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To understand the basic principles of Buddhism, it is not necessary to believe in heaven or hell or to chant mantras. The aim of the Buddha was simply to show mankind how to live without turmoil and in harmony with all living creatures by following The Middle Way between the extremes of over-indulgence and self-denial. To this end he introduced the Eight-Fold Path and the Ten Precepts, as well as the Four Noble Truths. While monks must practice all the precepts, the lay Buddhist (if he is to be called Buddhist) is expected to follow the five main precepts.
Buddhist principles are based on the basic idea of cause and effect, also known in eastern philosophy as karma. According to this law every intention, thought and action has a consequence that equals the energy invested in it. From good deeds come good results. Leading a disciplined life can ensure that suffering is kept to a minimum. The calm mind that comes from a disciplined life leads down the path of spirituality to the goal of all human life – self realization, or what the Buddhists call Nirvana.
The Buddhist philosophy and way of life is laid out in the Three Jewels, the Four Noble Truths, the Eight Fold Path and the Five Precepts. The first three doctrines are pursued by those who either adopt a monastic life or are involved in a deep philosophical interpretation of Buddhism.
The Five Precepts are what a lay Buddhist is expected to follow in day-to-day living.
The Five Main Precepts
Buddhism affords believers an oasis where they can regain equilibrium by following the Middle Way. Buddhism enables people to look at life anew and stop blaming God, the universe, and others for their plight. They are the creators of their own worlds. Once they can grasp this great truth, life becomes a joyful journey.