Despite the fact that Buddhism is practiced worldwide, many of its practices and beliefs are shrouded in mystery. Not many know what the basics of Buddhism are, or what its core values are.
So, who are those monks in red robes? What does the smiling Buddha statue actually represent? Who was Buddha, and why are his lessons still so important today?
If you’re looking for a quick crash course in how to practice Buddhism, we’ve got you covered. Here are 5 essential basics of Buddhism for the curious beginner:
- Buddhism is non-theistic
- Buddhism began with Siddhārtha Gautama
- Buddhists seek nirvana
- The Four Noble Truths
- The Noble Eightfold Path
What Are The Core Beliefs Of Buddhism?
First thing’s first: distilling any two-thousand-year-old religion down to a set of core beliefs is easier said than done. But this is especially true of Buddhism, which has grown and changed a lot over the years.
Today, over 500 million people practice Buddhism, with different branches of this spiritual system flourishing in different areas of the world.
If you’d like to know what Buddhism is all about, these are the 5 basics of Buddhism you should know.
What are the principles of Buddhism?
1. Buddhism is non-theistic
Buddhism is non-theistic, which means it has no official god or deity.
Unlike monotheistic religions like Christianity, and polytheistic religions like Hinduism, Buddhism has no deity at the center of its beliefs.
2. Buddhism began with Siddhārtha Gautama
The Buddha was actually a man by the name of Siddhārtha Gautama. He was born in Lumbini, Nepal between 563 – 480 BCE. Because he was troubled by the sadness, anger, and violence he saw around him, he wanted to find a way to alleviate human suffering.
After studying under many sages, gurus, and ascetics, he departed to meditate on his own beneath a Bodhi tree. Then, after 49 days of meditation, he reached an Enlightened state and became The Buddha.
He traveled and taught until his death at the age of 80. After his death, his lessons and teachings were recorded by monks and became the core tenets of Buddhism.
3. Buddhists seek nirvana
So, why does a Buddhist practice? Buddhists, like Siddhārtha before them, seek to reach nirvana: the state beyond all suffering.
Nirvana is the highest state and marks the end of human pain and suffering. It literally means, “to blow out,” or “to quench.” Nirvana ends the cycle of samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth humans are bound to repeat until they find their way to liberation.
But how can nirvana be reached? Well, meditation is often a big part of the process.
As Deborah King, Author of Mindvalley’s Be A Modern Master Program says, “Meditation is the firmest foundation on which to build your spiritual temple.”
4. The Four Noble Truths
Buddhism has several major branches, including Vinyasa, Mahayana, and Vajrayana Buddhism. But all acknowledge the core teachings of the Buddha, including the Four Noble Truths.
The Four Noble Truths were handed down by the Buddha himself. They are:
- All of human existence is suffering or dukkha.
- The cause of dukkha is craving.
- The end of dukkha comes with putting an end to craving.
- There is a path we can follow to put an end to dukkha.
So, how to put an end to dukkha? Follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
5. The Noble Eightfold Path
Buddhists seek to alleviate their suffering and the suffering of others. This can be done by following the Noble Eightfold Path. In fact, the Noble Eightfold Path was the Buddha’s suggested method for putting an end to dukkha.
The Noble Eightfold Path is:
- Right understanding, or samma ditthi. Understand the Four Noble Truths. Human life is suffering, and there is a way to be free from suffering.
- Right thought, or samma sankappa. Engage in selflessness, altruism, and loving kindness in your thoughts.
- Right speech, or samma vaca. Communicate in a way that is in line with your compassionate thoughts, without verbal abuse, lies, hatred, or blame.
- Right action, or samma kammanta. Abstain from murder, sexual misconduct, and theft.
- Right livelihood, or samma ajiva. Engage in work that fulfills you and helps others. This means avoiding things that harm your body and mind, including drugs, alcohol, and other harmful substances.
- Right effort, or samma vayama. Practice the Noble Eightfold path with consistency, not just on occasion or when it’s easy.
- Right mindfulness, or samma sati. Observe the moving patterns of your body, mind, and the world around you without getting attached to your personal interpretation of these events.
- Right concentration, or samma samadhi. Regularly practice meditation that helps you observe what Buddhists call the monkey mind. With the right concentration, your meditation practice will bring you ever closer to the state beyond suffering.
What are the 5 rules of Buddhism?
Like every spiritual practice, Buddhism also has a few rules that many practitioners follow.
Buddhists are expected to abstain from:
- Taking life.
- Taking what is not given.
- Sensuous misconduct.
- False speech
- Ingesting intoxicants that cloud the mind.
What are the 4 types of Buddhism?
The 4 main branches of Buddhism are:
- Theravada Buddhism
- Mahayana Buddhism
- Vajrayana Buddhism
- Zen Buddhism
So, there you have it! The 5 basics of Buddhism for the curious beginner. What was the most interesting thing you learned about Buddhism? Tell us in the comments below.