The Noble Truth of suffering must be perfected realized.
The Noble Truth of the origin of suffering must be totally eliminated.
The Noble Truth of extinction of suffering has to be achieved.
Noble Truth of the noble path leading to the extinction of suffering must be cultivated
The Buddha believed the realization of the Four Noble Truths made him attain enlightenment: "As soon as the absolutely true knowledge and insight as regards these four noble truths had become perfectly clear in me, there arose in me the assurance that I had won the supreme enlightenment unsurpassed. And there arose in me perfect knowledge and realization: Unshakable is my spiritual liberation, this is my last birth, and there is no more becoming for me."
The Buddha's proclamation was very interesting and wonderful. It represents the first time the founder of a major world religion achieved enlightenment by himself without intervention by a supreme being or supernatural power. The Buddha attained perfect freedom and encouraged others to work to achieve real liberation.
The details of each Noble Truth are also very interesting and provide light for study and practice. In the Noble Truth of Suffering, the Statement "briefly stated, the five groups of grasping brings suffering" is the starting place for the study of the concept of suffering. The five groups consist of (1) corporeality (body and other physical phenomena), (2) feeling, (3) perception, (4) thoughtful formation, and (5) consciousness. Naturally, the five groups (aggregates of the elements of existence and experience) are pure, normal and non-suffering. When the attachment of five groups takes the form of self, "me and mine" appears in the mind and it becomes impure and as a consequence suffering arises. It's a sacred duty for those who love freedom to guard the five groups to attempt to keep them in a pure condition.
The second Noble Truth refers to the threefold elements of craving: (1) craving for sensual pleasure (by eyes, ears, nose, tongue, or through touching tangible bodies); (2) craving for becoming (in the positive condition); and (3) craving for non-being (in the negative position). These are the causes of the origination of attachment or craving which leads body and mind to suffering. We can see very clearly the chain of interdependent origination of suffering through the process of ignorance, sensation, craving, grasping and then suffering. Suffering enters through the five doors of the sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and touch) as the starting point of a causal chain that leads to desire.
In the third Noble Truth, the reference to "the complete fading away and extinction of craving" is the key to understand the ultimate truth of Buddhism, Nibana. The text states that one who will attain Nibana (a state of mind without any defilement) must destroy all craving completely and forever. The word "liberation" also suggests a state of mind that is free from the control of defilement and full of mindfulness, loving kindness and the highest wisdom.
In the fourth Noble Truth, the details of each element of righteousness must be studied in order to understand the process through which desires fades away and the extinction of all defilement based on craving and grasping is achieved.
1. Right Understanding refers to understanding (a) suffering (i.e., the five groups associated with grasping) (b) the causes of suffering (the threefold craving) (c) the extinction of suffering (through the extinction of craving) and (d) the Path leading to the extinction of suffering (the Noble Eightfold Path)
2. Right Thought refers to thoughts that are free from (a) lust, (b) ill-will, and [c] cruelty. In contrast, right thoughts are full of (a) thoughts of renunciation, (b) good will, and [c] compassion and mercy.
3. Right Speech leads one to refrain from: (a) telling lies, (b) tale-bearing, (c) harsh language (d) vain and frivolous talk, and -- in the right way -- to use the words that are (a) true (b) conciliatory, (c) gentle, (d) polite and (e) to speak what is profitable and necessary to bringing peace and harmony to one's listeners and society.
4. Right Action is to refrain from: (a) killing, (b) stealing, (c) unlawful and immoral sexual intercourse and -- in the right way --to be (a) humane, (b) honest, and (c) chaste.
5. Right Livelihood is to renounce the wrong way of living and to maintain oneself by following a right occupation and right way of living. The noble lay Buddhist disciples, who have advanced in their understanding of the truth, refrain from trading in arms, living beings, flesh, intoxicating drinks and poisons.
6. Right Effort means the great four efforts: The effort (a) to restrain unwholesome state of mind that would otherwise lead to evil actions, (b) to abandon the unwholesome states of mind, (c) to develop (d) to maintain the arisen wholesome states of mind and make them grow.
7. Right Mindfulness is the contemplation of (a) the body, (b) feelings, (c) mind, and (d) mind objects, or the states and content of the mind. This is the way to develop mindfulness and awareness in every walk of life. The contemplation of the body can be done in practical ways by mindfully breathing in and out while observing the process of respiration; with right mindfulness, one is mindful of all his postures, and he is mindful and aware while walking, standing, sitting, lying down, eating, drinking, speaking, or listening.
The contemplation of feeling can be practiced by closely observing one's feelings, and noting whether they are satisfactory, unsatisfactory or neutral.
One can watch over his thoughts and volition, and all the other pure or impure contents of his mind that arise and pass away from time to time.
One practices this mindfulness and strives for comprehension objectively, without seeking approval or acclaim at one's progress, and without being horrified at the realization of one's own wickedness. The man who practices right mindfulness is just aware of everything that happens, and he mindfully observes all that goes on in his mind so that he may know himself better.
8. Right Concentration or meditation. The development of mindfulness through the contemplation of body, feeling, mind and the mind objects makes one detach from unwholesome thoughts and enter into (a) the first absorption, which is accompanied by applied and continued thought, and which is born of detachment and filled with rapture and bliss. After stilling applied and continued thought, and by gaining inner tranquillity and concentration of mind, the person practicing right concentration enters into a state free from applied and continued thought, (b) the second absorption, which is born of concentration and filled with rapture and bliss. After the fading away of rapture, the meditating individual dwells in equanimity and mindfulness with clear awareness; and he expresses in his own person that feeling of which the noble one says; "happy lives he who is in equanimity and mindfulness" thus he enters (c) the third absorption. After giving up of pleasure and pain, and through the disappearance of previous joy and grief, he enters into (d) the fourth absorption, a state beyond pleasure and pain, purified by equanimity and mindfulness.
Consideration of the Noble Eightfold path in details indicates that it is appropriate not only for monks but also for lay persons who wish to follow the Noble Eightfold path to achieve the extinction of suffering. The Noble Eightfold path is not simply eight different ways to achieve liberation; instead, it is one collective way made up of eight constituencies, working in the co-operative, harmonious and holistic way to overcome the suffering.
Each constituency helps people become free from defilement. Thus, the word "right" before each one means freedom. The list begins with wisdom, is followed by morality and eventually ends with mindfulness and insight meditation. Each constituency is associated with wisdom. The eight fold path is a perfect and powerful train that will carry its passengers to everlasting peace and happiness.
Now let's come to analyze the question of whether or not Buddhism is a religion? If the definition of "religion" means a way to end the suffering of human beings, Buddhism is the foremost among all the world religions. However, many scholars will maintain that Buddhism is really a philosophy? If the definition of philosophy, "love of wisdom," includes the wisdom gained by human beings in their search for the extinction of suffering, Buddhism is a real philosophy because it contains many ways to achieve the wisdom necessary to free oneself from the fetters of defilement.
Does Buddhism contain metaphysical philosophy? If the definition of metaphysics includes the ultimate reality searched and found by human beings without blessings or help from supernatural powers, then Buddhism has an aspect of metaphysical philosophy in it because Nibana (an empty state of mind in which one is totally without defilement) is the ultimate truth.
Does Buddhism include the perspective of epistemological philosophy? If epistemology means the body of knowledge based on the six sense organs: eyes, ears, tongue, nose, tangible body and mind, up to and including the highest knowledge that destroys ignorance and permits the realization of Nibana, Buddhism is surely epistemology because the four noble truths are a great source of knowledge and wisdom leading to liberation.
Is there logic in Buddhism? If logic means the application of reason, Buddhism is an exactly logic because its laws of cause and effect are based on the interdependent origination theory that is at the heart of Buddhism.
Is there an ethical or moral philosophy in Buddhism? If ethical or moral philosophy refers to the existence of principles that can be used to determine what is right and what is wrong. Buddhism is a very rich moral philosophy. Almost all Buddhist precepts, meditations and the Noble Eightfold path provide excellent ethical and moral principles for individual and social peace.
Buddhism has it's own unique beliefs about human beings. Studying, analyzing, criticizing, and applying Buddhism with other religions and schools of thought about philosophy and even modern science can be done properly under appropriate conditions. The core principles of Buddhism relate to the suffering and non-suffering of human being and reflect the universal common sense of human race.
Buddhism supports and encourages other religions and schools of thoughts and philosophy all over the world that have the same purpose and which work to support physical and spiritual well being for all human beings. The Buddha gave clear instructions to the monks: go to preach the noble way of life for benefit and happiness of many people. Securing the happiness of the many is the main purpose for all those who work in accordance with Buddhist ideals.
Buddhism can be thought of as philosophy or religion or simply as a way of life. Descriptions of Buddhism will necessarily depend upon the particular definitions used and interpretations made by various scholars who come from many different backgrounds. However, every scholar agrees that Buddhism strives to bring light to the darkness that surrounds all living creatures.
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