Buddhism 101 is a simple explanation of the practice of Buddhism in a manner that, hopefully, expresses what Buddhism is, but more importantly how it can improve your life.
This writing leaves out the various lists and rules that are an important part of Buddhism. It's not that there isn't a place for these lists as they are great teachings and summarize this wisdom.
There is a need for these lists, but for me, initially, these lists didn't have a lot of impact until I understood their essence.
A lot of people ask what is Buddhism? There are plenty of answers given, many answers just confuse the issue.
I believe most people are striving towards: how can Buddhism help me? Here, I attempt to convey what could be called the essence of Buddhism from my understanding and practice -how it has opened my eyes to an easier life.
Buddhism, the dhamma or dharma, that Gotama Buddha taught, is living life in a way that brings about great pleasure no matter your circumstances.
It is about finding deep joy and peace in life.
Finding that deep joy and peace may be difficult to wrap your mind around right now, but please, read on.
To do this it means changing your circumstances as you become more vigilant of your life as your life unfolds. This is awakening to truth and realizing right view.
This is a process, it is a way, it is a path. As a result this path takes time to traverse. You have to walk it night and day.
A simplified way of understanding the path of Buddhism is called the Middle Way. The Middle Way because it is a practice that teaches balance, not extremism.
It teaches that too much or too little can be the source of difficulties in life. If you are starting this path think in terms of balance with regard to nearly anything you do.
What is it that brings great pleasure to your life?
Take a quick moment right now to answer this question before reading on. There will be many answers to this question, but quickly give an answer.
Now that you've answered, understand that some of you will answer this differently. Some of you will understand, and many will not. This is okay.
Now that you've given a quick, simple answer, contemplate your choice. First, is it fleeting in nature? That is, if your source of happiness dries up does your inner peace and equanimity vaporize?
If you consider this in depth, is your source of joy grounded in unselfish meaning? Can you carry it with you perpetually? Does it require conditions in order to last?
Is your answer of the nature of momentary happiness like attaining something new, trying to attract someone's attention, or mired in emotional prejudices of some sort?
Does your happiness wear off as the newness wears off? Or, does your happiness based on solid and grounded principles?
No matter the way anyone portrays themselves, if their happiness is fleeting they are not living a balanced and peaceful life. In other words they are not experiencing happiness at all.
Why? Because you'd have to continually chase after these sorts of things in order to maintain happiness. This is extremely tiresome. This is being bound by all the illusions that have been manufactured in your life. It is like being wrapped in heavy chains. It is a burden.
This is samsara. The continuous turning wheel of arising and passing away of all that we attach our selves to in a way that does not allow for true peace and contentment, happiness in our lives.
Why? Because you have to continually chase after this sort of happiness, grasping and clinging to that which is illusive, that which has no real substance. It's not that material possessions and the like, are bad things. It's important to understand how attaining such things just for the sake of attaining them is binding, a burden, to living a peace-filled life of deep satisfaction.
How is freedom attained? Put aside worry for worldly things.
"What is right mindfulness? It is when one contemplates body as body, with depth, clearly aware and mindful... In this way having put aside worry of worldly things."
-The Buddha, Digha Nikaya, 22
The Buddha spoke of mindfulness as a means to eliminating those attachments that bind you. In other words, you can undo the chains that hold you.
You can let go of those things that don't allow you to see life, your life, how it really is. This Buddha quote mentions contemplation, depth, awareness, and of course, mindfulness.
Why and how does this binding happen? Binding happens when you attach yourself to nearly anything physical or psychological.
In this way it is like another chain that binds you. It is a chain that holds you tighter and increases your load. As a result your life becomes more difficult. You have to carry more burden.
Isn't your burden enough already? Don't add to it. Release it, let go, stop grasping. This is Buddhism.
Why carry the burden? An example from a true story (condensed).
A women goes to the supermarket. She encounters a rude employee. Instead of letting go and not reacting. She engages. She becomes a part of the other person's storyline. The women allows that irksome urge to grow, to become a feeling, and then an emotion within herself.
Her body begins to react. Her face reddens, her body trembles from the unleashing of adrenaline deep inside her body. Her voice would be shaky if she were able to speak. When she does speak, she has to do so in an enraged manner to allow herself to be heard. She has become like the rude employee.
This women carried this event and others like it with her for a long time. She failed to understand that by engaging she only causes herself grief.
This is where mindfulness helps. Being mindful of events as they unfold, externally and internally, determines if they are worthwhile to engage in.
The Buddha said, Be Mindful As You Walk Your Path! Be mindful of what is occuring in your life as you walk your path.
Be mindful of your body as urges, feelings and emotions arise in your body. This way you can stop grasping and clinging to what people say and do.
As you are mindful you can allow yourself not to get into their story-line. By being mindful you can see these things for what they are, meaningless occurrences.
You can forego another chain that binds you. You may even release a chain that currently binds you.
Try to understand that the rude person is most likely that way because of certain unfavorable conditions that exists in their life.
Very much like certain unfavorable conditions that may exist in your life, either in the past or the present.
Knowing this, gives you understanding, and hopefully you can let go and not attach. You can understand that by not attaching you can walk your path with peace.
This does not mean that you have to detach from everyone and everything in your life.
You do not have to get rid of all your possessions or the people in your life.
It means, to know these things for what they really are, there true worth. Then, to act accordingly.
This Is Buddhism!
Mindfulness in day to day interactions is being there, where you are, and interacting with that moment, with feeling and awareness.
This as opposed to mindlessness. And, when you drift from mindfulness, this condition of being awake to the moment, you simply bring yourself back to this state of awareness.
Devoted awareness is a good way to think of this. This is the dhamma that the Buddha taught. Try to drop the story-line. See beneath it.
There's no doubt that this takes training and development in order to attain, but that's the joy of it. In fact, as you move forward on this inner spiritual path you may not even be aware of how far you've come along the path.
It is good to be mindful of this too. In this way you will be appreciative of your life. This is one of the ways to experience true joy, peace and balance in your life.
Living life with pure inner contentedness.
The act of mindfulness in Buddhism means facing into reality. Take off the blinders and have a good look at things.
It means when you start to be overcome with fear, anxiety, panic, depression, or any type of unease, take a good look at your situation, at how things really are.
Process what you really see using all your well-grounded senses. Then, take the most appropriate course of action based on reality.
In this way, over the course of time, you will free yourself from the fear, anxiety, depression or whatever ails you in this way, whatever binds you.
The particular unease that you feel in your life will begin to lift. This is what happened to me.
So, in order to be more mindful, observe your reality. Become aware, attentive and use the insight you attain in each situation to be careful of your choices.
Don't be overly cautious and don't throw caution to the wind. Remember the middle way. Try to do this without the influence of past beliefs.
Try to do this from a fresh perspective of your current situation based on what your good, clear and conscious mind tells you about the current situation.
When you begin this practice go easy on yourself above all else. When you forget to be aware, laugh and smile.
Go easy on others too. Remember they lack wisdom. This doesn't make their actions right, but it explains why they do what they do. Understand this.
Always bring yourself back to the moment. This is Buddhism or what I'm calling Buddhism 101.
So, go easy on others. They often do and say things that are completely nonsensical because they are lost in an external world of illusion and delusion.
The same world that you and I are breaking free from. No need to contemplate another's ignorance. Better to gain wisdom ourselves.
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