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How is Buddhism studied?

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โˆ™ 2009-12-30 00:51:03

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First it needs be said that there are many ways to approach and study Buddhism. This is often true for major world faiths, beliefs and practices related to spirituality. It is also true to say that notwithstanding the fact of many schools, forms and practices related to Buddhism, there is one path for all students or followers of Gautama Buddha's teachings. Whether it is called "Buddha Dhamma" in Pali by those of Theravada, or "Buddha Dharma" in Sanskrit by Mahayana, it refers to the teaching begun by Gautama Buddha in his first sermon following enlightenment.

One place to begin to study Buddhism is to start where Gautama Buddha began; with his first discourse or teaching. This teaching is called "Dhammacakkappavattana" or "Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion". It is refered to as a sutta (Pali) or sutra (Sanskrit). These, in turn, are commonly translated as "thread" in English. In it he told of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. You can find many references to Dhammacakkappavattana (and other significant references appearing in bold text) by simply entering these in your internet search line.

An over-simplification of these might be:

The Four Noble Truths state:

1. Suffering is a characteristic of life.

2. The suffering to which he referred is brought on by dissatisfaction we experience.

3. There is a path we can follow to bring this suffering and dissatisfaction to an end; and,

4. This path is the Noble Eightfold Path.

(It is written in Dhammacakkappavattana that Gautama did not consider himself enlightened until he realized these)

The Noble Eightfold Path lists a series of attributes we can develop in parallel fashion with guidance of a proper teacher. They include:

1. Right View

2. Right Intention

3. Right Speech

4. Right Action

5. Right Livelihood

6. Right Effort

7. Right Mindfulness

8. Right Concentration

It may be important to note that one comment unambiguously attributed to Gautama Buddha (a.k.a. the historical Buddha) was that everything he taught was related to "suffering" and "cessation of suffering".

A lot to take on? Certainly it is, but there is a practice which is also a major element in studying Buddhsim. Meditation will equip you to take it all in and learn to calm the dissatisfaction as well.

Now don't take me wrongly. The above is only a beginning. There is much more available to study, but trying to describe it all is like this; one word is too many and ten thousand would not be enough.

"What is the purpose of all this?", you ask. It is to teach us about our own natures as well as how to relate to ourselves and others. You see the simple goal of Buddhism boils down to this:

To do good and do no harm. (To yourself or any other).

Different schools of Buddhism wrap this all up in slightly different sounding words, varying shades of every colour in the rainbow, a myriad of contrasting fragrances. The order of things changes, perhaps a step or idea is added here and there, but in truth it is all one garden and the choices are like choosing which flower you like best.

You don't need to "convert" to Buddhism. It doesn't need to be studied like a religion. Some will gasp, but even the Dalai Lama often says this much and then tells anyone who will listen that his religion is "kindness". Study it, then, with a view to becoming a better you.

If you want to learn more, the best advice is to do a search on your internet search engine for "Buddhism + (your state, province, or city)". Find an organization near to you with a teacher or teachers to guide you. Read as much as you can to help you ask the right questions along the way. Read "Kalama Sutta", as well. This is Buddha's charter of free inquiry, a part of which says or contains words to this effect:

"Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them."; and,

"Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them."

...and still there is is enough left to study to fill a lifetime, if you so chose.

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