Revisit The Basics. . .

With over 500 million followers and being one of the oldest religions still practiced today, Buddhism has countless definitions, but there is a core set of values that can help stitch together a basic definition of what Buddhism stands for. Essentially, Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that began over 2000 years ago, when the man who would become Buddha took his seat beneath the shade of a Bodhi tree in ancient Nepal to meditate. It was here that this man found enlightenment, and here where Buddhism was born.

Buddhism: a religion unlike any other, teaching less about the importance of deities and spiritual laws, and more about a way of life that can transform the essence of our personhood. Though there are various sects of Buddhism today, there is a foundational understanding that all Buddhists share in their respect for the Buddhist tenets. But why do people practice Buddhism? While there are a number of reasons, a main principle is in its understand that all creatures are intimately familiar with suffering, thus life should be about relieving this eternal suffering through openness and kindness. Here is how you can practice Buddhism:

Work to end the suffering of others – We must work towards rescuing others from suffering, both mental and physical: to do this, we must reach nirvana, which is achieved by abiding by the Middle Way, or the Noble Eightfold Path.

Follow the Noble Eightfold Path – The Noble Eightfold Path is your path to nirvana, the state of bliss in which suffering no longer exists. These eight lessons include:

  • Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Action (The Five Precepts)
  • Right Concentration, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness (Meditation)
  • Right Thought, Right Understanding (Meditation, Mindfulness, and the Five Precepts)

Cut Ties to Desire and Need – Much of our life is dictated by our needs and wants. We may want the latest car, the shiniest car, the biggest house, but “craving or desiring” these material goods goes against everything Buddhism stands for. Lifelong Learning – We must never believe that we have learned enough. Learning is a lifelong goal, and the more we learn, the closer we become to enlightenment. Specifically, we must learn the dharma, and its relationship with suffering.

Karma – Karma is a key element of a Buddhist lifestyle. It is the belief that everything that you do has a weight of “good” or “bad”, and when your life ends, your overall karma will be judged. If your karma is positive, you will be reborn into a favorable new life; if your karma is negative, you will experience a worse life than your previous one. The circumstances of our current life is determined by the karma of our previous life, and only through being a good person can we assure that our next life will be happier. The difference between good actions and bad actions are the motivations we have behind those actions. Good actions are motivated by kindness, and the desire to relieve others from suffering. Bad actions are motivated by hatred, greed, and consist of acts that bring suffering upon others.

Dharma – Another crucial concept in Buddhism is dharma, which is the reality of the world and your life. Dharma changes constantly, and is altered by the way you see and interact with the world, as well as the choices you make. You can think of dharma as the general understanding of the paths and tenants of Buddhism, or the way that you follow the Buddhist way of living. To best incorporate dharma in your life, you must live in the moment and appreciate the life that you have. Be grateful, be thankful, and spend everyday working towards nirvana.

Beginning Your Journey – These are the basics of Buddhism, but of course, it takes years and decades of study and meditation to truly become familiar with one of the most ancient spiritual traditions still practiced today. Explore Buddhism and figure it out in your own way—there’s no right or wrong, as your process depends entirely on you.

Peace and Love, Jim

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