By the way Buddhism plays such a major role in Thip’s and my daily life – and our Thai family’s and, in fact, the whole village – you might get the impression that I am a devout Buddhist. No, no. I would give devout Buddhists – no matter what branch or sect – a very bad name.
My Buddhism is much like what my Christianity was: minimalistic; just to the basics. Although I admire the forest monks (Kamattan), Theravada Buddhism just contains too many rules for me to get into. When I was in college, I was very interested in Zen Buddhism (Mahayana), but over the course of my life, I’ve found that what works best for me is what I think of as “stripped down Buddhism”, just the basics; those basics being the initial teachings of Gautama Buddha: The Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path. Nothing more, nothing less.
Country Roads Took Me Home
Four Noble Truths:
1) Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering/uneasiness in one way or another.
2) Suffering is caused by craving. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness. Craving also has its negative aspect, i.e. one craves that a certain state of affairs not exist.
3) Suffering ends when craving ends. This is achieved by eliminating delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment;
4) Reaching this liberated state is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha (The Noble Eight Fold Path).
The Noble Eight Fold Path:
The Noble Eightfold Path—the fourth of the Buddha's Noble Truths—is the way to the cessation of suffering.
Prajña is the wisdom that purifies the mind, allowing it to attain spiritual insight into the true nature of all things. It includes:
1) Viewing reality as it is, not just as it appears to be;
2) Intention of renunciation, freedom and harmlessness.
Sila – code of conduct – is the ethics or morality, or abstention from unwholesome deeds. It includes:
3) Speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way;
4) Acting in a non-harmful way;
5) A non-harmful livelihood.
Samadhi is the mental discipline required to develop mastery over one's own mind. This is done through the practice of various contemplative and meditative practices, and includes:
6) Making a constant effort to improve;
7) Awareness to see things for what they are with clear consciousness, being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion;
8) Correct meditation or concentration, explained as the first four jhanas.
The practice of the Eightfold Path is understood in two ways, as requiring either simultaneous development (all eight items practiced in parallel), or as a progressive series of stages through which the practitioner moves, the culmination of one leading to the beginning of another.