Welcome to Dharma Wheel! I'm glad that you found your way here. I hope we can be of some help, or at least be present with you as you face these challenging life questions.
I'll try to answer the questions you've posed, and I'm sure that someone else will jump in and offer more as we discuss these matters. To begin with, when the Buddha taught the dharma, he made many suggestions to us. Some of them are strong suggestions, but they're not quite like commandments in the sense that if you don't obey the Buddha you will suffer some punishment. According to the Buddha's dharma, we shape our lives and our situations through our intentions and actions (also called karma). And then we experience the results of those actions, wholesome, unwholesome, or neutral.
But the Buddha did offer us the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Here is a site where you can find a lot of helpful information. I'm not sure that I would word the description of the Four Noble Truths exactly the way this author did, but nevertheless, this site has helpful information about Buddhism basics, meditations, and so forth.The Big View
You don't need to adopt a lot of new beliefs in order to try meditation and the 8 Fold Path. Everyone starts somewhere, and most of us start with basic study and simple meditation such as counting breaths.
As far as seeing impermanence, you don't need extensive Vipassana experience in order to see it play out in your life. Everything that is born is subject to death, and every moment is filled with a lack of permanence. We are in a constant state of flux and change as each moment passes. Our consciousness moves moment by moment, constantly creating new thoughts and experiences. You can also see this in nature all the time. A seed becomes a flower, the flower blooms, the flower thrives, then after time the flower withers and finally lies down and is carried by the winds or fades into the earth.
A "don't know" mind, as you mentioned, is a very good mindset. The Buddha taught us that our suffering is due to ignorance and craving. With a "don't know" mind, we can lessen our habits of holding on to beliefs that may not be true and can actually lead us to further suffering. And the "don't know" mind is also less steeped in craving and clinging.
As to your final question, you'll find that with Buddhism you can follow the lay precepts or even take more extensive vows and commitments down the road, practice meditation, follow the Eight Fold path, and learn purification techniques, and all of these will be very beneficial for you. Your goals sound marvelous, and a very motivating reason to investigate Buddhism. You asked if it is necessary to accept certain beliefs in order to benefit from the Buddha's teachings and Buddhist practices (in a round-about way), and it's my opinion that you don't need to commit to any beliefs right now. The important thing in the beginning is getting started with the basic information, and if something doesn't agree with your belief system you can set it aside for right now as you continue to get acquainted with Buddhist aspirations, teachings, and practices.
Below is a very brief outline of what the Buddha taught. At the bottom you'll find the five precepts, which may be of interest to you. I hope that I've answered some of your questions. Please feel free to continue here with thoughts and questions as they may arise.
Best wishes to you,
• What did the Buddha Teach?
The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
• What is the First Noble Truth?
The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.
• What is the Second Noble Truth?
The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.
• What is the Third Noble Truth?
The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.
• What is the Fourth Noble Truth?
The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.
• What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?
In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.
• What are the 5 Precepts?
The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.
• What is Karma?
Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.
• What is Wisdom?
Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.
• What is Compassion?
Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.Introduction to Buddhism
effort wrote:i cant find appropriate section to post this, so i put it here.
suppose that i have problem with beliefs and i dont want to deal with god, rebirth, suffering and etc, so i just want to keep some rules, techniques to give me a change to find the truth about self, life and death, god and law of nature or whatever need purification.
the first thing that is arise in the mind is i can not set a goal for myself, because if i say i want to reach nibanna thats not sensible, not imaginable so i just define some rules and keep them with practices.
i think most of the buddhas teachings are free from beliefs ( i know 4 noble truths and right view ), specially satipatthana sutta is a very good source for a such approach.
the idea comes from this experience that i have a Ebrahimc background also i feel buddhism works so it is hard to choose, so this comes to mind that why choosing when both of them say something like look into yourself and find the truth. then i think put beliefs aside and practice and if you be lucky then you will be at least closer to solution then you dont need to believe something just by thinking and at least you can say "I dont know" instead of blindly accept something.
but in other hand i see for example vipassana as directly seeing impermanence, but will you see impermanence in vipassna even if you dont accept or deny the anicca?
is this possible to act without thinking about beliefs and keep purifying the mind? if it is so which type of rules and practices is beneficial?