Philosophy Assignment:1500 words +/- 10%All instructions included.Oxford referencing.Reading material provided
Philosophy Assignment: 1500 words +/- 10% All instructions included. Oxford referencing. Reading material provided
COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA WARNING This material has been reproduced and communicated to you by or on behalf of Deakin University in accordance with section 113P of the Copyright Act 1968 (Act). The material in this communication may be subject to copyright under the Act. Any further reproduction or communication of this material by you may be the subject of copyright protection under the Act. Do not remove this notice Course of Study: (ASR100) World Religions Title of work: An Introduction to Buddhism South Asian Edition, 2nd Revised edition (2013) Section: Early Buddhist teachings: the four true realities for the spiritually ennobled pp. 50–87 Author/editor of work: Harvey, Peter Author of section: P Harvey Name of Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Philosophy Assignment: 1500 words +/- 10% All instructions included. Oxford referencing. Reading material provided
The Four Noble Truths Contents A Handful of Leaves page 3 Preface page 4 Introduction page 5 The First Noble Truth page 9 Suffering and Self-View page 10 Denial of Suffering page 11 Morality and Compassion page 12 To Investigate Suffering page 13 Pleasure and Displeasure page 14 Insight in Situations page 16 The Second Noble Truth page 19 Three Kinds of Desire page 19 Grasping is Suffering page 21 Letting Go page 22 Accomplishment page 23 The Third Noble Truth page 25 The Truth of Impermanence page 26 Mortality and Cessation page 27 Allowing things to Arise page 28 Realisation page 30 The Fourth Noble Truth page 33 Right Understanding page 34 Right Aspiration page 37 Right Speech, Action, Livelihood page 39 Right Effort, Mindfulness, Concentration page 40 Aspects of Meditation page 41 Rationality and Emotion page 42 Things as They Are page 43 Harmony page 44 A Reflective Teaching page 45 A Handful of Leaves The Blessed One was once living at Kosambã in a wood of siÿs apa trees. He picked up a fe w leaves in his hand, and he aske d the bhikkh us, ‘Ho w do you conceive this, bhikkhus, which is more, the few le aves that I have picked up in my hand or those on the trees in the wood? ‘The leaves that the Bless ed One has picked up in his hand are few, Lord; those in th e wood are far more.’ ‘So too, bhikkhus, the things that I have known by direct knowled ge are more; t he things that I have to ld you are only a fe w. Why have I not told th em? Because they bring no be nefit, no adv ancement in the Holy Life, and b ecause they do n ot lead to dispassion, to fading, to ceasing, to st illing, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbàna . That is w hy I have not told them. A nd w hat have I told you? This is suffering; this is the or igin of suffering; this is the cessati on of suffering; this is the way leading to the cessation of suffering. That is w hat I have told you. W hy h ave I told it? B ecause it brings benefit, and advancement in the Holy Life, and because it leads to dispassion, to fading, to ceasing, to stilling, to direct knowled ge, to enlightenment, to Nibbàna . So bhikkhus, let your task be this: This is suffering; this i s the origin of suffering; this is t he cessation of suffering; thi s is the way leadin g to the cessation of suffering.’ [Saÿyutta Nikàya, LVI , 31 ] 3 Preface This small booklet was compiled and edited from talks given by Venerable Ajahn Sumedho on the central teaching of the Bu dd ha: that the unhappi nes s of h umanity can be overcome through spiritual means. The teachin g is conveyed through the Bu ddha’ s Four Noble Truths, first expounde d in 528 BC in the Deer Park at Sarnath near Varanasi and kept alive in the Buddhist world ever since. Venerable Ajahn Sumedho is a bhikkhu (mendicant monk) of the Theravà da tradit ion of Budd his m. He was ord ained in Th ailand in 19 66 and train ed there for te n years. He is currently the Abbot of Amaravat i Buddhist Monastery as well as teacher and spiritual guide to many bhikkhus, B uddhist nun s and lay people. This booklet has been made available throug h the voluntary efforts of many people for the welfare of others. Note on the Text: The first exposition of the Four Nobl e Truths was a discourse (sutta) called Dhamma cak kappavatt an a Sutta – literally, ‘the discourse that sets the vehicle of the teaching in motion.’ Ext racts from this ar e quoted at the beginning of each chapter describing the Four Truths. The reference qu oted is to the section in the books of the scriptures where this discourse can be fo und. However, the theme of the Four No ble Truths recurs m any times, for example in the quo tation that a ppears at the beginning of the Intro duc tion. 4 INTRODUC TION That both I a nd you have had to travel and trudge t hrough this long round is owing to our not disco vering, not penetrating th e four truths. What four? They are: The Noble Truth of Suffering, The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, The Nob le Truth of the Cessation of Suffering, and the Noble Truth of the Wa y Leading to the Cessa tion of Suffer ing. [Dãgha Nikà ya, Sutta 16] The Dham macak kappa vattana Sutt a, the Buddha’s teach ing on the Four Noble Truths, ha s been the ma in reference that I ha ve used for my p ractice over the years. It is the teaching we use d in our monaste ry in Thailand . Th e Th erav ad a sc hool of Buddhism regards th is sutta as t he quinte ssen ce of the teaching of th e Buddha. This one su tta contains all that is necessary for unde rstanding Dhamma an d for enlightenment. Though t he Dhamma cak kappavatt an a Sutta is co nsidere d to be the first s ermon the Buddha gave after h is enlightenmen t, I somet imes like to th ink that he gave h is f irst sermon whe n he met an ascetic on th e way to Varanasi. After his enligh tenment in Bo dh Gaya, the Buddha thou ght: ‘Th is is such a su btle teaching. I cannot pos sibly convey in words what I ha ve disco vered so I w ill not teach. I will just sit un der t he Bodhi tree for the rest of my life.’ For me this is a very tempting idea, just to go off and live alone and not have to deal with th e problems of society. However, w hile the Buddha was th inking this w ay, Brahmà Sah ampati, t he creator deit y in Hin duism, came to the Bud dha and convinc ed him that he should go a nd teach. Brahmà Saha mpati per suaded the Bu ddha tha t th ere were beings who would understan d, beings who had only a little dust in their eyes. So the Bu ddha’ s teaching was aime d t oward t hose wit h only a little dus t in the ir eyes -I’m sure he did not think it would become a mass, popular movement. After Brahm à Sahampat i’s visit, t he Buddha was on h is wa y from Bodh Gaya to Varanasi when he met a n ascetic who was imp ressed by his radiant ap pearance. The ascetic sai d, ‘What is it t hat you hav e discovere d?’ and the B udd ha respo nded : ‘I am the perfectly enlightene d one, the Arahant , the Buddha .’ I like to con sider this his first sermo n. It was a failure because the man listening thought the Buddha ha d been prac tising too h ard and wa s overest imating himsel f. If somebody said those words to us, I’m sure we would react similarly. What would you do if I said, “I a m the perfec tly enlightened one”? Actually, the Buddha’s statemen t w as a very accurate, precise teach ing . It is the perfect teaching, but pe ople cannot unders tand it. They ten d to mis understand an d to think it comes from an ego because people ar e always interp reting everything from their egos. “I am the perfectly enlightened one” ma y sound like an egotistical statement, b ut isn’t it really purely transcendent? That state ment: “I am the Buddha , the perfectly enlightened one” is interesting to contemplate because it connects the use of “I am” 5 with superla tive at tainm ents or realisations. I n any case, the result of the Buddha’s first teaching wa s that the listener could not understa nd it and wa lked away. Later, the Buddha met his five form er compan ions in the De er Park in Varanasi. All five were ve ry sincerely dedicate d to strict asceticism. They had been disillusione d wit h the Buddha earlier because they tho ught he had become ins incere in h is practice. T his was because the Buddha, before he was enlightened, had b egun to realise that strict asceticis m w as in no way conducive towards an enlightened state so he was no longer practising in that way. T hese five friends t hough t he was taking it easy: maybe they saw him eating milk rice, which would perhaps be comparable to eating ice cream the se days. If you are an asce tic and you see a mo nk eating ice cream, you might lose your faith in him because you think that monks s hould be eatin g nettle sou p. If you re ally loved ascetic ism and you saw me eating a dish of ice cream, you would ha ve no faith in Ajahn S umedho anymore. T hat is the w ay the h uman mind works; w e tend to admire impres sive f eats of self-torture and denial. Wh en they lose faith in him, the se five fri end s or dis ciples left th e Budd ha – wh ich gave h im th e chance t o sit und er th e Bodhi tree and be enlightened. Then, when they met the Buddha again in the Deer Park in Varanasi, the five thought a t first, ‘We kn ow what he ’s like. Let’s just not bo ther about him.’ But as he came near, they all felt that there was somethin g special about him. They stood up to make a place for him to sit do wn and he del iver ed his sermo n on the Four Noble Truths. This time, instead of sayi ng ‘I am the enlightened one’, he said: ‘T here is suffering. There is the origin of suf fering. There is the cessation of suff ering. There is the path out of suffering.’ Presented in this w ay, his teaching requires no acceptance or denial. If he had sa id ‘I a m the all-enl ightene d one’, we would be forced to either agree or disagree – or just be bewildered. W e wouldn’t quite kn ow how to look at th at statement. However, by saying: ‘There is suffe ring, there is a cause, there is an end to suffering, and there is a way out of suffering’, he offered so mething for reflection: ‘What do you mean by this? What do yo u mean by suffering, its origin, cessa tion and the path?’ So we start contemplating it, thinking abou t it. With the st atement : ‘I am the all- enlightened one’, we mig ht just argue about it. ‘ Is he really enlightene d?’… ‘I don’t thin k so.’ We would just argue; we are not ready fo r a teaching that is so direct. Obviously, the Buddha’ s first sermo n was to somebody wh o still had a lot of dust in his eyes and it failed. So on the second occasion, he gave the tea ching of the Four Noble Truths. Now the Four Noble Truths are : there is suffering; there is a cause or origin of suffering; there is an en d of sufferin g; and th ere is path out of suffering which is t he Eightfold Pa th. Each of these Trut hs has t hree a spects so all together there are twel ve insigh ts. In the Thera vàda school, an arahant , a perfected one, is one who has se en clearly the Four Noble Truth s with their three aspects and twelve insights. ‘ Arah ant’ means a hu man being who under stands the tru th; it is applied mainly to the teachin g of the Four No ble Truths. 6 For the Fir st Noble T ruth, ‘T here is suffering’ is t he fir st insigh t. Wh at is tha t insigh t? We don’t nee d to make it into anything grand; it i s just t he reco gnition: ‘Th ere is suffering’. That is a bas ic insigh t. T he igno rant person says, ‘I’m sufferin g. I don’t wa nt to suffer. I meditate an d I go on retreats to get out of suffering, but I’m still suffe ring and I don’t want to suffer… How can I get out of suffering? What can I do to get rid of it?’ B ut that is not the First N oble T ruth; it is not: ‘I am suffering and I w ant to end it.’ The i nsigh t i s, ‘There is suffering’. No w you are l ooking at th e pain or t he anguis h y ou feel – not fr om the perspective of ‘It’s mine’ but as a reflection: ‘There is this suffering, this dukkh a’. It is coming from the reflective p osition o f ‘Buddha seeing the D hamma.’ The insight is simply the acknowledgement that there is this suffering w ithout m aking it personal. That acknowle dgement is an importan t insight; just looking at mental anguish or physical pain and see ing it as du kk ha rather than as perso nal misery -just seeing it as dukkha an d not reacting to it in a hab itual way. The second insight of the First No ble Trut h is: ‘Suffering should be understoo d.’ The second insight or aspect of each of the Noble Truths ha s the word ‘should’ in it: ‘It should be understood.’ The second insig ht then, is that dukkha is something to understand. One should understand dukkha , not just try to get rid of it. We can look at the word ‘under standing’ as ‘ standing un der’. It is a common enough wor d but, in Pà li, ‘understa nding’ mean s to really accept the suffering, stan d under or em brace it rather than just react to it. With any form of suffering – physical or mental – we usually just react, but with under standing we can really look at suffering; really ac cept it, really ho ld it and embrace it. So that is the second aspect, ‘We should understand suffering’. The third aspect of the First Noble Truth is: ‘Suffering has been under stood.’ Whe n you have actually practised w ith s uffering looking at it, accepting it, k nowing it a nd letting it be the way it is – the n there is the thir d a spect, ‘Suffering has been understood’, or ‘ Dukkha has been un derstood.’ S o these are the three asp ects of the First Noble Truth: ‘There is dukkha ’; ‘ It is to be understood’; and, ‘ It has been understoo d.’ This is the p attern for the three aspects of each Noble Truth. There is the statement, then the p rescription a nd then the result of having practised. One ca n also see it in terms of the Pàli words pariyatti , pa ñipatti and pañivedha . Pariyatti is the theory or t he statemen t, ‘There is suf fering.’ Pañipatti is the practice, actually practising with it ; and pañivedha is the res ult of the pract ice. This is w hat we call a reflective pa ttern; you are actually d eveloping your m ind in a very reflective w ay. A Buddha m ind is a reflective min d that k nows th ings as they are. We use these Four Noble Truths for our de velopment. We apply them to ordinary things in ou r lives, to o rdinary atta chments a nd obsess ion s of the m ind. Wit h th ese truths, we c an investiga te our attachments in o rder to ha ve the insights. Through the Thir d Noble Truth, w e can realise cessation, the end of suffering, and practise the Eightfold Pa th unt il the re is un ders tanding. W hen the Eig htfold Pat h has been fu lly developed, one is an ar ahant , one has made it. Eve n thoug h th is sound s complicate d – 7 four truths, three aspect s, twelve ins ights – it is quite s imple . It is a tool for us to use to help us un derstand suff ering and no n-suffering. Within the Buddhist world, there are no t many Buddhists who use the Four Noble Truths any more, eve n in Tha iland. People say, ‘Oh yes, the Four Noble Truths – beginner’s stuff.’ Then they mig ht use all kin ds of vipassanà techniques and become really obsessed w ith the sixteen stag es before th ey get to the Noble Tru ths. I fin d it q uite boggling that in the Bu ddhist world the really profound teaching has been dismissed as primit ive Bu ddhis m: ‘T hat’s for the little kids , the beginners. The advanc ed course is. ..’ They go into complicated theories an d idea s – forgetting the most profou nd teaching. The Four Noble Truths are a lifetime’s reflec tion. It is not ju st a matter of realising the Four No ble Truths, the three asp ects, and twelve stages and becoming an arahant on one retreat and then going onto something a dvanced. The Four Noble Truths are not easy like that. They re quire an on going attitu de of vig ilance and t hey provide the context for a lifetime of examination. 8 THE FIRST NOBLE TRU TH What is the Noble Truth of Suffering? Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, dissociation from the loved is suffering , not to get what one wants is suffering: in short the five categories affected by clinging are suffering. There is this Noble Truth of Suffering: su ch was the vision, in sight, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about t hings not heard before. This Noble Truth must be penetrated by fully understanding suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowing and light tha t arose in me about things not heard before. This Noble Truth has been penetrated by fully un derstanding suffering: such was th e vision, insigh t, wisdom, knowing and light that arose in me about things not heard before. [Saÿyutta Nikàya LVI, 11 ] The First No ble Truth with its three aspects is: “ There is suff ering, dukkh a. Dukkha should be understoo d. Dukkha has b een u nderstood.” T his is a very skillful teaching because it is expressed in a simple formula which is easy to remember, and it also applies to e verything that you can possibly experience or do or think c oncerning the past, the pre sent or the f uture. Suffering or dukkha is the common bond we all share. Everybody everywhere suffers. Human beings suffered in the past, in ancient India; they suffer in mo dern Britain; and in the future , human beings will also suffer… What do we have in common with Q ueen Elizabeth? – W e suffer. W ith a tramp in C haring C ross, w hat do w e have in common? – Suffering. It includes all levels from the most privileged human beings to the most de sperate and underprivil eged ones, and all ranges in between. Everyb ody everywhere suffers. It is a bond we have with each other, something we al l understan d. When we talk about our human sufferi ng, it brings out our compassionate tendencie s. But when w e talk about our opinions, about w hat I th ink and what y ou think about politics and religion, the n we can ge t into war s. I reme mber seeing a film in London about ten years ago. It tried to portray Russian people as human beings by showing R ussian wome n with babies and Rus sian men taking their ch ildren out for picnics. At t he time, this presentatio n of the Rus sian people was unu sual because most of the propaganda of the West made them out to be titanic monsters o r cold-heart ed, reptilian people – and so you never thought of them as hu man beings. If you want to kill people, you have to make them out to be that way; you cannot very well kill somebody if you realise they suffer the way you do. You have to think that they are cold-hearte d, immoral, worthless a nd bad, and that it is better to get rid of them. You have to t hink that they are evil and that it is go od to get rid of them. Yo u have to th ink that they are evil and that it is good to ge t rid of evil. With t his attit ude, y ou might fe el justifie d i n bombing an d machine -gu nning t hem. If you keep in mind our common bo nd of suffering, that makes y ou quite incapable of doing those things. 9 The First No ble Truth is not a dismal metaph ysic al statemen t saying tha t everything is suffering. Notice that there is a dif feren ce between a met aphysical do ctrine in wh ich you are mak ing a sta tement about The Absolute and a Noble Truth which is a reflection. A Noble Truth is a truth to reflect upon; it is not an absolute; it is not The Absolute. This is where We stern people get very confused beca use they interpret this Noble Truth as a kind of meta physical trut h of Buddhis m – but it w as never me ant to be tha t. You can see that the First Noble Truth is not an absolute stat ement because of the Fourth Nobl e Truth, which is the way of non -suffering. You cannot have absolute suffering and then ha ve a way out of it, can you? That doe sn’t make se nse. Yet so me people wi ll pi ck up on the Fi rst Noble T ruth and say th at the Buddh a t aught th at everything is suffering. The Pàli word dukkh a means “incapable of satisfying” or “not able to bear or withstand a nything”: always changing, incapa ble of truly fulfilling us or making us happy. The sensual worl d is like that, a vibratio n in nature. It would, in f act, be terrible if w e did find satisfaction in the sensory w orld because then w e w ouldn’t search beyond it; we’d just be bound to it. H owever, as w e aw aken to this dukkha , w e begin to find the way out so t hat we are n o longer constantly trapped in sen sor y consciousness. Suffering and Self-View It is importa nt to reflect upon the phrasing of the First Noble Truth. It is phrased in a very clear way: “There is suffe ring”, ra the r than “I s uffer”. Psychologically, that reflection is a much mo re skillful way to put it. We tend to interpret o ur suffering as “I’m really suffering. I suffer a lot – and I don’t w ant to suffer.” T his is the w ay o ur thinking mi nd is con ditioned. “I am suffering” always conveys the sense of “I am somebody who is suffering a lot. This suffering is mine ; I’ve had a lot of sufferi ng in m y life. ” Th en the w hole pr oces s, th e association with one’s s elf and one’s me mory, t akes off. You reme mber what happe ned when you w ere a baby… and so on. But note, we are not saying there is someone who has suffe ring. It is no t personal suffering anymore w hen w e see it as “There is suffering”. It is not: “Oh poor m e, w hy do I have to suffer so m uch? W hat did I do to deserve this ? Wh y do I have to get old? Why do I have to have sorrow, pain, grie f and de spai r? It is not f air! I do not want it. I o nly want happiness and se curity.” This kind of thinking comes from ignorance whic h complicates everything a nd result s in personality problems. To let go of suffering, w e have to admit it into c onsciousnes s. But t he a dmission in Buddhist me ditat ion is n ot from a position of: “I am suffering ” but rather, “There is t he presence of suffering” because we are not tryi ng to identify w ith the probl em but simp ly acknowledge that there is one. It is unsk illful to think in terms of: “I am an ang ry person; I get angry so ea sily; how do I get rid of it?” – that triggers off al l the underlying assump tions of a self an d it is very hard to get any perspective on that. It becomes very 10 confused be cause the sense of my problems o r my thoug hts take s us very easily to suppress ion or to maki ng judgeme nts about it and criticis ing ourselve s. We tend to grasp and identify ra ther than to o bserve, witn ess an d understand th ings as they a re. When you are just admitting that t here is this f eeling of confusion, tha t there is th is greed or anger, then there is an ho nest reflection on the way it is an d you have ta ken out all the underlying assumptions – or at least undermined them. So do not grasp these thing s as personal faults but ke ep contemp lating these conditions a s imperman ent, unsatisf actory an d n on-self. Keep reflecting, seeing them as they are. The tendency is to view lif e fr om the sense that these are my problems, and that one is being very honest an d forthright in adm itting t his. Then our life ten ds to reaffirm tha t because we keep operating fr om t hat wrong assump tion. But that very viewpoint is imperma nen t, unsatisfactory and non-self. “There is suf fering” is a very clear, pr ecise acknowledgement that at this time, the re is some feeling of unhappiness. It can range from anguish and despair to m ild irritation; dukkha does not neces sarily mean severe s ufferin g. You do n ot have to b e brutalise d by life; you do not have to come from Auschw itz o r Belsen to say that t here is s uffering. Even Q ueen Elizabeth would say, “There is suffering.” I’m sure she has momen ts of great anguish and despair or, at least, moments of irritation. The sensory world is a sensitive experience. It means you are always being exposed to pleasure and pain and the dualism of saÿsàra . It is like being in someth ing tha t is very vulnerable and p icking u p everything that h appens to come in contact w ith these bodies and their sen ses. That is the way it is. That is the re sult of birth. Denial of Suffering Su ffer ing is something we usually do n ot w ant to kn ow -we ju st w ant to get rid of i t. As soon as there is any inconvenien ce or annoyance, the tendency of an unawakene d human bein g is to get r id of it or suppress it. One can see why moder n society is so caught up in seeking pl easures an d deligh ts in what is new , exciting or romantic. We tend to emp hasise the beauties and pleasures of youth whilst the ugly side of life – old age, sickness, death, boredom, de spair and depre ssion, are pushe d aside. When we fin d ourselves with somethin g we do not like, we tr y t o get away from it to someth ing we do like. If we feel boredom, we go to something inte resting. If we feel frightened, we try to find safety. This is a per fectly natural thing to do . We are asso ciated with that pleasure/pain principle of being attracted and repelled. So if the mi nd is not ful l and receptive, then it is selective – it selects wh at it likes and tries to s uppress wha t it does not l ike. Much o f our experience has to be suppres sed because a lot of what we are inevitab ly involved with is unpl easant in so me way. If a nything u npleasant a rises, w e say, ‘Run a way!’ If a nyone g ets in o ur w ay, w e say, ‘Kill hi m!’ This te ndency is often apparent in wha t our governments do… Frighten ing, isn’t it, w hen you thin k of the kind of people who run our countries – 11 because the y are still very ignorant and unenlightened. Bu t that is the way it is. The ignorant mi nd th inks of exterminat ion: ‘Here’s a mosqui to; kill it!’, ‘These ants a re taking over the room; spray them with an t killer!’ There is a company in Britain ca lled Rent-o -Kil. I don’t know if it is a ki nd of Brit ish mafia or what, bu t it specialises in killing pests – however you want to interpret the word ‘pests’. Morality and Compassion That is w hy w e have to have laws such as, ‘I will refrain fro m intentionally killing,’ because our instinct ual nature is to kill: if it is in the way, kill it. You can see this in th e animal king dom. We are quite predatory crea tures oursel ve s; we t hink we are civilised but we have a really bloody history – literally. It is ju st filled wit h en dles s slaughter s an d justification s for all kinds of iniqu ities against other huma n beings – not to mention animals – and it is all bec ause of this basic ignora nce, this unr eflecting human min d that tells us to an nihilate w hat is in our way. However, with reflectio n we are changing tha t; we are transcending that basic instinct ual, animal patte rn. We are not just being law-abidi ng puppets of society, afrai d to kill becau se we are afraid of being punished. Now we are really taking on responsibility. We respect the lives of other creatures, even the lives of insects and creatures we do not like. Nobody is ever going to like mosqu itoes and ant s, bu t we can reflect on the fact that they have a right to live. That is a reflection of the mind; it is not just a reac tion: ‘Where is the insectici de spray.’ I also don’t like to see ants crawling over my floor; my first reaction is ‘Where ’s the insecticide spray.’ But then the reflective min d shows me that even though these creatures are annoying me and I wo uld rather they go away, they have a right to exist. That is a reflection of the human min d. The sa me a pplies to un pleasant mind state s. S o when you are experie ncing anger, rather than saying: ‘Oh, here I go – angry agai n!’ we reflect: ‘There is anger’. Just like with fear – if you start seeing it as my m other’s fear or m y father’s fear or the dog’s fear or my fear, then it all becomes a stic ky web of different creatures related in some way s, unrelated in others; an d it becomes difficult to have any real understan ding. An d yet, the fear in t his being an d the fear in that mangy cur is the sa me thing. ‘There is fear’. It is just that. T he fear that I have experience d is no diffe rent from the fear others have. So this is where we have c ompassion e ven for man gy old dogs. We understand that fear is as horrible f or mangy dogs as it is f or us. Whe n a dog is kic ked with a heavy boot and you are kic ked with a heavy boot, that feeling of pain is the same. Pa in is just pain, cold is ju st cold, anger is jus t anger . It is not m ine but rath er: ‘There is pain.’ T his is a skillful u se of thinking that helps us to see things m ore clearly rather tha n reinforcing the personal view. Th en as a result of recognising the state of suffering – that there is suffering – the second in sight of this First Noble Truth come s: ‘It should be understoo d’. 12 This sufferin g is to be investigate d. To Investigate Suffering I encourage you to try to under stand dukkha : to really look at, stan d under a nd accept your suffering. Tr y to understand it w hen you are feeli ng physical pain or desp air and anguish or hatred a nd aversion – whatever form it take s, whate ver quality it ha s, whether it is extreme or slight. This teaching doe s not mean that to get enlightened y ou have to be u tterly and totally miserable. You do not have to have everyt hing taken away from you or be tortured on the rack; it means be ing able t o look at suffer ing, ev en if it is just a mil d feeling of discontent, and understand it. It is easy to find a scapegoat for our probl ems. ‘If my mot her had really loved me o r if everyone around me had been truly wi se, and fully dedi cated towar ds provi ding a perfect environment for me, then I would not have the e motio nal problems I have now.’ This is really silly! Yet that is ho w so me peop le actually look at the world, thinking that they are confused and miserable because they did not get a fair deal. But with t his formula of the First Nob le Truth, even if we ha ve had a pretty miserable life, wha t we are looking at is not tha t suffering which come s from out there, but what we create in our own minds around it. This is an awakenin g in a person – an awakening to the Truth of suffering. And it is a Noble Truth because it is no longer blaming the suffering tha t we are expe riencing on others. Thus, the Budd hist approach is quite unique with re sp ect to other religions because the emphasis is on the way out of suffering through wisdo m, freedom from all delusion, rather than the attainment of some blissful s tate or union with t he Ultimate. Now I a m not saying that others are never the source o f our frustr ation an d irritation, but w hat we are pointing at w ith th is teaching is our own rea ction to life. If somebody is being nasty to you or deliberately and malevolently trying to cause you to suffer, and you think it is that person who is making you suffer, you st ill have not understood this First Noble Truth. Even if he is pulling out your finge rnails or doing other terrible things to y ou – as long as you thin k that you are suffering because of that person, you have not understoo d this Fir st No ble Truth. T o under stan d suffering is to see clearly that it is our reaction to the person pulling out our fingernails, ‘I hate you,’ that is suffering. The ac tual pulling out of on e’s fingernails is painful, but the suffering involves ‘ I hate you,’ and ‘How can you do this to me,’ and ‘I’ ll never forgive you.’ However, don’t wait for somebody to pull out your fingernails in orde r t o practise with t he Fir st Noble Tr uth. Try it with lit tle things, like s omebody being insens itive o r rude o r ignoring y ou. If y ou a re s uffering b ecause that p erson h as slighted y ou or offended you in some way, you can work with that. There a re many times in da ily life when w e can b e o ffended o r u pset. W e can feel a nnoyed o r irritated just b y the w ay somebody walks or looks, at least I can. Sometimes you can notice yourself feeling aversion just because of the way somebody walks or becaus e they don’t do something that they sh ould – one can get very upset and a ngry about t hings like th at. The pers on 13 has not really harmed yo u or done an ything to you, like pulling out your fingernails, but you still suffer. If you cannot look at suffering in these simpl e cases, you will never be able to be so heroic as to do it if e ver somebody does actually pull out your fingernails! We work with the little dis satisfactions in the o rdinariness of life. We l ook at the way we can be hurt and offended or annoyed and irritated by the neighbours, by the people we li ve with, by Mrs. Thatcher, by the way things are or by ourselves. We know that this suffering shoul d be understo od. We pr ac tise by really looking at suffering as a n object and u nderstan ding: ‘T his is su ffering’. So we ha ve t he ins ightful understan ding of suffering. Pleasure and Displea sure We can inve stigate: W here has this h edonist ic seeki ng of pleas ure as an en d in itself brought us? It has contin ued now for several dec ades but is human ity an y happier as a result? It s eems t hat nowadays we ha ve be en given the right and freedom to do anything w e like w ith drugs, sex, travel and so on – anything goes; anything is allowed; nothing is forbidden. You have to do somethin g really obs cene, really violent, before you’ll be ostracised. But has being able to fo llo w our impul ses made us any happier or more relaxed a nd contented? In fact, it h as tended to make u s very selfish; w e don’t think about how our actions mig ht affect others . We tend to think only about ourselves: me and my happiness, my freedom and my rights. So I become a terrible nuisance, a source of great frustration, annoyance and mise ry for the people around me. If I think I can do anyt hing I want or say anything I feel like saying, even at the expense of others, then I’ m a person who is nothing but a nuisance to society. When the se nse of ‘what I want’ and ‘what I think should and should not be’ arises, and we wis h to deligh t in all the pleasures of life, we inevitably get upset because life seems so hopeless and e verything seems to go w rong. W e just get w hirled about by life – just running around in states of fear and desire. And even when we get everything we want, we will think there is so mething m issing, someth ing i ncomplete yet. So even when life is at its best, there is stil l this sense of suffering-something yet to be done, some kind of doubt or fear haunting us. For example, I’ve always liked beautiful scenery. Once during a retreat that I led in Switzerland, I was taken to some beautiful m ountains an d noticed t hat there w as always a se nse of anguish in my mind because there was so much beauty, a continual flow of beautiful sights. I had the feeling of wanting to hold on to everything, that I had to keep alert all the time in order to cons ume everything with my eyes. It was re ally wearing me out! Now that was dukkha , wasn’t it? I find that if I do things heedlessly – ev en somet hing quite h armless like looking at beautiful m ountains – if I’m just reaching o ut and trying to h old o n to something, it always b rings a n u npleasant feeling. H ow c an y ou h old o n to the Jungfrau a nd the Eiger? T he best you can d o is to take a p icture of it, trying to capture everything o n a 14 piece of pap er. That’s dukkha ; if you want to h old on to someth ing wh ich is beauti ful because you don’t want to be separated from it – that is suffer ing. Having to b e in situatio ns you don’t like is also suffering. For example, I never like d riding in the Underground in Londo n. I’d comp lain about it: ‘I don’t want to go on the undergroun d wi th t hose awful poste rs and dingy Underground sta tions. I don’t want to be packed i nto those little trains u nder the ground.’ I found it a totally unpleasan t experience. But I’d liste n to this complaining, moaning vo ice – the su ffering of not wanting to be with someth ing un pleasant. Then, having contemplated this, I stop pe d making anything of it so that I could be with the unpleasant and un -beau tiful without suffering about it. I realised that it’s just that w ay and it’s all right. We needn’t mak e problems – either about being in a dingy Underground station or ab out looking at beautiful scenery. Thin gs are as they are, so w e can recognise and ap preciate the m in their changing forms without graspin g. Grasping is wanting to hold on to something w e like; wantin g to get rid of someth ing we do n’t like; or wanting to get something we don’t have. We can also suffer a lot because of other people. I remember that in Thaila nd I use d to have quit e negative t houghts abo ut one of the monks. Th en he’d do s omething a nd I’d th ink, ‘H e shouldn’t do that,’ or he’d say so meth ing, ‘He shouldn’t s ay that!’ I’d carry this monk around in m y mind and then, even if I w ent to some other place, I’d think of that monk; the perception of him wo uld ar ise an d the sa me reactions would come: ‘ Do you rememb er when he said t his an d when he did that?’ a nd: ‘He s houldn’t ha ve said that and he shouldn’t ha ve done that.’ Having found a teacher l ike Ajahn C hah, I reme mber want ing him to b e perfect. I’d think, ‘Oh, h e’s a marvel ous teacher – marvelous !’ But then h e might do s omething t hat would ups et m e and I’d th ink, ‘I don’t want him to d o anyt hing t hat ups ets m e because I like to think of him as being marvelous. ’ That was like saying, ‘Aj ahn Chah, be marvelous f or me ALL the time. D on’t ever do anything that will pu t any kind of negative th ought into my min d.’ So even wh en you find somebody that you really respect and love, there’s still the suffering of atta chment. Ine vitably, they will do or say someth ing that you’re not going to like or approve of, causing you some kind of doubt – and you’ll suffer. At one time , several American mo nks came to Wat Pah Pong, our monastery in Northeaster n Thailan d. They were very critic al and it seemed tha t they only saw what was wrong with it. They didn’t think Ajahn Chah was a very good teacher and they didn’t like the monastery. I felt a great anger and hatred arising because they were criticisi ng someth ing tha t I loved. I felt indign an t – ‘Well, if you don’t like it, get out of here. He’s t he finest tea cher in the world and if you can’t see that then just GO!’ T hat kind of attac hment – bei ng in love o r being de vo ted – is suff ering becaus e if somet hing or someone you love is criticise d, you feel angry and in digna nt. 15 Insight in Situations Sometime s insight arise s at the most unexpected times. Th is happened to me while living at Wa t Pah Pong. The Northea stern part of Thailand is not the most beautiful or desirable pla ce in the wo rld wit h its s crubby forests and flat plain; it also g ets extre mely hot during the hot seaso n. We’d have to go out in the heat o f the mid-aft ernoon before each of the Observance Days and sweep the leaves off the pa ths. There were vast are as to sweep. W e would spe nd the whole afternoon in the hot sun, swea tin g and sweep ing the leaves into piles w ith crude brooms; this w as one of ou r dut ies. I didn’t like doi ng this. I’d th ink, ‘I don’t w ant to do th is. I didn’t come here to sweep the l eaves off t he ground; I came here to get enlightened-and instead they ha ve me swee ping leaves off the groun d. Besides, it’s hot and I ha ve fair sk in; I mig ht get skin cancer from being ou t here in a hot climate.’ I was stan ding out there one afternoon, feeling really miserable, thinking , ‘What am I do ing here ? Why did I come here? Why am I staying here? There I s tood w ith my lo ng crude broom and absolutely no energy, feelin g sorry for myself and hating everythin g. Then Ajahn Chah came up, smiled a t me and said, ‘Wat Pah Pong is a lot of suffering, isn’t it?’ and walked a way. So I thought, ‘Why did he sa y that?’ and, ‘Actually, you know, it’s n ot all that b ad.’ He got me to conte mplate: Is s weeping t he leaves really tha t unpleasant?. .. No, it’s n ot. It’s a kind of neutral thing; you sweep the l eaves, and it’s neither here nor there… Is sweating all that te rrible? Is it really a miserable, humiliatin g experience? Is it really as bad a s I a m preten ding it is?… No – sweating is all right, it’ s a perfectly natural thing to be doing. A nd I don’t h ave skin can cer and the people at Wat Pah Pong are very nice. The teacher is a ve ry kind w ise m an. T he m onks h ave treated me well. The lay people come and give me food to eat, an d… What a m I complainin g about?’ Reflecting u pon the act ual experie nce of being there, I t hought, ‘I’ m all right. People respect me, I’m treated we ll. I’m being taught by pleasant people in a ve ry pleasant country. There’s nothing rea lly wrong with anything, except me; I’m making a problem out of it becaus e I don’t want to sweat and I don’t want to swe ep leaves.’ Then I ha d a ver y clear insi ght. I su dde nly perc eive d so meth ing in me w hich was alw ays complaining and criticisi ng, and whi ch was pr eventing me from ever giving myself to anything or offering myself to any situation. Another exp erience I lea rned from was the custo m of washin g the feet of the se nior monks whe n they returned from th e alms-roun d. After the y walked barefoot through the village a nd rice paddies, the ir feet would be muddy. There were foot baths outside the dining hall. When Ajahn Chah woul d come, all the monks-maybe twenty or thirty of them-wo uld rush out and wash A jahn Chah’s feet . W hen I first saw this I thought, ‘I’m n ot g oing to d o that-not m e!’ T hen the n ext d ay, thirty monks rushe d ou t as soon as Ajahn Ch ah a ppeared and washed his feet-I thoug ht, ‘What a stu pid t hing to be doing – thirty monks wash ing o ne man’s fee t. I’m not go ing to do t hat.’ The day aft er that, the reaction became eve n m ore violent.. . thirty mon ks 16 rushe d out and washe d Ajahn Chah’ s feet and… ‘That really angers me, I’m fed up with it! I just feel that is the most st upid thin g I’ ve ever seen-thirty men going out to wash one man’s feet! He probably thinks he deserves it, you know – it’s really building up his ego. He’s probably got an enormous ego, having so many people wash his feet every day. I’ll never do that!’ I was begin ning to buil d up a stro ng reaction, an overreaction. I would sit there feeling mise rable and an gry. I’d look at the mo nks and I’d th ink, ‘They all look stupid to me. I don’t k now what I’m doing her e.’ But then I starte d list ening and I t hought, ‘T his is really a n u npleasant frame o f m ind to b e in. Is it a nything to g et u pset a bout? T hey haven’t made me do it. It’s all right ; there’s not hing wrong with th irty me n wash ing o ne man’s feet. It’s not immoral or bad b ehaviour an d maybe the y enjoy it; maybe they want to do it – maybe it’s all right to do that… Maybe I should do it!’ So the next morn ing, thirty-one monks ran out and washe d Ajahn Chah’s feet. There was no problem after that. It felt r eally good: that nasty thing in me ha d stoppe d. We can reflect upon these thing s that arouse indigna tion and anger in us: is someth ing r eally wrong with the m or is it so met hing we cre ate dukkha about? Then we begin to understand the problems we create in o ur own lives and the lives of the people around us. With mindfulness, we are willing to bear wi th the whole of life; with the excitemen t and th e bored om , th e hope and th e d espair, t he pleas ure and the pai n, the fas cination and the weariness, the beginning and the en ding, the bi rth and t he death. We are willing to accept the w hole o f it in the m ind rather than absorb into just the p leasant and suppre ss the u npleasant. T he pr ocess of insight is the g oing to dukkha , looking at dukkha , a dmitting dukkha , recognising dukkha in all its forms. Then you are no longer just reacting in the habitual w ay of indulgence or suppressio n. And because of that, you can bear with suffering more, you can be more patient w ith it. These teac hings are not outside our experience. They are, in fact, reflections of our actual experience – not complicated intellectual issues. So really pu t effort into developme nt rather t han just getting stuck in a rut. How many times do you have to feel guilty about your abortion or the mis takes you ha ve made in the past? Do you have to sp end all your time just re gurgitating t he things t hat have happe ned to you in your life and indu lging in endless speculation and analysis? Some people make t hemselves in to such compli cated person alities. If you just in dulg e in your memories and views and op inions, then y ou will always stay stuck in the world and never transcend it in any way. You can let go of this burden if you are willing to use the teachings skillfully. Tel l yourself: ‘I’m not going to get caught in this anymore; I refuse to participate in thi s game. I’m not going to give in to t his mood.’ S tart putt ing yourself in t he posit ion of knowing: ‘I know this is dukkha ; there is dukkha .’ It’s really important to make this resolution to go w here the suffering is and then abide with it. It is o nly b y examining 17 and confronting sufferin g in this way that one can hope to h ave the trem endous ins ight: ‘This suffering has been understood.’ So these are the three aspects of the First Noble Truth. T his is the formul a that we must use and apply in reflection on our live s. Whenever you feel suffe ring, first make the recognit ion: ‘Ther e is suffering’, then: ‘ It sho uld be understood’, and finally: ‘It has been understood’. This understanding of dukkha is the in sight in to t he Firs t No ble Truth. 18 THE SECON D NOBLE TRUTH What is the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering? It is craving which renews being and is accompanied by relish and lust, relishin g this and that: in other words, craving for sensual desir es, craving f or being, craving for non-being. But whereon do es this cravi ng arise and flourish? Wherever there is what seems lovable and gratifying, thereon it ari ses and flourishe s. There is this Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, kno wing and lig ht that arose in me about things not heard before. This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by abandoning the orig in of sufferin g… This Noble Truth has bee n penetrated to by ab an doning the origin of suffe ring: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowi ng and li ght that arose in me about th ings not heard before. [Saÿyutta Nikàya LVI, 11 ] The Second Noble Truth with its t hree aspects is : ‘There is t he origin of suffering, which is atta chment to desire. Desire should be le t go of. Desire has been let go of.’ The Second Noble Truth states tha t there is a n origin of suffering an d that the origin of suf fering is at tachment to the thre e kinds of desir e: de sire for sense pleas ure (kàm a taõh à), desire to become (bh ava taõh à) a nd desire to get rid of ( vibhava taõh à). This is the statement of the Seco nd Noble Truth, the thesis, the pariyatti . This is wh at you contemplate: the origin of su ffer ing is attachment to de sire. Three Kinds of Desire Desire or taõhà in Pàli is an im port ant thing to unders tand. What is de sire? Kà ma taõhà is ver y easy to un derstan d. Th is kin d of de sire is wan ting sense ple asures throu gh the body or the other se nses and al ways seekin g things to e xcite or please your senses – that is kàma taõhà . You can really contemplate: what is it lik e when you have desire for pleasure? For example, when you are eating, if you are hungry and the fo od tastes delicious, yo u can be aware of wanting to take another bite. Notice tha t feeling whe n you are tasting someth ing pleasant; and notice how you want more of it. Don’t just believe this ; try it out. Don’t think you know it because it has been that way in the past. Try it out when you e at. Taste so meth ing del icious an d s ee what ha ppens: a de sire arises for more. That is kàma taõh à. We also contemplate t he feeling of wanting to become som ething. Bu t if there is ignorance, then when we are not se eking so met hing delicio us to eat or some beautiful mus ic to listen to, we can be caught in a realm of ambition and attain me nt – the desire to become. We get caught in that moveme nt o f striving to b ecome h appy, seeking to become wea lthy; or we might atte mpt to make our life feel important by endeavo uring 19 to make the world righ t. So note this sense of wa nting to bec ome some thing other than what you are right now. Listen t o the bhava t aõhà of your life: ‘I want to practise meditation so I can become free from m y pain. I w ant to become enlightened. I w ant to become a m onk or a nun. I want to become enlightened as a lay person. I want to have a wif e and chil dren and a profe ssion. I wa nt to enjoy t he sen se wo rld without having to give up anyth ing and become an enlightened arahant too.’ When we get disillu sio ned wit h tr ying to become someth ing, then th ere is the desire to get rid of thing s. So we contemplate vibhava taõh à, the des ire to get rid of : ‘I want to get rid of my suffering. I want to ge t rid of my anger. I’ve got this anger and I want to get rid of it. I want to get rid of jealousy, fear and anxiety.’ Notice this as a reflection on vibhava taõ hà. We are actually con templating that within ourselves which wants to ge t rid of th ings; we are not trying t o get rid of vibhava taõ hà. We are not taking a stand against the desire to get rid of things nor are we encouraging that desire. Instea d, we are reflecting, ‘It’s like this; it f eels like this to want to get r id of some thing ; I’ve got to conquer my anger; I ha ve to kill the Devil and g et rid of my greed – then I will become….’ We can see from this train of thought tha t becoming an d getting rid of are very much associate d. Bear in min d thoug h that these three categories of kàma t aõhà , bhava taõhà and vibhava taõh à are merely convenient ways of contemplating desire. They are not total ly separate forms of desire but different aspects of it. The second insight into the Second Noble Trut h is: ‘Desire sho uld be let go of.’ Thi s is how lettin g go comes into our practice. You have an insig ht that des ire should be let go of, but that insigh t is not a desire to let go of anything. If you are not very wise an d are not really reflecting in your mind, you tend to follow the ‘I want to ge t rid of, I wa nt to let go of all my desires’ – but this is just another desire. However, you can reflect upon it; you can see the desire to get rid of, the desire to become or the desire for sen se pleasure. By understanding these thr ee kinds of desire, you can let them g o. The Second Noble Truth does not as k you to think, ‘I have a lot of sensual desires’ , or, ‘I’m really ambitious. I’m really bhava taõhà plus, plus, plus!’ or, ‘I’m a real nihilist. I just w ant o ut. I’m a real vibhava ta õhà fanatic. That’s me.’ The Second Noble Trut h is not that. It is not about iden tifying with des ires in any way; it’s ab out recognis ing desire. I used to sp end a lot of time watch ing how m uch o f m y p ractice w as d esire to become something. For example, how much of the good intentions of my meditation practice as a monk was to become li ked how mu ch of my relations wit h other monks or nuns o r w ith lay p eople h ad to d o with wanting to b e liked and approved o f. T hat is bhava taõhà – desire for praise and success. 20 As a m onk, you h ave thi s bhav a taõ hà: w anting pe ople to u nderstand ev erything and to appreciate the Dhamma. Even the se subtle, almost noble, desires are bhava taõhà . Then there is vibhav a t aõhà in spir itual life, w hich can be very self-r ighteous: ‘ I want to get rid of, annihilate and extermina te these def ilements.’ I r eally listened to myself think ing, ‘I wan t to get rid of desire. I wa nt to get rid of anger. I don’t want to be frightened or jealous any m ore. I w ant to be brave. I want to have joy and gladness in my heart.’ This practice of Dhamma is not one of ha ting oneself for having such tho ughts, but really seeing that these a re condition ed into the min d. They are impermanent. Desire is not what we are but it is the way we tend to rea ct out of ign orance whe n we ha ve n ot understood these Four Noble Truths in their th ree aspects. We tend to react like this to everything. These are n ormal reactions due to ignorance. But we need not continue to suffer. We are not just hopeless victim s of desire. W e can allow desire to be the w ay it is and so begin to let go of it. D esire has power over us and deludes us only as long as we grasp it, believe in it an d re act to it. Grasping is Suffering Usually we equate s uffering with fe eling, but f eeling is no t suffering. It is th e grasping of desire that is sufferin g. Desi re does not cause suffering ; the cause of suffering is the grasping of desire. This stat ement is for reflection and con templation in terms of your individual experience. You really h ave to inve stigate desire and know i t for w hat it is. You have to kno w what is na tural and ne cessary for survival and what is not necessary for survival. We can be very idealistic in thinking that even the n eed for food is some kind of desire we should not have. One can be quite ridiculous about it. Bu t the Bu ddh a was not a n idealist a nd he was not a moralist. He was no t trying to condemn any thing. He was trying to aw aken us to tr uth so t hat we could se e things clea rly. Once there is that clarity and seein g in the right way, the n there is n o suffering. You can still feel hunger. You can stil l need f ood without it b ecoming a desire. Food is a natural need of the body. The body is not self ; it needs food otherwise it will get very weak and die. That is t he nature of the body – t here is no thing wrong with that. If we get very mo ralistic and high- minde d and believ e that we are our bodies, that hunger is our own problem, and that we should not even eat – that is no t wis dom ; it is foolishness. When you really see th e origin of suffering, you realise that the problem is the grasping of desire not th e desire itsel f. Grasping means being deluded by it, thinking i t’s really ‘me’ and ‘mine’: ‘These de sires are me an d there is so meth ing wr ong with me for having them’; or, ‘I don’t like the w ay I am now. I have to become something else’; or, ‘I have to get rid of something before I can become w hat I w ant to be.’ A ll this is d esire. 21 So y ou listen t o it w ith b are a ttention, n ot s aying it’s g ood o r b ad, b ut m erely recognising i t for what it is. Letting Go If we contemplate de sires and listen to them, we are actually no longer a ttaching to them; we a re just allowing them to be the way they a re. Then w e come to the realisation that the orig in of sufferin g, desire, ca n be laid aside and let g o of. How d o you let go o f things? This means you leave them as they are; it d oes n ot mean you annihilate the m or throw them away . It is more like setting down and lettin g them be. T hrough the practice of letting go we realise t hat there is the origin of suffering, w hich is the attachment to desire, a nd we realise tha t we should let go of these three kinds of de sire. Then we realise tha t we ha ve let go of these desire s; there is no longer any attachmen t to them. When you find yourself attached, re member th at ‘letting go’ is not ‘gettin g rid of’ or ‘throwing away’. If I’m h olding o nto this clock and you say, ‘Let go o f it!’, that d oesn’t mean ‘throw it out’. I might think th at I ha ve to throw it a way because I’m attache d to it, but that would just b e the desire to get rid of it. We tend to think tha t getting rid of the object is a way of getting rid of attachmen t. But if I ca n contemplate attachme nt, this gra spin g of the clock, I realise t hat there is no point in getting ri d o f it – it’s a g ood clock; it kee ps good time and is not heavy to carry around. The clock is n ot the probl em. The problem is graspin g the clock. So what do I do? Let it go, lay it aside – put it d own gently w ithout any kind of aversion. Then I can pick it up again, see w hat time it is and lay it aside when necess ary. You can app ly this in sig ht into ‘lett ing go ’ to the desire for sense pleasu res. Maybe you want to have a lot of fun. H ow would you lay asi de that de sire without any aversion? Simply recognise the de sire with out judging it. Yo u can conte mplate wanting to get rid of it – because you feel guilty abou t ha ving suc h a f oolish de sire – but ju st la y it asi de. The n, when you see it as it i s, recognisin g that it’s ju st de sire, yo u are no lon ger attached to it. So the way is always wo rking with the mo ments of daily life. When you are feeling depresse d a nd negative, just the moment tha t you refuse to indulge in t hat feeling is an enlightenme nt experien ce. When y ou see that, you need not sink into the sea of depress ion a nd de spair a nd wallow i n it. You ca n actually stop by learning not to gi ve things a sec ond though t. You have to find th is out through pra ctice so that you will kno w for yourself how to let go of the origin of suffering. Can you let go of desire by wanting to let go of it? What is it that is really letting go in a given moment? You have to contemplate the experie nce of letting go and really examine and investig ate until the insight come s. Keep with it until that in sight comes : ‘Ah, letting go, yes, now I unders tan d. Desire is being let go of.’ This does n ot mean t hat you are going to let go of desir e forever but, at t hat one 22 moment, yo u actually have let go and you ha ve done it in full conscious awarenes s. There is a n insight then. T his is w hat w e call insight kno wledge. In Pàli, we call it ¤àõadassana or profound understanding. I had my fir st ins ight in to letting go in my first year of meditation. I fig ured ou t intellectually that you had to let go of everythin g and then I thought : ‘How do you let go?’ It seemed impossible to let go of anything. I kept on contemplating: ‘How d o you let go?’ Then I would say, ‘You let go by letting go.’ ‘Well then, let go!’ Then I wo uld say: ‘But h ave I let go yet?’ and, ‘How d o you let go?’ ‘W ell just let go!’ I w ent on like that, getting more frustr ated. But eventually it became obvious what wa s happening. If you try to a nalyse lettin g go in de tail, you ge t caught up in making it very complicated. It wa s not something th at you could figure ou t in words any more, bu t s omething yo u actually did. So I just let go for a moment, just like that. Now with personal problems and ob sessions, to let go of them is just that m uch. It is not a matter of analysing and endl essly making more of a problem about them, but of practising t hat state of l eaving t hing s alone, letting go of the m. At fir st, you let go but then you pick them up a gain because the habit of grasping is so strong. But at least you have the ide a. Even when I had t hat in sight in to lett ing go, I let go for a moment but then I starte d grasping by thinking : ‘I can’t do it, I have so man y bad habits !’ But don’t trust t hat k ind of nagging, disparaging thing in you rself. It is tot ally untrustworthy. It is just a matter of practising le tting go. T he more you begin to see how to do it, the n the more you ar e able to susta in the state of non-attachment. Accomplishment It is important to know w hen you have let go of desire: w hen you no longer judge or try to get rid of it ; w hen you recognise tha t it’ s just t he wa y it is. W hen you are really calm and pe aceful, then you will fin d that there is no attac hment to any thing. You a re not caught up, trying t o get somet hing or tr ying to get rid of someth ing. Well-being is just knowin g things as they are without feeling the necessity to pass j udgemen t upon them. We say all the time, ‘Th is shoul dn’t b e like this!’, ‘ I shoul dn’t b e this way!’ and, ‘You shouldn’t be like this and you shouldn’t do that!’ and so on. I’m sure I could tell you what you should be – and you co uld tell me what I should be. We should be kind, loving, generous, good-hear ted, hard-wor kin g, diligent, courageous, brave a nd compassiona te. I don’t ha ve to know you at all to tell you that! But to really know you, I would ha ve to open up to you rather than start f rom an idea l about what a woman or man shoul d be, what a Buddhist should be or what a Christian sho uld be. It’s not tha t we don’t kn ow what we should be. Our suffering comes from the at tachment t hat we ha ve to ideal s, and the complexities we create about the way things are. We are never wha t we should be 23 according to our hig hest ideals. Life, others, the country we are in, the world we live in – things n ever seem to b e w hat they should b e. W e b ecome very critical o f everything and of ourse lves: ‘I know I shoul d be more patien t, but I just CAN’T be pa tient!’….Listen to all the ‘shoulds’ an d the ‘shoul d n ots’ and the desire s: wan ting the ple asant, wan ting to become or wanting to get rid of the ugly and the p ainful. It’s l ike listening to somebody talking over the fence sa ying, ‘I wan t th is an d I don’t like that. It shoul d be this way an d it shouldn ’t be that way.’ Really t ake time to listen to the complaining min d; bring it into consci ousness. I use d to do a lot of th is when I felt disc ontented or critical. I would close my eyes and star t th inking, ‘I don ’t like this a nd I don’ t want that’, ‘ That person shouldn’t be l ike this’, and ‘T he world s houldn’t be like that’. I would keep listening to this kin d of critical demon tha t would go on and on, criticising me, y ou and the world. Then I would thi nk, ‘I w ant h appiness a nd comfort; I w ant to feel s afe; I w ant to b e loved!’ I w ould deliberately think t hese things ou t an d liste n to t hem in orde r to know t hem simply as conditions that arise in the m ind. So bring the m up in your min d – arou se all the ho pes, desire s an d criticis ms. B ring the m into conscious ness. Then y ou will kno w de sire an d be able to lay it aside. The more we contemp late and in vestigate gra sping, the more the insight arises: ‘Desire shou ld be let go of.’ Then, t hrough the actual practice and un derstanding of what letting go really is, we have th e thir d in sig ht into the Second Noble Truth, wh ich is: ‘Desire has been let go of.’ We actually kn ow letting go. It is not a t heoretical lettin g go, b ut a d irect insight. Y ou k now letting g o has b een a ccomplished. T his is w hat practice is all about. 24 THE THIR D NOBLE TR UTH What is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffer ing? It is the remainderless fading and cessation of that same craving; the reject ing, relinquishing, leaving and renouncing of it. But whereon is this craving abandoned and made to cease? Wherever th ere is what seems lovable and gratifying, thereon it is abandoned and made to cease. There is this Noble Truth of the Ces sation of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, kno wing and lig ht that arose in me about things not heard before. This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by realising the Cessation of Sufferi ng… This Noble Truth has bee n penetrated to by realising the Cessation of Suffe ring: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowi ng and li ght that arose in me about th ings not heard before. [Saÿyutta Nikàya LVI, 11 ] The T hird Noble Truth with its t hree aspects is : ‘There is t he cessation of suffering, of dukkha . The cessa tio n of dukkha should be realised. The cessation of dukkha has been realised.’ The w hole aim of the Bu ddhist teach ing is to develop the reflective min d in order t o let go of del usions. The Four Noble Truths is a t eaching about letting go by investiga ting or looking into – contemplating: ‘ W hy is it li ke this? Why is it this w ay?’ It is good to ponder over things like why monks shave their heads or why Buddha-råpas look the way they do. We contemplate…the mind is not fo rming an opinion about whether the se are good, bad, useful or useless. The min d is actually opening and conside ring. ‘What does this mean? What do t he monks re present? W hy do they carry alms bowls? Wh y can’t the y have mo ney? Why can’t they grow their own food? We contemplate how t his way of livin g has susta ined t he tra dition and allowed it to be hande d dow n from its or iginal founder, Gotama the Buddha, to the prese nt time. We reflect as we see suf fering; as we see the na ture of desire; as we rec ognise tha t attachment to desire is suffering. These insi gh ts can only come through reflection; they cannot come through b elief. You cannot make yourself believe or realise an insigh t a s a willful act; t hrough reall y contemplating an d po ndering thes e trut hs, t he insig hts come to y ou. T hey come o nly through the m ind b eing o pen a nd receptive to the teaching- blind belief is certainly n ot advise d o r expected of anyone. In stead, the mind shoul d be willing to be receptive, p ondering an d conside ring. This men tal state is very important – it is the way out of suffer ing. It is not the m ind which has f ixed view s a nd preju dice s and thi nks it knows it all or which just takes what other people say as being the truth. It is the mind that is o pen to these F our N oble Truths and c an reflect upon somethin g that we ca n see within our own mind. 25 People rarely realise non-suffering because it t akes a special kind of w illingness in order to ponder and investiga te an d get be yond the gross and the obvious. It take s a willingness to actually lo ok at your own reacti ons , to be able to see the att achments an d to contemplate: ‘What does attachment feel like?’ For exampl e, do you f eel happy or liberated by being at tached to desire? Is i t uplifting or depressing? These questions are fo r you to inves tigate. If you find out t hat being attach ed to your desires is liberating, then do that. Att ach to all your desire s a nd see w hat the result is. In m y p ractice, I h ave seen that a ttachment to m y d esires is suffering. There is no doubt about that. I can see how much sufferin g in my life has been caused by attachment s to material things, idea s, attitude s or fears. I can see all kinds of unnecessary misery tha t I have cau sed myself t hrough at tachment bec ause I did not know any better. I was brought up in Americ a – the land of freed om. It promises the right to be happy, but what it really offers is the right to be attached to everything. America enc ourages you to try to be as happy a s you can by getting t hings. Howe ver , if you are wo rking wit h the Fo ur Noble Truths, attachmen t is to be u nderstoo d a nd contemplated; then the insigh t into non-atta ch ment arises. This i s not an intellect ual stand or a command from your brain saying that you should not be attached; it is just a natural insig ht into non -attachment or non-suffe ring. The Truth of Imperm anence Here at Amaravati, we chant the Dhamma cakk appavattan a Sutta in it s traditional form. W hen the Buddha gave this sermon on the Four Noble Truths, only one of the fi ve disciples who listened to it really un derstood it; only one ha d the profound insight. The other four r ather liked it, thinking ‘ Very ni ce teaching indeed,’ but only one of them, Koõóa¤¤a, r eally had the perfect understa nding of what the Buddha was saying. The deva s w ere also liste ning to t he s ermon. Devas are celest ial, ethereal creatures, vastly superior to u s. They d o n ot have c oarse b odies like o urs; they have e thereal bodies and they are bea utiful and lovely, inte lligent. Now although they were delighted to hear t he sermon, n ot one of t hem was e nlightened by it. We a re told t hat they became ver y happy about the Bu ddha’s enlig htenmen t a nd t hat t hey shoute d up through t he heavens wh en they hear d his teachin g. First, one level of deva tà heard it, t hen they sh outed up to the next level and soon all the deva s were rejoicing-right up to the highest, the Brahma realm. There was resounding joy that the Wheel of Dh amma was s et rolling and the se deva s and bra hmas were rejoicing in it. However, only Koõóa¤¤a, one of the fiv e disciples, was enlighte ned when he he ard this sermon. At the very end of the sutta, the Buddha c alled him ‘ A¤¤à Koõóa¤¤a’. ‘Anna’ means profound knowing, so ‘ A¤¤à Koõ óa¤¤a’ mea ns ‘Koõóa¤¤ a- Who-Knows.’ 26 What did K oõóa¤¤a kn ow? What was his insight tha t the Buddha pr aised at t he very end of the sermon? It was: ‘All that is subje ct to arising is subject to ceasing.’ Now this may not sound like any great knowledge but what it r eally implies is a univer sal pattern: w hatever is su bject to arisi ng is subject to ceasing; it is imper manent and n ot self… So don’t attach, don’t be deluded by w hat arises an d ceases. Don’t look for your refuges, that w hich you w ant to a bide in a nd trust, in a nything that a rises – b ecause those th ings will cease. If you want to suffer and waste your life, go around seeking things that arise. They will all take you to the end, to ces sation, and you will not be any the wiser for it. You will just go around repe ating the sa me old drea ry habits an d w hen you die, you will not have learne d anything important fro m your life. Rather than just t hinking about it, re ally contemplate: ‘All th at is subject to arisin g is subject to ceasing.’ A pply it to life in general, to your own experience. Then you will understand. Just note : beginning… ending. Co ntemplate ho w things ar e. This sensory realm is all about arising and cea sing, beginning and ending; there can be perfect unders tanding, sammà diññhi , in this lifetime. I don’t know how long Koõóa¤¤a lived after the Buddha’s serm on, but he was enlighte ned at that moment. R ight then, he had perfect unde rstanding. I would like to emphasise how imp ortant it is to develop this way of reflecting. Rather tha n just de veloping a method of tr anquili sing your mi nd, wh ich certainly is one part of the practice, really see that proper meditation is a comm itment to wise inves tigatio n. It involve s a courageous effort to look deeply into things, not analysi ng yourself and making judgements abo ut why you suffer on a personal level, but resolving to really follow the p ath unt il you have pr ofound un derstanding. Such perf ect unders tand ing is based upon the pattern of arising and ceasing. Once this law is understood, everything is seen as fitting into that pattern. This is not a metaphysical teaching: ‘All that is subject to arising is s ubject to ceasing.’ It is not about the ultimate reality – the deathles s reality; but if you profoundly unders tand and know t hat all that is subject to arising is s ubject to ceasing, then you will realise the ultimate reality, the deathless, immortal truths. This is a skillful means to that ultimate realisa tion. Notice the di fferen ce: the state ment is not a metaphysical one but one which takes us to the me taphysical realisation. Mortalit y and Cessat ion With th e reflection upon the Noble Truth s, we bring into consciousnes s this very problem of human existence. We lo ok at this sense of alien ation and blind attachment to sensory c onsciousnes s, the attach ment to tha t wh ich is separate and stan ds fort h in consciousne ss. Out of ignorance, we attach to desire s for sense pleas ures. When we identi fy with wh at is mort al or death-boun d, an d w ith wha t is unsatisfa ctory, that very attachment is suffering. 27 Sense pleasures are all mortal pleasures. Whate ver we see, hear, touch, taste, think or feel is m ortal – d eath-bound. S o w hen w e attach to the mortal senses, w e attach to death. If we have not co ntemplated or unders tood it, we ju st attach blin dly to morta lity hoping tha t we can sta ve it off for a while. W e pretend that we’re g oing to be really happy with the thing s we attach to – only to feel eventually disillusio ned, despa iring and disappo inted. We m ight s ucceed in becomin g what we want, but t hat too is mortal. We’re attac hing to another death -bound condit ion. The n, with the de sire to die, we might at tach to suicide or to annihil ation – but death itself is yet another death-bound condition. Whatever w e attach to in these thr ee kinds of desire s, we’re attaching to death – whic h means tha t we’re goin g to experience disappointment or despair. Death of the m ind is despair; depression is a kind of death experience of the m ind. Just a s the body dies a physical death, the m ind d ies. M ental sta tes and mental conditions die; we call it despa ir, bored om, depression and anguish. Whenever we attach, if w e’re experie ncing boredom, despa ir, anguish an d sorrow, w e tend to se ek some other mortal condition that’s arising. As an example, you feel despair and you think, ‘I want a piece of chocolate ca ke.’ Off you go! For a moment you can absorb into the sweet, delicious, chocolate flav our of th at piece of cake. At that moment, there’s becoming – you’ve actually become the sw eet, delicious, chocolate fl avour! But you can’t hold o n to that ver y long. You swallow and what’s left! Then you ha ve to go on to do somet hing else. This is ‘becoming’. We are blinded, caught in this becoming process on the sensual plane. But through knowing desire without judging the b eauty or ugliness of the sensual plane, we come to see desire a s it is. There’s knowing. Then, by laying aside these de sire s rather tha n grasping at them, we experience nirodha , the cessation of suffering. This is the Third Noble Truth which we must realise for ours elves. We contemplate cessation. We say, ‘There is cessation’, and we know when somethin g has ceased. Allowing Things to Arise Before you can let thin gs go, you have to admit the m in to full consciousnes s. In meditation, our aim is to skillfully a llow th e subconscious to arise into c onsciousnes s. All the desp air, fears, a nguish, sup pression an d anger is allowed to become conscious. There is a tendency in people to hold to very high-minded ideals. W e can become very disappoin ted in ourselves because sometime s w e feel w e are n ot as good as w e should be or we should not feel angry – all t he shoulds and sho uldn’ts. Then we cre ate desir e to get rid of t he bad th ings-and this desire has a righteous quali ty. It seem s ri gh t to get rid of bad thoughts, anger a nd jealousy b ecause a go od person ‘should not be like that’. Thus, we create guilt. In reflecting on this, we bring into consciousne ss the de sir e to become this ideal and the de sire to get rid of these bad thing s. An d by doing that, we can let go – so that rather than becoming th e perfect person, you let go of that desire. W hat is left is the 28 pure mind. There is no need to become th e perfect person because the pure mind is where perfe ct people arise and cease . Cessation is easy to understan d on an intellectual level, but to realise it may be quite d ifficu lt because t his e ntails abiding wit h w hat we think we ca nnot bear. For example, when I first sta rted meditating, I ha d t he idea t hat medi tation would make me kinder an d happier an d I wa s expe cting to ex peri ence bli ssful mi nd st ates. But during the first two months, I n ever felt so much hatre d and anger in my life. I t hought, ‘Th is is terrible; me ditat ion has made me worse.’ But then I conte mplated why there was so much hatred and aversion coming up, and I re alised that m uch of m y life h ad been an attempt to r un away from all that. I used to be a compulsive reader. I would have to take books with me wherever I went. Anytim e fear or aversion started creeping in, I would whip out my bo ok and read; or I wo uld smoke or munch on snacks. I had an image of myself as being a kind person that did not hate people, so any hint of aversion or hatred w as represse d. This is why during the first few mon ths as a mo nk, I was so desperate fo r things to do. I was trying to see k someth ing to distract myself wit h because I had starte d to remember in meditatio n all the things I delib erately tried to forget. Memorie s from childhood and adolescence kept co ming up in my min d; t hen this an ger and hat red became so conscious it j ust see med to overwhel m me. But something in me began to recognise th at I ha d to bear wit h th is, so I did s tick it out. All the hatred and anger t hat had been suppressed in thirty years of living rose to its peak at this time, and it burned itself out an d ceased t hrough medita tion. It was a process of purification. To allow this process of cessation to work, we must be w illing to suffer. This is w hy I stre ss t he importance of patience. We have to open our minds to suffer ing because it is in embracin g suffering that suffering ceases. W hen w e find that we are suffering, p hysically o r m entally, then w e g o to the actual suffering that is p resent. We open completely to it, welcome it, concentrate on it, allowing it t o b e w hat it is. T hat m eans w e m ust b e p atient a nd bear w ith t he unpleasantn ess of a par ticular cond ition. We ha ve to en dur e boredom, despair, dou bt and fear in o rder to un de rstand that they cease rather than r unning away from them. As long a s we d o n ot a llow things to cease, w e just create new kam ma that jus t reinforces our habits. W hen something arises, we grasp it and proliferate around it; a nd this complicates everything. The n these things will be repeated and repeated throughout our lives – we cannot g o around fol lowing our desires and fears and expec t to realise p eace. We contemplate fear and de sire so that these do not delu de us anymore; w e have to know w hat is deluding us before w e can let it go. Desire and fear are to be k nown as impermanent, unsatisfactory and no t-self. They are seen a nd penetrated so that suffer ing can burn itself away. It is very im portant here to differentiate betwee n cessation and annih ilation – the desire that c omes into the min d to get rid of some thing. 29 Cessation is the nat ural ending of an y condition that ha s ari sen. So it is not des ire! It is not som ething tha t we create in the min d but it is t he e nd of that w hich began, th e death of tha t which is b orn. Therefo re, cessation is no t a self – it does not come about from a sense of ‘I have to get rid of things,’ but w hen w e allow that w hich has arisen to cease. To do that, one has to abandon craving – let it go. It does not me an rejecting or throwing aw ay but abandoning mea ns letting go of it. Then, when it has ceased, you e xperience nirodha – cessa tion, emp tiness, non – attachment. Nirodha is another word for Nibbàna . When you have let something go and allowed it to cease, then what is left is peace. You can experience that peace through your own meditation. When you’ve let desire e nd in y our o wn m ind, that w hich is left o ver is v ery p eaceful. T hat is true peacefulness, the Deathless. When y ou really kn ow that as it is, you realise nirodh a sacca , the Truth of Cessation, in which there’s no self but there’s still alertness an d clarity. The real meanin g of bliss is t hat peaceful, transcendent consciousness. If we do not allow cessation, the n w e tend to op erate from a ssu mptions we make about oursel ves without even knowing what we are doing. S ometime s, it is not unt il we start medita ting tha t w e begin to r ealise how in our live s so much fe ar and lack of confidence come from childhood exp eriences. I remember when I wa s a little boy, I ha d a very good friend w ho turned on me and rejected me. I wa s distraught for months after that. It left an indelible impression on m y min d. Then I realised through meditation just how much a little incide nt like that had affected my future relationship s with other s – I always had a tremendous fear of rejection. I never eve n thought of it until that particular memory kept rising up into my consci ousness during meditatio n. The ratio nal mind knows that it is ridiculous to go around thinking about the tragedie s of childho od. But if they keep coming up into consciou sness when you are middle-age d, maybe they are trying to tell you someth ing about assu mptions that wer e formed w hen you were a child. W hen y ou b egin to feel m emories o r o bsessive fears c oming u p in m editation, rather than becoming frustrate d or upset by them, see t hem as someth ing to be accepted into consciousness so that you can let t hem go. You can arrange your daily li fe so that you never have to look at th ese th ings ; t hen t he con dition s for them to actu ally arise are minimal. Yo u c an de dicate yourself to a lot of impor tant cause s and keep bu sy; then the se anxietie s and nameless fears never become conscious – but what happ en s when you le t go? The de sire or obses sion mo ves-and it move s to cessat ion. It en ds. A nd then you ha ve the ins ight tha t there is t he cessat ion of desire . So the th ird aspect of t he Thir d Noble Truth is: ces sation has b een realised. Realisat ion This is to be realised. T he Buddha sa id emp hatic ally: ‘This is a Truth to be realised here and no w.’ We do not have to wait until we die to find out if it’ s all true – this teaching is f or living human beings l ike ourselve s. 30 Each one of us ha s to re alise it. I ma y tell you about it a nd e ncourage you to do it but I can’t make you realise it! Don’t think of it as something remote o r b eyond your ability. W hen w e talk a bout D hamma o r T ruth, w e say that is h ere and n ow, a nd someth ing we can see for ourselv es. We can turn to it; we can incline towards the Truth. We c an pay attention to the way it is, he re and now, at this t ime and this place. That’s min dfulness – being alert and bringing attention t o the way it is. Throu gh min dfulness, we investig ate the sens e of self, this sense of me and mine: my body, my feelings, my memor ies, my thoug hts, my view s, my opinions, my hou se, my car and so on. My tendenc y was self-disparage me nt so, for example, wit h the thoug ht: ‘I am Sumedho,’ I’d think o f m yself in n egative terms: ‘I’m n o g ood.’ B ut listen, from w here does that ar ise and w here does it cease?… Or, ‘I’m really better than y ou, I’m mor e highly attained. I’ve be en living th e Holy Life for a long time so I mus t be better than any of you?’ Where does THAT arise and cease? When there is arrogance, conceit or self-d isparagement – whatever it is – examin e it; listen in wardly; ‘I am…’ Be aware and atte ntive to the space before you think it; the n think it an d notice the sp ace that follows. Sustain your attention on that emptiness at the e nd and see how long you can hold your attention on it. See if you can hear a kind o f ringing sound in the mind, the soun d of silence, t he primordial sound. When you con centrate your attention on that, you can reflect: ‘Is there any sense of self?’ You see that when you’re really empty – when there’s just clarity, alertness an d attention – there’s no self. There’s no sense of me and min e. So, I go to that empty state and I co ntemplat e Dh am ma: I thi nk, ‘T his is jus t as it is . This body h ere is just this w ay.’ I can give it a n ame or n ot but right n ow, it’s just this way. It’s not Sumedho ! There’s no Buddhist monk in th e empt iness. ‘Bud dhist monk’ is merely a convention, ap propriate to time and pl ace. When people praise you and say, ‘How wonderful’, you can know it as someone giving praise withou t taking it person ally. You know there’s no Buddhist monk there; it’ s just Suchness. It’s just this way. If I want Amara vati to be a successful place and it is a grea t success, I’m happy. But if it all fails, if no one is intereste d, we can’t pay the electricity bill and everything falls apart – failure! But really, there’s no Amaravati. The idea of a person who is a Buddhist monk or a place called Amaravati – these are only conventions, not ultima te realities. Right now it’s just t his way, just the way it ’s supposed to be. One doesn’t carry the burden of such a place on one’s shoulders because one sees it as it really i s an d th ere’s no per son to be i nvolved i n it. Wh ether it su cceeds or fai ls is no longer important in the same way. In emptine ss, things are just what they are. When we are aware in this way, it doesn’t mea n that we are indifferent to success or failure and that we don’t bother to do anything. W e can apply ourselves. W e know w hat w e can do; we know w hat has to be 31 done and w e can do it in the right way. T hen everything becomes D hamma, the w ay it is. We do things because that is t he right thing to be doing at this t ime an d in this place rather than out of a sense of personal ambition o r fear of fail ure. The path to the cessat ion of sufferin g is the pat h of perfection. Perfection can be a rather da unting word because we fe el very impe rfect. As personalities, we wonder ho w we can dar e to even e ntertain t he possibility of being perfect. Huma n perfection is something n o one ever talks about; it doesn’t seem at all possible to think of perfection in regard to being hu man. But an arahant is simply a hu man being wh o has perfec ted life, someone who has learned everything ther e is to learn through the basic law: ‘All that is subj ect to arisin g is subject to ceasing.’ An arahan t does not need to kn ow everything a bout everything; it is onl y necessa ry to know and fully understand this law . We use Buddha wisdo m to contemplate Dham ma, the wa y things are . We take Refuge in Saïgha, in that which is d oing good and refrainin g from doing evil. Saïgha i s one thing, a community. It’s not a group of individual personalities or different characters. The sense of being an individual person or a man or a woman is no lon ger important to us. T his sen se of Saïgh a is realise d as a Refuge. There is t hat unity so th at even though the manife stations are all indi vidual , our realisa tion is the same. Through being awak e, alert and no longer attached, we realise cessation a nd we abide in emptine ss where we all merge. There’s no person there. Peo ple may arise and cease in the emptine ss, but there ’s no person . There’s just clarity, awareness, pea cefulness an d purity. 32 THE FOURTH NOBLE TRUTH What is the Noble Truth of the Way Leading to the Cessation of Suffering? It is the Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say : Righ t View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Righ t Mindfulness and Right Concentration. There is this Noble Truth of the Path leadin g to the Cessation of Suffering: such was the vision, insight, wisdom, knowin g and ligh t that arose in me about things not heard before…. This Noble Truth must be penetrated to by cultivati ng 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. [Saÿyutta Nikàya LVI, 11 ] The Four th Noble Truth , like the first thr ee, ha s three aspec ts. The first aspect is: ‘There is t he Eightfold P ath, the aññh angika magg a – the w ay out of suffering.’ It is also called the ariya magga , the Ariyan or Noble Path. The second aspect is: ‘This path should be developed.’ T he final in sight into arahantship is: ‘This path has been fully deve loped.’ The Eig htfold Path is presented in a sequence: b eginning with Righ t (or perfect) Understan ding, sammà-di ññhi , it goes to Right (or pe rfect) Inte ntion or Asp iration, sam mà-sanka ppa ; these first two elements of the path are grouped together as Wisdom ( pa¤¤ à). Moral commitmen t ( sãla ) flows from pa¤¤à ; this covers Rig ht Speech, Rig ht Action an d Rig ht L ive lihood – also referred to as perfect speech, perfect action and perfect livelihood, sammà-vàcà , sammà -kam manta and samm à-àjiva . Then we ha ve Right Eff ort, Righ t Min dfulness and Right Concentration, sammà – vàyàma , sammà -sati and sammà-samàdhi , whic h flow naturally from sãla. These l ast three provide emotional balance. They are about the heart – the heart that is liberate d from self-view and from selfis hnes s. Wit h R ight Effort, Right Min dfulness an d R ight Concentration, the hear t is pure, fr ee from taints and defilements. W hen the hea rt is pure, the mind is peacef ul. Wisdo m (pa¤¤à ), or Rig ht Un dersta nding an d R ight Asp iration, comes fr om a pur e heart. Th is t akes us back to where w e started. These, then, are the elements of the Eightfold Path, grouped in three sec tions: 1. Wisdo m (pa¤¤à ): Right Un derst anding (sammà -diññhi ), Righ t A spiration ( sammà- sankappa ) 2. Morality (sãla ): Right Speech (sammà -vàcà ), Right Act ion (samm à-ka mmanta ), Ri ght Livelihood ( sammà -àjiva ) 33 3. Concentration ( samàdhi ): Righ t Effort ( samm à-và yà ma ), Right Min dfulness ( sammà – sati ), Right Concentration ( sammà -samàdhi ). The fact tha t we list the m in order does not mea n that they happen in a linear way, in se quence-they arise to gether. We may talk about the Eigh tfold Path and say ‘Firs t you have Righ t Understan ding, then you have Right Asp iration, then. ..’ But actu ally, presented in this way, it simply tea ches us to r eflect upon the importa nce of takin g responsibility for what w e say and do in our lives. Right Understandin g The fir st ele ment of the Eightfold Pa th is R ight U nderstan ding which aris es throug h insigh ts into the f irst thr ee Noble Tr uths. If you have these insight s, then there is pe rfect unders tanding of Dhamma – the understan ding that: ‘All that is subj ect to arising is subject to ce asing.’ It’s as simple as that. You do not have to spend m uch time readin g ‘All that is subject to arising is subje ct to ceasing’ to understa nd the wor ds, but it takes quite a while for most of us to really know what the words mean in a pro found way rather than j ust thro ugh cerebral understanding. To use mo dern colloquial English, insight is real ly gut knowledge – it’s n ot just from ideas. It’s no longer, ‘I think I kno w’, or ‘Oh yes, that see ms a reasonable, sensible thin g. I agree with that. I like that thought.’ That kind of understa nding is still f rom the brai n whereas in sight knowledge is profound. It is re ally known and doubt is no longer a problem. This deep understan ding comes from the pre vious nine insights. So there is a sequence le ading to Rig ht Un dersta nding of t hings as t hey are, namely that: All tha t is subject to arising is subje ct to ceasing and is not -self. W ith R ight Understanding, you have given up the illusion of a self that is connected to mortal condit ions. Th ere is still t he body, there are still feelings and thoughts, b ut they simply are what they are – there is no longer the belief that you are your body or your feelings or your thoughts. The emphasis is on ‘Things are what they are.’ We are not trying to say that things are not anything at all or that they are not what they are. They are exactly what they are and nothing mor e. But when we are igno rant, w hen we have not un derstood the se trut hs, we tend to think things ar e more than what t hey a re. We believe all kinds of things and we create all ki nds of problems around the conditions that we exp erience. So much of human ang uish and desp air come s from the added extra that is born of ignorance in the momen t. It is sa d to realis e how the misery and anguish and despair of human ity is based upon delusion ; the despair is empty and meaningless. When you see this, you be gin to feel infinite com passion for all beings. How can you hate anyone or bear grudges or condemn anyone who is caught in this bon d of ignorance? Everyone is influenced to do the things they do by their wro ng view s of things. 34 As w e m editate, w e experience some tranquility, a m easure o f calm in w hich the mind has slowed down. W hen w e look at something like a flower w ith a calm m ind, we are looking at it as it is. When there is no graspi ng-nothing t o gain or get rid of – then if what w e see, hear or experience through the senses is beautiful, it is truly beautiful. W e are not criticising it, com paring it, trying to possess or own it; we find delight and joy i n the beauty around u s because there is n o n eed to m ake anything out of it. It is exactly what it is. Beauty reminds us of p urity, trut h and ulti mate b eauty. W e should n ot see it as a lure to delude us: ‘ These flowers ar e here just to attract me so I’ll get deluded by the m’ – that’s t he at titu de of th e old medit ating grump ! When we look at a member of th e opposite sex with a pur e heart, we appreciate t he beauty w ithout the desire for so me kind of cont act or posse ssion. We can deligh t in the beauty of other peo ple, both men and wo men, when there is no selfis h inter est or des ire. T here is honest y; th ings are as they are. This is what we mean by liberation, or vimutti in Pàli. We are l iberated fro m those bonds that distort and corrupt the beau ty around us, such as the bodies we have. However, o ur m inds ca n get so cor rupt an d ne gative an d depressed an d obses sed with things, t hat we no longer see them as they are. If we don’t have R ight Unders tanding, we see every thing throug h increasingl y thick filters and ve ils. Right Un der standing is to be developed throug h reflection, using the Buddha’s teaching. T he Dham macakka ppava ttana Sutta is a very interes ting teaching to contemplate and use as a reference f or reflection . We can also use other suttas from the tipiñaka , suc h as those dealing with pañiccasa mu ppad a (depe ndent origi nation). T his is a fascinating t eaching to reflect upon. If you can contemplate such teachin gs, you can see very clearly the difference between the way thin gs are as Dhamma an d the point where we tend to c reate delusion out of the way thing s are. That is why we ne ed to establish full conscious awareness of things a s they are. If there is kn owledge of the Four Nob le Truths, then there is D hamma. With Righ t Unders tanding, everything is see n as Dham ma ; for examp le: we are sitting here… This is Dhamma. We don’t thin k of this body and mind a s a personality with all its view s and opinions and all the conditioned t hou ghts and rea ctions that we have acquired through ignorance. W e reflect upon this moment now as: ‘This is the w ay it is. Th is is Dhamma.’ We bring into the mind the unders tanding tha t this physic al formation is simply Dha mma. It is n ot self; it is not personal. Also, we see the sen sitivi ty of this p hysical formation as Dha mma rather than takin g it personally: ‘I’m sensitive,’ or ‘I’m not se nsitive;’ ‘You’re not sensitive to me. Who’s the most sensitive?’… ‘Why do we feel pain? Why did God cre ate pain; w hy didn’t he just create pleasure? Why is there so much misery and sufferin g in the world? It’s unf air. People d ie a nd w e h ave to separate from the p eople w e love; the anguish is terrible.’ There is no Dhamma in that, i s there ? It’s all self-view : ‘Poor me. I don’t like this, I do n’t want it t o b e t his w ay. I w ant s ecurity, h appiness, p leasure a nd a ll t he b est of everything. It’s not fair t hat my pare nts were not arahants w hen I came into the world. 35 It’s not fair t hat they ne ver elect arahants to be Prime Minister of B ritain. If everything were fair, they would elect arahants to be Prime Min ister!’ I am trying to take this sense of ‘It’s not right, it ’s not fair’ to an absurdity in order to point out how w e ex pect God to create ev ery thing for us and to make us happy and secure. That is often wh at people think even if t hey don’t sa y so. But when we reflect, we see ‘Th is is t he wa y it is. Pai n is like th is and t his is wha t pleasure is li ke. Consciousne ss is this wa y.’ We feel. We breathe. We can aspire. W hen w e reflect, w e contemplate our own humanity as it is. W e don’t take it on a personal level any more or blame a nyone beca use things a re not exactly as we like or want. It is the way it is and we are the way we are. You might ask why we can’t all be exactly the same – with the sa me anger, the same greed an d the same ignora nce; withou t all the variat ions and permutat ions. However, e ven though you can trace human expe rience to basic thing s, ea ch one of us has our o wn kam ma to deal with – our own obsessions and ten dencies, which are alwa ys different in q uality a nd q uantity to those of someone else. Why can’t we all be exactly equal, have exactly the same of everything and all look alike – one androgynous being? In a world l ike that, nothing would be unfair, no differences would be allowed, every thing would be absolutely perfect an d there would be no possibility of ine quality. But as we recognise Dha mma, we see that, w ithin the realm of condit ions, no two thing s are ident ical. They are all quite d ifferent, infini tely variable and changing, a nd the more we try to make conditions conform to our ideas, the more fru strated we g et. We try to create each other and a society to fit the idea s w e have of how things sho uld be, but we always end up feeling frustrated. With reflection, we realise: ‘ This is the w ay it is,’ thi s is t he way t hings have to be – they c an only be this way. Now t hat is not a fatalist ic or negative refl ection. It is not an attitu de of: ‘That’s the way it is a nd t here’s no thing you can do abou t it.’ It is a very pos itive respon se of accepting the flow of life for w hat it is. Even if it is not w hat w e w ant, we can accept it and learn from it. We are conscious, intelligent beings wi th reten tive memor y. We have language. Over the past severa l thousand years, we have developed reason, logic an d discrimina tive intelligen ce. What we mus t do is f igure out ho w to use the se capacities as tools for realisation of Dhamma rather than as personal acquisitio ns or perso nal problems. People who develop their discrimina tive in telligence often end up t urning it upon themselves; they become very self-criti cal and even beg in to hate themselves. This is because our discriminative faculties te nd to focus upon what is wrong with everything. That is w hat discrimination is about: seeing how this is different from that. What you do that to yourself, what do you end up with? Just a whole list of flaws and faults that make you sound absolutel y hopeless. 36 When we are developing Right Understanding, we use our intelligence for reflection and contemp lation of things. We also use our mindfulness and wisdom together. So now we ar e using our ability to discrim inate with wisdo m (vijjà ) rat her than with ig norance ( avijjà ). This teaching o f the F our N oble T ruths is to h elp you to use you inte lligence-your ability to contemplate, reflect and think – in a wise way rather than in a sel f-destr uctive , greedy or hateful way. Right Aspiration The second element of the Eightfold path is sammà -sanka ppa . Sometimes this is translated a s ‘Right Tho ught’, thinking in the right way. However, it actually has more of a dynamic quality – like ‘intentio n’, ‘attitude ’ or ‘aspiration’. I like to use ‘aspirat ion’ which is so mehow very meaningful in this Eightf old Path – because we do aspire. It is import ant to see that aspiration is not desire. The P àli word ‘ taõhà ’ mean s desire that comes out o f ignorance, whereas ‘ sankappa ’ means aspiration not coming from ignorance. A spiration m ight seem like a kind of desire to us because in English we use the word ‘de sire’ fo r everything of that nature – either aspiring or wanting. You might think that aspiration is a kind of taõhà , wanting to become enlightened ( bh ava taõhà ) – but sammà-s ankappa comes from R ight U nderstanding, seeing clearly. It is not wanting to b ecome anything; it is not the de sire to become an enlightened person. With R ight Unders tanding, that who le illusion and way of th inking no longer makes sense. Aspiration is a feeling, an intention , attitu de or movemen t with in us. Our spir it rises, it do es not sink downwards – it is not desperation! When there is Right Unders tanding, we aspire to truth, beauty and goodness. Sam mà-diññh i and sammà- sankappa , Right Under standing an d Right Asp iration, are cal led pa¤¤à o r w isdom and they make u p the first of the three sections in t he Eightfold Path. We can contemplate: W hy is it tha t we still feel disconten ted, even when we have the best of everything? We are not completely happy even if we have a beautiful house, a car, the p erfect marriage, lovely bright chil dren and all the rest of it – and we are certainly not contented when we do not ha ve all these things!… If we do n’t have the m, we can thin k, ‘Well, if I had the best, then I’d be content.’ But we wouldn’t be. The ear th is not the pl ace for our contentment; it’ s no t sup posed to be. When we r ealise that, we no longer expect contentment from p lanet earth; we do not make that de mand. Until we re alise that this planet ca nnot satisfy all our want s, we keep on asking, ‘Why can’t y ou make me content, Mother Earth?’ We are lik e little children who suc kle their mothe r, constantly trying to g et the most out of her a nd wan ting her always t o nurture an d feed the m and make the m feel content. If we were content, we would not wonder about things. Y et we do recognise that there is so mething more than just the ground un der our feet; there is so mething above us that we cannot quite unders tand. We have th e ability to wonder and ponder abou t 37 life, to contemplate its m eaning. If y ou w ant to k now the m eaning o f y our life, y ou cannot be content with material we alth, comfort and secur ity alone. So we aspire to know the truth. You migh t think tha t that is a kind of presumptuo us desire or aspiration, ‘ W ho do I th ink I am? Little old me trying to know the trut h ab out everyth ing.’ But ther e is that a spiration. W hy do w e have it if it is not possible? C onsider the concept of ultimate reality. A n absolute or ultimate tr uth is a very refined concept; the ide a of God, the Deathless of the immorta l, is actually a very refine d thoug ht. W e aspire to know that u ltimate reality. T he animal side o f u s d oes n ot aspire; it does not know anything about such aspirations. But there is in each of us an intuitive intelligence that wants t o know; it is always wi th us but we tend to not notice it; we do not understand it. We tend to disca rd or mi strust it – especially modern materialists. They just think it is fanta sy and not r eal. As for myse lf, I was really happy when I re alised tha t the planet is not my real home. I had always susp ected it. I can remember even as a small child thinking, ‘I don’t really belon g here.’ I have ne ver p articularly felt that planet Ear th is where I re ally belong – even before I was a monk, I never fe lt that I fitted into the society. For some people, that could be just a neurotic problem, but perhaps it could also be a kind of intui tion chi ldren often have. Whe n you are inn ocent, your min d is very intui tive. The min d of a child is more intuit ively i n touch with the m ysterious forces than m ost adult minds are. A s w e grow up w e become conditioned to think in very set w ays and to have fixed ideas a bout what is real and what is no t. A s we develo p our egos, society dicta tes what is real and wha t is not, what is right and what is wrong, and we begin to interp ret the world through these fixed perc eptions. On e thing we f ind charmin g in childre n is that t hey do n’t do t hat y et; t hey still see the world w ith the intuit ive min d tha t is not yet conditione d. Meditation is a way of deconditionin g the mind which helps us to let go of a ll the hard-line views and fixed idea s we have. Ordi narily, what is real is d ism isse d wh ile what is not r eal is given all our attention. This is what ignora nce ( avijjà ) i s. The contemplation of our human a spiration co nnects us to someth ing higher t han just the animal kingdo m or the pl anet earth. To me that connection seems more true than t he idea that t his is all there is; that on ce we die our bodies rot and t here is nothing mor e than that. When we ponder and wo nder about this universe we are livin g in, we see that it is ver y vast, myst erious and incomprehen sible to us. However, w hen we trust mo re in our in tuiti ve m ind , we can be receptive t o things t hat we may h ave forgotten or have never been open to before – we open when we let go of fixe d, conditione d reactions. We can have the fixed idea of being a persona lity, of bein g a man or a woman, being an En glish person or an Amer ican. These things can be very real to us, an d we can get very upset and angry about them. We are even willing to kill ea ch other over these 38 conditione d view s tha t we hold a nd beli eve in and ne ve r question. Without Rig ht Aspiration a nd Right U nderstan ding, wit hout pa¤¤à , we n ever see the true nature of these views. Right Speech, Right Acti on, Right Livelihood Sãla , the mo ral aspect of the Eightfold Path, consists of Right Speech, Right Action and Ri gh t L ivelihood; that m eans t aking res ponsibility for our speech and being careful about what we do with our bodies. When I’ m mindful and a ware, I spea k in a way that is appropriate to time an d place; likewise, I act o r work accor ding to time and place. We begin to realise that we have to b e ca reful about what we do and say; otherwise we constantly h urt o urselves. If you d o o r say things that are u nkind o r cruel there is always an immediate result. In the past, yo u might have been able to get away wit h lying by distracting yourself, going o n to so me thing else so th at you didn’t have to thin k about it. Yo u could forget all about things for a while unt il e ventually th ey’d come back upon you, b ut if we pra ctise sãla , things seem to come b ack right a way. E ven w hen I exaggerate, something in me says, ‘You shouldn’t exaggerate, you s hould be more careful.’ I used to ha ve the habit o f exaggerating things – it’s part of our culture ; it seems perfe ctly normal. But when y ou are aware, the effect of even the slightest lie or gossi p is immed iate because you are completely open, vulnerable and sen sitive. So then you are careful about what you do; you realise that it’s impo rtant to be responsible for what you do and say. The impulse to help someone is a skillful dhamma. If you see someone fall over on the floor in a faint, a skillful dhamm a goes through your min d: ‘Help this person,’ and you go to h elp them recover from their fainting spell. If you d o it w ith an empty mind not out of any personal desire for ga in, but just out of compassion and b ecause it’s the right thing t o do – then it’s simply a skillful dhamma. It’s no t personal kamma ; it’s n ot yours. But if you do it out of a desire to gain merit and to impress other people or because the person is r ich and you expect some reward for your action, then – eve n though the action is skillful – you’re making a personal c onnection w ith it, an d this reinforces the sense of self. When we do good works out of mindfulness and wisdom rather than out of ignorance, they are skillful dhammas without personal kamma . The monast ic order wa s establishe d by the Bu dd ha so t hat men an d wo men coul d live an impeccable life which is completely blameless. A s a b hikkhu, you live w ithin a whole syste m of training precepts called the Pàñimokkha discipline. When you live under this discipline, e ven if your actions or speech are heedless, at l east they don’t leave strong impressions. Y ou can’t have m oney so you’re n ot able to just go anywhere until you’re invited. You are celibate. Since you live on alms-food, you’re not killing any animals. Yo u don’t even pick flowers or leaves or do any kind of act ion that would disturb the n atural flow in any way; you’re completely harmless. 39 In fact, in Thailand we had to carry water strain ers with us to filter out any kind of living t hings in the wa ter such as mosquito larvae. It’s totally forbidden to intention ally kill things. I have been living under this R ule for twenty-five years now so I haven’t really done any heavy kammic actions. Under this discip line, one live s in a very harmless, very responsible way. Perhaps the most difficult part is with spe ech; speech habits are the most difficu lt to break and let go of – but they can also i mprove. By reflection and contemplation, one begins to see the unplea santness of saying foolish things or just babbling or chatting away for no go od reason. For lay people, Right L ivelihoo d is someth ing that is deve loped as you come to know your intentions for what you do. You can try to avoid deliberately harming ot her creatures or earning a living in a harmful, un kind way. You can also try to a void livelihood which may cause other people to be come ad dicte d to drug s or drink or w hich might en dan ger the ecological balan ce of the planet. So these three – Right Action, Righ t Sp eech an d Right Livelihood – fo llow from Right Un der standing or perfect knowing. We begin to feel that we want to live in a way that is a blessing to the p lanet or, at least, that do es not harm it. Right Un der standing and Right A spiration ha ve a definite influence on what we do and say. So pa¤¤à , or wisdom, leads to sãla : Right Speech, Rig ht Ac tion and Right Livelihood. Sãla refers to our speech and actions; with sãla we contain the sexual drive or the violent use of the b ody-we do not use it for killing or stealing. In this way, pa¤¤à and sãla wor k together in a perfect harmony. Right Effort, Right Mindfulne ss, Right Concentration Right Effort, Right Min dfulness and Right Conce ntration ref er to your spirit, your heart. When we think of the spirit, we point to the centre of the chest, to the heart. So we have pa¤¤à (the he ad), sãla (the bod y) and samàdhi (the heart). You can use your own body as a kind of chart, a symbol of th e Eightfold Path. These three a re integrate d, working together for realisation and support ing each other like a tripod. One is not domina ting the other an d exploiting or rejecting anything. They work together: the wisdo m from Right U nderstan ding and Right Intention ; then moralit y, which is Right Effort, Righ t Min dfulness an d Right Concentration – t he balanced equanimous mind, e motion al serenity. Serenity is where the e motions are bala nced, s upporting each other. They’re not going up a nd down. There’s a sen se of bliss, of serenity; there is pe rfect harmo ny between the intellect, th e instinct s a nd the e motions. They’re mutually supportive, helping each other. They’re no longer conf licting or taking us to extremes an d, because of that, we begin to feel a tremendo us peacefulness in our min ds. There is a sense of ease and fearless ness coming from the Eightfold Path – 40 a sense of e quanimity a nd emotiona l balance. We feel at eas e rather tha n that sense of anxiety, tha t tension and emotion al conflict . There is clarity; there is peacefulness, stillness, kn owing. Th is insigh t of the E ightfol d Pat h sho uld be de veloped; th is is bhàvanà . W e use the word bhàvanà to signify development. Aspects of Meditation This reflectiveness of mind or emotional balance is developed as a resul t of practising c oncentration and mindfulness me ditation. For instance, you can experime nt during a ret reat and sp end one ho ur doing sam atha meditation where you are just concentrating your mind on one obje ct, say th e sensation of breathing. K eep bringing it into conscio usness an d sustain it so that it actu ally has a c ontinuity of presence in the min d. In this w ay, you ar e m oving towards what is goi ng on in you r ow n bod y r ather than being pulled out into ob jects of the senses. If yo u do not ha ve any refug e wit hin, th en you are constantly going out, being abso rbed into boo ks, food and all sorts of distract ions. But this en dless mo ve ment of th e min d is very exhausting. So instead, the practice becomes one of observing the breath – which mea ns that you have to with draw or not follow the ten dency to find s omething ou tside of your self. You ha ve to bring your attention to the breath ing of your own body and concentrate t he min d on that sensation. As you let go of gross form, you actually become that feeling, that very sign itself. Whatever y ou absorb i nto, you be come that for a period of time. When you really concentrate, you have become that very tran quilise d con dition. You have become tranquil. This is w hat we call becoming. Samath a meditation is a becoming process. But tha t tra nquility, if you inve stig ate it, is no t sat isfactory tranqu ility . There is someth ing mis sing in it because it i s depen dent on a techni que, on bein g attached a nd holding on, on something that still begins and ends. What you become, you can o nly become temporarily because becoming is a changing thing. It is not a per manent condition. S o whate ver you become, you will u n-become. It is not ulti mate reality. No matter how high you might go in concentratio n, it w ill a lways b e a n u nsatisfactory condition. Samatha me ditation takes you to som e very high and radiant experiences in your mind – but they all end. Then, if you practise vipassanà meditation for another hour by just being mindful and letting g o of everything and acce pting the un certainty, the silence an d the cessa tion of condition s, the result is t hat you will f eel peaceful rather than tran quil. An d that peacefulness is a perfec t peacefulness. It is co mplete. It is not the tranquility fr om samatha , w hich has so mething impe rfect or unsatisfactory about it eve n at its best. The realisa tion of cessation, as you develop tha t and understand that more and more, brings you to true peacefulness, non-attachment, Nibbàna . 41 Thus samath a and vipass anà are the two division s in meditation. One is developing concentrated states of mind on ref ined obj ects in which your consciousness becomes refined thro ugh that co ncentration. But being terribly refined, having a great intellect and a taste for great beauty, makes anything coarse unbearable because o f the attachment to what is r efined. Peop le who have devote d th eir lives to r efinement o nly find life terribly frustrating and frightening w hen they can no longer m aintain such high standar ds. Rationa lity and Emo tion If you love rational thought and ar e attached t o ideas and perceptions , then you tend to de spise t he e motions. Yo u can notice t his tende ncy if, whe n y ou start to f eel emotions, you say, ‘I’m going to shut this out. I don’t want to feel those things.’ Y ou don’t like to be feeling anything because you can get into a kind of hig h from the pu rity of intelligence and the pleasure of rational thinking. The min d relishes the way it is logical and controllable, the way it makes sense . It is just so clean and neat and precise like mathe matics – but the emotions are all ove r the place aren’t they? They are n ot precise, they are not neat and they ca n easily get out of control. So the emotional nature is often despise d. We are frighten ed of it. For example, men often feel very frightened of emotions because we are brought up to believe t hat men do not cry. As a lit tle boy, at least in my ge neration, we were ta ugh t that boys do not cry so we’d try to live up to t he standar ds of what boys are suppos ed to be. Th ey would say, ‘You are a boy’, and so we’d try to be what our parents said we sho uld be. The ideas of the society affect our minds, and because of that, we find emotio ns embarrassin g. Here in England, pe ople generally find e motions very e mbarrassing ; if you get a little too emotional, they assume that you must be Italian or some other nationality. If you are very rational and you ha ve figured everything out, then you don’t kno w what to do when people get emotio nal. If some body starts c rying, you think, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ Maybe you say, ‘C heer up ; it’s all right, dear. It’ll be all right, there’s nothing to cry about.’ If you are very attached to rational thoughts, then you just tend to dis miss it wi th logic, but emotions do not resp ond to logic. Oft en they react to logic, bu t they do not respond. Emotion i s a very sens itive thing an d it works i n a way that we sometimes do not compr ehend. If w e have ne ve r really studied or tr ied to under stand what it is to feel life, and really opened and allowed ourselves to be sensitive, then emotional th ings are ver y frightenin g and embar rassing to u s. We don’t know what t hey are all about because we have rejected that side of ourselves. On my thirtieth birthday , I realise d that I was an emotionally undeveloped man. It was an imp ortant birthday for me. I realised that I was a full grown, mature man-I no longer considered mysel f a youth, but emotionally, I think I was about six years old some of the time. I real ly had not developed on that le vel very muc h. Even thoug h I could maintain the kind of poise an d presence of a mature man in society, I did n ot 42 always feel that w ay. I still had very strong unresolved feelings and fears in m y m ind. It became apparent that I had to do someth ing about that, as the thoug ht that I m ight have to spen d the re st of my life at the em otional age of six was quite a dreary prospect. This is wher e many of u s in our soci ety get stuc k. For example, America n society does not allow you to develop emotionally, to mature. It doe s not u nder stand t hat ne ed at all, so it does not provide any rites of passage for men. The society does not provide that kind of introduct ion into a mature world; you are expected to be imma ture your whole life. You are sup posed to act mature, but you are n ot expected to be ma ture. Therefore, very few people are. Emotions ar e not really un derstood or resolved-their childish ten dencies are merely supp ressed rathe r than de vel oped into maturity. What me ditation does is to offer a chance to mature on the e motional plane. Perfect emo tional matu rity would be sammà-v àyàma , sammà-sati and sammà – samàdhi . This is a reflection; you will not find this in any book-it is for you to contemplate. Perfect emotional maturity co mprises Righ t Eff ort, Right Mindfulnes s an d Right Conc entration. It is presen t when on e is not caught in fluctuations and vicissitudes, where one has balance and clarity and is able to be receptive and sensitive. Things As They Are With Righ t Effort, there can be a co ol kind of ac ceptance of a situa tion rather than the panic th at comes from thinking that it’s up to me to set everybody straight, m ake everything right and solve everybody’s problems. W e d o the b est w e can, but w e also realise that it’s n ot up to u s to do everything and make everything rig ht. At one time when I wa s at Wat Pa h Pong with Ajahn Chah, I could see a lot of things going wrong with the monast ery. So I went up to him and I said, ‘Ajahn Ch ah, these things are going wrong; you’ve got to do so mething abo ut it.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Oh, yo u suffer a lot, Sumedho. You suffer a lot. It’ll change.’ I thoug ht, ‘He does n’t care! This is the monast ery that he’s devote d his life to and he’s just lett ing it go dow n the drain!’ B ut he was r ight. After a while it beg an to chang e and, t hrou gh just bear ing with it, peo ple began to see what t hey were doing. Sometim es we ha ve t o let things go down the drain in order for peop le to see and to experience that. Then we can le arn how not to g o down the drain. Do you see what I mean ? Sometime s situation s in our life are just this w ay. There’s nothing one can do so we allow them to be that w ay; even if they get w orse, w e allow them to get worse. Bu t it’s not fat alistic or ne gative thing we’re doin g; it’ s a kin d of patience – being willing to bear with someth ing; allowing it t o change naturally rather than egotistically trying to prop everything up and cleaning it all up out of our aversion and distaste for a mess. 43 Then, when people push our buttons, we’re no t always offended, hurt or upset by the things t hat happen, or shattered and des troyed by the th ings that pe ople say or do. One person I know tends to exaggerate everything. If something goes wrong today, she will say, ‘I’m utterly and absolutely shatte red!’ – when all that has happened is tha t some little p roblem occurred. How ever, her min d exaggerates it to such a n extent tha t a very small thing can absolutely destroy her for the day. When we see this, we sho uld realise that there is a great imbalance beca use little things should not totally shatter anyone. I realised that I could be easily offe nded so I to ok a vow not to be offended. I ha d noticed ho w easy it was for me to b e offend ed by little thin gs, whet her intentional or unintent ion al. We can see how ea sy it i s to f eel hurt, w ounded, offended, upse t or worried – how something in us is always trying to be nice, but always feels a li ttle offended by this or a littl e hurt by that. With reflection, you can see that the world is like thi s; it’s a sensi tive place. I t is not always going to soothe you and make you feel happy, secure and positive. Life is full of things tha t can offend, hurt, woun d or sha tter. This is life. It is this w ay. If somebody speaks in a cross tone of voice, you a re going to f eel it. But then the min d can go on an d be offended: ‘Oh, it really hurt w hen she said that to m e; you know, that w as not a very nice tone o f v oice. I felt q uite w ounded. I’ve n ever done a nything to hurt her.’ T he proliferating min d goes on like that, doesn’t it – you have b een shattere d, woun de d or offended! B ut then if you contemplate, you realise it’s j ust sen sitivi ty. When y ou contemplate this way, it is not tha t you are trying not to feel. When so me body talks to you in an unkind tone of voice, it’s not that yo u don’t feel it at all. We are not trying to be insensit ive. R ather, we ar e trying not to give it the wrong inter pretation, n ot to take it on a personal level. Having balanced emotions means that people can s ay things that are offen sive and you can take i t. You have the balance and emotional strength not to be offended, woun ded or shat tered by w hat happens in l ife. If you are someone who is always being wo unded or offended by life, you alway s have to run off and h ide or you h ave to find a group of obsequious sycophants to live with, people who say : ‘You’re wonde rful , Ajahn S umedho.’ ‘A m I really wonderful?’ ‘Yes, you are.’ ‘Yo u’re just saying that, are n’t you?’ ‘ No, no, I mean it fro m the bottom of my heart.’ ‘Well, that perso n over there doesn’t think I’m won derful.’ ‘Well, he’s stup id!’ ‘That’s w hat I though t.’ It ’s like the st ory of the emperor’s ne w clothes, is n’t it? You have to seek special environ ments so that ever ything is affirme d for you – safe and not threatening in any way. Harmony When there is Rig ht Effo rt, Right Mindfulness an d Righ t Concentration, t hen one is fearless. The re is fearlessness because there is no thing to be f rightene d of . One has the guts to look at th ings a nd not take them in t he wrong wa y; one has the wisdo m to 44 contemplate and reflect upon life; one has the security an d confidenc e of sãla , the strength of one’s moral commit ment and the det erminat ion to do good and refrain fro m doing e vil w ith bo dy an d speech. In this way, the whole t hing holds together as a pa th for development. It is a perfect pat h because everything is helping and supporting; the body, the emotional nature (the sensitivity of feeling), and the intellige nce. They are all in perfect ha rmony, supp orting each other. Without tha t harmony, our inst inct ual nature can go all over the place. If we ha ve no moral commitment, then our instincts can take c ontrol. F or e xample, if w e just follow sexual desire without any reference to mo rality, then we become caught up in all kinds of thin gs that cause self-aversion. There is a dultery, promiscu ity an d d isease, a nd all the d isrupt ion an d confusion that come fr om not reining in our instinctual nature through the limita tion s of morality. We can use our intelligence to cheat and lie, can’t we, but when we h ave a moral foundation, we are guided by wisdo m and by samàdhi ; these lead to emotional balanc e and emotio nal strength. But we don’t use wisdom to sup press sensitivity. We do n’t dominate our emotions by thinking and by suppressing our emotional nature. This is what we ha ve tende d to do in the West; we’ve u sed our rational thoughts and ideals to domina te an d suppre ss o ur emotion s, and t hus be come insen sitive to th ings, to life an d to ourselves. However, in the practice of mindfuln ess through vipassanà m editat ion, th e mind is totally recep tive and open so that it has this fullness and an all-embracing quality. And because it is open, the mind is also ref lective. When you concentrate on a point, your min d is no longer reflective – it is absorbed into the q uality of that object. The refl ective ability of the mind comes thro ugh min dfulness, whole-min dedne ss. Yo u are not filtering out or selecting. You are just noting wha tever arise s ceases. You c ontemplate that if you are attach ed to anyt hing th at arises, it cea ses. You ha ve the experience that even though it might be at tractive w hile it is arising, it changes towards cessati on. Then its attractivene ss dimin ishe s and we ha ve to find so me thing else to absorb into. The t hing ab out being h uman is tha t we have to t ouch the ear th, we have to accept the limitatio ns of this h uman form and planetary life. And just by doin g that, then the way out of suffering isn’t through getting out of our human experience by living in refined cons cious sta tes, but by em bracing the totality of all the hu ma n and Brah mà realms t hrough min dfulness. In th is way, t he Buddha pointed to a t otal realisat ion rather tha n a tempora ry escape through refinement an d beauty. Th is is wha t the Buddha mea ns when he is pointing the way to Nibbàna . The Eightfold Path as a Reflect ive Teaching In th is Eight fold Path, t he eight elem ents work like eight legs supporting you. It is not like: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 on a linear scale; it is more of a working together. It is not 45 that you develop pa¤¤à first and then w hen you have pa¤¤à , you can develop your sãla; and once your sãla is developed, then you will have samàdhi . That is ho w we th ink, is n’t it: ‘You have to have one, then two and then three.’ A s an actual realisation, developing the Eightfold Path is an experience in a momen t, it is all on e. All the parts are working as one stron g developme nt; it is not a linear process – we m ight th ink t hat way becaus e we can only have one thought at a time. Everyt hing I have said a bout the Eig htfold Path and the Four Noble Truths is only a reflection. What is really important is for yo u to realise what I am actually doing as I reflect rather than to grasp the thin gs that I a m saying. It is a process o f bringing t he Eightfold Pa th into your min d, u sing it as a reflec tive teachin g so t hat yo u can consider what it really m eans. D on’t just think you know it b ecause you can say, ‘Sam mà-diññhi means Rig ht Unders tanding. Sa mmà -sanka ppa means Right Th ought.’ This is intellectual unders tanding. Someone might say, ‘No, I think sammà-san kappa mean s…’ And you answer, ‘No, in the book it says Right Thought. You’ve got it wrong.’ This is not reflection. We can translate sammà-sankappa as Righ t T hou ght or A ttit ude or Intent ion; we try things out. We can use these tools f or contem plation rather than th inkin g that they are absolutely fixed, a nd that w e h ave to a ccept them in a n o rthodox style; a ny k ind o f variation from the exact interpretation is heresy. Sometime s our min ds do think in that rigid way, but we are trying to tran scend t hat way of thin king by developing a m ind that mo ves a round, watc hes, in vest igat es, conside rs, wonder s and reflects. I am trying to encourage each one of you to be brave enough to wisely consider the way things are rather than have someone tell you whethe r you are ready or not for enlightenme nt. But actu ally, the Buddhist teach ing is one of being enlightene d no w rather than doing any thing to be come enlightened. Th e idea t hat you mus t do something to become enlightened can only co me from wrong understanding. Then enlightenme nt is merely another condition depen dent upon s omething el se – so it is not really enlightenment. It is only a perception of enlighten ment. Howe ve r, I am not t alking about any kind of perception but about being alert to the wa y things are. The present moment is wha t we can actually observe: we can’t observe to morrow yet, an d we can only rememb er yesterday. But Buddhist practice is very i mme dia te to the her e and now, looking at the way things a re. Now h ow do w e d o that? W ell, first w e h ave to look a t o ur d oubts a nd fears- because we get so attached to our views an d opinions tha t these take us into do ubt about what we are doing. Someone might deve lop a false confidence bel ieving that they are enlightened. But believing that you are enli ghtened or believing that you are no t enlightened are both delusions. What I a m pointing to is being enlig htened rath er than belie ving in it. A nd for thi s, we need to be open to the way thin gs are. 46 47 We start with the way things are as they happen to be right now – such as the breathing of our bodies. What has that to do with Truth, with enlightenment? Does watching my breath mean that I am enlightened? But the more you try to think about it and figure out what it is, the more uncertain and insecure you’ll fee l. All we can do in this conventional form is to let go of delu sion. That is the practice of the Four Noble Truths and the development of the Eightfold Path.
Philosophy Assignment: 1500 words +/- 10% All instructions included. Oxford referencing. Reading material provided
3 The basic teachings of the Buddha Key terms and teachings Anatta/Anatman:Literally ‘‘no-self,’’ this term refers to the denial of a fixed, permanent, unchanging self or soul (atta/atman). On a more general level, it refers to the Buddha’s denial of any fixed or permanent substantial nature in any object or phenomenon. According to the Buddha, everything lacks inherent existence, because all things arise in dependence on impermanent causes and conditions. Dukkha/Duhkha:The subject of the Four Noble Truths, whose root meaning refers to an off-center wheel hub, ‘‘dukkha’’ captures the fact that life never quite lives up to our expectations, hopes, dreams, and plans. Usually translated as ‘‘suffering,’’ it includes the broader psychological ideas of dissatisfaction, lack of contentment, discontent, pain, misery, frustration, and feeling ill at ease. Eightfold Path:A basic summary of the Buddha’s teachings in morality/ sila(right or appropriate speech, action, and livelihood), mental concentration or meditative cultivation/samadhi(right or appropriate effort, mindfulness, and concentration), and wisdom/panna(right or appropriate view or understanding, and thought or intention). Four Noble Truths:The Buddha’s insight intodukkha; the source or arising or coming to be or cause ofdukkha(tanha); the cessation or ceasing ofdukkha(niroda); and the path or way (magga) leading to the extinction of dukkha. Kamma/Karma:Literally ‘‘action’’ or ‘‘deed,’’ this term refers to the fact that actions and intentions have or produce consequences. The basic Buddhist account of it is that both appropriate and inappropriate tendencies or habits lead to actions that ultimately produce fruits or consequences. Middle Way:In metaphysics, or matters relating to being, becoming, and non-being, the Middle Way of interdependent arising lies between the extremes of eternalism (things or selves or substances exist) and 45Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. annihilationism (no-thing or self or substance exists). The Middle Way recognizes ‘‘things’’ as processes or events or happenings arising from prior conditions. In epistemology, or matters relating to knowledge, truth, belief, and ignorance, the Middle Way of ultimate truth may be said to lie between the extremes of ignorance (neither truth nor knowledge) and conventional belief (what is thought and said to be true but is not). In ethics, or matters relating to proper living, the Middle Way of the Eightfold Path lies between the extremes of sensual indulgence and ascetic mortification. Nibbana/Nirvana:Literally ‘‘to blow out’’ or ‘‘extinguish,’’ this term refers to both the final release fromsamsaraand the ultimate liberation fromdukkha. Understood in this way, it refers to the quenching of the fires oftanha, and thus may be thought of as the goal of Buddhist practice. Panna/Prajna:In the traditional presentation of the teachings of the Eightfold Path, ‘‘wisdom’’ refers to the liberating knowledge of truth achieved in awakening or enlightenment. Right or appropriate view or understanding, and right or appropriate thought or intentions are the first two elements of the path to insight into the true nature of existence. Paticca-Samuppada/Pratitya-Samutpada:Variously translated as, ‘‘depen dent arising,’’ ‘‘dependent origination,’’ ‘‘conditioned co-production,’’ ‘‘co- dependent origination,’’ ‘‘inter-dependent-origination,’’ or ‘‘interdependent arising,’’ all of these refer to the Buddha’s account of causality. In short, this cluster of terms refers to the law-governed dynamics of change in which the events or happenings in the world are causally conditioned by and dependent on other processes, events, or happenings. Samadhi:In the traditional presentation of the teachings of the Eightfold Path, ‘‘concentration’’ or ‘‘meditation’’ refers to the ‘‘right’’ or ‘‘appropriate’’ kinds of intellectual attitude required for sustaining one’s practice of the path. The appropriate mental states include: right or appropriate effort, mindfulness, and concentration. Samsara:Literally ‘‘wandering on/about,’’ this term refers to the ongoing and seemingly endless cyclical process of birth, life, death, and rebirth. In a more general way, it refers to the conditioned world of this life, its kamma, and its concomitantdukkha. Sila:In the traditional presentation of the teachings of the Eightfold Path, ‘‘moral excellence’’ or ‘‘morality’’ refers to the three kinds of virtues required for the ‘‘right’’ practice of the path. These include: correct speech, correct action, and correct livelihood. 46 A sketch of the Buddha and theDhammaLaumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. Tanha/Trsna: Within the context of the Four Noble Truths, tanhaor selfish craving, grasping, wrong desire, greed, lust, and attached wanting, is the cause or root condition of dukkha. At its most basic level it is the drive for selfish gratification and possessiveness that fuels the fires of our suffering. Three teachings Although the exact events in the life of Siddhattha Gotama will probably never be known, the outline sketch of Chapter1provides the background against which his basic philosophical ideas and teachings may be considered. As we have seen, the man who became ‘‘the Buddha’’ or the ‘‘Awakened One,’’ underwent a radical re-visioning of life and his understanding of it. Whatever the specifics of his enlightenment were, there can be no doubt that according to his followers the Buddha’s awakening consisted essen- tially of a ‘‘new way’’ of seeing the world and understanding its functioning. This epistemological paradigm shift may be likened to the experience of awakening from a dream and realizing that what one thought was real was not. According to the Buddha’s followers, this awakening is captured in the three most basic teachings of Sakyamuni: the ‘‘Middle Way,’’ the Four Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path. First, the Buddha teaches the ‘‘Middle Way’’ between the extremes of the sensual pleasure of self-indulgence and the rigors of ascetic self-mortification. Bhikkhus, these two extremes should not be followed by one who has gone forth into homelessness. What two? The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble and unbeneficial; and the pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble and unbeneficial. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata has awakened to the middle way; which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. And what, bhikkhus, is the middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana? It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This, The basic teachings of the Buddha 47 Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. bhikkhus, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. 1 Having lived and experienced both the excesses and deficiencies of the extremes of pleasure and deprivation, the Buddha was painfully aware of their debilitating consequences. On the one hand, the pleasurable excesses of his princely life were not satisfying for at least two reasons. While enjoying them he was poignantly aware of their imminent passing, and while not enjoying them he found himself longing for what he knew could not truly satisfy him because of their inherent transience. On the other hand, his experiments with extreme ascetic practices left him physically emaciated and mentally unfulfilled. Moreover, these practices failed to produce their advertised and promised ends; in fact, they left him both mentally distracted and physically enfeebled. So his followers insisted that one of the most basic teachings of the ‘‘Awakened One’’ was his insistence on the ‘‘Middle Way’’ between the two extremes of pleasure and pain. A second basic teaching of the Buddha involves a new philosophical outlook or ‘‘truth’’ – a new way of seeing and understanding the world and its metaphysical structure. This way of knowing and being in the world is set forth in what is traditionally referred to as his First Sermon and is succinctly summarized in what is commonly referred to as the Four Noble Truths. According to the Buddha, Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: Birth is suffering; aging is suffering; illness is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering. Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there; that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination. Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, non-reliance on it. 1Samyutta Nikaya ,Saccasamyutta ,Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dhamma , p. 1844. 48 A sketch of the Buddha and the Dhamma Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is this Noble Eightfold Path that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. ‘‘This is the noble truth of suffering’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowl- edge, and light. ‘‘This noble truth of suffering is to be fully understood’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This noble truth of suffering has been fully understood’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This noble truth of the origin of suffering is to be abandoned’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This noble truth of the origin of suffering has been abandoned’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This noble truth of the cessation of suffering is to be realized’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This noble truth of the cessation of suffering has been realized’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering is to be developed’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light. ‘‘This noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering has been developed’’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light.The basic teachings of the Buddha 49Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. So long, bhikkhus, as my knowledge and vision of these Four Noble Truths as they really are in their three phases and twelve aspects was not thoroughly purified in this way, I did not claim to have awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in this world with its devas, Mara, and Brahma, in this generation with its ascetics and Brahmins, its devas and humans. But when my knowledge and vision of these Four Noble Truths as they really are in their three phases and twelve aspects was thoroughly purified in this way, then I claimed to have awakened to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment in this world with its devas, Mara, and Brahma, in this generation with its ascetics and Brahmins, its devas and humans. The knowledge and vision arose in me: ‘‘Unshakable is the liberation ofmymind.Thisismylastbirth.Nowthereisnomorerenewed existence.’’ 2 According to this passage, the path to liberation from the cycle of rebirth and kamma begins with a reorientation in one’s knowledge, understanding, and causal interaction with the world. The specifics of his Truths will be discussed shortly, but for now we may summarize them as follows: 1. Everything involves dukkha. 2. Dukkha has an origin or cause and condition. 3. Dukkha can be overcome or cured. 4. There is an Eightfold Path for reorienting one’s practices and life. Third, the Buddha teaches the Eightfold Path as a practical method of thinking, living, and relating to the world that leads to the cessation of dukkha . According to his First Sermon, the steps of the Path, which may be seen as a basic outline of ethical advice, are: 1. Right or appropriate view. 2. Right or appropriate thought. 3. Right or appropriate speech. 4. Right or appropriate action. 5. Right or appropriate livelihood. 6. Right or appropriate effort. 7. Right or appropriate mindfulness. 8. Right or appropriate concentration. 2Ibid. , pp. 1844–1846. 50 A sketch of the Buddha and the Dhamma Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. The Buddha as doctor One of the most common and helpful ways of presenting and understand- ing the teachings of the Buddha is to consider them as analogous to the best practices of a medical doctor. Imagine, for a moment, that you are ill and in need of medical attention. According to this method of presentation, the Buddha should be seen as a ‘‘healing physician’’ (as he was for Kisa Gotami) who can diagnose your sickness, identify its cause or causes, prescribe a treatment plan, and finally help you overcome your illness. Your illness in this scenario is not, however, a bodily disease like cancer, a pulled muscle, or a broken leg. Your illness isdukkha. Following his enlightenment, the Buddha set in motion the wheel of truth of his teaching by returning to his fellow ascetic practitioners to convey the fruits of his experience and Dhamma. Although we cannot be sure about the exact content of this sermon, it seems both plausible and appropriate in the light of the traditional stories of his life that the compas- sionate Buddha would begin his teaching by returning to the band of ascetics with whom he had spent so much time. As we have seen, the Buddha informed them that those who have already set out on the path of spiritual enlightenment and renounced the ordinary life of a householder must avoid the extremes of indulgence in sensual pleasures and rigorous self-mortification. He was speaking from experi- ence. The Buddha had initially devoted himself to a life of self-indulgent pleasure and found it unsatisfying and hollow. He had also recently devoted himself to the common practices of ascetic self-mortification and found them unbearably painful. According to the Buddha, both extremes were ‘‘unworthy and unprofitable,’’ precisely because he experienced them as inappropriate to the goals of enlightenment and Nibbana. He informed the ‘‘ailing’’ ascetics that his realization of the ‘‘Middle Way,’’ and not the experience of the two extremes, was what produced the vision, knowledge, calm, insight, enlightenment, and Nibbanathat they sought. He had experi- enced the release that he and they had been seeking, and he insisted that it was to be found in the Eightfold Path of the ‘‘Middle Way.’’ One can only imagine the reaction of the ascetics. On the one hand, they needed to overcome their anger, disappointment, resentment, and suspi- cion of Siddhattha for having abandoned their way of life, and on the other, they were probably curious about his experiences because he was known to The basic teachings of the Buddha 51 Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. be quite adept at ascetic practices. One can also imagine the compassion of the Buddha for his fellow seekers. He had finally realized the truth of the ‘‘Middle Way,’’ and he was now in a position to offer help, guidance, and ‘‘medical attention’’ to those still bound by the ignorance and dissatisfaction of unfulfilling practice. The ‘‘patients,’’ who rather paradoxically, were both painfully aware and blissfully ignorant of their ongoing sicknesses, were finally in the presence of a real ‘‘doctor.’’ What did the doctor recommend? The Buddha’s diagnosis: the First Noble Truth According to his First Sermon, the Buddha’s diagnosis of the sickness of the ascetics, in particular, and humans, in general, is called the First Noble Truth. This truth is the realization that everything involvesdukkha. Being born, growing up, and aging all involve dukkha. We come into the world in a way that produces dukkhafor our mothers and fathers and dukkhafor our- selves. We go through the processes of growth and maturation and the experiences of dukkhaare multiplied and enhanced. We continue to age, and life becomes increasingly difficult as we encounter the debilitating consequences of physical, mental, and emotional sicknesses. And finally, inevitably, we die. The Buddha’s First Truth is the medical and spiritual diagnosis that our condition is dire. The lives of the ascetics (and our lives too) are full of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. All of it is dukkha. And who could deny it? Every one of us has experienced the dukkhaof unpleasant things, like sickness, physical pain, hunger, sleeplessness, frustration, and anxiety. Every one of us has also experienced the dukkhaof losing pleasant things, like friends, and pets, and possessions. Who could truthfully deny that not getting what one wants is dukkha? No one, says the Buddha. The problem is that we fail to realize all of this is due to blissful ignorance of our own ignorance. We are neither awakened to nor aware of the way things really are, and so we continue the mindless pursuit of our own dissatisfaction – which simply produces more dukkha. The ultimate explana- tion of all of this is, according to the Buddha, our ignorance of our true selves. We simply do not realize that our ordinary, habitual, and ignorant way of conceiving of our selves is part of the problem of dukkha. In short, the Buddha teaches that how we conceive and understand who and what we are is basic to our disease – it, too, leads to dukkha. Why and how do we get things wrong? 52 A sketch of the Buddha and the Dhamma Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. The First Noble Truth as the Buddha’s diagnosis of the human condition has traditionally been understood to involve important metaphysical and epistemological claims about both the nature of the human person and our knowledge of the ontology of our selves and other things in the world. As the sermon says, ‘‘the five aggregates of attachment’’ are dukkha. Although we shall be considering the features of the Buddha’s metaphysical claims in more detail in Chapter6and Chapter 7, for now, we shall try to clarify what he means by these ‘‘aggregates.’’ Recall for a moment that the most pro minent Indian schools of religious and philosophical thought at the time of the Buddha argued for the existence of a substantial or essential self – an immaterial being, which transmigrated from past lives into this life and into the next life as well. We shall be considering the Buddha’s detailed response to these claims in Chapter5and Chapter 7. For now, we need only recall that they had posited such a being for at least two reasons: first, to explain one’s metaphysical identity in this life as well as in past and future lives, and second, to explain the obvious unity of our perceptual experience. This atmanor immaterial self was required, according to the Indian tradition and the Buddha’ s contemporaries, to explain how both our personal identity and our unified perceptual awareness remained the same in the face of the unending changes of our daily experience. The Buddha and his followers, however, categorically denied the exis- tence of such a being for at least two reasons: first, it involved a meta- physical hypothesis that was patently unverifiable, and second, it was unjustified because it was ultimately unnecessary for explaining either the phenomena of experience or the truths of rebirth and kamma. Let’s look at each of these reasons more carefully. We have seen that the Buddha himself denied the existence of atman because he refused to posit the existence of an entity whose very being was not verifiable by direct experience. He had personally engaged in the kinds of introspective meditative experience that presumably could and would have confirmed the continuing and ongoing existence of his own atman, but he had failed to discover any fixed inner essence of himself. At least initially, he and his followers denied the existence of enduring selves underlying the ever-changing flux of daily experience precisely because there simply was no empirical evidence of abiding selves. Instead, the Buddha taught anatmanor the no-enduring-self view of the human person. At the same time, the Buddha also rejected the existence of atmanas The basic teachings of the Buddha 53 Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. logically necessary to explain the Indian teachings on rebirth andkamma. We shall be considering his reasons for this in more detail in Chapter5. According to the Buddha, there is an ongoing series or cycle of rebirths that does in fact occur, but there is no fixed and unchanging self, soul, or atman that undergoes the transmigration. So, how, one might ask, do I, or more precisely, what ‘‘I’’ take ‘‘myself’’ to be, reconcile the constantly changing world of experience with my obviously unified experience of ‘‘self’’? The Buddha explains it in terms of his teaching of paticca-samuppada , or his account of causality. Variously translated as ‘‘dependent arising,’’ ‘‘dependent origination,’’ ‘‘conditioned co-production,’’ ‘‘co-dependent origination,’’ ‘‘inter-dependent- origination,’’ and ‘‘interdependent arising,’’ paticca-samuppadarefers to the Buddha’s teaching about the law-governed dynamics of daily change in which the events or happenings of the world and experience are causally conditioned by and dependent on other processes, events, or happenings. In the Nidanasamyutta orConnected Discourses on Causation he says: And what, monks, is interdependent arising? With ignorance as condition, volitional formations come to be; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness; with consciousness as condition, name and form; with name and form as condition, the six sense bases; with the six sense bases as condition, contact; with contact as condition, feeling; with feeling as condition, craving; with craving as condition, clinging; with clinging as condition, existence; with existence as condition, birth; with birth as condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, dejection, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. This, monks, is called interdependent arising. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional formations; with the cessation of volitional formation, cessation of consciousness …Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering. 3 This network of interdependent happenings is the Buddha’s way of making sense of the basic features of our ordinary experience of both the world and ourselves without appealing to or positing the existence of either enduring substances (on the part of the ‘‘objects’’ out in the world that we are experiencing) or enduring selves who are undergoing or having the experiences. Unlike those who insist on either enduring selves and 3Samyutta Nikaya ,Nidanavagga Sutta, The Book of Causation , pp. 533–534. 54 A sketch of the Buddha and the Dhamma Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. substances, or at least enduring selves, in order to make sense of both the world of flux and our experiences of it, the Buddha and his followers categorically deny a fixed essence or unchanging substance in any being. Instead, they teach that reality and our experiences of it are best seen as continuous and ongoing dynamic processes of becoming in which each ‘‘part’’ or ‘‘element’’ is itself both constantly conditioned by and causally contributing to the endlessly cyclical processes of the whole. The traditional Buddhist terms for this aresamsaraand the ‘‘twelve-fold chain of interde- pendent arising,’’ and it is these terms and their referents that help clarify the Buddha’s meaning of ‘‘the five aggregates of attachment’’ in the First Noble Truth. Against the background of interdependent arising, what the Buddha meant by ‘‘the five aggregates of attachment’’ is that the human person, just like the ‘‘objects’’ of experience, is and should be seen as a collection or aggregate of processes – anatman, and not as possessing a fixed or unchanging substantial self – atman. In fact, the Buddhist tradition has identified the following five processes, aggregates, or bundles as constitutive of our true ‘‘selves’’: 1. Rupa – material shape/form – the material or bodily form of being; 2. Vedana – feeling/sensation – the basic sensory form of experience and being; 3. Sanna/Samjna – cognition – the mental interpretation, ordering, and classification of experience and being; 4. Sankhara/Samskara – dispositional attitudes – the character traits, habi- tual responses, and volitions of being; 5. Vinnana/Vijnana – consciousness – the ongoing process of awareness of being. The Buddha thus teaches that each one of these ‘‘elements’’ of the ‘‘self’’ is but a fleeting pattern that arises within the ongoing and perpetually changing context of process interactions. There is no fixed self either in me or any object of experience that underlies or is the enduring subject of these changes. And it is precisely my failure to understand this that causes dukkha . Moreover, it is my false and ignorant views of ‘‘myself’’ and ‘‘things’’ as unchanging substances that both causally contributes to and conditions dukkha because these very same views interdependently arise from the ‘‘selfish’’ craving of tanha. It is the causal process of this desiring that the Buddha addresses in his Second Noble Truth. The basic teachings of the Buddha 55 Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. The Second Noble Truth The Buddha teaches that the Second Noble Truth of the origin ofdukkha involves tanha, or selfish wanting and possessiveness that fuel the fires of dukkha . As the First Sermon reports, tanhaand the passionate greed bound up with it causally contribute to ‘‘our’’ rebirth and ongoing participation in the cycle of samsara. This happens in three ways: first, by continuously experiencing new and exciting delights in our senses, we mindlessly develop a habitual drive or lust to fulfill our unquenchable thirst for more and varied sense-pleasures; second, this attached wanting produces a desire and craving for existence in which we seek to preserve our ‘‘selves’’ by trying to be some fixed thing, or imagine our ‘‘selves’’ as becoming some fixed thing; and third, we also simultaneously experience the thirst to remove and overcome the obstacles to our satisfaction, including our ‘‘selves’’ if necessary. Understood in this way, it is easy to see why tanhais the source and origin of dukkha . In the first case, who would deny that the constantly changing flux of the world and our ‘‘selves’’ is a sure recipe for frustration? Just when we think things are perfect, along comes a new source of distraction and desire. You finally get the new car you have always wanted, and before you know it, next year’s model is even bigger and better. You finally get a date with the person you have been admiring from a distance, and before long you see some new person who captures your attention. Even when you get exactly what you want, there is always some new thing that you do not currently have, and so you experience the hunger of being unfulfilled. In the second case, you begin to take the steps that you think are necessary to satisfy your desires and help you be what you want to be, and before you know it the karmic consequences of your actions and intentions lead to attachment to samsara. And finally, when things get in the way of our plans, like the slow driver in front of you, or things simply do not go the way that we want them to, when our favorite team loses again, who could deny the often overwhelming frustration and pain of these situations? All of it is dukkha , according to the Buddha, and all of it is caused by tanha. So, you may wonder, what’s the point? Just when you may be tempted to throw in the towel and call it quits, the ‘‘Awakened One’’ tells us to hold on. There is hope and a way out of our predicament and suffering. The lifeline is the subject of the Third Noble Truth. 56 A sketch of the Buddha and the Dhamma Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. The Third Noble Truth The Third Noble Truth is concerned with the cessation ofdukkhaand is rather straightforward and obvious in theory, if not in practice. According to the Buddha, the way to stop dukkhais to stop its cause, tanha. In short, if you want to avoid the fruit of an action or intention, avoid the action or intention. Said another way, if you want to remove an effect, remove its cause. So the Buddha says that the cessation of suffering depends on the complete cessation of the very craving that causes and conditions it. In short, stop tanha, stop dukkha . It seems rather obvious, but perhaps there is more to this truth than first meets the eye. Where is the Buddha leading us with this line of reasoning? If we recall again that the First Sermon is addressed to his fellow ascetics, the Buddha’s point may be more obvious. He is, both literally and figura- tively, hitting them where they live. The Third Noble Truth asserts that the cessation of dukkhadepends on the complete and total cessation of tanha. Although the ascetics think they are making such a sacrifice, they are not. One must not simply give up tanha, like giving up candy during Lent or skipping TV for the evening or even renouncing the world and its pleasures. ‘‘Giving up’’ involves much more than doing without. The Buddha seems to be insisting that one must fully renounce tanha, entirely emancipate oneself from tanha, and in the end completely detach oneself from tanha. What he is talking about in a nutshell is both the release from samsara, and the ultimate realization of Nibbana. The Buddha seems to be telling his fellow ascetics that the ultimate goal of their practice is only attainable when there is complete and total non- attachment – even to the practice itself. He had achieved the goal himself and now he was trying to teach them how to do it as well. In order to achieve Nibbana , the Buddha says, the ascetics need first to recognize the paradox of its realization. In other words, the Buddha seems to be asserting a self- referentially inconsistent claim. If you desire to be free of dukkha,thenyoumust want to stop tanha. This would seem to entail, however, that one must desire to not-desire, and that after all is desire – tanha. What is a good ascetic to do? One solution is to disregard the Buddha’s truth as fatally flawed in its logic. Another solution is to admit that the Buddha actually does require a desire, presumably of a different sort from ordinary tanha, in order to over- come tanha. A third solution is to consider another possibility. Perhaps what The basic teachings of the Buddha 57 Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. the Buddha is teaching is that the final release fromsamsaraand the ulti- mate liberation from dukkhacan only be realized beyond the quenching of the fires of tanhaitself. What he is telling the ascetics is that they must not only stop the particular desire for sensual pleasures if they want to stop dukkha, but they must also stop the more general desire of tanhaitself. In short, they must transcend tanha itself – completely and totally – in order to realize Nibbana. He was not asking them to do the impossible. He had done it himself, and now he was letting them know that they too could realize it if only they would let go of their attachment to their own ways and follow a new path. The Fourth Noble Truth The Fourth Noble Truth is a specification of the Path leading to the cessation of dukkha . As we have seen, the Eightfold Path includes: right or appropriate view, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concen- tration. Traditionally these eight elements have been arranged into three subsets concerned with wisdom/ panna(view or thought), virtue or moral excellence/ sila(speech, action, and livelihood), and concentration/ samadhi (effort, mindfulness, and concentration). Although the actual order of pre- sentation of the groupings is moral excellence, concentration, and wisdom, most scholars do not think that there is any real significance to the ordering of either the elements of the Eightfold Path or its subsets. The reason for this is that elements of each are continuously and iteratively reinforcing one another throughout the day. What is significant, however, is that the Buddha has proposed a specific and manageable ethical plan for eliminat- ing dukkha and realizing Nibbana. In fact, the Majjhima Nikaya reports that the Buddha insists, ‘‘Both formerly and now what I teach is suffering and the cessation of suffering.’’ 4 As we have seen, the first three Noble Truths are basically concerned with metaphysical and epistemological claims related to the realization of Nibbana . The First Noble Truth is concerned with the way things are in our ‘‘selves’’ and the world and how they ought to be seen. The Second Noble Truth focuses on the cause of the First Truth. The Third Noble Truth spe- cifies that the cause can in fact be eliminated. The Fourth Noble Truth then 4Majjhima Nikaya ,Alagaddupama Sutta , p. 234. 58 A sketch of the Buddha and the Dhamma Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. offers the practical moral advice necessary to remove bothtanhaanddukkha and achieve the ultimate goal, Nibbana. According to the earliest Buddhist tradition, the Fourth Noble Truth’s path to Nibbana begins with an initial acceptance of the Buddha and his teachings as provisionally true. In other words, one must first hear and then commit themselves to the Buddha and what he teaches as the starting point of the path. In order to begin the path, one must at least provisionally believe in kamma ,samsara , rebirth, and one’s responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions and intentions. One must also be committed to the appropri- ateness of the Buddha’s view. In short, one must take the Buddha at his word and then follow his advice. Second, one’s thoughts and emotions must be directed to the ‘‘Middle Way’’ between the extremes of sensuous pleasure and aggravating want. Third, one must employ appropriate forms of speech. One must avoid lying and all forms of harmful speech and instead speak, like the Buddha himself, with compassion and kindness toward all beings. Fourth, one must always act in the appropriate or morally correct way. Fifth, one ought to make one’s living by morally praiseworthy means that do not cause harm and suffering for others. Sixth, one must be fully committed to the effort involved in pursuing the path. One must be consciously and mindfully aware, at all times and in all places, of the thoughts and responses one is having to the way things are going both in our selves and in the world around us. Seventh, one must be continuously cultivating the motivation and mental awareness required to practice the path in the appropriate way at all times. Finally, one must foster the various levels of mental calmness and collected- ness that are the fruits of appropriate mental concentration. At the same time, it is important to point out that the Buddha imagines pursuit of the path as taking place in different ways and at different levels or stages for different followers. In the Anguttara Nikayahe says: Just as the great ocean slopes away gradually, falls gradually, inclines gradually, not in an abrupt way like a precipice; even so, Paharada, is this Dhammaand Discipline: there is a gradual training, gradual practice, gradual progress; there is no penetration to final knowledge in an abrupt way. 5 This quote and the remaining part of the First Sermon seem to support the idea of the Buddha as a skillful teacher who recognized that his 5Anguttara Nikaya , p. 203. The basic teachings of the Buddha 59 Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved. audiences and followers were going to be at various levels or stages of preparation for following his advice. In fact, the last part of the First Sermon clearly recognizes a three-step process or threefold perspective on each of the Four Noble Truths. First, each Truth must simply be heard or made available. Second, its full import and meaning must be grasped and understood. Third, the Four Noble Truths must be followed, lived, and realized. Only when all of these had been fully understood and diligently practiced did the Buddha report his own realization of perfect enlighten- ment and release fromsamsara, and promise this to his followers as well. Taken together, the First Sermon and the quotation from the Anguttara Nikaya seem to complement and reinforce one another. On one hand, they introduce the newcomer to Buddhism to the most basic teachings of the Buddha, and on the other they inform the beginner of the gradual process of initiation, development, and realization open and available to anyone will- ing to follow the Buddha’s Path – the path to the cessation of dukkha. This early technique of the Buddha adapting his message to his audience even- tually became known as upayaor skillful means. This method of practice is one of the fundamental teachings in the latter Mahayana tradition, and a perfect example of the kind of ‘‘seed of truth’’ first found in ‘‘Mainstream’’ or early Buddhism that is later cultivated by the developing Buddhist tradi- tion. We shall be examining similar ‘‘seeds’’ in the remaining chapters of Part II, and then study their fruit in the chapters of PartIII. Things to think about 1. What are the Four Noble Truths and how are they related to one another? 2. What is the most important step of the Eightfold Path and why? 3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of presenting the Buddha’s teaching as analogous to the practices of a medical doctor? 4. What are the traditional Indian reasons for believing in the existence of a substantial self or soul? What is the Buddha’s argument against these reasons? Which account seems better to you and why? 5. What are the ‘‘five aggregates of attachment’’ and what evidence is there for the Buddha’s conception of the human person as an ‘‘aggregate’’? 60 A sketch of the Buddha and the Dhamma Laumakis, SJ 2008, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [8 August 2020]. Created from deakin on 2020-08-08 01:21:15. Copyright © 2008. Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.
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