Buddhism was founded by a man who went by the name Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha was born into a wealthy family who was involved in the leadership of the tribe in which they resided. Siddhartha was originally slated to succeed his father as the tribal leader upon his passing. From an early age, Siddhartha was sheltered from the outside world and taught only what he would need to know in order to be a good ruler. As Siddhartha got older, he began to question his station in life and why he had more than others did. Later, as a father and husband, Siddhartha left his life to begin his journey into enlightenment.
Siddhartha traveled through many regions and tribes, seeking the honesty of the meaning of life. After many years of traveling and fasting, Siddhartha was no closer to finding the answers he sought. Sitting under a tree to meditate and rest, Siddhartha entered a deep trance and awoke enlightened. Henceforth, he went by the name Bodhi which literally means ‘enlightened one’.
Buddhism is the most popular religion in many Asian countries. Buddhism began in the northeastern areas of India and is believed to have begun over 2,500 years ago. It is estimated that there are over 350 million Buddhists in the world as of the year 2011. After the initial rise and fall of Buddhism in India, Buddhism resurfaced in Japan and has flourished there.
The goal of Buddhism is to become enlightened. It is not to worship a particular god or being. The focus of Buddhism is not how life began or who is watching over us from above. Buddhists do not believe in one omnipotent being. Nor do they believe that several gods and beings govern our lives or our interactions with those around us. Buddhism concentrates on reaching a state of Nirvana, or enlightenment.
Buddhists worship in several different ways. Buddhists generally have a shrine in their homes containing a Buddha statue, candles, and incense. Buddhists also worship in temples. Temples can look very different, appearing in different shapes and sizes. The one thing that Buddhist temples have in common is statues of Buddha. All Buddhist temples have at least one statue of Buddha somewhere in the temple and are designed and built to represent the five elements of life. The five elements are: Fire, Air, Earth, Water, and Wisdom.
Worshipping for a Buddhist is referred to as ‘puja’. Puja involves chanting and offerings of purified water, incense, flowers and candles at the shrine. The purpose of puja is to thank Buddha for sharing his knowledge with the world, thanking him for his teachings.
Typical Buddhist worshipping includes sitting barefoot on the floor in front of an image of Buddha, usually a statue. Worshippers listen to Buddhist monks who chant from religious texts. These worshipping session can be accompanied by musical instruments and contribute to the prayers.