"WHAT IS REAL AND WHAT IS FALSE?"
The goal of Buddhism is to attain wisdom and the ultimate freedom, enlightenment. The core of Buddha's teachings contain three main principles for self-cultivation.
1) Discipline (Sila) - represents the Sangha Jewel Practicing morality and following of the precepts. (Purity & Harmony)
2) Concentration/One-pointedness of mind - Studying and meditating on the works of (Samadhi) represents the Dharma Jewel Sakyamuni Buddha. (The Tripitaka)
3) Wisdom (Panna) - represents the Buddha Jewel Enlightenment. (Awareness, Right View & Correct Understanding)
When taking refuge in The Triple Jewels of Self-Nature; Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, we take a step toward self-cultivation to Perfect Enlightenment. Cultivation is changing the way we think, speak and act toward people and matters from an erroneous way to a proper way.
What are erroneous ways you ask? Well to tackle that question, let's first look at the human mind and its activities.
According to the Buddha's teachings and as I understand it, consciousness is generated by conditions. Apart from conditions, there is no arising of consciousness. For example, a newborn baby is pretty much self-contained, contented until interacted with or stimulated by someone or something then it reacts to the "conditioning" becoming alive, animated, i.e. cries, gurgles, laughs. A level of consciousness is then formed. There are ever higher and higher levels of consciousness dependent on conditions.
We give names to such formations as descriptions to the physicality (short, tall, fat, thin, white, black); the senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch); the emotions (happy, sad, angry, jealous); the thought processes (good, bad, ugly, beautiful, intelligent, dumb), and so on to a stream of consciousness that conditions give rise to.
What we think of as a person, is essentially a functioning of the above five aggregates which are namely the physical body; sense perceptions; feelings or emotions; mental formations or dispositions; and consciousness. The Buddha stressed that the so called 'being' or 'individual' is nothing but a combination of physical and mental forces, or energies, that are never the same for two consecutive moments, ergo the stream of consciousness that goes on ad infinitum. Take that myriads of possibilities and conditioning that can and does occur for one person and multiply it by the billions or so other people on this earth and you get what you call "life". Therefore, it's easy to see why people can get easily lost and deluded, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Let's get back to the "conditioning factor" which can be described as the Law of Cause and Effect, Action and Reaction, or more commonly known as Karma (Kamma) in Buddhism. This law postulates that for every action there must be a result or reaction. This is a universal law that applies to the 'physical' as well as the 'mental' world which brings us to the concepts of Anicca (Impermanence), Dukkha (Unsatisfactoriness or Suffering), and Anatta (No-self).
As we have already covered, everything that arises is dependent on conditions. Nothing arises without a cause. The law or concept of Anicca (impermanence) is that all conditioned things are transitory. Basically meaning everything/all things are impermanent and temporary just an endless stream of cause and effect. If nothing escapes this law, and if nothing is the same for two consecutive moments, then the concept of me, I, and mine is moot. The ideas of an identity are transient and ever changing, ergo the concept of Anatta (no-self).
Dukkha is suffering or unsatisfactoriness. This is caused by lust, greed, anger, cravings, attachments. This clinging to conditioned forms is a delusion. And delusion is caused by false views and lack of understanding. This false view and lack of understanding stems from ignorance of the Way or the Path of the Buddha.
When the Buddha wanted to get rid of suffering (dukkha), he had to find out the cause. Once the cause is understood, it can be eradicated; no cause, no effect, no pain, no suffering. To see how brilliant this truly is, let me recap the Paticca Samuppada "The Dependent Arising".
"[When Cause exists, Effect arises. When we don't understand this, Ignorance arises.] Dependent on Ignorance (avijja) arise moral and immoral Conditioning Activities (samkhara). Dependent on Conditioning Activities arises Consciousness (vinnana). Dependent on Consciousness arise Mind and Matter (nama-rupa). Dependent on Mind and Matter arise the Six Spheres of Sense (salayatana). Denpendent on the Six Spheres of Sense arises Contact (phassa). Dependent on Contact arises Feelings (vedana). Dependent on Feelings arises Craving (tanha). Dependent on Craving arises Grasping (upadana). Dependent on Grasping arises Becoming (bhava). Dependent on Becoming arises Birth (jati). Dependent on Birth arise Decay (jara), Death (marana), Sorrow (soka), Lamentation (parideva), Pain (dukkha), Grief (domanassa), and Despair (upayasa). Thus does this whole mass of suffering originate.
When this cause does not exist, this effect is not; with the cessation of this cause, this effect ceases. [Without effect there is no cause therefore no Ignorance.] With the cessation of Ignorance, Conditioning Activities cease. With the cessation of Conditioning Activities, Consciousness ceases. With the cessation of Consciousness, Mind and Matter cease. With the cessation of Mind and Matter, the Six Spheres of Sense cease. With the cessation of the Six Spheres of Sense, Contact ceases. With the cessation of Contact, Feeling ceases. With the cessation of Feeling, Craving ceases. With the cessation of Craving, Grasping ceases. With the cessation of Grasping, Becoming ceases. With the cessation of Becoming, Birth ceases. With the cessation of Birth, Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief, and Despair cease. Thus does this whole mass of suffering cease."
(The above excerpt was taken from "The Buddha and His Teachings" by Narada published by the Buddhist Missionary Society, Malaysia. ISBN: 967-9920-44-5 (1988))
Hopefully, it's now clear to see what are erroneous ways and how they come about. If we follow the concept of everything originates from mind (don't ask me to define "the mind", from what I gathered it's not to be defined but to know and one can achieve that through meditation), then as stated, everything that arises is transitory, impermanent (anicca) including ideas of self (handsome, strong, good, bad, terrific), the material manifestations (empires, buildings, cars, relationships, money, fame) of the mind, all are ever changing, therefore, to hold on to (cling, obsess, grasp, attach, etc.) any ideas as fixed causes delusions and erroneous views resulting in suffering (dukkha). The Buddha's teachings exhort letting go, not clinging to anything that includes the Buddha's teachings, once you learn it, you let it go. That is the Middle Way. Well, still can't tell you which came first, the chicken or the egg but it might be fun to look into what causes dinosaurs and why are they extinct? (Only kidding).
The concept of Karma is a big one in Buddhism. Karma or the Law of Cause and Effect is endless and creates one's circumstances. The goal of Buddhism is to escape this wheel of constant rebirths. According to Buddhism beliefs this can be achieved through discipline and meditation. The Buddha's teachings give The Noble Eightfold Path as a spiritual path that Buddhists can cultivate and rely on to help them achieve this goal. They are:
1. Right Understanding - Knowledge of the Four Noble Truths: Suffering; the Cause of Suffering; the Cessation of Suffering; and the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering.
2. Right Thoughts - Free from lust, attachment, ill-will, and cruelty.
3. Right Speech - Refrain from falsehood, slander, harsh words, and frivolous speech.
4. Right Action - Abstain from killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.
5. Right Livelihood - Abstain from trading in arms; slavery, prostitution, etc.; breeding animals for slaughter; intoxicants; and poison.
6. Right Effort - Discard evil that has already arisen; prevent the arising of unarisen evil, develop unarisen good; and promote the good that has already arisen.
7. Right Mindfulness - Mindfulness with regard to body; feelings; mental formations; and ideas, thoughts, conceptions and things.
8. Right Concentration - One-pointedness of mind.
And for the hard core Buddhists out there, the below refer to virtues or states of being that one can take on in order to cultivate purity of mind. These ten transcendental virtues are called Paramitas in Sankrit or Parami in Pali. Paramita means "the perfection of" or "reaching for the other shore" as contrasted with this side of suffering and mortality.
1. Dana - Generosity, charity or giving, including bestowing truth on others.
2. Sila - Morality, discipline in keeping the precepts.
3. Nekkhamma - Renunciation of worldly pleasures and to eradicate passions as all things are transitory.
4. Panna - Wisdom, the power to discern reality and truth.
5. Viriya - Energy, perseverance, zeal or progress. Work for the welfare of others both in thoughts and deed.
6. Khanti (Ksanti) - Patience especially under insult, enduring difficulty, or forbearance of others' wrongs.
7. Sacca - Truthfullness, here it is meant the fulfilment of one's promise. "He acts as he speaks, he speaks as he acts."
8. Adhitthana - Resolute determination, vows of diligent practice.
9. Metta - Loving-Kindness, Compassion. Boundless goodwill towards all beings.
10. Upekkha - Equanimity. Etymologically means 'discerning rightly', 'viewing justly' or 'looking impartially', that is, without attachment or aversion, without favor or disfavour.
May Buddha Bless You.
~ Amitofo ~
- Written by: Fa Hui