Buddha whose real name was Siddhartha Gautama is believed to have been born at around 563 BCE and lived till 483. According to a report by Ascension Gateway, he is believed to have been born on Nepal to a king named Suddhodana, his mother died after giving birth to him and thus he was raised at his father’s palace by his aunt Maha Pajapati.
Siddhartha signifies “he who achieves his aim” his father wanted him to become a great king. He was never introduced to any religion and never had any visual contact with the outside world. However he accidentally met an old man during a visit to his territory and went further to explore and met people suffering, a corpse and an ascetic.
He wanted to know the truth and also find a solution to these sufferings. After much struggle he discovered the ultimate truth. It is quoted in the same report that “From this point on, he became known as the Buddha or “Awakened One” (Ascension Gateway 1). He had discovered the “Middle Way—the path of moderation, between the extremes of self –indulgence and self-mortification” (Ascension Gateway 1).
Chew reported that according to Buddha, four fundamental thoughts exist namely:
All things and experiences are marked by suffering/disharmony/ frustration (dukkha); The arising of suffering/ disharmony/ frustration comes from desire/ craving/ clinging; To achieve the cessation or end of suffering/ disharmony/ frustration, let go of desire/ craving/ clinging; The way to achieve that cessation of suffering/ disharmony/ frustration, is walking the Eightfold Path” (Chew 1).
These formed the basics of his teachings.
The same report by Chew outlined the Buddha’s thoughts and ideas about ending the suffering of mankind. According to him Buddha, human suffering could be prevented by exact perception about the reality of misery, understanding impermanence of life, having the right willpower to renounce wrong and evil, right verbal communication by refraining from harmful and dishonest talk, cruel and frivolous speech.
Right deeds by promoting peaceful and presentable moral behavior, promoting good while avoiding wickedness and always caring about mankind. Promote right consideration and shun intoxication and intentionally developing awareness. He also advocated right concentration by meditation (Chew 2).
Buddha’s thoughts seem to have been shaped by his observations of the various factors that affect mankind such as his association with fellow man, economics, leadership and politics, religion beliefs and education. According to Bruce, Buddha had the following thoughts about life “life is suffering or painfulness, craving is the most conspicuous; that there is a state in which the painfulness id extinguished (Nirodha); and finally, that a way (Magga) exists to achieve this liberation” (Bruce 5).
He argued on Buddha’s thought that the three fundamental enemies to a man are ignorance hate and craving and that these three traits are rooted inside man and he had to conquer them first by following the eight thoughts (Bruce 5).
Buddha’s thoughts were also influenced by leadership and politics. This is suggested by Thera in his report about Buddhism and politics. In this report he argued that:
There is a limit to the extent to which a political system can safeguard the happiness and prosperity of its people. No political system, no matter how ideal it may appear to be, can bring about peace and happiness as long as the people in the system are dominated by greed, hatred and delusion. (Thera 2)
In this report he has echoed Buddha’s thought about greed, selfishness and disillusionment. To end suffering of human race there is a need to embrace his thoughts in regard to selflessness and caring about one another. He also pointed out that Buddhists may get involved in politics citing it as reality of life.
He argued that the society is governed by laws and policies and economic policies that are accepted within the society. Policies and laws are in turn influenced by the leadership of the society and as such they may take those positions and use them as per Buddha’s thoughts (Thera, n.d.).
In his views about man and religion Thera’s idea about religion is that it was made to satisfy his craving to comprehend himself and his environment. According to Thera, “religion should be practiced for the welfare, freedom and happiness of all living beings. That is, religious principles should be used positively to improve the quality of life of all beings” (Thera 1).
It is further noted that, “those who violate these precepts transgress the universal laws which, according to Buddhism, will bring bad effects through the working of moral causation” (Thera 1). These are concepts borrowed from Buddha’s thoughts which recommend that religious ideologies should strengthen mankind and entitle him to a significant life (Thera 2).
Buddha’s thoughts could also have been influenced by the principles of economics. According to Buddha, man’s suffering may be caused by craving and he suggested that by following the eighth fold path suggestions suffering could be alleviated.
Buddha gave suggestions that economics of a society could be improved and sustained by presenting right moral behavior in business, understanding the impermanence concept and utilizing the resources economically and with good will and having the other person in mind. It can also be argued that by avoiding what he termed as self and instead thinking in terms of the whole society the key pillars and principles of economy could be tailored towards achieving success for the whole society and not for some individuals.
It can be argued that Buddha’s thoughts were driven by education of the society. From his list of four noble truths the source of suffering is lack of knowledge. According to him such lack of knowledge manifested itself as attachment and desire.
This suggests that the only way to alleviate these is by educating the society hence empowering them to understand themselves, the nature and the reason of various happenings and different phenomena of life. When the society is enlightened they are likely to integrate better within themselves, promote peace and harmony through exercising the Buddha’s eight folds especially the one on right understanding which follows from being educated.
Buddha’s thoughts have been seen to have been influenced by different factors that are integral part of the society. The thoughts are seen to promote world peace by promoting right religion which in turn would enhance welfare freedom and happiness of all people , good politics which would ensure that the leaders are not driven by selfish gain and crave for power but selfness and welfare of the society, good economics arising from utilizing resources economically, being mindful of one another and developing policies that would benefit everyone in the society education that would eradicate ignorance which Buddha cited as one primary cause of suffering. It can be concluded that Buddha’s thoughts meant good for mankind by alleviating suffering through practicing his thoughts.
Ascension Gateway. 2011. Biography of Buddha. n.d. Web.
Chew, Robin. 2011. The Essence of Buddha’s Teachings. 2011. Web.
Bruce, Mathews. Craving and Salvation. New York: Cengage, 1983. Print.
Thera, Dhammananda. 2011. What Buddhists Believe. n.d. Web.