One fact about Buddhism
Unless you’re the enlightened type, it’s unlikely that your understanding of Buddhism extends much beyond a vague notion of peacefulness, the ‘om’ sound and those statues of the fat and jolly Chinese guy.
But that’s okay. We’re not judging you. Buddhism, even in its most basic of principles, is a complex beast. There are a crazy variety of traditions, beliefs and practices all based on the teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, to which people dedicate years of study.
But then there are the more whacked out tales of animal transfiguration, super strength hair follicles and power of the mind dry-cleaning. So here’s our not-so-definitive guide to Buddhism’s strangest stuff.
Buddha was a spoiled little prince
This is not cultural insensitivity, this is fact. The story of the first enlightened one kicks off in a palace in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, when the super spoiled, super sheltered prince Siddhartha Gautama saw suffering for the first time. In the face of illness, old age and death he said, “Sheeeeit Mum, I gotta renounce this life of luxury, yo. I feel like there is more out there for me to see and learn, ya dig?”*
And so he did. He shooed away his servants (all but one anyway) and hit the road. He had himself experiences, he made friends and he came to a certain understanding of himself and his place in the universe. Basically, this Siddhartha Gautama guy was a real dude.
*Slightly gangster conversation with mother may be fictionalised.
Will the real Zen master please stand up?
Sorry to be the one to tell you this but your whole life is based on a lie. The friendly fella who fronts up your local Chinese takeaway is not Buddha, he’s actually Buddai, a former Zen monk that lived in 900s China.
Apparently, he carried all his possessions in a cloth sack, which is apt considering his name translates to ‘cloth sack’. He is also seen as the incarnation of Maitreya Buddha, meaning he is believed to be the Buddha of the future, which in turn means the future Buddha is going to be a very content, obese man with prayer beads. Cool.
The Buddha gets between a rock and a high place
Golden Rock, one of the most significant religious sites in Burma (Myanmar) and pilgrimage hotspot for devout Buddhists, is, well, just what you expect – a golden rock.
This massive, granite, gold leafed boulder has been precariously perched on the edge of Mt Kyaiktiyo for so long now that it features in Buddhist mythology. Namely, that the boulder’s miracle grip is due to its resting on a lock of the Buddha’s hair. Take that engineering, take that gravity, take that science.
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What are some unique things about the Buddhist religion?
I was raised Buddhist and was taught that Buddha told his followers not to worship him, but that some of his later followers wrote papers or sutras that taught of things that Buddha did not teach and now some people follow a false form of Buddhism because of not being aware.