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Understanding Buddhism

“I teach only [the causes of] suffering, and the end of suffering.” This is a reported saying of the Buddha. These ideas & exercises can help you see the sources of your suffering, overcome them, and find peace of mind & happiness.

Above is a dharma talk by the Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu. A new talk is offered each day. On his site dhammatalks.org he offers additional talks, translations of the suttas, articles & books. It’s currently my favorite Buddhism resource.

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Buddhism & the supernatural

While some see Buddhism as a religion, others see it as a philosophy. While some add supernatural ideas to it, this is not necessary. One can use Buddhist ideas & exercises without any supernaturalistic beliefs. Gil Fronsdal describes what he calls Natural Buddhism in which he describes a view of Buddhism without supernaturalism.

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Talks by others

Here are two additional sites that really helped me to begin to understand buddhism. They publish new talks almost daily by a variety of people. Hearing the dharma explained in a variety of ways by a variety of people really helped me begin to grasp Buddhism in a way I had not when exposed to Buddhism many years ago in some of the general religious introductory books I read years ago. Perhaps they will be of help you as well. These talks get posted to the @StarbucksSangha Twitter page.

dharmaseed.org talks archive

audiodharma.org talks archive

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The Buddhist “canon” of texts

The Pāli Canon falls into three general categories, called pitaka (from Pali piṭaka, meaning “basket”, referring to the receptacles in which the palm-leaf manuscripts were kept). Because of this, the canon is traditionally known as the Tipiṭaka (“three baskets”). The three pitakas are as follows:

Vinaya Pitaka (“Discipline Basket”), dealing with rules or discipline of the sangha (the community).

Sutta Pitaka (Sutra/Sayings Basket), discourses and sermons of Buddha, some religious poetry and is the largest basket.

Abhidhamma Pitaka, treatises that elaborate Buddhist doctrines, particularly about mind, also called the “systematic philosophy” basket, likely composed starting about and after 300 BCE.

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Dipping your foot in the canon

You’re not gonna walk into a book store and buy the Pali canon as a single book, like the Christian Bible, so don’t drive yourself crazy looking for it. You should ease into the canon. Perhaps starting with… The Dhammapada, One of the most popular / beloved of Buddhist writing collections.

The Dhammapada - A translation by Thanissaro Bhikkhu - table of contents

PDF version - a printed copy is also available for free by writing the Metta Forest Monastary, PO Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082

You might visit this Suttas (discourses) page for some of the more important texts.

Or… enjoy a random sutta.