Buddhism is one of the world’s major religions, but its belief system and history are not as straightforward as Christianity’s. Rather, Buddhism stems from a complex beginning. When Buddhism's founder Siddhartha Gautama (circa 566 to 480 B.C.), the privileged son of a warrior-king, was bored by his extravagant life, he set out in search of an enlightened understanding of the world. What he saw convinced him that existence led to suffering. Spirituality, which is a huge component of Buddhist beliefs, aims to enlighten its followers and eliminate suffering.
The core of Buddhist spirituality is concerned with the elimination of suffering through the follower's enlightened state and understanding of reality. Although the spiritual practices of Buddhists vary, depending on the type of group, all of them are focused towards severing the chains of suffering through freedom of the spirit achievable through the cultivation of compassion and wisdom. Brahmacharya is the spiritual path in life that a Buddhist follows in order to eliminate suffering through the acquisition of wisdom.
Wisdom is a vital part of Buddhist spirituality. Compassion and love are taught in numerous faiths, but without wisdom a person is simply a kindhearted, ignorant individual who means well. When wisdom and compassion are linked, the follower of Buddhism will have an enlightened understanding as to why compassion is the natural reaction to a situation, and this in turn leads to eliminating suffering through enlightenment. Wisdom as a spiritual component seeks to eliminate man’s need to be materialistic and self-centered. Years of cultural evolution has led mankind to focus on concrete objects of desire, and not on freeing the spirit from a state of suffering.
The Three Poisons
Soka Gakkai International explains that “at the root of human misery, Buddhism sees three destructive impulses: greed, anger and foolishness, which it terms the three poisons. These are the essence of all delusions and negative workings of life that impede the realization of our full potential for happiness and creativity.” Since human nature created these poisons, Buddhist spirituality teaches that through enlightenment humans can overturn them. Some followers of Buddhism take pilgrimages or meditate daily to achieve some semblance of guidance.
Nirvana is a state of enlightenment that Buddha couldn’t express through language. By achieving nirvana, a Buddhist has reached the highest level of enlightenment in which the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness have been extinguished and the cycle of reincarnation is broken. Buddhists believe that in each life, the soul is either rewarded or punished based on deeds done in past lives and current ones. But when Buddhists reach nirvana, they have a clean slate because they have transcended their bad karma. In terms of spiritual investments, it pays to be a good person and to have knowledge that accompanies your actions and thoughts.
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