DID THE BUDDHA TEACH ?
Eighty years before the commencement
of the Buddhist Era, a great man was born into the world. He was
the son of king Suddhodana and Queen Siri Mahã Mãyã
of the Sakka country which is now within the boundaries of Nepal.
His name was "Siddhattha". Thirtry - five years later,
Prince Siddhattha attained Supreme Enlightenment and thereafter
became known as the " Enlightened One" or the "Lord
Buddha" as he is called in Thai. He proclaimed his "Dhamma"* or Universal Truth to the people; and, thereafter, the Buddhist
religion (the Teachings of the Buddha) and the Buddhist community
of disciples came into existence. The community was composed of
bhikkhus or monks (including samaneras of male novices), bhikkhunis
or nuns (including samaneris or female novices), upasakas or male
lay followers and upsikas or female lay followers. At present, in
Thailand, we have only monks and novices, upasakas or Buddhist layment
and upasikas or Buddhist laywomen. A monk is a man who has been
* Also colled
"Dharma" from the Sanskrit.
Conducts himself in accordance with
the precepts laid down for a monk. A novice is a person under or
over 20 years of age who has been ordanined and conducts himself
in accordance with the precepts laid down for a novice. A Buddhist
layman or laywoman is one who has taken refuge in the Triple Gem,
i.e. the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, and observes the precepts
applicabe to laymen and laywomen. At present we call laymen and
laywomen, whether of age or under age, "Buddhamãmaka"
and "Buddhamãmika" and "Buddhamaãmika"
respectively, meaning "he or she who believes in the Buddha".
Buddhism has spread from its place of birth into the various countries
of the world.
focal point of worship in Buddhism is the Ti-Ratana (the Triple
Gem) namely the Buddha who by Himself discovered, realized and proclaimed
the Dhamma, Thereby establishing the Buddhist religion, the Dhamma
(Umiversal Truth) discovered, realized and proclaimed by the Buddha
and the Sangha or community of those who hear, follow and realize
the Buddha's Teachings. Some members of the Sangha become monks
and help in the dissemination of Buddhism and the perpetuation of
monkhood up to the present time. Everyone who is initiated into
the Buddhist religion, whether a layman, a laywaman or a monk, ought
To conform to a preliminary rule, namely one must Solemnly promise
to take refuge in and accept the Triple Gem as one's own refuge
or, in other words, to regard the buddha as one's father who gives
birth to one's Spiritual life. A buddhist may associate himself
or herself with people of other faiths and pay respect to objects
of reverence of other religions in an appropriate manner in the
same way as he or she may pay respect to the father, mother or elders
of other people while having at the same time his or her own father.
He will not lose his Buddhist religion as long as he believes in
the Triple Gem, just as he will remain the son of his own father
as long as his father instead, or just as he will remain a Thai
as long as he does not adopt another nationlity. Buddhism, therefore,
is not intolerant. Its followers may at will associate with people
of other nationalities and religions. Buddhism does not teach disrespectfulness
to any one. On the contrary, it declares that respect should be
paid to all those to whom respect is due and that the Dhamma should
not be withheld from the knowledge of others and kept only to oneself.
Whoever desires to study and practice the Dhamma may do so without
having to profess first the Buddhist faith. The Dhamma as proclaimed
by Buddhist religion, will help to demonstrate that it is "Truth"
that will be beneficial and bring happiness in the present life.
The essence of the entire Buddhist teachings lies in the Four Noble
Truth (Ariya-Sacca) is short for "truth of the Noble ones (or
of those who have attained a high degree of advancement)",
"truth attainable by the noble ones", "truth by which
one is ennobled". It should first be understood that it is
not simply truth that is agreeable to the world or to oneself, but
truth that is directly born of wisdom. The four Noble Truths are
Dukkha or suffering; which means birth, decay and death which are
the normal incidents of life. It also means sorrow, lamentation,
pain, grief and despair which are at times experienced by our body
and mind. To be separated from the pleasant, to be disappointed,
or to be in contact with the unpleasant are also suffering. In short
our body and mind are subject to suffering or, in other words, we
may say that our existence is bound up with suffering*.
Samudaya; which means the cause of suffering, which is desire. It
is a compelling urge of the mind, such as the longing to own what
we desire, to be what we desire to be, or to avoid those states
to which we feel aversion.
Nirodha; which means cessation of suffering, which connotes extinction
of desire or such longings of the mind.
which means the way to the cessation of suffering, which is the
Noble Eight fold Path, namely Right Understanding, Right Intention,
Right speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right
Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
people believe that Buddhism is pessimistic in outlook because its
teachings deal only with suffering and are of so high a standard
that ordinary people are unable to practise it because it advocates
extinction of desire, which is very difficult to accomplish. Since
such misunderstanding exists, clarification is necessary before
the noble Truths can be dealt with. The Buddhist religion
* Some present-day
Buddhists are of the opinion that the word "frustration"
is a good translation of Dukkha, as it carries a wider meaning than
neither wholly pessimistic nor wholly optimistic. It derives its
outlook from truth, i.e. truth which can only be understood through
a combination of insight and purity of mind.
According to the history of Buddhism,
the Buddha did not enunciate the Four Noble Truths to anyone lightly.
He would first feed the minds of his listeners with other points
of the Dhamma until they became pure enough to be receptive to higher
teaching. Then he would expose the Four Noble Truths to them. The
other points of the Dhamma that are constantly stressed particularly
to laymen, are Dãna or charity, Sãla or morality,
the natural and logical result of charity and morality which is
bliss (meaning happiness and prosperity even in this life), the
dangers of sensuality (anything that binds one to love and desire)
and the advantages to be derived from the renunciation of sensuality.
This method of gradual teaching adopted by the Buddha is comparable
to the present day method of education. We may say that the Four
Noble Truths were taught at university level; pupil at the lower
education levels were taught other points of the Dhamma suitable
to their understanding. The Buddha would never teach the Dhamma
beuond the comprehension of his listeners, for to have done so would
not have benefited anyone. For those who are in search of knowledge,
although they may not be able to comply with the Four Noble Truths,
study of this fundamental point of the Dhamma would certainly advance
their rational knowledge of truth and may make them consider how
much they can in practice comply with it in spite of the fact that
they are still unable to rid themselves of desire. Such consideration
is possible as in the following instances:-
Everyone wants to be happy and never wants to suffer. But why are
people still suffering and unable to do away with their own sufferings
themselves? Sometimes, the more they try to get rid of them, the
more they suffer. This is because they do not know what is the true
cause of suffering and what is the true cause of happiness. If they
knew, they would be successful. They would eliminate the cause of
suffering and create the cause of happiness. One of the important
obstacles to this success is one's own heart. Because we comply
too much with the dictates of our hearts, we have to suffer.
In saying that we comply with the dictates of our hearts, in fact,
we mean that we are gratifying desire or those compelling urges
of the heart. In worldly existence, it is not yet necessary to suppress
desire totally because desire is the driving force that brings progress
to the world and to ourselves. But desire must be under proper control
and some limit should be set for satisfying it. If desire could
be thus restricted, the probability of a happy life in this world
would be much greater. Those who start fires that burn themselves
and the world are invariable people who do not restrict the desires
of their hearts within proper bounds . If we wish to the best of
our ability. This is tantamount to observing the Noble Eightfold
Path in relation to the world, which is at the same time acting
in accordance with the Dhamma.
But human beings require some rest. Our bodies need rest and sleep.
Our minds also must be given time to be empty. If they are at work
all the time, we cannot sleep. Among those who take pleasure in
forms and sounds there are, for example, some who are fond of good
music; but, if they were compelled to listen to music too long,
the lovely music constantly sounding in their ears would become
a torment. They would run away from it and long for a return of
silence or tranquility. Our mind requires such tranquility for a
considerable time every day. This is rest for the mind or in other
word the extinction of desire which, in fact, amounts to elimination
of suffering. Therefore, if one really understands that elimination
of suffering is nothing but keeping the mind at rest and that rest
is a mental nourishment which is needed every day, then one will
begin to understand the meaning of Nirodha.
We should go on to realize that when our mind is restless it is
because of desire. The mind then causes us to act, speak and think
in consonance with its agitated state. When gratified, it may became
peaceful; but only momentarily, because action dictated by a restless
mind may very soon afterwards bring us intense pain and severe punishment
or make us conscience stricken and cause us to regret it for a very
long time. So let it be known that a person with his mind in such
a state is termed "slave of desire" . Then is there a
way to overcome desire or to master the desire in our own hearts?
Yes, there is the Noble Eight fold Path that leads to the extinction
of suffering, namely:
Sammãditthi or Rihgt Understanding, meaning an intellectual
grasp of the Four Noble Truths or of the true nature of existence
even in a simplified form as outlined in the preceding paragraphs.
Sammãsankappa or Right Intention, meaning intention to be
free from all bonds of Dukkha. Such intention should be free from
revenge, hatred, and harmfulness.
Sammãvãcã or Right Speech, meaning abstinence
from lying; from tale- bearing and vicious talk that cause discord;
from harsh language; and from vain, irresponsible and foolish talk.
Sammãkammanta or Right Action, meaning avoidance of killing
and torturing, of theft and misappropriation, and of adultery.
Sammããjiva or Right Livelihood, meaning Rejection
of wrong means of livelihood and living by right Means.
Sammãvãyãma or Right Effort, meaning effort
to avoid the aresing of evil; effort to overcome evil and demeritorious
states that have already arisen; effort to develop good and beneficial
states of mind, and effort to maintain them when they have arisen.
Sammãsati or Right Mindfulness, meaning dwelling in contemplation
of the true stations of the mind, for instance, the Satipahattna
or four Stations of Mindfulness which are the Body, Sensation, Mind
Sammãsamãdhi or Right Concentration, meaning the fixing
of the mind upon a single deed which we wish to perform along the
The Noble Eightfold Path is in reality
one complete Path with eight component parts which may by summed
up in thre stages of training (sikkhã) namely :
Sïla Sikkhã or Training
in Morality, which includes Right Speech, Right Action and Right
Livelihood. In general this means that whatever we say or do, we
must say or do in the right way. This also applies to our livelihood.
We must reject wrong means of livelihood and live by right ones.
If we do not yet have a means of livelihood, for instance if we
are students depending on the support of our benefactors, we must
spend the money given us properly and not squander in extravagantly.
We must learn to control ourselves and refrain from spending it
wrongly or improperly on ourselves and our friends.
Citta Sikkhã or Mental Training,
which includes Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
Generally speaking, the subject of the mind is very important. We
must study and train our minds. It is not really difficult to do
so if only we can get started. For instance we can begin developing
diligence, train ourselves in mindfulness and cultivate our memories
by focussing our minds on what is beneficial and by practicing concentration.
Such training can be applied to our study since it requires diligence
and proper use of our memory and powers of concentration.
Pannã sikkhã or Training
in Wisdom, which includes Right Understanding and Right Intention.
Generally speaking, man succeeds in his own development erally speaking,
man succeeds in his own development through insight by means of
which he makes right decisions. Right intention means right deliberation
and right understanding leads to right decisions. students in the
various fields of study all aim at acquiring wisdom in order to
enable them to deliberate rightly and arrive at correct decisions
in accordance with reason and reality. The training in wisdom should
include the knowledge of Ti-lakkhana or the Three Characteristics
of Existence and the practice of Brahma Vihãra or the Four
sublime States of Consciousness.
Ti-lakkhana or the Three Characteristics of Existence
sankhãra or phenomenal (compounded) things are subject to
Anicca or impermanence, Dukkha or suffering and Anattã or
non-self, which are the three characteristics of existence.
Anicca or impermanence means transience.
Everything That has come into existence will eventually have to
pass away. Everything exists only temporarily.
Dukkha or suffering consists of continual
change. All things are subject to incessant and continual decay.
Their owners consequently have to suffer just as much As the things
they possess. For instance, one falls ill When one's body is out
Anattã or non-self means void
of reality or self-existence. Anattã may be explained in
three stages as Follows:
Not to be too self-centered. Otherwise one would become selfish
and would be actuated only by self-interest and would not know oneself
in the light of truth. For instance, being too egoistic, one would
believe one is in the right or entitled to this or that but in truth
one's belief is erroneous.
We cannot give orders to anything, including our bodies and minds,
to remain unchanged according to our wish. For instance we could
not order our bodies to remain always young and handsome and our
minds always happy and alert.
One who has practiced and attained to the highest level of knowledge
will discover that all things including one's own body and mind
are devoid of self; or, as the Buddhist proverb puts it, "one
becomes non-existent to oneself". Some people with great insight
have no attachment to anything at all in the world. Nevertheless,
during their lifetimes, they are able to conduct themselves in the
right manner (without defilements) appropriate to the place and
circumstances in which they live.
or the four Sublime States of con-sciousness denote for qualities
of the heart which, when developed and magnified to their fullest,
lift man to the Highest level of being. These qualities are:
Mettã, which means all-embracing kindness or the desire to
make others happy, as opposed to hatred or the desire to make others
suffer. Mettã builds up generosity in one's character, giving
it firmness, freeing It from irritation and excitement, thus generating
only friendliness and on enmity nor desire to harm or cause suffering
to anyone, even to the smallest creatures, through hatred, anger
or even for fun.
which means compassion or desire to free those who suffer from their
sufferings, as opposed to the desire to be harmful. Karunã
also builds up generosity in one's character, making one desirous
to assist those who suffer. Karunã is one of the greatest
benefactions of the Buddha as well as of the monarch and of such
benefactors as our fathers and mothers.
which means sympathetic joy or rejoicing with, instead of feeling
envious of, those who are fortunate. Muditã builds up the
character in such a way that it Promotes only virtues and mutual
happiness and prosperity.
which means equanimity or composure of mind whenever necessary,
for instance, when one witnesses a person's misfortune, one's mind
remains composed. One does not rejoice because that person is one's
enemy nor grieve because that person is one's beloved. One should
see others without prejudice or preference but in the light of Kamma
or will-action. Everyone is subject to his own Kamma, heir to the
Effects of his own will-actions. Earnest contemplation of Kamma
or the law of Cause and Effect will lead to the suppression of egocentric
contemplation and result in the attainment of a state of equanimity.
Upekkhã builds up the habit of considering everything from
the point of view of right or wrong and ultimately leads to a sense
of right-doing in all things.
four qualities should be cultivated and Developed in our hearts
by generating mettã or loving-kindness To all beings in general
and to some in Particular. If this practice is repeated often often
, our minds Will become impregnated with them often, thus displacing
Hindrances such as hatred and anger. Pursued long Enough, it will
ultimately become a habit which will Bring with it only happiness.
is Supreme Happiness
is a Buddhist proverb which states that "Nibbãna is
Supreme Happiness". Nibbãna means elimination of desire,
not only worldly desire but also deire in the sphere of the Dhamma.
Action not dictated by greed is action leading to Nibbãna.
buddha was once asked what was meant by Saying that "Dhamma"
including "Nibbãna may be "realized by everyone
personally". The Buddha's reply was as follows. When one's
mind is subdued by greed, hatred and delusion, volition harmful
to oneself or others or to both oneself and others will arise, causing
physical and/or mental suffering. As soon as such volition arises,
unwholesome actions, be it of body, speech or mind, will inevitably
follow. One in such a state of mind will never be able to recognize,
in the light of truth, what is to his own or others' benefit, nor
to the benefit of both. However when greed, hatred and delusion
are eliminated, when there is no more volition harmful to oneself
or others, or to both, no more unwholesome bodily, verbal or mental
actions, when what is to one's own or others' benefit, or both,
is recognized in the light of truth and no more suffering of the
body nor even of the mind occurs, this is the meaning of "Dhamma"
leading to "Nibbãna". According to this explanation
of the Buddha, realization of the Dhamma means realization of one's
own mental states, good as well as bad. No matter in what state
the mind may find itself, one should realize it correctly in the
light of truth. This is what is called realization of the Dhamma.
It may be asked what benefit can be derived from such realization?
The answer is that it will bring peace of mind. When the mind is
poisoned with desire, hatred and delusion, it always flows out-ward.
If it is brought back to be examined by itself, the fire of desire,
hatred and delusion will ultimately subside and peace of mind will
ensue. This peace should be carefully discerned and securely retained.
This then is realization of peace of mind which is realization of
Nibbãna. The way to realize the Dhamma and attain Nibbãna
as taught by the Buddha is a natural one which can be practiced
by all From the simplest and lowest to the highest level.
Noble Truths, the Three Characteristics of Life and Nibbãna
are Sacca Dhamma, i.e. Universal or Absolute Truth as realized and
taught by the Buddha (as expounded in the First sermon and in the
Dhammaniyãma or Fixedness of the Dhamma). This may be termed
Truth in the light of the Dhamma, which may be attained through
Paññã or insight, and this is the Budhist way
to end all suffering. Buddhism simultaneously teaches the worldly
Dhamma or Lokasacca. This is worldly truth, a "relative reality"
or conventional truth which views the material universe as it really
is, i.e. an aggregate of composite factors existing in relation
to certain imperfect states of consciousness such as belief in the
existence of selfhood and all its belongings. But in the worldly
sense it has a conventional identity as examplified in the Buddha's
saying "A man is his own refuge" . In this connexion ,
the buddha said "As the assembled parts of a cart comprise
a cart, so the existence of khandhas or composite factors of being
comprise a being" . The worldly Dhamma includes conduct in
human society, for instance, the Six Directions (conduct towards
our fathers and mothers, our teachers, our religion, our wives and
children and our servants), as well as religion precepts and disciplinary
laws. Along with our practice of the Dhamma to liberate our minds
from suffering according to Absolute Truth, we should also practice
the Dhamma in the light of worldly or conventional truth. For example,
if one is a son, a daughter or a pupil, one should comply with the
Dhamma in a manner appropriate to one is a status and try to study
and use the Dhamma in thesolving of one's daily problems. He should
try everyday to apply the Dhamma in his study, work and other activities.
He who conducts himself in this manner will see for himself that
the Dhamma is truly of immeasurable benefit to his own existence.