Part 2: THE NOBLE DOCTRINE

 

2.1 Uniqueness of the Dhamma

The Dhamma is Profound and Difficult to Understand

‘This Dhamma, comprehended by me is deep, difficult to see, difficult to understand, tranquil, excellent, beyond dialectic, subtle, intelligible to the learned. But this is a creation delighting in sensual pleasure, delighted by sensual pleasure, rejoicing in sensual pleasure. So that for a creation delighting in sensual pleasure, … this were a matter difficult to see, that is to say causal uprising by way of condition. This, too, were a matter difficult to see, that is to say the tranquillizing of all the activities, the renunciation of all attachment, the destruction of craving, dispassion, stopping, Nibbana.

‘By folk with lust and hate consumed,

This Dhamma is not understood.

Leading on against the stream,

Deep, subtle, difficult to see, delicate,

Unseen’ will be by passion’s slaves,

Cloaked in the murk of ignorance.’

~M. I: 167-168; MLS. I: 212-213

 

The Dhamma is for Enquiry and Self-realization

‘Well expounded is the Dhamma by the Exalted One, to be self-realized, with immediate fruit, inviting investigation, leading on to Nibbana, to be comprehended by the wise, each for himself.’

~D. II: 94

 

Dhamma Quenches Your Thirst

‘Having drunk this Dhamma medicine,

You will be ageless and beyond death;

Having developed and seen the truth,

You will be quenched, free from craving.’

~Miln: 335

 

Making the Dhamma Your Doctrine

The Buddha explained to Ananda:

‘How one could be one’s own island or refuge?

How one could make the Dhamma

one’s own island or refuge?

Through the cultivation of mindfulness or awareness of the body, sensations, mind and mind-objects.’

~D. II: 100

 

The Buddha’s Openness

‘O disciples, there are three to whom secretiveness is preferred and not openness. Who are they? Secretiveness is preferred by women, not openness; secretiveness is preferred by priestly knowledge, not openness; secretiveness is preferred by false doctrine, not openness.

Just as the sun and the moon clear all, the doctrine and rules proclaimed by the Perfect Buddha shine before all the world and not in secret.’

~A. I: 282; GS. I: 261

 

No Hidden Teaching

‘Ananda, what does the Order of the Sangha expect from me? I have taught the Dhamma (Truth) without making any distinction as exoteric and esoteric. With regard to the Truth, the Tathagata has nothing like the closed first of a teacher.’

~D. II: 100

 

The Highest Gift and Pleasure

‘The gift of Dhamma excels all (other) gifts. The flavor of Dhamma excels all (other) flavors. The pleasure in Dhamma excels all (other) pleasures. He who has destroyed craving overcomes all sorrow.’

~Dh: 354

 

Do All Religions Teach the Same Dhamma (Truth)?

Sakka, King of the Gods, asked the Buddha:

‘Sir, do different religious teachers teach the same Dhamma, practice the same discipline, aspire to the same thing and pursue the same goal?’

‘No, Ruler of the Gods, they do not. And why? This world is made up of many and various elements, and people adhere to one or another of these elements, and become tenaciously addicted to them, saying:

‘This alone is true, all else is false.’ Therefore, all those religious teachers do not teach the same Dhamma, practice the same discipline, desire the same thing or pursue the same goal.’

~Dig. II: 282

 

The Four Noble Truths

The absolute truth of the Dhamma consists of:

Dukkha: The First Noble Truth of the Unsatisfactoriness or Suffering of human existence;

Samudaya: The Second Noble Truth of the Cause of this Unsatisfactoriness;

Nirodha: The Third Noble Truth of the Cessation of this Unsatisfactoriness; and

Magga: The Fourth Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of this Unsatisfactoriness.

~S. V: 420ff

 

What is the Noble Truth of Suffering?

‘Birth is suffering, ageing is suffering, sickness is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering: in short the five aggregates affected by clinging are suffering.’

‘There is this Noble Truth of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before.’

‘This Noble Truth must be penetrated by fully understanding suffering: such was the vision insight, wisdom, knowing, and light that arose in me about things not heard before.’

‘This Noble Truth has been penetrated by fully understanding suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before.’

 

What is the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering?

‘It is craving which renews being and is accompanied by relish and lust, relishing this and that: in other words, craving for sensual desires, craving for being, craving for non-being. But whereon does this craving arise and flourish? Wherever there is what seems lovable and gratifying, thereon it arises and flourishes.’

‘There is this Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before.’

‘This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by abandoning the origin of suffering …’

‘This Noble Truth has been penetrated to by abandoning the origin of suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before.’

~S. LVI: 11

 

What is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering?

‘It is the remainderless fading and cessation of that same craving; the rejecting, relinquishing, leaving and renouncing of it. But whereon is this craving abandoned and made to cease? Wherever there is what seems lovable and gratifying, thereon it is abandoned and made to cease.’

There is this Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before.’

‘This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by realizing the Cessation of Suffering …’

This Noble Truth has been penetrated to by realizing the Cessation of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before.’

~S. LVI: 11

 

What is the Noble Truth of the Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering?

‘It is this Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.’

‘There is this Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before …’

‘This Noble Truth must be penetrated to be cultivating the Path …’

‘This Noble Truth has been penetrated to by cultivating the Path: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before.’

 

The Eightfold Path

This is the heart of the Buddha’s Teaching to live a noble life and to gain liberation. The Path consists of eight factors:

Sila - Morality

Samma Vaca: Perfect Speech

Samma Kammanta: Perfect Action

Samma Ajiva: Perfect Livelihood

Samadhi - Mental Culture

Samma Vayama: Perfect Effort

Samma Sati: Perfect Mindfulness

Samma Samadhi: Perfect Concentration

Panna - Wisdom

Samma Ditthi: Perfect Understanding

Samma Sankappa: Perfect Thoughts

~M. I: 301; VISM: 514

1/ Perfect Speech: is characterized by wisdom and kindness; and therefore, untainted by lies, back biting, harsh talk and idle gossip.

2/ Perfect Action: is mindful observance of the Five Precepts to abstain from different kinds of evil and the positive cultivation of virtues in their place.

3/ Perfect Livelihood: is to have peaceful and dignified occupations that cause no harm nor injustice to any living being. The traditional taboos for the layman include dealing in arms, slaves, livestock for slaughter, intoxicating drink and poisons. Wrong living also relates to deceit, treachery and trickery.

4/ Perfect Effort: is the rejection of ignoble qualities and the cultivation of noble qualities for the attainment of the Ten Perfections - Dasa Paramita.

5/ Perfect Mindfulness: is the constant awareness of the body, the feelings, the mind and the ideas in order to have direct insight into things as they truly are, a mental state where intuitive knowledge supercedes mere intellect.

6/ Perfect concentration: is to develop one-pointedness through understand that everything is impermanent - anicca, unsatisfactory - dukkha and substanceless- - anatta by eliminating the five hindrances -Nivarana.

7/ Perfect Understanding: is to see life as it is with its three characteristics of anicca, dukkha and anatta, the moral law of causation - kamma, the bundle of fours elements, the Four Noble Truths and the ‘Twelve Nidanas’ - Doctrine of Dependent Origination.

8/ Perfect Thought: is to have a mind that is free from raga - lust, vyapada - ill-will, vihimsa -cruelty and the like.

~M. III: 251-2

 

Great Qualities of the Ocean Found in the Dhamma

Bhikkhus, there are these eight wonderful and marvelous qualities of the great ocean’, the Buddha explained:

1/ ‘The great ocean, bhikkhus, gradually shelves, slopes and inclines, and there is no sudden precipice. Since the great ocean gradually shelves … this is the first wonderful and marvelous quality of the great ocean.’

2/ ‘Furthermore, the great ocean is stable and does not exceed the limits of the tide-line. This is the second wonderful and marvelous quality of the great ocean.’

3/ ‘Furthermore, the great ocean does not tolerate a dead body; for when there is a dead body in the great ocean, it soon conveys it to the shore and casts it up on dry land. This is the third wonderful and marvelous quality of the great ocean.’

4/ ‘Furthermore, whatever great rivers there are - the Ganges, the Yamuna, the Aciravati, the Sarabhu and the Mahi - on reaching the great ocean lose their former names and identities and are just called ‘ the great ocean.’ This is the fourth wonderful and marvelous quality of the great ocean.’

5/ Furthermore, although the rivers of the world flow into the great ocean and showers of rain fall from the sky, no lessening or filling up of the great ocean is evident. This is the fifth wonderful and marvelous quality of the great ocean.’

6/ ‘Furthermore, the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt. This is the sixth wonderful and marvelous quality of the great ocean.’

7/ ‘Furthermore, the great ocean contains many precious substances, various precious substances, such as these: pearl, crystal, beryl, conch, quarts, coral, silver, gold, ruby, and cat’s eye. This is the seventh wonderful and marvelous quality of the great ocean.’

8/ ‘Furthermore, the great ocean is the abode of mighty creatures, of such creatures as these: the timi, timingala, timirapingala, asuras, nagas and gandhabbas. There exist in the great ocean beings a hundred yojanas in size, beings two hundred, three hundred, four hundred yojanas in size. This is the eighth wonderful and marvelous quality of the great ocean.’

‘These, bhikkhus, are the eight wonderful and marvelous qualities of the great ocean.’

‘Similarly, bhikkhus, there are eight wonderful and marvelous qualities in this Dhamma and discipline, seeing which bhikkhus delight in this Dhamma and discipline.’

1/ ‘Just as the great ocean, bhikkhus, gradually shelves, slopes and inclines, and there is no sudden precipice, so also in this Dhamma and discipline there is a gradual training, a gradual course, a gradual progression, and there is no sudden penetration to final knowledge.’

‘Since, in this Dhamma and discipline there is a gradual training … this is the first wonderful and marvelous quality in this Dhamma and discipline, seeing which bhikkhus delight in this Dhamma and discipline.’

2/ ‘Just as the great ocean is stable and does not exceed the limits of the tide-line, so also my disciples do not transgress a training-rule laid down by me for disciples even for the sake of their lives. This is the second wonderful and marvelous quality in this Dhamma and discipline …’

3/ ‘Just as the great ocean does not tolerate a dead body … and casts it up on dry land, so also whatsoever person is immoral, wicked, of impure and suspect behavior, secretive in his acts, no recluse though pretending to be one, not practicing the holy life though pretending to do so, rotten within, lustful and corrupt, the Order does not associate with him, but when its has met together soon highbrows him out.’

‘Even though he may be sitting in the midst of the Order of bhikkhus, yet he is far from the Order and the Order is far from him. This is the third wonderful and marvelous quality in this Dhamma and discipline …’

4/ ‘Just as whatever great rivers there are … on reaching the great ocean lose their former names and identities and are just called ‘the great ocean,’

‘So also (those of) the four castes - nobles, Brahmins, merchants, and workers - having gone forth from home to the homeless states in the Dhamma and discipline made known by the Tathagata, abandon their former names and identities and are just called recluses, the followers of the Sakyan son.’ This is the fourth wonderful and marvelous quality in this Dhamma and discipline …’

5/ ‘Just as, although the rivers of the world flow into the great ocean and showers of rain fall from the sky, no lessening or filling up of the great ocean is evident, so also, although many bhikkhus attain final Nibbana in the Nibbana-element with no residue left, no lessening or filling up of the Nibbana-element is evident. This is the fifth wonderful and marvelous quality in this Dhamma and discipline …’

6/ ‘Just as the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, so also this dhamma and discipline has one taste, the taste of liberation. This is the sixth wonderful and marvelous quality in this Dhamma and discipline …’

7/ ‘Just as the great ocean contain many precious substances, various precious substances, … so also this Dhamma and discipline contains many precious things, various precious things, such as these: the four foundations of mindfulness, the four right endeavors, the four bases for successful accomplishment, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven enlightenment factors, and the Noble Eightfold Path. This is the seventh wonderful and marvelous quality in this Dhamma and discipline …’

8/ ‘Just as the great ocean is the abode of mighty creatures, … so also this Dhamma and discipline is the abode of mighty creatures, such as these: the stream-enterer and the one who is on the way to realizing the fruit of stream-entry, the once-returner and the one who is on the way to realizing the fruit of once-returning, the non-returner and the one who is on the way to realizing the fruit of once-returning, the non-returner and the one who is on the way to realizing the fruit of non-returning, the arahant and the one who is on the way to arahantahood. This is the eighth wonderful and marvelous quality in this Dhamma and discipline.’

~N. 153, PE. 25, v. 259, a. 308

 

Dhamma is the Medicine

‘Of all the medicines in the world,

Manifold and various,

There is none like the medicine of Dhamma;

Therefore, O monks, drink of this.’

~Miln: 335

 

This Dhamma is Realized by the Wise Not the Foolish

Eight Thoughts of a Great Being:

‘This Dhamma is for one who wants little,

Not for one who wants much;

This Dhamma is for the contented,

Not for the discontented;

This Dhamma is for the secluded,

Not for one who is fond of society;

This Dhamma is for the energetic,

Not for the lazy;

This Dhamma is for the mindful,

Not for the confused;

This Dhamma is for the composed,

Not for the flustered;

The Dhamma is for the wise,

Not for the deluded;

This Dhamma is for the precise and the one

who delights in exactness,

Not for the diffused or

the one who delights in diffusiveness.’

~A. VIIII. III: 30

 

2.2 Other Views and Doubts

Four False Religions

Four types of religions are criticized in Buddhism as false on the ground that if they were admitted, moral practice and development of spirituality become irrelevant. Thus, these four could be regarded as mere theories, not religions.

1/ Religions which maintain that death is the end of life and that both good and bad are annihilated at death; in a word materialism;

2/ Religions which deny moral and spiritual validity;

3/ Religions which deny moral causation (cause and effect) and human effort; and

4/ Religions which deny even the value of life and uphold a theory of deterministic evolutionism.

~M. I: 515-521

 

Four Unsatisfactory Religions

While moral responsibility and religious practice could be maintained, four religious teachings appear very unsatisfactory outright. Their leaders are:

a/ Teachers who claim omniscience and ever-present knowledge of everything. One can observe that they ask ‘cows’ the names of people, ask for directions and yet sometimes dogs and cows attack them. Such things could never happen if they were omniscient with ever present knowledge.

b/ Teachers who depend on revelation along for their knowledge. They might or might not have received well the word of God. Scriptures could or could not be well understood.

c/ Teachers who depend on logic and reasoning for their religious understanding. They are unsatisfactory because they might or might not have done their reasoning and made assumptions properly. It cannot be ascertained whether their knowledge is correct.

d/ Skeptical teachers lacking in intelligence when questioned, confuse the listeners by saying, ‘I wouldn’t say ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘otherwise.’ They are also unsatisfactory as religious leaders.

~M. I: 515-521

 

Ten Kinds of Wrong Views - Miccha ditthi

1/ Denial of the efficacy of giving.

2/ Denial of the efficacy of sacrificial offerings.

3/ Denial of the efficacy of offerings (to Worthy Ones) in other forms.

4/ Belief that kamma, good or bad, does not bear any retribution.

5/ Belief that this world in its present form of life does not exist.

6/ Belief that there is no existence hereafter for the beings who exist now.

7/ Denial of one’s obligations towards one’s mother.

8/ Denial of one’s obligations towards one’s father and mother.

9/ Belief that beings cannot appear in the world spontaneously.

10/ Denial of the existence of religious teachers who reveal to the world their wisdom after experiencing Truth by their highest purified knowledge resulting from proper religious practice.

Generally these views deny the validity of practicing virtues. Religious practice and good behavior would be meaningless without appropriate retribution. Acceptance of these views means rebirth in woeful states.

~D. I: 55

 

Sixteen Kinds of Doubt

Sixteen kinds of doubt, appear naturally in a person’s mind. By knowing the Dhamma and having analytical knowledge of the mind and the body as well as mental purity, these doubts gradually disappear.

a/ Five concern the past:

Was I in the past?

Was I not in the past?

What was I then?

How was I then?

From what did I pass to what?

b/ Six concern the present:

Am I?

Am I not?

What am I?

How am I?

Whence have I come?

Whither shall I go?

c/ Five concern the future:

Shall I be in the future?

Shall I not be in the future?

What shall I be in the future?

How shall I be in the future?

What having become what shall I be in the future.

~M. I: 8

 

Do Not Cling to Your Beliefs

‘O bhikkhus, even this view

(teaching of the Buddha)

Which is so pure and so clear,

If you cling to it, if you fondle it,

If you treasure it, if you are attached to it,

Then you do not understand

That the teaching is similar to a raft,

Which is for crossing over and

not for getting hold of.’

~M. I: 260; MLS. I: 316

 

Accept Truth Wherever It Is

‘If you find truth,

(in any religion, philosophy or science)

Then accept that truth

(without any prejudice)’

~A. I: 189

 

How to Safeguard Truth While Having a View

‘If one’s understanding is a result of faith, preference, hearsay, reasoning or conviction, one should maintain, ‘This is my faith; This is my preference etc.’ But one should avoid coming to the conclusion, ‘This alone is the truth, all else is falsehood.’

Such a person safeguards the truth. An intelligent person should further strive for awakening to truth and attachment of truth - saccanubodha, saccanupatti. After these two steps, there is knowledge verified and experienced. It is not view any longer.’

~M. II: 171-174

 

Proper Way to Accept a View

Five means for a view to arise:

1/ Faith - saddha

2/ Inclination - ruci

3/ Hearsay - anussava

4/ Reasoning - akarapari-vitakka

5/ Conviction - ditthi-nijjhanakkhanti

These five means bring about two results. What one has faith in could be true or false. Hearsay also could be true or false. One may reason correctly or incorrectly. One’s conviction also could be true or false. As long as there is no verification of the facts, knowledge remains a view.

~M. II: 170-171

 

Do Not Look Down Upon Others’ Beliefs

‘To be attached to one thing (to a certain view)

And to look down upon other things (views) as inferior,

This the wise man calls a mental hindrance.’

~SN: 889, 891

 

2.3 Evanescence

The Stages of Life

‘The days, the nights pass on until they cease.

So doth our life break up and come to naught.

Withers our mortal’s term of years and dries,

As water of the rains in little rills.

The hours pass by. Nights drive us ever on.

Stages of life in turn abandon us.

Who so doth contemplate this fear of death,

Let him reject the bait of all the worlds,

Let him aspire after the final peace.’

~S. I: 2; GS. I: 4

 

Nature of Conditioned Things

‘Impermanent are all conditioned things

Their nature it is to rise and pass away

When they have risen, then again they cease.

Happiness lies in the tranquilizing of them.’

~S. I: 158

 

Life is Short

‘Brief is the life of men

The wise man should not take delight therein.

Let him act as if his head were burning

For there is no way whereby death comes not.’

~S. I: 108

 

Things Seldom Accord with Our Wishes

‘What people expect to happen

Is often different from what actually happens;

Thus does disappointment arise

This is the way the world works.’

~SN: 588

 

Fleeting Nature of Life

‘Life, personality, pleasure and pain

These are but one thought moment

Thus, suddenly it passes away.’

~VIS: 48

 

The Five Uncertainties in Life

1/ It is uncertain what fortunes and misfortunes, losses and gains as well as pleasant and unpleasant situations and their extent will come our way in the future within this lifetime.

2/ It is uncertain what the future state of our health will be or what sickness would afflict us within this life time.

3/ It is uncertain as to the exact manner, place, date and time we will pass away from this world.

4/ It is uncertain, as to where and in what manner our bodily remains will be disposed of upon our death. Even if these had been Willed or Probated by giving instructions to relatives, unforeseen circumstances may prevent fulfillment of our last wishes.

5/ It is uncertain where and in what form of existence our rebirth will take place after our death, nor its destiny.

~VISM

 

2.4 Anguish

We Suffer Because of Unawareness of the Four Noble Truths

That both you and I have had to travel and trudge through this long round of Samsara is because of our not discovering, not realizing the Four Truths.

~S. V: 431; KS. V: 365

 

God’s Responsibility

‘If there exists some Lord all-powerful to fulfill

In every creature bliss or woe, and action good or ill,

That Lord is stained with sin.

Man does but work his will.’

~Maha-Bodhi Jataka: 528

 

Avoid Evil Deeds to Avoid Suffering

‘Who does not want to suffer,

Should do no evil deeds;

Openly or in secret.

Do evil now, then later,

Try though you may to flee it,

Yet surely you will suffer.’

~Ud. V: 4; Ud: 51

 

Lust Not Grieve Not

‘From lust arises grief, from lust arises fear,

For him who is free from lust there is no grief,

Much less fear.’

~Dh: 215


Craving Must Be Removed

‘As a tree cut down sprouts forth,

Again, if its roots remain uninjured and strong;

In the same way when the propensity,

To craving is not destroyed,

This suffering arises again and again.’

~Dh: 338
 


Craving and Its Consequences

‘In the world I see this generation racked

By craving for being.

Wretched men gibbering in the face of Death,

Still craving, hoping, for some kind of being.

See how they tremble over what they claim as ‘mine’,

Like fishes in the puddles of a failing stream.’

~SN: 776-777

 

Riches Ruin the Ignorant

Riches ruin the foolish, but not those in quest of the Beyond (Nibbana). Through craving for riches the ignorant man ruins himself as if he were ruining others.

Dh: 355


 

When In Fear Take Refuge in the Triple Gem

‘When in the forest amongst the roots of the trees

or in the empty places,

Just call to mind the Buddha

and no fear or trembling will arise.

If you cannot think of the Buddha

This best, this highest, this finest of men,

then call to mind the Dhamma,

The well-taught guide,

If you cannot think of the Dhamma,

The well-taught guide,

Then think of the Sangha,

That incomparable source of good in the world.’

~S. I: 220

 

How to Overcome Human Problems

A deity anxious to remove his doubts regarding human problems approached the Buddha in the night and posed this question:

‘The inner tangle and the outer tangle -

This generation is entangled in a tangle

And so I ask of Gotama this question:

Who succeeds in disentangling this tangle?

The Buddha explained thus:

‘When a wise man, established well in virtue

Develops consciousness and understanding,

Then as a Disciple ardent and wise

He succeeds in disentangling this tangle.’

~S. I: 13


 

2.5 The Way

Follow the Middle Path

‘Follow the Middle Path

In every aspect of your life,

Without extreme austerity or extreme indulgence

Especially when you practice a religion.’

~S. V: 330; S. V: 421


 

The Way is Not for the Deluded

‘Blinded are beings by their sense-desires

Spread o’er them like a net; covered are they

By the cloak of craving; by their heedless ways

Caught as a fish in mouth of funnel-net.

Decrepitude and death they journey to,

Just as a sucking-calf does to its mother.’

~Ud: 76


 

Vigilance and Negligence

‘Vigilance is the path to deathlessness;

Negligence is the path to death.

The vigilant do not die;

The negligent are as if they are dead already.’

~Dh: 21


 

Light Arose

The Buddha in the first sermon announced:

‘Light arose in me (Enlightenment) in things

not heard of before.’

~S. V: 422


 

Happiness of Renunciation

‘Between happiness of the senses and

Happiness of renunciation,

The greater is the happiness of renunciation.’

~A. I: 80


 

Wisdom is Silence

‘Learn this from the waters:

In mountain clefts and chasms

Loud gush the streamlets,

But great rivers flow silently.

Empty things make a noise

The full vessel is always quiet

The fool is like a half-filled pot

The wise man like a deep still pool.’

~SN: 720-721


 

Insufficient Knowledge

‘The man of little learning grows old like an ox.

His body grows but his wisdom grows not.’

~Dh: 152


 

Two Different Paths

‘One is the path that leads to worldly gain;

and the path that leads to deathlessness -

Eternal Bliss, is the other.’

~Dh: 75

 

Nature of a Wise Man

‘He who has understanding and great wisdom does not think of harming himself or another, nor harming both alike. He rather thinks of his own welfare, that of others, that of both, and of the welfare of the whole world.’

~A. IV


 

Avoid the Two Extremes

The important truths of Buddhism are considered to fall between two extreme points of view.

Extreme realism which says that everything exists - sabbam atthiti, is one extreme and extreme nihilism which asserts that nothing exists -sabbam natthiti, is the other extreme - the truth lies in the middle.

~S. II: 76


The dogma of personal immortality - sassataditthi, is one extreme and the dogma of annihilationism - uccheda-ditthi is the other.

~S. III: 98

Similar extreme views are the Materialist conception that the body and the soul are not different and the Dualist conception that they are different.

~S. II: 60

The Determinist thesis that everything is conditioned by past factors - sabbam pubbekatahetu, and the Indeterminist thesis that nothing is due to causes and conditions - sabbam ahetu appaccaya.

~A. I: 173

The view that we are entirely personally responsible for our unhappiness and the opposite view that we are not at all responsible for our unhappiness

~S. II: 20

extreme hedonism - kamasukhallikanuyogo, and

extreme asceticism - attakilamathanuyogo

~S. IV: 330

In all these instances it is said that the Buddha ‘without falling into these two extremes preaches the Dhamma in the middle’. Thus the mean between two extreme views is held to be true.

The middle way - majjhima patipada, which is a mean both in the matter of belief as well as of conduct is said to ‘make for knowledge and bring about intuition and realization’.

~M. I: 15

That these truths lie in the middle, seems to be a contingent fact to be discovered empirically.

 

Mental Development

‘When tranquillity is developed, the mind is developed and lust is abandoned; when insight is developed, right understanding is developed and ignorance is abandoned. The mind defiled with lust is not liberated; where there is defilement through ignorance, right understanding is not developed ...’

~A. I. 61


 

Supernormal Powers

Buddhism recognizes six supernormal powers which one can develop through meditation. Although these psychic powers are not essential for liberation, they help a great deal in understanding the nature of the being and the world.

Development of Psychic Powers - Six Abhinna

Dibbacakkhu: The Celestial or Divine Eye commonly described as clairvoyance, which enables one to see heavenly or earthly phenomena, far or near, that are imperceptible to the physical eye.

Cutupapata nana: Knowledge relating to the dying and reappearing of beings, is identical with this Celestial Eye. Knowledge regarding the future and the faring of beings according to their own good and bad actions, are two other kinds of knowledge under the same category.

Dibba sota: The Celestial Ear or clairaudience, which enables one to hear subtle or coarse sounds far and near.

Pubbe nivasanussati nana: The power to recall past lives of oneself and others. With regard to this knowledge the Buddha’s power is limitless; for others it is limited.

Para citta vijanana nana: The power to discern the thoughts of others psychometry.

Iddhividha: The power to fly through the air, walk on water, dive into the earth, create new forms, etc.

~SN: 776-777


 

2.6 Towards a Better Understanding of Life

Who can Claim this Body?

‘This body is not yours or another’s,

but is past action (already) determined and

chosen that must be experienced to be seen.’

~S. II: 63


 

Sainthood is Better than Gaining Worldly Power

‘Attaining of the First Stage of Sainthood,

Is better than gaining control of the whole world.’

~Dh: 178


 

Which is the Serious Illness?

‘O bhikkhus, there are two kinds of illness:

Physical illness and mental illness.

There seem to be people who enjoy freedom

From physical illness even for a year or two …

Even for a hundred years or more.

But, O bhikkhus, rare in the world are those

Who enjoy freedom from mental illness,

Even for one moment,

Except those who are free from mental

defilements.’

~Ap: 276


 

Avoid Fault Finding

‘He who passes remarks on others’ faults.

And is always irritable - his own defilements increase,

He is far from the destruction of defilements.’

~Dh: 253


 

How to Face Blame and Praise

‘Monks, if anyone should speak in disparagement of me, of the Dhamma or of the Sangha, you should not be angry, resentful or upset on that account. If you were to be angry or displeased at such disparagement, that would only be a hindrance to you. For if others disparage me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, and you are angry or displeased, can you recognize whether what they say is right or not?’

‘No, Lord.’

‘If others disparage me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, then you must explain what is incorrect as being incorrect, saying:

‘That is incorrect, that is false, that is not our way, that is not found among us.’

But, monks, if others should speak in praise of me, of the Dhamma or of the Sangha, you should not on that account be pleased, happy or elated. If your were to be pleased, happy or elated at such praise, that would only be a hindrance to you. If others praise me, the Dhamma or the Sangha, you should acknowledge the truth or what is true, saying:

‘That is correct, that is right, that is our way, that is found among us.’

~D. I: 3

 

Have Contentment

‘They make no lamentation o’er the past,

They yearn not after that which is not come;

They satisfy themselves

by depending on what they receive,

Hence comes it that they look serene of hue.’

~SN: 71


 

The Right Mental Attitude

‘Be like a lion that trembles not at sounds.

Be like the wind that does not

cling to the meshes of a net.

Be like a lotus that is not contaminated

by the mud from which it springs up.

Wander alone like a rhinoceros.’

~SN: 71

 

Useful and Active Life

‘A single day’s life of useful

Intense effort is better than

A hundred years of idleness and inactivity.’

~Dh: 112


 

2.7 Nature of Existence

Uncertainty in Everything

‘All conditioned things are impermanent.

All conditioned things are suffering - dukkha.

All conditioned or unconditioned things (Dhamma) are soulless or selfless.’

If one discerns these truths by wisdom, one becomes detached from dukkha (unsatisfactory nature of phenomena). That is the path which leads to purity (liberation).

~Dh: 277-279


 

Universality in Everything

Central and unique to Buddhism are the three characteristics inherent in everything:

Anicca: Impermanency and uncertainty in everything.

Dukkha: Unsatisfactoriness, friction, conflict and suffering in everything.

Anatta: Soullessness, insubstantiality, no permanent entity.

~Dh: 277-279


 

Dhamma is Eternal

Whether the Buddhas appear or not, there remains this element, this structure of things, these phenomena (Dhamma), this certainty in things, namely: specific conditionally - paticca samuppada. A Buddha discovers it.

~S. II: 25


 

Woe is the Lack of Understanding of Conditionality

Deep is this doctrine of events as arising from causes, and it looks deep too. It is through not understanding this doctrine, through not penetrating it, that this generation has become a tangled skein, … unable to overpass the doom of the suffering, the Woeful Way, the Downfall, the Constant Round of Rebirth.

~D. II: 55

 

Cause of Becoming and Disappearing

The suffering is the formula by which the conditionality should be observed.

‘If this is, that comes to be; from the arising of this, that arises; if this is not, that does not come to be; from the stopping of this, that is stopped.’

~M. II: 32

 

Life is Dear to All

‘All tremble at the rod,

All fear death;

Feeling for others as for oneself,

One should neither kill nor cause to kill.’

~Dh: 129


 

What You can Take Away from here

‘He who holds his own self dear,

With evil let him not be linked.

All evil-doer’s (short-lived) joy

Is not a bargain that is good.

Assaulted by the ‘Ender’ death,

And losing his humanity,

What use for him is property

And what can he then take away?

What is it that will follow him

Like his own shadow never parting?

Both the good and evil deeds

Which a mortal here performs,

That he will take away with him.

His deeds will follow after him

Hence noble deeds should be performed,

A storing for the future life.

Good deeds will in the world beyond.

Bestow on beings goodly help.’

~A. III. I: 4


 


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