Find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on Buddhism. These will help you clarify yout basic doubts regarding Buddhism.
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What is a Buddha?
Any human being who has become awakened to the ultimate reality of life, can observe, feel and understand the true nature of all phenomena and helps other to attain enlightenment is a Buddha. The word was originally a common noun in India and implied the awakened one. However, in Buddhism, its meaning extends a bit to imply the one who is awakened to the ultimate truth of life.

The Hinayana sect believes that a human being who has entered nirvana is a Buddha. In this state of nirvana, both body and mind merge together and get extinguished. For Mahayana Buddhists, a person becomes a Buddha after gaining victory over illusions through years of austere and meritorious practice. The years of practice helps him to achieve the thirty two features of a Buddha.

Who Is Gautama Buddha
Siddharta Gautama, the son of a Sakya chieftan, Suddhodhana, was born in Lumbini. He is regarded as the Supreme Buddha of our age and the historical founder of Buddhism. He is also known as Sakyamuni or Shakyamuni which means the sages of the Sakyas.

 Gautama Buddha

Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy?
Buddhism is one of the prime religions in the world, however, it is not like other religions in the sense that it does not believe in god. It is more importantly a psychological-philosophical-ethical system of awakening.

There are views both that support and refuse to accept Buddhism as a religion and philosophy. Buddhism is considered a philosophy because like the latter, it also endeavours to frame the complexities of human existence in a manner that convinces us that there is, actually, some basic order to the Universe. The Buddha has captured the dilemma of life through his four noble truth – there is suffering, there is a cause to this suffering, there is a possibility to end this suffering and there is a path to end this suffering. The teachings on karma offers a logical description to the nature of cause and effect.

Those who believe Buddhism to be a religion say that every religion of the world has a supreme ideal around which its doctrinal principles are weaved. In Buddhism, it is nibbana, something that puts an end to suffering and stress. Nibbana is the ultimate goal of Buddhism and all of Buddha’s teachings are directed towards its attainment. It is this ideal that makes Buddhism a religion.

Now, the views of those who say that Buddhism is not a philosophy. As per them, most philosophical system rely heavily on speculations and power of reasons to arrive at logical conclusions. However, in Buddhism, there is no chance for speculation. In Buddhism, noticing personal experiences and mastering certain skills is the means to attain true understanding and wisdom. Reading books and participating in debates are definitely helpful in understanding the basics of Buddhism but they do not help in realising the heart of Buddhism. Moreover, dhamma is not an abstract system of thought meant to elate the intellectuals, rather it is a guide that helps to achieve ultimate goal of enlightenment.

As stated earlier, Buddhism does not believe in god. This is the main reason why it is not considered a religion by some people. In Buddhism, there is no god who Buddhists can pray for salvation. It is upto each individual to discover both good and bad qualities within. It is for them to nurture the good ones and eradicate the bad ones to finally attain enlightenment. Any Buddhist is solely responsible for the entire journey and must work to complete it successfully.

What is Dharma?
Dharma is a Sanskrit word and in Pali language, it is known as Dhamma. In Buddhism, Dharma means either the teachings of the Buddha which leads to enlightenment or the constituent factor of the experienced world. The Dharma is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism in which the Buddhists seek refuge. The other two are the Buddha and the Sangha.

What is Enlightenment? Is it the goal of meditation? Where is Nirvana? Can anyone be a Buddha?
Nirvana is not a place. It is a state of mind where one is totally aware, at peace, full of joy, ease, fulfilmentl and freedom. Nirvana is achieved by a being when he frees both his heart and mind from the clutches of ignorance, delusions, worldy desires and attachments. Any person is capable of achieving nirvana and the means to it is meditation. To be awakened completely and irrevocably is awakened enlightenment, Buddhahood.

Meditation

What are the major approaches to Buddhism?
A number of Buddhist schools and sub schools have come up since the time Buddhism appeared on the religious scene of the world. The two primary schools are the Theravada and the Mahayana which further expanded into Theravada, Mahayan and Vajrayana. Theravada School mainly includes the Vipassana teachings while the Mahayana Schools mainly includes Zen, Pure Land, Nichiren, Sokka, Gakkai and Friends of the Buddhist Orders teachings. The third group, Vajrayana, includes the Tibetan Buddhist teachings. It should also be noted that a number of these groups and teachings can be included in more than one category.

The Theravada teachings focus mainly on renunciation, self-control, awareness, desirelessness, morality, selflessness, simplicity and personal liberation. On the other hand, the Mahayana teachings focus mainly on compassion, impeccability, altruism, wisdom and love combined, emptiness, openness, mind-training, and unselfish endeavour towards enlightenment of all. The focus of the Vajrayana teachings is more on integration, celebration, guru devotion, energy, fearlessness, nonduality, and inherent enlightenment.

Who is an Arhant?
Arahant is a Pali word, the Sanskrit of which is Arhat. Literally, the words means ‘worthy one’ and is used to identify an enlightened individual who has achieved nirvana. In Theravada Buddhism, the word is used for the Buddha himself and also for his enlightened followers. All of these were free from all kind of impurities like greed, hatred, delusions, ignorance, cravings and so on. The Theravadins maintain that once nirvana is achieved, it can never be lost. However, the Saravastivadin School and other School maintain otherwise. As the Mahayana School gained prominence, it started giving more prominence to the unfailing compassion of the bodhisattvas, one who strives for the enlightenment of one and all. As a result of this, it began to discredit arahant as a lesser and selfish being who strives only for individual liberation.


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Statue of Lord Buddha
Statue of Lord Buddha
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