Monday, April 11, 2011

Buddhism Simplified


The analogy of what our life can be is a wheel spinning in perfect balance. When we randomly add weights to the circumference of the wheel (desires, concerns, dogma, pain, obsessions) then the wheel begins to run out of kilter. Our life becomes  tense and our health suffers; our relationships suffer. We are not happy – we do not feel fulfilled.

There are no Thou Shall and Thou Shall Not’s in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddha made no threat of hell and no promise of life after death. We must remember that the Buddhist texts (like the Bible) were not written until five hundred years after his death; and were written for a religious Asian population, who considered an ox drawn cart to be cutting technology. When you distill down to the very basics of the philosophy you will find that the Buddha only recommended a path to a fulfilled life in the present. This path is as valid today as it was in his lifetime.

The very basis of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths. This is where the Buddha addresses the root causes of a discontented life.

The 4 Noble Truths

1. Our lives are often out of balance because of self-induced stress.

2. Stress arises from our own dissatisfaction: from unquenchable desires, from our resistance to change and from the realization of our own mortality.

3. When we are capable of realizing the origin of our dissatisfaction we can bring our life back into balance

4. We may not be able to end our problems, but we can end our dissatisfaction and embark on a wholesome lifestyle by following the Eight Fold Path.

The Eight Fold Path is not an edict but a formula for wholesome living.

The Eight Fold Path
1. Right View: Focus on the NOW without concern for the past or the future. Look at the world as it really exists. Put aside all beliefs, dogmas and expectations of others. Rely on logic and your own judgment. Accept only what you see as real.

2. Right Intentions: Consciously move toward a life of enlightenment (contentment in the NOW) and insure your actions hurt no one. Realize that material objects are impermanent and should not become of major important in your life. Never allow a dissatisfaction to become an obsession. Accept the circumstances you cannot change and change the things that you are capable of changing

3. Right Speech: Speak the truth, but never speak to injure.

4. Right Actions: Apply yourself totally to the present moment. Focus only on the endeavor at hand. Harm no one. Act in harmony with the environment and with all sentient beings.

5. Right Livelihood: Seek a profession that is fulfilling and causes no harm.

6. Right Effort: Meditate. Keep your mind clear of distractions. Accept your present condition. Free yourself of dogma and religious and political cant. Show compassion for all living things. Work diligently.

7. Right Mindfulness: Cherish this moment. Recognize and put aside all prejudice. Accept that pain is sometimes a natural part of living. Be aware of the impermanents of all things.

8. Right Meditation: When random thoughts obstruct your focus on the NOW you are experiencing a monkey mind. The practice of meditation can discipline you mind and sharpen you focus. Zazen is my meditation of choice.

Can Buddhist practice solve all your problems?

A ZEN story:

A farmer approaches the Buddha who is sitting by the roadside.
Farmer: “Oh great teacher I have come to you for advice.
Buddha: “What is your need?”
Farmer: “I have many troubles. My farm is rocky and the ground is hard; I can barely raise enough to feed my family. When I am away my wife is with other men. My children do not respect me and my dog hates me. We have had too little rain this year and I have lost my rice crop; and, on top of all of this I am growing sore and stiff with age. Tell me great teacher, what can I do to be rid of my troubles?
Buddha: “Nothing.”
Farmer: “Nothing? What kind of advice is that?
Buddha: “We all have 67 troubles. If you solve one on the top another will take its place on the bottom. You will still have 67 troubles.

Yet, another ZEN story:

A man joins a monastery known to be very strict. The monks in this monastery are allowed to speak only two words every ten years. After ten years the monk comes before the abbot. “What have you got to say?” says the abbot. “Bed hard,” says the monk. Ten years later the monk again comes before the abbot. “What have you to say?” ask the abbot. “Food stinks,” replies the monk. Ten years late the monk again meets with the abbot. “What have you to say?” ask the abbot. “I quit!” replies the monk. “Well, I’m not surprised,” replies the abbot. “All you ever do is complain.”

You put your right foot out
You put your right foot in
You put your right foot out
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

The next blog will recap and bring to closure Buddhism as a lifestyle. 


  1. Sounds like a very existential philosophy to me. Wouldn't fit my needs as I must always be looking to the future especially the near future when doing what I've done. Only by focusing on the 'what ifs' have I managed to make it this far.
    I consider myself a realist. I assume everything will go to hell and plan accordingly. And no, I'm no survivalist either although I will make it somehow.

  2. Demeur;
    I know your feelings - 22 years in the military, VietNam, SERE for eight years. It's my age that brings reflection, and as I look back, I realize the necessity of survival, but it's relationships and the beauty of nature that brought pleasure to life - so keep your ass safe, but don't forget to stop and smell the rain showers in the morning - it beats the hell out of napalm .....The OlBuzzard

  3. You're definitely a man after my own heart. The codification of Christianity in the early years nailed the lid onto that particular version of wisdom teachings. Zen is wonderful but when it came time to follow a particular leaning I found the Tibetan versions of stories and meditation lessons suited me better. I have not, however, joined a physical sangha nor searched for my very own teacher. Had I been able to go to Tibet a century ago, then perhaps, but I'm not quite that old.

  4. Susan, I love your site. Thank you for the comments. I have one more blog on Buddhism and then will probably move on.
    A kindred spirit
    the OlBuzzard (bill)

  5. I've got one hand clapping over here, Ol' Buzzard. That's why you couldn't hear me.


COMMENT: Ben Franklin said, "I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false."