The notion of voluntary simplicity has been around for centuries, one of the oldest examples being Buddha. I was intrigued by the references to Buddhism in Eat Pray Love so I thought I would learn more.
Here is a summary of Buddhism from BuddhaNet’s Basic Buddhism Guide (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm). It was prepared by Brian White 1993, with thanks to Ven S. Dhammika.
The word Buddhism comes from “budhi” which means to awaken.
Buddhism has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was awakened at the age of 35. Siddhartha Gotama was born 563 BC. At 29 he realized that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness. After six years of study he finally found “the middle path” and was enlightened. Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism, called the Dhamma or Truth. Buddha was not a God. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.
To many, Buddhism is not a religion but more of a philosophy. Buddhism depends more on understanding than faith. Its tenets are to lead a moral life, to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and to develop wisdom and understanding.
Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries because it has answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists around the world are now discovering to be both very advanced and effective.
The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Four Noble truths
- Life is suffering
- Suffering is caused by craving and aversion
- Suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained
- The Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering
The Noble Eightfold Path
- Being moral
- Focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions
- Developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths
- Developing compassion for others
The moral code with Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are:
- Not to take the life of anything living
- Not to take anything not freely given
- To abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence
- To refrain from untrue speech
- To avoid intoxication/losing mindfulness
Karma is the law that every cause has an effect or that our actions have results. It underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions.
Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a good-hearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both.