Buddhism: A Brief Introduction:
All Beings Have the Wisdom of the Buddha
Chapter One- Suffering: The Problem of Existence
Chapter Two- The Cause of Suffering: Ignorance and Karma
Chapter Three- The Path to the Cessation of Suffering: Practicing the Dharma
Chapter Four- The Cessation of Suffering: The Realm of the Buddha
Chapter Five- Sangha: The Third Jewel
Introduction to Chart of Samsara
Chart of Samsara
The Intent of the Buddha's Teachings
Framework and Text for Buddhism: A Brief Introduction
In 1969-1970 the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua gave a public lecture series in San Francisco on the Amitabha Sutra in Chinese, which was translated on the spot for a predominantly European-American audience. The bi-lingual lecture series lasted for over two months and included over 60 lectures. In the course of that lecture series the Venerable Master taught the core principles of Buddhism by combining the teachings of the Four Noble Truths and The Four Magnificent Vows of the Bodhisattva.
After studying these lectures, I reflected upon my travels to many Buddhist countries and monasteries over the years. I had found that the study, rituals and spiritual practices of those in the Theravada tradition always centered on the well known teaching of the Four Noble Truths, whereas those of the Mahayana tradition were always based on what are called the Four Magnificent Vows of the Bodhisattva. These are recited in the rituals or ceremonies of the countries in each tradition every day.
The Four Noble Truths & The Bodhisattva's Four Magnificent Vows
In the Buddha's teaching, the problem of existence and its solution are precisely expressed in the Four Noble Truths and the corresponding Bodhisattva's Four Magnificent Vows. The Four Noble Truths are best described by an analogy. The First Truth diagnoses the symptom of an illness and the Second determines its cause. The Third Truth describes the final cure of the disease once the cause has been eliminated, and the Fourth prescribes the medicine or treatment that will bring about the cure. The Four Magnificent Vows extend these same truths beyond oneself to include all living beings. Thus in numerous discourses the Buddha said:
Formerly and now, also, it is just suffering and the cessation of suffering that I teach. (Maha-Parinirvana Sutra of the Pali Canon)
Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word. It is a compound made up of the two words: bodhi which means "awakened" or "enlightened"; and sattva which means "sentient being". A Bodhisattva is both an "awakened sentient being" and "one who awakens sentient beings". He is one imbued with great wisdom and compassion who simultaneously strives to perfect his own awakening along with his ability to awaken all other living beings. When the Bodhisattva has totally perfected these, he becomes a Buddha, one already perfect in wisdom and compassion.
Using Source Materials
Before we begin to look at the textbook, I should also mention that Buddhism: A Brief Introduction relies primarily on translations of source materials, rather than narrative explanations and interpretations of the teachings. The text tries to let the Buddha speak for himself directly to the reader by way of brief Sutra passages presented in a manner that weaves the entire body of teachings into a coherent whole.