Life of the Buddha
According to the Buddhist teachings, all living creatures are exposed to different kinds of suffering. Diseases, aging and death, as well as the birth are inevitable for all people. When Buddha saw that nothing can save people from these sufferings, neither money, nor their status, he realized that he must find a solution (Grimm 44). Looking at the way people live, Buddha saw that the whole life for them is like a suffering. He started ascetic way of life, imposing his body to inhumane sufferings and self-martyrdom until he figured out that it was a wrong way to find a real solution. He understood that four main sources of suffering (dukkha) are birth, illness, aging and death.
Thus, the whole life of a human is an endless chain of suffering and the only way to get rid of it is to break this chain. Buddha had to reach the state where sufferings are absent, and break samsara, the cycle of birth and rebirth. The only way of cessation of dukkha is nirvana. It is a state of human soul and body, free from desires and affection; and what is most important, it is free from samsara and dukkha. Nirvana is described as a state of “absolute freedom, inexpressible peace and purest bliss” (Grimm 264). Releasing from this cycle of birth and death, where aging and diseases are only transitional periods, a person can release from sufferings.
The main events and experiences in the life of the Buddha became the basis for his teachings. All his life was devoted to studying the nature of suffering, and the way of its cessation. The Buddha taught people about an achievement of higher states of mind because of the way they live; since life seems to be a suffering for them, it is the problem that must be solved. He gathered communities of his followers, called sangha, who wanted to reach nirvana. The first woman who decided to enter the sangha was his aunt who brought him up, Maha Pajapati Gotami. Although she was initially refused by the Buddha to be included to the community, Maha Pajapati Gotami accepted the Eight Conditions and was ordained.
Buddha said that relics should not be venerated and he did not desire his own relics to be a totem for his followers. However, the relics of Buddha, which were divided into eight portions, gathered many pilgrims. Certainly, the main reason of it is to show people that the Buddha was a real person and that the enlightenment that he experienced is also possible. Buddhists collect relics in stupas, which are located in almost every Buddhist temple.
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The Buddhist cosmology may be divided into two categories: spatial and temporal. Kloetzli (13) states that “a number of scholars consider that Buddhism is fundamentally agnostic with regards to cosmology”. It is a representation of the development of life in the universe. Spatial cosmology describes the spheres, worlds, and level of being of all living creatures that changes due to the constant cycle of birth and rebirth.
Temporal cosmology is related to the periods of birth and rebirth of other worlds, which are calculated in kalpas when the worlds come into being and then dissolve. However, Buddhist cosmology is related not to the material worlds, but to the spiritual ones. Similar to many other religions, Buddhism has vertical cosmology. Buddhist cosmology defines three main spheres. The first one is the sphere of perception, where the creatures who have feelings, intentions and desires live. The second one is the sphere of form related to jhanas with objects and material forms, but without the emotional elements. The last one is the sphere of non-perception, which contains no elements of the material world. Thus, the highest creatures, Brahmas, related to the world of gods in Buddhism, inhabit only sphere of forms and non-perception.
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All these levels of the universe have mostly metaphorical nature than a literal meaning in Buddhism, and contain a lot of mythological elements. All these notions have a very significant role in the insight of the Buddhist religion.