What I learned from the sacred texts of Buddha

What I learned from the sacred texts of Buddha

Crystalee Beck

from the sacred texts buddha

Approximately 500 years before the birth of Christ, a man named Siddhārtha Gautama was born in ancient India. Upon his death, he left behind a community of followers who had committed to follow his words and renounce worldly pleasures in order to achieve enlightenment. Today, this man, who is also known as the Buddha, is recognized as the founder of Buddhism—the world’s fourth-largest religion.

When the Buddha died, he did not leave his followers without a path to follow. In fact, the Buddha spent the last 45 years of his life traveling extensively, teaching a diverse set of people about the nature of existence and the Middle Way, a path to liberation that avoids the extremes of both sensual indulgence and self-mortification. Upon his death, 500 of the Buddha’s followers were selected to compile the Buddha’s teachings and doctrines.

For the next 500 years, the Buddha’s teachings were transmitted orally, recited and passed on from monk to monk. Eventually, the Buddha’s teachings, called the Dharma, were compiled in written form. Because Buddhist teachings were transmitted across wide swathes of Asia in hundreds of languages, different versions of scriptures in different languages exist within the various sects of Buddhism today.

The basic canon of Buddhist scripture is called the Tripitaka, which literally means three baskets. The three “baskets” of scripture are: 1) the monastic rules for monks and nuns, 2) the teachings and sermons, or sutras, of the Buddha, and 3) special doctrine, which includes scholastic interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings.

Within the second basket of the Tripitaka is a popular and widely read section called the Dhammapada, which offers a broad selection of the Buddha’s teachings in verse form. It is this section of the Buddhist texts that I chose to explore on my own journey to discover more about the Buddhist faith. While the Dhammapada offers meaningful lessons to those schooled in the complexities of Buddhism, it is also simple enough to serve as the perfect introduction to Buddhist philosophy for a novice like me.

As I read the Buddha’s words, I was struck by how much many of the Buddha’s teachings resonated with me and my own Christian faith. I found myself rushing to copy verses that I found particularly inspiring. In reviewing what I had studied, I found two key takeaways:

1. An emphasis on living a moral life. Similar to the Christian Ten Commandments, Buddhism is governed by five basic rules: Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, don’t lie, and don’t use intoxicating substances. The Dhammapada reminds readers again and again that living a moral life is essential to happiness, and gives tips on how to live morally.

Like a thoroughbred horse touched by the whip, be strenuous, be filled with spiritual yearning. By faith and moral purity, by effort and meditation, by investigation of the truth, by being rich in knowledge and virtue, and by being mindful, destroy this unlimited suffering. (Dhammapada 144)

Speak the truth; yield not to anger; when asked, give even if you only have a little. By these three means can one reach the presence of the gods. (Dhammapada 224)

Good is virtue until life’s end, good is faith that is steadfast, good is the acquisition of wisdom, and good is the avoidance of evil. (Dhammapada 333)

2. Constant admonitions on the value of self-discipline and self-mastery. A core principle of Buddhism is refraining from physical pleasures and cravings in order to achieve the ultimate happiness and freedom from sorrow. While I take great joy in life’s simple pleasures, I’ve also learned that renouncing the things I don’t need (like sugar, for example!) can get me closer to my goals. The Buddha’s words reminded me that while forgoing my desires can be tough, my hard work will insulate me from disappointments:

Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he indeed is the noblest victor who conquers himself. (Dhammapada 103)

By effort and heedfulness, discipline and self-mastery, let the wise one make of himself an island which no flood can overwhelm. (Dhammapada 25)

As with any religious text, it does not suffice for followers of Buddhism to read the words of the Buddha a single time. His teachings, the Dharma, are meant to be returned to time and time again. And so I hope to return to the words of the Buddha as a source of peace and continuing inspiration in my own life.

It is true that each of us must follow our own paths through life. But I see the words of wise teachers like the Buddha and my own Savior as an invitation to trace the well-trodden paths of those who have come before me. I must make my own way—but I don’t have to do it alone.

Crystalee Beck is a writer, speaker, and mamapreneur. She helps women thrive at the intersection of mamahood and entrepreneurship. She’s a seeker of truth and feels alive on mountain trails. Learn more at www.themamaladder.com.

6 Inspiring Quotes from Nelson Mandela

6 Inspiring Quotes from Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s first black president, an anti-Apartheid icon, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and though he wasn’t extremely public about his Christianity, a man of great faith.

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Mandela, fiercely devoted to unity in his country and among his people, avoided divisive speech, at least later in his life. In general, that included religious discourse. However, his Christian beliefs were evident in the way he lived his life and in many of his statements on forgiveness, love, equality and optimism.

Here are six statements from Nelson Mandela that affirm the power of faith to overcome fear, prejudice and hate. (For more great quotes from Nelson Mandela and background on some of those listed below, visit https://www.nelsonmandela.org/content/page/selected-quotes)

1. “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.” (From a letter to Winnie Mandela, written from the prison on Robben Island, 1 Feb. 1975)

The imagery of a triumphant “sinner who keeps on trying” with “hope that he will rise even in the end” is a decidedly Christian ideal with application to all people — especially those facing adversity.

2. “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.” (Spoken in Kliptown, Soweto, South Africa, 12 July 2008)

Mandela’s acute observation of the power of selflessness is reminiscent of the biblical ideal to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

3. “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Mandela’s message of equality, love and tolerance reflects the faithful belief that God is no respecter of persons.

4. “You have to have been in an apartheid prison in South Africa to appreciate the further importance of the church. They tried to isolate us completely from the outside. Our relatives could see us only once every six months. The link was religious organisations, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and members of the Jewish faith. They were the faithful who inspired us. The WCC’s support exemplified in the most concrete way the contribution that religion made to our liberation.” (Address to the 8th Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Harare, Zimbabwe, 1998)

In this statement, Mandela recognized the positive influence of faithful people from all over the world and their effect on him personally.

5. “The Good News borne by our risen Messiah who chose not one race, who chose not one country, who chose not one language, who chose not one tribe, who chose all of humankind!” (Address to the Zionist Christian Church’s Easter Conferences, 1994.)

Like many Africans, Mandela had faith in Jesus Christ that sustained him through difficult times. He also looked to Christ as an example of unconditional love and as a proponent of equality.

6. “The Church was as concerned with this world as the next: I saw that virtually all of the achievements of Africans seemed to have come about through the missionary work of the Church.” (From his autobiography, “The Long Walk to Freedom,” on his experiences with Christianity early in life)

People of faith, regardless of specific religious beliefs and practices, are generally concerned with the welfare of their fellow beings all over the world. Mandela recognized the good in these faithful people and praised them for their efforts.

Breanna is the author of one book, the mother of two daughters, and a frequent contributor to several faith-based magazines and blogs. She blogs about her faith, her family, and her favorite things at www.breannaolaveson.com.

Trust Your Faith Like You Trust Your Knowledge

Trust Your Faith Like You Trust Your Knowledge

By Daniel West, Faith Counts Contributor

trust faith

G.K. Chesterton, an English thinker, once wrote that “When man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything.” When you have a crisis of faith, do not be quick to discount or abandon your beliefs, because if you do you will just be exchanging them for another set of beliefs that may or may not be better.

There are many “gods” that people worship in lieu of Divinity. Some put their faith in scientists who believe that they have all the answers (which isn’t scientific at all) and claim that they have no need for God. Some put their faith in government and, in times of crisis, demand that all their problems be solved by it. Some put their faith in the “gods” of money, sports, celebrity, status, or power. These are only a few examples, but the commonality among all those who clamor for your attention and, yes, faith is this: no matter in whom or what you put in place of your religion, you will not be giving up faith.

No matter what you believe, it’s important to evaluate from time to time why you believe. I like to ask myself the following questions whenever I reflect on my faith:

  1. Do my beliefs make me happy? Do they improve my quality of life?
  2. How did I come to believe the way I do? What faith building experiences have I had?
  3. What could I do to strengthen my faith?
  4. Are others who practice my faith generally good people?
  5. What are the fruits of my faith? Does it help me to make the world a better place?

In general, humans have been asking themselves the same questions throughout recorded history and probably before: where did we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go after we die, if anywhere? I’ll let you in on a secret: nobody has all the answers to those questions. Not scientists, not clerics, not atheists, not Bible study teachers, not talking heads on television. To be sure, God has given us general principles and truths. We have indeed made great strides in science and technology. We still don’t have all the puzzle pieces, though, which is where faith comes in.

We all have doubts from time to time. We all have questions. It’s important to remember that this is normal and expected. I mentioned earlier that a scientist who claimed to have all the answers wouldn’t be a particularly good scientist. The same statement applies to religion. It’s okay to admit that we religious people don’t have all the answers, but we can’t let that invalidate the answers that we do have!

Just as the fact that we don’t yet have a cure for cancer is not a valid reason for giving up penicillin and the MRI, having unanswered questions of faith is no reason to give up religion. In essence, continue in the things you have learned, remember where those things came from, and hang in there!