I'm not a Buddhist scholar but I am a Buddhist and I like to think that I like to think.
Over the last seven years I have been pretty deeply involved in thinking about Dharma - the teachings of the Buddha, and trying to make this fit in with my personal attempts at understanding life and reality.
The Buddhism I have studied is the traditional teachings of the Buddha known as Therevadan Buddhism. I realised as soon as I started dipping my toes in this that it was much more level-headed and rational than I would have imagined; Dharma has evolved and taken up the effects of the cultures it took root in, this is never a bad thing, but, I believe, that it might make the core teachings less accessible to western rationalists, such as myself.
The following list of 3 Bulletpoints and their subs I believe captures the very core of Dharma; everything flows from the three doctrines of existence; Anicca, Anatta, Dukkha.
I have used the original Pali terms not to be pretentious but because, as an understanding will show, there simply are not the words or concepts in English to capture the essence of these complex, composite terms.
Please note that this is my interpretation and it is not complete.
Annica, Anatta and Dukka, The Three Marks of Existence
- Anicca: All causes have effects/All is impermanent
- Everything in existence changes over over time.
- All effects are causes.
- All causes have effects.
- Anatta: There is no soul/self/ego
- No Soul: The universe is self-contained and complete.
- There is no material beyond matter.
- No new ontological material or events are added to or connected with the universe it at any point in space-time.
- No Self: There is no thinker, only the thought.
- There is no central seat of experience;
- That idea is an illusion created as a by product of the fact that there are experiences.
- The totality of an individual is composed of an aggregate of the material and emergent mental sensations, experiences, thoughts and self awareness.
- Dukkha: Life is suffering
- This is the First Noble Truth, Dukka.
- Dukkha is unsatisfactoriness.
- Impermanence is Dukkha.
- Attachment to the idea of self is Dukkha
- The diminishing returns on excitement are Dukkha.
- Failed Expectations are Dukkha
- Angst and Pain are Dukkha
- Boredom is Dukkha
- Dukkha has a cause:
- This is the Second Noble Truth, Samudaya
- The precedent cause of Dukkha is the misvaluing of past and expected experience in an increasingly diminishing space of possible experiences.
- This creates a Tanha, a craving/thirst/want/attachment that necessarily has diminishing returns and cannot ever meet sustainable satisfaction criteria.
- Reducing Tanha reduces Dukkha:
- This is the Third Noble Truth, Nirodha
- All individuals have the capacity to manage their inner mental life and attempt to reduce Tanha.
- It may be possible to temporarily reduce the suffering of others but ultimately Dukkha can only be reduced from the inside.
- If Tanha is eradicated totally than Dukkha is eradicated totally (enlightenment).
- The Path to reduce suffering is The Noble Eightfold Path:
- This is the Forth Noble Truth, Magga.
- Magga divided into three domains, the Philosophical, the Moral, and the Mental
- Philosophical Development
- The Philosophical Aspect of Dharma is rich and challenging and consistent with contemporary science and philosophy.
- Right View
- To try to see the world as it really is.
- To understand Dharma and how the parts are connected.
- To be able to see Kammic Connections with increasing clarity internally and externally.
- Kamma is the complex mental/moral/physical causal web that covers human experience and interaction.
- To be able to understand becoming and the origination of becoming.
- Right Thought
- Renouncing the self to become selfless.
- Cultivating compassion and morality
- Moral Development
- The moral aspect of the path is not based on the idea of a moral absolute but rather the practical and pragmatic point that you cannot travel well on the path if you are poisoned by the kammic results and internal/external distractions of the prohibited acts.
- Right Speech
- To always speak the truth. Honesty is essential to Practice of Dharma. Lies have kammic consequences that can never be predicted and should be avoided even in cases where it is not in ones self interest (though this would not be without exception, of course)
- To speak without anger and abuse
- To speak with good intention
- Not to gossip
- Right Action
- Not to kill. The taking of life, most especially human life, is wrong.
- Not to steal
- Not to commit sexual misconduct
- Not to be intoxicated.
- Right Livelihood
- Do not partake in activities that could increase the suffering of others.
- Mental Development
- Buddhism treats the mind as a body organ that can be exercised and trained.
- Right Effort
- To analyse and eradicate disruptive mental states
- To understand and induce beneficial mental states
- Right Mindfulness
- To practice inner attentiveness.
- To be focused and aware of the sensations, perceptions and thoughts that constitute the mind
- Right Concentration
- Suppressing worry, distraction, doubt, restlessness
- One pointedness of mind
The live and better formatted version of this can be viewed in my google docs here: