·       Buddhism belongs to nastika system (heterodox).

·       The founder of Buddhism is Gautama Buddha. From his early age, Gautam felt very sad about seeing the human miseries, like— disease, old age, death etc. Therefore, he went to search for the cause of sufferings and also the means’ of removing it. At last he got the result of his journey. This form is known as the ―Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. Generally, Buddha‗s teachings are found in the Pitakas. There are three pitakas in Buddhism. They are — Sutta pitaka, Vinaya pitaka and Abhidhamma pitaka. They are together known as the Tripitakas or the three baskets of teachings. Pitakas are written in Pali language.

·       In course of time his followers increased in number. So, they are divided into
different schools. Buddhism is mainly divided into two schools.
1. Hinayana
2. Mahayana

·       Primarily Gautama Buddha is a social reformer and an ethical teacher. These
teachings lead us to a path to overcome sufferings. After a deep meditation
Buddha got four prime truths. They are called ―CATVARI ARYASATYANI
or the
―FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
of Buddhism.
These noble truths form the foundation of his entire philosophical teachings.

Buddha avoids systematic metaphysics

Early Buddhism avoided speculative thought on metaphysics,phenomenology, ethics, and epistemology  but was based instead on empirical
evidence gained by the senseorgans. During his lifetime of  Buddha remained silent when asked several metaphysical questions. These regarded issues such as whether the universe is eternal or an eternal (or whether it is finite or infinite), the unity or separation of the body and the self, the complete inexistence of a person after Nirvana and death, and others. Nevertheless, Buddhist scholars
have addressed ontological and metaphysical issues subsequently. The Buddha discouraged his followers from indulging in intellectual disputation for its own sake, which is fruitless, ‗and distracting from true awakening.Nevertheless, the delivered sayings of the Buddha contain a philosophical component in its teachings on the working of the mind, and its criticisms of the philosophies of 
his contemporaries.

 Why silent ? 

1. Emphasis on awakening Such questions distract from activity that is practical to realizing enlightenment Experience is the path
most elaborated in early Buddhism, The Buddha avoided doctrinal formulationsconcerning the final reality as much as possible in order to prevent his followers from resting content with minor achievements. 

2. Attachments to the skandhas 

Another explanation is that both affirmative and negative positions regarding these questions are based on attachment to and
misunderstanding of the aggregates and senses. That is, when one sees these things for what they are,the idea of forming positions on such metaphysical questions simply does not occur.

3. Emptiness another closely related explanation is thatreality is devoid of sensory mediation and conception, or empty, and therefore
language itself is a prion‘ inadequate without direct experience.
 Thus, the Buddha’s silence does not indicate misology or disdain for philosophy. Rather, it indicates that he viewed the answers to

these questions as not understandable by the unenlightened. Some questions areleft undetermined (avyakata) by the Buddha. 

The ten questions in the pali Nikayas ask whether (1) The world is eternal; (2) The world is not eternal; (3) The world is infinite; (4)
The world is finite; (5) Body and soul are one thing; (6) Body and soul are twodifferent things; (7) A liberated being (tathagata) exists after death; (8) A liberated being (tathagata) does not exist after death; (9) A liberated being (tathagata) both exists and does not exist after death; (10) A liberated being (tathagata) neither exists nor does not exist after death. 

Unfortunately for those looking for quick answers, the Buddha does not provide a straightforward yes or no response to any of these
questions. When the Buddha is asked whether the liberated being – exists, does not exist, both, or neither, he sets side these questions by saying that

1. he does not hold such views,

2. he has left the questions undetermined, and

3. the questions do not apply (na upeti).

The first two answers are also used to respond to questionsabout the temporal and spatial finitude or infinitude of the world, and the
identity or difference between the soul and the body. Only the third type ofanswer is given to the questions about liberated beings after death.

Most presentations of early Buddhism interpret these three answers of the Buddha as an eloquent silence about metaphysical questions due
primarily to pragmatic reasons, namely, the questions divert from spiritual practice and are not conducive to liberation from suffering. While the pragmatic reasons for the answers of the Buddha are undeniable, it is inaccurate to understand them as silence about metaphysical questions. In fact,the Buddha of the Pali Nikayas does address many metaphysical issues with his teachings of non-self and dependent arising.

The answers of the Buddha to the undetermined questions are due not only to pragmatic reasons but also to metaphysical reasons: the
questions are inconsistent with the doctrines of non—self and dependent arising because they assume the existence of a permanent and independent self, a self that is either finite or infinite, identical or different from the body, existing or not existing after death. Besides pragmatic and metaphysical reasons,there are cognitive and affective reasons for the answers of the Buddha: the undetermined questions are based on ignorance about the nature of the five aggregates and craving for either immortal existence or inexistence.

The questions are expressions of ‗identity views,that is,
they are part of the problem of suffering. Answering the questions directly
would have not done any good: a yes answer would have fostered more craving for
immortal existence and led to eternalist views, and a no answer would have
fostered further confusion and led to nihilist views.

In the case of the undetermined questions about the
liberated being, there are also apophatic reasons for answering ―it does not
apply.‖ The Buddha of the Pali Nikayas illustrates the inapplicability of the
questions with the simile of the fire extinct: just as it does not make sense
to ask about the direction in which an extinct fire has gone, it is
inappropriate to ask about the status of the liberated being beyond death: ―The
fire burned in dependence on its fuel of grass and sticks. When that is used
up, if it doesnot get any more fuel, being without fuel, it is reckoned as
extinguished. Similarly, the enlightened being has abandoned the five
aggregates by which one might describe him…he is liberated from reckoning in
terms of the five aggregates, he is profound, immeasurable, unfathomable like
the ocean.”

Four noble truths or Realities

One the most common frameworks to explain the basic
teachings of early Buddhism is the four noble truths (ariya sacca, Sanskrit
aryasatya). The word sacca means both truth and reality. The word ariya refers
primarily to the ideal type of person the Buddhist path is supposed to
generate, a noble person in the ethical and spiritual sense.

1. World is full of suffering (dukha).

2. There is a cause of this suffering (dukha-samudaya).

3. There is a cessation of suffering (dukha-nirodha)

4. There is a path to the cessation of suffering
(dukha-nirodha samudaya).

The four noble truths are primarily four realities whose
contemplation leads to sainthood or the state of the noble ones (ariya). Each
noble truth requires a particularpractice from the disciple; in this sense the
four noble truths can be understood as four types of practice-

1. The first noble truth: the reality of suffering, assigns
to the disciple the practice of cultivating understanding. Such understanding
takes place gradually throughreflection, analytical meditation and eventually
direct experience. What needs to be understood is the nature of suffering, and
the different types of suffering andhappiness within samsara.

A common misconception about the first noble truth is to
think that it presupposes a pessimistic outlook on life. However, Buddha
teaches the reality ofboth suffering and the highest happiness, perhaps it is
more accurate to speak of his attitude as realist: there is a problem but there
is also a solution to that problem (rather optimistic outlook)

2. The second noble truth: reality of the origin of
suffering, calls for the practice of renunciation to all mental states that
generate suffering for oneself and others The underlying root of all suffering,
however, is not craving but spiritual ignorance (avijja). In the Pall Nikayas
spiritual ignorance does not connote a mere lack of information but rather a
misconception, a distorted perception of things under the influence of
conceptual fabrications and affective prejudices. More specifically,ignorance
refers to not knowing things as they are, the Dharma, and the four noble
truths.

The relinquishing of spiritual ignorance, craving, and the
three roots of the unwholesome (greed or lobha, aversion or dosa, delusion or
moha) entails the cultivation of many positive mental states, : wisdom or
understanding (panna), letting go (anupadana), selflessness (alobha), love
(avera, adosa, avyapada), friendliness (metta),compassion (karuna),altruistic
joy (mudita),equanimity (upekkha),calm (samatha, passaddhi),mindfulness
(sati),diligence (appamada).

3. The third noble truth: reality of the cessation of
suffering, asks us to directly realize the destruction of suffering, usually
expressed with a variety of cognitive and affective terms: peace, higher
knowledge, the tranquilization of mental formations, the abandonment of all grasping,
cessation, the destruction of craving, absence of lust, nirvana (Pall nibbana).
The most popular of all the terms that express the cessation of suffering and
rebirth is nirvana, which literally means blowing out or extinguishing.

4. The fourth noble truth: reality of the path leading to
the cessation of suffering imposes on us the practice of developing the
eightfold enabling path. This path can be understood either as eight, mental
factors that are cultivated by ennobled disciples at the moment of liberation,
or as different parts of the entire Buddhist path whose practice ennoble the
disciple gradually. The eight parts of the Buddhist path are usually divided
into three kinds of training:

i.   Training in
wisdom (right view and fight intention),

ii. Ethical training (right speech, right bodily conduct,
and right livelihood), and

iii. Training in concentration (right effort, right
mindfulness and right concentration).
 

The path to liberation consists of eight steps (astangika
marga) 

The fourth noble truth, as seen already, lays down that
there is a path (marga)— which Buddha followed and others can similarly
follow—to reach a state free from misery. Clues regarding this path are derived
from the knowledge of the chief conditions that cause misery. The path
recommended by Buddha consists of eight steps or rules and is, therefore,
called the eightfold noble path (astangika marga). This gives in a nutshell the
essentials of Buddha Ethics. This path is open to all, monks aswell as laymen.
The noble path consists in the acquisition of the following eight good things:
 

1. Right views or knowledge of the four noble truths
(sammaditthi or samyagdrsti)- As ignorance with its consequences, namely, wrong
views (mithya drsti) about the self and the world, is the root cause of our
sufferings, it is naturalthat the first step to moral reformation should be the
acquisition of right views or the knowledge of truth. Right view is defined as
the correct knowledge of these truths alone, and not any theoretical
speculation regarding nature and self, which, according to Buddha, helps moral
reformation, and leads us towards the goal—nirvana.

2. Right resolve or firm determination to reform life in the
light of truth (sammasankappa or samyaksankalpa)A mere knowledge of the truths
would be useless unless one resolve to reforms life in their light. The moral
aspirant is asked, therefore, to renounce worldliness (all attachment to the
world), to give up ill feeling towards other and desist from doing any harm to
them. These three constitute the contents of right determination.

3. Right speech, or control of speech (sammavaca or
samyagvak) Right determination should not remain a mere ‗pious wish‘ but must
issue forth into action. Right determination should be able to guide and
control our speech, to begin with. The result would be right speech consisting
in abstention from lying,slander unkind words and frivolous talk.
 

4. Right conduct or abstention from wrong action
(sammakammanta or samyakkarmanta) Right determination should end in right
action or good conduct and not stop merely with good speech. Right conduct
includes the Panca-Sila, the five vows for desisting from killing stealing,
sensuality, lying and intoxication. 

5. Right livelihood or maintaining life by honest means
(samma-ajiva or samyagajiva)-Renouncing bad speech and bad actions, one should
earn his livelihood by honest means. The necessity of this rule lies in showing
that even for the sake of maintaining one‘s life; one should not take to
forbidden means but work in consistency with good determination. 

6. Right Effort, or constant Endeavour to maintain moral
progress by banishingevil thoughts and entertaining good ones (sammavayama or
samyagvyayama) While a person tries to live a reformed life, through right
views, resolution, speech, action and livelihood, he is constantly knocked off
the right path by old evil ideas which were deep- rooted in the mind as also by
fresh ones which constantly arise.

One cannot progress steadily unless he maintains a constant
effort to root out old evil thoughts and prevent evil thoughts from arising
anew.
Moreover, as the mind cannot be kept empty, he should
constantly Endeavour also to fill the mind with good ideas and retain such
ideas in the mind. This fourfold constant Endeavour, negative and positive, is
called right effort. This rule points out that even one high up on the path
cannot afford to take a moral holiday without running the risk of slipping
down.

7. Right mindfulness or constant remembrance of the
perishable nature of thing (sammasati or samyaksmrti)-
 

The necessity of constant vigilance is furthermost, or
constant stressed in this rule, which lays down that the aspirant should
constantly bear in mind the things he has already learnt. He should constantly
remember and contemplate the body as body, sensations as sensations, mind as
mind, and mental states as mental states.

About any of these he should not think, ―This is mine. It is
all the more difficult to practise it when false ideas about the body, etc have
become so deep rooted in us and our behaviors based on these false nations have
become instinctive.

8. Right concentration through four stages, is the last step
in the path that leads to the goal- nirvana (sammasamadhi or samyaksamadhi) One
who has successfully guided his life in the light of the last seven rules and
thereby freed himself from all passions and evil thoughts is fit to enter step
by stepinto the four deeper and deeper stages of concentration that gradually
take him to the goal of his long and arduous journey—cessation of suffering.

1. The first stage of concentration is on reasoning and
investigation regarding the truths. There is then a joy of pure thinking. He
concentrates his pure and unruffled mind on reasoning (vitarka) and
investigation (vicara) regarding the truths, and enjoys in this state, joy and
ease born of detachment and pure thought. This is the first stage of intent
meditation (dhyana or jhana)

2. The second stage of concentration is unruffled
meditation, free from reasoning etc. There is then a-joy of tranquility. When
this concentration is successful, belief in the fourfold truth arises
dispelling all doubts and, therefore, making reasoning and investigation
unnecessary. From this result the second stage of concentration, in which there
are joy, peace and internal tranquility born of intense, unruffled contemplation.
There is in this stage a consciousness of this joy and peace too. 

3. The third stage of concentration is detachment from even
the joy of tranquility. There is then indifference even to such joy but
feelings of bodily ease still persist.In the next stage attempt is made by him to initiate an
attitude of indifference,to be able to detach him-self even from the joy of
concentration. From this results the third deeper kind of concentration, in
which experiences perfect equanimity, coupled with an experience of bodily
ease. He is yet conscious ofthis ease and equanimity, though indifferent to the
joy of concentration.
 

4. The fourth stage of concentration is detachment from this
bodily ease too. There are then perfect equanimity and indifference. This is
the state of nirvana or perfect wisdom. Lastly, he tries to put away even this
consciousness of ease and equanimity and all the sense of joy and elation he
previously had. He attains thereby the fourth state of concentration, a state
of perfect equanimity, indifference and self- possession-without pain, ‗without
ease. Thus, he attains the desired goal of cessation of all suffering, he
attains to arhatship or nirvana. There are then perfect wisdom (prajna) and
perfect righteousness (sila).

To sum up the path consists of three main things— conduct
(silo), concentration (Samadhi) and knowledge (prajna) harmoniously cultivated.

In Indian philosophy knowledge and morality are thought
inseparable not simply because morality, or doing of good, depends on the
knowledge of what is good, about which all philosophers would agree, but also
because perfection of knowledge is regarded as impossible without morality,
perfect control of passion and prejudices.

Buddha explicitly states in one of his discourse that virtue
and wisdom purify each other and the two are inseparable.

In the eightfold path one starts with ‗right views‘ are mere
intellectual apprehension of the four fold truth. The mind is not yet purged of
the previous wrong ideas and the passions or wrong emotions arising there from;
moreover, old habits of thinking, speaking and acting also continue still. In a
word, conflicting force — the new good ones and the old bad ones- create, in
terms of modern psychology, a divided personality. 

The seven steps beginning with right resolve furnish a
continuous discipline for resolving this conflict by reforming the old
personality. Repeated contemplation ofwhat is true and good, training of the
will and emotion accordingly, through steadfast determination and passionless
behavior, gradually achieve the harmonious personality in which thought and
will and emotion are all thoroughly cultured and purified in the Iight of
truth. 

The last step of perfect concentration is thus made possible
by the removal of all obstacles. The result of this unhampered concentration on
truth is perfect insight or wisdom, to which the riddle of existence stand
clearly revealed once for ail. Ignorance and desire are cut at their roots and
the source of misery vanishes. Perfect wisdom, perfect goodness and perfect
equanimity- complete relief from suffering are simultaneously attained,
therefore, in nirvana.

Modern Practice

Can anyone be a Buddhist?

Yes, anyone can become a Buddhist. You will need to take refuge in the Triple Gem and follow a ceremony during which you take a vow to
uphold the Five Precepts (to not kill, not steal, not commit sexual misconduct, refrain from false speech and not take intoxicants that lessen your awareness). The article above details the steps you need to take. Additionally, Buddha stated that everyone can become a Buddha but this is very hard. 

What are the core beliefs of Buddhism?

The core beliefs of Buddhism are reincarnation, the Four Noble Truths, the Three Trainings or Practices, The Five Precepts and the
Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are Dukkha (suffering exists); Samudaya (there is a cause for suffering); Nirodha (there is an end to suffering); and Magga (to end suffering, follow the Eightfold Path). The Eightfold Path involves Panna (discernment, wisdom), Sila (virtue, morality) and Samadhi (concentration, meditation). The Five Precepts are to not kill, not steal, not commit sexual misconduct, refrain from false speech and not take intoxicants that lessen your awareness.

 Can you keep
sentimental items?

 Ask yourself what meaning the object has for you; if there is none, and it’s just being kept out of a feeling of compulsion, then it’s not a good thing to keep. Consider what emotions the sentimental item brings out in you––and whether that emotion can be conjured up by a memory rather than an object. Are you clinging to the objects out of fear of loss, sadness or other negative emotions? These are the sorts of questions to ask yourself and if the answers make you feel obligated, overwhelmed, unhappy or unclear, then it’s a good idea to learn to let go of
them. Remember, the love of the relationships and the joy of the experiences do not reside in the objects, they reside in your own memories, connections and a willingness to stay open to more experiences in life.

Can you eat fish or chicken?

In some schools of thought, eating fish or chicken is permitted as a Buddhist. For example, the Theravada view provides that Buddha
allowed his monks to eat pork, chicken and fish provided the monk was aware the animal was not killed on their behalf. However, other schools of thought within Buddhism consider that the vegetarian diet is implied within Buddha’s teaching and so forbid any flesh to be eaten by practicing Buddhists. So, the answer really depends on which school of Buddhism you’re examining this question
through.

Do Buddhists drink alcohol?

The Fifth Precept of a practicing Buddhist provides: Do not take intoxicants that lessen your awareness. The reason behind this is to
prevent heedless acts and clouded thinking. This can be interpreted as meaning that practicing Buddhists should not drink alcohol. However, there are many Buddhists who interpret this as meaning that it’s okay to engage in “responsible drinking,” “right drinking” or “mindful
drinking,” which means not drinking so much that you lose self-control and cannot think clearly but enough to relax and reach that border state of “less ego.” Such an interpretation requires that you find your own “Middle Way.” If you cannot stop at this point, then it isn’t appropriate for you; or, if it simply feels wrong as part of your Buddhist practice, then don’t drink alcohol.

Are Buddhists celibate?

people who practice Buddhism are encourage to avoid “sexual misconduct,” but there is no requirement for celibacy for those practicing. However, ordained Buddhist monks and nuns are expected to be celibate because it is thought that sexual desires are a form of craving (which
causes suffering), and prevents the achievement of enlightenment.

I recently feel as though something is pulling me towards the Buddhist faith. I am so frightened to go to a temple, for multiple reasons.
What can I do? I have been researching and reading so much.

 Face your fear! If you want to go to a temple, there will be people to welcome you there.

The closest temple to me is at least 2 hours away. Can I still practice the religion?

 Yes you can! You could read books, or search and find various alternatives to practicing the religion. You could also consider attending the temple once a month or so.

 Do I have to shave my head to formally become a Buddhist?

 Only Buddhist monks shave their heads. Buddhism comes from your heart and the way you behave. It does not show by the way you dress or the place you live.

How often should a Buddhist meditate?

How often and for how long you like. However it is recommended that you have some kind of schedule for when to meditate in order
to become used to it. A start might be meditation five minutes, one time every day, then maybe ten minutes, one or two times etc. to gradually increase it, but remember to do it at your own pace.

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