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Buddhist Doctrine

Samsara

All beings are trapped in a continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth called samsara. This cycle is characterized by suffering (dukkha) and is driven by ignorance (avidya), desire (tanha) and actions (karma).

Karma

The actions of a being in their past lives influence their current life conditions and future rebirths. Good actions lead to positive rebirths, while negative actions lead to unfavorable ones. Karma is what binds beings to the cycle of samsara.

Nirvana

The Buddha taught a way to break free from the cycle of samsara. Nirvana is the ultimate goal, representing the end of suffering, the cessation of desires, and liberation from the cycle of rebirth. Achieving Nirvana means a being no longer accumulates karma and is freed from rebirth.

Path to Liberation

The Buddha outlined the path to liberation through the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. By understanding the nature of suffering, its cause, and following a path of ethical conduct, meditation, and wisdom, beings can overcome ignorance and desire, which are the root causes of rebirth and suffering.

Four Noble Truths

  1. Dukkha - Life involves suffering, dissatisfaction, and discomfort.
  2. Samudaya - Suffering is caused by desire, attachment, and ignorance.
  3. Nirodha - It’s possible to end suffering by eliminating its causes.
  4. Magga - Following the Eightfold Path can lead to the cessation of suffering.

The Eightfold Path

  • Wisdom:
    • Right View: Understanding things as they really are, especially the Four Noble Truths.
    • Right Intention: Commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement.
  • Ethical Conduct:
    • Right Speech: Avoiding false, harmful, or harsh words.
    • Right Action: Conducting oneself ethically and harmlessly.
    • Right Livelihood: Earning a living in a way that doesn’t harm others.
  • Mental Discipline:
    • Right Effort: Cultivating positive states of mind; preventing negative states.
    • Right Mindfulness: Being fully aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions.
    • Right Concentration: Developing deep concentration through meditation.

The Buddha

“Buddha” is a title for those who have achieved nirvana. A Buddha appears when the teachings of the previous Buddha have been forgotten. This cycle ensures that the dharma, or the teaching of the path to enlightenment, is available to beings in all eras.

Siddhartha Gautama is the Buddha of the current era. Before his final lifetime, in which he reached full enlightenment and nirvana, he was born in many different forms and lives, during which he was accumulating the wisdom, merit, and qualities necessary to achieve Buddhahood.

There are mentions of past Buddhas who lived in previous ages, and it is also prophesied that future Buddhas will appear. The most well-known future Buddha is Maitreya, who is expected to come when the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama have completely vanished.