Lotus Flower

Buddhism in Basic English

If you wonder what Buddhism has to offer you, the answer is: nothing. If you think that becoming a Buddhist will bring you all sorts of goodies and fringe benefits, forget it. There's no dream prize, no paradise with vestal virgins. ... What it can help you do is cut through your confusion, your neuroses. It can help you understand yourself in the here and now and hopefully prepare the ground for a more positive future.

Article in Tricycle Magazine

Seeing people floundering like fish in small puddles, competing with one another; as I saw this, fear came into me. Wanting a haven for myself, I saw nothing that wasn't laid claim to. Seeing nothing in the end but competition, I felt discontent. And then I saw an arrow here, so very hard to see, embedded in the heart. Overcome by this arrow you run in all directions. But simply on pulling it out you don't run, you don't sink.

Sutta Nipata 4.15

The Core - The Four Noble Truths

The Practice - The Noble Eightfold Path

The Precepts

There are a number of precept formulations throughout Buddhism, but they point to the same ideal. Here are two common formulations.

The Three Seals

All of the Buddha's teaching is in line with the three seals, which themselves represent the core doctrine of reality beyond the Four Noble Truths.

Daily Practice

The Ultimate Goal

Nirvana carries an air of mystery (or heavy metal music) in the west. The word is not usually translated because any English rendition would be only partial. In fact, no word is sufficient. Nirvana, the ultimate end of all suffering and connection to the Eternal is beyond any attributes. It can never be said what Nirvana is, only that whatever idea someone has of it is certainly incomplete. Nirvana is the realm of liberation, of non-suffering, of the Eternal, the Unborn, the Creator. Nirvana is not something we can attain (indeed, it is not a "thing" at all); rather it is something already within us that merely must be uncovered and seen.

Through practice and meditation we can touch and reside in various aspects of Nirvana. These aspects are often anthropomorphized (made into human likeness) in order to make them more palpable. Called Bodhisattvas, these mythical individuals provide a focus for practice and being enlightenment. Whenever we act in the way of a Bodhisattva, we are in fact being that Bodhisattva. Here are some of the more commonly seen Bodhisattvas:


The canon of Buddhism is large and ever-growing. The scriptures are important as guides for practice and realization; empty knowledge of them is of little value. It is a particular trap for logic-minded westerners to get caught up in studying Scripture and never get around to applying it. Scripture exists only to assist you; if you do not apply it, it cannot help.

Two basic kinds of Scriptures exist: inner and outer. Inner Scriptures are written from the point of view of Meditation and Enlightenment; thus, they can be very difficult to understand for the beginner. Outer Scriptures are written at a more concrete and down to Earth level. The early Pali Scriptures tend to be Outer Scriptures. The later Mahayana Scriptures tend to be inner Scriptures. They seem much more mystical since they operate from the point of view of ultimate non-self reality which can be truly understood only through meditation.

There are many other things which may be said or done, but all words are merely "fingers pointing to the moon". The words do not matter, only that which they point to, the Eternal, Unborn, Enlightenment itself.

BuddhaNet - Lots of Resources

If you would like to talk to someone about Buddhism, send e-mail or find a local center.

Copyright (c) 2011 Steven Kollmansberger