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    Five minute Buddhism

    What is Buddhism?

    Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from 'budhi', 'to awaken'. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.

    Is Buddhism a Religion?

    To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

    (1) to lead a moral life,(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.

    How Can Buddhism Help Me?

    Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness.

    Why is Buddhism Becoming Popular?

    Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries for a number of reasons, The first good reason is Buddhism has answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes (for those who are interested) a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists around the world are now discovering to be both very advanced and effective.

    Who Was the Buddha?

    Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found 'the middle path' and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism — called the Dhamma, or Truth — until his death at the age of 80.

    Was the Buddha a God?

    He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

    Do Buddhists Worship Idols?

    Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.

    Why are so Many Buddhist Countries Poor?

    One of the Buddhist teachings is that wealth does not guarantee happiness and also wealth is impermanent. The people of every country suffer whether rich or poor, but those who understand Buddhist teachings can find true happiness.

    Are There Different Types of Buddhism?

    There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching — the Dhamma or truth.

    Are Other Religions Wrong?

    There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching — the Dhamma or truth.

    Are Other Religions Wrong?

    Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings of other religions but Buddhism goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like 'Christian', 'Moslem', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'; that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought.

    Is Buddhism Scientific?

    Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four Noble truths (see below) can be tested and proven by anyone in fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching rather than accept his word as true. Buddhism depends more on understanding than faith.

    What did the Buddha Teach?

    The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

    What is the First Noble Truth?

    The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.

    What is the Second Noble Truth?

    The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

    What is the Third Noble Truth?

    The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.

    What is the Fourth Noble Truth?

    The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.

    What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?

    In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

    What are the 5 Precepts?

    The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

    What is Karma?

    Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.

    What is Wisdom?

    Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a good hearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do not constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.

    What is Compassion?

    Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.

    How do I Become a Buddhist?

    Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way.

    His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

    dalai lama

     His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. At the age of two, the child, then named Lhamo Dhondup, was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.

    The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are realized beings inspired by a wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, who have vowed to be reborn in the world to help humanity.

    Education in Tibet

    His Holiness began his monastic education at the age of six. The curriculum, derived from the Nalanda tradition, consisted of five major and five minor subjects. The major subjects included logic, fine arts, Sanskrit grammar, and medicine, but the greatest emphasis was given to Buddhist philosophy which was further divided into a further five categories: Prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom; Madhyamika, the philosophy of the middle Way; Vinaya, the canon of monastic discipline; Abidharma, metaphysics; and Pramana, logic and epistemology. The five minor subjects included poetry, drama, astrology, composition and synonyms.

    At 23, His Holiness sat for his final examination in Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, during the annual Great Prayer Festival (Monlam Chenmo) in 1959. He passed with honors and was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, equivalent to the highest doctorate in Buddhist philosophy.

    Leadership Responsibilities

    In 1950, after China's invasion of Tibet, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power. In 1954, he went to Beijing and met with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai. Finally, in 1959, following the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, His Holiness was forced to escape into exile. Since then he has been living in Dharamsala, northern India.

    In exile, the Central Tibetan Administration led by His Holiness appealed to the United Nations to consider the question of Tibet. The General Assembly adopted three resolutions on Tibet in 1959, 1961 and 1965.

    Democratization Process

    In 1963, His Holiness presented a draft democratic constitution for Tibet , followed by a number of reforms to democratize the Tibetan administration. The new democratic constitution was named "The Charter of Tibetans in Exile". The charter enshrines freedom of speech, belief, assembly and movement. It also provides detailed guidelines on the functioning of the Tibetan Administration with respect to Tibetans living in exile.

    In 1992, the Central Tibetan Administration published guidelines for the constitution of a future, free Tibet. It proposed that when Tibet becomes free the first task will be to set up an interim government whose immediate responsibility will be to elect a constitutional assembly to frame and adopt a democratic constitution for Tibet. His Holiness has made clear his hopes that a future Tibet, comprising the three traditional provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham, will be federal and democratic.

    In May 1990, as a result of His Holiness’s reforms the Tibetan administration in exile was fully democratized. The Tibetan Cabinet (Kashag), which until then had been appointed by His Holiness, was dissolved along with the Tenth Assembly of the Tibetan People's Deputies (the Tibetan parliament in exile). In the same year, exiled Tibetans living in India and more than 33 other countries elected 46 members to an expanded Eleventh Tibetan Assembly on a one-person one-vote basis. That Assembly then elected the members of a new cabinet.

    In September 2001, in a further step towards democratization the Tibetan electorate directly elected the Kalon Tripa, the Chairman of the Cabinet. The Kalon Tripa appointed his own cabinet who then had to be approved by the Tibetan Assembly. This was the first time in Tibet's long history, that the people had elected their political leaders. Since the direct election of the Kalon Tripa, the custom by which the Dalai Lamas, through the institution of the Ganden Phodrang, have held temporal as well as spiritual authority in Tibet, has come to an end. Since 2011, when he devolved his political authority to the elected leadership, His Holiness has described himself as retired.

    Peace Initiatives

    On 21 September 1987 in an address to members of the United States Congress in Washington, DC, His Holiness proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet as a first step towards a peaceful solution of the worsening situation in Tibet. The five points of the plan were as follows:

    Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace.

    Abandonment of China's population transfer policy that threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as a people.

    Respect for the Tibetan people's fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.

    Restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste.

    Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

    On 15 June 1988, in an address to members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, His Holiness further elaborated on the last point of the Five-Point Peace Plan. He proposed talks between the Chinese and Tibetans leading to a self-governing democratic political entity for all three provinces of Tibet. This entity would be in association with the People's Republic of China and the Chinese Government would continue to be responsible for Tibet's foreign policy and defence.

    Universal Recognition

    is Holiness the Dalai Lama is a man of peace. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. He also became the first Nobel Laureate to be recognized for his concern for global environmental problems.

    His Holiness has travelled to more than 67 countries spanning 6 continents. He has received over 150 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes, etc., in recognition of his message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion.  He has also authored or co-authored more than 110 books.

    His Holiness has held discussions with heads of different religions and participated in many events promoting inter-religious harmony and understanding.

    Since the mid-1980s, His Holiness has engaged in a dialogue with modern scientists, mainly in the fields of psychology, neurobiology, quantum physics and cosmology. This has led to a historic collaboration between Buddhist monks and world-renowned scientists in trying to help individuals achieve peace of mind. It has also resulted in the addition of modern science to the traditional curriculum of Tibetan monastic institutions re-established in exile..

    Political Retirement

    On 14 March 2011 His Holiness wrote to the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies (Tibetan Parliament-in-exile) requesting it to relieve him of his temporal authority, since according to the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile, he was technically still the head of state.  He announced that he was ending the custom by which the Dalai Lamas had wielded spiritual and political authority in Tibet. He intended, he made clear, to resume the status of the first four Dalai Lamas in concerning himself only with spiritual affairs. He confirmed that the democratically elected leadership would assume complete formal responsibility for Tibetan political affairs. The formal office and household of the Dalai Lamas, the Gaden Phodrang, would henceforth only fulfil that function.

    On 29 May 2011 His Holiness signed the document formally transferring his temporal authority to the democratically elected leader. In so doing he formally put an end to the 368-year old tradition of the Dalai Lamas functioning as both the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet.

    The Future

    As far back as 1969, His Holiness made clear that whether or not a reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should be recognised was a decision for the Tibetan people, the Mongolians and people of the Himalayan regions to make. However, in the absence of clear guidelines, there was a clear risk that, should the concerned public express a strong wish to recognise a future Dalai Lama, vested interests could exploit the situation for political ends. Therefore, on 24 September 2011, clear guidelines for the recognition of the next Dalai Lama were published, leaving no room for doubt or deception.

    His Holiness has declared that when he is about ninety years old he will consult leading Lamas of Tibet’s Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people with an interest in Tibetan Buddhism, and assess whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue after him.

    His statement also explored the different ways in which the recognition of a successor could be done. If it is decided that  a Fifteenth Dalai Lama should be recognized, responsibility for doing so will rest primarily on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned parties and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with their instruction. His Holiness has stated that he will leave clear written instructions about this. He further warned that apart from a reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including agents of the People’s Republic of China.

    Introduction to buddhism

     

    The Three Marks of Existence

    Buddhism has been described as a very pragmatic religion. It does not indulge in metaphysical speculation about first causes; there is no theology, no worship of a deity or deification of the Buddha. Buddhism takes a very straightforward look at our human condition; nothing is based on wishful thinking, at all. Everything that the Buddha taught was based on his own observation of the way things are. Everything that he taught can be verified by our own observation of the way things are.

    If we look at our life, very simply, in a straightforward way, we see that it is marked with frustration and pain. This is because we attempt to secure our relationship with the "world out there", by solidifying our experiences in some concrete way. For example, we might have dinner with someone we admire very much, everything goes just right, and when we get home later we begin to fantasise about all the things we can do with our new-found friend, places we can go etc. We are going through the process of trying to cement our relationship. Perhaps, the next time we see our friend, she/he has a headache and is curt with us; we feel snubbed, hurt, all our plans go out the window. The problem is that the "world out there" is constantly changing, everything is impermanent and it is impossible to make a permanent relationship with anything, at all.

    If we examine the notion of impermanence closely and honestly, we see that it is all-pervading, everything is marked by impermanence. We might posit an eternal consciousness principle, or higher self, but if we examine our consciousness closely we see that it is made up of temporary mental processes and events. We see that our "higher self" is speculative at best and imaginary to begin with. We have invented the idea to secure ourselves, to cement our relationship, once again. Because of this we feel uneasy and anxious, even at the best of times. It is only when we completely abandon clinging that we feel any relief from our queasiness. These three things: pain, impermanence and egolessness are known as the three marks of existence.

    The Four Noble Truths

    The first sermon that the Buddha preached after his enlightenment was about the four noble truths. The first noble truth is that life is frustrating and painful. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, there are times when it is downright miserable. Things may be fine with us, at the moment, but, if we look around, we see other people in the most appalling condition, children starving, terrorism, hatred, wars, intolerance, people being tortured and we get a sort of queasy feeling whenever we think about the world situation in even the most casual way. We, ourselves, will some day grow old, get sick and eventually die. No matter how we try to avoid it, some day we are going to die. Even though we try to avoid thinking about it, there are constant reminders that it is true.

    The second noble truth is that suffering has a cause. We suffer because we are constantly struggling to survive. We are constantly trying to prove our existence. We may be extremely humble and self-deprecating, but even that is an attempt to define ourselves. We are defined by our humility. The harder we struggle to establish ourselves and our relationships, the more painful our experience becomes.

    The third noble truth is that the cause of suffering can be ended. Our struggle to survive, our effort to prove ourselves and solidify our relationships is unnecessary. We, and the world, can get along quite comfortably without all our unnecessary posturing. We could just be a simple, direct and straight-forward person. We could form a simple relationship with our world, our coffee, spouse and friend. We do this by abandoning our expectations about how we think things should be.

    This is the fourth noble truth: the way, or path to end the cause of suffering. The central theme of this way is meditation. Meditation, here, means the practice of mindfulness/awareness, shamata/vipashyana in Sanskrit. We practice being mindful of all the things that we use to torture ourselves with. We become mindful by abandoning our expectations about the way we think things should be and, out of our mindfulness, we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are. We begin to develop the insight that things are really quite simple, that we can handle ourselves, and our relationships, very well as soon as we stop being so manipulative and complex.

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