|Golden Buddha (Sharon Cummings/buyabstractartpaintingssharoncummings/flickr)|
|There are three kinds of fully enlightened individuals: personal (arhat), nonteaching (pacceka-), and supreme teacher (sammasam-) buddhas (BDrunz/flickr.com).|
The Buddha only taught one thing -- Dharma, the means to the end of every kind of suffering. This ancient Sanskrit word has at least a dozen distinct meanings. But it could be summed up as "truth" (lowercase t, the pre-Buddhist term dharma meaning Truth, uppercase T), nature, that which stands unaffected by time.
The Doctrine (Dharma) points at the Truth (dharma). It is only a pointer. It is not the Truth. The Truth cannot be expressed with words or concepts or thinking, which is often how we approach things, attempting to grasp and label and argue about them.
|The Buddha "Turning the Wheel of the Dharma" delivered to the Five Ascetics, Deer Park, Sarnath, India, suburbs of Varanasi, now set in stone on site.|
One simile is that the Buddha points at the Moon. The Moon is the dharma. But people neglect to see the Moon, instead focusing on the pointing, the Dharma (Buddhist Doctrine or Teachings or instructions on getting to direct realization).
It doesn't help that the distinctions are so fine or that the word "Dharma" (as the Teachings or Doctrines of Buddhism) is not universally capitalized to distinguish it from dharma, which uncaptialized in Buddhist Sanskrit refers to phenomena or "things."
The Buddha only taught Dharma, which means he only taught two things -- the problem and the solution. Suffering (dukkha) is the problem. Release from all suffering (nirvana) is the solution.
It can be said that in this regard, the Buddha taught three things: Sutras (conventional discourses), Discipline (Vinaya), and Abhidharma (the profound Dharma, the Ultimate Teachings on Dependent Origination, mind and body, psychology and physics, ultimate-consciousness and ultimate-materiality, and the exacting details of the Path to liberation from suffering).
Of course, how could all of this ever be stated succinctly? Buddhism, the Buddha-Dharma, all that points towards the Truth that shall set one free is summarized and taught as four things, the Four Noble Truths: (1) we have a problem, (2) it has a cause, (3) it has a solution, and (3) this is the way to the solution.
Because Buddhism so well packed, what do people ever learn about it but lists? An introduction, that's what. And that introduction is usually just lists out of context. We are constantly being introduced to Buddhism. When do we get an advanced or even an intermediate teaching? When does practice go beyond preliminary lists to unpack the wonderful Dharma within? Rarely.
One crucial listing of proximate causes of awakening is called the Seven Factors of Enlightenment: Mindfulness (sati), keen investigation of phenomena, energy (viriya), rapture or joy (piti), calm (passaddhi), concentration or absorption (samadhi [first four jhanas]), and equanimity (upekkha). While these are important, they are in fact part of a more comprehensive set of factors.
So here it is. Monastic-scholars gathered all that pertains directly to enlightenment -- to "liberation from suffering" in this very life. They enumerated 37 things taught by the Buddha as indispensable aids to enlightenment.
Ven. Ledi Sayadaw
- Four Foundations of Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna)
- Four Right Efforts (Sammā-padhāna)
- Four Bases of Success (Iddhipāda)
- Five Controlling Faculties (Indriya)
- Five Mental Powers (Bala)
- Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Bojjhaṅga)
- Noble Eightfold Path (Maggaṅga)
- THE DETAILS: The Requisites of Enlightenment: A Manual
Withdraw the senses, go silent, still both body and mind, enter absorption (jhana). Develop facility entering and emerging from first four absorptions. Emerge from fourth absorption, immediately take up contemplation of the causal links of Dependent Origination for insight, having set up Fourfold Mindfulness. Breakthrough to first realization (anatta), glimpsing nirvana and thereby gaining stream entry. That's it.
This knowing-and-seeing will ensure final realization, full enlightenment (arhatship), within a fixed number of lives. Stream entry means a change of lineage (liberating-wisdom), as one becomes a "noble one" with no possibility of falling back, one of the few in all the universe to put a limit on suffering.
(Or as a "shortcut" that may ironically take longer, work very hard in this life, and perhaps future lives, as a sincerely meditative and contemplative monastic then have sudden realization occur effortlessly in a future life neither being able to explain how or why it happened). So rare is a human life that one should not wait to practice. Practice the Path here and now. The karmic results will be of benefit everywhere and in all circumstances life after life.