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📘 Buddhism

These are my notes from studying and practicing secular Buddhism. Most of this was gathered while reading No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners by Noah Rasheta.

  1. The Four Noble Truths
  2. The Eightfold Path
  3. The Five Aggregates
  4. The Five Precepts
  5. The Three Marks of Existence
  6. The Three Poisons

The Four Noble Truths

  1. Truth of Suffering
  2. Truth of the Cause of Suffering
  3. Truth of the End of Suffering
  4. Truth of the Path That Leads to the End of Suffering

Truth of Suffering

Difficulties arise and we suffer.

Examples include sickness, old age, death, losing a job, and breaking your phone.

Accept that suffering is part of life for everyone. There is no way around it.

Truth of Cause of Suffering

The main cause of suffering is habitual reactivity.

Suffering emerges when we want life to be different than it is.

Our reaction causes the suffering, not the thing itself.

Truth of the End of Suffering

The cessation of suffering.

The suffering doesn't cease, but rather our craving not to suffer does.

Truth of the Path That Leads to the End of Suffering

The Eightfold Path.

The path of liberation.

The path to the cessation of suffering.

The Eightfold Path

Ways to live that lead to the end of suffering.

There are three sections that the various points of the Eightfold Path are grouped under:

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Intent
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

Right Understanding

What we are seeing might not actually be what it appears to be.

Uncertain concepts and ideas that prevent us from seeing reality as it is.

Right Intent

Be aware of our intentions regarding the things we say and do.

Intentions from anger or hatred are more likely to cause harm than intentions from happiness and gratitude.

Behaving reactively makes it difficult to be mindful of our intentions.

Right Speech

Communicating with others in a way that doesn't cause harm.

Lying, gossiping, or insulting are not right speech.

With right speech, you consider why you say something as much as what you say.

Right Action

Doing what is proper and necessary for your situation.

While this sometimes includes "doing the right thing" morally, it more closely resembles behaving appropriately in any situation.

Right Livelihood

Livelihood is how we make a living and how we interact with others on the job.

We need to determine if what we do is doing more harm or good for ourselves and others.

Right Effort

What it takes to put into practice the other parts of the path.

It takes effort if we want any kind of positive change in our lives.

Right Mindfulness

Paying attention at all times.

Being mindful helps us stay anchored in the present moment, which keeps us in touch with reality as it is.

Right Concentration

The practice of focusing on only one thing, whatever it is we are doing.

The opposite is distraction.

The Five Aggregates

Suffering arises when one identifies with or clings to one of the aggregates.

  1. Form or Materiality
  2. Sensation or Feeling Tone
  3. Perception
  4. Mental Formation or Thought Process
  5. Consciousness or Awareness

Form or Materiality

Something material that can be sensed with sight, sound, taste or touch.

Sensation or Feeling Tone

The feeling state that arises when we sense something pleasant or unpleasant.

Feeling tones can be understood as pleasure, pain, or neutrality.


Recognition of a sensation we have experienced.

Perception is giving names to something, like "scary".

Mental Formation or Thought Process

Likes, dislikes, biases, and prejudices.

Mental formations alter perception.

Consciousness or Awareness

General awareness of other aggregates that make the entire experience possible.

The Five Precepts

There are no moral absolutes in Buddhism, so the precepts are left to interpretation.

These are general rules of things that are best to abstain from.

  1. Abstain From Taking Life
  2. Abstain From Taking What is Not Given
  3. Abstain From Sexual Misconduct
  4. Abstain From Incorrect Speech
  5. Abstain From Intoxicants That Cloud The Mind

Abstain From Taking Life

Could relate to abortion, death penalty, or killing insects.

In order to weigh consequences of our actions, it's helpful to examine if it's motivated by greed, hatred, and delusion, or by kindness, wisdom, and compassion.

Intent plays a key role.

Abstain From Taking What is Not Given

Goes beyond stealing and includes evaluating your motivations and understanding how your actions will affect others.

Abstain From Sexual Misconduct

What is considered misconduct is determined by the inherited culture and societal views.

Non-consensual sex and sexual exploitation are misconduct.

Examine how your actions make you feel and how it will impact others.

Abstain From Incorrect Speech

Goes beyond not telling lies.

It means speaking honestly and communicating in a way that is beneficial to others.

Incorrect speech is rooted in the three poisons of greed, hatred, and ignorance.

Misleading others, saying intentionally hurtful things, and gossiping are incorrect speech.

Abstain From Intoxicants That Cloud The Mind

Could be alcohol, drugs, or anything that clouds the mind, or alters perception.

Media we consume or addictive habits.

Be cautious of distractions from reality.

The Three Marks of Existence

  1. Suffering
  2. Impermanence
  3. Non-self


There are 3 types of suffering

  1. Suffering of Suffering
    Natural suffering like pain.
  2. Suffering of Loss
    Lose a job, a loved one, our youth. Circumstantial.
  3. All-pervasive Suffering
    Self-inflicted. Arises out of an ignorant or delusional understanding of reality. Has to do with how we perceive and interpret circumstances. We self-inflict based on a belief or concept. If we didn't hold the false belief, the suffering wouldn't exist.


All things are constantly changing. Jobs, relationships, thoughts, feelings, loved ones, ourselves, everything we know and perceive will pass out of existence.

We know this, but we cling to things and perceive them as permanent.

Two types of impermanence - gross and subtle.

  1. Gross
    Matter decays, empires rise and fall, societal norms change and evolve.
  2. Subtle
    Moment-to-moment, cells in your body die and regenerate, you are never exactly the same. We are collections of impermanent, momentary experiences.

Loss is a natural part of life, not something we need to fight against.


You are not what you think you are, because there is no inherent essence in anything.

Things are because of, and in relation to, other things, but do not exist on their own as permanent or separate entities.

Everything has causes and conditions, nothing stands alone.

There is no permanent or fixed you, just a complex web of inseparable, impermanent, causes and effects.

The Three Poisons

  1. Greed
  2. Hatred
  3. Ignorance
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