Basic Buddhism: A Five-Minute Introduction
* What is
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.
* How Can Buddhism Help
Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice and
inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of
life that leads to true happiness.
* Why is Buddhism Becoming
Buddhism is becoming popular in Western countries for a number of reasons,
The first good reason is Buddhism has answers to many of the problems in
modern materialistic societies. It also includes (for those who are
interested) a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies)
which prominent psychologists around the world are now discovering to be
both very advanced and effective.
* 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.
* Was the Buddha a God?
He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to
enlightenment from his own experience.
* Do Buddhists Worship
Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor
to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its
lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love
within ourselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the
* Why are so Many Buddhist
One of the Buddhist teachings is that wealth does not guarantee happiness
and also wealth is impermanent. The people of every country suffer whether
rich or poor, but those who understand Buddhist teachings can find true
* 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.
* Are Other Religions
Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or
religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings of other religions but
Buddhism goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence,
through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and
not concerned with labels like 'Christian', 'Moslem', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist';
that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism.
That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an
explanation is sought.
* Is Buddhism Scientific?
Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon
seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of
Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four Noble truths (see below)
can be tested and proven by anyone in fact the Buddha himself asked his
followers to test the teaching rather than accept his word as true. Buddhism
depends more on understanding than faith.
* What did the Buddha
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
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
* What is the Second Noble
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.
* What is the Third Noble
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.
* What is the Fourth Noble
The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to
the end of suffering.
* What is the Noble 8-Fold
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
* 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
* 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.
* How do I Become a
Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches
that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The
Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to
test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for
themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding.
This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be
accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns
and uses in their own way.