Buddhism

(Source:   http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/Buddhism/footsteps.htm)

Thailand is a Buddhist country.  At least 95% of Thai people would identify themselves as Buddhists.  Less than 1% would identify themselves as evangelical Christians.

Buddhism is founded on the teachings of an Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha), who was born sometime between 400 and 623 BC.  He was born into a royal family in what is now Nepal.  He lived a sheltered life in the palace until the age of 16.  At that time, he took four trips outside the palace and was exposed to the real world in which there is death and suffering.  He wondered why suffering exists.  He tried living a life of asceticism, depriving himself of food and conveniences, but found that his suffering was not relieved.

Realizing that neither luxury nor deprivation helped, he sat down under a Bodhi tree one day in May and meditated, vowing not to leave the spot until he found an end to suffering.  During the night, Mara (the evil one) visited him and tempted him with various things.  But he resisted them all with his virtue.  He then understood the cause of suffering and how to remove it.  He had gained the supreme wisdom and had become a Buddha.

The earliest Buddhist scriptures (the Tripitaka, meaning “three baskets”) were written down several centuries after the Buddha’s death, reportedly based on memorized oral verses that were passed from generation to generation.  The Buddha’s teachings (the “Dharma”) can be summed up in the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Four Noble Truths:

  1. Suffering is common to all.
  2. We are the cause of our own suffering.  Suffering is caused by ignorance and craving:  ignorance of the law of karma, and craving for the wrong kinds of things.
  3. We can stop suffering, by ceasing to do what causes suffering.  We must stop craving and start living in a more peaceful way.
  4. The path to the end of suffering (called “Enlightenment”) is The Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path:

  1. Right View.  The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha—with wisdom and compassion.
  2. Right Thought.  We are what we think.  Kind thoughts build good character.
  3. Right Speech.  By speaking kind and helpful words, we are respected and trusted by everyone.
  4. Right Conduct.  Before we criticize others, we should first see what we do ourselves.  See the “Five Precepts”.
  5. Right Livelihood.  The Buddha said, “Do not earn your living by harming others.  Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy.”
  6. Right Effort.  A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will toward others.  This also means not wasting effort on things that harm ourselves and others.
  7. Right Mindfulness.  This means being aware of our thoughts, words, and deeds.
  8. Right Concentration.  Focus on one object or thought at a time.  By doing this, we can be quiet and attain true peace of mind.

The Five Precepts:

  1. Do not kill
  2. Do not steal
  3. Do not engage in sexual misconduct
  4. Do not lie
  5. Do not take alcohol or intoxicants

(Buddhist clergy actually are supposed to observe a total of 227 precepts!)

 

The Buddha is reputed to have taught:

“Be islands unto yourselves; be a refuge unto yourselves.  Do not seek for refuge in others.”

Buddhism thus is a philosophy of self-dependence.  The self is the cause of suffering, and the only way out of suffering is by adhering to the Eightfold Path, the Five Precepts, etc.

 

Karma:

Karma (literally, “action” or “doing”) is the law of cause and effect—the notion that our “good” and “bad” actions, both in our present life and in past lives, determine our well-being or lack thereof.  Karma is how the Buddha explained why some people are poor and others rich, why some are beautiful and others ugly, why some are healthy and others diseased, why some are powerful and others lack influence.  Karma can be either good or bad, and its result, called Vipaka, likewise can be good or bad.  What we reap today is what we have sown either in the present or in the past.