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The Outline of Buddhism

A question before me is, “what the outline of Buddhism?”  A question before me is, “what the outline of Buddhism?”  A question before me is, “what the outline of Buddhism?”  A question before me is, “what the outline of Buddhism?”  A question before me is, “what the outline of Buddhism?”  A question before me is, “what the outline of Buddhism?”  ?????

A question before me is,

A question before me is, “what the outline of Buddhism?” 

Outline the Religious Belief of Buddhism

By Venerable Master Thich Tue Uy

A question before me is, “what the outline of Buddhism?”  My answer is in these seven words “Avoid evil, do good, purify the mind” because these words bring the main message of Buddha to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.  These words also inspire me to introduce Buddhism briefly and essentially in the outline of Buddhism.  Surprisingly for a little boy or girl it is too easy to know by heart, but for older people it is difficult to attain these words throughout their entire life.

There are many important points that I would like to express in this study.  An interesting concept of Buddhism lies at the heart of my presentation.  The name Buddhism comes from the word Bodhi, which means to wake up.  Buddhism is a religion of self-help and self discipline; it places human being at the center of all things.  It is a path to true happiness.  Buddhism is a very great religion.  People who follow this religion are called Buddhists.  We are Buddhist because we practice Buddhism.  I would like to address as briefly and as simply as possible to general readers what the Buddha actually taught.

I will develop my outline of Buddhism as the following:  First, I will describe the life of Buddha.  Secondly, I will address the Buddha’s teaching with basic Buddhist concepts including the doctrines of the Four Noble Truths, Buddhism and God, the doctrine of No-soul, Karma, Samsara, and meditation.  Finally, I will conclude with a few additional thoughts inspired by my research on this important question. 

Who is the Buddha?

Buddhism is a very old religion.  It is more than 2,500 years old and the founder is Buddha.  The Buddha was born on the full moon day of May in the year 623 B.C. at Lumbini Park, Kingdom of Kapilavatthu, on the India borders of present Nepal.  His first name is Siddhattha and last name is Gautama.  Siddhartha Gautama also came to be known as Sakyamuni because he was born in the clan of Sakyas.  The Sakyas were a warrior tribe inhabiting an area just below the Himalayan foothills.  King Suddhodana was his father who was the ruler of the kingdom of the Sakyas. Queen Maya was his mother.  Siddhattha married princess Yasodhara, and they had only one son, Rahula (Rahula, p. xv).

One day, Siddhattha was confronted with the reality of life and the suffering of mankind, and he decided to find the solution to stop universal suffering.  At the age of 29, Siddhartha left his kingdom and became an ascetic to seek a solution.  For six years, Siddhartha met with many famous religious teachers, studying and following their methods, practicing very seriously.  They did not satisfy him.  So he refused and stopped practicing all traditional religions and went his own way.  At the age of 35, Siddhartha attained enlightenment after 49 days of sitting-meditation under the Bodhi tree (the tree of  Wisdom).  After that he was known as the Buddha, “the Enlightened One” (Rahula, p. xv).

After Gautama’s Enlightenment, the Buddha delivered his first sermon to a group of five ascetics who were his old colleagues in the Deer Park at Isipatana near Benares.  Since the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment, he tirelessly devoted his time and energy for the benefits of humankind.  Throughout the forty-five years of teaching, Lord Buddha worked hard to enlighten people without ever thinking of his personal comfort and leisure.

The Buddha knew his Dharma had already been firmly established and his students, monks (Bhikku), nuns (Bhikkhuni), male lay devotees (Upasaka), and female lay devotees (Upasika), would be able to carry on the mission even  he was passed away.  The passing away of the Buddha is known as the Great Demise (Parinibbana). In the year 543 B.C., the Buddha was old and sick, but still happy and at peace.  He finally passed away at age of eighty years old at Kusinara, India (Rahula, p. xvi).

The Buddha’s Teaching: Basic Buddhist Concepts

After the Buddha’s enlightenment he proclaimed what are known as the Four Noble Truths.  The Buddha’s teachings centre on the Four Noble Truth.  The First Noble Truth is Dukkha (The Noble Truth of Suffering).  All life is suffering.  Dukkha is the term used in the First Noble Truth.  Dukkha has meanings such as suffering, sorrowfulness, hopelessness, and unhappiness.  In order to understand Buddhism, people should understand this word because Buddhism is based on the suffering of human beings and it also offers the ways to stop Dukkha.

Life is suffering (Dukkha).  People may agree or not, it is the truth.  The Buddha tells people that the truth about the world around us is not permanent.  Everything changes and ends.  When people face this truth, they will feel hopeless, anxious, and depressed because suffering is the root of everything.  The Buddha says, “Now, this, O Bhikkus is the Noble Truth of Suffering.  Birth is suffering, decay is suffering, disease is suffering, death is suffering, to be united with the unpleasant is suffering, to be separated from the pleasant is suffering, not to get what one desires is suffering…  This Noble Truth of Suffering should be perceived” (Maitreya, p. 9).  People just see one side of the subject.  This side is happy, interested, or enjoyable, but the other side is unhappy, suffering, and depressed.  Therefore, the Buddha teaches Dukkha as the First Noble Truth in order for man to be alert and awake.  Then from this, Buddhism shows people the ways to understand where Dukkha comes from (Dhammananda, p. 74).

In the Second Noble Truth, the Buddha teaches the origin of Dukkha.  The origin of suffering is ignorance, which causes egoistic craving and attachment.  When humankind wants something, but they are unable to get it, they feel frustrated and dismal.  Craving is an incessant process.  When the desire is fulfilled, craving for something else begins.  Craving causes all aspects of existence and desire to exist.  These desires also create Karma and rebirth.   In What in Brief is Buddhism, Guruge said, “It is craving which produces rebirth, accompanied by passionate clinging, seeking delight now here and now there.  That is the craving for sensuous pleasure, for becoming and for extinction” (Guruge, p. 43).  We will discuss the Law of Karma and rebirth in more detail later on. However, there is a way to the cessation of suffering; that way is the Third Noble Truth.

The Third Noble Truth shows that suffering can be overcome and we will attain truth happiness.  The Third Noble Truth is very important because Lord Buddha reassures that people are able to achieve the true happiness and contentment.  Deliverance from suffering is the main goal of Buddhism.  It means to bring one to the state of liberation.  This state calls Nirvana, the ultimate goal of Buddhism, “This, truly, is Peace, this is the Highest, namely the end of all Karma-formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving, detachment, extinction, Nirvana” (Guruge, p. 51).  According to Buddhism, the Buddha assures people that Nirvana is an experience of great happiness “Nirvana is the highest happiness” (Dhammika, p. 17).  Nirvana is also described as the eradication of greed, hatred, and ignorance.  People can achieve and enjoy Nirvana right here in the present life, if they reside in their mind by morality, concentration, and wisdom.  The way leading to the cessation of Dukkha and approaching Nirvana is the Fourth Noble Truth.

The Fourth Noble Truth is the way to Nirvana or the overcoming of suffering.  This Noble Truth is known as the Middle Path (Majjhima Patipada) because it avoids two extremes: the extreme of self-mortification and the extreme of self-indulgence.  One seeks happiness through the extreme pleasures of the senses.  The other seeks the happiness in different forms of asceticism, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.  Rahula said, “The Buddha discovered through personal experience the Middle Path ‘which gives vision and knowledge, which leads to Calm, Insight, Enlightenment, Nirvana.’  This Middle Path is generally referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path” (p. 45).

The Noble Eightfold Path shows the ethical conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom in Buddhism.  It consists of eight categories:  (1) Right Understanding, (2) Right Thoughts, (3) Right Speech, (4) Right Action, (5) Right Livelihood, (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Mindfulness, and (8) Right Concentration.  First, Right Understanding is that people should understand the Four Noble Truth to practice in Buddhism.  Second, Right Thought is to detach from selfish, hatred, anger, and violence.  Third, Right Speech applies in: 1) no lying, 2) no backbiting and slender, 3) no harsh and abusive language, 4) no useless and foolish, babbles and gossip.  Fourth, Right action means moral, honorable, and peaceful conduct.  Firth, Right Livelihood means that we do not live thru a profession that harms others, i.e. trading in arms, sex, and intoxication, killing animals, and gambling.  Sixth, Right Effort means 1) to prevent evil doing or thoughts form arising, 2) to eliminate evil doing or thoughts that have already arisen, 3) to arise good doing and thoughts that have not arisen, 4) to develop the good doing and thoughts that have arisen.  Seventh, Right Mindfulness means to be aware, mindful, and attentive with one’s body’s activities and feelings, the activities of the mind and the ideas, thoughts, conception, and things (Dharma).  Eighth, Right Concentration means the four stages of Dhyana (trance, a state of mind achieved through higher meditation).

The Eightfold Path is very important in Buddhism for those who practice and want to become an enlightened one, or at least for those who seek the truth and happiness in their lives.  The Eightfold Path provides the right ways for Buddhists who like to follow the Buddha’s steps.  If people are good Buddhists, they have to practice the Eightfold Path.  The development of morality, concentration, and wisdom are the three stages on the way that leads to Nirvana.  “These three stages are embodied in the beautiful ancient verse:  To cease from all evil.  To cultivate good.  To purify one’s mind.  This is the advice of all the Buddhas” (Narada, p. 301).

Buddhism and the God-idea

Buddhism does not believe in God, but it believes in human.  Buddhism believes in human because human is precious and important.  Human beings have the potential to develop become a Buddha.  Fellow Buddhists believe that hatred, jealousy, spite, and anger can be replaced by kindness, generosity, and compassion.  Was the Buddha a God?  Actually, the Buddha was not a God.  He did not claim that he was God, neither the son of God nor even the messenger from God (Dhammananda, p. 12).

Was the Buddha a non-human?  According to Daily Buddhist Bible, in Anguttara Nikaya “One day, a Brahmin happened to meet the Buddha and he could not believe that Buddha was a human being.  He asked, “Are you a God?”  The Buddha said, “No.”  He then asked, “Are you a supernatural being?”  The Buddha said, “No, I am very natural!”  At the end, Brahmin asked, “Are you an ordinary human being?”  The Buddha said, “No.”  The confused Brahmin asked, “Then who are you?”  The Buddha answered, “I am the Awakened One (Buddha)” (Thich, p. 61).  From this, the Buddha was a human being, but not a human being full of defilements.  The Buddha was not a God or a heavenly angle of a demon.  He is an awakened one, a marvelous man.

The Doctrine of No-Soul (Anatta)

Some religions believe that each individual has a separate soul, which is created by God.  When human beings die, they depend on the judgment of their created Gods.  His/her soul will live eternally either in hell or heaven.  Others believe their souls go through many lives till they are completely purified and become finally united with God or Brahman.  In contrast, Buddhism denies the existence of such soul, self, or Atman.  Rahula stated, “The doctrine of Anatta is the natural result of, or the corollary to, the analysis of the Five Aggregates and the teaching of Conditioned Genesis” (p. 52).  According to the doctrine of Conditioned Genesis and the analysis of the Five Aggregates, the idea of Atman, Ego, Self, or Soul is considered a false belief.  This is the Buddhist doctrine of No-Soul or No-Self (Anatta).  In What the Buddha Taught, the idea of self is an imaginary and a false belief of soul that produce harmful thoughts of ‘me’ and mine, ‘selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, and problems (Rahula, p. 51).  Therefore, the idea of self is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations.

Samsara

The nature of human experience includes the human beings desire for happiness when one is living and struggle with suffering or unsatisfied status when one is dying.  We find the doctrine of rebirth or the life after death in Buddhism.  Buddhism believes the cycle of birth and death (Samsara) never ends until one achieves salvation.  There are several realms of rebirth.  Some people are reborn in heaven, some are reborn in hell, and someone is reborn as hungry ghosts, and so on.  However, heaven is impermanent and when one’s life span is finished, one can be reborn again as a human.  That is reincarnation with karmic residue.  Where will one be reborn?  One of the most important factors, influencing where one will be reborn and what sort of life one will have, is Karma.

Law of Karma

            Buddhism believes and realizes that rebirth is the result of Karma.  According to the Majjhima Nikaya, Buddha says, “All living beings have Karma as their own” (Narada, p. 186).  In the Sutra Pitaka, the Buddha said, “Volition (Cetana) is Karma.  Having willed one acts by body, speech and thought” (Maitreya, Pandita, & Gomes, p. 18).  In Buddhism, the Law of Karma (Karma-niyama) ascribes moral values to actions of reward and retribution.  If a Buddhist is in the habit of harming, killing, or wounding other living beings, as a result of doing or killing in this life he/she will be reborn and suffer from various diseases or short life in the next rebirth.   Otherwise, they will enjoy good health or longevity.  It shows that an action (Karma) that is either good or bad produces a result or results. 

 The consequences are sometimes immediate and explicit, but they are sometimes not.  In fact, it is always true that good actions produce good results and bad actions bring about bad ones.  In The Dhammapada, Lord Buddha states that, “It is well with the evil-doer until his evil (deed) ripens.  But when his evil (deed) bears fruit, he then sees its ill effects.”  He adds, “It is ill, perhaps, with the doer of good until his good deed ripens.  But when it bears fruit, then he sees the happy results” (Rahula, p. 129).  Buddhists believe in Buddha and his teaching.  They try to do good and avoid evil.

Meditation

Meditation (mental development) is a way of conscious effort to change how the mind works.  In order to purify the mind and to avoid evil unwholesome thoughts associated with desire, anger, and ignorance, human being should be aware of him/herself.  Meditation helps develop the awareness and the energy to overcome a particular problem or develop a particular mental state.  Buddhism has many different types of meditation.  However, there are two most useful types of meditation:  Mindfulness of Breathing (Anapana Sati) and Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta Bhavana).  Meditation provides more benefits to practitioners.  Dhammika states, “Meditation is now accepted as having a highly therapeutic effect upon the mind and is used by many professional mental health workers to help induce relaxation, overcome phobias and bring about self-awareness (Dhammika, p. 48).

Conclusion

Finally, I conclude with a few additional thoughts on this important question.  I have described the outline of Buddhism.  I have made the effort to describe some key concepts with my understanding of Buddha’s teaching in the outline of Buddhism.  Obviously, the outline of Buddhism in this paper is the life of Buddha and his teaching the basic Buddhist concepts, including the doctrines of the Four Noble Truths, Buddhism and God-idea, the doctrine of No-Soul, the Karma, the Samsara, and Buddhist meditation. 

Practicing Buddhism is very important.  As a Buddhist, we have to be aware and mindful of whatever we do physically or verbally during our daily activities and daily life in the present moment and in present action.  Buddhism can help our insights, virtue, and integrity.  Buddhists not only practice what the Buddha taught (Dharma), but they also teach it to others. 

I work hard to preserve and spread the noble doctrine of the Buddha.  Indeed, to share the Dharma is a very great merit.  The Buddha has even said, “The gift of Dharma excels all other gifts” (Plamintr, p. 141).  I have shared the Dharma in this paper from what I have studied and practiced in Buddhism.  I hope that the readers will enjoy Buddhism.

REFERENCES

Ananda W. P. Guruge, What in Brief is Buddhism.  (Hacienda Heights, California: Buddha’s Light Publishing, 2004).

Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, Mahanayaka Thera Aggamaha Pandita DLitt DLitt and Jacquetta Gomes, Introducing Buddhism.  (Taipei, Taiwan: The Buddhist Society, 1993).

K. Sri Dhammananda, What Buddhists Believe.  (Taipei, Taiwan:  The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, 1993).

Mahathera Narada, The Buddha and His Teachings.  (Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1998).

Phra Sunthorn Plamintr, Basic Buddhism Course.  (Taipei, Taiwan:  The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, 1999).

Shravasti Dhammika, Good Question Good Answer.  (Singapore: Unknown publisher, 1998).

Thich Tue Uy, Daily Buddhist Bible & Buddhist Support to Casualties, Memorial, and Funeral Services.  (El Monte, California:  Khuông Việt Quốc Sư, 2006).

Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught.  (London: The Gordon Fraser Gallery Ltd., 1978).

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Venerable Master Thich Tue Uy is a Buddhist monk ordained in the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam Order in Vietnam and serves as abbot and CEO of Tu Vien Ho Phap Monastery in Los Angeles, California.   He is also a founder of the Vietnamese Sangha Unit Ministry of America, as well a Buddhist chaplain and an advisor to the Buddhist Psychology and Counseling Center and in the community.  He currently works as mental health therapist at Pacìic Clinics.  As a boat people Venerable Master Thich Tue Uy came to the United States with dreaming of freedom of religion in 1994.  He gained BA degree in 2000 and master degree in 2002 at California State University Los Angeles.  Nearly 30 years as a Buddhist monk, 7 years training as an US service man, and 7 years working as a mental health therapist, he believes that he could educate and help the community much better and successfully.  Master Thich Tue Uy is currently a Ph.D. student in Buddhist Studies in University of The West. 

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