The Basics of Buddhism: A Super Crash Course

Buddhism is one of the oldest philosophies/ religion known to man. It was born in Nepal in the 6th Century B.C.E and was founded by one of the greatest minds of all time: Siddhartha Gautama.

Nearly 400 million people in many regions of the world practice and believe in Buddhism and it’s teachings.

Unlike other religions, Buddhism does not seek to prove other faiths untrue. It is more like a guiding principle on how to live life and be free from suffering. Basically you can belong to another religion and take in the values of Buddhism.

Crash Course on Buddhism

OK, so Buddhism being about 2500 years old has many teachings and beliefs and philosophies to be learned. But if you are a beginner and you want to start some place to learn what are core values of Buddhism, let this guide help you out

Date of Birth: 6th Century BCE
Founder: Sidharta Gautama
Founded In: Lumbini (Nepal)
Languages: Pali and Sanskrit

Two Schools of Buddhism:

1. Mahayana

– Reformist schools of Buddhism
– Language: Sanskrit
– Additional teachings: Lotus Sutra or the higher teachings

2. Theravada

– Conservative
– Language: Pali

Mayahaya (Countries of Practice)

1. Tibet
2. Korea
3. Japan
4. China
5. Pakistan
6. Afghanistan

Theravada (Countries of Practice)

1. Sri Lanka
2. Thailand
3. Myanmar (Burma)

Buddha

Name: Siddharta Guatama

Date of Birth: 563 BCE to 483 BCE

Place of Birth: Lumbini (Nepal)

Clan: Shakya

Father: King Suddhodana
Mother: Queen Maya
Wife: Yasodhara
Son: Rahula

Grew up in: Kapilavasthu
Place of Enlightenment: Tilaurakot, Nepal

Place of Death: Kushinagar

Enlightened at age of: 35

Known as:

1. The Buddha or the Enlightened One
2. Tatagatha – thus gone
3. Sakyamuni – sage of the Sakyas

Born as prince in Lumbini or present day Nepal, Siddharta Gautama was the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya. Queen Maya was said to have died giving birth to him.

Buddhist scriptures and writings say that he was visited by a holy man a few days after his birth. The holy man predicted that Siddhartha would either be a great ruler or a great prophet or ascetic.

Because his father did not want Siddhartha to be a holy man, he raised him to have riches and sheltered him from seeing suffering or religious indoctrination.

At 16 he married a cousin named Yasodhara and later on fathered a son named Rahula

When he was 29, he left home to visit his people. He then saw four things that lead to his renunciation of the royal life: an old man, a sick man, a dead body and a holy ascetic. He then realized the sufferings in life and decided to live as an ascetic or a holy man who practices self denial.

After six years of being an ascetic, Siddharta Gautama realized that path to enlightenment can only be achieved through moderation or the Middle Way. He learned that too much self denial or self gratification both lead to suffering.

It was said that after realizing this truth (Middle Way), the Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree (pipal tree) and gained Enlightenment after 49 days of meditation.

Teachings of the Buddha

The Way of Inquiry

– One should investigate and gain knowledge on something before believing in it. Faith comes from wisdom and not from just blindly believing what has been taught by others.
– Careful introspection and investigation is needed before adhering to any teaching.
– One must be flexible with beliefs and be open that some that teachings held true may be untrue or vice versa.

Four Noble Truths

1. The Truth of Suffering
– Life is full of suffering.
2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering
– Suffering is caused by desires
– Suffering is caused not only by pain but by impermanent happiness and pleasures and seeking out those things.
3. The Truth of the Freedom From Suffering
– If we let go of desire, we let go of suffering
4. The Truth of Path of Liberation from Suffering
– The Eightfold Path teaches the right way of living life

The Eight Fold Path (The Middle Way)

– Teaches that one should practice a mindful way of living which is not overly self indulgent or be full of self denial.

1. Right View – Knowing that life is full of suffering.
2. Right Intention – Letting go of one’s selfishness.
3. Right Action – Turn away from evil acts and cruel ways. Do not hurt any sentient being.
4. Right Speech – Do not gossip, argue, bear false witness or spite others with your words.
5. Right Livelihood – Do not earn a living by evil ways and hurting sentient beings.
6. Right Effort – Combining action and intention in order to free oneself and others from suffering.
7. Right Mindfulness – To be present and mindful in every moment of one’s life.
8. Right Meditation – To practice meditation in order to find peace and end suffering.

The Three Jewels of Buddhism

The Buddha – Siddharta Gautama
The Dharma – The Teachings of the Buddha
The Sangha – The community of the Buddha; monks and nuns who teach Buddhism

Karma

– Law of Cause and Effect
– Good action does not negate bad actions and vice versa. What has been done will always reap it’s effect be it now or in the future.

1. Good Karma – Brought about by good thoughts and deeds
2. Bad Karma – Brought about by evil thoughts and deeds

Samsara

– Rebirth/ Reincarnation
– To continuously be reborn until one reaches Enlightenment
– Reincarnation is not MEANT to punish but to teach values and morals.

Six Types of Rebirth

1. to be reborn in heaven like realm or as a god (Deva)
2. to be a demigod (Asura)
3. to return as a human (Manusya)
4. to be born as an animal (Tiryak)
5. to be reborn as a ghost (preta)
6. to be reborn in a hellish realm (Naraka)

The Three Universal Truths

1. Impermanence (Annica)
– Everything changes. Nothings lasts, so learn to let go.
2. No Self (Anatta)
– Non existence of the soul.
– It teaches us that there is no soul, but rather an AVACYA or an inexpressible self is every being
3. Suffering (Dukkha)
– All beings, be it holy, human, animal, ghost or demons suffer.
– Suffering is caused by desires and cravings.
– One must follow the Middle Way or the Eightfold Path to end suffering.
– Suffering comes from everything, be it happy and pleasurable things (impermanent happiness) or suffering from pain and hardship.

Five Precepts

1. I will not kill or even hurt sentient beings.
2. I will not take what is not given. (I will not steal).
3. I will avoid sexual misconduct.
4. I will not talk falsely or gossip.
5. I will not partake in alcohol or any intoxicant.

Wisdom and Compassion

Wisdom

– Buddhism requires you to gain wisdom and understanding of life and it’s aspects.
– Wisdom requires an open mind and patience.
– Being wise does not mean being void of emotions

Compassion

– Having the understanding for the suffering of others.
– Helping others to be free from suffering and pain.

Nonexistence of a Supreme Being

– There are many universes and thus no one god created them.
– A supreme being cannot change the movement of the wheel of Karma.

Common Questions

1. Is Buddha a god?
– No. Buddha was born a man. He gained wisdom and Enlightenment by practicing the Middle Way and meditation.

2. Buddhism and other religions?
– Yes, you can believe in the philosophies of Buddhism and still be practicing a different religion.

3. Buddhism and Science
– Buddhism is the religion that does fit well with science. Buddhism focuses on the way of investigation and finding out the truth.

4. How do I become a Buddhist?
– Since Buddhism is a philosophy more than a religion it does not require any special rites to become one.
– Optional ceremony where you can accept the Three Jewels of Buddhism and promise to follow the Five Precepts.

5. Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy?
– It is both. But Buddhism is more of a philosophy. It does have the practices often seen in religions but it more of a philosophy or a principle in how one can live his or her life.

Read more about the Four Noble Truths

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