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Buddhist basics

Central concepts in Buddhism.
By James Ishmael Ford
Summer 2007 5.15.07

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The four truths

Often described as Buddhism’s central insights

  • Dukkha: Life is marked by unsatisfactoriness
  • Samudaya: Unsatisfactoriness is caused by grasping
  • Nirodha: Unsatisfactoriness can have an end
  • Marga: The “middle way,” or eightfold path of liberation

The eightfold path

The middle way, or path of liberation

  • Right view
  • Right resolve
  • Right speech
  • Right conduct
  • Right livelihood
  • Right effort
  • Right mindfulness
  • Right concentration

Three marks of existence

Perceived in meditation, they lead to wisdom

  • Anitya, the impermanence of things
  • Anatman, the insubstantiality of ego identity
  • Dukkha, pervasive unsatisfactoriness

The five precepts

Ethical rules for laypeople

  • Not killing
  • Not stealing
  • Not misusing sex
  • Not lying
  • Not becoming intoxicated

Three schools of Buddhism

  • Theravada, the ‘way of the elders’: South and Southeast Asia (exluding Vietnam)
  • Mahayana, the ‘great vehicle’: China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, including Zen, Pure Land, Lotus, and others
  • Vajrayana, the ‘diamond way’: Tibet and Mongolia

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