Bodhisatvas' Noble Search
Buddhist research are not limited to text, philosophies, logic and analysis alone. It is carried throughout the daily life with positive mental qualities. The Bodhisatva's noble search that led him to find liberation and happiness and the path for this happiness sets an excellent example of buddhist research.
We can find the dhamma today as the result of the quest of a bodhisatva long time ago. The Buddha shows the light of the dhamma or the path to liberation of the mind from bondage after perfectly realizing it. In the Dhammachakka pavattana sutta or the first sutra of the Buddha, he clearly stated that until he realized this properly he did not declare himself to be a Samma Sambuddha. This shows the Buddha's understanding of the epistemological value of basis for knowledge claims (in today's terms).
When setting the wheel of the dhamma rolling with the first sutta he states "I understood that the truth of unsatisfactory nature need to be understood". Continuing on he states: the second truth -the cause of this suffering - need to be eliminated, the third truth - the path leading to happiness - need to be cultivated and the fourth truth - nirvana or relief from the suffering - need to be realized. This shows that the dhukka or unsatisfactory nature according to the Buddhist thinking is not just a perspective of the world. It is an understanding of the nature of the world. Everyone undergoes this but most often becomes overwhelmed by it and next moment after raising the head above a little immerses in it again. Without learning anything properly from the experience of this unsatisfactory nature the beings (human or other) are captivated over and over. When we enjoy a pleasant sensual experience, we become happy and at the moment we lose the pleasant experience sadness overpowers us. Higher the attachment we have for the pleasant sensual experience, more will be the sadness. However, next time when we perceive the same pleasure we go after it again if we never learnt from the first experience. This learning from experiences is not very easy. Especially with our mind acting at lightening speed, keeping track of the experiences through the mind becomes very difficult. It needs gradual practice. Buddha showed us the way by example as well as through his teachings.
Before attaining the full enlightenment, the person seeking is called a bodhisatva. The bodhisatva's quest began as a compassionate and energetic person who has confidence (or sraddha or saddha). His quest continued from life to life to until he achieved his goal. Throughout this search which began with understanding of the practices needed to attain the full enlightenment he was aware of not having the realization of full enlightenment. But throughout his long search compassion for the suffering was always prominent. Hence in his last life the vision of an old person, a sick person and dead body arose compassion in him. This compassion has the characteristic of eliminating pain and suffering. (For example, a mother seeing her child in pain acts to relieve the child's pain out of compassion). Bodhisatva as prince Siddharta led a luxurious life enjoying all the sense pleasures. When he saw the signs of suffering he did not ignore them. He was not overpowered by sadness. But he became more determined to find happiness for all the beings (including you and me). He knew that he lacks the understanding to eliminate the suffering. He did not start giving medicine(physically) to the sick. If he just started doing it, would there be an end to it? He could have done it throughout his whole life still there wouldn't be an end to the mass of suffering. Throughout the ages it was happening. However, his thoughts were deeper than just providing the material solutions. His search went on for six long years. He went from one teacher to another. Having the religious freedom and the religious teachers knowing the real meaning of religious practices in that society he was free to continue his search. He practiced different types of austerities, different types of meditations, learnt different philosophies. However, none led him to a satisfactory realization. With the knowledge and whatever understanding he gained from other teachers he knew that he did not know the path to eliminate the suffering of others.
There was one alternative left. It is neither following the pleasures of senses nor following extreme religious practices tormenting the mind and body. He thought of following the middle path. He remembered the meditation he had performed that gave liberation to the mind, a sort of aloofness to the mind elevating it to a state of a 'detached observer'. He continued this path. In this path he did not get carried away by the personal biases or by the views. He continued with this mindfulness meditation until he was able to understand the happenings in the past (lives). He was able to observe the happenings in the past, and come to an unbiased conclusion. He saw that he had been searching for happiness throughout the samsara. He understood the experiences in all the different existences taking different life forms. He saw the unsatisfactory nature of all those lives. Wisdom of liberating the mind was gained by learning from all those past experiences. Even today we could witness this joy and happiness through his paean of joy as stated in the Tripitaka (Dhammapada):.
"Being subject to unsatisfactory existences went in the Samsara from life to life not seeing the builder of the 'house'. Now I saw the builder of the 'house'. It is not possible to build the 'house' anymore. All the rafters (supports) are broken and the structure is demolished. The conditioning of the mind had been abandoned. The cravings has been completely eliminated."
A Buddhist search for happiness goes far beyond looking for conditioned happiness. A conditioned happiness no longer exists once the conditions are removed. Our daily experiences through five senses are such conditioned happiness. Liberation of the mind from the conditioned things will be the ultimate goal of Buddhists.
Referring to the noble search for this ultimate goal in a discourse on Noble Search. (Ariya Pariyesana sutta) Buddha categorizes searches into two.
" There are two kinds of search: the noble search and non-noble (or ignoble) search.
What is this ignoble search? A person subject to birth seeks what is also subject to birth. A person subject to aging seeks what is subject to aging. A person subject to sickness seeks what is subject to sickness. A person subject to death seeks what is subject to death. Being subject to sorrow a person seeks things that are subject to sorrow. A person subject to defilement seeks what is also subject to defilement.
What is the noble search? Being subject to birth and understanding the danger in what is subject to birth a person seeks the unborn, greatest security from bondage, Nirvana. A person subject to aging having understood the dangers in things subject to aging seeks non-aging Nirvana. A person subject to sickness having understood the dangers in things subject to sickness seeks non-ailing Nirvana. A person subject to death having understood the dangers in things subject to death seeks deathless supreme Nirvana. A person subject to sorrow having understood the dangers in things subject to sorrow seeks sorrow-free supreme Nirvana. A person subject to defilement having understood the dangers in things subject to defilement seeks undefiled supreme Nirvana."