Buddhist Morals and Guidelines

A classical image of the Buddha in seated meditation, one of the key practices on the path to enlightenment.
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Buddhism, unlike most religions, is not based on the worship of a deity; rather, it is a set of moral guidelines and practices, which, if followed, can bring you to the ultimate state of reality and peace. The Buddha is said to have expounded these morals after he reached enlightenment, or nirvana: the true understanding of the universe. Because Buddhism was founded on the principles set forth in the Buddha's teachings, the tenets by which Buddhists live depend wholly on these teachings.

1 Karma And Morality

Good karma is created through the spinning of prayer wheels, which send prayers through the wind to the world.
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A basic belief in Buddhism is that life is a cycle of birth, death and rebirth and that your actions in not only the present but also in the past affect into what realm you are reborn and how your life is lived. This idea of the continued effects of all actions is the definition of karma. Because of the intense belief in the power of karma, Buddhists approach every action with an understanding that they are not simply affecting this moment but all moments in the future as well, leading to the formation of an internal moral standard by which to live.

2 The Four Noble Truths

Everyone, with the exception of enlightened beings, finds themselves trapped in the First Noble Truth: life is suffering.
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The Four Noble Truths were taught by the Buddha in order to show people the true nature of reality. By understanding these truths, taught the Buddha, you can follow a path that leads to enlightenment. The first truth is simply that all life, or existence, is suffering. The second truth is that the source of this suffering is attachment and desire. The third truth the Buddha taught is that you can escape the world of suffering, and the fourth truth is that the only way to end suffering is to follow the Eightfold Path.

3 The Eightfold Path

Buddhism expounds an energetic connection between all living beings and every interaction.
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The Eightfold Path, as described by the Buddha, is the way to self-awakening and the escape of suffering. Each of the eight steps begins with the word "right," suggesting that enlightenment is reached by finding a moral correctness that comes with understanding that absolutely everything is connected. The eight "rights" can be subdivided into three categories: wisdom, conduct and concentration. Within these three categories the eight rights, in order, are: view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration. To achieve the Eightfold Path, however, you must not simply understand each of these but live them in every moment.

4 The Five Precepts

The Buddha found enlightenment through meditation under the Bodhi tree, so many Buddhists find practicing in nature to be essential.
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On the most basic level, there are five moral standards by which anyone who decides to take refuge in the Buddha must follow. Essentially these are the five moral laws of Buddhism. The first is to refrain from killing, which extends to food, making many Buddhists vegetarians. The next two are to refrain from stealing and any sort of sexual misconduct. The final two are refraining from false speech, which includes not only lies but also harmful words, and from the use of substances which alter the mind.

Tiffany Andras received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Georgia Tech in Biology and Biochemistry. Her work was first published in the "Journal of Chemical Ecology" as both a full-length article and the journal's cover. She has been writing professionally since 2012, with articles spanning topics from French culture to nutrition and brain disorders.