Buddhism has been the dominant religion of the Eastern world for centuries, including China, Japan, Korea, and most of Southeast Asia.

In addition, the growth of the Asian population in the U.S., has served to increase the interest in Buddhism in the United States. Statistics have shown that currently, there are well over 300,000 Buddhists in the U.S.

Founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, went on a spiritual quest to determine the cause of pain and suffering, holding to the Hindu belief in reincarnation, in that one returns to earthly life in a higher or lower form, according to one's good or bad deeds.

The above belief prompted the question of how to break the rebirth cycle. Basic teachings of Buddhism focus on what Siddhartha believed to be the answer to those questions.

The basic tenants of Buddhism are found in the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path.

The Noble Truths

  1. The First Noble Truth: is the acknowledgment that pain and suffering exists in the world in all of nature and human life, as realized and taught by Siddhartha. It is inevitable that sickness and old age generally becomes painful, and all living things experience suffering.
  2. The Second Noble Truth: concerns the cause of suffering, with Siddhartha believing that the root cause of suffering is desire. Through his meditations, he realized that suffering is ultimately caused by wealth and selfish enjoyment, the cravings of which are rooted in ignorance, and can therefore, never be satisfied.
  3. The Third Noble Truth: pertains to the cessation of all suffering, which occurs when a person is able to rid him or herself of all desires.
  4. The Fourth Noble Truth: relates to the extinguishing of all desire by following the eight-fold path, a system designed to develop habits that will release people from the restrictions caused by ignorance and craving.

The Eight-Fold Path

There are eight steps to following the eight-fold path:

  1. Right Views. accepting the four noble truths.
  2. Right Resolve: renouncing all desires and any thoughts related to lust, bitterness, and cruelty. No living creatures may be harmed.
  3. Right Speech: speaking only the truth. There may be no lying, slander, or vain speech.
  4. Right Behavior: abstaining from sexual immorality, stealing, and all killing.
  5. Right Occupation: benefiting others and harm no one with the work chosen.
  6. Right Effort: seeking to eliminate any evil qualities within and prevent any new ones from arising. One should seek to attain good and moral qualities and develop those already possessed. Seek to grow in maturity and perfection until universal love is attained.
  7. Right Contemplation. being observant, contemplative, and free of desire and sorrow.
  8. Right Meditation: once freed from all desires and evil, a person must concentrate on meditation to overcome any sensation of pleasure or pain and enter a state of transcending consciousness to attain a state of perfection.

Buddhists believe that it is through the above self-effort, one can attain the state of peace and eternal bliss, known as "Nirvana."

Anna Barbosa is an avid sudent of Buddhism and owner of http://www.mettabuddha.com

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