Have you been getting the feeling that Buddhism is the right path for you? And now you have decided to take a practical step to learn about Buddhism.
Whatever that prompted you to choose the path of Buddhism could be real or fake. For to truly learn and practice Buddhism, you must have a spiritual calling which comes naturally as a result of leading a good life.
In this article is the journey to understanding Buddhism and practicing it in it’s most fundamental level. The process is a gradual guide through the path of Buddhism, and you will be making the ultimate decision whether to continue in the path of Buddhism or not.
These are the highlights of discussion in this article on the journey to understanding Buddhism.
- Making the ultimate decision
- Learning the fundamental concepts of Buddhism
- Taking the bold step
- Becoming committed to Buddhism
Learning about Buddhism is not an easy process as you may have thought. It is then pointless if you are doing so because you find it fanciful, but if you are convinced that you are ready for this journey, then this guide will get you to your destination.
Making The Ultimate Decision
This is where you decide whether Buddhism is the right choice for you or not. Through the series of the likely questions you have in mind now and the real answers which summarized the beliefs of Buddhists, you will be able to understand fully what you are going in for, and you will find out if you are ready to become a Buddhist.
Is Buddhism a religion?
Buddhism is a way of life! And by the way of practice, Buddhism is beyond religion. It is a school that teaches moral life, mindfulness, and awareness of thoughts and actions, and the development of understanding and wisdom. This whole teaching is called dharma and it is an ancient word older than religion. Therefore it is better to see Buddhism as a path to living than just religion.
What is the origin of Buddhism?
Buddhism about 2500 years ago was introduced by Siddhartha Gautama “the Buddha” when he was awakened. Hence, Buddhism originated from the word “buddhi” which means “to awake”. The Buddha based his teachings on the concepts of karma, reincarnation, the four noble truths and the noble eightfold.
Will Buddhism help me?
If you are seeking to find absolute happiness and in-depth peace, then practicing Buddhism will help you achieve it, through a sequence of practical methods. But if you are looking for wealth and material things, then Buddhism is a wrong place to be, for Buddhists teach that wealth does not guarantee happiness and it is not their aim to become rich and not completely happy.
By getting to this stage you must have decided whether Buddhism is a practice for you. Having known what it upholds and what it promises. Now let us continue the journey –
Learning The Fundamental Concepts of Buddhism
These are the basic things you should learn to about Buddhism that will guide you through the path.
– Learning the common terminologies of the Buddhists: Endeavor to learn as many common languages used by the Buddhists as possible, this will make it easier for you to understand the guides you will read. Here are some common terms you should know –
- Buddha: This is a being awakened to pure enlightenment.
- Sutra: A sacred text of the Buddhists.
- Nirvana: This is the spiritual bliss. A person who attains enlightenment gets this.
- Venerable: This is the title given to an ordained monk. He wears a colored robe that is specific to his sect.
- Dharma: This refers to the teachings and concepts of Buddha.
- Bodhisattva: He who is on his path to awakening.
- Arhat: He who has attained the spiritual bliss (Nirvana)
These terms will help you while reading books on Buddhism but are not limited to the ones listed.
– Read on the life of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama): Read books talking about the life of the historical founder of Buddhism – Siddhartha Gautama. You can also source for articles online. Understand why this Prince chose enlightenment to his throne. This will help you know truly the foundation Buddhism was built on.
– Understand “the four noble truths”: The teaching of the four noble truths includes –
- The First noble truth: Life is full of suffering. This truth points that in life suffering comes in the forms of pain, diseases, sickness and finally death. Also internally suffering can be in the forms of fear, embarrassment, frustration, anger, and disappointment.
- The Second noble truth: The cause of suffering is desire and antipathy. This truth says that desires and wanting is the cause of suffering. Always desiring things takes satisfaction and happiness away from us.
- The Third noble truth: Suffering can end while ultimate happiness can be reached. This is possible when we leave behind unbeneficial desires and live every moment as it is, this means not living in the past or in a conceived future. This is known as attaining Nirvana.
- The Fourth noble truth: The noble eightfold path leads to the end of suffering. This points out the path to follow in the journey to attain nirvana. This means that not only that suffering ends, but there is also a way to end suffering.
The four noble truth acknowledges the existence of suffering, the causes, the end and the path to bring suffering to an end.
– Learn the eightfold path: This teaches the moral living. Taking into consideration your thoughts, words, and actions. It stresses the development of compassion for other people and being able to focus on your mind as you become aware of your thoughts and actions. This is the path to bring an end to suffering.
– Understand the process of reincarnation: Living a multiple life is part of the beliefs of Buddhists. A being is said to be reborn into a new life after he dies. There are various conditions and forms into which a being could be reborn. This cycle goes on till eternity.
– Learn about Karma: Karma is a law which states that every action taken by a being will have a later effect. The effects of an action can manifest immediately, some years later or in the next lifetime. This explains the reason beings are in different conditions of life. The karmic effect of an action depends on – The intention, the effect on the being and the effect on others.
The results of karma can be positive, negative or neutral. Positive when the actions are good such as kindness and generosity – Negative result when actions are bad such as killing and stealing – Neutral results when actions have no significant effects such as sleeping.
– Learn about the Buddhist schools: There are many schools of Buddhism in existence, some of these schools includes, Theravada, Mahayana, Pure Land Buddhism, Esoteric Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Nichiren Shoshu. Although these schools are very different in their modes of activities, they have the same basic beliefs. Buddhism is a very ancient practice and over time, there have been adjustments in many schools leading to many differences.
Taking The Bold Step
When you have devoted your time to study the fundamentals of Buddhism and have learned the basic beliefs of Buddhism, then it is time to take the bold step by taking refuge. Here are the steps to take refuge.
– Search for a Buddhist temple of your choice and join: Each Buddhist temple originates from a particular school of Buddhism. This means that each temple would differ from each other in teachings and activities. Therefore, the best thing to do is to pay a visit to each temple near you, find the venerable and inquire about their activities. If possible attend the services for some time, then know which temple you feel more comfortable with and continue with them.
– Become a member of the community: Buddhists have an exceptional sense of community. The venerable and devotees are most welcoming and willing to answer any question you may have. Joining a Buddhist community would be really easy and you will make friends faster. There would be fun activities such as traveling to various temples across the globe. You will surely get along.
– Take refuge in the Triple Gem: This is the most important part of becoming a Buddhist. Taking refuge in the Triple Gem involves vowing to keep the Five Buddhist Precepts which includes, not to – kill, steal, commit sexual immorality, make a false speech and take alcohol. Taking refuge comes with a ceremony, which after you become a fully recognized Buddhist. If there is a barrier that you cannot take refuge, you can still uphold the Five Precepts.
Note: The Triple Gem includes The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha.
Becoming Committed To Buddhism
After taking refuge and becoming an official Buddhist, remaining devoted becomes the most important thing. Here is how you can maintain devotedness to Buddhism.
– Stay with the community: continue to attend classes in the temple where you have taken refuge, by so doing, you will stay connected with the community. Classes can be on meditations, sutra, or yoga. Respect the rules of Buddhists which includes – women not touching monks even for a handshake and the same for men when it comes to nuns, just make a bow and that would be enough.
– Constantly Study Buddhism: There is a need to keep learning about Buddhism because the practice is very vast and can take a lifetime devotion. No need to feel pressured either, take a step at a time. There is a possibility your temple might have a library, make good use it, if not, there are many translated versions of Buddhist texts online which you can get hold of as you continue to learn. Take a chance on Buddhist sutras which includes the popular Diamond Sutra, The Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra and The Heart Sutra.
– Always remember your vows: During the ceremony of taking refuge in the Triple Gem, you have vowed to keep the Five Buddhist Precepts, this is the time you keep it at the back of your mind. It is not an easy task to keep the precepts, but being conscious of it always will help you. If by mistake you could not keep any of the Five Precepts, try as much as you can to repent fully and still continue in the path to true happiness.
– Lead a balanced life: Buddhism requires that you lead a life of middle way. Do not be so strict to yourself or live too lavishly. The noble eightfold path in which Buddhists follow eight elements is this middle way practice of balanced life – right view, right intention, right speech, right actions, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Doing the right things in the right proportion is the path that leads to Nirvana which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.
This article has detailed the process of how to start learning about Buddhism. We have gone through the decision making process down to the path of becoming devoted to Buddhism. Now that you are aware of how to become a committed Buddhist, it is time for you to take the steps listed above in the article and gradually follow the eightfold path to absolute happiness!
It is very important to know that the steps in the article are a guide to becoming an official Buddhist. There is more to being a Buddhist which you are advised to conduct further research on in order to learn more. Buddhism is so deep that it is impossible to cover in a single topic. Take your time and live towards your happiness!