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Ancient Writings

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World-Mysteries.com - Ancient Writings - SHTML

World-Mysteries.com - Ancient Writings - SHTML

World-Mysteries.com - Ancient Writings - SHTML


World Religions:
Buddhism

Ancient Writings


Four Noble Truths Noble Eightfold Path Related Resources Links

Introduction

The Buddha was not a God, but a historical person, an enlightened teacher. Over 2,500 years ago He explained the origin of the universe, without the help of a supernatural force, an explanation which corresponds very closely to today's scientific theory (The Big Bang). He believed that the God-idea has its origin in fear, when he said: “Gripped by fear men go to sacred mountains, sacred groves, sacred trees and shrines”. Even today people tend to become more religious during crises.

“Put an end to evil, fulfill all good, and purify the mind” is Lord Buddha's advice, and it is still so universal and timeless, that anyone can benefit from it, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Taoist, or Buddhist. It is worth to note that through times Buddhism has never had a religious war.

Two thousand five hundred and fifty years ago, the historical Buddha enjoyed unique circumstances for passing on his teachings. Born into a highly developed culture, he was surrounded by exceedingly gifted people. After reaching enlightenment, he shared his methods for discovering the mind for a full forty-five years. It is for this reason that his teachings, called the Dharma, are so vast.
The Kanjur, Buddha´s own words, consists of 108 volumes containing 84,000 helpful teachings. Later commentaries on these, the Tenjur, amount to another 254 equally thick books. This makes Buddha´s final evaluation of his life understandable: "I can die happily. I did not hold one single teaching in a closed hand. Everything that may benefit you I have already given." His very last statement sets Buddhism apart from what is otherwise called religion: "Now, don´t believe my words because a Buddha told you, but examine them well. Be a light onto yourselves."

The Buddha, based on his own experience, realized that each one of us has the capacity to purify the mind, develop infinite love and compassion and perfect understanding, and through meditation find solutions to all our problems. Buddhism does not force preset ideas on you, and furthermore all other religions are tolerated. By showing respect for another person's religion, a Buddhist demonstrates the confidence he has in the strength of his own religion. 
As a Buddhist you are not dominated by an all-knowing, almighty, judging power. And you are definitely not expected to blindly believe in the things you read or study about Buddhism. Lord Buddha often asked people to go out themselves and find out if what he taught was correct. 
For a Buddhist there is no god he can ask for forgiveness and thereafter carry on with his life as usual. He must learn to stand on his own two feet, and will pay for his mistake in either this life or the next. That fact might make it easier for you to understand, why seemingly innocent people are hit by tragedies in their lives apparently without reason.

 

Mihintale Buddha, Sri Lanka
(Photograph courtesy of www.sacredsites.com and Martin Gray)

The ultimate goal of a Buddhist is to reach Nibbana (Sanskrit: Nirvana), meaning literally “extinction”, freedom from desire and thus suffering. Effectively it is an end not only to suffering and action, but also to the cycle of rebirths. This permanent, causeless, effectless, and non-compound state can be reached through mental and moral self-purification, while a person is still alive, thus making his physical death the last one.

To reach Nibbana one has to fully comprehend and absorb the so-called “Four Noble Truths”.


The Four Noble Truth

The Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths are the core and the origination point of what the Buddha learned and taught. They state simply that desire and attachment keep us bound to our dissatisfaction and we can take steps to unbind ourselves.

The Four Noble Truths

1. The First Noble Truth

There is Suffering 

Suffering exists and is universally experienced.

2. The Second Noble Truth

There is a Cause (Arising) of Suffering

Desire and attachment are the causes of suffering.

3. The Third Noble Truth

There is an End (Cessation) to Suffering

4. Fourth Noble Truth

There is a Path (Way) to the Cessation of Suffering

The end to suffering can be attained by journeying on the Noble Eightfold Path.

1. There is Suffering

Lord Buddha realized that all forms of existence are subject to suffering. In the context of the First Noble Truth, suffering means suffering, pain, sorrow,  misery, imperfection, impermanence, emptiness, insubstantiality, unsatisfactoriness, dis-ease, or even conflict (meaning the conflict between our desires and the facts of life).

There are many kinds of suffering in life (all are forms of physical and mental suffering): 

  • birth
  • old age
  • sickness
  • death
  • tiredness
  • association with unpleasant persons and conditions
  • separation from beloved ones and pleasant conditions
  • not getting what one desires
  • grief,  losing people and things near and dear to one
  • lamentation
  • fear
  • irritation
  • frustration
  • distress... just to mention a few.

An Individual (an I or a Self) is a combination of ever-changing mental and physical forces which can be divided into Five Aggregates (groups) :

  • Matter
  • Sensations
  • Perceptions
  • Mental Formations
  • Consciousness

Suffering can be described as conditioned states produced by attachment to these five aggregates.

Pleasant and happy feelings or conditions in life are not permanent.  Sooner or later they change. 
When they change they may produce suffering, pain, unhappiness or disappointment.

 

2. There is a Cause (Arising) of Suffering

The principle cause of suffering is the attachment to desire or craving.
Attachment to desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have (aversion) is cause of suffering.
The clinging to desire comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction comes from following desire. 
We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires doesn't bring an end to them.

These are 3 basic types of desire:

  • desire for sense-pleasures - manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant experiences: the taste of good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful music.
  • desire to avoid pain (to get rid of) - to get rid of the unpleasant experiences in life: unpleasant sensations, anger, fear, jealousy.
  • desire to become - is the ambition that comes with wanting attainments or recognition or fame. It is the craving to "be a somebody".

The arising of suffering is man’s constant craving or desire for sensual pleasure and existence. 
We tend to forget, that we got our senses in order to protect our lives, to avoid certain dangers, and we use them instead to merely fulfill our desires.

3. There is an End (Cessation) to Suffering

The end of suffering is non-attachment, or letting go of desire or craving. 
This is the state of Nirvana (also called Nibbana), the non-attachment to conditioned experience, where greed, hatred and delusion are extinct.
Freedom from attachments to the five aggregates of attachment is the end of suffering. 

To understand the unconditioned, we need to see for ourselves that everything that has a nature to be born has a nature to die: that every phenomenon that has a cause is impermanent. By letting go of attachment to desire for conditioned phenomena, desire can come to an end and we can be liberated from suffering.

4. There is a Path to the Cessation of Suffering: The Noble 
    Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of The Four Noble Truths that the Buddha experienced with his enlightenment. The Buddha taught that alignment with this Path will eliminate the cause of suffering and result in faultless peace and unblemished happiness. 

By following the Noble Eightfold Path one will develop three qualities required to attain Nirvana: 

I. WISDOM
II. MORALITY
III. CONCENTRATION

I. WISDOM

Wisdom comes from understanding the three characteristics of all compound things (existence):

  • all conditioned phenomena are impermanent

  • all conditioned phenomena are not personal (there is no self)

  • attachment to desire for impermanent phenomena leads to suffering

Impermanence

Everything that has a cause has a beginning and an end: conditioned phenomena are transitory. But conditioned phenomena (see five aggregates) are also what the self attaches to and when there attachment to impermanent objects there will always be suffering.

No Self

There is no Enduring Self. All phenomena are conditioned--have a beginning and an end--so there is nothing to which they can attach. 
Suffering arises from the illusion that impermanent conditioned states are permanent and can be possessed by a Self.
Moreover, there is no self or soul which carries on after death. 
Instead we are merely a collection of groups of grasping which are in a continual state of flux. 
Rebirth is possible only because we are driven by our desires and volitions.

In the context of the Eightfold path, Wisdom results from perfecting the following qualities:

  1. Right Understanding (also called Wise View)
  2. Right Thoughts (also called Wise Intentions) 

Right Understanding - understanding that all phenomena are of the impermanent, non-self nature and that attachment to them leads to suffering.
Right Understanding brings about Right Thoughts.

Right Thoughts - the aspiration or intention to be liberated from suffering and to understand the truth.

The deepening of wisdom is enhanced when the lifestyle and mind are calmed through the practices of Morality and  Training of the Mind ( Right Concentration).

II. MORALITY (Virtue) 

Adherence to moral guidelines (precepts) is an essential protection from causing suffering to oneself and to others. 
There are 5 basic precepts that Buddhist practitioners undertake:

  • Reverence for Life (refrain from killing)
  • Generosity (refrain from stealing)
  • Sexual Responsibility (refrain from sexual misconduct)
  • Deep Listening and Loving Speech (refrain from lying)
  • Mindful Consumption (refrain from ingesting intoxicants)

In the context of the Eightfold path, these precepts imply:

  1. Right (Wise) Speech
  2. Right (Wise) Action
  3. Right (Wise) Livelihood

III. TRAINING OF THE MIND

The development of Wisdom and Morality demand a certain training of the mind (concentration). In the context of the Eightfold path, this training is focused on:

  1. Right (Wise) Effort
  2. Right (Wise) Mindfulness 
  3. Right (Wise) Concentration

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path, discovered by the Buddha Himself, is the only way to Nirvana. It avoids the extreme of self-torture that weakens one's intellect and the extreme of self-indulgence that retards one's spiritual progress.

The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of The Four Noble Truths. It consists of the following eight factors:

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Thoughts
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration

1. Right Understanding (also called Wise View)  is the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. 

Wisdom comes from understanding of the impermanent, non-self nature of phenomena and that attachment to them leads to suffering.
These are three characteristics of existence (Three Characteristics of All Compound Things):

  • all conditioned phenomena are impermanent (transient)

  • all conditioned phenomena are not personal, non-self (soul-less)

  • attachment to desire for impermanent phenomena leads to suffering

The keynote of Buddhism is this Right Understanding. In other words, it is the understanding of oneself as one really is.
Buddhism is based on knowledge and not on unreasonable belief.

 

2. Right Thoughts (also called Wise Intention)

"Right Thought" is the aspiration or intention to be liberated from suffering and to understand the truth.
Right Thoughts are threefold. They are:

  • The thoughts of renunciation which are opposed to sense-pleasures (non-greed, simplicity, non–distractedness in every thought, word and deed.)
  • Kind Thoughts (good will) which are opposed to ill-will.
  • Thoughts (intentions) of harmlessness which are opposed to cruelty. These tend to purify the mind.

3. Right Speech (also called Wise Speech)

Wise Speech is speech that originates in mindful presence. It means to tell the truth and speak appropriately. 
Specifically, it implies abstaining from: 

  • lying (refraining from falsehood)
  • rude and abusive language (refraining from use of slanderous or harsh words)
  • speech that avoids useless chatter and gossip.


4. Right Action deals with refraining from killing, stealing and unchastity. 

Wise Action helps one to develop a character that is self-controlled and mindful of right of others. 
It is action that:

  • preserves and does not destroy life; 
  • action that takes only what is freely given; 
  • action that does not steal; 
  • sexual action that originates in kindness and respect and avoids sexual transgressions.


5. Right Livelihood 

Right Livelihood means earring one's living in a way that is not harmful to others.

One should not make living dealing in arms, drugs or violence; exploitation of others and profiteering. 
These five kinds of trades should be avoided by a lay disciple:

  • trade in deadly weapons  
  • trade in animals for slaughter  
  • trade in slavery/exploitation  
  • trade in intoxicants  
  • trade in poisons/drugs


6. Right Effort is fourfold, namely:

  • the endeavor to discard evil that has already arisen.
  • the endeavor to prevent the arising of un-risen evil.
  • the endeavor to develop that good which has already arisen.
  • the endeavor to promote that good which has not already arisen.
Effort is needed to cultivate Good Conduct or develop one's mind, because one is often distracted or tempted to take the easy way out of things. The Buddha teaches that attaining happiness and Enlightenment depends upon one's own efforts. Effort is the root of all achievement. If one wants to get to the top of a mountain, just sitting at the foot thinking about it will not bring one there. It is by making the effort of climbing up the mountain, step by step, that one eventually reaches the summit. Thus, no matter how great the Buddha's achievement may be, or how excellent His Teaching is, one must put the Teaching into practice before one can expect to obtain the desired result.


7. Right Mindfulness is also fourfold:

  • mindfulness with regard to body
  • mindfulness with regard to feeling
  • mindfulness with regard to mind
  • mindfulness with regard to mental objects.

Right Mindfulness is the awareness of one's deeds, words and thoughts. It is present–time awareness; awareness of the present moment; noticing the body and breath, feelings, thoughts, and mind states.


8. Right Meditation (also called Wise Concentration)

Meditation means the gradual process of training the mind to focus on a single object and to remain fixed upon the object without wavering. The constant practice of meditation helps one to develop a clam and concentrated mind and help to prepare one for the attainment of Wisdom and Enlightenment ultimately.

Wise Concentration is one–pointedness of mind.

 

Related links:


The Four Sublime States Brahma

There are four sublime "abidings" for the mind and heart:

  • Kindness towards all beings
  • Compassion towards those who are suffering
  • Sympathetic Joy towards others
  • Equanimity toward friend and foe

The Buddha's Words on Kindness: Metta Sutta

Instructions for the practice of meditation on Kindness

This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world. 


Buddhism Books and Video

Little Buddha DVD

Release Information:
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
Theatrical Release Date: May 25, 1994
DVD Release Date: April 3, 2001
Run Time: 123 minutes

In many ways Little Buddha is a companion piece to Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor. A beautiful travelogue and history lesson unfolds in the two parts of this film: a historical text of Siddhartha (Keanu Reeves) and the contemporary quest of Lama Norbu (Ying Ruocheng), who believes he has found the reincarnation of his former teacher in a Seattle child. The ancient, magical tales sweep away the blasé contemporary action. Ruocheng's presence drives the story of discovery as the child learns about the teachings of Buddhism. A visual feast that will dazzle both young and old. In fact, were it not a religious icon, the youngsters might want Siddhartha dolls after viewing his magical on-screen adventures. Beautiful cinematography by Vittorio Storaro.

Kundun DVD

Release Information:
Studio: Touchstone Video
Theatrical Release Date: December 6, 1997
DVD Release Date: May 21, 2002
Run Time: 135 minutes
Production Company: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

It would be a mistake to call Kundun a disappointment, or a film that director Martin Scorsese was not equipped to create. Both statements may be true to some viewers, but they ignore the higher purpose of Scorsese's artistic intention and take away from a film that is by any definition unique. In chronicling the life of the 14th Dalai Lama, Kundun defies conventional narrative in favor of an episodic approach, presenting a sequential flow of events from the life of the young leader of Buddhist Tibet. From the moment he is recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1937 to his exile from Tibet in the wake of China's invasion, the Dalai Lama is seen as an enlightened spiritual figurehead. This gives the film its tone of serenity and reverence but denies us the privilege of admiring the Dalai Lama as a fascinating human character. There's a sense of mild detachment between the film and its audience, but its visual richness offers ample compensation. In close collaboration with cinematographer Roger Deakins, Scorsese filmed Kundun with great pageantry and ritual, and meticulous attention to details of costume, color, and the casting of actual Buddhist monks in the scenes at the Dalai Lama's palace. Certain images will linger in the memory for a long time, such as the Dalai Lama's nightmarish vision of standing among hundreds of dead monks, their lives sacrificed in pacifist defiance of Chinese aggression. Is this a film you'll want to watch repeatedly? Perhaps not. But as a political drama and an elegant gesture of devotion, Kundun is a film of great value and inspirational beauty--one, after all, that perhaps only Scorsese could have made.

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, & Liberation: The Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Other
by Thich Nhat Hanh

What should we think when on the one hand Buddhism tells us that life is suffering and on the other we are told to enjoy life's every moment? Loved around the world for his simple, straightforward explanations of Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh has finally turned his hand to the very core of Buddhism and conundrums such as this. In the traditional way, Thich Nhat Hanh takes up the core teachings one by one--the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising--but his approach is as fresh as a soft breeze through a plum orchard. For illustration, he dips into the vast stores of Buddhist literature right alongside contemporary anecdotes, pointing out subtleties that can get glossed over in other popular introductions. He also includes three short but key sutras, essential source teachings from which all Buddhism flows. Studying the basics of Buddhism under Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh is like learning basketball from Michael Jordan.

Ingram
Thich Nhat Hahn is well-known for the simplicity and clarity with which he presents Buddhist teachings. Now he brings that spirit to his own introduction to Buddhism, introducing--in a way that is at once utterly lucid and entirely original--the life of Buddha, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and the Doctrine of Emptiness.

Awakening the Buddha Within : Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World
by Surya Das, Lama Surya Das (Preface)

The most highly trained American lama in the Tibetan tradition offers the definitive book on Western Buddhism for the modern-day spiritual seeker--"a warm, accessible, deep, and brilliantly written exploration and adventure along the Buddhist path" (Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D).

Book Description
Lama Surya Das, the most highly trained American lama in the Tibetan tradition, presents the definitive book on Western Buddhism for the modern-day spiritual seeker.
The radical and compelling message of Buddhism tells us that each of us has the wisdom, awareness, love, and power of the Buddha within; yet most of us are too often like sleeping Buddhas. In Awakening the Buddha Within, Surya Das shows how we can awaken to who we really are in order to lead a more compassionate, enlightened, and balanced life. It illuminates the guidelines and key principles embodied in the noble Eight-Fold Path and the traditional Three Enlightenment Trainings common to all schools of Buddhism:

  • Wisdom Training: Developing clear vision, insight, and inner understanding -- seeing reality and ourselves as we really are.

  • Ethics Training: Cultivating virtue, self-discipline, and compassion in what we say and do.

  • Meditation Training: Practicing mindfulness, concentration, and awareness of the present moment.

With lively stories, meditations, and spiritual practices, Awakening the Buddha Within is an invaluable text for the novice and experienced student of Buddhism alike.

 

Links

  • World-Mysteries.com - Ancient Writings: World Religions
     

  • World-Mysteries.com - Life after Death 
     

  • 500 BC BUDDHA, THE WORD (The Eightfold Path)
     
  • BUDDHA, THE GOSPEL By Paul Carus
    Chicago, The Open Court Publishing Company, [1894]
      

  • BuddhaNet: Buddhist Education and Information Network
    Education Association, 1992 - 2002.
    Description: Offers an online Buddhist magazine, a comprehensive worldwide directory of Buddhist centers, a library...
     

  • BUDDHISM
    BUDDHISM. (Mainly concerning the Theravada tradition). ... Buddhism in the West: Southern Buddhism became established in Europe early in the 20 th century. ...
    Description: Outline of Buddhist beliefs and practises from "Religious Tolerance" site.
     

  • Diamond Way Buddhism
    ... All about Buddhism. ... New edition of the book by Lama Ole Nydahl: Entering the Diamond Way "A perfect book to introduce Westerners to Tibetan Buddhism.". ...
    Description: Karma Kagyu tradition. Buddhist centers worldwide supporting Karmapa Thaye Dorje and guided by Lama...
     

  • Fundamental Buddhism Explained Buddha's Teachings Buddhist ...
    Fundamental Buddhism Explained Buddha's Teachings Buddhist Instruction Explanation of Buddhism based on the Pali Canon recognized by Buddhist scholars as the ...
    Description: Explicit explanation of fundamental Buddhism based on the Pali Canon, recognized by Buddhist scholars...

  • Sacred-Texts.com - Buddhism 
     

  • SpiritWeb
    Reincarnation. Includes vast links and resources.
     

  • Mysticism in World Religions
    Mysticism is concerned with the nature of reality, the individual's struggle to attain a clear vision of reality, and the transformation of consciousness that accompanies such vision. This site explores the mystical traditions of six religions by comparing and contrasting quotations drawn from their respective literatures. These quotations have been organized by topic as seen below. Because I didn't want to bias the presentation by using terminology unique to a particular religion, I have tried to come up with broad, descriptive names for the topics.