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ARC Home > Faiths and Ecology > Buddhism > Buddhist beliefs :

What do Buddhists believe?

Absorbed in his studies, a young Buddhist monk follows the Noble Eightfold Path

The Four Noble Truths

The First Noble Truth is suffering. Life is full of misery: birth, ageing, sickness and death are all suffering. Though people strive for pleasure they receive only pain: sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, despair, contact with the hated and separation from the loved. And even if they do achieve a little happiness they soon tire of it and again become discontent.

The Second Noble Truth is the cause of suffering. Desire and greed always lead to dissatisfaction. Craving and attachment for sensual pleasures, the desire to end sorrow and the ambition to go on living: all these are the causes of rebirth, which brings further suffering.

The Third Noble Truth is the cessation of suffering. When craving and desire are relinquished, suffering and discontent end, and in their place comes satisfaction and peace.

The Four Noble Truths are Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering, and the Path to the Cessation of Suffering

The Fourth Noble Truth is the way to cessation of suffering. The Buddha taught a Middle Way, that avoided either excessive pleasure-seeking or excessive hardships. This middle way leads to enlightenment, and is called the Noble Eightfold Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path begins with Right Understanding arising from the first three noble truths, seeing that all is impermanent. From this awareness comes Right Intention, aspiring to truth, beauty and goodness. This leads to good conduct, in the form of Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood, namely taking responsibility for one’s body, its behaviour and speech, including non-violence, acting with compassion, following a moral code, and working in a way that does not harm others. Finally come Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration, which are developed in the heart through the regular the practice of meditation.

Karma and the divine

Buddhism does not teach belief in one God, and in some forms teaches there is no god. However, popular and in particular Mahayana Buddhism (the Buddhism of China, Tibet, Mongolia, Japan and Korea) teaches the existence of many deities, and elevates the Buddha into a divine being, the origin of all that exists.

Buddhists believe in the power of karma, or actions based on desire. Such actions, either good or bad, make a person continue in the cycle of reincarnation – being reborn repeatedly until achieving enlightenment.

Five Precepts

The Buddha taught Five Precepts for everyday life:
Do not harm any living creature
Do not steal, and be generous in giving
Do not take more than you need
Do not lie
Do not act thoughtlessly
Buddhist teachers draw upon these precepts, particularly the first, middle and last, to explain the importance of conservation.

Link here for a story about how the Tibetans stopped killing tigers for their skins almost overnight - after an appeal from the Dalai Lama in late 2005, who pointed out that killing endangered species is against the tenets of Buddhism.

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