(last update: 28 January 2012)

A Simple Guide to the
Basics of Buddhism

The Blessing

The Buddhist Monk Blessing

The merit which you have done.
May you be free from enmity and danger.
May you be free from mental suffering.
May you be free from physical suffering.
And may you take care of yourself happily.
May your parent, relative, friends, and every living being be happy.
Love and Peace be with you.

I have been trying to find a way to explain Buddhism and why it has such close resemblance to Judaism and Christianity.
The best explanation I have found is from the Dalai Lama:

"More fundamental than religion is our basic human spirituality. We have a basic human disposition towards love, kindness and affection, irrespective of whether we have a religious framework or not. When we nurture this most basic human resource -- when we set about cultivating those basic inner values which we all appreciate in others, then we start to live spiritually."

Jump Station

[Introduction]      [About Buddhism]      [Basics of Buddhism]
[The Guiding Rules of Buddhism - The Five, Eight and Ten Precepts]
[The Three Marks of Existence]      [The Four Nobel Truths]
[The Nobel Eightfold Path]      [Meditation]      [The Five Hindrances]
[The Ultimate Goal: Nirvana]      [Buddhism as Practiced in Thailand]
[Three Influencing Forces in Thailand]
[The Five Hindrances to Successful Mediation in Thailand]
[Making Merit]
[Is Buddha a Man or God?]
[If Buddha is Not a God, Why Do People Worship Him?]

Buddhism in General

Introductory Comments

Introduction: I have attempted to summarize a great deal of information and put it into an understanding format. I may have left out some important information which is significant but I didn't feel it added anything to what I was trying to portray or it may have made the information more complex and confusing. For this I apologize because I don't want the information to be misleading. If you want to see the original source of my information just click on any of the links listed. I have found that a Goggle search of any term to have been most rewarding.

Once again, like my commentary on Hinduism, my goal is to understand and explain a social, spiritual, cultural, religious, and philosophical practices which where previously unknown to me. The purpose is to better understand what I saw and heard in my January 2010 trip to Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia.

Like Aristotle and Plato (c.a. 350 BC) in Greece, the Buddha (6th century BC), born in India, tried to find out how to live a rewarding and meaningful life.

In India there were three core beliefs which I believed played a role in Buddhism being widely accepted as a predominant moral force.

First was the Hindu tradition which believed in reincarnation - Remember Sati was reincarnated as Parvati.

Second, the Hindu caste system, into which a person was born, dictates your role in life. You cannot work your way out of your caste; there was no upward mobility so to speak. You are expected to do the work assigned to members of that caste. If you do it well and earn "merit" then when you are reborn you may be born into a higher caste. It was into this structure that Buddha was born.

Third is the belief in Nats (spirits) who had great influence on your life.

Buddhism started in India and spread through much of Asia, particularly East and Southeast Asia. A tolerant religion, as it spread from place to place it often took on regional characteristics. Thus Buddhism in Japan is practiced slightly differently than in India, China or the Southeast Asian peninsula. This in part explains why portrayals of the Buddha vary from region to region. Moreover, various local deities and figures were often incorporated into the imagery of Buddhism. Combined with the images of local Buddhas --that is, people who have achieved enlightenment --there are a wide variety in the various Buddha statues found throughout Asia.

About Buddhism

Every living being has the same basic wish - to be happy and to avoid suffering. Even newborn babies, animals, and insects have this wish. It has been our main wish since beginning of time and it is with us all the time, even during our sleep. We spend our whole life working hard to fulfill this wish.

Since this world evolved, human beings have spent much time and energy improving external conditions in their search for happiness and a solution to their many problems. What has been the result?

Instead of their wishes being fulfilled, human suffering and disappointment has continued to increase while the experience of happiness and peace is decreasing. This clearly shows that we need to find a true method for gaining pure happiness and freedom from misery.

When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the inside of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems we must learn to control our mind. This is the essence of Buddhism.

Basics of Buddhism

Buddha believed the foundation of suffering is caused by ignorance and ignorance can be relieved. Buddhism aims to eliminate the cause of suffering through spiritual practice. It is a science of the mind that charts a road to humility and compassion.

Thai Buddhism was based on the religious movement founded in the sixth century B.C. by Siddhartha, later known as the Buddha, who urged the world to relinquish the extremes of sensuality and self-mortification and follow the enlightened Middle Way. The focus of this religion is on man, not gods; the assumption is that life is pain or suffering, which is a consequence of craving, and that suffering can end only if desire ceases. The end of suffering is the achievement of nirvana, often defined as the absence of craving and therefore of suffering, sometimes as enlightenment or bliss.

The Guiding Rules of Buddhism
The Five, Eight and Ten Precepts

All Buddhists are suppose to observe the Five Precepts. Unlike the Ten Commandments these are only recommendations on how to live a good life. Lay people who live in the Monastery must abide by the traditional Five Buddhist precepts.

The first Five Precepts focus on avoiding morally bad behavior:

  1. I undertake to abstain from causing harm and taking life (both human and non-human).
  2. I undertake to abstain from taking what is not given (stealing).
  3. I undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake to abstain from wrong speech: telling lies, deceiving others, manipulating others, using hurtful words.
  5. I undertake to abstain from using intoxicating drinks and drugs, which lead to carelessness. (This one is often ignored because it would prohibit drinking alcoholic beverages.)


    The Eight Precepts are rules for lay people who live in the Monastery and lay men and women who wish to practice a bit more strictly than the usual five precepts for Buddhists. The eight precepts focus both on avoiding morally bad behavior, and on leading a more ascetic lifestyle.

  6. I undertake to abstain from eating at the wrong time (the right time is after sunrise, before noon).
  7. I undertake to abstain from singing, dancing, playing music, attending entertainment performances, wearing perfume, and using cosmetics and garlands (decorative accessories).
  8. I undertake to abstain from luxurious places for sitting or sleeping, and over indulging in sleep.


    Monks who live in the monastery must observe The Ten Precepts:

  9. Refrain from sitting on high chairs and sleeping on luxurious, soft beds.
  10. Refrain from accepting money.

The Three Marks of Existence

Buddha directly perceived that everything in the physical world is marked by these three characteristics.

Inconstancy or impermanence: This refers to the fact that all conditioned things are in a constant state of flux. In reality there is nothing that ultimately ceases to exist; only the appearance of a thing ceases as it changes from one form to another. Imagine a leaf that falls to the ground and decomposes. While the appearance and relative existence of the leaf ceases, the components that formed the leaf become particulate material that may go on to form new plants. Buddhism teaches a middle way, avoiding the extreme views of eternalism and nihilism.

Unsatisfactoriness(often translated as "suffering"): Nothing found in the physical world or the psychological realm can bring lasting deep satisfaction.

Not-Self: The concept can be explained as the lack of a fixed, unchanging identity; there is no permanent, essential Self. A living being is a composite of the five aggregates , which is the physical forms, feelings or sensations, perception, mental formations, and consciousness, none of which can be identified as one's Self. From the moment of conception, all living beings are subject to a process of continuous change. A practitioner should, on the other hand, develop and refine his or her mind to a state so as to see through this phenomenon.

The Four Nobel Truths

The basis of Buddhism is that there are Four Nobel Truths:

1. Life means suffering. To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness. Life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day.

2 The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardor, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a "self" which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call "self" is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable. The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirvona. Nirvona means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirvona extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

4. There is a path to the end of suffering: This is a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described in more detail in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.

The Nobel Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is one of the principal teachings of the Buddha, who described it as the way leading to the cessation of suffering and the achievement of self-awakening. It is used to develop insight into the true nature of phenomena (or reality) and to eradicate greed, hatred, and delusion. The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths; the first element of the Noble Eightfold Path is, in turn, an understanding of the Four Noble Truths. It is also known as the Middle Path or Middle Way.

The Noble Eightfold Path describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. Together with the Four Noble Truths it constitutes the gist of Buddhism. Great emphasis is put on the practical aspect, because it is only through practice that one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana. The eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly interdependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other.

The Eightfold Path is generally divided into Three Noble Disciplines: Wisdom, Ethical Conduct and Concentration.


1. Right View
Right view is the beginning and the end of the path. It simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.

2. Right Intention
While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention to resist the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.

Ethical Conduct

3. Right Speech
Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

4. Right Action
The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means (1) to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, (2) to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and (3) to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others.

5. Right Livelihood
Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: (1) dealing in weapons, (2) dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), (3) working in meat production and butchery, and (4) selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.


6. Right Effort
Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: (1) to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, (2) to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, (3) to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and (4) to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

7. Right Mindfulness
Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualise sense impressions and thoughts and then interpret them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which causes them to be distorted beyond the original impression. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and avoids false impressions. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of false impressions in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: (1) contemplation of the body, (2) contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), (3) contemplation of the state of mind, and (4) contemplation of the phenomena.

8. Right Concentration
The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations.

In summary, understanding of the right view is the preliminary role, and is also the forerunner of the entire Noble Eightfold Path. The practitioner should first try to understand the concepts of right view. Once right view has been understood, it will inspire and encourage the arising of right intention within the practitioner. Right intention will lead to the arising of right speech. Right speech will lead to the arising of right action. Right action will lead to the arising of right livelihood. Right livelihood will lead to the arising of right effort. Right effort will lead to the arising of right mindfulness. Right mindfulness is used to constantly remain in the right view. This will help the practitioner restrain greed, hatred and delusion. Once these support and requisite conditions have been established, a practitioner can then practice right concentration more easily. During the practice of right concentration, one will need to use right effort and right mindfulness to aid concentration practice. In the state of concentration, one will need to investigate and verify his or her understanding of right view. This will then result in the arising of right knowledge, which will eliminate greed, hatred and delusion. The last and final factor to arise is right liberation.


Meditation means the positive reinforcement of one's mind. Meditation is the key tool implemented in attaining deep concentration. Samatha literally means "to make skillful", and has other renderings also, among which are "tranquilizing, calming", "visualizing", and "achieving". Vipassana means "insight", or "abstract understanding". In this context, Samatha Meditation makes a person skillful in concentration of mind. Once the mind is sufficiently concentrated, Vipassana allows one to see through the veil of ignorance.

The Five Hinderances

In Buddhism, the five hindrances are negative mental states that impede success with meditation and lead away from enlightenment . These states are:

1. Sensual desire : Craving for pleasure to the senses.
2. Anger or ill-will: Feelings of malice directed toward others.
3. Sloth-torpor or boredom : Half-hearted action with little or no concentration.
4. Restlessness-worry: The inability to calm the mind.
5. Doubt: Lack of conviction or trust.

The Ultimate Goal: Nirvana

Nirvana, the highest goal of Theravada Buddhism, is attained through study and the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom. The goal of Nirvana (and its associated techniques) have traditionally been seen as the domain of the fully ordained monastic, whereas many of the same techniques can be used by lay people to generate happiness in their lives, without focusing on Nirvana. Monastic roles in the Theravada can be broadly described as being split between the role of the (often urban) scholar monks who study and preserve the literature but devote little time to the practice of meditation, and the (often rural or forest) meditation monk. In the most orthodox forest monastery, the monk usually models his practice and lifestyle on that of the Buddha and his first generation of disciples by living close to nature in forest, mountains and caves. Forest monasteries still keep alive the ancient traditions through following the Buddhist monastic code of discipline in all its detail and developing meditation in secluded forests.

Buddhism as Practiced in Thailand

Thai Buddhism was based on the religious movement founded in the sixth century B.C. by Siddhartha, later known as the Buddha, who urged the world to relinquish the extremes of sensuality and self-mortification and follow the enlightened Middle Way. The focus of this religion is on man, not gods; the assumption is that life is pain or suffering, which is a consequence of craving, and that suffering can end only if desire ceases. The end of suffering is the achievement of nirvana, often defined as the absence of craving and therefore of suffering, sometimes as enlightenment or bliss.

Three Influencing Forces in Thailand

Three major forces have influenced the development of Buddhism in Thailand.

The first and most visible influence is that of the Theravada school of Buddhism, imported from Sri Lanka.

The second major influence on Thai Buddhism is Hindu beliefs received from Cambodia. Hinduism played a strong role in the early Thai institution of kingship and exerted influence in the creation of laws and order for Thai society as well as Thai religion. Certain rituals practiced in modern Thailand are either explicitly identified as Hindu in origin, or are easily seen to be derived from Hindu practices. While the visibility of Hinduism in Thai society has been diminished its influences, particularly shrines to the god Brahma, continue to be seen in and around Buddhist institutions and ceremonies.

The third major influence is Burmise folk religion-attempts to propitiate and attract the favor of local spirits known as Nats. Astrology, numerology, and the creation of talismans and charms also play a prominent role in Buddhism as practiced by the average Thai.

Overview of the Philosophy
of Theravada Buddhism

Theravada means "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India. It is relatively conservative, and generally closest to early Buddhism, and for many centuries has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka and most of continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand).

Fundamentals of Theravada

First and foremost, the Theravada philosophy is a continuous analytical process of life, not a mere set of ethics and rituals.

The ultimate theory of Theravada uses the Four Noble Truths, also known as the Four Sublime Truths. In the simplest form these can be described as the problem, the cause, the solution and the pathway to solution (implementation).

Theravada promotes the concept of "Teaching of Analysis." This doctrine says that insight must come from the aspirant's experience, critical investigation, and reasoning instead of by blind faith; however, the scriptures of the Theravadan tradition also emphasize heeding the advice of the wise, considering such advice and evaluation of one's own experiences to be the two tests by which practices should be judged.

The Buddhist term "kilesa" is typically translated as "defilement" or "poison". In early Buddhist texts the kilesas generally referred to mental states which temporarily cloud the mind and manifest in unskillful actions. Over time the kilesas, and in particular the "Three Poisons" of greed, hatred, and delusion, came to be seen as the very roots of samsaric (the endless cycle of birth and suffering and death and rebirth) existence.

In Theravada, the cause of human suffering (dissatisfaction) is identified as craving, which carries with it the defilements (kilesas). Those defilements that bind human to the cycle of rebirth are classified into a set of ten "Fetters" (greed, hate, delusion, conceit, wrong views, doubt, torpor, restlessness, shamelessness, and recklessness). The defilements which impede concentration (samadhi) are presented in the "Five Hindrances".

The Five Hindrances to Successful Meditation

There are five negative mental states that impede success with meditation and lead away from enlightenment.

    The Five Hindrances
  1. Sensual desire: Craving for pleasure to the senses.
  2. Anger or ill-will: Feelings of malice directed toward others.
  3. Sloth-torpor or boredom: Half-hearted action with little or no concentration.
  4. Restlessness - worry: The inability to calm the mind.
  5. Doubt: Lack of conviction or trust.

In the Pali Canon discourses, the Buddha frequently instructs his disciples to practice concentration (samadhi) in order to establish and develop deep concentration ("jhana"). Deep concentration is the instrument used by the Buddha himself to penetrate the true nature of things (through investigation and direct experience) and to reach Enlightenment. Right Concentration (samma-samadhi) is one of the elements in the Noble Eightfold Path. Concentration (Samadhi) can be developed from mindfulness with breathing (anapanasati), from visual objects (kasina), and repetition of phrases. The traditional list contains 40 objects of meditation (kammahna) to be used for Samatha Meditation. Every object has a specific goal; for example, meditation on the parts of the body will result in a lessening of attachment to our own bodies and those of others, resulting in a reduction of sensual desires. Metta (loving kindness) generates the feelings of goodwill and happiness toward ourselves and other beings; metta practice serves as an antidote to ill-will, wrath and fear.

The level of defilement can be coarse, medium, and subtle. It is a phenomenon that frequently arises, remains temporarily and then vanishes. Theravadans believe defilements are not only harmful to oneself, but also harmful to others. They are the driving force behind all inhumanities a human being can commit.

Theravadans believe these defilements are habits born of ignorance that afflict the minds of all unenlightened beings, who cling to them and their influence in their ignorance of the truth. But in reality, those mental defilements are nothing more than taints that have afflicted the mind, creating suffering and stress. Unenlightened beings cling to the body, under the assumption that it represents a Self, whereas in reality the body is an impermanent phenomenon formed from the four basic elements. Often characterized by earth, water, fire and air, in the Buddhist texts these are defined to be abstractions representing the sensorial qualities solidity, fluidity, temperature, and mobility. The mental defilements (frequent instigation and manipulation of the mind) is believed to have prevented the mind from seeing the true nature of reality. Unskillful behavior in turn can strengthen the defilements, but following the Noble Eightfold Path can weaken or eradicate them.

The Noble Eightfold Path was rediscovered by Buddha during his quest for enlightenment. (There is a Hindu belief that Buddha was a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. The scriptures describe an ancient path which has been followed and practiced by all the previous Buddhas. The Noble Eightfold Path is a practice said to lead its practitioner toward self-awakening and liberation. The path was taught by the Buddha to his disciples so that they, too, could follow it.

Unenlightened beings are also believed to experience the world through their imperfect six sense doors (eye, ear, nose, tongue, tactile sense, and mind) and use the mind, clouded by defilements, to form their own interpretation, perception and conclusion. In such a condition the perception or conclusion made will be based on that being's own illusion of reality. In the state of jhana (deep concentration), the five physical sense doors will fade, the mental defilements will be suppressed, and wholesome mental traits will become strengthened. The mind can then be used to investigate and gain insight into the true nature of reality.

There are three stages of defilements. During the stage of passivity the defilements lies dormant at the base of the mental continuum as latent tendencies (anusaya), but through the impact of sensory stimulus it will manifest (pariyutthana) itself to the surface of consciousness in the form of unwholesome thoughts, emotions, and volitions. If they gather additional strength, the defilement will reach the dangerous stage of transgression (vitikkama), which will then involve physical or vocal actions.

In order to be free from suffering and stress, Theravadans believe that the defilements need to be permanently uprooted. Initially they are restrained through mindfulness to prevent them from taking over mental and bodily action. They are then uprooted through internal investigation, analysis, experience and understanding of their true nature by using jhana (full concentration). This process needs to be repeated for each and every defilement. The practice will then lead the meditator to realize the Four Noble Truths, Enlightenment, and Nirvana. Nirvana is the ultimate goal of Theravadans, and is said to be a state of perfect bliss wherein the person is liberated from the repeated cycle of birth, illness, aging and death.

Theravadans believe that every individual is personally responsible for their own self-awakening and liberation, as they are the ones that were responsible for their own actions and consequences (karma). Simply learning or believing in the true nature of reality as expounded by the Buddha is not enough, the awakening can only be achieved through direct experience and personal realization. An individual will have to follow and practice the Noble Eightfold Path as taught by the Buddha to discover the reality for themselves. In Theravada belief, Buddhas, gods or deities are incapable of giving a human being the awakening or lifting them from the state of repeated cycle of birth, illness, aging and death (samsara). For Theravadans, Buddha is only a Teacher of the Noble Eightfold Path, while gods or deities are still subject to anger, jealousy, hatred, vengeance, craving, greed, delusion, and death.

It is believed that some people who practice with earnestness and zeal can attain Nirvana within a single lifetime, as did many of the first few generations of Buddha's disciples. For others, the process may take multiple lifetimes, with the individual reaching higher and higher states of realization. Since Lord Buddha is believed to have possessed the ultimate knowledge on guiding a person through the process of enlightenment, Theravadans believe that disciples of a Buddha attain enlightenment the most quickly.

Buddha was superior to all others who have attained enlightenment because the Buddha had discovered the path all by himself, and has taught it to others (i,e., metaphorically turning the wheel of Dhamma).

Traditionally Theravadans can either have the "faith" in the Buddha's teaching and practice the minor precepts in the hope of gaining some minor benefits or they can investigate and verify by direct experience the truth of the Buddha's teaching by practicing the jhana (full concentration) which is part of the Noble Eightfold Path for their own Enlightenment.

Is The Buddha Man or God

The commonly accepted definition of the term "God" is of a being who rules and created the universe. The Buddha of the early texts gives arguments refuting the existence of such a being.

Statements from modern Theravadins that the Buddha was "just a human" are often intended to contrast their view of him with those of the original teachings of the Buddha in the Mahayana sutras, and with Christian views of Jesus. According to the Canon, Gotama was born as a human, albeit highly spiritually developed as a result of the previous lives in the career of the bodhisatta. With his enlightenment, however, he perfected and transcended his human condition. When asked whether he was a god or a human, he replied that he had eliminated the deep-rooted unconscious traits that would make him either one, and should instead be called a Buddha; one who had grown up in the world but had now gone beyond it, as a lotus grows from the water but blossoms above it, unsoiled.
A common misconception among non-Buddhists is that the Buddha is the Buddhist counterpart to "God." Buddhism however, is in general non-theistic, in the sense of not teaching the existence of a supreme creator god or depending on any supreme being for enlightenment. The Buddha is a guide and teacher who points the way to enlightenment, however the struggle for enlightenment is one's own.

Buddhism itself generally ignores the question regarding the origin of life. The Buddha regarding the origin of life has said "Conjecture about [the origin of]the world . . . would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it." The Buddha also compared the question of the origin of life - as well as many other metaphysical questions - to the parable of the poison arrow: a man is shot with a poison arrow, but before the doctor pulls it out, he wants to know who shot it (arguing the existence of God), where the arrow came from (where the universe and/or God came from) why that person shot it (why God created the universe), etc. If the doctor keeps asking these questions before the arrow is pulled out, the Buddha reasoned, the patient will die before he gets the answers. Buddhism is less concerned with answering questions like the origin of life, and more concerned with the goal of saving oneself and other beings from suffering by attaining Nirvana (Enlightenment).

Modern day Buddhists, such as the Dalai Lama, don't perceive a conflict between Buddhism and science and consider they are complementary means of understanding the world around us.

Making Merit

Merit is a concept in Buddhism. It is that which accumulates as a result of good deeds, acts or thoughts and that carries over to later in life or to a person's next life. Such merit contributes to a person's growth towards liberation.

Buddhist monks earn merit through mindfulness, meditation, chanting and other rituals.

Lay devotees can make merit by performing these seven more specific acts:

1.Honoring others
2.Hffering service
3.Involving others in good deeds
4.Being thankful for others' good deeds
5.Listening to Teachings
6.Instructing others in the Teachings
7.Straightening one's own views in accord with the Teachings

If The Buddha Is Not A God, Then Why Do People Worship Him?

There are different types of worship. When someone worships a god, they praise him or her, making offerings and ask for favours, believing that the god will hear their praise, receive their offerings and answer their prayers. Buddhists do not indulge in this kind of worship.

The other kind of worship is when we show respect to someone or something we admire. When a teacher walks into a room we stand up, when we meet a dignitary we shake hands,when the national anthem is played we salute. These are all gestures of respect and worship and indicate our admiration for persons and things.

We must always be aware of and respect cultural differences. In Hinduism their gods are refered to as "Lords". There is the "Trinity" of Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and the beloved Lord Ganesha and Lord Hanuman

This is the type of worship Buddhist practise. A statue of the Buddha with its hands rested gently in its lap and its compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. The perfume of incense reminds us of the pervading influence of virtue, the lamp reminds us of light of knowledge and the flowers which soon fade and die, reminds us of impermanence. When we bow, we express our gratitude to the Buddha for what his teachings have given us. This is the nature of Buddhist worship.

(Editor's note, May 3, 2010: This page is now being construction so come back again.
If you have any insights - constructive comments - you wish to share please do so.)

For more information about our travels write toBelli.

Since April 28, 2010, you are visitor number