The Buddha and his teaching
Buddhism began in India in the sixth century before Christ. The founder, Gautama Siddhartha, was born about 2500 years ago. He was born a prince, under luxurious circumstances, but always felt dissatisfied and unhappy. To discover the cause of his unhappiness, he spent six years fasting and meditating. After living two different extreme ways of life, in luxury and as an acetic, he chose a 'middle way'. He achieved 'Bodhi' (awakening) and became 'Buddha' (enlightened).
Buddhism teaches that there is a path that can free us from all our suffering. According to Buddhism, people have an incorrect perception of reality, which causes suffering. If we can understand that our perception of reality is not truly the way that things exist, we can eliminate suffering and achieve enlightenment.
Life is seen as a link in an endless chain of rebirths (samsara). Karma (activity) determines that positive actions result in a preferred rebirth, while negative actions result in an undesirable rebirth. Through the practice of the Buddhist teachings (Dharma), we are able to break free of the chain of undesirable rebirth and achieve enlightenment.
The practice of Buddhism has taken many different forms, differing from land to land, according to the country and customs where it is practiced. In Tibet, Bon Buddhism combines altruism with some aspects of ancient anim Iistic beliefs, shamanism, rituals, meditation, tantra and mystical texts to create a combination of what is called Vajrayana, a method used to develop the mind.
At the center of Tibetan Buddhism is the lama, the spiritual teacher, who cares for the transfer of knowledge and wisdom. Not every monk becomes a lama and while all traditions within Tibetan Buddhism have a highest lama, The Dalai Lama remains the most important.
Buddhism in Tibet
Buddhism reached Tibet in the 4th century. It created the basis of Tibetan culture, identity and daily life. Buddhism has now a growing interest worldwide - but is currently suppressed in Tibet itself. The religion is under tight government control and the freedom to practice is limited. For example, it is forbidden to own a photo of the Dalai Lama.
Buddhism in the Netherlands
The teachings of the Buddha, (the Dharma) has spread extensively in the West. In the Netherlands, more than seventy Buddhist organizations have integrated into Dutch society. Some form a part of the Boeddhistische Unie Nederland, while others represent cultures such as from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand and China; people who have migrated to the Netherlands have taken their own form of Buddhism with them.
From the many variations of Buddhism that has found it's place in the Netherlands, Tibetan Buddhism has made the most impact on the native Dutch population. Perhaps this is because of the psychological approach, as the study of Tibetan Buddhism includes an analysis of the way the mind works, including emotions. This rational approach appeals to the Western mind. In Buddhism there is no God, and everyone can reach enlightenment. Therefore some call Buddhism a way of life rather than a religion.