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The Basics of Buddhism


This section introduces the foundational doctrines of Buddhism. What do Buddhists believe? What does Buddhism teach about God, karma, life after death, and who you are in relation to everything else? What is enlightenment and Nirvana? What's a Buddha, and can anybody become one? Discover the basic teachings, the sacred literature and symbolism and some of the mythology surrounding the ancient religion of Buddhism.
  1. Introduction to Buddhism
  2. Other Important Doctrines
  3. Sacred Texts of Buddhism
  4. Symbols and Sacred Beings

Introduction to Buddhism

Buddhism is a religion of practice and experience rather than belief. This is a bit hard for some to grasp. In our culture, "religion" is a belief system, and "faith" means accepting those beliefs. But the Buddha taught us to accept no teaching without testing it. Instead of believing in teachings, we practice the teachings to realize the truth of them for ourselves. And the first teaching from which all other teachings flow is that of the Four Noble Truths.

Other Important Doctrines

People who approach a new religion often have the same basic questions -- Who are we? Did we have a prior life? Will we have an afterlife? The articles in this section present essential Buddhist doctrines about the nature of existence.

Sacred Texts of Buddhism

There are two primary canons of Buddhist scripture. The first, and oldest, is the Tripitaka, of which the best-known version is the Pali Canon. The works of the Tripitaka are acknowledged to have come from the historical Buddha, and all schools of Buddhism accept them as the Buddha's teaching. The other canon is the Mahayana, sometimes called the Northern, canon. This canon consists of a large number of works probably written between about 150 BCE and 300 CE and accepted as teachings by Mahayana, but not Theravada, Buddhists.

Symbols and Sacred Beings

Buddhist art and literature overflow with sacred beings, creatures and symbols. The multitudes of buddhas, bodhisattvas, devas, dakinis, demons and dharmapalas overwhelm and confuse many of us. Here are some simple guides to the most important Buddhist symbols and sacred beings.

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