The Buddhist Faith

null

Buddhism: Researching the Religion of the Buddha

For nearly 500 years after his death, the Buddha's teachings were passed through generations of the monastic community by oral tradition. In the late first century BCE they were first written down in a collection known as the Pali Canon. Since then a variety of additional texts and translations have appeared as a means for disseminating his ancient wisdom. Now in the 21st century we have the benefit of a new medium; the Internet is a resource utilized by lay practitioners and monastics alike for bringing the religion of Buddhism to the world.

The Buddhist Faith

One of the oldest enduring Eastern religions, Buddhism was founded in India during the sixth century BCE by Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. Although specific beliefs and practices vary, Buddhism centers around the idea that earthly suffering can be relieved by attaining Enlightenment, the cessation of the eternal cycle of death and rebirth in which all sentient beings are mired. In this section of the guide we'll direct you to Web sites with information on the history of Buddhism and explanations of fundamental concepts such as karma, the three jewels, the four noble truths, the eightfold path, and nirvana.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Reliable information on Buddhism comes from a few primary sources: active monasteries, Buddhism organizations and associations, educational institutions, and occasionally personal Web pages.
  • Most of these sites offer general introductions to Buddhism without favoring any specific sects. Those sites with specific affiliations are noted in our descriptions, and can still be viewed as unbiased sources of historical information, most of which is universal.
  • The following sites have a combination of walk-through tutorials (e.g., BuddhaNet), articles (Dharmanet.org), and encyclopedic definitions to aid you in developing an understanding of the religion. A good place to begin would be at BuddhaNet, as it provides a cohesive introduction to a subject with many disparate elements.

Dulcinea's Picks

For overviews of Buddhism ...
For Buddhism for kids ...
For the role of vegetarianism in Buddhism ...
Back to Top

The Different Forms of Buddhism

During Buddhism's 2,500 year history, several thriving sects have emerged, each with a unique take on the teachings of Buddha and daily practice. In this section we'll contrast the three dominant strains of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, along with a fourth-Zen Buddhism-that grew out of Mahayana and has gained increasing popularity in the West. We'll explore these traditions' differing approaches to the dharma, their conduct of monastic practice, and the geographic boundaries that define them.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • In this guide we'll direct you to sites with information pertaining to four of Buddhism's most prominent sects. The following is some introductory information to get you started.
    • Theravada, the most ancient form of Buddhism, is the dominant school in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Myanmar/Burma, Cambodia, and Laos). Its name translates to "Doctrine of the Elders," and it centers around the Pali scriptures, transcribed from the oral tradition taught by the Buddha. By studying these ancient texts, meditating, and following the eightfold path, Theravada Buddhists believe they will achieve Enlightenment. Strong emphasis is also placed on the monastic community and on heeding the advice of the wise.
    • Mahayana Buddhism developed out of the Theravada tradition roughly 500 years after the Buddha attained Enlightenment. A number of individual schools and traditions have formed under the banner of Mahayana, including Zen Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Pure Land Buddhism, and Tantric Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism focuses on the idea of compassion and touts bodhisattvas, which are beings that work out of compassion to liberate other sentient beings from their suffering, as central devotional figures.
    • Vajrayana was last of the three ancient forms to develop, and provides a quicker path to Enlightenment than either the Theravada or Mahayana schools. They believe that the physical has an effect on the spiritual and that the spiritual, in turn, affects the physical. Vajrayana Buddhists encourage rituals, chanting, and tantra techniques, along with a fundamental understanding of Theravada and Mahayana schools, as the way to attain Enlightenment.
    • Zen Buddhism is said to have originated in China with the teachings of the monk Bodhidharma. Zen Buddhism treats zazen meditation and daily practice as essential for attaining Enlightenment, and deemphasizes the rigorous study of scripture.
  • Because Buddhism is a system based on practice and individual experience rather than on theology or dogma, the different forms that have emerged differ less in what they believe the Buddha's teachings to be than in how they believe Buddhism should be practiced in daily life. Here are some Web sites that explain the history of the various movements and ways to be involved in those sects, both online and off.

Dulcinea's Picks

Back to Top

Finding Buddhist Scriptures

Whether you're looking for the Pali Canon, Zen parables and koans, Mahayana text, or scholarly books on the subject of Buddhism, there's a large quantity of original Buddhist scripture freely available on the Internet.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • The Buddhist Society has overviews of the different scripture sets, including the Pali Canon, Sanskrit Canon, Mahayana texts, Tantric texts, and the Tibetan and Mongolian Canon. Find them by clicking the "Scriptures" link on the left side of the page.
  • Much Buddhist scripture exists in the public domain, so you can often find it online. It's common to find a combination of the original Pali or Sanskrit text, but many Web sites also host English translations of popular scriptures.

Dulcinea's Picks

For overviews of Buddhist scripture ...
For the Pali Canon ...
For the Sanskrit Canon ...
Back to Top

Practicing Buddhism

Many prominent Buddhist organizations host sites with information aimed at helping you further your spiritual journey. If you wish to learn more about incorporating Buddhist practice into your daily life, or are a veteran practitioner looking to enhance or supplement your practice of Buddhism, you'll find the resources provided in this section helpful.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Because there's such diversity in the practice of Buddhism, it's good to develop a familiarity with the different sects prior to making the decision to practice. This can be done using the "The Buddhist Faith" and "The Different Forms of Buddhism" sections of this guide.
  • One valuable way to learn about a new religion is to speak with someone who practices. If you're seriously considering the faith, most Buddhist organizations, whether they're monasteries or local sitting groups, provide introductory courses and talks for aspiring Buddhists. You can learn about the programs offered on such an organization's Web site. If the directories below don't yield a group near you, try running a search in your favorite search engine; for instance, a search for "Zen Buddhism [your city's name]" will produce a list of Zen groups in your area.
  • The concept, purpose, and practice of meditation vary greatly between sects. Below we've included Web sites that overview these different techniques, with an emphasis on Zen meditation because it's widely practiced in the West.
  • Buddhist retreats involve intensive meditation and study of the dharma (Buddha's teachings). They can take place in purpose-built retreat centers, monasteries, or on location in nature. The following sites have databases to help you locate retreat centers worldwide.
  • Pilgrimage is often an important aspect of religious worship. A number of locations throughout Asia have immense significance to the Buddhist religion, including the sites of the Buddha's birth, Enlightenment, and death. Included here is a guide to Buddhist pilgrimage. For additional information on travel, consult the findingDulcinea Travel Guide.

Dulcinea's Picks

For an introduction to practicing Buddhism ...
For meditation ...
For kids and families ...
To find a Buddhist community near you ...
For retreat centers ...
For pilgrimages ...
Back to Top

Buddhist Products

Whether you're looking for a statue of the Buddha to serve as inspiration in your practice, a book by a renowned Buddhist teacher, a zafu and zabuton cushion for Zen meditation, or an audio CD for help with chanting, the Internet has plenty of Buddhist products, selling almost everything you would need to outfit a home practice or large meditation hall.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • There are a variety of products to help you in your practice, all of which are available online. You'll find practical meditation supplies such as clothing and cushions, Buddhist teachings on audio and video formats, art, and more.
  • If you're buying a zafu cushion (the pillow used in Zen meditation), consult this usage guide first.

Dulcinea's Picks

For meditation accessories ...
Back to Top

Connecting with the Buddhist Community

Buddhism has a large, vibrant community of online practitioners. Cyberspace abounds with Buddhist newsletters, directories, discussion groups, and blogs. In this section we'll direct you to some popular resources for an intimate perspective on the religion.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • Approach discussion forums cautiously. Because it's impossible to know the credentials or authority of anyone posting on a message board, there's no guarantee for the quality of the information. Conversely, forums can also be excellent sources of information and customized advice. So what's the bottom line? Use them, but also use discretion.
  • Buddhism blogs are a fascinating and useful resource for practicing Buddhists and aspiring Buddhists alike. They typically offer commentary and analysis of contemporary society, culture, art, and the individual, all through the lens of Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy.
  • The Blogisattva Awards are given annually to the best English-language Buddhist blogs on the Web. Categories are wide-ranging and include best writing, blog post of the year, and best blog. Use this site to locate blogs or read the highest quality Buddhism-related posts of the year.
  • The primary publishers of blogs are individuals, but certain organizations (such as the Buddhist review Tricycle), publish blogs of their own.
  • Most blogs have blogrolls (lists of recommended blogs and Web sites found in the margins of the page) comprised of useful Web sites on related topics. Visiting a few of them is a good way to find new favorites.

Dulcinea's Picks

For discussion boards and forums ...
For blogs ...
For other sources ...
Back to Top

Most Recent Guides