Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Fundamental Teaching of the Buddha.

By Titu22
Fundamental teaching of the Buddha. Dr.BCR.Titu BaruaMangala priyaWatsuthivararam,Yannawa,Sathorn.Bangkok,10120.Thailand.

Buddhism began in northeastern India and is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Buddhism is divided into two major branches: Theravada, the Way of the Elders, and Mahayana, the Great Vehicle. Buddhism is now prevalent in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, (where Theravada is popular) and in China, Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Korea, Burma, Vietnam, and India (where Mahayana is more common).. There are about 300 million Buddhists in the world.And Buddha was the Light of ASIA.There are seven chapters and conclusion in order to depend on Buddhism that there are so many Buddists in ASIA in the present.
Buddhism teaches its followers that in this life they are only temporary vessels of body, emotions, thoughts, tendencies, and knowledge. Buddhists believe that there is no sense of self or soul when in this world. A fundamental concept of Buddhism is the notion that the goal of one’s life is to break the cycles of death and birth. Reincarnation exists because of the individual’s craving and desires to live in this world. The ultimate goal of a Buddhists is to achieve freedom from the cycle of reincarnation and attain nirvana. The enlightened state in which the person is free from greed, hate, and ignorance. The way to nirvana involves the person showing love for others, being compassionate and sympathetic of other people, and showing patience in everything. A Buddhist must also follow five main principles which prohibit killing, stealing, ill language, sexual immorality, and the use of toxic substances. When one successfully follows these principles.
I-The Four Noble Truths
1.1 Life means suffering:
1.2 The origin of suffering is attachment.
1.3 The cessation of suffering is attainable.
1.4 The path to the cessation of suffering.
1- Life means suffering.
To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. Although there are different degrees of suffering and there are also positive experiences in life that we perceive as the opposite of suffering, such as ease, comfort and happiness, life in its totality is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. This means we are never able to keep permanently what we strive for, and just as happy moments pass by, we ourselves and our loved ones will pass away one day, too.
2- The origin of suffering is attachment.
The origin of suffering is attachment to transient things and the ignorance thereof. Transient things do not only include the physical objects that surround us, but also ideas, and -in a greater sense- all objects of our perception. Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering are desire, passion, ardour, pursuit of wealth and prestige, striving for fame and popularity, or in short: craving and clinging. Because the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. Objects of attachment also include the idea of a "self" which is a delusion, because there is no abiding self. What we call "self" is just an imagined entity, and we are merely a part of the ceaseless becoming of the universe.
3- The cessation of suffering is attainable.
The cessation of suffering can be attained through nirodha. Nirodha means the unmaking of sensual craving and conceptual attachment. The third noble truth expresses the idea that suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. Nirodha extinguishes all forms of clinging and attachment. This means that suffering can be overcome through human activity, simply by removing the cause of suffering. Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.
4-The path to the cessation of suffering.
There is a path to the end of suffering - a gradual path of self-improvement, which is described more detailed in the Eightfold Path. It is the middle way between the two extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification (asceticism); and it leads to the end of the cycle of rebirth. The Fourth Noble Truth: We have already tasted true happiness and freedom in the The Third Noble Truth that promises the end of dukkha, the disease of unsatisfactoriness. The Third Noble Truth presents a simple prognosis of the antidote to suffering, being essentially the extinction of tanha(thirst or craving). Not easy to realize this freedom, the Buddha Gotama put forward a systematic approach to be applied at every moment in our lives. The medicine which the Buddha prescribed is the Eightfold Noble Path :
a) Samma ditthi : Right Understanding
b) Samma sankappa : Right Thought
c) Samma vaca : Right Speech
d) Samma kammanta : Right Action
e) Samma ajiva : Right Livelihood
f) Samma vayama : Right Effort
g) Samma sati : Right Mindfulness
h) Samma samadhi : Right Concentration
The cultivation of these eight qualities requires both internal and external development. This systematic training of the mind may be grouped into three aspects of ethics, meditation and wisdom. In this context, here is a brief summary of (what I understand by) each of the components of the Eightfold Path: Ethics Right Speech This is a very subtle quality, which does not merely require speaking the truth at all times, but knowing also when to speak and to what extent. Right speech covers abstention from telling lies; from harmful and malicious speech whether directly at someone or indirectly about someone; and from gossip or frivolous chat. Right speech is always appropriate for the particular situation. Right Action is selfless conduct that respects all life, plus the property (material and intellectual) of others, has honourable respect for oneself and enters into honourable relationships with others. Right Livelihood means undertaking an ethical way of earning a living, hence choosing an occupation that facilitates the Eightfold Noble Path, especially one that does not involved killing or fraud. This quality can be applied at successively finer levels, so that one chooses perhaps methods of carrying out a job in a noble manner ... until right livelihood meets with right action. Meditation :Right Effort is energetic will that on the one hand seeks to cultivate worthy and wholesome states of mind until they are perfected; and, on the other, to reduce and eradicate each and every unwholesome state of mind. Right Mindfulness is awareness at all levels of mind, attentive to the activities of kaya (the body), vedana (sensations or feelings) , the activities of citta (the mind) and dhamma (thoughts, ideas, concepts and perceptions) Right Concentration is the development of mind that is successively more and more focused, until equanimity is reached. It is the quality that is synonymous with states that are reached in meditation. Wisdom :Right Understanding In any situation, with this quality one knows things as they really are: that such is such, that given these causes, then there may arise those effects; more generally it means understanding the Four Noble Truths at the deepest level, with the whole mind.. Right Thought/Aspiration is the quality of having the right initial intention as regards any undertaking, being one of selfless renunciation and service. Sometimes these aspects are summed up as the Three Fundamental Principles: Cease to do evil Cultivate what is good Purify the mind The Eightfold Noble Path is popularly termed the Middle Way (Majjhima Patipada) since it avoids the two extremes of searching for happiness through sense pleasure, which is "low, common, unprofitable and the way of ordinary people"; and the search for happiness through self-mortification, which is "painful, unworthy and unprofitable". Characteristic of the Middle Way is a balanced life, one that cultivates wisdom and compassion: Words of wisdom to become True Individuals: Don't go by mere tradition. Don't go by mere reasoning. Don't go merely because it is the master who says this. Don't go merely because it is said in the scriptures, etc... But when you know for yourselves - these things are not good, conducing to loss and sorrow - then reject them. When you know for yourselves - these things are good, conducing to welfare and happiness - then follow them And words of compassion to encourage on-line Community: It is the whole, not the half, of the best life - this good friendship, this good companionship, this association with the good. Whatever living beings there may be - feeble or strong, long, stout, or medium, short, small or large, seen or unseen, those dwelling far or near, those who are born and those who are yet to be born - may all beings, without exception, be happy. Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so let one cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Links on the Fourth Noble Truth Eightfold Noble Path – Overview Dharma Talk by Lama Surya Das: The Fourth Noble Truth: the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment: Part One and Part Two. The series of talks are part of a book entitled The Facts of Life From a Buddhist Perspective. The Buddha`s Message to Mankind is a personal page by Michael Holmboe Meyer, containing an overview of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path, set in a contemporary context. It is visually very delightful. Ethics Journal of Buddhist Ethics is the first academic journal dedicated entirely to Buddhist ethics and has earnt much respect in the Buddhist community and several net awards. A mirror(?) site is here (Goldsmiths College, UK). To establish a solid ethical foundation, many Buddhists try to observe Five precepts. These are discussed in an interesting Question and Answer Session. Meditation Meditation and Mental Culture provides a variety of inspiring teachings from some famous Theravada monks, including Ven. Ajahn Chah and Mahasi Sayadaw, plus Jack Kornfield, kindly made available by the NCF (Ottawa) Special Interest Group on Buddhism Wisdom The Heart of the Prajna Paramita Sutta - a famous sutra of the Mahayana school that fuses Wisdom and Compassion. The above is just a small selection: these three major themes constitute the heart of Buddhism, so we shall meet them many times in future! Note This article was originally one of a series of contributions I made as a 'Buddhist Guide' for the meaning company.The latter quality discerns it from other paths which are merely "wandering on the wheel of becoming", because these do not have a final object. The path to the end of suffering can extend over many lifetimes, throughout which every individual rebirth is subject to karmic conditioning. Craving, ignorance, delusions, and its effects will disappear gradually, as progress is made on the path.
II-The Noble Eightfold Path
Wisdom2.2. Right View
2.2. Right Intention
Ethical Conduct2.3. Right Speech
2.4. Right Action
2.5. Right Livelihood
Mental Development2.6. Right Effort
2.7. Right Mindfulness
2.8. Right Concentration
The Noble Eightfold Path describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. Together with the Four Noble Truths it constitutes the gist of Buddhism. Great emphasis is put on the practical aspect, because it is only through practice that one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana. The eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly interdependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other.Right View Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realize the Four Noble Truth. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas, and to understand the law of karma and karmic conditioning.
2.1. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.
2.2. Right Intention :While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.
2.3. Right Speech :Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. This aspect is not self-sufficient, however, essential, because mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.
2.4. Right Action :The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or delinquently, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others. Further details regarding the concrete meaning of right action can be found in the Precepts.
2.5. Right Livelihood Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1. dealing in weapons, 2. dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3. working in meat production and butchery, and 4. selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. Furthermore any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided.
2.6. Right Effort :Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.
2.7. Right Mindfulness :Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualise sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured. Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualisation in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.
2.8. Right Concentration:The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as one-pointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Buddhist method of choice to develop right concentration is through the practice of meditation. The meditating mind focuses on a selected object. It first directs itself onto it, then sustains concentration, and finally intensifies concentration step by step. Through this practice it becomes natural to apply elevated levels concentration also in everyday situations. The Four Noble Truths encapsulate the central essence of Buddhism. Considered as the most fundamental teaching of the Buddha, the Four Noble Truths was the direct culmination of the Buddha’s experiences of the Four Noble Sights. The first sermon, also known as "Setting in Motion the Wheel of Law", was delivered by the Buddha to five ascetics in a deer park near Benares, after his enlightenment. This was based on his realization of the Four Noble Truths: There is Suffering (Dukkha in Pali which means "not able to bear or withstand anything").There is a cause to Suffering (Samudaya) There should be cessation of Suffering (Nirodha) Suffering can be ended by following the Eightfold Path .The First Noble Truth has three aspects: There is suffering (Dukkha); Dukkha should be understood; and Dukkha has been understood. The first aspect underlines that birth, ageing, sickness, dissociation from the loved ones, and not getting what one wants are all characterized by “clinging”, and are thus forms of suffering. The second aspect explains that understanding suffering should be based on vision, insight, wisdom, and knowledge. Only then can one claim to have understood suffering through these insights. The second Noble Truth has three aspects: There is a cause to suffering and the cause is attachments to Desire; Desire should be done away with; and Desire has been done away with. Desire, which is the cause to suffering is of three kinds: Desire for pleasure (kama tanha), desire to become (bhava tanha), and desire to get rid of (vibhava tanha). The Third Noble Truth has three aspects: There is cessation of suffering; Cessation of suffering should be realized; and the cessation of suffering has been realized. The Fourth Noble Truth has three aspects: There is the Eightfold Path to end suffering; This path should be developed; and this path has been fully developed. The Eightfold Path which is also called the Ariya Magga (the Ariyan or Noble Path) reflects the Buddha’s final solution to end suffering. Grouped under three categories, the Buddha prescribes in the Eightfold path:Wisdom (panna).Right Understanding (samma ditthi)Right Aspiration (samma sankappa).These basic expressions of the Buddha should be best understood, not as beliefs, but as categories of experiences which does not depend on any metaphysical speculation or belief.
III-The three special Paths:
3.1. Morality is the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct or a system of ideas that fall into those same categories. We often hear words about religious morality or the phrase Christian morality in society. Items that fall into the morally sound category are qualities like good, goodness, rightness, virtue, and righteousness. When talking about a moral quality involving a course of action, we think of ethics. To define morality, a person will use the rules or habits with regard to right and wrong that he or she follows. It is a complex system of general principles and particular judgments based on cultural, religious, and philosophical concepts and beliefs. Cultures and or groups regulate and generalize these concepts, thus regulating behavior. When someone conforms to the codification, you consider this person to be moral. And yet, the notion of how we ought to behave and the reality of how we do behave are varied and real morality behaves in accordance with one's perception of morality. Often, doctrines or moral duties that support the quality of an action which renders it good, is moral. And so a system of standards used to produce honest, decent, and ethical results are consideredHumanistic Buddhism emphasizes our treatment of other people above all else. No one can ever expect to come into full awareness of the Bodhi mind if they do not know how to treat other people with compassion, respect and unfailing kindness. These basic traits are nothing less than aspects of the Bodhi mind.Since the BLIA is an active, world-wide organization, I have spoken at length in this letter about the importance of human virtues, intelligent activity, and the outgoing practice of compassion. These are the central themes of humanistic Buddhism. In this chapter, I will speak briefly about how to practice Buddhism. Since the BLIA is an open organization, tolerant and accepting of all, we do not advocate only one kind of practice of Buddhism. There are many ways to discover the Bodhi mind. Different people follow different paths. In one life, many people undertake more than one form of practice. Whether we practice Zen, Pure Land, esoteric Buddhism, or some other form of Buddhism, there are several fundamental aspects of good practice that all of us should bear in mind. I will discuss them briefly in the following sections.
3.2. Concentration,In the sutras there is a story about a man who had been condemned to death. The king who had condemned the man gave him one last chance to live. The king told the man that if he could carry a jar of oil on his head around town without spilling a single drop, he would let him go free. The man agreed to the proposal. With utmost concentration he slowly carried the jar of oil around the town. As he walked along his route, the king had people ring bells and make noise to distract him. When this did not work, the king had beautiful dancing girls sway beside the man as he proceeded. Nothing made him lose his concentration. Since his life depended on it, the man's mind was perfectly fixed on the jar of oil on his head. Eventually he succeeded in completing his route without spilling a drop of oil, and the king let him go free. This story graphically illustrates the importance of concentration. Just as the man's life depended on the jar of oil on his head, our lives depend on the Dharma. If we can realize this truth with the same immediacy as the man in the story, we will make great strides in our practice. The Sutra of Bequeathed Teachings says, "If you can concentrate on one thing, there is nothing you can not do."Concentration is not a gift. It is something each one of us must work to achieve. Once it has been achieved, concentration becomes our single most important tool in the practice of Buddhism. Every aspect of Buddhism requires concentration. To be mindful, we must concentrate. To be compassionate, we must concentrate. To meditate, we must concentrate. To get along with others, we must concentrate. Concentration can, and should, be developed in working situations and whenever we interact with other people. The most basic way of developing concentration, however, is through meditation. There are many kinds of meditation, but all of them depend on concentration. In its most basic form, successful meditation requires that we sit still for fairly long periods of time. This sitting is a basic form of physical concentration that has profoundly beneficial effects on both the body and the mind. Buddhism Buddhist Buddhic Contemplation Meditative Concentration The founder of Buddhism and the primary enlightenment guiding light to the Buddhist was Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. Siddhartha became a wandering ascetic which was an esteemed and well traveled path in India during those days. After he studied Yogic meditation with two Brahmin hermits, Gautama Buddha succeeded in attaining high meditative states. Know after his enlightenment as the Sakyamuni Buddha and Gautama Buddha, Buddha eventually left all teachers and sat under a Bodhi Tree facing east. He remained there in meditation until he attained enlightenment on the night of the full moon, ascending the Dhyana, the four trance stages, to become Gautama Buddha or the "Enlightened One". Buddha’s teachings were recollected by his followers and transmitted orally as Buddhism and Buddhist teachings. It was not until many years after his death that the Buddhist principles of Buddhism were written down. The Pali dialogues or sutras are believed to be the closest approximation to what Gautama Buddha actually taught. Gautama Buddha taught a new spiritual path which he called "The Middle Way". If one followed the Buddhism Pathway it would bring a spiritual pilgrim clear vision, insight, wisdom, tranquility, awakening, Enlightenment, and Nirvana. Meditation or Concentration was the essential ingredient needed for one to reach the exalted state of Nirvana. By contemplating universal truths and one’s essential beingness, growing Buddhic consciousness nurtured detachment and abstract understanding. Wisdom came from cultivating "Right Views" and "Right Intentions". To promote a happy harmonious life for both the individual and society and to build a foundation for higher states of consciousness, the Buddhist must perform only enlightened moral actions. Enlightenment and peace result from training and study of this path of upward spiral movement. Aspirants begin with a small spark of wisdom which inspires them to moral action and meditation which expands the wisdom which bolsters the morality and leads to higher levels of meditative concentration and so on. There are many types of meditation and concentration. Vipassana meditation was self-possessed,mindful concentration on the mind, emotions, thoughts, and dharmic principles. Another recommended type of meditation was to charge the four corners of the earth with pure thoughts of compassion, empathy, friendliness, nonviolence, and generosity and then to see them in one's mind's eye, rippling out to the ends of the universe.
3.3. WISDOM,Today we are going to complete our survey of the Noble Eightfold Path. In the last two weeks, we have looked at good conduct and mental development. Today, we have the third group to look at, and that is the wisdom group. Here we have an interesting situation which we attended to sometime ago when we discussed the Four Noble Truths. When one sees the Noble Eightfold Path listed in sequence, one begins with Right Understanding and yet in the context of the three fold division of good conduct, mental development and wisdom, wisdom comes at the end. One tries to explain this by using the analogy of climbing a mountain. When one sets out to climb a mountain one has the summit in view and it is the sight of the summit that gives direction to one’s path. In that sense, even when one begins to climb the mountain, one has one’s eyes on the summit. As such, right understanding is necessary right at the beginning of the path. Yet in practical terms one has to climb the lower steps, scale the intermediate ridges before one reaches the summit, the attainment of wisdom. In practical terms, therefore, wisdom comes at the end of one’s practice of the path. Wisdom is described as the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, or the understanding of dependent origination and so forth. What is meant by this is that when we speak of the attainment of wisdom, we are concerned with transforming these items of the doctrine from simple intellectual facts to real personal facts. We are interested in changing this knowledge from mere book learning to real living experience. And the way this is done is through the cultivation of good conduct and specifically through the cultivation of mental development. Otherwise, anyone can read in a book the explanation of the Four Noble Truths and so forth and yet this is not the same as attaining wisdom. As the Buddha Himself said, it is through failing to understand the Four Noble Truths and dependent origination that we have all run on in this cycle of birth and death. Obviously when He said this, He meant something deeper than simply failure to be acquainted intellectually with these items of doctrine. Understanding here has to be taken in the sense of Right Understanding, direct understanding, in the sense of seeing. This is perhaps why so frequently the language of seeing is used to describe the attainment of wisdom. We speak in terms of seeing the Truth, of seeing things as they really are. Because the attainment of wisdom is not an intellectual or academic exercise. It is seeing, understanding these truths directly. When this kind of direct understanding of the truth is gained, this is equivalent to gaining enlightenment. This opens the door to freedom, freedom from suffering and to Nirvana. Wisdom is the key thing in Buddhism. In other religions, we find that faith is paramount. In still other religions, we find that meditation is supreme as for instance in Yoga. In Buddhism, faith is preliminary, meditation is instrumental. The real heart of Buddhism is wisdom. The two steps of the Noble Eightfold Path that are included in wisdom are Right Understanding and Right Thought. Right Understanding can be said to be seeing things as they really are. Understanding the truth about things rather than simply seeing them as they appear to be. What this means is insight, penetrative under-standing, seeing beyond the surface of things. If we want to explain this in doctrinal terms, we will have to speak about the Four Noble Truths, dependent origination, impermanence, not-self and so forth. But for the moment let us just speak about the means of gaining Right Understanding. Here we can again see the scientific attitude of the teachings of the Buddha. Because when we come to look at the means of acquiring Right Understanding, we see that we begin with objective observation of the situation and of ourselves. We join objective observation with enquiry, examination and consideration. In acquiring Right Understanding, we find that there are two types of understanding. One is the understanding that we acquire by ourselves. The other is the understanding that we acquire through others, that we are shown by others. Ultimately, these two types of understanding merge because in the final analysis real understanding of Right Understanding has to be our own. But in the meantime, one can distinguish between Right Understanding that we achieve through observation of the environment and the Right Understanding that we achieve through the study of the teachings. Just as with regard to our situation, we are asked to observe objectively what we see, what we experience and then examine and consider its significance, so when we approach the teachings of the Buddha we are asked to study them, to listen to them and then to consider them, to examine them. Whether we speak in terms of observation and enquiry, or whether we refer to study of the doctrine and we speak in terms of reading, or listening and consideration, the third step in this process of acquiring understanding is meditation. It is on this third stage of the process of acquiring Right Understanding that the two types of understanding merge.
To summarize, the means of acquiring Right Understanding is as follows - on the first stage, one has to observe, study and read. On the second stage, one has to examine intellectually what one has observed, studied and read. On the third stage, one has to meditate upon what one has examined, considered and determined. Let us use a practical example. Let us say we intend to travel to a certain destination. In order to do so, we acquire a road map which shows the route to reach the destination. We look first at the map for the directions. Then we must review what we have seen, review the map, examine the map to be certain that we understand the directions. Only then do we actually travel to our destination. This is analogous to meditation. Again supposing we have bought a new piece of equipment. It is not enough to read the instructions. We have to study the instructions, examine them to be certain that we understand them intellectually. When we are certain that we have clarified our intellectual understanding, we can then proceed to actually operate the new piece of equipment. This is analogous to meditation, to meditating upon what we have acquired through observation, learning, consideration and examination. On the third stage, through meditation these facts become part of our living experience. Perhaps we might spend a few moments discussing the attitude that one can do well to cultivate in approaching the teachings of the Buddha. It is said that one who approaches the teachings ought to seek to avoid three faults in his attitude and these faults are illustrated with the example of a vessel. In this context, we are the vessel, the teachings are what are to be filled into the vessel. Suppose the vessel is covered with a lid, we will not be very successful in filling the vessel, say with milk. This is similar to one who listens to the teachings with a closed mind, a mind that is already made up. The Dharma cannot enter, fill the vessel. Again supposing we have a vessel that has a hole in the bottom. If we fill the vessel with milk, the milk will run out of the hole. This is similar to those of us who find that what we hear does not stay with us. And finally there is the case of the vessel in which there are impurities. Suppose we fill the vessel with milk before having cleaned it. Suppose there is some spoiled milk left in the vessel. The fresh milk that we fill into the vessel will be spoilt. In the same way if we listen to the teachings with an impure mind, with impure attitudes, because for instance we want to achieve a certain amount of honour, or fame, with these kinds of selfish attitudes or desires, we are like a vessel tainted by impurities. We must seek to avoid these faults in our approach to the teachings of the Buddha, in the study of the Dharma.
Alternatively, it is said that one might listen to the Dharma in the way that a patient listens to the instructions of the physician. In this context, the Buddha is the physician, the Dharma is the medicine, we are the patients and the practice of the Dharma is the means by which we can be cured of the disease, the disease of the defilements - greed, anger and delusion - that produce suffering. We will surely achieve some degree of Right Understanding if we approach the study of the Dharma with this notion in mind. We often divide Right Understanding into two aspects. The first relates to the ordinary level while the second relates to a deeper level. Sometime ago, we spoke about the goals that Buddhism offers, in the sense of two levels of goals - happiness and good fortune in this life and the next, and ultimate liberation. Here too, in discussing Right Understanding, we see that there are two levels, two aspects of Right Understanding. The first aspect corresponds to the first type of goal, and the second corresponds to attaining liberation. The first aspect of Right Understanding is the understanding of the relation between cause and effect in the sphere of moral responsibility of our actions and our behavior. This briefly stated means that we will experience the effects of our actions. If we act well, if we observe the principles of respect for life, property, truth and so forth, if we act in these wholesome ways we will experience the good effects of our actions. We will enjoy happiness and fortunate circumstances in this life and the next. Conversely, if we act badly, we will experience unhappiness, miseries and unfortunate circumstances in this life and the next. On the level of understanding as it relates to the ultimate goal of the teachings of the Buddha, we are concerned with Right Understanding in terms of seeing things as they really are. When we say seeing things as they really are, what do we mean? Again one can get doctrinal answers to this question. It can mean seeing things as impermanent, as dependently originated, as not-self, as impersonal, as seeing the Four Noble Truths. All these answers are correct. All express something about seeing things as they really are, seeing the reality of things. In order to arrive at an understanding of this first and in a sense the last step of the Noble Eightfold Path, we have to look for something that all these expressions of Right Understanding have in common. When we describe Right Understanding in all these various ways, all these descriptions are opposed to ignorance, to bondage, to entanglement in the cycle of birth and death. When the Buddha attained enlightenment, His experience was essentially an experience of destruction of ignorance. This experience is described by the Buddha Himself most frequently in terms of understanding the Four Noble Truths and understanding dependent origination. Both the Four Noble Truths and dependent origination are concerned with the destruction of ignorance. In this sense, ignorance is the central problem, the central idea in both the formula of the Four Noble Truths and dependent origination. Let us look at the Four Noble Truths again for a moment. The key to transforming one’s experience from the experience of suffering to the experience of the end of suffering is understanding the Second Noble Truth, the truth of the cause of suffering. Once we understand the cause of suffering, we can then act to achieve the end of suffering. The Four Noble Truths as we have discussed are divided into two groups, two of them to be abandoned, and two of them to be gained - the truth of suffering and the truth of the cause of suffering are to be abandoned, and the truth of the end of suffering and the truth of the path to the end of suffering are to be gained. Understanding the cause of suffering enables one to do this. We can see this clearly in the Buddha’s description of His experience on the night of His enlightenment. When He saw the cause of suffering, when He understood that desire, ill-will and ignorance were the causes of suffering, this opened the door to His enlightenment. Ignorance, desire and ill-will are the causes of suffering. If we want to reduce our examination to the most essential concept, we must focus upon ignorance because it is due to ignorance that desire and ill-will arise.
Essentially, ignorance is the idea of a permanent, independent self. It is this conception of an "I" opposed and separate from the people and things around us. Once we have the notion of an "I", we have an inclination to favour those things that sustain this "I" and to be averse to those things that we think threaten this "I". It is this conception of the self that is the fundamental cause of suffering, the root of the various negative emotions - desire, anger, ill-will, envy, greed and jealousy. It is ignorant of the fact that the so-called "I", the self, is just a convenient name for a collection of ever-changing, dependent, contingent factors. Is there a forest apart from the trees? The self is just a convenient name for a collection of processes. The self is a cause of suffering and fear. In this context the self is likened to mistaking a rope for a snake in the semi-darkness. If we come upon a rope in the darkness, we may assume the rope is in fact a snake and this assumption is a cause of fear. Similarly, in ignorance we take the impersonal, impermanent processes of feelings, perceptions, and so forth to be a self, and as a result we respond to situations with hope and fear. We desire certain things, we are averse to others. We are fond of certain people, we dislike others. So ignorance in this sense is the mistaken notion of a permanent ego, of a real self. This teaching of not-self does not contradict the law of moral responsibility, the Law of Karma. In fact, you will recall that we described Right Understanding in terms of two aspects, understanding the Law of Karma, and here in terms of seeing things as they really are, understanding the nature of existence. Once this egoism is removed, once this erroneous notion of the self is dispelled by Right Understanding, greed, anger and the rest do not occur. When this is stopped the end of suffering is gained. I do not expect this to be completely clear to everyone immediately. We shall be spending several sessions in the next few weeks deepening and expanding the examination of the nature of ignorance.
Let us go on to the next part of the path that belongs to the wisdom group and that is Right Thought. Here we begin to see the reintegration, the reapplication of the wisdom group to the sphere of good conduct because thought has an immense influence on one’s behavior. The Buddha has said if one acts and speaks with a pure mind, then happiness follows as one’s shadow that never leaves. And if one speaks and acts with an impure mind, then suffering follows as the wheel follows the hoof of the ox. Thought has a tremendous influence on one’s behavior. Right Thought means avoiding desire and ill-will. So you can see how important wisdom is because the cause of suffering is described in terms of desire, ill-will and ignorance. Right Understanding removes ignorance. Right Thought removes desire and ill-will. So Right Understanding and Right Thought remove the causes of suffering.To remove desire and greed we need to cultivate renunciation or detachment. To remove ill-will, we need to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion. How does one cultivate the attitudes of renunciation, loving-kindness and compassion which will act as antidotes for desire and ill-will? Firstly, renunciation is cultivated by meditating upon the unsatisfactory nature of existence, particularly the unsatisfactoriness of pleasures of the senses. We liken pleasures of the senses to salt water. A thirsty man who drinks salt water only finds that his thirst increases. He achieves no satisfaction. The Buddha also likened pleasures of the senses to a certain fruit called the Kimbu fruit. It is a fruit that is very pleasant in appearance. It has an attractive skin. It is fragrant and tasty. But it causes disaster as it is poisonous when eaten. Similarly, pleasures of the senses are attractive, enjoyable and yet they cause disaster. So in order to cultivate detachment, one has to consider the undesirable consequences of pleasures of the senses. In addition, one has to contemplate, to understand that the nature of samsara is suffering. That no matter where one may be born within the confines of the cycle of birth and death, that situation is pervaded by suffering. The nature of samsara is suffering just as the nature of fire is heat. Through understanding the unsatisfactory nature of existence, and through recognizing the undesirable consequences of pleasures of the senses one can cultivate detachment.One can cultivate loving-kindness and compassion through recognizing the essential equality of all living beings. All fear death, all tremble at punishments. Recognizing this, one should not kill or cause others to be killed. All desire happiness, all fear pain. In this, we are all alike. All living beings are alike. Recognizing this, one should not place oneself above others, one should not regard oneself differently from the way in which one would regard others. This recognition of the fundamental equality of all living beings is basic to the cultivation of loving-kindness and compassion. All want happiness just as I want happiness. Understanding this, one ought to regard all living beings with loving-kindness and compassion. One ought to cultivate this wish that all living beings may be happy. Just as I fear suffering and pain, and wish to avoid it, so do all living beings fear suffering and pain, and wish to avoid it. Understanding this, one develops and cultivates an attitude that wishes to see all living beings free from suffering. In this way, we can develop and cultivate the attitudes of renunciation, loving-kindness and compassion which between them counteract and eventually eliminate greed and anger. Finally through wisdom, having eliminated ignorance, greed and anger, having purified ourselves of those three defilements, we can attain freedom, the final goal that is the purpose of the Noble Eightfold Path, the bliss of Nirvana.
Life seems to fly by at an increasingly frenetic pace as we enter the twenty-first century. We careen through the obstacle course of our busy lives and grab whatever synopsis is available to help us ibottom linei difficult or dense material. But there is no short cut to listening to a Mozart Symphony and there are no quick and easy Buddhist Cliff Notesi that will open us to the essence of the Buddha-dharma. One can stand back and admire a beautiful flower, but there is only one way to experience its subtle fragrance: up close and personal. Either we dedicate our time and attention to the Buddha-dharma, with an open mind and tender heart, or we do not. This presents the writer with something of a dilemma. I wanted to present the bare bones of the Buddhais early sermons, in a way that would make them accessible to anyone with little or no knowledge of Eastern philosophy but with a mind still open to possibility, with ears and eyes still open to the music of the dharma. Unfortunately, my aspiration was na?ve and greatly out of sync with my ability. After I started to transcribe a series of dharma talks on the Eightfold Path, I discovered that my understanding was impossibly shallow. I donit mind admitting that this came as both a surprise and a blow to my ego. So I started grappling with the Eightfold Path once again. I rewrote as I studied and contemplated as I rewrote. Each chapter eventually evolved into a new series of dharma talks. As a consequence of this long process, each chapter tends to be a self-contained unit, rather than flowing seamlessly from the one before it. Some material in the Bare Bones is repeated simply because I had forgotten what I wrote ten chapters and three years ago. To most Americans, the word iBuddhai conjures up the image of a little fat guy sitting with a silly grin on his face or worse, an emaciated, grim looking man who looks like he never had a friend in his life. Buddhai triggers an automatic deflector shield that rises to protect us from worshiping a false idol. God forbid that our religions should be contaminated by some foreign demon. We are programmed to reject heathen, alien and impure gods.They shall have no other Gods before thee. That programming has been extraordinarily and terribly successful in each religion on earth, including, sad to say, Buddhism. I can never get my mind around this. Here we have a man who said that his aim was to point out the reality of suffering and to show us a way to end our suffering. He never once claimed to be divine, or a god (Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhism notwithstanding), yet this man ranks in the highest pantheon of teachers who ever walked the face of this earth. To most of us in the West, he remains a stranger. This is astonishing and it speaks of a spiritual poverty that I find terribly sad. The Buddhais message is not about belief. He did not demand that you believe in this or in that. I think he would have been okay if you worshiped a chicken. To the Buddha, the journey begins with practice, not belief. You can believe in the Big Chicken and light candles and incense to him/her. But in the meantime, how about learning to quiet your mind and work skillfully with the poisons of greed, hatred and delusion? How about looking at the core of your own ignorance? My astonishment at our spiritual poverty comes home to roost as I face the truth that ignorance begins with me, especially as I begin to look at my own impatience with the ignorance of others. What is it in me that despises ignorance, if not my
own ignorance? If I accept the Buddhais teaching that it is avijja (delusion) that got me here in the first place, rather than an accident of birth, and if I accept his teaching that ignorance or delusion is universal, why then should I be astonished that almost no one seems to have heard of the Eightfold Path, and if they have, they donit take it very seriously? Perhaps it is too painful for us to accept the proposition that we really have not changed that much since the Buddhais time. In the twenty-five centuries since the Buddhais passing, are we more conscious? Are we more compassionate? Do we have more wisdom? The Buddha was a revolutionary then, and he is a revolutionary now. He had no use for metaphysical questions about God, or a First Cause, or evil, or heaven or hell. He was not interested in questions such as.Do we have a soul? Where does it go after death? Do we reincarnate?i Neither was he interested in proclaiming one set of beliefs to be superior to another, for instance, the Mahayana and Vajrayana belief that the bodhisattva ideal is isuperiori to the iselfishi idea of individual enlightenment, as espoused by Theravada Buddhism. I cannot believe that the Buddha would have tolerated such hogwash for one moment. His focus was relentless. You’re stuck in that hole and asking me if one tradition is superior to another? Let me ask you a question: Now that you figured out that you fell into a hole, are you suffering? Yes? Well then, letis find a way to get you out of there!i After asking us if we are suffering in our individual hole, if he heard a sincere response from deep below, the Buddha would not have hollered back, iNow letis all turn to page 780 in our Sacred Book and start praying together.i Nor would he say, iIn order to get out of that hole, we must first believe in a higher power.i Instead, he would analyze the problem of this particular hole, its depth, the possible places to establish our footing, etc., and look around for what was immediately at hand in terms of tools to help us climb out. But if a person needed to believe that a higher power would give him the strength to escape from his hole, the Buddha would have worked with that belief too. This is called upaya, or skillful means. The Eightfold Path is his elegant Upaya Instruction Book for climbing out of the hole that ignorance has dug for us. The Eightfold Path is a dharma wheel of eight spokes. Right Understanding, the first spoke, colors every facet of the Buddha-dharma, especially the First Noble Truth.
I acknowledge that suffering is hard-wired into my brain. From the First Noble Truth comes the Second: When I am oblivious to desire, my desire sinks back into the unconscious and turns into craving. Craving then turns into clinging and suffering is guaranteed. From the Second Noble Truth comes the Third: If I can break the chain before my craving has turned to clinging, I will be free of suffering, at least momentarily. From the Third Noble Truth comes the Fourth: The Eightfold Path is a blueprint for constructing the spiritual laboratory that eventually can produce an end to all clinging, thus an end to all suffering forever. When I complimented a client on the depth and intensity of her psychological work, she replied with a simple, iItis because I am mdesperate.i I will not soon forget the expression on her face. It was a look of recognition of her situation. It terrified her; it bewildered her, but it also gave her the courage and strength to get off the dime. As I observed the sincerity on her face, I was reminded of the Zen saying that we must practice as if our hair is on fire. She knew that her hair is on fire, and what makes her work so powerful is that she recognizes that I cannot save her. If she is to find psychological healing, it will be through her own effort. This is the Buddhais teaching par excellence. The hard message of Right Understanding is that no one can, and no one may save us but ourselves. Most of us stay in the prison of our minds, waiting for someone to come and rescue us. We decorate our little cells as best we can and soon forget that we live in a prison. The unconscious fantasy of rescue is a core delusion, and it is the death of the healing process in psychotherapy as well as in our spiritual practice. Recently, I reminded a client of a dream that he had brought to a session years ago. In it, he saw himself as a teenager who had been beaten up by school thugs. In the dream, he realized that he literally took a certain pleasure in being
beaten to a bloody pulp because he hoped and prayed that someone would see his terrible condition and come and hold him, nurture and comfort him. In the recent session, he looked at me and said, iSo all my life I have waited for someone to come and help me?i I said, iYes. But perhaps you are now able to become your own hero.i If we discover that our hair is on fire, that we have no time to wait for a loving mama or divine savior to rescue us, we grab what is available and start climbing out of our particular hole. We rescue ourselves. The truth of suffering is a hurdle that either blocks our way or gives us a toehold to start the upward climb! If the first spoke of the dharma wheel is the meaning of the Buddha- dharma, the second spoke is the content of that meaning. Martin Luther King said that we should judge someone not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. Right Thought is the content of our character, pure and simple. This is why I much prefer right thought to right intentioni for the second spoke of the wheel. Right intention is too fancy for me and I suspect it would have been too fancy for Martin Luther King. If my thoughts are filled with ill will and envy, or if I am relentlessly self- loathing, what is the point of my high-toned Buddhist understanding of anicca, anatta or the Twelve Nidanas? Who cares if I can quote the FourNoble Truths and the Eightfold Path in Pali, Sanskrit or Greek, if the content of my thought is a total mess? The third spoke is the immediate expression of the content of my thought, Right Speech. The fourth and fifth spokes, Right Action and Right Living, are the expression of my practice through my daily interactions with others. I love the way the Dharma Wheel curves in an outward direction here. Earlier, we saw a relentlessly linear path with Patanjaliis eight limbs of yoga, a steady movement of interiorization. The Eightfold Path however, is circular. It curves in and it curves out, a constant turning toward truth even as it appears to move away from it. The last three spokes of the wheel are the meditation (dhyana) ones. Right Effort, Right Sati and Right Samadhi are the core of our meditation practice. What chance do we have to observe the crazy movie in our heads, to create the wedge that gives us a precious moment of release from being lost in the content, without intense mind training? Who among us does not have a wild nature? Our minds are the Wild West without any semblance of John Wayne on the horizon. So how do we work with our own wild ,nature without the tools of meditation? And yet, what is the point of a meditation practice if we do not have its context ?What is the point ofsitting on a cushion and getting wonderfully still if, two hours later, we have completely forgotten that clinging causes us to suffer? This is the meaning that I gleaned from the story of Harry the Shanghai Jew. He first endured; then he learned the new language. Unlike ,Harry, most of us want to skip the boring details and get to the reward of a thing. But what if the meaning of a thing rests within its context? What then for those of us who are too impatient to learn the new language? In the Chian tradition, it is said that the wise enshrine the miraculous bones of the ancient teachers within themselves. This is what it means to learn the language: to give our heart and soul, blood and guts to the new thing. Incorporating the teaching of the ancient masters means that we are willing to learn it in our bones, not in our heads. Learning the language is grounded in faith and nurtured in humility. If we are to open our minds to the unknown, we must leave our comfort zone, where layers of memorized facts have created a false sense of security and certainty, and enter a world that is new and unfamiliar. Sad to say, the line to purchase that ticket is not very long. As we come to the last spoke of samadhi and the wheel turns, an amazing truth is revealed about the Eightfold Path. Like prospectors panning for gold, we find, through our practice, the essence of sati shinning at the bottom of the pan. At the same time, the set of mirrors (samadhi) becomes ever more clear and capable of magnifying sati even deeper down to the roots of greed, hatred and delusion. Now, Right Understanding opens into far more subtle levels of knowing. This level of knowing illumines and purifies as the wheel turns again and again into Right Thought and on to Right Speech. From this constant turning comes even greater depth of insight. Eventually, we discover that the dharma wheel of the Eightfold Path is not a circle at all. In fact, it is a spiral of development that guides us with the sure eye of the most seasoned sailor. It will take us across the ocean of unconscious existence, where, until now we have been caught between joy and misery, clarity and confusion, yes and no, before and after. This ascending spiral spreads in all directions and it goes deep down as well as soaring into unimagined heights. It takes us beyond the relentless subtext of life, death and suffering, to a distant shore of liberation. The Buddha teaches us that this spiral is our birthright. It is an urge within each of us, a deep unease knocking at our door, asking us all to come home.
Ø First academic of International Programme.

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