Buddhism• Buddhism is most prevalent in the far East though there are many western converts.• Buddhism originated in India from the teachings of Siddarta Gautama, who, after achieving enlightenment, became the Buddha.• There are an estimated 400 million Buddhists in the world.
Main beliefs of Buddhism• Gautama the Buddha taught that the way to achieve enlightenment, and escape samsara, the circle of suffering which we all exist in, was to avoid the three poisons; greed, hatred and delusion.• This can be achieved by following the middle way, or eightfold path.
The eightfold path• Right views• Right intentions• Right speech• Right action• Right livelihood• Right effort• Right mindfulness• Right concentration
• This means that Buddhists should follow a middle path, not going to either extremes i.e. not starving themselves but not becoming obese either.• Buddhists should abstain from certain professions, such as the production of weapons, drugs or meat, as these can all harm people.• The last three parts of the eightfold path are right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
Meditation• Meditation is a central part of Buddhism and is encompassed in the last three points of the eightfold path.• There are two main types of Buddhist meditation, vipissana and samatha.• Vipissana meditation is about insight; understanding the role of suffering in the world and how we can end it.• Samatha meditation is about tranquillity and love; in Buddhism love is not about attachment but about loving all beings equally because attachment only causes further suffering.
Buddhist symbols• The main Buddhist symbol is samsara, or the wheel of life, which is often depicted on large silk quilts used by monks as teaching aids.
Role of women in Buddhism• The Buddha’s teachings say that women are to be treated with respect but as with any religion texts can be interpreted in different ways.• There are different denominations of Buddhism prevelant in different countries and they do not always treat women well.
Buddhism in Thailand• In Thailand there is a large trade in women, sold as prostitutes by their communities in the poor north to brothels in the wealthier south.• This, apart from economic reasons, is mainly because of the type of Buddhism practised there. Women are seen as inferior and may have been re-born as women because of sins in past lives. This means that women are valued less and can be used as commodities.