Buddhist Basics

The Heart of Buddhism

The historical Buddha (500 BC) is often described as a doctor who diagnosed the causes of suffering of all people and prescribed the remedies that can reduce and even—if one is a very advanced practitioner of the remedies—eliminate it.  As Buddhism moved from India through northern and eastern Asia, it changed language, symbols, emphases, and added practices. All forms, however, recognize the same cause of suffering and aim to eliminate it through specific spiritual practices.

The reality of suffering, its causes and the possibility of its reduction and elimination are referred to as The Four Noble Truths. The causes of suffering are that we try to keep things we like, try to escape things we do not like, and/or are ignorant that this will not really work. And so we suffer even more when our misguided efforts are frustrated. The reason these will not work is that everything is always changing, even though we do not really sense this constant change. Included in this ignorance is the mistaken belief that we each have a solid, material self that needs constant protection. Meditation, one of the practices, allows us to sense the constant changing, impermanent nature of everything, including our “selves.” With this awareness comes much relief from our repeated efforts to keep what we want and escape what we do not.

The Practices of Buddhism

The Buddha taught eight basic remedies, or spiritual practices, to reduce and eliminate suffering. They are referred to as The Noble Eightfold Path. These practices are meant to be practiced throughout one’s daily life, as a way of life. Understanding what they entail—and the ability to put them into one’s life grows over time with meditation, learning, and reflection. And with this grows one’s spiritual awareness. The traditional label for each practice is:

Right View (or understanding)
Right Intention (or aspiration)
Right Speech
Right Action (or ethical action)
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration (or meditation)

Types of Buddhism at PBA

Westerners who have converted to Buddhism, which includes many PBA members, are most commonly practitioners of one of three traditions: Zen, Theravada, or Tibetan Buddhism. PBA welcomes all persons, regardless of whether they have a practice in any tradition, Buddhist or otherwise.

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