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Buddhism: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
Can You Name the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism?
The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of Buddhism.
Learn About the Life of the Buddha, Founder of...
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 You Know About Buddhism?
There's more to Buddhism than shaving one's head and being blissful. Here is an introduction to Buddhism for beginners.
What Do Buddhists Believe?
What do Buddhists believe? In Buddhism, beliefs are beside the point, and doctrines are a means to an end, not the end itself.
What Zen Buddhism Really Means
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.
What Are the 8 Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism?
Images of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, with their meanings.
What Is the Buddhist Eightfold Path to...
The Eightfold Path is the Buddha's prescription for relieving suffering. It is the means by which one can realize enlightenment and enter Nirvana.
What Buddhism Teaches About Sex
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?
Buddhism: Is It a Philosophy or Religion?
Is Buddhism a philosophy or a religion? Clarifying this point is important to understanding Buddhism.
New to Buddhism? Try One of These Popular Books
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
What the Buddha Didn't Teach About Reincarnation
Would you be surprised to hear that reincarnation is not a doctrine of Buddhism? If so, be surprised -- it isn't.
What Nirvana Means to Buddhists
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.
Rinzai - Rinzai is a school of Zen Buddhism
Rinzai is one of the two schools of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
Why Do Buddhists Avoid Attachment?
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >You may have heard
The Dharma Wheel
The dharma wheel is a symbol of Buddhism.
The Symbol of the Lotus
An explanation of the symbolic meanings of the lotus in Buddhist art and literature.
Are Buddhists Also Atheists?
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?
What Buddhism Teaches About Anger
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?
What Buddhists Really Mean by 'Life Is Suffering'
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The Buddha didn't
The Six Realms of Existence in the Buddhist...
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.
What Is the Self?
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.
What Is Dharma in Buddhism?
As used in Buddhism, the word
Buddhism and Karma
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.
It's All Karma, Right? 11 Myths About Buddhism
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
Buddhist Holidays 2014
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 Overview of the Diamond Sutra
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.
Are All Buddhists Vegetarians?
The historical Buddha and his disciples were not vegetarians. Why then did vegetarianism come to be associated with Buddhism?
What Buddhists Should Know About the Heart Sutra
A brief introduction to the Heart Sutra for the completely baffled.
Why Convert to Buddhism?
Why I can give you no good reason to convert to Buddhism.
Chanting
A Basic Guide to Buddhist Chanting.
What Is Buddhist Tantra Really All About?
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.
The Buddha's Robe
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.
Everything You Need to Know About Buddhist...
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
Ever Think of Going on a Buddhist Retreat?
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.
What Is a Buddha, Anyway?
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:
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.
What Buddhism Says About Having the 'Right View'
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.
Gods in Buddhism
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >It is often asked
The Six Perfections
The Six Perfections are guides for those who seek enlightenment in Mahayana Buddhism.
The Buddhist Precepts
The Buddhist Precepts are not a list of commandments to follow. Here is an introduction to the Precepts, both Theravada and Mahayana
Do You Know the Legend of the Birth of the...
The story of the Buddha's birth is rich with mythical symbolism.
Mahayana Buddhist Scripture: Learn about the...
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.
Right Mindfulnes - Mindfulness as Buddhist...
Mindfulness is a whole-body-and-mind awareness of the present moment that is a cornerstone of Buddhist practice
What Does it Mean to Practice Buddhism?
Buddhists often speak of Buddhism as a practice rather than a faith. What exactly is Buddhist practice?
The Five Skandhas
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The historical
Feeding the Buddha
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.
The Laughing Buddha
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?
Buddhism and Sexism
Is sexism intrinsic to Buddhism, or did Buddhist institutions absorb sexism from Asian culture? Can Buddhism treat women as equals, and remain Buddhism?
Theravada Buddhism
The distinctive practices and teachings of Theravada, the oldest school of Buddhism.
The Lost World of Buddhist Gandhara
The ancient Buddhist kingdom of Gandhara stretched across what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan and made invaluable contributions to Buddhist art.
Perfection of Giving
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.
Learn the Importance of Compassion in Buddhism
The Buddha taught that compassion isn't just a nice virtue; it is essential to realizing enlightenment.
What Does Samsara Mean in Buddhism?
The Sanskrit word samsara means. Buddhism.
What Does Darma Mean in Buddhism?
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.
What Buddhism Teaches About Karma and Rebirth
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.
Evil in Buddhism -- How Buddhists Understand Evil
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Evil is a word
How Do Buddhists Define Enlightenment?
The Sanskrit word for enlightenment is
What Is Enlightenment?
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Most people have
War and Buddhism
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?
Mahayana Buddhism
There are a few basic teachings that distinguish all forms of Mahayana. Here Mahayana and Theravada are compared to make these distinctions clear.
Beginner Zen Books
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.
Mara, Lord of Death
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.
Greed and Desire
Desires are inexhaustible, especially in our consumerist culture. What does Buddhism teach about greed and desire?
Buddhism and Equanimity
The Buddha taught his disciples to develop equanimity. What do Buddhists mean by equanimity, and how do you develop it?
What Buddhism Teaches About the Ethics of...
Right Livelihood is the fifth. Buddhism.
Buddhism in China: A History of the First...
A condensed 1,000-year history of Buddhism in China, from the year 1 to 1000 CE.
The Four Seals of the Dharma
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >In the 26 centuries
Right Speech
Right Speech is a portion of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. What do Buddhists mean by Right Speech?
Vajra or Dorje
A vajra is a Buddhist symbol and ritual object with several meanings. Learn more about this word and its definition.
Understanding the 3 Marks of Existence in...
The three characteristics -- impermanence, suffering and egolessness -- mark all compounded things.
Brief Guide to Major Schools of Buddhism
Buddhism comes in many sectarian flavors. This is a very basic guide to major schools for people new to Buddhism.
Why 'Right Intention' Is So Important to Buddhism
The second aspect of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism is Right Intention or Right Thought. Why are our thoughts or intentions so important?
What Are the Origins and Practices of Pure Land...
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 Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma, the...
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.
Dependent Origination
Dependent Origination is a Buddhist teaching on the nature of existence -- nothing exists independently of other things.
Taking Refuge: Becoming a Buddhist
To become a Buddhist is to take refuge in the Three Jewels, also called the Three Treasures -- the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.
Om Mani Padme Hum
Om Mani Padme Hum (Sanskrit) or Om Mani Peme Hung (Tibetan) is a Tibetan Buddhist mantra meaning
What's a Bodhisattva?
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.
Meet Avalokiteshvara, Buddhism's Bodhisattva of...
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is beloved to Mahayana Buddhists as the embodiment of infinite compassion.
The Fifth Buddhist Precept
The Fifth Precept of Buddhism, translated from the Pali Canon, is
What Do Rituals Symbolize in Buddhism?
Can there be Buddhism without the rituals? Maybe, but the rituals do have a purpose.
The Five Dhyani Buddhas: Amitabha Buddha
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.
Giving Thanks for Our Food
How do Buddhists give thanks for food? Here are meal chants from three schools of Buddhism that are chanted before meals, expressing gratitude.
Buddhism and Abortion
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.
The Pali Canon: The First Buddhist Scriptures
The earliest written scriptures of Buddhism, the texts were kept alive through the years by being memorized and chanted by generations of monks.
How Buddhism Approaches Morality
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.
Brahma-Vihara: Four Divine States or Immeasurab...
The Buddha taught his monks to cultivate four states of mind, called the Brahma-vihara -- loving kindness, compassion, empathy and equanimity.
Mudras: Buddha's Hands
Buddhas and bodhisattvas often are depicted in Buddhist art with stylized hand gestures called
Tripitaka, Tipitika (Pali Canon)
The Pali Canon is the earliest canon of Buddhist scripture. It is also called the
The Six Schools of Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism has developed into six distinctive major traditions - Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, Jonang, and Bonpo. Here is a brief explanation of each.
Which School of Buddhism Is Right for You?
Advice for choosing a school of Buddhism that is right for you
The Jataka Tales
The Jataka Tales are stories and fables about the previous lives of the Buddha. Where did these stories come from? What is their history?
Sutra
The name sutra (Sanskrit for thread) in Buddhism originally was given only to the sermons of the historical Buddha.
Finding Your Teacher
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.
Eight Dharmapalas - Wrathful Protectors of...
They're wrathful, they're terrifying, and they're the good guys. Dharmapalas are fearsome creatures of Vajrayana Buddhism who aid and protect Buddhists.
The Wheel of Life: Yama, Lord of the Underworld
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.
The First Buddhist Nuns
The historical Buddha’s 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.
Sunyata - The Perfection of Wisdom in Buddhism
Sunyata, or Emptiness. Buddhism.
Right Action
Right Action is the fourth aspect of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. But what is Right Action, exactly? Here is a brief explanation
When Is Buddha's Birthday?
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.
Dukkha
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Definition: The
Koan
In Zen Buddhism, koans are small presentations of the nature of ultimate reality, usually presented as a paradox.
What Is Mu?
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.
Karma
Karma means. Buddhism.
Right Effort
A brief explanation of Right Effort as the sixth part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path
Major Mahayana Sutras
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 Buddha's Path to Happiness
We all want to be happy, but what is happiness, and how do we find it? Here is what the Buddha taught.
The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination
The Buddha said there are twelve links ( nidanas ) in the "chain" of Dependent Origination . Dependent
Earth Witness
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The "earth witness"
Pure Lands - Buddha-fields of Enlightenment
The pure lands of Mahayana Buddhism are understood in many ways.
Big Buddhas: A Photo Gallery
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 Fourth Noble Truth
In the Fourth Noble Truth, the Buddha presented the path to enlightenment.
The First Buddhist Monks
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.
Bodhisattva Vows
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.
The Dhammapada
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.
The Wheel of Life: The Realm of Hungry Ghosts
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.
Bhavana: An Introduction to Buddhist Meditation
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.
Gods, Goddesses and Buddhist Tantra
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.
Anatman, Anatta
No-self; the central Buddhist teaching that individual identity is ephemeral.
The Metta Sutta
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.
Definition of the Buddhist Term Skandha
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 First Noble Truth
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The study of Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism: An Introduction
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.
Five Major Bodhisattvas
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!
Dragons often appear in Buddhist art and literature. Where did they come from, and what do they represent?
Hot-Button Issues and Buddhism: A Buddhist View...
What does Buddhism say about today's hot issues, like abortion, sexism and even the economy?
Soka Gakkai International: Past, Present, Future
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.
Three Poisons
The Three Poisons - Greed, Hate and Ignorance - are the primary causes of evil (akusala) in Buddhism.
Manjushri Bodhisattva
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.
Right Concentration
Right Concentration is the eighth part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. Through Right Concentration, the mind finds its way to wisdom and enlightenment.
The First Buddhist Precept
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.
Sunyata, Shunyata
According to the Mahayana Buddhist teaching of sunyata -- emptiness or void -- all beings and phenomena are empty of independent, permanent essence.
The Dorje Shugden Controversy
Dorje Shugden is an iconic character from Tibetan mythology with a loyal following. At a time when Tibetan Buddhism is in diaspora and under terrible stress, Shugden followers seem bent on destroying Tibetan Buddhism altogether -- in the name of saving it.
Buddha Nature
Buddha Nature, an essential doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism, is the already enlightened nature of all beings.
Bardo Thodol: The Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Bardo Thodol --. Buddhism.
The Wheel of Life: The Realm of the Gods
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.
How Did the Buddha Enter Nirvana?
At his death, the historical Buddha entered complete Nirvana, also called Parinirvana. This is the story of the Buddha's final days.
Impermanence
The Buddha taught that all phenomena are impermanent. How is this teaching essential to enlightenment?
Kathina
Kathina is an ancient ceremony for giving Buddhist monks and nuns gifts of cloth to make robes.
Buddhism in Sri Lanka
Buddhism came to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE. Here is a very brief history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, from its beginnings to the end of the 19th century.
The Wheel of Life: The Hell Realm
The Hell Realm is marked by anger, terror and claustrophobia. Hell Beings (Narakas) are known for their aggression. Page 6.
Enlightenment and Nirvana
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >What Is Enlightenment?
Nichiren Buddhism: An Overview
Nichiren claimed his were the only true teachings of Buddhism. Today Nichiren Buddhism has millions of followers worldwide.
Mahayana
: Mahayana, which means "Great Vehicle" in Sanskrit, is one of the two major schools of Buddhism . It
Buddhism and Science
What role does science play in modern-day Buddhism and how can it be used to enhance one's understanding of the religion?
The Wheel of Life: The Realm of Asuras
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.
Early Buddhist History: The First Five Centuries
A brief overview of the early history of Buddhism, beginning with the death of the Buddha, about 483 BCE, to the beginning of the 1st millennium CE.
Zazen
Zazen is Zen Buddhist meditation.
Buddhism Came to Tibet
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.
Renunciation in Buddhism
Renunciation in Buddhism is not penance or self-punishment. Instead, it is an act of liberation from the things that bind us to suffering.
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