Reflecting a People’s Tradition and Change
The Main Principles of Buddhism The doctrines of Buddhism can be separated into three broad categories: The Hinayana – The Mahayana – The Vajrayana Although these are not different schools of Buddhism, they are a convenient way of un- derstanding the development of Buddhist belief and practice. The Hinayana (or Shravakayana) – also known as the “small path”, or “lesser vehicle” The Buddha taught that life is experienced as suffering (duhkha). This suffering comes about because of one’s attachment, both to oneself and to external people and objects. At- tachment causes suffering because everything, including oneself, is impermanent (anitya). One’s attachment can never be satisfied because there is nothing permanent to satisfy it. The Buddha taught that all sentient beings (humans, animals, and insects) are trapped in a cycle of suffering, because the results of their actions (karma) create more attachment, and ultimately further suffering. This cycle continues beyond death, since it is believed that after death sentient beings are reborn. The cycle is called Samsara, and to achieve enlightenment and escape from the cycle is Nirvana. To attain Nirvana, it is necessary to give up the things to which one is attached by following the life of a monk or nun. It is also necessary to transform one’s mind through study and meditation. For a layperson, a higher rebirth can be attained through the accumulation of merit (punya) by activities such as the donation of food to monks. These higher rebirths may ultimately lead to a monastic life and, eventually, the achievement...
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