Key points of Buddhism
Dharma (eternal Truth)
The highest reality in Buddhism is the Eternal Truth, Eternal Law that governs and regulates the flow of life. Buddhism is a spiritual path that does not include God, does not have stories of creation or end of the universe. It is concerned only with the means by which the soul achieves harmony with Eternal Truth, and thereby true and abiding happiness.
The Truth of the universe is three-fold
it is characterized by:
Everything is transitory, impermanent, continually changing; life is always in a constant state of flux. The existence of everything is dependent on the conditions and circumstances that bring it into being, that govern the state of its continuing existence and that determine the circumstances of its ceasing to exist. The truth of existence is that nothing stays the same.
The four noble truths of the Buddha
anatta (lack of essence)
Nothing has any actual unchanging essence, no permanent core of being, only continually changing states of existence. Everything is a composite collection of constantly fluctuating elements. Even our “self” is the aggregate of mental and physical constituents which take on the appearance of a stable persistent essence by processes of cause and effect, and drop that appearance of existence by the same processes.
By clinging to the transitory experiences of our self, our world, our life, as if they were permanent, we only find dissatisfaction. By seeking lasting fulfillment and happiness grasping for the continually changing elements of life, we only find unhappiness.
1) dukkha (unsatisfactoriness). Life is never completely or permanently satisfying; satisfactions are impermanent at best. We experience dissatisfaction because we don’t have what we want, we cannot avoid the things we do not want, and the good things we do get do not last.
2) tanha (desire/ craving/ grasping) Our minds are incessantly absorbed with thoughts of altering our condition in one way or another. We are continually thinking of things we want and things we don’t want, always trying to get something other than what life gives us. We are caught in self-perpetuating cycles of wanting, being dissatisfied, and chasing new impulses and cravings.
3) nirodha (cessation) There is a way to stop the dissatisfaction. This discontent and unhappiness arise from living contrary to the True nature of things. Unless we come to understand the Truth of existence we will continue to experience frustration. When we stop chasing after things that do not satisfy, stop seeking to alter the natural flow of life, the dissatisfaction and unhappiness with our life ceases. We can break the unfulfilling cycle of desires by changing the way we approach life, changing the way we see and think about our life.
4) magga (path) There is an eight-fold path leading to the cessation of desires and the end of suffering and dissatisfaction. This path leads to transformation of mind, emotions, motivations, and actions. It teaches the mind and psyche to live in harmony with the truth of the universe instead of continually struggling against it. The eight-fold path comprises:
The three-fold skills of the enlightened life
- Right View – viewing all things as transitory, changing, impermanent
- Right Intention – acting from intentions of disinterest in personal gain and compassion toward others
- Right Speech – abstaining from lies, deceit, slander, malice, harsh words, and idle chatter without purpose or depth
- Right Action – doing no harm, intentionally or deliberately, to any sentient being; never taking a life
- Right Livelihood – avoiding any livelihood which directly or indirectly causes physical, mental, or emotional harm, or which leads others to violate right speech or action
- Right Effort – exerting oneself to prevent unwholesome states from arising in the mind and emotions, to abandon those which do arise and to foster and nurture uplifting states leading to right views, intentions, speech and action.
- Right Mindfulness – developing conscious awareness - through meditation - of the ever-changing states of body, mind, thoughts, and emotions; cultivating a continual recognition of the coming and going of thoughts and feelings; observing how they originate and how they wane; cultivating the ability to attach no importance to the impermanent, transient, and passing.
- Right Concentration – through regular practice of meditation, the mind acquires the capacity to focus conscious awareness on the truth of the present moment; to sustain and intensify concentration step by step until daily life is experienced for what it is rather than striving to make it something it is not.
The path to living in harmony with the truth of existence requires conscious development of new skills to transform mental habits, intentions, impulses, and predispositions. To overcome the ignorance characterized by unskillful mental dispositions we need to develop three types of skill: morality, meditation and wisdom. All three are interactive, advancing in mutual interdependence – greater skill in one leads to greater skill in the others. The process may start with any of the three; it will lead to the others.
Samsara (cycle of rebirth)
morality – moral reasoning and moral conduct is simply wisdom embodied in our daily life. It constitutes the restraint of cravings and passions and the development of compassion in our thoughts, words, and actions in the world. Removing the barriers and hindrances of wrong thinking and wrong actions makes possible the development of skillful thoughts and actions which transform the experience of life. It creates an inner state that generates the skill of wisdom.
meditation – mental and physical exercises of meditation transform awareness and perception. It promotes skills of careful examination, recognition and control; allows one to observe the functioning of mental processes and responses. It allows one to honestly see the true motivations behind one’s thoughts, words, and actions; creates a filter of awareness about how one thinks, feels, and acts. One develops increasing mental control of one’s intentions in the smallest details.
It generates the ability to attain balance and insight; awakens one to the true nature of existence as impermanent and lacking any inherent, enduring essence. One learns to experience life with an attitude of calm awareness.
wisdom – the skill of reflective perception; the ability to live in conscious awareness of the true nature of things. Wisdom is the goal of meditation. Wisdom is insight into Truth; increasingly skillful self-reflection made possible by moral training and meditation. Skill in wisdom makes skillful moral behavior second nature – wisdom is transformative knowledge. Through concentrating on right thinking, the mind and its functions can be realigned. Wisdom produces skillful thinking that changes the intentions, motivations, thoughts and actions; it is the state of living the eight-fold path.
The cycles of chasing our desires lead us in unfulfilling circles all through life. When we die, those same desires draw us back into another life, seeking fulfillment. It is a cycle that is, by its very nature, destined to failure because the inherent nature of the universe is transient, fluctuating, mutable. It is our attachment to the transient things of this life that keep us tied to the cycles of rebirth. We can’t seem to let go of the desires and cravings that draw us back again and again seeking to achieve satisfaction that is never lasting.
Enlightenment is achieved by those rare few whose conscious awareness is completely transformed, who live consistently from a state of wisdom. It s a life lived purely in continual awareness of Eternal Truth (Dharma). It is lived in harmony, at every moment, with the true reality of life. Not deceived by all the false, ephemeral desires of the mind, one is established in contentment, compassion, and equanimity. Living in an enlightened way changes the outcome of how Dharma operates in your life. One approaches all activities in a transformed mental state; one goes through the normal experiences of life but takes a different attitude toward them. The erratic capricious nature of life is accepted; the mind ceases to grasp; it is no longer driven by cravings, not attached to holding on to anything, allowing life to flow in its natural course. Enlightenment changes both body and mind; an inner light shines from within. One lives radiantly.
Nirvana is the state of perfection which releases one from the endless cycles of cravings and dissatisfaction. Those who achieve full control of the mind and it’s desires, who live without attachments, break the bonds of Samsara. Thoughts, actions, and intentions to fulfill desires are what drives the wheel of Samsara; no intentions to fulfill desires results in no rebirth. When one achieves the state of enlightenment, one is no longer bound by the desires of the mind; one is no longer attached to wanting this and that but lives continually in harmony with the truth that underlies all phenomenal existence. When the attachments to desires are removed, there is nothing to pull one back into the cycle of rebirth; one is released. This is the state of non-returning achieved by those determined to reach it.
Buddha and Bodhisattvas
The Buddha is the teacher of Dharma, Eternal Truth who, through compassion for those suffering in their misguided pursuit of happiness through things that cannot satisfy, comes to guide us again into the path of lasting contentment. The Buddha awakens humanity to the truth of life, teaches us how to attain genuine and lasting happiness, how to experience life radiantly. The Buddha is the embodiment of Dharma who is born into the world from time to time to lead us into the Truth.
Bodhisattvas are those souls who have attained enlightenment, have achieved the state of Nirvana and have no need to return to this world, yet who, through compassion, take on the responsibility of returning again and again to lead suffering humanity into the wisdom that begets true and lasting happiness. The saint who chooses the path of the Bodhisattva promises to return to give guidance, encouragement, and assistance until all have attained enlightenment.
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