What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a tradition of teaching and practice that awakens our capacity for wisdom and love. Through opening up our awareness and energy channels, we find that contentment and happiness are not an impossible dream! Buddhism is a path to Enlightenment, or Buddhahood. ‘Buddha’ means ‘One who is awake’, a title first given to a man called Siddhartha Gautama, who lived 2,500 years ago in northern India.

At the age of thirty-five, after years of striving, he gained Enlightenment, whilst absorbed in meditation. During the remaining forty-five years of his life he walked over much of northern India, spreading his teaching about the way to Enlightenment.

The Buddha taught numerous disciples, many of whom gained Enlightenment. They in turn taught others, and in this way an unbroken chain of teaching has continued, right down to the present day.

Enlightenment is a state of wisdom; a profound understanding of the true nature of things. It is also a source of unbounded compassion, which expresses itself in the spontaneous desire to help any being who is suffering.

Buddhism sees life as being in a process of constant change. Often we repeat destructive or painful habits rather than respond creatively to life. Buddhism teaches that we have a choice. An ancient Buddhist text begins, ‘Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.’ The methods of meditation and ethical sensitivity, lead to a greater awareness of the conditions which contribute to suffering and happiness.

People are welcome to take as little or as much of Buddhism as they feel ready for. Some practise meditation to gain peace of mind and greater awareness, others may want to go all the way to Enlightenment. Being a Buddhist in the full sense means committing oneself to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha – sometimes referred to as the ‘Three Jewels’. To do this one studies, reflects and meditates on the various teachings and practices of the Buddhist tradition. One also is in contact with a Sangha – other people who are trying to transform themselves in a similar way.

Buddhism is a path to freedom. The gate to that path is open to all: men and women, young and old, people of all nationalities, races, and backgrounds.

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