- The Sanskrit word ‘buddha’ refers to any enlightened person, but ‘The Buddha’ refers specifically to Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha renounced the world early in life. The sights of disease, old age and death impressed the young prince with the idea that the world was full of suffering.
- According to tradition, the twenty-nine year old Gautama left Sakya in search of an understanding of suffering. After several unsuccessful years of ascetic and spiritual practice, he found enlightenment at thirty-five, while meditating beneath a fig-tree..
The Four Noble Truths: Arya Satya
- The Buddha is primarily an ethical teacher and a reformer, and not a metaphysician. He is often described as ‘the great physician’.
- According to him, the most urgent task is to lead man out of suffering and illness. The Buddha regards metaphysical questions as indeterminate questions which are uncertain and ethically useless.
- To speculate about metaphysical questions, such as: Is the world eternal? Is it finite or infinite? Is there a God? Is the soul different from the body?, is to behave like a foolish man whose heart is pierced by a poisonous arrow and instead of taking it out he whiles away time on idle speculations about the origin, the size, the metal, the maker and the shooter of the arrow. The Buddha tries to enlighten people on the most important questions of sorrow. BUDDHISM
- His main teachings are: The Four Noble Truths, The Noble Eightfold Path and The Doctrine of Dependent Origination.
The Four Noble Truths (Arya Satya):
- Life is full of suffering (duhkha)
- There is a cause of suffering (duhkha-samudaya)
- There is cessation of suffering (duhkha-nirodha)
- There is a path which leads to the cessation of suffering (duhkha-nirodha-marga)
The First Noble truth: Duhkha
- Life is full of misery and pain. The Buddha maintains that suffering (duhkha) is an intrinsic part of life. Birth, old age, disease, death, poverty, greed, anger, hatred etc. are all around us.
- One may argue that life consists of both pleasures and pains, and The Buddha’s teaching is pessimistic since it emphasizes the dark side of life. But the answer to the objection is that even the so called pleasures are fraught with pain.
- What seems to be pleasure at this moment ceases to be pleasure at a later moment, leading one to boredom and dissatisfaction, and eventually to pain and suffering. Thus, every pleasure contains within itself the seeds of pain, and at the peak of all suffering is death itself.
- In its fundamental sense, duhkha means impermanence (anitya). Impermanence is the basic characteristic of all existence- animate and inanimate.
- According to the Buddha, it is this impermanence that is the foundation of all sufferings. Wherever there is impermanence there is bound to be suffering. BUDDHISM
- If men do not lose what they have, fulfill all the desires, do not disintegrate and die, then there will be no suffering, which of course is not possible.
The Second Noble Truth: Duhkha-Samudaya
- The second noble truth states that there is a cause of suffering. Suffering is not due to chance and caprice, but is brought about by certain conditions. Everything has a cause.
- The doctrine that everything is caused by other things is known as the Doctrine of Dependent Origination (Pratityasamutpada). The doctrine of pratityasamutpada is the foundation of all the teachings of the Buddha.
- The various conditions which produce suffering are expressed by the Buddha in the form of a chain of causes and effects made up of 12 links. BUDDHISM
- Hence, ‘the twelve-fold chain of causation’ (dvadasanidana) is another name for the Doctrine of Dependent Origination.
- The links are as follows:
- Ignorance (avidya)
- Impressions of karmic forces (samskara)
- Initial consciousness of the embryo (vijnana)
- Psycho-physical organism (nama-rupa)
- Six sense-organs including mind (sadayatana)
- Sense-object-contact (sparsa)
- Sense-experience (vedana)
- Thirst for sense-enjoyment (trsna)
- Clinging to this enjoyment (upadana)
- Will to be born (bhava)
- Birth or rebirth (jati)
- Old age and death (jara-marana)
- Out of these twelve links the first two are related to past life, the last two to future life and the rest to present life. This is the cycle of birth-and-death. It does not end with death. Death is only a beginning of a new life. This is the vicious circle of causation.
- The twelve links in the chain of suffering states that we suffer misery and pain, because we are born. We are born because there is a will to be born. This will is there because we cling to the objects of the world. We have this clinging because we crave to enjoy the objects of this world.
- We have this craving and thirst for enjoyment because of sense‑ experience. We have sense-experience because of sense-object contact. We have this contact because of the six sense organs.
- We have the six sense-organs because of the psycho-physical organism. We have this organism because of the initial consciousness of the embryo.
- We have this consciousness because of our predispositions or impressions of karma. We have these impressions because of ignorance. Hence, ignorance is the root-cause of all suffering. Ignorance can be destroyed only by knowledge. So, knowledge is the sole means of liberation.
- The twelve-fold chain is not a linear but a circular chain, because the twelfth factor is joined to the first. Some of the links are only necessary but not sufficient for the ones that follow them.
- Thus, old age and death are only necessary but not sufficient for ignorance. If the chain were one of necessary and sufficient conditions, it would be impossible to break it.
The Third Noble Truth: Duhkha-Nirodha [BUDDHISM ]
- Since suffering is caused, it can be eliminated by eliminating its causes. In other words, the cessation of suffering can be brought about by the removal of the conditions on which suffering depends.
- It is the dependence of suffering on certain conditions that makes it possible for us to overcome suffering and become free from all fetters of existence.
- It is clear from the twelve-fold chain that ignorance is the fundamental condition of suffering. It is because of our ignorance that we crave and suffer.
- We are ignorant of the truth that there is no persisting self, that nothing is permanent, that all is sorrow. When this ignorance is removed, nirvana is attained.
- Nirvana is not a state of inactivity. Buddha’s own life was full of activity, even after his enlightenment. Buddha distinguishes between 2 kinds of action: (a) those done under the influence of attachment (raga), hatred (dvesa), infatuation (moha) and (b) those done without these.
- It is only the first kind of actions that strengthen our
- desire to cling to the world and generate the seeds of karma causing rebirth.
- The second kind of actions which are done with perfect insight into the real nature of the universe and without attachment, do not accumulate karma producing rebirth. Buddha points out that the difference between the two kinds of karma is like that between the sowing of ordinary productive seeds and the sowing of seeds which have been fried and made barren.
- Again, nirvana does not mean extinction of existence. The etymological meaning of `nirvana’ is ‘blown out’. The liberated one is compared to the extinction of the flame of a lamp. Some interpreters of Buddhism have explained nirvana as complete cessation of existence. But if it is so then Buddha cannot be said to have been liberated till he died. BUDDHISM
- Also, Buddha seems to have suggested that nirvana stops rebirth and, therefore, it means the extinction of all misery. It does not mean necessarily that after death the liberated saint does not continue in any form.
- Further, Buddha’s silence about the condition of the liberated after death does not mean his denial of the existence of such a person after death. Buddha’s silence might just mean that the state of liberation cannot be described in terms of ordinary experience.
Arhathood and Bodhisattvahood:
- Relying on the words of Buddha, “Be a light unto thyself” (atmadipo bhava), Hinayana emphasizes liberation for and by the individual himself. It is the difficult path of self-help. Its goal is Arhathood, the state of the Ideal saint who obtains personal salvation.
- Nirvana is regarded as the extinction of all misery. The idea of liberation in Hinayana is said to be negative and egoistic. The nirvana means ‘blowing out’.
- The Arhat simply blows himself out of existence by annihilating all desires and passions. Like an extinguished flame of a lamp, he goes neither this way nor that but obtains utter peace. BUDDHISM
- Mahayana believes that nirvana is not a negative cessation of misery but a positive state of bliss. Its Ideal saint is Bodhisattva who defers his own salvation in order to work for the salvation of others. The Bodhisattva is he who attains perfect wisdom and inspired by the love of all beings, works for the salvation of others.
- In Mahayana, Buddha is transformed into God and worshipped as such. Thus, Mahayana replaces the negative and individual conception of nirvana with positively blissful and universal conception of it.
The Fourth Noble Truth: Duhkha-nirodha-marg
- The fourth noble truth states that there is a path that leads to the cessation of misery. This is the Noble Eight-fold path (astangika-marga), which is the perfect blending of knowledge and conduct.
- The eight-fold path suggests that the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification be avoided and the middle path be adopted.
- Buddha’s ethical middle path is like the golden-mean of Aristotle. The eight disciplines constituting the path are not successive steps, they are to be cultivated together. BUDDHISM
- Right Views ( samyak drsti): Right view is defined as the correct knowledge about the four noble truths. It enables one to see empirical existence in its true nature as being sorrowful, impermanent and unsubstantial. Wrong view about the self and the world is the root cause of our suffering.
- Right resolve (samyak sankalpa): Right resolve means making a serious commitment to reform life in the light of truth.
- Right speech (samyak vak): Right speech consists in abstention from lying, slander, unkind words and frivolous talk. It means telling the truth and speaking in a thoughtful and sensitive manner.
- Right conduct (samyak karmanta): Right conduct includes non-killing, non-stealing, non-sensuality, non-lying and non-intoxication (pancashila). Right actions are those which do not bring remorse and which do not result in sorrow. BUDDHISM
- Right livelihood (samyakajiva): Right livelihood means not engaging in an occupation which causes harm to others. It states that one should earn livelihood by honest means and not through prohibited means.
- Right effort (samyak vyayama): Right effort means gaining control over one’s thoughts and cultivating positive state of mind. One cannot progress unless one makes a constant effort to root out old evil thoughts, and prevents new evil thoughts from arising.
- Right mindfulness (samyak smrti): Right mindfulness means cultivating constant vigilance. That is, the aspirant should constantly bear in mind the things he has already learnt. It is through constant contemplation on the perishable nature of the body, the mind, sensations and mental states that one can develop detachment from all objects that bind us to the world.
- Right concentration (samyak Samadhi): Right concentration means developing deep levels of mental calm through various techniques. One who has freed himself from passions and evil thoughts is eligible to enter into the deeper stages of concentration, which eventually leads to cessation of suffering and the attainment of nirvana. BUDDHISM
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