Life is suffering. Suffering is caused by our desires (thirst). To over suffering is to cut your desires. This (these eight ways) is the how you can cut your desires. The eight ways are to have right understanding, thought, action, speech, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.
The above is what the Buddha taught soon after his enlightenment, his realisation of the nature of existence. Notice how there is no mention of a deity or deities, or worship of a deity or deities, but that everything depends on your practice and way of life, minus the gods. Buddhism explicitly rejected the gods of his time and place, those of the Vedic tradition, the belief systems and practices that were to become Hinduism later on.
What the Buddha taught was not entirely unique. Jainism also rejected the belief in a deity or deities. However, Jainism believed in a soul, something Buddha rejected. Here, Buddhism is unique, in rejecting both the existence of gods and the soul. One must be very careful in understanding that what the Buddha taught and Buddhism are different things. Buddhism takes on its own life and comes in many different “flavours”. Thus the study of the many traditions but looking at the underlying principles will reveal how the different strands of Buddhism have diverged from what he actually taught. Do the math and you will see whatever remains must be close to what the Buddha taught.
To understand the conditions of The Buddha’s time is an important aspect of understanding his thinking. Key to this is the tradition of sramana, the wondering of ascetics which do not follow the “orthodox” Vedic or Brahmanic tradition. It is interesting that persecution of unorthodox traditions seem to be minimal in the culture at that time. Even when persecution occurred it seemed to be at the hands of non-Vedic non-local traditions like Islam, for example the destruction of Nalanda in the beginning of the 12th century.
What links Sramanic traditions is the rejection of the authority of the Vedas, and also the rejection of god or gods. There is a mix of acceptance and rejection of the soul among these unorthodox traditions.
As a Buddhist I am taught to not believe in the existence of a soul. So if I sell my soul to the Devil I am in effect deceiving not only the Devil but myself as well. And not only am I deceiving myself about I having a soul but that there is even a devil to sell my soul to in the first place.
And I haven’t even come to the question of whether there is exist any meaningful value of things yet, let alone a price for my soul.
Reincarnation or rebirth, contrary to popular Western belief, is a negative term in Buddhism. The goal of Buddhism is to end reincarnation, not perpetuate it.
How this misconception arose is various. It could have been from a generalisation from another Eastern religion – Hinduism – in which it sees rebirth as a positive term, where being reborn means to improve to higher states of being until Oneness with God, or moksha. In contrast Buddhism does not aim for oneness but “release”.
To be “reborn” in English also seems to suggest to return anew. This image can be seen in the term “Born-Again Christian”. Whereas no such concept exists at all in Buddhism.
From a diachronic point of view, any concept must come into existence, that is, it must not have existed at some point in the passage of time.
The argument for God and existence of God supposes and privileges eternity and presence. Theism, then, supposes permanence. This must necessarily extend to atheism. Thus the idea of atheism must have been there from the beginning.
The theists have therefore pulled wool over your eyes when they argue in this way. The only way out is to argue for finitude, absence and impermanence.
Karma, as a word, is well established in the English language. But what most people know is that in a way it has taken on a life of its own. Or else it has come to take on a meaning needed for English speakers. What adds to this confusion is that karma from Sanskrit for “action” is used by Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. While they all have similar meanings there are differences, particularly to Buddhism. In Hinduism and Jainism karma is used to work out what you shall be reborn (samsara) as. Good karma leads to rebirth into higher states, and bad karma, obviously, leads to rebirth into lower states. While Buddhism also sees this occurring its ultimate goal is to end rebirth by ending both good and bad karma. In other words, Buddhism sees rebirth as negative, while Hinduism and Jainism does not see rebirth, in anyway, as a negative notion.
If there is one thing useful that I would have to pick that Freud gave us, it is the idea of id, superego and ego. The id is what you want to do. The superego is what society wants you to do, and the ego is what you do in light of your id and superego. Something is wrong if you let either the id or superego do all the thinking. It is best to take the balance with the ego.
Japanese culture has this built-in to their thinking with the concept of in-group/out-group. We must always think of ourselves not as just mere individuals but also in relation to society.
Or this is similar to Schopenhauer’s idea of will and representation. We are individuals in charge and control of our self (will) to be contrasted to things outside beyond our control (representation).
While abstraction is something we humans are good at it is dangerous to let it take over without a return to the real world or reality. No matter what the world is where we exist and only exist. Any other thought is wrong.