From the onset, my knowledge of Buddhism is limited and I cannot confess to have a very complete view of it as a religion itself. That being said, I hope that any of the questions that I have of Buddhism as a whole should be taken with a grain of salt.
Not a matter of confession! We are all here to learn, although Buddhism is one of my special interest areas.
It seems to me that at the very base of Buddhism as a philosophical approach it existence uses the grounds of being open minded to understanding as a means of enlightment. To not assume or judge towards a negative end or you will miss any benefical understanding that may come with encountering a certain situation.
I understand it in this sort of example - That judgment upon race or ethnicity from the onset will stop you from encountering something within that culture that you may very well be overjoyed with encountering. (If I am not fond of a certain culture I may never come into contact with a type of food that I may very much enjoy.)
(I realize some of these questions may exist in some form or another on some of the other threads in this forum.)
Well, perhaps, but this is very much a 'philosophical speculation concerning the interpretaton of Buddhism', rather than anything you would find in the Buddhists texts or teachings, I think. You are saying 'keep an open mind' which is a positive attitude, and it is true that the Buddhist attitude is generally more open-minded than that of dogmatic faiths.
1. At its basic root, can Buddhism be described as stating that it is best to seek benefitial (right) ends &/or means as a general rule of thought? That rationality is something sought in Buddhism, and that this is manifest to the greatest extent by being enlightened?
The basic roots of the Buddhist faith are The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The first step on the Eightfold Path is called 'right view' (or 'samma dhitti). If you look in the Buddhism directory, there is a discussion of that called 'Right View or Samma Ditthi' from last year.
As regards rationality - certainly being rational is an important part of the Buddhist teaching, but it also surpasses what can be understood by reason or logic alone. It also requires purification, meditation, concentration, and wisdom. The Buddha's wisdom is 'beyond mere logic'.
2. Under this respect, is the only way that one can be completely devoid of even the slightest negative action to be completely devoid of action period? How can one have right actions if one does not act at all?
'Right action' is what the situation calls for. One can act rightly by acting without self-interest. Do what needs to be done, and act on the basis of compassion and wisdom. But also, don't be too idealistic about it. Don't be paralyzed by the thought of falling short of an ideal!
2.a. A side question of sorts - Does the approach of some Buddhist monks to only eat what is given to them go against the teachings of Buddhism, is it not a negative action to rely on someone else's kindness (a transient thing) for your current ability to live?
I have never been a monk but the monastic rule is to eat only, and all, of what you have been given in the alms-round. Although this is different in monasteries where there are kitchens and food is grown.
3. Is it not better to know of something - what a type of plant looks like - then to know of every plant in existence?
4. Is it not against the core teaching of Buddhism to assert that there is a cycle of rebirth, death, and rebirth into infinity? Does this not already presuppose something that may not be true?
The belief in the 'cycle of birth and death' is native to Buddhism and to all of the Indian religions and philosophies, generally. It is certainly assumed in Buddhism. So belief in the cycle of birth and death - called Samsara - is part of the Buddhist outlook. 'To infinity' is a different question - that is speculative, and as such, not useful, and to be put to one side.
5. ( I know I am probably off on this understanding ) Does Buddhism assert that there is no difference in actuality between me and a cloud, because we are transient things? That the difference between me and the cloud is an illusionary thing. Surely for an indeterminite amount of time we 'exist' in a sense, but how can it be claimed that we are one and the same simply because of our current states of being? Does science not atleast break down this notion to a degree?
Not at all. Buddhists are quite sensible, you know.:bigsmile: You have a conventional identity and life. Ultimately it is composed of elements, and ultimately your body will break up. But in the meantime, you are a real flesh-and-blood person with real needs and problems.
6. If it can be claimed that the world is a creation from my perception of things, how can the inverse not be claimed - that I am actually created by the world's perception of things? Does this idea of self creation not set human beings up as being, in essence, deities?
7. If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to see it... does Buddhism entail that the tree, said forest, etc, outside of one's perception of it, not exist? Is Buddhism in support of something occuring irregardless of our existence, or does it claim that things only happen because we percieve them to happen?
I'm sure there are far too many questions that could follow. Sorry if this is too much all at once.
Those are quite advanced philosophical topics. Buddhist philosophy does discuss these types of things, but it is probably better to get a handle on the fundamentals first. I recommend reading up on the 4 Noble Truths, and the story of the Buddha's life, first, if you haven't done that already. Check out BuddhaNet - Worldwide Buddhist Information and Education Network