The Good Retreat Guide Online

Mountains and lake graphic.


Buddhism began in India some 2,500 years ago
and its teachings spread throughout Asia and then around the world

What is Buddhism about ?

There is no doctrine and no need to hold to any particular beliefs. There are, however, different Buddhist traditions. The aim of Buddhism is to show us how to develop our capacity for awareness, love and energy to the point where we become enlightened or fully awake to reality. Indeed, the word “enlightened” means One who is awake. Buddhists do not believe in a Supreme Creator, since they believe that the world rises and declines in an eternal and timeless cycle, but Buddhist philosophy,like all the major religions, still has worship which is central to its practice. There is a liturgy and scriptures that are chanted, physical acts of reverence, and inner worship of contemplating the Buddha which is often compared to contemplative Christian prayer.

Inner peace and harmony

Much of the current interest in the West in Buddhism is due to its being non-exclusive and non-dogmatic. To be a Buddhist does not mean you have to wear strange robes or adopt Eastern customs or reject the cultural background of the West. Buddhism is often called. This is because the Buddha's teachings offer a set of tools to find inner peace and harmony by working with your own feelings and experiences of life. By learning to look closely and honestly at your thoughts, emotions and physical feelings, you come to a new perspective for understanding your frustrations and discontent. Then, you can start to deal effectively with them. From such insights you may develop a joyful, kind and thoughtful attitude to others and to yourself. This should lead you onwards to a state of compassion and peace. This inner examination and insight is a direct method of transforming consciousness and is termed meditation.

Different Buddhist groups

There are many different groups in Buddhism. The two major ones are Theravada and Mahayana. When you receive literature from a Buddhist centre, it will probably state which one is followed. The Theravada doctrine prevails in South-east Asia, including Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Kampuchea and Laos. Mahayana doctrine predominates further north in China, Tibet, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. There are traditions and schools within these two major divisions so, in a sense, it is similar to Christianity in having many different groups and divisions around the world. Yet all spring from a single spiritual inspiration.