Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lesson 1 - Why Practice Buddhism

Before we get into the fundamental studies of Buddhism we first might want to take a look at why we are studying Buddhism. This will also give us an opportunity to introduce various terms and define those terms, as they will become part of our general language when talking about Buddhism. One motivation for studying Buddhism might be to escape our cyclical existence in Samsara. Saṃsāra, the Sanskrit and Pāli term for "continuous movement" or "continuous flowing" refers in Buddhism to the concept of a cycle of birth (jāti) and consequent decay and death (jarāmaraṇa), in which all beings in the universe participate and which can only be escaped through enlightenment. Saṃsāra is associated with suffering (dukka in Sanskrit) and is generally considered the antithesis of nirvāṇa or nibbāna. Samsara is our existence of suffering in this world; we will go into the 6 realms of existence in upcoming lessons. Or we might wish to study Buddhism to create bodichitta. Bodichitta is not an easy concept to explain in a sentence but it may be thought of as loving kindness, working for the goal of others. It is one thing to work to eliminate your own personal sufferings but a much higher goal to work to also eliminate the sufferings of others. Many Buddhist make a vow when doing daily practice to "dedicate the merit of their practice to all sentient beings" this is Bodhicitta. Lastly we might wish to practice Buddhism to experience more truly our lives, to recognize the ebbs and flows and be content which each. Buddhism teaches neither to be attached to happiness nor to sorrow but to live in the moment experiencing fully each moment for what it truly is - impermanence. This concept frees oneself to be all they can be and experience more fully life without holding on with a clenched fist of desire and attachment. So now we have some good reason to practice. Let our practice begin!

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