Colonel Olcott’s Fourteen Fundamental Buddhist Beliefs
I. Buddhists are taught to show the same tolerance, forbearance, and brotherly love to all men, without distinction; and an unswerving kindness towards the members of the animal kingdom.
II. The universe was evolved, not created; and it functions according to law, not according to the caprice of any god.
III. The truths upon which Buddhism is founded are natural. They have, we believe, been taught in successive kalpas, or world-periods, by certain illuminated beings called Buddhas, the name Buddha meaning "Enlightened."
IV. The fourth teacher in the present kalpa was Sakyamuni, or Gautama Buddha, who was born in a royal family in India about 2,500 years ago. He is a historical personage and his name was Siddhartha Gautama.
V. Sakyamuni taught that ignorance produces desire, unsatisfied desire is the cause of rebirth, and rebirth the cause of sorrow. To get rid of sorrow, therefore, it is necessary to escape rebirth, it is necessary to extinguish desire; and to extinguish desire, it is necessary to destroy ignorance.
VI. Ignorance fosters the belief that rebirth is a necessary thing. When ignorance is destroyed the worthlessness 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 rebirth, can be abolished. Ignorance also begets the illusive and illogical idea that there is only one existence for man, and the other illusion that this one life is followed by a state of unchangeable pleasure or torment.
VII. The dispersion of all this ignorance can be attained by the persevering practice of an all-embracing altruism in conduct, development of intelligence, wisdom in thought, and destruction of desire for the lower personal pleasures.
VIII. The desire to live being the cause of rebirth, when that is extinguished rebirths cease, and the perfected individual attains by meditation that highest state of peace called Nirvaana.
IX. Sakyamuni taught that ignorance can be dispelled and sorrow removed by the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths, that is,
1. Existence is misery;
2. The cause productive of misery is the desire ever-renewed of satisfying oneself, without being able ever to secure that end;
3. The destruction of that desire, or the estranging of oneself from it;
4. The means of obtaining this destruction of desire. The means which he pointed out are called the Noble Eightfold Path, that is, Right Belief, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Exertion, Right Remembrance, Right Meditation.
X. Right Meditation leads to spiritual enlightenment, or the development of that Buddha-like faculty which is latent in every man.
XI. The essence of Buddhism, as summed up by the Tathaagata (Buddha) himself, consists in: desisting from all evil; acquiring virtue, purifying the heart.
XII. The universe is subject to a natural causation known as Karma. The merits and demerits of a being in his past existence determine his condition in the present one. Each man, therefore, has prepared the causes of the effect which he now experiences.
XIII. 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: (1) kill not; (2) steal not; (3) indulge not in forbidden sexual pleasure; (4) lie not; (5) take no intoxicating or stupefying drugs or liquor. Five other precepts which need not be enumerated here should be observed by those who would attain more quickly than the average layman the release from misery and rebirth.
XIV. Buddhism discourages superstitious credulity. Gautama Buddha 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 book, or affirmed by tradition, unless it accords with reason.
This was drafted as a common platform upon which all Buddhists can agree, and signed by H.S. Olcott. The document then closed with the following endorsements.
"Respectfully submitted for the approval of the high priests of the nations which we severally represent, in the Buddhist conference held at Adyar, Madras, on the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th of January 1891 (A B. 2434).
Japan Kozen Gunaratana, Chlezo Tokuzawa
Burma U Hmoay Tha Aung
Ceylon Dhammapala Hevavitarana
The Maghs of Chittegong Krishna Chandra Chowdry, by his appointed Proxy, Maung Tha Dwe.
Approved on behalf of the Buddhists of Burma, this 3rd day of February 1891 (A.B. 2434):
Tha-tha-na-baing Sayadawgyi; Aung Myi Shewbon Sayadaw; Me-ge-waddy Sayadaw; Hmat-Khaya Sayadaw; Hti-lin Sayadaw; Myadaung Sayadaw; Hla-Htwe Sayadaw; and sixteen others.
Approved on behalf of the Buddhists of Ceylon on this 25th day of February 1891 (A.B. 2434):
Yatawatte Chandjoti, high priest of Asgiri Vihara at Kandy.
Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala, high priest Adam’s Peak and the district of Colombo.
(Sd.) H. SUMANGALA
Suriyagoda Sonuttara, librarian of the oriental library at the Temple of the Tooth Relic at Kandy.
(Sd.) S. SONUTTARA
Dhammalankara, high priest.
(Sd.) W. DHAMMALANKARA
Waskaduwe Subhuti, high priest.
(Sd.) W. SUBHUTI
Accepted as included within the body of Northern Buddhism.
Shaku Genyu (Shingon Shu)
Fukuda Nichiye (Nichiren Shu)
Sanada Seyke (Zen Shu)
Ito Quan Shyu (Zen Shu)
Takehana Hakuyo (Jodo Shu)
Kono Rioshin (Ji-Shu Shu)
Kiro Ki-Ko (Jodo Seizan Shu)
Harutani Shinsho (Tendai Shu)
Manabe Shun-myo (Shingon Shu)
Accepted for the Buddhists of Chittagong.
Nagawa Parvata Viharadhipati Guna Megu Wini-Lankara, Harbing, Chittagong, Bengal."