Buddhism · Buddhist

The Four Holy Places in Buddhism

Buddhism is about teaching the beliefs, practices, and tradition based on the teachings left by Gautama Buddha. It is a spiritual tradition that focuses on the personal and spiritual development of a person, as well as the attainment of Nirvana state which is a state of enlightenment. Nirvana state is when a person’s individual desires and suffering go away. It is a place of perfect peace and happiness which provides deep insight into the true nature of life.

The pilgrimage is a concept that is developed by devotees and not prophets. According to his teachings, Buddha chose four spots for his followers to visit in future pilgrimages. These four spots are the locations of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon and his death. Members of the Buddhist faith recognize four holy places on earth and hold them dear to their hearts. Although it is not prescribed, many Buddhists make a pilgrimage to the 4 holiest sites.

The four holy places refer to those destinations that have been witness to some important event in the life of Lord Buddha. The most important Buddhist Holy Pilgrimages are Lumbini, Sarnath, Kushinagar and Bodh Gaya.

Lumbini (The Birthplace of Lord Buddha)

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Lumbini is the Birthplace of Lord Buddha. Lumbini is located in the Southern region of Nepal. Lord Buddha was born from Queen Maya Devi in 623 BCE as Siddhartha Gautama. He was born as the son of the chieftain of the Sakya clan. On his birth, the astrologers had predicted that there were chances that the prince would abandon everything and pursue a path of his own. He spent most of his childhood in Lumbini in luxury and comfort without any trace of knowledge about pain, suffering, aging, and death. The day came when Siddharta came face to face with the miseries which served as the turning point in his life. He then discarded worldly pleasures and set out in search of the truth of life. Today, some of the popular places to visit in Lumbini are Maya Devi Temple, Kapilvastu, Devdaha, Ashoka pillar and Tibetan Temple.

Bodh Gaya (The Enlightenment of Buddha)

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Bodh Gaya is one of the four holy places and is the spot where Buddha attained ultimate enlightenment. After leaving his birthplace, Lord Buddha attained “Enlightenment” under a pipal tree. That pipal tree is known as Bodhi tree. It was said that Siddartha, seeking true spiritual awareness, took a seat beneath the pipal tree and vowed not to move until enlightenment had been attained. While in deep meditation, he did spiritual battle with Mara, the Lord of Illusion. Siddhartha prevailed, and the Buddha was born. Bodh Gaya was the key pilgrimage site where Buddhism started. Thousands of visitors, pilgrims, and Buddhist followers visit this holy site located in Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar. Bodh Gaya is famous for Mahabodhi temple, bodhi tree, and various ancient Buddhist culture.

Sarnath (First Teaching)

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Sarnath is located in the north east of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. This place is the 3rd of the four holy places where the Buddha met His five disciples and delivered His first sermon at Deer Park in Sarnath.  Sarnath is the place where he taught about Dharma.  From here started a remarkable journey which not only elevated the Buddha’s status but also laid down the foundation of one of the greatest religions of the world, Buddhism. Lord Buddha also preached about the Four Noble Truth, the Noble Eightfold Path, and various Suttas. The Four Noble Truths are: there is Suffering, Cause of Suffering, End of Suffering, and Eightfold Path to end the suffering. The Noble Eight-Fold Path consists of the Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

Kushinara (Death of Lord Buddha)

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Kushinara is also in Uttar Pradesh, India. The Buddha preached for the next 45 years and finally died at Kushinara. Buddha’s death is known as the Mahaparinirvana or “the great passing away.” Today, it is the site of the Mahaparinirvana Temple, which was built by the Indian government in 1956 to commemorate 2,500 years since the Buddha’s passing. Inside the temple is a statue more than 6 feet long of the Buddha lying on his side on a stone couch also known as the Reclining Buddha.

These four holy places stand as the pillars of a Buddhist life. A Buddhist pilgrimage would not be complete without going to these four holy places.

Buddhism · Buddhist · Buddhist Monks · Kung-Fu

Do Buddhist Monks Know Kung-Fu?

Buddhism has gained a lot of followers over the past decades. More and more people are attracted to this religion which seems to have the key to happiness. Westerners, born in totally different cultures feel they have to embrace this new lifestyle, as they seek for peace and love. Instead, the society gives them to war and an endless fight to be the best, to survive in the urban jungle, and to bring home enough money to feed their families. All these people take the philosophy of Buddhism and adapt it to suit their needs and their personal lifestyle. They can’t give up all their properties just yet because they don’t know how to live without their comfort and their material possessions.

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However, there’s another side of Buddhism, the one that can’t be seen in the western civilization. There are people who are so committed to bringing peace in their souls, that they accept to leave everything behind them to become Buddhist monks. They live in monasteries, they prey and they preach Buddha‘s teachings to others. They are the ones who have manages to make peace with their inner self, the ones who live without envy, greed, anxiety and anger. They are simply happy, and their biggest wish is to help to spread happiness all over the world. Some of them have become monks after living a life of luxury and parties, just like Buddha himself. Others have embraced this religion during their childhood. Whatever their walk of life, they are all trained to be kind rather than to be right.

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Under these circumstances, it would be interesting to know if Buddhist monks know kung-fu. In order to elucidate this enigma, you have to go back in time to the era of Shaolin monks. You may discover amazing facts that lead to the point that Shaolin monks had lots of Buddhist philosophy elements in their code of conduct and lifestyle. As they were also great in martial arts, it wouldn’t be surprising to discover they actually practiced and taught kung-fu in their temples and monasteries.

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A monastery may seem to be a holy and peaceful place. While this is true, it is also true that monks have to know how to defend themselves and their assets in case of trouble. They need to be able to survive in a tough world, full of criminals of all sorts. If these monks didn’t have any weapons or fighting skills, they wouldn’t have lasted for so long. As martial arts were widespread across China and the extreme orient, we can safely assume monks of all ages and religions had the ability to fight. However, they were only using these skills for defense purposes, as they weren’t interested in leading holy wars like the adepts of other religions in the history of humanity. On the other hand, they couldn’t afford to allow their monasteries to become easy targets for burglars and vandals. They needed some effective weapons and fighting tactics. As kung-fu is one of the martial arts that best fit this profile, it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that Buddhist monks were among the best fighters. Even though they want peace, they also want to be left alone to live their life as they wish, without anxiety or fear. When you can’t defend yourself and your shelter, it’s very hard to leave anxiety behind you. Only strong people are able to be calm and serene no matter what. These monks are so calm and peaceful that they surely know the secret kung-fu techniques of their ancestors. If you don’t believe it, go read some history books, and see for yourself.

Buddhism · Buddhist

How To Gain A Better Understanding Of What Is Buddhism

While many people believe Buddhism is just another religion, there are some who swear by it to be a lot more than a simple set of beliefs and rituals meant to worship a god. Nobody can actually know why Buddhism seems to be more a life purpose rather than a religion, but those who are interested to discover it should consider taking some in-depth studies.

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Over the past decade, Buddhism has gained quite a big number of adepts in western countries. This may seem unusual, but in fact, it is nothing else but the consequence of a hectic lifestyle that leaves very little room for personal reflections and meditation. People feel the need to know their inner self better, but most of the fail to find the time to sit, relax and meditate to all things that really matter. They don’t know what matters anymore. They are confused and puzzled by the difficulties of life, by all financial problems they have to overcome each and very month and by the lack of compassion people around them display.

All these people hope to find answers to their most difficult life questions. As these answers are very hard to find, they try to make use of whatever seems to be working well for others. Buddhism appears to be working just fine for its adepts in the oriental world, so there’s no wonder all the rest of us want to feel enlightened just like our Easters friends.

Unfortunately, modern materialistic societies and the doctrine of Buddhism don’t have too much in common. Very few of us are ready to give up their material possessions and try to gain a deeper understanding of the human mind. Since we need money to maintain our current lifestyle, we can’t afford to meditate and to enjoy life to the full. We are too busy to earn more, to climb the social ladder and to strengthen our position in our communities. We need this money because we want our children to have the highest quality education possible, and that’s not free. We need money to buy the comfort that enables us to be creative and to do more of the things we like. Unfortunately, this money madness takes over our life, preventing us from doing what we really love.

As a matter of fact, Buddhism has started after Buddha spent the first part of his life in wealth and luxury. Born into a royal family, he had to reach the age of 29 to realize that luxury and comfort don’t guarantee happiness. During six years, he studies various teachings and philosophies of different religions, and he came to the conclusion that there was a path to the enlightenment, but that didn’t consist of accumulating wealth. Since then, he spent the rest of his life trying to show others the way to happiness.

It appears Buddha was right. We are all able to reach a state of happiness by developing love and peace within ourselves. True Buddhism is tolerant of all other religions and beliefs. As a matter of fact, there are multiple branches of Buddhism, as it has been understood and implemented differently in various parts of the world. This makes this religion and this way of living unique and glorious. If you want to understand it better, you should try yo find yourself a Buddhist mentor and follow his teachings. Spending time in Buddhist communities can also help you find your personal path to enlightenment and happiness. If all people would do like you, this could be the end of all wars on our planet.