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Buddhism 101

Discussion in 'Religion, Beliefs and Spirituality' started by MelT, Sep 29, 2007.

  1. There must be some point or goal to being Buddhist, imo...

    If it is a rational pursuit, which I believe it is...

    It involves a choice at some point. According to psychology people make decisions to receive some benefit, whether material or spiritual.

    Take altruism for example...it seems as though it is a selfless act. I don't believe in selfless acts, although I would consider myself an altruist. It's a conscious decision.

    That's why I meditate, but am not a Buddhist. I meditate with a specific goal in mind: To improve my body and mind. I feel that if I keep this goal in mind I will more readily attain it.
  2. You ask the best questions, seriously:)

    The benefit of being a Buddhist is that perhaps, no promises, it will make us better, more thoughtful beings. We hopefully learn too that it's more logical to be nice to other people, even forgetting the moral and social implications that has. But, if we turn this into a goal, 'I wish I could be a better Buddhist and be calmer and be seen as a nice person so people will be nice to me too', then that's missing the point. Worrying about how good you become, or setting goals in levels of piety is another prison, not freedom. We do what we do and trust we're better for it. We're not looking for a pat on the head in return, that too is a prison.

    I have to say that I have met people who've become Buddhists (exclusively we westerners:) in an attempt to show how good they are, and they use it like a badge of apparent morality. But on the whole, we're altruistic simply because it's a better way to be, not because we hope it will give us points to get into heaven or so that we can be seen as better people than anyone else. We recognise our faults and try to balance them with good, simply because it's daft not to. It's not adult to keep doing bad things and not care, so we try to redress the balance when we can. I've got no idea whether that makes us altruistic or not, some Buddhists are, some aren't, it would depend on the Buddhist and what his personal aims were and his personal reasons for doing good.

    Meditation is one of 3 tools in Buddhism that we can use to help us become calmer, so yes, there is the apparent goal of reaching calm in using these things. But actually NOT having any goals in meditation is what will help us reach calm more quickly. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but meditation done with any direct aims can never, ever be as deep as it could without aims. The state we MAY return to in practice is entirely devoid of intent and goals. Think of this like us hoping to return to a natural state of awareness that's inherent in us already. We're not creating anything, going ever deeper into concentration, but regaining a natural mind.The idea is to lose all forms of intent, forward thinking, goal-seeking in terms of how deep a level of concentration you hope to reach, how non-conceptual you hope to become, etc. Even forgetting how much deeper mediation is without aims, if we judge a meditation session as good or bad because we haven't reached a particular level of concentration, puts more stress on us of the kind that we're trying to let go of. We sit, do our best, walk away.

    But, this kind of thing may or may not apply to your approach at all. As you might not be wanting to sit in the same state as we do, with the same effects, trying to get rid of intent from meditation isn't something you need to do. There are no rules for us, if your meditation works for you then its just as powerful and useful as anything in Buddhism. If it calms your mind to the degree you want, what the hell, who cares?:) We want you to have the best methods at your disposal, whether they're Buddhist, Christian, Moslem or 'Toker:) You have a goal and a need, you're fulfilling it, what could be better?

  3. Did this thread suddenly end and why ?

    but are there any books out there that are factual and not bias about Buddhism cause i would love to study this philosphy/religon way more.
  4. The first places you need to look are Mahayana and Therevada forms, there's quite a lot on the net about both. Look at how they approach what they do and see which branch appeals to you, and just keep reading everything you can find online. Once you get to grips with it all then you can start thinking about buying books on the deeper aspects of the traditions.. For the time being, leave Zen and Tibetan forms alone, they have a different approach that wouldn't be relevant to what you need right now. In terms of books, Buddhism for Dummies is amongst the best there is believe it or not, very comprehensive.

  5. One Buddhist practise that's useful for everyone is that of mindfulness. I need only say that it helps increase the intenisty of any high....:) Sorry about the odd formatting, it's from an Open Office file and I can't seem to remove the highlighting.

    Your first full cannabis high (which doesn't necessarily mean your first experience of cannabis) was probably quite strong and memorable. More than likely you were very aware as you waited for the effects of it to come on, which made you closely observe everything that was happening to your mind and body, which of course did a lot to enhance those effects. In meditational terms you were in a more ‘mindful' state, more aware of this present moment. Being more aware of anything we experience makes that experience more intense, including the high.
    If we're fully mindful, our experience of reality changes for the better in lots of ways - as being mindful means that we're putting the thinking part of our minds that would normally block these kinds of perceptions in abeyance. Our reaction time increases; we're more outwardly aware; tastes and smells are broader and colours more vivid. We gain far more enjoyment from things when our perceptions aren't filtered by the conceptual mind.
    There are times, however, when even the most internalised people will emerge again into the world, albeit temporarily - and the rarer this event is for them, the deeper and more startling it will be. People in car crashes often talk about how things suddenly became unnaturally vivid and how time seemed to slow down for them, all of which are effects of becoming very mindful. In response to the onset of danger, our normally chatty, internal voice all but shuts down, allowing us to become fully aware of whatever is happening, and our innate reactions (rather than those slowed by our normal thinking mind) take over, giving us a better chance of surviving. You'll hear people saying time and again when they're talking about a moment when they've instinctively pulled themselves out of a life-threatening situation, “I didn't think, I just did it.” Pure, clear, mindfulness.
    And for we cannabis-takers? You'll notice that the time-dilation effects of becoming very mindful, which I describe are exactly the same as those you'll often experience when you're deeply stoned. cannabis enhances mindfulness to some degree, at least whilst the high is still a novelty to us; but once we start to become more blasé about it through continued use, the mindful aspect – and many of the effects of the cannabis - will fade.

    Beginning Mindfulness
    When beginning any kind of mindfulness practice, first let your awareness of the present moment grow in your perception by doing nothing at all for a few minutes. Good mindfulness can easily come about in these moments before you consciously begin to try to be mindful. If you can be relaxed, effortless and receptive to what comes into your awareness, you'll be surprised how quickly the world comes into sharper focus.
    The practice of mindfulness, described simply, is: when you eat, just eat. When you walk, just walk. Be aware of the action, the moment, and not your internal voice.
    Practising mindfulness (and meditation too) is much easier if you do it outside, especially where there are other people regularly coming and going. The changing scenes will naturally keep your mindful awareness higher, but practising in the outside world also allows a much greater sense of the movement of reality to latch onto than working in darkened, quiet rooms. When you are outside, try to appreciate how not being surrounded by walls feels, how much less constrained and mentally internal you are. After just a couple of weeks of regular practice, you'll notice that your general awareness has increased considerably and that reality is a more vivid and interesting place.

  6. thanks melt and i will check out Buddhism for dummies from the libary and read it. because as time goes on it seems very pratical philosphy/religion.
  7. Wow, you seem to know alot about the teaching of buda. I just readt the post on emptiness and attatchment, both very interesting. I cant wait to read on, thanks.
  8. I know MeLT said buddism does not have any solid rules, but is the general consensus that setting goals (for non-material or material things) somehow bad or not worthwhile?

    Also, reading something like Buddism for Dummies lays out ground rules that you have to remember to progress, and to me it sounds counter intuitive to the whole goal of Buddism... unless I'm mixing it up with Zen thought. Or maybe I'm not; I recall MeLT saying something about going back to the natural state of one's being, which kind of sounds like a child's blank mind that's more aware and curious of his surroundings.

  9. No, not at all. The idea is not to get attached to future outcomes, or say, make making money more important than living life. Nothing wrong with goals or ambition in daily life.

    I'm not sure what part you've been reading, but I think it was probably the moral precepts and the guide for lay monks. They aren't to progress, but to make meditation easier and to live a better life. A precept of say, not lying, isn't a matter of progression towards a goal, you just stop telling lies and that's the end of it.

    Almost, but not a 'blank mind'. Perfectly normal awareness that happens when you catch sight of something you like, or are waiting in a queue. Your mind isn't blank, but active. All that's missing is your mental analysis of what you see and feel. But you don't physically turn that off, it stops by itself when you're in this state.

  10. This is one person's view of the kind of Buddhism he was taught. Different traditions might lead to students putting emphasis on different parts of study, but the basis of it is the same from country to country. The original site is very good for general information: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm

    • What is Buddhism?
    Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from 'budhi', 'to awaken'. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.
    • Is Buddhism a Religion?

    To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

    (1) to lead a moral life,
    (2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
    (3) to develop wisdom and understanding.

    • How Can Buddhism Help Me?

    Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness.

    • Why is Buddhism Becoming Popular?

    Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries for a number of reasons, The first good reason is Buddhism has answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes (for those who are interested) a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists around the world are now discovering to be both very advanced and effective.

    • Who Was the Buddha?

    Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found 'the middle path' and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism - called the Dhamma, or Truth - until his death at the age of 80.

    • Was the Buddha a God?

    He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

    • Do Buddhists Worship Idols?

    Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.

    • Why are so Many Buddhist Countries Poor?

    One of the Buddhist teachings is that wealth does not guarantee happiness and also wealth is impermanent. The people of every country suffer whether rich or poor, but those who understand Buddhist teachings can find true happiness.

    • Are There Different Types of Buddhism?

    There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching - the Dhamma or truth.

    • Are Other Religions Wrong?

    Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings of other religions but Buddhism goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like 'Christian', 'Moslem', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'; that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought.

    • Is Buddhism Scientific?

    Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four Noble truths (see below) can be tested and proven by anyone in fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching rather than accept his word as true. Buddhism depends more on understanding than faith.

    • What did the Buddha Teach?

    The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

    • What is the First Noble Truth?

    The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.

    • What is the Second Noble Truth?

    The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

    • What is the Third Noble Truth?

    The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.

    • What is the Fourth Noble Truth?

    The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.

    • What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?

    In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

    • What are the 5 Precepts?

    The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

    • What is Karma?

    Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.

    • What is Wisdom?
    Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.

    • What is Compassion?

    Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.

    • How do I Become a Buddhist?

    Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way.

    Prepared by Brian White 1993, with thanks to Ven S. Dhammika.


  11. MelT i think this last post,helped me understand more about Buddhism teachings and the philophsy. And I think i will seek more and more knoweledge of this either from lectures or books.

    but i was raised a christian and was told that this is law and unchangeable but i like how buddhism isnt what we say is the truth it employs more self thought and testing it.

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