Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from 'budhi', 'to awaken'. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.
Is Buddhism a Religion?
To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:(1) to lead a moral life,(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.
Who Was the Buddha?
Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found 'the middle path' and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism — called the Dhamma, or Truth — until his death at the age of 80.
Are There Different Types of Buddhism?
There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching — the Dhamma or truth.
What did the Buddha Teach?
The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
What is the First Noble Truth?
The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.
The first noble truth is that life is frustrating and painful. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, there are times when it is downright miserable. Things may be fine with us, at the moment, but, if we look around, we see other people in the most appalling condition, children starving, terrorism, hatred, wars, intolerance, people being tortured and we get a sort of queasy feeling whenever we think about the world situation in even the most casual way. We, ourselves, will some day grow old, get sick and eventually die. No matter how we try to avoid it, some day we are going to die. Even though we try to avoid thinking about it, there are constant reminders that it is true.
What is the Second Noble Truth?
The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.
The second noble truth is that suffering has a cause. We suffer because we are constantly struggling to survive. We are constantly trying to prove our existence. We may be extremely humble and self-deprecating, but even that is an attempt to define ourselves. We are defined by our humility. The harder we struggle to establish ourselves and our relationships, the more painful our experience becomes.
What is the Third Noble Truth?
The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.
The third noble truth is that the cause of suffering can be ended. Our struggle to survive, our effort to prove ourselves and solidify our relationships is unnecessary. We, and the world, can get along quite comfortably without all our unnecessary posturing. We could just be a simple, direct and straight-forward person. We could form a simple relationship with our world, our coffee, spouse and friend. We do this by abandoning our expectations about how we think things should be.
What is the Fourth Noble Truth?
The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.
This is the fourth noble truth: the way, or path to end the cause of suffering. The central theme of this way is meditation. Meditation, here, means the practice of mindfulness/awareness, shamata/vipashyana in Sanskrit. We practice being mindful of all the things that we use to torture ourselves with. We become mindful by abandoning our expectations about the way we think things should be and, out of our mindfulness, we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are. We begin to develop the insight that things are really quite simple, that we can handle ourselves, and our relationships, very well as soon as we stop being so manipulative and complex.
What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?
In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.
What are the 5 Precepts?
The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.
What is Karma?
Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.
What is Wisdom?
Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.
What is Compassion?
Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.
The Three Marks of Existence
These three things: pain, impermanence and egolessness are known as the three marks of existence.
The Five Skandhas
The Buddhist doctrine of egolessness seems to be a bit confusing to westerners. I think this is because there is some confusion as to what is meant by ego. Ego, in the Buddhist sense, is quite different from the Freudian ego. The Buddhist ego is a collection of mental events classified into five categories, called skandhas, loosely translated as bundles, or heaps.
If we were to borrow a western expression, we could say that "in the beginning" things were going along quite well. At some point, however, there was a loss of confidence in the way things were going. There was a kind of primordial panic which produced confusion about what was happening. Rather than acknowledging this loss of confidence, there was an identification with the panic and confusion. Ego began to form. This is known as the first skandha, the skandha of form.
After the identification with confusion, ego begins to explore how it feels about the formation of this experience. If we like the experience, we try to draw it in. If we dislike it, we try to push it away, or destroy it. If we feel neutral about it, we just ignore it. The way we feel about the experience is called the skandha of form; what we try to do about it is known as the skandha of impulse/perception.
The next stage is to try to identify, or label the experience. If we can put it into a category, we can manipulate it better. Then we would have a whole bag of tricks to use on it. This is the skandha of concept.
The final step in the birth of ego, is called the skandha of consciousness. Ego begins to churn thoughts and emotions around and around. This makes ego feel solid and real. The churning around and around is called samsara -- literally, to whirl about. The way ego feels about its situation (skandha of feeling) determines which of the six realms of existence it creates for itself.
The Eightfold Path
The path to liberation from these miserable states of being, as taught by the Buddha, has eight points and is known as the eightfold path. The first point is called right view -- the right way to view the world. Wrong view occurs when we impose our expectations onto things; expectations about how we hope things will be, or about how we are afraid things might be. Right view occurs when we see things simply, as they are. It is an open and accommodating attitude. We abandon hope and fear and take joy in a simple straight-forward approach to life.
The second point of the path is called right intention. It proceeds from right view. If we are able to abandon our expectations, our hopes and fears, we no longer need to be manipulative. We don't have to try to con situations into our preconceived notions of how they should be. We work with what is. Our intentions are pure.
The third aspect of the path is right speech. Once our intentions are pure, we no longer have to be embarrassed about our speech. Since we aren't trying to manipulate people, we don't have to be hesitant about what we say, nor do we need to try bluff our way through a conversation with any sort of phoney confidence. We say what needs to be said, very simply in a genuine way.
The fourth point on the path, right discipline, involves a kind of renunciation. We need to give up our tendency to complicate issues. We practice simplicity. We have a simple straight-forward relationship with our dinner, our job, our house and our family. We give up all the unnecessary and frivolous complications that we usually try to cloud our relationships with.
Right livelihood is the fifth step on the path. It is only natural and right that we should earn our living. Often, many of us don't particularly enjoy our jobs. We can't wait to get home from work and begrudge the amount of time that our job takes away from our enjoyment of the good life. Perhaps, we might wish we had a more glamorous job. We don't feel that our job in a factory or office is in keeping with the image we want to project. The truth is, that we should be glad of our job, whatever it is. We should form a simple relationship with it. We need to perform it properly, with attention to detail.
The sixth aspect of the path is right effort. Wrong effort is struggle. We often approach a spiritual discipline as though we need to conquer our evil side and promote our good side. We are locked in combat with ourselves and try to obliterate the tiniest negative tendency. Right effort doesn't involve struggle at all. When we see things as they are, we can work with them, gently and without any kind of aggression whatsoever.
Right mindfulness, the seventh step, involves precision and clarity. We are mindful of the tiniest details of our experience. We are mindful of the way we talk, the way we perform our jobs, our posture, our attitude toward our friends and family, every detail.
Right concentration, or absorption is the eighth point of the path. Usually we are absorbed in absentmindedness. Our minds are completely captivated by all sorts of entertainment and speculations. Right absorption means that we are completely absorbed in nowness, in things as they are. This can only happen if we have some sort of discipline, such as sitting meditation. We might even say that without the discipline of sitting meditation, we can't walk the eightfold path at all. Sitting meditation cuts through our absentmindedness. It provides a space or gap in our preoccupation with ourselves.
Most people have heard of nirvana. It has become equated with a sort of eastern version of heaven. Actually, nirvana simply means cessation. It is the cessation of passion, aggression and ignorance; the cessation of the struggle to prove our existence to the world, to survive. We don't have to struggle to survive after all. We have already survived. We survive now; the struggle was just an extra complication that we added to our lives because we had lost our confidence in the way things are. We no longer need to manipulate things as they are into things as we would like them to be.
The Triple Gem or Three Jewels
The Buddha - the self awakened one. The original nature of the Heart; (The Role Model - all humans should attempt to imitate him)
The Dharma - the Teaching. The nature of reality; (the world view/living properly, Dharma is how you should live.)
The Sangha - a. the Awakened Community. b. Any harmonious assembly. c. All Beings. (Monks and nuns. They are the community that supports)
All Buddhist teachings flow from the Four Noble Truths. Particularly emphasised in the Theravada.
The Four Bodhisattva Vows
1. I vow to rescue the boundless living beings from suffering; (Link to 1st Truth)
2. I vow to put an end to the infinite afflictions of living beings; (Link to 2nd Truth)
3. I vow to learn the measureless Dharma-doors; (Link to 4th Truth)
4. I vow to realise the unsurpassed path of the Buddha. (Link to 3th Truth)
Foundation of the Mahayana Path, these vows say. 'Whatever the highest perfection of the human heart-mind may I realise it for the benefit of all that lives!'
The Five Precepts
I undertake to:
1. Abstain from killing living beings;
2. Abstain from taking that which not given;
3. Abstain from sexual misconduct;
4. Abstain from false speech;
5. Abstain from distilled substances that confuse the mind. (Alcohol and Drugs)
The underlying principle is non-exploitation of yourself or others. The precepts are the foundation of all Buddhist training. With a developed ethical base, much of the emotional conflict and stress that we experience is resolved, allowing commitment and more conscious choice. Free choice and intention is important. It is "I undertake" not 'Thou Shalt". Choice, not command.
The Ten Paramita
Paramita means gone to the other shore, it is the highest development of each of these qualities.
1. Giving or Generosity; *
2. Virtue, Ethics, Morality; *
3. Renunciation, letting go, not grasping;
4. Panna or Prajna "Wisdom" insight into the nature of reality; *
5. Energy, vigour, vitality, diligence; *
6. Patience or forbearance; *
8. Resolution, determination, intention;
9. Kindness, love, friendliness;
* In Mahayana Buddhism, 6 are emphasised, they are, numbers l., 2., 4., 5., 6., Samadhi (see Path) & 4.
The Four Sublime or Uplifted States
1. Metta — Friendliness, Loving-kindness;
2. Karuna — Compassion;
3. Mudita — Joy, Gladness. Appreciation of good qualities in people;
4. Upekkha — Equanimity, the peaceful unshaken mind.
Full development of these four states develops all of the Ten Paramita.
The Five Powers or Spiritual Faculties
2. Energy, Effort;
The Five Hindrances
1. Sense craving;
3. Sloth and Torpor;
4, Restlessness and Worry;
5. Toxic doubt and the ruthless inner critic.
The Four bases or Frames of Reference of Mindfulness
1. Mindfulness of the Body — breath, postures, parts;
2. Mindfulness of Feelings, Sensations — pleasant, unpleasant and neutral;
3. Mindfulness of States of Consciousness;
4. Mindfulness of all Phenomena or Objects of Consciousness.
The Three Signs of Existence or Universal Properties
1. Anicca — Impermanent;
2. Dukkha — Unsatisfactory, stress inducing;
3. Anatta — Insubstantial or Not-self.
All compounded and conditioned things, all phenomena are impermanent. Because of this they give rise to Stress and Affliction and because of this they are Not-self What we call "self " is a process not a 'thing".
What Reincarnation is Not
Reincarnation is not a simple physical birth of a person; for instance, John being reborn as a cat in the next life. In this case John possesses an immortal soul which transforms to the form of a cat after his death. This cycle is repeated over and over again. Or if he is lucky, he will be reborn as a human being. This notion of the transmigration of the soul definitely does not exist in Buddhism.
Karma is a Sanskrit word from the root "Kri" to do or to make and simply means "action." It operates in the universe as the continuous chain reaction of cause and effect. It is not only confined to causation in the physical sense but also it has moral implications. "A good cause, a good effect; a bad cause a bad effect" is a common saying. In this sense karma is a moral law.
Now human beings are constantly giving off physical and spiritual forces in all directions. In physics we learn that no energy is ever lost; only that it changes form. This is the common law of conservation of energy. Similarly, spiritual and mental action is never lost. It is transformed. Thus Karma is the law of the conservation of moral energy.
By actions, thoughts, and words, man is releasing spiritual energy to the universe and he is in turn affected by influences coming in his direction. Man is therefore the sender and receiver of all these influences. The entire circumstances surrounding him is his karma.
With each action-influence he sends out and at the same time, receives, he is changing. This changing personality and the world he lives in, constitute the totality of his karma.
Karma should not be confused with fate. Fate is the notion that man's life is preplanned for him by some external power, and he has no control over his destiny. Karma on the other hand, can be changed. Because man is a conscious being he can be aware of his karma and thus strive to change the course of events. In the Dhammapada we find the following words, "All that we are is a result of what we have thought, it is founded on our thoughts and made up of our thoughts."
What we are, then, is entirely dependent on what we think. Therefore, the nobility of man's character is dependent on his"good" thoughts, actions, and words. At the same time, if he embraces degrading thoughts, those thoughts invariably influence him into negative words and actions.
Traditionally, Buddhism teaches the existence of the ten realms of being. At the top is Buddha and the scale descends as follows: Bodhisattva (an enlightened being destined to be a Buddha, but purposely remaining on earth to teach others), Pratyeka Buddha (a Buddha for himself), Sravka (direct disciple of Buddha), heavenly beings (superhuman [angels?]), human beings, Asura (fighting spirits), beasts, Preta (hungry ghosts), and depraved men (hellish beings).
Now, these ten realms may be viewed as unfixed, nonobjective worlds, as mental and spiritual states of mind. These states of mind are created by men's thoughts, actions, and words. In other words, psychological states. These ten realms are "mutually immanent and mutually inclusive, each one having in it the remaining nine realms." For example, the realm of human beings has all the other nine states (from hell to Buddhahood). Man is at the same time capable of real selfishness, creating his own hell, or is truly compassionate, reflecting the compassion of Amida Buddha. Buddhas too have the other nine realms in their minds, for how can a Buddha possibly save those in hell if he himself does not identify with their suffering and guide them to enlightenment.
The Lesson of Reincarnation
We can learn a valuable lesson from the teaching of reincarnation.
In what realm do you now live? If you are hungry for power, love, and self-recognition, you live in the Preta world, or hungry ghosts. If you are motivated only by thirsts of the human organism, you are existing in the world of the beast.
Consider well then your motives and intentions. Remember that man is characteristically placed at the midpoint of the ten stages; he can either lower himself abruptly or gradually into hell or through discipline, cultivation and the awakening of faith rise to the Enlightened state of the Buddha.
He is the ideal human. Lived a moderate lifestyle, tried to pass on knowledge, was very practical, lot of self control. Focused on how to minimize suffering to others, himself, and inner peace.
Three Marks of Reality
The Three Marks of Reality had BECOME a religion, though it was more of a lifestyle.
Mark 1: No Permanent Identity.
- There is no one fixed just for you.
- You change all the time.
Mark 2: Suffering/Dissatisfaction.
- People leave, things leave, you should just expect suffering and dissatisfaction.
Mark 3: Change/Impermanence
- The wise expect change & savor it.
-It's reality. It's uncomfortable & it should be expected.
-Joy feels better after you've gone through suffering.
Three Main Branches
1. Thereavada - the way of the elders - conservative approach - mostly practiced among monks - protects the original thought/teachings of Buddhism
2. Mahayana - big vehicle - karuna or the idea of compassion, empathy, sympathy, and kindness - Bodhisattva - Three body doctrine (Heavenly Bodhisattva, Tathata, and Zen)
Three Body Doctrine
1. Dharmakaya - Divine Reality
2. Physical Being - the Buddha was the person walking around representing the divine reality
3. Supernatural/Buddha - supernatural in the/beyond the heavens. Anything outside of this world. People who are enlightened after death are there to help others.
1. Meditation. Zen is the 7th step of the eightfold plan (meditation) - slow yourself down - sitting down, being quiet, shutting down. Find you, your reality, your divine. Fuel back up. You're the one You depend on.
2. Inner peace/Enlightenment
3. Bodhidharma meditated almost too much. He eventually withered away from meditatin too much.
4. Koan - in general, it's a technique for attaining awareness - technique is a question that cannot be answered using logic.
Vajrayana - Diamond Vehicle
Reflects the strength and wisdom of a lightening bolt
Spiritual Leader of Vajrayana Buddhism, believed to be incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
The head lama of Tibetan Buddhism, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet until 1959, who also recently relinquished all political authority.
In Tibetan Buddhism, teachers and heads of monasteries
Each lama is said to be a reincarnation of the previous one
You are looked up to as one
A metal object, scepter, representing a bolt of lightening held in right hand, and compassion in the left.
Cylinders, pole in the center, you spin it, sacred phrases inside, and then the ideas are released.
Something you say and repeat. Become more wise about yourself.
Phrases or syllables chanted to evoke a deity or to enhance meditation; used in Hinduism and Buddhism, especially vajrayana
Symbolic hand gestures
See them on Buddha's and Bodhisattva
Arm extended, palm out, fingers up, right hand = Offering a Blessing
Palm down = Generosity
Choreographed hand movements used in rituals of vajrayana Buddhism
1: Most people can practice this
2: Anyone can have nirvana
3: Compassion towards others
4: Accommodates everyone
5: This religions is a pick and choose style. Think of buffet..?
One who has become enlightened; "worhty one"; ideal type for Theravada
Future Buddhas. Ideal types for Mahayana, beings who've expereineced enlightenment, but stop short of entering Nirvana to help others achieve it.
Teachings of the Buddha and one of the 3 Jewels of Buddhism
"suffering"; the first of the 4 noble turths, basic Buddhist insight that suffering is part of human condition
Largest of Buddhism's three divisions, prevalent in central Asia, emphasize devotion and prayer to Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
"circle"; patterned icons that visually excite; used in Vajrayana to enhance meditation
"Sacred circle": Buddhist diagram of the cosmos; sand painting; represents the impermanence of life and is used as a focus for meditation.
"blowing out"; ultimate goal of Buddhists; extincition of desire and any sense of individual selfhood, resulting in liberation from samsara and its limiting conditions
"assemblage"; buddhist community of monks and nuns, one of the 3 jewels of Buddhism
"way of the elders"; popular in southeast asia; focuses on earliest texts and emphasizes monastic lifestyle
named for the vajra, Buddha'a diamond scepter; prevalent form of Buddhism in Tibet; emphasizes harnessing of sensual energies to attain Nirvana
(Hindusim and Buddhism) the endless cycle of birth and suffering and death and rebirth
1. old man (age)
2. a very sick man (illness)
3. a corpse (death)
4. a wandering holy man without possessions (asceticism)
A person who renounces material comforts to live a self-disciplined live
The tree under which Sidartha Gautama achieved enlightenment; at Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya, India
A basic Buddhist teaching that rejects both the pleasures of sensual indulgence and the self-denial of asceticism, focusing instead ona practical approach to spiritual attainment.
Items of religious devotion, especially a piece of the body or personal items of an important religious figure
Indian Emperor during the Maurya Dynasty (3rd century BCE). He spread Buddhism across Asia and established monuments to Gautama Buddha. Devoted to nonviolence, ahimsa, love truth, and tolerance.
"Three Baskets," the Pali Canon, Vinaya Pitaka, Sutra Pitaka, and Abdhiarrna Pitaka.
Code of Monastic discipline for monks and nuns
Discourses or teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama
Authoritative scripture of Theravada Buddhists, written in the Pali language, the Tripitaka
An in-depth analysis of Buddhist doctrine, especially its psycho-spiritual aspects.
"Sayings of the Buddha"
A Mahayana Buddhist text, attributed to the Buddha, emphasizing a universal message of compassion.
The Buddhist doctrine of "no soul" or "not self" that means a permanent, unchanging, independent self does not exist, though people act as if it does. Ignorance of anatma causes suffering.
Emerged in China in 500 C.E. then spread to Japan Aspiration is to attain rebirth in Pureland (western paradise) which is presided over by Amitaba Buddha Faith in Amitaba is demonstrated by reciting the mantra "Nama Amida Butsu" Reciting mantra several times a day will gaurantee entrance into Pureland
Founded in China and Japan Focuses on meditation to attain enlightenment Founded by Bodhidharma (indian monk) who traveled to China in 600 C.E. Rejects attainment to the scriptures but rather empasizes meditation to gain insight Zen masters use riddles (Koans) to train their disciples to distrust logic Objective of riddles is to let the pure mind reveal itself *Emphasizes sitting meditation
Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita)
Early text expressing Mahayana ideas
The Heart Sutra
A page in length Explains concepts of emptiness (sunyata) Whole world is perceived as a complex of ever changing fluctuating elements Since everything changes one should not attach themselves
Key term in Mahayana buddhism, refers to absence of self
The Diamond Sutra
A form of dialogue between Sakyamuni Buddha and the disciple Subhuti Focuses on idea that self and the world around us is ultimately illusory *World we live in is no more than a dream
discourses- revealed later appearances of Buddha in a glorified state after his death