(A statue of the Buddha in Vietnam)
Buddhism is, according to the Western point of view, a religion (including a state religion) or a philosophy, or both, whose origins go back to India in the fifth century BC after the awakening of Siddhartha Gautama and his teaching.
Buddhism in 2005 had between 230 million and 500 million followers, making it the fourth world religion, behind (in descending order) Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The historian of religions Odon Vallet mentions that it is “the only great religion in the world to have regressed in the twentieth century,” mainly because of the persecutions of Buddhism in China and Indochina.
Buddhism presents a ramified set of meditative practices, religious rituals (prayers, offerings), ethical practices, psychological, philosophical, cosmogonic and cosmological theories, approached from the perspective of bodhi, “awakening”. Like Jainism, Buddhism was originally a shramana tradition, and not Brahmanic as is Hinduism.
The notions of god and divinity in Buddhism are peculiar: although Buddhism is often perceived as a religion without a creator god, the notion is absent from most forms of Buddhism, veneration and worship of the historical Buddha Siddhartha Gautama as bhagavat plays an important role in the Theravāda and also in the Mahāyāna, in which he is an enlightened being having three aspects or manifestations (trikāya).
Origins of Buddhism
Buddhism was born in India around the same time as Mahâvîra, which made Jainism more popular, with which it shares a certain tendency to question Hinduism (especially the priestly caste of Brahmans) such as that it was practiced at the time (6th century BC). Buddhism has taken over and developed many philosophical concepts of the religious environment of the time (such as dharma and karma, for example).
Buddhism comes from the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (“the awake”), considered the historical Buddha.
The years of birth and death of Siddhārtha Gautama are not sure; he would have lived in the sixth century BC, about eighty years, but traditions do not agree on this subject. The oldest considers the born in 623 BC and the death in 543 BC. The Thais begin the Buddhist calendar in 543 BC, there are 543 years of differences with the Thai calendar (example: 2016 – 2559). Western specialists in the history of ancient India, on the other hand, agree to situate the life of the Buddha rather around 420 BC until 380 BC.
Born according to tradition, in Lumbini, in the present-day Nepalese Terai of Māyādevī and Śuddhodana, ruler of the Śākyas (or Shakya), his name was Gautaman. He belonged to the Shakya clan of the Kshatriya (noble-warrior) caste, where his nickname Shakyamuni, “the sage of the Śākya”. It is the main name that the tradition of Mahāyāna gives it – Buddha Shakyamuni – and by which it is distinguished from other Buddhas. He is also called Siddhārtha Gautama (pāḷi: Siddhattha Gotama) because Siddhārtha is given as his first name in some sources.
The life of the Buddha has been enriched with legends describing miracles and divine appearances. But it is only three hundred years after his death that he begins to be known by texts, at the same time as his teachings, thanks to the emperor Ashoka who promotes it on the whole extent of his domain and sends missions abroad.
Awakening or bodhi
Buddhism is an individual path whose purpose is the awakening, through the extinction of the desire of egotism and illusion, causes of the suffering of man. Awakening is a base for altruistic action.
Definition of Awakening in Theravada Buddhism
For theravādins, enlightenment is the perfect understanding and realization of the four noble truths; it is a question of waking up from the nightmare of successive rebirths (saṃsāra). The awakened man reaches nirvāṇa (enlightenment), and completely escapes suffering at his death (called parinirvâna, complete dissolution of the five aggregates). The cycle of rebirths and deaths is broken.
Definition of awakening in mahāyāna
For the followers of Mahāyāna, on the other hand, enlightenment is personal wisdom and is used to help others, through the transfer of merits and the awareness of one’s own nature as Buddha (the essential nature of all being). possessing a consciousness, of every living being.
It is agreed that the mahāyāna allows the bodhisattvas (those who are awake) the opportunity to remain in the world without producing karma, out of compassion for living beings, which they will then guide to awakening.
Translated from Wikipedia