving kindness that brought peace and contentment. Every follower, he taught, may follow this path but each must live by his or her own inner lights.

Buddhists believe that most of our problems and suffering arise from confused, negative states of mind. Happiness and good fortune arise from love, compassion and wisdom. Following this path is why many Buddhists are vegetarians; they don’t believe in taking life unnecessarily. When conflicts arise, Buddhists believe in peaceful, nonviolent resolutions. They don’t argue, fight about their beliefs, or try to convert others. They accept people as they are, striving only to understand them and treat them with loving kindness.

Respect for All Life

Buddhists treasure life, no matter what form it comes in. Elephants, whales, dogs and other forms of life have spirits that must be honored just as the human spirit is. Some Buddhist monks, when they walk in the forest, sweep the path before them so as not to crush any insects. Most Buddhists don’t go that far, but they respect the motives of the monks. Even plants are driven to survive. Who’s to tell where the line is drawn?


Meditation is at the heart of Buddhist life. It involves turning the mind away from rational thinking and resting in the process of breathing and the knowledge that one’s heart keeps beating faithfully . The meditator can quiet his or her ambitious, judging, or anxious thoughts and rest at the simplest energy level.

The Buddhist path of peace and loving kindness has as much meaning today as it did in ancient India. As Geshe Kelsang, Tibetan Buddhist monk, wrote in his book Eight Steps to Happiness, “Every living being has the potential to become a Buddha…Our mind is like a cloudy sky, in essence clear and pure but overcast by the clouds of delusions.”

4 replies
  1. Erjan says:

    Thank you very much for this post for Its concise and clear. I believe each human being has The potential to free himself or herself and connect with their higher self. Most of the world’s trouble is coming from the humans never finding their true self. Namaste.

  2. Vicki-Lee says:

    So how would one explain the xenophobic and homophobic stances in Tibet which as a nation has (had?) Buddhism at its very core? Moreover, monks walk around not ‘begging ‘per se (that would be beneath them) yet poor families are culturally obliged to feed them and provide basics. The way I see it, if you cannot look after yourself and maintain your own lifestyle/belief system then YOUR LIFE ISN’T WORKING FOR YOU. However one would like to ‘dress up’ this context – it still smacks of a kind of human bondage/inequality/servitude/slave-serf paradigm. Talk about the Emperor has no clothes…

    The Buddhist monks in Myanmar who have zero compassion and tolerance would like nothing more than to expel the displaced Rohingya people in that region.

    I am sure Isis followers too believe that their religion is ‘good’ and beneficial to others if they could only understand and come around to their way of thinking! (raises hands in mock despair)

    Having grown up in a Judeo-Christian culture I am aware of many ‘lovely’ attributes; ones I live by such as ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ yet does that make it a ‘good’ or ‘holy’ religion despite its former wars slaying heretics and women and its continued propagation of gender imbalance?

    Religious precepts are one thing – seeing them active in the world is another. If I had read here an article about certain aspects of the religion (or philosophy as it is originally intended) that were helpful or useful then that would be one thing – advocating an entire religion is another beast altogether.

    Buddhists, Australian Aborigines, Native American Indians… none of these people are or were a ‘perfect’ people ‘living in total harmony’ with the universe; they are all, like us, just people. And if there is anything that rubs me up the wrong way it is one-sided arguments and half-truth stories. (another culturally conditioned way of thinking that is fallacious).

    • beaconadmin says:

      You referred to the practice of Buddhist monks begging for food. The philosophy behind monks carrying alms bowls is that they are obliged to be free of material possessions, even the food they eat. It is regarded as an act of spiritual merit for a lay Buddhist to share food, no matter how humble, with a monk. In the Buddhist world, people take care of each other and do not strive to live independently of their fellows. Far from existing in a state of bondage, their dependence represents loving kindness, compassion, and a state of spiritual interdependence.
      Unfortunately, I have no information about the monks in Mynamar. I wonder what your source is for the information about their “zero compassion and tolerance” for the Rohinya people. Have you lived there and witnessed this?
      I’m afraid I don’t share your idyllic view of Christian virtues. The history of Christianity and Buddhism are in stark contrast when it comes to their methods of dealing with nonbelievers. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to match the dark historical record of Christianity.


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