| Siddhartha Gautama's|
Buddhism is a philosophy and religion native to the Indian subcontinent. It arose out of the local Shramanic tradition, and spread throughout South and East Asia. Buddhism was founded around 500 BCE by Siddartha Gautama, the "Awakened" (Buddha). The purpose of Buddhism is to liberate oneself from suffering by understanding and accepting "things as they are".
Buddhism began and developed in India and grew out of Brahmanism, the same religious and cultural context as Hinduism, but differs from the latter on three central doctrinal points, which are the following:
- Hinduism teaches that each individual has a personal soul, called atman, while Buddhism denies that an unchanging eternal soul exists (anatman);
- Hinduism teaches that there is a Supreme Being (Ishvara) which is the ultimate reality and Creator of the universe at the same time (worshipped through a huge amount of deities that form the Hindu pantheon), while Buddhism denies the existence and the necessity of a Creator, and the worship of any deity; individuals must find salvation from suffering by themselves, following the Buddha's teaching. Therefore, Buddhism is an atheistic religion;
- Hinduism relies on the Vedas as Sacred scriptures and supreme authority on everything, while Buddhism denies the reliability and authority of the Vedas, suggesting instead that people must put their trust in their own judgement, relying only on rationality and common sense; furthermore, Gautama himself encourages those who are doubtful about his teachings to put them into practice and verify if they don't work or if he's lying.
- 1 Buddhist teachings
- 1.1 The Four Noble Truths
- 1.2 The Eightfold Path
- 1.3 The Threefold Training
- 1.4 Precepts
- 1.5 Karma
- 1.6 The Five Skandhas
- 1.7 The Six Sense Bases
- 1.8 The Three Characteristics of Conditioned Phenomena
- 1.9 Further development
- 2 Buddhist scriptures
- 3 Buddhist meditation
- 4 Buddhism in the East
- 5 Buddhism in the West
- 6 Common Misconceptions about Buddhism
- 7 Buddhism as just another religion
- 8 Buddhism and science
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
At its most basic level, Buddhist philosophy is built around a set of four axioms, the Four Noble Truths. This leads to the Eightfold Path, the code of conduct developed by the Buddha to combat the unpleasantness of existence. A Buddhist community is called a Sangha, the Buddhist teachings are referred to as Dharma. These two, along with the Buddha himself, make up the Three Jewels, the foundation of Buddhist tradition and practice.
The Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths purport to describe the central problem of existence according to the historical Buddha. They aren't meant to be philosophical truths, but realizations.
- This is dukkha. - Commonly translated as "suffering", dukkha is sometimes described as a state of unsatisfactoriness. This noble truth refers to the recognition of suffering.
- This is the origin of dukkha - The origin(s) of dukkha are these three kinds of desire: desire for sensual pleasure, desire for becoming, and desire for non-becoming. This noble truth refers to the recognition of the cause of suffering.
- This is the cessation of dukkha — This noble truth refers to the recognition of the cessation of suffering, or nirvana.
- "This is the way leading to the cessation of Dukkha" — This noble truth refers to the full understanding of the Eightfold Path.
Each Noble Truth has 3 parts — conceptual understanding, practice, and realization (fruition of practice):
- There is dukkha; dukkha is to be understood; dukkha has been understood.
- This is the origin of dukkha; the origin of dukkha is to be abandoned; the origin of dukkha has been abandoned.
- There is the cessation of dukkha; the cessation is to be realized; the cessation has been realized.
- This is the path; the path is to be developed; the path has been developed.
The Eightfold Path
The Eightfold Path can be summed up as follows:
- Right View - There are many ways to understand this; the most common is "perceive and know the Four Noble Truths"
- Right Intention - The intention of renunciation, harmlessness, and non ill-will
- Right Speech - Abstention from lies, harsh speech, malicious speech, and idle speech
- Right Action - Abstention from killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct
- Right Livelihood — Earning a livelihood legitimately, by not breaking the law or hurting others or being selfish.
- Right Effort - Preventing harmful states from arising, abandoning arisen harmful states, promoting the arising of beneficial states, and preserving arisen beneficial states
- Right Mindfulness - Cultivating careful attention with respect to 1. the body, 2. the feelings, 3. the moods or mental climate, 4. phenomena
- Right Concentration - The development of jhana
It should be noted that these are not individual steps, but co-dependent factors. 
The Threefold Training
The Eightfold path can be condensed into three parts: pañña, sīla, and samādhi. Respectively, these translate as wisdom, virtue, and concentration.
- Wisdom — Right view and right intention
- Virtue — Right speech, right action, and right livelihood
- Concentration — Right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration
While there are hundreds of precepts which apply to monastic practitioners, for everyday use the list may be reduced to five:
- Preserve life; do not kill.
- Use what you have; do not take what is not given.
- Contain your sexual drive; do not screw around inappropriately.
- Do not lie, except to preserve life and the like.
- Contaminating your body with intoxicants leads to carelessness and clinging, and is to be avoided.
Practitioners can also observe the eight precepts or full ten which would include:
- Don't eat after noon
- Don't sing, dance or listen to music, don't watch television, don't watch entertainment
- Don't wear perfumes, makeups or garlands; don't beautify the body
- Don't indulge in luxurious chairs or beds
- Don't accept money
Although karma is sometimes thought to be a teaching of cosmic justice unnecessary in Buddhism, karma is defined by the Buddha as intention. The results of karma are not supernatural, but entirely natural, no different than the way a good seed brings a good tree or a bad seed brings a bad tree.
In Buddhism, the understanding of karma, or rather the understanding that wholesome or unwholesome actions have desirable or undesirable consequences, is a component of Right View. Denying this teaching of karma is Wrong View, and so the cultivation of wholesome karma (which comes from understanding it) is important to Buddhist practice.
Four types of karma
- Bright karma — Wholesome karma with good results
- Dark karma — Unwholesome karma with bad results
- Bright and dark karma — Both wholesome and unwholesome karma. This probably refers to karma which is both wholesome and unwholesome in different ways, e.g. killing somebody to save somebody else.
- Neither-bright-nor-dark karma — Karma which is in accordance with the transcendent Noble Eightfold Path; the karma of an enlightened being. However, it should be noted that this does not mean an enlightened being can do whatever he wants regardless of whether or not it is evil, because a (truly) enlightened person in the Buddhist religion has totally uprooted evil tendencies.
Three wholesome roots of karma
- Alobha — Non-greed or non-passionate desire; generosity. This is not limited to generosity, but simply any intention not based in greed or passionate desire.
- Adosa — Non-aversion or non-hatred; kindness. Like alobha is not limited to generosity, it is not limited to kindness but refers to any intention not based in aversion or hatred.
- Amoha — Non-delusion or non-ignorance; wisdom.
Three unwholesome roots of karma
- Lobha — Greed or passionate desire
- Dosa — Aversion or hatred
- Moha — Delusion or ignorance.
The Five Skandhas
The Five Skandhas, or aggregates, are what makes up a sentient being's existence. To many westerners, these make up what's called the "ego", however it is important to realize that this concept of "ego" did not exist in the Buddha's time. The closest thing to ego in that time was "self", which is simply a word used to describe an "I". Since the Buddha taught the doctrine of "not-self", these Five Skandhas do not make up a self because they lack the inherent existence of "self", meaning you cannot find a "self" within these Five Skandhas because of their dependent origin.
- Form - The six senses (See: The Six Sense Bases), and their objects
- Feeling - The pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant quality of these objects.
- Perception - The discrimination of an object, also known as identifying the object
- Volitional Formations - Volitions of the body, mind, and speech in regards to the sense objects
- Consciousness - That which cognizes. This is the consciousness which comes into contact with the sense-base. For example, eye-consciousness. It arises dependent on the eye (but is not created by the eye).
The Six Sense Bases
The Six Sense Bases are used as a tool to aid in the understanding of the Five Skandhas. The six sense bases are composed of internal sense bases, external sense bases, and the type of consciousness which arises from the sense base. The consciousness that arises from the bases is just the ability to recognize things via the sense base, for example, using eye consciousness: "I see a rock".
- Eye (internal) — forms (external) — eye-consciousness (consciousness)
- Ear — sounds — ear-consciousness
- Nose — smells — nose-consciousness
- Tongue — tastes — tongue-consciousness
- Body — tactile objects — body-consciousness
- Mind — mental phenomena — mind-consciousness
The Three Characteristics of Conditioned Phenomena
The Buddha taught three characteristics of existence:
- Anicca — Translated as impermanence or inconstancy — everything arises and ceases depending on conditions
- Dukkha — Translated as suffering, stress, or unsatisfactoriness — everything is stressful when clung to, and does not bring true satisfaction
- Anatta — Translated as non-self, not-self, or no-self — All things are a non-self, all things are not-self, all things are empty of a self
It should be noted that these are not meant to be metaphysical truths, but the characteristics of phenomena which we perceive with right view. The Buddha taught that if we were to see things rightly, we would perceive their arising and ceasing, we would see the stress that comes from clinging to things, and we would see that all things are not fit to be called "me", "mine", or "myself". As a result of seeing the conditioned nature thing, one also understands karma, because karma refers to the truth that unwholesome actions are the condition for unpleasant experiences — it is not a metaphysical truth. One also understands rebirth, which refers specifically to new states of "becoming", caused by craving and clinging to experience. On what one would call a metaphysical level, the continuance of life after death refers to the continuance of the arising of conditioned consciousness along with the body.
In reality, the Buddha did more than sit around navel gazing — he founded what amounted to a university, and ran it until his death at a ripe old age. Not listening and then asking silly questions could get a student called "stupid" by the Buddha himself. In the Kalama Sutta the Buddha encouraged some townspeople not to accept teachings blindly, but to see how they work in practice and to consult the wise about them. Two and a half thousand years later, there is an enormous body of oral tradition and written text about the teachings, but they may be neatly summarized with remarkably few notions:
- dependent arising, that all causes and effects are interdependent
- impermanence – the directly observable truth that all phenomena of experience (i.e. everything you are perceiving right now anywhere in your mind and body) are subject to change and instability
- suffering – the phenomena of experience are, due to their impermanence, sooner or later only suffering, or unsatisfying
- not-self – the phenomena of experience are, as a direct consequence of their impermanent and suffering nature, not you, not yours, not your self; once this is directly perceived, grasping at and clinging to these phenomena will cease and liberation will occur
The Tripitaka ("Three Baskets") contain what is regarded as the word of the Buddha. Its three divisions are Sutta (teachings), Vinaya (monastic codes), and Abhidharma (metaphysics). The Tripitaka exists in the form of the Pali, Tibetan, and Chinese canons. Historically speaking, none of these can be assumed to represent the teachings of the historical Buddha, who lived some 500 years before the earliest extant records. (For the sake of comparison, the earliest extant records of Jesus, an equally legendary figure, can be traced to mere decades after his death.)
In addition to the Tripitaka, a number of Buddhist schools recognize additional texts as canonical. These texts, typically called sutras (The Sanskrit rendering of sutta) range in content from examinations of psychology to the typical gods-and-monsters we've come to expect from religion. For instance, a number of sutras, including the famous Lotus Sutra, are said to be delivered or hidden in non-mundane worlds; in the case of the Lotus Sutra, hidden in the world of nagas (snake people) until the human realm was ready to recieve it. Some sutras directly contradict others, or the Tripitaka There is a long and storied tradition of monks "discovering" new sutras hidden in caves or recieved directly from a Buddha or other enlightened being. Make of this what you will.
In most Buddhist societies, these scriptures would be encountered in mediated form, through teachings by a monk. This makes it difficult to reduce Buddhism to a concise set of fundamental teachings, though the "Four Noble Truths" are widely emphasized.
Samadhi, known as meditation or concentration, is a crucial part of Buddhist practice. Here it refers to the samadhi of the threefold training. Many modern practitioners divide Buddhist meditation into two types: samatha and vipassana; jhana meditation and insight meditation. However, the framework of the eightfold path makes it clear that these two are not actually separate, but joined; right mindfulness leads to right concentration which leads to right view, and so on.
Right effort is defined as putting forth effort to abandon and prevent the arising of unwholesome mental states. In the case of meditation practice, these are the five hindrances that "overwhelm awareness and weaken discernment".. The mind must be devoid of the hindrances in order to develop jhana.
The Five Hindrances to Concentration and Insight
The five hindrances which "overwhelm awareness and weaken discernment" are:
- Sensuality — Passion and desire towards the sense-objects
- Ill-will — Anger or frustration towards the sense-objects
- Restlessness — The mind's inability to "stand still"
- Drowsiness — Tiredness or dullness of the mind
- Doubt — Uncertainty or doubt concerning the practice
The Buddha has prescribed different antidotes for the hindrances:
- Contemplation of the 32 parts of the body to overcome sensuality.
- The development of the brahmaviharas to overcome ill-will.
- The "stilling of attention" to overcome restlessness.
- The putting forth of effort overcome drowsiness.
- The understanding of wholesome and/or unwholesome qualities to overcome doubt.
The Four Foundations of Mindfulness
The four foundations of mindfulness (satipatthana) are the four "frames of reference" used as bases of concentration for Buddhist meditators:
- Body — Mindfulness of the body's posture, the breath, the decaying of the body, or the 32 parts of the body.
- Feelings — Mindfulness of the feeling aggregate 
- Mental qualities — Mindfulness of the three wholesome or unwholesome roots of action 
- Phenomena — Mindfulness of the five hindrances, the five aggregates, the six-sense media, the seven factors of awakening, and the four noble truths.
The Four Jhanas
The four jhanas are the states of meditative absorption, which arise when the conditions are correct. The most basic condition is the stilling of unwholesome qualities, but each jhana has its own factors which cease with progression in jhana. The jhanas and their factors are:
- Directed thought, sustained thought, happiness, rapture, and one-pointedness of mind.
- Happiness, rapture, and one-pointedness of mind
- Pleasant equanimity, and one-pointedness of mind
- Neither painful nor pleasant equanimity, and one-pointedness of mind
The jhanas are developed for different reasons among practitioners. Some develop them for a pleasant abiding, but the Buddha taught that the highest benefit of jhana development is insight. It is also taught that the "ending of the fermentations" (enlightenment) depends on jhana practice. 
Buddhism in the East
Buddhism, like other religions, enjoys a good schism and now has three main branches:
In Theravada Buddhism, when one attains enlightenment, one transcends to nirvana (the destruction of greed, anger and ignorance, not the grunge band). Theravada is considered the oldest branch, and is often pejoratively called Hinayana ("Lesser Vehicle", contrasted with the Mahayana "Greater Vehicle") by other schools of Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism is the most popular form of Buddhism in Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Proponents of Mahayana Buddhism argue that the Therevada focus on individual enlightenment is selfish, and so members of Mahayana sangha take what is called the "Boddhisattva vow", meaning that they voluntarily choose to forgo nirvana in order to aid others in their spiritual journeys. Individual Mahayana sects tend to appear much more similar to Abrahamic religions than other forms of Buddhism—sects such as Pure Land Buddhism believe in a semi-divine savior who intercedes on behalf of the faithful and allows them to reborn into the Pure Land. Mahayana Buddhism tends to be more popular in East Asian countries like Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam. Zen Buddhism lacks the focus on universal salvation of most Mahayana sects, but is still classified as Mahayana because of its historical development.
The third major school of Buddhism, Vajrayana (the "Thunderbolt vehicle") is the "youngest" and smallest sect of Buddhism, and focuses primarily on esoteric practices. This includes various Tantra and Yogic practices, as well as elaborate rituals intended to replace the more abstract meditation practices of other sects. Mandala, elaborate pieces of sacred art, are typical of Vajrayana tools. Shingon Buddhism is the primary representative of Vajrayana thought in Japan. Shingon rituals are largely centered around setting things on fire in a practice derived from the proto-Hindu worship of Agni, god of fire. Depending on who you ask, Tibetan Buddhism is either one of the major sub-schools of Vajrayana Buddhism, or a Mahayana school that borrows heavily from Vajrayana teachings. Today four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism perist; Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Geluk, in addition to indigenous Tibetan spiritual practices of Shen and Bön.
- One monk, Hsüeh Huai-i, was a "grand general sustaining the state" and led several military expeditions.
- Temples surpassed "even imperial palaces in design, embodying the last word in extravagance, splendor, artistry, and finesse."
- Buddhist temples owned vast tax-exempt lands, and 150,000 slaves.
Buddhism in the West
Buddhism has successfully (and erroneously) marketed itself in the Western world as a very peaceful religion, devoted to internal contemplation and personal enlightenment. The standard versions of Buddhism promoted in the West leave out much of the public ritual element, as well as traditional sexism and religious hierarchies. Western-style Buddhism appeals instead to Western individualism and non-authoritarianism, importing much of the "personal growth and spirituality" features of religion while happily discarding its undesired institutional features. This rather selective approach thus bears at least a passing resemblance to the relation between more traditional versions of Christianity and the "prosperity gospel" variants.
Common Misconceptions about Buddhism
Unlike the Abrahamic or Vedic religions, the existence of an all powerful god (deva) is either dismissed completely or denied/refuted (although some Buddhist schools do not fully deny the existence of a god or gods and even have a metaphysical eternal Buddha). The Buddha himself went to great lengths to make it clear he was not a god, merely “awake.” Despite this, only 19% of American Buddhists say they do not believe in God. In fact, 39% claim to be "absolutely certain" of the existence of God and 28% are "fairly certain."
The commonly held Buddhist stance on the matter is that any god(s) that may exist are trapped in the same cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth as all other living creatures (even if the lifespan of a god might be much longer than other forms of life). Hence these gods should be working on preventing their own suffering rather than inflicting it on the heathen masses below. Although Buddhists may accept the existence of numerous local gods, most Buddhist schools do not promote worshipping of most gods as it hinders a person from enlightenment, although virtuous gods are sometimes worshipped as bodhisattvas.
There are numerous heavens and hells in Buddhist cosmology, along with other planes such as that of animals. If you don’t achieve enlightenment in this lifetime you are reborn in one of these planes. In essence you are effectively screwed over and have to start life all over again, which is pretty close to hell if you happen to be reborn in Mumbai. This cycle to which all living creatures are bound is commonly referred to as samsara. The destination after death is determined not by past karma, but by the state of mind at death. Sometimes there is no Hell/Heaven in some Buddhist interpretations, instead you are reborn until you achieve nirvana.
Nirvana translates as “snuffed out” or "cooled" and signifies the condition of an enlightened being who has obtained freedom from the cycle of rebirth and suffering. The Buddha described Nirvana as “incomprehensible, indescribable, inconceivable, unutterable”. In another text he described it as "the complete destruction of the underlying tendencies to greed, anger and ignorance.  So basically, with the lights out, it's less dangerous.
Buddhists deny the existence of any immaterial/eternal soul (the same as the Christian soul). What Buddhists posit is a being composed of five aggregates (skandhas) changing over time. If there's a self here, then it's only a conventional term, like "person". The Buddha taught that the notion of a self comes from ones own ignorant tendency to cling to conditioned phenomena without discernment, which gives rise to an assumption of self.
Buddhists believe in karma. Whereas karma in Hinduism has a divine presence, karma in Buddhism is a form of cause and effect.
Belief in what happens after an individual dies varies greatly between Buddhist schools of thought. Generally, Buddhists believe in rebirth rather than reincarnation, since the Buddhist doctrine of anatman means that the individual has no permanent "soul". The analogy below is a rough illustration of the difference.
Reincarnation is like pouring water from one cup into another. The water is the same but the vessel is different.
Rebirth is more like using a flame from one candle to light another. There is a deep connection between the two, but they exist independently of one another.
Buddhism as just another religion
It has become popular to see Buddhism as some kind of "special" religion, that does not have the same trappings as other religions. This, to an extent, is valid in some points, because Buddhism, unlike other religions, advocates for
- Searching out the truth for oneself, questioning one's surroundings and even the Buddha's teachings, not following dogma blindly (Kalama Sutta)
- Determining whether or not actions should be carried out based on their results
- The abandonment of unwholesome qualities of mind via understanding
- Cultivation of intuitive insight and practical experience rather than speculative views (such as the belief in a God and the belief in no-God)
- Non-obsession with views and abandonment of views which lead to unskillful behavior
However, Buddhism is also subject to critical points such as:
- The source of conflict in some areas, such as Buddhists attacking Muslims in Sri Lanka and Burma.
- Buddha's metaphysical teachings, including the legend of his life as told in scripture, often full of supernatural occurrences.
- Support for various kinds of woo, such as alternative medicine, based on beliefs about the supernatural elements of Buddhist thought.
- Reincarnation, heaven and hell, karma, which are not scientifically provable but yet are still believed.
- Open to victim blaming as misfortune can be seen as deserved punishment for transgressions in an earlier reincarnation.
- The celebration of some traditions no longer applicable to modern life (Vassa's idea that monks should stay inside their temples during the rainy season, due to fear of trampling over farmers' crops, for example).
Suffice it to say that this has not led to a fundamental critique of Buddhist principles from within; nor does the existence of scholastic debate traditions or ancient monastic universities such as Nalanda indicate that Buddha was ever anything other than a successful preacher like Jesus or Muhammad. The Buddha was careful in conveying his opposition to dogma, and that any idea should be questioned rather than blindly accepted. Fundamentalist views existed among Buddhists and even today among western Buddhists, who perhaps bring with them the Judeo-Christian paradigm of interpreting scripture and religion, which is not traditionally open to multiple interpretations.
Buddhism and science
It's common for people to get confused on the topic of Buddhism and science. Some say they go together well, others say they don't. Really, it all depends on context - and the particular school/sect of Buddhism, some of which are much more focused on superstition than others.
- Dalai Lama — If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.
- Ajaan Thate — For Buddhism, the true aim in developing concentration and absorption is to gather one's mental energies and make them steady and strong in a single point. This then forms the basis for the knowledge and discernment capable of gaining true insight into all conditions of nature and eliminating all that is detrimental and defiling from the heart. Thus, stillness of mind is developed not simply for other, external purposes, such as the various fields of science. Instead, it's meant specifically for use in cleansing the heart of such defilements as the five Hindrances (nivarana). But when you have practiced to the point of proficiency, you can use your stillness of mind in any way you like, as long as that use isn't detrimental to yourself or to others.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu — Fashions in science change so rapidly that we do the Buddha’s teachings no favor by trying to "prove" them in light of current scientific theories.
- Ajaan Dune — External discernment is the discernment of suppositions. It can't enlighten the mind about nibbana. You have to depend on the discernment of the noble path if you're going to enter nibbana. The knowledge of scientists, like Einstein, is well-informed and very capable. It can split the smallest atom and enter into the fourth dimension. But Einstein had no idea of nibbana, which was why he couldn't enter nibbana.
- Ajahn Chah — Only in the science of Buddhism is there a point of completion [nirvana], all the other sciences just go round in circles. In the end it's real headache.
- Ajaan Lee Dhammadaro — … It's like the sciences of the world, which every country has used to develop amazing powers. None of their inventions or discoveries came out of a textbook. They came because scientists studied the principles of nature, all of which appear right here in the world. As for the Dhamma, it's just like science: It exists in nature. When I realized this I no longer worried about studying the scriptures, and I was reminded of the Buddha and his disciples: They studied and learned from the principles of nature. None of them followed a textbook.
- A study conducted in 2009 showed that 81% of Buddhists accepted evolution to be the best explanation of the origin of human life.
- Mark Siderits (2015), "Buddha" in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University.
- Donald S. Lopez (2017), "Buddha" in Encyclopedia Britannica, britannica.com.
- This pejorative was for some time repeated as the "legitimate" name of the division in academic texts for a number of years, since Mahayana Buddhists have had the greatest influence in western academia.
- Dating from about the 3rd century, it is only "young" relative to the other two groups
- Zen at War by Brian Daizen Victoria (2006). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2nd ed., 304 pp. ISBN 0742539261.
- The Chinese Tranformation of Buddhism by Kenneth Kuan Sheng Ch'en (1973) Princeton University Press, 345 pp. ISBN 069107187X.
- Buddhism and Violence: Militarism and Buddhism in Modern Asia, edited by Vladimir Tikhonov & Torkel Brekke (2012) Routledge
- Acharya S./D.M. Murdock (November 13, 2009). "Buddhist sexism"
- BBC News — Why are Buddhists attacking Muslims?