Fundamental Dharma Teachings

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Fundamental Dharma Teachings

In Buddhism dharma means "cosmic law and order",but is also applied to the teachings of the Buddha. In Buddhist philosophy, dhamma/dharma is also the term for "phenomena". In your study of the dharma, you will encounter numerous lists, which the Buddha created to make his teachings accessible and memorable.


The teacher of the Buddhist doctrine was Gautama Buddha who was born in the Shakya clan in India. The story of Buddha's life is told in three parts: an initial generation of an altruistic intention to become enlightened, in the middle his accumulation of the collections of merit and wisdom, and in the end his attaining enlightenment and turning the wheel of doctrine. The reason why his story is presented in this manner is that in Buddhism there is no teacher who was already enlightened from the beginning of time; instead, a person must become newly enlightened.


Because there are four schools of tenets within Buddhism, there are many different explanations of how to generate an altruistic intention to become enlightened, how the collections of merit and wisdom are accumulated, and how to become enlightened. From a general point of view, however, Shakyamuni first developed an aspiration to attain Buddhahood in order to bring about the welfare of sentient beings - their welfare being his primary intent, and his own enlightenment being the means to bring it about. Then, in the Middle, he accumulated the collections of merit and wisdom for three periods of countless eons, at the end of which he become fully and thoroughly enlightened. Since Shakyamuni's life story is widely available in buddhist literature, it is not necessary to repeat it here.


Included below are some of the basic lists you will encounter which the Buddha created.


    The Triple Gem
  • Buddha - the historical Buddha and one's own potential for awakening

  • Dharma - the teachings of the Buddha; the truth of the way things are

  • Sangha - the community; in Asia this refers to the monastic community, in the West this includes lay practitioners

  • The Four Noble Truths
  • There is suffering

  • The origin of suffering is craving

  • There is an end to suffering

  • The way to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path

  • The Noble Eighfold Path
  • Right Understanding (or view)

  • Right Thought (or intention)

  • Ethical Conduct (or sila) Factors:

  • Right Speech

  • Right Action

  • Right Livelihood

  • Concentration (or samadhi) Factors:

  • Right Effort

  • Right Mindfulness

  • Right Concentration

  • The Four Foundations of Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness of the body in the body (includes the breath and the four elements: earth, fire, water, air)

  • Mindfulness of feeling tones in feeling tones (whether something is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral)

  • Mindfulness of the mind in the mind

  • Mindfulness of objects of the mind

  • The Three Marks of Existence
  • Impermanence (anicca)

  • Suffering (dukkha)

  • No Self (anatta)

  • The Four Brahma-Viharas (Heavenly Abodes)
  • Loving-kindness (metta)

  • Compassion (karuna)

  • Empathetic Joy (mudita)

  • Equanimity (upekkha)

  • The Five Precepts
  • To refrain from taking life

  • To refrain from taking that which is not freely given

  • To refrain from sexual misconduct

  • To refrain from unwise/unskillful speech

  • To refrain from intoxication

  • The Five Hindrances
  • Sensual Desire (kammachanda)

  • Anger or ill will (byapada vyapada)

  • Sloth and Torpor (thina-middha)

  • Restlessness (uddhacca=kukkucca)

  • Doubt (vicikiccha)

  • The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
  • Mindfulness (sati)

  • Investigation of the dharma (dhammavicaya)

  • Energy (viriya)

  • Rapture (piti)

  • Tranquility (passaddhi)

  • Concentration (samadhi)

  • Equanimity (upekkha)

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