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An Introduction to Buddhism

August 5, 2023

Buddhism is a significant world religion with a nuanced history and set of doctrines. The history and core principles of Buddhism will only be briefly covered in the sections that follow; they are not meant to be all-inclusive guides to the faith. Please browse our Web Resources area for further in-depth online resources to learn more about Buddhism. 

Siddharta Gautama: The Buddha

According to historians, Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, lived between 566 and 480 B.C. Gautama, an Indian warrior-king’s son, enjoyed the privileges of his social caste throughout his early adult life while living a lavish lifestyle. Gautama travelled into the world in pursuit of understanding after growing weary of the luxuries of the royal life. Gautama was sure that suffering was the end of all after coming across an old man, a sick man, a corpse, and an ascetic. 

In an effort to understand the reality of the world around him, he gave up his princely status and took on the monastic life. While contemplating beneath a tree, he reached the pinnacle of his search and realized how to be free from suffering and ultimately find salvation. After this awakening, Gautama came to be known as the Buddha, or the “Enlightened One.” The Buddha travelled throughout India for the duration of his life, imparting what he had learned to others.

The Four Noble Truths

Although they leave a lot out, the Four Noble Truths are the core of Buddha’s teachings. They are the truth of pain, the truth of suffering’s cause, the reality of suffering’s resolution, and the truth of the way to suffering’s resolution. In plainer terms, pain has a cause, an end, and a reason that will bring about that end. The idea of suffering is meant to communicate a pragmatic attitude that deals with the world as it is and works to make it better, not a pessimistic one. Although not rejected, the idea of pleasure is accepted as transient. 

What is essentially an unquenchable hunger can only be continued by the pursuit of pleasure. The same reasoning disproves any notion of happiness. The only things that are inevitable and certain in the end are aging, illness, and death. 

The Four Noble Truths serve as a backup plan for coping with the physical and emotional hardship that humanity endures. The First Truth declares that suffering exists. On the other side, The Second Truth looks for the root of suffering. According to Buddhism, ignorance and desire are the causes of suffering. Buddhists define desire as the desire for pleasure, material possessions, and immortality all of which are unsatisfiable demands. Therefore, wanting them can only result in suffering. 


The Buddhist definition of karma does not, as is commonly believed in modern society, refer to destiny. The term “karma” describes the good or evil deeds a person commits over her lifetime. Long-term happiness is a result of good activities, which can either be the absence of negative actions or genuine positive deeds like kindness, righteousness, and meditation. 

Over time, negative behaviours like lying, theft, or murder lead to sadness. Actions’ significance is defined by five factors: frequency, repetition, determination, intentionality, regretlessness, action against remarkable people, and action towards those who have aided one in the past. Neutral karma, which results from actions like breathing, eating, or sleeping, is the final type of karma. Neutral karma has no advantages or disadvantages.

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