Given the association of Buddhism with the meditating monk, one might well assume that Buddhism emphasizes practices over beliefs. It is true that right practices are important in Buddhism, but the faith really centers on correct understanding of human nature and ultimate reality.
The Buddha, after all, was called the "Enlightened One." After he became enlightened, he taught that the way to eliminate suffering begins with understanding the true nature of the world. However, the Buddha considered knowledge important only insofar as it remains practical. He rejected speculation about such matters as God, the nature of the universe, and the afterlife, urging his followers to focus instead on the Four Noble Truths by which they can free themselves from suffering.
- Basic Points of Buddhism
- In the 2,500 years since the Buddha's enlightenment, Buddhism has spread over many countries, split into numerous sects, and adopted a wide variety of beliefs, practices, rituals and customs. However, an essential unity centered around the teachings of the Buddha underlies these differences.
- Is Buddhism Atheistic?
- As seen in the Basic Points of Buddhism, one general doctrine agreed upon by Buddhists is: "We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a God." However, disbelief in a creator God does not mean that Buddhism is atheistic.
- Buddhas and Deities
- In Mahayana Buddhism, the universe is populated with celestial buddhas, bodhisattvas, and deities that assist and inspire the Buddhist practitioner. Among the most popular are Kuan Yin, the Medicine Buddha, the Laughing Buddha and the Green and White Taras. These and other fascinating figures are explored in this section.
- Human Nature
- In Hinduism, the soul, or atman, is an eternally existing spiritual substance or being and the abiding self that moves from one body to the next at rebirth. The Buddha rejected this concept.
- Purpose of Life
- In Buddhism, the purpose of life is to end suffering. The Buddha taught that humans suffer because we continually strive after things that do not give lasting happiness.
- Reincarnation and Afterlife
The Buddha said of death:
Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.
Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp - a phantom - and a dream.