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Buddhism is a path of refinement in order to achieve Enlightenment.  The path can be simplistically summarized in this saying; "Hold on to nothing, treat everyone the same, do good in the work". The process to achieve this is accomplished by observing the teachings of the Buddha's Eightfold Path and understanding the depth of the "Four Noble Truths".  

One fundamental belief of Buddhism is often referred to as "Reincarnation", the concept that people are reborn after dying.  They believe that this cycle of death and rebirth continually revolves as you strive to reach an awakened state in order to be consciously aware of spiritual choices that will allow you to begin the process of refinement in order to reach higher levels of transformation.  After returning, awakening, processing, and transforming many times, if a person releases their attachment to desires and the self, they can attain "Nirvana".  This is a state of liberation and freedom from suffering.

There are three practices or trainings that will assist a person in this attainment.  The first is called "Sila": Virtue, good conduct, and morality.  This is based on two fundamental principles.

The principle of "Equality": That all living entities are equal.

The principle of "Reciprocity": This is the "Golden Rule" in
Christianity--to "do unto others as you would have them do
unto you".  This is found in all major religions.

The second is called "Samadhi": Concentration, meditiation, and 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 choose to maintain good conduct.

The Third is called "Prajna": Discernment, insight, wisdom, and enlightenment.  This is the real heart of Buddhism.  Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.  

The Four Noble Truths:

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

   Dukkha: Suffering exists.

   Samudaya: There is a cause for suffering.

   Nirodha: There is an end to suffering.

   Magga: In order to end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path:

The Buddha's Eightfold Path consists of:

  • Panna: Discernment, wisdom:

           1) Samma ditthi: Right Understanding; Of the Four Noble Truths.
           2) Samma sankappa: Right thinking; Following the right path in life.

  • Sila: Virtue, morality:

           3) Samma vaca: Right speech: No lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language.
           4) Samma kammanta: Right conduct; By following the Five Precepts.
           5) Samma ajiva: Right livelihood; Support yourself without harming others.

  • Samadhi: Concentration, meditation:

           6) Samma vayama: Right Effort; Promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts.
           7) Samma sati: Right Mindfulness; Become aware of your body, mind and feelings.
           8) Samma samadhi: Right Concentration; Meditate to achieve a higher state of consciousness.   

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 -- the part of the Decalogue which describes behaviors to avoid. However, in Buddhism they are recommendations, not commandments. Believers are expected to use their own intelligence based on their own innate sense of right and wrong in deciding exactly how to apply these rules.

   Do not kill. This is sometimes translated as "not harming" or an absence of violence.
   Do not steal. This is generally interpreted as including the avoidance of fraud and economic exploitation.
   Do not lie. This is sometimes interpreted as including name calling, gossip, etc..
   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, Buddhist traditions differ on this.
    Do not consume alcohol or other drugs. The main concern regarding this is that intoxicants cloud the mind. Some have included in their definition as a drug other methods of divorcing ourselves from reality -- e.g. movies, television, the Internet.

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