Buddhists take refuge in three different expressions of awakened mind: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Each of these is a precious and necessary element of the Buddhist path, and so they are called the three jewels.
Buddha: The Teacher
This refers, first, to the original teacher, the historical Buddha. He was not a god but a human being like us, whose example shows us that we too can follow the path to enlightenment. More broadly, the buddha principle refers to all teachers and enlightened beings who inspire and guide us.
Dharma: The Teachings
Buddhist dharma starts with the fundamental truths that the Buddha Shakyamuni taught.
The four noble truths – The truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.
The three marks of existence – Impermanence, non-self and suffering.
The eightfold path –Right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
It also includes the vast body of Buddhist teachings developed in the 2,600 years since then. It’s worth noting that the Sanskrit word dharma also means a thing or object in the conventional sense. In either case, the word denotes a basic law or truth of reality.
Sangha: The Community
The term sangha traditionally refers to monastics and arhats in which lay practitioners take refuge. This has changed in the West, where sangha has come to mean the community of Buddhist practitioners, both monastic and lay. Buddhists here also use the word to describe a specific community or group, and you will often hear people talk about ‘my sangha,’ meaning the Buddhist community to which they belong.
The guru is an embodiment of all 3 jewels.
Renunciation can be understood as letting go of whatever binds us to ignorance and suffering.
The Pali word for “renunciation” is nekkhamma, which means giving up the world and leading a holy life or freedom from lust, craving and desire.
In Mahayana Buddhism, it becomes a bodhisattva (A person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings.) practice for developing bodhicitta (The mind that is aimed at awakening, with wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.) Through practice, we realize how attachment to sensual pleasure throws us off balance and destroys equanimity. Grasping also causes us to be greedy and deprives us of being a benefit to others.
In Theravada Buddhism, renunciation is one of the Ten Paramitas, or perfections. (Generosity, morality, renunciation, insight, diligence, patience, truthfulness, resolution loving-kindness, and equanimity.) As a perfection, the primary practice is to discern through contemplation how one’s enjoyment of sensual pleasure may be impeding one’s spiritual path.
If by forsaking a limited ease, he would see an abundance of ease, the enlightened man would forsake the limited ease for the sake of the abundant – Shakyamuni Buddha
Bodhicitta -The enlightenment mind or the thought of awakening, is the mind (Citta) that is aimed at awakening (bodhi), with wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. It arises from deep compassion and motivates you to strive to bring a complete end to all suffering.
There is aspiring bodhicitta which is the mere wish to bring all beings to enlightenment, and active bodhicitta which consists of actually putting it into action.
Tibetan Buddhism divides Bodhicitta into two types, relative and absolute.
Relative bodhicitta: Is a state of mind in which the practitioner works for the good of all beings selflessly.
Absolute bodhicitta: The wisdom of shunyata or emptiness, which implies freedom from attachments.
The two aspirations associated with bodhicitta involve effort and diligence because serenity and insight must be cultivated and unified in order to noncontextually realize absolute bodhicitta.
Three degrees of bodhicitta:
King-like bodhicitta, in which a bodhisattva primarily seeks his own benefit but who recognizes that his benefit depends crucially on that of his kingdom and his subjects.
Boatman-like bodhicitta, in which a bodhisattva ferries his passengers across the river and simultaneously, of course, ferries himself as well.
Shepherd-like bodhicitta, who makes sure that all his sheep arrive safely ahead of him and places their welfare above his own.
The way of the shepherd bodhisattva is the best and highest way – Patrul Rinpoche.
This is the first step of the Eightfold Path:
Right Understanding – A correct understanding of the nature of things, specifically the Four Noble Truths.
Right Thought – Avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent.
Right Speech – Refraining from verbal misdeeds such as lying, divisive, harsh and senseless speech.
Right Action – Refraining from physical misdeeds such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.
Right Livelihood – A way of making a living that does no harm to others directly or indirectly, such as selling slaves, weapons, animals for slaughter, intoxicants, or poisons.
Right Effort – Abandoning negative states of mind that have already arisen, preventing negative states that have yet to arise, and sustaining positive states that have already arisen.
Right Mindfulness – Awareness of body, feelings, thoughts, and phenomena.
Right Concentration– Correct concentration, single-pointed-mindfulness.
When we take the Dharma to heart, the whole Buddhist path flows out of our application of right view and we can stop blaming our suffering on difficult conditions. We begin to recognize that our suffering is due to our misguided ways of trying to find happiness by looking in the wrong direction which leads to confusion, sorrow, and suffering. The Right view will direct us to find what is deeper than this karmic body and mind, and point us to find the place where we can lay down our burden of ceaseless desires and fears and awaken to the boundless liberation of the Buddhas.
To see and to understand things as they really are.
Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the four main teachings of the Buddha.
Each one of the 6 types of contact containing awareness can express pleasant, unpleasant or neutral feelings, giving a total of 18 feelings.
When awareness contacts an object, there is feeling. Without consciousness (like a dead body), there cannot be any feeling.
Feelings are of three kinds:
Good – Bringing happiness when the object is attractive.
Bad – Bringing suffering when the object is repulsive.
Neutral – Bringing no feeling of either good or bad.
8. CRAVING (sred-pa).
Cravingkeeps humans attached to existence, meaning that humans are reincarnated again and again, or ‘arise’ again and again.
Craving for happiness: If we experience a pleasant feeling, we have an attachment to it and the desire to not be separated from that experience.
Craving to abandon suffering: If the feeling is unpleasant, we experience repulsion and the desire to get rid of that state.
If the feeling is neutral, the desire is also neutral.
All the above links arise in interdependent origination based on ignorance and follow the law of cause and effect. If we want to remove desire, we have to remember feeling etc. Because what we really want to remove is old age and death, we seek the cause of it through the 12 links and we understand that the cause of all is ignorance. To get liberated from samsara, we have to look at the 12 links in an anti-clockwise manner.
The understanding of the 12 links gives stable faith in past and future lives, the law of karma, interdependent arising, and the formation of samsara. Investigating and reasoning in analytical meditation are very important, especially for the sutra teachings.
The mind is everything. What you think you become.
There are four kinds of grasping.
The first is grasping at disturbing emotions, while the following three are grasping at disturbing attitudes.
Grasping at sense pleasures.. From this grasping, the three realms arise:
Desire realm: The coarse mind grasps strongly at the sense of pleasure.
Form realm: There is grasping at the meditative concentration and attachment to bliss, clarity and non-conceptuality which are the three experiences of contemplation.
Formless realm: There is grasping at the subtler form of concentration.
Grasping at wrong views.
There are 360 kinds of wrong views which can be divided into three groups:
Believing in past and future lives, but not in the law of cause and effect.
Believing that all phenomena exists and are changeless (Externalism.)
Not believing in past and future lives nor the law of karma (Nihilism.)
Another classification can be, distorted view, extreme view and wrong view as supreme.
Grasping is the disturbing attitude of holding deluded morality or conduct as supreme.
This is abandoning pure morality and instead, grasping at mistaken ethics, like adopting a negative practice, believing it will lead to a higher rebirth.
Grasping at the self.
Grasping at the innate sense of self (common to all sentient beings.)
Imposed grasping at self, resulting from philosophical studies.
It is not necessary to experience all of the four types of grasping to have the presence of this link, one of them is enough.
10. EXISTENCE OR BECOMING (srid-pa).
Work out your own salvation, do not depend on others.
There are two kinds of becoming:
Becoming of existence.
Becoming of the three realms ( desire, form and formless.)
The karmic seed is kept in the projecting consciousness. When craving and grasping water the seed of karma, we have the sprout of a new life (existence.)
11. BIRTH (skye-ba).
The whole world is made of compounded phenomena which are based on causes and conditions and are impermanent.
The 11th link is the equivalent to the first moment of link number four, name and form. Between the 10th and the 11th links, beings experience the bardo where they are composed of four aggregates and have only a mental body (no physical body/form.)
In the first half of the bardo, the shape of the mental body is similar to that of the previous life.
In the second half of the bardo, the mental body takes the shape of the future body.
Birth refers to the entrance into the particular realm where one will live.
There are four types of birth:
Birth in a womb.
Birth from an egg.
Birth from heat and moisture.
After being born we have all the suffering aggregates and we will have to die.
Whatever was born must die.
Whatever is collected must be dispersed.
Whatever came together must be separated.
Whatever was built must be dismantled.
There are two ways to be born in samsara:
Pushed by the winds of karma, one experiences suffering.
As a bodhisattva (out of their compassion), they don’t experience suffering because they don’t have the karma for it.
12. AGEING AND DYING (rga-shi).
Birth, old age and death are the three main sufferings of human beings.
This starts in the second moment of our rebirth. So, after the first moment of experiencing the future life based on an embryo, we start to age. From birth, we advance towards death through a stream of change. When the stream of moments stops, it is death, defined as the moment when the consciousness leaves the body. The suffering of a baby in the womb is very great, the suffering at birth is even worse. Old age, disease and death are suffering at a gross level. At a more subtle level, we experience the suffering of change and all-pervasive in all the realms. All sufferings are rooted in ignorance. We should feel tired of samsara and its sufferings and wish not to be born again.
Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the last 6 links of dependent origination.
The belief in ‘I’ gives rise to ‘mine’ and ‘others’
Ignorance is the main cause of misconception, which is the root of samsara. We do not see or know the ultimate nature of phenomena and exaggerate the way things exist.
There are 4 kinds of misconceptions:
Holding impure phenomena as pure.
Holding empty phenomena as truly existing.
Holding suffering as happiness.
Holding impermanent phenomena as permanent.
Because of ignorance, sentient beings accumulate positive, negative and neutral (or immovable) karma which produces cyclic existence.
Accumulation of positive karma produces birth in a higher realm.
Accumulation of negative karma produces rebirth in a lower realm.
Accumulation of neutral karma produces rebirth in the form or formless realms.
The belief in ‘I’ gives rise to ‘mine’ and ‘others’ and from there arises the negative emotions of desire – attachment and anger – aversion. This I that is produced by ignorance is also the cause of negative emotions, karmic action and cyclic existence.
The five aggregates (form, feeling, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness) are the base of imputation for the I. As long as we believe in the existence of the 5 aggregates, we are grasping at the I, thus producing karma and subsequently samsara. We need to develop the wisdom to realise the selflessness of self which will free us from samsara (liberation / Arhat.) And the selflessness of phenomena, which will remove the veils of ignorance from the ultimate nature of reality (Omniscience / Buddha).
2. CONTAMINATED ACTIONS (‘du-byed).
The mind stream goes continuously from life to life.
The results of karmic actions are stored in the consciousness in the form of imprints. When they meet with the right conditions they will ripen and produce results according to their causes (good actions will bring about happiness and bad actions suffering).
Among humans, some are working towards temporary happiness in this life, looking for happiness outwardly (through external objects) and not accepting the law of cause and effect. They do not concern themselves with the importance of accumulating virtuous karma and avoiding non–virtuous karma. Others are working towards the happiness of future lives, by looking inwardly (through meditation) and do accept this law as valid. But they are only interested in obtaining a high rebirth in their next lives through virtuous actions. And some beings practice meditation and thereby attains rebirth in the form or formless realms through the accumulation of neutral (immutable/unchangeable) karma.
These 3 kinds of karma are all contaminated karmas (the negative, positive and neutral karmas) which are the cause of cyclic existence. Uncontaminated karma is the result of all actions based upon the wish to achieve liberation from samsara combined with the insight into the empty nature of things. In the 12 links, we speak of contaminated karma only.
3. CONSCIOUSNESS (mam-shes).
Consciousness is defined as that which is clear and knowing (aware.)
There are 6 different kinds of consciousness:
Mental / Mind.
Sometimes two additional types of consciousness are described: the affected consciousness and the mind basis of all.
Karmic imprints are stored in the subtle consciousness which goes from life to life and remains stored in the consciousness like seeds planted in a field. According to the Mind-Only Schools, they reside in the mind basis of all. In Svatantrika / Madhyamika it is said they reside within the continuity of the six consciousness, and the Prasangika /Madhyamika in the continuity of consciousness that grasps the existence of an “I”.
This subtle consciousness is of two types:
The projecting consciousness: This is active at the time of the creation of karmic imprints, and stores the accumulated karmic imprints (seeds) until the necessary conditions arise.
The projected consciousness: This is the ripening of past karmic imprints.
4.NAME AND FORM (ming-dang gzugs).
Name and form refer to the five aggregates, which mutually support each other like the poles that support a tent.
NAME: Consists of the four aggregates of feeling, discrimination, compositional factors, and consciousness.
FORM: Consists of the aggregate of appearance.
All sentient beings have the five aggregates except those in the formless realm, who in the intermediate state, are constituted of name without form.
When a consciousness (name) enters a human womb and merges with the white and red essences from the parents, it takes a form (body). At death, the coarse consciousness dissolves into the subtle one and the last moment in this life is the cause for the first moment in the intermediate state where we have name without form. After remaining in the bardo for generally 49 days, the consciousness enters between the red and white drops and grows, the five elements become coarser, giving rise to name and form. Ordinary beings take rebirth under the influence of their karma but there is the possibility of gaining ultimate freedom through liberation which is definitive independence.
There is a mutual dependence between cause and effect. The cause must be consistent with the effect and the effect is dependent on the cause. It is not that the aggregates of previous life go on to the next, but they are interdependent.
So how do we describe the continuity between lives if there is no transfer of the aggregates? There is the continuity of moments being the causes and effects of each other. This is the continuity of the consciousness that is the link between lives. When in past lives we accumulated positive imprints (karma), happy consequences will arise in future lives and the same for negative imprints and suffering. This is made possible by the on going continuum. For example, the passage in life between child-adult -old age is a coarse continuity made of newly arisen states.
The first three links (with the first consciousnesses) are the cause for birth in a womb (name and form) from which sense sources arise.
5. SIX SENSE SOURCE (skye-mched).
To hold and grow – When the consciousness is projected to an object, it holds onto it.
Six outer sources: form, sound, tangible objects smell, taste, and phenomena.
Six inner sources: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body/skin and mind sense powers. The first five are based on subtle physical elements.
The eye-consciousness is composed of the eye sense power and form. In the eye, there is the substance which can perceive form.
The ear-consciousness is ear sense power and sound. The ear contains a physical base for sound.
The nose consciousness has receptors to sense smells.
The tongue consciousness has receptors for different tastes.
The body sense power has receptors on the skin to convey sensory impulses.
The mind sense power is not physical but based on the continuity of discrete moments of consciousness (sense consciousness).
The coarse continuity of a person allows the arising of the next link – contact.
6. CONTACT (eg-pa).
The object of the mental consciousness is phenomena, and the mental faculty is awareness and has no shape.
This is the meeting between the sense consciousness, the sense faculty and the object. Because there are 6 senses, there are 6 types of contact.
Now the aggregates of distinguishing and significant parts of the aggregates of other affecting variables are functioning. They are no longer merely nameable mental faculties.
Contact usually gives the impression that it is the physical action of contacting an object. It is not that. It is a way of being aware of an object that, because it is distinguished, is contacted. Contacting awareness differentiates such an object as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. For example, from within a field of physical sensations, the fetus is now able to distinguish experiences of hot or cold, or bouncing up and down that it cognitively contacts. It is aware of the physical sensations of bouncing up and down, such as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
What determines that?
Karma. Here, karmic results start to ripen that are similar to their cause. Because we created pleasant, unpleasant situations in past lives, we encounter things that we are aware of as pleasant or unpleasant at this stage of development. Although the distinguishing aggregates and other affecting variables, such as contacting awareness are functioning, the feeling aggregate is not yet functioning. It is present, but still in an undifferentiated form as a nameable mental faculty. In other words, we are aware of objects that we contact as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, but we do not yet feel happy, unhappy, or neutral in response.
Thank you for reading my understanding of the first 6 links of dependent origination, back soon with the finale 6.
The 12 links of interdependent origination (dependent arising), are one of the basis of the Buddha’s teachings, which can be found in the ‘Rice Seeding Sutra’ and are recognised in both Sutra and Tantra. It states that all phenomena are related by interdependent origination and are depicted on the outer rim of the famous wheel of life. They represent the 12 causes for the existence of all phenomena that keep us trapped in samsara and how to reverse them to achieve liberation.
For example, the existence of the flower depends on the sprouting of the seed. The cause is the plant, producing the flower, which is the cause of the seed. This is the flower cycle. For the seed to sprout, it had to depend on the conditions
All phenomena depend on 6 conditions: earth, water, fire, wind, space and time. That means that any cause, to produce an effect, needs to rely on conditions. This is the law of dependent arising (or interdependent origination).
At the ultimate level, all phenomena are interdependent is the same as saying that all phenomena are empty of true existence. (The nature of phenomena is emptiness).
Atthe conventional level, everything exists by dependent arising. By investigation and analysis, we can understand the relation between the seed and the sprout – the seed (cause)vanishes when the sprout (result) appears. The cause disappeared but without the cause in the first place, no result can be obtained. This explains the relationship between emptiness and dependent arising.
Law of cause and effect.
The cause should not vanish before the effect is produced and it cannot subside after the result is produced. This refutes the extremes of externalism and nihilism. From that, we deduce that phenomena are not produced and are free of the four extremes of existing: Existing, non-existing, both, and none. They are empty – form is emptiness, emptiness is form etc (The heart sutra).
Space is infinite (endless,) where there is space, there is the universe, and where there is the universe there are sentient beings – sentient beings are endless. – Shakyamuni Buddha.
There are 6 classes of beings:
3 higher realms – Gods, humans. and demi-gods.
3 lower realms – Animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-beings.
Each has its own type of suffering.
Sentient beings can also be classified into 3 realms: Desire, form and formless. They wander endlessly between those realms in dependence on their respective karma. Cyclic existence itself has no beginning and no end but a particular sentient being can uproot the ignorance that binds him to the cycle of rebirth and thus be liberated from cyclic existence.
THE 12 LINKS:
1. Ignorance – The root of all samsaric suffering.
3. Consciousness – The continuity of the mind stream serves as the basis of the imprints of karma.
4. Name and form – is the moment when matter joins mind
5. Six sense sources – This is like the construction of a building in which the finishing work, such as windows and doors, has been completed.
6. Contact – After the sense organs have evolved, they function through the sense consciousnesses to establish contact with outer sense objects, such as visible forms, sounds and so forth.
7. Feeling – Pleasant feelings arise from contact with pleasant objects, unpleasant feelings from unpleasant objects and so forth.
8. Craving – The attachment that evolves from ignorance helps condition the karmic seeds sown in our stream of consciousness.
9. Grasping – This has the special function of bringing karmic seeds to fulfilment.
10. Becoming – At the end of our life, a throwing karma arises and immediately directs us towards our future existence.
11. Birth – The moment the wind leaves the bardo body and enters the united cells of the parents
12. Ageing and death –All this produces the ageing process, which eventually finishes with our death.
We go through the 12 links in an anti-clockwise order till the 2nd link, karma. We need to stop the accumulation of contaminated karma (positive and negative) and purify already accumulated karma. To understand how to do that, we have to look at the cause for the accumulation of karmic imprints which is ignorance.
The holding of phenomenon as truly existent.
The antidote is the wisdom to see the nature of reality by abandoning dualism. By suppressing ignorance, we eradicate karma and the succession of the 12 links in clockwise order stops altogether.
When the 12 links are going clockwise, they produce samsara. When they are reversed, they produce nirvana.
The 12 links can be condensed into four: Two causes and Two results.
The projecting causes are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd links (Ignorance, karma and consciousness.)
The projected effects are the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th links (name and form, six sources, contact and feeling,)
The achieving causes are the 8th, 9th and 10th links (craving, grasping and existence.)
The achieved results are the 11th and 12th links (birth, ageing and death.)
The 12 links can also be classified into three groups:
Base of suffering: The other 7 links (3,4,5,6,7,11, and 12).
This categorisation goes according to the Four Noble Truths (The truth of suffering, The truth of the cause of suffering, The truth of the cessation of suffering, and The truth of the path.) It shows the first two of the Four Noble Truths, delusions and karma represent the true cause, and the base of suffering represents the true suffering.
By understanding the relationship between the Four Noble Truths and the 12 links of dependent arising, we can have a clear picture of how samsara is formed and how nirvana is achieved, and develop stable faith in the teachings which lead to nirvana.
Thank you to take the time to read my brief introduction to the 12 links of dependent origination. I’ll be back with a more detailed description of each link soon.
First, you need to generate the Bodhicitta mind of awakening of a Bodhisattva. This refers to a being that compassionately refrains from entering nirvana/Buddhahood in order to benefit others. Once you have this wish, then the work to achieve that goal is done through the 6 perfections and the 5 paths.
THE 5 PATHS:
Path of accumulation.
Path of preparation.
Path of seeing.
Path of meditation.
Path of no more learning.
Seeing that all beings need to be free from suffering is compassion. Wishing for them to have more cause for happiness is love.
THE 6 PERFECTIONS:
The first five of the six perfections (generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration,) are all aspects of the practice of skilful means. The sixth, wisdom belongs to the accumulation of primal wisdom. If the first five perfections are done with the understanding of emptiness, they also become a collection of wisdom. So, let’s have a look at these 6 perfections.
Giving ordinary things.
Giving material things
Giving exceptionally great things.
Giving protection from fear.
Giving ordinary things: Food, water or offerings, like clothes, money etc. to the 3 jewels (Buddha, Dharma and sangha.)
Giving great material things: Very precious jewels, gold, silver, horses, elephants etc.… anything valuable, even your children, spouse.
Giving exceptionally great things: Our own body or any part of it to benefit others. (This can only be done by Arya beings who have a direct realization of emptiness.)
Giving Dharma: Explaining to confused people what to cultivate and abandon, what to put into action and what to avoid. The best is to teach the entire path to enlightenment to people who are interested in it. And the very best situation is when these teachings are given by realised beings.
Giving protection from fear: Trying to solve other people’s problems or protect them from their suffering. The best is to save other beings’ lives.
The ordinary perfection of giving is seeing the action, giver and object as truly existing. But seeing the action, giver and object like a dream, not truly existing is the extraordinary perfection of giving. This becomes a collection of wisdom and merit.
DISCIPLINE (PERFECTION OF ETHICS / MORALITY.)
Negative actions are the cause of suffering in this and future lives, and there are:
3 non-virtues of the body: Killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.
4 non-virtues of speech: Lying, slander / divisive speech, harsh words, and idle speech.
3 non-virtues of mind: Covetousness, harmful thinking and wrong views.
After abandoning the 10 non-virtuous, one needs also to act according to Dharma and practice the 10 virtues, which is the main cause for rebirth in the higher realms. Human beings can understand what is beneficial and what is harmful, in the long run, and should know that any small non-virtuous action should be abandoned. A small spark can start a big fire, and even small virtues can be very beneficial, one drop and then another drop can fill a bucket.
You are your own protector and your own refuge.
The best opportunity to practice patience is given by our enemies, not by our friends and family. This is why we should value our enemies as our teachers. Because the whole point of our practice is to reduce the 3 poisons of ignorance, hatred and desire, which arise under the power of delusions in our own minds. Our ordinary reaction with other’s wrong actions, is immediate retaliation to harm or speak harsh words, etc. but we must try not to retaliate or wish them harm because when we do, we are only creating negativities that will lead to suffering. It is better to generate love, and compassion and be patient. So, opponents and enemies provide us with the opportunity to practice patience
Patience to bear hardships for the Dharma.
Dharma is precious and difficult to find, when we have found it we should be ready to make efforts, endure hardship and have patience in following the path. We must have patience with ourselves and the difficulties we face to achieve temporary happiness and reduce suffering and eventually the greater goal of enlightenment. We invest so much effort to follow our worldly goals, but we need to invest more effort in working for eradicating suffering in this and future lives.
Patience to face the profound truth without fear.
Accepting the natural state of profound emptiness, the key points of the natural great perfection beyond all activities, and the doctrine that all phenomena’s nature is emptiness.
Patience to develop wisdom through hearing.
This means listening to all the words and meaning of the Dharma spoken by a spiritual teacher, and understanding the meaning of those words as they are spoken. It is important to avoid adding things that the teacher did not say as well as avoiding leaving out things that he did say. Without a teacher to explain the path, we would not know what to practice and what to abandon. Without listening first to the teachings and receiving instructions, we wouldn’t know what to meditate on.
Patience to develop wisdom through reflection.
After listening to the teachings, we must analyse and check how it relates to our mind; analyse, investigate and come up with our own reasoning. Once you have a good intellectual understanding through the wisdom of contemplation, you can go on with the wisdom of meditation which will familiarize the mind with these concepts.
Patience to develop wisdom through meditation.
After meditating for a long time, you can come to a direct realisation of what were previously sounds and words in hearing and intellectual concepts in contemplating. For example, if someone tells you that a certain fruit is sweet, you listen, but these are just words. In the second stage, you analyse the fruit and contemplate (reflection) on the different characteristics of the fruit (not salty, not sour.) In the third stage, you actually experience and you realise the sweetness of the fruit – you actually taste it.
Meditation means becoming accustomed to, or familiar with, so if one begins directly by meditation (without first hearing and contemplating,) there will be nothing to meditate on. For example, there are one-pointed meditations on a subject like love and compassion or emptiness. Meditations on the generation stage, on peaceful and wrathful deities (the deity can be external or one within ourselves.) Meditations on the completion stage practice, where the focus is shifted from the form of the deity to the direct realization of ultimate reality, which also include techniques that work with the subtle body substances, the inner heat (tummo,) channels, energy and essence (tsa lung). These meditations should be without any conceptuality (no arising of thought).
THERE ARE 2 TYPES OF NON- CONCEPTUALITY:
Non-conceptual meditation: This is one pointed meditation on emptiness. Focusing on the nature of emptiness can be called non-conceptual, although the concept of emptiness itself is present, but there are no other thoughts. For example, in deity meditation, when the deity is visualised as being one with oneself, and no other thought arises, only the visualisation.
Non-conceptual wisdom: This is the ultimate wisdom practiced by Arya beings where no conception at all is involved. When the object perceived and the perceiver (the mind) are indivisible, similar to great space, unlimited. Oneself, the object and the act are called the 3 spheres of grasping. When the 3 spheres are seen as empty, worldly perfections (for example the perfection of giving) is transformed into transcendent perfection. Then the two efforts try to grasp their true meaning without giving rise to negative views.
The idea of emptiness of phenomena is strange and can be frightful for certain practitioners. For example, the Hinayana followers who recognise only the emptiness of self, it can produce opposition and rejection. In Mahayana teachings, there are differences between the profundity of the teachings between Sutra and Tantra, regarding the path of union or liberation, and these can be misunderstood and opposed. To have a wrong view about these teachings or to criticize them is what is called ‘The harmful act of rejecting the Dharma’ and brings us huge negative karma. This lack of patience, of rejecting Dharma, is one of the 5 negative actions that result in immediate retribution.
Diligence is included in all the 6 perfections, and we need it to practice any of the five perfections, so we should be joyous when practising these virtues.
There are 3 kinds of diligence:
Diligence in action.
Like a soldier who develops the courage to go to war, we armour our mind with the confidence we can practice Dharma and achieve the goals we fix ourselves upon. To encourage our mind and protect it on the path, we use arguments such as, we have a precious human life, we are following the right path, we have a perfect teacher and a perfect goal.
Diligence in action:
To activate this diligence, we think about death and impermanence. This will encourage us to set out to practice Dharma, without postponing it for tomorrow, next week or next year.
This pushes us to never stop doing virtues until reaching the final goal of enlightenment, we must continue to do virtuous deeds and practice.
Whether you attain Buddhahood or not depends solely on your diligence. With no diligence whatsoever, all good qualities will be useless. Patrul Rinpoche.
Normally our mind is very weak and distracted, following the five sense objects like a feather in the wind. To stabilise our fluctuating mind, we must engage in one-pointedly meditation and focus the mind inward. We need a powerful, concentrated mind to be able to cultivate virtues like love and compassion, purify the mind and remove the obscurations. Then we will be able to see clearly with our mind, achieving clairvoyance then omniscience.
THERE ARE 3 LEVELS OF CONCENTRATION:
Child-like concentration or close concentration of ordinary beings
Meditative concentration with great purpose
Concentration on Great Bliss
Child-like concentration or close concentration of ordinary beings:
When the motivation is to achieve a happy feeling it creates the cause to be reborn as a god in the desire realm. People who meditate and achieve a clear feeling are reborn in the form realm. People who meditate on and achieve the no sensation and no feeling state are reborn in the formless realm.
By practicing calm-abiding meditation, we evolve through the 9 stages of concentration (1 Stage in the desire realm, 4 stages in the form realm, and 4 stages in the formless realm). We have experiences of bliss, clarity and non-thought, but we become attached to them when they appear. In Tantra practice, it is necessary to develop calm-abiding, to practice the meditations of development and completion stages. Then we can practice the special insight meditation, and then by combining both, we meditate on the nature of mind, without the duality of the perceiver- perceived.
Meditative concentration with great purpose:
Arya beings use the previous state of mind of child-like concentration to meditate on emptiness as the object to eliminate self-grasping and the selflessness of a person. Using emptiness as the antidote for grasping at the self is the cause for liberation.
Concentration on Great Bliss:
The thought of emptiness itself must be abandoned as well as the 2 thoughts coming with it: existence and non-existence of emptiness (Madhyamika view). This is the cause for enlightenment.
It is necessary to develop the first type of concentration before the other 2 types can arise.
These first five perfections are worldly. They are the collection of merit, the cause of the form body, and the method aspect of the path. It is achieved for other being’s benefit.
The last perfection is transcendental perfection and is the collection of wisdom. The cause of the wisdom body, the wisdom aspect of the path. People who have wealth and enjoyments in this life have practiced generosity in past lives. It’s not because they invest effort or time for that, because some poor people invest a lot of effort to become rich without result. Being miserly in a past life is the cause for being reborn poor or as a hungry ghost.
WISDOM – Transcendent wisdom has three aspects:
The wisdom that comes through hearing.
The wisdom that comes through reflection.
The wisdom that comes through meditation.
The two accumulations of merit and wisdom are joined together.
The accumulation of merit as the cause, together with the accumulation of wisdom as the condition is support for the realisation of the form body of the Buddha (Sambogakaya and Nirmanakaya) for the benefit of others while the accumulation of wisdom as the cause and the accumulation of merit as the condition are the support for the realisation of the truth body of the Buddha (Dharmakaya) for the benefit of oneself.
The union of the two accumulations is the union of appearance and emptiness and the union of the two bodies. Understanding (and remembering) emptiness is crucial to achieve liberation while practicing the accumulation of merit.
Thank you to take the time to read my concise understanding of the 6 perfections. I hope you found it useful.
The Fourth Noble Truth – The path to the cessation of suffering.
Whether I’m here or not, the absence of true phenomena is always here.
Without understanding suffering, it causes and the existence of a state which is free from this suffering, there will be no use in taking the path of cessation. The root of the origin of suffering is ignorance – Not knowing that things are not truly existent, and have always been empty of existence. This ignorance is impermanent and adventitious when we realise that there is no more suffering and no more reincarnation in samsara. In order to achieve this ultimate liberation, we need to realise the wisdom of selflessness of self and phenomena. This is not an easy path, but slowly through meditation practices on the nature of our mind, our delusions decrease.
In Maitraya’s Abisamayalnkara, Bodhicitta, the mind for enlightenment, is explained:
With the accumulation of merit as the cause and the accumulation of wisdom as the condition, one achieves the form body of a Buddha (Rupakaya) for the benefit of others. By the accumulation of wisdom as the cause and of merit as the condition, one achieves the Dharmakaya body for one’s own benefit.
THE TRUE PATH IS THE PRACTICE AND HAS FOUR ASPECTS:
Path: To counter the view that there is no possibility of liberation and stable happiness
Suitability: To counter the saying that wisdom realise selflessness is not the path
Achievement: To counter the view of those who believe that there is liberation and a path, but that achieving the peak of existence through stabilised meditation (worldly path of Brahma) is nirvana and liberation. It is actually possible to achieve real, complete liberation
Deliverance: To counter the idea that suffering is permanent. Suffering can be exhausted and there is no more need for rebirth in samsara. This is the ultimate freedom.
Taking refuge is entering the path that leads us to the state of enlightenment. There are five paths we can rely on to eliminate our suffering and achieve liberation. If one practices the unmistaken path of Dzogchen purely, it is possible to attain enlightenment in this lifetime. Dzogchen, also known as Atiyoga, is a tradition of teachings in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism aimed at discovering and continuing in the ultimate ground of existence. This primordial ground is said to have the qualities of purity, spontaneity and compassion. But whether you can achieve the result is up to you.
THE 5 PATHS TO ENLIGHTENMENT APPLIED BY BOTH HINAYANA AND MAHAYANA SCHOOLS:
The path of accumulation.
The path of preparation.
The path of seeing.
The path of meditation.
The path of no more learning.
The path of accumulation..
The path of accumulation: This is where we begin the accumulation of merit and wisdom, which become the causes for the achievement of the 2 bodies of the Buddha (the form body and the wisdom body). From the moment one aims for the state beyond samsara one enters the path of accumulation. For Mahayana practitioners, the Bodhicitta motivation has to be developed to enter the path: We should generate the mind to attain enlightenment for the sake of others. Although, achieving the 2 accumulations of merit and wisdom could take a long time because it depends on the strength of our practice, our capabilities, and on the methods used to complete them.
From the Mahayana point of view, the path of accumulation has 3 levels:
1st level: There are the 4 close placements of mindfulness on mind, body, feeling, and phenomena.
2nd level: One practices the perfect abandonment by generating virtues that don’t yet exist, increasing virtues that already exist, abandoning non-virtues that already exist, and not letting non- virtues that don’t exist arise.
3rd level: One practices the development of the 4 qualities without which further progress on the path willnot be possible:
Aspiration to practice Dharma.
Diligence (enthusiastic effort).
Recollection (not forgetting the practice),
Meditative concentration (one-pointedness of mind without distractions).
The path of preparation: We enter this path when we generate the desire to achieve liberation from samsara.
There are 4 levels:
Supreme qualities (or ultimate Dharma).
Heat and peak: One practices the 5 powers: faith, effort, mindfulness, meditative concentration, and wisdom.
Patience: One cultivates the 5 strengths:faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. When we reach the stage of patience we achieve a state of never re-entering the lower realms.
Supreme qualities (ultimate Dharma): We enter the path of seeing.
The path of seeing: The 1st moment of the path of seeing is when one directly perceives the emptiness of self and phenomena. One is no longer an ordinary being but becomes an Arya, a Noble being. Their main practices are the 7 limbs: pure mindfulness, discrimination, enthusiastic perseverance, joy, pliancy, single-minded concentration, and equanimity. There are 10 bhumis or grounds, and when one attains the extreme joyful’ bhumi, of realising emptiness, they have entered the 1st Bodhisattva ground. Where the subtle delusions are eliminated and one proceeds on the path of meditation.
The path of meditation: This path corresponds to the 2nd out of the 10 Bodhisattva grounds. After having gained the direct realization of emptiness, the Bodhisattva meditates on it to familiarise his/her mind with it and make it stronger.
The 10 bhumis or Bodhisattva grounds:
Very Joyous: in which one rejoices at realizing a partial aspect of the truth.
The Stainless: in which one is free from all defilement.
Light-Maker: in which one radiates the light of wisdom.
The Radiant Intellect: in which the radiant flame of wisdom burns away earthly desires.
The Difficult to Master: in which one surmounts the illusions of darkness or ignorance as the middle way.
The Manifest: in which supreme wisdom begins to manifest.
The Gone Afar: in which one rises above the states of the two vehicles.
The Immovable: in which one dwells firmly in the truth of the middle way and cannot be perturbed by anything.
The Good Intelligence: in which one preaches the Law freely and without restriction.
The Cloud of Doctrine: in which one benefits all sentient beings with the Law of dharma, just as a cloud sends down rain impartially on all things.
From the 1st to the 8th ground all the obstacles to delusion are removed. From this point, no one can create any more contaminated karma. On the 8th, 9th and 10th grounds, the obstacles to omniscience are removed.
The path of no more learning: According to the Mahayana school from the 4 close contemplations up to the Arya level, there are 37 paths to enlightenment, ordinary beings will only travel the first two. Once you have reached the 10th bhumi (all-encompassing ground), you have reached Buddhahood and the state of omniscience: All obscurations have been abandoned and you achieve the 2 bodies of Buddha and the completion of the 2 accumulations of merit and wisdom. The wisdom body or Dharmakaya refers to the state of emptiness, to the wisdom side of the practice. The form body (Rupakaya) is the method side of the path achieved through love and compassion.
THE FORM BODY IS DIVED INTO TWO:
The manifestation body or Nirmanakaya is an emanation of the Sambogakaya. An example of this is Buddha Sakyamuni.
The enjoyment body or the Sambogakaya, can be seen by a certain level of Bodhisattvas and not by ordinary beings.
The truth of the path is made of these 5 paths, and you move from the 1st to the 5th through the practice of the 6 perfections – Generosity, Morality, Patience, Vigor/diligence, Concentration, and Wisdom. As you perfect these perfections you move along the five paths. (I will touch on this in another article soon.)
In the 3rd turning of the wheel, the Buddha explained the path but it is condensed in the 4 Noble Truths, which are the foundations of the practice of Dharma. The Buddha has no power to take us by the hand, we can only be liberated from the suffering of cyclic existence if we engage on the path.
I show you the path, liberation depends on you.
To stop rebirth in the lower realms, it is necessary to practice virtue and abandon non-virtuous actions. Although this is a lower level of motivation, it is still good. But If you are truly fed up with samsara, have courage, and realise that the higher realms are not the ultimate goal to reach, you will make aspirations to free yourself from samsara. Beings with great courage will soon reach the path of accumulation and generate the Bodhicitta mind. They will understand that all beings have once been our parents, and to repay their kindness, they will wish to develop love and compassion for all sentient beings.
Because all beings like us, want happiness we develop love.
Because all beings want to be free from suffering, we develop compassion.
Because all being experience both happiness and suffering, we develop equanimity, without making any differentiation between close people and others.
But meditating on love and compassion is not enough, we need to become a Buddha in order to come back in samsara and be able to help all sentient beings. This is the Bodhisattva path.
In brief, the Buddha-Dharma path is a path of non-violence: anything that hurts others or doesn’t help them is not following the Buddhist practice.
Everything is this, there is nothing that is not this.
Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the Fourth Noble Truths. I hope you got something out of it and you find it a useful life navigating tool. Back soon with the six perfections.
The Third Noble Truth: The cessation of suffering.
Suffering ends when craving ends.
In our human daily life, it’s difficult for us to have a sense of renunciation for the small happiness and pleasures it brings, like Friday nights, birthdays, holidays, and parties. But this fleeting contaminated happiness arises from contaminated virtues, and it is still part of samsara and will keep us trapped in cyclic existence. So it’s helpful if we look at this human life as being part of the six realms because, at the time of death, all the experiences of suffering and happiness we have had will be like a dream, a memory. It is only our karma that is in our mind streams/ consciousness that we will take with us to our next life. This karma could cause us great difficulties or great freedom, depending on what we have accumulated or cultivated. Therefore we should cherish this precious human birth, which is the result of accumulated karma of perfect morality, and remember that our actions or karma will follow us like a shadow in this life and future lives. Buddha taught the cessation of suffering at its ultimate level, by looking at the causes of suffering and understanding how they work. He realised that we can achieve a stable and lasting cessation of suffering, which brings ultimate happiness/ liberation, which is the state where the suffering is completely removed.
Renunciation is the definitive emergence out of samsara.
Buddhist cosmology typically identifies six realms of rebirth and existence: gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts and hells. (refer to the 1st noble truth)
There are specific causes that will lead you into a rebirth in one of the lower realms or one of the higher realms. The latter is the result of having abandoned the 10 negative actions:
Mind – Greed/Covetousness, Harmful Intent, Wrong View (denial of cause and effect).
It is very difficult to practice this perfect morality, which is the cause to be reborn as a human or a god. But by contemplating on the suffering of the lower realms and the danger of falling into them, we can develop revulsion toward samsara. We need to realise that suffering comes from our delusions and the karma produced by these delusions is what leads us to non-virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind. Which are the cause of rebirth in one of the lower realms and thus the origin of suffering. In order to achieve liberation from suffering, we have to accumulate uncontaminated karma and for that we need a mind which is dissatisfied with samsara, seeking freedom from samsara and full Buddhahood. So it is better to spend this human life completing the accumulations of merit (good deeds) and objectless wisdom, the wisdom of emptiness, which realises the selflessness of persons and phenomena.
The reason true cessation or Nirvana/ Liberation/ Buddhahood, is possible is that every sentient being has Buddha-nature. This is the essence of clear light, which is inherent to the mind. Karma and delusions come and go, theyare obscurations like stains on a cloth or clouds in the sky. The stains are adventitious and as such can be abandoned.
As an example, clear water and murky water have the same nature – that of water. If the water is calm the mud will settle and can be separated from it. Our clear light mind (clear water) obscured by karma and delusions (mud) has “degenerated.” But because these obscurations are different entities (not of the same nature) than the mind, they can be separated from it. It is the negative emotions that are stirring up the mud that produces the murky water.
There are coarse, subtle, and very subtle delusions that are always subject to change, and come from grasping at self. By decreasing the grasping at the self, one decreases the delusions of ignorance, desire, and hatred, which lead us to negative actions that produce negative karma and further suffering. To be able to realise the selflessness of the root delusion (grasping at self), you need to meditate on the wisdom of realising selflessness. This is like in a dream, when by the practice of dream yoga a fearful dream loses its strength as soon as you recognise the reality of the situation (that I am dreaming). By decreasing the grasping, one decreases the delusions, and the negativeactions, and then karma and suffering will decrease as well.
The highest level of realization is one of the Bodhisattva, who although abiding in samsara, have realised selflessness and thus remain free from delusions. To sum it all up, there is selflessness (or emptiness) of phenomena and selflessness of the self. Their nature is not truly established, like the nature of a dream is not truly established. Although the dream appears, its existence is not truly established, it does not truly exist.
When one directly experiences emptiness of self and phenomena, one reaches full enlightenment of Buddhahood.
For ordinary beings the cessation of suffering arises when they achieve meditative stabilisation, resulting in rebirth in the formless realm (the peak of cyclic existence).This is the top of samsara where delusions are being purified.
THERE ARE 3 KINDS OF BEINGS ON THE PATH OF LEARNING:
Never returnees –Have cut off the first five chains that bind the ordinary mind, and are reborn in one of the five special worlds or “Pure Abodes” where they attain Nirvana.
Once returnees – Have cut off the first three chains with which the ordinary mind is bound, and significantly weakened the fourth and fifth. They will at most return to the realm of the senses. The lowest being human and the highest being the devas, wielding power over the creations of others, one more time.
Returnees – Have “opened the eye of the Dharma” and are guaranteed enlightenment after no more than seven successive rebirths, possibly fewer. They can also be sure not to be reborn in any of the lower realms (animal, preta, or hell), only in the upper realm ( human god, demi-god), and have good moral behavior.
All of them will attain the stage of foe destroyers (Araths). The cause of delusion has stopped so this stops them from being reborn in samsara, but they still have obstructions to omniscience i.e. to full Buddhahood.
WHAT ARE THE FIVE CHAINS:
View of a personal identity.
Attachment to rites and rituals.
Attachment to sensuality.
The liberation of the Hinayanists practitioners is a meditative absorption, a state of mind meditating on emptiness in which they can remain for many eons. Then through the blessings of the Buddha, they wake up and are led to the greater vehicle where they achieve Buddhahood. This full enlightened state is achieved by realising the selflessness (emptiness) of self and phenomena when obscurations of delusions and obscurations to omniscience have been removed.
The difference between the two liberations of the Hinayana and the Mahayana schools comes down to the different views of the practitioner. The Hinayana finale state focus is only on the selflessness of self without the love and compassion generated by Mahayana, bodhicitta mind of awakening. Which refers to the state of mind of a bodhisattva, who pursues Buddhahood in order to benefit others. When the Hinayana practitioners achieve the state of nirvana they will not be reborn in samsara because their five aggregates have been destroyed. They are called ‘Arhats’ and will abide in nirvana. But from the Mahayana point of view, this is not the ultimate liberation. The greater vehicle practitioners generate the Bodhicitta motivation and focus on both the selflessness of persons and phenomena. This doesn’t mean that the Hinayana don’t have love and compassion for beings, they rest in the meditative absorption while Mahayanists go back to samsara out of their desire to help others. Their returning to samsara doesn’t mean they return to a state of suffering like ours. They are free from experiencing suffering but through their love, compassion and motivation these Buddhas emanate back into samsara in any form to benefit beings. One Buddha can manifest in hundreds and thousands of emanations to benefit beings. They have achieved the state of ultimate liberation that is beyond the 2 extremes – that of samsara by their wisdom and that of nirvana by their compassion. Because they have realised the selflessness of self and phenomena, they are free from the obscurations that keep beings in samsara. And because of their great compassion and aspiration to help all sentient beings, they can’t stay in the peace of nirvana, where there is no way to help others.
TRUE CESSATION HAS 4 ASPECTS:
Cessation: Having found antidotes to the wrong views, it is possible to abandon obscurations.
Peace: One can abandon all contaminated delusions and achieve peace.
Complete satisfaction: The antidote to the belief that it is not possible to stop the all-pervasive suffering. It is possible to achieve ultimate happiness and never fall back into suffering.
Renunciation: The definitive emergence out of samsara.
To come back to the analogy between our suffering and a disease. Knowing that the disease can be stopped is the truth of cessation.
Looking for the cure is the truth of the path.
Understanding the true nature of one’s own mind.
Understanding the true nature of phenomena.
The most important is to know your own mind.
“Suffering comes from karma dependent on the mind” Chandrakirti
To abandon karma one needs to realise the grasping at self by understanding the nature of the mind. The wisdom of realising selflessness is the wisdom of realising the nature of the mind. By meditating on this wisdom we achieve true cessation.
Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the Third Noble Truth. I’ll be back soon, with the fourth and final Noble Truth – The path to the cessation of suffering.
To be free from suffering we have to abandon its causes.
There are two ways of looking at the true origin of suffering: One is that our karma brings us suffering. and the other is we act under the influence of our delusions and the result of these actions is an accumulation of karma that brings us suffering.
Because suffering is the effect of our karma we can’t stop it directly, but we can purify it. This is a monumental task, but Buddhists believe it can be attained through meditation and dedication to awakening. The aim is to purify your mind stream so that all moral and character defilements and defects (kleśas such as anger, ignorance, and lust) are wiped away and nirvana can be obtained. Imagine if we wanted to remove a tree, it’s not enough to cut its branches, we need to cut its roots. In Uttaratantra there is an analogy between suffering and disease: knowing the cause of suffering is like recognising what kind of disease we have (wind, bile, and phlegm) and taking the correct medicine. The disease of samsara is the poison of ignorance which brings about the additional poisons of desire and hatred. The medicine is understanding how things truly exist, and their actual nature.
Nagarjuna, who was credited with founding the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism, said:
“That in the first place one sees himself as having a true existence (due to ignorance). Second due to attachment to this view, the ‘I’ arises. Third the distinction between ‘I’ and other occurs. Finally, the aversion and attachment towards others follow.”
This is like the dream perceptions taken as reality, where the experienced ‘I’, our attachment, aversions, etc. seem truly existent while dreaming. Because of this mistaken view created by our mind in the dream, we experience difficulties and suffering. This is exactly the same in this life, from our ignorance springs attachment and aversions. These three poisons are the origins of all delusions which in turn become the causes for negative karma.
The Three Poisons are personified as a rooster or fowl (greed), a pig or boar (ignorance), and a snake (hatred,) chasing one another around and around. They symbolize the forces that keep people caught up in the samsaric round of existence. These delusions are the causes of all the negative actions we engage in classified in 10 non-virtues that will create negative karma.
Mind – Greed/Covetousness, Harmful Intent, Wrong View (denial of cause and effect).
These 10 non-virtues are the main cause for taking rebirth in a lower realm, where the suffering of suffering is the strongest. There is also positive karma arising by accumulating virtues that lead to rebirth in a higher realm where pleasure can be experienced. But this is still contaminated karma, uncontaminated karma comes from the wisdom realising emptiness.
One can accumulate positive karma even with a low external motivation, such as praying for a higher rebirth or a healthy and wealthy life. But this is short-term. You need to be fully dissatisfied with samsara and want to try and achieve liberation through mental stabilization. This will accumulate unfluctuating, or unwavering karma that will produce rebirth in the 3rd or 4th level of the formless realm. Focusing on equanimity also achieves unfluctuating karma which produces rebirth in the 4th level of the formless realm (peak of existence). These remain all contaminated karmas belonging to the worldly path and will result in rebirth in samsara.
Any actions based on the three poisons will eventually lead to suffering while any action not created under the influence of these poisons leads to ultimate happiness. This uncontaminated karma releases us from samsara (I’ll touch on that in the 4th noble truth.) Because we have obtained our human life, we can achieve happiness by paying attention to the law of karma – cause, and effect, and by taking responsibility for our actions.
Whatever is accumulated will eventually ripen.
A new body takes birth by the coming together of the subtle consciousness that passes from one life to the next and the father and mother drops (sperm and egg). Although, when we see a dead body we might doubt the actuality of reincarnation since we don’t see the subtle consciousness leaving the body or passing from life to life.
Past and present scientists assume that consciousness originates from the brain and so didn’t accept past and future lives. Because after the moment of clinical death the sense consciousness, the subtle consciousness and body parts stop. But the subtlest consciousness that can’t be seen by scientists or ordinary beings, leaves the body and goes through the intermediate state between death and birth. This state is called the bardo of reality (when the clear light nature of the mind appears.) and only the beings in the bardo can perceive it because their consciousness is also very subtle.
Mind and body are different entities that don’t have the same basis. The body is matter, made of flesh, bone, and so on, with the sensory object that comes out of the five elements (earth, water, fire, wind, and space). Mind or consciousness does not. A moment of consciousness is the result of the previous moment of consciousness, and past and future lives have the same reasoning. The form aggregate has its origin of the form aggregate of the father and mother, but the consciousness comes from the previous consciousness moment in the bardo, that comes from a previous moment of consciousness in the past life. The last moment of consciousness of your life is the cause of the first moment of consciousness in your next life. The law of cause and effect is applicable for the consciousness passing from life to life. At death, the consciousness leaves the body, but we can not see it, we only see the dead body, and not what is going on in the dead person’s consciousness. But what we can’t see is not necessarily non-existent. This is like when we see somebody ‘peacefully’ asleep: despite this peaceful appearance he might be experiencing a frightful dream. By analogy, even if we don’t remember our previous lives, we can still believe in reincarnation by using this analysis.
The truth of suffering comes from contaminated karma. There is personal karma, giving rise to personal situations, and common (collective) karma giving rise to things everybody agrees with such as the world around us. All that appears are the consequences of previous actions and the causes for future ones, possibly of more suffering.
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF KARMA:
Prarabdha karma is experienced through the present body, in which it has also been accumulated.
Sanchita karma is the sum of one’s past karmas – all actions, good and bad, from one’s past lives, follow through to the next life.
Agami karma is the result of current decisions and actions, that are experienced in a later life (time not defined).
Karma ripens depending on the power accumulated when intending the action: (listed according to decreasing strength).
One had the idea, the intention, and acts,
One has the intention but doesn’t act
One doesn’t have the intention but does act.
THERE ARE FOUR TYPES OF KARMIC RESULTS:
Fully ripen result: rebirth in a lower or upper realm.
Result similar to the action: for example, a thief will have the tendency to steal in his next life and a Tulku (reincarnation of a highly realised teacher) will have an innate tendency to meditate.
Experience similar to the action: if one kills, one will be killed in his next life.
Controlled result: the effect ripens on the next life’s environment. For example, if someone kills he will be reborn in an environment endangering his/her life.
WHERE IS OUR KARMA STORED?
It is stored as imprints in the mental continuum of our consciousness (in our awareness) and needs the right conditions to ripen. For example, somebody’s anger could result in experiencing a bad dream. Here, the condition is the dream and the ripened effect is a bad feeling experienced.
THERE ARE FOUR KINDS OF WRONG VIEWS ABOUT THE CAUSE OF SUFFERING:
Suffering has no cause.
All suffering comes from the same single cause.
Even if they accept that suffering has a cause, they don’t believe that cause is karma but that it is imposed by some god.
Others think there is permanent suffering but it isn’t experienced during ourpresent life.
To counter these views, the Buddha taught 16 antidotes.
FOR THE 4 WRONG VIEWS ON CAUSES, THERE ARE 4 ANTIDOTES:
Suffering has causes: delusions and karma.
Different types of suffering are generated by different types of causes (cause and effect should correspond, like seed and crop).
Strong production. For example among the 12 links, the first three (ignorance, craving, and grasping) create the strong production of suffering. This counters the view of an external god imposing suffering.
Condition. If something is permanent, unchangeable, it cannot depend on specific conditions. We can see that the conditions are needed for suffering to appear, thus the suffering can’t be of a permanent origin.
These are the true origins, the cause of suffering which have to be abandoned in order to be free from suffering.
Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the Second Noble Truth. I’ll be back with The Third Noble Truth -The cessation of suffering soon.
The First Noble Truth: The existence of suffering.
The root of suffering is attachment.
We all know what suffering is, be it unhappiness, heartbreak, pain, or stress, which arises in our everyday life. So why did the Buddha bother to explain it? Because he knew how to transform it! When we talk about the truth of suffering we are generally talking about the world, the environment, and the beings within it. However, when we talk about the feeling of suffering, the experience of suffering, we are talking about living beings. The external experience of the world is the result of the collective contaminated karma of beings. There is also karma as individual experience due to the five aggregates: form (the body), sensation (feelings), perceptions (the ability to see, hear or become aware of something through the senses), mental formations (thoughts), and consciousness (an awareness of things).
There are six realms of existence, three higher realms, and three lower realms. Beings in the lower realms and the world around them are conditioned by these five aggregates because they perceive them as being truly existent. These delusions are the contaminated causes of their existence.
WHAT ARE THE SIX REALMS?
The six realms are different forms of existence in which we can take rebirth. They can also be thought of as psychological states we experience in our current life in the human realm.
God realm: A blissful, ethereal state in which one is supremely contented but oblivious to the suffering of others.
Demigod realm: Fuelled by ego and aggression, jealous or warring gods (asuras) are always striving to rise in power and position.
Human realm: Passionate and perceptive, human beings experience many states of mind and have the most opportunity to free themselves from the cycle of death and rebirth (samsara).
Animal realm: A life of ignorant complacency and dullness, in which one doesn’t look beyond avoiding pain and seeking comfort.
Hungry ghost realm: Incalculably frustrated by desires they cannot fulfill, hungry ghosts (Pretas) are depicted with big bellies and tiny mouths.
Hell realm: A claustrophobic place of extreme hot or cold in which you can’t escape the torment of your own intense anger and hate.
Note that each of these realms has a resident Buddha, through which its inhabitants can hear the dharma—this may reflect the Mahayana Buddhist notion that the ultimate Buddha-nature pervades the entire universe.
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF SUFFERING:
The suffering of suffering (manifested suffering).
The suffering of change (dissatisfactory state caused by changes).
The all-pervasive suffering (fundamental dissatisfactory state).
The suffering of suffering.
When it is present, it is painful, when it is not it is pleasure.
This suffering is composed of obvious, manifest phenomena like getting what we don’t want and not getting what we want. This suffering brings anger, disappointment, and pain. It is the very manifest kind of suffering directly experienced by us all.
The hell-beings suffer mainly from extreme heat and cold.
The pretas (hungry ghosts) of thirst and hunger.
The animals of being used by other beings.
The humans of birth, disease, aging, and death.
The assures or demi-gods suffer as a result of fights and war.- The gods of dying, losing their capacities, and being reborn in lower realms.
The suffering of change.
All compounded phenomena (or contaminated phenomena) are impermanent.
We speak here of contaminated happiness or pleasures, that are of the nature of suffering, by grasping at happiness we meet with suffering. Uncontaminated happiness and pleasure are the ultimate happiness, because they will never transform into suffering. They are not of the same nature, pleasure and suffering are compounded phenomena, and are subject to change. So happiness, being a contaminated phenomenon will be the cause of suffering when it is over, passed, or changed, like youth or health. By recognising the pleasurable states as contaminated, we avoid getting attached to them and thus avoid the suffering of their disappearance. The Buddha taught about the recognition of contaminated happiness as the cause of suffering, in order to stop this attachment and the suffering that it induces.
The all-pervading suffering or fundamental dissatisfactory state.
.When there is no grasping and something unpleasant occurs, we do not suffer.
This is the basis of the two previous types of suffering. There is coarse impermanence, like when somebody dies, this coarse impermanence of being stops to be (like a broken vase). And subtle impermanence that happens moment by moment, change is subtle impermanence. Impermanence is the characteristic of samsara and because we are governed by this process we are under conditioned suffering. All that is produced is impermanent: it is arising, abiding, and ceasing. Everything changes moment by moment, when a second moment arises the first one is already past and the second moment is the new one. Each moment is newly produced, and these changes appear as a continuum, with the three times of past, present, and future. The first moment of today is the past of tomorrow. Because of these changes, each moment brings us closer to death. So the suffering of death is bought about by the all-pervasive suffering. This suffering with its causes and conditions are contaminated karma and delusions are always there, and are experienced by all beings in samsara. This is why it is called all-pervasive suffering. Impermanent aggregates are the conditions to produce future suffering like a seed is the condition to produce a sprout. Because we are changing moment by moment, at each moment we are creating more causes that produce suffering, and thus we remain in samsara. All beings in samsara experience at least one type of suffering that is why it is said that all samsara is of the nature of suffering. When we have the wish to be liberated from samsara, we can find ways to achieve this goal.
Each one of The Four Noble Truths is divided into four aspects, giving 16 aspects altogether.
The four characteristics of impermanence, suffering, emptiness, and selflessness are respective antidotes to the wrong perception of samsara as permanent, pleasant, having true existence, and having a self. According to the different schools, there are different understandings of these 4 antidotes. For example, Hinayana recognises emptiness of self but not phenomena.
There are four logical approaches: These first three ways of logic are also used by scientists, but the 4th one is characteristic of the Buddhist dialectic.
Observe the effect and look for the cause.
Look at the cause and check what will be the effect.
Investigate the actual existence of something, its nature.
Proving specific statements, like in debate: why a particular description is true (direct cognition, hidden phenomena, slightly hidden phenomena).
We have to know the first two truths of suffering and the origin of suffering in order to find a method to eliminate it at its source, at its root. If we are only aware of the suffering, but not of its causes we remain in that suffering.
Thank you for reading my concise understanding of the First Noble Truth- The existence of suffering. In my next article, I will explain the Second Noble Truth -The origin of suffering.
The word dharma comes from the Sanskrit root word Dhri, which means ‘to hold,’ ‘to maintain,’ or ‘to preserve.’ In the early Vedas and other ancient Hindu texts, dharma referred to the cosmic law that created the ordered universe from chaos. This is the natural universal law, whose observance enables humans to be contented, happy and to save themselves from degradation and suffering. The moral law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one’s life. Hindus consider dharma the very foundation of life. It means that which holds the people of this world and the whole creation, ‘law of being’ without which things cannot exist. In Buddhist literature, dharma often refers to Buddhist teachings and practices and encompasses everything that was taught by the Buddha.
The Manusmriti is also known as the Mānava-Dharmaśāstra or Laws of Manu, is believed to be the first ancient legal text and constitution among the many Dharmaśāstras of Hinduism. In ancient India, the sages often wrote their ideas on how society should run in the manuscripts. Manu prescribes 10 essential rules for the observance of dharma: Patience (dhriti), forgiveness (kshama), piety, or self-control (dama), honesty (asteya), sanctity (shauch), control of senses (indraiya-nigrah), reason (dhi), knowledge or learning (vidya), truthfulness (satya) and absence of anger (krodha). Manu further writes, “Non-violence, truth, non-coveting, purity of body and mind, control of senses are the essence of dharma”. Therefore dharmic laws govern not only the individual but all in society.
“Do not commit any unwholesome actions, accumulate virtuous deeds, tame and train your own mind.” Gautama Buddha.
After the Buddha’s enlightenment, out of compassion for all sentient beings, he gave his first dharma sermon in the deer park in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh to a sangha of 5 monks. This is preserved in the Pali sutta Pitaka (Samyutta Nika Ya 56.11) as the Dhammacakkappavattna sutta or in Sanskrit Dharmacakra Pravartana sutra, and means ‘The setting in motion of the wheel of Dharma.’ In this sermon/ teaching the Buddha gave the first presentation of The Four Noble Truths, which are the foundation teachings or primary conceptual framework of Buddhism. Everything he taught after that, ties back to These Four Noble Truths, which comprise the essence of Buddha’s teachings, though they leave much left unexplained. They spark awareness of suffering as the nature of existence, its causes, and how to transform it. They are understood as the realization which led to the enlightenment of the Buddha.
What is Sangha?
Sanga is a Sanskrit word used in many Indian languages, including Pali (saṅgha) meaning ‘association,’ ‘assembly,’ ‘company’ or ‘community,’ and is traditionally composed of four groups: monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, and together with the Buddha and the dharma is the threefold refuge, the basic faith of Buddhism.
What are The Four Noble Truths?
The truth of suffering – We live in the realm of rebirth called samsara (literally wandering). Buddha identified forms of the suffering of birth, aging, sickness, death, encountering the unpleasant, separation from the pleasant, not gaining what one desires and the five ‘aggregates’ that constitute the mind and body. (Matter, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and awareness)
The truth of the cause of suffering – Buddha associated suffering with craving or attachment. In other Buddhist texts, the causes of suffering are understood as stemming from negative actions (e.g. Killing, stealing, and lying) and the negative mental states that motivate negative actions (e.g. Desire, hatred, and ignorance). In those texts, the mental state of ignorance refers to an active misconception of the nature of things: seeing pleasure where there is pain, beauty where there is ugliness, permanence where there is impermanence, and self where there is no self.
The truth of the end of suffering – Commonly called Nibbana, or in Sanskrit Nivarna, and is used to refer to the extinction of desire, hatred, and ignorance and, ultimately, of suffering and rebirth. Literally, it means ‘blowing out’ or ‘becoming extinguished,’ as when a flame is blown out or a fire burns out.
The truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering – The action or path you can take to overcome suffering.
The Four Noble Truths, therefore, identify the unsatisfactory nature of existence, identify its cause, postulate a state in which suffering and its causes are absent, and set forth a path to that state. I will explain each one in more detail in my up and coming articles.
Two more important doctrines were also introduced at this sermon:
Impermanence: All phenomena are impermanent, what begins will also end. This is the reason life is unsatisfactory, but because everything is always changing liberation is possible.
Dependent origination: All phenomena, either things or beings, exist inter-dependently with other phenomena. All phenomena are caused to exist by conditions created by other phenomena. Things pass out of existence for the same reason.
Throughout this sermon, the Buddha placed great emphasis on direct insight. He didn’t want his listeners to simply believe what he said, rather, to follow the path and realise the truth for themselves.
“Your own self is your master; who else could be? With yourself well controlled, you gain a master very hard to find.”
Who wrote the Buddhist scriptures?
The Kanjur/Kangyur was produced by the Buddha’s disciples after his death in the later 13th and early 14th centuries CE. They contain scriptural texts such as Sutras and Tantras that represent the words of the Buddha. These contents of the canon were transmitted orally and first written down in Pali within the Theravada communities of Sri Lanka, probably during the 1st-century BCE. The Tanjur/Tengyur contains translations of treatises and commentaries that were written later by other scholars and disciples.
Each Buddhist sub-tradition has its own Tripitaka (3 baskets) for its monasteries, written by its sangha, each set consisting of 32 books, in three parts of teachings: Vinaya Pitaka (Basket of Discipline), Sutra Pitaka (Basket of Discourse), and Abhidhamma Piṭaka (Basket of Special [or Further] Doctrine).
The Vinaya – This is the division of the Buddhist canon containing the rules and procedures that govern the Buddhist monastic community, or Sangha. Three parallel Vinaya traditions remain in use by modern monastic communities: the Theravada, Mulasarvastivada, and Dharmaguptaka.
The Sutta Pitaka – This contains the Buddha’s teachings recorded mainly as sermons delivered in historical settings. It includes the Dhammapada or ‘the path or verses of truth’ and is the best known of all the Buddhist scriptures in the West.
The Abhidhamma – This contains detailed scholastic presentations of doctrinal material and refers to the scholastic method itself as well as the field of knowledge. They represent a development in a rationalistic direction of summaries or numerical lists. The topics dealt with include, ethics, psychology, and epistemology.
This is a concise article of what I understand about dharma, I hope you find it useful, I’ll be back soon with four articles on each truth.
Most people believe that Buddhism is a religion. It is true that it does have a big monastic sangha, (community) and rituals that give it that holy vibe, but I personally feel it’s more of a philosophy of our existence and the meaning of life. In this article, I am going to give a concise introduction to what I understand about it. Buddha was not a Buddhist but a prince named Siddhartha Gautama. Who was born into a very privileged life in a walled-off palace, in what is now northern India about twenty-five centuries ago. Wrapped up in a life of luxury, and comfort, where no one was sick, disabled, or old he had no idea of life beyond pleasure and the suffering outside his palace walls. Then one day at the age of 29, the prince asked his faithful charioteer, Channa, to drive him through his father’s great city. Channa tried to shield him from any unpleasant sights but was not able to do so. When the prince saw a sick person, an old man, and a corpse, which he had never seen before, it shook him to his core, as he realised that no riches would protect him from old age, sickness, and death. Continuing on, he then noticed a spiritual seeker, a mendicant ‘holy man’ sitting in peaceful mediation, and the urge to seek peace of mind arose deeply in him.
That night when everyone was asleep he renounced his worldly life, escaped his palace, and began a spiritual quest. He spent many years pursuing teachers and punishing his body with ascetic practices such as extreme, prolonged fasts. It was believed that punishing the body was the way to elevate the mind and that the door to wisdom was found at the edge of death. However, after six years of this, the prince felt only frustration. Eventually, he realized that the path to peace was through mental discipline, which could only be realised through meditation.
At Bodh Gaya, in the modern Indian state of Bihar, he sat in meditation beneath a ficus tree, ‘The Bodhi Tree’, until he rediscovered the ancient path of enlightenment. This is a state of freedom from ignorance, craving, and desire, which leads to a peaceful, calm, happy mind, as well as liberation from attachment to worldly desires and ending the endless cycles of rebirth and suffering. (Sounds good doesn’t it?)
From that time on, he was given the title ‘The Buddha’ or ‘The Awakened One’, which in Sanskrit means a person who has awakened to the true nature of reality. We all live in a fog of illusions created by mistaken perceptions and impurities – hate, greed, and ignorance. A Buddha is one who has become free from the fog. It is said that when a Buddha dies he or she is not reborn but passes into the peace of Nirvana, which is not a ‘heaven’ but a transformed state of existence or mind.
After his awakening, the Buddha was hesitant about teaching others the truth of suffering that he had realized. He thought that this truth was so profound and radical people wouldn’t believe or listen to him. However, out of compassion for all sentient beings and their suffering, he decided he must try. He gave his first sermon in modern-day Sarnath, near Benares on The Four Noble Truths (I will explain this in another article.) He then walked from village to village, attracting disciples along the way, and spending the rest of his life, around 45 years, teaching people and pilgrims the Buddha-Dharma of how to realize the nature of their minds to overcome suffering and attain enlightenment. He founded the original order of Buddhist monks and nuns, many of whom became great teachers also.
The Buddha died in Kushinagar, located in what is now the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India, in the early 5th century, about 483 BCE. But the truth of his Dharma is still alive today.
There are three main schools or Yana’s (In Sanskrit and Pali: Vehicle), methods of spiritual practice in Buddhism: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana which are centered on the idea of reaching enlightenment and finding Nirvana. Which is the ultimate goal for all Buddhists. However, these three schools of Buddhism believe in different paths to reach Nirvana and were taught by the Buddha in response to the various capacities of individuals.
Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism – The lesser vehicle.
This movement is strongest in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Burma (Myanmar). The name means ‘the doctrine of the elders’ – the elders being the senior Buddhist monks. This school of Buddhism believes that it has remained closest to the original teachings of the Buddha. Theravada Buddhists strive to become Arhats, one who has gained insight into the true nature of reality, achieved nirvana, and gain freedom from the cycles of worldly existence or samsara.
Mahayana Buddhism – The greater vehicle.
This movement arose within India around the beginning of the common era and by the 9th century became the dominant influence on the Buddhist cultures of Central and East Asia, which it remains today. This method was taught to those with greater capacity with an emphasis on actions of mind. Compassion is very important and Mahayana Buddhists after reaching enlightenment may choose to stay in the cycle of samsara/ existence, out of compassion to help others to achieve the same state.
Vajrayana Buddhism – The diamond or thunderbolt vehicle.
This movement developed in India around the 6th or 7th century CE. The word Vajra refers to the diamond-hard thunderbolt that was used as a weapon by the Hindu god of thunder and rain, Indra. Yana refers to the way or the spiritual vehicle, for achieving enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. This method was taught to those exceptional beings that were able to directly realise the nature of the mind. Vajrayana Buddhism proposes that it can provide a faster path towards enlightenment, thus reducing the need of experiencing several lifetimes before reaching enlightenment, and contain many more skillful means (Upaya). The importance of the theory of emptiness is central to the Tantric Buddhist view and practice. Emptiness doesn’t mean nothingness but that nothing is permanent and thus everything is permeated by an underlying condition of impermanence and instability. This means that nothing exists of its own accord but only through interdependence upon all other things.
So, that is my brief view of what I understand about Buddhism. I hope you find it useful.