Like Hindus, Buddhists believe in reincarnation. They believe that everyone lives many lives. Buddhists believe that when a person dies he or she will be born again as a new person. Buddhists and Hindus call this cycle of birth, death and rebirth Samsara. The quality of your next life depends on your Karma. Karma is the combined effect of our good and bad deeds in our past lives.
Buddhists say that nothing ever happens to us unless we deserve it. Sooner or later we get exactly what we deserve, whether it is good or bad. We are the way we are now because of the things we have done in the past. Our thoughts and actions determine the kind of life we can have. If we do good things, in the future good things will happen to us. If we do bad things, in the future bad things will happen to us. At every moment we create new karma by what we say, do, and think.
The Buddha said:
The kind of seed sown
will produce that kind of fruit.
Those who do good will reap good results.
Those who do evil will reap evil results.
If you carefully plant a good seed,
You will joyfully gather good fruit.
The Buddha explained that existence has three characteristics. Buddhist call them the Three Universal Truths.
Anitya means Nothing lasts forever. Everything changes. The world around us changes. Sometimes those changes are quick and easy to see. Like the burning of a match; sometimes, like the movement of the continental plates and the wearing away of mountains, the changes are very slow. However slow the changes are and difficult they are to observe everything changes. The Buddha said that existence is like the flowing water in a river or the flame of a candle. It is never the same for two moments.
Duhkha means suffering. Suffering is everywhere. Duhkha includes all the things in life which are unsatisfactory – not just really bad things like pain and unhappiness but things like being bored and being uncomfortable, too. We suffer because we don’t like change. We don’t like to grow old or die. Nor do we like it when people we love die. We don’t like it when our possessions wear out. Change is upsetting and causes us suffering.
Anatma means No Soul. The Buddha said that there is no such thing as a soul. Many people find this hard to understand. He said that there is no one, unchanging thing that is a person. Everything about you changes. As you grow and get older your body changes and your mind changes. You are never the same. He said that when we say “I” we are talking about something that does not really exist. “I” is just a name for a collection of things that keep on changing. The Buddha said that what goes into your next life is not you or your soul but your karma.
The Buddha taught that the Three Truths are linked to each other and that once we really understand them we can begin to conquer suffering. He said that when we realise that there is no such thing as “I” we will become less self-centred. We will be less afraid of changing and less afraid of dying. Being less self centred will make us better able to get on with other people and behave well towards them. He said that a person who understands about anatma will be much more able to lead a good life and to avoid suffering.
The Buddha taught his followers that when a person fully understood about the 3 Truths that person would become enlightened. He told them that an enlightened person would no longer have to suffer samsara and would reach a condition called Nirvana.
Buddhist say that Nirvana is impossible to describe. We cannot explain what it is like, only what it is not like. It is not life and it is not death. It is a state where there is no suffering, greed or anger. It is freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth. Buddhists believe that if they follow the Buddha’s teachings well they will reach Nirvana. Reaching Nirvana is the goal of Buddhism.
In your book put the date and a heading: The Three Universal Truths
Draw a large circle and divide it into three. Write the name of one of the Three Universal Truths in each part of the circle. Under each name write about what it means. Colour and decorate the diagram that you have made.