I’ve been studying Buddhism ever since I came across Alan Watts’s lectures as he introduces the concepts and ideas about eastern philosophies and religions.
This entry is a general introduction to Buddhism.
Being Visually Engaged
If you have been interested in Buddhism but don’t quite get it with all the dry reading and ideas being thrown around. I would recommend you be visually engaged to learn instead.
So, I’ve gathered a list of videos that I think best describe Buddhism. Do a bookmark and watch them. I’ve extra notes below if you want references later.
Before the video, I should give an idea of what the Buddha teaches before you watch the video so you will have more contexts to build on.
What Buddha Teaches
What the Buddha teaches is best described as a small boat to help other crosses the river. When we have made it to the other side, we should disembark the boat onto the riverbank.
The 4 noble truths and 8 fold paths are the beginning of crossing this river. What he teaches is a method to help people to realize what is reality and how to best to realize it.
The truths are not something to believe in, nor philosophical claims to accept, like other religions of our time. For instance, the Abrahamic religion.
There are more scientific truths than myths that you can diligently observe and examine in your life.
Think of the likes of gravity and thermodynamics. You cannot deny gravity while falling from a tall building (best to bring a parachute) or else you will become a pancake below later.
If you are more inclined to think from a modern mental health perspective. He is the first historical psychoanalyst (2.5k years ago) before Carl Jung or Sigmund Freud come along.
I love this quote by Buddha as he tells people to inquire within (self knowledge) to find the answer and not believe blindly. He’s asking people to use their critical thinking skill.
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.The Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama
The channel is a treasure trove of wisdom in Eastern spirituality, with well-crafted content that is to be experienced.
This channel has created some banger content as well but is not well known.
Three Major Schools of Thought
Theravada (School of the Elders)
- Use the Pali language, the 3 baskets.
- Monastic. Only those who dedicated their life to being a monk can attain enlightenment.
- Follow the strict Buddhism code.
- First to be developed after Buddha died.
Mahayana (Great Vehicle)
- Use the Sanskrit language.
- Employ sutras, treatises, commentaries and verses.
- Not monastic.
- Bodhisattva concept of an enlightened person helping others to do the same.
- Comes after Theravada.
- More liberal.
- Everyone can become enlightened if they choose.
Vajrayana (Thunderbolt vehicle)
- employs Tantra (techniques to reach enlightenment quickly).
- uses many advances techniques to reach enlightenment faster.
- make use of mantras, dharanis, mudras, mandalas and the visualization of deities and Buddhas.
- comes after Mahayana.
4 Noble Truths
Being able to see and understand these truths helps in one’s perception of reality, rather than living in the constant struggle of suffering.
I’ll use different words to make it more easily understandable to a wider audience.
First Truth: Duhkha
Life can be in general described as below.
- chronic frustration
We can know this as a symptom of life.
Humans want permanence, but things are always in motion and always changing. There are no things in the universe that stay the same. Everything is subject to change.
We want to keep a hold on to an unchanging state, but everything falls apart eventually. This brings the feeling of Duhkha. Just like a baby born is going to die of old age one day.
Impermanence is the only constant.
Second Truth: Samudaya
The cause of it is due to
- hang up
- psychological block
of the impermanent world we live in.
We can know this as a disease of life.
Third Truth: Nirodha/Nirvana
To end the suffering is by extinguishing our craving. Once achieved, we will be free from the cycle of becoming.
It’s commonly interpreted as the extinguishing of the three fires, namely greed, aversion and ignorance.
Fourth Truth: Marga
To arrive at the third truth, the Buddha suggested following the 8-fold path consistently through life. This is also widely known as the middle way.
8 Fold Path
Buddha calls this his middle way between the extreme of either complete slavish engagement (Overindulgence) with the world or total renunciation of it (Asceticism).
Being able to execute 8 of these paths helps one become easier to reach liberation (Nirvana). Each item on the list should be done simultaneously with each other and not a one-by-one thing.
We can break the 8 paths down into 3 categories, namely ethical conduct, mental discipline, and wisdom.
- Right Action
- Right livelihood
- Right Speech
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
- Right Thought
- Right Understanding
What Buddha is Trying To Say
The word Truth is “Sacca” in the Pali language, which means true, truth, reality or what is real.
He is telling us to live in reality because most of us don’t, as we like to live in our little bubbles (mental constructs) and are heavily in love with all the lies, illusions, and fantasies the world has to offer.
The illusions are now even better and further enhanced in our modern world, don’t you think? We’ve so many avenues to escape into. To name a few, movies, video games, social media, porn, drugs, tv-series, alcohol, celebrity worshipping, fan-fictions, etc.
I’m guilty of this sometimes as I indulge in them, but the important point is to not mistake fantasy for reality. Most of us can get pretty disorientated thanks to their comforting, habit-forming and addictive properties.
Notice what advertisement and marketing are doing to our behaviors. Our belief in an economic model of infinite growth on a finite planet, and big tech giants are rotting away people’s minds daily.
In Simpler Terms
The Buddha is saying, try to live in reality. Give your best effort to understand what is happening by observing your mind. Find out the true nature of reality. Then you can be free from its entanglement if you choose.
I emphasize on try because it takes time and effort to see through all the lies, fantasies, and illusions due to our social conditionings and programming.
When you’re able to see through the illusions, you can help others to do the same, do nothing, or play it with renewed tenacity, but this time, you know where the lines are and what you are doing.
You will need to experience life and spend time on it in order to comprehend these powerful truths. Go live your life and come back to the truth when you are contemplating or in reflection.
If you can fully comprehend the four noble truths, not merely intellectually, but in your day to day life. Then, you will be able to see reality and your life in a new light. Everything will become clearer.
Have you started on your journey yet?