Basics of Buddhism

Basics of Buddhism

Buddhism bases its teachings on the system set in place by Siddhartha Gautama. He lived in Nepal and northeastern India about 25 centuries ago.

After his profound realizations on life, death and existence, people began referring to him as “the Buddha,” which means awakened one. He went on to travel and teach others this path to enlightenment, but never shared the things he realized during his own experiences.

The Buddha taught that you should never accept something without testing it first. Instead of blindly believing in a list of regulations, Buddhists put the teachings into practice and realize truth for themselves.

Achieving Nirvana

Nirvana represents the final liberty from our birth and death cycle.

Living beings slave within the physical birth and death cycle due to the laws of karma. In his teaching mission, the Buddha attempted to enable others to attain a direct, clear and deep understanding of the obstacles they would face.

Most Buddhism schools explain Nirvana as:

A state of peace and bliss that may be attained in this life or entered into after death.

Technically speaking, the word Nirvana means extinguish. It does not refer to an act of annihilation, but rather a transition into a higher level of existence.

The Four Noble Truths

When you follow these Four Noble Truths, you can avoid obstacles that hinder you from understanding and enlightenment. They serve as the foundational practices of the religion.

1. Life is Suffering

The very essence of human nature breeds pain. Suffering constantly exists through the cyclical nature of life and death. And so, you cannot escape it through death alone.

2. Suffering Has a Cause

Attachment to worldly possessions and craving for things causes suffering. When we selfishly cling and crave it shows our profound ignorance of truth.

3. You Can Overcome Craving and Attachment

Nirvana occurs when you transcend the selfish nature of mankind. When you attain this state of being, suffering will cease.

4. Achieving Nirvana Requires an Eightfold Path

To attain the ultimate reality Nirvana brings, you must journey along an eightfold path. This spiritual progress will lead you to that blissful destination. The path looks like this:

  • Right understanding
  • Right purpose
  • Right speech
  • Right conduct
  • Right livelihood
  • Right effort
  • Right alertness
  • Right concentration

Basic Precepts

Buddhism focuses on a single-minded pursuit of personal enlightenment. Unlike other religions, it does not have a Deity concept.

Moral precepts laid out in the religion reveal an expression of your own nature. (Whereas other religions place moral standards as a command from a divine authority.) All Buddhists commit to the following precepts as a moral code of conduct:

  • Do not kill.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not act in an unchaste manner.
  • Do not speak falsely.
  • Do not take intoxicants.

In addition to these basic principles, monks take a vow to:

  • Not eat at the times not appointed.
  • Not view secular entertainments.
  • Not wear perfumes of bodily ornaments.
  • Not sleep in beds that are too wide or too high.
  • Not accept money.

Additional Resources

For a deeper understanding of this beautiful religion, come to the Old Wilson Schoolhouse on March 5 at 6pm to listen to Nuptul Rinpoche, a young incarnate Tibetan Buddhist lama from the Manaslu region of Nepal speak about Buddhism. Local Travel Medicine Teacher and Buddhist Dr. David Shlim also offers a class on Tuesdays by appointment. For more information email

How Everything is Interconnected

Understanding Karma

Reincarnation in Buddhism

What We Are: The Five Skandhas

Overview of Buddhist Scriptures

Glossary of Buddhist Symbols, Creatures and Sacred Beings