Friday, July 4, 2014

Real independence on Independence Day

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, CC Liu, Pat Macpherson, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly
A bathing suit beauty used to sell inexpensive clothes is, ironically, not any symbol of freedom. But it is business-as-usual in the USA ( See

Waking up in a sleeping world
There are two forms of independence that are of paramount importance in Buddhism.

One is independence from any teacher; the other is freedom from all suffering.

The first is achieved by insight. It is liberating-knowledge that no longer depends on anyone else. It has been personally verified and has the effect of certainty beyond all doubt.
  • But as Engaged Buddhists out to save the world, shouldn't we forego this spiritual mumbo-jumbo and and help wake people up, at least help wake up America? The shocking truth is this: "You can't wake up someone who is only pretending to be asleep." It is not that they don't know how, or why, or what for. One can step into a cage and start yelling, "Come on, come on, everybody run, escape, get out of the cage!" Will they go and be free? No, they're like to attack you. But you can go, be free, come back, remind some. Some will see. Are you free as you point at the cage door that's actually unlocked even though it says locked? Get free then help free others, or get on a quest for freedom and offer mutual assistance. It's not one or the other. There is no wisdom without compassion no matter what anyone says or fears or call selfish. Be free.
One's confidence in the "Three Treasures" becomes absolute by this personal verification:
  1. The Buddha, the teacher, is indeed enlightened;
  2. this Dharma, this teaching, indeed leads the one who practices in accordance with it to enlightenment;
  3. those who successfully practice it -- the taught, the Noble Sangha (adepts, lay and monastic practitioners who range from stream winners to arhats) -- in the past, now, or in the future have indeed verified it for themselves and gotten beyond all doubt.
Nirvana is ultimate freedom
I'm not free but I have this nice shirt
What is it that is being personally verified?

In a sense, it does not matter what is true or Truth. What matters is what we realize. It remains something for someone else until then. What is true. Three things are certainly true -- and by their Truth are liberating. They lead to complete freedom. That is why the Buddha taught them. He pointed out the Path to Freedom.

The Path of Freedom (
The three are the Three Characteristics of Existence: all things are changeable, all things are ultimately disappointing, all things are impersonal.

"Everything changes," but Truth does not change. That is because Truth is not a "thing." The explanation is technical: There are only two kinds of "things" (dharmas) in Buddhism, the conditioned and the unconditioned.

Everything that depends on conditions (components, supports, causes) is a conditioned thing. Everything that does not depend on conditions is an unconditioned thing -- and only one thing, one element, is unconditioned: Nirvana is the unconditioned element. In that sense it is not a thing like all other phenomena.
All other phenomena depend on aggregates (groups of things), factors, elements that make up the whole. Everything, with only one exception is like this. Therefore, sometimes nirvana is called true in a world of change, disappointment, and emptiness.
  1. If things are void, why do we pursue them? It is because we think they are full and offer the possibility of fulfillment. We think they are ours.
  2. If things are disappointing, why do we pursue them? It is because we think they are satisfying and offer the possibility of fulfillment. We think they can serve as the basis for enduring happiness.
  3. If things are always changing, why do we pursue them? It is because we think they are stable and offer the possibility of fulfillment. We think they will not let us down.
The Buddha walked the Path and then pointed it out to others as he walked around India
Quest for Truth and liberation
We have to ask ourselves this question, just as Prince Siddhartha once asked himself:
If I am always changing, always ultimately disappointing, always not what I seem, Why do I pursue things that are also always changing, always disappointing, and always not what they seem?
With this question he could successfully let go of the unimportant and search for the important, search for the unchanging, the satisfactory, the true. This was his spiritual (supersensual) quest. He found it and talked about it in the Four Noble Truths.
This is the essence of Buddhism, all its diverse teachings reduced to four simple things that are true, but their Truth hardly matters if we do not realize them for ourselves. Stating them without realizing them is compared to being a shepherd counting another's flock.
Fortunately, we can study them, learn them, and realize them, realization being by far the most important. All (conditioned) things are disappointing (unsatisfactory, unfulfilling, off center, ill, defective).
That is the first liberating truth. Instinctively, we turn away. We don't want to hear that. The mind/heart argues, "I can name a bunch of stuff that's not!" If one actually looks, one will realize that the only "thing" that is not disappointing is nirvana. That is the third liberating truth.
The second truth is that the disappointment of conditioned-things has a cause. All (conditioned) things have causes and conditions and are therefore unstable, unreliable, fickle, fragile, crumbling, slipping away, leading to disappointment.
The fourth and final truth is that there is a path, a way to the realization of the third truth, the unconditioned-element, and that is the Noble Eightfold Path.
What does WISDOM have to do with it?
Wisdom (paññā, prajna, understanding, knowledge, insight) comprises a wide field. The specific Buddhist wisdom, as part of the Noble Eightfold Path to deliverance, is insight (vipassanā).

It is direct-knowledge that brings about the four stages of enlightenment (bodhi) and the realization of nirvana.

And it consists of the penetration -- the full realization -- of these three things: the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and egolessness (anattā) of all forms of conditioned existence.

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