My mother and I come from a non-Buddhist culture/background/society/country/family.

At one point when I had an opportunity to explain to her what Buddhism is, I was doing well (i.e. she was listening and accepting what I was saying) when I was explaining that Buddhism includes a non-fixed identity-view and explaining why a non-fixed identity view is skillful (e.g. because an attitude such as attachment to your job/profession might be unpleasant when you retire, and because people's abilities and health change with age).

But then what I mentioned the first Noble Truth she seemed to object, saying "Sorry you think life is suffering/dissatisfaction, I don't agree: I like life, I think life is good."


  • Do you ever try to explain Buddhism to someone who barely knows the first thing about it, and if so what is your strategy for how to explain it?

  • Do you explain 'dukkha' using the classic 'death/poverty/illness/old age', and/or is there a better way to explain the first noble Truth?

  • Are there any alternate way to introduce Buddhism which don't begin with the first Noble Truth?

  • Might it be better to explain what I think Buddhism might mean to me (why it appeals to me) personally? I fear that might make it less strange to her ("yes I see why you like it") but at the same time less acceptable ("but it isn't for me because I'm not like you").

  • Should I understand that if that's her reaction it's because she's already doing a lot of things right (e.g. not spending her life feeling angry)?

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    Ajahn Brahm introduces it in a quasi-reverse order : 1) Happiness 2) How to get Happiness 3)Unhappiness 4) Ending of Unhappiness – Monk Jan 20 '15 at 10:40
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    It's much more suited to the mind-set of non-Buddhists - since many shirk at the word "Suffering" - since they are living in constant denial of reality. Instead, one starts with what they are actually chasing after - the ever-elusive "Happiness" - I agree that this isn't exactly what the Buddha taught - But, it is a skilful way of introducing the Buddha's teaching, to persons with a certain kind of mentality - this very twisting of words to encouraging certain perceptions in the mind of the hearer and preventing the arising of others. – Monk Jan 20 '15 at 10:45
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    In fact, in the suttas - we find that the Buddha often does something similar - he twists around the meaning of words, bending them to suit reality (and sometimes, to the needs of his audience). Even many of the Vedic words were re-defined by the Buddha to make them resonate with Reality. – Monk Jan 20 '15 at 10:48
  • @Monk: re your first comment above: people seem to get stuck on the 'ending' part and forget what brought them there in the first place. You went to the hospital, were treated and released... Now what were you doing before that? Oh, that's right... – user2341 Dec 11 '15 at 13:25

15 Answers 15


1) It's hard to summarize Buddhism in brief without resorting to one of sometimes inaccurate or misleading summaries. A summary that starts with the Hindu-style cosmology, imho, misses the point. Also depends on the audience, i.e. do they see other religions as being different kinds of Christianity or essentially Christian heresy or as superstition. The worst misunderstanding is that Buddhism is only a devotional religion just Christianity with the words Buddha/God, Pure Land/Heaven, and so on swapped.

2)I've been reading about the different forms of Buddhism, a lot. What is surprising is that each branch has a slightly different take on what the problem is that Buddhism is meant to solve.

  • Shin Buddhism. The fundamental problem is arrogance, particularly with respect to the idea that we think we can engage in practices to solve our other problems.
  • Theravada. The fundamental problem is suffering, particularly suffering associated with grasping and desiring things. I don't like to waffle-- this view really does say the problem is akin to depression. I visualize the historical Buddha as suffering from depression, but not everyone suffers from depression. The flip reading of this is, that the fundamental problem is to figure out how to be happy. The Dalai Lama sometimes uses this in public speeches to summarize the goal of Buddhism.
  • Mahayana. The fundamental problem is ignorance, particularly with respect to the question of who we are, and that we think our fundamental problem can be solved individually
  • Tathagata-Garba. The fundamental problem is that we think we have a problem, particularly of the sort that could be solved by realizing our problem is already solved. (I certainly don't claim to grok this, it sounds like the fundamental problem is we don't think we are good enough, but eventually we realize we were good enough all along. Personally I think it's nonsense, my opinion of myself has no bearing on anything except for people trapped in a society that obsesses about relative rank)

3) I don't start with the 4 noble truths or 8 fold paths. I'd rather start with what practices I do and to what goal.

4) You can't help but say something about what you personally think, else you'll be parroting the party line of a particular institutionalize form of Buddhism or boring people with an encyclopedic listing of Buddhist schools.

5) If someone really has no problems, that's great, they are Enlightened! The historical Buddha (According to Stephen Batchelor's retelling) said as much on his death bed, when he asked if anyone had any questions left, no one did, so he said, well you all must be enlightened then. People need Buddhism when their current raft has sunk. If there is food on the table, a comfortable place to sleep, and they have no complaints about their daily routine, then our jobs as Buddhists is to rejoice in their success (mudita).

I was reading "Wicked" the retelling of "Wizard of Oz" from the witch's standpoint. In one scene, the main character was looking through a glass as a child and saying "Horrors, horrors" as she could see something no one else could. Later in the book, she grows up to be a political radical and rebel because she was one of the few that saw the horror of the consequences of the government (the Wizard's) policies.

Anyhow, I don't claim to have a good solution for the problem-- how do we stay optimistic and positive or happy once we realize the muddle we are in, but at least the Mahayana version, provides a path towards how to find happiness-- by taking action to solve everyone's problems.

  • I was pointed here from another Q. It is indeed fascinating that different sects see "the problem" differently! I did not realize that. Of course, people in general vary. The same situation seen by an NT, NF, SP or SJ (MBTI / Keirsey-Bates) looks very different! They all want something different! One size does not fit all. But when you say: the fundamental problem is to figure out how to be happy - Wow, that hits me hard. I spent my life wondering that, and now it seems to be in hand, but I don't know what to do next! I agree with ChrisW's mother. Is there a non-personal statement of Good? – user2341 Dec 11 '15 at 13:08
  • I don't know, I'm Mahayana. One day you wake up and you realize you are in a horror movie, you want to leave it, but you are trapped in it because you don't exist as an individual anyhow, you're just part of the collective consciousness. The project is to solve the suffering of all sentient beings, which is achieved by working tirelessly to fix the mundane problems of the world (sickness, hunger), not so much with the aim of happiness but equanimity & peace. – MatthewMartin Dec 11 '15 at 16:00

In a nut shell Buddhism revolves around the 3 trainings:

  • Living a life of morality so we do no create misery for one self and others
  • Developing mastery over the mind so we do not react but be proactive so we can be at peace with our selves and other
  • Developing wisdom of your cognitive process to identify how misery is generated so we can come out of misery
  • So, once you have all that, what is a good thing to do for others? What to create, promote, share...? A path that only ends in cessation is Existentialism, as far as I am concerned. What lies on the other shore? – user2341 Dec 11 '15 at 13:09
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    What lies on the other shore? - A completely balanced and happy mind immune to any experience that can hurt you. What ceases is the defilements that make you unhappy or the suffering itself. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Dec 11 '15 at 13:39

In addition to my comments, I quote Ajahn Brahm from his book "Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond"

The Highest Happiness

The Buddha said, “Nibbāna is the highest happiness” (Dhp 203, 204). This is, perhaps, the most helpful description of enlightenment. Not only is it straightforward and lacking in gibberish, it is also very appealing. It reveals why men and women have been striving for nibbāna throughout the past twenty-six centuries. We all want happiness, and if the highest happiness is on offer, then that’s what we want. Thus Buddhism’s perennial teaching is how to be happier and happier, until one reaches the summit of all happiness in this very life: nibbāna.

These days, I present the Buddha’s special teaching of the four noble truths having rearranged them. I have found that if I begin with the noble truth of suffering, then my audience is turned off. They know enough about that already in their lives. They didn’t give up their evening to come and listen to more suffering. As any salesperson knows, first impressions are paramount. Therefore I introduce the four noble truths as follows:

  1. Happiness
  2. The path leading to happiness
  3. Unhappiness
  4. The cause of unhappiness

This is essentially the same as the Buddha’s teaching, but reordered for greater impact. Some might call this rearrangement “marketing,” but it emphasizes the goal of Buddhism by placing it first.

Nibbāna portrayed as the highest happiness also reveals that the noble eightfold path is the way of ever-increasing happiness. Those who follow the path wholeheartedly get happier. As the Buddha said in the Araṇavibhanga Sutta, “One should know how to define pleasure, and knowing that, one should pursue pleasure within oneself.” One pursues such inner pleasure, which is jhāna, without fear until one reaches the highest happiness.

What is the highest happiness that you have experienced? Drugs? Sex? Music? Falling in love? Seeing the birth of your first child? You will find that the happiness of jhāna exceeds all of these. That is why one’s first experience of jhāna blows apart all one’s old conceptions about the meaning of happiness. Jhāna provides deep insight into happiness. Not that jhāna is the highest happiness, but it is so close that, as we said earlier, the Buddha called it sambodhi sukha, “the bliss of enlightenment.” From jhāna one proceeds to a happiness a little bit higher, and that is nibbāna.

Recent scientific studies support the assertions that meditation makes one happier and that Buddhist monks may be the happiest people of all. Therefore, anyone who wants a really good time should be a really good meditator. And if one wants the highest happiness of all, then go for nibbāna.

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    Thank you for identifying a/the specific book of his which contains that message (because he's written about 10 books). – ChrisW Jan 20 '15 at 11:12
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    I find that Jhana increases my enjoyment of everything else. So, I lead back in to life without hindrances, but to do... What? As Kurt Vonnegut said in one of his books, "What in Hell are people For?" – user2341 Dec 11 '15 at 13:14

I think a brief overview of Buddha's life is an excellent way to explain Buddhism, because the listener can follow the train of observation and reasoning that led Buddha to renounce a life of ease for a difficult life as an ascetic, then wandering teacher.

To me the most salient feature of Buddhism is that there is no central role for a "god". Other salient features are the stress on self-insight, and the importance of intention in judging the morality of action.

If someone asks why Buddhists bow before statues, I usually say it is to pay respect to the wisdom of Buddha and his teachings.

In explaining the Noble Truths, I usually say "all people suffer at some point in their lives" and "the reason people suffer is that they desire something, even if it's only desire for things not to change". The third and fourth noble truth I usually explain as "we can limit our suffering to the extent we can master our desires" and there is a way to master desire, the Eightfold Path.

Harder to explain are anatta and "what is reincarnated after we die?".

  • I don't think that people suffer because they desire something. They suffer because they cannot get it, or getting it makes problems. They might want the wrong thing (for example, drug highs, which don't lead anywhere) but desire in itself cannot be wrong. Master it, so that it can be well-directed, yes. Stifle it, no. So, what should people actually DO? – user2341 Dec 11 '15 at 13:16

It may be useful to choose certain aspects of Buddhism that people can relate to such as Cause and Effect. This reminded me of the dilemma The Buddha had when he almost didn't teach The Dhamma because he thought it was too hard to grasp.But Brahma persuaded him that there some people who can understand.Perhaps the best way to approach this is by treating Buddhism completely as a philosophy something to ponder about in the distance and not to be experienced as this can be met with aversion.Create that distance so your mother can feel safe and not like her views are being threatened.Just like we don't see the need to disagree that Christians believe in Jesus Christ as it makes no difference your mother should be put in a position where she is aware what these so called Buddhists believe but does not feel threatened by it.Try watching a documentary on the life of The Buddha visit a Buddhist temple or attend A Buddhist ceremony maybe travel to a buddhist country.just like a curious tourist where you can explain some of the symbolism or mythology.

But for her to be able to grasp the teaching would depend on her karma.The Buddha himself did not start by explaining complex teachings such as Annata or Dependent Origination to people who could not understand.He mainly just started with explaining the importance of Generosity or being Good. Because you needq sufficient merits to clear the mind enough to grasp the teaching or the essence of what the Buddha taught.a

imagine if you were a stranger what could you say to make your then self understand Buddhism.Remembera how you first understood buddhism was it like somebody telling you what to accept or was it kind of likke something you forgot then went oh that's right!an aha moment a moment of insight.

  • Great, totally agree. My first impression of Buddhism was super powers and fighting. Now it seems the opposite. – Anthony Jan 18 '15 at 5:07
  • He mainly just started with explaining the importance of Generosity or being Good. I thought that this teaching started with the noble truths i.e. the Dhammacakkappavattana. When you say that he "started with explaining the importance of Generosity or being Good", what teaching[s] (or book or whatever) are you referring to? – ChrisW Jan 19 '15 at 0:45
  • Remembera how you first understood buddhism I was reading a story of his early life: that before his birth someone predicted he would be a spiritual teacher or a ruler, that his parents kept him insulated/ignorant in a palace, that as a "prince" he escaped into town and discovered sickness and death there, stopped being happy with the gilded cage (palace) he was in, went to homelessness, tried asceticism, was eventually enlightened under the bodhi tree, and then started to teach the Middle Way and the Four Noble Truths. When he mentioned the 1st Noble Truth I agreed: thought it self-evident. – ChrisW Jan 19 '15 at 0:52
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    @Chris W Please read what the sentence i wrote before "to people who could not understand".The Dhammacakkappavattana was expounded to "five Asctetics".People whose only goal in life is spiritual enlightenment.When the Buddha explained Dependent Origination or Anatta he was mostly addressing Bhikkus or Monks.The Aṅguttara Nikāya contains more suttas targeted directly to lay people.Overall the suttas addressed to lay people show a very strong emphasis on good conduct by body, speech, and mind.And a higher emphasis on the goals of happiness in this life,generosity and a good rebirth. – Orion Jan 19 '15 at 10:00
  • This Answer is intuitive and skillful. Long ago, I shared a book by Alan Watts (whom I no longer respect) with my mother. She said, "I don't need someone to tell me how to think!" It hurt, but she was correct. One must "meet people where they are". This is a hard thing to get across to prospective "preachers" because they are so full of their understanding and relief that they do not intuit their audience! You understand this well. We should spend as much time studying other people as ourselves, and the Dharma. – user2341 Dec 11 '15 at 13:22

But then what I mentioned the first Noble Truth she seemed to object, saying "Sorry you think life is suffering/dissatisfaction, I don't agree: I like life, I think life is good."

It seems like your non-Buddhist mother understood the Dhamma (Truth) better than you. The 1st noble truth summarises all suffering as attachment (upadana) to the five aggregates. It is not about 'life' but about mental suffering. Birth, aging, death, sorrow, separation from loved, etc, are just examples of attachment (upadana).

If you explain to your mother Buddhism is about happiness & suffering and it explains suffering occurs when there is clinging; be it clinging to life, clinging to a person or clinging to a view or opinion, your mother might agree; given mothers are prone to worry about their children because of clinging. This is how Queen Mallika explained the Dhamma to King Pasenadi in the Piyajatika Sutta.

This said, be sure to explain the happiness (Nibbana) part of Buddhism, particularly the moral teachings about skilful kamma in relationships, such as metta & gratitude, including family relationships. Here, you can demonstrate how Buddhism nurtures your relationship with her.

If you focus too much on suffering, your mother may think you are unhappy rather than happy.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCX0muRLJWc Buddhism in a nutshell, "Avoid all sin Do good purify the the mind this is the teaching from all the Buddhas"


Do you ever try to explain Buddhism to someone who barely knows the first thing about it, and if so what is your strategy for how to explain it?

I find this line of questioning to illustrate the First Noble Truth to be more useful:

Are you aware what you do all the time ? You seek pleasure and pleasurable experiences. Sometimes it appears that this seeking does produce some pleasure, some pleasurable experiences. But does it make you happy? does it ever satisfy? If it does, why are you back at seeking pleasure again instead of being happy with what you have found? Is it because everything changes and soon you have to redo it again and again? When does this ever end?

Do you explain 'dukkha' using the classic 'death/poverty/illness/old age', and/or is there a better way to explain the first noble Truth?

It depends on the listener. For someone who is family/relationship oriented, clarifying that dukkha is interleaved in all of these aspects (death/aging/illness) can help. For the intellectually inclined, similar response to the one I have prescribed above may be of more help... at the least to get them thinking along these lines.

Should I understand that if that's her reaction it's because she's already doing a lot of things right (e.g. not spending her life feeling angry)?

Nobody wants to be pointed out that what they are doing is not right, especially when they are doing somethings right according to some metric. You have to point them to what they are not seeing, what they are missing. It is not an easy task, from my limited experience.

Hope this helps.


By my experience, Tipitaka is Buddhism; Buddhism is Tipitka.

I develop my life to be happy every way follow to tipitaka. Then I always show my happiness every time to everyone by smile. When someone ask me for the reason of smile, I tell them "because buddhism make me happy".


There is no need to explain what Buddhism is. If outsiders get curious, just tell them it is about purifying your mind, being aware, and serving your debt to the universe.

Sometimes, when you feel the need to explain (and you are not indebted to an asker), you are seeing a me-ism (what's the Buddhist word?) -- an ego artifact whereby you try to bolster your confidence or power by getting others to agree. Be aware of it -- it may or may not be part of a healthy personal reaction.

  • A me-ism -- perhaps "a conceit". – ChrisW Nov 28 '17 at 23:56
  • @ChrisW: Except it is revolves around an extreme kind of self-awareness and not about pride, but almost a distorted rejection of pride or self. A self rejecting self. – theDoctor Nov 29 '17 at 0:03

Start off with skilful means. This requires knowing your audience well, and having established a good rapport and relationship which opens up the ability to listen.

Secondly, know the world-view of your audience. Explain Buddhism in accordance with the audience.

Buddhism is a word. Despite it's usage - an attempt to encapsulate several thousand traditions over two thousand years that span half the world's surface with no centralisation - what it boils down to is Bodhi - enlightenment, from the verbal root "budh": awakening. We can define 'Buddhists' to be those who consider Bodhi to be a worthy goal and who aspire towards it. However, that is quite a broad scope - it includes many other religions. So if we feel a need to narrow it, then we can say that Buddhism recognises Sakyamuni Buddha as an individual who both experienced awakening, and also decided to teach it to others.

The purpose of Buddhism, however, remains the same - our purpose is to be awake. Why? Well, once we are awake we won't be sleepily drifting around making trouble for ourselves and everyone else any more!

This covers many Buddhist traditions, but not all– The pure land schools don't really acknowledge the need to practice the three higher trainings in this life, and instead concentrate on developing a strong relationship with Buddha Amitābha in order to be reborn in Sukhāvatī in their next life, where training in awakening is much easier. But the training in Sukhāvatī is the same as here - three higher trainings.

  • This is a slightly Mahayana answer, is it? I thought that the Pali suttas centre around "ending dukkha" as the goal, and that all the doctrine is further to that goal -- and here you're saying that the goal or purpose is to attain bodhi. Unfortunately I'm not sure that I can explain what bodhi means, because e.g. Wikipedia suggests that the meaning varies. Your summary of it though, "once we are awake we won't be sleepily drifting around making trouble for ourselves and everyone else any more", is a nice neat introduction! – ChrisW Mar 5 '18 at 12:59
  • @ChrisW, Bodhi (Sanskrit: बोधि; and Pali) in Buddhism is the understanding possessed by a Buddha regarding the true nature of things. It is traditionally translated into English with the word enlightenment, although its literal meaning is closer to "awakening". The verbal root "budh" means to awaken. cf. cittaviveka.org/files/books/dawn/dawn15.htm This isn't specific to the Mahayana. In the Dharma traditions, especially Buddhism, awakening and liberation are causally linked. Awakening leads to liberation. – Konchog Mar 5 '18 at 13:12
  • Yes; but if someone knows only the common/English meaning of "awake", how should they understand it (because if everyone already wakes up every morning, how is "awake" an extraordinary goal)? I guess it's a metaphor, "awake as if from a dream" -- where the "dream" could be understood as some disconnect between the internal/subjective world and the external/objective world -- for example "craving" (wanting things which don't exist), "attachment" (to memories) and sankharas (based on previous experiences), unjustified self-views (e.g. pride) which aren't objective (shared by other people). – ChrisW Mar 5 '18 at 13:45
  • When you are asleep and you are dreaming, you may not know that you are asleep and dreaming. Sometimes you may suspect it. Awakening - that sense of knowing that what had transpired was as a dream, and now being sure that you are awake; It was accepted that we were by the early Sramana traditions, right? Of course, 'awakening' is used as a metaphor - but then so is 'enlightenment' - and 'liberation' and 'freedom'. – Konchog Mar 5 '18 at 13:57

The First Noble Truth is sometimes misunderstood; it doesn't mean that life is "bad". (Assigning the labels "good" and "bad" to conditioned states is unskillful.) The First Noble Truth, is not that all living things are in excruciating pain constantly, but that suffering, at least intermittently, is inevitable; and that any source of lower-order happiness, from physical pleasure, novelty, or companionship, is fleeting.

In fact, the parable of the darts explains that the uninstructed worldling does not actually desire happiness, does not desire pleasure for its own sake; whether he acknowledges it or not, he rather desires happiness and pleasure as a diversion, a distraction from unhappiness and pain, even if that unhappiness and pain is merely the awareness of his own mortality.

I think that "happiness" is not the ultimate good: because "happiness" is conditioned, caused by something: either physical pleasure, artistic novelty, or companionship. Possibly other things--but there is always a cause. Something has made you happy. Nirvana, on the other hand, is a state of un-caused, and therefore un-disturbed and un-disturbable, calm.


Nyom Chris and those interested,

my person find it always very useless to explain such as "Buddhism" and ways of "Buddhists" because what matters is to do the right things which would help others.

Helping ones mother and father is a natural intent of a person with integrity, and as the Buddha taught:

"I tell you, monks, there are two people who are not easy to repay. Which two? Your mother & father. Even if you were to carry your mother on one shoulder & your father on the other shoulder for 100 years, and were to look after them by anointing, massaging, bathing, & rubbing their limbs, and they were to defecate & urinate right there [on your shoulders], you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. If you were to establish your mother & father in absolute sovereignty over this great earth, abounding in the seven treasures, you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. Why is that? Mother & father do much for their children. They care for them, they nourish them, they introduce them to this world. But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother & father, settles & establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother & father, settles & establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays & repays one's mother & father."

Kataññu Suttas: Gratitude

So what ever extend one is able to motivate ones parents in direction of virtue, generosity an discerment, one works not only for the repayment of ones debts but also gives condition for possible understanding the Dhamma when hearing.

It's not sure that such giving back is possible, but it's for sure merely impossible is one does not show by deeds the attributes of virtue, generosity and discerment for oneself, not only strives for pleasure and enjoyments for oneself but also invites mother and father just in occations of such.

As the Buddha pointed out, in this way one will not only never pay back but also not reallt help ones parents.

One is clear, a virtues, generouse life of a child, his way and discerment, even if not direct explained, has impact on the parents and family, and when one starts not to simply waste away ones old merits, the possible luck like seen in the Mangala-Sutta, but also encourages ones parents not just waste them but doing merits, one does good.

Even if coming from a western or christian cultur, such as doing merits was not alien, yet in one generation it seems to have become. Less are boundage of people who are enjoying, praising and sharing deeds of merits with each other and invite neigbors and others to join.

So in this frame it might be useful to think and reflect how much benefical for oneselft and his/her beloved is actually, aside just talk and justifying, in daily life done?

Conviction, the base of all, that deeds make a different, that deeds have an effect, and that good can be reached, is the base of all and it's by doing and displaying deeds that one gives chances for others to get interested and join ways, different form the usual living on "luck" (nissaya), not knowing from where it came.

So what about the traditional way of teaching Dhamma, strating with teaching:

and really display them in daily life and social conduct as prerequisite?

(Just came to mind: My person made a small booklet, with the basic teaching, useful for everyone, as a Dhamma present especially for family and friends, far away from even ideas of my persons way. Its in German, and based on the ZzE/ATI treasures. It would be good if such would be compiled in english and other languages as well, but for now very limited in technical regards. Maybe an inspiration: Der Schlüsselband - "Über Freunde, Großzügigkeit und Tugend" - "The key-book - About friendship, Generosity and virtue", following the links the english teachings can be found)

There is a small booklet which shows well how Dhamma is taught and introduced traditional, based on the basics of right view: Under the shade of my parent's love, far, far of the "western" or modern way of useless discussions on self, and emptiness, but effective for this world, the next and even beyound. (Now my person "needs" to go for an alms round, to give other parents and childs the possibility to make merits, to work out their path, little by little as well.)

It's by the way, not out of reason, to renounce (mostly for a limited time) and ordain so to benefit the parents which are, out of that reason, encounter by the Dhamma as a "family-issue" in that way. That is why it is said that the ordination of a child is of great benefit for the parents. A very usual practice in SE-Asia. Of course it also gains it's critic if done just as meaningless ritual.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gain by means of trade and exchange]


If i try to explain Buddhism to someone who barely knows the first thing about it, my strategy for explaining it is to provide a general overview of the Four Noble Truths in a single lifetime reducing anguish (stress and psychological pain) over the travails and sorrows that all lives include. That is, i remain pragmatic about it and don't intrude any of the unusual characteristics in which i have no confidence whatsoever.

I don't know about a classic illness/agedness/mortality significance for this term, nor do i think that this is at all convincing. What i learned of the Dharma did not give me the impression that Buddhism either should try to avoid these, or could possibly overcome them. Instead, it features them as important incentives to focus on what is real, advantageous, and enduring.

One means of introducing Buddhism which doesn't begin with the first Noble Truth is to focus on the common attempt to heroically attain a revelatory or insightful result by slowing down, reflecting carefully, and applying of what one becomes aware while doing this throughout one's life.

Agreed that it would be helpful to explain what you think Buddhism as you encounter it means to you, and also that it may indeed make it seem less strange to your mother and be less acceptable to her.

As for whether she's doing things right, it is a commonplace adage in many cultures that one's parents ought be honoured as sage counsel, and thus provided a benefit of the doubt where her insight is concerned. If she appears to contradict, through her actions or words, the teachers whom you revere, be careful to afford her a measure of your patience and indulgence that her views may be beyond your comprehension and worthy of a second chance before presuming to instruct her in the Dharma. In this way potential insight and compassion may not be overlooked while proper honour is presented to one whom you love.


In the simplest words, Dhammapada:

  1. Not to do evil, to cultivate merit, to purify one's mind - this is the Teaching of the Buddhas.

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