With over 507 million followers as of 2021, Buddhism is one of the world’s oldest and most followed religions. Founded by Siddhartha Gautama back in the 6th Century BC, Buddhism has historically been a significant faith in East and South-East Asia. Still, its influence can now be seen growing over the West. There exist multiple forms of this religion today all around the globe. Each of them is slightly different but draws inspiration from the life and teachings of Buddha, using the Dharma as the models for their followers and religious life. Here, Jonah Engler will give you an in-depth description of the events that led to the discovery of one of the world’s most sought-out religions.
Jonah Engler’s Detailed Insight into the History of Buddhism
Born in 623 BC, Siddhartha Gautama was known to be the warrior son of an infamous Indian king and queen. Soon after his birth, a legend was unmasked by a soothsayer, who believed that Gautama would grow up to renounce temporal life. To avoid this, his father showered him with more luxuries than one can imagine in the hopes of getting him attached to the pleasures of worldly life. This tactic worked until Gautama as a young man, went on a series of four chariot rides and encountered the reality of life and human suffering. On his journey, he came across old age, illness, disease, famine, poverty, and death, which made him realize how all pleasures on earth were temporary. Not everyone was dealt with the same hand; his luxuries were only fleeting and couldn’t permanently mask human suffering. This thought is what set the foundation for Buddhism.
Jonah Engler believes that it was this ride outside the royal enclosure that opened Gautama’s eyes, who had now become aware of human beings’ inevitable fate. He then came across a monk living a solitary ascetic lifestyle. This man encouraged him to abandon his luxurious royal lifestyle and give in to a life of extreme self-denial, strictness, and discipline. In the forest, Gautama began his journey of renunciation and took the first step towards being Buddha – the enlightened one. He started indulging in the art of meditation and followed an extremely abstinent lifestyle for six years to the point of starvation.
He eventually realized that even the highest forms of meditation, poverty and hunger didn’t satisfy him nor helped him escape the inevitable fate of suffering. Finally, he gave up, ate food, and sat down under a tree to meditate and ponder over his experiences. In a deep state of meditation, under the Bodhi tree, Buddha finally achieved Nirvana – the ultimate state of enlightenment. Jonah Engler points out that the Mahabodhi temple near Buddha’s tree of enlightenment has become one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the world.
Buddha was now content with his state, but according to Jonah Engler, an old legend states that Brahma, the king of gods, asked Buddha to spread his teachings and help others. So for the next 45 years, Buddha taught many disciples called ‘Arahants, ‘ guiding them and dissipating his knowledge so that they may enlighten others.
Instead of worshipping one god or gods, Buddhism focuses on living life around the timeless teachings or Dharma. Dharma is based on four virtues: kindness, generosity, patience, and compassion. It teaches us that human life is one of suffering and that meditation, spiritual and physical labour, empathy, and good behaviour are vital to achieving enlightenment.
When it comes to dealing with life, Buddhism emphasizes on taking the middle way. To live a balanced life, people must dwell on the path between the two extremes, whether financially, spiritually or emotionally. While living a life of extreme self-denial doesn’t satisfy the human soul, neither does a life of extreme wealth nor pamper. Buddhism also believes in the wheel of rebirth and karma. A concept stating that human souls are born again. Each time in different bodies depending on how good or bad their actions were in the past life.
The Bottom Line:
Jonah Engler believes that Buddhism is an intricate religion with multiple teachings that can benefit the entire humanity if followed correctly. It is a faith that encourages a simple, easy lifestyle that feeds both the human mind and the soul.