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The Lord Buddha's TeachingWHAT DID THE BUDDHA TEACH?English Version
 

The Noble Eightfold Path is in reality one complete path with eight components, which may be summed up in three stages of training (sikkha -- สิกขา) namely:

  1. Sila Sikkha (สีลสิกขา) or Training in Morality, which includes Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood. In general, this means that whatever we say or do, we must say or do in the right way. This also applies to our livelihood. We must reject wrong means of livelihood and live by right ones. If we do not yet have a means of livelihood, for instance, if we are students depending on the support of our benefactors, we must spend the money given us properly and not squander it extravagantly. We must learn to control ourselves and refrain from spending it wrongly or improperly on our friends and ourselves.
     
  2. Citta Sikkha (จิตตสิกขา) or Mental Training, which includes Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Generally speaking, the subject of the mind is very important. We must study and train our minds. It is not really difficult to do so if only we can get started. For instance, we can begin developing diligence, train ourselves in mindfulness and cultivate our memories by focussing our minds on what is beneficial and by practicing concentration. Such training can be applied to our study, since it requires diligence and proper use of our memory and powers of concentration.
     
  3. Punna Sikkha (ปัญญสิกขา) or Training in Wisdom, which includes Right Understanding and Right Intention. Generally speaking, man succeeds in his own development through insight by means of which he makes right decisions. Right intention means right deliberation, and right understanding leads to right decisions. Students in the various fields of study all aim at acquiring wisdom in order to enable them to deliberate rightly and arrive at correct decisions in accordance with reason and reality. The training in wisdom should, in particular, include the knowledge of Tri-lakkhana (ไตรลักษณ์) or the Three Characteristics of Existence and the practice of Brahma-Vihara (พรหมวิหาร ๔) or the Four Sublime States of Consciousness. Tri-lakkhana or the Three Characteristics of Existence are: All Sankhara (สังขาร) or phenomenal (compounded) things are subject to Anicca or impermanence, Dukkha or suffering and Anatta or non-self, which are the three characteristics of existence.
Anicca (อนิจจา -- impermanence) means transience. Everything that has come into existence will eventually have to pass away. Everything exists only temporarily.

Dukkha (ทุกข์ -- suffering) consists of continual change. All things are subject to incessant and continual decay. Their owners consequently have to suffer just as much as the things they possess. For instance, one falls ill when one's body is out of order.

Anatta (อนัตตา -- non-self) means void of reality or self-existence. Anatta may be explained in three stages as follows:
 
  1. Not to be too self-centered. Otherwise one would become selfish and would be actuated only by self-interest and would not know oneself in the light of truth. For instance, being too egoistic, one would believe one is in the right or entitled to this or that--but, in truth, one's belief is erroneous.
     
  2. We cannot give orders to anything, including our bodies and minds, to remain unchanged according to our wish. For instance, we could not order our bodies to remain always young and handsome and our minds always happy and alert.
     
  3. One who has practiced and attained to the highest level of knowledge will discover that all things including one's own body and mind are devoid of self; or, as the Buddhist proverb puts it: "one becomes non-existent to oneself." Some people with great insight have no attachment to anything at all in the world. Nevertheless, during their lifetimes, they are able to conduct themselves in the right manner (without defilement) appropriate to the place and circumstances in which they live.

Brahma-vihara or the four Sublime States of Consciousness denote four qualities of the heart, which, when developed and magnified to their fullest, lift man to the highest level of being. These qualities are:

  1. Metta (เมตตา), which means all-embracing kindness or the desire to make others happy, as opposed to hatred or the desire to make others suffer. Metta builds up generosity in one's character, giving it firmness, freeing it from irritation and excitement, thus generating only friendliness and no enmity nor desire to harm or cause suffering to anyone, even to the smallest creatures, through hatred, anger or even for fun.
     
  2. Karuna (กรุณา), which means compassion or desire to free those who suffer from their sufferings, as opposed to the desire to be harmful. Karuna also builds up generosity in one's character, making one desirous to assist those who suffer. Karuna is one of the greatest benefactions of the Buddha as well as of the monarch and of such benefactors as our fathers and mothers.
     
  3. Mudita (มุทิตา), which means sympathetic joy or rejoicing with, instead of feeling envious of, those who are fortunate. Mudita builds up the character in such a way that it promotes only virtues and mutual happiness and prosperity.
     
  4. Upekkha (อุเบกขา), which means equanimity or composure of mind whenever necessary. For instance, when one witnesses a person's misfortune, one's mind remains composed. One does not rejoice because that person is one's enemy nor grieve because that person is one's beloved. One should see others without prejudice or preference but in the light of Kamma (กรรม) or will-action. Everyone is subject to his own Kamma, heir to the effects of his own will-actions. Earnest contemplation of Kamma or the law of Cause and Effect will lead to the suppression of egocentric contemplation and result in the attainment of a state of equanimity. Upekkha builds up the habit of considering everything from the point of view of right or wrong and ultimately leads to a sense of right doing in all things.

These four qualities should be cultivated and developed in our hearts by generating Metta or loving kindness to all beings in general and to some, in particular. If this practice is repeated often, our minds will become impregnated with them often, thus displacing hindrances such as hatred and anger. Pursued long enough, it will ultimately become a habit which will bring with it only happiness.

Nibbana (นิพพาน) is Supreme Happiness. There is a Buddhist proverb, which states that: "Nibbana is Supreme Happiness." Nibbana means elimination of desire, not only worldly desire but also desire in the sphere of the Dhamma. Action not dictated by greed is action leading to Nibbana.

The Buddha was once asked what was meant by saying that Dhamma including Nibbana may be "realized by everyone's personally." The Buddha's reply was as follows. When one's mind is subdued by greed, hatred and delusion, volition harmful to oneself or others or to both oneself and others will arise, causing physical and/or mental suffering. As soon as such volition arises, unwholesome actions -- be it of body, speech or mind -- will inevitably follow. One in such a state of mind will never be able to recognize, in the light of truth, what is to his own or others' benefit, nor to the benefit of both. However, when greed, hatred and delusion are eliminated, when there is no more volition harmful to oneself or others, or to both, no more unwholesome bodily, verbal or mental actions, when what is to one's own or others' benefit, or both, is recognized in the light of truth and no more suffering of the body nor even of mind occurs, this is the meaning of Dhamma leading to Nibbana.

According to this explanation of the Buddha, realization of the Dhamma means realization of one's own mental states, good as well as bad. No matter in what state the mind may find itself, one should realize it correctly in the light of truth. This is what is called realization to the Dhamma. It may be asked what benefit can be derived from such realization? The answer is that it will bring peace of mind. When the mind is poisoned with desire, hatred and delusion, it always flows outward. If it is brought back to be examined by itself, the fire of desire, hatred and delusion will ultimately subside and peace of mind will ensue.

This peace should be carefully discerned and securely retained. This then is realization of peace of mind, which is realization of Nibbana. The way to realize the Dhamma and attain Nibbana as taught by the Buddha is a natural one, which can be practiced by all from the simplest and lowest to the highest level.

The Noble Truths, the Three Characteristics of Life and Nibbana are Sacca Dhamma (สัจธรรม), i.e. Universal or Absolute Truth as realized and taught by the Buddha (as expounded in the First Sermon (พระปฐมเทศนา) and in the Dhammaniyama (ธรรมนิยาม) or Fixedness of the Dhamma. This may be termed Truth in the light of the Dhamma, which may be attained through Panna or insight, and this is the Buddhist way to end all suffering.

Buddhism simultaneously teaches the worldly Dhamma or Lokasacca (โลกสัจจ์). This is worldly truth, a "relative reality," or conventional truth, which views the material universe as it really is, i.e. an aggregate of composite factors existing in relation to certain imperfect states of consciousness such as belief in the existence of selfhood and all its belongings. But in the worldly sense it has a conventional identity as exemplified in the Buddha's saying, "A man is his own refuge."

In this connection, the Buddha said, "As the assembled parts of a cart comprise a cart, so the existence of khandhas or composite factors of being comprise a being". The worldly Dhamma includes conduct in human society, for instance, the Six Directions (conduct towards our fathers and mothers, our teachers, our religion, our wives, children, and our servants), as well as religious precepts and disciplinary laws. Along with our practice of the Dhamma to liberate our minds from suffering according to Absolute Truth, we should also practice the Dhamma in the light of the worldly or conventional truth. For example, if one is a son, a daughter or a pupil, one should comply with the Dhamma in a manner appropriate to one's status and try to study and use the Dhamma in the solving of one's daily problems. He should try everyday to apply the Dhamma in his study, work and other activities. He who conducts himself in this manner will see for himself that the Dhamma is truly of immeasurable benefit to his own existence.

 

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