You Are That (.org)
The resurrection of my late lamented website (mostly) on spiritual matters.

Buddhism 101

An Introduction to Some Important Ideas

[This essay was originally posted to]

The Condensed Version

Elsewhere I discuss how Buddhist ideas came to play a significant role in my thinking. Here I give a more complete list of those ideas. (In the future each of these will be linked to an article on the topic.)

  • The "Three Jewels": The Buddha, The Dharma (his Teaching), and The Sangha (his followers)
  • Buddhahood and Buddha Nature (tathagathagarbha)
  • The Buddha's Life Story
  • The Jatakas (Narratives of his previous existences)
  • The Buddha's (historical) Disciples
  • The Bodhisattvas
  • Dharma-Vinaya: What the Buddha usually called his teaching. Composed of the Dharma (Teachings) associated with the Venerable Ananda; and the Vinaya (Discipline), associated with the Venerable Upali
  • The Dharma as a teaching which reflects universal laws
  • The Four Noble Truths, which include the crucial idea that "All life is suffering" because "Suffering is caused by desire," and if we could control our desires we would stop suffering
  • The Noble Eightfold Path: Two for Wisdom: (1) Right View and (2) Right Intention; Three for Ethical Conduct: (3) Right Speech, (4) Right Action, and (5) Right Livelihood; and Three for Mental Development: (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Mindfulness, and (8) Right Concentration
  • Three Vehicles: (1) Sravakas, (2) Pratyekabuddhas, and (3) Buddhas
  • The Tripitaka (The Pali Canon), The Therevada, and the Sravaka/Arhat Ideal
  • The Mahayana Sutras, The Mahayana, and the Bodhisattva Ideal
  • The Vows of the Bodhisattva
  • Two Truths: The conventional truths by which we operate in the world, and the Absolute Truth of "that world"; important here is the idea that sometimes we must operate according to one kind of truth, and sometimes by the other
  • The "Three Marks" of Existence: Anicca (Impermanence), Dukkha (Suffering), and Anatta (Non-Self)
  • Interconnectedness (Dependent Origination): "Indra's Net of Gems"
  • Emptiness (which results from Dependent Origination, the idea that something exists only in its relation to all other things)
  • The Three Poisons: (1) greed or desire, (2) anger or hatred, and (3) ignorance or delusion
  • The Trikaya, the "Three Bodies" of the Buddha: (1) Nirmanakaya: The "Appearance Body," the Buddha's manifestation in history; (2) Samboghakaya: The "Enjoyment Body" as the Buddha appears to bodhisattvas in Buddha realms; and (3) Dharmakaya: The "Dharma Body," the Buddha's transcendent qualities which are the stuff of the ultimate reality.
  • The Six Perfections: (1) giving or charity (practice of compassion), (2) morality, (3) patience, (4) vigor or diligence, (5) meditation, and (6) wisdom
  • The balance of Wisdom and Compassion
  • The Three Realms: (1) The kamadhatu, the "Desire Realm" where we live; (2) The rupadhatu, the "Form Realm" above the Desire Realm; and (3) the arupadhatu, the "Formless Realm" above that. The top two realms are achieved only by those who master certain deep states of meditative concentration
  • The Six Beings (and therefore six levels) of the Desire Realm: Hell Beings, Hungry Ghosts, Animals, Humans, Ashuras (Demigods), and Devas (Gods).
  • Karma (the result of actions) and Merit (basically, good karma)
  • Cause and effect
  • The Three Trainings: Sila (Ethics), Samadhi (Meditation), and Panna (Wisdom); the importance of moral behavior before the mind can be tamed and wisdom achieved
  • The simplest ethical precepts I ever heard: "Avoid Evil, Do Good, and Purify the Heart"
  • The Five Precepts: "I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from: (1) harming living beings, (2) taking things not freely given (stealing), (3) sexual misconduct, (4) false speech (lying), (5) intoxicating drinks and drugs causing carelessness."
  • The Eight and Ten Precepts: For Eight, add: (6) taking untimely meals (that is, after noon); (7) dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, use of garlands, perfumes, and personal adornment; and (8) use of high or luxurious beds. For Ten, (7) is split in two and (10) is added, so it reads: (6) taking untimely meals; (7) dancing, singing, music and going to see entertainments; (8) use of garlands, perfumes and personal adornment; (9) use of high or luxurious beds; and (10) accepting gold or silver.
  • The Five Skandas (Aggregates): The Body, Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations, and Consciousness. Together these make up the thing which I mistakenly call "Me."
  • Mindfulness: Prerequisite to any understanding of the Dharma, it is a lifetime's practice unto itself
  • Veracity: Huston Smith's word for "seeing things as they really are"
  • Upaya, or "Skillful means": the idea of adjusting the means of teaching to fit the student
  • The Various Schools: Theravada; Mahayana (Madhyamika, Yogacara); largely Chinese schools: Ch'an (Zen); Pure Land; T'ien T'ai; Avatamsaka (Flower Garland, Ch. Hua Yen); San-lun (Three Sutra); Abidharma (Reality or Kosa); Vinaya (Discipline, Ch. Lu); and Tibetan.

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