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Understanding Buddhism

The Buddha is reported to have said; “I teach only suffering, and the end of suffering.” This is Buddhism, a set of ideas & exercises you can use to help you end your suffering, gain peace of mind, and find true happiness.

I’m currently listening to dharma talks by the Buddhist monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu. He releases a months worth of dharma talks at a time on his site, and also makes them available on YouTube.

His site dhammatalks.org offers audio dharma talks (organized by theme / topic), translations of the suttas, online books & articles, and is my favorite online buddhism resource.

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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.

dharmaseed.org talks archive

audiodharma.org talks archive

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Dharma talks, Buddhism, and the supernatural

While some see Buddhism as a religion, others see it as a philosophy. While some include supernatural ideas to it, this is not necessary. One can practice Buddhism without any supernaturalistic beliefs, just as one can hold a particular philosophical view, or participate in pychotherapy. Gil Fronsdal describes what he calls Natural Buddhism in which he explains his view of Buddhism without supernaturalism.

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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.

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.

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

Then as you have done a little reaserch on the three pieces mentioned about, you might visit this Suttas (discources) page for some of the more important texts.