(1) The basic teachings of Buddha are contained in Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path. Buddha’s first sermon contained a detailed explanation of the Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path.
Four Noble Truths (Arya Satya):
Dukkha- The world is full of sorrow and sufferings.
Dukkha Samuddaya- All sufferings have a cause: desire, ignorance (avijja) and attachment are the causes of sufferings.
Dukkha Nirodh- These sorrows and sufferings can be stopped. This could be done by stopping the Trishna or desires.
Ariya-Atthangikamaga- In order to end sufferings one must know the right path. This path is the Eight-Fold Path.
Eight-Fold Path (Ariya-Atthangikamaga):
The Eight-Fold Path consists of the following principles.
Right Understanding, free from superstition and delusion (samma-ditthi).
Right Thoughts, high and worthy of the intelligent earnest man (samma- sankappa).
Right Speech, which seeks to emphasise the speaking of truth always (samma-vaka).
Right Action, which is understood to be unselfish action (samma-kammanta).
Right Livelihood. It instructs that a man should live by honest means (samma-ajiva).
Right Effort, in self-training and in self-control (samma-vayamma).
Right Mindfulness. It is the understanding of the idea that the body is impermanent and meditation is the means for the removal of worldly evils (samma-sati).
Right Concentration, earnest thought on the deep mysteries of life (samma-samadhi).
The Eight-Fold Path consists of three progressive stages. In the first stage, the aspirant is expected to observe some basic discipline based on ethics and morality. This state is called Morality or Sheela. In the second stage, he has to undertake a course of mental training, this stage is called Concentration or Samadhi. The third and final stage is based on the exertion for obtaining pure knowledge and wisdom, this stage is called Prajna. In the first state, one has to cultivate a commitment to morality by pursuing proper livelihood, proper actions and proper speech. In the second stage, one has to control one’s mental perceptions by proper exertion, proper mindfulness and proper meditation. In the third state, one has to undertake a firm resolution to achieve the goal and finally, the entire process culminates into riddance from ignorance, which Buddhists consider the basic cause of the recurrence of the life cycle of sentient beings.
(2) The Buddha was not in favour of extreme asceticism or self-mortification. He suggested that it was by following the path of moderation between severe penance and self-indulgence that human beings could get rid of worldly troubles. The Eight-Fold Path is also known as the Middle Path (Madhyama Pratipad) as it lies between the two extremes or it is a path between gross sensualism and extreme asceticism.
(3) Buddhism laid great emphasis on the law of ‘karma‘. According to this law, the present is determined by past actions. The condition of a man in this life and the next depends upon his own actions. Every individual is the maker of his own destiny. We are born again and again to reap the fruits of our ‘karma’. If an individual has no sins, he is not born again. Thus the doctrine of karma is the essential part of the teachings of Buddha.
(4) Buddha preached ‘nirvana‘, the ultimate goal in the life of a man. Some scholars like Oldenberg have opined that Nirvana actually means annihilation of the being. However, this explanation of the term Nirvana is not attested by the explanation of the term in the early Buddhist text. According to these texts, the Nirvana has both the negative and positive sides. The negative side of Nirvana signifies a total stoppage of suffering and riddance from the vicious circles of recurrent birth and death. It also signifies the total subjective withdrawal from worldly surroundings along with the accompany malevolent emotions like passion, anger, thirst etc. The positive side of Nirvana includes a state of total peace, tranquillity, serenity and equanimity. There is some difference among the scholars regarding the exact nature of Nirvana. Some scholars are of the opinion that it is a spiritual and mystical intensism whereas other think that it is purely an intellectual perception based on the accumulated experiences and achieved in a flesh as the culmination of the national process of thinking and meditating on the problems relating to human destiny.
(5) The Buddha may be called an agnostic because he neither accepts nor rejects the existence of God. He refused to be drawn into any theoretical discussion about god or nature of the soul. For him, the individual and his actions were more important. He severely criticized the Vedic rituals and practices and believed that prayers and sacrifices would not end desire. Buddha laid greater stress on the moral life of an individual.
(6) Buddha emphasized the following of ten Sheels as daily code of conduct. These Sheels are Non-Violence, Truth, Non-Stealing, Non-Possession, Celibacy, Discarding of dancing and singing, Discarding the usages of perfumes and scents, not having food at odd times, discarding the use of soft beds, renouncing gold and woman. Of these ten Sheels, the first five were for a householder Buddhists whereas for a monk it was compulsory to observe all the ten Sheels.