Sunday, June 22, 2008

Truths In Buddism

Truths in Buddism : Major(R)Khalid Nasr
INTRODUCTION:The teachings on the four noble truths are among the very first of many teachings that Shakyamuni Buddha gave in Sarnath (near Benares or Varanasi in North-East India), seven weeks after attaining enlightenment in Bodhgaya. These teachings are known to contain the essence of the Buddhist path, regardless of the tradition one follows. 1. THIS IS SUFFERINGAccording to the Buddha, whatever life we lead, it has the nature of some aspect of suffering. Even if we consider ourselves happy for a while, this happiness is transitory by nature. This mean that at best, we can only find temporary happiness and pleasure in life. Suffering (or unsatisfactoriness) can be distinguished in three types: 1. Suffering of suffering: this refers to the most obvious aspects like pain, fear and mental distress. 2. Suffering of change: refers to the problems that change brings, like joy disappears, nothing stays, decay and death. 3. All-pervasive suffering: this is the most difficult to understand aspect, it refers to the fact that we always have the potential to suffer or can get into problematic situations. Even death is not a solution in Buddhist philosophy, as we will simply find ourselves being reborn in a different body, which will also experience problems. To illustrate this with the words of the 7th Dalai Lama (from 'Songs of spiritual change' translated by Glenn Mullin:"Hundreds of stupid flies gather on a piece of rotten meat and thinkig that they are enjoying a delicious feast.This image fits with the song of the myriads of foolish living beings who seek happiness in superficial pleasures;In countless ways they try,Yet I have never seen them satisfied." Note that "suffering" is an inadequate translation of the word "Dukkha", but it is the one most commonly found, lacking a better word in English. "Dukkha" means "intolerable", "unsustainable", "difficult to endure", and can also mean "imperfect", "unsatisfying", or "incapable of providing perfect happiness". Interestingly enough, some people actually translate it as "stress"."Suffering is a big word in Buddhist thought. It is a key term and it should be thoroughly understood. The Pali word is dukkha, and it does not just mean the agony of the body. It means that deep subtle sense of unsatisfactoriness which is a part of every mind moment and which results directly from the mental treadmill. The essence of life is suffering, said the Buddha. At first glance this seems exceedingly morbid and pessimistic. It even seems untrue. After all, there are plenty of times when we are happy. Aren't there. No, there are not. It just seems that way. Take any moment when you feel really fulfilled and examine it closely. Down under the joy, you will find that subtle, all-pervasive undercurrent of tension, that no matter how great this moment is, it is going to end. No matter how much you just gained, you are either going to lose some of it or spend the rest of your days guarding what you have got and scheming how to get more. And in the end, you are going to die. In the end, you lose everything. It is all transitory."Henepola Gunaratana, from 'Mindfulness in Plain English'. 2. THE CAUSES OF SUFFERING The reason that we experience suffering comes ultimately from our mind. According to Buddhism, our main mental problems or root delusions are: attachment, anger and ignorance. Because of these delusions, we engage in actions that cause problems to ourselves and others.
Life is not a bed of roses, as thorns are strewn on the path we humans are treading for centuries. Pain, misery, and torture have been created with a purpose-the purpose of purification before the finite human soul finds solace & satisfaction by submerging its identity into a much larger & infinite entity called Mahatma; thus finally attaining Nirvana. Nobody was more familiar with this fact than Gautum Siddarth S/O Shaddodhan, the ruler of Kapal Wastu (a small state in Himalaya). Gautum being the crown prince was provided with all the facilities & amenities available to Royalty, say about 5.000 years ago. He, however, felt that there was immeasurable pain all around, and he left his beautiful royal consort Yashodhra and an innocent babe thus abandoning all Wordly comforts in search of peace; which he ultimately attained after prolonged meditation and contemplation. Having discovered secrets of attaining Nirvana, Gautum (now Lord Buddha) started preaching & immediate converts to his creed were his wife & son, who turned Bhikshoos for preaching the cause.According to Gautum, two intersecting axis at right angle depicted human life & endeavourfor attaining Nirvana. Initially the human soul exists at -X & -Y axis which is full of painna where Maya is at its worst for getting the human soul entangled in the rigmarole of Sansara; where despite all efforts the lonely sould fails to discover peace, let alone Nirvana. It is here that the process of spiritual education & awakening starts by following the Eight ( principles laid down by Lord Buddha, disowning the negative attributes such as Greed, lasciviousness, bad intentions, anger, and repulsion towards other human beings caused due to existence of the same tendencies for which a particular human being is hated. The simple reason for this repulsion and/ or hatred is based on the principle 'like poles repel each other'. Forgiveness is a positive human & divine attribute, which humans acquire after their own purgation of negative feelings and purification of soul. After going through a painful process of this purification on the basis of the experience earned in a number of incarnations, the human sould finally attains NIRVANA. When his movement starts in the positive direction, he has already shed many of his negative attributes and he has already moved from -X & -Y axis to the vertical plane of X & Y axis.It is on this plane that saints & sages exist, their sayings become Universal Truth which provide guidelines for the future generations to come. It might incidentally be mentioned, that Lord Buddha himself passed through so many incarnations, not for the purification of his own soul, but to provide guidance to suffering humanity while existing as a Buddhisatva.It may also be remembered that Buddhism remained a strong religious and political force during the tenure of Ashok, the Great & Bindusara. It also played a significant role during the Kushan period and some of its relics still survive in the forms of stupas, inscriptions on the stone, and monasteries. Its influence still exists in China and Far East.

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