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The Teachings of Lord Buddha (Dhamma)

Prepared by Ven.Vodano Sophan

The Teaching of Lord Buddha
briefly describing about those core teachings


[01]. Buddhism: A Five Minutes Introduction
[02]. A snapshot of Buddhism: major difference from other religions
[03]. Theology in Buddhism: A study of 31 Heaven Realms in Buddhism
[04]. Eistein and Buddha
[05]. Buddhism: A General Aspects


[01]. Buddhism: A Five Minutes Introduction

• What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from 'budhi', 'to awaken'. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.

• Is Buddhism a Religion?

To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:

(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.

• How Can Buddhism Help Me?

Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness.

• Why is Buddhism Becoming Popular?

Buddhism is becoming popular in western countries for a number of reasons, The first good reason is Buddhism has answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes (for those who are interested) a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists around the world are now discovering to be both very advanced and effective.

• Who Was the Buddha?

Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found 'the middle path' and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism — called the Dhamma, or Truth — until his death at the age of 80.

• Was the Buddha a God?

He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

• Do Buddhists Worship Idols?

Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.

• Why are so Many Buddhist Countries Poor?

One of the Buddhist teachings is that wealth does not guarantee happiness and also wealth is impermanent. The people of every country suffer whether rich or poor, but those who understand Buddhist teachings can find true happiness.

• Are There Different Types of Buddhism?

There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching — the Dhamma or truth.

• Are Other Religions Wrong?

Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings of other religions but Buddhism goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like 'Christian', 'Moslem', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'; that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought.

• Is Buddhism Scientific?

Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four Noble truths (see below) can be tested and proven by anyone in fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching rather than accept his word as true. Buddhism depends more on understanding than faith.

• What did the Buddha Teach?

The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

• What is the First Noble Truth?

The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.

• What is the Second Noble Truth?

The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

• What is the Third Noble Truth?

The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.

• What is the Fourth Noble Truth?

The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.

• What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?

In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

• What are the 5 Precepts?

The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

• What is Karma?

Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.

• What is Wisdom?

Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, flexibility and intelligence.

• What is Compassion?

Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.

• How do I Become a Buddhist?

Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way.

Prepared by Brian White 1993, with thanks to Ven S. Dhammika.(http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm)


[02]. A Snapshot of Buddhism: major differences from other religions

1. There is no almighty God in Buddhism. There is no one to hand out rewards or punishments on a supposedly Judgement Day.

2. Buddhism is strictly not a religion in the context of being a faith and worship owing allegiance to a supernatural being.

3. No saviour concept in Buddhism. A Buddha is not a saviour who saves others by his personal salvation. Although a Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha as his incomparable guide who indicates the path of purity, he makes no servile surrender. A Buddhist does not think that he can gain purity merely by seeking refuge in the Buddha or by mere faith in Him. It is not within the power of a Buddha to wash away the impurities of others

4. A Buddha is not an incarnation of a god/God (as claimed by some Hindu followers). The relationship between a Buddha and his disciples and followers is that of a teacher and student.

5. The liberation of self is the responsibility of one's own self. Buddhism does not call for an unquestionable blind faith by all Buddhist followers. It places heavy emphasis on self-reliance, self discipline and individual striving.

6. Taking refuge in The Triple Gems i.e. the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha; does not mean self-surrender or total reliance on an external force or third party for help or salvation.

7. Dharma (the teachings in Buddhism) exists regardless whether there is a Buddha. Sakyamuni Buddha (as the historical Buddha) discovered and shared the teachings/ universal truths with all sentient beings. He is neither the creator of such teachings nor the prophet of an almighty God to transmit such teachings to others.

8. Especially emphasized in Mahayana Buddhism, all sentient beings have Buddha Nature/ Essence. One can become a Buddha (a supreme enlightened being) in due course if one practises diligently and attains purity of mind (ie absolutely no delusions or afflictions).

9. In Buddhism, the ultimate objective of followers/practitioners is enlightenment and/or liberation from Samsara; rather than to go to a Heaven (or a deva realm in the context of Buddhist cosmology).

10. Karma and Karma Force are cornerstones in Buddhist doctrines. They are expounded very thoroughly in Buddhism. Karma refers to an important metaphysical concept concerned with action and its consequences. This law of karma explains the problem of sufferings, the mystery of the so-called fate and predestination of some religions, and above all the apparent inequality of mankind.

11. Rebirth is another key doctrine in Buddhism and it goes hand in hand with karma. There is a subtle difference between rebirth and reincarnation as expounded in Hinduism. Buddhism rejects the theory of a transmigrating permanent soul, whether created by a god or emanating from a divine essence.

12. Maitri or Metta in Pali (Loving Kindness) and Karuna (Compassion) to all living beings including animals. Buddhism strictly forbids animal sacrifice for whatever reason. Vegetarianism is recommended but not compulsory.

13. The importance of Non-attachment. Buddhism goes beyond doing good and being good. One must not be attached to good deeds or the idea of doing good; otherwise it is just another form of craving.

14. In Buddhism, there is consideration for all sentient beings (versus human beings, as in other religions). Buddhists acknowledge/accept the existence of animals and beings in other realms in Samsara.

15. No holy war concept in Buddhism. Killing is breaking a key moral precept in Buddhism. One is strictly forbidden to kill another person in the name of religion, a religious leader or whatsoever religious pretext or worldly excuse.

16. Suffering is another cornerstone in Buddhism. It is the first of the Four Noble Truths. Sufferings are very well analysed and explained in Buddhism.

17. The idea of sin or original sin has no place in Buddhism. Also, sin should not be equated to suffering.

18. Buddhist teachings expound no beginning and no end to one's existence or life. There is virtually no recognition of a first cause — e.g. how does human existence first come about?

19. The Dharma provides a very detailed explanation of the doctrine of anatman {anatta in Pali} or soullessness , i.e. there is no soul entity (whether in one life of many lives).

20. The Buddha is omniscient but he is not omnipotent. He is capable of innumerable feats but there are three things he cannot do. Also, a Buddha does not claim to be a creator of lives or the Universe.

21. Prajna [Panna in Pali] or Transcendent Wisdom occupies a paramount position in Buddhist teachings. Sakyamuni Buddha expounded Prajna concepts for some 20 years of his ministry. One is taught to balance compassion with prajna i.e.emotion (faith) with rationale (right understanding / truth / logic).

22. The tradition and practice of meditation in Buddhism are relatively important and strong. While all religions teach some forms or variations of stabilising/single-pointedness meditation, only Buddhism emphazises Vipassana (Insight) meditation as a powerful tool to assist one in seeking liberation/enlightenment.

23. The doctrine of Sunyata or Emptiness is unique to Buddhism and its many aspects are well expounded in advanced Buddhist teachings. Briefly, this doctrine asserts the transcendental nature of Ultimate Reality. It declares the phenomenal world to be void of all limitations of particularization and that all concepts of dualism are abolished.

24. Conditioned Arising [Paticcasamuppada in Pali] or Dependent Origination is another key doctrine in Buddhism. This doctrine explains that all psychological and physical phenomena constituting individual existence are interdependent and mutually condition each other; this at the same time describes what entangles sentient beings in samsara.

25. The concept of Hell(s) in Buddhism is very different from that of other religions. It is not a place for eternal damnation as viewed by 'almighty creator' religions. In Buddhism, it is just one of the six realms in Samsara [i.e. the worst of three undesirable realms]. Also, there are virtually unlimited number of hells in the Buddhist cosmology as there are infinite number of Buddha worlds.

26. The Buddhist cosmology (or universe) is distinctly different from that of other religions which usually recognise only this solar system (Earth) as the centre of the Universe and the only planet with living beings. The Buddhist viewpoint of a Buddha world (also known as Three Thousand-Fold World System) is that of one billion solar systems. Besides, the Mahayana Buddhist doctrines expound that there are other contemporary Buddha worlds like Amitabha's Pure Land and Bhaisajyaguru's world system.

27. Samsara is a fundamental concept in Buddhism and it is simply the 'perpetual cycles of existence' or endless rounds of rebirth among the six realms of existence. This cyclical rebirth pattern will only end when a sentient being attains Nirvana, i.e. virtual exhaustion of karma, habitual traces, defilements and delusions. All other religions preach one heaven, one earth and one hell, but this perspective is very limited compared with Buddhist samsara where heaven is just one of the six realms of existence and it has 28 levels/planes.

[ Compiled by Tan Swee Eng] (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/snapshot01.htm)


[03]. Theology in Buddhism

Theology in Buddhism is different from other theistic religions. Though Buddhism is known as atheistic, but Heaven and Gods/God are described clearly by Lord Buddha. We can see many places and stories in Tripitaka mentioning about Heaven, Gods, God and Hell. So this time now I try to describe briefly about 31 realms of Heaven of Gods/God in Buddhism.

I. Planes of loss or woe or unhappy planes(Apaaya-bhuumi) = 4
1. Niraya: woeful state; hell
2. Tiricchaanayoni: animal kingdom
3. Pittivisaya: ghost-sphere
4. Asurakaaya: host of demons

II. Planes of sensuous bliss (Kaamasugati-bhuumi) = 7
5. Manussa: human realm
6. Caatumahaaraajakaa: realm of the Four Great Kings
7. Taavatimsaa: realm of the Thirty-three Gods
8. Yaamaa: realm of the Yaama gods
9. Tusitaa: realm of satisfied gods
10 . Nimmaanaratii: realm of the gods who rejoice in their own creation
11. Paranimmitavasavattii: realm of gods who lord over the creation of others

* The above 11 realms are grouped in sensuous planes(Kaamaavacarabhuumi)

III. form-planes(Ruupaavacara-bhuumi) = 16
* first Jhaana planes
12. Brahmapaarisajjaa: realm of great Brahmas'attendants
13. Brahmapurohitaa: realm of great Brahmas'ministers
14. Mahaabrahmaa: realm of great Brahmas
* Second-Jhaana planes
15. Parittaabhaa: realm of Brahmas with limited lustre
16. Appamaannaabhaa: realm of Brahmas with infinite lustre
17. Aabhassaraa: realm of Brahmas with radiant lustre
* Third-Jhaana planes
18. Parittasubhaa: realm of Brahmas with limited aura
19. Appamaannasubhaa: realm of Brahmas with infinite aura
20. Subhakinnhaa: realm of Brahmas with steady aura
* Fourth-Jhaana planes
21. Vehapphalaa: realm of Brahmas with abundant rward
22. Asanniisattaa: realm of non-percipient beings
* *Suddhaavaasa: pure abode= 5
23. Avihaa: realm of Brahmas who do not fall from prosperity
24. Atappaa: realm of Brahmas who are serene
25. Sudassaa: realm of Brahmas who are beautiful
26. Sudassii: realm of Brahmas who are clear-sighted
27. Akanitthaa: realm of the highest or supreme Brahmas

IV. Formless planes(Aruupaavacara-bhuumi) = 4
28. Aakaanancaayatana-bhuumi: realm of infinite space
29. Vinnaanacaayatana-bhuumi: realm of infinite consciousness
30. Aakincannaayatana-bhuumi: realm of nothingness
31. Nevasanaasannaayatana-bhuumi: realm of neither perception nor non-perception

Puthujjana(ordinary man), Sotapanna(Stream-Enterer or Stream-Winner) and Sakadaagaamii(a Once-Returner) will be born in Suddhaavaasa(Pure Abode). On the other hand, Preah Ariya(a Noble One) will not be born in Asanni-bhuumi(Realm of non-percepience) and Apaaya-bhuumi(woeful planes). But in every plane beside these, noble one or not noble one could be born there.

Compiled by Ven.Vodano Sophan(May 8, 2548)


[04]. Einstein and Buddha

According to general relativity, the concept of space detached from any physical content does not exist. –Einstein
If there is only empty space, with no suns nor planets in it, then space loses its substantiality. –Buddha

Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. –Einstein
All such notions as causation, succession, atoms, primary elements...are all figments of the imagination and manifestations of the mind. –Buddha

Time and again the passion for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world rationally by pure thought without any empirical foundationsóin short, by metaphysics. –Einstein
By becoming attached to names and forms, not realising that they have no more basis than the activities of the mind itself, error risesÖand the way to emancipation is blocked. -Buddha

In our thinking...we attribute to this concept of the bodily object a significance, which is to high degree independent of the sense impression which originally gives rise to it. This is what we mean when we attribute to the bodily object "a real existence." ...By means of such concepts and mental relations between them, we are able to orient ourselves in the labyrinth of sense impressions. These notions and relations...appear to us as stronger and more unalterable than the individual sense experience itself, the character of which as anything other than the result of an illusion or hallucination is never completely guaranteed. –Einstein
I teach that the multitudinousness of objects have no reality in themselves but are only seen of the mind and, therefore, are of the nature of maya and a dream. ...It is true that in one sense they are seen and discriminated by the senses as individualized objects; but in another sense, because of the absence of any characteristic marks of self-nature, they are not seen but are only imagined. In one sense they are graspable, but in another sense, they are not graspable. -Buddha

The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science. Since, however, sense perception only gives information of this external world or of "physical reality" indirectly, we can only grasp the latter by speculative means. It follows from this that our notions of physical reality can never be final. We must always be ready to change these notionsóthat is to say, the axiomatic basis of physicsóin order to do justice to perceived facts in the most perfect way logically. -Einstein
While the Tathagata, in his teaching, constantly makes use of conceptions and ideas about them, disciples should keep in mind the unreality of all such conceptions and ideas. They should recall that the Tathagata, in making use of them in explaining the Dharma always uses them in the semblance of a raft that is of use only to cross a river. As the raft is of no further use after the river is crossed, it should be discarded. So these arbitrary conceptions of things and about things should be wholly given up as one attains enlightenment. -Buddha

By Thomas J. McFarlane


[05]. General Aspects on Buddhism

1. Universal Truth
Universality Truth is universal and unchanging; and thus, depends upon no one revelation or institution. The facts discovered by the Buddha are available for all to discover, and in this sense a man can be a Buddhist and neither never heard about the religion of Buddhism nor the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha is quoted as following: “It is certainly hard to change one’s set opinions, but a man should let himself freely test all philosophical systems, adopting and rejecting them as he sees fit. But the man who is wise no longer concerns himself with this or that system (of philosophy), he neither prides nor deceives himself. He goes along his independent way.” (Sutta-Nipata 785-786)

2. Unsupernatural:
To one who accepts the teachings of the Buddha, rituals, offerings, prayer wheels and similar attempts to bring forth supernatural help are of virtually no value. The only value of prayer and homage to Buddha images is the humble and earnest state of mind which may be produced, for such a state of mind has great karmic value.

In the final stages of the path to Nibbana(Nirvana) one must rely solely on one’s own efforts and not seek the aid of gods or men. The Buddha’s final words were: “Decay is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with heedfulness.” (Digha-Nikaya 11,156)

On an earlier occasion, he spoke: “The man enmeshed in delusion will never be purified through the mere study of holy books, or sacrifices to gods, or through fasts, or sleeping on the ground, or difficult and strenuous vigils, or the repitition of prayers. Neither gifts to priests, nor self-castigation, nor performance of rites and ceremonies can work purification in him who is filled with craving. It is not through the partaking of meat or fish that a man becomes impure, but through drunkenness, obstinacy, bigotry, deceit, envy, self-exaltation, disparagement of others and evil intentions--through these a man becomes impure.” (Fundamentals of Buddhism)

3. World View
About Universe
The Universe (and all that is in it ) is ordered by impartial, unchanging laws. These laws have been operating throughout all time into the infinite past and will continue to operate into the infinite future. There was no first beginning, and there was no final ending. The Buddha further said that there are at least a billion other world-sun systems like our own, and as these grow old and die out new solar systems evolve and come into being. Yet unlike the laws of physics and chemistry, the course of events is not a blind matter of chance. Buddhism regards the Universe as a harmoniously functioning whole with a unity behind its diversity. Man was created by the laws of nature; the world was not created for man.

4. Worldliness and Other Worldliness
The world as such is not regarded as evil, but rather it is craving for the gross and subtle pleasures of material existence that Buddhism seeks to destroy. Thus when speaking of liberation, the Buddha meant freeing of the mind from enslaving passions and prejudices; not adherence for material existence per se. He also denounced self-torture. Consequently, the Buddha’s first sermon taught the Middle Way, which is avoiding the extremes of excessive sensual indulgence and asceticism.

Buddhist monks undertake to train themselves to give up all but a few necessary possessions in order that they may not be deceived by unconsciously clinging to worldly possessions. And since most of the Buddha’s teachings were directed to monks and nuns, the majority of recorded dialogues are concerned with the ideals of non-materialism and non-attachment. However, the Buddha recognized the needs of the lay people and gave them much advice also. He once said:

“The wise and virtuous shine like blazing fire. He who acquires wealth in harmless ways is like a bee that gathers honey.
Riches mount up for him like an anthill’s rapid growth.
With wealth acquired in this way, a layman fit for household life in portions four divides his wealth. Thus will he win friendship.
One portion for his wants he uses (including charity).
Two portions he spends on his business.
A fourth he keeps for times of need.”
(Digha-Nikaya lll,188)

5. Epistemology
To the Buddhist knowledge should be obtained through one’s own reasoning and experience. This is the same method as employed by modern science, except that Buddhism expands this to a study of one’s own mind, as well as a study of the world of sight and sound. Faith, scriptures, mysticism and revelations are not considered to be infallible roads to truth.

On one occasion the Enlightened One came to the village of Kesaputta where lived certain tribesmen known as the Kalamas. They knew the Buddha to be a renowned spiritual teacher and addressed him as follows:
“There are some monks and Brahmins, Venerable Sir, who visit Kessaputta. They illustrate and illuminate only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile and pull to pieces. Venerable Sir, there is doubt, there is uncertainty, in us concerning them. Which of these reverend monks and Brahmins spoke the truth and which falsehood?”
To this the Buddha replied:
“It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain. Uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon an authoritative tradition; nor upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon rumour; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon speculative metaphysical theories, reasons and arguments; nor upon a point of view; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon accepting a statement as true because it agrees with a theory that one is already convinced of; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration ‘Our teacher says thus and so’. Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill’, abandon them.” (Anguttara-Nikaya l,189)

6. Ethics
Buddhist ethics has two levels, a positive and a negative. Negatively it advocates the eradication of all greed, hatred and egotism from one’s mind. Positively, it advocates the cultivation and development of metta, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity as inherent aspects of one’s personality. “Metta” is a Pali word and is usually translated into English as “love”. However, in Pali there are several words, each with different shades of meaning, all of which can be translated as “ love”. If we simultaneously think of the words “friendship”, “love” and “kindness”, we will have some understanding of the true meaning of “metta”.

In the Metta Sutta the Buddha is quoted:
“Just as a mother might protect from harm the son that was her only child, let all-embracing thoughts of love for every living thing be thine. An all-embracing love for all the universe, in all its heights and depth and breadth. An unstinted love, not marred by enmity.” (Sutta-Nip.149)

The Buddha was the first man in history known to have advocated the returning of good for evil:
“Hatred ceases not by hatred in this world. Through love it comes to an end. This is an ancient law.” (Dhammapada 5)

“Overcome anger by love, evil by good. Conquer the greedy with liberality and with truth the speaker of falsehoods.” (Dhammapada 223)

If one has truly removed all selfishness and developed love and compassion, there is no need for strict moral codes or other artificial rules of conduct. For such a person would never be inclined to do wrong, and thus his virtue would be natural and spontaneous rather than arbitrary and premeditated. Said the Buddha:
“Some there are who having taken vows and observing them think morality alone to be the highest and say that purity is achieved by restraint. They say ‘Here then let’s train; purity lies herein’. “If such a one has fallen away from some rule or ritual, having failed to do a certain performance, he is agitated, yearning all the time for purification; just as one who has lost his caravan while away from home.
“All rule and ritual left behind, all kamma blamable and praiseworthy, not concerning himself with cleansing nor with stains may one freely fare.”

However, rules of ethics are of great value and importance to the majority of mankind. And thus, when speaking to lay people, the Enlightened One gave much practical advice, such as in the Sigalovada Sutta:
I. “In five ways, young householder, a child should minister to his parents:
1. Once supported by them I shall now be their support.
2. I shall perform duties incumbent on them.
3. I shall keep up the lineage and tradition of my family.
4. I shall make myself worty of my heritage.
5. Furthermore, I shall offer alms in honour of my departed relatives.”
II. “In five ways, young householder, parents thus ministered to their children show their compassion: .
1. They restrain them from evil.
2. They persuade them to do good
3. They train them in a profession.
4. They contract a suitable marriage for them.
5. In due time, they hand over their inheritance to them.”
III. “In five ways should a master minister to his servants and employees:
1. By assigning them work according to their strength.
2. By supplying them with food and wages.
3. By tending them in sickness.
4. By sharing with them unusual delicacies.
5. By granting them leave in times.”
IV . “Thus, ministered to as the zenith, the clergy show their compassion to the lay man in six ways:
1. They restrain him from evil.
2. They persuade him to do good.
3. They love him with kindly thoughts.
4. They make him hear what he has not heard.
5. They correct and purify what he has heard.
6. They reveal the path to a heavenly state.”

Action is precipitated by thought, and for this reason evil exists first in the mind. Consequently, Buddhism regards hatred, egotism and immoral intent as wrong as the actions which they may or may not produce. In fact, Buddhist ethics are not founded upon obedience to a set of commandments, but rather they are based upon a true insight into the hazards of greed, hatred and delusion and the inherent values of love, equanimity and compassion. Consequently the words “good” and “evil” in Buddhism do not carry the same connotations of shame and guilt as in the West. In fact the Buddha often avoided the words “good” and “evil” and instead used “wholesome” and “unwholesome” or “desirable” and “undesirable”.

7. Society
Buddhists are taught not to depend on the arbitrary customs, traditions and mores of society to find truth, happiness and well-being; nor should they look to society to find a code of ethics. This, however, does not imply a total apathy toward social organizations. The Buddha not only taught against the inequalities of the caste system, but also was the first person in history known to have advocated the abolition of slavery. For over 2,000 years, Buddhists have built hospitals and resthouses, while Buddhist rulers have, in the name of their religion, drained swamps, built wells and carried out other measures in the interest of public welfare.
On the subject of illness, the Buddha said:
“Whosoever, brethren, would wait upon me, whosoever, brethren, would honour me, whosoever, brethren, would follow my advice, he should wait upon the sick.” (Vinaya Mahavagga)

And regarding the caste system he taught:

“Not by birth is one an outcast.
Not by birth is one a noble.
But by deeds is one an outcast.
And by deeds is one a noble.”
(Sutta-Nip. 136)

8. Psychology
Since all finite creations must perish, since all which is born must die, no-where in man is there to be found an immortal soul. Instead, Buddhism regards the human personality as a functioning aggregate of sensations, memories, perceptions, mental formation all manifesting on a background of consciousness. The only thing which is regarded as immortal is that which is never born, is not finite and not personal; this is Nibbana.

9. Death
If there is no soul, does Buddhism then teach that death is the termination of all conscious existences? This question cannot be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”. It is not strictly true that Buddhism teaches reincarnation, nor does is advocate an absolute annihilation. Rather, it takes a position some place between these two extremes. The Buddha was born a Hindu, and in the Hindu religion each conscious being is regarded as having a soul. Each soul is a manifestation of the great Universal Soul which the Hindus call Brahma or God. Brahma is the Absolute, the basic of all creation, and the ultimate goal of the finite soul is to return and unite with Brahma. This union with Brahma is the Hindu conception of Nibbana and is achieved after many reincarnations. With each new life the soul learns new lessons; sins, suffers from its sins, and goes to the next life somewhat better than before. At last it is purified of all selfishness, attains Nibbana, and is no longer reborn.

In reply to the question, “What will happen to me when I die?” The Buddha might answer, “What are you?” For the word “I” or “self” includes not one thing but many. Death, of course, means the cessation of all bodily functioning. What then becomes of the mind? With our modern knowledge of neurophysiology, there can be little question that most, if not all, of the things we call mental activities are directly dependent upon the electrochemical workings of the brain. When the brain ceases to function, sensations, perceptions, thoughts and consciousness come to an end.

Buddhism teaches that mind without matter is an impossibility; a body is a prerequisite for consciousness. However, it also teaches that a body alone is not enough. There is a nonphysical aspect of the human psyche which must be present before consciousness can occur. This nonphysical aspect of the mind is referred to as the bhavanga-sota or subconscious life-stream. It is said to survive the death of the body and then manifest in a new body.
The nature of this bhavanga-sota is peculiar to each individual and is the percipitate of his former actions and experiences. Each person has his or her own inherent blend of conscious and subconscious tendencies; e.g., pride, an interest in music, an aptitude for art, a love of nature, feelings of insecurity, and so on. Each of these carries with it its own kamma. Selfish tendencies carry with them the kamma of selfishness which is suffering (i.e., dukkha) in proportion to the amount of wrong that has been previously committed. The condition in which each man finds himself is the result of his own former thoughts and deeds. His present behavior is what will determine his future state. Thus, each man makes his own destiny.

The bhavanga-sota is, like all other finite creations, constantly in an evolving, changing state, acquiring new attributes while abandoning or modifying old ones. Such changes are identical with the changes in one’s personality. As most people go through life they are influenced by their families, societies and other features of their environments to the degree that they become products of their environments. As a result, the development of their personalities is largely a matter of chance. The purpose of Buddhism is to guide and direct the development of one’s personality so that such development is no longer a matter of chance. Nibbana is the ultimate goal in this process of maturation, and with Nibbana rebirth comes to an end.
“What is it, Venerable Sir, that will be reborn?”
“A psycho-physical combination, O King, is the answer.”
But how, Venerable Sir? Is it the same psycho-physical combination as this present one?”
“No, O King. But the present psycho-physical combination produces kammically wholesome and unwholesome volitional activities, and through such Kamma a new psycho-physical combination will be reborn.”
(Milinda-Panha 46)

A man’s conscious memories, his present self-concept, his views and attitudes toward his own existence, his specific prejudices and his beliefs and opinions will perish with the body. Consequently, one could never say that the same person will live again.

10. Knowledge and Intelligence

On this matter, the Buddha said: “In a man can become pure simply by changing his views, if by mere knowledge he can be freed of sorrow, then something other than the Noble Eightfold Path makes pure and puts an end to sorrow. But this cannot be.” (Sutta-Nipata 789)

The understanding of only a few important facts is necessary for salvation. One can go on indefinitely acquiring facts and yet never achieve the understanding which leads to Nibbana. Thus, knowledge of oneself is more important than knowledge of the world. Said the Buddha:
“It is not from views, from tradition, from mere knowledge, nor from virtue and achievement, that purity is attained, Magandiya. Nor is it from being without views, without tradition, without knowledge, without virtue or achievement that purity is attained.” (Sutta-Nipata 839)

Intelligence, like knowledge, is regarded as a valuable tool, a means to an end but not an end in itself. In the final analysis reality transcends normal human understanding, and thus one of the highest achievements of the intellect is seen when it points beyond itself to reality.

11. Discipline
Said the Buddha: “Though he may conquer a thousand thousand men in battle, greater still is the man who conquers himself.”
Discipline is essential. Only through persistent self-discipline, said the Buddha, can one overcome passions and sloth and eventually achieve Nibbana. Yet, though a man must purify himself, he cannot take himself to Nibbana; for Nibbana is beyond the realm of finite human endeavour, and becomes manifest of its own when one has finally broken the bonds of attachment. Again the Buddha is quoted:
“He who does not rouse himself when it is time to rise, who, though young and strong, is full of sloth, whose will and thought are weak, that lazy idle man never finds the way to wisdom.” (Dpd. 280).

12. As an Institution
Buddhism regards itself as a group of important truths, which, when properly understood, can be of great value to almost any human being. It is important that these teachings become institutionalized and an indigenous part of a society, for there is no other way that they can reach all levels of humanity and also last for a period of many generations. In addition, if such a teaching does not exist, intolerant ideologies, superstitions and erroneous theologies will necessarily arise to satisfy the spiritual needs of a given culture. At one time the Enlightened One spoke:
“Released am I, monks, from ties both human and divine. You also are delivered from fetters human and divine. Wander for the welfare and happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the gain, for the welfare and happiness of gods and men. Proclaim the Teaching excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle and excellent in the end, in the spirit and in the letter. Proclaim ye the life of consummate purity.” (Vinaya Mahav.)

On the other hand, once a man becomes concerned with Buddhism as an institution and works for this as his primary cause, he has lost sight of the fact that truth is universal. The word “Buddhism” is only a symbol which represents certain beliefs and concepts. These truths could be equally as well represented by some other word, institution, or symbol. Once we become prejudiced towards Buddhism, we cease to be Buddhists in the true sense of the word. Each Buddhist has the opportunity to give his knowledge to others. It is not really necessary that he gives it to them under the name of Buddhism, but to do so helps to insure an embodiment of this knowledge and thus advances the opportunity for it to be acquired by others. In Digha - Nikaya I the Buddha said: “Monks, if others were to speak against me, or against the Teaching, or against our monastic order, you need not on that account entertain thoughts of ill-will and spite, and be dissatisfied with them. If you do harbour hatred that will not only impede your mental development, but you will also fail to judge how far that speech is right or wrong. But also, monks, if others speak highly of me , highly of the Teaching and our monastic order, you need not on that account be elated; for that too will mar your inner development. You should acknowledge what is right and show the truth of what has been said.”

To its credit, Buddhism can claim that in the 2,547 years of its history, it has not burned one witch, fought one holy war nor destroyed heretics.
However, no religion can exist for long among millions of people without undergoing some change and corruption. Prayer wheels, the worship of images and the offerings to the Buddha are all examples of this. Also, later Buddhists, especially in China and Japan, created many legendary stories about the Buddha and his teachings. Nibbana was replaced by a glorious heaven where the Lord Buddha sits on His throne, and faith became more important than understanding.

The most fundamental and important aspect of human existence is not one’s beliefs, nor social status, nor intellect, nor material possessions; rather it is motives, emotions, feelings. Almost by definition it is feelings, and feelings alone, which give purpose, meaning, value and significance to our every action and encounter. Without feeling or motives there would be no incentive for one to think, speak or act; life would be chronic apathy. Yet some feelings are more rewarding, wholesome and meaningful than others. And quite often feelings (be they mental or physical) are unpleasant, empty, sorrowful, disharmonious, worrisome, irritating, frustrating or in some way of negative value; in other words, dukkha. Thus the Buddha summarized his doctrine into the Four Noble Truths, which are:
1. Dukkha (i.e., suffering), in all its varied forms is an inherent and universal aspect of conscious existence.
2. The cause of this suffering is desire or craving. (Desire is this sense should not be confused with the simple recognition of a pleasurable or happy experience. The recognition and acceptance of such an experience is not in itself unwholesome; rather the danger arises from craving or attachment to such an experience.)
3. There is an end of dukkha which man can realize.
4. This end of suffering is achieved by means of following the Noble Eightfold Path.

However, it is not the mere attainment of a blissful existence which should motivate one towards moral behavior. On this matter the Buddha said:
“To be seized by spirits (allegorically) means living a virtuous or religious life chiefly in the hope of being born, as a result of one’s merit, in a heavenly world, as an angel, or a divine being (and this is to be avoided.)”
The Noble Eightfold Path consists of :
1 . Right Understanding--the development and application of one’s intellectual capabilities for the sake of understanding and resolving the problems of selfishness and suffering.
2 . Right Thought--thoughts free from lust, thoughts free from ill-will and thoughts free from cruelty.
3 . Right Speech--to abstain from harsh language, lying and vain talk.
4 . Right Action--to abstain from killing, stealing, intoxicating drink and sexual misconduct. (For monks complete celibacy is expected; laymen are advised to abstain from adultery or other inappropriate sexual behavior.)
5 . Right Livelihood--the avoidance of any occupation which leads to harm or undesirable conduct such as dealing in intoxicating drinks, slavery or murder weapons.
6 . Right Effort--the exertion of one’s will and self-discipline to develop wholesome mental states and overcome unwholesome states.
7 . Right Mindfulness--This is probably the most important and profound aspect of Buddhist mental development and includes a variety of different meditation practices and psychological techniques. Such practices and techniques are varied according to one’s individual spiritual needs and personality structure and include developing awareness of unconscious motives and impulses.
8 . Right Concentration--the training of the mind to remain concentrated on a single object and not wander from thought to thought.
These steps are not taken one at a time, but rather are worked on simultaneously in the maturation of one’s personality. No man finds Nirvana overnight, and to rigidly force oneself to abandon all worldly conduct before one is capable of such a step can be as undesirable as clinging to habits of excessive sensual indulgence. In the words of the Buddha:

"Just as,brethren, the mighty ocean deepens and slopes gradually down, hollow after hollow, not “Just as, plunging by a sudden precipe; even so, brethren, in this Dhamma-Discipline the training is gradual, it goes step by step; there is no sudden penetration of insight.” (Udana 54)

“By degrees, little by little, from time to time a wise man should remove his own impurities, as a smith removes the dross from silver.” (Dpd. 239)


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Started: Wed, August 13, B.E.2547,A.D.2003, Last Updated: May 8, B.E.2547, A.D.2004