Buddha Sutras


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The Heart of the Buddha: Getting In the Tibetan Buddhist

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Eightfold Path

 

18th Century Depiction of BuddhaOriginal text by Paul Carus, edited and revised by William Mackis. ©

 

The Eightfold Path of Buddhism consists of the following:

  1. Right Understanding
  2. Right Purpose
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Conduct
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Alertness
  8. Right Meditative Concentration
     

This is the Middle Path which the Perfect One has found out, which makes one both to see and to know, which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to Nirvana.    Free from pain and torture is this path, free from groaning and suffering; it is the perfect path.  Truly, like this path there is no other path to the purity of insight. If you follow this path, you will put an end to suffering.   But each one has to struggle for himself, the Perfect Ones have only  pointed out the way.

Give ear then, for the Immortal is found. I reveal, I set forth the Truth. As I reveal it to you, so act! And that supreme goal of the holy life, for the sake of which, sons of good families rightly go forth from home to the homeless state: this you will, in no long time, in this very life, make known to yourself, realize, and make your own.

THE EIGHTFOLD PATH – FIRST STEP – RIGHT UNDERSTANDING

What, now, is Right Understanding? It is understanding the Four Truths. To understand suffering; to understand the origin of suffering; to understand the extinction of suffering; to understand the path that leads to the extinction of suffering: This is called Right Understanding   Or, when the noble disciple understands what is karmically wholesome, and the root of wholesome karma; what is karmically unwholesome, and the root of unwholesome karma, then he has Right Understanding.

What, now, is “karmically unwholesome?”

In Bodily Action it is destruction of living beings; stealing; and unlawful sexual intercourse. In Verbal Action it is lying; tale-bearing; harsh language; and frivolous talk. In Mental Action it is covetousness; ill-will; and wrong views.

And what is the root of unwholesome karma? Greed is a root of unwholesome karma; Anger is a root of unwholesome karma; Delusion is a root of unwholesome karma.

Therefore, I say, these demeritorious actions are of three kinds: either due to greed, or due to anger, or due to delusion.

What, now, is “karmically wholesome?”

In Bodily Action it is to abstain from killing; to abstain from stealing; and to abstain from unlawful sexual intercourse.   In Verbal Action it is to abstain from lying; to abstain from tale-bearing; to abstain from harsh language; and to abstain from frivolous talk. In Mental Action it is absence of covetousness; absence of ill- will; and right understanding.

And what is the root of wholesome karma? Absence of greed is a root of wholesome karma; absence of anger is a root of wholesome karma; absence of delusion is a root of wholesome karma.

Or, when one understands that corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness, are transient,  also in that case one possesses Right Understanding.

 

UNPROFITABLE QUESTIONS

Should anyone say that he does not wish to lead the holy life under the Blessed One, unless the Blessed One first tells him, whether the world is eternal or temporal, finite or infinite; whether the life principle is identical with the body, or something different; whether the Perfect One continues after death, and so on such a man would die, ere the Perfect One could tell him all this.

It is as if a man were pierced by a poisoned arrow, and his friends, companions, or near relations, should send for a surgeon; but that man should say: “I will not have this arrow pulled out, until I know who the man is that has wounded me: whether he is a noble, a priest, a citizen, or a servant”; or: “what his name is, and to what family he belongs”; or: “whether he is tall, or short, or of medium height.” Verily, such a man would die, ere he could adequately learn all this.

Therefore, the man who seeks his own welfare, should pull out this arrow – this arrow of lamentation, pain, and sorrow.

For, whether the theory exists, or whether it does not exist, that the world is eternal, or temporal, or finite, or infinite-certainly, there is birth, there is decay, there is death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the extinction of which, attainable even in this present life, I make known unto you.

There is, for instance, an unlearned worldling, void of regard for holy men, ignorant of the teaching of holy men, untrained in the noble doctrine. And his heart is possessed and overcome by Self-Illusion, by Skepticism, by attachment to mere Rule and Ritual, by Sensual Lust, and by will; and how to free himself from these things, he does not really know.

Not knowing what is worthy of consideration, and what is unworthy of consideration, he considers the unworthy, and not the worthy.

And unwisely he considers thus: “Have I been in the past? Or. have I not been in the past? What have I been in the past? How have I been in the past? From what state into what state did I change in the past? Shall I be in the future? Or, shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? From what state into what state shall I change in the future?” And the present also fills him with doubt: “Am I? Or, am I not? What am I? How am I? This being, whence has it come? Whither will it go?”

And with such unwise considerations, he falls into one or other of the six views, and it becomes his conviction and firm belief: “I have an Ego”; or: “I have no Ego”; or: “With the Ego I perceive the Ego”; or: “With that which is no Ego, I perceive the Ego”; or: “With the Ego I perceive that which is no Ego. Or, he falls into the following view: “This my Ego, which can think and feel, and which, now here, now there, experiences the fruit of good and evil deeds; this my Ego is permanent, stable, eternal, not subject to change, and will thus eternally remain the same.”

If there really existed the Ego, there would be also something which belonged to the Ego. As, however, in truth and reality, neither the Ego, nor anything belonging to the Ego, can be found, is it not therefore really an utter fool’s doctrine to say: “This is the world, this am I; after death, I shall be permanent, persisting, and eternal?”

These are called mere views, a thicket of views, a puppet show of views, a toil of views, a snare of views; and ensnared in the fetter of views, the ignorant worldling will not be freed from rebirth, from decay, and from death, from sorrow, pain, grief, and despair; he will not be freed, I say, from suffering.

                  
THE SOTAPAN, OR “STREAM-ENTERER”

The learned and noble disciple, however, who has regard for holy men, knows the teaching of holy men, is well trained in the noble doctrine, he understands what is worthy of consideration, and what is unworthy. And knowing this, he considers the worthy, and not the unworthy. What suffering is, he wisely considers. What the origin of suffering is, he wisely considers; what the extinction of suffering is, he wisely considers; what the path is that leads to the extinction of suffering, he wisely considers.

And by thus considering, three fetters vanish, namely: Self-illusion, Skepticism, and Attachment to mere Rule and Ritual.

But those disciples in whom these three fetters have vanished have “entered the Stream,” have forever escaped the states of woe, and are assured of final enlightenment.

          More than any earthly power,
          More than all the joys of heaven,
          More than rule o’er all the world,
          Is the Entrance to the Stream.

And, verily, those who are filled with unshaken faith in me, all those have entered the stream.
 
 

THE TWO UNDERSTANDINGS

  Therefore, I say, Right Understanding is of two kinds:

1. The view that alms and offerings are not useless; that there is fruit and result, both of good and bad actions; that there are such things as this life, and the next life; that father and mother as spontaneously born beings  are no mere words; that there are monks and priests who are spotless and perfect, who can explain this life and the next life, which they themselves have understood: this is called the “Mundane Right Understanding,” which yields worldly fruits, and brings good results.

2. But whatsoever there is of wisdom, of penetration, of right understanding, conjoined with the Path-the mind being turned away from the world, and conjoined with the path, the holy path being turned away from the world, and conjoined with the path, the holy path being pursued;-this is called the “Ultra-mundane Right Understanding,” which is not of the world, but is ultra-mundane, and conjoined with the Path.

Now, in understanding wrong understanding as wrong, and right understanding as right, one practices Right Understanding;  and in making efforts to overcome wrong understanding, and to arouse right understanding, one practices Right Effort; and in overcoming wrong understanding with attentive mind, and dwelling with attentive mind in the possession of right understanding, one practices Right-Attentiveness.  Hence, there are three things that accompany and follow upon right understanding, namely: right understanding, right effort, and right attentiveness.

                       
COMPLETE DELIVERANCE

Now, if any one should put the question, whether I admit any view at all, he should be answered thus:

The Perfect One is free from any theory, for the Perfect One has understood what corporeality is, and how it arises, and passes away. He has understood what feeling is, and how it arises, and passes away. He has understood what perception is, and how it arises, and passes away. He has understood what the mental formations are, and how they arise, and pass away. He has understood what consciousness is, and how it arises, and passes away. Therefore, I say, the Perfect One has won complete deliverance through the extinction, fading-away, disappearance, rejection, and getting rid of all opinions and conjectures, of all inclination to the vainglory of “I” and “mine.”

Whether Perfect Ones  appear in the world or whether Perfect Ones do not appear in the world, it still remains a firm condition, an immutable fact and fixed law: that all formations are impermanent” that all formations are “subject to suffering”; that everything is “without an Ego.”

A corporeal phenomenon, a feeling, a perception, a mental formation, a consciousness, that is permanent and persistent, eternal and not subject to change: such a thing the wise men in this world do not recognize; and I also say, there is no such thing.

And it is impossible that a being possessed of Right Understanding should regard anything as the Ego.

Now, if someone should say that Feeling is his Ego, he should be answered thus: “There are three kinds of feeling: pleasurable, painful, and indifferent feeling. Which of these three feelings, now, do you consider your Ego?” At the moment namely of experiencing one of these feelings one does not experience the other two. These three kinds of feelings are impermanent, of dependent origin, are subject to decay and dissolution, to fading-away and extinction. Whosoever, in experiencing one of these feelings, thinks that this is his Ego, will, after the extinction of that feeling, admit that his Ego has become dissolved. And thus he will consider his Ego already in this present life as impermanent, mixed up with pleasure and pain, subject to rising and passing away.

If any one should say that Feeling is not his Ego, and that his Ego is inaccessible to feeling, he should be asked thus: “Now, where there is no feeling, is it there possible to say: ‘This am I?’”

Or, someone might say: “Feeling, indeed, is not my Ego, but it also is untrue that my Ego is inaccessible to feeling; for it is my Ego that feels, for my Ego has the faculty of feeling.” Such a one should be answered thus: “Suppose, feeling should become altogether totally extinguished; now, if there, after the extinction of feeling, no feeling whatever exists, it is then possible to say: ‘This am I?’”

To say that the mind, or the mind-objects, or the mind-consciousness, constitute the Ego; such an assertion is unfounded. For an arising and a passing away is seen there; and seeing this, one should come to the conclusion that one’s Ego arises and passes away.

It would be better for the unlearned worldling to regard this body, built up of the four elements, as his Ego, rather than the mind. For it is evident that this body may last for a year, for two years, for three years, four, five, or ten years, or even a hundred years and more; but that which is called thought, or mind, or consciousness, is continuously, during day and night, arising as one thing, and passing away as another thing.

Therefore, whatsoever there is of corporeality, of feeling, of perception, of mental formations, of consciousness, whether one’s own or external, gross or subtle, lofty or low, far or near; there one should understand according to reality and true wisdom: “This does not belong to me; this am I not; this is not my Ego.”
 

                     
PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

If, now, any one should ask: “Have you been in the past, and is it untrue that you have not been? Will you be in the future, and is it untrue that you will not be? Are you, and is it untrue that you are not?”-you may say that you have been in the past, and it is untrue that you have not been; that you will be in the future, and it is untrue that you will not be; that you are, and it is untrue that you are not.

In the past only the past existence was real, but unreal the future and present existence. In the future only the future existence will be real, but unreal the past and present existence. Now only the present existence is real, but unreal the past and future existence.

Verily, he who perceives the Dependent Origination, perceives the truth and he who perceives the truth, perceives the dependent origination. For, just as from the cow comes milk, from milk curds, from curds butter, from butter ghee, from ghee the scum of ghee; and when it is milk, it is not counted as curds, or butter, or ghee, or scum of ghee, but only as milk; and when it is curds, it is only counted as curds-just so was my past existence at that time real, but unreal the future and present existence; and my future existence will be at one time real, but unreal the past and present existence; and my present existence is now real, but unreal the past and future existence. All these are merely popular designations and expressions, mere conventional terms of speaking, mere popular notions. The Perfect One, indeed, makes use of these, without, however, clinging to them.  Thus, he who does not understand corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness according to reality,  and not their arising, their extinction, and the way to their extinction, he is liable to believe, either that the Perfect One continues after death, or that he does not continue after death, and so forth.

Verily, if one holds the view that the vital principle is identical with this body, in that case a holy life is not possible; or, if one holds the view that the vital principle is something quite different from the body, in that case also a holy life is not possible.

                 

DEPENDENT ORIGINATION

On Delusion depend the Karma-Formations. On the karma-formations depends Consciousness  On consciousness depends the Mental and Physical Existence.-On the mental and physical existence depend the Six Sense-Organs.-On the six sense-organs depends the Sensory Impression.-On the sensory impression depends Feeling.-On feeling depends; Craving.-On craving depends Clinging. On clinging depends the Process of Becoming.-On the process of becoming   depends Rebirth.-On rebirth depend Decay and Death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. Thus arises this whole mass of suffering. This is called the noble truth of the origin of suffering.

In whom, however, Delusion has disappeared and wisdom arisen, such a disciple heaps up neither meritorious, nor demeritorious, nor imperturbable Karma- formations.

Thus, through the entire fading away and extinction of this Delusion, the Karma-Formations are extinguished. Through the extinction of the Karma-formations, Consciousness  is extinguished. Through the extinction of consciousness, the Mental and Physical Existence is extinguished. Through the extinction of the mental and physical existence, the six Sense-Organs are extinguished. Through the extinction of the six sense-organs, the Sensory Impression is extinguished. Through the extinction of the sensory impression, Feeling is extinguished. Through the extinction of feeling, Craving is extinguished. Through the extinction of craving, Clinging is extinguished. Through the extinction of clinging, the Process of Becoming is extinguished. Through the extinction of the process of becoming, Rebirth is extinguished. Through the extinction of rebirth, Decay and Death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are extinguished. Thus takes place the extinction of this whole mass of suffering. This is called the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering.

               
KARMA:  REBIRTH – PRODUCING AND BARREN

Verily, because beings, obstructed by Delusion, and ensnared by Craving, now here now there seek ever fresh delight, therefore such action comes to ever fresh Rebirth.

And the action that is done out of greed, anger and delusion, that springs from them, has its source and origin there: this action ripens wherever one is reborn; and wherever this action ripens, there one experiences the fruits of this action, be it in this life, or the next life, or in some future life.

However, through the fading away of delusion through the arising of wisdom, through the extinction of craving, no future rebirth takes place again   For the actions, which are not done out of greed, anger and delusion, which have not sprung from them, which have not their source and origin there-such actions are, through the absence of greed, anger and delusion, abandoned, rooted out, like a palm-tree torn out of the soil, destroyed, and not liable to spring up again.  In  this respect one may rightly say of me: that I teach annihilation, that I propound my doctrine for the purpose of annihilation, and that I herein train my disciples; for, certainly, I do teach annihilation-the annihilation, namely, of greed, anger and delusion, as well as of the manifold evil and unwholesome things.
 

                            
SECOND STEP – RIGHT MINDEDNESS

What, now, is Right Mindedness? It is thoughts free from lust; thoughts free from ill-will; thoughts free from cruelty. This is called right mindedness.   Now, Right Mindedness, let me tell you, is of two kinds:

1. Thoughts free from lust, from ill-will, and from cruelty:-this is called the “Mundane Right Mindedness,” which yields worldly fruits and brings good results.

2. But, whatsoever there is of thinking, considering, reasoning, thought, ratiocination, application-the mind being holy, being turned away from the world, and conjoined with the path, the holy path being pursued-: these “Verbal Operations” of the mind are called the “Ultra-mundane Right Mindedness which is not of the world, but is ultra mundane, and conjoined with the paths.

Now, in understanding wrong-mindedness as wrong, and right-mindedness as right, one practices Right Understanding ; and in making efforts to overcome evil-mindedness, and to arouse right-mindedness, one practices Right Effort; and in overcoming evil-mindedness with attentive mind, and dwelling with attentive mind in possession of right-mindedness, one practices Right Attentiveness.  Hence, there are three things that accompany and follow upon right- mindedness, namely: right understanding, right effort, and right attentiveness.

THIRD STEP – RIGHT SPEECH

What, now, is Right Speech? It is abstaining from lying; abstaining from tale-bearing; abstaining from harsh language; abstaining from vain talk.

There, someone avoids lying, and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to the truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, is not a deceiver of men. Being at a meeting, or amongst people, or in the midst of his relatives, or in a society, or in the king’s court, and called upon and asked as witness, to tell what he knows, he answers, if he knows nothing: “I know nothing”; and if he knows, he answers: “I know”; if he has seen nothing, he answers: “I have seen nothing,” and if he has seen, he answers: “I have seen.” Thus, he never knowingly speaks a lie, neither for the sake of his own advantage, nor for the sake of another person’s advantage, nor for the sake of any advantage whatsoever.  

He avoids tale-bearing, and abstains from it. What he has heard here, he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what he heard there, he does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that are divided; and those that are united, he encourages. Concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord, and it is concord that he spreads by his words.

He avoids harsh language, and abstains from it. He speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, going to the heart, courteous and dear, and agreeable to many.

He avoids vain talk, and abstains from it. He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks about the law and the discipline; his speech is like a treasure, at the right moment accompanied by arguments, moderate and full of sense.

This is called right speech.

Now, right speech, let me tell you, is of two kinds:

1. Abstaining from lying, from tale-bearing, from harsh language, and from vain talk; this is called the “Mundane Right Speech, which yields worldly fruits and brings good results.

2. But the abhorrence of the practice of this four-fold wrong speech, the abstaining, withholding, refraining therefrom-the mind being holy, being turned away from the world, and conjoined with the path, the holy path being pursued-: this is called the “Ultramundane Right Speech, which is not of the world, but is ultramundane, and conjoined with the paths.

 Now, in understanding wrong speech as wrong, and right speech as right, one practices Right Understanding;  and in making efforts to overcome evil speech and to arouse right speech, one practices Right Effort;  and in overcoming wrong speech with attentive mind, and dwelling with attentive mind in possession of
right speech, one practices Right Attentiveness.  Hence, there are three things that accompany and follow upon right attentiveness.

                            
FOURTH STEP – RIGHT  ACTION

What, now, is Right Action? It is abstaining from killing; abstaining from stealing.  There, someone avoids the killing of living beings, and abstains from it. Without stick or sword, conscientious, full of sympathy, he is anxious for the welfare of all living beings.
He avoids stealing, and abstains from it; what another person possesses of goods and chattels in the village or in the wood, that he does not take away with thievish intent.

This is called Right Action.

                             
FIFTH STEP – RIGHT LIVING

What, now, is Right Living? When the noble disciple, avoiding a wrong way of living, gets his livelihood by a right way of living, this is called Right Living.  

Now, right living is of two kinds:

1. When the noble disciple, avoiding wrong living, gets his livelihood by a right way of living-this is called the “Mundane Right Living,” which yields worldly fruits and brings good results.

2. But the abhorrence of wrong living, the abstaining, withholding, refraining therefrom-the mind being holy, being turned away from the world, and conjoined with the path, the holy path being pursued-: this is called the “Ultramundane Right Living,” which is not of the world, but is ultramundane, and conjoined with the paths.

Now, in understanding wrong living as wrong, and right living as right, one practices Right Understanding;  and in making efforts to overcome wrong living, to arouse right living, one practices Right Effort;  and in overcoming wrong living with attentive mind, and dwelling with attentive mind in possession of right living, one practices Right Attentiveness.  Hence, there are three things that accompany and follow upon right living, namely: right understanding, right effort, and right attentiveness.

                             
SIXTH STEP – RIGHT EFFORT

What, now, is Right Effort? There are Four Great Efforts: the effort to avoid, the effort to overcome, the effort to develop, and the effort to maintain.

What, now, is the effort to avoid? There, the disciple incites his mind to avoid the arising of evil, demeritorious things that have not yet arisen; and he strives, puts forth his energy, strains his mind and struggles.  Thus, when he perceives a form with the eye, a sound with the ear, an odor with the nose, a taste with the tongue, a contact with the body, or an object with the mind, he neither adheres to the whole, nor to its parts. And he strives to ward off that through which evil and demeritorious things, greed and sorrow, would arise, if he remained with unguarded senses; and he watches over his senses, restrains his senses. Possessed of this noble “Control over the Senses,” he experiences inwardly a feeling of joy, into which no evil thing can enter. This is called the effort to avoid.

What, now, is the effort to Overcome? There, the disciple incites his mind to overcome the evil, demeritorious things that have already arisen; and he strives, puts forth his energy, strains his mind and struggles. He does not retain any thought of sensual lust, ill-will, or grief, or any other evil and demeritorious states that may have arisen; he abandons them, dispels them, destroys them, causes them to disappear.

              
FIVE METHODS OF EXPELLING EVIL THOUGHTS

If, whilst regarding a certain object, there arise in the disciple, on account of it, evil and demeritorious thoughts connected with greed, anger and delusion, then the disciple should, by means of this object, gain another and wholesome object. Or, he should reflect on the misery of these thoughts: “Unwholesome, truly, are these thoughts! Blameable are these thoughts! Of painful result are these thoughts!” Or, he should pay no attention to these thoughts. Or, he should consider the compound nature of these thoughts. Or, with teeth clenched and tongue pressed against the gums, he should, with his mind, restrain, suppress and root out these thoughts; and in doing so, these evil and demeritorious thoughts of greed, anger and delusion will dissolve and disappear; and the mind will inwardly become settled and calm, composed and concentrated. This is called the effort to overcome.

What, now, is the effort to Develop? There the disciple incites his will to arouse meritorious conditions that have not yet arisen; and he strives, puts forth his energy, strains his mind and struggles.   Thus he develops the “Elements of Enlightenment,” bent on solitude, on detachment, on extinction, and ending in deliverance, namely: Attentiveness, Investigation of the Law, Energy, Rapture, Tranquility, Concentration, and Equanimity. This is called the effort to develop.  

What, now, is the effort to Maintain? There, the disciple incites his will to maintain the meritorious conditions that have already arisen, and not to let them disappear, but to bring them to growth, to maturity and to the full perfection of development; and he strives, puts forth his energy, strains his mind and struggles. This is called the effort to maintain.

Truly, the disciple who is possessed of faith and has penetrated the Teaching of the Master, he is filled with the thought: “May rather skin, sinews and bones wither away, may the flesh and blood of my body dry up: I shall not give up my efforts so long as I have not attained whatever is attainable by manly perseverance, energy and endeavor!”  This is called right effort.

          The effort of Avoiding, Overcoming,
          Of Developing and Maintaining:
          These four great efforts have been shown
          By him, the scion of the sun.
          And he who firmly clings to them,
          May put an end to all the pain.

                            
SEVENTH STEP – RIGHT ATTENTIVENESS

What, now, is Right Attentiveness? The only way that leads to the attainment of purity, to the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to the entering upon the right path and the realization of Nirvana, is the “Four Fundamentals of Attentiveness.” And which are these four? In them, the disciple dwells in contemplation of the Body, in contemplation of Feeling, in contemplation of the Mind, in contemplation of the Mind-objects, ardent, clearly conscious and attentive, after putting away worldly greed and grief.

                     
CONTEMPLATION OF THE BODY

But, how does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the body? There, the disciple retires to the forest, to the foot of a tree, or to a solitary place, sits himself down, with legs crossed, body erect, and with attentiveness fixed before him.

With attentive mind he breathes in, with attentive mind he breathes out. When making a long inhalation, he knows: “I make a long inhalation”; when making a long exhalation, he knows: “I make a long exhalation.” when making a short inhalation, he knows: “I make a short inhalation”; when making a short exhalation, he knows: “I make a short exhalation.” “Clearly perceiving the entire  body,  I will breathe in”: thus he trains himself; “clearly perceiving the entire  body, I will breathe out”: thus he trains himself. “Calming this bodily function, I will breathe n”: thus he trains himself; “calming this bodily function, I will breathe out”: thus he
trains himself.

Thus he dwells in contemplation of the body, either with regard to his own person, or to other persons, or to both. He beholds how the body arises; beholds how it passes away; beholds the arising and passing away of the body. “A body is there –

    “A body is there, but no living being, no individual, no woman,
    no man, no self, and nothing that belongs to a self; neither a
    person, nor anything belonging to a person”

this clear consciousness is present in him, because of his knowledge and mindfulness, and he lives independent, unattached to anything in the world. Thus does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the body.

And further, whilst going, standing, sitting, or lying down, the disciple understands the expressions: “I go”; “I stand”; “I sit”; “I lie down”; he understands any position of the body. And further, the disciple is clearly conscious in his going and coming; clearly conscious in looking forward and backward; clearly conscious in bending and stretching; clearly conscious in eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting; clearly conscious in walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep and awakening; clearly conscious in speaking and in keeping silent.

And further, the disciple contemplates this body with regard to the elements: “This body consists of the solid element, the liquid element, the heating element and the vibrating element.”

                         
THE TEN BLESSINGS

Once the contemplation of the body is practiced, developed, often repeated, has become one’s habit, one’s foundation, is firmly established, strengthened and well perfected, one may expect ten blessings:

Over Delight and Discontent one has mastery; one does not allow himself to be overcome by discontent; one subdues it, as soon as it arises. One conquers Fear and Anxiety; one does not allow himself to be overcome by fear and anxiety; one subdues them, as soon as they arise. One endures cold and heat, hunger and thirst, wind and sun, attacks by gadflies, mosquitoes and reptiles; patiently one endures wicked and malicious speech, as well as bodily pains, that befall one, though they be piercing, sharp, bitter, unpleasant, disagreeable and dangerous to life. The four “Trances,” the mind bestowing happiness even   here: these one may enjoy at will, without difficulty, without effort.

One may enjoy the different “Magical Powers.” With the “Heavenly Ear,” the purified, the super-human, one may hear both kinds of sounds, the heavenly and the earthly, the distant and the near. With the mind one may obtain “Insight into the Hearts of Other Beings of other persons. One may obtain “Remembrance of many Previous Births.” With the “Heavenly Eye,” the purified, the super-human, one may see beings vanish and reappear, the base and the noble, the beautiful and the ugly, the happy and the unfortunate; one may perceive how beings are reborn according to their deeds.

One may, through the “Cessation of Passions,” come to know for oneself, even in this life, the stainless deliverance of mind, the deliverance through wisdom.

                  
CONTEMPLATION OF THE FEELINGS

But how does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the feelings? 

In experiencing feelings, the disciple knows: “I have an indifferent agreeable feeling,” or “I have a disagreeable feeling,” or “I have an indifferent feeling,” or “I have a worldly agreeable feeling,” or “I have an unworldly agreeable feeling,” or “I have a worldly disagreeable feeling,” or “I have an unworldly disagreeable feeling,” or “I have a worldly indifferent feeling,” or have an unworldly indifferent feeling.

Thus he dwells in contemplation of the feelings, either with regard to his own person, or to other persons, or to both. He beholds how the feelings arise; beholds how they pass away; beholds the arising and passing away of the feelings. “Feelings are there”: this clear consciousness is present in him, because of his knowledge and mindfulness; and he lives independent, unattached to anything in the world. Thus does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the feelings.
 
 

CONTEMPLATION OF THE MIND

But how does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the mind? The disciple knows the greedy mind as greedy, and the not greedy mind as not greedy; knows the angry mind as angry, and the not angry mind as not angry; knows the deluded mind as deluded, and the undeluded mind as undeluded. He knows the cramped mind as cramped, and the scattered mind as scattered; knows the developed mind as developed, and the undeveloped mind as undeveloped; knows the surpassable mind as surpassable, and the unsurpassable mind as unsurpassable; knows the concentrated mind as concentrated, and the unconcentrated mind as unconcentrated; knows the freed mind as freed, and the unfreed mind as unfreed.

Thus he dwells in contemplation of the mind, either with regard to his own person, or to other persons, or to both. He beholds how consciousness arises; beholds how it passes away; beholds the arising and passing away of consciousness. “Mind is there”; this clear consciousness is present in him, because of his knowledge and mindfulness; and he lives independent, unattached to anything in the world. Thus does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the mind.

             
CONTEMPLATION OF PHENOMENA

But how does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the phenomena? First, the disciple dwells in contemplation of the phenomena, of the “Five Hindrances.”

He knows when there is “Lust” in him: “In me is lust”; knows when there is “Anger” in him: “In me is anger”; knows when there is “Torpor and Drowsiness” in him: “In me is torpor and drowsiness”; knows when there is “Restlessness and Mental Worry” in him: “In me is restlessness and mental worry”; knows when there are “Doubts” in him: “In me are doubts.” He knows when these hindrances are not in him: “In me these hindrances are not.” He knows how they come to arise; knows how, once arisen, they are overcome; knows how, once overcome, they do not rise again in the future.

And further: the disciple dwells in contemplation of the phenomena, of the five Groups of Existence. He knows what Corporeality is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what Feeling is, how it arises, how it away; knows what Perception is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what the Mental Formations are, how they arise, how they pass away; knows what Consciousness is, how it arises, how it passes away.

And further: the disciple dwells in contemplation of the phenomena of the six Subjective-Objective Sense-Bases. He knows eye and visual objects, ear and sounds, nose and odors, tongue and tastes, body and touches, mind and mind objects; and the fetter that arises in dependence on them, he also knows. He knows how the fetter comes to arise, knows how the fetter is overcome, and how the abandoned fetter does not rise again in future.

And further: the disciple dwells in contemplation of the phenomena of the seven Elements of Enlightenment. The disciple knows when there is Attentiveness in him; when there is Investigation of the Law in him; when there is Energy in him; when there is Enthusiasm in him; when there is Tranquility in him; when there is Concentration in him; when there is Equanimity in him. He knows when it is not in him, knows how it comes to arise, and how it is fully developed.  

And further: the disciple dwells in contemplation of the phenomena of the Four Noble Truths. He knows according to reality, what Suffering is; knows according to reality, what the Origin of Suffering is; knows according to reality, what the Extinction of Suffering is; knows according to reality, what the Path is that leads to the Extinction of Suffering.

Thus he dwells in contemplation of the phenomena, either with regard to his own person, or to other persons, or to both. He beholds how the phenomena arise; beholds how they pass away; beholds the arising and passing away of the phenomena. “Phenomena are there this consciousness is present in him because of his knowledge and mindfulness; and he lives independent, unattached to anything in the world. Thus does the disciple dwell in contemplation of the phenomena.  

The only way that leads to the attainment of purity, to the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, to the end of pain and grief, to the entering upon the right path, and the realization of Nirvana, is these four fundamentals of attentiveness.

              
NIRVANA THROUGH WATCHING OVER BREATHING

“Watching over In-and Out-breathing” practiced and developed, brings the four Fundamentals of Attentiveness to perfection; the four fundamentals of attentiveness, practiced and developed bring the seven Elements of Enlightenment to perfection; the seven elements of enlightenment, practiced and developed, bring Wisdom and Deliverance to perfection.

But how does Watching over In-and Out-breathing, practiced and developed, bring the four Fundamentals of Attentiveness to perfection?

I. Whenever the disciple is conscious in making a long inhalation or exhalation, or in making a short inhalation or exhalation, or is training himself to inhale or exhale whilst feeling the whole body,  or whilst calming down this bodily function-at such a time the disciple is dwelling in “contemplation of the body,” of energy, clearly conscious, attentive, after subduing worldly greed and grief. For, inhalation and exhalation I call one amongst the corporeal phenomena.

II. Whenever the disciple is training himself to inhale or exhale whilst feeling rapture, or joy, or the mental functions, or whilst calming down the mental functions- t such a time he is dwelling in “contemplation of the feelings,” full of energy, clearly conscious, attentive, after subduing worldly greed and grief. For, the full awareness of in-and outbreathing I call one amongst the feelings.

III. Whenever the disciple is training himself to inhale or exhale whilst feeling the mind, or whilst gladdening the mind or whilst concentrating the mind, or whilst setting the mind free-at such a time he is dwelling in “contemplation of the mind,” full of energy, clearly conscious, attentive, after subduing worldly greed and grief. For, without attentiveness and clear consciousness, I say, there is no Watching over in-and Out-breathing.

IV. Whenever the disciple is training himself to inhale or exhale whilst contemplating impermanence, or the fading away of passion, or extinction, or detachment at such a time he is dwelling in “contemplation of the phenomena,” full of energy, clearly conscious, attentive, after subduing worldly greed and grief.

Watching over In-and Out-breathing, thus practiced and developed, brings the four Fundamentals of Attentiveness to perfection.  

But how do the four Fundamentals of Attentiveness, practiced and developed, bring the seven Elements of Enlightenment to full perfection?

Whenever the disciple is dwelling in contemplation of body, feeling, mind and phenomena, strenuous, clearly conscious, attentive, after subduing worldly greed and grief-at such a time his attentiveness is undisturbed; and whenever his attentiveness is present and undisturbed, at such a time he has gained and is developing the Element of Enlightenment “Attentiveness”; and thus this element of enlightenment reaches fullest perfection.

And whenever, whilst dwelling with attentive mind, he wisely investigates, examines and thinks over the Law-at such a time he has gained and is developing the Element of Enlightenment “Investigation of the Law”; and thus this element of enlightenment reaches fullest perfection.

And whenever, whilst wisely investigating, examining and thinking over the law, his energy is firm and unshaken-at such a time he has gained and is developing the Element of Enlightenment “Energy”; and thus this element of enlightenment reaches fullest perfection.  

And whenever in him, whilst firm in  energy, arises super-sensuous rapture-at such a time he has gained and is developing the Element of Enlightenment “Rapture”; and thus this element of enlightenment reaches fullest perfection.

And whenever, whilst enraptured in mind, his spiritual frame and his mind become tranquil-at such a time he has gained and is developing the Element of Enlightenment “Tranquility”; and thus this element of enlightenment reaches fullest perfection.

And whenever, whilst being tranquilized in his spiritual frame and happy, his mind becomes concentrated-at such a time he has gained and is developing the Element of Enlightenment “Concentration; and thus this element of enlightenment reaches fullest perfection.  

And whenever he thoroughly looks with  indifference on his mind thus concentrated-at such a time he has gained and is developing the Element of Enlightenment “Equanimity.”

The four fundamentals of attentiveness, thus practiced and developed, bring the seven elements of enlightenment to full perfection.

But how do the seven elements of enlightenment, practiced and developed, bring Wisdom and Deliverance to full perfection?

There, the disciple is developing the elements of enlightenment: Attentiveness, Investigation of the Law, Energy, Rapture, Tranquility, Concentration and Equanimity, bent on detachment, on absence of desire, on extinction and renunciation.

Thus practiced and developed, do the seven elements of enlightenment bring wisdom and deliverance to full perfection.

Just as the elephant hunter drives a huge stake into the ground and chains the wild elephant to it by the neck, in order to drive out of him his wonted forest ways and wishes, his forest unruliness, obstinacy and violence, and to accustom him to the environment of the village, and to teach him such good behavior as is required amongst men: in like manner also has the noble disciple to fix his mind firmly to these four fundamentals of attentiveness, so that he may drive out of himself his wonted worldly ways and wishes, his wonted worldly unruliness, obstinacy and violence, and win to the True, and realize Nirvana.
                            

EIGHTH STEP – RIGHT CONCENTRATION

What, now, is Right Concentration? Fixing the mind to a single object:  this is concentration.

The four Fundamentals of Attentiveness :  these are the objects of concentration.

The four Great Efforts:  these are the requisites for concentration.

The practicing, developing and cultivating of these things: this is the “Development” of concentration.
 

THE FOUR TRANCES

Detached from sensual objects, detached from unwholesome things, the disciple enters into the first trance, which is accompanied by “Verbal Though,” and “Rumination,” is born of “Detachment,” and filled with “Rapture,” and “Happiness.”

This first trance is free from five things, and five things are present. When the disciple enters the first trance, there have vanished:  Lust, Ill-will, Torpor and Dullness, Restlessness and Mental Worry, Doubts; and there are present: Verbal Thought, Rumination, Rapture, Happiness, and Concentration.  

And further: after the subsiding of verbal thought and rumination, and by the gaining of inward tranquility and oneness of mind, he enters into a state free from verbal thought and rumination, the second trance, which is born of Concentration, and filled with Rapture and Happiness.

And further: after the fading away of rapture, he dwells in equanimity, attentive, clearly conscious; and he experiences in his person that feeling, of which the Noble Ones say: “Happy lives the man of equanimity and attentive mind”-thus he enters the third trance.  

And further: after the giving up of pleasure and pain,  and through the disappearance of previous joy and grief, he enters into a state beyond pleasure and pain, into the fourth trance, which is purified by equanimity and attentiveness.

Develop your concentration: for he who has concentration understands things according to their reality. And what are these things? The arising and passing away of corporeality, of feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness.

Thus, these five Groups of Existence must be wisely penetrated; Delusion and Craving must be wisely abandoned; Tranquility and Insight must be wisely developed.

This is the Middle Path which the Perfect One has discovered, which makes one both to see and to know, and which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to Nirvana.

And following upon this path, you will put an end to suffering.

         
DEVELOPMENT OF THE EIGHTFOLD PATH IN THE DISCIPLE

CONFIDENCE AND RIGHT-MINDEDNESS

Suppose a householder, or his son, or someone reborn in any family, hears the law; and after hearing the law he is filled with confidence in the Perfect One. And filled with this confidence, he thinks: “Full of hindrances is household life, a refuse heap; but pilgrim life is like the open air. Not easy is it, when one lives at home, to fulfill in all points the rules of the holy life. How, if now I were to cut off hair and beard, put on the yellow robe and go forth from home to the homeless life?” And in a short time, having given up his more or less extensive possessions, having forsaken a smaller or larger circle of relations, he cuts off hair and beard, puts on the yellow robe, and goes forth from home to the homeless life.

                  
MORALITY

Having thus left the world, he fulfills the rules of the monks. He avoids the killing of living beings and abstains from it. Without stick or sword, conscientious, full of sympathy, he is anxious for the welfare of all living beings. He avoids stealing, and abstains from taking what is not given to him. Only what is given to him he takes, waiting till it is given; and he lives with a heart honest and pure.-He avoids unchastity, living chaste, resigned, and keeping aloof from the vulgar way.  He avoids lying and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to the truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, is not a deceiver of men. He avoids tale-bearing and abstains from it. What he has heard here, he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what he has heard there, he does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that are divided, and those that are united he encourages; concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord, and it is concord that he spreads by his words.-He avoids harsh language and abstains from it. He speaks such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, going to the heart, courteous and dear, and agreeable to many.- He avoids vain talk and abstains from it. He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks about the law and the disciple; his speech is like a treasure, at the right moment accompanied by arguments, moderate, and full of sense.

He keeps aloof from dance, song, music and the visiting of shows; rejects flowers, perfumes, ointments, as well as every kind of adornment and embellishment. High and gorgeous beds he does not use. Gold and silver he does not accept. Raw corn and meat he does not accept. Women and girls he does not accept. He owns no male and female slaves, owns no goats, sheep, fowls, pigs, elephants, cows or horses, no land and goods. He does not go on errands and do the duties of a messenger. He keeps aloof from buying and selling things. He has nothing to do with false measures, metals and weights. He avoids the crooked ways of bribery, deception and fraud. He keeps aloof from stabbing, beating, chaining, attacking, plundering and oppressing.

He contents himself with the robe that protects his body, and with the alms with which he keeps himself alive. Wherever he goes, he is provided with these two things; just as a winged bird, in flying, carries his wings along with him. By fulfilling this noble Domain of Morality he feels in his heart an irreproachable happiness.

                
CONTROL OF THE SENSES

Now, in perceiving a form with the eye – a sound with the ear – an odor with the nose- a taste with the tongue- a touch with the body – an object with his mind, he sticks neither to the whole, nor to its details. And he tries to ward off that which, by being unguarded in his senses, might give rise to evil and unwholesome states, to greed and sorrow; he watches over his senses, keep his senses under control. By practicing this noble “Control of the Senses” he feels in his heart an unblemished happiness.

         
ATTENTIVENESS AND CLEAR CONSCIOUSNESS

Clearly conscious is he in his going and coming; clearly conscious in looking forward and backward; clearly conscious in bending and stretching his body; clearly conscious in eating, drinking, chewing and tasting; clearly conscious in walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep and awakening; clearly conscious in speaking and keeping silent.   Now, being equipped with this lofty Morality, equipped with this noble Control  of the Senses, and filled with this noble “Attentiveness and Clear Consciousness, he chooses a secluded dwelling in the forest, at the foot of a tree, on a mountain, in a cleft, in a rock cave, on a burial ground, on a woody table-land, in the open air, or on a heap of straw. Having returned from his alms-round, after the meal, he sits himself down with legs crossed, body erect, with attentiveness fixed before him.

                   
ABSENCE OF THE FIVE HINDRANCES

He has cast away Lust; he dwells with a heart free from lust; from lust he cleanses his heart.

He has cast away Ill-will; he dwells with a heart free from ill-will; cherishing love and compassion toward all living beings, he cleanses his heart from ill-will.

He has cast away Torpor and Dullness; he dwells free from torpor and dullness; loving the light, with watchful mind, with clear consciousness, he cleanses his mind from torpor and dullness.

He has cast away Restlessness and Mental Worry; dwelling with mind undisturbed, with heart full of peace, he cleanses his mind from restlessness and mental worry.

He has cast away Doubt; dwelling free from doubt, full of confidence in the good, he cleanses his heart from doubt.

THE TRANCES

He has put aside these five Hindrances and come to know the paralyzing corruptions of the mind. And far from sensual impressions, far from unwholesome things, he enters into the Four Trances.

                        
INSIGHT

 But whatsoever there is of feeling, perception, mental formation, or consciousness-all these phenomena he regards as “impermanent,” “subject to pain,” as infirm, as an ulcer, a thorn, a misery, a burden, an enemy, a disturbance, as empty and “void of an Ego”; and turning away from these things, he directs his mind towards the abiding, thus: “This, verily, is the Peace, this is the Highest, namely the end of all formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving; detachment, extinction: Nirvana.” And in this state he reaches the “Cessation of Passions.”

                              
NIRVANA

And his heart becomes free from sensual passion, free from the passion for existence, free from the passion of ignorance. “Freed am I!”: this knowledge arises in the liberated one; and he knows: “Exhausted is rebirth, fulfilled the Holy Life; what was to be done, has been done; naught remains more for this world to do.”

                 Forever am I liberated,
                 This is the last time that I’m born,
                 No new existence waits for me.

This, verily, is the highest, holiest wisdom: to know that all suffering has passed away. 

This, verily, is the highest, holiest peace: appeasement of greed, hatred and delusion.

                         
THE SILENT THINKER

“I am” is a vain thought; “I am not” a vain thought; “I shall be” is a vain thought; “I shall not be” is a vain thought. Vain thoughts are a sickness, an ulcer, a thorn. But after overcoming all vain thoughts, one is called silent thinker.” And the thinker, the Silent One, does no more arise, no more pass away, no more tremble, no more desire. For there is nothing in him that he should arise again. And as he arises no more, how should he grow old again? And as he grows no more old, how should he die again? And as he dies no more, how should he tremble? And as he trembles no more, how should he have desire?

 
THE TRUE GOAL

Hence, the purpose of the Holy Life does not consist in acquiring alms, honor, or fame, nor in gaining morality, concentration, or the eye of knowledge. That unshakable deliverance of the heart: that, verily, is the object of the Holy Life, that is its essence, that is its goal.

And those, who formerly, in the past, were Holy and Enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones also have pointed out to their disciples this self-same goal, as has been pointed out by me to my disciples. And those, who afterwards, in the future, will be Holy and Enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones also will point out to their disciples this self-same goal, as has been pointed out by me to my disciples.

However, Disciples, it may be that  you might think: “Gone is the doctrine of our Master. We have no Master more.” But you should not think; for the Law and the Discipline, which I have taught you,  will, after my death, be your master.

                  The Law be your light,
                  The Law be your refuge!
                  Do not look for any other refuge!

Disciples, the doctrines, which I advised you to penetrate, you should well preserve, well guard, so that this Holy Life may take its course and continue for ages, for the weal and welfare of the many, as a consolation to the world, for the happiness, weal and welfare of heavenly beings and men.

Source

Editions of The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha by Edwin


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Published May 1st 1955 by Signet

Paperback, 248 pages

ISBN:

0451627113 (ISBN13: 9780451627117)

Edition language:

English

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The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha

Published April 1st 2000 by NAL

Paperback, 256 pages

ISBN:

0451200772 (ISBN13: 9780451200778)

Edition language:

English

Average rating:

3.93 (27 ratings)

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The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha: Early Discourses, The Dhammapada and Later Basic Writings

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The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha: Early Discourses, The Dhammapada and Later Basic Writings

Published May 1st 1955 by Mentor/Signet

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Teachings Of The Compassionate Buddha

Published 1958 by Mentor; 1st THUS edition

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The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha: Early Discourses, The Dhammapada and Later Basic Writings

Published August 1st 1968 by Signet

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Published by New American Library

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1122102267 (ISBN13: 9781122102261)

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The Five Noble Truths (according to the Beatles)

the-beatles-20

I have actually been listening to the Beatles a lot lately. In reality, although their music has been a back drop to my life given that I was a kid, I still can’t get enough of them. What surprises me about the Beatles is their timelessness. They were my moms and dad’s music, yet my kids like them as much as I do. On one level their music offers these fantastic surface messages. On this layer they serve as an accompaniment to our day-to-day rituals, our love lives, our hopes and goals, but then when we listen more, we are touched by something even deeper that speaks to our core … to who we really are as people.

Couple of artists, really couple of artists in history, have actually done this in addition to these 4 “young boys” from Liverpool.

Together with my Beatles listening, I’ve read a lot about Buddhism. The Buddhists have the 4 Noble Facts which talk to the fundamental core of the human condition … as far as I can inform, Buddha had it right … but dare I state? So did the Beatles.

In honor of 2 really various, yet impressively comparable wisdoms, I have actually created a collection of core “Noble Truths” pulled from Beatles tunes– words that echo in my heart every time I hear them …

The Five Noble Facts (according to the Beatles)

All you require is love

Turn off your mind, unwind and float down stream

Absolutely nothing is genuine … and nothing to get hung about

Love is all and love is everybody

Let it be

Ahh … such basic words, but oh so effective too.

Inform me, what did I miss out on here? What Beatles lyrics prove out for you?

Goo goo g’joob to You,

Becky

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This Is the Buddha’s Love


In this interview from 2006, the great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh talks about non-self, interdependence, and the love that expands until it has no limit.

Photo by Kay.

Photo by Kay.

One of the best parts of my job as editor of Lion’s Roar is the chance to discuss dharma seriously, even intimately, with great teachers. I’m a Buddhist student before I’m a journalist, and the questions I ask are often ones that have deep meaning to me as a person and a practitioner. The result is less an interview, in the standard sense, than the record of a teaching that I received. This is a great honor and privilege for me, and I hope it is of benefit to you.

I met Thich Nhat Hanh at Deer Park Monastery near San Diego, a mix of East and West, funky and elegant, mindful and playful. It sits in a little mountain valley in splendid isolation from the suburbs just a mile away. Many of its low, one-story buildings have the temporary feel of an army camp (it has been a nudist camp and a police training center) but its elegant new meditation hall is of majestic scale. Outside, young Vietnamese-American monks play basketball while elderly nuns in traditional conical hats sweep leaves off the dry ground, and earnest Western lay practitioners debate the dharma. The breakfast buffet is traditional Vietnamese fish alongside Corn Flakes and peanut butter, and everything stops when the clock chimes so people can practice a few moments of mindfulness.

I spoke with Thich Nhat Hanh for about an hour and quarter, and then he showed me the calligraphies, the ones in this issue, which he had done beforehand as a gift to Lion’s Roar. Although he is best-known for his political and community-building work, I found he was so much more. I met a multidimensional teacher who was deep and realized, committed to both practice and community, steeped in traditional dharma and the ways of the world. He spoke directly to my heart, and if you get a chance to hear him teach, do. Words in print do not do him justice. —Melvin McLeod

Around us at this monastery are many signs and slogans reminding people to be mindful, to return to their body and breath, and to recollect their nature as human beings. At mealtimes, everyone stops eating when the clock chimes to practice a few moments of mindfulness. Why is it so important for us to return to this basic ground of breath and body and being?

To meditate means to go home to yourself. Then you know how to take care of the things that are happening inside you, and you know how to take care of the things that happen around you. All meditation exercises are aimed at bringing you back to your true home, to yourself. Without restoring your peace and calm and helping the world to restore peace and calm, you cannot go very far in the practice.

What is the difference between this true self, the self you come home to, and how we normally think of ourselves?

True self is non-self, the awareness that the self is made only of non-self elements. There’s no separation between self and other, and everything is interconnected. Once you are aware of that you are no longer caught in the idea that you are a separate entity.

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What happens to you when you realize that the true nature of the self is non-self?

It brings you insight. You know that your happiness and suffering depend on the happiness and suffering of others. That insight helps you not to do wrong things that will bring suffering to yourself and to other people. If you try to help your father to suffer less, you have a chance to suffer less. If you are able to help your son suffer less, then you, as a father, will suffer less. Thanks to the realization that there is no separate self, you realize that happiness and suffering are not individual matters. You see the nature of interconnectedness and you know that to protect yourself you have to protect the human beings around you.

To love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice.

That is the goal of the practice—to realize non-self and interconnectedness. This is not just an idea or something you understand intellectually. You have to apply it to your daily life. Therefore you need concentration to maintain this insight of non-self so it can guide you in every moment. Nowadays, scientists are able to see the nature of non-self in the brain, in the body, in everything. But what they have found doesn’t help them, because they cannot apply that insight to their daily lives. So they continue to suffer. That is why in Buddhism we speak of concentration. If you have the insight of non-self, if you have the insight of impermanence, you should make that insight into a concentration that you keep alive throughout the day. Then what you say, what you think, and what you do will then be in the light of that wisdom and you will avoid making mistakes and creating suffering.

So the practice of mindfulness is to try to maintain the insight of non-self and interconnectedness at all times.

Yes, exactly.

We human beings say that above all else we want love. We want to give love; we want to be loved. We know that love is the medicine that cures all ills. But how do we find love in our heart, because often we can’t?

Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself—if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself—it is very difficult to take care of another person. In the Buddhist teaching, it’s clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.

Why don’t we love ourselves?

We may have a habit within ourselves of looking for happiness elsewhere than in the here and the now. We may lack the capacity to realize that happiness is possible in the here and now, that we already have enough conditions to be happy right now. The habit energy is to believe that happiness is not possible now, and that we have to run to the future in order to get some more conditions for happiness. That prevents us from being established in the present moment, from getting in touch with the wonders of life that are available in the here and now. That is why happiness is not possible.

To go home to the present moment, to take care of oneself, to get in touch with the wonders of life that are really available—that is already love. Love is to be kind to yourself, to be compassionate to yourself, to generate images of joy, and to look at everyone with eyes of equanimity and nondiscrimination.

That is something to be cultivated. Non-self can be achieved. It can be touched slowly. The truth can be cultivated. When you discover something, in the beginning you discover only part of it. If you continue, you have a chance to discover more. And finally you discover the whole thing. When you love, if your love is true, you begin to see that the other person is a part of you and you are a part of her or him. In that realization there is already non-self. If you think that your happiness is different from their happiness, you have not seen anything of non-self, and happiness cannot be obtained.

So as you progress on the path of insight into non-self, the happiness brought to you by love will increase. When people love each other, the distinction, the limits, the frontier between them begins to dissolve, and they become one with the person they love. There’s no longer any jealousy or anger, because if they are angry at the other person, they are angry at themselves. That is why non-self is not a theory, a doctrine, or an ideology, but a realization that can bring about a lot of happiness.

And peace.

Sure. Peace is the absence of separation, of discrimination.

You are renowned for teachings on community, which in Buddhism is called sangha. Through practices such as the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing, you define mindfulness in ways that are social, even political. You teach about communication techniques and the power of deep listening and loving speech. Why do you emphasize the community, interpersonal aspect?

You have experiences in the practice—peace, joy, transformation, and healing—and on that foundation, you help other people. You don’t practice just as an individual, because you realize very soon on the path of practice that you should practice with community if you want the transformation and healing to take place more quickly. This is taking refuge in the sangha.

In sharing the practice with others, the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and joy is much more powerful.

In sharing the practice with others, the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and joy is much more powerful. That is what the Buddha liked to do. Everywhere he went, many monastics accompanied him, and that way the monastics could learn from his way of walking and sitting and interacting with people. Soon the community began to behave like an organism, with everyone engaged in the same energy of peace, joy, calm, and brotherhood.

At the same time, everyone in the sangha speaks for the Buddha, speaking for him not just by their words but by the way they act and the way they treat people. That is why King Prasanjit told the Buddha, “Dear teacher, every time I see your community of monks and nuns, I have great faith in you.” He meant that the sangha is capable of representing the Buddha. The Buddha with the sangha can achieve a lot of things. I don’t think a teacher can do much without a community. It’s like a musician, who cannot perform without a musical instrument. The sangha is very important—the insight and the practice of the teacher can be seen in the sangha. It has a much stronger effect when you share in the practice and the teaching as a sangha.

So for the dharma to really be powerful we must transform not just ourselves but, in effect, society.

Yes, that is Mahayana. That is going together in a larger vehicle. That is why Buddhism should always be engaged. It’s not by cutting yourself off from society that you can realize that. That is why Mahayana, the great vehicle, is already seen in what they call the Hinayana, the lesser vehicle.

Do you think that one reason you emphasize community and society as a practice is the terrible conflict that you saw in your home country of Vietnam? Did seeing a society destroyed by war, seeing the terrible stakes involved, heighten your concern for our community life?

I think that’s true. It is the insight you get when you are in touch with the real situation. But it is also emphasized in the tradition. We say, “I take refuge in sangha,” but sangha is made of individual practitioners. So you have to take care of yourself. Otherwise you don’t have much to contribute to the community because you do not have enough calm, peace, solidity, and freedom in your heart. That is why in order to build a community, you have to build yourself at the same time. The community is in you and you are in the community. You interpenetrate each other. That is why I emphasize sangha-building. That doesn’t mean that you neglect your own practice. It is by taking good care of your breath, of your body, of your feelings, that you can build a good community, you see.

You’ve been in the West now for a long time. What do you think are the best ways to present Buddhism to meet the needs of Western students?

I think Buddhism should open the door of psychology and healing to penetrate more easily into the Western world. As far as religion is concerned, the West already has plenty of belief in a supernatural being. It’s not by the law of faith that you should enter the spiritual territory of the West, because the West has plenty of this.

So the door of psychology is good. The abhidharma literature of Buddhism represents a very rich understanding of the mind, which has been developed by many generations of Buddhists. If you approach the Western mind through the door of psychology, you may have better success helping people to understand their mind, helping people to practice in such a way that they can heal the mind and the body.

The practice of meditation helps us to release the tension—within the body, within the mind, within the emotions—so that healing can take place.

The mind and body are very much linked to each other, and we can say that the practice of Buddhist meditation has the power to heal the body and the mind. You see this very clearly when you study the basic texts of Buddhist meditation, like the Anapannasati Sutra, on the practice of mindful breathing, and the Sutra of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. The practice of meditation helps us to release the tension—within the body, within the mind, within the emotions—so that healing can take place. Even if you take a lot of medicine, it won’t work very well if the tension is still strong in your body and your mind. So the Buddha offers very practical methods, such as, “Breathing in I’m aware of body; breathing out I release the tension in my body. Breathing in I’m aware of the emotion in me; breathing out I release the tension in the emotion. I embrace my body and my feelings with the energy of mindfulness.”

The practice of releasing tension in the body and mind is the foundation of healing. In the beginning it helps to bring you relief. Then, with more mindfulness and concentration, you practice looking more deeply into the pain and the tension, and you find its roots, the cause of the ill-being. You discover the second noble truth. You can identify the source of that tension, that depression, that ill-being. And when you identify the roots of the suffering, namely the second noble truth, then you begin to see the fourth noble truth, the way that leads to the cessation of the ill-being, the tension, and the pain. That is the most important thing to see—the path. If you follow the path, very soon ill-being will disappear and give way to well-being, which is the third noble truth. So the Buddhist principle is the principle of medicine.

Another door that we should open is the door of ecology, because in Buddhism there is a deep respect toward animals, vegetables, and even minerals. In Mahayana Buddhism we say that everyone has buddhanature—not only humans but animals, vegetables, and even minerals. When you study the Diamond Sutra you can see that the Diamond Sutra is the oldest text on the protection of environment. The idea of self is removed, because self is made of non-self elements, and the idea of man is removed, because man is made of non-man elements, mainly animals, vegetables, minerals, and so on. That means that in order to protect man you have to protect the non-man elements. It’s very clear.

So the door of ecology is a very wonderful door to open. And the door of peace, because Buddhism is about peace. The true Buddhist cannot refuse working for peace. And I think the door of feminism, the nondiscrimination between genders. The Buddha opened the door for women to enter the holy order and that was a very revolutionary act on his part.

I think all these dharma doors should be opened wide so the West can receive the true teaching of the Buddha. These dharma doors all exist within the roots of Buddhism, but many generations of Buddhists have lost these values. Buddhists should practice in such a way as to restore these values to the tradition so they can offer them to other people.

Conversely, do you see things in Western thought or knowledge that can contribute to Buddhism?

I think that democracy and science can help Buddhism, but not in the way people might think. You know, the practice of democracy already exists in the Buddhist tradition. But if you compare it to democracy in the West, you see that Buddhist democracy is more grounded in the truth, because if you are a teacher and you have much more experience and insight, your vote has more value than the vote of a novice who has not got much insight and experience. So in Buddhism, voting should combine the way of democracy with the way of seniority. That is possible. We have done that with a lot of success in our community, because the younger and less experienced people always have faith and respect toward the elder ones. But, you know, many Buddhist communities don’t follow that approach; the teacher decides everything and they have lost the democracy. Now we have to restore the democracy, but not as it is practiced in the West. We have to combine it with the spirit of seniority.

Personally, learning about science has helped me to understand Buddhism more deeply. I believe that if there is a religion that can go along with science, it is Buddhism. That is because Buddhism has the spirit of nonattachment to rules. You may have a view that you consider to be the truth, but if you cling to it, then that is the end of your free inquiring. You have to be aware that with the practice of looking deeply you may see things more clearly. That is why you should not be so dogmatic about what you have found; you have to be ready to release your view in order to get a higher insight. That is very exciting.

In the sutra given to the young people of the Kalama tribe, the Kalama sutra, the Buddha said, “Don’t just believe in something because it has been repeated by many people. Don’t just believe in something because it has been uttered by a famous teacher. Don’t just believe in something even if it is found in holy scripture.” You have to look at it, you have to try it and put it into the practice, and if it works, if it can help you transform your suffering and bring you peace and liberty, you can believe it in a very scientific way.

So I think Buddhists should not be afraid of science. Science can help Buddhism to discover more deeply the teaching of the Buddha. For example, the Avatamsaka Sutra says that the one is made of the many and the many can be found in the one. This is something that can be proven by science. Out of a cell they can duplicate a whole body. In one cell, the whole genetic heritage can be found and you can make a replica of the whole body. In the one you see the many. These kinds of things help us to understand the teaching of Buddha more deeply.

In Buddhism, the highest view is no view at all.

So there is no reason why Buddhists have to be afraid of science, especially when Buddhists have the capacity to release their view in order to get a higher view. And in Buddhism, the highest view is no view at all. No view at all! You say that permanence is the wrong view. So you use the view of impermanence to correct the view of permanence. But you are not stuck to the view of impermanence. When you have realized the truth, you abandon not only the view of permanence, but you also abandon the view of impermanence. It’s like when you strike a match: the fire that is produced by the match will consume the match. When you practice looking deeply and you find the insight of impermanence, then the insight of permanence will burn away that notion of impermanence.

That is what is very wonderful about the teaching of nonattachment to view. Non-self can be a view, impermanence might be a view, and if you are caught in a view, you are not really free. The ultimate has no view. That is why nirvana is the extinction of all views, because views can bring unhappiness—even the views of nirvana, impermanence, and no-self—if we fight each other over these views.

I very much like the way you describe what other Buddhist traditions call relative and absolute truth. You describe these as the historical and ultimate dimensions. Much of your teaching focuses on the relative or historical dimension, or on the principle of interdependence, which you call interbeing. Is that a complete or final description of reality, or is there a truth beyond the insight that nothing exists independently and all things are interrelated?

There are two approaches in Buddhism: the phenomenal approach and the true nature approach. In the school of Madhyamaka, in the school of Zen, they help you to strike directly into your true nature. In the school of abhidharma, mind-only, they help you to see the phenomena, and if you touch the phenomena deeper and deeper, you touch the ultimate. The ultimate is not something separated from the phenomena. If you touch the ultimate, you touch also the phenomena. And if you touch deeply the phenomena, you touch also the ultimate.

It is like a wave. You can see the beginning and the end of a wave. Coming up, it goes down. The wave can be smaller or bigger, or higher or lower. But a wave is at the same time the water. A wave can live her life as a wave, of course, but it is possible for a wave to live the life of a wave and the life of water at the same time. If she can bend down and touch the water in her, she loses all her fear. Beginning, ending, coming up, going down—these don’t make her afraid anymore, because she realizes she’s water. So there are two dimensions in the wave. The historical dimension is coming up and going down. But in the ultimate dimension of water, there is no up, no down, no being, no nonbeing.

The two dimensions are together and when you touch one dimension deeply enough, you touch the other dimension. There’s no separation at all between the two dimensions. Everything is skillful means in order to help you touch the ultimate.

Some people I have spoken to seem to interpret the concept of interbeing as a statement that all things are one. That sounds like one of those views we’re not supposed to hold on to.

Yes. One is a notion, and many is also a notion. It’s like being and nonbeing. You say that God is the foundation of being, and then people ask, “Who is the foundation of nonbeing?” [laughs] That is why that notion of being and nonbeing cannot be applied to reality. They’re only notions. The notion of two different things, or just one, are also notions. Sameness and otherness are notions. Nirvana is the removal of all notions, including the notions of sameness and otherness. So interbeing does not mean that everything is one or that everything is different. It will help you to remove both, so you are not holding a view.

You said that the Buddha was a human being. But the Mahayana says that there are countless buddhas and bodhisattvas at many levels of existence who are sending their compassion to us. How are we rationalist Westerners to understand these beings? How can we open ourselves to them when we can’t perceive them with our five senses?

In Buddhism, the Buddha is considered as a teacher, a human being, and not a god. It is very important to tell people that. I don’t need the Buddha to be a god. He is a teacher, and that is good enough for me! I think we have to tell people in the West about that. And because the Buddha was a human being, that is why countless buddhas become possible.

Did the Buddha die?

Sure. As a human being, you should be born and you should die. That is the historical dimension. Then you have to touch the Buddha deeply in order to touch his or her ultimate dimension. You can also look deeply at an ordinary human being—not a buddha, just a non-buddha like myself or yourself. If you look deeply at yourself, you see that you have this historical dimension—you have birth and death. But if you look at yourself more deeply, you see that your true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. You are also like a buddha: you have never been born; you’ll never die. So in you I see a buddha; in everyone I see buddha in the ultimate dimension. That’s why we can talk about countless buddhas. It is exactly because the Buddha is a human being that countless buddhas are possible.

We have to remember that inside of the historical dimension there is the ultimate dimension. We are not really subjected to birth and death. It is like a cloud. A cloud can never die; a cloud only becomes rain or snow or ice, but a cloud can never be nothing. That is the true nature of the cloud. No birth and no death. A buddha shares the same nature of no birth and no death, and you share the same nature of no birth and no death.

Don’t think that the buddhas are very far away up in the sky. You touch the buddha in yourself; you touch the buddha in people around you.

We know that on Earth there are human beings who possess great wisdom and great compassion. They are buddhas. Don’t think that the buddhas are very far away up in the sky. You touch the buddha in yourself; you touch the buddha in people around you. It’s wonderful that it’s possible in the here and the now.

The buddhaland is here. If you know how to practice mindful walking, then you enjoy walking in the pure land of Buddha in the here and the now. This is not something to talk about; it’s something to taste. In our tradition, you should walk in such a way that each step helps you to touch the buddhaland. The buddhaland is available to you in the here and now. The question is whether you are available to the pure land. Are you caught by your jealousy, your fear, your anger? Then the pure land is not available. With mindfulness and concentration you have the capacity to touch the celestial realm of the buddhas and the bodhisattvas in the here and the now. That is not theory at all. That is what we live each day. What we practice each day. It’s possible.

Many of us are capable of this. When I talk to Christians I say that the Kingdom of God is now or never. You are free, and then the kingdom is there for you. If you are not free, well, the kingdom does not exist, even in the future. So the same teaching and practice can be shared between many traditions.

You’ve lived a long life during a century that was as terrible as any, in a country that suffered as much as any. I think there are many people who now look at this new century and see, again, the seeds of tragedy, both at the human level and the natural level. Where do you feel the world is headed now?

I think the twentieth century was characterized by individualism, and more than one hundred million people perished because of wars. Too much violence, too much destruction of life and environment. If we want the twenty-first century to be different, if we want healing and transformation, the realization is crucial that we are all one organism, that the well-being of others, the safety of others, is our own safety, our own security. That kind of realization is very crucial. Modern biology has realized that the human being is really a community of billions of cells. No cell is a leader; every cell is collaborating with every other cell in order to produce the kind of energy that helps the organism to be protected and to grow. Only that kind of awakening, that kind of insight—that our danger, our security, our well-being, and our suffering are not something individual but something common to us all—can prevent the destruction that has arisen from individualism in the twentieth century.

This insight of no-self, this insight of togetherness, is very crucial for our survival and for the survival of our planet. It should not be just a notion that we can read in books; this insight should be something that animates our daily life. In school, in business, in the Congress, in the town hall, in the family, we should practice in order to nurture the insight that we are together as an organism and something happening to the other cells is happening to us at the same time. This insight goes perfectly with science and it goes perfectly with the spirit of Buddhism. We should learn how to live as an organism.

When you are nourished by brotherhood, happiness is possible.

I have spent much of my time building communities and I have learned a lot from it. In Plum Village we try to live like an organism. No one has a private car, no one has a private bank account, no one has a private telephone—everything belongs to the community. And yet, happiness is possible. Our basic practice is seeing each one as a cell in the body, and that is why fraternity, brotherhood, sisterhood become possible. When you are nourished by brotherhood, happiness is possible, and that is why we are able to do a lot of things to help other people to suffer less.

This can be seen, it can be felt. It’s not something you just talk about. It is a practice, it is a training, and every breath and every step that you take aims at realizing that togetherness. It’s wonderful to live in a community like that, because the well-being of the other person is also our well-being. By bringing joy and happiness to one person, we bring joy and happiness to every one of us. That is why I think that community-building, sangha-building, is the most important, most noble work that we can do.

And to extend that to the greater society.

Yes. It’s like in a classroom at school. If the teacher knows how to organize the kids in her class into a family, they will suffer much less and they will have a lot of joy. It’s the same in the town hall or in a business. Business leaders can organize their enterprise as a family where everyone can look at each other as a cell of the organism.

We know that in our own body there are many kinds of cells: liver cells, lung cells, neurons. And every cell is doing her best. There’s no envy about the position of the other cells, because there’s no discrimination at all. It’s by being the best kind of liver cell that you can nourish other cells. Every cell is doing her best in order to bring about the well-being of the whole body. There is no discrimination, no fight among the cells, and that is what we can learn from modern biology. We can organize ourselves in this way as a family, as a school, as a town hall, as a Congress. It is possible, because if our cells are able to do that, we humans can do that also.

I hope you don’t mind my asking this question, and you don’t have to answer. But I have always been very touched by what you’ve written about a love that you had, someone you clearly loved very deeply, whom you left. How do you feel about that now? Is that, at this point in your life, a regret?

That love has never been lost. It has continued to grow. The object of my love grows every day, every day, every day, until I can embrace everyone. To love someone is a very wonderful opportunity for you to love everyone. If it is true love. In the insight of non-self, you see that the object of your love is always there and the love continues to grow. Nothing is lost and you don’t regret anything, because if you have true love in you, then you and your true love are going in the same direction, and each day you are able to embrace, more and more. So to love one person is a great opportunity for you to love many more.

Yet monasticism—and you are very encouraging toward those who would like to become monks or nuns—renounces this love. Why is it a good thing to forego this opportunity to love?

In the life of a monastic, you make the vow to develop your love and your understanding. You develop the capacity to embrace everyone into your love. So loving one person, as I said, is an opportunity for you to love many more people. Especially when that person shares the same aspiration as you, there is no suffering at all. As a monastic you lead a life of monastic celibacy and community, and if the one you love realizes that, she will not suffer and you will not suffer, because love is much more than having a sexual relationship. Because of great love you can sacrifice that aspect of love, and your love becomes much greater. That nourishes you, that nourishes the other person, and finally your love will have no limit. That is the Buddha’s love.

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Teaching Buddhist Studies

The Circled Square: Buddhist Researches in College is a brand-new podcast series produced at the University of Toronto’s Robert H.N. Ho Household Foundation Centre for Buddhist Researches. We interview teachers from academic institutions around North America, creating conversations about innovative teaching. Buddhism is now taught in lots of disciplines beyond religion, including anthropology, art history, and cognitive science. The series explores the diversity of approaches to mentor and finding out with Buddhism occurring right now.

Episode 14– Rima Vesely-Flad, Understanding Black Buddhist Dharma Educators and Healing Justice

Episode 13– Embodied Learning on Interdependence

Episode 12– Teaching a Zen Buddhism Course Online with Student Preferences in Mind with Daigengna Duoer

Episode 11– Teaching Asian Art as Storytelling with Kerry Brown

Episode 10– Building Buddhist Theories of the Body from Ancient Texts with Luther Obrock

Episode 9– Living Religion in the Classroom with Rongdao Lai

Episode 8– Teaching Compassion and Cooperation with Frances Garrett

Episode 7– Embodied Experience: Living from the Heart with Ellen Katz

Episode 6– Buddhism and Contemplative Science, with Norman Farb

Episode 5– Teaching Buddhist Art Utilizing Museum and Gallery Collections, with Wen-shing Chou

Episode 4– Negotiating the Layers: Material History in our Mentor, with Abhishek Amar

Episode 3– Anti-Colonial Teaching and Buddhism, with Natalie Avalos

Episode 2– Engaging Trainees in the Big Image, with Matt King

Episode 1– Populating the Stories: Buddhism from the Within, with Vanessa Sasson

Sarah Richardson (pictured listed below) hosts the podcast, interviewing guests from organizations around North America. Sarah is a historian of Buddhist visual and material practice, especially Himalayan painting. Betsy Moss (imagined below) is the podcast’s Creative Director and an art historian who teaches at a number of institutions in the Toronto area; she is likewise the program coordinator for the Centre for Buddhist Researches.

Host and Job Interviewer: Dr. Sarah Richardson
Creative Director: Dr. Betsy Moss
Director of the Ho Centre for Buddhist Studies and Consulting Manufacturer: Dr. Frances Garrett
Consulting Producers: Anna-Liza Kozma and Jelena Jurak
Program Notes: Molly Mignault
Records: Sam Keravica

  • Dr. Sarah Richardson Dr. Betsy Moss Credits Music: David Gradual Dawn by David Hilowitz. Imaginative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) license. Accessed through the Free Music Archive

    Supported by The Robert H.N. Ho Household Foundation Centre for Buddhist Studies.

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The 4 Noble Truths: Suffering and Salvation in Buddhism

The” Four Noble Truths”represent the main doctrines of all Buddhism. Buddha is reported to have said, “I teach only suffering and its ending.” The “4 Noble Realities” represent specifically this Buddhist mentor; Suffering, the cause of suffering, the possibility of escape from suffering, and the technique of attaining that escape.

Dukkha: The Universal Suffering

The first of the 4 honorable truths, or 4 main Buddhist teachings, is that of “Dukkha,” which is generally equated “Suffering.” It is not, nevertheless, simply physical or psychological pain, though it definitely consists of such instant and apparent suffering. In Buddhist teaching, the concept of “Dukkha” or “Suffering” communicates a deeper existential truth.

Whatever is temporal, impermanent, and ever-changing. Because of this, even happiness, satisfaction, love, and the other honorable and preferable things in life are actually kinds of suffering since they do not last and can not eventually please us. Not only this, but we need to necessarily end up being ill, age, and otherwise experience inescapable loss and decay, so even life itself is suffering.

Even more, we are not what we believe we are. We believe that we are specific individuals with unique identities that endure gradually. Our company believe that, however much we change, we remain in some significant sense that exact same individual from the moment our human life starts till our heart beats its last. Buddhism, nevertheless, teaches that this is an illusion. We are a mere collection of physical and mental phenomena that each exist for just a minute and then give rise to new phenomena that integrate, perhaps likewise, but still differently into what we presume to be ourselves in the next moment. There is no distinct thing that is a private human person in any given minute, and there is no aspect of any presumed person that persists from one moment to the next. This too, Buddhism teaches, is Dukkha. Hence every aspect of life, certainly even life itself, is said to be polluted by this suffering. As one Buddhist scholar observed:

“For more than 2,000 years, Buddhists have been declaring that all objects of understanding– all physical (table, sun, moon) and physiological phenomena and all wholesome, unwholesome, and neutral frame of minds– are suffering. One a century after the Buddha passed away, specialists were already repeating the formula, ‘This is suffering. Life is suffering. Everything is suffering'”

This may sound on its face to be a pessimistic cry of hopeless concern and lamentation, but it is not meant that method. To the Buddhist, the doctrine of Dukkha is more like the medical diagnosis of a horrible yet treatable illness. One is not downhearted to admit the presence of the illness if one does so to then provide the hope of a treatment. This is what the rest of these main Buddhist mentors go on to do; to try to understand the cause of the disease and then to use an efficient treatment. Buddhism teaches, however, that the greatest burden is to suffer and not understand that you are suffering, and for that reason even to begin by identifying the truth of suffering belongs of the treatment.

It needs to lastly be kept in mind that Buddhism rests on the assumption that life is a continuous cycle of death and rebirth. If all of life is tainted by Dukkha, then to leave Dukkha means to break this cycle. Dukkha is not simply the specific suffering in this event or because item. Dukkha permeates the eternal cycle of renewal called “samsara.,” and is inseparable from it. Buddhism is not looking for to minimize or remove the suffering that one may experience in a specific lifetime but to leave samara’s unlimited cycle of life and death that represents the perpetual renewal of Dukkha. The remainder of the four honorable truths emerge from this first one, and all of Buddhism rests on this structure.

Tanha: The Source of Dukkha

The second of the 4 worthy realities is that the reason for Dukkha is “Tanha,” which literally implies “thirst,” though the majority of translators render it “desire” or “craving.” As one Buddhist source regrets:

“Where is the source of human sorrow, lamentation, pain, and pain? Is it not to be discovered in the fact that individuals are usually desirous?”

The idea is not that we have a misguided set of desires, which craving the incorrect things results in life’s suffering, however rather that preferring and yearning itself is the cause of suffering, no matter the item. Since all things are impermanent and ever-changing, anything we desire will not last. Even if we handled to acquire all that we desire, and even if all our desires are “excellent” and “worthy,” they would bring with them suffering, frustration, and loss that would exceed any short lived satisfaction or satisfaction we may receive.

According to Buddhism, our desires which bring the pain and suffering of the world are rooted in our misconception that we are distinct individuals who can act upon the world around us as a separate thing from ourselves. Any judgment that a person thing should be searched for and another thing prevented, any “leaning into” one experience and away from another, any desire or any action of the will necessarily bring Dukkha with it. Our deception of individual existence and our unwillingness to take a look at all things as an interconnected whole with no difference or choice is what perpetually creates Dukkha in all things. As one Buddhist instructor describes it:

“In discovering the origins of our suffering, we reveal how the self was developed. We see the suffering is self imposed and perpetuated by our unwillingness to look. The sense of ‘you’ and ‘I’ is developed from our resistance to looking.”

One can understand the reasoning that connects desires, cravings, and accessories to the different kinds of suffering in any provided life, however it is not immediately clear how desires in this life would trigger the rebirth of some future life, much less how they would contribute to suffering because life. This difficulty is additional amplified by the reality that, as we have actually kept in mind, Buddhism is rather clear that the future life is not a continuation of “you” because “you” do not really exist as an unique and long-lasting individual even in this life much less on into the next. Buddhist teaching answers this through the concept of “karma.”

Unlike the inappropriate way that westerners utilize the term, karma is not the good or bad things that occur to you due to the fact that of what you have actually done. The word “karma” actually indicates “action” or “deeds” and in Buddhism refers to any volitional act of the will. Karma is the action itself, not the result of the action. While Buddhism acknowledges that there is karma that can have reasonably positive effects and karma that can have reasonably negative impacts, all karma is said to have causal results that bring about future lives.

These lives are not a continuation of the same person being, since there is no such thing, but are rather connected by a chain of cause and effect relationships caused by karma actions. The Buddhist, for that reason, is not seeking to perform “great” karma, however rather no karma at all. The Buddhist doesn’t desire a better renewal. Rather, the goal is to get away the cycle of renewal and its fundamental and comprehensive suffering. All karma is action of the will, and “will” is inherently rooted in desire. All karma, even so-called “good” karma, ultimately perpetuates Dukkha. Thus, these very first 2 of the 4 noble facts together present the issue. The next 2 turn to the solution.

Nirvana: An End of Dukkha

The 3rd of the four worthy truths is that there is, in fact, liberty from samsara and the continuation of Dukkha. Following rather rationally from the previous point, it is here claimed that considering that desire causes suffering, one can end up being free from suffering by ending up being without desires. One can, in turn, end up being devoid of desires by deserting the illusion of a distinct, individual existence that offers personal will and desire its reason. When Tanha ceases, Dukkha stops as well. When one totally comprehends, accepts, and offers oneself up completely to this understanding of the world, one recognizes Nirvana.

Nirvana is not a place. It is not paradise or heaven or resurrection or immortality. One does not “enter” Nirvana. On the other hand, the constant Buddhist can not think of Nirvana as annihilation or termination of existence. As Buddhist scholar Walpola Rahula puts it:

“There are numerous who have actually got an incorrect concept that it is unfavorable, and reveals self-annihilation. Nirvana is certainly no annihilation of self, due to the fact that there is no self to wipe out. If at all, it is the annihilation of the illusion, of the incorrect idea of self”

The word “nirvana” does indeed indicate to “blow out” or “extinguish,” like a flame denied of fuel or air that then stops to burn. But what snuffs out is not you personally, considering that Buddhism denies that there is any “you” to extinguish. In the Pali Canon, an ancient collection of Buddha’s mentor, we discover Nirvana explained in terms such as:

  • “the abandoning of desire and craving,”
  • “the cessation of connection and becoming,”
  • “the termination of thirst,”
  • “the uprooting of accessory,”
  • “truth,”
  • “absolute fact.”

It is, for that reason, the annihilation of whatever that makes you think of yourself as a “self” and that for that reason makes you act as if you and other individuals and items have distinct and long-lasting identities. It is the experiential awareness of existence as it really is; an interconnected reality where there are no differences or dualities. Rahula once again keeps in mind:

“It is inaccurate to say that Nirvana is negative or positive. The ideas ‘unfavorable’ and ‘favorable’ are relative, and are within the realm of duality. These terms can not be applied to Nirvana, Absolute Truth, which is beyond duality and relativity”

Never mind for the minute that Rahula himself even here necessarily mentions a real duality in between relative truth and outright truth, and puts Nirvana clearly on one side of this duality and not on the other. The point is that Buddhism comprehends Nirvana as a fact to be understood. The world is understood without differences and departments, and thus self is impossible, and there are no “things” to be desired over other “things,” there merely is what “is.” The awareness of Nirvana can, therefore, be, in a meaningful sense, attained in this life by purging oneself of all desires and ideas of difference. Such a person will go on living in this life in many methods as previously, however without desire or accessory, and when he dies there will be no resultant rebirth, and he hence obtains the complete and final awareness of Nirvana. This is completion of suffering to which all Buddhist teaching is intending.

The Method to Nirvana: The Climax of the Four Noble Truths

While it can not be overemphasized that Nirvana is not a place or any sort of future state to which the Buddhist is looking for to show up, the last of the 4 worthy truths, figuratively speaking, sets out the “method” or the “course” to the end of the suffering of Dukkha. Buddhism reveals this path to knowledge and liberation in eight points, hence it is typically called the “eightfold course.” The 8 points are:

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

Detailing the specifics of each point in the course and the different ways each school of Buddhism comprehends and applies them is beyond the scope of this article. We should keep in mind, nevertheless, that these eight aspects of the path, taken together, are designed to reshape every facet of one’s thought, life, and worldview in light of the previous 3 “truths” and toward completion of attaining Nirvana through the desertion of desire and sense of self. As a mere reading of the points above would likely show, this is not expected to typically happen through an instant and instant surprise. Rather, it needs years of cautious self-control, training one’s mind and body for enlightenment the method an athlete does for an Olympic competition or a tradesperson for a profession. Some forms of Buddhism might think that there are other aspects to the course or sources of aid outside oneself along the way. All, nevertheless, would uphold this main path to Liberation from Dukkha and the awareness of Nirvana through the disciplined adherence to the Eightfold path the Buddha prescribed.

The God Problem: Where the 4 Noble Truths Break Down

The system articulated above completely depends upon a set of starting assumptions:

  1. All things are impermanent, transitory, and short lived
  2. For that reason, no genuine, long-term individual or thing can sustain through time
  3. And as an additional outcome, no desires can be meaningfully and lastingly fulfilled.

The God of the Bible, however, is everlasting and changeless. For instance, the Scriptures tell us that:

Psalm 90:2 “Prior to the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from long lasting to everlasting, You are God.”

Malachi 3:6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not taken in.”

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the exact same the other day and today and forever.”

The Buddhist, therefore, is required to bet his/her whole system on the claim that the biblical God does not exist. Buddha himself clearly never made this claim. He lived his whole life in the Hindu culture of ancient India, where the Scriptural God was unusual, and the idea of a single, unique, individual, eternal, transcendent, creator God was not a part of public discourse. Remarkably, Buddha did accept the existence of the Hindu gods, but as these gods were themselves temporal and mortal, he considered them to be within the cycle of death and renewal in samsara and thus suffering Dukkha like whatever else. Such transitory gods fit well in the Buddhist system and developed no debate. The eternal and changeless God of Christianity, nevertheless, is another matter completely. The world in which the 4 noble truths ring true should of need be a bleak, atheistic world.

The Dalai Lama has stated absolutely that the Buddhist worldview leaves no place for an atemporal, everlasting, absolute nor a divine creation. Walpola Rahula asserts that belief in God is a human invention and is empty and false. The Society for the Promotion of Buddhism lists belief in a sovereign, creator God as one of the 3 incorrect viewpoints worldwide that reject us enlightenment. They defend this claim just by restating that everything is merely a succession of temporal looks connected by domino effects. Simply put, belief in God is wrong eventually because the Buddhist system can’t allow for His existence.

The Buddhist presupposes a conception of reality that is totally undone if they accept the presence of the eternal God. If God exists forever and unchangingly, and a lot more if He can eventually satisfy righteous desires and assure immortality to the faithful, the four honorable facts turn out not to be true nor noble, and Buddhism unwinds.

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Back to the Basics: The Four Noble Truths and The

By Evelyn Cash Over the previous couple of weeks I have actually been taking an action back and reviewing some of the extremely basic
teachings of the Buddha. I believe it can be helpful from time to time to go back and
reassess mentors you haven’t believed much about in a very long time; it can bring a fresh
point of view and re-energize your practice.

When I found out about Buddhism in my high school Comparative Religions class, I basically came
away with the understanding that there were 2 teachings of primary value to Buddhists:

The 4 Noble Truths and The Eightfold Course. In my tenth grade mind, these 2
mentors were roughly equivalent to the 5 Pillars of Islam or the Mitzvah of
Judaism. I believed that, in order to be Buddhist, an individual needed to believe in
The Four Noble Truths and follow The Eightfold Path in a devotional way, comparable to a
Muslim’s devotion to prayer five times a day. I understood that Buddhists practiced meditation
and I had an interest in that aspect of the custom even then but the concept of following all
eight of the folds of the course appeared simply a little too challenging for me. I
couldn’t (and certainly, still can’t) remember each one of the 8 folds without consulting a
book therefore my interest in Buddhism, however little it was at the time, waned pretty quickly.

Now, as a Zen student who has actually been practicing for a couple of years and feels rather dedicated to
the Buddhist course, I look at the Four Noble Realities and Eightfold Path in a totally
different method. On the one hand, my tenth grade self was right– these teachings
are at the very core of Buddhist practice. On the other hand, 15 year old
Evelyn was completely wrong (as usual).

Let’s rapidly review The 4 Noble Truths:

1.)
The reality of dukkha (typically equated as “suffering”)

2.)
The origin of dukkha

3.)
The cessation of dukkha

4.)
The course leading to the end of dukkha which is: (you thought it) The Eightfold
Path.

And now, The Eightfold Path:

1.)
Right View

2.)
Right Intention

3.)
Right Speech

4.)
Right Action

5.)
Right Livelihood

6.)
Right Effort

7.)
Right Mindfulness

8.)
Right Concentration

It holds true that the 4 Noble
Truths and the Eightfold
Course are central to Buddhist practice. It has been given that these
were the very first mentors the Buddha provided after achieving enlightenment under the Bodhi
Tree. Whether the story is true or apocryphal, it points to the importance of
these mentors within the Buddhadharma. The Four Noble Facts can be deemed
the standard “mission statement” of Buddhism. Simply put, they present the
stealthily basic declarations that life consists of suffering, that our over-attachment to the
things and concepts in our life produces this suffering, that there is a method to end our suffering
and finally the Buddha provides his approach for ending suffering which is contained in the
eightfold course. These short, easy declarations describe the standard rationale
behind Buddhist teachings. If life did not contain suffering or if there was no
method to end suffering, there would be no real factor to practice the
Buddhadharma. One might argue that the dharma mentors and practices exist to
address the circumstance described in the 4 Noble Realities.

In college, as I started to take a review at Buddhism, I found out far more about the Four
Noble Truths and Eightfold Course than the basic lessons I had been taught in high
school. I learned that the Four Noble Realities are not a creed or statement that
Buddhists need to accept on blind faith. Rather, our approach to the Four
Noble Facts ought to be more comparable to the laws of physics such as Newton’s laws of movement. For
example when students discover that an object in motion will remain in movement unless it is
acted upon by an external force, they may initially need to take this law on
“faith.” Every high school physics class consists of fundamental experiments and
problems to provide the trainees first-hand experience revealing that Newton’s very first law of movement
carries out in fact apply (at least on the level of classical
mechanics, let’s not enter into quantum mechanics or unique relativity
today). The Four Noble Facts are in fact rather similar to this.Depending on our
experiences in life, we may have to at first take it on faith that life
contains suffering (I’ve also heard this as “life is unacceptable” and both work fine) and
that our suffering is caused by holding on to different items or ideas in our
lives. As we begin to focus on our lives more carefully, we’ll see that
some level of suffering results when we hold on to our belongings or to the concepts we have
about ourselves. I believe all of us have actually realized this on some level at some
point in our lives. As a kid, I keep in mind recognizing that all of the expectations
I had leading up to Christmas or my Birthday often resulted in some kind of disappointment
and even if I did get precisely what I desired, the delight of it eventually faded. In
a method, the very first half of the 4 Noble Truths is simply stating the obvious and we’ve all
come to a similar conclusions in our own lives.

The Eightfold Path can be viewed as the Buddha’s solution to the “issue” of
suffering. As a teenager, I thought that Buddhists attempted to strictly adhere
to each element of the Eightfold Path in the exact same way that Orthodox Jews strictly stick to
kosher laws. In practice, the
Eightfold Path supplies a plan to help us work towards letting go of our clinging and
ultimately ending our suffering. For me, it’s a lot much easier to break up the
Eightfold Course into its three parts and view each as separate and interrelated paths of
practice. The 3 paths (or trainings) break down like this:

  • The Wisdom Training, containing: “Right View” and “Right Intent”
  • The Ethical or Ethical Training, including “Right Speech,” “Right
    Action” and “Right Livelihood”
  • The Concentration Training, including: “Right Effort,” “Right
    Mindfulness” and “Right Concentration.

I personally liked Daniel Ingram’s
one act play on the these 3 aspects of the practice from his book: “Mastering the Core Teachings of the
Buddha.” First off, the play is amusing and it really does a pretty
good job explaining how these 3 elements work together on the path to realization.
Buddhist practice is most effective when each one of these 3 paths is practiced frequently
and kept in balance. Meditation contains the Concentration and Wisdom training while the
Ethical training includes keeping the precepts and carrying the lessons of the dharma into
every day life. Since these are trainings and not commandments, the practice is on-going and
it will encounter the periodic ups and downs. For instance, the practice of Right Speech
does not suggest that lying is a sin that will be penalized, it just means that you attempt to
acknowledge the damage in lying and you deal with to do better in the future. The “folds” of the

Eightfold Path are like markers on the path to get you back on track. As you cultivate
Knowledge, Concentration and Ethics, you begin to discover the path by heart and have less require
for the markers.

As it turns out, my primary understanding of Buddhism was correct, if possibly a little
simplified. It holds true that the Four Noble Facts and Eightfold Path are at the very center
of Buddhist practice. Nevertheless, they are not guidelines sent out down from on high to be handled
blind faith and strictly abided by; like much of the Buddha’s teachings, they must be
practiced and straight experienced in order to be of any benefit.

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