The key beliefs of Buddhism come from its origins. Buddhism has grown to become the fourth largest religion in the world, from very humble beginnings.
Before we list the key beliefs of Buddhism, let’s first talk about the history of this religion. The founder of Buddhism, Siddharta Gautama, was a prince from Eastern India.
At that time, people either adhered to the strict ascetic nature of the dominant religion, or they indulged in complete hedonism. Siddharta himself was hedonistic to the extreme, before he left his palatial surroundings and came upon suffering and death for the first time in his life.
The prince then left his kingdom, in order to find a new religious way. After many years of trying to find liberation in the face of temptation, he became the Buddha. As the Buddha, he travelled around India, preaching what he saw as a middle way.
He saw this as a way to attract both sides of the previous religion, as well as the best way to achieve Nirvana, or perfection. As people moved back and forth around the continent of Asia, they took their new religion with them.
This religion and the key beliefs of Buddhism are so popular because they are not limited to one particular group. Anybody can become a Buddhist, no matter their age, race, or background, and anyone can achieve enlightenment. Buddhism holds to the belief that problems in someone’s life are ultimately to do with that person.
Today, there are many different sects of the religion, all of whom have their own approach. They each have their own rituals and ideas, but all of them hold true to the same key beliefs of Buddhism:
The 3 Key Beliefs of Buddhism
Sila is good conduct and morality.
This first key belief of Buddhism comes from a combination of two ideas. The first is that all living entities are equal, in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God. The second is that we should treat others how we would want to be treated ourselves.
This is the easiest Buddhist belief to put into practice because we are all familiar with the ‘golden rule’. When people are rude or dismissive towards you, or when you find yourself held up by others, remember this belief, and simply take a breath, rather than retaliating. Just breathe.
Samadhi is concentration, meditation, and mental development.
This second key belief of Buddhism leads to wisdom and personal freedom. Concentration and mental development means having better control over your mind.
Developing mental control means being able to reach your potential. This can lead you to surpass yourself in career, in learning, in any area you can think of.
Prajna is discernment, insight, wisdom, and enlightenment.
This third key belief of Buddhism is geared towards clearing your mind and thus attaining wisdom.
In day to day life, there is a lot to frustrate us. Prajna gives us the ability to look past the frustrations and have patience.
The Key Beliefs of Buddhism in Everyday Life
We can use the key beliefs of Buddhism to help us get through the day. Rather than being annoyed by people who hold us up, or perhaps keep us from getting our chores and errands done as quickly as possible, these beliefs will help us to relax and to feel more in control.
Being able to centre yourself is part of Buddhism, and will help you move along the route to Nirvana. It will also make everyday life somewhat easier to bear.
While those are the key beliefs of Buddhism, there are some key tenets as well. Anybody who is familiar with the commandments of Christianity, or the mitzvot of Judaism. Where Buddhism differs from other religions is that it does not command. It merely gives advice. You are the person to decide what to do.
Do not kill.
This can be taken literally, or it can be expanded to mean avoiding any type of violence. While you will not need the injunction to avoid killing, in the day-to-day life, have you been tempted to lie? To embarrass someone? To hurt people, even in small ways?
As a Buddhist, you will not feel compelled to do this. Depending on your definition of this key belief of Buddhism, hurting another creature will fall under killing them.
Do not steal.
This applies to the normal circumstances of stealing, but it can also have a wider range. Stealing can be something that includes fraud and exploitation of any kind. A true Buddhist would, therefore, avoid these things as much as possible.
Do not lie.
Many people interpret this to mean that you should avoid calling people names or talking about them behind their back. Whatever your definition is, avoid lying to people in any way, to be your truest self, according to Buddhism.
Do not be unchaste.
This can mean different things to different people. Nuns and monks are celibate and expected to remain so. Lay people – those not associated with any religious house – are expected to be faithful to their partners.
Buddha made his teachings at a time when there was no sanctioned sex outside of marriage, so different people have different interpretations of what is appropriate and what is not. Use your judgement, and start with being faithful.