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Buddhism: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
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 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.
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.
Can You Name the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism?
The Four Noble Truths are the foundation of Buddhism.
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.
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.
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?
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 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.
What Are the 8 Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism,...
Images of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, with their meanings.
Buddhism: Philosophy or Religion?
Is Buddhism a philosophy or a religion? Clarifying this point is important to understanding Buddhism.
Why Do Buddhists Avoid Attachment?
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >You may have heard
Anger and Buddhism
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?
Reincarnation in Buddhism
Would you be surprised to hear that reincarnation is not a doctrine of Buddhism? If so, be surprised -- it isn't.
Life Is Suffering? What Does That Mean?
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The Buddha didn't
Atheism and Devotion in Buddhism
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 Heart Sutra
A brief introduction to the Heart Sutra for the completely baffled.
The Dharma Wheel
The dharma wheel is a symbol of Buddhism.
Misunderstanding Buddhism
Buddhists want to get enlightened so they can be blissed out all the time. And they believe in reincarnation,
Six Realms of Existence
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.
Popular Books for Beginner Buddhists
In the West, many of us begin our journey with Buddhism by reading a book. For me, the book was The Miracle
Introduction to Buddhist Tantra
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.
What Is Dharma in Buddhism?
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Dharma (Sanskrit)
Reasons to Convert to Buddhism?
Why I can give you no good reason to convert to Buddhism.
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.
Buddhism and Vegetarianism
The historical Buddha and his disciples were not vegetarians. Why then did vegetarianism come to be associated with Buddhism?
Enlightenment
: The Sanskrit word for enlightenment is " bodhi ," which means "awakened." But awakened to what? The
Dharma
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.
Chanting
A Basic Guide to Buddhist Chanting
The Lotus Sutra: An Overview
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.
Go 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.
The Symbol of the Lotus
An explanation of the symbolic meanings of the lotus in Buddhist art and literature.
The Five Skandhas
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The historical
Buddhism and Compassion
The Buddha taught that compassion isn't just a nice virtue; it is essential to realizing enlightenment.
The Birth of the Buddha
The story of the Buddha's birth is rich with mythical symbolism.
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.
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
Buddhism in China: The First Thousand Years
A condensed 1,000-year history of Buddhism in China, from the year 1 to 1000 CE.
Dependent Origination
Dependent Origination is a Buddhist teaching on the nature of existence -- nothing exists independently of other things.
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.
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.
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?
Right Livelihood: The Ethics of Earning a Living
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Most of us sustain
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.
What's a Buddha?
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 Six Perfections
The Six Perfections are guides for those who seek enlightenment in Mahayana Buddhism.
Right Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a whole-body-and-mind awareness of the present moment that is a cornerstone of Buddhist practice
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.
Samsara
: The Sanskrit word samsara means "journeying." In Buddhism, as well as in Hinduism and Jainism, samsara
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.
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.
Three Marks of Existence
The three characteristics -- impermanence, suffering and egolessness -- mark all compounded things.
Yogacara
Here is a very basic introduction to Yogacara, a philosophical school of Mahayana Buddhism.
Buddhism and Evil
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Evil is a word
Theravada Buddhism
The distinctive practices and teachings of Theravada, the oldest school of Buddhism.
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.
Mudras: Buddha's Hands
Buddhas and bodhisattvas often are depicted in Buddhist art with stylized hand gestures called
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.
Buddhist Scriptures: An Overview
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > Types of Buddhist Scripture Many scriptures
Anatman, Anatta
No-self; the central Buddhist teaching that individual identity is ephemeral.
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?
Right Speech
Right Speech is a portion of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. What do Buddhists mean by Right Speech?
What Does Buddhism Teach About Greed and Desire?
Desires are inexhaustible, especially in our consumerist culture. What does Buddhism teach about greed and desire?
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?
Pure Land Buddhism
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.
Buddhism and Equanimity
The Buddha taught his disciples to develop equanimity. What do Buddhists mean by equanimity, and how do you develop it?
The Practice of Buddhism
Buddhists often speak of Buddhism as a practice rather than a faith. What exactly is Buddhist practice?
Right Action
Right Action is the fourth aspect of the Buddhist Eightfold Path. But what is Right Action, exactly? Here is a brief explanation
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.
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.
Ritual and Buddhism
Can there be Buddhism without the rituals? Maybe, but the rituals do have a purpose.
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.
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.
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva is beloved to Mahayana Buddhists as the embodiment of infinite compassion.
Buddha's Birthday
Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on different dates by various schools of Buddhism. Whatever the date, it is a joyous holiday featuring parades, hanging lanterns, and the sharing of food and flowers.
Taking Refuge: Becoming a Buddhist
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >To become a Buddhist
Vajra or Dorje
A vajra is a Buddhist symbol and ritual object with several meanings.
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.
Gods in Buddhism
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >It is often asked
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.
Right Intention
The second aspect of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism is Right Intention or Right Thought. Why are our thoughts or intentions so important?
The Four Seals of the Dharma
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >In the 26 centuries
Right Effort
A brief explanation of Right Effort as the sixth part of the Buddhist Eightfold Path
Why the Dalai Lama Is So Important to Buddhists
The Dalai Lama is revered and despised; a media star and an enigma. Just who is the 14th Dalai Lama?
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.
Earth Witness
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The "earth witness"
Buddhism and Morality
The Buddhist Approach to morality avoids absolutes and rigid commandments. Instead, Buddhists are encouraged to weigh and analyze situations to come to their own decisions about what is moral.
Sunyata, Shunyata
According to the Mahayana Buddhist teaching of sunyata -- emptiness or void -- all beings and phenomena are empty of independent, permanent essence.
The Twelve Links of Dependent Origination
The Buddha said there are twelve links ( nidanas ) in the "chain" of Dependent Origination . Dependent
Three Poisons
The Three Poisons - Greed, Hate and Ignorance - are the primary causes of evil (akusala) in Buddhism.
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.
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.
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.
Major Mahayana Sutras
 The scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism .mostly were written between the 1st century BCE and the 5th century
Three Kinds of Mind in Buddhism
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >For English speakers,
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.
The Fifth Buddhist Precept
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The Fifth Precept
Dukkha
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Definition: The
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.
How 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.
Hot-Button Issues and Buddhism
What does Buddhism say about today's hot issues, like abortion, sexism and even the economy?
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.
Eight Dharmapalas
They're they're wrathful, they're terrifying, and they're the good guys. Dharmapalas are fearsome creatures of Vajrayana Buddhism who aid and protect Buddhists.
Dragons!
Dragons often appear in Buddhist art and literature. Where did they come from, and what do they represent?
Tara - Buddhist Goddess and Archetype of...
Tara is one of the most familiar figures of Tibetan Buddhist iconography. Here is a simple introduction explaining who she is and what she represents.
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.
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 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.
Sutra
: The name sutra (Sanskrit for "thread") in Buddhism originally was given only to the sermons of the
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.
A List of Buddhas
A list of Buddhas found in Buddhist art and scripture, with brief explanations of who they are.
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.
Enlightenment and Nirvana
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >What Is Enlightenment?
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.
Brahma-vihara: The Four Divine States or Four...
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The practice of
Impermanence
The Buddha taught that all phenomena are impermanent. How is this teaching essential to enlightenment?
Buddhism in Burma, Part 2
Background on the violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Burma (Myanmar)
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.
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.
Hungry Ghosts
Hungry Ghosts are characters from Buddhist iconography who suffer from their greed, envy and jealousy.
Evil, Karma and Buddhism
This essay explores common conceptualizations of evil and compares them to Buddhist teachings on evil. Part Two explains how karma relates to good and evil. Page 2.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Sunyata, or Emptiness
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Of all Buddhist
Karma
: Karma means "intentional action" and refers to the universal law of cause and effect. Karma is created
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.
Buddha Nature
Buddha Nature, an essential doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism, is the already enlightened nature of all beings.
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.
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.
Vesak
What is Vesak? Vesak is a major Buddhist holiday observing the historical Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death (Parinirvana).
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.
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.
Self, No Self, What's a Self?
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?
Koan
In Zen Buddhism, koans are small presentations of the nature of ultimate reality, usually presented as a paradox.
Bardo Thodol: The Tibetan Book of the Dead
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The Bardo Thodol
The Life, Teachings and Art of Zen Master Hakuin
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >Art historians
Mahayana
: Mahayana, which means "Great Vehicle" in Sanskrit, is one of the two major schools of Buddhism . It
Secular Buddhism
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >"Secular Buddhism"
Which School of Buddhism Is Right for You?
Advice for choosing a school of Buddhism that is right for you
Nichiren Buddhism: An Overview
Nichiren claimed his were the only true teachings of Buddhism. Today Nichiren Buddhism has millions of followers worldwide.
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?
The First Noble Truth
class="no-js" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" > itemprop="description" >The study of Buddhism
Gelugpa
About the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
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.
The Succession of Dalai Lamas
A list of the 14 Dalai Lamas, with brief biographies.
The Wheel of Life
The rich iconography of the Wheel of Life can be interpreted on several levels. The six major sections

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