Buddhism is indeed one of the oldest religions of the world, found around the 6th century. Buddha’s birth and his belief in seeking what reality is and what lies beyond it gave rise to Buddhism. It is necessary to understand the basic beliefs of Buddhism. Anyone can be a Buddhist, as long as they are ready to accept their beliefs.

The basic beliefs of Buddhism revolve around Buddhism and four noble truths. Buddha was the one who brought the concept of Three Universal Truths and Four Noble Truths that he went on to preach to people for the coming forty-five years of his life.

Buddha: A Basic Introduction

Buddha is often hailed as the founder of Buddhism. Buddhism is said to have begun around the 6th century. Around 2500 years, Siddhartha Gautama, the prince of Lumbini, started to question his life at the palace. Being the rich novelty that he is, Siddhartha never came into touch with the reality of the world. This eventually became a problem, for he did not know the reality of the world.

On the other hand, one day during his visit to the nearby village, he came in touch with reality. He came across the four painful sights: a sick man, a dead man, an old man and a monk. These eventually changed his life. The monk’s sight inspired Gautama to leave his life as a prince and become a wandering man. He set out on his journey to seek reality and answers to questions like ‘Why must people suffer?’ ‘What is the main cause of suffering?’

According to Buddhist symbols, to find answers to these questions, Siddhartha set out and tried to find answers to these questions. He spent his time in religious practices like fasting, meditation, and praying. All these were meant for helping him understand the basic truths of life.

However, he gained Enlightenment or realization under a Pipal tree in Bodh Gaya, India. Furthermore, it was here that he gained the name of Buddha for achieving deep meditation. He was bestowed with the title of Buddha, which translates to the Enlightened One.

Types of Buddhism

There are three types of Buddhism, that are also known as the three schools of Buddhism. It is necessary for the one practising Buddhism’s basic beliefs to achieve reality and seek the Truth.

Here are the three schools of Buddhism:

Theravada Buddhism

The Theravada Buddhism is accepted across Sri Lanka, Laos, Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.

Theravada Buddhism is one of the earliest schools of Buddhism. All the texts are focused on Pali, the language which Buddha spoke. People following Theravada Buddhism lead a monastic life and thus, work towards achieving Enlightenment. They further work on getting liberation.

All the central texts of Theravada Buddhism were focused on the life and teachings of Buddha.

Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism is prevalent across Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, China, and Singapore.

Mahayana Buddhism accepts Sanskrit as its prime language. Like Theravada Buddhism, people following Mahayana Buddhism need to follow a monastic life. The followers need to focus on seeking liberation or freedom from their sentiments. Similarly, compassion and wisdom are the core formulas or doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism.

Mahayana Buddhism follows a strict monastic Buddhist life. It has its core or touches to India. Many believe that the early texts of Mahayana Buddhism were released in Sanskrit in South India. However, the later texts were composed in Northern India. Nonetheless, the modern texts do not confine themselves to monastic life.

Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism is also known as the Vajrayana School of Buddhism. It is native to Tibet and followed extensively across Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, parts of Northern India, Russia, and Bhutan.

Vajrayana Buddhism is original to Tibet and is focused on the teachings of Buddha. It focuses on the importance of Vajra, the thunderbolt. Vajrayana Buddhism follows a list of ceremonies or rituals which use Tantra. People following Vajrayana Buddhism suggest that one should follow the practices thoroughly to achieve Enlightenment. Furthermore, it focuses on the importance of laying down practitioners.

Vajrayana Buddhism has around six languages.

These three schools of Buddhism are focused on the different teachings of Buddha. However, there are various aspects of Buddhism as well as Nirvana Buddhism and Zen Buddhism. The different forms of Buddhism are inspired by several religions and philosophies like Bon and Taoism.

Buddhism Basic Beliefs

The basic beliefs of Buddhism revolve around different aspects which need to be embraced thoroughly. It is necessary to implement them and understand each aspect thoroughly.

1. Dharma

The teachings of Buddha are referred to as “Dharma.” His Dharma focused on the importance of generosity, compassion, kindness, and patience. Everyone following the basic beliefs of Buddhism should be focused on following Dharma.

Every Buddhist should live by the five moral teachings, as suggested by Buddha. These include

  • Abstaining from killing the living things
  • Avoiding Sexual misconduct
  • Refrain from Lying
  • Avoid using drugs and alcohol.
  • Not taking what is not given.

In Buddhism, Dharma refers to “cosmic law and order” as brought into existence by Buddha. According to Buddhist Philippine, Dhamma or Dharma is also the term used for ‘phenomena.’ Dharma is the term of Dhamma, and in the East, it is known as Buddha-Dharma. Dharma comprises the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

The status of Dharma, however, varies depending on the Buddhist traditions. While it was stated that Dharma belongs to the basic teachings of Buddha, there are more. The upcoming traditions and interpretations from the different schools of Buddhism also form a part of the different Buddha schools developed as per the Buddha’s teachings. Dharma also stands for the ultimate reality or Truth.

Dharma is also hailed to be one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism. All Buddhists need to seek refuge, which eventually paves the way for everlasting happiness.

Dharma is also an important concept in Chan Buddhism, which stands for authentic doctrine, Bodhi and understanding.

In Theravada Buddhism, Dhamma is achieved through three phases: Practising, Realising and Learning. In Pali, these are referred to as

  • Pariyatti: Learning.
  • Paripatti: Bringing theory into practice.
  • Pativedha: When one moves beyond the Dharma and experiences the Truth.

2. The Four Noble Truths

Around 2500 years ago, Buddha said, “I teach suffering, its origin, cessation and path. That’s all I teach.”

The Four Noble Truths are an essential part of Budha’s teaching. Buddha says that it is through the four principles that Buddha came to understand reality. He achieved this practice by sitting into deep meditation while he was under the Bodhi tree.

Because of his Four Noble Truths, Buddha is often said or compared to a physician. Within the first two Noble Truths, Buddha diagnosed the problem, which is suffering and identified its cause.

However, the Third Noble Truth is about realization, which is the cure. The Fourth Noble Truth is focused on the Eightfold Path and the cure of how one sets out to free himself from suffering. According to Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths include

3. Suffering Dukkha

This is the First Noble Truth, and according to Buddha, dukkha comes in various forms. The first three sights that Buddha saw on his way, which were significant signs of suffering include death, old age, and sickness.

However, Buddha believed that life is not ideal and is dynamic. Often, we do not get what we expect because life fails to live up to our expectations. Human beings are greedy who have desires and cravings. These desires are meant to offer us pleasure, but none of these pleasures lasts for a long time, and even if they do, they tend to get monotonous after a time period.

Dukkha, however, is neither seen as an optimistic approach nor as a pessimistic one. The other noble truths further contain solutions about the sufferings and how to deal with them.

Origin of the suffering

The second noble Truth talks about the origin of the dukkha. Buddha suggests that all our sufferings are ingrained in our worries. The three roots of evils are the major cause of our sufferings. Once we get over these sufferings, we will get over everything else.

The three roots of evil which are the main cause of suffering include

Greed

Ignorance

Hatred

Cessation of suffering or Nirodha

Cessation of suffering is also known as Nirodha, a major part of the Third Noble Truth. Buddha suggests that one can get over the sufferings only by liberating oneself from attachment.

The Third Noble Truth focuses on the ability or necessity of liberation. Estrangement further refers to disenchantment.

Path of Cessation of Suffering

The fourth noble Truth is referred to as the path of cessation of magha. Magga contains the set of principles also known as the Eightfold Path.

In Buddhism, the Eightfold Path is also known as the Middle way. According to the Eightfold Path, one must avoid asceticism and indulgence. These factors did not help Buddha achieve Enlightenment, and hence, the Fourth Noble Truth does not acknowledge them.

4. The Noble Eight Fold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is considered the path to liberation, which is further grouped into three essential elements: moral conduct, wisdom, and mental discipline.

According to Buddhism, the Noble Eightfold Path include

  • Right Understanding (Samma Ditthi)
  • Right Thought (Samma Sankappa)
  • Right Speech (Samma Vaca)
  • Right action (Samma kammanta)
  • Right Livelihood (Samma Ajiva)
  • Right Effort (Samma Vayama)
  • Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati)
  • Right Concentration (Samma Samadhi)

4.3 Right Speech

Right Speech is an essential part of ethical conduct. According to Buddhism, right speech refers to abstention from

  • Telling lies
  • Using abusive and harsh languages
  • Lying
  • Backbiting and talking about the hatred of other people.

According to Buddhism, one should be careful while speaking and talk carefully in front of people. If anyone cannot say something useful at that moment, in that situation, they should maintain silence.

4.4 Right action

Right action refers to the process of promoting honorable and moral conduct. One should not kill, indulge in illegitimate sexual intercourse, or steal. It is advisable as the basic beliefs of Buddhism to follow an honorable way of life.

4.5 Right Livelihood

According to Buddhism, everyone should follow the right livelihood. This, however, means to make an honest living. Buddhism rejects the idea of war and the usage of lethal weapons and unjust livelihood.

4.6 Right effort

Putting in the right effort will play an important role in preventing evil and attracting negative energies. It is necessary to develop the right habits and put in the right efforts to maintain a wholesome state of mind. These good qualities are already existent in people, but it is necessary to accept these accordingly.

4.7 Right mindfulness

The good activities of the body, positive thoughts, and feelings will eventually pave the way for right mindfulness. It is necessary to adopt these feelings accordingly to gain massive advantages.

4.8 Right concentration

One of the main factors of mental discipline is right concentration which paves the way for the four stages of Dhyana. It is necessary to train the mind and get away from all negative thoughts to adopt Dhyana and observe concentration. It helps to maintain pure thoughts and promotes awareness.

Mental discipline is also an essential part of the Eightfold Path consisting of three characteristics: right effort, right concentration and right mindfulness.

The Three Fires

Buddha taught a lot about suffering through his Fire Sermon. He delivered speeches on how one should stay focused to get out of the way and avoid any negative thoughts.

The three fires or poisons are the major reason why everyone is trapped in the samsara. Once one is able to break free from the cycle can only attain freedom.

According to Buddhism, these tree fires (ignorance, attachment, and aversion) are the main reason why everyone is trapped in samsara. The three fires in the wheel of life are shown as a pig, bird, and snake respective. As the wheel of life grows, the three poisons contribute to the building of karma. It is the karma that gives birth to the different realms of samsara.

The Three Jewels of Buddhism

The three jewels of Buddhism are also referred to as threefold refuge or the Tri-Ratna. The Tri-Ratna is made up of Buddha, The Dharma and the Sangha.

It follows one of the Buddhist sayings, “I go to the Buddha for refuge, I go to the Doctrine for refuge, I go to the Order for refuge.”

The meaning of Three Jewels includes

Buddha

He is the Awakened or the Enlightened One. How one sees Buddha is completely dependent on their own interpretation. One can either see the Shakyamukhi, the historical Buddha or Buddha as nature. It is how one adopts the basic beliefs of Buddhism, that Buddha reflects others.

Dharma

It stands for the Teachings of Buddha.

Sangha

The Sangha stands for the community. The community should consist of people who have attained Enlightenment. Hence, they will be able to help people attain Enlightenment, who are new to this field.


The Cycle of ReBirth

Buddhists strongly believe in the cycle of birth and rebirth. Buddhism believes that through one’s actions in the current life, their actions and birth of the coming birth are determined.

One who achieves salvation or nirvana will be free from the cycle of birth and rebirth. It is necessary to determine the birth and move towards it accordingly. One who moves away from the cycle is the one who suffers the most. The cycle of birth and rebirth is essential and needs to be considered thoroughly. In Buddhism, this cycle is critical.

One who follows good karma will eventually be freed from the cycle of birth and rebirth.

Main practices of Buddhism

Meditation and observance have often found its space in the Buddhist practise sphere. If you’re following Buddhism’s basic beliefs, you need to lay your life by the five basic moral principles.

The five foundations laid down, such as following the monastic life, refraining from killing, stealing, acting impure, speaking falsely and drinking intoxicants, are some of Buddhism’s major practises. Not every Buddhist follows the monastic approach. It is necessary to adopt the other five precepts as well. These include

  • Avoiding to eat at incorrect times,
  • Avoid the usage of garlands, perfumes and bodily adornments.
  • Avoiding to sleep in wide beds.
  • Avoid receiving money.
  • Avoid using perfumes.

Buddhists need to follow Pratimoksha or certain rules and regulations to move to the right path. The monastic order or sangha needs to live by the three jewels and also practice all the teachings laid down by Buddha. The lay practices that Buddhists need to follow worshipping Stupas which further gave rise to various ritualistic and devotional practices as laid down by Buddhism.

Buddhist texts

The Buddhist texts are a religious part of the Buddhist tradition. The Buddhist texts were a part of the Buddhist monastics which were passed down orally and then written down in manuscripts during the Indo-Aryan period. These Buddhist texts were further translated into Tibetan and Chinese to propagate the teachings around.

Buddhist texts are divided into different categories. These are further written down in different methods, languages, and writing methods. They are written and memorized to copy texts. The Tripitaka of the Pali Canon, Mahayana Sutras, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead is Buddhism’s major texts. These are the three major non-canonical texts of Buddhism. The Pali Canon translates to “the word of Buddha” which contains all information about Buddha’s discourses. The Pali Canon also consists part of the teachings of Buddha’s pupils.

Most Important Buddhism Sites

The monasteries and temples are essential for Buddhists. Bodh Gaya, where Buddha achieved Enlightenment are the main Buddhist sites. The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya houses the Bodhi Tree where Buddha achieved Enlightenment and became Gautama Buddha.

It was in Sarnath that Buddha delivered his first Sermon. It was here that he taught the Four Noble Truths, Middle Way and Noble Eightfold Path. Sarnath was initially known as Isipathana.

Lumbini is also one of the main sites for Buddhists as it is the birthplace of Buddha.

Kusinagara is the place where Gautama Buddha died and achieved Parinirvana.

Buddhism principles - The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya India
The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India

The eight main sites of pilgrimage of Buddhists include

Buddhist Holidays

The major Buddhist Holidays celebrated by Buddhists celebrated across the world include

Facts about Buddhism

Some of the prominent facts about Buddhism include the following

  • Buddhists do not believe in Creator God or the Supreme Being.
  • Buddhism follows the extensive and intensive religion, which has two main branches.
  • Buddhism lays emphasis on mindfulness and meditation. Many consider Buddhism to be a type of psychology rather than religion.
  • Buddhism is hailed as the fourth largest religion in the world, consisting of 360 million followers.
  • Buddhism came into existence around 400BC, and historical importance was given to Buddha.
  • Buddha laid down the foundation through Sanghas, and the teachings were preserved in the present day.
  • Buddhists believe in the concept of rebirth and reincarnation without losing the central value.

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