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Questions about Buddhism

What do Buddhists actually believe? Do they believe in anything or do they hedge their bets?

What about Rebirth and Karma - do we go along with these crazy ideas?

Then why do Buddhists talk about not having a soul? Is it good to be soulless or is that a bit like a zombie!?

What is Enlightenment? Is it too complicated to talk about? What are its defining features? How do I know if and when I achieve it?

How much of Buddhism is practical and  can I rely on external help?

If Buddhists don't see the Buddha as a God why do they worship him?

Skilful Behaviour (ethics)

Now akusala actions, unskilful actions, are described or defined as those which are rooted in craving, or selfish thirst, in hatred or antagonism or aggressiveness, and in mental confusion, bewilderment, a state of spiritual obscuration or ignorance. And kusala actions, skilful actions, are those which are free from craving, free from hatred, free from mental confusion, and which are, positively speaking, motivated instead by generosity, by the impulse to share, to give, by love, by kindness and compassion, and by understanding. These are kusala actions, skilful actions, those which are so motivated.

And this very simple distinction at once places the whole question of morality in an entirely different light. The ethical life, the moral life, we may say, is a matter or becomes a matter of acting from what is best in us, what is best in us within. Acting from our deepest, our profoundest insight and understanding and our widest and most all-embracing love and compassion.

Excerpt: The Questions of the ancient Greek king Milinda to Nagasena

First there is ethics or morality. This is the basis of all healthy human growth and development. Just as the earth supports trees and life or a building site is cleared and flattened in readiness for the building of a house so ethics is the groundwork for all spiritual growth.

Then there is Faith. Faith arrests the mental hindrances to concentration. Just like Iodine clears water of harmful bacteria so faith settles dangerous mental states. Faith makes the mind serene and courageous. In times of hardship where perhaps a flood destroys a village and people are frightened to cross the raging river and a powerful swimmer comes along and sets an example by fearlessly crossing the flood so faith can provide the strength and confidence to act courageously.

Vigour. Vigour props things up just like a pillar stops a building from falling down.

Mindfulness. Mindfulness discerns what needs to be done and what needs to be left undone. It discerns between the wholesome mental and emotional states and unwholesome ones. Just as your financial advisor tells you your net worth and what to invest in and what to sell. So mindfulness develops your strengths and warns of your weaknesses.

Concentration. All things lead to concentration just as all roads lead to Athens, just as an army is headed by the king and the rafters in a house all point up to the ridge pole.

Wisdom. Wisdom cuts off the defilements as I’ve already said and it also illuminates like a torch lighting up the obstacles on a forest path at night-time.