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Mahayana Doctrine
  The fundamental doctrine for Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths. It "...has always been the nucleus of this religion from its primitive states to the developed form of Mahayanism through its long history of twenty-four centuries." (Tachibana, 14). However, there are many other Buddhist doctrines besides the Four Noble Truths, one being the bodhisattva doctrine. Early Buddhism had the term referring to the belief in just one Buddha, but as time passed, the term came to encompass the belief in many Buddhas. Many forms of the religion uphold the bodhisattva doctrine, but the Mahayana bodhisattva doctrine differs from the rest in that "...the Mahayana insistence that the goal of all religious practice is buddhahood itself, making all those whose conceive of the aspiration to be liberated bodhisattvas, or future Buddhas." (Buddhism, 459)

  The Mahayana bodhisattva doctrine is centered around the goal of liberation from suffering. People who set their eyes on this goal commit themselves to ceaseless work for the benefit of others. They concentrate and aspire to reach perfect awakening, the bodhicita (Buddhism, 369). In trying to reach perfect awakening, these people are also pressing towards actually becoming bodhisattvas. As travelers walk along their paths, they are helped along by celestial bodhisattvas. "Celestial bodhisattvas are powerful beings far advanced in the path, so perfect that they are free from both rebirth and liberation, and can now choose freely if, when, and where they are to be reborn. They engage freely in the process of rebirth only to save living beings." (Buddhism, 369) Once people attain perfect awakening and become celestial bodhisattvas, they too, can help others along their paths.



What is Buddhism?
  Buddhism is a most profound and wholesome educational path taught by Shakyamuni Buddha to all people....... In his forty-nine years of teaching, Shakyamuni Buddha explains the true nature of life and the universe. "Life" refers to ourselves, and "universe" refers the environment in which we live....... Those who understand these truths are called Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. Those who do not understand are called worldly people....... Cultivation is the process of changing the way we think, speak, and act towards people and towards the universe from an erroneous way to a proper way....... The guidelines for cultivation are awareness, right understanding, and purity. Awareness is the opposite of delusion. Right understanding is the opposite of deviation. Purity is the opposite of pollution. These three qualities can be achieved by practicing the Three Learnings of self-discipline, concentration, and wisdom....... The Three Basic Conditions are the foundation of cultivation and study. When interacting with people, follow the Six Harmonies, and when dealing with society, practice the Six Principles. Follow the Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva and focus your mind on attaining rebirth in the Pure Land. This completes the purpose of the Buddha's Teachings.



The Mahayana Buddhism
  The Mahayana is more of an umbrella body for a great variety of schools, from the Tantra school (the secret teaching of Yoga) well represented in Tibet and Nepal to the Pure Land sect, whose essential teaching is that salvation can be attained only through absolute trust in the saving power of Amitabha, longing to be reborn in his paradise through his grace, which are found in China, Korea and Japan. Ch'an and Zen Buddhism, of China and Japan, are meditation schools....... It is generally accepted, that what we know today as the Mahayana arose from the Mahasanghikas sect who were the earliest seceders, and the forerunners of the Mahayana. They took up the cause of their new sect with zeal and enthusiasm and in a few decades grew remarkably in power and popularity. They adapted the existing monastic rules and thus revolutionised the Buddhist Order of Monks. Moreover, they made alterations in the arrangements and interpretation of the Sutra (Discourses) and the Vinaya (Rules) texts. And they rejected certain portions of the canon, which had been accepted in the First Council...... According to it, the Buddhas are lokottara (supramundane) and are connected only externally with the worldly life. This conception of the Buddha contributed much to the growth of the Mahayana philosophy. The ideal of the Mahayana school is that of the Bodhisattva, a person who delays his or her own enlightenment in order to compassionately assist all other beings and ultimately attains to the highest Bodhi.

Chinese Buddhism: Mahayana Lineages Imported from India
  • Madhyamika (San Lun, Ch.) Based on the Chinese translation of Nagarjuna's (second century) Madhyamika Karika and two other works of uncertain authorship, this lineage emphasized the notion of shunyata (emptiness) and wu (nonbeing). So rigorous was the teaching of this lineage, that it declared that the elements constituting perceived objects, when examined, are really no more than mental phenonena and have no true existence....... • Yogacara Founded in the third century by Maitreyanatha and made famous by Asanga and Vasubandhu in the fourth or fifth century, this school held that the source of all ideas is vijñana ("consciousness"), which is seen as the fundamental basis of existence. Ultimate Reality is therefore only perceived but has not real existence....... Indigenous Mahayana Lineages...... • T'ien T'ai Named after the mountains on which the founder Zhi Yi (d. 597 C.E.) resided, this lineage is based on a scheme of classification intended to integrate and harmonize the vast array of Buddhist scriptures and doctrines. This scheme of classification is based on the Buddhist doctrine of upaya ("skilful means"). The most important form of Buddhism for this lineage is the Mahayana devotionalism found in the Lotus Sutra....... • Avatamsaka (Hua Yen, Ch.) This lineage takes its name from the Avatamsaka Sutra, its central sacred text, and like the T'ien T'ai school is oriented towards a classification of sutras. Basic to this lineage is the assertion that all particulars are merely manifestations of the absolute mind and are therefore fundamentally the same....... • Pure Land (Amitabha) Based on the Sukhavati Vyuha ("Pure Land Sutra"), this lineage was founded in 402 C.E. by Hui Yuan. The Pure Land lineage held that the spiritual quality of the world has been in decline since its height during the lifetime of the Buddha and taught followers to cultivate through prayer and devotion a sincere intent to be reborn in the heavenly paradise of the Buddha Amitabha....... • Ch'an Its name is derived from the Sanskrit term dhyana ("meditation"), this lineage emphasises meditation as the only means to a spiritual awakening beyond words or thought, dispensing almost entirely with the teachings and practices of traditional Buddhism. Ch'an is thought to have been brought to China by the enigmatic South Indian monk Bodhidharma in about the year 500 C.E.



Mahayana Ethics
  Many religions seem to have certain ethics in common. For instance Buddhism shares the ethics of do not kill, do not steal, and so on with other religions such as Catholicism and Christianity. However, there are a set of ethics which set Buddhism apart from other religions. All forms of Buddhism pretty much retained similar codes of ethic. So what was seen in the early Theravada traditions can be seen in the Vajrayana and Mahayana traditions as well. However, the Vajrayana and Mahayana Buddhists developed certain aspects of ethics to a very great extent. Such is the case with Mahayana Buddhism and the bodhisattva ideal.

  "The Mahayanists developed the bodhisattva ideal to such an extent that it became the single most important element in Mahayana ethics." (Buddhism, 500) A Mahayanist’s purpose is to help others. "The bodhisattva’s salient trait is altruistic compassion for all sentient beings." (Buddhism, 501) In helping others, a Mahayanist aids others in achieving spiritual release and well as attaining material riches. In order to help others, though, a Mahayanist must refuse to enter nirvana (state of supreme happiness), for if he entered nirvana, he could be of no help to those who are still in samsara, who according to Donald K. Swearer, is the "cycle of birth, suffering , death, and rebirth." To prevent himself from entering nirvana, the Mahayanist takes a vow such as the following: "I shall not enter into final nirvana before all beings have been liberated." (Buddhism, 501) After taking the vow, the Mahayanist goes through disciplined development which lasts practically forever. During the course of development, the Mahayanist goes through successive rebirths, each time gaining more power, strength, and wisdom. This development continues, the Mahayanist all the while progressively reaching a state of perfection.



Pure Land Buddhism
  Pure Land Buddhism: The Path of Serene Trust ... Key Concepts

  In order to understand Pure Land Buddhism it is helpful to be familiar with some specific aspects of Buddhist teaching:

  MERIT AND ITS TRANSFER. There are benefits to be derived from the non-attached practices of Wisdom and Compassion; these practices include the Buddhist Precepts which are guidelines for enlightened living. These benefits, or "merit," may be accumulated and subsequently transferred to any or all sentient beings for their benefit (transpersonal) or rededicated so as to transform it into a benefit for one's self (personal)....... OTHER BUDDHAS. Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha of our age, is not the only Buddha to ever have existed. Indeed, all beings have the nature to become totally awakened to the Truth of the Universe. One of the first Buddhas other than Shakyamuni to be mentioned in the Buddhist tradition was the Buddha Maitreya, the next Buddha who will appear in our own world-system which is known as the Saha World. BUDDHA-REALMS or BUDDHA-FIELDS. Buddhas spread their influence over a system of worlds in which they teach Dharma and exert their benevolence. Shakyamuni is the Buddha of our own world system. Buddha-realms may be seen as both literal and metaphorical....... A BODHISATTVA'S RELATIONSHIP WITH A BUDDHA. Bodhisattvas are "Enlightenment Beings" who are on the path toward Nirvana, the end of suffering, the realm of Perfect Peace. They work not only for their own Enlightenment, but also for the Enlightenment of all sentient beings. Once Bodhisattvahood is attained, the Bodhisattva is instructed by a Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha's teacher was the Buddha Dipamkara; in turn, Shakyamuni Buddha is the teacher of the Buddha to come, Maitreya.

  Shakyamuni Buddha taught about a Buddha named Amitabha ("Boundless Light," also known as Amitayus, or "Boundless Life") who presides over a Buddha-realm known as Sukhavati, a realm of rebirth in which all impediments to the attainment of final Enlightenment are nonexistent. This realm, or Pure Land (also known as the Realm of Bliss) is the result of the accumulated merit of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara, who practiced for eons before becoming the Buddha Amitabha. Dharmakara vowed that when he attained Buddhahood, the realm over which he would preside would include the finest features of all the other Buddha-realms. These other realms were revealed to Dharmakara by his teacher, the Buddha Lokesvararaja....... Pure Land Buddhism is described as the Path of Serene Trust, or "prasada" in Sanskrit. This term is broadly interpreted as "faith," and means that one has serene trust and confidence in the power and wisdom of Buddhas, or that one has the firm conviction that the Bodhisattva Vow made by all Buddhas, namely, to lead all sentient beings to Enlightenment, has been or will be fulfilled....... Praising a Buddha's virtues and keeping a Buddha in mind at all times has been practiced since the earliest days of Buddhism. Indeed, the act of taking refuge in the Buddha means to put one's trust in the Buddha as an honored teacher. In the Pratyutpanna Sutra, an early Buddhist text, Shakyamuni Buddha talks about the practice of Pratyutpanna Samadhi, in which one can directly perceive the Buddhas of the Ten Directions face to face....... The object of Pure Land Buddhism is rebirth into the Realm of Bliss. This may be seen as literal rebirth into the Buddha-realm called Sukhavati and/or as experiencing the direct realization of the realm of the Purified Mind, in which a person becomes one with the limitless Compassion and Widsom which are the prime characteristics of Buddha Amitabha. Pure Land Buddhism rests on the following tripod:

  Faith....... Aspiration or the Vow for Rebirth....... Practice, single-minded effort aimed at Buddha Remembrance Samadhi, "Buddhanusmrti" in Sanskrit, "Nien-Fo" in Chinese. Buddhanusmrti means "To stay mindful of the Buddha," and has been a central practice of Pure Land Buddhism since its beginnings. Nien-Fo also refers to the recitation of the Buddha's name, among other practices....... The Pure Land tripod of Faith, Aspiration and Practice was modified in 12th century Japan. The 18th vow of Dharmakara was interpreted to mean that one only need to recite Amitabha's name to attain rebirth (see next section). The teacher Shinran further narrowed this interpretation to say that the Nembutsu (Japanese for Nien-Fo) is recited until the Mind of Faith manifests itself, and that faith in Amida Buddha (the Japanese term for Amitabha) is sufficient for rebirth. The Japanese Pure Land schools are still characterized as "faith-only" schools, while classical Pure Land Buddhism still relies on the tripod of Faith, Aspiration and Practice as expedients.

The Vows
  Bodhisattva Dharmakara made 48 vows regarding the nature of his yet-to-be Buddha-realm. Among these are four very crucial vows, the 18th, 19th, 20th and 22nd. These vows are enumerated in the Larger Sukhavati Sutra, one of the three main Pure Land scriptures...... The 18th vow states that anyone who has vowed to be reborn into the Realm of Bliss and has dedicated their roots of merit to this rebirth will indeed be reborn there, even if this vow has been sincerely made as few as ten times. The 19th vow states that Amitabha Buddha will appear at the moment of death to one who cultivates virtue, resolves to seek awakening, and single-mindedly aspires to be reborn into the Realm of Bliss...... The 20th vow guarantees rebirth into the Realm of Bliss for those who have cultivated virtue, have sought awakening, and have single-mindedly aspired to be reborn into this realm...... The 22nd vow states that once reborn into the Realm of Bliss, one may either complete the Bodhisattva Path and attain Perfect Full Awakening, or may take what are known as the Vows of Samanthabhadra, namely to follow the full Bodhisattva Path and to return to the cycle of rebirth to save all sentient beings.

The Sutras
  The principal Pure Land sutras are: The Smaller Sukhavati Sutra, in which Shakyamuni Buddha speaks to his disciple Sariputra about the Realm of Bliss, giving a concise description of Amitabha's Buddha-realm. This is probably the most recited of the three main Pure Land sutras....... The Larger Sukhavati Sutra, in which Shakyamuni Buddha gives his disciple Ananda a detailed description of the Realm of Bliss. He also recounts the history of the Bodhisattva Dharmakara and describes the 48 vows in detail...... The Visualization Sutra or Kuan Wu-Liang-Shou-Fo Ching, which was composed in China. This sutra, also regarded as a meditation manual, gives a detailed description of the features of the Pure Land. This includes descriptions of the characteristics of Amitabha Buddha and the attendant Bodhisattvas: Avalokitesvara, representing engaged compassion, and Mahasthamaprapta, representing wisdom. Avalokitesvara means "Regarder of the Cries of the World," while Mahasthamaprapta means "The One Who Has Attained Great Strength."

  Whenever Pure Land Buddhism is discussed these two important concepts usually arise. Self-Power refers to to methods we practice on our own, the power of our own mind. Other-Power refers to the power of the vows of Amitabha Buddha which facilitate rebirth in the Realm of Bliss, as well as the manifestation of these vows through the transference of Amitabha's own merit to us...... In classical Pure Land Buddhism, Self-Power and Other-Power work together. Through recitation, meditation and visualization practices, vowing to be reborn and manifesting the mind of faith, we attain Buddha Remembrance Samadhi, uniting one's Self-Power with the Other-Power of Buddha Amitabha, the essence of Universal Compassion and Wisdom...... In Japanese Pure Land Buddhism however, there is an exclusive reliance on Other-Power. Reciting the Buddha's name with faith is all that is necessary, and Other-Power practices are seen as essentially useless. A person is totally reliant on the Primal Vow of Amida Buddha; essentially, the saying of the Buddha's name arises solely from the power of Amida's vows. This causes Japanese Pure Land to be more of a salvation-based form, unlike the classical Pure Land Buddhism that originally developed in China.

  Recitation is one of the central practices of Pure Land Buddhism. It involves the concentrated and heartfelt repetitive recitation of "Namo Amitabha Buddha" (Homage to the Buddha of Boundless Compassion and Wisdom). In Chinese this phrase is "Namo Omito-Fo," in Japanese, "Namu Amida Butsu."....... Recitation practice has long been recognized as an easy practice that carries with it the benefits of practice offered by the major schools of Buddhism: It encompasses the Meditation School because concentrated recitation enables us to rid ourselves of delusions and attachments....... It encompasses the Sutra Studies School because the sacred words "Amitabha Buddha" contain innumerable sublime meanings....... It encompasses the Discipline School because deep recitation purifies and stills the karmas of body, speech and thought....... It encompasses the Esoteric School because the recitation of the words "Amitabha Buddha" have the same effect as when one recites a mantra....... Visualization is another practice that is central to Pure Land Buddhism. Most of the visualizations are of Amitabha Buddha, the attendant Bodhisattvas and the Realm of Bliss itself. These visualizations, 16 in all, are described in detail in the Visualization Sutra....... Yet another practice is the reading of the Pure Land sutras. This practice assists us in keeping the name of Amitabha Buddha firmly in mind, as well as strengthening our resolve for rebirth.

  The elements of most Pure Land rituals are based on the Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu's concept of the Five Gates of Mindfulness: Praise and Veneration. Visualization. Sutra Recitation. Making the Vow for Rebirth. Dedicating Merit....... One fact become undeniably clear: Pure Land practice can accommodate people of any and all capacities. This is why Pure Land Buddhism is a marvelous path for those who are seeking liberation in this modern age when there are so very many distractions and impediments to Enlightenment. Also, be sure to see our Daily Pure Land Practice page.

The Unified Practice
  The unified practice of Ch'an and Pure Land is the unified practice of Compassion and Widsom. Pure Land practice allows one to open up the heart, thus developing Compassion; Ch'an practice shows one how to concentrate the mind, thus developing Wisdom. When Compassion and Wisdom combine in a dynamic relationship, our True Mind is realized, our True Heart comes forth, and Enlightenment is assured (For a comparison of Ch'an/Zen and Pure Land, see Comparing the Paths....... The unified practice of Ch'an and Pure Land, known in Chinese as "Ch'an-ching I-chih," has a long history. As early as the 4th century C.E., the Chinese Ancestor Hui-Yuan (334-416), considered to the be first Pure Land Ancestor, incorporated meditative discipline into Pure Land practice....... Ancestor Tao-Hsin (580-651), the Fourth Ancestor of the Ch'an school, taught what he called the "Samadhi of Oneness," utilizing the recitation of the Buddha's name to pacify the mind. It should be noted that since this practice involved reciting the name of any Buddha, a practice dating back to the origins of Buddhism, it was not specifically designed to produce rebirth in the Realm of Bliss; but it did act as a bridge linking Ch'an and Nien-Fo practices. Tao-Hsin taught that the Pure Mind is the Pure Buddha Land....... The unified practice was also advocated by the Fifth Ch'an Ancestor Hung-Jen (601-674) who saw recitation as a good practice for beginners. Hung-Jen also advocated the visualization practices laid out in the Visualization Sutra....... Buddha recitation not concerned with rebirth was taught by a number of Hung-Jen's disciples including Fa-Chih (635-702), the Fourth Ancestor of the Ox-Head School of Ch'an. It was also put forth by the Ching-Chung School which was descended from Chih-Hsien, one of the Fifth Ch'an Ancestor's 10 eminent disciples, in the early 8th century C.E....... Descendents of Chih-hsien who advocated the unified practice included Wu-Hsiang, a former Korean prince who made invocational Nien-Fo practice a key part of the Dharma Transmission Ceremony. Although the practice was still not centered around Buddha Amitabha or rebirth in the Realm of Bliss, it marked the first time that Nien-Fo practice was explicitly adopted as part of a Ch'an school. Subsequent schools which taught Nien-Fo as part of their training included the Pao-T'ang School, the Hsuan-Shih Nien-Fo Ch'an School and the Nan-Shan Nien-Fo Ch'an School....... Ancestor Tz'u-Min (679-748) is said to have been the first Pure Land Ancestor to advocate harmonizing Pure Land practice and Ch'an. Tz'u-min developed his Pure Land faith after a pilgrimage to India, where he was inspired by stories centered around Buddha Amitabha and Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara....... The Ch'an Ancestor Pai-Chang Huai-Hai (720-814), who wrote the "20 Monastic Principles" which were the blueprint for Ch'an monastic practice, included "Recitation of the Name of Buddha Amitabha." Pai-Chang stated, "In religious practice, take Buddha Recitation as a sure method." The practice of chanting Amitabha's name during a Ch'an monk's funeral was also put forth by Master Pai-Chang....... The T'ang Hui-Ch'an Persecution (845 C.E.) and the Huei-Ch'ang and Shih-Tsung Persecutions of the late Chou Dynasty (10th century C.E.) served to bring Ch'an and Pure Land even closer together. These government crackdowns on Buddhist sects enervated the academically oriented Buddhist schools such as the T'ien-t'ai and Hua-yen sects....... Correspondingly, the rise of Neo-Confucianism drew many speculative thinkers away from those schools. But the Ch'an and Pure Land schools, marked by their emphasis on practice, their extreme degree of portability and their non-reliance on Imperial patronage, survived intact. By this time, the Ch'an school had incorporated true Nien-Fo Amitabha practices into its training regimens, and the Pure Land school had incorporated more meditational elements into its own system....... The Ch'an monk and Pure Land practitioner Yung-Ming Yen-Shou (905-975) is said to have been the key figure in the synthesis of Ch'an and Pure Land during this period. He taught that the Pure Land is the Realm of the Purified Mind....... The unified practices were taught in Vietnam by the Thao-Duong School, founded by the Chinese monk Ts'ao-Tang, who was taken to Vietnam as a prisoner of war in 1069 C.E. Other eminent Chinese monks who promoted unified practice were Chu-Hung (1535-1615) and Han-Shan (1546-1623)....... During the 17th century C.E., the monk Yin-Yuan Lung-Chi, known as Obaku in Japanese, brought the unified Ch'an/Pure Land practice to Japan. His school is known as the Obaku Zen School, and survives to this day as a minor sect in the shadow of the much more influential Soto and Rinzai Zen sects....... The unified practice of Ch'an and Pure Land continues to this day, although it was de-emphasized in the major Japanese Zen schools. The large Shin sect of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism discounts any efforts on one's own part to attain Enlightenment; superficially, Japanese "Other-Power" Pure Land Buddhism and "Self-Power" Zen Buddhism do not complement each other the way the Chinese Ch'an and Pure Land schools do. However, there are recent movements which may yet be influential in returning Japanese Zen to its syncretic roots....... In the 1970s, the formation of the Zen Shin Sangha by Rev. Koshin Ogui in Cleveland, Ohio was one of the first instances of a Shin Buddhist priest in the United States combining Japanese Zen and Pure Land practices. Similar movements have been reported in England, continental Europe and India....... As the esteemed Ch'an Master Hsu-Yun (1840-1959) put it, "All the Buddhas in every universe, past, present and future, preach the same Dharma. There is no difference between the methods advocated by Shakyamuni and Amitabha."....... Namo Amitabha Buddha!



Four Great Vows
  Ordinary-beings are innumerable I vow to liberate them all... Defilements are endless I vow to eliminate them all... Buddha's teachings are unlimited I vow to learn them all... The ways of enlightenment are supreme I vow to achieve them all....... I vow to liberate all ordinary-beings from my mind... I vow to eliminate all defilements from my mind... I vow to embrace every teaching of my self-nature... I vow to achieve the way of enlightenment from my self-nature.



Buddhism: A Method of Mind Training
  Buddhism: A Method of Mind Training / by Leonard A. Bullen Bodhi Leaves

  When you hear something about Buddhism in the daily news you usually think of it having a background of huge idols and yellow-robed monks, with a thick atmosphere of incense fumes. You never feel that there is anything in it for you, except, maybe, an exotic spectacle. But is that all there is in Buddhism? Do the news photographers take pictures of the real Buddhism? Do the glossy magazines show you the fundamentals, or only the externals? Let us see, then, what Buddhism really is, Buddhism as it was originally expounded and as it still exists underneath the external trappings and trimmings. Although generally regarded as a religion, Buddhism is basically a method of cultivating the mind. It is true that, with its monastic tradition and its emphasis on ethical factors, it possesses many of the surface characteristics that Westerners associate with religion. However, it is not theistic, since it affirms that the universe is governed by impersonal laws and not by any creator-god; it has no use for prayer, for the Buddha was a teacher and not a god; and it regards devotion not as a religious obligation but as a means of expressing gratitude to its founder and as a means of self-development. Thus it is not a religion at all from these points of view. Again, Buddhism knows faith only in the sense of confidence in the way recommended by the Buddha. A Buddhist is not expected to have faith or to believe in anything merely because the Buddha said it, or because it is written in the ancient books, or because it has been handed down by tradition, or because others believe it. He may, of course, agree with himself to take the Buddha-doctrine as a working hypothesis and to have confidence in it; but he is not expected to accept anything unless his reason accepts it. This does not mean that everything can be demonstrated rationally, for many points lie beyond the scope of the intellect and can be cognized only by the development of higher faculties. But the fact remains that there is no need for blind acceptance of anything in the Buddha-doctrine. Buddhism is a way of life based on the training of the mind. Its one ultimate aim is to show the way to complete liberation from suffering by the attainment of the Unconditioned, a state beyond the range of the normal untrained mind. Its immediate aim is to strike at the roots of suffering in everyday life. All human activity is directed, either immediately or remotely, towards the attainment of happiness in some form or other; or, to express the same thing in negative terms, all human activity is directed towards liberation from some kind of unsatisfactoriness or dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction, then, can be regarded as the starting point in human activity, with happiness as its ultimate goal. Dissatisfaction, the starting point in human activity, is also the starting point in Buddhism; and this point is expressed in the formula of the Four Basic Statements, which set out the fact of dissatisfaction, its cause, its cure, and the method of its cure. The First Basic Statement can be stated thus:

Dissatisfaction is Inescapable in En-Self-Ed Life
  In its original meaning, the word which is here rendered as "dissatisfaction" and which is often translated as "suffering" embraces the meanings not only of pain, sorrow, and displeasure, but also of everything that is unsatisfactory, ranging from acute physical pain and severe mental anguish to slight tiredness, boredom, or mild disappointment. Sometimes the term is rendered as "dissatisfaction" or "unsatisfactoriness"; in some contexts these are perhaps more accurate, while at other times the word "suffering" is more expressive. For this reason we shall use both "suffering" and "dissatisfaction" or "unsatisfactoriness" according to context. In some translations of the original texts it is stated that birth is suffering, sickness is suffering, old age is suffering, and pleasure is suffering. In English, this last statement fails to make sense; but if we restate it as "pleasure is unsatisfactory" it becomes more readily understandable, for all pleasure is impermanent and is eventually succeeded by its opposite, and from this point of view at least it is unsatisfactory. Now the Buddha-doctrine teaches that dissatisfaction or suffering is inescapable in en-self-ed life; and the term "en-self-ed life" needs some explanation. In brief, the doctrine teaches that the self, considered as a fixed, unchanging eternal soul, has no reality. The central core of every being is not an unchanging soul but a life-current, an ever-changing stream of energy which is never the same for two consecutive seconds. The self, considered as an eternal soul, therefore, is a delusion, and when regarded from the ultimate standpoint it has no reality; and it is only within this delusion of selfhood that ultimate suffering can exist. When the self-delusion is finally transcended and the final enlightenment is attained, the ultimate state which lies beyond the relative universe is reached. In this ultimate state, the Unconditioned, suffering is extinguished; but while any element of selfhood remains, even though it is a delusion, suffering remains potentially within it. We must understand, then, that the First Basic Statement does not mean that suffering is inescapable; it means that suffering is inescapable in enselfed life, or while the delusion of selfhood remains. We can now move on to the Second Basic Statement, which says:

The Origin of Dissatisfaction is Craving
  If you fall on a slippery floor and suffer from bruises, you say that the cause of your suffering is the slippery floor. In an immediate sense you are right, of course, and to say that the cause of your bruises is craving fails to make sense. But the Second Statement does not refer to individual cases or to immediate causes. It means that the integrating force that holds together the life-current is self-centered craving; for this life-current--this self-delusion--contains in itself the conditions for suffering, while the slippery floor is merely an occasion for suffering. It is obviously impossible, by the nature of the world we live in, to cure suffering by the removal of all the occasions for suffering; whereas it is possible in Buddhism to strike at its prime or fundamental cause. Therefore the Third Basic Statement states:

Liberation May be Achieved by Destroying Craving
  It is self-centered craving that holds together the forces which comprise the life-current, the stream of existence which we call the self; and it is only with self-delusion that unsatisfactoriness or suffering can exist. By the destruction of that which holds together the delusion of the self, the root cause of suffering is also destroyed. The ultimate aim of Buddhist practice, then, is to annihilate the self. This is where a great deal of misunderstanding arises, and naturally so; but once it is realized that to annihilate the self is to annihilate a delusion, this misunderstanding disappears. When the delusion is removed, the reality appears; so that to destroy delusion is to reveal the reality. The reality cannot be discovered while the delusion of self continues to obscure it. Now what is this reality which appears when the delusion is removed? The ultimate reality is the Unconditioned, called also the Unborn, the Unoriginated, the Uncreated, and the Uncompounded. We can, inadequately and not very accurately, describe it as a positive state of being. It is characterized by supreme bliss and complete freedom from suffering and is so utterly different from ordinary existence that no real description of it can be given. The Unconditioned can be indicated--up to a point--only by stating what it is not; for it is beyond words and beyond thought. Hence, in the Buddhist texts, the Unconditioned is often explained as the final elimination' from one's own mind, of greed, hatred and delusion. This, of course, also implies the perfection of the opposite positive qualities of selflessness, loving-kindness, and wisdom. The attainment of the Unconditioned is the ultimate aim of all Buddhist practice, and is the same as complete liberation from dissatisfaction or suffering. This brings us to the last of the Four Basic Statements:

The Way of Liberation is the Noble Eightfold Path
  The eight factors of the path are these: 1. Right understanding, a knowledge of the true nature of existence. 2. Right thought, thought free from sensuality, ill-will and cruelty. 3. Right speech, speech without falsity, gossip, harshness, and idle babble. 4. Right action, or the avoidance of killing, stealing and adultery. 5. Right livelihood, an occupation that harms no conscious living being. 6. Right effort, or the effort to destroy the defilements of the mind and to cultivate wholesome qualities. 7. Right mindfulness, the perfection of the normal faculty of attention. 8. Right concentration, the cultivation of a collected, focussed mind through meditation. Now you will see that in this Noble Eightfold Path there is nothing of an essentially religious nature; it is more a sort of moral psychology. But in the East as well as in the West people as a whole demand external show of some sort, and--on the outside at least--the non-essentials have assumed more importance than the essentials. While some external features in the practice of Buddhism must of necessity vary according to environment, the essential and constant characteristics of that practice are summed up in the following outline of the Noble Eightfold Path, the Middle Way between harmful extremes, as taught by the Buddha. Although it is convenient to speak of the various aspects of the eightfold path as eight steps, they are not to be regarded as separate steps, taken one after another. On the contrary, each one must be practised along with the others, and it might perhaps be better to think of them as if they were eight parallel lanes within the one road rather than eight successive steps. The first step of this path, right understanding, is primarily a matter of seeing things as they really are--or at least trying to do so without self-deceit or evasion. In another sense, right understanding commences as an intellectual appreciation of the nature of existence, and as such it can be regarded as the beginning of the path; but, when the path has been followed to the end, this merely intellectual appreciation is supplanted by a direct and penetrating discernment of the principles of the teaching first accepted intellectually. While right understanding can be regarded as the complete understanding of the Buddha doctrine, it is based on the recognition of three dominating characteristics of the relative universe, of the universe of time, form and matter. These three characteristics can briefly be set out in this way: 1. Impermanence: All things in the relative universe are unceasingly changing. 2. Dissatisfaction: Some degree of suffering or dissatisfaction is inherent in en-selfed life, or in life within the limitations of the relative universe and personal experience. 3. Egolessness: No being--no human being or any other sort of being--possesses a fixed, unchanging, eternal soul or self. Instead, every being consists of an ever-changing current of forces, an ever-changing flux of material and mental phenomena, like a river which is always moving and is never still for a single second. The self, then, is not a static entity but an ever-changing flux. This dynamic concept of existence is typical of deeper Buddhist thought; there is nothing static in life, and since it is ever-flowing you must learn to flow with it. Another aspect of right understanding is the recognition that the universe runs its course on the basis of a strict sequence of cause and effect, or of action and reaction, a sequence just as invariable and just as exact in the mental or moral realm as in the physical. In accordance with this law of moral action and reaction all morally good or wholesome will actions eventually bring to the doer happiness at some time, while unwholesome or morally bad will-actions bring suffering to the doer. The effects of wholesome and unwholesome will-actions--that is to say, the happiness and suffering that result from them--do not generally follow immediately; there is often a considerable time-lag, for the resultant happiness and suffering can arise only when appropriate conditions are present. The results may not appear within the present lifetime. Thus at death there is normally a balance of "merit" which has not yet brought about its experience of happiness; and at the same time there is also a balance of "demerit" which has not yet given rise to the suffering which is to be its inevitable result. After death, the body disintegrates, of course, but the life-current continues, not in the form of an unchanging soul, but in the form of an ever-changing stream of energy. Immediately after death a new being commences life to carry on this life current; but the new being is not necessarily a human being, and the instantaneous rebirth may take place on another plane of existence. But in any case, the new being is a direct sequel to the being that has just died. Thus the new being becomes an uninterrupted continuation of the old being, and the life-current is unbroken. The new being inherits the balance of merit built up by the old being, and this balance of merit will inevitably bring happiness at some future time. At the same time, the new being inherits the old being's balance of demerit, which will bring suffering at some time in the future. In effect, in the sense of continuity, the new being is the same as the old being. In just the same way--that is, in the sense of continuity only--an old man is the same as the young man he once was, the young man is the same as the boy he once was, and the boy is the same as the baby he once was. But the identity of the old man with the young man, and with the boy, and with the baby, is due only to continuity; there is no other identity. Everything in the universe changes from day to day and from moment to moment, so that every being at this moment is a slightly different being from that of the moment before; the only identity is due to continuity. In the same way, the being that is reborn is different from the previous one that died; but the identity due to continuity remains as before. These teachings are basic to the Buddha-doctrine--the illusory nature of the self, the law of action and reaction in the moral sphere, and the rebirth of the life-forces--but there is no need for anyone to accept anything that does not appeal to his reason. Acceptance of any particular teaching is unimportant; what is important is the continual effort to see things as they really are, without self-deceit or evasion. So much for a brief outline of the doctrine under the heading of right understanding. The second step, right thought or aim, is a matter of freeing the intellectual faculties from adverse emotional factors, such as sensuality, ill-will, and cruelty, which render wise and unbiased decisions impossible. Right speech, right action, and right livelihood together make up the moral section of the path, their function being to keep the defilements of the mind under control and to prevent them from reaching adverse expression. These defilements, however, cannot be completely eradicated by morality alone, and the other steps of the path must be applied to cleanse the mind completely of its defilements. Now in the next step--right effort--we enter the sphere of practical psychology, for right effort in this context means effort of will. In other words, the sixth step of the path is self-discipline, the training of the will in order to prevent and overcome those states of mind that retard development, and to arouse and cultivate those that bring about mental progress. The seventh step of the path is also one of practical psychology; this is the step called right mindfulness, and it consists of the fullest possible development of the ordinary faculty of attention. It is largely by the development of attention--expanded and intensified awareness--that the mind can eventually become capable of discerning things as they really are. The primary function of the, seventh step, right mindfulness, is to develop an increasing awareness of the unreality of the self. However, it functions also by continually improving the normal faculty of attention, thus equipping the mind better to meet the problems and stresses of the workaday world. In the Buddha-way, mindfulness consists of developing the faculty of attention so as to produce a constant awareness of all thoughts that arise, all words that are spoken, and all actions that are done, with a view to keeping them free from self-interest, from emotional bias, and from self-delusion.

  Right mindfulness has many applications in the sphere of everyday activities. For example, it can be employed to bring about a sharpened awareness, a clear comprehension, of the motives of these activities, and this clear comprehension of motive is extremely important. In right concentration, the last of the eight steps, the cultivation of higher mind-states--up to the meditative absorptions--is undertaken, and these higher mind-states serve to unify, purity, and strengthen the mind for the achievement of liberating insight. In this ultimate achievement the delusion of selfhood, with its craving and suffering, is transcended and extinguished. This penetrating insight is the ultimate goal of all Buddhist practices, and with it comes a direct insight into the true nature of life, culminating in realization of the Unconditioned. While the Unconditioned is the extinction of self, it is nevertheless not mere non-existence or annihilation, for the extinction of self is nothing but the extinction of a delusion. Every description of the Unconditioned must fail, for it lies not only beyond words but beyond even thought; and the only way to know it is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path to its end. This, then, is the original Buddhism; this is the Buddhism of the Noble Eightfold Path, of the path that leads from the bondage of self to liberating insight into reality.



The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas
  I pay homage through my three doors, To my supreme teacher and protector, Chenrezig, Who while seeing all phenomena lack coming and going, Makes single-minded effort for the good of living beings. Perfect Buddhas, source of all well-being and happiness, Arise from accomplishing the excellent teachings, And this depends on knowing the practices, So I will explain the practices of Bodhisattvas.

  1. Having gained this rare ship of freedom and fortune, Hear, think and meditate unwaveringly night and day In order to free yourself and others from the ocean of cyclic existence -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 2. Attached to your loved ones you are stirred up like water. Hating your enemies you burn like fire. In the darkness of confusion, you forget what to adopt and discard. Give up your homeland -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 3. By avoiding bad objects, disturbing emotions gradually decrease. Without distraction, virtuous activities naturally increase. With clarity of mind, conviction in teaching arises. Cultivate seclusion -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 4. Loved ones who have long kept company will part. Wealth created with difficulty will be left behind. Consciousness, the guest, will leave the guesthouse of the body. Let go of this life -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 5. When you keep their company your three poisons increase, Your activities of hearing thinking and meditating decline, And they make you lose your love and compassion. Give up bad friends -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 6. When you rely on them your faults come to an end And your good qualities grow like the waxing moon. Cherish spiritual teachers even more than your own body -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 7. Bound himself in the jail of cyclic existence, What worldly god can give you protection? Therefore when you seek refuge, take refuge in The Three Jewels which will not betray you -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 8. The Subduer said that all the unbearable suffering of bad rebirths Is the fruit of wrongdoing. Therefore, even at the cost of your life, never do wrong -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 9. Like dew on the tip of a blade of grass, pleasures of the three worlds Last only a while and then vanish. Aspire to the never-changing supreme state of liberation -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 10. When your mothers, who have loved you since time without beginning, Are suffering, what use is your own happiness? Therefore to free limitless living beings, Develop the altruistic intention -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 11. All suffering comes from the wish for your own happiness. Perfect Buddhas are born from the thought to help others. Therefore exchange your own happiness For the suffering of others -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 12. Even if someone out of strong desire Steals all of your wealth or has it stolen, Dedicate to him your body, your possessions And your virtue, past, present and future -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 13. Even if someone tries to cut off your head When you have not done the slightest thing wrong, Out of compassion take all his misdeeds Upon yourself -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas. 14. Even if someone broadcasts all kinds of unpleasant remarks About you throughout the three thousand worlds, In return, with a loving mind, Speak of his good qualities -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 15. Though someone may deride and speak bad words About you in a public gathering, Looking on him as a spiritual teacher, Bow to him with respect -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 16. Even if a person for whom you have cared Like your own child regards you as an enemy, Cherish him specially, like a mother Does her child who is stricken with sickness -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 17. If an equal or inferior person Disparages you out of pride, Place him, as you would your spiritual teacher, With respect on the crown of your head -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 18. Though you lack what you need and are constantly disparaged, Afflicted by dangerous sickness and spirits, Without discouragement take on the misdeeds And the pain of all living beings -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 19. Though you become famous and many bow to you, And you gain riches to equal Vaishravana's, See that worldly fortune is without essence, And do not be conceited -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 20. While the enemy of your own anger is not subdued Though you conquer external foes, they will only increase. Therefore with the militia of love and compassion Subdue your own mind -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 21. Sensual pleasures are like saltwater: The more you indulge, the more thirst increases. Abandon at once those things which breed Clinging attachment -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas...... 22. Whatever appears is your own mind. Your mind from the start is free from fabricated extremes. Understanding this, do not take to mind [inherent] signs of subject and object. This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 23. When you encounter attractive objects, Though they seem beautiful Like a rainbow in summer, do not regard them as real, and give up attachment. This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 24. All forms of suffering are like a child's death in a dream. Holding illusory appearances to be true makes you weary. Therefore, when you meet with disagreeable circumstances, See them as illusory -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 25. When those who want enlightenment must give even their body, There is no need to mention external things. Therefore without hope of return or any fruition Give generously -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 26. Without ethics you cannot accomplish your own wellbeing, So wanting to accomplish others' is laughable. Therefore without worldly aspirations Safeguard your ethical discipline -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 27. To Bodhisattvas who want a wealth of virtue Those who harm are like a precious treasure. Therefore towards all cultivate patience Without hostility -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 28. Seeing even Hearers and Solitary Realizers, who accomplish only their own good, Strive as if to put out a fire on their head, For the sake of all beings make joyful effort Toward the source of all good qualities -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 29. Understanding that disturbing emotions are destroyed By special insight with calm abiding, Cultivate concentration which surpasses The four formless absorptions -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 30. Since five perfections without wisdom Cannot bring perfect enlightenment, Along with skillful means cultivate the wisdom which does not conceive the Three spheres [as real] -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 31. If you do not examine your errors, You may look like a practitioner but not act as one. Therefore, always examining your own errors, Rid yourself of them -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 32. If through the influence of disturbing emotions You point out the faults of another Bodhisattva, You yourself are diminished, so do not mention the faults Of those who have entered the Great Vehicle -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 33. Reward and respect cause us to quarrel And make hearing, thinking and meditating decline. For this reason give up attachment to the households of Friends, relations and benefactors -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas...... 34. Harsh words disturb the minds of others And cause deterioration in a Bodhisattva's conduct. Therefore give up harsh words Which are unpleasant to others -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 35. Habitual disturbing emotions are hard to stop through counter actions. Armed with antidotes, the guards of mindfulness and mental alertness Destroy disturbing emotions like attachment at once, as soon as they arise -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 36. In brief, whatever you are doing, Ask yourself, "What is the state of my mind?" With constant mindfulness and mental alertness Accomplish others' good -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas..... 37. To remove the suffering of limitless beings, Understanding the purity of the three spheres, Dedicate the virtue from making such effort to enlightenment -- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.....

  For all who want to train on the Bodhisattva path, I have written The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, Following what has been said by excellent ones, On the meaning of sutras, tantras and treatises. Though not poetically pleasing to scholars, Owing to my poor intelligence and lack of learning, I have relied on the sutras and the words of the excellent, So I think these Bodhisattva practices are without error. However, as the great deeds of Bodhisattvas, Are hard to fathom for one of my poor intelligence, I beg the excellent to forgive all faults, Such as contradictions and non sequiturs. Through the virtues from this may all living beings, Gain the ultimate and conventional altruistic intention, And thereby become like the Protector Chenrezig, Who dwells in neither extreme -- not in the world nor in peace. This was written for his own and others' benefit by the monk Togmay, an exponent of scripture and reasoning, in a cave in Ngulchu Rinchen.

  Gyelsay Togmay Sangpo (Geshe Sonam Rinchen) was the author of The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. He lived from 1295 to 1369, being born in southwestern Tibet near Sakya. This work by him is about training the mind. This means ridding ourselves completely of all disturbing emotions and their imprints. At the very least it should help us to prevent their coarser forms and gradually to decrease them.



  Confusion / by Ngakpa Rig'dzin Dorje

  "Confusion in dealing with the situation of life as a fixed thing seems to be a sane approach. So what seems to be insane is enlightenment". - Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

  When some monstrous towering tidal-wave of Form erupts out of Emptiness, and hurtles towards one up the narrow gulf of karmic vision; or implodes thunderously down into its own empty nature, sucking like a maelstrom at the quaking core of one's being; there is a choice. It is always the choiceless choice, between compassion and compulsion. One could simply remain in the clear open dimension in which one is not separate from the ocean, the wave and the maelstrom; because they are the self-luminous nature of Mind, which joyously communicates itself. Or one could follow the wavey grain of ingrained coping-strategy, up its ever-dry river-bed into the arid back-country of the Six Realms, where the ripples of one's wake coalesce, rebuild and relaunch the identical hungry wave of one's nightmares....... A Sanskrit scholar recently brought to my attention the word pritagjana, which he had found in the commentaries to the Prajnaparamita Sutras. It is a reference to unenlightened people, and it literally means 'separate people' or 'separation people'. In the words of the Heart Sutra, the heart of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen: "Form is Emptiness; Emptiness is Form. Form is not other than Emptiness; Emptiness not other than Form." If one tends to lack confidence in the open dimension, the reflex is to look away from the vastness of one's inherent enlightenment, in the hope that one might be able to locate some more concrete form of security elsewhere. To possess that would mean separating Form from Emptiness, which is impossible; but the effort in itself is what curdles the ever-youthful freshness of ecstatic atheism into a search for happiness 'somewhere else'. This is taking refuge in activity which ironically divides one against oneself. Such is the characteristic nature of what is called samsara, 'circling'; because, as the English playwright Tom Stoppard put it, "A circle is the longest way back to the same place." There is no life-crisis which is not fundamentally this....... Whether Buddhism can offer any kind of resource in the circumstances has to depend, first of all, on whether one is a Buddhist. This is not an idle point: it depends on whether Buddhism is one's Refuge. "The Refuge that one may recite is not the Refuge itself". The ultimate Refuge would be never to lose confidence in self-knowing inseparable Mind-and-Space. Then, attraction, aversion or indifference could only arise as non-dual experience within the nature of mind, one's essential condition, beyond the tension of trying to keep subject and object divided. Only the liberated karmas of the Buddhas would then apply: increasing, pacifying, controlling and destroying, directed spontaneously towards whatever situation arose, whatever beings were in need. That option would be actual compassion, appropriate activity, the spontaneous, choiceless reflex of Wisdom-Mind.



Heart and Mind
  Among the Major Religious Traditions of the world, Buddhism has continued as a living tradition for over 2,500 years. It was founded in the East by Shakyamuni Buddha, yet that fact does not mean that Buddhism is simply an oriental custom or culture. From a Buddhist point of view, spirituality is basic and fundamental to all people without exception. Each person has the inherent potential to attain the highest possible sanity--the complete awakened mind. What is introduced through Buddhism is the means to recognize and experience this potential, no matter who we are. It is important to recognize that true spirituality can be assimilated into and permeate a culture, but on the other hand a particular set of customs and beliefs cannot become assimilated into what is spiritual. Since Buddhism addresses what is basically and fundamentally true of the phenomenal world and our own existence, it is not confined to a set of beliefs or customs designed for a particular group or locality....... There are two ways in which we can relate to the phenomenal world and to ourselves. One point of view is the way we normally perceive the phenomenal world and ourselves, and the other is the point of view of knowing things as they really are, fundamentally and ultimately. Most of the time our relationship to the world around us accords not with its basic nature but with our perceptions of it. We do not experience our own basic nature, the potential for the completely awakened state of mind; instead we experience only what we see. The result is that we experience tremendous conflict in our lives. No matter how hard we try to work things out, there is always disorder and dissatisfaction, always something missing. No matter how much we seem to have accomplished, there is still more to achieve. This dissatisfaction continues and its scale increases, because what we are fundamentally and how we perceive are not the same....... When we act according to our mistaken perception of the world and cling to it as fundamentally true, we react to chaos and dissatisfaction as if it came from the outside. We feel threatened or victimized by external situations, and feel that we must run away from the causes of dissatisfaction. Our confusion is compounded by the fact that we take these problems to be very real. We try many different means to escape, but never really think about the possibility of working with ourselves....... There might be a more workable situation if we began to work with our own existence rather than some external reference point. Our present situation includes both the object outside, something to be held by consciousness, and consciousness itself, which holds and acknowledges, accepts or rejects these objects. We fail to recognize this dual involvement of subject and object, fail to recognize that it is not simply the thing out there, on its own, that is threatening us and causing chaos, and so we blame the object as the cause of our chaos, our problems, our dissatisfactions. When we begin to have some sense of the relation between subject and object, we may begin to see that it is our own mental projections that are reflected back into our mind. Instead of recognizing them as our own, however, we think of them as problems existing outside of us and try to work them out externally. The fact that the chaos and dissatisfaction continue shows that going along with our perceptions is really mistaken....... The Tibetan word for Buddhism, nangpa, has the meaning of internalizing, indicating that we need to turn inward and work within ourselves. By doing so and gaining a clearer sense of who we really are, we develop a sense of our existence as it relates to all that surrounds us. If we look outside and try to figure out what is out there based on confused mental projections, we will never recognize who we are. What is fundamentally true is that the experience of pain or pleasure is not so much what is happening externally as it is what is happening internally: the experience of pain or pleasure is mainly a state of mind. Whether we experience the world as enlightened or confused depends on our state of mind....... Another cause of our confusion is a misunderstanding of how things originate. As far as our relationship to the world is concerned, this phenomenal world exists based on interdependent origination. Nothing whatsoever, not even the most minute particle, exists independently or permanently on its own. No matter how truly, how permanently, or how reliably an object may seem to exist, as far as the true nature of world and phenomena are concerned, it lacks true existence. This also applies to our own mind. When we relate to the phenomenal world from a point of view contrary to its real nature, we create problems for ourselves....... From a Buddhist point of view, any problem, any dissatisfaction comes directly from ourselves. We must understand this in order to establish a healthy basis for our lives and come to see dissatisfaction as an expression of our mental habits. We have become addicted to these patterns, because we have not recognized our own resources. We have inherited a basic richness and wealth, but through habitual clinging, we have acted contrary to who we are and what we have, and so experience conflict. It is like a child who has been spoiled: the child did not start out that way, but was exposed to all kinds of influences that made him or her into a spoiled child....... It is also interesting to recognize that we constantly go about making the claim that 'I' am doing this or that, but the basic expression of our life in the world is that we are completely powerless. We have no control, as our thinking and knowing mind is constantly distracted. We have no real knowledge or memory of what is happening. We are a machine run by the play of external phenomena, by the glamour of what we see, and yet we maintain the fixation that 'I' am doing it, that 'I' am in charge of any particular situation. When we have proper mindfulness--an alert and attentive mind--then we really begin to have power, in the sense that we understand what is happening within and around us. It is a matter of being alive or not being alive. The way we run our lives seems like an enormous joke, as if each one of us were a big, important leader in name and credentials, but had no power at all and didn't even know what was happening. We certainly do have a big name, 'I.' 'I' wants the world to know 'me' but it is all parroting, the machine is being operated from behind, because there is no alertness, no sense of being present or really alive. Our life is governed, dictated by our habits of confusion, obscuration, and distraction....... In order to change this situation, Buddhism introduces the skillful means of meditation practice. We must begin to learn to sit with ourselves and feel more comfortable with who we are. Meditation practice does not mean that we have something to meditate upon, or that something new or totally different is going to happen in our lives....... Meditation simply means cultivating a wholesome and sane habit, which becomes an antidote for the unwholesome, confused, destructive habits that we have developed. Meditation practice enables us to experience our own thinking and knowing. Meditation is mindfulness, and in order to experience this we must repeatedly apply the methods, because any habit, wholesome or unwholesome, is developed by repetition....... In short, Buddhism is something universal, based on what is fundamentally true of the world and ourselves, no matter who we are, what problems we might have, or what our particular historical background might be.

  This teaching was given by His Eminence at NY State University, Albany, on October 7, 1985. It was translated by Ngodup Burkhar and edited by Laura Roth, and appeared in Densal Vol. 7 No. 1.



  OM MANI PADME HUM / By His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  It is very good to recite the mantra Om mani padme hum, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast. The first, Om is composed of three letters, A, U, and M. These symbolize the practitioner's impure body, speech, and mind; they also symbolize the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.......... Can impure body, speech, and mind be transformed into pure body, speech, and mind, or are they entirely separate? All Buddhas are cases of beings who were like ourselves and then in dependence on the path became enlightened; Buddhism does not assert that there is anyone who from the beginning is free from faults and possesses all good qualities. The development of pure body, speech, and mind comes from gradually leaving the impure states arid their being transformed into the pure.......... How is this done? The path is indicated by the next four syllables. Mani, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method-the altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassion, and love. Just as a jewel is capable of removing poverty, so the altruistic mind of enlightenment is capable of removing the poverty, or difficulties, of cyclic existence and of solitary peace. Similarly, just as a jewel fulfills the wishes of sentient beings, so the altruistic intention to become enlightened fulfills the wishes of sentient beings.......... The two syllables, padme, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom. Just as a lotus grows forth from mud but is not sullied by the faults of mud, so wisdom is capable of putting you in a situation of non-contradiction whereas there would be contradiction if you did not have wisdom. There is wisdom realizing impermanence, wisdom realizing that persons are empty, of being self-sufficient or substantially existent, wisdom that realizes the emptiness of duality-that is to say, of difference of entity between subject an object-and wisdom that realizes the emptiness of inherent existence. Though there are many different types of wisdom, the main of all these is the wisdom realizing emptiness.......... Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable hum, which indicates indivisibility. According to the sutra system, this indivisibility of method and wisdom refers to wisdom affected by method and method affected by wisdom. In the mantra, or tantric, vehicle, it refers to one consciousness in which there is the full form of both wisdom and method as one undifferentiable entity. In terms of the seed syllables of the five Conqueror Buddhas, hum is the seed syllable of Akshobhya - the immovable, the unfluctuating, that which cannot be disturbed by anything.......... Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha. It is said that you should not seek for Buddhahood outside of yourself; the substances for the achievement of Buddhahood are within. As Maitreya says in his Sublime Continuum of the Great Vehicle (Uttaratantra), all beings naturally have the Buddha nature in their own continuum. We have within us the seed of purity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (Tathagatagarbha), that is to be transformed and fully developed into Buddhahood.



  The Dharma Tree / An Essay by Prof. R.P. Hayes

  This message is for relative beginners to Buddhism. It may be insufficiently sophisticated for the tastes of advanced practitioners, seasoned scholars and self-styled lobsters. It is also long, so you may wish to print it out and read it at your leisure....... Buddhism comes in a bewildering variety of schools and traditions, and a newcomer can spend quite some time being lost in apparently meaningless detail. Even after thirty years of studying Buddhism as an academic and practicing in several different traditions, I still find myself overwhelmed by the complexity of it all and have long since resigned myself to having a very superficial understanding of most of Buddhism and an only slightly less superficial understanding of a few specific traditions. So, since my understanding is superficial, it may be of some use to a few others who are also just beginning to scratch the surface....... It is helpful to think of Buddhism by picturing a very large and old tree. Such a tree usually has a single trunk, a number of main branches rising out of the trunk, some limbs on each branch, some twigs on each limb and some leaves on each twig. Beneath the surface of the earth is a root system that, like the part above the ground, branches into ever smaller units....... In imagining such a tree, think first of the single trunk that arises out of the roots and that supports all the many branches, limbs and twigs. This trunk is the action of going for refuge. It is the one thing that every Buddhist does, and it is the most important aspect of any Buddhist's study and practice. Every doctrine within Buddhism, every school and every practice can be seen as a particular outgrowth of this one essential action, which a Buddhist repeats again and again, namely, the action of going for refuge. In Pali this action is called sarana-gamana. Gamana means going. Sarana means shelter, support, help or guidance. Going for refuge to something means going to it for help and guidance and support. Almost invariably, it is something that one first does as a result of some crisis in one's life, some bit of unwelcome reality that one just cannot deal adequately with on one's own. So one turns to something outside oneself for help....... What makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is not just the fact of going for refuge. Most people go for refuge to something or another: acquaintances, alcohol, their careers, drugs, education, entertainment, experts, family, physical fitness clubs, psychiatrists, religion, sexual conquests, study, support groups, travel, or even the zoo. What makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is that he or she goes for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha....... The three principal roots of the tree, therefore, are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. But there is not any one single meaning to any of these words. Each of them has many meanings to a Buddhist, so we can imagine each of the three main roots in the root system sending out branches. To describe each main root in detail is not necessary just now. Let's just sketch out each one briefly....... The central root is the Dharma. This word has several meanings. The most important meaning in a Buddhist context is Nirvana, which is seen by all Buddhists as the greatest possible good. Nirvana means the eradication (uprooting) of the root causes of all dissatisfaction. All Buddhists are striving for that final elimination of dissatisfaction. So that is the principal meaning of dharma. But the word Dharma also means that which helps one to achieve that final goal of Nirvana. What helps one to achieve that goal is a positive and healthy mentality; a single word for that is the word "virtue". So a secondary meaning of the word "dharma" is "virtue" in the sense of good character. But "dharma" also means that which helps one acquire virtue. So a tertiary meaning of "dharma" is a teaching. Any teachings that help one achieve Nirvana can be considered dharma, but usually Buddhists take refuge especially in the teachings preserved in the Sutras (recorded sermons and conversations of the Buddha and his most trusted male and female disciples) and in the Vinaya (the disciplinary code for monks and nuns, people who renounced the household life in order to dedicate all their time and energy to working for Dharma)....... The other two main roots are the Buddha and the Sangha. There are several different views about what exactly the nature of a Buddha is, but everyone agrees that there have been many Buddhas throughout history and that the most recent was Siddhartha Gautama (or in Pali, Siddhattha Gotama), also know as the silent sage (muni) of the Sakiya (Sanskrit, Shakya) people; the Sakiyas were a tribal people, probably racially and certainly culturally distinct from the Aryans. So when Siddhartha Gautama went into the cities of Benares and so forth in the Ganges valley, he probably looked and talked like a foreigner and acted in ways that people found a bit odd. There are several texts in which people comment on the fact that he is a barbarian and therefore unworthy of the kind of respect that one normally shows to civilized people. But, despite his foreign origins and a certain amount of prejudice against him, the Buddha managed to win the respect of quite a few important people, including several Kings and military leaders and wealthy merchants and learned scholars of his day. All of these people respected him as a teacher and guide. So when one goes for refuge to the Buddha, one honours him as the best teacher of human beings and gods, the finest man to walk on two feet. In other words, he is a Buddhist's principal role model....... The word "Sangha" means a group or community. The Sangha to which a Buddhist goes for refuge is the ariya-sangha, which means the Noble Community of people who have attained insight and virtue and who have either attained or come very close to attaining Nirvana. It is important to realize that not all members of the Noble Community are monks or nuns, and that not all monks or nuns are members of the Noble Community. So a Buddhist does not go for refuge to the community of monks or nuns or even to the community of people who declare themselves to be Buddhists, but to the community of all excellent people everywhere whose insight and purity of character is significantly superior to that of the average human being. The word "Sangha" can also refer to other communities, such as the community of monks (bhikkhu-sangha), the community of nuns (bhikkhuni-sangha), the community of householders who support the monks and nuns (upasaka-sangha) and to the entire community of people who heard the Buddha and formally went to him for refuge (savaka-sangha). Sometimes some Buddhists find it convenient to think of the community of Buddhists as a whole as a kind of concrete symbol of the much more abstract notion of the Noble Sangha of excellent people to which they go for refuge....... These three roots support the trunk of the tree, which is the single act of going for refuge, the essence of Buddhism as an organized religion. There are many different ways of going for refuge. Ultimately, you could say that there are as many ways as there have been individual Buddhists throughout the history of Buddhism, because ultimately going for refuge is an individual decision that each individual has to figure out how to put into practice is his or her life. We can think of the individual Buddhists as the leaves on the tree. Leaves grow on twigs attached to limbs that grow out of branches out of the main trunk. So now let's look at the main branches....... The branches of the tree can be seen as being based mostly on collections of books that are believed to contain teachings of the Buddha and his most trusted disciples (and disciples of his disciples down through the ages). One main branch was known as the Savaka (Sanskrit Shravaka) branch. These people chose to base their practice on doctrines that were believed by everyone to be the public teachings of the Buddha to his monks and lay disciples. At one time there were many limbs of this Savaka branch, but only one of them has lived to modern times. That is the limb known as Theravada, which means the teachings of the elders. An elder is a monk who has been ordained for a minimum of ten years and who is acknowledged to have attained insight. Officially, the Theravada school is based only on what has been transmitted by these elders down through the ages. This body of teachings have been preserved in a pali, a word that means a straight line. The English word "canon" comes from a Greek word meaning a straight line or a straight-edge, so early translators of Buddhist texts translated the word "pali" as "canon" and redundantly named the works of this school the Pali Canon. The language in which that canon is preserved is called the Pali language. While many Theravadin teachers admire and study and refer to individuals and writings that are not in the Pali canon, the framework within which all teachings are interpreted is provided by the Pali canon. The Theravada school exists nowadays in Sri Lanka (formerly called Ceylon), Myanmar (formerly called Burma), Thailand (formerly called Siam), Laos, Cambodia and parts of Vietnam....... A second branch of the tree is one that itself immediately branches into a lot of different limbs. What all the limbs on this branch have in common is that they accept the authority of texts that the Shravaka branch explicitly rejected as being the teachings of the historical Buddha. This branch can be called the Mahayana branch. The number of Mahayana texts is so large that no one can hope to read them all within a single lifetime, so usually Mahayana Buddhists specialize by focusing on just a few texts or sometimes only one text. The Zen school, for example, is said to have originally been based on the transmission of one text, called the Lankavatara Sutra (the full title of which means the introduction of the true dharma into Sri Lanka, a country that had both Theravada and Mahayana branches of Buddhism). The so-called Pure Land schools of Buddhism were based on texts describing beautiful realms into which one could be reborn in order to pursue dharma more easily than is possible in our difficult world. There are several twigs growing out of a limb known as Lotus Buddhism, which is based on the White Lotus of the True Dharma, a sutra that attempts to reconcile all the branches of Buddhism into one; one of the best known twigs on this limb is Nichiren Buddhism, out of which has grown a twiglet known as Soka Gakkai International, which has made quite an impact in the United States (and throughout the world) through its energetic proselytizing. Quite a lot of these limbs intertwine and grown together in various ways, rather like the tangled mess of a banyan tree or a briar patch....... Mahayana Buddhism once thrived in China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. It is now very weak in China and has been for most of this century. It has completely disappeared from Indonesia, which is now a Muslim country. Only about one-third of the population of Korea is still Buddhist; the majority of Koreans are now Christians. In Vietnam, there is now one single form of Buddhism, which resulted from combining Theravada and Mahayana into a single school. It has been considerably weakened by all the wars and revolutions in that country, and by the recent passion for modernization. In Japan interest in Buddhism is rapidly declining in most sectors of the population and is being displaced by hundreds of so-called New Religions (some of which pay at least a token respect to something vaguely Buddhist in character). It is quite possible that Mahayana Buddhism could disappear from Asia within the next twenty-five years. Sadly, this once-strong and healthy branch is now rotting and may collapse of its own weight....... The third branch of the tree is the Vajra branch. (It might be more accurate to say this is a limb growing out of Mahayana, but it has become distinctive enough to be regarded now as a separate branch unto itself.) The word vajra means a clap of thunder. It also means a diamond. The texts upon which this branch is based are known as tantras, so this form of Buddhism is also called Tantric Buddhism. Tantras are usually written in a kind of code so that their meaning is not apparent to someone who has not been initiated into them. Unlike other forms of Buddhism, tantric Buddhism is therefore esoteric. One cannot study it or practice it without a special teacher, who confers special baptisms (abhisheka) that give people a special grace or power by which they can put the teachings into practice. Tantric Buddhism is the main form of Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia (which got it from Tibet). There are also tantric forms of Buddhism in China, which in turn transmitted tantric forms to Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Even forms of Buddhism that are not strictly speaking purely tantric (if there is such a thing) have been influenced by tantric thinking and some tantric practices. So, for example, Vietnamese Buddhism is now a very interesting and healthy synthesis of Theravada, several limbs of Mahayana such as Zen and Pure Land and scholasticism, and tantric Buddhism. Korean Buddhism is now a synthesis of Zen, Pure Land and various scholastic forms of Mahayana Buddhism, with elements of tantra appearing here and there....... The roots, the single trunk and the branches have now all been explained. All that remains is to discuss what the whole tree is made of. It is made of two ingredients, wood and sap. The wood, which is the substantial core of all Buddhism, is Wisdom. The sap, which keeps the tree alive by transmitting nourishment from the deep roots to the individual leaves, is Compassion. Without the sap of compassion running throughout the tree, the whole tree would quickly die. Without the wood of wisdom, the sap would have no means of flowing and would quickly evaporate. So neither can be seen as more essential than the other. The two together are the life force of the tree of dharma.

  If I may, I would like to end by recommending two books, one that is full of information, and the other that has tips about practice. Both are easily ordered through your local bookstore or directly from their publisher, Windhorse Publications....... Andrew Skilton. "A Concise History of Buddhism." Windhorse Publications, 1994. [Offers an intelligent and readable thumbnail sketch of the different branches of Buddhism and their spread into different geographical areas within India and then outside India]...... Paramananda, "Changing Your Mind." Windhorse Publications, 1997. [A very readable, informative and practical guide to traditional Buddhist meditational practices, written especially for modern Westerners.]...... The address of Windhorse Publications in England is Unit 1-316 The Custard Factory Gibb Street Birmingham B9 4AA...... In America the address of the main distributor is: 14 Heartwood Circle Newmarket, NH 03957



  Buddhism as a religion / By K. Sri Dhammananda, 1994

  Since there are already so many religions in this world, why is it necessary for us to have another religion called Buddhism? Is there any extraordinary characteristic or contribution or significant feature that Buddhism has which other religions do not have? There is a school of thought, which says that all religions are essentially the same. There are no significant differences....... The only difference is in the interpretation and practice. After all, in the final analysis, all of us end in one place, either heaven or hell. That is the common belief of most religions. Does Buddhism share this viewpoint? To answer this question we have to examine what is meant by religion.

  In the academic study of religion as a phenomenon in history the term ‘religion’ can be considered in its different aspects: as an inner experience, as theology, or intellectual formulation of doctrine, as a basis or source of ethics and as an element in culture....... Different scholars have given different views and opinions of its nature and meaning. According to Aldous Huxley, religion is, among other things, a system of education, by means of which human beings may train themselves, first to make desirable changes in their own personalities and in society, and second, to heighten consciousness and so establish more adequate relations between themselves and the universe of which they are parts....... Modern lndian philosophers like Dr. Radhakrishnan, have expounded the theme that religion is not a set of doctrines but that it is experience. And religious experience is based on the realisation of the 'presence of the divine in man.’ H.G. Wells says ‘religion is the central part of our education that determines our moral conduct’. The German philosopher, Kant, stated that ‘religion is the recognition of our moral principles as laws that must not be transgressed.’...... The Buddha’s message as a religious way of life: “Keeping away from all evil deeds, cultivation of life by doing good deeds and purification of mind from mental impurities.” For our purposes, religion may be defined in a very broad sense as a body of moral and philosophical teachings and the acceptance with confidence of such teachings. In this sense, Buddhism is a religion....... Buddhism however does not neatly fit into the general categories outlined earlier because it does not share common features with other existing religions in many ways. To consider this matter further let us first of all briefly examine how religion could have come into being.

  Why did religion originate? You might have heard that the origins of religion lie in man’s fear, suspicion and insecurity. in the days before organised religions began, people did not have adequate knowledge and they could not understand the real nature of this life and what would happen to them after their deaths. They could not understand even the causes of natural phenomena or natural occurrences....... According to their limited understanding, they suspected there must be certain unknown forces, which created all these, pleasant or unpleasant things. Eventually, they began to notice that there is an energy behind the forces of nature which they called ‘shakti’. They experienced an inexplicable sense of awe and dread towards these powers which they felt could harm them in some way. They therefore felt that these powers must be placated and used to protect or at least to leave them alone. Not trusting their ability to “talk” to these forces in ordinary language, they thought it would be more effective to mime their messages....... Finally the actions to enlist the favour of these forces became ritualised into forms of worship. Some people were identified as having special powers to communicate with these forces and they enjoyed great power in the group....... After worshipping and praying, early men thought they could control the undesirable occurrences and at the same time ensure a degree of protection as reward from these unseen forces or energies. To help them better visualise what they were trying to communicate with, they gave each force a name and a form - either conceiving it in human or in grotesque non-human form, but always evoking a sense of awe and fear. As time went by, they forgot the original significance of these representations and took them for real and eventually accepted them as deities....... Different cultures translated ideas and concepts into physical form and developed particular rituals to honour and worship these images as gods. Later as early urban settlements began and social control became necessary certain practices were used as the bases to develop moral behaviour and to guide citizens in the correct path to ensure the well being of the community. Thus developed concepts such as humanism, human responsibilities and human values such as honesty, kindness, compassion, patience, tolerance, devotion, unity and harmony....... To ensure that these qualities would be further enhanced, the leaders instilled fear in the believers, threatening them with punishment by the gods in the life hereafter if they did not behave in an accepted manner. Religion was the result of the fusion of moral behaviour and belief in the supernatural. We will discuss Morality in greater detail later.

Concept of God
  This is how imagination and humanism eventually fused together to become religion. Some people say that it is difficult to believe that any god created religion. Perhaps we could say that man created religion and later introduced the concept of a god into religion. An American philosopher, Prof. Whitehead, once stated that originally man created god and later god created man. What he meant was that the concept of god was created by man and later this concept was transformed into divinity....... On the other hand, a French philosopher, Anatole France said that if the concept of god did not exist, some how or other, man would have created one because it is very important for his psyche. A divine power is necessary to allay our innate fear, suspicion, worries, disturbances, anxiety and craving. To avoid problems we depend on an external force to give us solace. Knowing the nature of the human mind, therefore, Anatole France said that if a god did not exist we would have to create one....... In this sense we are just like children. When a small baby is crying and the mother is too busy to carry it, what she does is to put a teat in its mouth to comfort it. That will stop the baby from crying. The concept of god helps many people in this manner. To stop their worries and dry their tears they develop various pacifiers in the form of religious beliefs and practices.

The Buddha
  It was in a religious climate such as this that the Buddha appeared. As a prince living in the lap of luxury he started to think very deeply on why living beings suffer in this world. What is the cause of this suffering? he asked. One day while he was sitting under a tree as a young boy, he saw a snake suddenly appear and catch a frog. As the snake and the frog were struggling, an eagle swooped down from the sky and took away the snake with the frog still in its mouth. That incident was the turning point for the young prince to renounce the worldly life....... He began to think about how living beings on the earth and in the water survive by preying on each other. One life form tries to grab and the other tries to escape and this eternal battle will continue as long as the world exists. This never-ending process of hunting, and self-preservation is the basis of our unhappiness. It is the source of all suffering. The Prince decided that he would discover the means to end this suffering.

  He studied under various religious teachers and learnt everything they had to teach but was unable to discover how to end suffering. He spent many years pondering this question. Finally at the age of 29, he seriously contemplated on old age, sick-ness, death and freedom through renuncia-tion, and decided that without giving up his worldly preoccupations and his responsibilities and pleasures it would be impossible for him to find the answer. That is why he had to leave the palace in what is known as “The Great Renunciation”....... After struggling for six years, which represented the culmination of endless life cycles of cultivation and struggle for spiritual development, he finally gained enlightenment and understood the secret of our suffering. This was the beginning of another religious system,. But it was a religion like nothing anyone had known in the past. In fact many people today do not even like to call Buddhism a religion, because the word ‘religion’ evokes a great many negative emotions in their minds.

Beliefs and Practices in India
  There was no reason at all for the Buddha to introduce another religion because at that time 2600 years ago there were already 62 religious cults in India alone. Since the existing religions during his time could not provide the answers to his questions he decided not to use the ingredients or concepts of these religions to introduce what he himself had realised....... What was the religious thinking in India at the time? “God created everybody; god is responsible for everything; god will reward; god can forgive all our sins; and god is responsible for our lives after our death; god will send us to heaven or he will send us to hell”....... These are the basic ingredients of all religions even today. At the same time there were certain other religions also in India which taught that it was necessary for believers to torture their physical bodies, thinking that they could wash away all their sins during their lifetimes so they could go to heaven after death....... Another religious group encouraged religious rites and rituals and ceremonies and animal sacrifices to please their gods. This group believed that through these practices they could go to heaven. Some others again introduced prayer and worship and asked forgiveness for the sins committed. The Buddha did not recognise the efficacy of all these practices.

Did Buddha Make Any Promises?
  The Buddha did not promise heavenly bliss and rewards to those who called themselves his followers nor did he promise salvation to those who had faith in him. To him religion was not a bargain but a noble way of life to gain enlightenment and salvation. The Buddha did not want followers with blind faith; he wanted human beings to think and understand. Buddhism is a noble path for living where humanism, equality, justice and peace reign supreme. Revengefulness, animosity, condemnation and resentment are alien to the Teaching....... The world is indebted to the Buddha for the rise of rationalism as protest against the superstitions of religion. It is he who emancipated man from the thraldom of the priests. It is he who first showed the way to free man from the coils of hypocrisy and religious dictatorship....... During the Buddha’s time no religious practice was considered higher than the rites, rituals and sacrifice of living beings to the gods; but to the Buddha no practice could be more humiliating or degrading to man. A sacrifice is nothing more than bribery; and salvation won by bribery and corruption is not a salvation which any self-respecting man would care to get.

Religious Teminology
  But in introducing his doctrine, the Buddha did use the existing religious terms current in India at the time because in this way he would be on familiar ground with his listeners. They would grasp what he was alluding to and then he could proceed to develop his original ideas from this common ground....... Dharma, Karma, Nirvana, Moksha, Niraya, Samsara, Atma are some words which were common to all religious groups during his time. But in his teaching the Buddha gave very rational and unique meanings and interpretations to those existing religious terms.

  Let us take a look at the word dharma (or dhamma), for example. The ancient interpretation given to the word dharma is that it is a law given by the god. According to ancient belief the god promised to appear from time to time to protect this dharma by taking different incarnations. The Buddha did not accept that any god could have given doctrines and commandments and religious laws. The Buddha used the word dharma to describe his entire teaching. Dharma means that which holds up, upholds, supports. The Buddha taught the dharma to help us escape the suffering caused by existence and to prevent us from degrading human dignity and descending into lower states such as hell, animal, the spirit or ghost or devil realms. The dharma introduced by the Buddha holds and supports us, and frees us from the misery of these realms. It also means that if we follow the methods he advocates we will never get into such unfortunate circumstances as being born blind, crippled, deaf, dumb or mad. So in the Buddha’s usage, dharma is the advice given to support us in our struggle to be free from suffering and also to upgrade human values. Western philosophers describe Buddhism as a noble way of life or as ‘a religion of freedom and reason’....... The Dharma is not an extraordinary law created by or given by anyone. Our body itself is Dharma. Our mind itself is Dharma; the whole universe is Dharma. By understanding the nature of the physical body and the nature of the mind and worldly conditions we realise the Dharma. The Buddha taught us to understand the nature of our existence rationally in a realistic way. It concerns the life, here and now, of each sentient being and thus interrelatedly of all existence....... Usually when people talk about religion they ask, “What is your faith?” They use the word “faith.” The Buddha was not interested in the development of “faith” in an absolute sense, although it can be useful in the preliminary stages of one’s religious development. The danger of relying on faith alone without analytical knowledge is that it can make us into religious fanatics. Those who allow faith to crystallise in their minds cannot see other peoples’ point of view because they have already established in their minds that what they believe is alone the truth. The Buddha insisted that one must not accept even his own Teachings on the basis of faith alone....... One must gain knowledge and then develop understanding through study, discussion, meditation and finally contemplation. Knowledge is one thing, understanding is another. If there is understanding one can adjust one’s life according to changing circumstances based on the knowledge one has. We may have met learned people who know many things but are not realistic because their egoism, their selfishness, their anger, their hatred do not allow them to gain unbiased mental attitudes and peace of mind. When it is necessary to compromise, we must know how to compromise. When it is necessary to tolerate, we must know how to tolerate. When it is necessary to stand firm we must stand firm, with dignity.

  Let us take another example, the word karma (or kamma). It simply means action. If a person commits a bad karma it will be impossible for that person to escape from its bad effect. Somehow or other he or she must face the consequences that will follow....... According to ancient belief there is a god to operate the effect of this karma. God punishes according to one’s bad karma; god rewards according to one’s good karma. The Buddha did not accept this belief. He said there is no being or force which handles the operation of the effects of karma. Karma itself will yield the result, as a neutral operation of the law of cause and effect....... He said we could avoid and, in some cases, even overcome the effect of karma if we act wisely. He said we must never surrender ourselves fatalistically thinking that once we have done bad action there can be no more hope. Other religions teach that god can negate the effect of karma through forgiveness if the followers worship and pray and sacrifice. But the Buddha teaches that we have to effect our salvation by our own effort and mental purity....... “The Buddha can tell you what to do but he can not do the work for you.” You have to do the work of salvation yourself. The Buddha has clearly stated that no one can do any thing for another for salvation except show the way. Therefore we must not depend on god, and not even depend on the Buddha. We must know what are the qualities, duties, and responsibilities of being a human being. He said that if we have committed certain bad karma, we should not waste precious energy by being frustrated or disappointed in our effort to put it right....... The first thing to do is to firmly resolve to stop repeating such bad karma by realising the harm it can do. The second thing is to cultivate more and more good karma. Thirdly, we must try to reduce evil thought, selfishness, hatred, anger, jealousy, grudges, and ill will. In this way we can reduce the bad effect of the bad karma that we commit....... This is the Buddha’s method for overcoming the bad effects. He did not say we must pray to and worship him and that he would forgive all our sins....... Purity and impurity of our mind depend on ourselves. Neither god nor Buddha, or human being can pollute or purify one’s mind. I cannot create impurity in your mind, I cannot purify your mind. But by taking my word or my action you create either purity or impurity within yourself. Outsiders cannot do anything for your mind if your mind is strong enough to resist it. That is why knowledge and understanding are important....... The Buddha taught that what man needs for his happiness is not a religion or a mass of theories but an understanding of the cosmic nature of the universe and its complete operation according to the laws of cause and effect. Until this fact is fully understood, man’s understanding of life and existence will remain imperfect and faulty....... 'The path that the Buddha showed us is, I believe, the only path humanity must tread if it to escape disaster' Jawaharlal Nehru

  The Buddha never claimed to have created the Dharma. What he discovered was the universal truth of the real nature of existence. In fact some religious terms were already well known in India at that time. But the Buddha’s uniqueness is that he took existing concepts and gave them very refined meanings and much deeper significance....... For example, before the Buddha’s time, “Nirvana” (or Nibbana) simply meant peace or extinction. But he gave it entirely new dimensions of meaning. NI means “no” and VANA means “craving”: No more craving, no more attachment and no more selfishness. We cannot experience Nirvana because we have craving, attachment and selfishness. When we get rid of these defilements we can experience Nirvanic bliss....... It is difficult to experience true bliss because we have emotions and we crave for sensual gratification. üo long as we live entangled in this world of sensual pleasures we will never experience true happiness. Of course it is true that we experience some kind of happiness in life but it cannot be termed “happiness” in the absolute sense of the word because it is not permanent....... We cannot gain bliss by harbouring anger or hatred, selfishness or delusion. Occasionally, we do experience certain degrees of emotional satisfaction, but the nature of this happiness is just like lightning, it is fleeting. It appears for a moment and disappears the next. True bliss is not like this. If there is true bliss we will experience a permanent sense of calmness, satisfaction and tranquillity. So the real purpose of our lives should be to purify our clouded, deluded, misled minds and free ourselves from worries and disturbances. So long as we spend our time constantly solving problems, always looking over our shoulders, always wondering what to do next, we can never be at peace.

Develop the Mind
  The Buddha’s advice is that we should be free from these distractions if we want to experience bliss. This release must however be obtained by our own effort and come from within ourselves. We cannot gain salvation from a god or the Buddha or from heaven. We cannot get ultimate freedom through external agents. Supernatural beings cannot help us to gain wisdom and final liberation no matter how much we worship them or praise them through penances, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations and animal sacrifices....... “We are the results of what we were and we will be the results of what we are.” Actions condition our happiness or unhappiness and finally secure our salvation. Salvation or deliverance is an individual affair just as each human being has to eat, drink and digest and sleep for himself. All karmic actions are maintained as part of our mental formations and remain there submerged....... We remain oblivious of these past actions because the other mental activities cloud the mind which therefore cannot recall actions in the past. When we develop our minds through meditation we arrest the distractions provided by the five senses. When the mind is clear it reduces anxiety, craving, anger, jealousy and delusion. The mind that is clear becomes energetic and alert. This is when we can influence the mental activities and release enormous latent power. This is psychic power....... It is present in all of us: we only have to learn to release it through meditation. Another way of reaching the deposited mental activities is by hypnotism. Through hypnotism some people have developed a degree of psychic power, but it is not recommended because hypnotism depends on another agent and does not effect purification of the mind. The Buddha advised his followers to cultivate and develop the latent power within them and showed them how to make the best use of their will~power and intelligence without being slaves to an unknown being to find eternal happiness....... Without blaming anybody else, Buddhism also teaches that man is responsible for his own action. Man should face the facts of life, and shoulder the responsibilities of life by fulfilling his duties and obligations to himself as well as to others. His pain and pleasure are created by himself and he has the ability to get rid of his sufferings and maintain peace and happiness by under-standing his weaknesses and using his own effort to overcome them. Man’s untrained mind is responsible for all the troubles, calamities, disturbances, unfavourable circumstances and even the changes of elements and matter. Conversely man’s mind can change unfortunate situations in the world and also can make it a peaceful, prosperous and happy place for all to live....... This can be done only through the purification of mental energy. The Buddha’s technique of teaching was different from that of the others. He never gave prepared “public talks” or “lectures.” He always decided on a topic based on an immediate incident or observation. One of the marks of the Buddha’s genius and his skill as a teacher was his well-tried pedagogical practice of proceeding from the “known to the unknown.”...... For example on one occasion as he and his followers were walking along a river bank he noticed a piece of wood floating downstream. He stopped and asked, “What do you think of that piece of wood? What will happen to it?” One disciple answered, “lt may land on an island in the middle of the river”; others said, “It may get saturated with water and sink”; “People will take it and cut it up for firewood” and “It will complete its journey to the sea.” Now who is correct? Who can accurately predict the fate of the piece of wood?...... The Buddha then explained that our life is just like a piece of wood floating. downstream, full of uncertainty. No one can say what will happen to us the next day or the next month. His method was to take lessons from everyday life so that his teachings were always rooted in the here and now and totally relevant to human experience. ln this way, he gave due credit to human beings to think freely, by using their common sense. He did not introduce a religion to be practised slavishly out of fear and craving for any worldly gain: According to the Buddha a beautiful thought and word which is not followed by corresponding action is like a bright flower that has no scent and will bear no fruit....... The eightfold path introduced by the Buddha is a planned course of inward culture and progress. By merely resorting to external worship, ceremonies and prayers, one can never make progress in righteousness and inner development. Mere prayer for salvation, the Buddha says, is like “asking the farther bank of a river to come over so that one may get to the other side without personal effort.”

  Many religions claim that messages were revealed to mankind by a god. However some rationalists ask, if there is only one god, and he had given his message for the benefit of all mankind, why are there so many different beliefs in the world? If the message was meant for the whole of the human race what was the difficulty for the god to announce his message publicly so that there would be no room for doubt or misinterpretation? Everybody would accept the message and there would be no religious friction and the whole world could just follow the one message of the god. Many years ago, there was a religious seminar at the University of Malaya. There were five speakers, one from each religion. After they had talked, one student asked, “When we study our religion we get some information about this world and the universe and life. When we study science we get entirely different information. This information contradicts our religious concepts. So I do not know what to accept, the teaching of mg religion or the teaching of science.”...... One of the speakers replied, “Well I believe that god gave his doctrines in the form of a message to one man who then spread it to others, so we must believe the word of god.” But the student persisted, “How do you know that the people to whom this message was conveyed understood it correctly? Could it not have been distorted and misinterpreted in their minds and then passed on to posterity?”...... The Buddha on the other hand never claimed anything like receiving knowledge from outside sources. Throughout his ministry he always asserted that his listeners were free to question him and challenge his teachings so that they could personally realise the truth. He said, “Come and see” (Ehipassiko). He did not say “Come and believe.”...... Whenever he spoke anything, it was because he had personally tested the validity of the saying for himself as an ordinary human being. He claimed no divinity. He understood everything because he knew how he had to suffer during so many previous births for all the bad deeds he had committed through ignorance. He had learned the hard way....... He advised his followers through his own experience. He had done tremendous service to mankind by practising and observing the great (perfections) PARAMIS over countless lifetimes and finally experienced the supreme bliss. We have to ask ourselves which is more reliable, the testimony of one who speaks from personal experience or that of one who claims to have heard it from someone else who is always invisible.

Freedom of Thought
  The Buddha’s advice was not to depend on theories, on cults and gurus. In fact, at all times we must remain masters of ourselves through self-reliance. We must never surrender our dignity or freewill. The Buddha strongly advocated the doctrine of self-reliance, purity, courtesy, enlightenment, peace and universal love. He stressed the need for understanding because without it, psychic insight leading to wisdom cannot be obtained. He says “If you wish to see the end of your suffering and fear, develop discipline, compassion and wisdom.”...... We must always allow our minds the freedom to think and understand without depending on external influence. Those who depend on others are like small children. We must follow the example of the Buddha who said that when he was meditating to gain enlightenment no gods came to whisper in his ear to reveal hidden secrets of spiritual power. No one gave him any commandments or religious laws to introduce. He said, “I never had any teacher or divinity to teach me or tell me how to gain enlightenment. What I achieved I did by my .own effort, energy, knowledge and purity to gain supreme wisdom.”...... That is why he said that wisdom `arose’ in him at his enlightenment. Wisdom is latent in all of us. We only need to provide the right conditions for it to arise....... From the intellectual and philosophical content of Buddhism has arisen the freedom of thought, freedom of inquiry. This has no parallel in any of the established world religions. There is no obligation, no compulsion to believe or accept any doctrine....... The approach of Buddhism is one of seeing and understanding - it is a scientific attitude of mind. Fundamental philosophical doctrines taught in Buddhism are being more and more corroborated by new scientific discoveries. Buddhism advocates self-confidence, self-restraint, self-reliance and self-purification to the individual in society....... A strong feature of Buddhism is the importance it attaches to democratic ideals. Unhindered discussions are encouraged, where even contrary views are aired and lead to broadening and enriching of the mind. The orders of monks and nuns are constituted entirely on these democratic principles....... This is in accordance with the Dharma revealed by the Supreme Buddha, who had the openness and courage to exhort his followers not even to accept what he himself had pronounced, without prior examination and conviction. In fact, the Buddha had stated that the Dharma was his teacher and all he did was to reveal the truth of this universal Dharma, which had lain hidden from the people wallowing in their ignorance. We must give our minds the freedom to think without bias and to think independently....... Before his passing away the Buddha’s final words were “Be a refuge unto yourselves.” Why is it that after 45 years of preaching he uttered such words? Why did he not advise everyone to find salvation through him? What he meant was that we must not seek salvation by depending on others. We must develop our own confidence in ourselves. What wonderful and noble advice! You may perhaps now ask, ‘Why do we say “Buddham saranam gaccami?” ‘ (I go to the Buddha for refuge?)...... When we say this we do not mean that we depend on the Buddha. We mean that if we follow the Method taught by the Buddha we will develop the confidence to work out our own salvation. We certainly do not think that the Buddha will come one day and take us up to “heaven” in a glorious flight....... Some people say that the Buddha was only a human and not a god. Why should people follow him? They cannot understand that Buddhists do not expect their salvation directly from the Buddha but by practising the noble method taught by him. The Buddha’s Method from the very beginning was to train us how to work for the development of self-reliance by training our minds. Self-effort and self-realisation is the only path to salvation....... Any one can stand before the Buddha with dignity and not be like a slave. With hope and confidence one can determine one’s own fate. The Buddha will welcome you if you stand as a dignified human being....... But you must be prepared to be reasonable and listen to sensible arguments which are contradictory to your beliefs and have right observation. This should be the attitude of understanding people. When he was about to pass away, many great people, princes, ministers and even divine beings came to pay homage to him with flowers, but the Buddha instructed his attendant Ananda to tell them that if anyone wanted to honour their master, they had to follow his teachings. This shows that he did not want personal glory for himself or demand total submission to his power.

  After realising the truth, understanding people try to cultivate their minds to guard and protect themselves. They neither accept nor reject what is said by someone. Krishnamurti says that those who always depend on others’ ideas are second class human beings. Don’t accept or believe anything that is taught as religious practice and at the same time don’t reject it outright either. Certain things that we accept as true, we may later discover to be untrue after all....... Conversely, we may be forced to admit that certain things that we rejected at first may be true after all. That is why the Buddha has advised us to wait for a time and study, think, observe, investigate before we decide whether there is any truth in something we hear and whether to accept or to reject it. By relying on our emotions or blind faith or anxiety, we may accept certain things or even be sceptical. As a result of laziness or confusion of the mind we may reject or disbelieve something we hear. But we must give a chance for the mind to think and understand whether it is true or not.

  Mere faith is meaningless because faith must be tempered with the understanding that comes from training the mind. The main purpose of a religion must be to show a follower how to use his knowledge with critical understanding to maximise his sense of well being and self-fulfilment. No matter how much knowledge we have, if we do not uproot defilements and doubt in our minds, we will remain in an unhappy state. When we attain the highest state of purity (arahantahood) we completely uproot our cravings, anger, and delusion and establish total equanimity of the mind. It is then that the “pure ones” arrive at a state when they cannot create any bad thoughts....... They cannot utter harsh words or commit evil actions. One who has purified his mind is a hundred times superior to those who are powerful or those who have mere faith or knowledge and wallow in the impurities of the mind. We claim to be “civilised”, but how can we claim this when our minds show impure traits to the same extent as our “primitive” ancestors did thousands of years ago?...... All over the world people crowd in temples, churches, mosques and other places of worship to pray, do sacrifice, perform penance. But when they come out they have the same anger, craving, jealousy, grudges and enmity that they had before. People claim to be ‘religious’ when they pray and worship and perform religious ceremonies, but their MINDS remain selfish, and devious. If they are truly religious they will not discriminate against others, or hurt and ridicule others in their religious practices. The Buddha tried to open our minds to understand things perfectly without developing fanatical religious beliefs and discrimination.

  Another reason why the teaching of the Buddha does not fall into the category of an established religion is that there is no room for “heresy” in its system. A heresy is something that challenges the “word of god.” The Buddha freely invited both his followers and his opponents to challenge his teachings from every possible angle so that there would be no room for any kind of doubt. True to his injunctions his followers have argued about his doctrines and even founded different schools of Buddhism according to their understanding, without violence or bloodshed....... In fact at the famous Buddhist University of Nalanda (which was destroyed at the fanatical hands of other religionists), followers of Theravada and and Mahayana schools of Buddhism lived together and studied and debated their different points of view in perfect harmony. The Buddha taught that if anyone really believed that he knew the truth, then he should not be afraid to have it challenged, because the truth will always win....... Moreover, he actively encouraged anyone to challenge his teachings. His replies to numerous questions enriched the doctrine into a vast religious field which was faithfully recorded by his disciples. We are today able to answer any questions about Buddhism, simply by referring to the Buddha’s explanations. Rational thinking and the importance of inviting criticism are paramount in Buddhism.

  The test of a religious teaching is in its conformity with the findings of science and the attraction it casts on the minds of persons possessed of acute intelligence. Some religions have experienced a measure of discomfort, as science unfolds its discoveries. As a result certain modifications or re-interpretations of their scriptures have become necessary. In this respect Buddhism, the rational teaching of the Enlightened One, faces no such embarrassment, as its basic principles are in close harmony with the findings of science. Let us study just one example....... In the light of the latest studies of the atom, the old concept of the world is radically changing, just as the concept of the atom itself is changing. There is no more matter as it was believed in the past; it has been reduced to energy, and even concept of energy is disappearing gradually and the scientists themselves do not know what to call it. They are now coming to the conclusion that the atom is only a concept and by extension, that the world too is nothing but a conception. The more they make researches into the structure of the atom the more they seem to be convinced of this conclusion....... In Buddhism this theory was expounded sixteen centuries ago, if not earlier. In the 4th century A.C. the Buddhist philosopher, Asanga, developed a theory known as Vijnapti-matra or Citta-matra, based on the original Canonical texts which enunciate that this world is just a conception, just a thought, just an idea. In order to prove this theory, Asanga had to define the atom, and his definition, made sixteen hundred years ago, is still valid up to this day....... The atom (paramanu) should be understood as not having a physical body (nissarira). The determination of the nature of the atom is done by the intellect through the ultimate analysis of the mass of matter. Of course, Asanga’s interest was not in physics, but in the metaphysical and the philosophical....... His interest was to show that this world, which ordinary people take as substance, was nothing real, but only a concept. According to Albert Einstein, when the universe is analysed there is nothing which remains as substance but only vibrations or waves. The doctrine of Buddha Dharma stands today, as unaffected by the march of time and the expansion of knowledge as when it was first enunciated. No matter to what lengths increased scientific knowledge can extend man’s mental horizon, within the framework of the Dharma there is room for the acceptance and assimilation of further discovery. This is because Buddhism does not rely for its appeal upon limited concepts of primitive minds nor for its power upon the negation of thought.

  Science today does not deny the possibility of miracles, as it once did, but is beginning to accept that what were known as miracles were but manifestations of phenomena as yet unknown. The Buddha himself expounded this view: to him miracles were not in themselves to be regarded as demonstration of truth, but showed only a mastery of little-known powers that may be developed by some people. It did not necessarily follow that their possessor was an enlightened or divine being....... This being so, the Buddha not only taught his followers to be wary in the exercise of any miraculous powers they might acquire, but also warned others not to be unduly impressed by such exhibitions. Thus, whereas other religions exploit their miraculous elements to the greatest possible extent in order to convince the masses, Buddhism treats all such things as of very minor importance and irrelevant to the real task of spiritual development and emancipation....... According to the Buddha the highest miracle is the conversion of an ignorant man to become a wise man. In this connection, Swami Vivekananda says, “The idea of supernatural beings may arouse to a certain extent, the power of action in man, but it also brings dependence; it brings fear; it brings superstition. It degenerates into a horrible belief in the natural weakness of the man.”...... The scientific attitude and content of Buddhism has led Albert Einstein to say that “if there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.”

Ethics and Society
  The other important aspect of Buddhism as a world religion is its attitude to social, economic and political problems. Uninformed people have generally tended to consider this religion as an escape or withdrawal from active life, retiring into a temple, or into a cave or into a forest and leading a life cut off from society. This however, is due to a lack of understanding, for the Buddha himself was one of the hardest working persons that ever lived in this world....... He slept only two and a half hours each night and the rest of the time he worked. He walked the length and breadth of India met people from all walks of life, talked to them and taught them. He did not talk about Nirvana all the time and to everybody he met. He spoke according to their way of life and levels of understanding. The Buddha said that he would not expect a beginner to realise the highest noble Truth at once. He said that his was a gradual path....... Therefore helping people in various ways according to their standard or evolution and progress, is part of this religion. An active social, economic and political life cannot be separated from true religious life....... In the religion of the Buddha is to be found a comprehensive system of ethics, and a transcendental metaphysics embracing a sublime psychology. It satisfies all temperaments. To the simple minded it offers a code of morality, a gorgeous worship and even a hope of life in heaven; to the earnest devotee, a system of pure thoughts, a lofty philosophy and moral teachings that lead to enlightenment and liberation from all sufferings. But the basic doctrine is the self-purification of man. Spiritual progress is impossible for him who does not lead a life of purity and compassion....... In its organised form, as a popularly practised religion of the masses, with the many ceremonies, processions and festivals incorporating various customs and traditions, Buddhism provides for ample motivation, experience and material for education. Family functions, village ceremonies, cultural performances and events like births, weddings, deaths and memorial services provide education in an informal way. Children learn most of their customs, manners, cultural, values and even aspirations by observing or participating in these non-formal educational activities. Youths and adults too gain from them....... Beyond the personal level and the emancipation of the individual, Buddhism recognises the family as a unit of society and nation. Thus to the ordinary house-holder whose highest aim consists in gaining material satisfaction here and going to heaven hereafter, Buddhism provides a simple code of morality - as contained in the Sigalovada Sutra - the practice of which will strengthen the solidarity of a community. It maintains the right relations between its family members, employers and employees....... In another discourse the Buddha has given ten kinds of advice for people to respect and to fulfil their duties and responsibilities towards their parents, children, husbands and wives, relatives, elders, their departed ones, devas (deities) and to live in harmony in society without becoming nuisances to the public and to lead blameless lives....... Such a teaching has the well-being of all members of a society as its aim and provides for diligent practice of friendly action which is the mark of a truly social being. On the other hand, the advanced person who realises the hindrances of the household life (a path defiled by passions), can resort to a higher code of morals and ethics, as contained in the rules of the Holy Order, known as the Vinaya. They will enable him to lead a life of purity, holiness and renunciation unfettered by mundane distractions.

  Buddhist morality is based on freedom and understanding. Because morality grew out of society’s need for self-preservation, it must necessarily adapt itself to changing times and circumstances. Morality is therefore relative. In fact there cannot be any morality or ethical concept if it is grounded in compulsion or interference from any agent outside the individual himself. The individual must agree freely to any restriction placed on him for morality to be truly effective....... Compassionate Love (Metta) is the basis of all moral and ethical conduct in Buddhism. Out of this compassion arises all ethical and moral precepts, social service, social justice, social welfare. Equality, brotherhood, tolerance, understanding, respect for life, respect for others’ views, respect for others’ religions, all these have their roots in Compassionate Love. Based on this great noble principle, Buddhism has always been a religion of peace. Its long history is free from the taints of religious wars, religious persecutions and inquisitions. Buddhism in this respect stands unique in the history of religions....... Of the Buddha’s noble example in this matter, Swami Vivekananda says in his lectures on karmayoga: “The whole human race has produced but one such person, such high philosophy, such wide sympathy. The great philosopher, preaching the highest philosophy, yet has the deepest sympathy for the lowest animals, and never puts forward a claim for himself. He is the ideal Karma Yogi, acting entirely without motive, and the history of humanity shows him to have been the greatest man ever born, beyond compare, the greatest combination of heart and brain that ever existed.”...... In respect to its social and moral code, the German philosopher, Prof. Max Muller has said, “The Buddhist moral code taken by itself is one of the most perfect which the world has ever known.”...... On this point all testimonies from hostile and friendly quarters agree; philosophers there may have been, religious preachers, subtle metaphysicists, disputants there may have been, but where shall we find such an incarnation of love, love that knows no distinction of caste and creed or colour, a love that overflowed even the bounds of humanity, that embraced the whole of sentient beings in its sweep, a love that embodied the gospel of universal loving-kindness (Metta) and non-injury (Ahimsa)?...... Albert Schweitzer says, “In this sphere, the Buddha gave expression to truths of everlasting value and advanced the ethics not of India alone but of humanity. The Buddha was one of the greatest ethical men of genius ever bestowed upon the world.”...... Furthermore, Prof. Rhys Davids observed that the study of Buddhism should be considered a necessary part of any ethical course and should not be dismissed in a page or two but receive its due recognition in the historical perspective of ethical evolution.

Economic Development
  Within a Buddhist framework, the possibility of economic development on a dynamic and meaningful basis is receiving greater attention in the more affluent as well as in the developing countries. Modern develop-ment theory has failed to grapple with the increasing environmental and social problems in most developed societies and Buddhism offers a way out of this impasse....... The Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutra in the Digha Nikaya clearly states that poverty is the cause of crime and immorality. The Buddha and his disciples taught the people the value of earning wealth and the importance of economic development for their well being and happiness. In the Kutadanta Sutra (in the Digha Nikaya) the Buddha also expounded that crimes such as stealing could not be stopped by punishment....... For such crimes to be adequately and properly controlled and stopped, opportunities should be provided for the people to be happily engaged in their occupations to enable them to lead comfortable lives....... - Economic security (atthi-sukha)... - Enjoyment of wealth (bhoga-sukha)... - Freedom from debts (anana-sukha)... - Leading a faultless life (anavajja-sukha)....... These are four kinds of happiness for a layman. Ability in one’s occupation (utthana sampada), protection of wealth (arakkha sampada), association with good friends (kalyana mittata), expenditure in proportion to income (sama jivikata): these four are said to be conducive to the well-being of people in this world....... Many ideas for the advancement of society, as well as duties and obligations both by the family and the society for their mutual benefit, are mentioned in the discourses such as the Sigalovada, Parabhava and Vasala Sutras. It is evident from the Dhammapada commentary that the Buddha directed his attention even towards the serious problem of government through compassion (karuna), with a view to promoting a form of justice that would not harm and hurt the people. lustice should prevent suffering under the tyranny and the heavy taxes imposed on them by unrighteous rulers....... Buddhism teaches that a country should be governed in accordance with the Ten Duties of the King (dasa raja dharma), namely: - liberality (dana)... - morality (sila)... - giving everything for the good of the people (pariccaga)... - honesty and integrity (ajjava)... - kindness and gentleness (maddava)... - austerity in habits (tapa)... - freedom from hatred, ill-will, enmity (akkodha)... - non-violence (avihimsa)... - patience, forbearance, tolerance, - understanding (khanti), and - non-opposition, non-obstruction, i.e. not to obstruct any measures conducive to the welfare of the people (avirodha)....... In this way the Buddha and his disciples taught such important ideas pertaining to health, sanitation, earning wealth, mutual relationships, well-being of society, and righteous government -all for the good of the people....... Madame H.P Blavatsky, President of the Theosophical Society at the end of 18th century said, “The Buddha was the first to embody these lofty ethics in his public teachings and to make them the foundation and the very essence of his public system. It is herein that lies the immense difference between exoteric Buddhism and every other religion. For while in other religions ritualism and dogma hold the first and most important place, in Buddhism it is the ethics which have always been the most insisted upon.”

  Even the parliamentary system of today bears strong resemblance to the practices known in Buddhism. As the Marquess of Zetland, a former Viceroy of India, reveals: “It is indeed to the Buddhist books that we have to turn for an account of the manner in which the affairs of the early examples of representative self governing institutions were conducted. And it may come as a surprise to many to learn that in the assemblies of Buddhists in India 2500 years and more ago are to be found the rudiments of our own parliamentary practice of the present day....... The dignity of the assembly was preserved by the appointment of a special officer - the embryo of Mr. Speaker in our house of commons. A second officer was appointed to see that when necessary a quorum was secured - the prototype of the Parliamentary Chief Whip in our own system. A member initiating business did so in the form of a motion which was then open to discussion. In some cases, this was done once only, in others three times, thus anticipating the practice of Parliament in requiring that a bill be read a third time before it becomes law. If discussion disclosed a difference of opinion the matter was decided upon by the vote of the majority, the voting being by ballot.”

  This is not a religion for people just to follow but to learn, understand, and to practise to gain experience and bliss. One day while the Buddha was walking in the forest, he took a handful of leaves and declared that what he had taught was like those leaves in his hand. The Dhamma in its entirety was like all the leaves in the whole forest. The Dhamma is so unimaginably vast that the Buddha taught only the essentials that were necessary for the immediate task at hand, namely, to end suffering and gain liberation. The Buddha told us how to rid ourselves of this suffering. The rest of worldly knowledge is not important. Due to ignorance, we spend whole lifetimes trying to cope with suffering, worries, grievances and conflicts. This is because we do not understand the true nature of existence and the causes of suffering. For example, let us take the three characteristics of Impermanence (Anicca), Unsatisfactoriness (Dukkha), and Insubstantiality (Anatta). The whole of the Universe shares these characteristics. No power can arrest the process of change which is present from the moment we are born, and therein lies the cause of suffering. We need little else to convince us about the root problems of suffering....... What do we want out of life? How can we gain happiness? Unsatisfactoriness and consequently unhappiness comes from our not realising that everything is changeable and subject to decay. This is the universal law. But due to our ignorance and erroneous belief in a self we want to keep living in a permanent state without ever changing. This can never happen. We want to keep our wealth, our property, our health, our youth....... But one day all of these can be swept away just like the flame of a candle being snuffed out by the wind. When we notice that our beautiful good looks are being replaced by wrinkles and white hair we worry and become unhappy because we refuse to accept the changing nature of things. The Buddha teaches us to contemplate on these matters so that we will understand and remove the source of our unhappiness. The teaching of the Buddha has illuminated the way for mankind to cross from a world blinded by superstition, hatred and fear and reach a new world of light, love, happiness and dignity. Sir Edwin Arnold described the Buddha in this way, in his poem “Light of Asia.”...... “This is the blossom on our human tree, Which opens in many a myriad years, But opened, fills the world with wisdom’s scent and love’s dropped honey.”

Impermanence and Death
  When we are young we must consider that although we are young, in time we will grow old. When we are healthy we must think that in time we can fall sick. Health is not permanent. When we prepare ourselves wisely for decay, ageing, sickness and finally death, it will not be nearly as difficult to bear....... Understanding that these are worldly conditions which everyone has to face, we can bear any suffering with fortitude. This is the strength, the ‘refuge’ that the Buddha promises. There are those who grumble and cry when misfortune hits them. This is nothing but lack of understanding. Moaning about it will not make the suffering go away. To avoid the pain that misfortune can bring we must strengthen our minds through understanding....... There is nothing or nobody who has come into existence who can escape the natural process of “coming to an end.” There has to be an end. Otherwise things cannot exist. We need not be afraid of this perfectly natural phenomenon. We can all consider that even at death it is not the end of life but only the beginning of another. We know with the poet Wordsworth that, “The soul that rises with us, our life’s star, has elsewhere had its setting, cometh from afar.” When we disappear from this world physically, the life appears elsewhere - so why worry? Aren’t we simply getting a new passport in our journey through Samsara?...... Nations grow and die out; empires arise and fall apart; mighty palaces are built and crumble in the dust - such is the way of the world. Beautiful flowers blossom and attract all who pass by; but the next day they fade and dry up. Their petals all drop one by one and soon they are forgotten altogether....... All enjoyments and high attainments of the world are only a momentary show. One who takes pleasure in them has to lament and weep when they are lost, and undergoes much suffering. Since nothing lasts in this world one should not hope to get ultimate happiness from it. The Buddha’s advice is to contemplate on this transitoriness of the world and the various forms of unsatisfactoriness latent in all existing worldly phenomena....... This world, the sun, the moon, galaxies, the universe itself are all subject to the same inexorable law of impermanence....... If we follow the teachings of the Buddha we will not be upset at the prospect of separating from loved ones, property and wealth. This does not mean Buddhists must not experience worldly pleasure. We must follow the Middle Path. We can gain pleasures in moderation, without violating moral principles, without becoming slaves to them but with the understanding that this must not hinder spiritual development....... Husbands and wives, parents and children develop strong attachments to each other. This is perfectly natural. It is important for them in order to lead a worldly life. At the same time however, we must face the fact that this same attachment is the source of enormous pain and suffering. It can even lead to suicide. To eradicate problems, attachment must be allowed to develop with understanding. It is one’s duty to develop affections by knowing that one day there will be separation. Under that condition one will know how to cope with separation when it happens. One will avoid madness and suicide simply because one has trained one’s mind....... What the Buddha contributed to mankind was to console us by helping us to realise how all our problems arise and how to face them. Praying to external forces may lead to temporary solutions and provide transient moments of peace. But it is just like taking two painkillers when you have a headache. After three hours the pain will come back because the headache is not the sickness but merely its symptom. Painkillers are not the medicine for sickness. Those who understand are in a position to remove the cause of suffering. The Buddha’s teaching gives us that understanding.

  I hope this introduction has shown you how Buddhism stands alone as a system of religious practice. The Buddha was a great and effective Teacher and Physician. He constantly reminded his followers that his only aim was to teach people how to understand the nature of suffering or unsatisfactoriness and how to eradicate it....... He promised happiness in this very life for those who follow his noble method with determination and right understanding....... It is very unfortunate that in many existing religions the followers are not encouraged to respect the leaders of another religion. They are warned that if they do so they would be committing a sin and even worse, they would go to hell for it. The Buddha clearly tells us that we must respect those who are worthy of respect....... Although we may not agree with certain religious points of view they hold, if they are sincere in their efforts to serve humanity and uplift it, we must respect them for it. There are noble people in every religion. The Buddha did not advise his disciples to go and convert people who would otherwise go to hell. Rather he advised them to show the world what is right and what is wrong and to be good and to do good, to encourage men to come and see for themselves the truth that he taught....... He and his followers do not condemn the followers of other religionists as “sinners” who are doomed to spend an eternity in hell. According to Buddhists, even those who have no “religion” but who live in dignity, with compassion and goodwill can “go to heaven”, that is, experience happiness....... When we are happy and contented we are in “heaven.” When we suffer physically or mentally we are in “hell.” There is no need to wait to die to experience either of these states....... Buddhism is unique because we can talk about this “religion” even without any reference to heaven or hell. I am sure that others cannot talk about religion in this way. The Buddha’s message of goodwill and understanding to all beings is a universal message. The world today needs this noble message more than ever before in the history of humankind....... Buddhism as a religion is the unique exposition of the absolute truth which will show man how to live in peace and harmony with his fellow beings.



  An Overview of Buddhism / by Mike Butler

  This short essay is intended to give a brief introduction to Buddhism. It will discuss the way Buddhists perceive the world, the four main teachings of the Buddha, the Buddhist view of the self, the relationship between this self and the various ways in which it responds to the world, the Buddhist path and the final goal.

The Three Marks of Existence
  Buddhism has been described as a very pragmatic religion. It does not indulge in metaphysical speculation about first causes; there is no theology, no worship of a deity or deification of the Buddha. Buddhism takes a very straightforward look at our human condition; nothing is based on wishful thinking, at all. Everything that the Buddha taught was based on his own observation of the way things are. Everything that he taught can be verified by our own observation of the way things are. If we look at our life, very simply, in a straightforward way, we see that it is marked with frustration and pain. This is because we attempt to secure our relationship with the "world out there", by solidifying our experiences in some concrete way. For example, we might have dinner with someone we admire very much, everything goes just right, and when we get home later we begin to fantasise about all the things we can do with our new-found friend, places we can go etc. We are going through the process of trying to cement our relationship. Perhaps, the next time we see our friend, she/he has a headache and is curt with us; we feel snubbed, hurt, all our plans go out the window. The problem is that the "world out there" is constantly changing, everything is impermanent and it is impossible to make a permanent relationship with anything, at all. all our unnecessary posturing. We could just be a simple, direct and straight-forward person. We could form a simple relationship with our world, our coffee, spouse and friend. We do this by abandoning our expectations about how we think things should be. This is the fourth noble truth: the way, or path to end the cause of suffering. The central theme of this way is meditation. Meditation, here, means the practice of mindfulness/awareness, shamata/vipashyana in Sanskrit. We practice being mindful of all the things that we use to torture ourselves with. We become mindful by abandoning our expectations about the way we think things should be and, out of our mindfulness, we begin to develop awareness about the way things really are. We begin to develop the insight that things are really quite simple, that we can handle ourselves, and our relationships, very well as soon as we stop being so manipulative and complex.

The Five Skandhas
  The Buddhist doctrine of egolessness seems to be a bit confusing to westerners. I think this is because there is some confusion as to what is meant by ego. Ego, in the Buddhist sense, is quite different from the Freudian ego. The Buddhist ego is a collection of mental events classified into five categories, called skandhas, loosely translated as bundles, or heaps. If we were to borrow a western expression, we could say that "in the beginning" things were going along quite well. At some point, however, there was a loss of confidence in the way things were going. There was a kind of primordial panic which produced confusion about what was happening. Rather than acknowledging this loss of confidence, there was an identification with the panic and confusion. Ego began to form. This is known as the first skandha, the skandha of form. After the identification with confusion, ego begins to explore how it feels about the formation of this experience. If we like the experience, we try to draw it in. If we dislike it, we try to push it away, or destroy it. If we feel neutral about it, we just ignore it. The way we feel about the experience is called the skandha of form; what we try to do about it is known as the skandha of impulse/perception. The next stage is to try to identify, or label the experience. If we can put it into a category, we can manipulate it better. Then we would have a whole bag of tricks to use on it. This is the skandha of concept. The final step in the birth of ego, is called the skandha of consciousness. Ego begins to churn thoughts and emotions around and around. This makes ego feel solid and real. The churning around and around is called samsara -- literally, to whirl about. The way ego feels about its situation (skandha of feeling) determines which of the six realms of existence it creates for itself.

The Six Realms
  If ego decides it likes the situation, it begins to churn up all sorts of ways to possess it. A craving to consume the situation arises and we long to satisfy that craving. Once we do, a ghost of that craving carries over and we look around for something else to consume. We get into the habitual pattern of becoming consumer oriented. Perhaps we order a piece of software for our computer. We play with it for awhile, until the novelty wears out, and then we look around for the next piece of software that has the magic glow of not being possessed yet. Soon we haven't even got the shrink wrap off the current package when we start looking for the next one. Owning the software and using it doesn't seem to be as important as wanting it, looking forward to its arrival. This is known as the hungry ghost realm where we have made an occupation out of craving. We can never find satisfaction, it is like drinking salt water to quench our thirst. Another realm is the animal realm, or having the mind like that of an animal. Here we find security by making certain that everything is totally predictable. We only buy blue chip stock, never take a chance and never look at new possibilities. The thought of new possibilities frightens us and we look with scorn at anyone who suggests anything innovative. This realm is characterised by ignorance. We put on blinders and only look straight ahead, never to the right or left. The hell realm is characterised by acute aggression. We build a wall of anger between ourselves and our experience. Everything irritates us, even the most innocuous, and innocent statement drives us mad with anger. The heat of our anger is reflected back on us and sends us into a frenzy to escape from our torture, which in turn causes us to fight even harder and get even angrier. The whole thing builds on itself until we don't even know if we're fighting with someone else or ourselves. We are so busy fighting that we can't find an alternative to fighting; the possibility of alternative never even occurs to us. These are the three lower realms. One of the three higher realms is called the jealous god realm. This pattern of existence is characterised by acute paranoia. We are always concerned with "making it". Everything is seen from a competitive point of view. We are always trying to score points, and trying to prevent others from scoring on us. If someone achieves something special we become determined to out do them. We never trust anyone; we "know" they're trying to slip one past us. If someone tries to help us, we try to figure out their angle. If someone doesn't try to help us, they are being uncooperative, and we make a note to ourselves that we will get even later. "Don't get mad, get even," that's our motto. At some point we might hear about spirituality. We might hear about the possibility of meditation techniques, imported from some eastern religion, or mystical western one, that will make our minds peaceful and absorb us into a universal harmony. We begin to meditate and perform certain rituals and we find ourselves absorbed into infinite space and blissful states of existence. Everything sparkles with love and light; we become godlike beings. We become proud of our godlike powers of meditative absorption. We might even dwell in the realm of infinite space where thoughts seldom arise to bother us. We ignore everything that doesn't confirm our godhood. We have manufactured the god realm, the highest of the six realms of existence. The problem is, that we have manufactured it. We begin to relax and no longer feel the need to maintain our exalted state. Eventually a small sliver of doubt occurs. Have we really made it? At first we are able to smooth over the question, but eventually the doubt begins to occur more and more frequently and soon we begin to struggle to regain our supreme confidence. As soon as we begin to struggle, we fall back into the lower realms and begin the whole process over and over; from god realm to jealous god realm to animal realm to hungry ghost realm to hell realm. At some point we begin to wonder if there isn't some sort of alternative to our habitual way of dealing with the world. This is the human realm. The human realm is the only one in which liberation from the six states of existence is possible. The human realm is characterised by doubt and inquisitiveness and the longing for something better. We are not as absorbed by the all consuming preoccupations of the other states of being. We begin to wonder whether it is possible to relate to the world as simple, dignified human beings.

The Eightfold Path
  The path to liberation from these miserable states of being, as taught by the Buddha, has eight points and is known as the eightfold path. The first point is called right view -- the right way to view the world. Wrong view occurs when we impose our expectations onto things; expectations about how we hope things will be, or about how we are afraid things might be. Right view occurs when we see things simply, as they are. It is an open and accommodating attitude. We abandon hope and fear and take joy in a simple straight-forward approach to life. The second point of the path is called right intention. It proceeds from right view. If we are able to abandon our expectations, our hopes and fears, we no longer need to be manipulative. We don't have to try to con situations into our preconceived notions of how they should be. We work with what is. Our intentions are pure. The third aspect of the path is right speech. Once our intentions are pure, we no longer have to be embarrassed about our speech. Since we aren't trying to manipulate people, we don't have to be hesitant about what we say, nor do we need to try bluff our way through a conversation with any sort of phoney confidence. We say what needs to be said, very simply in a genuine way. The fourth point on the path, right discipline, involves a kind of renunciation. We need to give up our tendency to complicate issues. We practice simplicity. We have a simple straight-forward relationship with our dinner, our job, our house and our family. We give up all the unnecessary and frivolous complications that we usually try to cloud our relationships with. Right livelihood is the fifth step on the path. It is only natural and right that we should earn our living. Often, many of us don't particularly enjoy our jobs. We can't wait to get home from work and begrudge the amount of time that our job takes away from our enjoyment of the good life. Perhaps, we might wish we had a more glamorous job. We don't feel that our job in a factory or office is in keeping with the image we want to project. The truth is, that we should be glad of our job, whatever it is. We should form a simple relationship with it. We need to perform it properly, with attention to detail. The sixth aspect of the path is right effort. Wrong effort is struggle. We often approach a spiritual discipline as though we need to conquer our evil side and promote our good side. We are locked in combat with ourselves and try to obliterate the tiniest negative tendency. Right effort doesn't involve struggle at all. When we see things as they are, we can work with them, gently and without any kind of aggression whatsoever. Right mindfulness, the seventh step, involves precision and clarity. We are mindful of the tiniest details of our experience. We are mindful of the way we talk, the way we perform our jobs, our posture, our attitude toward our friends and family, every detail. Right concentration, or absorption is the eighth point of the path. Usually we are absorbed in absentmindedness. Our minds are completely captivated by all sorts of entertainment and speculations. Right absorption means that we are completely absorbed in nowness, in things as they are. This can only happen if we have some sort of discipline, such as sitting meditation. We might even say that without the discipline of sitting meditation, we can't walk the eightfold path at all. Sitting meditation cuts through our absentmindedness. It provides a space or gap in our preoccupation with ourselves.

The Goal
  Most people have heard of nirvana. It has become equated with a sort of eastern version of heaven. Actually, nirvana simply means cessation. It is the cessation of passion, aggression and ignorance; the cessation of the struggle to prove our existence to the world, to survive. We don't have to struggle to survive after all. We have already survived. We survive now; the struggle was just an extra complication that we added to our lives because we had lost our confidence in the way things are. We no longer need to manipulate things as they are into things as we would like them to be.



  Buddhist Attitude to Life / by Lama Choedak

  I am extermely happy to be given the opportunity to come and share with you the contribution Buddhism could make to better the well being of human society. Tonight we have come together to discuss the benefits of sincere sharing of good things we value in our society in general and particularly religion. Those of us who believe in one or another religion have seen the benefits of religious practices if and when we practise them properly ourselves. We have also seen the danger and suffering which come out of direct misuse of religious beliefs, power and religious fanaticism. The benefit or harm caused by religion in everyday life is not in the merit or demerit of the religions. It is entirely dependent on the behaviours of the people who profess themselves to be religious. Since the problems of the world are created by human beings they can only be corrected by human beings, by properly following the fundamental principles of human values, taught and practised by wise men and women of the world. Let us not be in the illusion that there were only one or few such wise people who came as saviours of the world. We must credit ourselves and thank others for the good things we enjoy in life and be responsible for the bad things we experience. According to Buddhism, religion or "the Dharma" is no more than a raft or a path for people who wish to journey on it. If we have an accident on the road it is not the road's fault and if we travel well, we do not thank the road. However if we stand in the middle of the road and tell other people that they do not know how to walk, that is not just an accident, it is sheer arrogance and ignorance. I have come here to share with you the Buddhist perspective and how its fundamental ideas and practices can benefit individuals and our society at large. Buddhism and its teachings respects all other religions and in fact, in Buddhism, it is a transgression to speak ill of anybody or a group of people or their philosophical or religious ideas. Condemning other people or their religion is considered non-religious conduct and is an idle-talk which is one of the ten non-virtues deeds one must abandone. There is no devil outside other than one's own inability to accept and respect other religions. There is no external god other than the kindness and compassion that can flow through us to other living beings. A mother dog who shows her kindness to her puppy is a much better example of compassion for one to emulate than propagating teachings which discriminate against colour, race, religion or gender. If one religion cannot tolerate another how can it teach to tolerate anything in this world? Religious intolerance and narrow-mindedness among church and religious leaders have let down many of their adherents who call themselves "free thinkers". These are not the benefits of religious practice but the failure to understand and practise religion. Over the years I have met many people who wish to be identified as "free thinkers" rather than belonging to any religious denomination. Many regard religion as that which narrows their thinking and limits their freedom to reason. Many modern thinkers, who have otherwise distanced themselves from strict religious dogma have become attracted to the Buddhist way of life and its powerful ideas, have regarded Buddhism as a way of life rather than a religion. Many Australians I have known, who consider themselves as Buddhists have become interested in Buddhism and have adopted its non-pressured approach to life, mainly because they do not have to believe in things they have not examined and experienced themselves. They are taught to think for themselves rather than have a blind faith in something and are not even allowed to think of it logically. They are encouraged to find a safe way for themselves rather than accept the one and only ready-made highway. There is no one highway to enlightenment, but there are different footsteps of past masters we can follow if we wish. Learn from everybody and every circumstance and take what it means most to you, but let us not be over-ambitious and try to make a highway to lead everyone. This is how the seeds of religious fanaticism are planted. Several years ago there was a big inter-religious conference in London which was represented by all major religions. Buddhism was represented by a Sri Lankan monk. The conference was held in a beautiful Church and most of those attending were Christians. All the speakers sat on the stage and the Sri Lankan monk who was the smallest in physical size was asked to speak first. The first remark he made was nothing but a few minutes of total silence and the people in the audience thought he was not going to say anything and the Master of the Ceremony acted rather anxiously. Then the monk smiled towards the Master of the ceremony and nodded as if he was going to say something after all and then he said: "I am sorry, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no God". Well, I am not going to repeat it here but such comments do raise questions as to what Buddhism is all about and the role of Buddha for Buddhists. To be frank Buddha was a great critic of the idea of creation of the world by some supreme God-Head and the idea of the original sin and eternal heaven and hell. To the Buddha, most important thing was "now", the present moment and how we go from here rather than what happened in the past and what might or will happen in the future. Past is gone and future is not yet due except what we are creating now. He did this not out of believing in some theory but examining it for himself through analysis and rationality. Buddha came up with four fundamental principles which he thought was univeral to all human problems. Even to his most faithful disciples, the Buddha after his enlightenment, warned of the danger of "blind faith" and asked them not to believe everything what he said just because he taught them. He emphasised the importance of individuals to test and examine the authenticity of his teaching through personal experience, not through mere belief.

  These four principles are called the four Noble Tuths. The first is called the Truth of Suffering (Dukkha Satya). When people face suffering in their lives, the first thing they do is deny it, reject it and worst of all they try to avoid it. This he said was the obvious reason why we suffer in life, because we fail to see the truth, the meaning and its purpose of suffering. Although nobody desires suffering, they always get it, not because of the suffering itself, but because they fail to apply the correct antidote to the problem. He explained that people fail to apply the antidotes to their suffering, not because they do not want to but because they do not know the causes of the suffering. We think that the cause of our problem is something or someone outside us and this, he says "is barking up the wrong tree" as the saying goes. We must remember that suffering is a mental phenomenon and it can only be changed or eliminated by correct perception and transformation of our mental attitude. For instance if a person called John loves his friend Barry, and Barry has become very fond of Chris, who John dislikes, John will be upset. This experience of upset, John believes is due to the behaviour of his friend Barry who has become fond of Chris. But if we examine it carefully, the cause of upset is largely due to John's own dislike, resentment and hatred towards Chris, rather than the relationship of Barry and Chris. If friendship is to be admired and desired, then one must be able to rejoice in other's friendship. That which is causing John to be upset is because of his feeling of insecurity and jealousy provoked by his own anger which he had not dealt with effectively in the past. Let me elaborate this from the point of view of the importance of solving a problem at hand rather than of the distant past.

  If a man is shot by an arrow into his eyes, what should he do? Most people fail to remove the arrow struck in their eyes but instead waste time trying to apprehend and convict the accused. They are more interested to find out what happened before the arrow struck in the eye than to remove the arrow from the eyes. If the hurt is caused by the arrow in the eye, then obviously the arrow must be removed first. But we don't. We want to find out the beginning of the problem how it all started from scratch, i.e. "the creation". The spillover of this way of dealing with suffering is so epidemic and extremely hard to overcome. We deny and disapprove of the hurt that we have already experienced and attempt to bring similar if not heavier hurt upon someone else, whether proven guilty or innocent. Blaming the past and the way we were treated in our childhood, by our parents does not address the problem at hand but makes the individual feel more resentful towards their past to the extent of developing self-hatred. This takes us to the second Truth, the truth of the origin of the suffering.

  Buddhism, the basic ignorance, greed and hatred in our minds are called "the three poisons". The benefits of religious practice can only be appreciated if individuals take full responsibility for their own poisons of the mind. The events of the past are not happening now, except by oneself playing it back in one's own mind. We can see how our mental problems are created from small factors. To reduce or eliminate suffering caused by one's own poisons of the mind, one must not see them as bad or eternally evil. People who do not know anything about poison become its victims. There are also large numbers of people who know the danger of the poisons of the mind but they suppress them without becoming able to detoxify them. Familiarity and undertsanding of this second truth is crucial to be able to do something about the upset which I referred to earlier. When we become aware that all human beings are victims of their own poisons of the mind, we have no time to become angry at the other person, but instead we feel empathy for the other person. This feeling of empathy brings ourselves to the same level as the other person and become more connected. By doing this we will not dwell in our own misery to deepen and enlarge it, but it sharpens one's focus on the other person's needs. If the cause of the hurt is the event of the past, it has already gone and is not happening now except oneself playing it back in one's own mind as if it was unforgettable. The moment we express our feelings and care for the other person, we will discover that he is in a similar if not worse mental state than we were. There will be an instant cure of the hurt that one has been experiencing out of misunderstanding. This changes the mental climate of anger into compassion and one will feel powerful to bring this change in one's mind without feeling powerless and hopeless. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that anger does not help us to solve the problem at hand, but robs us of our sleep, appetite and make us unable to appreciate the good things we have in life. Compassion is taught in all religions but compassion without wisdom is likened in Buddhism to a bird with only one wing. While we all believe in compassion and its virtues, we mustn't use anything to impose upon others in the name of compassion. If someone does not want our compassion, we must have the wisdom to accept the rejection of our compassion but at the same time not to be discouraged by such experiences. This raises the importance and need of balance and moderation in whatever we do in our lives, be it religious, compassionate or otherwise. If we go into extremes, religion can bring more suffering than it can benefit the world, as we all know. There are certain things we should not be too certain about. So let the law of cause and effect take its own course of reality. Some things we just have to accept. They will change in their own time for nothing is permanent in the world. No matter how hurtful it may have been, it will pass or it mustn't have happened at all. So do not dwell on the past whether good or bad for it may obscure the good things which surrounds you now. The ability to maintain the mind in a free and accepting state is an art of happiness, joy and love. This is called the truth of the path, the third noble truth. It is also the path known as "The Middle Way (Madyam marga). This comprises of eight fold paths:

  1. Right View: All things are in a state of dissatisfaction, whether you are young or old, have a partner or do not have a partner, or you have a job or do not have a job and so forth. Even if you obtain something you desire, it will never remain the same as all things are impermanent. If we wish things were permanent instead, you are asking for more trouble. If you are enjoying this meeting, that is because it was not here before and it will soon be over. If we sit here longer than it is comfortable, we will be in heaps of trouble, so we must move on. Reflection on the law of impermanence can resuscitate you when you are short of breath in certain problems of life and help to cultivate right view. 2. Right Thought: Through the correct attitude that things are not as real, satisfactory and durable as it appears or we want them to be, it will enable us to let go of things so we can become more flexible and less rigid and thus experience less stress. This helps us to sort out the thoughts and to get rid of certain thoughts which are harmful to dwell on. Certain thoughts such as kindness, impermanence and compassion towards other living beings can become a very powerful way of directing one's energy. Lots of the sufferings come from one's selfishness and the unability to think of positive things. Therefore it is important to choose the right things to think about. We see and hear what is in our mind. 3. Right Concentration: This way we will sort out the priorities in our lives and we will not waste time on trivial matters. There will be a sense of focus and discipline in life which will inject much needed motivation to live and help others rather than cherish for one's own welfare. This requires the adoption of a practice of meditation which one should learn from qualified teachers; not from books or people who have not invested devotion and faith in teachers, and lineage in which such teachings are kept, but teach from books without any experience and authority. Like a camera, one's mind has to be carefully focussed through attentive concentrated meditation to see the clear picture of reality as it is. If the camera of mind is out of focus, then our mental lens will project the incompetence of the cameraman who may in turn blame the object for being too close or far. His picture will be unclear if any. 4. Right Action: One will have the ability to restrain one's senses (particularly when things are going into extremes) and refrain from inflicting lots of unnecessary suffering by sheer carelessness and indulgence. By conserving all the physical energy one will carefully utilise them to benefit others but not to cause any injury to their life, health, property and relationship. A person practising right action, who is able to give so much to others enjoy good health and will be full of energy. He will not feel worn out or exhausted. 5. Right Speech: Excercising restaint over one's physical energy will enable one to conserve one's energy. So much suffering in our lives are created by our mouth's Karma. So if we understand the meaning of right speech we should watch out for our mouth. Go for a short retreat and see how much peace there is in silence and see how much garbage we talk every day. Gain some power over your speech so that no hurtful words will slip out of your mouth. Say what is good for the many and that which is only truthful and helpful. When you do this, you will hear both praise and blame as the echo of voidness and oneself will be unaffected by other's verbal abuse. Rather they will become objects of compassion. 6. Right Livelihood: This world is for all creatures not just for human beings and the powerful ones. We must give a fair go and act decently towards other living beings. It is not considered clever to take advantage of others who are weaker than ourselves. Cultivate the ability to treat others with respect as an individual just as oneself desires to be happy. Think of animals and their welfare if you cannot deal too many unruly human beings. Focus on what you can do without causing direct harm on others and share things you have with others who need them most. Give to the needy and do not hoard wealth for it will only become one's own prison and create many enemies. You can not take anything with you when you die anyway. 7. Right Mindfulness: We know we should be fair to others but without deliberate mindfulness we are often very forgetful to do the very things we want to do ourselves. We may become angry with ourselves just because we were not mindful enough to bring the key left on the table before closing the door. You may become very cranky and may have a very hard day at work. This will create a very bad working environment for your colleagues who will blame it on your temper and so forth. Mindfulness practice requires consistent daily meditation practice on how to integrate it into every day life. In one Sutra it says: "One with mindfulness is happy and one without is unhappy". 8. Right Effort: One must be diligent to change one's habitual patterns. Just as weight conscious people get up early in the morning to jog and do excerice, likewise one who is concious of the actual health of mind, one must employ right effort to break the negative habitual pattern of one's attitude to life and its problems. The effort to come here tonight can be regarded as right effort but we must implement what we have learnt from this meeting tonight. You do not learn these things in school, college, univeristy, on the soccer field or in the pub. One should create an environment in the house to change one's habits, in the bed room, in the kitchen and wherever you are by yourself. Develop strong will inside you and this undying will and courage to do good for the benefit of many will be of great benefit whether you regard yourself as religious or not. If we have individuals who adopt this theory of the eight noble paths they will experience the fourth noble truth, the truth of the cessation of suffering. Whether you believe in god or you are an aethiest, or believe in reincarnation or in an eternal heaven and hell, it does not matter. You will only experience what you deserve. You will be a kind and sincere person, that is the purpose of religion. Who cares what we believe in? It largely depends on how we conduct our everyday lives. That is the essence of religious practice, the eight noble paths I have spoken about tonight are one of the many ways to practise it.

  In brief, do not be too happy when everything is fine with you for there are many less fortunate beings who are suffering at this very moment. Do not forget the poor, sick, abandoned children, the lonely and aged people. Share your happiness by thinking of their welfare. Think of those caught in the war in former Yugoslavia and places like Cambodia and do something useful with compassion instead of indulging in your own fortune. Also do not be too sad when things are not going well with you. You are one of the many fortunate people in the world. Appreciate and be grateful for the things you have, this will reduce your sufferings. In order to experience the cessation of suffering, the fourth noble Truth, learn to be durable like the earth, fluid like the water, creative and light like the air and free and vast like the sky. Learn these qualities you yearn to cultivate from the mother nature, if one fails to find any human being devoid of fault. Finally may the ills of humanity not defile the ever shining truth of the enlightened ones, like the lotus flower untainted by the soil in which it grows. Accept what you can now.

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