Some aspects of Buddhism – The Island

By Dr. Justice Chandradasa Nanayakkara

Buddhism is the teaching founded by Buddha about 2500 years ago. Buddha is one who has attained bodhi. Bodhi means wisdom which is an ideal state of intellectual and ethical perfection, which can be achieved by any man through purely his own efforts and perseverance. The term Buddha literally conveys the idea of ​​the enlightened one and it is by his own free will, compassion and wisdom that the Prince Gautama attained Buddha-hood.

All the teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one word. that is dhamma. It means the truth. It is the principle of righteousness. It is said if a man lives by the dhammahe will escape misery and attain nirvana, which is the final release from all suffering. dhamma reveals truths as taught by the Buddha, it also gives people a way to live life that can lead them towards achieving enlightenment.

Buddhism cannot be considered a religion, in the sense in which the word is commonly understood. It is not a system of faith or worship. In Buddhism there is no such thing as in a body of dogma which must be accepted as the truth, such as a belief in a supreme being, a creator of the universe, a personal savior who is deemed to carry out the will of a Supreme Deity (Bhikkhu Thittila).

The Buddha taught that all conditioned things have three characteristics. Impermanence (annica)Suffering or Unsatisfactoriness (dukkha)and selflessness or non-substantiality (anatta). These three basic facts were first found and over 2500 years ago by the Buddha. They are designated in Buddhist terminology as Tillakana. Of the three, the first and third apply, directly to inanimate existence as well as to the animate existence. The second characteristic suffering is of course only an experience of the animate. A person who fails to comprehend these three fundamental characteristics regard that which is impermanent as permanent, and that which is unsatisfactory as satisfactory and the selfless as possessing an unchanging immutable self (Nyanaponika). The Buddha attributed these misconceived tendencies to ignorance which in Pali means avijja. being ignorant of our own true nature, and of the true nature of the things around us, we engage in actions based on these delusions, accumulating wedge which keeps us in bondage to the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, ignoring and distorting the three basic facts ultimately leads only to frustration, disappointment and despair, and we must see things as they really are consistently in the light of the three characteristics. Life can only be correctly understood if these three basics are comprehended in that manner. It is through clear comprehension of these fundamental characteristics that wisdom (panna) arises.

Another core philosophy of Buddhism, which the Buddha himself discovered and revealed to the world, were the Four Noble Truths. In propounding it, the Buddha did not claim any divine authority as the Four Noble Truths were based upon his insightful observation and pure reasoning and they can easily be ascertained and validated by any one with discernment.

According to the Majhima Nika “The Noble truths were well expounded dhamma by the Exalted One, to be self realized, with immediate fruit, inviting investigation, leading on to Nibbana, to be comprehended by the wise, each for himself.”.

It is said that the Buddha repeatedly referred to the Four Noble Truths in his discourses, throughout his life time, continually expanding and clarifying its meaning. Walpola Rahula states the heart of the Buddha’s teaching lies in the Four Noble Truths which he expounded in his very first sermon to the five ascetics, at Isipathana in Benares. Although, he referred to the Four Noble Truths briefly in his first sermon, they are innumerable places where this fundamental doctrine has been explained over and again with greater detail and in different ways.

The Four Noble Truths are as follows. 1. The truth of dukkha (suffering, or unsatisfactoriness) 2. The truth of the origin of dukkha. 3, The truth of the cessation of dukkha. 4. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha. The first three represent the philosophy of Buddhism, while the fourth represents the ethics of Buddhism in conformity with that philosophy.

The First Noble Truth which explains the nature of dukkha has the following three aspects. (a). The patent and latent physical and mental suffering associated with birth, old age, illness and death. (b). The anxiety or stress of trying to cling to things that are constantly changing. (c). basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, due to the fact that all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any core or substance.

The central importance of dukkha in Buddhist philosophy has made some thinkers to treat Buddhism as pessimistic. However, it should be stated the emphasis on dukkha is not intended to present a pessimistic view of life, but rather to present a realistic and practical assessment of the human condition. All beings must experience suffering and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable suffering of illnesses, aging and death.

As enunciated in the First Noble truth, life is full of suffering without exception. From the cradle to the grave, wherever there is life however, smoothly or abundly it may flow, there is suffering. In which ever direction we turn our eyes or wherever we direct our minds there is one vast spectacle of suffering, unhappiness and unsatisfactorinss. That is what confronts our vision everyday. The rich and the poor, the high and the low and even the man who occupies an exalted position must experience and undergo his share of joys and griefs. In our brief existence on this earth, even though seeming plenty abounds in some of our prosperous homes, glamor of riches and splendor of our living will vanish once our loved one is taken away.

The Second Noble truth explains the reason for suffering. According to it, desire or craving (thanna) is the root cause of suffering. Craving (thanna) is conditioned by ignorance (avija). Craving is a powerful mental force latent in all and is the chief cause of most of the ills of life. It is this craving, gross or subtle, that leads to repeated births in samsara and that which makes us cling to all forms of life. Third Noble truth is the complete cessation of dukkha. It is the complete and total annihilation, dissolution, forsaking, renunciation, liberation and detachment from it.

The Fourth Noble Truth is the path leading to cessation of suffering which is known as Noble Eightfold path or the middle path. Namely Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mndfulness, and the Right Concentration. This path was in existence regardless of the birth of the Buddha. The Buddha was however the first person to put them in coherent and proper order and brought them to the central focus by the suggesting of a practical approach to resolve them. The Four Noble Truths encapsulate all of Buddhist philosophy. Without a proper understanding of the Four Noble Truths it is impossible to fully integrate the concepts and practices of Buddhism into our daily lives.

Another central concept of Buddhism is wedge word mixed literally means action and its result is called vipaka though generally the word wedge is used to cover both actions and results. Nevertheless, all actions are not considered mixed. The word simply denotes all volitional, intentional and wilful acts, and not involuntary or mechanical actions. These volitional acts may be wholesome (kusala), that is morally good or morally bad (akusala), or morally (neutral). neutral mixed has no moral consequence either because very nature of action or because it is done unintentionally or involuntarily. Actions can be physical, verbal or mental. In other words, the word mixed denotes all volitional activities, which find expression in thought, speech and physical deeds, which may be wholesome or unwholesome.

The first two verses of the Dhammapada succinctly state thus: “Mind foreruns all conditions, they are mind made. If one speaks or acts with a wicked mind, because of that suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught ox. If one speaks or acts with a good mind, because of that happiness follows one” (Ven. Narada). Therefore, it is evident that in the working of mixed it is the mind which plays the dominant role.

the Mixed is the law of nature, which applies to all beings irrespective of whether they are Buddhists or not. The mental qualities which motivate a person to resort to a particular action will determine the moral quality of the action. In other words, Mixed simply means that what we do, we become. All our actions are bound to produce corresponding consequences. Even If we do not immediately experience the consequences they will inevitably rebound back to us as soon as time and conditions are conducive. It is important to remember, whatever we have earned in life is what we earned. We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We are the architects of our own fate.

Most of the pleasant and unpleasant things that we experience in this life represent the ripening of actions committed mainly in the past lives. It is believed that those consequences of wedge are programmed into us from birth. Consequences whether good or bad they are the fruits we deserve. Kamma is an immutable law of cause and effect, we cannot easily avoid the consequences and we must them as our just rewards.

When we look around we see the truth of cause and effect. Every action, no matter how insignificant, produces an effect. Every effect in its turn becomes a cause and produces still further effects. Therefore, it is meaningless to inquire for a first cause. First cause is inconceivable and incomprehensible. Cause and effect are cyclical.The origin of the universe, like that of every individual person or thing in it dependency upon the chain of previous causes, which goes on and on in an endless cycle of births earth and rebirth. This is the principle dependent origination or paticca-samuppada.