|THE WHEEL OF DHARMA—The Sanskrit word
dharma means, "that which is established." It refers to both
doctrine and duty: the way of life a person embraces in order to achieve
enlightenment. Buddhists are taught to take refuge in "the
dharma": the teachings of Buddha. It is believed that Buddha's
instructions to his disciples 'set the wheel of dharma in motion.'
Around 528 B.C. Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama
(later to be known as Buddha). Siddhartha’s father, Suddhodana, was an Indian
rajah, the head of the Sakya warrior caste. Legend has it that prior to Gautama’s
birth, his mother, Mahamaya, dreamed a beautiful silver-white elephant with six
tusks entered her womb from the side. The Vedic priests interpreted this to mean
that she would have a son who would either be a universal monarch or a great
Buddha. Therefore, she named him Siddhartha, meaning one whose aim is
Though his family was elite, wealthy and influential,
Siddhartha found his royal heritage empty and unfulfilling. He left in search of
enlightenment, adopting the life of a wandering monk. Siddhartha rejected
traditional Hinduism because he found the Hindu caste system repellant, extreme
Hindu asceticism futile and the sensuality of the Hindu gods unacceptable.
The turning point in his life came while meditating under a
fig tree (later to be called the “Bodhi Tree”-the tree of wisdom).
Siddhartha claimed to receive the experience of Nirvana (enlightenment). Hence,
he was called the “Buddha,” the “enlightened one.” He then began
preaching his message of liberation from suffering, an approach he called the
“Middle Path.” He began with five disciples and taught for about fifty
years. He lived to be eighty years old, dying about 480 B.C. There are many
sects in Buddhism. Those mentioned in this book include: Theravada, Mahayana,
Amidha, Nichiren, Zen and Tibetan Buddhism.
The main sources of Scriptural inspiration for Buddhists are the Tripitaka
(the Three Baskets). These are three collections of writings: the Sutra Pitaka
(primarily dialogues between Buddha and other people), Vinaya Pitaka (over 225
rules that govern the monastic path), and Abhidharma Pitaka (philosophical and
doctrinal explanations and categorizations).
Select the desired topic from the drop-down box
to view what followers believe on that subject.