Library: Member Essays
Fourteen Fundamental Buddhist Tenets, as set forth in 1894
Statement of Universal Buddhism
- Buddhists are taught to show the same tolerance, forbearance, and
love to all men, without distinction; and an unswerving kindness towards
members of the animal kingdom.
- The Universe functions according to Law (dharma), and not
according to the caprice of a ruling god (isvara-deva).
- The truths upon which the Dharma is founded are scientific. They have,
we believe, been taught in successive ages (kalpas),
or prehistoric epochs, by certain fully illuminated beings defined as
human Buddhas (manushi-buddha).
- The fourth World Teacher (shastara) of the present age was
Buddha Sakyamuni, who was born in a noble family of the Sakya clan,
in India about 2500 years ago. He is an historical personage, and his
personal name was Siddhartha Gautama.
- Sakyamuni taught that primordial Ignorance (avidya) produces
Desire-to-be (trishna), unsatisfied Desire is the cause of
life, and life results in old age, disease and death, i.e., Suffering
(dukkha). To overcome Suffering, therefore, it is necessary
to escape the Cycle of life and death; to escape the Cycle of life and
death, it is necessary to extinguish Desire; and to extinguish Desire,
it is necessary to destroy Ignorance.
- Ignorance fosters rebirth on the Wheel of Necessity. When Ignorance
is destroyed, the unsastisfactoriness of every such rebirth, considered
as an end in itself, is perceived, as well as the paramount need of
adopting a course of life by which the necessity for such repeated rebirths
can be abolished.
- The dispersion of Ignorance can be attained by the persevering practice
of an all-embracing Altruism of Conduct, development of Wisdom, and
Non-attachment for the transitory objects of ego-grasping.
- Attaining Great Awakening (maha-bodhi), the Buddha Sakyamuni
realized four profound insights: namely, that all created phenomena
are impermanent; that due to the mutable impermanence of phenomena,
all created phenomena must result eventually only in suffering; that
there is no independent absolute 'I'; and that the seeker of Truth can
transcend created existence and attain, through spiritual practice and
mystical contemplation, a supreme state of peace called Nirvana.
- Sakyamuni thus taught four Holy Truths (arya-satya), viz.
Worldly-existence is Suffering.
The Cause of Suffering is Desire.
The cessation of Desire results in the end of Suffering.
Cessation is obtained by following the eightfold Spiritual Path
(arya-marga); viz., Right View, Right Thought, Right Speech,
Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Remembrance, Right
- Right Contemplation leads to spiritual Awakening, or in other words
the awakening of the Buddha-nature which is latent in every being.
- The essence of Dharma, as summed up by the Buddha himself, is:
To refrain from all sin,
To practice virtue,
To purify the Heart
- The Universe functions according to a natural law of causation known
as "Karma". The wholesome and unwholesome actions of a being
in past existences determine his condition in the present life. Each
man, therefore, has prepared the causes of the effects which he now
- The obstacles to the attainment of good Karma may be removed by the
observance of the following precepts, which are embraced in the moral
code of Buddhism, viz., Kill not, Steal not, indulge not in Harmful
Sexual Conduct, Lie not, and do not Intoxicate oneself with stupefying
drugs or liquor. Five other precepts, which need not be here enumerated,
should be observed by those who would attain, more quickly than the
average layman, the release of suffering and rebirth.
- The Dharma discourages dogmatic credulity. Buddha Sakyamuni taught
it to be the duty of a parent to have his child educated in science
and literature. He also taught that no one should believe what is spoken
by any sage, written in any scripture, or affirmed by any tradition,
unless it accord with reason.
Feeling that there was a need for a basic statement of Fundamental and
Orthodox Buddhist tenets, upon which all Buddhists throughout the world
generally agree, this document was drafted in 1889, at the instigation
of the Elder Sumangala, by Colonel H.S. Olcott and, with some modification,
was then over the next several years signed by representatives of all
the major schools of Buddhism. In 1891 Olcott handed a version of this
document to Prince Esper Ukhtomsky, director of the Religious Department
of the Ministry of the Interior of Imperial Russia, to meet the acceptance
of the schools of Mongolia, Buryatia, Kalmykia, and Tibet, and (in its
present form) for presentation to His Royal Highness Czar-Nicholas II
of Russia. The signatories (between the years 1891 to 1894) of this document
include the following:
Theravada Order: Signed on behalf of all the Buddhists
of Ceylon by the venerable Sri Sumangala, supreme patriarch of Colombo
and high-priest of Adam's Peak; the venerable Dhammarakhita, head of the
Malwatte Vihara at Kandy; the venerable Yatawatte, head of the Asgiri
Vihara at Kandy; the venerable Maligawe Suriyagoda Sonuttara, archivist
at the Temple of the Relic at Kandy; the Vinaya-cariya Dhammalankara;
and the venerable Vibhavi Subhuti of Waskaduwa.
Signed on behalf of the Buddhists of Bengal by the venerable Gunamegu
Vinilankara, the patriarch of the Vihara of Cittagong.
Sarvastivada Order: Signed on behalf of the Buddhists
of Japan by the supreme patriarch Sanada Seiko of the Zen School; the
venerable patriarch Harutani Shinsho of the Tendai School; the venerable
patriarch Shaku Genyu of the Shin Gon School; the venerable Sun-nyo of
the Shin Gon School; the venerable patriarch Fukuda Nichiyo of the Nichiren
School; the venerable patriarch Takehana Hakuyo of the Jodo School; the
venerable Kira Ki-ko of the Jodo Seizan; the patriarch and venerable master
Kono Rioshan of the Ji-shu School; and the venerable Ito Qanshyu of the
Signed on behalf of the Buddhists of China by the venerable patriarch
Hsien Ming, grand abbot of the Kwang-tse Imperial Temple, Peking; the
venerable Wang Tse Yu; and the venerable Kang Fu An.
Signed on behalf of the Buddhists of Mongolia by the VIIIth Bogdo-gegan,
venerable Jetsundamba Khutukhu, of Da Khuree, Urga; the venerable Lama
Euzon Pakshi of Deprung; the venerable Khambo Sonam Djigshitov; and other
heads of monasteries throughout Buryatia and Kalmykia. Signed on behalf
of all the Buddhists of Tibet by the venerable Bandido Khambo Lama Ngawang
Lobzang Dorjieff, tsenzab of the venerable Gyalwa Tubten Gyamtso, the
XIIIth Dalai Lama of Tibet.
We present this document as an excellent statement of the basic principles
of Buddhist doctrine, universally accepted by all schools.