+ Buddhists have faith in "the triple gem", the Buddha, the Dhamma (learnings and teachings) and the Sangha (the "noble order of enlightened followers").
+ The three types of offerings, candles, incense and lotus flowers, represent enlightenment, pervasive virtue and the transience of life. However, an alternative reading is of these three offerings symbolizing the triple gem.
+ "Buddha" is a title. The revered Buddha Gotama was only the most recent individual to reach that stage.
+ The existence of rebirth is propagated through the "wager argument". This basically means that it's smarter to assume rebirth exists because if it does and you assumed it didn't, you might just be in deep shit. Of course, this then becomes a simple act of faith like the existence of god in any other religion and detracts from the believability of buddhism as a whole.
+ Actions with an unintentional negative result, say accidentally squashing an insect by walking on it, has no bad effect on your karma.
+ "Gods" exist, but are simply beings in a "higher state".
+ Due to incomplete remembering previous lives, individuals (partially) remembering a previous life as a god can be duped into believing in the existence of the One God and, hence, are then fooled into believing in the existence of monotheistic religion.
+ Buddhists await the coming of the future Buddha, who has been waiting in some higher plane of existence, to be reborn in his last life.
+ Deformed or retarded individuals were reborn from lowly states of existence as the result of earlier good karma.
+ Buddhism doesn't make a statement on the beginning of the world / universe / existence. In effect because it's useless to bother.
+ Improving the world is done by improving the self.
+ All conditioned "things" are impermanent and unsatisfactory.
+ Buddhist monks are supposed to observe 227 precepts (rules).
The book's insightful, but I'm left with a few questions:
- Why are women (in Thailand) not supposed to touch monks?
- Monks are not supposed to handle money. How do they manage to take taxis?
- Buddhists are not supposed to kill knowingly, as even, say, ants, are beings which may at some point be reborn as human. Further, buddhists are not supposed to take drugs.
How then, do buddhists take medicine to beat a virus?
In the end, I don't dislike Buddhism as it turns to the self for improvement of the world: first get yourself in order, then try to help others. As a result, only you are responsible for your own actions and your own destiny. I also like that Buddhism states that religion is not dogma. This sounds good, although you'd expect that, by now, a 'trivial' thing like reincarnation should have been proven beyond any doubt.
I'm not too impressed with the status of the Buddha. Mills relates a number of stories on wise men from the past. Amazingly, they were all Gotama (the Buddha) in a previous life. My guess is that all these stories were originally told by the Buddha himself, making them unverifiable anecdotes.