Buddhism 101: The Basics

The Buddha: “The instructed disciple of the noble ones, [however,] attends carefully & appropriately right there at the dependent co-arising:
“’When this is, that is.
“’From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
“’When this isn’t, that isn’t.
“’From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.

– SN 12.61 Assutavā Sutta

The Buddha’s teachings can be summarized a few different ways. The most common in modern Buddhist doctrine is the Four Noble Truths and are recorded in the Buddha’s very first sermon. However, traditionally, another popular alternative in Buddhist history is the Three Dharma Seals. These “seals” are used to determine whether a particular teaching can be considered Buddhist or not. They also serve as a good summary of Buddhism as a whole:

  1. All phenomena are impermanent – this includes physical, material objects, but also abstract things like culture, language, emotions, states of mind and even Buddhism itself!
  2. All things exist without a static, independent “self” – all phenomena mentioned above arise due to other causes and conditions, and exist only in relation to all other phenomena. You can only be who you are through all other things.
  3. The only true, lasting peace is the state of Nirvana – Nirvana is the ultimate end-goal for all Buddhists, and only in Nirvana can one attain lasting freedom, liberation and peace of mind.

Buddhism describes all phenomena as impermanent. They arise through external causes and conditions and when those conditions are no longer viable, they fade away. Thus, it is all but impossible to maintain a permanent state of peace of mind, or a permanent state of happiness when we depend on external things. Such things will naturally fade and with it our happiness fades. Or, we simply become acclimated to them, and although they do not fade, our feelings do.

Thus, if we take refuge in our bodies, it will grow old, sick and eventually die. If we take refuge in something we like, we will inevitably be separated from it, and so on.

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