There are hundreds of books written about Buddhism, and the public library is the place to go for extensive information. I would like to give a brief description here, in order to set a foundation for this series of posts.
At one point in our lives, we surely have had a negative attitude towards life, and a sense of pessimism leads us to ask: What is the meaning of life? What is the destiny of man? What is the reason for existence?
The Path to Enlightenment, as proposed by Buddha, and which he calls The Middle Way (between asceticism and meditation), is encompassed in the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are: 1. All existence is suffering; 2. The cause of suffering is wrong desire; 3. Ending desire leads to Enlightenment; and 4. The best way to Enlightenment is the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path are: right views, right intentions, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right contemplation. Buddhist beliefs are elaborate, and a simple enumeration of these general beliefs, as I’ve done here, does not do justice to its thoughtful philosophy.
There is no God in Buddhism. It is a philosophy of life. Many call it a religion, perhaps because of its spiritual aspirations. The Buddha is a Teacher, not a God nor a Saviour. But you can choose anyone or anything to be your god, as some people do.
The Pali Canon is one of the oldest recording, and is said to be the closest to the original teachings of the Buddha. This Canon was written on leaves in the Pali language, a dialect of Sanskrit, the sacred and literary language of India. Kept in three baskets (Tipitaka in Pali, means “the three baskets”), these teachings are also known as “The Doctrine of the Elders” or the Theravada. The Pali Canon has not been entirely translated into English. What has been translated comprises 12,000 pages contained in several volumes.
The first basket, “The Basket of Discipline,” are monastic instructions exclusively for the Buddhist monks. The second basket, “The Basket of Teachings,” is a collection of discourses, anecdotes and dialogues. The third basket, “The Basket of Metaphysics,” analyses and elaborates the Buddhist teachings.
Buddha’s teachings are in the forms of lectures and dialogues. These lectures and dialogues have to be understood in the context of the time they took place. Most of the dialogues are between Buddha and his followers. Dialectic logic would best descibe the Buddhist way of thinking–paradoxes and the showing out of contradictions releases one from the fetters of existence by defeating thought.