The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path
Some time ago, a young person sent me an e-mail note asking about the basic beliefs of Buddhism. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path represent that essence; this is my reply. It is simply my interpretation at this stage of my understanding; you’re welcome to agree or to dispute it as you might choose.
Looking back over your message, I’m guessing you wanted something a little more than the obvious answers I included in my previous message. At the risk of giving you more than you asked for, here’s my fundamental orientation to Buddhism.
The foundation beliefs of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. These were taught by the Buddha (a word which means The Enlightened One) about 2500 years ago. They are essentially the same through every sect and tradition of Buddhism. They are:
Beyond this, Buddhism is a mixture of monastic tradition and folklore. Some of it is helpful to me; much of it I reject as silly. I don’t believe in reincarnation or in deities. I do believe Buddha had the human condition figured out.
Don’t be in a hurry to embrace Buddhism. It will be here waiting for you when you’re ready. It took me 20 years of living to come to understand that the truth doesn’t have to be sold. It’s all around us, accessible as soon as we’re open to it. Yana Davis, a friend in our group, calls Buddhism “profound common sense.” That’s all it is.
For a view of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as compared to the Twelve Step Programs in AA and other organizations, click here.