|“Put an end to evil, fulfill
all good, and purify the mind” is Lord Buddha's advice,
and it is still so universal and timeless, that anyone can
benefit from it, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu,
Taoist, or Buddhist. It is worth to note that through times
Buddhism has never had a religious war.
Two thousand five hundred and fifty years ago, the
historical Buddha enjoyed unique circumstances for passing on
his teachings. Born into a highly developed culture, he was
surrounded by exceedingly gifted people. After reaching
enlightenment, he shared his methods for discovering the mind
for a full forty-five years. It is for this reason that his
teachings, called the Dharma, are so vast.
The Kanjur, Buddha´s own words, consists of 108 volumes
containing 84,000 helpful teachings. Later commentaries on
these, the Tenjur, amount to another 254 equally thick books.
This makes Buddha´s final evaluation of his life
understandable: "I can die happily. I did not hold one
single teaching in a closed hand. Everything that may benefit
you I have already given." His very last statement sets
Buddhism apart from what is otherwise called religion:
"Now, don´t believe my words because a Buddha told you,
but examine them well. Be a light onto yourselves."
The Buddha, based on his own experience, realized that each
one of us has the capacity to purify the mind, develop
infinite love and compassion and perfect understanding, and
through meditation find solutions to all our problems.
Buddhism does not force preset ideas on you, and furthermore
all other religions are tolerated. By showing respect for
another person's religion, a Buddhist demonstrates the
confidence he has in the strength of his own religion.
As a Buddhist you are not dominated by an all-knowing,
almighty, judging power. And you are definitely not expected
to blindly believe in the things you read or study about
Buddhism. Lord Buddha often asked people to go out themselves
and find out if what he taught was correct.
For a Buddhist there is no god he can ask for forgiveness and
thereafter carry on with his life as usual. He must learn to
stand on his own two feet, and will pay for his mistake in
either this life or the next. That fact might make it easier
for you to understand, why seemingly innocent people are hit
by tragedies in their lives apparently without reason.
Mihintale Buddha, Sri Lanka
(Photograph courtesy of www.sacredsites.com
and Martin Gray)
The ultimate goal of a Buddhist is to reach Nibbana
(Sanskrit: Nirvana), meaning literally “extinction”,
freedom from desire and thus suffering. Effectively it is an
end not only to suffering and action, but also to the cycle of
rebirths. This permanent, causeless, effectless, and
non-compound state can be reached through mental and moral
self-purification, while a person is still alive, thus making
his physical death the last one.
To reach Nibbana one has to fully comprehend and absorb the so-called “Four
The Four Noble Truth
The Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths are the core and the origination point
of what the Buddha learned and taught. They state simply that
desire and attachment keep us bound to our dissatisfaction and
we can take steps to unbind ourselves.
The Four Noble Truths
1. The First Noble Truth
Suffering exists and is universally experienced.
Second Noble Truth
There is a Cause
(Arising) of Suffering
Desire and attachment are the causes of suffering.
3. The Third Noble
There is an End
(Cessation) to Suffering
4. Fourth Noble
There is a Path
(Way) to the Cessation
The end to suffering can be attained by journeying on the Noble Eightfold Path.
1. There is Suffering
Lord Buddha realized that all forms of existence are subject to suffering. In the context of the First Noble Truth, suffering means suffering,
pain, sorrow, misery, imperfection, impermanence, emptiness,
insubstantiality, unsatisfactoriness, dis-ease,
or even conflict (meaning the conflict between our desires and the facts of
There are many kinds of suffering in life (all are forms of physical and mental
- old age
association with unpleasant persons and conditions
- separation from beloved ones
and pleasant conditions
- not getting what one desires
- grief, losing people and things near and dear to one
- distress... just to mention a
An Individual (an I or a Self) is a combination of ever-changing
physical forces which can be divided into Five Aggregates (groups)
Suffering can be described as conditioned states produced by attachment to
these five aggregates.
Pleasant and happy feelings or conditions in life are not permanent.
later they change.
When they change they may produce suffering, pain, unhappiness or disappointment.
2. There is a Cause (Arising) of Suffering
The principle cause of suffering is the attachment to desire or craving.
Attachment to desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have
is cause of suffering.
The clinging to desire comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction
comes from following desire.
We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires
doesn't bring an end to them.
These are 3 basic types of desire:
desire for sense-pleasures - manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant
experiences: the taste of good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful
- desire to avoid pain (to get rid of) - to get rid of the unpleasant experiences in life: unpleasant
sensations, anger, fear, jealousy.
- desire to become - is the ambition that comes with wanting attainments
recognition or fame. It is the craving to "be a somebody".
The arising of suffering is man’s constant craving or desire
for sensual pleasure and existence.
We tend to forget, that we got our senses in
order to protect our lives, to avoid certain dangers, and we use them instead to
merely fulfill our desires.
3. There is an End (Cessation) to Suffering
The end of suffering is non-attachment, or letting go of desire or craving.
is the state of Nirvana (also called Nibbana), the non-attachment to conditioned
experience, where greed, hatred and delusion are extinct.
Freedom from attachments to the five aggregates of attachment is the end of
To understand the unconditioned, we need to see for ourselves that everything
that has a nature to be born has a nature to die: that every phenomenon that has
a cause is impermanent. By letting go of attachment to desire for conditioned
phenomena, desire can come to an end and we can be liberated from suffering.
4. There is a Path to the Cessation of Suffering: The Noble
The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of The Four Noble Truths that the
Buddha experienced with his enlightenment. The Buddha taught that alignment with
this Path will eliminate the cause of suffering and result in faultless peace and unblemished happiness.
following the Noble Eightfold Path one will develop three qualities required to attain Nirvana:
Wisdom comes from understanding the three characteristics of all compound
all conditioned phenomena are impermanent
all conditioned phenomena are not personal (there is no self)
attachment to desire for impermanent phenomena leads to suffering
Everything that has a cause has a beginning and an end: conditioned phenomena are
transitory. But conditioned phenomena (see five aggregates) are also what the
self attaches to and when there attachment to impermanent objects there will
always be suffering.
There is no Enduring Self. All phenomena are
conditioned--have a beginning and an end--so there is nothing to which they can
Suffering arises from the illusion that impermanent conditioned states
are permanent and can be possessed by a Self.
Moreover, there is no self or soul which carries on after death.
Instead we are
merely a collection of groups of grasping which are in a continual
state of flux.
Rebirth is possible only because we are driven by our desires and
In the context of the Eightfold path,
Wisdom results from perfecting the following qualities:
- Right Understanding (also called Wise View)
- Right Thoughts (also called Wise Intentions)
Right Understanding - understanding that all phenomena are of the impermanent, non-self nature and that attachment to them leads to suffering.
Right Understanding brings about Right Thoughts.
Right Thoughts - the aspiration or intention to be liberated from
suffering and to understand the truth.
The deepening of wisdom is enhanced when the lifestyle and mind are calmed
through the practices of Morality and Training of the Mind ( Right Concentration).
II. MORALITY (Virtue)
Adherence to moral guidelines (precepts) is an essential protection from causing
suffering to oneself and to others.
There are 5 basic precepts that Buddhist practitioners undertake:
Reverence for Life (refrain from killing)
- Generosity (refrain from stealing)
- Sexual Responsibility (refrain from sexual misconduct)
- Deep Listening and Loving Speech (refrain from lying)
- Mindful Consumption (refrain from ingesting intoxicants)
In the context of the Eightfold path, these precepts imply:
- Right (Wise) Speech
- Right (Wise) Action
- Right (Wise) Livelihood
III. TRAINING OF THE MIND
The development of Wisdom and Morality demand a certain training of the mind
(concentration). In the context of the Eightfold path, this training is focused
- Right (Wise) Effort
- Right (Wise) Mindfulness
- Right (Wise) Concentration
The Noble Eightfold
The Noble Eightfold
The Noble Eightfold Path, discovered by the Buddha Himself, is the only way
to Nirvana. It avoids the extreme of self-torture that weakens one's intellect
and the extreme of self-indulgence that retards one's spiritual progress.
The Noble Eightfold Path is the fourth of The Four Noble Truths. It consists of the following eight factors:
- Right Understanding
- Right Thoughts
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
1. Right Understanding (also called Wise View) is the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths.
comes from understanding of the impermanent, non-self nature of phenomena and that attachment to them leads to suffering.
These are three characteristics of existence (Three Characteristics of All
all conditioned phenomena are impermanent (transient)
all conditioned phenomena are not personal, non-self (soul-less)
attachment to desire for impermanent phenomena leads to suffering
The keynote of Buddhism is this Right Understanding. In
other words, it is the understanding of oneself as one really is.
based on knowledge and not on unreasonable belief.
2. Right Thoughts (also called Wise Intention)
"Right Thought" is the aspiration or intention to be liberated from
suffering and to understand the truth.
Right Thoughts are threefold. They are:
- The thoughts of renunciation which are opposed to sense-pleasures
(non-greed, simplicity, non–distractedness in every thought, word and deed.)
- Kind Thoughts (good will) which are opposed to ill-will.
- Thoughts (intentions) of harmlessness which are opposed to cruelty. These tend to
purify the mind.
3. Right Speech (also called Wise Speech)
Wise Speech is speech that originates in mindful presence. It means to tell the truth and speak appropriately.
Specifically, it implies abstaining from:
lying (refraining from falsehood)
- rude and abusive language (refraining from use of slanderous or harsh
speech that avoids useless chatter and gossip.
4. Right Action deals with refraining from killing, stealing and
Wise Action helps one to develop a character that is self-controlled and
mindful of right of others.
It is action that:
- preserves and does not destroy life;
takes only what is freely given;
action that does not steal;
sexual action that
originates in kindness and respect and avoids sexual transgressions.
5. Right Livelihood
Right Livelihood means earring one's living in a way that is not harmful to
One should not make living dealing in arms, drugs or violence; exploitation of others and
These five kinds of trades should
be avoided by a lay disciple:
trade in deadly weapons
- trade in animals for slaughter
- trade in slavery/exploitation
- trade in intoxicants
- trade in poisons/drugs
6. Right Effort is fourfold, namely:
Effort is needed to cultivate Good Conduct or develop one's mind, because one is
often distracted or tempted to take the easy way out of things. The Buddha
teaches that attaining happiness and Enlightenment depends upon one's own
efforts. Effort is the root of all achievement. If one wants to get to the top
of a mountain, just sitting at the foot thinking about it will not bring one
there. It is by making the effort of climbing up the mountain, step by step,
that one eventually reaches the summit. Thus, no matter how great the Buddha's
achievement may be, or how excellent His Teaching is, one must put the Teaching
into practice before one can expect to obtain the desired result.
- the endeavor to discard evil that has already arisen.
- the endeavor to prevent the arising of un-risen evil.
- the endeavor to develop that good which has already arisen.
- the endeavor to promote that good which has not already arisen.
7. Right Mindfulness is also fourfold:
- mindfulness with regard to body
- mindfulness with regard to feeling
- mindfulness with regard to mind
- mindfulness with regard to mental objects.
Right Mindfulness is the awareness of one's deeds, words and thoughts. It is present–time awareness; awareness of the present moment;
noticing the body and breath, feelings, thoughts, and mind states.
8. Right Meditation (also called Wise Concentration)
Meditation means the gradual process of training the mind to focus on a
single object and to remain fixed upon the object without wavering. The constant
practice of meditation helps one to develop a clam and concentrated mind and
help to prepare one for the attainment of Wisdom and Enlightenment ultimately.
Wise Concentration is one–pointedness of mind.
The Four Sublime States Brahma
There are four sublime "abidings" for the mind and heart:
Kindness towards all beings
Compassion towards those who are suffering
Sympathetic Joy towards others
Equanimity toward friend and foe
The Buddha's Words on Kindness: Metta Sutta
Instructions for the practice of meditation on Kindness
This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.