Thanks to Cassia’s father in my novel What’s Left, she’s familiar with Buddhist teaching and practice.
Here are ten basics.
- Siddhartha Gautama: Historical figure who established the teachings in northern India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Often referred to as the Buddha.
- Buddhas: Transcendent figures found throughout the universe. Gautama embodies one of them.
- Dharma: The law or the way taught by Gautama to overcome suffering or dukka (perhaps better rendered as stress or dissatisfaction). One translation has Dharma as the process itself.
- Reincarnation: The state of one’s next rebirth is determined by the fruits of an individual’s karma (actions) in the present life.
- Nirvana: An eternal state of perfect peace, bliss, and enlightenment, usually achieved through meditation and breaking the chain of further rebirth.
- Boddhisattvas: Figures who have attained nirvana but instead of going their immediately, compassionately reincarnate to assist others.
- Sutras: The scriptures (literally “stitchings”).
- Three major branches of Buddhism: Theravada, prominent in Indochina; Mahayana, the largest and most liberal branch; and Vajrayana, which emphasizes the magical and the occult.
- Tantra: Sacred texts in the Vajrayana branch describing secret methodologies and practices.
- Mandalas and tankas: Vajrayana visual images to aid meditation.
Gee, I didn’t even get to koans, those mind-boggling puzzles presented to Zen aspirants.