Written by Edna Lake
Buddhism is different from many other religions in several ways. For example, there is no Buddhist god or creator. We have to accept full responsibility for our thoughts and actions and there is on question of redemption by another being, or remission of sin. There is, of course, moral behaviour, which brings good results, and bad behaviour which brings unhappy results, and, since Buddhists believe in rebirth, we can never escape such results.
For those of us who have been brought up in a Christian country, some of the teaching is hard to understand and some of the concepts which are given Pali names cannot be easily translated into English. I shall, very occasionally, use a Pali word, but hope to make its meaning clear. For example, the word “Dukkha” is often translated as “Suffering”, but this is only one of its meanings. It can also mean “Unsatisfactoriness, because of impermanence.”
The Buddha mentioned dukkha as the main problem of life, brought about by craving, and clinging, as well as ignorance. It is the first of the four noble truths which encapsulate the Buddha’s dhamma or teaching. These truths are – all forms of existence are unsatisfactory and subject to suffering. All suffering is produced by craving. The extinction of craving results in the extinction of rebirth and suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path indicates the way to bring about this extinction.
The ultimate aim is to experience Nibbana. This is no like going to heaven, or living in a state of perpetual joy. It has been compared to the blowing out of a candle flame. But more will be said about this later.
Buddhism is concerned with individual emancipation. The way forward is to follow the example of the Buddha himself, who made his discovery of the four noble truths by sitting in meditation and closely investigating his thoughts and feelings. Neither temples nor images are required, to follow the path, there are no prayers or hymns of praise, since the Buddha, though very exceptional, was still a human being. However, many devotees do find the Buddha images, the temples and the various chantings to be helpful in concentrating the mind.