The foundations of Buddhism: teachings, beliefs and practices

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Le Buddhism is a religion and philosophy that has a profound influence on millions of people around the world. This spiritual tradition originated in India over two and a half thousand years ago and continues to attract those seeking wisdom, inner peace, and understanding of life and suffering.

Buddhism, often considered a path to spiritual awakening, is a fascinating religion worth exploring in depth. In this article, we will delve into the foundations of Buddhism, examining its origins, key teachings, practices, and impact on philosophy of life. Whether you are a curious novice or an experienced practitioner, you will discover essential information about this unique spiritual path.

The origins of Buddhism

To understand the Buddhism as a religion, it is essential to go back to the origins of this tradition. Buddhism has its roots in the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the historical Buddha. Born in India around the XNUMXth century BC. B.C., the Buddha gave up a life of luxury to seek the truth about human suffering. After years of spiritual quest, he achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, becoming the Buddha, the Awakened One.

The teachings of the Buddha, called the Dharma, form the core of Buddhism. They are based on his understanding of the nature of suffering and how to overcome it. These teachings were passed down orally from generation to generation before being recorded in sacred texts called sutras.

The four noble truths

At the heart of Buddhist philosophy are the Four Noble Truths, a set of principles that describe the nature of suffering and the path to liberation.

1. The truth of suffering (Dukkha)

The first noble truth recognizes that suffering is an inescapable reality of human life. This includes physical pain, but also emotional and mental suffering. The Buddha taught that suffering is omnipresent and inevitable.

2. The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudaya)

The second noble truth identifies the fundamental cause of suffering: insatiable desire and attachment. The Buddha taught that our constant desire to acquire, possess, and cling to the things of the world creates suffering.

3. The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)

The third noble truth offers hope by teaching that suffering can be ended. This happens by releasing desire and attachment. When we reach this state, we can experience peace and freedom from suffering.

4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)

The fourth noble truth is the Noble Eightfold Path, a guide to living an ethical, balanced, and spiritually awakened life. This path includes right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration and right mindfulness.

Understanding these truths is essential for those seeking to practice Buddhism and find freedom from suffering.

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path offers a road map for ethical and spiritual living. It is a series of recommendations for cultivating wisdom (right understanding, right thinking), ethics (right speech, right action, right livelihood), and mentality (right effort, right concentration, right mindfulness).

Practicing these aspects of the path helps free the mind from attachments and desires, ultimately leading to the cessation of suffering. Each of these aspects merits in-depth exploration for those seeking to understand and experience Buddhism.

The different schools of Buddhism

Buddhism has evolved over time and given rise to several different schools. The three main ones are Theravada, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna, each with their own interpretations of the Buddha's teachings.


Theravāda, often called “Small Vehicle Buddhism,” is the oldest surviving school of Buddhism. It focuses on a conservative interpretation of the Buddha's teachings as preserved in the Pali canon. This school is mainly widespread in Southeast Asia.


Mahāyāna, or “Great Vehicle,” takes a more expansive view of Buddhism. It recognizes the existence of many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) and emphasizes universal compassion and helping others achieve enlightenment. Mahāyāna is widespread in East Asia, particularly in China, Japan and Korea.


Vajrayāna, often associated with Tibetan Buddhism, is characterized by the use of advanced meditation techniques, mantras and rituals. It also emphasizes the relationship between the spiritual master (guru) and the student. Vajrayāna is particularly influential in Tibet and parts of the Himalayas.

The daily Buddhist practices

Buddhism is not simply a set of beliefs, but a series of practices that aim to cultivate wisdom, compassion, and inner peace. Some of these practices include:

Vipassana Meditation

Vipassana meditation is a deep meditation technique that aims to develop mindfulness and understanding of reality as it is. It is commonly practiced in Theravada.

Recitation of mantras

Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna often make use of the recitation of mantras, sacred phrases or powerful sounds that help focus the mind and connect with spiritual aspects.

Rituals and ceremonies

Buddhism has many rituals and ceremonies that vary according to schools and cultures. They may include specific offerings, prayers and meditations.

These practices are designed to help practitioners develop their spirituality and progress on the path to awakening.

Buddhism and philosophy of life

Buddhism also has a significant influence on the life philosophy of its followers. It emphasizes principles such as non-violence (ahimsa), simplicity and compassion towards all living beings. This philosophy often translates into a lifestyle that respects the environment and animal life.

Compassion, in particular, plays a central role in Buddhism. Buddhists are encouraged to develop compassion toward all beings and practice kindness, even toward those who harm them.

Tips for Exploring Buddhism

If you are interested in Buddhism and want to explore this spiritual path, here are some tips to help you get started:

Find a teacher

Find a qualified teacher or meditation group near you. An experienced teacher can guide you in your practice and answer your questions.

Read Buddhist texts

Explore the teachings of the Buddha by reading classic Buddhist texts such as the Dhammapada, the Heart Sutras, and the Lotus Sutras. There are also many modern books that explain Buddhist teachings in an accessible way.

practice meditation

Meditation is at the heart of Buddhist practice. Use meditation apps, online videos, or join local meditation groups to start your practice. Meditation is a powerful tool for developing mindfulness and inner peace.


Buddhism is a spiritual path rich in teachings and practices that aim to cultivate compassion, achieve spiritual awakening, and live in harmony with Buddhist principles. Whether you are a novice or an experienced practitioner, Buddhism offers valuable tools for living a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

Buddhism FAQ

1. What is the meaning of the term “Buddha”?

The term “Buddha” means “the Awakened One” or “one who is awakened to the truth.” » It is used to refer to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, as well as other beings who have achieved spiritual awakening.

2. Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy?

Buddhism is both a religion and a philosophy of life. It has religious elements, such as the veneration of Buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as spiritual and philosophical practices aimed at achieving enlightenment.

3. How can I start meditating in the Buddhist tradition?

To start meditating in the Buddhist tradition, you can search for local meditation groups, use guided meditation apps, or follow online videos. Vipassana meditation is a common practice in Buddhism.

4. Does Buddhism encourage vegetarianism?

Although Buddhism does not mandate vegetarianism, many Buddhists choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet because of its emphasis on compassion for all living beings. However, this practice can vary between cultures and Buddhist schools.

5. What is Nirvana in Buddhism?

Nirvana is the state of ultimate spiritual awakening in Buddhism, marked by the cessation of suffering and the cycle of rebirth. This is the end goal of Buddhist practice, where the individual achieves inner peace and liberation from attachment and desire.

Feel free to explore Buddhism further and ask questions to deepen your understanding of this fascinating spiritual tradition.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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