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Buddhism for Kids


Like Hinduism, Buddhism is a family of beliefs and practices that is thought to make up a single religion by most experts.  It is based on the teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as "The Buddha" (the Awakened One), who lived in the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent.  It is believed that the Buddha died at the age of 80 (405 BCE) in Kushinagar, India, from food poisoning.

All Buddhists recognize him as an awakened teacher who shared his insights to help human beings end suffering by understanding the true nature of daily events in life. It makes it possible to escape the cycle of suffering and rebirth (a concept known as “samsara”), allowing them to achieve “Nirvana” or perfect enlightenment in a shorter time than what is thought to be necessary by followers of Hinduism. 

Among the methods that the various schools of Buddhism teach are necessary to achieve this goal are: ethical conduct and altruism, devotional practices, ceremonies and the invocation of bodhisattvas, renunciation of worldly concerns and dealings, meditation, physical exercises, study, and the nurture of wisdom.

Buddhism is recognized as being comprised of two major branches: Theravada, which has a widespread following in Southeast Asia, and  Mahayana (including the schools of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren and Vajrayana), found throughout East Asia, a school which the current Tibetan Dalai Lama is a part of.  While Buddhism remains most popular within these regions of Asia, both branches can now be found throughout the world, as it is being embraced by celebrities and common people in the Western world, alike.

The different Buddhist schools of thought disagree on what the historical teachings of Gautama Buddha were. It is so common that some scholars claim Buddhism does not have a clearly definable common core of belief or doctrine.  Significant disagreement also exists over the importance and truth of various “sutras’ or sacred scriptures.

Basic teachings that are central to Buddhism include following the Four Noble Truths which were the first teaching of Gautama Buddha after he attained Nirvana. Sometimes they are thought to contain the essence of the Buddha's teachings and are presented in the form of a medical diagnosis and remedial prescription – a style of writing common at that time. These rules state:

1. Everything in life is painful. Nothing in life is ever good enough and what is good will not last forever. 

2. The reason for this pain is our desires, anger and ignorance. We want more and more, so we feel pain. We feel pain even when we get what we want - because one day we will surely lose it. We feel pain through our anger and hatred and we are lead into painful situations through our ignorance. 

3. There is hope. There is a way to end pain. 

4. The way to end pain is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Buddha told people to follow a special way of life called the Noble Eightfold Path if they want to understand the Four Noble Truths. These are:

Know and understand the Four Noble Truths 

Give up all worldly things and don't harm others 

Tell the truth, don't gossip, and don't talk badly about others
Don't commit evil acts, like killing, stealing, or live an unclean life 

Do rewarding work 

Work for good and oppose evil 

Make sure your mind keeps your senses under control 

Practice meditation as a way to understand reality

Most Buddhists follow five precepts, or rules, that say what not to do. 

These are the Five concepts:

I will not hurt a person  nor animal that is alive. 

I will not take something if it was not given to me. 

I will not have sex in a way that is harmful to other people. 

I will not lie or say things that hurt people. 

I will not take things that will make me drunk, like alcohol or drugs. 

In some types of Buddhism, if a person wants to be a monk, he will follow other concepts also.

This interpretation is followed closely by many modern Theravadins, and is taught as an introduction to Buddhism by some contemporary Mahayana teachers (like the current Dalai Lama). 

This is an original news article © The Kids Window

One in a series of articles about Religion written for children.

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