Buddhism was founded over 2,500 years ago by the scholar Siddhartha Gotama. Today over 500 million believers around the world follow him and his teachings on the path to enlightenment, and the number is growing. Because even if the cradle of Buddhism is to be found in India and was able to establish itself mainly in Southeast Asian countries as a "popular religion", it has also become more and more popular in western countries in recent decades.
Buddhism is not only seen as a religion, but as a lifestyle that should lead to more happiness and satisfaction. The focus is on the “four noble wisdoms” and the “eightfold path” that are intended to help.
Buddhism is also the main religion in Thailand. 93.2 percent of the Thai are Buddhists, almost 90% of them follow the Theravada school.
His face - or the face, which was created from old portraits of Siddhartha Gotama, is probably not unknown to all of us. Everyone knows the Buddha figures, which can be found smiling peacefully with crossed legs and open palms almost everywhere in Asia. But who was Siddhartha actually, and what made him found a new religion?
According to legend, Siddhartha Gotama was born in 539 BC. Born as a prince of a small territory, which today lies on the Indian-Nepalese border. He lived in a grand palace and had access to every worldly comfort one could imagine. But the more years passed, the clearer it became to Siddhartha that wealth and possessions did not promise true happiness. He was looking for something different, a new meaning in life. And so he set out on a journey at the age of 29 and visited famous religious scholars, monks and philosophers to gain an insight into the secrets of happiness, but he did not find anything there.
Siddhartha wandered through northern India for six years until he finally experienced "enlightenment" at the age of 35. The old legends say that Siddhartha Gotama sat in the shade of a tree on the Indian river Neranjara and was absorbed in deep meditation. In this state, enlightenment came to him, the answer to all questions and the desire arose to share this knowledge with everyone.
Siddharta Gotama, who was given the name “Buddha” from then on, spent the next 45 years of his life spreading his teachings. According to him, the four noble wisdoms and the eightfold path are the way to happiness if one is willing to fully engage with them.
If you want to understand Buddhism, the four noble truths are actually sufficient. At its center are the "sufferings": How do they arise, what are their causes and how can they be alleviated or let go completely? The eightfold path, on the other hand, can be understood as instructions on how to get to salvation and thus to ultimate happiness.
The truths are:
The noble eightfold path teaches us to think and act morally and to be clear about our own actions at all times. This state of clarity can and should be achieved through profuse meditation. The path also gives rise to five basic principles that every devout Buddhist should adhere to:
There are three main streams of Buddhism: Hinayana Buddhism ("small vehicle"), Mahayana Buddhism ("large vehicle"), and Vajrayana, which is often mistakenly known in the West as Lamaism.
The Hinayana stream focuses on the person who strives to be perfect achieve that goal. Today only the Theravada form (the “doctrine of the elders”), which almost 90% of Thais adhere to, still exists.
The teaching of Theravada refers exclusively to those monks who have heard and recorded the words of the Buddha themselves, the oldest extant scriptures of Buddhism. It is particularly common in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.
The Mahayana branch also focuses on spreading this teaching. They refer not only to the original material, but also to various older "sutras", scriptures written in Sanskrit. Zen Buddhism, which is quite popular in Europe today, developed from the Mahayana school.
Last, but not least, there is the Vajrayana ("diamond vehicle"), which is actually part of the Mahayana school. It is often also known as Lamaism or Tibetan Buddhism. Here, not only is the Buddha's philosophical thoughts drawn back, but the path to enlightenment is accelerated through tantric exercises, mantras and various secret rituals.
Buddhism is the No. 1 popular religion in Thailand. 93.7% of the Thai are devout Buddhists, almost 90% of them follow the path of Theravada. Buddhism has an incredibly high priority for the Thai and the temples and Buddha images are nowhere to be missed.
The countless temples and Buddha statues enjoy the greatest respect in Thailand, as do Buddhist monks. During a Thailand vacation you should always keep this in mind and behave respectfully in temple complexes.
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