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ORIGIN AND BASIC TEACHINGS OF BUDDHISM

Buddhism in the World Today


• 1 Billion Under influence of Buddhism (365 million self-proclaimed Buddhists)
• Thailand & Japan 90+% Buddhist
• 3 Major Schools – Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana (Tibetan)
• Some basic teachings true for all Buddhists
• Majority of Buddhists practice Buddhism together with various local beliefs
• Buddhism’s ability to adapt to indigenous traditions is a key reason for its dominance in Asia.

! !
Spread of Early Buddhism in India Spread of Theravada & Mahayana Schools

Origin of Buddhism
• Founder – Siddharta Gautama
• Born 6th century BC (Buddhist calendar counts from 543 BC traditional birthdate)
• Born in Lumpini, Nepal into a royal Hindu family
• Mother dreamed of white elephant with lotus = child will be great warrior or religious leader
• Parents protected Siddharta in palace so not become religious leader
• Married cousin as teenager

The Four Sights


Siddharta left palace for first time and went on an excursion with his chariot driver.
The sheltered prince was greatly disturbed by four things that he saw:
1. An old man – old age is destroyer of beauty, vigor
2. A sick man
3. A dead man
4. A forest dweller (ascetic in meditation)

Handout created by: Karl Dahlfred (www.dahlfred.com) 1


1st Great Renunciation
Siddharta shocked by the four sights and leaves his wife, children,
family, home to seek for the answer. Wheel of Samsara (circle of life
& reincarnation) is disturbing to him and he is not satisfied that it is not
possible to break free from the wheel of Samsara.

2nd Great Renunciation


Siddharta goes to study with ascetics, focusing on fasting, meditation,
self-denial but not find his answer. Extreme asceticism does not lead to
enlightenment & peace

The Middle Way


Rejection of both great wealth and extreme asceticism lead Siddharta to adopt a Middle Way.
Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree.

Buddhism and Hinduism


Buddhism was protest movement that came out of Hinduism.
Many similar beliefs (karma, reincarnation) but also key differences.

Hinduism Buddhism
Brahman – Ultimate Reality No Ultimate Reality – No Deities or Spirits
Atman – existence of the self Anatman – no self
Caste System No Castes – Spiritual Upward Mobility
No Escape from cycle of Reincarnation Nirvana – escape from reincarnation cycle

Basic Buddhist Beliefs


• The Buddha proclaimed that he had gained the self knowledge necessary to break free from his
karma and the endless cycles of rebirth.
• He said that he cannot save others, but can point the way for followers to save themselves.
• Explained man’s condition with the Four Noble Truths
• Eight-Fold Path is the application of the Fourth Noble Truth - the way to nirvana.

The Four Noble Truths - the condition, cause and cure of universal suffering:
1. All is suffering.
2. The cause of suffering is desire.
3. Cessation of Desire is the key to extinguishing the ego and putting out the flame of desire.
4. There is a path which leads to the cessation of suffering (the Eight-fold Path).

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The Eight-Fold Path
According to the Buddha, the only way to escape the suffering caused by our desire is through
our self-effort until we are “Enlightened”. We have to “earn” our freedom by following the eight-
fold path (the “Way”) to eliminate our desires, and thus our sufferings.

The “Way” can be seen as:


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• Ethical Conduct: Morality !
• Mental Discipline: Rigorous Effort !"#$%&'($()*#$+,-#.($
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4. Right conduct
5. Right way of living, occupation

Mental Discipline: Rigorous Effort


6. Right effort
7. Right awareness
8. Right composure/meditation.

Denial of Reality of the Material World & the Self


• Buddhism teaches that the only ultimate reality is karma, the law of cause and effect.
• The world does not really exist, you do not exist, no gods or spirit exists.
• Everything is impermanent and transitory.

Karma - the law of cause and effect.


• If you do something bad, you will receive something bad in return.
• If you do something good, you will receive something good in return.
• Karma is NOT a system of merits and demerits that cancel each other out.
• All bad karma that is sown must eventually be paid for – there is no forgiveness.
• The result is fatalism.

Nirvana
• Nirvana is the ultimate goal of the Buddhist (in theory)
• Nirvana is the end of suffering and the lack of existence (NOT Buddhist heaven)
• Nirvana is achieved through enlightenment – the realization that nothing exists, including
yourself, therefore there is nothing to be desired.
• The enlightened man no longer desires anything and therefore no longer suffers

Handout created by: Karl Dahlfred (www.dahlfred.com) 3


Buddhism Compared with Christianity

Buddhism Christianity
No Ultimate Reality – No Gods One Eternal Self-Existent Creator God
No Self – People do not really exist Immortal Soul
Karma – no escape from punishment for sin Mercy – God forgives sin
Theravada: no savior Historical Incarnation of Jesus the Messiah
Mahayana: perhaps bodhisattva can save but who saves people from their sin
their existence is uncertain
Attain Nirvana through self-effort, good works Attain salvation by grace through faith
Ultimate Hope: Nirvana – non-existence, death Ultimate Hope: dwell with God forever, life

Misery only does not exist, but none miserable


No doer is there, nothing but the deeds are found
Nirvana is, but not the man who seeks it
The 8-fold path exists, but not the traveler on it

The Buddha said, “I am not the way, but only one who points the way”
Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)

Handout created by: Karl Dahlfred (www.dahlfred.com) 4