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Beliefs and Practices of Buddhism Many people that practice Buddhism find that it uncovers a natural peace within, sometimes referred to as the heart’s rest. With this, a tremendous feeling of trust and openness develops towards the Buddha, the Dharma - the teachings of the Buddha - and the Sangha - the community of practitioners. These are known as the Three Jewels. This is then formalised with the ritual of Taking Refuge, which can be done very simply or as a more elaborate ceremony. The Buddha's teachings also consist of codes for living, to help one be free of tensions and at peace with oneself and the world at large. The vows to uphold and guide these aspirations are the Five Precepts: not killing, not stealing, refraining from wrong kinds of sexual activities, not lying or indulging in false speech, and not taking drink or drugs that confuse the mind. In his infinite wisdom the Buddha saw that each of us has a different level of spiritual awareness and experience. It is said that he could therefore tailor his teachings to fit each individual’s approach to life. Each path, however, is equally precious and they all share the common goal of reaching enlightenment, which is totally freeing oneself from confusion and negative emotions and awakening to the vast potential of wisdom and compassion our true nature of mind - sometimes called Buddha Nature The profound logic of Buddhism is quite powerful and its' ethics are based on reasoning. For example, the harming of others actually harms you, while helping others really helps you as well. To find the logic and reasoning behind this statement, we can look deeply at the effects our actions have on others and ourselves. Let's say we get very angry with someone and we react unkindly, by shouting or being aggressive. The outcome of this is that we experience both a physical and mental jolt. Often, we come away unsettled on both levels and don't feel so well. On the other hand, when we are caring or helpful towards others it usually makes us feel well or good inside. This is one of the many ways of reflecting on this, that is quite simple and logical when reasoned out. It is motivation that gives rise to everything on the path of Buddhism. It is said that if your motivation is good the result will be good. Equally, if your motivation is bad there will be a similar negative result. This quite naturally leads on to Karma, which is fundamental to Buddhist teaching. Karma means action, it is the natural law of cause and effect. It tells us that whatever we do, has a result. Every action, however big or small, positive or negative, has a corresponding consequence. This may all seem like a lot to take in and in one way it is! Yet the important thing to keep coming back to, is the basis of all this. That is that enlightenment is attained through individual experience of the disciplines and practices and not just what we are taught. Questions 1. Explain the following terms: The Three Jewels Taking Refuge The Five Precepts Enlightenment Buddha Nature Karma 2. What similarities do you see between the practice of Buddhism and your own tradition? 3. What differences are there?