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Buddhism 101

Buddhism is an ancient non-theistic spiritual discipline, with roots in theistic Hinduism, dating back to approximately 2500 years ago. Buddhism was founded by an Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama, who, after having lived a very sheltered and priveliged early life, ventured out beyond his palacial home and saw that humanity was full of suffering and dissatisfaction. He then left his home and family, renouncing his worldly life to become an ascetic to achieve enlightenment. After an extended period of time of self-denial and solitude, he did not reach any kind of enlightenment. Much to the chagrin of his ascetic companions, he started eating plentifully to replenish his strength. After his health had been fully restored, he sat down underneath a tree near Bodh Gaya, India, and vowed not to get up until he reached enlightenment. When the moon rose on the fortieth night of his meditation, full enlightenment was reached. He could have sat happily under the tree for the rest of his life, but instead chose to share his findings with others, so that many others could reach enlightenment as he had. Walking to a nearby place called Benares, Gautama Buddha gave the first of his many treatises, explaining his newfound path to nirvana. First, he explained that the two extremes of self-denial and hedonism to be unworthy paths for people who wish to attain enlightenment, the first being useless and the latter being ignoble, that the best way was to tread a path between the extremes, following the middle way rather than extremism.

Next, he went on to explain the very root teaching of all
buddhism, called "The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path:

1: Life is characterized by Dukkha, or unsatisfactoriness.

2: Dukkha is caused by selfish craving.

3: The craving that causes Dukkha to arise can be overcome.

4: The craving that is the root of Dukkha can be overcome
by following the eightfold path, namely:

Right view

Right understanding

Right speech

Right conduct

Right vocation

Right effort

Right mindfulness

Right meditation