Buddhism is one of the oldest and most widely practiced religions and philosophies in the world. It emerged more than 2,500 years ago in northern India and has since gained a worldwide following, becoming a major religion in Asia and with a growing number of followers in the West.
Although often associated with meditation and mindfulness, Buddhism is a complex tradition rich in ideas and practices that address issues such as the nature of mind, compassion and wisdom, morality and liberation from suffering. In this article, we will explore some of the key teachings, practices and aspects of Buddhism.
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha
To understand the principles and practices of Buddhism, it is essential to know the life of the person who originated it all, Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha.
Siddhartha Gautama was born in the 5th century B.C. in Lumbini, a region located on the current border between Nepal and India. He belonged to the warrior and ruler caste (kshatriya) and lived a privileged life as a prince in the palace of his father, King Śuddhodana. According to legend, a sage predicted that Siddhartha would be a great ruler or spiritual leader, so his father did his best to keep him away from the suffering and hardships of life, hoping that he would choose the life of a king.
However, at the age of 29, Siddhartha experienced a profound change when he encountered “the four visions“: an old man, a sick man, a corpse and an ascetic. These visions revealed to him the reality of human suffering and the inevitability of aging, sickness and death. Deeply affected by these visions, Siddhartha abandoned his palatial life and began a spiritual quest to find a way to overcome suffering.
Siddhartha explored various spiritual and philosophical practices, including extreme asceticism and self-mortification. After years of intensive practice and meditation, he realized that the path to liberation lay not in the extremes of indulgence or denial, but in a middle path. In a moment of deep meditation under a Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India, Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became the Buddha, meaning “the Awakened One” or “the Enlightened One.”
After his enlightenment, the Buddha dedicated the rest of his life to teaching others how to attain liberation from suffering. His teachings, known as the Dharma, are based on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, which provide guidance for living an ethical and balanced life, as well as a path to enlightenment. The Buddha taught people of all ages, genders and social classes, including monks, nuns and lay people, and established a community of followers called Sangha.
The Buddha passed away around the age of 80 in Kushinagar, India. His teachings and legacy continue to influence the lives of millions of people around the world.
Expansion of Buddhism in Asia and the World
Buddhism originated in northern India, but its influence and spread rapidly throughout Asia and, later, around the world. Over the centuries, Buddhism has left an indelible mark on the culture, art, philosophy and daily life of various societies.
During the first centuries after the Buddha’s death, his teachings were transmitted orally within the Sangha. In the third century BC, the Indian emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism and made it the official religion of his vast empire. Ashoka played a key role in spreading Buddhism beyond India, sending missionaries to regions such as Sri Lanka, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean.
As Buddhism spread, it evolved and adapted to local cultures, giving rise to various schools and traditions. In the 1st century AD, Mahayana Buddhism emerged in India, differing from Theravada Buddhism in key aspects such as the idea of the bodhisattva and the nature of nirvana. Mahayana Buddhism spread rapidly northward and eastward, reaching China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, where new schools and practices developed, such as Zen, Pure Land Buddhism and Nichiren.
Vajrayana Buddhism, also known as tantric or esoteric Buddhism, emerged in India between the 7th and 8th centuries AD. This form of Buddhism incorporates specific practices and rituals to attain enlightenment quickly and efficiently. Vajrayana Buddhism spread mainly to the north and west, finding a lasting home in Tibet, Mongolia and parts of Nepal and Bhutan.
Buddhism has also influenced the spirituality and culture of indigenous peoples in Asia. For example, in Japan, Buddhism merged with local Shinto practices to create a unique synthesis of both traditions. Similarly, in Southeast Asia, Theravada Buddhism intertwined with the animistic and shamanistic beliefs and practices of the region.
Throughout history, Buddhism has experienced periods of decline and resurgence. During the colonial era, Buddhism suffered in many Asian countries due to the imposition of Western religions and the suppression of local practices. However, in the 20th century, there was a revival of interest in Buddhism in both Asia and the West. Globalization and immigration movements brought Buddhism to countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe, where Buddhist communities and meditation centers were established.
In the West, Buddhism has been particularly influential in areas such as psychology, philosophy and science. The practice of mindfulness, inspired by Buddhist teachings, has been widely adopted and studied for its benefits on mental health and general well-being. In addition, dialogue between scientists and Buddhist leaders, such as the Dalai Lama, has led to greater understanding and mutual appreciation between science and spirituality.
Buddhism has also influenced Western popular culture, with celebrities, musicians and writers adopting and promoting Buddhist ideas and practices. Buddhist-inspired films, books and artwork have contributed to the growing fascination with this ancient spiritual tradition.
Today, Buddhism faces challenges and opportunities in a globalized and ever-changing world. The increasing interconnectedness of people and cultures provides the possibility for greater exchange of ideas and practices, as well as space for Buddhism to adapt and evolve in response to modern issues. At the same time, Buddhist communities must find ways to preserve and protect their cultural and spiritual heritage in the midst of political, economic and social tensions.
Is Buddhism a religion and what makes it different from other religions?
Buddhism is considered a religion, although there are some similarities between Buddhism and other religions, there are also key differences that set it apart. Some of the most notable differences include:
- Non-theism: Unlike many religions, Buddhism does not focus on the worship of a god or gods. The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, is not considered a god, but a human being who attained enlightenment. Buddhists seek to follow his example and attain enlightenment on their own.
- Focus on personal practice: Buddhism places great emphasis on meditation and personal practice as a means to attain enlightenment. Although other religions also include meditation and prayer practices, in Buddhism meditation is central to spiritual growth.
- The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path: These fundamental teachings of Buddhism describe the nature of human suffering, its cause, how to overcome it and the path to enlightenment. These concepts have no direct parallel in other religions.
- Non-dogmatic nature: Buddhism tends to be less dogmatic than other religions and encourages its followers to investigate and question teachings rather than blindly accept them. The Buddha encouraged his followers to test the teachings for themselves and to accept only what they find useful and true.
It is worth mentioning that Buddhism is a diverse tradition, with different schools and practices that can vary significantly depending on the culture and region in which they are practiced.
Fundamental Pillars of Buddhism “The Three Jewels”
The first pillar of Buddhism is the figure of the Buddha, the enlightened being who discovered and shared the path to liberation from suffering. Although the term “Buddha” often refers to Siddhartha Gautama, it can also refer to any being who has attained full enlightenment. Buddhists regard Gautama as the historical Buddha, but also recognize the existence of other Buddhas in the past and future.
The Buddha’s life and teachings are fundamental to Buddhist practice and provide a model to follow in the quest for enlightenment. The Buddha embodies the wisdom, compassion and ethics that Buddhists aspire to cultivate in their own lives.
The Dharma is the second pillar of Buddhism and refers to the teachings and doctrines that the Buddha shared with his followers. The Dharma is considered to be the “universal law” that governs existence and provides a path to liberation from suffering. Dharma teachings include the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and other fundamental concepts such as karma, reincarnation and the interdependence of all beings.
Buddhists seek to learn and practice the Dharma as a means to purify the mind, cultivate wisdom and attain enlightenment. The study of the Dharma is essential for understanding the nature of suffering and how to overcome it, as well as for developing the compassion and ethics necessary to live in harmony with other beings.
The Sangha is the third pillar of Buddhism and refers to the community of people who practice the Dharma. Traditionally, the Sangha is made up of monks and nuns who have renounced the lay life and devote themselves full-time to the study and practice of Buddhism. However, the term Sangha can also include lay people committed to the Buddhist path.
The Sangha plays a crucial role in supporting and preserving the teachings of Buddhism, as well as providing an environment where individuals can receive guidance and support in their spiritual practice. The relationship between the Sangha and the laity is interdependent and mutually beneficial, with the laity providing material support to the monks and nuns, who in turn offer teachings and spiritual guidance to the laity.
The Buddha’s Teachings
The Buddha’s teachings focus on the elimination of suffering and the attainment of happiness and inner peace through a deep understanding of the nature of mind and reality. Below we will describe some of the fundamental Buddhist teachings that are common to the various branches of Buddhism.
The Four Noble Truths
The Truth of Suffering (Dukkha)
The first of the Four Noble Truths is the truth of suffering, also known as dukkha. The Buddha taught that life is marked by suffering in its various forms, including physical pain, illness, aging, death, dissatisfaction, frustration and separation from what we love.
Suffering can also manifest in more subtle forms, such as the constant desire to experience pleasure or the fear of change and impermanence. Understanding the nature of suffering is fundamental to Buddhist practice, as it enables individuals to recognize and face their own experiences of dukkha.
The Truth of the Cause of Suffering (Samudaya)
The second Noble Truth is the truth of the cause of suffering. The Buddha identified the main cause of suffering in life as attachment, which arises from craving, aversion and ignorance. Attachment manifests itself in craving for sensory pleasures, the pursuit of existence and aversion to unpleasant experiences.
Ignorance, in particular, is the root of all suffering, as it is the inability to understand the true nature of reality, including the interdependence and impermanence of all phenomena. By understanding the cause of suffering, individuals can begin to unravel the patterns of thought and behavior that perpetuate dukkha in their lives.
The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha)
The third Noble Truth is the truth of the cessation of suffering, which points out that it is possible to put an end to dukkha. The Buddha taught that by eliminating the causes of suffering, such as attachment and ignorance, one can attain a state of liberation called nirvana.
Nirvana is a state of lasting peace and happiness, free from the afflictions and cycles of birth and death that characterize samsaric existence. The possibility of attaining nirvana provides hope and motivation for Buddhist practitioners, as it demonstrates that suffering is not an inherent and immutable condition of life.
The truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering (Magga)
The fourth Noble Truth is the truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering. The Buddha taught that to attain nirvana, individuals must follow a practical and ethical path known as the Noble Eightfold Path. This path provides detailed guidance for developing the wisdom, ethics and mental concentration necessary to overcome suffering and attain enlightenment.
The Noble Eightfold Path
Right view is the first aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path and refers to the understanding and acceptance of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, such as the Four Noble Truths, the law of karma and the interdependent nature of reality. Right view is the foundation upon which all other aspects of the Eightfold Path are built, as it provides the necessary perspective and motivation for spiritual practice.
Right intention is the second aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path and relates to the development of right attitude and motivation in spiritual practice. Right intention involves cultivating renunciation, goodwill and compassion, rather than pursuing desire, aversion and ignorance. By setting clear and virtuous intentions, practitioners can ensure that their actions and thoughts are aligned with Buddhist ideals.
Right speech is the third aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path and refers to the conscious and ethical use of language. The Buddha taught that practitioners should refrain from lying, speaking maliciously, using harsh language and engaging in idle chatter. Instead, Buddhists should strive to communicate in an honest, kind, helpful and meaningful way, promoting harmony and understanding among beings.
Right action is the fourth aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path and relates to ethical and responsible behavior in all aspects of life. Right action includes refraining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and other harmful behavior. Practitioners should strive to act in a compassionate, just and non-violent manner in all their interactions with others.
The fifth aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path is right livelihood, which refers to choosing an occupation or activity that is consistent with the ethical principles of Buddhism. Practitioners should seek employment that does not cause harm to other beings, such as engaging in the arms trade, drugs or illicit activities. Instead, livelihoods that promote peace, prosperity and the well-being of all beings should be sought.
Right effort is the sixth aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path and refers to the energy and diligence needed to maintain and enhance spiritual practice. The Buddha taught that practitioners should strive to prevent and eliminate negative thoughts and emotions, as well as cultivate and maintain positive thoughts and emotions. Right effort involves a balance between diligence and relaxation, avoiding both complacency and spiritual exhaustion.
Right mindfulness, or mindfulness, is the seventh aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path and refers to the practice of mindfulness in all activities and experiences. Practitioners should strive to be present and aware in each moment, observing their thoughts, emotions, sensations and actions without judgment or clinging to them. Right mindfulness is fundamental to developing wisdom and understanding of the true nature of reality.
The eighth and final aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path is right concentration, which relates to developing mental focus and stability through the practice of meditation. Right concentration involves cultivating a focused and unified state of mind, which enables practitioners to deepen their understanding of reality and advance on the path to enlightenment.
Meditation is an essential tool for developing right concentration and can be practiced in a variety of ways, such as concentration on the breath, meditation on love and kindness (metta) or contemplation of impermanence. By developing right concentration, Buddhists can overcome mental distractions and afflictions that hinder spiritual progress and ultimately achieve liberation from suffering.
The Three Marks of Existence (Tri-Laksana)
In Buddhism, the three marks of existence, also known as the three universal characteristics, are fundamental concepts that describe the true nature of reality. These three marks are:
This mark refers to the transitory and impermanent nature of all conditioned phenomena, i.e., everything that exists in the physical and mental world. Nothing in this universe remains static or unchanging; everything is constantly changing and evolving. Understanding impermanence helps us to let go of attachment to material things and concepts, which in turn reduces suffering.
Dukkha (suffering or dissatisfaction)
Dukkha is the suffering inherent in existence, arising from attachment, aversion and ignorance. Buddhism teaches that all beings experience dukkha in some form, whether through physical pain, emotional suffering or general dissatisfaction. The main goal of Buddhism is to understand and overcome dukkha, which is achieved by following the Noble Eightfold Path.
Anatta (no-self or absence of a permanent self)
Anatta is the concept that there is no immutable and permanent“self” or“soul” in living beings. Instead, existence is a constant flow of interdependent physical and mental processes that change over time. Belief in a permanent self is an illusion that leads to attachment and, ultimately, suffering. By understanding and accepting the idea of anatta, one can free oneself from the illusion of self and reduce suffering.
These three marks of existence are fundamental to Buddhist practice and offer guidance for facing and overcoming the suffering inherent in life.
The law of dependent origination
The law of dependent origination, also known as “pratityasamutpada” in Sanskrit or “paticcasamuppada” in Pali, is a fundamental principle in Buddhism. It explains the interdependent and conditioned nature of all phenomena in the universe. The law holds that all phenomena arise from previous conditions and, in turn, give rise to new conditions. Essentially, it describes how existence and experience are linked to a chain of causes and effects.
This law applies to both physical and mental phenomena and is a key component in understanding the concept of “anatta” or no-self, which is the idea that there is no fixed, unchanging self in living beings. The law of dependent origination is also central to the Buddhist teaching of the Four Noble Truths, which address suffering and how to overcome it.
In Buddhism, the law of dependent origination is often illustrated through a twelve-link model known as “nidanas” or “twelve links of conditioned co-production.” These twelve links are:
- Ignorance (avidyā): the lack of knowledge and understanding of reality and truth.
- Volitional formations (samskāra): actions based on ignorance, which generate karma.
- Consciousness (vijñāna): awareness arising from volitional formations and linked with the following conditions of life.
- Name and form (nāmarūpa): the manifestation of the five aggregates (form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and intelligence) that constitute the self.
- The six bases (ṣaḍāyatana): the five sense organs and the mind.
- Contact (sparśa): the interaction between the sense organs and their objects.
- Sensation (vedanā): the experience of pleasure, pain, or neutrality resulting from contact.
- Desire (tṛṣṇā): the attachment and thirst for more pleasurable experiences.
- Clinging (upādāna): the intensification of desire and belief in a separate self.
- Existence (bhava): the formation of a new self and the accumulation of karma leading to the next life.
- Birth (jāti): the birth into a new life due to accumulated karmic actions.
- Old age and death (jarāmaraṇa): the process of aging and death in that life.
According to the law of dependent origination, by addressing and eliminating ignorance and craving, one can break the cycle of suffering and attain nirvana, a state of liberation and peace.
Main Branches of Buddhism
Throughout its history, Buddhism has developed several branches and schools that differ in their approach, practices and doctrines. These branches have spread throughout Asia and today have followers all over the world. Although they share some fundamental teachings, each branch has its own interpretation and emphasizes different aspects of the Buddha’s teaching.
Theravada Buddhism, also known as the “Doctrine of the Elders,” is considered the oldest and most conservative form of Buddhism. It is based on the Pali Canon, a collection of sacred texts in the Pali language believed to contain the original teachings of the Buddha. Theravada focuses on individual practice and the attainment of enlightenment through self-discipline and meditation.
A distinctive feature of Theravada Buddhism is its emphasis on the ideal of the arhat or saint, a being who has attained enlightenment and has been liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Monastic practice is especially important in the Theravada tradition, as it is considered the most direct path to enlightenment.
The teachings and practices of Theravada Buddhism are based on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the understanding of impermanence, no-self and suffering as fundamental characteristics of existence. Meditation is a central part of Theravada practice, and focuses on the development of mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.
Among the most common Theravada meditation practices are mindfulness breathing meditation (anapanasati) and deep insight meditation (vipassana), which aim to cultivate direct understanding of the true nature of reality. In addition, the practice of generosity (dana), morality (sila) and scriptural study are also central to the lives of Theravada followers.
Theravada Buddhism is predominant in Southeast Asia, especially in countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia and Laos. Over the centuries, Theravada has profoundly influenced the culture, politics and society of these regions, becoming an integral part of their identity and heritage.
Mahayana Buddhism, also known as the “Great Vehicle,” is a branch of Buddhism that developed in contrast to Theravada, and is characterized by its more inclusive and adaptive approach to spiritual practice. Mahayana expands the ideal of the arhat into the concept of the bodhisattva, a compassionate being who seeks enlightenment not only for himself but also to liberate all sentient beings from suffering.
Mahayana emphasizes the importance of compassion and wisdom in Buddhist practice, as well as the empty nature or “shunyata” of all phenomena. In addition, Mahayana incorporates a wide variety of teachings and practices, including numerous sutras, philosophical schools and methods of meditation.
The teachings and practices of Mahayana Buddhism encompass a wide range of texts, traditions and approaches. Although it shares many fundamental teachings with Theravada, such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, Mahayana also introduces additional concepts and sutras, such as the Lotus Sutra and the Heart Sutra.
A central teaching of the Mahayana is the idea of emptiness, which holds that all phenomena are interdependent and lack an intrinsic, independent existence. Meditation practice in Mahayana includes deep insight meditation (vipassana), meditation on emptiness and meditation on love and kindness (metta).
Mahayana also emphasizes the practice of the Six Paramitas (perfections) as a means to attain enlightenment and benefit all sentient beings. These perfections include generosity, morality, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom.
Mahayana Buddhism is the dominant form of Buddhism in East Asia, including countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Throughout history, Mahayana has influenced the culture, philosophy and art of these regions, giving rise to a wide variety of schools and traditions, such as Zen, Pure Land Buddhism and Nichiren Buddhism.
Vajrayana Buddhism, also known as the “Diamond Vehicle” or the “Thunder Vehicle,” is a branch of Buddhism that developed from Mahayana and is characterized by its focus on esoteric practices and techniques designed to accelerate the process of enlightenment. Vajrayana incorporates elements of tantrism, such as the use of mantras, mudras and visualizations, as well as the veneration of deities and spiritual masters.
A distinctive feature of Vajrayana Buddhism is its emphasis on the teacher-disciple relationship and the transmission of teachings and empowerments through an unbroken line of realized teachers.
The teachings and practices of Vajrayana Buddhism are based on the fundamentals of Mahayana, but also incorporate a wide range of esoteric and ritual techniques. These practices include the use of mantras, which are sacred words or phrases recited to invoke the energy and protection of deities; mudras, which are symbolic gestures that represent different aspects of Buddhist teaching; and visualizations, which are meditation exercises that involve imagination and concentration to generate specific states of mind or connect with deities and spiritual masters.
Vajrayana also emphasizes the practice of deity meditation, in which practitioners identify with a particular deity and strive to emulate its qualities and attributes. In addition, Vajrayana teaches the importance of receiving empowerments or initiations from a qualified teacher, which enables practitioners to access deeper levels of spiritual realization and progress.
Other Vajrayana practices include making offerings, reciting prayers and performing rituals, as well as studying and contemplating esoteric texts and teachings.
Vajrayana Buddhism is predominant in Tibet and Himalayan regions, such as Bhutan, Nepal and parts of India, as well as in Mongolia. Throughout history, Vajrayana has profoundly influenced the culture, art and politics of these regions, giving rise to a rich tradition of paintings, sculptures, dances and sacred architecture.
Buddhism is based on a series of spiritual practices that seek to bring the practitioner to a state of peace, happiness and wisdom. Each of these practices aims to help the practitioner develop mindfulness, cultivate compassion and wisdom, and free him or herself from suffering
Meditation in Buddhism
Buddhism offers a variety of meditation practices designed to cultivate mindfulness, concentration and wisdom. Some of the most common types of meditation include:
- Breathing meditation (Anapanasati): In Anapanasati meditation, the practitioner sits in a comfortable, stable position and directs attention to the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the body. The goal is to keep the mind focused on the breath, observing the sensation of the inhalation and exhalation, without judging it or trying to control it.
- Deep insight meditation (Vipassana): This practice aims to develop a direct understanding of the fundamental characteristics of existence, such as impermanence, suffering and the non-existence of a fixed, independent self. Vipassana may involve contemplation of these characteristics or direct observation of reality as it presents itself in experience.
- Love and kindness meditation (metta): This practice involves cultivating feelings of love, kindness and compassion toward oneself and others. Practitioners may begin by focusing on their own well-being and then extend these feelings to loved ones, neutral persons, enemies, and finally to all sentient beings.
- Meditation on deities: A common and fundamental practice in Vajrayana Buddhism, this practice involves visualizing and emulating the qualities of a particular deity in order to develop specific states of mind and abilities.
Mindfulness is a fundamental practice in Buddhism, which refers to the ability to maintain a conscious, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness practice involves observing sensations, thoughts and emotions as they arise and disappear, without becoming attached to them or rejecting them.
By cultivating mindfulness, practitioners can develop a greater understanding of the true nature of reality and free themselves from the mental afflictions that cause suffering.
It can be done both in formal meditation and in everyday activities, such as walking, eating or working. By integrating mindfulness into their daily lives, Buddhists can cultivate greater awareness and understanding of themselves and the world around them.
The Five Precepts of Buddhist Ethics
Buddhist ethics are based on the idea that our actions have consequences for both ourselves and others, and that we should strive to act in ways that reduce suffering and promote happiness and well-being. The five precepts are fundamental ethical rules that lay Buddhists follow in order to live a moral and responsible life. These precepts are:
- Refrain from killing living beings: this precept involves respecting and protecting the lives of all sentient beings, including animals and insects, and avoiding causing unnecessary harm or suffering.
- Refrain from taking what has not been given to us: This precept implies not stealing or misappropriating the property of others and, instead, being generous and respectful of the possessions of others.
- Refrain from sexual misconduct: This precept implies avoiding sexual exploitation, adultery and harmful relationships, and cultivating relationships based on love, trust and mutual respect.
- Refrain from lying or speaking falsely: This precept involves being honest and truthful in our communications and avoiding defamation, slander and harmful speech.
- Refrain from consuming intoxicating substances that affect mental clarity: This precept implies avoiding the consumption of alcohol, drugs and other substances that may negatively affect our conscience, judgment and self-control.
The practice of compassion and generosity
In Buddhism, compassion and generosity are fundamental virtues that help reduce suffering and promote happiness in both oneself and others. The practice of compassion involves cultivating feelings of empathy and concern for the well-being of others and striving to alleviate their suffering whenever possible. Compassion also extends to oneself, recognizing and addressing one’s own suffering and caring for one’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Generosity, on the other hand, is the practice of giving freely and selflessly to others, whether through material donations, time, energy or wisdom. Generosity in Buddhism is not limited to material possessions, but also includes generosity of spirit, such as patience, kindness and emotional support.
By practicing compassion and generosity, Buddhists can cultivate a sense of connection and interdependence with others, which helps to decrease selfishness, attachment and aversion. In addition, these practices can lead to greater happiness and satisfaction in life, as generosity and compassion often have positive effects on both the giver and the receiver.