a few basics
- I culled this from a Buddhist pamplet; I think it fairly represents
the view of the greater vehicle schools. I will this weekend try to
sit and write about my own path in the Pure land, for your
information. I know on this forum are those from the Kargyu lineage,
the Gelupga, which is the lineage of the Dali Lama; we have zen and a
few that are mix and match-as I am wont to do as I do mix practices
and with Axel have practiced shaman magic and Native American magic,
and as my best friend was a pagan priest and many times went to
Beltane and Shamhain ceremonies-so there is a great welth of means
not only for contemorary survival but to arrive at essential
realization. I would love to hear from other member dilineating their
belifs, not for critique but just understand the various means from
point A to point B that people use. Anyway, here are some basics:
The Basic Teaching of the Buddha
Buddhism recognises no creeds whose uncritical acceptance is expected
of its followers. Instead the Buddha enunciated certain basic laws
and truths whose veracity he invited his followers to test for
themselves. One of the traditional epithets of the Dhamma
is "ehipassiko" (meaning literally "come and see") which is an appeal
to the empirical verification of the Dhamma.
In his very first discourse the Buddha identified Four Noble Truths
as forming the core of the Dhamma. These four Truths have since
become a convenient way of stating the fundamentals of the Dhamma.
They are often regarded as the most basic teaching of the Buddha. The
Buddha also identified three fundamental characteristics (tilakkhana)
of the Dhamma. These basic tenets the Buddha presented in several
ways. Two such presentations have become well known. These are the
Three Signata (tilakkhana), perhaps better rendered as the three
basic laws, and the Four Noble Truths. The acceptance of the validity
of these laws and truths, if only in the first instance as a working
hypothesis, is the sin qua non of a Buddhist. In addition the Buddha
proclaimed several other doctrines, the most important being those of
karma and re-birth. The validity of such doctrines is more difficult
for an ordinary person to verify, but their dogmatic acceptance is
not expected as a fundamental requirement of those who go for refuge
to the "Three Gems" of Buddhism (12).
The three signata and the four truths form the core of the Dhamma.
They are at the same time both alternatives and complements to each
other. It may however be appropriate to consider them separately.
The Three Fundamental Laws of the Buddha
The three signata refer to the three essential marks or
characteristics of all "compounded" things, animate or inanimate,
microscopic or macroscopic. Because of the universality of their
applicability they could be considered as having the force of
universal laws. These characteristics are impermanence (anicca),
unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and insubstantiality (anatta). As these
translations of the basic Pâli terms are only approximate, a further
elaboration of these basic concepts of the Dhamma is necessary.
(1) Anicca. The law of impermanence asserts that all phenomena are
subject to constant change, to rise and fall, and no permanent
states, either physical or animate, exists. The dynamic nature of
phenomena is today a commonplace of science. But until quite recently
many physical features of the universe were considered immutable, and
in the human plane the belief in enduring states or characteristics
is still an article of faith in many religious systems. The law of
anicca establishes impermanence as the basic universal law.
(2) Dukkha. The law of dukkha states that all complexes of phenomena,
are in the final analysis unsatisfactory. It means that no compounded
thing or state could be considered as a universal norm of goodness or
beauty. It imparts the normative dimension into the consideration of
objective reality which is the hallmark of the Dhamma. The law of
dukkha is usually considered in relation to the human situation, and
here unsatisfactoriness manifests itself as "suffering", which is the
popular rendition of the term. It is in this sense that it
constitutes the first of the four Noble Truths.
(3) Anatta. The third law states that there is no permanent
essence, "self", ego, or soul in phenomena. The term originates as
the negation of the concept of atta (âtman) which was the equivalent
in the old Brahmanical religion of the Buddha's day to what other
religions have called the "soul". The Buddha advanced psycho-physical
explanation of the individual which leaves no room for a soul. The
Buddha recognised that the delusion of self or ego was one of the
most powerful of human instincts, and at the same time one of the
most potent sources of ignorance and wrong action. In applying the
anatta doctrine to the phenomena of the external world some care mush
be exercised. Early Buddhism did not deny the reality of the external
world. It argued that the phenomena of the external world could be
broken down into its constituent components, and that nothing else
other than these components existed. It was only in this sense that
the phenomena of the external world were declared to be empty
(suñña). Some schools of Mahayâna Buddhism have taken the doctrine of
emptiness (suññâtâ) to imply a denial of the reality of the external
world. This interpretation is foreign to early Buddhism. Early
Buddhism only asserts that there is no fixed essence or being in
phenomena, but only a process of becoming (bhâva).
The Four Noble Truths
The four noble truths result from the application of the three basic
laws to the human condition. The Buddha frequently asserted that he
was interested in the problem of the alleviation of human
suffering: "Only one thing do I teach, suffering, and how to end it".
His approach to the problem of suffering was similar to that of the
physician to his patient. He first diagnoses the malady, then seeks
the cause of the malady, next finds out whether a cure is possible.
Finally he prescribes the medicine. The four truths correspond to the
four steps of this diagnostic-curative procedure.
(1) The Truth of Suffering.
This truth affirms that the law of dukkha is applicable to the human
"Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow,
lamentation, pain, grief, and despair are suffering. To be separated
from the pleasant is suffering; to be in contact with the unpleasant
is suffering; in short the five aggregates of existence connected
with attachment are all suffering".
The validity of the truth of suffering need not be belaboured here;
it is essentially a matter for personal verification. The truth of
dukkha refers not to the on-existence of the pleasurable and the
joyful, but to the very incompleteness and finitude of that
enjoyment. The imputation of pessimism sometimes made of early
Buddhism is without foundation; suffering in the Buddhist sense
encompasses what is usually termed "evil" in other religo-
philosophical systems, and the existence of evil, caused either by
chance events or by deliberate ill-will is not seriously denied.
(2) The Truth of the Cause of Suffering.
The proximate cause of suffering is craving (tanhâ), but the root
cause of ignorance (avijjâ). The objects of craving are manifold:
sensual pleasure, material possessions, glory, power, fame, ego,
craving for re-birth, even craving for nibbâna (nirvâna). There are
various degrees of craving from a mild wish to an acute grasping
(upâdâna). Craving is the proximate cause of suffering and is itself
caused by other conditioning factors. The full formula of causation
is contained in the Buddhist formula of dependent origination, where
the causes for existence and suffering are traced back through a
chain of twelve links, back to ignorance.
(3) The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering.
This growth constitutes the "good news" of Buddhism. The cause of
suffering could be counteracted. This truth affirms that a way out of
suffering exists, which if followed will lead the individual to a
state of non-suffering called nibbâna, perhaps better known by the
Sanskrit form of the term, Nirvâna. If the first truth could be
considered to have a taint of "pessimism", this truth has the full
flavour of "optimism".
(4) The Truth of the Path to Enlightenment.
The Buddhist path to enlightenment is that discovered by the Buddha
through his own personal effort and practice. It has been called the
Middle Path (majjima paipadâ) because it is a via media between the
extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. Both extremes of
practice were common in the Buddha's day (as indeed they are in out
own). The Buddha calls such extremes vain, profitless and ignoble.
The path of the Buddha avoids two kinds of activity usually
considered essential for salvation by many religious systems. These
are: (1) prayer to supra human powers and agencies, and (2) elaborate
rites and rituals. On the contrary these are considered as being
positive impediments on the path to the cessation of suffering and
the gaining of insight and wisdom.
While the Four Noble Truths and the Three Laws of Existence contain
the kernel of the Buddha's teaching, and were proclaimed by the
Buddha in his very first discourse, there are many other doctrines
that are central to a philosophical system which is as deep as that
of Buddhism. A few of these aspects of the teaching will be mentioned
here and a few of these will be considered in detail elsewhere.
The Goal of Buddhism and the Meaning of Life
The Buddhist goal is the achievement of human perfection, which
should be the real purpose of life. It is in this sense that life has
meaning, and which should inform the most salient aspects of human
activity. A person who has made good progress along the Buddhist path
would have reached a high degree of happiness, contentment and
freedom from fear. Sometimes material affluence is seen as the goal
of many persons, but these do not necessarily bring about the
happiness which the Buddha sought to promote.
Many religions look upon the present life as a ground for laying the
foundation in a future life after physical death. Some Buddhists also
adopt this attitude and try to secure a good rebirth or even Nibbâna
without residue. Exhortations from the Buddha could be produced to
this effect. But the Buddha also affirms that we must make use of the
present life, of which we are sure, and that the pursuit of the Noble
Eightfold Path is the best way of doing so regardless of any
consequences that may happen after death.
The Theory of Causality
One of the central doctrines of Buddhism is that all phenomena owe
their origin and existence to pre-conditioning factors. Everything is
the result of a some cause or other working on the thing concerned.
This is a view that is also shared by modern science, for without the
operation of systematic causes much of the achievement of modern
science may not be possible. But whereas science generally restricts
this principle to physical phenomena and events, in Buddhism the
theory of causation considers causation as a central characteristic
of all phenomena, even non-physical ones which do not form the
subject matter of scientific enquiry.
The Buddhist theory of causation should be distinguished from the
theory of the "First Cause" which is often used by theists to prove
the existence of God. The theory of the first cause asserts that
since God is identified as the first cause (all others
being "created" by God) there is no need to explain the existence of
God. Buddhism does not agree with this position and considers it as
another instance of sophistry ("eel-wriggling") to which theists
resort to sustain their absurd views. (13)
The Doctrine of Dependent Origination
This is one of the cardinal discoveries of the Buddha during his
enlightenment. It is presented as a list of twelve bases which are
causally linked to each other. Since the links from a closed circle
we can break into the chain at any point. The order in the
traditional list is as follows: (1) Ignorance, (2) Volitional
formations (sankhâra), (3) consciousness, (4) mind-and-form, (5)
sense-bases, (6) contact, (7) feeling, (8) craving, (9) clinging,
(10) becoming, (11) birth, (12) old-age-and-death.
There are various ways of interpreting this chain, but we shall not
deal with them here. The traditional interpretation of this is that
it represents three phases often interpreted as lifetimes. The first
phase (the past) is comprised of links 1 and 2; the second (the
present) of links 3 to 10, and the third (the future) of links 11 and
12. In the ongoing process what if the present becomes and past and
what is the future becomes the present. A detailed explication of
this famous formula is not attempted here.
Emptiness and non-Self
The doctrine of "emptiness" (unyâtâ) is more associated with Mahayana
than with Theravada. If it represents another term for the anatta
doctrine described earlier it presents no new problem. However some
Mahayana interpretations tend towards philosophical idealism and
towards the Hindu notion that the world is an illusion (mâyâ) but
such an interpretation cannot be entertained by Basic Buddhism.
Humanism and Rationalism
Basic Buddhism has some affinity with Western notions of humanism and
rationalism. However these terms are used in a variety of contexts,
with humanism associated with theistic notions on the one hand and
extreme secular-materialist notions on the other. But if humanism
means what it should mean, that is the primacy of the human as
against the Divine, then it conforms to the Buddhist approach.
With rationalism as the application of reason and the scientific
method to investigation there is much in common. One of the basic
sutta of the Buddha, the Kâlâma Sutta given in the Anguttara Nikâya
is rightly regarded as the Buddhist charter for free inquiry.Go to
The Buddhist Path
The Buddha's path of practice is called the Noble Eightfold path. The
eight components of this path, as presented in traditional order,
could be briefly described as follows:
1. Right View (Understanding).
This is the right way of interpreting and viewing the world. It
involves the realisation of the three signata in all phenomena, and
of the Four Noble Truths as being applicable to the human condition.
More generally it involves the abandonment of all dogmatically held
2. Right Intention (Thought).
The Buddha argued that all human thought and action spring from
basic "intentions", "dispositions", or "roots", which are capable of
deliberate cultivation, training and control. The three roots of
wrong, unwholesome or "unskilful" action are: Greed, Aversion and
Delusion. The right intention which the Buddhist path requires, is an
intention which is free from these roots. The Buddha called the
intention "that is free from greed and lust, free from ill-will, free
3. Right Speech.
Since speech is the most powerful means of communication, the Buddha
emphasises the cultivation of right modes of speech. These have been
described as avoiding falsehood and adhering to the truth; abstaining
from tale-bearing and instead promoting harmony; refraining from
harsh language and cultivating gentle and courteous speech; avoiding
vain, irresponsible and foolish talk, and speaking in reasoned terms
on subjects of value. Naturally right speech includes in the modern
context right ways of communication whatever the medium used.
4. Right Action.
This refers to wilful acts done by a person, whether by body or mind.
Under the former it involves such forms of ethical conduct as not
killing (or harming) living beings, theft, sexual wrong-doing, etc.
(14) On the positive side right action, also called wholesome deeds
(kusalakamma), involves acts of loving-kindness (mettâ), compassion
(karunâ), sympathetic joy (mudita), generosity (câga), etc.
5. Right Livelihood.
This involves not choosing an occupation that brings suffering to
others, e.g. trading in living beings (including humans), arms,
drugs, poisons, etc.; slaughtering, fishing, soldiering, sooth-
saying, trickery, usury, etc. This provides the economic blueprint
for a truly Buddhist society.
6. Right Effort.
This has been described as "the effort of avoiding or overcoming evil
and unwholesome things, and of developing and maintaining wholesome
things" (Ñyânâtiloka). Right effort enables an individual to
cultivate the right frame of mind in order to accomplish the ethical
requirements under right speech, right action and right livelihood.
It is generally presented as a factor of mental training, enabling
individuals to develop the sublime states of loving-kindness (mettâ)
compassion (karunâ), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity
(upekkha). However it has a general applicability and the effort
could be directed to all wholesome activities.
7. Right Mindfulness.
This is the basic Buddhist technique of cultivating awareness. The
classic sutta on the subject is the satipahâna sutta which will be
considered briefly in the next chapter. Although viewed as a
meditation component in fact right awareness has a wider
8. Right Concentration.
This is the concentration of mind associated with wholesome
consciousness which could be achieved through the systematic
cultivation of meditation. Progress along this line is indicated by
the achievement of the different levels of "absorption" (jhânas). (15)
Of these eight components of the Path, the first two have usually
been grouped under wisdom (paññâ), the next three under morality
(sîla), and the last three under mental development (bhâvanâ). This
classification is not quite satisfactory, but it does present a broad
grouping that is useful in many contexts.
The first of these components (right view) is generally considered
the most important, but there is no particular order of importance
when it comes to the others. However different traditions and
exponents have put different degrees of stress on the different
components. It will be seen that there is no single component of the
path that can be called "meditation". However in course of time the
component of mental development came to be regarded as meditation.
- Oelund,Thank you for that wonderful explantation of Buddhism basics. Although I have read such things elsewhere, this was a clear and concise rendering of the basics. I find that every time I re-read the basics, they make more sense and I can see new ways to apply them.Also, your explanation of the different schools of Buddhism was much appreciated. I never new what the difference was. My draw has always been to the Tibetan mostly because of the Dalai Lama. I have enormous respect for the man as most have. I could give you no other explanation, but it also seems that the books I buy are Tibetan although I do not specifically look for Tibetan Buddhist books. To me, this is a synchronicity I can not ignore. I now know why. I am very adept at visualization and chanting. Being Wiccan for the last 20 or so years has taught me to do these things. They are part and parcel of Wiccan practice. Most Wiccan style meditation involves visualization and chants are used to enter a trance state where one can find answers and guidance. I find though that this style of meditation is somewhat limiting. One needs to have a destination or purpose to the meditation, and frankly, I do not always want to go somewhere. Sometimes, I just want to be. I find Buddhist style meditation fits this better. I use a focal point and the six syllable mantra when I meditate. This combined practice seems the best for me. I have actually been able to still my mind for brief periods. No small task for a verbal person.So, again thank you for the wonderful information.
"Existence needs you. Without you something will be missing in existence and nobody can replace it." Osho
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- OOOH boy, where to start? What's prompting me is the fact you were
involved in Wicca for 20 years, and I would venture you picked up a
bit of knowlege in that time concerning the spirit world, of ghosts
and such. First the general question: in anyone's reading, has
anyone came across any references in buddhism concering the phenomena
of ghosts, besides of course the tradition of the hungry ghosts
(maybe this also fits, I don't know}? For the most part it seems
Buddhism doesn't address these things, possibly considering them a
distraction from its primary goal, but I cannot help to be curious
about them, and perhaps at times it is necessary to appeal to other
traditions to fill in some of the gaps. Besides this being the
season, the other reason that brings it to mind of late is the return
of Diego, our little pooch that was ran over by a car and killed
several months ago. I was watching tv a few weekends ago and felt the
dog next to me where he always lay. Thinking nothing of it I reached
over pet pet him as I was always wont to do, to of course find no dog
there, but the feeling of his presence next to me was too compelling
to dimiss as wishful thinking. My mate feels Diego when walking the
other dogs. A friend who went walking with us kept hearing the
tinkling like the sound of dog tags rattling on a collar, as if a dog
was trotting immedietly behind, and a few days later her four-year-
old not only heard but saw a "little brown and white doggie", which
describes Diego. I have no explaination as to why this would be
happening and am wondering if you would venture a guess.
--- In Buddhism_101@yahoogroups.com, Karen <ladyfire5@y...> wrote:
> Thank you for that wonderful explantation of Buddhism basics.
Although I have read such things elsewhere, this was a clear and
concise rendering of the basics. I find that every time I re-read
the basics, they make more sense and I can see new ways to apply
> Also, your explanation of the different schools of Buddhism was
much appreciated. I never new what the difference was. My draw has
always been to the Tibetan mostly because of the Dalai Lama. I have
enormous respect for the man as most have. I could give you no other
explanation, but it also seems that the books I buy are Tibetan
although I do not specifically look for Tibetan Buddhist books. To
me, this is a synchronicity I can not ignore. I now know why. I am
very adept at visualization and chanting. Being Wiccan for the last
20 or so years has taught me to do these things. They are part and
parcel of Wiccan practice. Most Wiccan style meditation involves
visualization and chants are used to enter a trance state where one
can find answers and guidance. I find though that this style of
meditation is somewhat limiting. One needs to have a destination or
purpose to the meditation, and frankly, I do not always want to go
somewhere. Sometimes, I just want to be. I find
> Buddhist style meditation fits this better. I use a focal point
and the six syllable mantra when I meditate. This combined practice
seems the best for me. I have actually been able to still my mind
for brief periods. No small task for a verbal person.
> So, again thank you for the wonderful information.
> Karen (ladyfire5)
> "Existence needs you. Without you something will be missing in
existence and nobody can replace it." Osho
> Do you Yahoo!?
> Protect your identity with Yahoo! Mail AddressGuard
- Oelund,I emailed a response to you off list. It is under the email listed above or it may come up as Karen.Namaste'Karen
"Existence needs you. Without you something will be missing in existence and nobody can replace it." Osho
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