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Buddhist Philosophy

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Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

Edit this template

What is Buddhist philosophy? gives an introduction to some key points developed here. Buddhism will be explored from some of its less known attributes:

  • Influences on medicine and healing
  • Cosmology
  • Rasayana teachings
  • Development of a secular religion
  • Non-theistic ethics and morality

History edit

Buddhism often traces its religious foundation to the life and inspiration of the Shakyamuni Buddha. Buddhism has been associated with peacefulness towards others, including animals (especially the monkey), and an emphasis on meditation. Many words originally largely associated with Buddhism are now part of Western usage, for example: Zen, karma, mantra, nirvana.

What led to the Buddha's enlightenment? edit

The semi-mythological nature of the Buddha's life is also reflected in many Sufi tales of princes who gave up their kingdoms to follow paths of spiritual unfolding, although none of these stories are found in the historical record until much later and, as such, were probably influenced by the Buddha story.[1] The Buddha was born to the ruler of a small kingdom in Nepal and led a sheltered life. After seeing the four signs, he resolved to leave his life of ease and find the cause of overcoming of dissatisfaction, or dukkha. After study, ascetic and meditative practices, the Buddha developed an understanding or realization; the rest of his life was spent transmitting this realization.

Buddha expressed his philosophy quite succinctly when he said: "I teach only two things, Oh disciples: the fact of suffering, and the possibility of escape from suffering."

Buddha inspired the famous "Four Noble Truths," and the "Eightfold Path" which allows people to achieve nirvana. What is nirvana? Before this is answered, you must understand the concept of karma. Buddhist philosophy states that everything is subject to the law of karma. Buddha taught that positive actions build up one's karma, while negative ones detract from it. Buddhists try to achieve good karma and free themselves from bad karma by living a morally sound life, which is the intended outcome of the observance of Buddhist practices. Nirvana is the state of being free from mental defilements (klesha), which are chiefly hate, desire and ignorance; ignorance being the root cause of all of them. With the cessation of kleshas, all forms of suffering cease and a state of bliss and equanimity is attained. Buddhism teaches that life is part of a cycle of suffering called Samsara. If one achieves good karma, practicing the Four Noble Truths and following the Eightfold Path, then this cycle will end, and rather than being subject to the law of karma they will be free of it, living in a state of eternal happiness.

What were the Four Signs? edit

The Buddha led a leisurely and protected life within a royal palace and even fathered a child. When he, against all advice, left the palace, he encountered four manifestations, or signs, of human suffering:

  1. An old person
  2. A sick person
  3. A dead person
  4. A wandering ascetic (comparable to the Western traditions of friars, or anyone who intentionally foregoes having a home and personal possessions to pursue a richer spiritual life)

Siddhartha was affected by what he saw and resolved to find out why there was suffering, the cause of the suffering, and how to end one's suffering.

The Sanskrit word "karma" literally means "action". Hetu is the Sanskrit for "intention" and phala refers to an "effect." Karma may be either "good" (positive) or "bad" (negative), and both categories of actions have their respective phala.

What are the Four Noble Truths? edit

  1. Existence entails discomfort, or suffering (dukkha). All worldly life is unsatisfactory and disjointed.
  2. The cause of dukkha is attachment, craving or desire (tanha), collectively known as Samudāya.
  3. The cessation of dukkha comes from achieving Nirodha, the way out of suffering, which is to eliminate attachment and desire.
  4. The way leading to the cessation of dukkha (Marga): The path that leads out of suffering is called the Noble Eightfold Path.

Buddha taught that in order to achieve nirvana (Nirodha), people must free themselves from their own ego and give up all desire. Buddha claimed that by having so many desires (such as wanting pleasure, wealth, happiness, security, success, long life, etc.), we condemn ourselves to suffering, and will never escape the cycle of rebirth. This is why Buddhists believe that all suffering is self-created.[2]

What is the Eightfold Path? edit

  1. Right View/Understanding
  2. Right Thoughts
  3. Right Speech, abstaining from lying, divisive or abusive speech, and idle chatter (Sutta Nipata 45.8)
  4. Right Action, abstaining from the taking of life, stealing and fornication (Sutta Nipata 45.8)
  5. Right Livelihood, abstaining from facilitating the suffering or death of others or complicity in the same, avoiding guns and poisons or anything else which exists only to cause harm (Sutta Nipata 45.8)
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration, more commonly known as meditation

What are the Three Jewels? edit

The crowning achievements of the Buddha were:

  1. The Buddha ~ His lifetime of gaining wisdom, understanding and awakening
  2. The Teaching (Dharma) ~ The oral teachings and transmission
  3. The Community (Sangha) ~ The group of awoken teachers or disciples of the Buddha

The Thirty-One Realms (Bhumi 31) edit

Buddhism claims that there are thirty-one realms where life is found. The human realm (manussa bhumi) is one of those 31 realms, and is included among the happy realms (sugati bhumi). The realms are divided into four main categories, which are:

  1. The suffering, or sub-human, realms (apaya bhumi): Hell (niraya), the realm of the Titans (asura), the Ghost realm (peta), and the animal realm.
    • Beings are reborn here because of their bad actions in past lives.
  2. The happy realms (sugati bhumi), or realms of sense (kama bhumi): the human realm and the six realms of gods (the use of the word 'god' is not related to the Western meaning of 'God').
    • Beings are reborn here as the result of their good deeds, mainly by practicing generosity, self-restraint/virtue, and meditation.
  3. The realms of form.
    • Beings who have successfully practiced meditation to the level of rupa-jhana .
  4. The formless realms.
    • Beings who have successfully practiced meditation to the level of arupa-jhama.

What are the Six Realms? edit

The six realms are the six possible states of existence for sentient beings. There is an immense variation in the beings of each realm, but these beings will all share certain characteristics. We re-emerge in these states according to our karma. The 'lower realms' is a term used to refer to the states of Hell, hungry ghosts (petas) and animals. These three states are severely restrictive in the ability of a sentient being trapped in them to attain liberation, and because of this their suffering in Samsara is prolonged. The most basic reason for refuge is to attain a dwelling that avoids these realms.

The Heavenly, or Deva Realm edit

These are the realms of existence inhabited by the devas or 'shining ones', and are marked by experiences of bliss and pleasure for long periods of time.

This is separated into two main states of existence - those with form and those without form. The deva realms are correlated to the eight jhanas/dhyanas, which are eight distinct meditative states. The first four of which are marked by an awareness of form - such as the meditator's body, while the last four are entirely mental experiences, where sensory input to the material senses is no longer felt.

Beings gain rebirth in these realms by a combination of right conduct and/or deep meditative experience during life. Once there, they have immense lifespans, especially in the higher states, and their perception of time is similarly different to humans - with their perception of a 'day' sometimes being equal to human millenia.

Being reborn in such a state is seen as being ultimately useless, since it is temporary and there is no apparent reason to work towards liberation from Samsara. When the karma of a sentient being living in such a state begins to run out, they usually have very little merit relating to pleasurable existences remaining in their stream or consciousness, and are eventually born in one of the three lower realms. As they die, they become clearly aware of this, and such an experience is said to be worse than all the suffering that could be experienced in any of the other realms.

The conflicted realm of Titans (Asuras, the jealous gods) edit

Buddha Level: The Life of the Father, conflict between duty and resolution, the Four Signs

In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare,
terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo,
Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance.
In Switzerland they had brotherly love,
they had five hundred years of democracy and peace,
and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.

—Orson Welles, The Third Man

For thirty years people have been asking me how I reconcile X with Y!
The truthful answer is that I don't.
Everything about me is a contradiction and so is everything about everybody else.
We are made out of oppositions;
we live between two poles.
There is a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint.
You don't reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.

—Orson Welles to Kenneth Tynan, 1967

Human Developmental Stage: Early childhood

The passion or animal realm edit

Buddha Level: Training the Buddha, stupidity and servitude

The main
passions of Mohammad
were women and perfumes.
This realm is about the patterns of instinct,
the needs of the animal. For food, and interaction.
It is interesting that some systems utilize this realm as a source
of wisdom and inspiration. Acknowledgement
is part of the key rather than denial, asceticism or willful
denial or indulgence that is the Middle way

Human Developmental Stage: Adolescence

Hell Realm edit

Buddha Level: Trained and nowhere to go, wracked by torture and characterized by aggression

There is a wonderful story of a PureLand Buddhist Master who had a disturbing dream:

In the dream, the Master saw himself in the God Realm
He called his fellow monks together and with tears in his eyes
recounted the portent dream
pleading they pray that he be sent to the hell realms
to rescue the beings dwelling there.

A true Bodhisattva.

Human Developmental Stage: Young adulthood

The Craving or Hungry Spirit Realm edit

Buddha Level: The extreme ascetic, characterized by great craving and eternal starvation

Human Developmental Stage: Maturity

Human Realm edit

Buddha Level: The world transformed

Beings who are both good and evil; enlightenment is within their grasp, yet most are blinded and consumed by their desires

Human Developmental Stage: Old age

References edit

  1. Walters, Jonathan S. (February 1999). "Suttas as History: Four Approaches to the "Sermon on the Noble Quest" (Ariyapariyesanasutta)". History of Religions. The University of Chicago Press. 38 (3): 247–284. doi:10.1086/463543.
  2. "Religions - Buddhism: The Four Noble Truths". BBC. November 17, 2009. Retrieved August 25, 2022.


Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

Edit this template

The Eightfold Path edit

1. Right Understanding (or Right View, or Right Perspective)

"And what, monks, is right understanding? Knowledge with regard to suffering, knowledge with regard to the origination of suffering, knowledge with regard to the stopping of suffering, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the stopping of suffering: This, monks, is called right understanding.

2. Right Thought (or Right Intention, or Right Resolve)

"And what is right thought? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right thought.

3. Right Speech

"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.

4. Right Action

"And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, monks, is called right action.

5. Right Livelihood

"And what, monks, is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This, monks, is called right livelihood.

6. Right Effort (or Right Endeavour)

"And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen. (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.

7. Right Mindfulness

"And what, monks, is right mindfulness?

(i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself -- ardent, aware, & mindful -- putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (ii) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves -- ardent, aware, & mindful -- putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iii) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself -- ardent, aware, & mindful -- putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iv) He remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves -- ardent, aware, & mindful -- putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. This, monks, is called right mindfulness.

8. Right Concentration

"And what, monks, is right concentration? (i) There is the case where a monk -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities -- enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. (ii) With the stilling of directed thought & evaluation, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, one-pointedness of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation -- internal assurance. (iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains in equanimity, mindful & fully aware, and physically sensitive of pleasure. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain -- as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress -- he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This, monks, is called right concentration."

Buddhism's world view edit

Buddhists believe in vast number of realms, which could be categorised into the six realms of samsara, which are the:

  • Heavenly realm
  • Demi-god realm
  • Human realm
  • Animal realm
  • Hungry ghost realm
  • Hell realm

Contrary to most other cultures which looked towards heaven as the ultimate spiritual destination, Buddhists regard the human realm as the highest regarded realm of the six. Although the human realm does not appear special at first glance, it contains all the states of consciousness in the universe, from hellish suffering to divine ecstasy.

Among the lower realms, the animals are unable to intellectually understand the teachings, and the hungry ghosts and hell dwellers are gripped by pain and suffering. As for the realms above, the demi-gods are dominated with violence and jealousy, and are antithetical to the teachings of the dhamma. The heaven dwellers constantly indulge in the fruits of their past kamma, and do not concern themselves with the future.

For this reason, life in the world of human beings is known as "the precious human rebirth". Born close to the pivot point of happiness and suffering, human beings have a unique capacity for moral choices with long-term significance.

Enlightenment as an arhat can be attained from the realms of the Śuddhāvāsa deities. A bodhisattva can appear in many different types of lives, for instance as an animal or as a deva. Buddhas, however, are always human.

Summary edit

  • There is dukkha, a quality of being unstable, subjected to change, and therefore imperfect, or unsatisfactory.
  • Dhamma can refer either to the teachings of the Buddha which are conducive to spiritual improvement, or constituent factors of the worldly realm.
  • Karma explains that our actions bear consequences, both good and bad. In other words, you are responsible for your actions.
  • The Buddha teaches the doctrine of dependent origination, which states that phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause, effect and conditions. Therefore, all phenomena are insubstantial and empty of inherent property. (e.g., A cup loses its property as a cup when it breaks.)
  • Nibbāna refers to the highest spiritual attainment, where the mind is liberated, and no longer clings to worldly phenomena.


  • This is only a draft edit for the time being, and is incomplete.
  • Pali terms are used in the summary, for simplicity and readability.


Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

Edit this template

A form of mind stilling and insight-building "exercises" normally associated with sitting but also noticeably and traditionally practiced in walking, standing, and lying positions, during tantric rituals and eventually in everyday activity (this is considered "Mindfulness").

Some techniques involve focusing on the breath as the object of meditation as in anapanasati (in and out-breath). Anapanasati is a form of Samatha meditation (calm abiding). This slows the mind's distracted nature, and allows a clearer awareness of phenomena, since they are apprehended without the mind's pre-conceptions getting in the way. The Samatha is learnt and applied by followers of other religions to deepen and augment their experience, especially in religions such as Hinduism. It is used for relaxation, stress reduction, psychological relief, and well being, and is increasingly encouraged for its psychological and physical healing potential.

Meditation techniques are often separated into two categories, 'Formless' and 'Concentrative'. In concentrative meditation, the meditator attempts to focus his or her thoughts on a particular task, such as the contemplation of a particular object or the repetition of a series of sounds called a 'Mantra'. In formless meditation, one does not simply let one's mind wander, but instead attempt to remain present in the moment without subjecting it to analytical scrutiny.

Another commonly used categorization of meditation techniques in Buddhism is [Vipassana][ http://www.vipassanahawaii.org/introtomindfulnessmeditation] [1] (insight meditation) and samatha (calm meditation). In every Buddhist meditation, there has to be two factors: concentration and wisdom. The difference between 'vipassana' and 'samatha' meditation is that in the former wisdom is the main factor while in the latter concentration is the main one. But it should be understood that these two factors must coexist in a meditation. What is meant by wisdom here is the understanding of the nature of the object. For example, when practicing anapanasati (awareness to the in-and out breath), fully knowing when the breath goes in and out (without interval) is concentration, while knowing whether it is gross or calm, long or short is the wisdom.

One of the first written Buddhist meditation techniques appears in the Anapanasati Sutta. This text, part of the Pali canon, describes a method that begins by using the breath to still bodily emotions and ultimately culminates in full realization. Given the importance accorded to the contemplation of the breath in early Buddhist texts, the practice has become central to most schools of Buddhism. Focusing on the breath as the object of meditation combines a little of both the concentrative and formless approaches to meditation. One can remain closely aware of the breath, as in concentrative meditation, or simply use consciousness of the breath to restrain the mind when it starts to wander.

Some schools, however, teach other methods of concentrative meditation that either replace, or are used in combination with, contemplation of the breath. Some teach students to fix their consciousness on an object, such as a flower or an image of the Buddha. Other forms of Buddhist meditation involve directed mental activity, in which one actively ponders or analyzes certain Buddhist philosophical doctrines. Still others involve visualization exercises thought to stimulate the movement of psychic energies within the body.

One of the most often emphasized aspects of Buddhist practice is the integration of the experience of meditation into our everyday consciousness. To this end, some schools recommend meditating with the eyes open, and most include some form of walking meditation as part of their recommended practices. Exact meditation techniques vary from school to school and are often hotly debated. Yet all agree that meditation loses its value if the lessons and experiences of sitting are not integrated into our day to day lives.

It is important to note that the terms 'concentrate' and 'focus' are frequently used in English descriptions of meditation, but these can be highly misleading. The aim is not to have a tightly focussed mind holding on to a particular object, but to have a loose awareness of the object that doesn't meander away. External phenomena are not actively blocked out, but the mind unwaveringly holds gently to the object being meditated on. Meditation is not about entering another dimension or being out-of-control, meditation is about focussing all of our consciousness in one point, continuously. This is a form of a very great concentration, which when highly developed, have the power to burn the darkness and illusion of things, so that we come to see 'things as they really are'. To see 'things are they really are' is the main goal of Buddhism.

Stages of Concentration edit

There are three stages of concentration (or commonly two, but here we will use three stages for completeness):

  • Parikamma (introductory stage), when we start sitting to meditate, the mind is still gross, this is the introductory practice.
  • Upacara (access concentration), when we are able to concentrate our mind to the object, for as long as we want, without any interval when our mind gets unconcentrated.
  • Appana (deep concentration), or commonly known as Jhana. This level is hard to describe, because Jhana is something beyond the world of sense (kamavacara-bhumi). The difference between the stage of appana and that of upacara is that the upacara stage is weak. It can easily be destroyed by internal or external distractions (for example: sound). But appana stage is strong. The upacara stage is like a baby learning to walk, but appana is like an adult who can walk steadily.

Meditation is something that can increase good karma.You will be reborn with a good record.


Mindfulness is an advanced form of awareness and attention in many Buddhist schools. in Zen shikantaza practitioners "just sit" in a state of conscious awareness. In Vajrayana dzogchen and mahamudra practice, abiding in the non-dual state of rigpa is constant mindfulness.


example Suttra

Kalama Sutta edit


Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them.

Now, Kalamas, one who is a disciple of the noble ones — thus devoid of greed, devoid of ill will, undeluded, alert, & resolute — keeps pervading the first direction [the east] — as well as the second direction, the third, & the fourth — with an awareness imbued with good will. Thus he keeps pervading above, below, & all around, everywhere & in every respect the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with good will: abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.


  • 1. Wisdom and insight do not come 'from the outside' from anyone or anything else, including discursive reason--to be meaningful, insight must be experiential.
  • 2. One's own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one's feelings. Instead, any view or belief must be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and — to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one's understanding of those results — they must further be checked against the experience of people who are wise.
  • 3. Conjecture is influenced by your own knowledge, thoughts and experiences and is logically what your mind expects to be in that gap. It is not something you have proven or tested to be true by your own experiences, as the Buddha encourages you to do, and therefore you should not allow conjecture to fill in those gaps without knowing that the gap is being filled correctly with something you know to be correct and can be tested by you to be correct.
  • 4. Here's the Buddha's list of things to not rely upon:

Reports from others Legends Traditions Scripture Logical reasoning Logical inference Analogies Agreeing with other views Calculating probability Or relying on what a teacher says

Three questions: (1) What do all these things have in common? (2) What one thing is not on that list? (3) What makes that one missing thing different from all the other things listed above?

There is an important aspect of Socrates which helps understanding here... Socrates (via Plato's earliest dialogues) makes an important distinction between 'opinion' (doxa) and 'knowledge' (episteme). For Socrates, most people live by opinion and rarely (if ever) possess actual knowledge. It is important not to misunderstand Socrates here though--generally accepted facts, such as 'The sky is blue,' or 'The speed of light is 186,000 per second' etc. are opinion, not knowledge. Socratic knowledge means direct insight--it isn't having information about something else 'out there' somewhere. In other words, Socratic knowledge is direct insight gained by one's own experience, not just agreeing with a set of propositions. This is why Socrates says (in Plato's Symposium): 'How nice it would be if wisdom were the kind of thing that could flow from what is more full into what is more empty.'

In this respect, there is some degree of commonality with the Kalama Sutta.

The fundamental problem is to mistake a concept about something for unmediated experiential insight (even if those concepts are 'objectively' true!). We commonly make the mistake that when one possesses a correct idea about something, the problem is resolved, and therefore there is no reason for further inquiry. This might be true for limited problems, such as fixing a car, building a house, handling a budget--but the problem of suffering is not so straightforward.

The Kalama Sutta, in context, goes much further than the commonly bandied notion that Buddhism allows for a free-for-all just believe what you want to and chuck out the parts that don't fit in with a modern western scientific viewpoint. That sounds very appealing, especially to westerners who are sceptical of religious metaphysical claims that don't square away with science. But such a narrow interpretation misses the point which is this: anything less than your own experential insight is insufficient to lessen suffering.

You can't rely on anyone or anything else in this, even if it were true. You have to give birth to your own insight--it cannot be reproduced or duplicated. (Incidentally, this explains much of the stick-hitting in Zen--your response to a given situation indicates that it is not authentic, but still reliant on logic or scripture or the teacher, etc.) Buddhism isn't about believing its doctrines provide a true picture of reality. Rather, the doctrines of Buddhism are methods designed to help cultivate insight and so end suffering. Anything less is to get caught up in a thicket of views, from creationism to evolution and a wide range of other topics. Even if the Big Bang theory were true and the fundamentalists were wrong, what good does that do in terms of the Four Noble Truths?

The point then is not to replace incorrect concepts with correct concepts, but that hanging onto any concepts itself is ultimately an obstacle to wisdom. No matter how crude or refined, true or false, conceptual thinking is inadequate and superficial--it is a cheap substitute for wisdom. Clinging to concepts may even preempt necessary self-inquiry. If I already possess the right answers, why should I bother to ask myself any other questions?

The Buddha is inviting the Kalamas to look in their own experience to determine what is harmful and what is not. Wisdom is not information about something 'out there,' but something discovered in oneself. 'To study the Buddha way is to study the self...' (Dogen)



Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

Edit this template

Most of the 9 early schools of Buddhism have been lost. Therevada, the tradition of 'The Elders' is one surviving model. Schools such as Zen trace their roots through, Ch'an and the Indian monk Bodhidharma, who was a patriarch of the Dhyana school of direct meditation.
Tantra and other forms of Esoteric Buddhism trace their heritage to earlier or other lineages of enlightened Buddhas.

Theravada edit

Theravada (pronounced -- more or less -- "tay-rah-VAH-dah"), the "Doctrine of the Elders," is the school of Buddhism that draws its scriptural inspiration from the texts of the Pali Canon, or Tipitaka, which scholars generally accept as containing the earliest surviving record of the Buddha's teachings. For many centuries, Theravada has been the predominant religion of continental Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos) and Sri Lanka; today Theravada Buddhists number over 100 million worldwide. In recent decades Theravada has begun to take root in the West. 'definition from Accesstoinsight'

Ch'an and Zen (禅宗) edit

Started from the Dhyana school by the conglomerate, legendary Bodhidharma whose attributed works include:

  1. The Outline of Practice
  2. The Bloodstream Sermon
  3. The Wake-Up Sermon
  4. The Breakthrough Sermon

The lineage of this school comes from a legendary sermon of the Buddhas which consisted of raising a flower, leading to the instant understanding of one attendee who then founded what was to become Zen.

Zen Ox Herding pictures

Soto (曹洞宗) edit

see also Caodong.

Rinzai (臨済宗) edit

Shingon edit

Japanese school of esoteric Buddhism started by Kukai who studied esoteric Buddhism in China from 804 to 806. He developed his own synthesis of esoteric practice and doctrine, centred on the cosmic Buddha Vairocana, held to be identical with the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu.

Kukai combined the cosmic Buddha Vairocana with the Ultimate Reality, thus producing a composite figure embodying all being.

Most notable treatise is the Sokushin-jobutsugi (The Doctrine of Becoming a Buddha with One's Body During One's Earthly Existence).

Two sacred mandalas presenting diagrammatically the two aspects of Vairocana, the Diamond World (kongo-kai) and Womb World (taizo-kai) are placed on Shingon altars.

Pure Land edit

Pure Land Buddhism is based upon the Pure Land sutras first brought to China circa 150, which describe Amitabha, an ancient Buddha. This concept, personified or otherwise, can be translated variously but is usually shortened to "Amituo" or "Amitofo" in Chinese (阿彌陀佛, Mandarin wg O1 Mi2 T'o2 Fo2), "Amida" in Japanese and "Amito" in Korean.

Although the Infinite Life Sutra, or Longer Pure Land Sutra, was translated in to Chinese by the royal Kuchean monk Po-Yen as early as 258, the Pure Land school first became prominent with the founding of a monastery upon the top of Mount Lushan by Hui-yuan in 402. It spread throughout China quickly and was systematized by Shan-tao (613-681). The philosophy spread to Japan and slowly grew in prominence. Honen Shonin (1133-1212) established Pure Land Buddhism as an independent sect in Japan, known as Jodo Shu. Today Pure Land is the dominant form of Buddhism in Japan.

Contemporary Pure Land traditions see the Buddha Amitabha preaching the Dharma in his buddha-field (sa. buddhakchetra), called the "Pure Land" (zh. 净土, pinyin jìngtǔ, jp. 浄土 jodo) or "Western heaven" (zh. 西天), a region offering respite from karmic transmigration. In such traditions, entering the Pure Land is popularly perceived as equivalent to the attainment of nirvana.

In fact, the main idea behind Pure Land Buddhism is that nirvana is no longer practical nor possible to attain in our present day. Instead, devotion to Amitabha will gain one enough karmic merit to go to the Pure Land (reminiscent of Heaven) from which Nirvana will be easier to attain, because in this paradise there are no negative experiences so no new negative karma is created. Existing negative karma would disappear.

Some Pure Land Buddhists have taught that in order for a devotee to be reborn in Amitabha's Western Paradise, they should chant or repeat a mantra or prayer to Amitabha as often as possible to reinforce a proper and sincere state of mind (ex: J. Namu Amida butsu). This fairly simple form of veneration has contributed greatly to its popularity, especially in Japan.

Soka Gakkai edit

Mikkyo edit

Tendai edit

Nichiren edit

Tibetan edit

Rime edit

Kadampa edit

Nyingma edit

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Gelukpa edit

Neo-Bön edit

Kagyu edit

Yogācāra edit

Yogacara (also known as Cittamatra) is a philosophical school that has its origins in India with the monk Asanga who worked alongside his brother, arya Vasubandhu to compile a set of texts on teachings passed to him from the Bodhisattva Maitreya.

The teachings have several important elements to them that have influenced many schools of practice, especially the Zen schools and the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

The first important aspect of Yogacara, which lead to its alternative name Cittamatra ("mind only") is the relation of phenomena (dharmas) to the mind. The Yogacarins point out that the only way we know of the existence of phenomena is from a subjective perception of them. It is only through the six senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and thought) that a human is aware of anything. In a similar way to the Idealists such as Bishop Berkeley, the Yogacarins ask "how do we know there's actually an objective world 'out there'? What is its relation to the mind?"

Buddhist philosophy of the mind normally breaks the mind and body into eighteen parts, called the dhatus. We are aware of six different kinds of phenomena. These are objects of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and thought. Objects of thought include discursive thoughts, emotions etc. The mind that perceives these can therefore be broken down into six 'sense-minds', one for each sense object. In addition, there are six organs of perception; the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind-organ.

The yogacarins state that the object sensed and the respective sense-organs are intimately linked, and in fact arise from the same cause.

The analysis of how they arise is linked to another important concept the Yogacara introduced; the storehouse consciousness (alayavijnana). This answers the question of ‘where are karmic seeds (bija) stored before coming into fruition?’ Since there is a delay between most actions and their corresponding results, the mental karmic seed that will produce a result in the future must reside somewhere. The storehouse consciousness is the Yogacarin’s answer to this. The alayavijnana is where the collection of seeds resides, and also answers the questions relating to the eighteen dhatus. A single karmic seed that comes into fruition grows from where it is stored in the mind-stream’s alaya, and produces ‘’both’’ the sense consciousness and the object it is consciousness. In this way the eighteen dhatus grow from the alaya and therefore all parts of being arises from their own storehouse consciousness under the influence of the karma they have accrued.

In addition to the seven parts of the mind (six senses, plus alaya) the Yogacarins posit another part of the mind, the conceptual mind: the ‘’manas’’. This is the parts of the mind-stream that intellectualise and discriminate phenomena in an incorrect, ignorant way, and sees phenomena as being objectively real and separate from the being that perceives them.

One more important concept taught by the Yogacara is the three levels of truth. There can be said to be three levels of understanding. The first is the completely erroneous view of phenomena having self nature - an objective, permanent nature that is not dependent. The second view, which is correct according to the relative truth of how things function, is that phenomena are subject to dependent origination. All phenomena arise from causes; the mechanism by which this happens is therefore the fruition of the seeds held in the alayavijnana. Then there is the third level of truth, which is the ultimate nature of reality according to the Yogacara. This is that consciousness is the ultimate nature of things, since it is consciousness that gives rise to them. There is nothing that does not ultimately come from consciousness. This is the Yogacara interpretation of emptiness.

There are several misconceptions about the Yogacara school. The first is that all things exist in some kind of cosmic consciousness. This is the view of some Hindu schools, for example, but it is not the Yogacara view. Each mind-stream has its own separate alaya, and the extent to which the experiences of any two beings overlap (which is an important question with relation to the six realms of existence) is due to the extent that the karma of those two beings. Similar karmic patterns in the mind produce an experience that is similar.

The second is that the school is a completely Idealistic one; that physical reality doesn’t exist at all. This is incorrect, since on the relative level they do exist. It is their origin that is tied to the mind; as no object arises without the storehouse consciousness producing it alongside the sense organs and sense consciousnesses to perceive it.

Madhyamaka edit


Tantra edit

Esoteric Buddhism

Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

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Mahayana Dictum - "Emptiness is form and form is emptiness" can be expressed as a formula:
Esoteric Buddhist Schools include: Tendai, Shingon, Tantric and are the antithesis of the Yinyana and other open systems. Often based on supernatural teachings incorporating traditional beliefs (and superstitions), they nonetheless integrate some depth psychology and healing methods.

Introduction edit

Esoteric Buddhism is generally classified under the Great Vehicle (Mahayana) Buddhism. There are two parts to it: the Exoteric and the Esoteric Buddhism. In order for us to understand Esoteric Buddhism, we need to explore the origins as well the constituent philosophy and historical context of how the respective schools were established.

Exoteric Buddhism is based on Madhyamika ('middle way') of Nagarjuna.

Esoteric Buddhism requires the study of Exoteric Buddhism as the foundation. Esoteric Buddhism is taught to practitioners as an 'advanced' dharma.

Doctrine edit

The doctrine of the Esoteric (or Tantric) Buddhism is based on Mahavairocana-sutra, and Kalacakraindriya-sutra. The following may best explain the doctrine:

  • Taking the six elements as essence
  • Five Wisdom Buddhas
  • Taking the four mandalas as appearance
  • Taking the three secrets as means
  • Cause, base, final means
  • Anger and fear

Reference edit

Lecture delivered by Master Sheng-yen on Esoteric and Exoteric Buddhism

Article by A. P. Sinnett Esoteric Buddhism


Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

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Buddhism as a form moves from realization to crystallization

Diamond teachings and other hardening's are the inevitable outcome

In Tantra developments a concentrated relationship with an idealized Guru, Christ or Prophet should exist with a mature understanding of the fiction our mind creates.

The power and inspiration is real The source comes from our own creation

This fundamental difference between external reality and projected fantasy may lead to obsessive inclination and manipulation

If you can click your fingers and your deity is gone, then you are awake. Otherwise you are trapped by a benign demon of your creation.

In Buddhism, Truth is seen as personal and therefore ranges from belief in many gods to One God through to agnosticism and atheism. God is not a central issue in Dharma (Buddhist doctrine) being outside of genuine independent experience or comprehension. Of greater concern is one's actual knowable (and redeemable) situation. In other words how to improve the current experience for oneself and others without recourse to the fantasy of future lives, heavens, purelands or other escapist delusions for the spiritually fragile.

Spiritual faculties are discriminative without labels of personal preference Real perceptions express the positive in their inherent nature

As well as the obvious recognizable effects of the enlightened there is also the hidden or invisible legacy:

1. Improved and new behaviour:

a. social cohesion

b. psychological health

c. dispersion of negative into appropriate channels

2. New thoughts and ways of thinking

a. encouragement of learning

b. improvement of human aspiration and potential

c. development of deeper understanding on all levels

3. Collection, concentration and dispersal of virtue

a. the store of goodness is attracted and accumulated

b. personal contact disperses the quality throughout

c. the sum total of goodness is increased

External links edit


Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

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Well Known Buddhists edit

  1. Dalai Lama ~ Tulku, embodiment of Compassion
  2. Thich Nhat Hanh ~ Runs Plum Village in France, nominated for a Nobel peace prize
  3. Zen Master Seung Sahn http://www.kwanumzen.org

Who are the Hinayana? edit

Hinayana is a term meaning "smaller" or "lower" vehicle.
In order to be classified as following Hinayana, a practitioner must be practicing in order to achieve the nirvana of the hearer (shravaka) or solitary realiser (pratyekabuddha). The motivation of bodhicitta, the wish to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all beings, is absent in these schools, although it may be mentioned in relation to those who actually attained buddhahood. When the aim is buddhahood, a practitioner is following Mahayana.
There are two main divisions of the Hinayana, the Sautrantika (sutra-ists) and the Vaibhashika (detailists), as compared to the two main divisions of the Mahayana: Yogachara and Madhyamika. The philosophies of the Hinayana schools are collected in the Abhidharmakosha (Compendium of Higher Knowledge) by master Vashubandhu, the brother of Asanga.
The term 'Hinayana' is often thought to refer to the Theravada school, which developed historically from the Sthaviravada, and the main texts of which are preserved in the Pali language. This is frequently a source of contention, as the term, especially among Western practitioners, has negative connotations. In the Tibetan tradition, among others, the Hinayana is considered a vital and important stage of practice, and one to be thoroughly learnt before embarking on the Bodhisattva path. Indeed, the fourteenth Bodhisattva vows is to refrain from disparaging the Hinayana. To do so is to have committed a root downfall.
Neither the term Hinayana, or Shravakayana as it is sometimes called, are terms that are considered "politically correct" to use, but unfortunately a proper history of the developments of the Buddha's teachings is not possible without their use.

Western Developments edit

The Beat poets of the 40's and 50's popularised Zen in particular but the roots of Buddhism in the West can be traced back to the Theosophical movement in Great Britain, to earlier esoteric orders and the medieval mystery plays of Europe.

Future Developments edit

Integrated and adaptive systems introduced into the core values suggest the need for a new dharma revelation of the future. Traditionally this new Buddha is known as the Maitreya. Meanwhile many utilize the traditional and simple pragmatism of Buddhism to enhance their life experience. Buddhism is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end.

Medicine and Healing edit

The medicine Buddha practices and the body strengthening of Shaolin are two widely known healing methods.

Buddhist Cosmology edit

Buddhist Rasayana edit

The Development of a Secular religion edit

Non Theistic Ethics and Morality edit


Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

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Things are not as they appear, nor are they otherwise.

Space can contain everything, but space does not entertain the thought that it can contain everything.

Samsara and Nirvana are the same - Normalisation of attainment for the arisings

If you meet the Buddha on the road - Kill him - Attachment to obstacles goes all the way to the top


Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

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Contents: Top - 0–9 A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Glossary edit

A edit

Arisings - What comes up in meditation or disturbs ones stream of consciousness.

Amitaba - A Buddha venerated by all Mahayana schools, particularly Pure Land. Represents the True Mind. Alternately spelled "Amitahba".

Anatta - A state where no soul or consciousness exists.

Arahat - Buddhist equivalent of a saint. One who has attained liberation from cyclic existence. Alternately spelled "arhat".

Avalokitesvara - Buddhist embodiment of compassion. Kwan Yin. Chenresig. Dalai Lama.

Attachment - Root cause of suffering

B edit

Buddha Nature - The potential of any sentient being which permits them to attain Buddhahood.

Buddha - "The Awakened One". "The Enlightened one".

Bardo - The intermediate existence between death and the next rebirth.

Bhikkhu - Mendicant/A male ordained into the Buddhist order. A monk.

Bhikkhuni - Female equivalent of "Bhikkhu". A female ordained into the Buddhist order. A nun.

Bodhi - Perfect knowledge or wisdom.


Bodhisattva - Anyone who has the aspiration to save oneself and others.

C edit

Causality - the notion that indicates the apparent nature of things - one or more phenomena are caused by one or more phenomena, and cause themselves one or more phenomena. Any phenomena appears to have causes and effects. See Dependant Arising and Emptiness below.

Citta - Mind or heart, the terms being synonymous in Buddhism.


Conventional Truth - This indicates that the notions and objects and generally all phenomena is only conventional, it ultimately does not exist. But in order to explain this to beings that rely on notions and objects, it is necessary to use notions and objects. Therefore, as a base to understanding the lack of an established nature for all phenomena, it is said that the phenomena exist - but only as conventions between beings, as learned habits of interpretation of perceptions and memories. See Causality, Dependant Arising, Emptiness on this page.

D edit

Dana - giving, gift, alms-giving, alms, generosity, charity, benevolence, liberality, donation.

Dharini - Extended mantra used in esoteric branch of Buddhism .


Dependant Arising - indicates that any phenomena that appears to exist arises in dependence with causes (and conditions, which can be seen as causes as well). This proves that none of the objects, beings, notions, perceptions, etc. we consider to exist has an established existence, but it is a non-separable "part" of a "flow" that is the whole Existence. The notions of "part", "flow" and "Existence" are also subject to this dependent arising. There is no single phenomena that can be established independently, completely separate from all other phenomena. See Causality and Emptiness on this page.

Deva - A shining one, god, deity

Dharma - The Doctrine, The Law, nature, the Truth.

Dukkha - Suffering, misery, woe, pain, ill, sorrow, trouble, discomfort, unsatisfactoriness

Dhyana - The practice of concentration.

Diamond Sutra - part of the Prajnaparamita Sutra shows that all phenomenal appearances are not ultimate reality but rather illusions, projections of one's own mind.

E edit

Emptiness - in the Buddhist context, corresponds to the Sanskrit word "shunyata". It indicates the fundamental nature of all phenomena, which are empty of any conceivable notions and characteristics. It indicates that ALL that appears to exist is void of ANY kind of existence. For the humans' sake, in order to make this notion more understandable, it is sometimes said that the Reality exists only as a concept in a being's mind - which is somewhat similar to saying it doesn't exist at all in any way that one may believe it exists. In the human world this can be easily proved by observing that all phenomena are causally determined by others, and their form and/or status is defined in relationship with others, and so on, without being able to determine a single phenomena which can serve as an independent base for definitions. See Causality and Dependant Arising above.

J edit

Jhana - meditation, trance, ecstasy, absorption, a state of serene contemplation attained by meditation.

Jnana - trancendental, non-conceptual wisdom.

K edit

Karma - Movement of the mind, producing actions of body, speech or thought

Kalpa - An aeon, world cycle.

L edit

Lobha - Greed, covetousness.

Loka - the World, a world, plane of existence.

M edit

Mantra - literally: "thing that protects the mind". A sequence of syllables for training the mind and meditating on Buddhas/Bodhisattvas, and in esoteric teachings, for shaping the flow of the subtle winds (prana) in some forms of yoga.

Metta - Loving kindness,good will, friendliness.

N edit

Nirvana - the extinction of the fires of greed, hatred and ignorance. A state of having destroyed all kleshas.

Non-duality - the real nature of things. The impossibility to establish ANY phenomena as separate and independent, and therefore to separate completely one "this" and one "other", without finding any common cause or a link between them, no matter how deep we search.

Non-self - the notions of Emptiness and Dependent Arising also apply to what we consider to be our "self". This self is also causally determined by causes in the past. Moreover, the non-duality can also be applied to the selves. This finding is particular to the Buddhist religion, and a central point in its Doctrine. It is the finding that destroys egoism, since this is based on the concept of self, which is invalid. Greed and hatred are also useless since they have no base to rely on.

P edit

Pali Canon - Form of agreed written tradition constructed 400 years after Buddhas death from oral stories , comprising the Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidamma pitaka.

Papa - evil, wrong action, demerit, bad.

Paramita - Perfection, lit. "that which carries/ferries across".

Prajna - Conceptual wisdom.

Puja- worship (external and mental, honour, veneration, homage, devotional offering.

R edit

Ratanattaya - the Triple Gem, the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha.

Rigpa - the primordial, nondual awareness described in Dzogchen instruction.

Rupa - matter, form, material body, shape, appearance, corporeality.

S edit

Shraddha - faith, confidence.

Sala - preaching hall or room

Samadhi - Concentration, contemplation, absorption.

Samsara - the Round of Rebirth, Cycle of Existence, the Suffering.

Sangha - Community of monks.

Sila - Morality.

T edit

Tantra - Esoteric Buddhism.

Tathagata - Thus gone one. Appellation for Buddha Shakyamuni.

Two Truths

U edit

Ultimate Truth

Upadana - attachment, clinging.

Upasaka - male lay follower of buddhism.

Upasika - female equivalent of 'Upasaka'.

V edit

Vedana - sensation, feeling.

Vihara - A monastery, temple.

Vinaya - "Discipline". That (behavior, rules etc.) which is conducive to dispelling Samsara.

Vipassana - insight intuitive vision, introspection, contemplation, insight development.

Viriya- effort, energy, vigour, endeavour, exertion.

W edit

Wat (Thai) - Monastery, temple.

References and Links

Buddhist Philosophy

  1. Introduction
  2. Details
  3. Meditation
  4. Mindfulness
  5. Sutra
  6. Schools
  7. Esoteric Buddhism
  8. Yinyana
  9. Developments
  10. Glossary
  11. Quips
  12. References and Links

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References edit