Bodhism is a simplified, modernized version of Buddhism. Followers of Bodhism accept and follow the teachings of the Buddha, a very wise man who lived and taught psychological and spiritual lessons on the Indian subcontinent 2500 years ago. However, Bodhists aren’t terribly interested in the metaphysical aspects that were emphasized in later Buddhism, such as reincarnation, notions of heaven and hell, angels and demons, and a literal interpretation of karma. They also eschew many of the common organizational rules, such as that women can’t be enlightened.
What Siddhartha Gautama (later known as the Buddha, or “awakened one”) actually spoke about was not the supernatural, but rather human psychology. He described how people could learn to escape the endless cycle of satisfaction and disappointment, and thus no longer be like “hungry ghosts.” It was his later followers that ended up turning him into a god-like being with supernatural powers, turning his simple teachings into complex theories about metaphysics, the soul and divine justice.
To counter this divergence, sects such as Japanese Zen (Ch’an in China, Dhyana in India) tried to return Buddhism to its purely psychological and non-literal outlook and practices. When Buddhism arrived in the west, occidental interpretations of Buddhism tended to jettison much of the supernatural ideas inherent in established Asian Buddhist culture, and concentrate on its more practical aspects.
Bodhism is thus an umbrella term for those who admire the teachings of the Buddha but don’t necessarily believe in the supernatural aspects of traditional Buddhism. Whereas Buddha means “one who is awakened,” in the Pali language, bodhi means “awakening” and represents the process more than the persona.
Bodhist practice consists primarily of study of the four noble truths:
- Suffering – Human beings are designed to suffer. That is, to never be satisfied.
- Desire – Desire is the root of all suffering. Once we come to see this, we can begin to overcome it. Desire comes in three main forms: greed, ignorance and hatred.
- Attachment – The way to liberate oneself from desire is to relinquish attachments to objects of desire and the desire for particular outcomes. One who extinguishes desire in its three forms attains Nirvana, or a “snuffing out” of the flames of desire.
- The Path – The practical path to cessation of attachment, also called “the Middle Way” consists of eight prescriptions that fall into three main branches: meditation, wisdom and ethical behavior. By meditating we can get to know the workings of our minds; by studying our behavior and the behavior of others we can learn how to avoid falling into instinctual traps; and by acting with good intentions and compassion, we can bring increased awareness to ourselves and others.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
— Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha
Open-minded people tend to be interested in Buddhism because Buddha urged people to investigate things – he didn’t just command them to believe.
–The Dalai Lama
Buddhism has in it no idea of there being a moral law laid down by somekind of cosmic lawgiver.
— Alan Watts
Buddhism maintains that the common reaction of the human mind to pleasure and to achievement is not satisfaction; it’s craving for more.
— Yuval Noah Harari
Mindfulness is often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation. It’s not about Buddhism, but about paying attention. That’s what all meditation is, no matter what tradition or particular technique is used.
— Jon Kabat-Zinn
That’s what Buddhism has been trying to unravel – the mechanism of happiness and suffering. It is a science of the mind.
— Matthieu Ricard
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