Buddhism, a spiritual tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development and the attainment of a deep insight into the true nature of life, brought many aspects to jade art. With the inception of Buddhism, jade soon depicted pagodas, mountain masses, and religious symbols. Some jade carvings were dedicated to depicting Buddhist figures for worship and were placed at temples. The necessity for these carvings soon led to the expanding of dimensions for jade carvings.
The History of Buddhism spans the 6th century BCE to the present, starting with the birth of the founder Siddhartha Gautama (who is most often called the Buddha). This makes it one of the oldest religions practiced today. Although Buddhism is now a religion all on its own it owes its spiritual "roots" to figures in Hinduism.
The history of Buddhism is also characterized by the development of numerous movements and schisms, foremost among them the Theravada, the Way of the Elders, and Mahayana, the Great Vehicle. Buddhism is now prevalent in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, (where Theravada is popular) and in China, Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam, and India (where Mahayana is more common). There are about 300 million Buddhists in the world.
Buddhism promotes a doctrine of peace, inner resolve and tranquility, and moral living. It is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as "Buddha", which is actually a title, meaning the "Enlightened One" or, more literally, "Awakened One".
Siddhartha Gautama earned this term during the sixth century B.C. after a profound spiritual journey. He came up with several tenets or truths, and these teachings have gone on to be the fundamental backbones of Buddhist doctrine.
The Four Noble Truths comprise the essence of Buddha's teachings, though they leave much left unexplained. They are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. More simply put, suffering exists; it has a cause; it has an end; and it has a cause to bring about its end.
The notion of suffering is not intended to convey a negative world view, but rather, a pragmatic perspective that deals with the world as it is, and attempts to rectify it. The concept of pleasure is not denied, but acknowledged as fleeting. Pursuit of pleasure can only continue what is ultimately an unquenchable thirst. The same logic belies an understanding of happiness. In the end, only aging, sickness, and death are certain and unavoidable.
These teachings have been interpreted somewhat differently in places where Buddhism has spread (such as Japan, for example) but the principles of Buddhism remain the same: Buddhism is a quest for the reduction of suffering, pain through meditation and a simple life free of cravings.
The Buddha is not considered a god, and Buddhists do not pray to him or his image for favors. Instead, they meditate on how they can attain peace, love, and compassion within themselves. Buddhism has five major precepts, and Buddhists strive to follow these precepts:
By following these precepts and freeing themselves from cravings, Buddhists feel that they can attain Nirvana, a spiritual peace. Once they have attained Nirvana and have realized that life is not about cravings, material things, or lust, Buddhists will then be able to use their time to improve the world.
- To refrain from taking life (non-violence towards sentient life forms)
- To refrain from taking that which is not given (not committing theft)
- To refrain from sensual (sexual) misconduct
- To refrain from lying (speaking truth always)
- To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness (specifically, drugs and alcohol)
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