Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

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Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Roland » Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:03 am

Periodically I will be approached by someone who is unaware of what Buddhism is. They ask me to explain. I always end up explaining it slightly different everytime based on what I'm currently reading, usually end up rambling and maybe going a little too deep, especially into topics I might not fully understand at that time. I try to keep it simple by starting with the Four Noble Truths. I'm aware of the quote that goes something like:

"Abstain from evil.
Practice virtue.
Tame your mind.
This is the Buddha's teaching."

Which, of course, is extremely condensed. I'm interested in other quick summaries or responses in maybe 3 or 4 lines to someone who doesn't know about Buddhism, maybe from another religion so probably not interested in practicing, who asks the question:

What is Buddhism?
"Seek truth in meditation, not moldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond."
- Persian proverb
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:15 am

That Dhammapada quote is really what I use as well if the person has no frame of reference at all.

If someone is more philosophically inclined you can contrast Buddhist ideas of causality to other belief systems, explain sunyata or anatman.

I find that the term "interdependence" seems to cause less knee-jerk reactions, and it enables you to sometimes give a very brief explanation of emptiness and dependent origination. Most non-Buddhists i've met and had these sort of "what is it" conversations with think it means nothingness, or the opposite of existence, and will bring up things like "do you learn to empty the mind in meditation" so I figure if I can correct that small misconception that's something.

Really though, i'm interested to see some answers, because this one has always been a conundrum for me too, most of the time when someone seems to be interested in learning more, i'm not sure where to begin.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Monsoon » Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:33 am

There is no spoon? :shrug:




I'll get me coat...
Let peace reign!

Metta,

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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:44 am

There are numerous ways to sum up the teachings. In the Pali Canon you can find many suttas where the Buddha is asked to give a brief instruction. They are generally insufficient for people with no knowledge of Buddhism. Therefore, there is what is called gradual instruction, that the Dhammapada quote above covers.

Don't do evil, do good: Dana (generosity), Sila (virtue)
Result: Sagga (heaven)
Tame the mind: Adinava (drawbacks), Nekkhamma (renunciation)
Path and result: Four Noble Truths

If you want something less complicated, you can use the concept of "interbeing" or "dependent origination" as the cardinal doctrine of Buddhism. It is the best of you pick something that you can elaborate on if required. It doesn't matter if it's about ethics, meditation or wisdom, since all of them are connected to the other parts.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby rachmiel » Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:48 pm

When I'm talking with Advaitans -- or anyone who believes nondual Consciousness (Self, Brahman) makes the universe go 'round -- I usually say something like this:

Advaita goes down down down, peeling away the onion layers, until there are no more layers to peel. And, sitting there, is Brahman, the only ultimate reality.

Buddhism goes down down down, peeling away the layers, without ever reaching the bottom. In fact, the very notion of a bottom/core/essence is moot; it cannot be said to exist or not to exist (emptiness).

If anything in my distillation of Buddhism is broken, please help me fix it. I wouldn't want to lead those nice Advaitans astray. :-)
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:42 pm

Monsoon wrote:There is no spoon? :shrug:

I'll get me coat...

:smile:
May all beings be happy
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:13 pm

How to be happy and not suffer.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Roland » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:15 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:...and will bring up things like "do you learn to empty the mind in meditation" so I figure if I can correct that small misconception that's something.


I get this a lot, where people who have never meditated either have no idea what it is or think it is something it is not, like basically spacing out with a dull mind. So, I think this is a good point.

Astus wrote:There are numerous ways to sum up the teachings. In the Pali Canon you can find many suttas where the Buddha is asked to give a brief instruction. They are generally insufficient for people with no knowledge of Buddhism. Therefore, there is what is called gradual instruction, that the Dhammapada quote above covers.

Don't do evil, do good: Dana (generosity), Sila (virtue)
Result: Sagga (heaven)
Tame the mind: Adinava (drawbacks), Nekkhamma (renunciation)
Path and result: Four Noble Truths

If you want something less complicated, you can use the concept of "interbeing" or "dependent origination" as the cardinal doctrine of Buddhism. It is the best of you pick something that you can elaborate on if required. It doesn't matter if it's about ethics, meditation or wisdom, since all of them are connected to the other parts.


Thank you. That is very helpful.

These suggestions direct me towards the essence or base of the teachings, a good point to start from when explaining to people. Inserting, if needed, something about dependent origination I think would be fruitful as well. This will be much better than my random stumbling through the vastness of the dharma which will sometimes have people just have a :shrug: look and cause me to feel like this: :?:
"Seek truth in meditation, not moldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond."
- Persian proverb
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Roland » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:17 pm

Konchog1 wrote:How to be happy and not suffer.


Including something about the suffering and the cessation of suffering is very important and I will always start from there. :thumbsup:
"Seek truth in meditation, not moldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond."
- Persian proverb
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Roland » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:18 pm

Monsoon wrote:There is no spoon? :shrug:




I'll get me coat...



"Are you a glass half full or half empty person?"

"There is no glass."
"Seek truth in meditation, not moldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond."
- Persian proverb
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:20 pm

Konchog1 wrote:How to be happy and not suffer.


The problem there is that people do not realize that they are creating problems for themselves and others by pursuing that they think is happiness. Additionally they are not aware that they are suffering and incessantly causing themselves and others to suffer.

Kirt
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"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby plwk » Fri Aug 02, 2013 5:38 pm

My own ramblings... :mrgreen:
I would go by 'scopes', different people & capacities...

What is Buddhism?
For the 'lower scope' cases: 'When eating, eat. When sleeping, sleep'
For the 'medium scope' cases: basic mention on duhkha & its cessation or the Dhammapada quote as mentioned
For the 'higher' scope' cases: 37 Factors of Enlightenment & 4 Stages of Sainthood. If still interested, the Five Paths & Ten Grounds
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 7:10 pm

Roland wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:How to be happy and not suffer.


Including something about the suffering and the cessation of suffering is very important and I will always start from there. :thumbsup:
My feeling is that if one says "Buddhism is about avoiding suffering" or "Clinging is suffering", most people react with disbelief. "Why focus on suffering? That's kinda grim", "But I don't want to be a monk" etc.

But everyone wants to be happy so saying that Buddhism teaches how to be happy is immediately understandable and agreeable.

kirtu wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:How to be happy and not suffer.


The problem there is that people do not realize that they are creating problems for themselves and others by pursuing that they think is happiness. Additionally they are not aware that they are suffering and incessantly causing themselves and others to suffer.

Kirt
My understanding of the OP was what to say to the mildly curious. For the seriously interested, naturally one should talk about the three and eight kinds of suffering and how clinging is the cause.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby porpoise » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:55 pm

Roland wrote:What is Buddhism?



"Seeing things as they really are"

I like that one because it sounds a bit mysterious... :thumbsup:
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Sat Aug 03, 2013 4:26 pm

I really like the quote from the Dhammapada. Somewhere in the Tripitaka, the Buddha said (maybe more than once): I teach nothing but suffering and the cessation of suffering. I think that one works well too.
"If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing." -Dogen
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby Ramon1920 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 12:23 am

The question is benign, but I've come to regret answering it.

If you condense the teachings too much they loose their content and instead you get some weird ambiguous statement like, "Buddhism is making yourself happy".
Seeing them go on and repeat what you've said is heartbreaking.
When the ambiguity leads them to have weird ideas about what exactly Buddhists practice, it is more bearable, but still a misrepresentation that can cause problems later.

So now, if someone doesn't have time for a complete answer I don't have time to answer their question.

Summarizing the Buddhist training as ethics, meditation, and wisdom is a pretty good answer though I think.

Of course, who knows what people think when they hear these words:
What ethics do Buddhists train in? The ethics of the biblical Israeli's when they massacred every man, woman, child, and beast of a land they wanted for themselves?
What meditation do Buddhists train in? The meditation of a 1990's social darwinist trying to manifest success by visualizing it?
What wisdom do Buddhists train in? The wisdom of Freud that sees the impetus of all activity coming from sexual agendas?
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Aug 05, 2013 3:59 am

To experience complete happiness without depending on it,
to experience complete sadness without dwelling in it.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby lobster » Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:53 am

You could just admit you don't know what Buddhism is . . .

Works for me . . . :woohoo:
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby porpoise » Mon Aug 05, 2013 1:58 pm

Ramon1920 wrote: So now, if someone doesn't have time for a complete answer I don't have time to answer their question.


This happened to me yesterday, I said "it's complicated". ;)
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Re: Condensed Summarization of Buddhism?

Postby rachmiel » Mon Aug 05, 2013 2:35 pm

Interesting that so many of us have such different distillations of Buddhism. Which is imo a testament to Buddhism's flexibility (not quite the right word): Ten Thousand Paths!
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