What is: The four main teachings of the Buddha.

  • Refuge in the 3 jewels
  • Renunciation
  • Bodhicitta
  • Right view


Buddhists take refuge in three different expressions of awakened mind: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Each of these is a precious and necessary element of the Buddhist path, and so they are called the three jewels.

Buddha: The Teacher

This refers, first, to the original teacher, the historical Buddha. He was not a god but a human being like us, whose example shows us that we too can follow the path to enlightenment. More broadly, the buddha principle refers to all teachers and enlightened beings who inspire and guide us.

Dharma: The Teachings

Buddhist dharma starts with the fundamental truths that the Buddha Shakyamuni taught.

The four noble truths The truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering. 

The three marks of existence – Impermanence, non-self and suffering.

The eightfold path – Right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

 It also includes the vast body of Buddhist teachings developed in the 2,600 years since then. It’s worth noting that the Sanskrit word dharma also means a thing or object in the conventional sense. In either case, the word denotes a basic law or truth of reality.

Sangha: The Community

The term sangha traditionally refers to monastics and arhats in which lay practitioners take refuge. This has changed in the West, where sangha has come to mean the community of Buddhist practitioners, both monastic and lay. Buddhists here also use the word to describe a specific community or group, and you will often hear people talk about ‘my sangha,’ meaning the Buddhist community to which they belong.

The guru is an embodiment of all 3 jewels.


Renunciation can be understood as letting go of whatever binds us to ignorance and suffering.

 The Pali word for “renunciation” is nekkhamma, which means giving up the world and leading a holy life or freedom from lust, craving and desire.

 In Mahayana Buddhism, it becomes a bodhisattva (A person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings.) practice for developing bodhicitta (The mind that is aimed at awakening, with wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.) Through practice, we realize how attachment to sensual pleasure throws us off balance and destroys equanimity. Grasping also causes us to be greedy and deprives us of being a benefit to others.

In Theravada Buddhism, renunciation is one of the Ten Paramitas, or perfections. (Generosity, morality, renunciation, insight, diligence, patience, truthfulness, resolution loving-kindness, and equanimity.) As a perfection, the primary practice is to discern through contemplation how one’s enjoyment of sensual pleasure may be impeding one’s spiritual path.

If by forsaking a limited ease, he would see an abundance of ease, the enlightened man would forsake the limited ease for the sake of the abundant – Shakyamuni Buddha


Bodhicitta -The enlightenment mind or the thought of awakening, is the mind (Citta) that is aimed at awakening (bodhi), with wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. It arises from deep compassion and motivates you to strive to bring a complete end to all suffering.

There is aspiring bodhicitta which is the mere wish to bring all beings to enlightenment, and active bodhicitta which consists of actually putting it into action.

Tibetan Buddhism divides Bodhicitta into two types, relative and absolute.

  • Relative bodhicitta: Is a state of mind in which the practitioner works for the good of all beings selflessly.
  • Absolute bodhicitta: The wisdom of shunyata or emptiness, which implies freedom from attachments.

The two aspirations associated with bodhicitta involve effort and diligence because serenity and insight must be cultivated and unified in order to noncontextually realize absolute bodhicitta.

Three degrees of bodhicitta:

  • King-like bodhicitta, in which a bodhisattva primarily seeks his own benefit but who recognizes that his benefit depends crucially on that of his kingdom and his subjects.
  • Boatman-like bodhicitta, in which a bodhisattva ferries his passengers across the river and simultaneously, of course, ferries himself as well.
  • Shepherd-like bodhicitta, who makes sure that all his sheep arrive safely ahead of him and places their welfare above his own.

The way of the shepherd bodhisattva is the best and highest way – Patrul Rinpoche.


This is the first step of the Eightfold Path:

  • Right Understanding – A correct understanding of the nature of things, specifically the Four Noble Truths.
  • Right Thought – Avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent.
  • Right Speech – Refraining from verbal misdeeds such as lying, divisive, harsh and senseless speech.
  • Right Action – Refraining from physical misdeeds such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.
  • Right Livelihood – A way of making a living that does no harm to others directly or indirectly, such as selling slaves, weapons, animals for slaughter, intoxicants, or poisons.
  • Right Effort – Abandoning negative states of mind that have already arisen, preventing negative states that have yet to arise, and sustaining positive states that have already arisen.
  • Right Mindfulness – Awareness of body, feelings, thoughts, and phenomena. 
  • Right Concentration Correct concentration, single-pointed-mindfulness.

When we take the Dharma to heart, the whole Buddhist path flows out of our application of right view and we can stop blaming our suffering on difficult conditions. We begin to recognize that our suffering is due to our misguided ways of trying to find happiness by looking in the wrong direction which leads to confusion, sorrow, and suffering. The Right view will direct us to find what is deeper than this karmic body and mind, and point us to find the place where we can lay down our burden of ceaseless desires and fears and awaken to the boundless liberation of the Buddhas.

 To see and to understand things as they really are.

Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the four main teachings of the Buddha.