The word Buddha is a title, not a name. It is derived from the Sanskrit: “Budh,” to know. It means “one who is awake” in the sense of having “woken up to reality.” This title was first given to a man named Siddartha Gautama, who lived 2,500 years ago in northern India.
Siddartha Gautama was son of the Rajah (ruler) of the Sakya tribe of Kapilavastu, Nepal. When he was about 35 years old Siddartha left the luxuries of his father’s court, his beautiful wife, and all earthly ambitions for the life of an ascetic. He saw in the contemplative life the perfect way to self-enlightenment.
For six years he struggled by the traditional methods of meditation and asceticism, to penetrate the cause of man’s “clinging to life.” His efforts were in vain. The more he contemplated his own mind, the more he found only his own effort to contemplate. The evening before his enlightenment, Siddartha gave up. He relaxed his diet and ate some nourishing food. At once he felt a profound change coming over him. He sat down under a bodhi tree, vowing not to rise until he had obtained “supreme awakening.”
According to Buddhist tradition, he sat through the night until a glimpse of the morning star suddenly provoked a state of perfect clarity and understanding. He experienced unexcelled, complete, awakening. For the next 40 years he taught the principles of his teaching, gaining many disciples and followers. He died at the age of about 80 in Kusinagara, Oudh.
Buddha’s teaching is summarized in the Four Noble Truths, the last of which affirms the existence of a path leading to deliverance from the universal human experience of suffering. The goal is Nirvana, which means “the blowing out” of the fires of all desires, and the absorption of the self into the infinite.
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The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya (Teachings of the Buddha)
by Maurice Walshe (Translator)
Thirty-four discourses that are among the oldest records of the Buddha's original teachings. An invaluable collection of teachings that reveal his gentleness, compassion, and wisdom.
The Way of Zen
by Alan W. Watts
Watts follows Buddhism through the development of the early Mahayana school, and then the birth of Zen from Buddhism’s marriage with Taoism. He concludes with Zen’s unique expression in Japanese culture.
Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World
by Lama Surya Das
Covers the traditional three trainings for enlightenment: ethics, meditation, and wisdom. Includes all the major concepts of Tibetan Buddhism from the Eight Steps to Enlightenment to the Six Principles of Enlightened Living, setting them in the context of Western civilization, and showing how this wisdom can be integrated into life here and now.
Buddha: Life and Work of the Forerunner in India
by Maurice Walshe (Translator)
This book documents the travels and experiences that led Siddhartha to the enlightenment. Filled with images of rural India’s wilderness, animals, people, and legends.
Before He Was Buddha
by Hammalawa Saddhatissa
This biography portrays Buddha, first as a boy named Siddhartha, then as a man who leaves home in search of truth, and finally as an elderly teacher.
Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings
by Ray Riegert (Editor)
Jesus and Buddha were separated by five hundred years, three thousand miles, and two drastically different cultures. Yet this book juxtaposes passages from the New Testament and ancient Buddhist scriptures to illuminate the striking similarity between their lives, deeds, and teachings.
Life of Buddha
Reveals the fascinating story of Prince Siddhartha and his spiritual transformation into the Buddha.
Zen Buddhism: In Search of Self
This beautifully produced documentary follows two dozen Zen Buddhist nuns as they practice a 1000-year old tradition of 90-day fasting, meditation and contemplation, seeking enlightenment.
A great introduction to Tibetan Buddhism.
Robert A. F. Thurman On Buddhism
Thurman's three-part lecture series “On Buddhism” is an extremely thorough introduction to the philosophy, theology, and history of Buddhism.
Four Noble Truths
A set of four videos that collect a series of lectures on the Four Noble Truths given by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama in 1997 in England. Each of the four videos includes a brief introduction by Tibetan Buddhism scholar Robert Thurman, who contextualizes the lectures within the many Buddhist traditions.
God and Buddha: A Dialogue
Buddhist professor, Robert Thurman and the Vedanta philosopher, Deepak Chopra discuss great questions of the modern age within the context of two of the world’s oldest religions. Thought provoking and inspirational.
E-Sangha Buddhism Portal
Free e-books, discussion forum, free e-cards and links
Buddist Information Network
Hsu Yun Chan Yuen
Zen Buddism Order
Resources for the Study of East Asian Language and Thought
Maintained by A. Charles Muller, Toyo Gakuen University, Japan