When we think of the Buddha, we often think of a plump man sitting cross-legged. I read that this Buddha image was from Japan. As he fasted often, I imagine the Buddha to be rather thin. Hearing the word Buddhism, it reminds us of kind and gentle monks dressed in orange clothes.
To understand better, we have to turn to Siddhartha Gautama from northern India. According to some accounts, young Siddhartha was not exposed to the realities of life until he left his father’s house. He found all kinds of suffering in poverty, sickness and death. He realized that suffering was an important part of the lives of many people. After struggling unsuccessfully with these issues, he decided to sit under a Bodhi tree, a sacred fig tree, until he found an answer to the meaning of life.
The insight gained through this experience became the basis of his teachings.
Around 520 BCE he became the leader of a sect, a small group of ascetics. The group was socially and religiously reactionary during this time. After the death of Siddhartha Gautama, the community he founded slowly transformed into a movement of a religious type; and the teachings of Siddhartha became the basis of Buddhism. He is considered a teacher and he is one of the many Buddhas. Buddha means “Awakened”. Buddhists do not worship a god or gods, but they follow the principles of their religion. The teachings of Buddhism include the Four Noble Truths explaining the origin, the cessation and the path to the cessation of suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path reveals the way to end suffering by supporting right vision, right intention, right word, right deed, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right focus.