Buddhism: Most Popular Articles
The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of Buddhism.
This is a bare-bones introduction to Zen Buddhism for those who don't know Zen from spinach. It includes a brief history of the school and the Zen definition of Zen.
There's more to Buddhism than shaving one's head and being blissful. Here is an introduction to Buddhism for beginners.
This simple account of the historic Buddha's life covers his early life, the Four Passing Sights, the Renunciation, the Quest, his Enlightenment, and his later life as a teacher.
What do Buddhists believe? In Buddhism, beliefs are beside the point, and doctrines are a means to an end, not the end itself.
The Eightfold Path is the Buddha's prescription for relieving suffering. It is the means by which one can realize enlightenment and enter Nirvana.
Buddhism challenges us to think about sexual ethics and morals very differently from the way most of us have been taught to think about them. What does Buddhism teach about sex?
Images of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, with their meanings.
In the West, many of us begin our journey in Buddhism by reading a book. We are fortunate today that there are several books in the English language that can introduce us to Buddhism, and more are published every year. I don't presume to know which book is
Anger is a poison and an obstacle to enlightenment, the Buddha said. Yet we all get angry. What does Buddhism teach about dealing with anger?
Is Buddhism a philosophy or a religion? Clarifying this point is important to understanding Buddhism.
The Six Realms are an allegorical description of conditioned existence, or samsara, into which beings are reborn. The nature and conditions of one's existence is determined by karma. Certainly some realms seem more desirable than others -- heaven sounds preferable to hell -- but all are dukkha, meaning they are temporary and imperfect.
Would you be surprised to hear that reincarnation is not a doctrine of Buddhism? If so, be surprised -- it isn't.
What is Nirvana? The Buddha told his monks that Nirvana cannot be imagined. Even so, the word needs a definition. Here is an explanation of Nirvana in Buddhism -- what it is, and what it is not.
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The dharma wheel is a symbol of Buddhism.
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The Buddha taught that an individual is a combination of five aggregates, called the Five Skandhas. The skandhas are empty of intrinsic self; the self is no-self (anatman or anatta in Theravada Buddhism and shunyata in Mahayana Buddhism). These teachings are difficult to understand but essential to Buddhism.
This calendar of Buddhist holidays for 2013 is ordered by date instead of by holiday, so that you can follow along through the year. Note that the several traditions of Buddhism do not all observe the same holidays at the same time.
An explanation of the symbolic meanings of the lotus in Buddhist art and literature.
If atheism is the absence of belief in gods, then many Buddhists are atheists. Why then do Buddhists pray and bow to Buddha figures on altars?
The historical Buddha and his disciples were not vegetarians. Why then did vegetarianism come to be associated with Buddhism?
A Basic Guide to Buddhist Chanting.
Much of what people in the West believe about Buddhism is mistaken. It is all too common to find a magazine or web article about Buddhism that begins
Understanding the laws of karma is essential to understanding Buddhism. Yet karma is mostly misunderstood by Westerners. This essay briefly explains the Buddhist view of karma.
The esoteric teachings, secret initiations and erotic imagery associated with Buddhist tantra have fueled no end of interest. But tantra may not be what you think it is.
As used in Buddhism, the word
Why I can give you no good reason to convert to Buddhism.
The Buddhist Precepts are not a list of commandments to follow. Here is an introduction to the Precepts, both Theravada and Mahayana
Retreats are a great way to initiate a personal exploration of Buddhism, and of yourself. Here is advice about how to find authentic Buddhist retreats and what to expect when you participate in one.
We all want to be happy, but what is happiness, and how do we find it? Here is what the Buddha taught.
The Buddha is pictured in many ways, and the word Buddha is used to mean many things. Just who or what is a Buddha?
The Wheel of Life is one of the most common subjects of Tibetan Buddhist art. The detailed symbolism of the Wheel is rich with meaning that can be interpreted on many levels.
Although the robes of Buddhist monks and nuns come in many colors and styles, they are all part of a tradition going back to the time of the historical Buddha, 26 centuries ago.
A brief introduction to the Heart Sutra for the completely baffled.
The Buddha taught that compassion isn't just a nice virtue; it is essential to realizing enlightenment.
When Westerners think of Buddha, usually they picture the short, fat, bald version, not the austere and serious meditating Buddha. Where did the Laughing Buddha come from?
The Buddha taught that Right View is an essential part of the Buddhist path. In fact, it is part of the Eightfold Path, which is the basis of all Buddhist practice.
Offering food is one of the oldest and most common rituals in Buddhism. Food is offered to monks and ritually to deities and hungry ghosts. Here is a brief explanation of the meaning and purpose of Buddhist food offerings.
Mindfulness is a whole-body-and-mind awareness of the present moment that is a cornerstone of Buddhist practice
Of the countless scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, few are more widely read or revered than the Lotus Sutra. This article gives a brief overview of the sutra and its history.
Rinzai is one of the two schools of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
The Diamond Sutra is a jewel of the world's religious literature and one of the most revered texts of Mahayana Buddhism. This article describes the sutra's origins and history.
Right Speech is a portion of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. What do Buddhists mean by Right Speech?
To become a Buddhist, a person vows to take refuge in the Three Jewels or Three Treasures. The Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. This essay explains what each jewel represents. Page 2.
Buddhist scriptures comprise an enormous and complicated variety of texts, not one of which is considered authentic and authoritative in all schools. This article provides a basic explanation of
In Buddhism, dharma most commonly is used to refer to the teachings of the Buddha. But the word has a great many other significant meanings.
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Buddhists often speak of Buddhism as a practice rather than a faith. What exactly is Buddhist practice?
The story of the Buddha's birth is rich with mythical symbolism.
The distinctive practices and teachings of Theravada, the oldest school of Buddhism.
The Sanskrit word samsara means. Buddhism.
Is sexism intrinsic to Buddhism, or did Buddhist institutions absorb sexism from Asian culture? Can Buddhism treat women as equals, and remain Buddhism?
The demon Mara plays a role in many stories of the Buddha and his monks, and in particular the story of the Buddha's enlightenment. This article discusses Mara's origins and what he represents in Buddhism.
The Buddha taught his disciples to develop equanimity. What do Buddhists mean by equanimity, and how do you develop it?
Buddhism opposes war, but sometimes Buddhists must go to war. Buddhism values pacifism, yet Buddhism is associated with martial arts. What does Buddhism teach about war?
Right Livelihood is the fifth. Buddhism.
The three characteristics -- impermanence, suffering and egolessness -- mark all compounded things.
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The Sanskrit word for enlightenment is
There are a few basic teachings that distinguish all forms of Mahayana. Here Mahayana and Theravada are compared to make these distinctions clear.
The Six Perfections are guides for those who seek enlightenment in Mahayana Buddhism.
The Bardo Thodol --. Buddhism.
The law of karma is a law of cause and effect, or an understanding that every deed produces fruit. The fruits of karma affect our lives and cause rebirth.
These are good beginner-level books for people who want to learn about Zen Buddhism. Although Zen itself is not something that can be learned from books, these might tell you if Zen is something you want to explore further.
Bodhisattvas are idealized in Mahayana art and literature, and they are also ordinary people. They exemplify compassion and wisdom, and they vow to help all beings realize enlightenment and enter Nirvana.
Dependent Origination is a Buddhist teaching on the nature of existence -- nothing exists independently of other things.
The Tibetan Buddhist scriptural canon is in two parts, called the Kangyur and the Tengyur. Here is a basic introduction.
Desires are inexhaustible, especially in our consumerist culture. What does Buddhism teach about greed and desire?
A vajra is a Buddhist symbol and ritual object with several meanings. Learn more about this word and its definition.
Buddhism comes in many sectarian flavors. This is a very basic guide to major schools for people new to Buddhism.
Om Mani Padme Hum (Sanskrit) or Om Mani Peme Hung (Tibetan) is a Tibetan Buddhist mantra meaning
The second aspect of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism is Right Intention or Right Thought. Why are our thoughts or intentions so important?
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To become a Buddhist is to take refuge in the Three Jewels, also called the Three Treasures -- the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.
Giving to others is essential to the practice of Buddhism. However, one's motivation for giving to others is at least as important as what is given.
Can there be Buddhism without the rituals? Maybe, but the rituals do have a purpose.
The Five Dhyani Buddhas are transcendent Buddhas visualized in tantric meditation. The five Buddhas are Aksobhya, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi, Ratnasambhava and Vairocana. Each represents a different aspect of enlightened consciousness to aid in spiritual transformation. Often in Vajrayana art they are arranged in a mandala, with Vairocana in the center. Page 2.
How do Buddhists give thanks for food? Here are meal chants from three schools of Buddhism that are chanted before meals, expressing gratitude.
In Mahayana Buddhism, the ideal of practice is to become a bodhisattva who strives to liberate all beings from the cycle of birth and death. The Bodhisattva Vows are vows taken formally by a Buddhist to do exactly that. The vows also are an expression of bodhichitta, the desire to realize enlightenment for the sake of others.
A condensed 1,000-year history of Buddhism in China, from the year 1 to 1000 CE.
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is beloved to Mahayana Buddhists as the embodiment of infinite compassion.
The earliest written scriptures of Buddhism, the texts were kept alive through the years by being memorized and chanted by generations of monks.
The creature holding the Wheel of Life in his hooves is Yama, the wrathful dharmapala who is Lord of the Hell Realm. Dharmapalas are not evil beings, but rather are the fierce protectors of Buddhism and Buddhists. Page 2.
This is a brief history of Tibetan Buddhism from in 641 CE, when King Songtsen Gampo unified Tibet and married two Buddhist princesses, to 1642, when the 5th Dalai Lama became ruler of Tibet.
In Zen Buddhism, koans are small presentations of the nature of ultimate reality, usually presented as a paradox.
The Fifth Precept of Buddhism, translated from the Pali Canon, is
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Hungry Ghosts (Pretas) are beings with a hunger that can never be satisfied. They have huge, empty stomachs, but their thin necks don't allow nourishment to pass. Food turns to fire and ash in their mouths. Page 5.
Tibetan Buddhism has developed into six distinctive major traditions - Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, Jonang, and Bonpo. Here is a brief explanation of each.
Why do Buddhists need teachers? How do you find a teacher? How can you tell real Buddhist teachers from frauds? Here are some basic guidelines to help you find the right teacher for you.
A look at Buddhist approach to morality, which avoids absolutes and rigid commandments and encourages one to weigh and analyze situations on one's own.
The ancient Buddhist kingdom of Gandhara stretched across what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan and made invaluable contributions to Buddhist art.
They're wrathful, they're terrifying, and they're the good guys. Dharmapalas are fearsome creatures of Vajrayana Buddhism who aid and protect Buddhists.
Sunyata, or Emptiness. Buddhism.
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The Buddha taught his monks to cultivate four states of mind, called the
Right Action is the fourth aspect of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. But what is Right Action, exactly? Here is a brief explanation
Buddhist scholars generally understand a Pure Land as a transcendent state of being. In Asian folklore, Pure Land is thought of as a real place.
The Buddha said there are twelve links ( nidanas ) in the "chain" of Dependent Origination . Dependent
Bodhisattvas work to bring all beings to enlightenment. Countless transcendent bodhisattvas are found in Buddhist art and literature, but these five are the most important.
Dragons often appear in Buddhist art and literature. Where did they come from, and what do they represent?
Buddhism teaches that abortion is the taking of a human life, but at the same time most Buddhists are reluctant to interfere with a woman's personal decision to abort. From a Buddhist perspective, these positions are not contradictory.
Hungry Ghosts are characters from Buddhist iconography who suffer from their greed, envy and jealousy.
The Buddha taught that all phenomena are impermanent. How is this teaching essential to enlightenment?
Advice for choosing a school of Buddhism that is right for you
The veneration of tantric deities looks like polytheism, but it isn't. Instead, it is a means to realize enlightenment by realizing oneself as a goddess or god.
The scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism.mostly were written between the 1st century BCE and the 5th century CE, although a few may have been written as late as the 7th century CE.
The historical BuddhaÃ¢ÂÂs most famous statements on women came about when his stepmother and aunt, Maha Pajapati Gotami, asked to join the Sangha and become a nun. The Buddha initially refused her request. Eventually he relented, but in doing so he made conditions and a prediction that remain controversial to this day.
Buddhas and bodhisattvas often are depicted in Buddhist art with stylized hand gestures called
The koan Mu, also known as Chao-chou's Dog, is one of the most famous Zen koans. Here is a brief introduction to the koan.
The answer varies from one part of Asia to another. In most Asian nations the date is determined by the lunar calendar and changes from year to year.
The Metta Sutta, or Sutra of Loving Kindness, is one of the most beloved of all Buddhist texts. Here is an explanation of the sutta and links to online English translations.
The first precept of Buddhism -- do not kill -- touches on some of today's hotter issues, from veganism to abortion and euthanasia. Let's take a look at this precept and at what some Buddhist teachers have said about it.
You can find Buddhist teachings about finding the self, losing the self, small self, big self, original self, true self, and no self. What's a self?
No-self; the central Buddhist teaching that individual identity is ephemeral.
The Realm of the Gods (Devas) is the highest realm of the Wheel of Life and is always depicted at the top of the Wheel. It's nice being a Deva, but even the Devas are subject to karma, death and rebirth. Page 3.
Karma means. Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama is revered and despised; a media star and an enigma. Just who is the 14th Dalai Lama?
The Hell Realm is marked by anger, terror and claustrophobia. Hell Beings (Narakas) are known for their aggression. Page 6.
Right Concentration is the eighth part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. Through Right Concentration, the mind finds its way to wisdom and enlightenment.
A photo gallery of the world's biggest Buddha statues, including the Leshan giant of China, the Monywa reclining Buddha of Burma, and the Ushiku standing Buddha of Japan.
The Jataka Tales are stories and fables about the previous lives of the Buddha. Where did these stories come from? What is their history?
According to the Mahayana Buddhist teaching of sunyata -- emptiness or void -- all beings and phenomena are empty of independent, permanent essence.
Tibetan Buddhism is distinguished by its rich mythology and art, its esoteric tantra practices, and its reincarnated lamas. Here is a basic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism.
A brief explanation of Right Effort as the sixth part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path
The name sutra (Sanskrit for thread) in Buddhism originally was given only to the sermons of the historical Buddha.
All Buddhist meditation practices are forms of bhavana. Here is a basic explanation of bhavana and how it is practiced in Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.
The Asura (Jealous God) Realm is marked by paranoia. Asuras are hyper-competitive and paranoid. They are driven by a desire to beat their competition, and everyone is competition. Page 4.
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From its origins in pre-war Japan, Soka Gakkai has promoted personal empowerment and humanist philosophy combined with Buddhist devotion and practice. Yet as its membership grew in the West, the organization found itself struggling with dissension, controversy, and accusations of being a a cult.
The Three Poisons - Greed, Hate and Ignorance - are the primary causes of evil (akusala) in Buddhism.
Manjushri is one of the most important iconic figures of Mahayana Buddhist art and literature. He represents prajna, wisdom that is not confined to conceptual knowledge.
In Buddhism, the Five Skandhas are aggregates of mental and physical characteristics that come together to create an individual. Personality and ego are creations of the skandhas.
The Pali Canon is the earliest canon of Buddhist scripture. It is also called the
The Buddha and his first disciples had no fixed place to call home. They slept under trees and begged for all of their food. Their only clothes were robes they patched together from cloth taken from rubbish heaps.
What does Buddhism say about today's hot issues, like abortion, sexism and even the economy?
Wu Wei is a Taoist concept adopted by Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism, meaning action without attachment.
Nichiren claimed his were the only true teachings of Buddhism. Today Nichiren Buddhism has millions of followers worldwide.
The Buddha taught mindfulness by providing four foundations, or frames of reference, that we can use to train ourselves to be mindful.
Jizo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) is one of the most beloved figures of Japanese Buddhism. He is known in particular as the protector of deceased children.
Buddhist texts and teachers sometimes refer to Mount Meru, also called Sumeru (Sanskrit) or Sineru (Pali). Mount Meru is a sacred mountain in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain mythology. For a time, the existence (or not) of Meru was a heated controversy.
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Buddha Nature, an essential doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism, is the already enlightened nature of all beings.
Why are Buddhists killing Muslims in Burma? Background on the violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Burma (Myanmar)
Asia's hungry ghost festivals are held to soothe and placate the dead.
The Five Mindfulness Trainings are Thich Nhat Hanh's guide to living a beneficial and joyful life. Here is a brief introduction.
The Dhammapada is a volume of 423 short sayings of the Buddha, sometimes called a Buddhist Book of Proverbs. It is a treasury of gems that illuminate and inspire.