THE BACKGROUND OF BUDDHISM

The Buddha Shakyamuni was born in Lumbini, Nepal as prince Siddhartha in 563 B.C. and lived to be 80 years old. As a young man, Siddhartha left the pleasures of royal life in search of an end to the miseries of existence. After quickly perfecting the meditation practices taught by the most advanced teachers of his time, Siddhartha realized that enlightenment could not be attained by extreme methods of asceticism or by achievement of concentration states. By practicing the middle way of gently examining the nature of his own mind, he attained buddhahood, the enlightened state. Buddha means "the enlightened one".

Over the next 50 years and until his death, the Buddha Shakyamuni gave many different kinds of teachings in order to accommodate the various capacities of beings. Although the Buddha gave only oral teachings, his early disciples recorded his teachings and instructions and thus passed them on in their original form. Buddhism is a philosophy of life explained by the Buddha. He was not a god and the philosophy of Buddhism does not entail any theistic world view. The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating sentient beings from suffering.

THE BASIC TEACHINGS OF THE BUDDHA

The basic teachings of the Buddha are the Three Universal Truths, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

THE THREE UNIVERSAL TRUTHS

Nothing is lost in the universe, everything changes and the Law of Cause and Effect.

In Buddhism, the law of karma, says "for every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful." Therefore, the law of Karma teaches that the responsibility for unskillful actions is borne by the person who commits them.

THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS

The Buddha's Four Noble Truths explore human suffering. They may be described, somewhat simplistically, as Dukkha: Suffering exists: Life is suffering. Suffering is real and almost universal. Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, and the impermanence of pleasure. Samudaya: There is a cause of suffering. Suffering is due to attachment. 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. Attachment can be overcome. Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (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. There is a path for accomplishing this.

THE EIGHTFOLD PATH

Right Understanding : of the Four Noble Truths. Right View is the true understanding of the four noble truths.

Right thinking : following the right path in life. Right Aspiration is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness.

Right speech : No lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language. Right Speech involves abstaining from lying, gossiping, or hurtful talk.

Right conduct : or Right Action involves abstaining from hurtful behaviors, such as killing, stealing, careless sex and consuming alcohol or other drugs. These are called the Five Precepts.

Right livelihood : Support yourself without harming others. Right Livelihood means making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals.

Right Effort : Promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts. Right Effort is a matter of exerting oneself in regards to the content of one's mind. Bad qualities should be abandoned and prevented from arising again. Good qualities should be enacted and nurtured.

Right Mindfulness : Become aware of your body, mind and feelings. Right Mindfulness is the focusing of one's attention on one's body, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness in such a way as to overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.

Right Concentration : Meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness. Right Concentration is meditating in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness.