Buddhism: Basis Ideas

Branches of Buddhism

Theravada                                        Mahayana

(Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka…)                (China, Japan, Viet Nam…)

1. Enlightenment for few                vs.        Enlightenment for everyone

2. Buddha only a man                        vs.        Buddha manifestation of Absolute

3. Only one Buddha                        vs.        Many manifestations

4. Solely one’s own effort                vs.        Bodhisattvas can help

(enlightened ones who delay nirvana to come back and help others)

Nirvana: The Goal:  "Nirvana is the ultimate happiness" - The word Nirvana comes from the root meaning 'to blow out' and refers to the extinguishing of the fires of greed, hatred and delusion.

Chan/Zen: Meditation on the ‘vast emptiness’ within oneself; insight through intuition, transrational


Tibetan: Use of magical words or formulae (tantras); prayer wheels;  lamas (priest/rulers); Dalai Lama

Noble Truths:

1: Life is suffering  

2. Suffering is caused by attachment to impermanent things

3. Salvation by eliminating desire, detaching  

4. Desire is eliminated by following the Eight-Fold Path:

        Wisdom:                1. Right Understanding  

2. Right Thought

        Ethical Conduct:        3. Right Speech  

4. Right Action

5. Right Livelihood (e.g., don’t kill, lie, steal, or drink intoxicants, be pure sexually)

        Mental Discipline:         6. Right Effort  

7. Right Awareness  

8. Right Mediation                                  

Discussion Questions

1. How does Buddhism both borrow and change key Hindu concepts?

2. What is the difference between the Christian view of creation and the Buddhist view?


Buddhist Studies