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This lesson discusses Buddhism from a historical and broadly speaking "religious" standpoint, with particular emphasis on the ways in which Buddhism differs from other religions in its various modes of practice.

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Welcome to this tutorial on Buddhism. Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama in India, here in Bodh Gaya. Siddharta is also known as the Buddha, which just means "enlightened" in Sanskrit. The story goes that the Buddha was a great prince, and there was a prophecy about him that he would either be a great military leader or a great spiritual leader. His parents wanted him to be a great military leader, so they kept them inside the palace with all sorts of fabulous food and drink and dancing ladies in fine clothes.

But one day he looked out the window of the palace, and he saw an old person, he saw someone carrying a dead body, and this led him to say, hey, wow, they're suffering in life. And he wanted to find out why they were suffering in life. So he left the palace, and he went out in the woods to practice asceticism with some wandering monks. Asceticism is just harsh treatment of the body for spiritual purposes.

He fasted and practiced meditation until he had a terrible headache. He was losing weight. The story goes that you could see his spine through his stomach, he fasted so much. He sat down underneath a Bo tree, or a Bodhi tree, and there he had his great realization. And we're going to be taking a look at what that realization was.

This map, though, shows the diffusion of Buddhism, the southern route going through Sri Lanka and South Asia, and the northern route going through Tibet and Indo-China and Korea and Japan. So Buddhism spread peacefully throughout Asia. But largely-- there is still Buddhism in India, but Hinduism remained the prevalent religion in India.

Southern Buddhism has a little bit different theology from northern or Mahayana Buddhism. There's a little bit more emphasis on effort in the south and a little bit more emphasis on what we could call grace in the north. The Buddha can actually assist you in your realization.

The core teaching of the Buddha can be expressed in the four noble truths, and each of these truths builds on the others. The first one is that life is suffering or dukkha. Dukkha could mean physical suffering. It could mean emotional suffering, being around something you don't want to be around or being separated from something that you love and so forth.

Suffering-- the second Noble Truth-- suffering stems from selfish desire, which is a translation of the word "tanha," which means craving or thirst. So you have some kind of desire. It's unfulfilled, and that leads you to be unhappy.

So moving on to the third Noble Truth, if we want to eliminate suffering, we have to eliminate desire. And the Buddha didn't just leave it there. He gave an actual method for eliminating desire, and he said that it comes through practicing the Noble Eightfold Path.

So what is the Noble Eightfold Path? Well, here it is. Right view, right intention. These come in the wisdom part of the path. The next path is the ethical path. Right speech, right action and right livelihood. And moving on to meditation, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

Continuing into Buddhist ethics, Buddhism teach the five precepts. First of all, do not take life, and this includes vegetarianism for most Buddhists, although in Tibet, there was not a lot of agriculture, so Tibetan Buddhism did allow for eating meat. And now throughout the world, more Buddhists are vegetarian then perhaps in Christianity or Judaism, but as with any dietary law, there are greater and lesser degrees of observance. So not all Buddhists are vegetarians, although many are.

Next, do not steal. Finally, do not indulgent sensual pleasure. Do not lie. That's either by omission or commission, so you're supposed to be forthright in telling the truth. And finally, do not abuse the mind with intoxicating substances. So drugs and alcohol are out.

What is the goal of all this? Well, the goal of all of this is Nirvana. And we should keep in mind that Nirvana is not a place that you go to when you die. Nirvana is freedom or liberation or happiness, and ultimately it is indescribable. The only way that you can experience Nirvana is to go through it, and even the word "experience" might be saying too much about it.

Buddhism is non-theistic religion. That is, there is no God in the religion, although sometimes the Buddha can sort of sound like a god. Some versions of Buddhism do have gods and goddesses, but they can't really do anything for you. Each Buddhist has to practice. Each Buddhist this has to walk the path, and that is the way to liberation. So basically, Buddhism is a non-theistic religion that does not have a god.

And that the Buddha taught the four noble Truths-- life is suffering, suffering stems from selfish desire, the way to eliminate suffering is to eliminate desire, and the way to eliminate desire is to practice the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.

We also said that Buddhism teaches the five precepts-- do not take life, do not steal, do not over-indulge in sensual pleasure, do not lie and do not abuse the mind with intoxicating substances. We said that the goal of Buddhism is Nirvana, which is not a place, but is rather freedom, liberation, and happiness. And finally we said that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. Thanks for watching.

Terms to Know

Wise; deeply insightful; divinely inspired.


Generally, the belief either that God does not exist or that the question of existence of God or gods is not relevant to human existence, including religion.