The best way to begin talking about Buddhism is to ask a simple question: What is it all about? Conveniently for us, there is a straightforward answer to that question in the form of the Four Noble Truths, which outline the whole point of Buddhism. (Incidentally, you’ll notice that Buddhists are fond of numbered lists. Perhaps they’re trying to get on Digg.)
The Four Noble Truths are usually stated as follows, which is a bit opaque, so after the official version I’ll expand a bit on them all.
- Life means suffering.
- The origin of suffering is attachment.
- The cessation of suffering is attainable.
- The path to the cessation of suffering is the Eightfold Path.
That’s it; that’s Buddhism in a nutshell right there. Buddhism has been called a “religion of action,” and there’s no clearer way to see that than those four statements: Here is a problem. Here is the root cause. The problem can be solved. Here is the solution.
Note that this isn’t specifically about Zen (yet). These are the fundamentals behind the Buddhism of the first Buddha, and the fundamentals of all of the sects of Buddhism today.
“Great, but what the hell is it on about?” Here’s my current understanding, explained as best as I can for now. Keep in mind that I’m essentially a beginner, though.