The Varieties of Buddhism
Neharika Chawla and G. Alan Marlatt
ASPECTS OF BUDDHISM
I teach one thing and one only: that is, suffering and the end of suffer-
ing. (The Buddha)
Buddhism began not with God, but with a man, a historical figure by the name of Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as the Buddha. The word Buddha simply means “one who is awake,” and this experience of “waking up” lies at the heart of the Buddhist faith. In order to develop an understanding of Buddhism as a faith, it is essential to understand the life, quest, and awakening of the Buddha.
Siddhartha was born approximately 2,600 years ago near what is now the border of Nepal and India. His father was a king, and legend has it that at his birth Siddhartha was prophesied to become either a great monarch or a holy man. Because his father was determined for his son to become a powerful ruler, he ensured that Siddhartha was surrounded by every pleasure that the world had to offer, while being completely shielded from suffering. When the young prince was in his twenties, however, he became increasingly curious about the world that lay beyond the palace walls. One day he enlisted the help of a friend and decided to step outside the world that his father had created for him. Once outside, Siddhartha encountered four images, each of which had a profound impact on him. First, he saw a feeble old man, then a corpse, and then a man who was afflicted with disease. Shocked and deeply affected by the suffering he observed all around him, and while struggling with what he