Buddhism's core beliefs
Core beliefs of Buddhism:
Buddhism, like most of the great religions of the world, is divided into many different traditions. However, most traditions share a common set of
One fundamental belief of Buddhism is often referred to as reincarnation --
the concept that people are reborn after dying. In fact, most individuals go
through many cycles of birth, living, death and rebirth. A practicing Buddhist
differentiates between the concepts of rebirth and reincarnation. In
reincarnation, the individual may recur repeatedly. In rebirth, a person does
not necessarily return to Earth as the same entity ever again. He compares it to
a leaf growing on a tree. When the withering leaf falls off, a new leaf will
eventually replace it. It is similar to the old leaf, but it is not identical to
the original leaf.
After many such cycles,
if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain
Nirvana. This is a state of liberation and freedom from suffering.
The Three Trainings or Practices:
These three consist of:
- Sila: Virtue, good conduct, morality. This is based on two fundamental principles:
|The principle of equality: that all living entities are equal.|
||The principle of reciprocity: This is the "Golden Rule" in Christianity -- to do onto others as you would wish them to do
onto you. It is found in all major religions.|
- Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one's mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to
personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct.
- Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and
The first two paths listed in the Eightfold Path, described below, refer to discernment; the last three belong to concentration;
the middle three are related to virtue.
The Four Noble Truths:
The Buddha's Four Noble Truths explore human suffering. They may be described (somewhat simplistically) as:
- Dukkha: Suffering exists: (Suffering is real and almost universal.
Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, the
impermanence of pleasure.)
- Samudaya: There is a cause for suffering. (It is the desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of
sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.)
- Nirodha: There is an end to suffering. (Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (a.k.a. Nibbana). The mind experiences
complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving.)
- Magga: In order to end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path.
The Five Precepts:
These are rules to live by. They are somewhat analogous to the second half of the
Ten Commandments in Judaism and Christianity --
that part of the Decalogue which describes behaviors to avoid. However, they are
recommendations, not commandments. Believers are expected to use their own
intelligence in deciding exactly how to apply these rules.
- Do not kill. This is sometimes translated as "not harming" or an
absence of violence.
- Do not steal. This is generally interpreted as including the avoidance
of fraud and economic exploitation.
- Do not lie. This is sometimes interpreted as including name calling,
- Do not misuse sex. For monks and nuns, this means any departure from
complete celibacy. For the laity, adultery is forbidden, along with any
sexual harassment or exploitation, including that within marriage. The
Buddha did not discuss consensual premarital sex within a committed
relationship; Thus, Buddhist traditions differ on this. Most Buddhists, probably
influenced by their local cultures, condemn same-sex
sexual activity regardless of the nature of the relationship between the
- Do not consume alcohol or other drugs. The main concern here is that
intoxicants cloud the mind. Some have included as a drug other methods
of divorcing ourselves from reality -- e.g. movies, television, the
Those preparing for monastic life or who are not
within a family are expected to avoid an additional five activities:
6. Taking untimely meals.
7. Dancing, singing, music, watching grotesque mime.
8. Use of garlands, perfumes and personal adornment.
9. Use of high seats.
10. Accepting gold or silver.
The Eightfold Path:
The Buddha's Eightfold Path consists of:
|Panna: Discernment, wisdom:|
|1) Samma ditthi Right Understanding of the Four Noble Truths|
|2) Samma sankappa: Right thinking; following the right path
|Sila: Virtue, morality:|
|3) Samma vaca: Right speech: no lying, criticism, condemning,
gossip, harsh language|
|4) Samma kammanta Right conduct by following the Five
|5) Samma ajiva: Right livelihood; support yourself without
|Samadhi: Concentration, meditation:|
|6) Samma vayama Right Effort: promote good thoughts; conquer
|7) Samma sati Right Mindfulness: Become aware of your body,
mind and feelings |
|8) Samma samadhi Right Concentration: Meditate to achieve a
higher state of consciousness|
- Guy Newland, Untitled essay at:
- Bhikkhu Bodhi, "The Noble Eightfold Path. The Way to the End of Suffering,"
Buddhist Information, at:
Copyright © 1996 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2017-DEC-04
Author: B.A. Robinson