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World Religion
What Is Buddhism?

What Is Buddhism?
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.47

     challenging words:    bodhi, mudra, nirvana, sermon, spokes, best, forearms, misery, worldly, founding, hatred, meditation, wizard, meditate, purpose, enlightenment
     content words:    Siddhartha Gautama, Queen Maya, Prince Siddhartha, Ganges River, Awakened One, Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, Eightfold Path, Deer Park, Many Buddhists

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What Is Buddhism?
By Colleen Messina

1     Sometimes having everything in the world isn't enough! It's what is inside you that is most important. A prince discovered this 2,500 years ago. His name was Siddhartha Gautama, and he was born in the country we now call Nepal. His discovery led to the founding of Buddhism.
2     According to ancient legends, the prince's mother had a dream when she was pregnant. Queen Maya dreamed that she was carrying a white elephant in her tummy! The elephant carried a lotus flower in his trunk. A wise man explained that the child she was carrying would become a holy man. The man's words scared the prince's father who definitely didn't want his son to become a skinny, hungry holy man.
3     Siddhartha was born around 563 B.C. Queen Maya died when Prince Siddhartha was a baby, so his father raised him. The king wanted the prince to have the best of everything so that he would grow up to be a good king instead of a holy man. Prince Siddhartha grew up in a white palace surrounded by gardens that had flowers of every color and shape. The prince ate the tastiest food and saw only handsome people. It is believed that he never saw any sickness, poverty, or death during his childhood!
4     When he turned 16, the prince married a lovely girl named Yashodhara. The wedding celebrations lasted for seven days and nights. The Prince settled into married life, and when Yashodhara became pregnant, Siddhartha's father finally believed that his son would follow in his footsteps and become the next king. He allowed the prince to go outside the palace walls for the first time.
5     Prince Siddhartha rode around the kingdom in a horse-drawn chariot. It is believed that he saw things that made him wonder about life's purpose. First he saw an old man, bent and wrinkled. On the next chariot ride, a sick man crossed his path. Then, the prince saw a funeral procession. These three sights made him realize that life is full of misery for many people. On his last ride, Prince Siddhartha saw a holy man. He realized that the peaceful holy man was not afraid of old age, sickness, or even death. Prince Siddhartha realized that he wanted to find his own inner peace, but to do that, he had to leave everything that he loved.
6     Prince Siddhartha left his royal life. He left his wife and newborn son behind. He promised them he would return. He changed out of his silken robes. He cut off his hair and removed his jewels. Siddhartha went into the forest and meditated for six years. Evil spirits assailed him, but he kept on meditating. Buddhists believe that Siddhartha received enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree near the Ganges River. Traditionally, the date for this event was the full moon in the month of May. Achieving enlightenment meant that Siddhartha had a deep understanding about life.
7     After his enlightenment, Siddhartha passed a man on the road. The man noticed something different about the former prince. The man asked him whether he was a god, a magician, or a wizard. Siddhartha said he was none of these things, but that he was awake! That is how Siddhartha came to be called the Buddha, which means "The Awakened One."
8     The Buddha began preaching. His teachings became known as the Four Noble Truths. See what you think of the Buddha's simple truths: Life is full of suffering. Desire for worldly things causes suffering. Suffering can stop when desire stops. There are eight rules to follow to stop wrong desire. These rules are called the Noble Eightfold Path.

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