To become a Buddhist a person must be committed to three central beliefs. These are known as the three jewels as they are felt to be so precious. They consist of a belief in Buddha, in his teaching (this is known as Dharma which word also covers the practice of what Buddha taught) and in the Buddhist community (called Sangha). This is made up of ordinary people as well as the monks and nuns. The purpose is to help others and by doing so to cease to become selfish and to move on the way towards enlightenment. In many cases this will centre on the local monastery which as well as its religious function will often operate as a community centre where people go to meet, as a hotel where visitors stay and as a bank where valuable belongings can be stored.
1. I take refuge in the Buddha
2. I take refuge in the Dharma (teachings of Buddha)
3. I take refuge in the Sangha ( the community of the Buddha).
The Four Noble Truths is the heart of Buddhist Dharma / teaching and they are:
-unsatisfactoriness. The imperfection of life. It is one of the three signs of being, the others being:
Anatta -no permanent self
Samudaya – origin of unsatisfactoriness, Dukkha is seen as originating in tanha, a craving that can not be satisfied and therefore results in rebirth.
Niirodha – The cessation of Dukkha, the overcoming of tanha
– The Way. This is often known as the Middle Way of Life, the fourth noble truth is the way to overcome dukkha by following the Noble Eightfold Path. In other words, existence entails suffering, suffering is caused by inherently insatiable desires, desires must be suppressed in order to end suffering and existence, to do this one has to follow the Noble Eight Fold path.
The Noble Eightfold path encompasses the following:
1. Right Understanding 2. Right Intention 3. Right Speech 4. Right Action 5. Right Livelihood 6. Right effort 7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
A further explanation of the Noble path is:
1. Right understanding- This means a proper understanding of Buddha’s teachings and of the world
2. Right intention- This means thinking kind or wise thoughts and doing so consciously free from fantasy
3. Right speech- This means not telling lies or speaking angrily but speaking honestly and compassionately and well of others
4. Right action- This means behaving peacefully and honestly
5. Right livelihood- This means not harming any other living creature. Buddhists believe it is vital to look after the earth’s resources and to stop the pollution and destruction of the environment.
6. Right effort- This means using discipline and control to overcome difficulties. To think before acting
7. Right mindfulness- This means paying full attention to what is going on.
8. Right concentration/ meditation- This means to be able to be at peace in any situation through an ability to focus deeply on it.
The Five Precepts help Buddhists follow the path of samma kammanta (right action). They are as follows, refrain from:
1.Harming living beings
2.Taking what is not given
5.Drink or drugs
For Buddhist monks there are additional vows which they have to undertake.
In Mahayana Buddhism there is also the need to practise the Paramitas – perfections, especially the first six which are:
Giving Keeping the moral precepts
Patience Strength to preserve
By following the correct action Buddhists believe that they will eventually achieve enlightenment and reach Nirvana.
OTHER TRADITIONS OF BUDDHISM
People meditate to try to find their true selves, and so become closer to Nirvana. Meditation is seen as a way to settle the mind into a state of clarity and openness. In Zen Buddhism the aim is to learn to identify with another. This is seen as reflecting the way that a Bodhissattva helps others.
These are often very detailed pictures or patterns, inside a circle, which are intended to be seen as three-dimensional. It is thought that concentrating on these helps meditation.
As with other areas of Buddhist art these have meaning as well as beauty. Colour is used to represent Buddha’s different virtues. Red is his compassion, blue the truth of his teaching and white his purity. The shape also has meaning. The circle symbolises the Buddhist universe. There are 4 openings from the circle. These are the entrances to the virtue shown in the centre.
Many Buddhists will meditate every day, some alone, others together. To aid concentration some chant, others focus on an object. This might be an elaborate picture, known in Tibet as a Thankga, or Mandala. Others might count the 108 beads of a Mala ( a rosary- 108 is a sacred number for Buddhists.)
Skandhas – the ego is composed of 5 constantly changing skandhas or states. There is no permanent ego-entity but what a person does affects their future under the Law of Karma.