What ordinary people should know about Buddhism

I've spent a significant portion of my life studying and practicing Buddhism, mostly by accident. It's one of the few things that sets me apart from other people. Here's what I've learned:

1. Buddhism is a religion. A lot of people really like to downplay this fact by calling it a "philosophy" or "way of life". I am pretty sure they do this because religion is an icky, gross, and judgmental force at work in the world that needs to be abolished. Nonetheless, there are tenants, dogmas, practices, articles of faith, and as much variation within and between traditions as there is in the various forms of Christianity. The religion grew up around the teachings and servers as a vessel that carries them from one generation to the next.

2. Without rebirth and Nirvana there would be no need for Buddhism or the Buddha's teachings. The basic premise is that our current lives are the results of causal processes beyond our control. We have the power to shape these processes to some extent, but ultimately we all grow old and die. That wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the reality of rebirth. This life in this body is just one in a long chain of lives, each laying the groundwork for the next. The process is more dynamic than linear, but the general pattern of birth, aging, illness, and death over and over again holds. Nirvana is release from that cycle.

3. The Four Nobel Truths are a framework through which to view your actions. The pleasure and pain you experience in any given moment of your life is resulting from your past and present actions. You can train yourself to act in such as way that you gain freedom from your tendency to create both pleasure and pain. When you view your actions through this framework the world really starts to look like a different place. You also start to get much better results. Any given action is either a cause of pleasure and pain, or part of the path that leads to release from pleasure and pain. Any given experience is either an experience of pleasure and pain, or an experience of release from pleasure and pain.

4. The purpose of meditation is to look at your actions so you can better understand how they create the chains of cause and effect that is your life. Mastery over your actions means freedom from these chains. The Buddha did not teach people to just be in the present moment and let their thoughts drift by like clouds in the sky. He taught people to pay close attention to how their actions shape their present experience.

5. You need faith to practice Buddhism. Specifically, you need faith that your actions matter and that you can learn from them. It also helps to have faith that what the Buddha said about Rebirth and the Deathless (Nirvana) is true. Why should you think it might be true? I don't know why you should but here's why I do:

Consider the vast array of difference in human lives. While I sit here and type this in a comfortable apartment, someone else starves to death, while another has an orgy with teenage girls in a mansion. While I was born to a middle class American family, another person was born in poverty stricken Africa, and still another was born into the international Billionaire class. Why so much variation? Either our births and our lives are random, god loves some of his children a lot more than others, or we sow the seeds of our births and shape the course of our lives ourselves.​
I am fairly certain any other attempt to address the realities I just described would reduce down to one of those three options but I am open to feedback and criticism on that point as it is pretty much the foundation of my beliefs.

That's it. That's what I have to say.
 
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Moon Dolphin

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Very nicely said. As a Theosophist, I have found the rationality of Buddhism to be extremely helpful as a working guide for my actions. I know we can make it better for everyone around us by being conscious of our actions and thus, we can make it better for everyone overall and potentially alleviate much of the suffering that does occur.
 
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Very nicely said. As a Theosophist, I have found the rationality of Buddhism to be extremely helpful as a working guide for my actions. I know we can make it better for everyone around us by being conscious of our actions and thus, we can make it better for everyone overall and potentially alleviate much of the suffering that does occur.

What is a Theosophist?
 

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I believe that there is mystic truth in every religion. Humans (and others) are psychic antennae, and some of us travel to the Other Side easily. It is very difficult to interpret and indeed to express what we encounter on the Other Side, but each journey or prophecy shows a fragment of the truth. These truths may be buried by those who seek to control (for whatever reason) the behaviour of humanity, but the mystic essence remains in many teachings. By studying all faiths, I believe that I can understand more of the truths, even if I can only see the outline.
In short, being a Theosophist (to me) is being eclectic as opposed to dogmatic, freely picking and choosing from all beliefs, using my own heart as a guide.
I don't see a difference between science and magic, it is all an attempt to understand our place in reality and an attempt to understand our relationship to the Other.
 
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All of what you said is interesting. I've lately developed a small interest in other belief systems, religions, and philosophies (since I'm not religious I have no preconceived notions)

4. The purpose of meditation is to look at your actions so you can better understand how they create the chains of cause and effect that is your life. Mastery over your actions means freedom from these chains. The Buddha did not teach people to just be in the present moment and let their thoughts drift by like clouds in the sky. He taught people to pay close attention to how their actions shape their present experience.
My understanding of meditation is from the lens of Dharana in vedic traditions. Dharana seems to be attainable from even doing daily activities, but over 5000 years breath (pranayama) and posture (asana) were developed as the most common methods to help in achieving this.
Even outside the search for enlightenment/moksha, many forms of meditation are very useful for depression, ADHD, and anxiety.
There's more weird stuff as you get into the weeds of Advaita vedanta (practically vedic gnosticism), but there's also some useful tools to see our minds in a different way than we do here in the west, like the model of antahkarana

Do you have a teacher, @Agoras Vagabond ? I feel like most elements in these religions need direct teaching
 
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All of what you said is interesting. I've lately developed a small interest in other belief systems, religions, and philosophies (since I'm not religious I have no preconceived notions)


My understanding of meditation is from the lens of Dharana in vedic traditions. Dharana seems to be attainable from even doing daily activities, but over 5000 years breath (pranayama) and posture (asana) were developed as the most common methods to help in achieving this.
Even outside the search for enlightenment/moksha, many forms of meditation are very useful for depression, ADHD, and anxiety.
There's more weird stuff as you get into the weeds of Advaita vedanta (practically vedic gnosticism), but there's also some useful tools to see our minds in a different way than we do here in the west, like the model of antahkarana

Do you have a teacher, @Agoras Vagabond ? I feel like most elements in these religions need direct teaching

Yes, Ajaan Geoff also known as Thanisarro Bhikkhu. The tradition is Thai forest. You can view his talks and writings at www.dhammatalks.org. The arrangement is informal because I never ordained, but I've known him and many of his students for over ten years at this point.

There are a lot of different meditation techniques. I keep things simple. My point is the framework and purpose of the practice as the Buddha taught it. We aren't after peak experiences or just being in the now, we meditate to see our actions clearly.
 
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so basically, simulation hypothesis is just the baby version of buddhism?

It depends on which version of that hypothesis you believe, but I find it easy to draw comparisons between the two given the time and place of my birth.

The world as it is experienced by your senses is real, but your mind is adding all sorts of extra things that aren't actually there. Skillful actions that engage with the world as it actually is can produce results totally out of line with your expectations of what's actually possible. To some extent, the thoughts you think and actions you take, or really the intentions you hold are the code you inject.

The process of rebirth is a bit like new game plus but without the positive connotations or the ability to reliably choose when and where you respawn. Your actions in this game lay the groundwork for your starting place in the next. In fact, actions from several games back can impact your current play through without you realizing it.
 

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I highly recommend reading this sutra for anyone looking to know more about Buddhism. It perfectly encapsulates the roots of the religion and pretty much every existing sect holds it in high regard.
The Heart Sutra is a Mahayana text written down about a thousand years after the Buddha's mission. I've never heard anyone in the Thai Forest tradition quote it. A quick read suggests it is emphasizing a refined state of concentration that often precedes the final release of Nirvana. Outside of the mantra at the end, the text doesn't contain any useful instructions. Mantras like that are useful touch stones, but if that's the only tool in your tool kit you aren't going to get very far.
 

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I've spent a significant portion of my life studying and practicing Buddhism, mostly by accident. It's one of the few things that sets me apart from other people. Here's what I've learned:

1. Buddhism is a religion. A lot of people really like to downplay this fact by calling it a "philosophy" or "way of life". I am pretty sure they do this because religion is an icky, gross, and judgmental force at work in the world that needs to be abolished. Nonetheless, there are tenants, dogmas, practices, articles of faith, and as much variation within and between traditions as there is in the various forms of Christianity. The religion grew up around the teachings and servers as a vessel that carries them from one generation to the next.

2. Without rebirth and Nirvana there would be no need for Buddhism or the Buddha's teachings. The basic premise is that our current lives are the results of causal processes beyond our control. We have the power to shape these processes to some extent, but ultimately we all grow old and die. That wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the reality of rebirth. This life in this body is just one in a long chain of lives, each laying the groundwork for the next. The process is more dynamic than linear, but the general pattern of birth, aging, illness, and death over and over again holds. Nirvana is release from that cycle.

3. The Four Nobel Truths are a framework through which to view your actions. The pleasure and pain you experience in any given moment of your life is resulting from your past and present actions. You can train yourself to act in such as way that you gain freedom from your tendency to create both pleasure and pain. When you view your actions through this framework the world really starts to look like a different place. You also start to get much better results. Any given action is either a cause of pleasure and pain, or part of the path that leads to release from pleasure and pain. Any given experience is either an experience of pleasure and pain, or an experience of release from pleasure and pain.

4. The purpose of meditation is to look at your actions so you can better understand how they create the chains of cause and effect that is your life. Mastery over your actions means freedom from these chains. The Buddha did not teach people to just be in the present moment and let their thoughts drift by like clouds in the sky. He taught people to pay close attention to how their actions shape their present experience.

5. You need faith to practice Buddhism. Specifically, you need faith that your actions matter and that you can learn from them. It also helps to have faith that what the Buddha said about Rebirth and the Deathless (Nirvana) is true. Why should you think it might be true? I don't know why you should but here's why I do:

Consider the vast array of difference in human lives. While I sit here and type this in a comfortable apartment, someone else starves to death, while another has an orgy with teenage girls in a mansion. While I was born to a middle class American family, another person was born in poverty stricken Africa, and still another was born into the international Billionaire class. Why so much variation? Either our births and our lives are random, god loves some of his children a lot more than others, or we sow the seeds of our births and shape the course of our lives ourselves.​
I am fairly certain any other attempt to address the realities I just described would reduce down to one of those three options but I am open to feedback and criticism on that point as it is pretty much the foundation of my beliefs.

That's it. That's what I have to say.
This is good to know! I personally don't agree with the religion, but it would be foolish to choose to remain ignorant about it. Thanks for the knowledge!
 
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