Some Basic Information About Buddhism

Here are some aspects of Buddhism to help you understand how it functions on a daily basis.

  • Buddhism offers two principal paths to enlightenment and ultimate salvation. One path includes Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, and other sects which encourage people to understand the teachings of Buddha on their own and by themselves through meditation and reflection. The second, more popular approach, is known as “Pure Land Buddhism.” This form relies on the Supreme Buddha who offers attainment of 51 levels of enlightenment in order to be assured the achievement of the 52nd level after death.
  • While only a relatively small proportion of the population of East Asia has taken the formal step of becoming a Buddhist, adherence to one or more of the six kinds of good deeds generally identifies a person as being a Buddhist. Note that in contrast to God’s stern admonition in the 10 Commandments that “thou shalt not …”, Buddhists try to practice six kinds of good deeds:
  1. Generosity (Offerings)
  2. Moral Conduct (Keeping Promises)
  3. Forbearance (Patience)
  4. Diligence (Making an Effort)
  5. Concentration (Self Reflection)
  6. Wisdom (Self-Discipline)
  • Faith is an important element of Sakyamuni Buddha’s teachings, but the word has a broader connotation than in Western religious tradition. In the West, faith is a wholehearted belief without reliance on reason, proof, or logic. In Buddhism, faith implies the application of reasoning and a reliance on accumulated experience until a believer finally acknowledges the truth and harbors no doubts.
  • Finally, the Buddhist concept of karma looks at the words and deeds as well as the intent underlying them. Both are important to fulfilling the six good deeds. The Dalai Lama has written this about karma:The karmas you have done will not disappear. Virtues and nonvirtues will give rise to the effects accordingly.

Actions that are outwardly and inwardly wholesome will result in happiness; unwholesome actions will cause unhappiness. If a person professes piety and virtue but nonetheless acts with greed, anger or hatred, future unhappiness will result.

12th century Chinese painting

Even though Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, and folk religions are quite separate from Buddhism, many individuals do not fully understand the philosophical differences among them. This 12th century Chinese painting reflects the point by portraying three laughing men practicing their individual religious beliefs peacefully together beside a river stream.

In short, it is impossible for virtuous action to produce unfavorable results, and for nonvirtuous action to produce favorable ones. In fact, if a good deed is done too casually or is done with improper intentions, the benefit produced by the deed can never be fully enjoyed.

Finally, Buddhists thank others, not God, for whatever good may touch them or provide a benefit. In fact, any form of help a Buddhist can give to someone else provides untold benefits to the giver. Helping others is so fundamental to Buddhist philosophy that it is taught that even though someone might not have even one penny to give to charity, he or she can still provide a kind word or a smile to anyone who may be suffering.

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