What Are Buddhism Beliefs?
It is just as difficult to describe the “beliefs” of all Buddhists as it is to describe the same for all Christians. Religions often have different sects, belief systems, even different core philosophies while still sharing the same name. Think of a Baptist church in Mississippi compared to a Catholic mass in upstate New York just for one example.
Still there are some basic principles about Buddhism that are common to all people who call themselves Buddhist. In this article, we’ll take a look at rebirth and reincarnation, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and the Five Precepts. Understanding this basics will give you a quick and dirty understanding of Buddhism.
Rebirth and Reincarnation
Don’t confuse the two things — the idea of ‘rebirth’ is that a person’s energy is retained although the form changes. Buddhists will tell you to think of rebirth as like a leaf on a branch that eventually withers but grows back. Same energy, different form. ‘Reincarnation’ refers to a rebirth of the exact same being back into the physical plane. Contrary to popular belief, there are many cycles of life, death, and rebirth that happen in a person’s life — too many cycles to number.
The purpose of these rebirths is to purify the spirit so that eventually one can attain a state known as Nirvana, or perfect oneness with the universe. When a spirit reaches Nirvana it is relieved of all form and therefore all suffering.
Four Noble Truths
Buddhists believe that Gautama Buddha reached a state of enlightenment and many things were revealed to him. One of these enlightenments is known as the Four Noble Truths. These concepts are an exploration of human suffering. The Four Noble Truths are —
1. Dukkha: Simply, this says that suffering exists.
2. Samudaya: This means “There is a cause for suffering.” It turns out that desire is the cause of all suffering.
3. Nirodha: This concept suggests that there is an end to all suffering.
4. Magga: Like all good religious systems, this Truth is self-referential in a sense. It says that in order to end all suffering and reach Nirvana, you must follow the Eightfold Path.
So what is the Eightfold Path?
According to Buddhists, the way to Nirvana is through following these instructions to the letter.
1. Right Understanding (of the Four Noble Truths)
2. Right Thinking
3. Right Speech
4. Right Conduct
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Meditation
Buddhism’s Ten Commandments
Spoiler alert — there’s only five of them.
Certain followers of Buddhism hold fast to the Five Precepts which come from a document produced by a specific sect of Buddhism. These Precepts are —
Do not kill.
Do not steal.
Do not lie.
Do not misuse sex.
Do not consume alcohol or other drugs.
These are not hard and fast “rules” passed down by a deity, but precepts interpreted by the people out of thousands of years of history to help them live the right way. There are as many interpretations for each of these Precepts as there are sects and practices of Buddhism.
If you’re interested in learning more about Buddhism, check out these blogs by Buddhists and gain some insight into their world.
This post is part of a series of articles about Religious Beliefs. The other posts in this series are: