Buddhism is fast becoming a popular religion, even among Americans. It is attractive to people who prefer a secular world view, but who also want some spiritual guidance for their lives. But what are the essentials of Buddhist philosophy? Luckily, Buddhism loves lists, and it is easy to break down the essentials of Buddhism into a few lists. As you read, you may notice that there are many similarities between Buddhism and the other religion we often attribute to God’s creation: Christianity.
The Four Noble Truths:
To be a Buddhist, you must first understand the Four Noble Truths. These are:
1. Everything in life and in nature is characterized by frustration, disharmony, and suffering.
2. All of our sufferings arise as a result of our attachment to worldly objects.
3. The way to end our suffering is to cease our attachment to these worldly objects.
4. The way to cease our attachment to worldly objects is by following the Eightfold Path.
So far, so good. The Four Noble Truths teach us that life is characterized by suffering, but we can end this suffering by following the Eightfold Path. What is the Eightfold Path? As you may have guessed, it consists of eight requirements:
The Eightfold Path:
1. Right Understanding – This means that you must understand the true nature of life and the Four Noble Truths.
2. Right Determination – This means you must genuinely want to give up evil and be a good person.
3. Right Speech – This means no lying, cursing, bragging, boasting, or gossiping. It also means only speaking the truth if that truth won’t harm anyone.
4. Right Action – This means that you conduct your behavior in a morally correct way at all times. Never engage in dishonest behaviors, and never do any harm to others.
5. Right Livelihood – You must have a profession or job that you can feel good about. You cannot have a job that brings harm to others, such as working in a weapons factory.
6. Right Effort – You must put consistent effort into your attempts to perform the previous steps. It is hard work, but it can be accomplished with enough vigilance.
7. Right Mindfulness – You must keep your mind focused on the good and not on the bad. You must avoid drugs, alcohol, and other substances that can cloud the mind.
8. Right Concentration – It is important to continuously develop your powers of concentration. This can be achieved by meditating daily.
The Buddha taught that if we can follow these steps, we can achieve a life that is filled with contentment. You might think of them as similar in function to the Ten Commandments of the Christian philosophy. You might also notice that there is quite a lot of overlap.