GETTING STARTED WITH BUDDHISM:
Welcome! Where to start? We start at the beginning. First we start a regular meditation practice. There is another resource page on the blog called “Getting Started With Meditation” to help you with this.
Next we learn the basics of Buddhism. Familiarize yourself with the Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path and the Precepts. All of which you can find on my “General Resource Page”.
Next I suggest that you take some time and watch the “Life of the Buddha narrated by Richard Gere. A link to that video is also on the “General Resources” page. The it might be fun to read or listen to the short novel “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse. This is a novel which explains many of the ideas and concepts behind Buddhism better than a dry text would do. You can find a link to a free written version or free audiobook on the “Books and Texts” resource page on the blog.
Then if you wish to take it to the next step locate a Buddhist temple near you. Call. Ask about attending services or Dhamma talks (talks by the Sensei regarding the Dharma). Attend and if you like it join that community. From there you can find a teacher and you are well on your way.
THE BASICS OF BUDDHISM:
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism
The First Noble Truth: Life is Suffering (Dhukka)
The first sermon that the Buddha preached after his enlightenment was about the four noble truths. The first noble truth is that life is frustrating and painful. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, there are times when it is downright miserable. Things may be fine with us, at the moment, but, if we look around, we see other people in the most appalling condition, children starving, terrorism, hatred, wars, intolerance, people being tortured and we get a sort of queasy feeling whenever we think about the world situation in even the most casual way. We, ourselves, will some day grow old, get sick and eventually die. No matter how we try to avoid it, some day we are going to die. Even though we try to avoid thinking about it, there are constant reminders that it is true.
The Second Noble Truth: Suffering is Caused by Attachment
The second noble truth is that suffering has a cause. We suffer because we are constantly struggling to survive. We are constantly trying to prove our existence. We may be extremely humble and self-deprecating, but even that is an attempt to define ourselves. We are defined by our humility. The harder we struggle to establish ourselves and our relationships, the more painful our experience becomes.
The Third Noble Truth: Suffering can be Ended
The third noble truth is that the cause of suffering can be ended. Our struggle to survive, our effort to prove ourselves and solidify our relationships is unnecessary. We, and the world, can get along quite comfortably without all our unnecessary posturing. We could just be a simple, direct and straight-forward person. We could form a simple relationship with our world, our coffee, spouse and friend. We do this by abandoning our expectations about how we think things should be.
The Fourth Noble Truth: The Eightfold Path is the End to Suffering
This is the fourth noble truth: the way, or path to end the cause of suffering. The central theme of this way is meditation. Meditation, here, means the practice of mindfulness/awareness, shamata/vipashyana in Sanskrit. We practice being mindful of all the things that we use to torture ourselves with. We become mindful by abandoning our expectations about the way we think things should be and, out of our mindfulness, we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are. We begin to develop the insight that things are really quite simple, that we can handle ourselves, and our relationships, very well as soon as we stop being so manipulative and complex.
The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism
1) Right View
The first step is called right view or true understanding. It’s the step of understanding, that life contains joy as well as suffering. There is no such thing as life without suffering. May it be due to war, hunger, disease, death, depression, fears, insecurities, obsessions or other things in our lives.
If we want to open our minds with awareness, we have to be able to look at life directly, and accept that life is made of both joys and sorrows. On the other hand. We also need to be aware, that most of the suffering in our lives are created by ourselves.
This happens when we start clinging to our own view, on how things are supposed to be, and impose our own expectations about our lives. It is our reactions to events that create the suffering. Reactions like fear, greed, hatred, prejudice, delusions, lack of forgiveness etc. True understanding occurs when we see things simply, as they are, and react with an open attitude, instead of reacting with negative feelings as mentioned above.
2) Right intention.
The second step of the path is called right intention. It proceeds from right view. If we are able to abandon our expectations, our hopes and fears, we no longer need to be manipulative. We don’t have to try to con situations into our preconceived notions of how they should be. We work with what is. Our intentions are pure.
3) Right speech.
The third aspect of the path is right speech. Words are very powerful. And we need to respect these as such. Once our intentions are pure, we no longer have to be embarrassed about our speech. Since we aren’t trying to manipulate people, we don’t have to be hesitant about what we say, nor do we need to try bluff our way through a conversation with any sort of phoney confidence. We say what needs to be said, very simply in a genuine way.
4) Right discipline.
The fourth step on the path, right discipline, involves a kind of renunciation. We need to give up our tendency to complicate issues. We practice simplicity. We have a simple straight-forward relationship with our dinner, our job, our house and our family. We give up all the unnecessary and frivolous complications that we usually try to cloud our relationships with.
5) Right livelihood.
Right livelihood is the fifth step on the path. It is only natural and right that we should earn our living.Often, many of us don’t particularly enjoy our jobs. We can’t wait to get home from work and begrudge the amount of time that our job takes away from our enjoyment of the good life. Perhaps, we might wish we had a more glamorous job. We don’t feel that our job in a factory or office is in keeping with the image we want to project. The truth is, that we should be glad of our job, whatever it is. We should form a simple relationship with it. We need to perform it properly, with attention to detail.
6) Right effort.
The sixth aspect of the path is right effort.Wrong effort is struggle. We often approach a spiritual discipline as though we need to conquer our evil side and promote our good side. We are locked in combat with ourselves and try to obliterate the tiniest negative tendency.Right effort doesn’t involve struggle at all. When we see things as they are, we can work with them, gently and without any kind of aggression whatsoever.
7) Right mindfulness.
Right mindfulness, the seventh step, involves precision and clarity. We are mindful of the tiniest details of our experience. We are mindful of the way we talk, the way we perform our jobs, our posture, our attitude toward our friends and family, every detail.
8) Right concentration.
Right concentration, or absorption is the eighth step of the path.Usually we are absorbed in absent mindedness. Our minds are completely captivated by all sorts of entertainment and speculations. Right absorption means that we are completely absorbed in nowness, in things as they are. This can only happen if we have some sort of discipline, such as sitting meditation. We might even say that without the discipline of sitting meditation, we can’t walk the eightfold path at all. Sitting meditation cuts through our absent mindedness. It provides a space or gap in our preoccupation with ourselves.
The Five Precepts of Buddhism
1) To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. This precept applies to all living beings not just humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected.
2) To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given. This precept goes further than mere stealing. One should avoid taking anything unless one can be sure that is intended that it is for you.
3) To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct. This precept is often mistranslated or misinterpreted as relating only to sexual misconduct but it covers any overindulgence in any sensual pleasure such as gluttony as well as misconduct of a sexual nature.
4) To undertake the training to refrain from false speech. As well as avoiding lying and deceiving, this precept covers slander as well as speech which is not beneficial to the welfare of others.
5) To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness. This precept is in a special category as it does not infer any intrinsic evil in, say, alcohol itself but indulgence in such a substance could be the cause of breaking the other four precepts