Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha did not write down any teachings but taught orally. His teachings were later written down by his followers. Whilst there are different approaches and strands of Buddhism. All approaches share some common beliefs.
Essentials of Buddhism
- Compassion. Buddhism holds the belief that we should be compassionate and kind to all sentient beings.
“Conquer anger with love, evil with good, meanness with generosity, and lies with truth”
– The Buddha, Dhammapada, Ch. 17, Verse 223
- Dharma. Buddhism believes that we should seek to become better people through right conduct, kind speech, thoughtfulness of others, meditation and practises to reject negative influences and cultivate good influences.
- Reincarnation. Buddhist believe in reincarnation. The idea that our essential spirit takes on different forms and after death, our life force is reborn in new physical forms. These different incarnations allow us to make spiritual progress and get closer to enlightenment.
- Nirvana. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to attain nirvana or enlightenment – this is a state of consciousness where we go beyond thought and selfish desires. This is a consciousness of bliss and inner peace.
- A difference between Buddhists is that some traditions emphasise personal liberation whilst others also emphasise the need to be of service to the rest of humanity and creation and seek their enlightenment. For example, after attaining Nirvana, the Buddha did not retreat into meditation but spent his life travelling around the sub-continent teaching a way for others to overcome sorrow and suffering.
- Karma. Buddhist believe in the concept of karma – this is a universal law that the wheel of fate turns to return the fruits of our action. If we are kind towards others, we create good karma. If we steal or lie, then this creates negative karma and we will suffer at some point in the future. Our karma will also determine our next incarnation.
- Vegetarian diet. Many Buddhists follow a vegetarian diet. The Buddha said:
“From now on, I do not permit my sravaka disciples to eat meat. … One who eats meat kills the seed of great compassion.”
The Three Jewels of Buddhism
- Buddha – The person of Siddharta, who became the Buddha after his experience of enlightenment.
- Dharma – Dharma means the code of life. A rough translation is a morality, but Dharma is more than human morality, it means living in harmony with the universal laws of goodness and truth.
- Sangha – the spiritual community. Living with like-minded people sharing a desire to become better people helps our own spiritual progress.
“One day, Ananda, who had been thinking deeply about things for a while, turned to the Buddha and exclaimed: “Lord, I’ve been thinking – spiritual friendship is at least half of the spiritual life!” The Buddha replied: “Say not so, Ananda, say not so. Spiritual friendship is the whole of the spiritual life!” Gautama Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya, Mahāvagga, verse 2
The Three Universal Truths (Marks of Existence
- (Dukkha)- Suffering. Nothing is perfect but subject to imperfection and suffering is inevitable in human life on earth.
- (Anicca) – Impermanence. Everything in life is changing, all the time.
- (Anatta – non-self) There is no soul but a person’s life force (Karma). The Karma can be good or bad, depending on how the person lives in this life.
Three Poisons of Buddhism
- Greed (lobha)
- Anger (dosa)
- Ignorance (Moha)
Main Beliefs of Buddhism
- No explicit belief in God.
- Not explicit belief system.
- Founded by great Spiritual Teacher Lord Buddha.
Essential Teachings of Buddhism
- Ethical Teaching – right conduct, dharma
- Meditation – quietening the mind and going beyond ordinary thought.
- Devotion – to hold the ideal of a better life and devotion to the higher ideals of the Buddha.
“Indeed, wisdom is born of meditation; without meditation wisdom is lost. Knowing this twofold path of gain and loss of wisdom, one should conduct oneself so that wisdom may increase.”
Dhammapada, Ch. 20, Verse 282
“To cease from evil, to do good, and to purify the mind yourself, this is the teaching of all the Buddhas.”
Dhammapada, Ch. 14, Verse 183
The Four Noble Truths
- The Cause of Suffering – desirous attachment
- The Cessation of Suffering – meditation and charitable living
- The Path that leads to the cessation of suffering.
The Eightfold Path
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
The Eightfold Path can be split into three
- Wisdom (1+2)
- Morality (3-6)
- Meditation (7-8)
Five Precepts of Buddhism
These five precepts may be practised at different levels depending on whether the Buddhist is a monk or householder.
- Do not take the life of anything living. (Do not kill)
- Do not take anything not freely given. (Do not steal)
- Abstain from sexual misconduct. (celibacy)
- Refrain from untrue speech, (Do not lie)
- Do not consume intoxicants.
In Abhisandha Sutta (AN 8.39), the Buddha said that undertaking the precepts is a gift to oneself and others: It gives one freedom.
The Buddha also later went on to say that breaking precepts may give minimal damage.
The Role of God in Buddhism
The Buddha discouraged intellectual curiosity over the creation of the universe and the Creator. He taught the important thing was spiritual practice and overcoming the roots of human ignorance. Until a seeker achieved liberation and freedom from bondage, concepts such as God and Creation were meaningless to seekers.
In one sense Buddhists do not believe in God – at least not in the Christian concept of God. However, it would be wrong to say Buddhist is an ‘atheist religion’. There is a belief in a consciousness/spirit beyond the material plane.
Buddha taught the goal of nirvana – a consciousness of infinite peace, light and bliss. One could say what is God if not this consciousness?
Buddhists – Famous Buddhists, including Lord Buddha, Milarepa, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh.
Biography of the Buddha (563 BC – 485 BC) Siddhartha was a great prince of an Indian kingdom. But, he gave up all his worldly comforts to be an ascetic and seeker of enlightenment.