By Cheryl Costa
Oddly enough, some of the most profound discussions of Buddhist teachings I have had over the years have not taken place in a temple or monastery. No, these impromptu discussions usually took place next to a crate of vegetables in the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket! The most frequently asked question was simply, “What do Buddhists believe?” In the coming week, I will share my Buddhist beliefs with you. I believe the Buddha saw the truth of what the world is like. I believe that nothing in the world is perfect. I believe the Buddha found the answer to why the world is like this. I don’t believe the Buddha was a god, he was a human being like us. The Buddha is important because he attained Enlightenment – a state of bliss without suffering. Many rejoice that the Buddha chose to share his teachings so that we, too, can become enlightened and liberated.
There are three central Buddhist teachings known as the Three Jewels which are considered very precious: first, belief in Buddha; second, the Dharma (teachings of the Buddha); and third, the Sangha (the Buddhist community of ordinary people, monks and nuns). The purpose of the community is to help each other become less selfish in an effort to move toward enlightenment.
Most Buddhists believe in rebirth; the idea is that one has to go through many cycles of birth, life and death in order to release desire and attachment to “self” in order to reach a state of liberation (freedom from suffering). Finally, at the heart of the Buddha’s teachings are The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path. Google these terms if you want to learn more!
Cheryl Costa, a former ordained Buddhist nun in the Tibetan Orthodox tradition, is currently a lay teacher helping to create a non-sectarian American Buddhist tradition.