“So you like, worship that fat guy?”: Explaining Buddhism

Believe it or not, Buddhism has nothing to do with actually worshipping “that fat guy.” But to those who are unfamiliar with Buddhism, it means little else.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about Buddhism lately, so I thought I would post some facts about the philosophy as a small reference. This is just a small sampling of the fascinating world that is Buddhism.

  • First of all, I’ll let you in on a little secret: the man depicted as the laughing Buddha’s name is Budai. He was a Chinese Buddhist monk in the 10th century AD (1600 years after Buddhist philosophy began). Siddhartha Gautama’s teachings are what Buddhism was founded on.
  • Buddha means “enlightened” or one who has reached the enlightened state of nirvana.
  • There is no idol or high priest in Buddhism. No, not even the Dalai Lama. The truth, according to Buddhist philosophy, is, every natural entity has Buddha inside of them; every natural entity has the ability to reach nirvana. Buddhism discourages worshiping an idol because too often, the worshipper becomes narrow-minded. Buddhism, on the other hand, encourages it’s follower to be open minded about other religions and philosophies and to learn from them.
  • The Dalai Lama is an important figure in Tibetan Buddhism because he is almost like a modern day Siddhartha. He is a teacher of Buddhism; “Dalai” is from the Mongolian word meaning ocean, and “Lama” from the Sanskrit “guru.” He has an intense calming presence about him and a moment spent sharing air with him, you can feel it too. (I speak from experience… last year I attended an all day seminar led by him!) He is the leader of a branch of Buddhism, but is famous because he promotes peace globally. He is also incredibly outspoken about gaining independence for Tibet.
  • Buddhists believe in reincarnation. They believe that energy never dies, so when a body does, that energy is transferred somewhere else. The energy may not end up being a person again, but it is there.
  • There are two main sects of Buddhism. In short, Theravada Buddhism is conservative and continues in the original teachings of Siddhartha, while Mahayana Buddhism has evolved with the changing time. Both sects hold the same core beliefs, such as the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths.

These little blurbs are just answers to the questions I’ve been fielding recently- I’ve been interested in Buddhism since I first became aware of it about ten years ago, but took a class three years ago and have been studying it more seriously ever since. I don’t call myself a Buddhist (many Westerners don’t), at least not yet. However, I have found it to be an attractive way to live my life, and have found peace through incorporating many of Siddhartha’s teachings into my daily living.

If you have any questions about Buddhism, the comments section is always open! I’m sure this won’t be the last time we explore the topic.

Until next time…

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