ESSENCE OF BUDDHA TEACHING
his enlightenment, he went to the Deer Park near the holy city
of Benares and shared his new understanding with five holy men.
They understood immediately and became his disciples. This marked
the beginning of the Buddhist community.
the next forty-five years, the Buddha and his disciples went from
place to place in India spreading the Dharma, his teachings. Their
compassion knew no bounds, they helped everyone along the way,
beggars, kings and slave girls. At night, they would sleep where
they were; when hungry they would ask for a little food.
the Buddha went, he won the hearts of the people because he dealt
with their true feelings. He advised them not to accept his words
on blind faith, but to decide for themselves whether his teachings
are right or wrong, then follow them. He encouraged everyone to
have compassion for each other and develop their own virtue, "You
should do your own work, for I can teach only the way."
never became angry or impatient or spoke harshly to anyone, not
even to those who opposed him. He always taught in such a way
that everyone could understand. Each person thought the Buddha
was speaking especially for him. The Buddha told his followers
to help each other on the Way. Following is a story of the Buddha
living as an example to his disciples.
the Buddha and Ananda visited a monastery where a monk was suffering
from a contagious disease. The poor man lay in a mess with no
one looking after him. The Buddha himself washed the sick monk
and placed him on a new bed. Afterwards, he admonished the other
monks. "Monks, you have neither mother nor father to look
after you. If you do not look after each other, who will look
after you? Whoever serves the sick and suffering, serves me."
set forth his teaching in the following doctrine.
THREE UNIVERSAL TRUTHS
day, the Buddha sat down in the shade of a tree and noticed how
beautiful the countryside was. Flowers were blooming and trees
were putting on bright new leaves, but among all this beauty,
he saw much unhappiness. A farmer beat his ox in the field. A
bird pecked at an earthworm, and then an eagle swooped down on
the bird. Deeply troubled, he asked, "Why does the farmer
beat his ox? Why must one creature eat another to live?"
his enlightenment, the Buddha found the answer to these questions.
He discovered three great truths. He explained these truths in
a simple way so that everyone could understand them.
BUDDHA TEACHING : Nothing is lost in the universe
first truth is that nothing is lost in the universe. Matter turns
into energy, energy turns into matter. A dead leaf turns into
soil. A seed sprouts and becomes a new plant. Old solar systems
disintegrate and turn into cosmic rays. We are born of our parents,
our children are born of us.
are the same as plants, as trees, as other people, as the rain
that falls. We consist of that which is around us, we are the
same as everything. If we destroy something around us, we destroy
ourselves. If we cheat another, we cheat ourselves. Understanding
this truth, the Buddha and his disciples never killed any animal.
BUDDHA TEACHING : Everything Changes
second universal truth of the Buddha is that everything is continuously
changing. Life is like a river flowing on and on, ever-changing.
Sometimes it flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. It is smooth
and gentle in some places, but later on snags and rocks crop up
out of nowhere. As soon as we think we are safe, something unexpected
dinosaurs, mammoths, and saber-toothed tigers roamed this earth.
They all died out, yet this was not the end of life. Other life
forms like smaller mammals appeared, and eventually humans, too.
Now we can even see the Earth from space and understand the changes
that have taken place on this planet. Our ideas about life also
change. People once believed that the world was flat, but now
we know that it is round.
BUDDHA TEACHING : Law of Cause and Effect
third universal truth explained by the Buddha is that there is
continuous changes due to the law of cause and effect. This is
the same law of cause and effect found in every modern science
textbook. In this way, science and Buddhism are alike.
law of cause and effect is known as karma. Nothing ever happens
to us unless we deserves it. We receive exactly what we earn,
whether it is good or bad. We are the way we are now due to the
things we have done in the past. Our thoughts and actions determine
the kind of life we can have. If we do good things, in the future
good things will happen to us. If we do bad things, in the future
bad things will happen to us. Every moment we create new karma
by what we say, do, and think. If we understand this, we do not
need to fear karma. It becomes our friend. It teaches us to create
a bright future.
The Buddha said,
kind of seed sown
will produce that kind of fruit.
Those who do good will reap good results.
Those who do evil will reap evil results.
If you carefully plant a good seed,
You will joyfully gather good fruit."
FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
there was a woman named Kisagotami, whose first-born son died.
She was so stricken with grief that she roamed the streets carrying
the dead body and asking for help to bring her son back to life.
A kind and wise man took her to the Buddha.
Buddha told her, "Fetch me a handful of mustard seeds and
I will bring your child back to life." Joyfully Kisagotami
started off to get them. Then the Buddha added, "But the
seeds must come from a family that has not known death."
went from door to door in the whole village asking for the mustard
seeds, but everyone said, "Oh, there have been many deaths
here", "I lost my father", I lost my sister".
She could not find a single household that had not been visited
by death. Finally Kisagotami returned to the Buddha and said,
"There is death in every family. Everyone dies. Now I understand
Buddha said, "No one can escape death and unhappiness. If
people expect only happiness in life, they will be disappointed."
are not always the way we want them to be, but we can learn to
understand them. When we get sick, we go to a doctor and ask:
wrong with me?
Why am I sick?
What will cure me?
What do I have to do get well?
The Buddha is like a good doctor. First a good doctor diagnoses
the illness. Next he finds out what has caused it. Then he decides
what the cure is. Finally he prescribes the medicine or gives
the treatment that will make the patient well again.
Four Noble Truths
1. There is Suffering Suffering is common to all.
2. Cause of Suffering We are the cause of our suffering.
3. End of Suffering Stop doing what causes suffering.
4. Path to end Suffering Everyone can be enlightened.
1. BUDDHA TEACHING : Suffering: Everyone suffers from these
Birth- When we are born, we cry.
Sickness- When we are sick, we are miserable.
Old age- When old, we will have ache and pains and find it hard
to get around.
Death- None of us wants to die. We feel deep sorrow when someone
things we suffer from are:
Being with those we dislike,
Being apart from those we love,
Not getting what we want,
All kinds of problems and disappointments that are unavoidable.
Buddha did not deny that there is happiness in life, but he pointed
out it does not last forever. Eventually everyone meets with some
kind of suffering. He said:
"There is happiness in life,
happiness in friendship,
happiness of a family,
happiness in a healthy body and mind,
...but when one loses them, there is suffering."
BUDDHA TEACHING : The cause of suffering
The Buddha explained that people live in a sea of suffering
because of ignorance and greed. They are ignorant of the law
of karma and are greedy for the wrong kind of pleasures. They
do things that are harmful to their bodies and peace of mind,
so they can not be satisfied or enjoy life.
example, once children have had a taste of candy, they want more.
When they can't have it, they get upset. Even if children get
all the candy they want, they soon get tired of it and want something
else. Although, they get a stomach-ache from eating too much candy,
they still want more. The things people want most cause them the
most suffering. Of course, there are basic things that all people
should have, like adequate food, shelter, and clothing. Everyone
deserve a good home, loving parents, and good friends. They should
enjoy life and cherish their possessions without becoming greedy.
BUDDHA TEACHING : The end of suffering
To end suffering, one must cut off greed and ignorance. This
means changing one's views and living in a more natural and
peaceful way. It is like blowing out a candle. The flame of
suffering is put out for good. Buddhists call the state in which
all suffering is ended Nirvana. Nirvana is an everlasting state
of great joy and peace. The Buddha said, "The extinction
of desire is Nirvana." This is the ultimate goal in Buddhism.
Everyone can realize it with the help of the Buddha's teachings.
It can be experienced in this very life.
BUDDHA TEACHING : The path to the end of suffering: The path
to end suffering is known as the Noble Eightfold Path. It is
also known as the Middle Way.
THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH
the Buddha gave his first sermon in the Deer Park, he began the
'Turning of the Dharma Wheel'. He chose the beautiful symbol of
the wheel with its eight spokes to represent the Noble Eightfold
Path. The Buddha's teaching goes round and round like a great
wheel that never stops, leading to the central point of the wheel,
the only point which is fixed, Nirvana. The eight spokes on the
wheel represent the eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path. Just
as every spoke is needed for the wheel to keep turning, we need
to follow each step of the path.
Buddha Teaching: Right View. The right way to think about life
is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha--with wisdom
Buddha Teaching: Right Thought. We are what we think. Clear
and kind thoughts build good, strong characters.
Buddha Teaching: Right Speech. By speaking kind and helpful
words, we are respected and trusted by everyone.
Buddha Teaching: Right Conduct. No matter what we say, others
know us from the way we behave. Before we criticize others,
we should first see what we do ourselves.
Buddha Teaching: Right Livelihood. This means choosing a job
that does not hurt others. The Buddha said, "Do not earn
your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making
Buddha Teaching: Right Effort. A worthwhile life means doing
our best at all times and having good will toward others. This
also means not wasting effort on things that harm ourselves
Buddha Teaching: Right Mindfulness. This means being aware of
our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Buddha Teaching: Right Concentration. Focus on one thought or
object at a time. By doing this, we can be quiet and attain
true peace of mind.
the Noble Eightfold Path can be compared to cultivating a garden,
but in Buddhism one cultivates one's wisdom. The mind is the
ground and thoughts are seeds. Deeds are ways one cares for
the garden. Our faults are weeds. Pulling them out is like weeding
a garden. The harvest is real and lasting happiness.
Buddha knew it would be difficult for people to follow his teachings
on their own, so he established the Three Refuges for them to
rely on. If a person wants to become Buddhists take refuge in
and rely on the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. These are
known as the Triple Jewel. The Sangha are the monks and nuns.
They live in monasteries and carry on the Buddha's teaching. The
word Sangha means 'harmonious community'. The Buddha, the Dharma,
and the Sangha together possess qualities that are precious like
jewels and can lead one to enlightenment.
is a place to go for safety and protection, like a shelter in
a storm. Taking refuge does not mean running away from life. It
means living life in a fuller, truer way.
refuge is also like a man traveling for the first time to a distant
city. He will need a guide to show him which path to follow and
some traveling companions to help him along the way.
Buddha is the guide.
The Dharma is the path.
The Sangha are the teachers or companions along the way.
There is a special ceremony for taking refuge with the Triple
Jewel. With a sincere mind, one recites the following verse in
front of an ordained monk or nun.
I go to the Buddha for refuge.
I go to the Dharma for refuge.
I go to the Sangha for refuge.
a Buddhist, taking refuge is the first step on the path to enlightenment.
Even if enlightenment is not achieved in this life, one has a
better chance to become enlightened in a future life. One who
take the precepts is called a lay person.
THE FIVE PRECEPTS
religions have some basic rules that define what is good conduct
and what kind of conduct should be avoided. In Buddhism, the most
important rules are the Five Precepts. These have been passed
down from the Buddha himself.
Buddha Teaching: No killing Respect for life
2. Buddha Teaching: No stealing Respect for others' property
3. Buddha Teaching: No sexual misconduct Respect for our pure
4. Buddha Teaching: No lying Respect for honesty
5. Buddha Teaching: No intoxicants Respect for a clear mind
Buddha said, "Life is dear to all beings. They have the right
to live the same as we do." We should respect all life and
not kill anything. Killing ants and mosquitoes is also breaking
this precept. We should have an attitude of loving-kindness towards
all beings, wishing them to be happy and free from harm. Taking
care of the earth, its rivers and air is included. One way that
many Buddhists follow this precept is by being vegetarian.
we steal from another, we steal from ourselves. Instead, we should
learn to give and take care of things that belong to our family,
to the school, or to the public.
conduct shows respect for oneself and others. Our bodies are gifts
from our parents, so we should protect them from harm. Young people
should especially keep their natures pure and develop their virtue.
It is up to them to make the world a better place to live. In
happy families, the husband and wife both respect each other.
honest brings peace into the world. When there is a misunderstanding,
the best thing is to talk it over. This precept includes no gossip,
no back-biting, no harsh words and no idle speech.
fifth precept is based on keeping a clear mind and a healthy body.
One day, when the Buddha was speaking the Dharma for the assembly,
a young drunkard staggered into the room. He tripped over some
monks who were sitting on the floor and started cursing loudly.
His breath reeked of alcohol and filled the air with a sickening
stench. Mumbling to himself, he reeled out the door.
was astonished at his rude behavior, but the Buddha remained calm.
"Great assembly!" he spoke, "Take a look at this
man! He will certainly lose his wealth and good name. His body
will grow weak and sickly. Day and night, he will quarrel with
his family and friends until they abandon him. The worst thing
is that he will lose his wisdom and become stupid."
by little, one can learn to follow these precepts. If one sometimes
forgets them, one can start all over again. Following the precepts
is a lifetime job. If one kills or hurts someone's feelings by
mistake, that is breaking the precepts, but it was not done on
WHEEL OF LIFE
do not believe that death is the end of life. When one dies, one's
consciousness leaves and enters one of the six paths of rebirth.
Asuras are beings who have many good things in life, but still
like to fight. They appear in the heavens or on earth as people
Hungry ghosts are beings who suffer from constant hunger.
are the six states on the wheel of life. At the top are the heavens,
where everyone is happy. Below are the hells where the suffering
is unbearable. Beings can rise or fall from one path to another.
If one does good deeds, one will be born into the paths of gods,
humans, or asuras. If one does evil deeds, one will be born into
the paths of animals, hungry ghosts, or hell-beings. From one
life to the next one can suddenly change from an human to an animal
or from a ghost to a hell-being, according to the things one has
How to Escape the Turning Wheel
wheel of life and death is kept turning by the three poisons of
greed, hatred, and stupidity. By cutting off the three poisons,
we can escape the wheel and become enlightened. There are four
stages of enlightenment.
perfect in enlightenment.
Bodhisattvas- enlighten themselves as well as others.
Pratyekabuddhas- hermits who retreat from the world to enlighten
Arhats- enlighten themselves.
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