Perfectionist's Sanctuary/The Lord Buddha's Teachings Page 2

The Teaching of the Lord BuddhaWHAT DID THE BUDDHA TEACH?English Version

- คลิกที่ธงไทยเพื่ออ่านฉบับภาษาไทย -


Eighty years before the commencement of the Buddhist Era, a great man was born into the world. He was the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Siri Maha Maya of Kapilavastu of the Sakka country, which is now within the boundaries of Nepal. His name was Siddhattha. Thirty-five years later, Prince Siddhattha attained Supreme Enlightenment and thereafter became known as the Enlightened One or the Lord Buddha as he is called in Thai. He proclaimed his Dhamma (ธรรมะ), or Universal Truth to the people; and, thereafter, the Buddhist religion (the Teachings of the Buddha) and the Buddhist community of disciples came into existence.

The community was composed of bhikkhus (ภิกษุ) or monks (including samaneras or male novices), bhikkhunis (ภิกษุณี) or nuns (including samaneris or female novices), upasakas (อุบาสก) or male lay followers and upasikas (อุบาสิกา) or female lay followers. At present, in Thailand, we have only monks and novices, upasakas or Buddhist laymen and upisikas or Buddhist laywomen.

A monk is a man who been ordained and conducts himself in accordance with the precepts laid down for a monk. A novice is a person under or over 20 years of age who has been ordained and conducts himself in accordance with the precepts laid down for a novice. A Buddhist layman or laywoman is one who has taken refuge in the Triple Gems (พระรัตนตรัย หรือ พระไตรรัตน์), i.e. the Buddha (พระพุทธ), the Dhamma (พระธรรม) and the Sangha (พระสงฆ์), and observes the precepts applicable to laymen and laywomen. At present we call laymen and laywomen, whether of age or underage, Buddhamamaka (พุทธมามกะ) and Buddhamamika (พุทธมามิกะ) respectively, meaning "he or she who believes in the Buddha."

Buddhism has spread from its place of birth into the various countries of the world. The focal point of worship in Buddhism is the Tri-Ratana (The Triple Gems), i.e. the Buddha who by himself discovered, realized and proclaimed the Dhamma, thereby establishing the Buddhist religion; the Dhamma or the Universal Truth discovered, realized and proclaimed by the Buddha; and the Sangha or community of those who hear, follow and realize the Buddha's Teachings.

Some members of the Sangha become monks and help in the dissemination of Buddhism and the perpetuation of monkshood up to the present time. Everyone who is initiated into the Buddhist religion, whether a layman, a laywoman or a monk, ought to conform to a preliminary rule, namely one must solemnly promise to take refuge in and accept the Triple Gems as one's own refuge or, in other words to regard the Buddha as one's father who gives birth to one's spiritual life.

A Buddhist may associate himself or herself with people of other faiths and pay respect to objects of reverence of other religions in an appropriate manner in the same way as he or she may pay respect to the father, mother or elders of other people while having at the same time his or her own father.

He will not lose his Buddhist religion as long as he believes in the Triple Gems, just as he will remain the son of his own father as long as he does not disown him and adopt someone else as his father instead, or just as he will remain a Thai as long as he does not adopt another nationality.

Buddhism, therefore, is not intolerant. Its followers may at will associate, with people of other nationalities and religions, Buddhism does not teach disrespectfulness to anyone. On the contrary, it declares that respect should be paid to all those to whom respect is due and that the Dhamma should not be withheld from the knowledge of others and kept only to oneself. Whoever desires to study and practice the Dhamma may do so without having to profess first the Buddhist faith. The Dhamma as proclaimed by Buddhist religion, will help to demonstrate that it is "Truth" that will be beneficial and bring happiness in the present life.

The essence of the entire Buddhist teachings lies in the Four Noble Truths. Noble Truth (Ariya-Sacca -- อริยสัจ ๔) is short for "truth of the noble ones (or of those who have attained a high degree of advancement)," "truth attainable by the noble ones," or "truth by which one is ennobled." It should first be understood that it is not simply truth that is agreeable to the world or to oneself, but truths that are directly born of wisdom.

The Four Noble Truths are:

  1. Dukkha (ทุกข์) or suffering which means birth, decay and death, which are the normal incidents of life. It also means sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair, which are at times experienced by our body and mind. To be separated from the pleasant, to be disappointed, or to be in contact with the unpleasant are also suffering. In short, our body and mind are subject to suffering or, in other words, we may say that our existence is bound with suffering.
  2. Samudaya (สมุหทัย), which means the cause of suffering, which is desire. It is a compelling urge of the mind, such as the longing to own what we desire to be what we desire to be, or to avoid those states to which we feel aversion.
  3. Nirodha (นิโรธ), which means cessation of suffering, which connotes extinction of desire or such longings of the mind.
  4. Magga (มรรค), which means the way to the cessation of suffering, which is the Noble Eightfold Paths, namely: Right Understanding; Right Intention; Right Speech; Right Action; Right Livelihood; Right Effort; Right Mindfulness; and Right Concentration.

Some people believe that Buddhism is pessimistic in outlook because its teachings deal only with suffering and are of so high a standard that ordinary people are unable to practice, because it advocates extinction of desire, which is very difficult to accomplish. Since such misunderstanding exists, clarification is necessary before the Noble Truths can be dealt with. The Buddhist, religion is neither wholly pessimistic nor wholly optimistic. It derives its outlook from truth, i.e. truth that can only be understood through a combination of insight and purity of mind.

According to the history of Buddhism, the Buddha did not enunciate the Four Noble Truths to any one lightly. He would first feed the minds of his listeners with other points of the Dhamma until they became pure enough to be receptive to higher teachings. Then He would expose the Four Noble Truths to them.

The other points of the Dhamma that are constantly stressed particularly to laymen, are Dana (ทาน) or charity, Sila (ศีล) or morality, the natural and logical result of charity and morality which is bliss (meaning happiness and prosperity even in this life), the dangers of sensuality (anything that binds one to love and desire) and the advantages to be derived from the renunciation of sensuality.

This method of gradual teaching adopted by the Buddha is comparable to the present-day method of education. We may say that the Four Noble Truths were taught at university level; pupils at lower educational levels were taught other points of the Dhamma suitable to their understanding. The Buddha would never teach the Dhamma beyond the comprehension of his listeners, for to do so would not have benefited anyone.

For those who are in search of knowledge, although they may not be able to comply with the Four Noble Truths, study of this fundamental point of the Dhamma would certainly advance their rational knowledge of truth and may make them consider how much they can in practice comply with it, in spite of the fact that they are still unable to rid themselves of desire.

Such considerable is possible as in the following instances:

  1. Every one wants to be happy and never wants to suffer. Yet, why are people still suffering and unable to do away with their own sufferings themselves? Sometimes, the more they try to get rid of them, the more they suffer. This is because they do not know what the true cause of suffering is and what the true cause of happiness is. If they knew, they would be successful. They would eliminate the cause of suffering and create the cause of happiness. One of the important obstacles to this success is one's own heart. Because we comply too much with the dictates of our hearts, we have to suffer.
  2. In saying that we comply with the dictates of our hearts, in fact, we mean that we are gratifying desire or those compelling urges of the heart. In worldly existence, it is not yet necessary to suppress desire totally, because desire is the driving force that brings progress to the world and to our selves. But desire must be under proper control and some limit should be set for satisfying it. If desire could be thus restricted, the probability of a happy life in this world would be much greater. Those who start fires that burn themselves and the world are invariably people who do not restrict the desires of their hearts within proper bounds. If we wish to acquire knowledge, we should study hard. If we desire rank and wealth, we should persevere in our duty to the best of our ability. This is tantamount to observing the Noble Eightfold Path in relation to the world, which is at the same time acting in accordance with the Dhamma.
  3. But human beings require some rest. Our bodies need rest and sleep. Our minds also must be given time to be empty. If they are at work all the time, we cannot sleep. Among those who take pleasure in forms and sounds, there are--for example--some that are fond of good music; but if they were compelled to listen to music too long, the lovely music constantly sounding in their ears would become a torment. They would run away from it and long for a return of silence or tranquility. Our mind requires such tranquility for a considerable time every day. This is rest for the mind or, in other words, the extinction of desire that, in fact, amounts to elimination of suffering. Therefore, if one really understands that elimination of suffering is nothing but keeping the mind at rest and that rest is a mental nourishment, which is needed every day, then one will begin to understand the meaning of Nirodha.
  4. We should go on to realize that when our mind is restless, it is because of desire. The mind then causes us to act, speak and think in consonance with its agitated state. When gratified, it may become peaceful--but only momentarily--because action dictated by a restless mind may very soon afterwards bring us intense pain and severe punishment or make us conscience-stricken and cause us to regret it for a very long time. So let it be known that a person with his mind in such a state is termed a "slave of desire".

Then is there a way to overcome desire or to master the desire in our own hearts? Yes, there is the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the extinction of suffering, namely:

  1. Samma-ditthi (สัมมาทิฐิ) or Right Understanding, meaning an intellectual grasp of the Four Noble Truths or of the true nature of existence even in as simplified form as outlined in the preceding paragraphs.
  2. Samma-sankappa (สัมมาสังกัปปะ) or Right Intention, meaning intention to be free from all bonds of Dukkha (suffering -- ทุกข์). Such intention should be free from revenge, hatred and harmfulness.
  3. Samma-vaca (สัมมาวาจา) or Right Speech, meaning abstinence from lying; from tale-bearing and vicious talk that cause discord; from harsh language; and from vain, irresponsible and foolish talk.
  4. Samma-kammanta (สัมมากัมมันตะ) or Right Action, meaning avoidance of killing and torturing, of theft and misappropriation, and of adultery.
  5. Samma-ajiva (สัมมาอาชีวะ) or Right Livelihood, meaning rejection or wrong means of livelihood and living by right means.
  6. Samma-vayama (สัมมาวายามะ) or Right Effort, meaning effort to avoid the arising of evil; effort to overcome evil and demerit states that have already a risen; effort to develop good and beneficial states of mind, and effort to maintain them when they have arisen.
  7. Samma-sati (สัมมาสติ) or Right Mindfulness, meaning dwelling in contemplation of the true stations of the mind, for instance, the Satipatthana or four Stations of Mindfulness which are the Body, Sensation, Mind and Dhamma.
  8. Samma-samadhi (สัมมาสมาธิ) or Right Concentration, meaning the fixing of the mind upon a single deed that we wish to performs along the right path.

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