THE SORROWLESS FLOWERS
11. First Sermon
12. The Meanings of Buddhism
13. A Religion which is Always Based on Human Inner Wisdom
14. Is Buddhism Atheistic?
15. A Religion of the Truth and A Living Philosophy
16. Cores of Buddhism
17. Do no Evil, to Do Only Good, to Purify the Mind
18. Faith in Buddhism
19. Ideal of Buddhism
20. Metaphysical Issues in Buddhism
11. First Sermon
After the Buddha’s Enlightenment at Buddha Gaya, he moved slowly across India until he reached the Deer Park near Benares, where he preached to five ascetics his First Sermon. The Sermon preached about the Middle Way between all extremes, the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. In the Deer Park, Benares, at first the Buddha was ignored by the five brothers of Kaundinya, but as the Buddha approached them, they felt that there was something very special about him,so they automatically stood up as He drew near. Then the five men, with great respect, invited the Buddha to teach them what He has enlightened. So, the Buddha delivered His First Teaching: Turning the Wheel of the Dharma. He began to preach: “O monk! You must know that there are Four Noble Truths. The first is the Noble Truth of Suffering. Life is filled with the miseries and afflictions of old age, sickness, unhappiness and death. People chase after pleasure but find only pain. Even when they do find something pleasant they soon grow tired of it. Nowhere is there any real satisfaction or perfect peace. The second is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering. When our mind is filled with greed and desire and wandering thoughts, sufferings of all types follow. The third is the Noble Truth of the End of Suffering. When we remove all craving, desire, and wandering thoughts from our mind, sufferings will come to an end. We shall experience undescribable happiness. And finally, the Noble Truth of the Path. The Path that helps us reach the ultimate wisdom.”
12. The Meanings of Buddhism
To someone it can be only life of the Buddha; the example that the Buddha and his immediate disciples set, that glorious feat of a man, who stood before men as a man and declared a path of deliverance. To others, Buddhism would mean the massive doctrine as recorded in the Buddhist Tripitaka (literature), and it is described a very lofty, abstruse, complex and learned philosophy of life. The name Buddhism comes from the word “Bodhi” which means “waking up,” and thus Buddhism is the philosophy of Awakening. Therefore, the real definition of Buddhism is Noble Truth. The Buddha did not teach from theories. He always taught from a practical standpoint based on His understanding, His enlightenment, and His realization of the Truth. This philosophy has its origins in the experience of the man named Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, who was himself awakened at the age of 36. Buddhism is now older than 2,500 years old and has more than 800 million followers world wide (including Chinese followers in Mainland China). People in the West had heard of the Buddha and his teaching as early as the thirteenth century when Marco Polo (1254-1324), the Italian traveler who explored Asia, wrote accounts on Buddhism in his book, “Travels of Marco Polo”. From the eighteenth century onwards, Buddhist text were brought to Europe and translated into English, French and German. Until a hundred years ago, Buddhism was mainly an Asian philosophy but increasingly it is gaining adherents in Europe and America. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Alan Bennett, an Englishman, went to Burma to become a Buddhist monk. He was renamed Ananda Metteya. He returned to Britain in 1908. He was the first British person to become a Buddhist monk. He taught Dharma in Britain. Since then, Buddhist monks and nuns from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, China and other Buddhist countries in Asia have come to the West, particularly over the last seventy years. Many of these teachers have kept to their original customs while others have adapted to some extent to meet the demands of living in a western society. In recent years, there has been a marked growth of interest in Buddhism in Europe. The membership of existing societies has increased and many new Buddhist centers have been established. Their members include large numbers of professionals and scholars. Today, Britain alone has over 140 Buddhist centers found in most major cities.
To the Buddha, man is a supreme being, thus, he taught: “Be your own torch and your own refuge. Do not seek refuge in any other person.” This was the Buddha’s truthful word. He also said: “All realizations come from effort and intelligence that derive from one’s own experience. Man is the master of his destiny, since he can make his life better or worse. If he tries his best to cultivate, he can become a Buddha.” Buddhism is the only way that leads people from the evil to the virtuous, from deluded to fully enlightened sagehood. Buddhism is a philosophy, a way of life or a religion. The religion of the awakened one. One of the three great world religions. If was founded by the historical Buddha Sakyamuni over 25 centuries ago. Sakyamuni expounded the four noble truths as the core of his teaching, which he had recognized in the moment of his enlightenment. He had shown people how to live wisely and happily and his teachings soon spread from India throughout Asia, and beyond.
13. A Religion which is Always Based on Human Inner Wisdom
Buddhism is a philosophy, a way of life or a religion. The teaching of Buddha. This is not important. Buddhism is what the Buddha taught. His teaching was based on human inner wisdom. Buddhism always values reason. Blindly believing in everything is contrary to Buddha’s teaching. The Buddha taught: “Do not believe blindly in my teachings. Always test them like using fire to test gold to determine whether it is authentic or counterfeit.” Buddhism is not a religion versed in worshipping and imploring favors from deities. It is different from other religions and doctrines in that it respects personal opinions, beliefs, and intellectual development. Buddhism does not prevent its disciples from learning other religious teachings. The Buddha said that if there were reasonable and rational teachings in other religions, His followers were free to respect such things. From that basic principle, the Buddha declared that there was nothing hidden in the sleeve of His saffron robe when referring to His teachings. He also added that His doctrine was consistent with how people understood the Truth. It did not depend on the favors bestowed by any deity or any other spiritual power. The Buddha emphasized the concept of free inquiry when He asked His disciples to judge even the Tathagata in order to have an utter trustfulness in Him. He asked them to study, understand, and believe latter on. Whoever has not yet understood or still has doubt but blindly believes has thus defamed the Buddha. Doubt is not a sin because Buddhism has no creed to be believed. Doubt will automatically dissipate when people fully understand or perceive the Truth. In short, whether the Buddha wanted or not, His teachings and the way of life preached by Him became a religion called “Buddhism.” However, Buddhism is not a religion just for discussion, but it is a religion of deliverance for those who diligently cultivate. One needs not be a scholar or a blind devotee to become a Buddhist, all you need is your sincerity of cultivation. In Buddhism, blind faith has no ground, each one of us must know how to find and absorb what is relevant and what is not to our life and to our problems. If we pay a little attention we’ll see that Buddhist doctrines are boundless and timeless, but they are the inconceivable truth for all time. Messages handed down to us by the Buddha remain eternally valuable. No one can argue against or deny the doctrine of impermanence in Buddhism. Impermanence does not mean that things are not existing. Impermanence means that everything continues in a flux, in a process of continuing change and evolution. Thus, Buddhism is able to adjust to different civilizations in different times in the world. Even in modern world, Buddhism is always appropriate in all circumstances. In fact, if you approach any apsect of Buddhism, you will immediately find out that it is something relevant, beneficial and applicable to your daily life. Sincere Buddhists should always remember that in Buddhism there is no such so-called bonds of supernatural ties, nor Godhead, nor creation, nor sin inherited from anyone else, other than what you yourself have done.
15. A Religion of the Truth and A Living Philosophy
Someone says that the word religion is not appropriate to call Buddhism because Buddhism is not a religion, but a moral philosophy. For me, Buddhism is both a religion and philosophy of life based on the teachings set forth by Shakyamuni Buddha over 2500 years ago in India. Before going further we should briefly analyze the two words “Buddha” and “Philosophy”. First, the name Buddhism comes from the word “budhi” which means ‘to wake up’ and thus Buddhism is the philosophy of awakening. This philosophy has its origins in the experience of the man named Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, who was himself awakened at the age of 36. Buddhism is now older than 2,500 years old and has almost one third of the population of the world are its followers. Until a hundred years ago, Buddhism was mainly an Asian philosophy but increasingly it is gaining adherents in Europe and America. Secondly, the word philosophy comes from two words ‘philo’ which means ‘love’ and ‘sophia’ which means ‘wisdom’. So philosophy is the love of wisdom or love and wisdom, both meanings describing Buddhism perfectly. Buddhism teaches that we should try to develop our intellectual capacity to the fullest so that we can understand clearly. It also teaches us to develop loving kindness and compassion so that we can become (be like) a true friend to all beings. So Buddhism is a philosophy but not just a philosophy. It is the supreme philosophy. In the year 563 B.C. a baby was born into a royal family in northern India. He grew up in wealth and luxury but soon found that worldly comfort and security do not guarantee real happiness. He was deeply moved by the suffering he saw all around, so He resolved to find the key to human happiness. It couldn’t have been an easy thing for the Buddha to leave his family. He must have worried and hesitated for a long time before he finally left. There were two choices, dedicating himself to his family or dedicating himself to the whole world. In the end, his great compassion made him give himself to the whole world. And the whole world still benefits from his sacrifice. This was perhaps the most significant sacrifice ever made. After careful considerations, when he was 29 he left his wife and child and his Royal Palace and set off to sit at the feet of the great religious teachers of the day to learn from them. They taught him much but none really knew the cause of human sufferings and afflictions and how it could be overcome. Eventually, after six years study and meditation he had an experience in which all ignorance fell away and he suddenly understood. From that day onwards, he was called the Buddha, the Awakened One. He lived for another 45 years in which time he travelled all over northern India teaching others what he had discovered. His compassion and patience were legendary and he made hundreds of thousands of followers. In his eightieth year, old and sick, but still happy and at peace, he finally passed away into nirvana. After the passing of Shakyamuni Buddha, his disciples recorded all of his teaching into scriptures called sutras. There is no one book that contains all the information the Buddha taught, but the total of more than 800 books that recorded a vast number of sutras, vinaya and abhidharma.
In Buddhism, there is no distinction between a divine or supreme being and common mortals. The highest form of being is the Buddha. All people have the inherent ability and potential to become Buddhas if they follow and cultivate the teachings set forth by Shakyamuni Buddha. By following the Buddha’s teachings and Buddhist practices, anyone can eventually become Buddhas. A Buddha is also a human being, but one who comes to a realization and thoroughly understands the workings and meaning of life and the universe. When one comes to that realization and truly knows and understands oneself and everything, he is called “Buddha” or he is said to have attained enlightenment. He is also called “the Enlightened One.”
Even though the Buddha is dead but 2,500 years later his teachings still help and save a lot of people, his example still inspires people, his words still continue to change lives. Only a Buddha could have such power centuries after his death. The Buddha did not claim that he was a god, the child of god or even the messenger from a god. He was simply a man who perfected himself and taught that if we followed his example, we could perfect ourselves also. He never asked his followers to worship him as a god. In fact, He prohibited his followers to praise him as a god. He told his followers that he could not give favours or blessings to those who worship him with personal expectations or or calamities to those who don’t worship him. He asked his followers to respect him as students respect their teacher. He also reminded his followers to worship a statue of the Buddha means to remind ourselves to try to develop peace and love within ourselves. The perfume of incense reminds us of the pervading influence of virtue, the lamp reminds us of the light of knowledge and the followers which soon fade and die, remind us of impermanence. When we bow, we express our gratitude to the Buddha for what his teachings have given us. This is the core nature of Buddhist worship. A lot of people have misunderstood the meaning of “worship” in Buddhism, even devout Buddhists. Buddhists do not believe that the Buddha is a god, so in no way they could possibly believe that a piece of wood or metal (statue) is a god. In Buddhism, the statue of the Buddha is used to symbolize human perfection. The statue of the Buddha also reminds us of the human dimension in Buddhist teaching, the fact that Buddhism is man-centered, not god-centered, that we must look inward (within) not outward (without) to find perfection and understanding. So in no way one can say that Buddhists worship god or idols. In fact, a long long time ago, when primitive man found himself in a dangerous and hostile situations, the fear of wild animals, of not being able to to find enough food, of diseases, and of natural calamities or phenomena such as storms, hurricanes, volcanoes, thunder, and lightning, etc. He found no security in his surroundings and he had no ability to explain those phenomena, therefore, he created the idea of gods in order to give him comfort in good times, and courage him in times of danger and consolation when things went wrong. They believed that god arranged everything. Generations after generations, man continues to follow his ancestors in a so-called “faith in god” without any further thinkings. Some says they believe in god because god responds to their prayers when they feel fear or frustration. Some say they believe in god because their parents and grandparents believed in god. Some others say that they prefer to go to church than to temple because those who go to churches seem richer and more honorable than those who go to temples, and so on, and so on.
The main teachings of the Buddha focus on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. They are called “Noble” because they enoble one who understand them and they are called “Truths” because they correspond with reality. Buddhists neither believe in negative thoughts nor do they believe in pessimistic ideas. In the contrary, Buddhists believe in facts, irrefutable facts, facts that all know, that all have aimed to experience and that all are striving to reach. Those who believe in god or gods usually claim that before an individual is created, he does not exist, then he comes into being through the will of a god. He lives his life and then according to what he believes during his life, he either goes to eternal heaven or eternal hell. Some believe that they come into being at conception due to natural causes, live and then die or cease to exist, that’s it! Buddhism does not accept either of these concepts. According to the first explanation, if there exists a so-called almighty god who creates all beings with all his loving kindness and compassion, it is difficult to explain why so many people are born with the most dreadful deformities, or why so many people are born in poverty and hunger. It is nonsense and unjust for those who must fall into eternal hells because they do not believe and submit themselves to such a so-called almighty god. The second explanation is more reasonable, but it still leaves several unanswered questions. Yes, conception due to natural causes, but how can a phenomenon so amazingly complex as consciousness develop from the simple meeting of two cells, the egg and the sperm? Buddhism agrees on natural causes; however, it offers more satisfactory explanation of where man came from and where he is going after his death. When we die, the mind, with all the tendencies, preferences, abilities and characteristics that have been developed and conditioned in this life, re-establishes itself in a fertilized egg. Thus the individual grows, is reborn and develops a personality conditioned by the mental characteristics that have been carried over by the new environment. The personality will change and be modified by conscious effort and conditioning factors like education, parential influence and society and once again at death, re-establish itself in a new fertilized egg. This process of dying and being reborn will continue until the conditions that cause it, craving and ignorance, cease. When they do, instead of being reborn, the mind attains a state called Nirvana and this is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. The Four Noble Truths, A fundamental doctrine of Buddhism which clarifies the cause of suffering and the way to emancipation. Sakyamuni Buddha is said to have expounded the Four Noble Truths in the Deer Park in Sarnath during his first sermon after attaining Buddhahood. The Buddha organized these ideas into the Fourfold Truth as follows: “Life consists entirely of suffering; suffering has causes; the causes of suffering can be extinguished; and there exists a way to extinguish the cause.” The noble Eightfold Path or the eight right (correct) ways. The path leading to release from suffering, the goal of the third in the four noble truths. These are eight in the 37 bodhi ways to enlightenment. Practicing the Noble Eight-fold Path can bring about real advantages such as improvement of personal conditions. It is due to the elimination of all evil thoughts, words, and actions that we may commit in our daily life, and to the continuing practice of charitable work; improvement of living conditions. If everyone practiced this noble path, the world we are living now would be devoid of all miseries and sufferings caused by hatred, struggle, and war between men and men, countries and countries, or peoples and peoples. Peace would reign forever on earth; attainment of enlightenment or Bodhi Awareness. The Noble Eigh-fold Path is the first basic condition for attaining Bodhi Consciousness that is untarnished while Alaya Consciousness is still defiled. The mind is immeasurable. It not only benefit immeasurable living beings, bringing immeasurable blessings to them, and producing immeasurable highly spiritual attainments in a world, in one life, but also spreads all over immeasurable worlds, in immeasurable future lives, shaping up immeasurable Buddha. The four immeasurables or infinite Buddha-states of mind. The four kinds of boundless mind, or four divine abodes. These states are called illimitables because they are to be radiated towards all living beings without limit or obstruction. They are also called brahmaviharas or divine abodes, or sublime states, because they are the mental dwellings of the brahma divinities in the Brahma-world. In both forms of Buddhism, Theravada and Mahayana, the Buddha taught his disciples, especially lay-disciples to keep the Five Precepts. Although details are not given in the canonical texts, Buddhist teachers have offered many good interpretations about these five precepts. The five basic commandments of Buddhism. The five basic prohibitions binding on all Buddhists, monks and laymen alike; however, these are especially for lay disciples. The observance of these five ensures rebirth in the human realm.
Besides, the Truth of “Cause and Effect” also plays an extremely important role in Buddhism. Cause is a primary force that produces an effect; effect is a result of that primary force. The law of causation governs everything in the universe without exception. Law of cause and effect or the relation between cause and effect in the sense of the Buddhist law of “Karma”. The law of causation (reality itself as cause and effect in momentary operation). Every action which is a cause will have a result or an effect. Likewise every resultant action or effect has its cause. The law of cause and effect is a fundamental concept within Buddhism governing all situations. The Moral Causation in Buddhism means that a deed, good or bad, or indifferent, brings its own result on the doer. Good people are happy and bad ones unhappy. But in most cases “happiness” is understood not in its moral or spiritual sense but in the sense of material prosperity, social position, or political influence. For instance, kingship is considered the reward of one’s having faithfully practiced the ten deeds of goodness. If one meets a tragic death, he is thought to have committed something bad in his past lives even when he might have spent a blameless life in the present one. Causality is a natural law, mentioning the relationship between cause and effect. All things come into being not without cause, since if there is no cause, there is no effect and vice-versa. As so sow, so shall you reap. Cause and effect never conflict with each other. In other words, cause and effect are always consistent with each other. If we want to have beans, we must sow bean seeds. If we want to have oranges, we must sow orange seeds. If wild weeds are planted, then it’s unreasonable for one to hope to harvest edible fruits. One cause cannot have any effect. To produce an effect, it is necessary to have some specific conditions. For instance, a grain of rice cannot produce a rice plant without the presence of sunlight, soil, water, and care. In the cause there is the effect; in the effect there is the cause. From the current cause, we can see the future effect and from the present effect we discerned the past cause. The development process from cause to effect is sometimes quick, sometimes slow. Sometimes cause and effect are simultaneous like that of beating a drum and hearing its sound. Sometimes cause and effect are three or four months away like that of the grain of rice. It takes about three to four, or five to six months from a rice seed to a young rice plant, then to a rice plant that can produce rice. Sometimes it takes about ten years for a cause to turn into an effect. For instance, from the time the schoolboy enters the elementary school to the time he graduates a four-year college, it takes him at least 14 years. Other causes may involve more time to produce effects, may be the whole life or two lives. By understanding and believing in the law of causality, Buddhists will not become superstitious, or alarmed, and rely passively on heaven authority. He knows that his life depends on his karmas. If he truly believes in such a causal mecahnism, he strives to accomplish good deeds, which can reduce and alleviate the effect of his bad karmas. If he continues to live a good life, devoting his time and effort to practicing Buddhist teachings, he can eliminate all of his bad karmas. He knows that he is the only driving force of his success or failure, so he will be discouraged, put the blame on others, or rely on them. He will put more effort into performing his duties satisfactorily. Realizing the value of the law of causality, he always cares for what he thinks, tells or does in order to avoid bad karma.
Karma is one of the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism. Everything that we encounter in this life, good or bad, sweet or bitter, is a result of what we did in the past or from what we have done recently in this life. Good karma produces happiness; bad karma produces pain and suffering. So, what is karma? Karma is a Sanskrit word, literally means a deed or an action and a reaction, the continuing process of cause and effect. Moral or any good or bad action (however, the word ‘karma’ is usually used in the sense of evil bent or mind resulting from past wrongful actions) taken while living which causes corresponding future retribution, either good or evil transmigration (action and reaction, the continuing process of cause and effect). Our present life is formed and created through our actions and thoughts in our previous lives. Our present life and circumstances are the product of our past thoughts and actions, and in the same way our deeds in this life will fashion our future mode of existence. A karma can by created by body, speech, or mind. There are good karma, evil karma, and indifferent karma. All kinds of karma are accumulated by the Alayavijnana and Manas. Karma can be cultivated through religious practice (good), and uncultivated. For Sentient being has lived through inumerable reincarnations, each has boundless karma. Whatever kind of karma is, a result would be followed accordingly, sooner or later. No one can escape the result of his own karma. As mentioned above, karma is a product of body, speech and mind; while recompense is a product or result of karma. Karma is like a seed sown, and recompense is like a tree grown with fruits. When the body does good things, the mouth speaks good words, the mind thinks of good ideas, then the karma is a good seed. In the contrary, the karma is an evil seed. Thus the Buddha taught: “To lead a good life, you Buddhists should make every effort to control the activities of your body, speech, and mind. Do not let these activities hurt you and others.” Recompense corresponds Karma without any exception. Naturally, good seed will produce a healthy tree and delicious fruits, while bad seed gives worse tree and fruits. Therefore, unless we clearly understand and diligently cultivate the laws of cause and effect, or karma and result, we cannot control our lives and experience a life the way we wish to. According to the Buddha-Dharma, no gods, nor heavenly deities, nor demons can assert their powers on us, we are totally free to build our lives the way we wish. If we accumulate good karma, the result will surely be happy and joyous. No demons can harm us. In the contrary, if we create evil karma, no matter how much and earnestly we pray for help, the result will surely be bitter and painful, no gods can save us. When we act, either good or bad, we see our own actions, like an outsider who witnesses. The pictures of these actions will automatically imprint in our Alaya-vijnana (subconscious mind); the seed of these actions are sown there, and await for enough conditions to spring up its tree and fruits. Similarly, the effect in the alaya-vijnana (subconscious mind) of the one who has received our actions. The seed of either love or hate has been sown there, waiting for enough conditions to spring up its tree and fruits. The Buddha taught: “If someone give us something, but we refuse to accept. Naturally, that person will have to keep what they plan to give. This means our pocket is still empty.” Similarly, if we clearly understand that karmas or our own actions will be stored in the alaya-vijnana (subconscious mind) for us to carry over to the next lives, we will surely refuse to store any more karma in the ‘subconscious mind’ pocket. When the ‘subconscious mind’ pocket is empty, there is nothing for us to carry over. That means we don’t have any result of either happiness or suffering. As a result, the cycle of birth and eath comes to an end, the goal of liberation is reached.
There is not a doubt that Buddhism was a religion of the truth and a living philosophy more than 26 centuries ago. It’s still now a religion of the truth and a living philosophy in this very century (the twenty-first century). Buddhism is in accord with all the progresses of nowadays science and it will always be in accord with science at all times. Its basic teachings of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration, as well as the basic five precepts of not killing, not stealing, not committing sexual misconduct, not lying and not dring alcohol and not doing drugs… are always a torch that lights the darkness of the world. The message of peace and of love and happiness of Buddhism to living beings of all kinds is always the glorious truth for all human beings. Everyone can achieve the highest goal in Buddhism, no mater who is that person, clergyperson or lay person. However, the most important thing we all must remember is making an honest effort to follow the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha and his great disciples did not achieve their ultimate goal by accident. The Buddha and his disciples were once ordinary sentient beings like us. They were once afflicted by the impurities of the mind, attachment, aversion, and ignorance. They all became either Buddhas or Saints now, but for us, we are still creating and creating more and more unwholesome deeds and continuing going up and down in the cycle of birth and death? Devout Buddhists should listen to the Buddha’s teachings, should purify our actions, words and mind to achieve true wisdom, the wisdom that help us understand the truth and to attain the ultimate goal of Buddhism. In other words, if we sincerely cultivate in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings, one day not too far, everyone of us would be able to do good deeds, to avoid bad deeds; everyone of us would try our best to help others whenever possible and not to harm anyone, our mind would be mindful at all times. Thus there is no doubt that the Buddha’s Dharma will benefit us with happiness and prosperity in this life and in the next. Eventually, it will lead us to the ultimate goal of liberation, the supreme bliss of Nirvana.
16. Cores of Buddhism
The Buddha admitted the presence of sufferings and afflictions in human life because of the ignorant attachment to all things. But it’s trully wrong to believe that Buddhism a religion of pessimism. This is not true even with a slight understanding of basic Buddhism. When the Buddha said that human life was full of sufferings and afflictions, he did not mean that life was pessimistic. In this manner, the Buddha admitted the presence of sufferings and afflictions in human life, and by a method of analysis he pointed out to his disciples that attachment to things without a correct view as to their nature is the cause of sufferings and afflictions. Impermanence and change are inherent in the nature of all things. This is their true nature and this is the correct view. He concluded: “As long as we are at variance with this truth, we are bound to run into conflicts. We cannot alter or control the nature of things. The result is ‘hope deferred made the heart sick’. The only solution lies in correcting our point of view.” In fact, the thirst for things begets sorrow. When we like someone or something, we wish that they belonged to us and were with us forever. We never think about their true nature, in other words, or we refuse to think about their true nature. We expect them to survive forever, but time devours everything. Eventually we must yield to old age and freshness of the morning dew disappears before the rising sun. In the Nirvana Sutra, when Ananda and other disciples were so sad and cried when the Buddha lay on his death-bed, the Buddha taught: “Ananda! Lament not. Have I not already told you that from all good things we love and cherish we would be separated, sooner or later… that they would change their nature and perish. How then can Tathagata survive? This is not possible!” This is the philosophy which underlies the doctrine of the “Three Marks” (impermanence, suffering and no-self) of existence of the Buddhist view of life and the world. All Buddhist values are based on this. The Buddha expected of his disciples, both laity and clergy, good conduct and good behavior and decent standard of living in every way. With him, a simple living did not amount to degenerate human existence or to suffer oneself. The Buddha advised his disciples to follow the “Middle Path”. It is to say not to attach to things nor to abandon them. The Buddha does not deny the “beauty”, however, if one does not understand the true nature of the objects of beauty, one may end up with sufferings and afflictions or grief and disappoinment. In the “Theragatha”, the Buddha brought up the story of the Venerable Pakka. One day, going to the village for alms, Venerable Pakka sat down beneath a tree. Then a hawk, seizing some flesh flew up into the sky. Other hawks saw that attacked it, making it drop the piece of meat. Another hawk grabbed the fallen flesh, and was flundered by other hawks. And Pakka thought: “Just like that meat are worldly desires, common to all, full of pain and woe.” And reflecting hereon, and how they were impermanent and so on, he continued to contemplate and eventually won Arahanship. The Buddha advised his disciples not to avoid or deny or attach to objects of beauty. Try not to make objects of beauty our objects of like or dislike. Whatever there is in the world, pleasant or unpleasant, we all have a tendency to attach to them, and we develop a like or dislike to them. Thus we continue to experience sufferings and afflictions. Buddhists recognize beauty where the sense can perceive it, but in beauty we should also see its own change and destruction. And Buddhist should always remember the Buddha’s teaching regarding to all component things: “Things that come into being, undergo change and are eventually destroyed.” Therefore, Buddhists admire beauty but have no greed for acquisition and possession.
17. Do no Evil, to Do Only Good, to Purify the Mind
In order to terminate the suffering and affliction in life, The Buddha advises his fourfold disciple: “Do no evil, to do only good, to purify the mind.” In the Agama Sutra, the Buddha taught: “Do not commit wrongs, devoutly practice all kinds of good, purify the mind, that’s Buddhism” or “To do no evil, to do only good, to purify the will, is the doctrine of all Buddhas.” These four sentences are said to include all the Buddha-teaching. The Buddha’s teachings in the Dharmapada Sutra: “A wise man should abandon the way of woeful states and follows the bright way. He should go from his home to the homeless state and live in accordance with the rules for Sramanas (Dharmapada 87). A wise man should purge himself from all the impurities of the mind, give up sensual pleasures, and seek great delight in Nirvana (Dharmapada 88). Those whose minds are well-trained and well-perfected in the seven factors of enlightenment, who give up of grasping, abandon defiled minds, and eradicate all afflictions. They are shinning ones and have completely liberated and attained Nirvana even in this world (Dharmapada 89).”
However, the Buddha’s teachings are usually easy to speak but very difficult to put in practice. Yes! “Not to commit any sin, to do good, to purify one’s mind.” Buddha’s teaching is so easy to speak about, but very difficult to put into practice. The Buddha’s teaching is so easy that a child of three knows how to speak, but it is so difficult that even an old man of eighty finds it difficult to practice. According to the Forty-Two Sections Sutra, Chapter 18, the Buddha said: “My Dharma is the mindfulness that is both mindfulness and no-mindfulness. It is the practice that is both practice and non-practice. It is words that are words and non-words. It is cultivation that is cultivation and non-cultivation. Those who understand are near to it; those who are confused are far from it indeed. The path of words and language is cut off; it cannot be categorized as a thing. If you are off (removed) by a hair’s breadth, you lose it in an instant.”
18. Faith in Buddhism
A basic belief in Buddhism is that the world is filled with sufferings and afflictions that are caused by the desires, angers and ignorance, pride, doubt, and wrong views. If the above mentioned troubles could be removed, then the sufferings and afflictions would naturally end. However, removing the above mentioned troubles does not mean that we chase after worldly pleasures, nor does it means pessimism. According to the Buddha, most of daily life’s troubles are caused by attachment. We get angry, we worry, we become greedy and complain bitterly. All these causes of unhappiness, tension, stubbornness and sadness are due to attachment. Thus if we want to end sufferings and afflictions, we must end attachment, no exception. However, to end attachment is not easy for in order to end attachment we must conquest ourselves. Thus the Buddha taught in the Dharmapada Sutra: “The greates of conquests is not the subjugation of others but of the self. Even though a man conquers thousands of men in battle, he who conquers himself is the greatest of conquerors.” In fact, the ultimate goal of a Buddhist is to look inward to find his own Buddha and not outward. Thus, the goal of a Buddhist is the development of self-dependency, the ability to set oneself free of sufferings and afflictions. Buddhism is strongly against a blind belief on other forces of salvation with no basic factors. The Buddha always reminded his disciples: “You should reject blind belief. Do not judge by hearsay, not on mere assertion, not on authority of so-called sacred scriptures. Do not hurrily judge according to appearances, not believe anything because an ascetic or a teacher has said it.”
With Buddhism, to believe religion without understanding it thoroughly, it’s a blind faith, or it’s not different from superstition. Even though understanding but understanding without finding to see if it’s right or wrong, in accordance or not in accordance with truth, with reality, it’s also a form of superstition or wrong belief. Believe that when you sow a seed of hot-pepper, you will have a hot-pepper tree and eventually you will reap hot-pepper fruit. However, even though you have already sown the seed of hot-pepper, but you realize that you don’t like to eat fruit that is hot, you stop fertilizing and watering the hot-pepper tree, the tree will wither and die, and will not produce any fruit. Similarly, if you know an action is bad and unwholesome, you refuse to act, of course you will not receive any bad or unwholesome consequence. The Buddha refuses to believe that whatever happens to a person, either good or bad, is due to chance, fate or fortune. Everything that happens has a specific cause or causes and there must be some tight relationships between the cause and the effect. Those who want to believe in Buddhism should not rush to become a Buddhist with the wrong understanding or blind belief in Buddhism. You should take your time to do more researches, to ask questions, and to consider carefully before making your final decision. Religions that worship god have always considered reason and wisdom as the enemy of faith and dogma for them there exist only “believe” or “not believe” and nothing else. In fact, if we accept that there exists a so-called almighty god, we cannot accept any of the findings of modern science; neither Darwin’s science of biological evolution nor the theories of the nature and evolution of the universe coming from modern physics. They believe that a so-called creator god invented humankind and the universe all at once and that these three realms of god, man and universe, all are separate. However, modern science agrees with what the Buddha taught almost twenty-six centuries ago, and proves that the universe as one infinite process of change. Furthermore, the belief of salvation by god caused a serious danger to the whole world, especially from the first century to the end of the nineteenth century, for those who believe in the salvation of god believe that they must impose salvation on others. For this reason, Catholic countries sent their troops and priests all over the world to save others by force. And as a result, millions of people got killed or slaughtered and subjugated in the name of god. Buddhism is in contrast with other religions that believe in god. Buddhism teaches that one must develop wisdom. However, wisdom in Buddhism is not simply believing in what we are told or taught. True wisdom is to directly see and understand for ourselves. With this wisdom, people will have an open mind that listens to others’ points of view rather than being closed-minded; people will also carefully examine fatcs that contradicts their belief rather than blindly believing. Sincere Buddhists never believe in the law of eternity. The Buddha accepts the law of impermanence or change and denies the existence of eternal substances. Matter and spirit are false abstractions that, in reality, are only changing factors or dharmas which are connected and which arise in functional dependence on each other. Thus, Buddhist faith means that the devotee accepts the Buddha as a Teacher and a Guide, His doctrine as way of life, and the Sangha community as the examplars of this way of life. According to Buddhist point of view in faith, everyone is completely free to make his own choice in faith, no one has the right to interfere with other people’s choice. Let’s take a close look in the Buddha’s teaching in the Kalama Sutra: “Nothing should be accepted merely on the ground of tradition or the authority of the teacher, or because it is the view of a large number of people, distinguished or otherwise. Everything should be weighed, examined and judged according to whether it is true or false in the light of one’s own true benefits. If considered wrong, they should not be rejected but left for further considerations.” Therefore, we see clearly that Buddhism is based on personal expeirence, rationalism, practice, morality, and insight. There is no need to propitiate gods or masters. There is no blind adherence to a faith, rigid dogmas, rituals, holy scriptures, or myths. The Buddha always confirmed his disciples that a salvation can only be gained by man and by man only during his life without the least help from a so-called god or gods.
The Buddha taught us to try to recognize truth, so we can understand our fear, to lessen our desires, to eliminate our selfishness, and to calmly and courageously accept things we cannot change. He replaced fear, not with blindly and irrational belief but with rational understanding which corresponds to the truth. Furthermore, Buddhists do not believe in god because there does not seem to be any concrete evidence to support this idea. Who can answer questions on god? Who is god? Is god masculine or feminine or neuter? Who can provide ample evidence with real, concrete, substantial or irrefutable facts to prove the existence of god? So far, no one can. Buddhists suspend judgment until such evidence is forthcoming. Besides, such belief in god is not necessary for a really meaningful and happy life. If you believe that god make your life meaningful and happy, so be it. But remember, more than two-thirds of the world do not believe in god and who can say that they don’t have a meaningful and happy life? And who dare to say that those who believe in god, all have a meaningful and happy life? If you believe that god help you overcome disabilities and difficulties, so be it. But Buddhists do not accept the theological concept of salvation. In the contrary, based on the Buddha’s own experience, he showed us that each human being had the capacity to purify the body and the mind, develop infinitive love and compassion and perfect understanding. He shifted the gods and heavens to the self-heart and encouraged us to find solution to our problems through self-understanding. Finally, such myths of god and creation concept has been superseded by scientific facts. Science has explained the origin of the universe completely without recourse to the god-idea.
Buddhism considers human’s liberation the priority. Once the Buddha was asked by a monk named Malunkyaputta, whether the world was eternal or not eternal, whether the world was finite or infinite, whether the soul was one thing and the body another, whether a Buddha existed after death or did not exist after death, and so on, and so on. The Buddha flatly refused to discuss such metaphysics, and instead gave him a parable. “It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and yet he were to say, ‘I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know by what man I was wounded,’ or ‘I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know of what the arrow with which I was wounded was made.’” As a practical man he should of course get himself treated by the physician at once, without demanding these unnecessary details which would not help him in the least. This was the attitude of the Buddha toward the metaphysical speculation which do not in any way help improve ourselves in our cultivation. The Buddha would say, “Do not go by reasoning, nor by argument.” Besides, Buddhism does not accept such practices as fortune telling, wearing magic charms for protection, fixing lucky sites for building, prophesying and fixing lucky days, etc. All these practices are considered useless superstitions in Buddhism. However, because of greed, fear and ignorance, some Buddhists still try to stick to these superstituous practices. As soon as people understand the Buddha’s teachings, they realize that a pure heart can protect them much better than empty words of fortune telling, or wearing nonsense charms, or ambiguous chanted words and they are no longer rely on such meaningless things. In Buddhism, liberation is a motto which heightens (elevates) the unfettered spirit beyond the irrational wall of conventional restriction in which the faith of each individual must be chosen by that individual and by no one else. However, the Buddha always emphasized “Try to understand thoroughly before believing, even with my teachings, for acting freely and without knowing the real meaning of whatever you act sometimes you unintentionally destroy valuable traditions of yourselves. This is the same as a diamond being thrown into the dirt.” The Buddha continued to advise: “When you do anything you should think of its consequence.” Nowadays, more than 2,500 years after the Buddha’s time, all scientists believe that every event that takes place in the world is subject to the law of cause and effect. In other words, cause is the activity and effect is the result of the activity. The Buddha described the world as an unending flux of becoming. All is changeable, continuous transformation, ceaseless mutation, and a moving stream. Everything exists from moment to moment. Everything is recurring rotation of coming into being and then passing out of existence. Everything is moving from formation to destruction, from birth to death. The matter of material forms are also a continuous movement or change towards decay. This teaching of the impermanent nature of everything is one of the most important points of view of Buddhism. Nothing on earth partakes of the character of absolute reality. That is to say there will be no destruction of what is formed is impossible. Whatever is subject to origination is subject to destruction. Change is the very constituent of reality. In daily life, things move and change between extremes and contrasts, i.e., rise and fall, success and failure, gain and loss, honor and contempt, praise and blame, and so on. No one can be sure that a “rise” does not follow with a “fall”, a success does not follow with a failure, a gain with a loss, an honor with a contempt, and a praise with a blame. To thoroughly understand this rule of change or impermanence, Buddhists are no longer dominated by happiness, sorrow, delight, despair, disappointment, satisfaction, self-confidence and fear.
In the noble teachings of the Buddha, it is honesty, kindness, understanding, patience, generosity, forgiveness, loyalty and other good qualities that truly protect us and give us true happiness and prosperity. A man who possesses the above mentioned characteristics, that man is travelling on the Path to the Buddha’s Land. It is true that Buddhahood cannot be found outside. It has no limit and not be confined in the East, West, South or North. It is in fact, in every man’s mind. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha taught: “Once upon a time, there was a father who was very old and death was hovering on him. He had a little son and wanted him to be well off in the future. He hided a very valuable diamond between the hems of his son’s shirt and then gave him some advice. After his father’s passing away, the son forgot completely about the hidden diamond. He became poor, wandering here and there to beg for help, met with nothing but refusal. One day, he suddenly remembered about the hidden treasure left by his father, from thence he became a rich man and no longer depended on others for help.”
Most of us are agreed to the fact that among all living beings, human beings are unique beings who can understand what we are and what we should be. Compared to other beings, man is most complete and superior not only in the mentality and thinking, but also in the ability of organization of social life. Human beings’ life cannot be substituted nor repeated nor determined by someone else. Once we are born in this world, we have to live our own life, a meaningful and worth living life. Thus the ancient said: “Man is the most sacred and superior animal.” And the Buddha taught in the Upasaka Sutra: “In all beings, man is endowed with all necessary faculties, intelligence. Besides man’s conditions are not too miserable as those beings in hell, not too much pleasure as those beings in heaven. And above all, man’s mind is not so ignorant as that of the animals.” So man has the ability to build and improve his own life to the degree of perfection.
19. Ideal of Buddhism
The Buddha founded Buddhism, not only to save sentient beings but also to eliminate the distinction between classes in India at that time. To the Buddha, the ideal of Buddhism would first give everyone an equal opportunity in daily life as well as in cultivation. Against the asserted superiority of the Aryan race and the appellation of “Anarya” or “Non-Aryan” given to the aborigines of some earlier immigrants on the Indian continent, the Buddha often argued that the word Arya meant noble and we ought not call a race noble or ignoble for there will be some ignoble people among the so-called Arya and at the same time there will be some noble people among the so-called Anarya. When we say noble or ignoble we should be speaking of an individual and not a race as a whole. It is a question of human dignity, knowledge or wisdom, not of birth or caste. Thus the ideal of Buddhism is to create a noble personage in the sense of a noble life. The ideal set forth by the Buddha was very clear. His ideal is that as a man, he tries to teach other men, noble or ignoble, to be perfect men, i.e., men of perfect enlightenment.
20. Metaphysical Issues in Buddhism
The Buddha was not concerned with such metaphysical issues which only confuse man and upset his mental equilibrium. Their solution surely will not free mankind from misery and ill. That was why the Buddha hesitated to answer such questions, and at times refrained from explaining those which were often wrongly formulated. The Buddha was a practical teacher. His sole aim was to explain in all its detail the problem of Dukkha, suffering, the universal fact of life, to make people feel its full force, and to convince them of it. He has definitely told us what he explains and what he does not explain. Even questions relating to the past and the future, the Buddha’s answers were very clear: “Let be the past, let be the future, I will teach you the Dhamma.” The Buddha always emphasized: “When this is, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises. When this is not, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases.” This in a nutshell is the Buddhist doctrine of conditionality or Dependent Arising (paticca samuppada). And this forms the foundation of the Four Noble Truths, the central conception of Buddhism.