An Introduction to Buddhism

By Scott Mccoy


Welcome to An Introduction to Buddhism, a 12 week journey through 2500 years of Buddhist evolution and practice.

The goal is to provide you with the basic concepts and tools to begin your own investigation into the teachings and practices of Buddhism founded by Siddhartha Gautama of the Shakya Clan (Northeastern India/Southwestern Nepal Border 5th Century BCE).

We will meet weekly for 12 weeks. The classes will be comprised of two sections. The first half will be a presentation on one or more topics, the second half will consist of a group discussion which will include one of the Venerable Monks of Dong Hung Temple, when available. Other opportunities for this class to be held may be made available, and in these cases the assistance of the Venerable Monks may not be available for those class meetings.

There is no fee and no specific text book for this class. Handouts and resources will be provided at no cost.

You may attend any or all of the classes. We do ask that the discussions stay on topic as much as possible so that we can ensure we meet the goals of each session.

As the purpose of these classes is to educate individuals about Buddhism and Buddhist practice we will refrain from adding Non-Buddhist concepts or traditions to the discussions.

Topics outside of the scope of this class are always welcome in our regular group discussions in the Wednesday night meetings, at the Tuesday night Dharma discussion group or upon appointment with the Venerables.

You may also contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., I will try to reply to your emails as quickly as I can. Most often I will send you materials or links to sites where I think you will find some help with your questions.

Included in the handout materials will be resources and websites which you may find helpful. As much as possible we will try to provide the materials and any related online resources ahead of time. If you can find the time to look into these topics before the scheduled class you may find that very helpful.

It must be noted that for all practical purposes the materials, texts, essays, citations, quotations and resources provided in this document and throughout this course are taken from a variety of authors, websites, and translators work. It is not intended to be presented as any personal or original work by myself (Scott McCoy) or any of the various teachers who may present this material to any student or reader. To the best of our ability we have documented a list of citations and bibliography of the sources for this material and have provided the entire text or work on the resource CD. Specific use licenses are included on these documents which are to be fully complied with throughout this course.

Opening dialog: We are for convenience’s sake calling this a class or a course on Basic Buddhism and in one sense it is. In another sense is simply a few classmates helping to point a few other classmates to the contents of a course that has been going on for 2500 years. While I may be “leading: the discussion or so-called teaching this class (along with others and our Venerable Monks of the Dong Hung Temple in Virginia Beach) in truth we are just helping you to find the starting line in a life long journey into yourself. I can no more teach or walk that path for you than you can digest food for someone else. You can buy it, cook it, cut it up and serve it, you might even go so far as to spoon feed someone but their body has to digest it to get the nourishment from it. The map is not the terrain…The finger pointing to the moon is not the moon itself. The concepts here can only help you ask the right questions, the answers must come from you alone.

Week One:

  1. Introductions and an overview of the class outline.
  2. Survey of Student Goals and expectations
  3. Presentation: (What is it all about?)
    1. What is Buddhism?
    2. What is a Buddhist?
    3. What is a Buddha?
    4. The historical Buddha.
  4. Group Discussion
    1. Question and answer session.

Week One:

  1. Introductions and an overview of the class outline.
    1. Good evening, Welcome to An Introduction to Buddhism. My name is Scott McCoy. I have been studying, practicing and investigating Buddhism for about seven years. I have no particular qualifications such having been a trained Buddhist monk, or a degree in Buddhist studies, however I have a passion for Buddhist study and Eastern Philosophy in general with a concentration on Indian Religious Philosophy.
    2. The course is designed to provide you with a basic set of tools to make your own investigation into the common core of Buddhism. It is not intended to teach any one school, tradition, or form of Buddhism. We will see later that the Buddha recommend to his followers to investigate his teachings for themselves.
  2. Survey of Student Goals and expectations
    1. I would like to take a minute here and ask each of you what (If any) expectation you have for this course. What one thing would you like to take away from these classes?
    2. We will write them on this dry-erase board and refer to them throughout these classes to see if we have met them and to make time to include them where we can.
  3. Presentation: (What is it all about?)What is a Buddhist? Simply put a person who has in some fashion made a decision to follow the teachings of the Buddha. Many people identify as Buddhist. Like those of Western Faiths, some may do so because their family, culture or country identify this way. We will be focusing on the former and not the later as a Buddhist practitioner.
    1. What is Buddhism?
      1. One explanation might be this:  “The non-aggressive, moral and philosophical system expounded by the Buddha, which demands no blind faith from its adherents, expounds no dogmatic creeds, encourages no superstitious rites and ceremonies, but advocates a golden mean that guides a disciple through pure living and pure thinking to the gain of supreme vision and deliverance from all evil, is called the Dhamma and is popularly known as Buddhism.” (Na¯rada, Buddhism in a Nutshell)
      2. Wikipedia defines Buddhism as:                  Buddhism /ˈbudɪzəm/ is a nontheistic religion or philosophy (Sanskrit: dharma; Pali: धम्म Dhamma) that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha, commonly known as the Buddha ("the awakened one"). According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end their suffering through the elimination of ignorance and craving. Buddhists believe that this is accomplished through the direct understanding and perception of dependent origination and the Four Noble Truths.
      3. To explain Buddhism in my own words I would say that Buddhism is a system of philosophy that is intended to help a practitioner use a methodical and logical approach to understand the reality of their existence and come to terms with it in a way that will lead to their long term happiness and wellbeing. It does not require super normal power or divine assistance to achieve results. It does not provide dogma or doctrine that must be accepted as immutable or unquestionable. In fact it teaches how to ask the questions necessary to be liberated from suffering and stress and become contented, happy and peaceful, but does require the practitioner to provide their own answers to those questions. It takes persistent effort and courageous honesty to achieve the benefits that its founder claims to have achieved for himself.
  1. What is a Buddha?
    1. Buddha (n.) 1680s, from Pali, literally "awakened, enlightened," past participle of budh "to awake, know, perceive," related to Sanskrit bodhati "is awake, observes, understands" (see bode). Title given by his adherents to the man who taught this path, Siddhartha Gautama, also known to them as Sakyamuni "Sage of the Sakyas" (his family clan), who lived in northern India 5c. B.C.E. (Online Etymology Dictionary).
    2. More simply it is the modern term derived from a language presumed to be in use at the Buddha’s time known as Pali that means The Awakened One.
  2. The historical Buddha.
    1. Refer (Read before class if possible) to the resource for more details. Online link to Wikipedia is, it is also in the resource files under the title 01_Gautama Buddha - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. We will discuss the story of the Buddha together in class.
  1. Group Discussion
    1. Question and answer session.
      1. Questions: (students are encouraged to ask any questions especially related to the class topic at this time. Some topics for discussion are also listed below.
        1. Is Buddhism a religion?
        2. Is Buddhism a philosophy?
        3. Is Buddhism something other than or more than either?
        4. What proof do we have of the historical Buddha?
        5. How many Buddhists are there in the world today? (About 6% of the world population estimated at about 350 million with a range between 200 to 500 million.
        6. How many Buddhists are there in the U.S. today? Estimates are that 1.2 million people identify as Buddhist. From Wikipedia: Buddhism is one of the largest religions in the United States behind Christianity, Judaism and nonreligious, and approximately equal with Islam and Hinduism. American Buddhists include many Asian Americans, as well as a large number of converts of other ethnicities, and now their children and even grandchildren. In 2012, U-T San Diego estimated U.S. practitioners at 1.2 million people, of whom 40% are living in Southern California.

Weekly Schedule


8.00 am - 9.00 am: Public Services in English: Such as chanting, Meditation,  Dharma discussing

10:30 am – 12.30 pm: Public Services in Vietnamese: Such as chanting, Dharma discussing (with English translator), offering to the deceased ones 


English Dharma Class, open discussion.
@ Dharma Hall, Virginia Beach
1st, 2nd and 3rd  and 5thTuesdays, 7pm-8.30pm.

English Dharma Class, open discussion.
@ Pitts Center, Southern Shores, NC
4th Tuesday, 6.30pm - 8.30pm 


5:45 - 6:45 pm: One Hour Meditation. Public is welcome. English language introduction. Silent, seated meditation in the Dharma Hall.

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm: Public service in English: Chanting, meditating, Dharma discussing in English


8:00 pm – 9:00 pm: Chanting 21 time Great Compassion Mantra (Vietnamese)


423 Davis Street

Virginia Beach, VA 23462

Phone: (757) 689 - 3408

Direct: 757 - 406 - 1726 (Mr. Mark P.)

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