Guide to Buddhism: Preface

Self-assessing your current mental health

Before we dive into the core teachings of Buddhism, there are a few important topics to cover. First, how are you feeling at this very moment of existence?

How do you feel on average? If we are being honest, the answer is probably not that great or good but not perfect.

For most of us, there’s a basic unhappiness running through our lives, which sometimes manifests as grief, anger, disappointment or depression.

However, for most of us, this feeling is much more subtle and results in a general sense that we are never fully satisfied and that you can’t seem to ever get things to go perfect.

Our lives, for the most part, are strung out between the thirst for pleasure and the fear of pain.

We pass our days running after the one and running away from the other. Most of us experience a roller coaster of highs and lows every day and ever week.

But do no worry! Buddhism is an extremely optimistic religion and provides a detailed, time-tested path of delivering inner peace.

You and you alone can discover true, sustained peacefulness and contentment. The only requirements are to start down the path and to continue.

Character building and mental training

People often ask what they must do to become a true, genuine Buddhist. Or they ask, what is the basic message or essence of Buddhism. Put as simply as possible, the answer is: “Nothing should be grasped at or clung to.”

So if we know that grasping and clinging causes our unhappiness, then how do we put into practice this non-grasping and non-clinging? Buddha answered this question for us and explained as follows:

When you see a visual object, just see it. When you hear a sound with your ear, just hear it. When you smell an odor with your nose, just smell it. When you taste something with your tongue, just taste it.

When you experience a sensation with your skin and body, just experience that sensation. Lastly, when a mental object or though arises in your mind, just know it.

The goal is to make the observation, to have awareness and to experience the moment but to then to stop right there and let it go.

This is what we mean when we discuss mindfulness later in the guide. The complete practice of Buddhism or the recipe for creating a calm mind can be summarized below.

First, you should refrain from evil acts and endeavor to do good, positive ones. Second, you should live simply by keeping to your basic needs.

Lastly, you should purify your mind be eliminating your greed and anger by developing wisdom.

This last step is accomplished by observing and understanding the three universal truths of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self.

Once you understand these concepts, then you will see the truth – that your grasping at things and clinging to them is what causes your suffering.

The mental and physical components

The journey towards inner peace is an integrated therapy that is comprised of a physical treatment as well as a psychological one. 

The psychological portion is comprised of mental components which can be established in the mind simply through determination and effort. The physical portion is addressed through the cultivation of moral speed and action.

The Dalai Lama summarized the concept well by saying that the ultimate source of happiness is simply having a healthy body and a healthy mind. A calm mind is a healthy mind.

The path to inner peace cover every aspect of life: the intellectual, the ethical, the social, the economic, and the psychological. The steps therefore contain everything a person needs to lead a good life and to develop spiritually.

We should aim to possess skills and competences that make us a good human being. This means living in a way that is exemplary and praiseworthy so that we inspire others to lead a similar lifestyle.

It may sound easy, but you must purify your mind by eliminating your cravings, not just suppressing them. 

This means the cessation of craving, its forsaking and abandonment, liberation and detachment from your thirst.

We all possess the mental ability to achieve true internal peace. It doesn’t cost any money. You don’t have to be a genius.

There are no gurus to follow or magic charms. You don’t have to leave your common sense at the door.

Non-formal guide

All materials are based on the traditional Teachings of Buddha  no school or sect of Buddhism is emphasized on this website.

Where non-critical to the teachings of Buddhism, we have dispensed with the strict formalities and order of traditional Buddhist teachings.

This allows the material to hopefully be presented in a more intuitive and easier to understand format. The primary materials used for this website are located under our Bookshelf Page and may be downloaded for free.

All credit for the written materials on this website are given to the authors of these books and articles.

This website does not purport to be the originator of these Buddhist concepts but is merely attempting to present the ideas in a slightly different way and order.

Buddha discovered enlightenment, he didn’t invent it

If you think about it, there really are no inventors of anything, only explorers and discoverers. If a method or idea is possible given the laws of the universe, then it is permanently in existence.

Whether something exists isn’t dependent on whether humans have or have not discovered it. Even if we never discovery it, it still exists; we just don’t know of it.

This idea of discovery vs invention can be compared to ground water which permanently exists in the ground.

When a person wishes to dig a well, he must dig down deep enough to reach the ground water. The ground water is already there. He does not create the water, he just discovers it.

Similarly, the Buddha did not invent the path to inner peace. He merely revealed what was already true and available.

The path existed before Buddha’s life, during his life 2,500 years ago, and it exists in this moment and in all future moments.

By following the path discovered and set forth by Buddha, you can save time by avoiding mistakes.

The teachings of Buddha provide an invaluable guide and will support as you move from hearing the teachings to learning from your own experience.

If you try practicing alone without any guidance from others, your journey will be slower and more likely to fail.

Don’t try to rediscover the wheel but developing your own path to inner peace. Buddha already discovered the path and chose to share it with the world.

Steady and persistent practice is required

All the teachings in this guide are merely a means to help the mind see the truth. If we haven’t seen the truth, we will suffer.

No one can do the practice for you because the truth is something you cannot put into words or give away. Accepting, giving up, and letting go — This is the way to peace.

If you don’t let go, then you will suffer. If you can let go just a little, then you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.

And if you can let go completely, then you will find absolute peace.

Liberation from suffering and true peace of mind is guaranteed when there is steady and persistent practice.

However, requires your continuous effort though gradual practice and gradual progress, without expecting quick results.

No one can do the work for you. See Buddhism: The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Religion for a more detailed discussion on your pace of practice.

Next: Step 1: The Life of Buddha