By Quinn, Nation, and Millett
Published here with authors’ permission
ReadOasis Step 2
How to use this course for free
Buddhism comes from the word Buddha. Buddha was a person who lived more than two thousand five hundred years ago in India. His family was rich, and he lived in a beautiful house with many servants. However, outside his house there lived many poor and unhappy people. One day when he went out of his house, he looked at the people and asked himself these questions, ‘Why are people so unhappy? How can people be happy?’
When he was twenty nine years old, he left his family and his beautiful home and went out into the world to find the answers to his questions. First, he studied with teachers but they did not answer his questions. After this he lived by himself in the forest and he did not eat for many days. He tried to get away from his body and the world but this did not give him the answers to his questions. Then he sat down under a tree and he thought. He sat and thought for forty-nine days and after this time he learned something from himself. He became the Buddha. His questions were answered.
People are unhappy because they want things. They are always looking for food, money and other things. When people do not want things, then they will be happy. When people do not want things, they are free. They stop thinking about themselves. They stop thinking about tomorrow and they are kind to others. These are the teachings of Buddha. Buddha’s teachings were not written down until two or three hundred years after his death. Before this people just remembered them and told them to others.
Buddha died when he was eighty years old. During his long life he travelled to many places and had many followers. A follower of Buddha is called a Buddhist and some Buddhist men become monks. Monks do not work and they do not have money. They cut off all their hair and they wear only a long piece of yellow cloth. They usually do not wear anything on their feet. Early in the morning, monks walk along the street carrying a bowl. They cannot ask for food but people stop them and give them food. The life of a monk is not easy. They spend their time praying and thinking and trying to get away from the world. They try to follow the teachings of Buddha.
In Thailand, any man can be a monk and many become monks for a short time, usually for the three months of the wet season. Their time spent being a monk is very important for Thai men. They leave their families and go to live and study in a monk’s house. After three months, they go back to their own lives, although some remain monks and study the teachings of Buddha their whole lives.
Since the time of the Buddha, women have also given their lives to Buddhism. These women are called nuns. Some of them pray and think about Buddhism, some study the great Buddhist writings and others help the poor.
There is more than one kind of Buddhism. While all Buddhists follow the Buddha’s teachings, Buddhism developed differently in each of the many countries it spread to. Buddhism started in Asia but today it has spread to Western countries.