I don’t go looking for these things. They show up in my Tag Surfer.
“Most Buddhists believe a person has hundreds or thousands of reincarnations”,
The person, the personality, the soul does not reincarnate. The karma, the causes, the habits, the attachments incarnate.
“all bringing misery.”
try to understand “Dukkha”. It is not Misery, it is not Suffering. It is clinging to concepts of self and other, it is wanting a drink of water, it is eating ice cream.
“And it is the desire for happiness that causes a person’s reincarnation.”
It is attachment to desire that brings about the incarnation. I could be attached to revenge.
“Therefore, the goal”
There is no goal, there is only practice. “Goal” is part of the discriminating, labeling mind.
“of a Buddhist is to purify one’s heart and to let go of all desires.”
rather the practice is to let go of the discrimination between self and other, to let go of the attachment to things we think will make us happy, or the stories we tell ourselves about what we are.
“A person must abandon all sensuous pleasures, all evil, all joy and all sorrow.”
No. Relinquishing attachment to these things – as a way to define who we are and what we want – is the practice. These things are fleeting, moments, not solid, not what we are, not who we are. Denying them is the same as grasping them. These things come from a fixed view of person, personality, self and other. They do not exist other than as our own discriminating states of mind.
“To do so, Buddhists are to follow a list of religious principles and intense meditation.”
There is such a wide degree of difference in various practices and branches of Buddhism. There is practice for the layman, for ordinary persons, there is practice for monks. For instance the Five Precepts that laypeople can follow… and meditation is just one technique that the majority don’t even bother with.
“When a Buddhist meditates it is not the same as praying”
Maybe, maybe not. Since, in Buddhism, there is no god, and nothing outside of anything but this whole inclusive process of being, what exactly is there to pray to? Meditation practice is the process of seeing this whole thing and all the little discriminations we do to make ourselves different from it – as really false, illusory and completely unnecessary – and actually destructive in understanding “god”.
“or focusing on a god, it is more of a self-discipline.”
There is nothing outside of ourselves. There is nothing that is a self. There is no boundary between our body and our mind, there is no boundary between our body and the world, there is no boundary between the world and God.
Focusing on God as outside of self – focusing on self as different from God is the act of the discriminating mind. You need to practice self-discipline to see that.
“Through dedicated meditation”
doing, being, practice… not of a single technique, but practice of the Eightfold Path, and seeing (process, not goal) when discrimination and attachment, labels and stories arise… and letting these things pass away. These things are not who you are.
“a person may reach Nirvana — “the blowing out” of the flame of desire.”
or a person, having abandoned attachment and discrimination, labels and stories, a person may see that Samsara and Nirvana are one and the same thing.