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What is Buddhism?

by Anagarika Dharmapala (1928)

BUDDHISM is the English name for the great Religion of Ancient India known as the Buddhasasana. The teachings of the Lord Buddha are known under name of the DHAMMA. The Lord Buddha was born 2551 years ago at Kapilavastu, the capital of the small kingdom of the Sakyas. The Prince who became the supremely enlightened Teacher of Gods and men, was known as Siddhartha. His father was the Raja of the Sakya country. In his 29th year the Prince Siddhartha left his kingdom and went in search of Teachers who would show him the way to eternal happiness. Where there is no birth, no death, no illness, no old age, no lamentation, despair. disappointment, worry, anxiety and other ills. He found no satisfaction in the mere enjoyment of luxuries in the palace, and as it was then the custom to practise bodily mortification to get the final release from sin, the prince went through the severest mortification for six years in the forest of Uruwela, near Gaya. Having failed to secure enlightenment and wisdom by bodily mortification, he abandoned the ascetic method, and adopted the Middle Path, which was his own discovery and within a very short period, some say within seven days, he became the possessor of supreme wisdom and the ten kinds of transcendental knowledge, that he called himself the BUDDHA.

For forty five years He continued preaching the Middle Path of Right Knowledge, Right Desires, Right Speech, Right Deeds, Right way of earning livelihood, Right Endeavour, Right training of Consciousness and Right Concentration. He was the first to preach against cruelty to animals, against animal sacrifices, against ascetism, against hedonism, against cruelty to children, against war, against the manufacture of destructive weapons, against slavery, against alcoholism, against dealing in poisons, against slaughter of animals, etc. He was the first to teach the principles of Evolution, of the Law of Causality, of Psychic relativity, of the changeability of all cosmic organisms, of the foolishness of relying on others to go to heaven. He taught the common people the way to happiness, and to take precautions against the risks of fire, floods, robbers and the tyranny of kings. He taught that between man and man there is no difference, and the differentiation lies in the profession and character. The aristocratic caste distinction which was organised by the Brahmans, He repudiated as unjust. It was the ethic of spiritualised democracy that He enunciated. Happiness could be realised here not by sacrificing to the gods, and praying to get possessions, but in ceaseless activity in doing good in helping the sick, both animals and men, in giving pure water to drink, in distributing clothes, food, flowers, scents, perfumes, vehicles, to the poor and in building houses for their dwelling, and in teaching the law of righteousness. Love to all, both men and animals was the ethic that the Blessed One emphasised. He said that there is no place for an anthropomorphic creator in the cosmic process where millions of habitable worlds are found in starry spaces. A God who creates fools, cripples, the blind, the dumb, the deaf, the insane, the epileptic, could not be a wise creator, such a creator has no place in a country where sensible people dwell.

The Lord Buddha was a scientist full of compassion for all. His great religion at one time prevailed in all Asia, but since the advent of barbarian religions it declined, and today it is found in China, Japan, Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Tibet, Cambodia, Korea.

(Maha Bodhi Journal Vol. 36, January 1928 and Vol. 36, October 1928)

Dhamma Essay:
Supreme Efforts by Ayya Khema


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