Buddha Sculpture - Antique Khmer Style Wood Seated Buddha Statue Dhyana Meditation Mudra - 33cm/13"

What It Means to Be Buddhist: Principles, Practices, and Philosophy


Buddhism is one of the world's major religions, encompassing a diverse array of beliefs, practices, and cultural expressions. Rooted in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, Buddhism is not only a religion but also a way of life. To be Buddhist is to embrace a set of principles, practices, and a philosophy that guide one's life towards understanding and transcending suffering. In this Blog, we will explore what it means to be a Buddhist, focusing on the core tenets and practices that define this spiritual path.

The Four Noble Truths

At the heart of Buddhist philosophy are the Four Noble Truths, which lay the foundation for understanding the nature of human suffering and the path to liberation:

  1. The Truth of Suffering (Dukkha): Buddhism recognizes that suffering is an inherent part of human existence. It encompasses physical and emotional pain, as well as the dissatisfaction and restlessness that permeate our lives.

  2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering (Samudaya): The Second Noble Truth identifies desire, attachment, and craving as the root causes of suffering. It is our unquenchable desires and attachments that lead to suffering.

  3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha): Buddhism teaches that it is possible to end suffering by letting go of attachment and desire. This cessation is referred to as Nirvana, a state of ultimate liberation and bliss.

  4. The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering (Magga): The Fourth Noble Truth outlines the Eightfold Path, which serves as a guide to living a life in accordance with the principles of Buddhism. This path includes right understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.

Thai Buddha

The Eightfold Path

To be Buddhist is to follow the Eightfold Path, a set of ethical and mental guidelines that lead to spiritual awakening and the cessation of suffering. The path encompasses three categories: wisdom, ethical conduct, and mental development. Practicing right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration, Buddhists strive to live a life in accordance with these principles.

The Five Precepts

The Five Precepts are another core aspect of Buddhist practice. To be Buddhist means to adhere to these moral guidelines, which include refraining from harming living beings, stealing, engaging in sexual misconduct, lying, and using intoxicants. These precepts serve as the foundation for a virtuous and ethical life.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Buddhism places a strong emphasis on meditation and mindfulness practices. To be Buddhist is to cultivate inner awareness and mental clarity through meditation, with the goal of gaining insight into the nature of reality and the self. Meditation techniques like Vipassana and Zen are employed to develop mindfulness and concentration.

Compassion and Loving-Kindness

Compassion and loving-kindness are central to Buddhist ethics. Being Buddhist means cultivating a sense of compassion and kindness toward all sentient beings. The Metta (loving-kindness) meditation practice is an integral part of this process, helping practitioners develop feelings of goodwill and love for themselves and others.

Impermanence and Non-Self

Buddhism teaches that all things are impermanent and that there is no permanent, unchanging self. To be Buddhist means to contemplate the impermanence of all phenomena and to understand that clinging to a fixed sense of self leads to suffering. This insight is central to the Buddhist understanding of reality.


To be Buddhist is to embrace a profound spiritual journey guided by the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Five Precepts, meditation, compassion, and the recognition of impermanence and non-self. It is a path of self-discovery, ethical living, and mindfulness that seeks to transcend suffering and attain a state of ultimate liberation and peace. Buddhism is a diverse and multifaceted tradition, and while these principles are foundational, the expression of being Buddhist can vary widely, reflecting the rich tapestry of Buddhist thought and practice around the world.

Khmer Buddha