1 Buddhism: The 4 Noble Truths First Noble Truth Of Dukkha What is dukkha? Usually translated as the noble truth of suffering, Buddhism is neither pessmistic nor optimistic. While there is suffering included in dukkha, there is also joy, and impermanence. Buddhisms encourages realism and objectivity, acknowledging both the good and bad of life, and to see things as they really are, without desire for it to be anything else other than what it is. Dukka is generally used to mean suffering but in Buddhism is has a deeper meaning. It encompasses ordinary suffering, the suffering of all joys ultimately being temporary, and the non-existence of a real self you can call your own, interdependence. Without wisdom life will indeed be suffering, but you can escape that through detachment. There is ultimate happiness and true spiritual bliss in detachment, but that too is temporary. Whatever is impermanent is dukkha, subject to change, subject to loss, subject to cause you pain if you latch on to it. 3 things you must understand about life 1. enjoyment 2. pain 3. freedom, liberation, cessation of dukkha To understand life completely, you must understand that there is pleasure, pain, and freedom from both. 3 main aspects of dukkha 1. ordinary suffering
2 2. suffering caused by change 3. suffering caused by no permanent self you can call your own. #3 is also called the suffering of conditioned energies or the doctrine of no soul. There is no self separate from anything else. Every moment everything in the universe dies, then it is reborn, and the death conditions the birth and the birth conditions the death. The universe is constantly changing, ever evolving. What is a being then? In Buddhism a being is just a combination of the ever changing energies of the universe. These energies are divided into 5 categories called the 5 aggregates (of attachment). 1. matter 2. senses 3. perceptions 4. Mental formations 5. consciousness Matter is of course the 4 great elements and their derivatives. In Buddhism there are actually 6 senses. The mind is included as a sense- it is treated like any other faculty of seeing, touch, taste, smell, and feeling. The mind isn t spiritual or eternal like some others believe. Perceptions is just the labels we assign to things, the use of language, our judgments, views, opinions. How we call blue blue is perception. Mental formations is volitional activity or karma- and karma is not the result of karma, karma is action itself, the results are the results. Volition is mental construction, mental activity that directs toward good or bad things. Consciousness is just the awareness of the presence of things. It is just seeing, not recognizing. Perception recognizes. Consciousness is also impermanent and dependent upon the 5 aggregates unlike some
3 others believe. It depends on matter or any of the other energies to have an object, like visual consciousness or consciousness of feeling. It arises out of conditions and is conditional. Use the analogy of a fire: a fire is named according to the material on which it burns. Think of a wood fire or a grease fire. The same is with consciousness, it is named according to the condition on which it arises. Quick recap There is no consciousness independent of the 5 aggregates- the same with self. Self is conditional. A being is only the name for a certain combination of the energies that make up the universe and the energies are all impermanent and ever changing. No two moments are ever the same. Use the analogy of a mountain river: life is like a mountain river, flowing swift and fast, taking everything along with it. There is no moment, no instant, no second where it stops flowing but it keeps on flowing and continuing forever. One thing arises, then it dies, conditioning the next birth. On no-soul There is no separate self apart from the universe, all life is interdependent and conditional. The concept of self is just a mental formation, it is a false view derived out of ignorance. There is no self behind the energy, there is only energy itself. See things for how they really are without labeling them. There is no unmoving mover behind the movement, there is only movement itself. There is no thinker behind the thought, there is only thought. See things exactly are they are: no more, no less. See things as they are without adding to them or subtracting from them. Beginning of life according to Buddhism
4 The beginning of life is unthinkable. The cycle of continuity of life is without visible end and the beginning is not to be perceived. The beginning of ignorance is not to be perceived in such a way that postulates there was no ignorance beyond a certain point. He who sees dukkha sees also how dukka arises, how dukkha is cessated, and the path to the cessation of dukkha. Qualities of a Buddhist If you understand the 4 noble truths and and follow the path to the cessation of dukkha you will be the happiest of beings. You wont be fearful or anxious, but you will be calm and serene. You wont be able to be upset by calamities or changes because you will see things exactly as they are. You will be ever smiling. Although there is suffering in life, there is also joy and happiness, so don t be impatient with suffering but be patient in suffering, understand it, understand how it comes about, understand how to get rid of it, and then work diligently accordingly with intelligence, determination, and energy. Second Noble Truth Of How Dukka Arises What is the origin of dukkha? The origin of dukkha is the desire to keep going, to keep striving for more, to never be satisfied with the present moment the way it is. To always want more, to be dissatisfied with the present moment because it isn t the way you want it to be. That is the cause of suffering and struggle and hard burdens to bear. It s the thirst, craving, or attachment for more. 3 thirsts that give rise to suffering and
5 discontentment 1. for sense pleasures 2. existence and becoming 3. non-existence This thirst is the main cause, however, but not the only cause. There is no absolute cause because everything is interdependent. The Buddhistic view of life is circular, not linear. This thirst also has at its center the false idea of a separate self from the universe. This is what s called ignorance. The false idea of self wants not only material things but spiritual things as well and conceptual things. All evil arises out of this false idea of self, this selfish desire for more and more, and the idea that it is independent from the rest of life. Karma Karma is only volitional action, it is never the results, only the action. The results are the results. Karma is always moving, always going somewhere, good or bad. An Arahant, Buddha, or Enlightened One does not accumulate the results of karma because he is free from the false idea of self, free from the dissatisfaction of the present moment not being what he wants. For him there is no rebirth because he has realized Nirvana, nonduality. Karma is just cause and effect. It s a natural law. How karma continues after death We must take a Buddhist perspective to understand Buddhist ideals: what they call death is nothing more than the cessation of the body s function. The energies that comprise the universe are still there, they always were, always are, and always will be.
6 A being is nothing more than a combination of these energies. The energies live on forever, dieing and being reborn, in a constant state of flux and change. Karma keeps us alive even after death. It is the strongest force in the world- it is literally willpower on a cosmic scale. Buddhism hints at eternal life, but it wont be YOU living it if you understand. Nor will it be like anything good or bad, vast or empty, it is non-duality, Nirvana. It will be like nothing you ve ever experienced before. One thought-moment conditions the next in this life and the last thought-moment before death conditions the first thought-moment on rebirth. Third Noble Truth Of Nirvana There is emancipation from the continuity of struggle, from dukkha. To eliminate dukkha completely and cut off thirst for karma. What is Nirvana? Human language doesn t encompass the ultimate truth. Our language only represents an aspect of our world, much less a whole new one. Language can be deceptive and misleading when trying to understand the truth. Ignorant people get stuck in words like an elephant gets stuck in mud. Wise people understand that words are only a representation of the subject. To try to understand Nirvana is like a fish trying to understand walking on land, and mountains, and to some point even space travel and walking on the moon. Negative descriptions of Nirvana One idea is that if Nirvana is explained in positive terms, people will begin to latch onto it, so negative terms will be used deliberately to help bring balance and objectivity to us. Nirvana is "the extinction of thirst or craving for more, the unconditioned, that which is beyond the
7 conditions of our world. Nirvana is the complete cessation of thirst, giving it up, renouncing it, emancipation from it, detachment from it. It is the calming of all conditional energies, giving up of attachments, extinction of defilements. The extinction of of desires, hatred, and illusion, this is the absolute. Detachment is the highest vibration of energies. Freedom from conceit, the destruction of thirst or cravings, cessation of dukkha, Nirvana. The abandoning and destruction of desire and craving for the conditional energies, that is the cessation of dukkha, Nirvana. Nirvana is within dukkha and dukkha is within Nirvana, this is important to understand. In Nirvana the elements have no place, length and breadth, subtle and gross, good and evil, name and form altogether are destroyed. Neither this world nor any other, nor coming, nor going, standing, death, birth, senses,are to be found. It is the annihilation of the false self (that causes suffering.) It is freedom from duality. Stop with the mental constructions of the world that are at odds with the present moment. Those who have realized Nirvana say Finished is birth, lived is life, what should be done is done, nothing more is left to be done. I leave this earth in good hands, peace, and trust. Realizing Nirvana A man is composed of conditional energies. He finds them all interconnected and interdependent with no separate self from it all. He understands that energy dies and is reborn, that it is constantly changing but ever present.
8 Through the above knowledge his mind becomes detached and he finds within himself purity to direct his life toward good. Then he realizes even that is a mental creation and he gives everything up. Since he is detached he is not anxious, he is completely calmed within. He knows that nothing is permanent, things are always changing. He knows that all joys and all pains will be extinguished with the death of the body. Knowledge of Nirvana is noble wisdom, founded on the truth that unreality is unreality and Nirvana is Nirvana. Absolute truth is that there is nothing absolute in this world, that everything is relative, conditioned, and impermanent. The realization of the truth is to see things exactly as they are without illusion, ignorance, or the desire for more, for it to be something it is not. Nirvana is within samsara and samsara is within Nirvana. Nirvana is not a result It just IS. All you can do is realize it, you cannot achieve it in the general sense of the word. All you can do is release everything and you find it right there waiting for you. Nirvana is like a mountain on the path. The mountain was not a result of you taking the path, it was there before you were and you came upon it. You may see a light but it is not the result of your eyesight. Nirvana is the ultimate end. No words in our vocabulary can express what happens to you when you die in Nirvana. There is no re-existence as we know it because it is non-duality. All of the things we know or think we know don t apply in Nirvana. The secret to life is to see things exactly as they are and be detached from it. That is found within us, not within an external or separate power. If you realize Nirvana If you realize Nirvana you will be the happiest of beings, free from all complexities, obsessions, worries, and troubles, you will live completely in the present and enjoy things in purity.
9 You will be joyful, exultant, enjoying the pure life, your faculties pleased, free from anxieties, serene, peaceful. Your service to other life will be pure because you have nothing to gain and nothing to lose, you have already lost everything you know in the death of your body. Closing Nirvana is beyond duality, beyond good and bad, beyond right and wrong, beyond existence and non-existence. Nothing of what we know will apply there. It is vain to try to define Nirvana accurately because it is beyond the intellect. It encompasses intellect but intellect does not encompass it. Nirvana is to be realized by the wise within themselves. Fourth noble truth of the way to Nirvana There is a path to the cessation of dukkha. It avoids extremes and is known as the middle path. The 3 disciplines of Buddhism 1. Ethical discipline 2. Mental discipline 3. The discipline of wisdom Develop these simultaneously, they promote and perfect the pieces that make up the 8 fold path. The 8 fold path 1. Right understanding 2. Right thought 3. Right speech
10 4. Right action 5. Right livelihood 6. Right effort 7. Right mindfulness 8. Right concentration Ethical discipline Universal love for all living beings, compassion for the world as it is yourself, this is ethical discipline. To be enlightened, to realize Nirvana, you must develop 2 qualities equally: 1. Compassion 2. Wisdom Of the 8 fold path, 3 of them make up ethical discipline. 1. Right speech 2. Right action 3. Right livelihood 1) Right speech This is not telling lies, not talking bad about people or starting trouble, not being rude, not gossiping idly, speaking carelessly or rudely. Right speech is telling the truth, speaking good about people and edifying them, being polite and speaking only when you have something worthwhile to say. 2) Right action Don t kill any living beings needlsesly, don t steal, don t do things against your heart knowingly, don t be sexually immoral. Right action promotes moral, honorable, and peaceful conduct. Help others to live peacefully and honorably. Save as many living beings as you can and try to improve their experience of life and make it happier, be charitable, follow your inner truth, be sexually responsible. 3) Right livelihood
11 Don t make your profession something that harms other either directly or indirectly, don t live by a profession that harms others. Right livelihood is living by a profession that is honorable, blameless, and helps to improve the lives of all living beings. Mental discipline The 3 factors that make up mental discipline are 1. Right effort 2. Right mindfulness 3. Right concentration 4) Right effort This is the energetic will to 1. prevent evil, destructive, and unwhole states of mind, to stave off the thirst for sensory pleasures, the results of karma, and attachment, 2. to be able to get rid of them when they do come 3. the ability to produce good states of mind 4. to develop and maintain the good, wholesome states of mind 5) Right mindfulness This is to be diligently aware of the activities of the body, what you are feeling, the activities of the mind, and the ideas within. Notice your feelings, be ware of the predominant ones and even those deep within you, how they appear and disappear, how they work, and how they come about. The practice of concentrating on your breathing produces mental development. 6) Right concentration This is trance, recueillement, contemplation. reverence, for the moment exactly as it is.
12 In the first stage unwholesome thoughts are discarded anda wholesome thoughts are maintained. In the second stage intellectual activities are contained, tranquility and one-pointedness of the mind is developed, and the feelings of joy remain. In the third stage the feeling of joy dissaptes while the disposition of the mind is mindful equanamity. In the fourth stage only pure equanamity remains, pure awareness, Nirvana. There are 4 forms of mental culture in the Buddhist text the Setting Up Of Mindfulness. The discipline of wisdom 2 pieces of the 8 fold path make up the discipline of wisdom. 1. Right understanding 2. Right thought 7) Right thought Thoughts of detachment, selfless renunciation, the reality of the cessation of bodily activities, love, nonviolence, compassion. 8) Right understanding This is the understanding of things as they are, the understanding of the 4 noble truths. Right understanding sees Nirvana. There are 2 kinds of understanding 1. Regular understanding 2. Deep penetration Regular understanding is just the understanding of data, cause and effect, the things of the
13 world, the things as perception defines them. Deep penetration is seeing things in their truth nature. This is where the mind is fully aware, developed through diligent meditation. This understanding is only aware of Nirvana. The path to Nirvana is self discipline Recap of the 4 noble truths 1. The noble truth of dukka. The nature of life, it s sufferings, its magnificent joys, its imperfections, its impermanence. 2. The noble truth of how dukka arises. Through attachments, the desire for more, for present reality to be something it is not, this causes unnecessary pain. 3. The noble truth of Nirvana. All you can do is realize it. Just let go because it can t be attained in the regular sense of the word. 4. The noble truth of the path to Nirvana. Follow the path and keep it and you will see Nirvana.