1. Explain the basic Buddhist teachings including the three marks of reality, the Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path.
The basic Buddhist teachings are practical like the Buddha himself. Buddhist taught how to minimize sufferings, and how one could attain inner peace. The three marks of reality associated with the Buddhist are change, no permanent identity, and suffering. Buddha recommended that we look at life as it really is and that is change. The second reality is no permanent identity, or that every person and everything is not only changing but is made of parts that are also constantly changing. The third reality is suffering, this says that life can never be fully satisfying because of it is inescapable change.
There are also a linked chain of truths about life that were apart of Buddha’s teachings called the four noble truths those are, (1)suffering exist, (2) it has a cause (3) it has an end, and the way to attain release from suffering is by following the noble eightfold path. The eight steps of the path form a program that Buddha taught would lead us towards liberation from the impermanence and suffering of reality. The noble eightfold path are, right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right work, right effort, right meditation, and right contemplation. The noble eightfold is meant to guide Buddhist to three goals, to face life objectively, to live kindly, and to develop inner peace. (Malloy 2010)
2. Describe the three major Buddhist traditions—Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana—and how each tradition developed from the early teachings.
Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana are three great branches of Buddhism recognized today. Within the three branches there are divisions and different understandings of beliefs and practices among each. Theravada is the way of the elders; it was the original unchanging teachings of the Buddha. The Theravada was named to refer to the conservation movement. The heart of the Theravada Buddhism was its community of monks. Theravada was spread very early from India to Sri Lanka, where it has gone through several phases of growth and decline. The Theravada today is the dominant religion in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. The tradition is so wide spread in these areas because it appeals to rulers for its moral rigor. Mahayana Buddhism is known as the big vehicle.
Mahayana Buddhism says that nirvana is not only attainable for monks, but is a possibility for anyone to achieve. Mahayana also stresses enlightenment is a call to compassion, and that a person has to save himself by saving others.(Malloy 2010) Vajrayana Buddhism is known as the Diamond Vehicle or the lightning bolt. The name suggests wisdom, clarity, strength, and flashes of light, which are all associated with enlightened awareness. Vajrayana is said to be a special form of Mahayana. Like Mahayana, Vajrayana teaches that one can achieve full Buddhahood much quicker sometimes in a lifetime. They also believe that the best way to overcome and work towards enlightenment may be to experience desire. Although each branch may be different they all look toward Buddha as the first teacher, and acknowledge the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths as founding teachings.