Basic Buddhism

The Four Noble Truths

  • Suffering – attachment to the impermanent and unreal
  • The Origins of Suffering – Karma and rebirth
  • The Cessation of Suffering – Nirvana and theDoctrines of “no-soul” and no-self
  • The Noble Eightfold Path (aka the Middle Path) – the means to ending Karma.
  • Wisdom
    • Right Understanding — the Four Noble Truths
    •  Right Thought — selflessness, love, non-violence
  • Ethical Conduct
    • Right Speech — care and non-harm.
    •  Right Actionahimsa, refrain from: destroying life, stealing, cheating, illegitimate sex.
    • Right Livelihood— ethical and non-harmful living.
  • Mental Discipline
    • Right Effort — will to prevent error in thought
    • Right Mindfulness (or Attentiveness) — constant self-consciousness
    • Right Concentration — Dhyanna (Ch’an; Zen) Meditation

Three Gems (or Refuges): Buddha, Dhamma(law, truth), Sangha (the community of monks)

Five Precepts – for every believer
1. not to destroy life
2. not to steal
3. not to commit adultery
4. not to tell lies
5. not to take intoxicating drinks
Five more for novitiate ordination:
6. not to eat after noon
7. no watching of dancing, singing and shows
8. no adorning oneself with garlands, perfumes, ointments
9. no using a high bed
10. no receiving gold and silver
Full discipline for a monk involves:
75 rules of deportment
92 offenses requiring expiation
30 offenses requiring expiation and forfeiture
13 offenses requiring a meeting of the Sangha and probation
4 offenses warranting permanent expulsion

Boddhisatva = Buddha of a forthcoming age; one who will be enlightened. Later, in Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”) Buddhism, indicates enlightened beings who vow to remain in the world, rather than pass into Nirvana, until all sentient beings are saved from suffering.

Boddhisatvas: Shakyamuni; Maitreya (Mi-le; Miroku); Avalokitesvara (Kuan-she-yin, Kuan-yin; Kannon); Manjusri (Wen-shu-shi-li); Samantabhadra (P’u-shien)

Celestial Buddhas: Amitabha (A-mi-t’o fo; Amida); Bhaishajyaguru (Yao-shih ju-lai); Vairocana

Major Chinese Sects (all Mahayana): T’ien-t’ai, Pure Land, Chan

My sources include: Bentley&Ziegler; Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught; Robinson and Johnson, The Buddhist Religion, 3rd ed..; Jacques Gernet, A History of Chinese Civilization, 2nd. edition.

Pictures of Buddhist art and artifacts

© 2003, 2006 – Jonathan Dresner