Siddhartha Gautama
The “Historical” Buddha


I. Life Involves Suffering
The First Noble Truth is that life is dukkha, usually translated “suffering.” ... He did not doubt that it is possible to have a good time and that having a good time is enjoyable, but two questions obtruded. First, how much of life is thus enjoyable. And second, at what level of our being does such enjoyment proceed. Buddha thought the level was superficial, sufficient perhaps for animals but leaving deep regions of the human psyche empty and wanting. (The World’s Religions [WR], 99-100)
Is Buddhism “world-affirming” or “world-denying”?
What about Shinto?
II. The Cause of Suffering
Selfish Desire

The cause of life’s dislocation is tanha . ... Tanha is a specific kind of desire, the desire for private fulfillment. When we are selfless we are free, but that is precisely the difficulty — to maintain that state. Tanha is the force that ruptures it, pulling us back from the freedom of the all to seek fulfillment in our egos, which ooze like secret sores. Tanha consists of all “those inclinations which tend to continue or increase separateness, the separate existence of the subject of desire; in fact, all forms of selfishness, the essence of which is desire for self at the expense, if necessary, of all other forms of life. Life being one, all that tends to separate one aspect from another must cause suffering to the unit which even unconsciously works against the Law. Our duty to our fellows is to understand them as extensions, other aspects, of ourselves — fellow facets of the same Reality.” (WR, 102-3)
Is “selfish desire” the root cause of suffering?
What about for Shinto?
III. Suffering Will Cease
When Selfish Desires Cease

The Third Noble Truth follows logically from the Second. If the cause of life’s dislocation is selfish craving, its cure lies in the overcoming of such craving. If we could be released from the narrow limits of self-interest into the vast expanse of universal life, we would be relieved of our torment. (WR, 103)
What's karma? How does it lead to rebirth?
And why should we escape from the cycle of rebirth?

salvation possible in the Shinto tradition?

IV.The Eightfold Path
to the Cessation of Suffering
The Fourth Noble Truth prescribes how the cure can be accomplished. The overcoming of tanha, the way out of our captivity, is through the Eightfold Path. (WR, 103)
The path can be divided into 3 groups:


1. Right Understanding

  • Adherence to Buddha’s understanding of the Four Noble Truths as a starting point.

2. Right Thought

  • Forming the intention to pursue the Buddha’s path, including the resolution to practice benevolence or nonharmfulness to sentient beings.


3. Right Speech

  • Ones speech should always be in accordance with the principle of nonharmfulness.

4. Right Action

  • Ones actions should also be in accord with the principle of nonharmfulness.

5. Right Livelihood

  • In line with the previous ethical principles, laypeople should pursue a line of work that promotes the welfare of other sentient beings and minimizes actions that might harm them.


6. Right Effort

  • The effort to eliminate harmful karma at the mental level; this represents the beginning of the self-examination process.

7. Right Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness meditation employs aspects of the two main types of Buddhist meditation: samatha (calming) and vipassana (insight). Samatha is good for stabilizing the mind and preventing new karma, but only “insight” leads to nirvana. Mindfulness meditation combines these by first stabilizing the mind by focusing on the breath, and then directing the mind to contemplate the nature of body, mind, and their relationship to the totality of things. 
8. Right Concentration
“Concentration” (samadhi) builds on the practice of mindfulness by focusing on a particular mental object until one reaches a state of “one-pointedness,” which in turn leads to penetrating “insight” (vipassana) into the object of focus. There is a traditional list of forty objects for meditative concentration, ultimately leading to “formless meditations” (arupajhana) on mental objects such as “nothingness” (sunyata) and “neither perception nor non-perception” (nevasanyanasanyayatana), which are regarded as the highest states of consciousness that provide a glimpse into the nature of parinirvana — the final release from samsara that occurs at the death of one who has fully awakened.