A Basic Explanation of the Buddhist Path
The fundamental teachings of Buddhism are found within the very first teaching that came out of Buddhism. These principles were laid out as truths and were quite likely seen as truths because they arose from insight during the meditation experience that the man named Siddhartha, Who came to be known as the Buddha, experienced for himself.
At the age of 35, Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and became known as the Buddha. Having attained enlightenment through the practice of meditation and freed himself from all worldly suffering, he remained contently in the happiness arising from subduing all passions and being liberated from suffering. After attending his awakening he pondered what to do with his realization and thought it might be difficult and too profound to be accepted by most people. But then he concluded that there are people out there that would be able to except these teachings and first thought of contacting his past teachers that taught him Jhana or concentration meditation, but he later found out that both of these teachers had passed away.
He then remembered the five Friends that he had known before in the practice of asceticism and learned that they were at Varanasi (benares) or Deer Park and he looked to find them and when he approached the five friends they saw that he appeared to be much different. They paid much respect to him and made a seat for him to sit at. After sitting down on the cushion they had prepared the Buddha began to speak: he told him that he attained the truth of Nirvana of the unborn and undying, and he said he would like to teach it to them. He said if you learned and practiced according to my direction, you will soon be enlightened, not in the future but in the present life or even in the present moment. He said, I tell you nothing but the truth that you must transcend birth and death by yourselves! Of course they doubted what he was saying and were very reluctant to believe and had many questions. Eventually they remembered that he had never tried to convince them of anything in the past so they decided to accept what he was saying. And accepted his first teaching which was recorded as the Dharma - Cakra Pravartana Sutra. Eventually all five of these friends became enlightened as well as many other people through the teachings of the Buddha.
Within this first teaching, contains the entire Buddhist doctrine including the wisdom teachings, morality, and the practices.
The following is a method that can be used to teach others either very quickly and briefly or it could be extended and built upon as the teachings often are. The following is a teaching outlining the four Noble truths and consequently the eight fold path. These are the basics and fundamentals with a foundation behind the practice of Buddhism and for many, the practice of meditation itself.
The Buddha was in many ways someone who could be seen as a physician or a doctor. He developed a cure for peoples difficulties. He was seen as being very wise and very clear. Very kind and compassionate as well as being able to say the right thing at the right time. In using the simile of a doctor and patient we can explain the fundamental teaching of the four Noble truths.
Doctor and Patient simile to explain Buddhism:
When somebody has a disease (DIS-EASE) we find someone to help us such as a doctor, we first express what our symptoms are.
The first noble truth: symptoms
There is suffering (feelings of being incomplete)
D: What seems to be the problem?
P: I often feel as if there's more to life then what I am living. At times everything seems fine and I'm happy but I wonder why this isn't sustained. At times I have stress or feel as if I am suffering.
D: okay let me ask you a few questions so that we can get to the root of the problem.
The second noble truth: cause
D: Do you feel your life is in good order?
P: Not exactly, I think things could be better in some areas of my life.
D: Do you have any fear or anger?
P: I don't really think I have much fear.
D: Do you have fear of dying perhaps?
P: Well, yes I do have fear of dying or what happens after I die. But I think everyone does.
D: Do you have anger issues?
P: Well I do get angry at my children and the people at work sometimes. And I do notice that I get angry at the traffic on my way to work and on my way home.
D: How about anxiety, you have worries?
P: Yes I worry about having enough money and caring for my family and myself. I have worries about work related things. And I also worry about my health and well-being as well as the health and well-being of the other people in my life.
D: Do you have any exercises or practices that you do to help you alleviate any of these worries, and to take your mind off of your difficulties?
P: I do some things but I sometimes doubt that they help. Sometimes they seem to help me but most the time I get busy or get too tired to do the practices and exercises.
D: Okay, what do you find that you want in your life?
P: I have the desire for better things, and feel that if I have a better home and a new car to take me back and forth to my job so that I can make more money, things will be better.
D: Basically what I am seeing and hearing from you, is that you have a desire for things to be different in your life. Do you feel that as long as you want things to be different, that you will always have this suffering that you speak of?
P: I suppose this is true, but how can I stop this.
The third Noble truth: prognosis
(A doctors opinion about how someone will recover from an illness or injury)
D: It seems that your causes of suffering are dependent upon the state of your own mind. So if we can change your own mind we can also eliminate suffering. The reasons we do actions that cause ourselves and others harm come from our delusions. When we possess the proper wisdom we can rid ourselves of delusions that cause all of our problems and. When this process is complete, we can leave behind the suffering and be free from problems. In other words, we no longer see these things as problems such as desires, fear and hatred.
P: But aren't problems just a part of life?
D: Again, it's how we perceive these things. Do you think it's possible to see a problem as an opportunity, a time for growth, as a tool to learn from? What if we were actually able to welcome these so-called problems into our lives?
P: If we welcomed problems into our life, they would no longer be look at as problems.
D: Yes, I think you are correct!
The fourth Noble truth: prescription (medicine)
D: It is believed by many that if we control the body and mind in a way that we help others instead of doing them harm, and generate wisdom in the mind, and cultivate mindfulness and concentration through our practices we can end our suffering and problems.
P: Sounds simple enough, I think! What do I have to do, or what am I to do?
D: There are eight things that I would like to have you take a look at and consider adding into your life. These eight things have to do with: wisdom, (education) morality, (your behavior) and (Concentration) incorporating a practice that will help you.
The prescription (The Eight Fold Path)
Every action that is created by us mainly actions of body speech mind have results. This is often referred to as karma. Karma means action. It does not have to be in action performed in a past life, But any action. If we roll ball and walk away, That ball is still rolling this is the effect or result of our action
Understanding the four noble truths
The relation between the four Noble truths and cause-and-effect is linked to the fact that if we suffer (first Noble truth) it points to the fact that we have A desire for things to be different than what they currently are (the second Noble truth).
Letting go is renunciation, This is renouncing the need to hang on to anything. If we try to hang onto something we will suffer because of the absolute impermanence of everything in our world. It is for this reason also that the primary practice of meditation is letting go.
Metta is the practice of loving friendliness, this in itself is opening of the heart towards all beings particularly ourselves. We cannot love others unless we love ourselves first. This is a completely unconditional and all embracing love.
Compassion is a melting of the heart at the thought of another's suffering. It is coupled with the wish to alleviate another's pain. We need compassion for ourselves as well. Self discipline is actually an aspect of practicing compassion for ourselves.
Speaking the truth
Weather for your own advantage or for the advantage of others or for any advantage whatsoever our hearts and minds will remain clear if we should speak the truth always.
Refraining from malicious speech
Manipulating A situation or using words to make another believe A situation happened when it didn't is malicious speech. Trying to manipulate A persons thoughts through the use of words often in the form of adding or some tracking words that could define the situation better is malicious speech.
Speaking softly, and kindly
Using the example of speaking mindfully to a child, thinking in terms that they will remember and repeat everything that is sad and will pick up the tone of voice that we use and volume that it is spoken is a wonderful example to remember regarding speaking softly and kindly. We must be mindful with our tone and fluctuations of speech.
Avoiding useless chatter
To speak just for the sake of talking without being mindful of what is being said can be both a waste of energy and can be very annoying to others and does us a great disfavor by allowing this over active talking to stimulate the mind toward overactive thinking.
The five precepts
The universal Precepts are common practices that are done by people in order to allow others peacefulness in their lives. Often times in a retreat situation people are given the five precepts, Reminders of how a noble one would Live.
Refraining from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and the use of intoxicants
Assessing skillful livelihood
Does our livelihood or job interfere with our spiritual development, our meditation practice. Our the spiritual practice of others.
Finding skillful livelihood
What feels like our purpose in life. Are you doing what you feel you should be doing in your daily work?
The five hindrances
The five hindrances are a general accumulation of negative mind states that we should be aware of and then avoided or dropped. They are:
1)Desire, 2)Aversion, 3) restlessness and worry, 4) doubt, 5) sloth and torpor
Once seen and recognized they can then be dealt with through the following practices, but they must be first recognized.
The nonjudgmental awareness that is a characteristic of mindfulness is the ability to view how the body and mind react to sensations of site, sound, smell, taste, and tactile feelings. It is a awareness without the identification of these sensations as own or has been called mine.
When there is a falling away of the hindrances listed above, there is concentration. Concentration provides A glimpse of our true nature. Beyond desire, Greed, fear and anger, happy joyful beings. Concentration on an option points one and shows us that our true nature, A mind that is centered in the present moment is truly joyful, Happy, Fulfilled, and is complete.
Here we have the basics of Buddhism we start with the four Noble truths which lead to the eight fold path. These are teachings that many feel are universal, and true to the heart of all beings meaning that once lived and practiced can change a person beyond any kind of religious beliefs and can be seen and used as simply a way of life beyond any religious beliefs.