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Buddhism in a Nutshell

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Buddhist teachings and meditation are devised to the end of putting them to sound use. Then life ought to be helpful and good for you, and sound delights could come your way. Below is an extract of Buddha's fundamental teachings too.

LoMere Buddhist learning is of little avail

Buddhism offers the goal of Nirvana. "Come and see", advises Buddha.
      Mere learning is of no avail without actual practice.

Buddhism teaches the ten great virtues (Paramita): generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, resolution, loving-kindness, and equanimity.

LoStudy, lead a useful life, and realise

Self-exertion plays an important part in Buddhism.

Buddha's teachings are to be studied, more to be practised, and above all to be realized by oneself.

Until his last moment, Buddha served both by example and by precept.

Buddhism offers a narrowed way of life to bhikkhunis and bhikkhus (nuns and monks) and a wider way to lay followers.

A Buddhist is expected to lead a noble and useful life.

LoGo for individual emancipation and seek pleasure as is fit

"Strive on with diligence", were the last words of Buddha. Both meditation and service form salient characteristics of Buddhism.

To follow the Noble Eightfold Path neither temples nor images are absolutely necessary.

Understanding Buddhists reflect on the virtues of Buddha.

Buddhism does not totally denounce external forms of reverence, as they seem to be of value or even necessary for the masses.

What Buddha expects from adherents is actual observance of his teachings. "He who practises my teaching best, reveres me most", is Buddha's advice [in Mahaparanirvana Sutra]. ◊

Buddha has expounded discourses which tend to worldly progress. Both material and spiritual progress are essential.

Buddhism is concerned with individual emancipation. The Dharma [here: Way] has to be realized by oneself (in Pali: sanditthiko) (7)

"You yourselves should make the exertion. The Tathagatas [Buddhas] are mere teachers."

Cater for the moral advancement to make people ideal citizens. (8)

Should we go for a life full of joy? A Buddhist would say you may if you like, but not be slaves to worldly pleasures. A Buddhist might also seek pleasure in altruistic service.

Gist

IN SUM
  1. Buddhist learning alone is of little avail:
  2. Study, lead a useful life, and realise.
  3. Go for individual emancipation and seek pleasure as is fit.
IN NUCE

That learning is useful which serves individual development and emancipation.

The above is gist from Narada Thera's Introduction in The Buddha and His Teachings [Bht vii-xvi]

More

1. Applying the great teachings to daily life

Interest in Buddhism is growing quickly, especially in the West. This is in part due to that Buddhism is a teaching that emphasizes moderation and self-help development. It provides a path for spiritual and personal development. There is no need for blind faith or unthinking worship. Buddhism encourages questions and investigations into its own teachings, and teaches us to take responsibility. Is very much in harmony with modern science.

Applying the teachings of Buddhism to daily life is explained on this site in fairly everyday terms. You can also find deeper looks into some basic concerns of Buddhism, and links to further information here and there.

There are answers to interesting questions on such as karma, and many easy suggestions to get the best out of your practice, whether you call yourself a Buddhist or not.

2. The better parts and a good life do not incapacitate us

IMAGE
"Can you move around freely?"

Buddhism originated in ancient India, also called Vedic India (map). Both Buddhist and Hindu texts share that common ground along with at least parts of Tantra.

There are many Eastern teachings that derive from Vedic times and ancient Indian soil. Accommodating oneself to them can easily take up the better parts of one's life. Yet we probably need to follow suit with our over-riding conditions to function likably and well. A beginner has to guard against getting stupidly indoctrinated because we first accept and since take to this and that teaching in faith. It can be very easily done. However, one result of faith is indoctrination, which tends to incapacitate more or less, and maybe for the whole life.

Lessons
Map of ancient India. Click on the map to see a larger one.

It may be very hard to survey the asserted values and possible gains in strangely alien teachings, and costumes, and cultural sides to them. Welcome good and solvency-helping basic teachings and instructions. Not all of them help, and in addition much may eventually tie in with one's inherent nature.

Bread-winning, a good, decent life, and spiritual progress needs to be taken care of. Some forms of humour mask gladdening insights for those who are interested in profound knowledge that might eventually pave the way for success. Ask yourself:

  • Are you well?
  • Can you move around freely?
  • Do you have enough and sound enough mastery where you live?

If not, there is a chance that seductive and gross teachings - trivial matters too - have got the better of you. You should counteract that.

Passing thoughts and being spontaneous may be greater than thought directed onto you by others, but learn to consider carefully and well. Ask for evidence, for good evidence. Build on that and refuse to overstretch.

Buddhism encourages self-awareness, and you are encouraged to question a lot, also Buddhist teachings. It should help to find out how to fulfill your highest potential through Buddhism; how the practice of Buddhism can enrich your everyday life; how Buddha's teachings combine to create a path to enlightenment; how to proceed with the meditation training, other core Buddhist practices, and other things that are advocated in an integrated approach to dealing with life problems. Buddhism also gives useful advice for the various stages of development. A further tip: Naturalness is good. A further tip from the Himalayas:

If you were to fall to your death from a very great height it would be a shame not to enjoy the view as you fell, or to appreciate the wind in your hair or warmth of the sun on your face. [Tibetan essentialism].

3. Self-help is to be reasonable and productive

Buddhic Buddha never uses any threats or tries to force anyone to accept his teachings. He prefers to hand out his teachings in a logical and reasonable manner.

Buddhism is summed up by the figurative wheel of proper conduct - most commonly called the wheel of dharma (see caption) - and how to put the wheel in motion throughout life by adhering to a sensible Gentle Middle Way. Buddhism contains teachings about karma (giving-back), having many lives (reincarnation), all of which you are free to doubt. Buddha also advises us not to concern ourselves with unproductive speculations.

4. Buddhism goes deep too

Buddhism goes deep anyway. Compare, for example, a saying by Buddha and another by a famed physicist, Albert Einstein. Who said what? "The concept of space detached from any physical content does not exist." vs "If there is only empty space, with no suns nor planets in it, then space loses its substantiality." The answers are found at the bottom of the page. Here is one more:

While the Tathagata, in his teaching, constantly makes use of conceptions and ideas about them, disciples should keep in mind the unreality of all such conceptions and ideas. They should recall that the Tathagata, in making use of them in explaining the Dharma always uses them in the semblance of a raft that is of use only to cross a river. As the raft is of no further use after the river is crossed, it should be discarded. So these arbitrary conceptions of things and about things should be wholly given up as one attains enlightenment. [Buddha]

The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science. Since, however, sense perception only gives information of this external world or of "physical reality" indirectly, we can only grasp the latter by speculative means. It follows from this that [in] our notions of physical reality . . . [w]e must always be ready to change these notions – that is to say, the axiomatic basis of physics – in order to do justice to perceived facts in the most perfect way logically. [Albert Einstein]

The source of both quotations is a book of over 100 convergent or similar ideas between Buddha and Einstein, put together by Thomas McFarlane. [Eab]

Contents


Buddhism, Literature  

Bht: Thera, Narada. The Buddha and His Teachings. 4th ed. Kuala Lumpur: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1988.

Eab: McFarlane, Thomas J. Einstein and Buddha: The Parallell Sayings. Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press, 2002.

Answers

"If there is only empty space, with no suns nor planets in it, then space loses its substantiality," is by Buddha.

"According to general relativity, the concept of space detached from any physical content does not exist," is by Einstein.

The source of both: Eab (above).

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