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Why Buddhism by Dr.Dilip K. Barua

Posted by bodhimission on September 25, 2016 at 11:05 PM

The question, why Buddhism may appear irrelevant to those of us who are born in Buddhist families living in the East – but not so, for new generations born in Buddhist families living in the West, and also for people of other faiths who are interested in Buddhism. In any case, the question is important however, because only a solid foundation of understanding can ensure enjoying the bliss of the Dharma taught by the Buddha more than 2 millennia ago. Let us first try to see Siddharta Gautama’s entry into the world through the epic poem Buddhacarita composed by Asvagoha (80 – 150 CE) in the 1st century CE under the patronage of Emperor Kanishka (127 – 151 CE): “Like the sun bursting from a cloud in the morning So he too, when he was born from his mother’s womb Made the world bright like gold Bursting forth with his rays which dispelled darkness.” This world’s first epic or Mahakavya of Asvagosh composed in Sanskrit is the basis of chronicling Buddha’s life by all the schools of Buddhism. Coming back to the question, we must realize that the answer to the question Why Buddhism can be very elaborate and requires deep knowledge and understanding of Buddhism. I am attempting this because apart from being born in a Buddhist family, I have found inspiration in Buddhism time and again. Many of our devoted and learned Buddhist monks and scholars across different traditions have many words of wisdom on the religion. Although we are talking about Buddhism, we should realize that all religions advocate peace and love among people. Truly religious people are very humble and sweet no matter of their allegiance to any particular faith. Religious faiths lie in people’s personal – conscious or unconscious – convictions and whatever that is, should be respected and honored by all. While attempting to answer the question, I will not limit myself to any particular school such as Theravada or Mahayana, but will try to navigate the both. Equipped with the capacity to tolerate alternative ideas, and to adapt to alien cultures, Buddhism was able to propagate all over the world without bloodshed and conflict. In addition, unlike other religions, Buddhism is not plagued with internal conflicts and animosity, but has shown remarkable tolerance within the wide Buddhist community. It seems to me, however that Buddhist schools need to unite together to launch a single forum as a spokesperson for the religion – mere sitting on the same platform during Buddha Jayanti and other congregations is not enough. Perhaps some simple answers to the question can be summarized in six basic premises. Let me try to outline these six basic premises briefly.


1. Buddhism is about Freedom – freedom to question, freedom to understand and explore oneself without depending on existing ideas, dogmas or divine entities. It is about understanding the rationale behind Siddharta Gautama leaving home in search of the truth. It is about learning his discovery of the Four Noble Truths – and how he has formulated the 4th Truth – the RIGHT WAY or the Noble Eightfold Path. This path of MORALITY, MEDITATION and WISDOM guides one to lead a happy and meaningful life. It is about freedom from attachment, freedom from distraction and being mindful, and freedom of opening the doors of wisdoms to see things as they are. Buddha’s teaching is only a guidance to reinforce that freedom – giving an individual the responsibility to find the truth, peace and happiness in life. Buddha was far ahead of his time and his teaching was unlike any other mankind had ever seen.


2. Buddhism is about Realizing the Universal Presence of the Four Pillars of Existence – Annicca or impermanence, Dukkha or fleeting nature of happiness, Anatma or absence of any divinity defining a person, and Paticca Samupaddha or dependent-origination of things. While impermanence is a universal reality, most of us do not understand the true meaning of it. Why the Buddha stressed impermanence as the First Pillar of existence? One of the reasons is that, it is impossible to explain the dynamics of life, Nature and society without considering impermanence. Buddha’s quest for finding the causes of unhappiness in life led him to discover that one of the root causes was emotional attachment. In an impermanent paradigm all things represent streams of fluxes in time, therefore treating this stream as something stationary leads to unhappiness. The principle of the dependent origination tells us how all things are interconnected through the cycle of cause and effect – the karmic cycle of things.


3. Buddhism is about EmpowerING ONESELF through the Pursuits to Perfection – the pursuits to be prosperous, to achieve equilibrium and happiness in personal life and in social living of togetherness. The 6-syllable word practiced in Tibetan Buddhism, UmMaNiPadMeHum represents the six pursuits of perfection or Paramitas taught by the Buddha. The word means: Um – Generosity, Ma – Morality, Ni – Patience, Pad – Energy, Me – Meditation and Hum – Wisdom. In the ten pursuits of perfection four more practices are included. These are Upai or skillful means, Upekka or equanimity, Bala or power and Ghyana or awareness. Buddhism stresses great emphasis on wisdom. Why is that? It is because wisdom is the only means to enlighten ourselves from the uncertainty of darkness and ignorance to find and tread the RIGHT WAY to achieve equilibrium and happiness in life.


4. Buddhism is about Happiness – the quests for discovering the causes of unhappiness and the Ways to achieve happiness – led the young Siddharta Gautama to his journey to Buddha hood. Buddhism is often misunderstood as being all about suffering. The misunderstanding arose from the erroneous English translation of Dukkha into suffering by scholars. But it seems to me, the translation is not correct, because suffering is more associated with severe physical and mental affliction or pain. The Buddha used the Pali word Dukkha to describe its omni-presence. The word is antonym to Sukha or happiness. The proper translation of these two words into English is difficult because of their deep associated meanings and interpretations. The reasonable translation of Dukkha is perhaps fleeting nature of happiness. This fleeting nature gives the impression in human mind that life is a continuous stream of unhappiness. The Buddha was talking about Shukha or happiness that a person experiences after accomplishing kushala karma or wholesome activities. These activities not only imply good actions but also good motives or intentions. In a sense this refers to a person’s good actions and the pleasant or happy reactions that he or she gets from the other side. Therefore happiness is real only when it is mutually shared.


5. Buddhism is about Acting and Reacting with a Compassionate Heart – to cherish, love and protect all Sentient Beings and the Environment. Buddhism says the necessity of rising above selfishness by practicing Dana or generosity, and the Four Brahma Vihara or Immeasurable Virtues – Metta or loving kindness, Karuna or compassion, Mudita or empathy and Upekka or equanimity or even mindedness. Buddhist scriptures list some 12 difficulties that a person faces in his or her life. In one of them, the Buddha said: It is difficult to be even-minded and simple-hearted in one’s dealings with others. The Buddha did not say that being even-minded and simple-hearted were impossible, but only that they were difficult. Perhaps these difficulties are some of the reasons why it is necessary to practice Buddhism to overcome them – it is not adequate just to be knowledgeable. Buddhists always finish their chanting and blessings by wishing Sabbe Satta Shukina Bhabantu or Let All Sentient Beings be Happy. Buddhists want all Sentient Beings to be happy – irrespective of color, creed or type.


6. Buddhism is about THE PractiCAL guidance for SOCIAL LIVING OF HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY – while the Middle Way applies to both monks and laity, on different occasions the Buddha has clarified the Way more lucidly for laity’s benefit, including some things to avoid. These are: (a) the twenty four ways to follow for the well-being of life – the Mahamangala Sutta, (b) the four ways to follow to be prosperous, (c) the four ways to avoid that lead to squandering wealth, (d) the four accomplishments to pursue that bring happiness to life, (e) the ten actions to avoid that define one’s downfall, (f) the four major ethical codes to follow, (g) the six ways to follow for being worthy and (h) last but not the least, the Dasa Raja Dharma or the ten principles to follow by rulers to ensure good governance. The 24-spoke Ashoka (The Great Mauryan Emperor of India, 269 – 232 BCE) Chakra or wheel is a depiction of the Mahamangala Sutta.

Before finishing, I would like to briefly explore thoughts of some well-known people who were not necessarily Buddhists. Buddha’s enlightened teaching does not need any endorsement, yet we may find the thoughts of others interesting. Many religions that came after Buddhism had benefited substantially from it. This is particularly true of Christianity. Buddhism, especially the Mahayana school also transformed many aspects of ancient Indian practices now known as Hinduism.

For the sake of interested readers let me give a glimpse of some great minds in history – the way they saw Buddhism. Let me start by quoting few lines from an epic poetry book, The Light of Asia published in 1879 by Edwin Arnold (1832 – 1904):

“This is the blossom on our human tree Which opens in many a myriad years But opened, fills the world with wisdom’s scent And love’s dropped honey.” Famous 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) described Buddhism as, “. . . if I were to take the results of my philosophy as the standard of truth, I would have to consider Buddhism the finest of all religions.”

German-British philosopher Max Muller (1823 – 1900) depicted Buddhism as, “. . . Buddha was the embodiment of all the virtues he preached. During his successful and eventful ministry of 45 years he translated all his words into action; and in no place did he give vent to any human frailty, or any base passion. The Buddha’s moral code is the most perfect which the world has ever known. . .”

Prof. W. Rhys Davids (1843 – 1922), who was Chair of comparative religions at Manchester University, saw Buddhism as, “Buddhist or non-Buddhist, I have examined every one of the great religious systems in the world, and in none of them have I found anything to surpass, in beauty and comprehensiveness, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha. . .”

Philosopher, scientist and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) saw Buddhism like, “I cannot myself that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known in history . . . I think I should put Buddha above him in those respects.”

More recently Osho (1931 – 1990) said in a book titled, The Buddha Said . . . published in 2008, “. . . no belief is required to travel with Buddha. You can come to him with all your skepticism – he accepts and welcomes you, and he says, ‘Come with me.” British novelist and philosopher Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963) said something like, “. . . listening to the discourse of the Buddha of such power, such intrinsic authority . . .” Famous thinker and philosopher of Eastern thoughts, Krishnamurti (1895 – 1986) called the Buddha The Immortal Friend in a poem dedicated to the Buddha. Few lines from his poem:

“Enlightenment attained, He gave to the world, as the flower gives It’s scent, The Truth. As I looked At the sacred feet that once trod the happy Dust of India, My heart poured forth its devotion, Limitless and unfathomable, Without restraint and without effort.”

Let me conclude this piece by saying that Buddha’s enlightened teaching gives us the opportunity to empower ourselves to adapt to the fluxes of time to transform in pursuits of prosperity and happiness. Secular in nature and teaching the freedom to explore and examine oneself, Buddha’s teaching is very powerful and timeless, for harmonious cohabitation and adaptation within the evolving canvas of cultures and environment.

Significance of Sharing

Posted by bodhimission on December 18, 2009 at 8:37 PM

Cultivation of sharing ( Dana ) is the most important aspect in Buddhism. It brings us three kind of happiness: in this current life, after this life and also on the way to the highest spiritual life. Sharing means giving others something someone is having. Some one is regarded as a fortunate if he/she has something, no matter whether it is property, money, skill, knowledge or wisdom. On the other hand, someone is considered as a less fortunate if he/she does not have enough.

Buddhism greatly encourages fortunate one for sharing his/her things/skill/knolwdge with less fortunate one. Our good relationship depends mainly on the practice of sharing. It helps us to keep harmony among the people and balance in environment. Because, the practice of sharing minimizes the mental conflicts between the haves and the have-nots. So, it shows us an wonderful happy way of life.

We know from the Buddhist scriptures that someone can able to attain rebirth in the heaven after death if he/she practice sharing, moral precepts and mindfulness. This is the heavenly bliss or happiness after this life.

Our main purpose of ultimate happiness also can be achieved by the cultivation of sharing. It generates in our minds the basics of the highest spiritual development. What keeps us bound in the cycle of birth and death is craving or clinging. With the practice of sharing, giving up or letting go, we can liberate ourselves, our mind from the bound and attain final freedom.

Shakyamuni Buddha in his previous lives as bodhisattva cultivated ten perfection (Parami) for the attainment of Buddha hood. We are greatly encouraged to practice sharing from the concept of Avalokiteshvara, the compassionate Bodhisattva, the noble being who is working towards perfect compassion and perfect wisdom. We are familiar with his statue where he has been portrayed as a compassionate god, who looks down the suffering humanity with intention to protect them from distress.

We wish happiness time to time chanting Pali verses like this" those who are in distress, may they over come their distress, those are in fear, may they overcome their fear and those who are in grief, may they over come their grief . For healing this approach is verbal and mental. But the practical is far better then the verbal or mental work.

Conclusion: It is clear that the practice of sharing becomes a strong positive force in our mind and gives us all kind of happiness: from the most worldly sensual pleasure to the highest happiness of enlightenment. Each time we share or give away something, it strengthen this wholesome factor until it becomes a powerful force in the flow of our consciousness. Our future lives will become in better position if we able to die with the purifying force of sharing. That’s why, a real follower of the Dharma accepts sharing as a good karma which generates wonderful positive force and brings great happiness not only to the practitioners but also in the mind of distress humanity.


  

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Teaching of Awakening

Posted by bodhimission on December 18, 2009 at 8:35 PM

   In this Teaching, the word AWAKENING does not mean rising from a dream or from sleep. Rather, it means to become conscious (attain Bodhi) to come out of the darkness of ignorance (avijjha). Because of ignorance, we are not able to know things as they really are. The great sage Gotama, who was born in India in 624 B.C., awakened himself from the darkness of ignorance. Therefore, he came to be know as the Buddha, which means either Awakened One or Enlightened One. 

 What the Buddha taught regarding the awakening of others is called Dharma. And those who are the main protectors, practitioners, and messengers of those Teachings are collectively known as the Sangha, the community of monastic. This community is a symbol of peace and unity and is comprised of all of the Buddha's ordained disciples of the past, present, and future. These three -- Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha -- are together known as the Ti-Ratana (Three Gems).

 Those who have regard for the Ti-Ratana and who concentrate on their noble qualities for the sake of making mental progress are the followers of the Dharma. They abstain from all bad actions -- that is, from all unwholesome deeds, whether physical or verbal, which hurt others. For example, they abstain from: killing, harming, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxicants.

 REGARD (saddha) means holding a positive mental outlook toward something which inspires an individual to honor and appreciate the good as good. Regard, in the sense of having confidence in the admirable aspects of the Ti-Ratana, is an essential quality for a person to be a follower of the Dharma.

 Bearing this in mind, one who has had the privilege of being born in a traditional Buddhist environment (as a result of his/her own accumulated past positive energy), but who is not respectful to the qualities of Ti-Ratana, cannot be defined as a real follower of the Buddha. Similarly, those who are born in a non-Buddhist family, but who nevertheless have regard for the Ti-Ratana and who abstain from all sorts of bad actions, are the real followers of the Buddha.

 Now a question may arise as to how one may differentiate good and bad. On the one hand, according to the Buddha’s Teaching, any action (karma) done either in secret or in the open is good (kusala) when it is motivated by: generosity or the desire to share (dana), friendliness or unconditional loving-kindness (metta), compassion or the feeling of sympathy for others (karuna), empathetic-happiness or the feeling of joy in the joy of others (mudita), and/or mental balance or equanimity (upekkha). On the other hand, any karma whether done either in secret or in the open is bad (akusala) when it is motivated by: jealousy (issa), ill-will (dosa), greed (lobha), or delusion (moha).

 As previously mentioned, it is ignorance that does not allow us to realize things as they really are. That is why one who awakens from the darkness of ignorance is easily able to differentiate between good and bad. One is able to accomplish this by the light of her or his own wisdom. One therefore accepts the good by viewing it as beneficial, and one avoids the bad by considering it harmful through life’s journey (Samsara).

 An Awakened One knows that good karma that develops positive power (shubha shakti) is always beneficial and brings happiness -- not only in the mind of the doers but also for others. Bad karma, which produces negative force (ashubha shakti), is constantly harmful to all.

 According to the Buddhist point of view, ignorance is the most dangerous obstacle on the path to ENLIGHTENMENT (perfection). It is due to ignorance, which keeps a person mired in delusion, greed, and ill-will, that most people are not able to know reality as it truly is. They do not know life or what is happening inside. It is for that reason that they keep binding and limiting themselves with faith to various blind beliefs.

 But an Awakened One does not accept anything blindly or by faith, even if it is in the scriptures, or accords with tradition, or is expressed by teachers, relatives, friends, or is held as a popular beliefs. One accepts a thing in the way a goldsmith accepts the quantity and quality of a metal -- after weighing and testing it.

 An Awakened One accepts a thing when it is seen to be conducive to the welfare of the many as well as helping to inspire them to keep to the Middle Way (Majjhima-Patipada). This is accomplished by respectable and harmonious means, which lead to permanent peace and happiness( Nibbana ).

 But if a thing is not thought to be beneficial for oneself or others or both, then an Awakened One avoids it. The Teaching of Awakening provides a person with limitless opportunities for liberation, for unclouded thinking, and the natural expression of a clear mind. The great sage Gotama dispelled the darkness of ignorance within himself and brought back enlightenment into the world by the perfection of wisdom and a boundless compassion towards all beings everywhere and without distinction.

Therefore, through the TEACHING OF AWAKENING, one is able to easily overcome all sorts of bindings that limit one, such as race, color, language, caste, and so on. One is then capable of chanting with a great heart the message of great compassion:

MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY

(Sabbe satta sukhita hontu)



  

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Happy family

Posted by bodhimission on December 9, 2009 at 11:50 PM

Q: "How do you make for a happy family?"

 

 

 

 A long time ago in India, there was a royal family. A king and queen lived together with their four children. Although it was a royal family, there was no happiness since its members spent most of their time fighting over things big and small.

On the queen’s birthday, the king wanted to make her happy by presenting her with a wonderful gift. The king commissioned a famous artist to draw an excellent picture of the most beautiful thing he could find in the country and present it to him. Ordered by the king to find the most beautiful thing, the artist set off on a journey towards the east. After traveling a great distance, the artist found nothing he considered beautiful enough.

 

Then he saw a man is coming toward him. The artist said to him, “Sir, kindly tell me, What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in this country?”

The man quickly replied, “It’s liberty! Imagine the a man is released from prison after serving a long sentence.” It was the most beautiful but seemed too conceptual. It was not a thing that could be drawn and given as a gift.

On the next day, the artist started a long journey towards the west. There he met another person and asked the same question. That person answered, “It’s freedom! Imagine the day a freedom-fighter returns from war.” It was beautiful but too conceptual, not a concrete object to be drawn and presented to the king.

The following day, the artist set off towards the north. There he saw a young girl plucking flowers from a tree. When the artist asked her, she’s answered, “It’s love! Imagine a young woman preparing for her marriage ceremony.” But this, too, seemed far too conceptual.

Finally, far to the south, he came across a mendicant wanderer, a saint who was leading a celibate life. When he asked him, the saint answered, “It’s renunciation!”* But the idea of giving things up also seemed too conceptual.

First the artist was disappointed. Later, however, he felt a wonderful surge of happiness as he understood the importance of the four ideals he met on his journey: liberty, freedom, love, and renunciation. In this extended-family of a country, the ideals already existed. And these made for a happy family life.

An excellent idea came to mind: Why not draw a picture of family members with an explanation of the four ideals that make for a happy family and give that picture to the king? When he did, the king was delighted and rewarded him for a wonderful job.

We can see that all four people on his journey had the same goal – to be happy – and only the source of the happiness was different. One found it in liberty, the other in freedom, another in love, and one in renunciation.

What was clear was that to bring about and maintain happiness no matter the individual, family, or society, these four ideals are very important. With this idea in mind, everyone could be happy by the practice of giving things up, love, freedom, and liberty. These four virtues are inter-related.

* “Giving up” means sharing, letting go, not clinging or grasping; it is an expression of mental non-greed factor. What keeps people bound is desire or craving. Giving up greed and instead sharing out of love leads us to freedom or liberation. Sharing what we have is a beautiful way of relating to others. The personal quality of sharing is the main enhancer of friendship.



     

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