Are you drawn to buddhism? Would you like a quick introduction?

What Do You Really Know About Buddhism?

I’ve always loved Buddhist imagery.

It seems to exude peace and tranquillity.

Like many spiritual westerners I’ve had a Buddha in my home for many years, often more than one (and usually one in the garden too).

The Buddha image has almost become a symbol for the ‘new age’ spiritual movement.

When my niece was tiny and could say just a few words, one of those words was ‘bubba’. She would say it as she pointed at my Buddha statues. She would hug them and kiss their heads when she came to my house. And insist on kissing each one good morning if she stayed the night. I don’t know if she just thought they were babies or if she could sense some sort of peaceful, gentle, child-like energy about them. But I thought it was lovely and she had her first buddha statue for her first birthday.

Is Buddhism What You Think It Is?

Despite surrounding myself with the imagery, I don’t class myself as a Buddhist. I have, however, always felt drawn to Buddhism and it’s teachings of peace and a meditative lifestyle. Having said that, where the essence or ‘big picture’ teaching of any religion, faith or philosophy is love and peace, I feel an affinity with them.

It’s in the detail and man’s interpretations of them that questions are raised for me. And that’s why I don’t follow any one of them.

What Are The Fundamentals of Buddhism?

Here’s a whistle-stop tour of my interpretation of the basics of Buddhism.

The man who became ‘Buddha’ was born a prince over 2500 years ago in a province near the Nepal-India border.

Despite his lavish lifestyle he wasn’t happy, he was dissatisfied in some way. At 29 went off to study spirituality & philosophy with religious teachers. I guess, he went to find himself and his purpose, or the meaning of life.

One night, at the age of 35 he sat under a big tree on the night of a full moon and meditated. It must have been a super-deep meditation because during it he received insights into the mind, and all of nature.

He became Enlightened.

In his enlightenment he was set free of cravings, the delusion of man, any suffering and from the continual cycle of rebirth. 

It could be said that he attained absolute peace.

He then spent the rest of his life teaching the path to enlightenment, these teachings are called the Dhamma. This translates as ‘the nature of all things’ or ‘the truth underlying existence’.

The Dhamma covers 7 areas:

  1. The path of inquiry: Don’t just accept what people tell you, even if it’s tradition or scripture. Seek your own truth, ask questions, be open-minded and investigate life. Yeah, I totally get this one!
  2. The four noble truths: These boil down to
    1. us all being afflicted by suffering,
    2. suffering is caused by cravings.
    3. When we reach Nirvana (the state of enlightenment) we can break the cravings, and therefore end the suffering.
    4. Reaching Nirvana this is achieved by following the middle way – or the eightfold path. Kinda get his point but it seems a bit negative doesn’t it? There is a lot of joy in life too.
  3. The Eightfold Path or Middle Way: this is a path that avoids the extremes of life, self-indulgence and self-mortification. Self-mortification is the subjugation of appetites or desires by self-denial or self-discipline as an aspect of religious devotion. (I had to look that up). When you take the ‘middle way’ you are just comfortable enough, and therefore able to meditate sufficiently well to discover the truth. A REALLY short version of the  guidelines to living this ‘middle way’
    1. Meditate a lot,
    2. be nice to each other,
    3. don’t over indulge,
    4. don’t cause the death of any living thing,
    5. don’t steal,
    6. don’t lie,
    7. don’t break promises,
    8. don’t engage in sexual misconduct – particularly adultery,
    9. don’t drink alcohol or take drugs,
    10. seek spiritual answers,
    11. be virtuous and moral,
    12. and meditate a lot. I know, I repeated that last one but Meditation is REALLY important. I think it’s because when we meditate we are chilled out, and we feel more connected to others, and are less likely to do the things we aren’t supposed to!
  4. Then there’s the whole Kamma thing (Karma). Your actions and the results of them. It’s a big subject but I’m sure you know the gist of it. If you want to know more about it I wrote about Karma here.
  5. The cycle of rebirth: based on your Kamma; you get reincarnated with certain challenges to overcome. Reincarnation is hugely complex and very personal. Do you believe in it?
  6. ‘No Creator God’: And no supreme being. Each one of us must take personal responsibility for our path and the working out of our own Kamma. Wow, some people are gonna struggle with that personal responsibility right?
  7. The illusion of soul: The illusion of having a soul manifests as ego, and is the root cause of all suffering. Understanding and dissolving this illusion is part of the process towards enlightenment. I’m sure this could fund days of debate and discussion!
Buddhist Monks – And Nuns, And How The Various Types Of Buddhism Came To Be

The Buddha founded a monastic order and set down rules for monks and nuns to follow; interestingly the monks got 227 rules, while the nuns got 311.

You don’t ever hear of Buddhist nuns do you? I’ve noticed in Thailand that there are nuns’ quarters as well as monks’ at the monasteries and temples. But you don’t see them walking around as you do the monks. There are also opportunities to have ‘Monk Chat’ at the temples, where you get to ask the monks questions. There is no ‘Nun Chat’. I wonder why that is? The nuns don’t really get much press do they?

The Buddha said that the minor rules he created could be amended but after his death there were arguments about which were the minor ones. This caused different factions of Buddhism to break away and form their own sects within the Buddhist philosophy. 

As with all faiths and philosophies there will be things that challenge you. For example, I don’t understand why there are different rules for monks and nuns. And while the temples are amazing to visit, their extravagant decor and the sheer number of Buddha images and shrines seems excessive for a philosophy that teaches a ‘middle way’. At all of them you are encouraged to buy blessings and offerings. While I know that a lot of good work is probably done by the monks (and nuns of course) there seems to be a sad sense of irony, and in such poor countries too. I’m not sure that Buddha would have wanted or condoned all this fuss when he was alive, but that’s just my take on it. I can imagine he might have reacted a bit like Jesus on discovering a market in the temple.

Interesting Things I Have Learnt About Buddhism In Thailand
  • The Thai word for temple is Wat.
  • Every nine days the Thai people change the offerings of flowers and sweet drinks (and often alcohol) that they place on their home shrines.
  • There are temples that women cannot enter. This is often because they house an ancient artefact and are therefore more sacred spaces. As women menstruate this ‘humiliates and ruins the sanctity’ of the temple/artefact. Really? Again, this seems really incongruent. 
  • In many temples devotees of Buddhism can buy small amounts of gold leaf which they place on the Buddha statue as their offering.
  • In other temples, people leave food as offerings which is then distributed to those who need it. 
  • The reclining Buddha is occasionally seen in Temples. I don’t know why he’s laying down. If I lay down to meditate I fall asleep. He looks pretty chilled out though.

I still find the statues that represent Buddha to be peaceful and tranquil. They are, to me the symbol of a man at peace in his world, with himself and with others. That’s a nice place to be. That’s a place I would like to be more often than I am. If you’re looking for a way to more peace and acceptance, maybe Buddhism is the path for you, just remember what Buddha said, never just accept someone else’s teachings. Always search, inquire and discover your own truth.

p.s. This is a good website to visit if you want to know more details ( I appreciate mine is a very brief overview!)

Helen Leathers

Transformational Women's Coach, Trainer, Speaker & Author

Combining a spiritual outlook, a pragmatic approach, and a sense of humour I want to help you remember who YOU are and reveal YOUR path so you can step on to it empowered, energised, inspired and guided.

What are your thoughts or questions? Let me know below


  1. Chris Leathers

    Thanks Helen for your overview of Buddhism, I found it really helpful and am glad you had a good break.
    Happy and blessed new year:)

    • helen

      You’re very welcome Chris. It has always fascinated me. Happy new year to you all. Lots of love


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