Do you practice Buddhism? Have you been following the footsteps of a Buddhist but lack the fundamental principles to exercise fully? Then, this article is a detailed guide to see you through.
Buddhism is a non-theistic system. That is to say, they do not believe in the existence of a supreme being. However, it is a way of life. And, Buddhism is beyond religion. In addition, about an estimated 488 million in the world practice Buddhism. Hence, it represents up to 9% to 10% of the world’s total population.
Buddhism as a philosophy exists across many cultures and periods. Also, it goes with variable teachings and practices. Despite the differences among Buddhist traditions, they still share a standard set of core beliefs.
Thus, in Buddhism, the primary purpose of life is to end suffering. The Buddha teachings emphasize that humans suffer because of earthly pleasures. In the same manner, he taught that these pleasures mask the rate of human suffering. Therefore, Buddhism teaches us the importance of recognizing the impermanence of all things. And, above all, how to free oneself from such attachments.
Hence, the under-listed points are the core Buddhist beliefs.
- The Four Noble Truths
- Noble Eightfold Path
- The Five Precepts
This is one of the core beliefs of Buddhism. Hence, Reincarnation is the concept that people are reborn after dying. In general sense, it is merely understood as living a multiple life. But, the idea of reincarnation is quite broad in Buddhism. In other words, reincarnation can also be referred to as rebirth. However, the idea behind the two might differ to a certain extent.
To clarify, in reincarnation, the individual may recur repeatedly. But for rebirth, a person does not necessarily return to earth as the same entity ever again.
How Long Does It Take For A Person To Reincarnate?
From Buddhism, it generally takes between 49 days and two years after death.
Buddhism teaches the belief in karma. Certainly, Karma means that all actions have consequential effects. Furthermore, the consequences of acts undertaken in earlier lifetimes will be felt immediately, or years later.
The laws of karma are all about the positive and negative implications of our words, thoughts, and deeds. In essence, everything we do links to our karma. Thus:
- How we see our role in life
- The way we treat others
- How we develop our characters
- And, how we use resources
Indeed, it is a Buddhist aim to educate oneself through how karma works to escape the adverse effects.
Meditation is an essential practice of a Buddhist. Most of all, meditation means focusing the mind on achieving an inner stillness that leads to a state of enlightenment. More so, it is a devotional exercise. Meditation is merely the practice of focusing your attention on a particular object of practice. Or, generally something simple, like a word or phrase. Also, it is another core belief of Buddhism. Meditation is the key. That is to say, the practice of meditation helps you attend a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.
With meditation, you can achieve a tremendous calming effect. Surprisingly, it can make your brain age slower. Also, meditation removes your mind from unnecessary worries. And, it increases the life span.
What Are The Different Forms Of Practicing Meditation?
One can practice meditation in various forms. It can be:
- Sitting quietly beside a beautiful arrangement of rocks, contemplating beauty.
- Practicing a martial art such as karate or aikido since they require mental and physical control and active concentration.
- Focusing on a riddle such as “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
- Contemplating a haiku or short poem that captures a moment in time.
- Practicing in a meditation room of a monastery.
- Chanting of mantras.
- The use of a mandala to focus attention to the ideal point at the center of interlocking triangles.
- Quietly noticing one’s breath as it goes in and out. Most of all, this can happen anywhere at any time.
- It can involve walking about alone in a particular environment.
What Is The Importance Of Meditation?
Meditation can also help those affected by:
- Resentment and
- Interpersonal conflict to achieve peace of mind.
Its importance can never be overemphasized. Most importantly, except by calming our mind, and examining our mind’s nature, we will never reach enlightenment.
Other Core Beliefs Of A Buddhist
Other teachings of the Buddha are ideas expressed most briefly in the Four Noble Truths, The Noble Eightfold Path, and the Five Precepts. Similarly, they form together a foundation of belief for all branches of Buddhism.
The Four Noble Truths are:
- Life is made of suffering.
- Suffering is caused by desire and attachment.
- Suffering can be stopped.
- The way to end suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
The First Noble Truth
Life is made of suffering (Dukkha)
Suffering can come in many forms. However, there are three distinct kinds of pain corresponding to the first three sights the Buddha. More so, these are what the Buddha saw on his first journey outside his palace. Thus, they include:
- Old age,
- Sickness and
Even more, according to the Buddha, the problem of suffering goes much deeper. As a result, Life is not ideal. Hence, it frequently fails to come up to our expectations.
Human beings are subject to desires and cravings. But, even when we can satisfy these desires, the satisfaction is only temporary. That is to say, pleasure does not last. Or, even if it does, it becomes boring.
However, when we are not suffering from outward causes like illness or grief, we are unfulfilled and unsatisfied. This is the truth of suffering. Although, some people who encounter this teaching may find it doubtful. Either way, Buddhists find it neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but realistic.
Fortunately, the Buddha’s teachings do not end with suffering. Instead, they go on to tell us what we can do about it. And, also, how to stop it.
The Second Noble Truth
The causes of suffering are desire and attachment. (Samudāya)
Our day-to-day troubles may come from the following causes: thirst, failure, pain from an injury, sadness from the loss of a loved one. Certainly, in the second of his Noble Truths, the Buddha taught about the cause of all suffering. And, most noteworthy, it is much more deeply rooted than our immediate worries.
Then, What Are The Causes Of All Human Suffering?
The Buddha taught that the root of all suffering is desire, tanhā. Further, this comes in three forms. And, can come in any of the listed names as the Buddha described:
- Three Roots of Evil,
- The Three Fires, or
- Three Poisons.
What are the three roots of evil?
Greed and desire and envy are the three ultimate roots of evil.
What then are the three fires?
The Three Fires are hate, greed and ignorance exhibited simultaneously.
What are the three signs of poison?
Ignorance or delusion, represented by a pig. Then, hatred and destructive urges, represented by a snake.
The Third Noble Truth
Suffering can be stopped (Nirodha)
The Buddha taught that the way to extinguish desire, which causes suffering, is to liberate oneself from attachment.
How is the liberation possible?
By extinguishing the three fires of greed, delusion, and hatred. Above all, the Buddha himself showed the possibility of such virtue during his lifetime.
The Fourth Noble Truth
The way to end suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path (Magga).
The final Noble Truth is the Buddha’s prescription for the end of suffering. This is a set of principles called the Eightfold Path.
How can the Noble Eightfold Path help us end suffering?
According to the fourth Noble Truth, one can permanently escape suffering by following the Noble Eightfold Path.
Having the Right View/Understanding
You need to know things as they indeed are without misunderstandings for all things change. Hence, the need to develop the wisdom of how things work. On the same note, identify yourself and respect others.
Have the Right Thinking
Always set your life on the correct path. Similarly, make a full resolution and dedication to overcoming the urge for self-centered craving. Certainly, one can achieve this by developing love, kindness, empathy, and compassion for others.
Abstain from lies and deceptions, backbiting, idle, and abusive speech. Instead, cultivate honesty and truthfulness. Also, practice speech that is kind and benevolent. Let your words reflect your desire to help, not harm others.
Practice selfless conduct that reflects the highest state of the life you want to live. That is to say, express the manner that is peaceful, honest and pure showing compassion for all beings.
Earn a living that does not harm other living beings. Thus, avoid work that causes suffering to others. Or, that makes a decent, virtuous life impossible. Therefore, do not engage in any occupation that opposes or distracts one from the path of love. Most of all, serve the world through your work.
Seek to make a balance in the exertion of your spiritual path. Hence, Moderate your life, not to over-zealously do things. Work to develop more wholesome mind states, while gently striving to go deeper and live more fully.
Become intensely aware of all the states in the body, feeling, and mind. Through meditation always examine your thoughts, speech, and action. Moreover, do not set your mind on self-centered thoughts. Instead, be aware of your thoughts, emotions, body, and world as they exist in the present moment. Note also, your thoughts create your reality!
Deep meditation leads to a higher state of consciousness (enlightenment). Therefore, through the application of meditation and mental discipline, always seek to extinguish the last flame of consciousness. Therein, develop an emptiness that has room to embrace and love all things.
The Five Precepts
The Five Precepts are basic ethical guidelines for the followers of Buddhism. As a result, they are to be undertaken voluntarily. In contrast to the idea of commandments from a god.
How do the five precepts influence a Buddhist?
According to Patimokkha, there exist over 227 rules of conduct that all Buddhist are supposed to observe. However, the five Buddhist precepts summarize all.
- Abstinence from Murder.
- Abstinence from Alcoholism
- Sexual Misconduct
- Abstinence from Stealing
- Refrain from evil-minded thoughts.
The above five principles are closely related. But, they are the core five ethical rules of Buddhism. One can refer to them as “Buddhist commandments.”
You may ask, how do all these rules play a decisive role in the lives of the Buddhist?
The five precepts are like candle lights which cannot burn without fire. Hence, it is the spiritual life of every Buddhist.
Abstinence from Murder
A Buddhist is such a person who cares more about existence, both living and non- living things. Lying in the conscience of any practicing Buddhist is such a kind heart to associate with all and sundry. Hereafter, contributing mainly towards the growth of humanity and its environs.
Abstinence from Alcoholism
The Buddha encouraged his followers to refrain from consuming intoxicating drinks and drugs. Because this will lead to carelessness. Examples of intoxicants include alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. These substances are inconsistent with Buddhist beliefs as they distort the mind. Therefore, it is unreliable with a Buddhist’s quest to understand and develop the mind.
According to our belief, by practicing meditation, wisdom, and morality, every individual has the ability to experience eternal happiness. Hence, as we regard the mind as precious, we work earnestly by mastering it through mediation.
Ideally, this means avoidance of fornication, rape, adultery or any form of satisfying ones’ libidinal inclination. Most noteworthy, this precept can best be achieved by avoiding sexual activity. And, however, practicing celibacy at all cost.
Thus, having different building positions for the monks and nun serves as the best policy to breaching temptation that may arise due to proximity issues.
Abstinence from Stealing
This is merely avoiding an act of theft. A Buddhist fails this precept when he, with the intention of robbery, takes away others’ possessions. Consequently, he outrightly loses his status as a bonafide member.
Supposedly, a Buddhist directly supports someone to steal for him or pays a token for a prohibited product by the custom to be smuggled in for him; such persons’ status is questionable.
Also, traveling with an invalid ticket is also a theft case in the Buddhist community.
Summarily, cases where these five factors are present:
- The stolen object belongs to a human being.
- A Buddhist knows that the object belongs to someone else other than himself.
- The stolen object has a minimum value of 1.06 grams of gold + 1.06 grams of silver + 2.12 grams of copper (in the concerned region).
- A Buddhist has the intention to steal. And, eventually, the theft took place. He committed a big crime punishable by the law.
What if a mentally disordered persons steal?
A Buddhist, may either out of insanity or owing to complete absentmindedness, or under the influence of a painful disease, takes someone else’s possession. He does not commit any crime. That is to say, such will be condoned regarding the situation at the moment. But, urgent attention is giving afterward to prevent a repetition of such actions.
Refraining From Evil-Minded Thoughts
Evil is a word many people use without thinking deeply about what it signifies. Although, human history documents a lot of atrocities committed by humanity against themselves due to personal beliefs. However, relating this to Buddhist teachings, no member has an entitlement to such an act.
Any Buddhist intoxicated by self-righteousness. And, as such does terrible things to those he hates or fear does not qualify as a member.
What if an evil-minded Buddhist hide under others to perpetuate evil?
A later discovery will warrant a severe punishment for such a fellow.
The FAQ about Core Beliefs Of Buddhism
Aside from these core beliefs, are there misconceptions about Buddhism?
No, usually people have two different thinking about Buddhism—that Buddhists believe in reincarnation and that all Buddhists are vegetarian.
These two beliefs are false. However, Buddhist teachings on rebirth are considerably different from what most people call “reincarnation.” And, although Buddhism encourages vegetarianism in many sects it is a personal choice, not a requirement.
Can Buddhist core teachings be accepted in blind Faith?
To say that doctrines and teachings shouldn’t be accepted on blind faith does not mean they are not important. As a result, the many lessons of Buddhism are like maps to follow on a spiritual journey. In addition, it is like a boat to carry you across a river. Daily meditation or chanting may seem pointless. But, when practiced with sincerity they have a real impact on your life and outlook.
Are there contradicting beliefs in Buddhism practice?
Over the centuries Buddhism has developed diverse schools with distinctive, and sometimes contradictory, doctrines. As such, you might often read that Buddhists believe in an idea. But, it applies to only one school of thought.
Does Buddha hear prayers and wishes?
Throughout Asia, one can find a kind of folk Buddhism. Here, the Buddha and other iconic characters from Buddhist literature appear to be divine beings who can hear prayers and grant wishes. There are Buddhists with such beliefs. However, focusing on those beliefs will teach you little about Buddhism. Hence, remember the Zen saying “The hand pointing to the moon is not the moon.”
In most religions, their belief defines them. But, in Buddhism, merely believing in doctrines is beside the point. Rather, the Buddha said that one should not accept doctrines just because they are in scripture or taught by priests.
Therefore, instead of teaching doctrines that one can memorize and believe, the Buddha taught how to realize the truth for yourself. Conclusively, the focus of Buddhism is on practice rather than belief.
If you want to learn about Buddhism, put aside all assumptions. This includes assumptions about Buddhism, and then assumptions about religion. Also, put aside assumptions about the nature of the self, of reality, of existence. Keep yourself open to new understanding. Thereby, whatever beliefs you hold, hold it in a free hand and not a tight fist. Just practice, and see where it takes you.
Hence, practice what you teach and teach what you practice