Buddhism is often referred to as a system of beliefs or a way of life. Unlike followers of other religions, Buddhists are not required to follow prescribed routines, although some Buddhist practices do include elaborate rituals. Meditation is the basic practice of Buddhism, intended to bring awareness of our mind and our true enlightened nature. Buddhists believe that meditation is necessary to calm the endless thoughts and distractions that otherwise fill our minds. While Zen Buddhism focuses on discovering truths about the self, Tibetan Buddhism emphasizes a path of compassion for all living beings.
Meditation is the core practice of Buddhism. Buddhists show commitment to their beliefs by meditating on a regular basis. There are no requirements as to specific times of day, number of sessions per day or length of time, though many Buddhists establish a meditation routine to ensure they practice every day. Taking time on a regular basis to rest in awareness of the true nature of one’s mind is the basic commitment.
The key Buddhist teaching is what is known as the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering and the way or path to the end of suffering. Buddhists cultivate compassion and a desire for all living beings to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. To show complete commitment to this belief, a Buddhist may carry out tangible acts of charity or generosity, but the primary practice is generating compassion through meditation and the way one lives all the time.
Taking refuge is the ceremony marking one’s commitment to being a Buddhist. A qualified teacher conducts the ceremony; the practitioner vows to live by certain precepts and receives a Buddhist name. The five basic precepts are not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, not to become intoxicated and not to engage in sexual misconduct. Taking refuge may indicate one’s commitment to being a Buddhist; however, a Buddhist shows commitment to his or beliefs in how he or she lives on a daily basis.
Going on a Buddhist retreat may deepen a Buddhist’s commitment to his or her beliefs, or may be something a Buddhist considers necessary to further his or her learning and understanding. A retreat could be as short as one day or as long as many years, and may concentrate on specific teachings or practices. Engaging in a retreat may indicate a Buddhist’s commitment to his or beliefs, as a retreat requires that one disconnect from the usual daily routines including jobs and communication with the outside world; however, the intent is to focus on practice rather than an outward show of commitment.
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