Tuesday, 17 February 2015

What is Buddhism?

Hey feathered friends (and a big hello to the ones without feathers too)!
Visiting a Buddhist temple.

Do you remember that last time I was telling you about how most people in Bhutan are Buddhists? “Buddhist” might be a new word for some of you. I know my crow pals back in England won’t have heard it before. But then again, most of them can’t speak English as well as I can! 
(PS - did you know a group of crows is called a ‘murder’? It’s true!!! I often hang out in a murder of crows!)

A painting of the Buddha.

I thought with this blog update I’d try to explain a bit more about what Buddhism is and what Buddhists believe, so here we go!
It all starts with a man known as ‘the Buddha’. He lived over 2,500 years ago and was born in an area near the border between India and Nepal. You can find out where those countries are by looking at the map in my last blog post. They are very near to Bhutan!
Another painting of the Buddha.

The Buddha’s real name was Prince Siddharta Gautama. Yes, he was a real prince! Because he was a prince he had everything he could want - money, good food, lots of nice possessions and a powerful family. But one day, the young prince snuck out of the palace to have a look at the places around him. He soon noticed that not everyone was as lucky as him. He saw sick, old and dying people, and he realised that all of the nice things he had couldn’t help save people from the problems of the world. As he grew up, the prince decided to leave behind his royal life to search for the true way to help people escape from suffering. One day, he sat under a tree and entered into a deep meditation* in which he was able to develop complete peace in his mind. For the rest of his life he taught people how to develop this peace, and about how caring for and loving others brought true happiness.

Some Buddhists are visiting a temple. One of the ladies is spinning prayer wheels.
Throughout the many years since his death, people have read, studied and followed the Buddha’s teachings. These people are called Buddhists. They aim to not only reach total peace and happiness (a state called nirvana), but to help all other living beings reach this happiness too. The main focus for a Buddhist is to develop love and compassion* for all living beings. This is known as Buddhism.

Many Buddhists believe that when you die your spirit lives on, and comes back to live another life. Maybe I’ll get a chance to be inside an egg again! However, the goal of Buddhism is to escape from the cycle of rebirth and suffering that everyone goes through, and to reach nirvana.

The Wheel of Life. This picture shows all the different ways you could be reborn.
The Dalai Lama [Image from The Guardian]
There are different kinds of Buddhism in the world, and the type practised in Bhutan originally comes from Tibet. This is a country on the northern border of Bhutan (have a look at the map again!). The Dalai Lama is the most famous Tibetan Buddhist in the world. He is a very special man; even some of my crow friends have heard of him! He is a good friend to children, and has written many books on how to be happier and have more compassion.

In Bhutan you can see many pictures and statues of the Buddha. Tibetan Buddhism uses a lot of colourful paintings, pictures and statues to help people in their meditations. You might often see people bowing down in front of statues of the Buddha or other important figures. However, they are not worshipping them like a god, but showing respect and thankfulness for the Buddha’s teachings.
Many homes have statues to help remind people about the Buddha's teachings.

These are prayer wheels

When spun around, the wheels help people eliminate bad thoughts and concentrate on positive thoughts and wisdom. Some of the prayer wheels have a beautiful bell attached to them that rings out very loudly. I have to fly round them very fast to get them to move, but you must always do it clockwise!

Another prayer wheel. In the background are lots of prayer flags.

Can you see the big building behind me?

These kinds of buildings are called chortens in Bhutan. These are also called stupas. They often have Buddhist relics inside them, like the ashes of respected monks. The one in the picture is a very, very big one, but most are quite small. Buddhists often visit them as places of meditation, and to concentrate on developing compassion. They are often in very peaceful places, and are lovely to fly around and think about the world (but I always fly clockwise around them!). Buddhists believe it is very good for you to build stupas.

I hope you've learned something new about Buddhism! If you have a question for me, please write it in the comments below. I'll do my best to get back to you as quickly as I can (but I find it very hard to type without fingers)!

This is the big chorten. It's called the National Memorial Chorten.
A smaller chorten.

*Meditation - Spending time in very deep and quiet thought. 
*Compassion - Showing kindness and caring, and being willing to help others.
*Relic - An old object, usually belonging to someone or something very important.

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