Buddhism’s core beliefs

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The core beliefs of Buddhism:

Buddhism, like Christianity and most of the other great religions of the world, is divided into many different traditions. However, most of them share a common set of fundamental beliefs.

One fundamental belief of Buddhism is that people are reborn after dying. In fact, Buddhists believe that most individuals go through many cycles of birth, decades of living, death and rebirth.

Buddhists differentiate between the two concepts of rebirth and reincarnation:

  • In reincarnation, the individual may repeat lifetimes many times.
  • In rebirth, a person does not necessarily return to Earth as the same person ever again. “Rebirth” is like a leaf growing on a tree. When the withering leaf falls off, a new leaf will eventually replace it. It is similar to the old leaf, but it is not identical to it.

After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nirvana. This is a state of liberation and freedom from suffering.

The Three Trainings or Practices in Buddhism:

These three consist of:

  1. Śīla: (Sanskrit: शील) or sīla (Pāli): Virtue: right speech, right action, and right livelihood, This is based on two fundamental principles:
    bullet The principle of equality: that all living entities are equal.

    The principle of reciprocity: This is called the “Golden Rule” in Christianity — to do onto others as you would wish them to do onto you. It is a fundamental rule of behavior that is found in all major religions.

    This website contains wto report with descriptions of the Golden Rule in 22 religions:

    • Part 1: Quotes from religious texts in 14 world-wide religions from the Bahá’í Faith to Satanism.
    • Part 2: Quotes from eight more religions from Shinto to Zoroastriansm. and other sources.


  2. Samadhi: Concentration, meditation, mental development. Developing one’s mind is the path to wisdom which in turn leads to personal freedom. Mental development also strengthens and controls our mind; this helps us maintain good conduct.
  3. Prajna: Discernment, insight, wisdom, enlightenment. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.

The first two paths listed in the Eightfold Path, described below, refer to discernment; the last three belong to concentration; the middle three are related to virtue.

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The Four Noble Truths:

The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths explore human suffering. They may be described (somewhat simplistically) as:

  1. Dukkha: Suffering exists: (Suffering is real and almost universal. Suffering has many causes: loss, sickness, pain, failure, the impermanence of pleasure.)
  2. Samudaya: There is a cause for suffering. (It is the desire to have and control things. It can take many forms: craving of sensual pleasures; the desire for fame; the desire to avoid unpleasant sensations, like fear, anger or jealousy.)
  3. Nirodha: There is an end to suffering. (Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana (a.k.a. Nibbana). Then. the mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving.)
  4. Magga: In order to end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path.

The Five Precepts:

These are rules to live by. They are somewhat analogous to the second half of the Ten Commandments in Judaism and Christianity — that part of the Decalogue which describes behaviors to avoid. However, they are recommendations, not commandments. Believers are expected to use their own intelligence in deciding exactly how to apply these rules.

  1. Do not kill. This is sometimes translated as “not harming,” or an absence of violence.
  2. Do not steal. This is generally interpreted as including the avoidance of fraud and economic exploitation.
  3. Do not lie. This is sometimes interpreted as including name calling, gossip, etc.
  4. Do not misuse sex. For monks and nuns, this means any departure from complete celibacy. For the laity, adultery is forbidden, along with any sexual harassment or exploitation, including that within marriage. The Buddha did not discuss consensual premarital sex within a committed relationship; Thus, present-day Buddhist traditions differ on this. Most Buddhists, probably influenced by their local cultures, condemn same-sex sexual activity regardless of the nature of the relationship between the lesbian, gay, or bisexual persons involved.
  5. Do not consume alcohol or other drugs. The main concern here is that intoxicants cloud the mind. Some have included as a drug other methods of divorcing ourselves from reality — e.g. movies, television, the Internet. 1

Those preparing for monastic life or who are not within a family are expected to avoid an additional five activities:

 6.  Taking untimely meals.
 7.  Dancing, singing, music, watching grotesque mime.
 8.  Use of garlands, perfumes and personal adornment.
 9.  Use of high seats.
10. Accepting gold or silver.

The Eightfold Path:

The Buddha’s Eightfold Path consists of:


You may enjoy exporing other articles in this section on Buddhism:




  1. Guy Newland, Untitled essay at: http://www.chsbs.cmich.edu/
  2. Bhikkhu Bodhi, “The Noble Eightfold Path. The Way to the End of Suffering,” Buddhist Information, at: http://www.buddhistinformation.com/

Copyright © 1996 to 2020 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2020-JAN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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