The ABC of the Buddha's Teachings

From:Voice of Longquan     Author:Mi Qiang     Time:2017-03-27 18:55:28
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Are you curious about who is the Buddha or what the Buddha achieved? The author shared with us four sections of the Buddha’s perspective on life. This is also the basic knowledge of the Buddha’s Teachings.

Is the Buddha a god or a human being? The international academic community accepts that he was definitely a real historical person. But what kind of man could be admired across the planet and down the river of time from 2,500 years ago down to the present. Given such an arresting phenomenon, wouldn't all intellectually curious people want to investigate what the Buddha achieved?

Well, to a large extent, the splendor of the Buddha lies in the point of view which he gave to the world. This way of thinking stands out as completely novel compared to any other system of thought or cultural tradition in human history. The Buddha's point of view is utterly unique.

We can divide the essence of the Buddha's perspective on life into four sections, like four aspects of a human being: one spirit, two halves of the heart, three points surrounding the meridian and four brain systems.

One Spirit

The Buddha established the most profound and complete philosophical system which there has ever been: the essence of this is emptiness. In this system there are 84,000 doors from which the way points to enlightenment. These doors stand wide open for any human being to enter into learning and practice. In fact they stand open for any sentient being whatsoever. “Enlightenment”: this is a famous and frequently used word. However it may still be unclear to many of us.

Ok, forget about anything which might seem too intellectual. What is emptiness when expressed in simple terms? First, take a deep and cool breath. Relax from your head down to your buttocks, from your hair down to your scalp and from your liver to your lungs. Try to separate yourself both from thinking and from doing; then, just observe. Please observe as calmly and clearly as you can. Just keep observing. Done? If you keep observing, you'll find that everything, all that exists in the cosmos, is entirely inter-dependent. Time, space, history, society, love, happiness, disaster, everything that there is, even you and I: none of these contains any intrinsic and independent nature whatsoever. There are only causes, conditions and effects. The things we perceive, think about, feel and judge are merely images which are created by our mind, and which are deeply intertwined both with our own mind and those of others. We believe in and care about these images far too much. This brings about what in Buddhism is called 'attachment' delivering afflictions, worry and suffering to each and every moment of our life.

Thus, emptiness is the one spirit.

Two Halves of the Heart

One spirit gives birth to two halves of the heart: love and compassion. When you understand the truth of emptiness, you will arrive at the shore of true morality. The Buddha's love is so inconceivably infinite that it exceeds any notions of space and time that we could imagine. The Buddha's love means that you should always wish eternal happiness to others, no matter what they did to you, including animals and unknown creatures outside our galaxy. The Buddha's compassion is equally vast and deep. It means to emancipate all lives from the suffering caused by attachment to those “images” we just talked about.

We may feel that the Buddha is a man of obscure thinking, and that he is hard to understand. For example: why should we love those who have harmed us? And why should we feel sorry for someone who is responsible for his own ruin through stupidity and paranoia?

If we really want to solve the problems in our day to day life and in the world we live in at present, we ought to try to practice these two halves of the heart. As a wise holy master has often said before, “My religion is kindness.” Believe it or not; it is a fact that everyone who has practiced love and compassion has come closer to happiness.

Sometimes we need to start with practice in order to know the truth, rather than learning the truth and only then beginning to practice.


Three Points Around the Meridian

These are also known as “the three Dharma seals.”
A: All dependent things are impermanent.
B: All clinging to self is wrong since it leads to suffering.
C: All karma disappears instantly when the wisdom of emptiness is realised.

Unless someone holds to these three principles, they don't have Buddha's point of view. The only thing that never changes is that everything is continuously changing at every moment. Everything is empty of self; everything in the game of reincarnation would vanish in an instance if you could only break through the bonds of attachment.

Abstract knowledge is one thing. Applying it to life is quite another. For instance, we all know that we'll die but everyone lives as though they will never undergo death. Isn't that right? We become enamoured with all kinds of fleeting enjoyment and pay for these with our money, our health, our emotions and even our lives. The whole time we fail to recognise that nothing we can obtain will last forever. To most of us, the idea that there is no solidly existing “I” sounds extremely hard to comprehend. To say that the “I” is something like an illusion would smash our life into pieces. However, if we can't recognise the tricks that are played on us by our emotions and misguided perceptions, we won't penetrate through the superficial and phenomenal level of appearance, nor will we be able to put an end to our suffering.

In our life, we continuously meet with traps set by our greed, hatred and ignorance. Our consciousness, words and actions are just like innocent little creatures hunted and slaughtered by those unwholesome states of mind poisoned by Mara. We are slaves to our minds and we cannot be free unless the mind itself is liberated.

Four Brain Systems

The Buddha suggested that we equip ourselves with four basic facts often called “the  four noble truths.” We can think of these facts like four systems in the human brain.

A: Living is suffering. Is this too absolute? Firstly, let’s consider a picture of life as containing eight elements: birth, ageing, sickness, death, meeting what you dislike, being parted from what you like, and not getting what you want. Doesn't this picture apply to everyone's life? Some might suggest that we can still gain a lot of happiness, or point to a slogan like 'no pain, no gain' to argue that suffering is a fair price for enjoyment. Do Buddhist concepts turn our colourful world into a sad one? Well, don't forget what we learned about the “one spirit” and the “two halves of the heart.” When our mind is correctly orientated, instead of suffering, it will be filled with happiness.

B: Suffering comes from attachment. This point is similar to the one about clinging to self which we discussed in “the three points around the meridian.” The Buddha didn't condemn desire. He taught us to deal with desire in the hope that we could become wiser. If we look at contemporary society, don't we find that most people's desires have become excessive? We inject our desires with too much unnatural stimulation. We are too attached to our likes and dislikes, our fears and wishes. A mind which remains in an unnatural disordered state over a long period of time leads to a miserable and disordered life filled with suffering.

Many Buddhists focus on these first two brain systems and spend so much time on these warnings that they scare potential friends away. We also need to take more of a look at the second two brain systems.

C: The cessation of suffering is truly possible. There is a chain which leads from negative causes and conditions to harmful effects. We need to cut this chain. There  is a huge wheel that turns from a distorted mind towards bad actions and terrible consequences. We need to stop this wheel and start it moving in the opposite direction. We've been living a narrow and self-centred life for longer than we can remember so breaking this lifestyle isn't going to be easy. However, it can be done and the Buddha is the proof.

D: Paths guiding us from suffering are already there for us. In the context of Buddhism, you will often hear about the precepts, concentration, Buddha Wisdom, The Noble Eightfold Path and so on. These are just different ways to set out and describe the specific methods for moving towards enlightenment. Although these systems of learning and practice can be complicated, they are open and obtainable to all people of whatever age or situation. The Buddha is not only our fundamental teacher but also the perfect model for all human beings. Commit yourself to following the Buddha's teachings and you will meet with results you could never have imagined.

This is the ABC of the Buddha's teachings. Many people have an idea of Buddhism associated with peacefulness, tolerance and wisdom. However, when you begin to study and practice with devotion, you will reach a deeper level of understanding and what you will experience will be both extraordinary and truly blissful.


Editor:Iota, Ranald Macdonald
Tags:emptiness, love, compassion, three Dharma seals, four noble truths

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