Wednesday, June 5, 2019

"The Buddha’s Practical Teaching"

John D. Ireland, The Buddha's Practical Teaching (; Dhr. Seven (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly
I love the Dharma, the Path to Freedom!
Comments on the Buddha Word (Bodhi Leaves #16, attempts to demonstrate the theoretical aspect of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism and their continuous presentation, in various guises, throughout the Sutra Collection (Sutta Piṭaka) of the Pali canon.

The Four Noble Truths are the central, essential, and characteristic feature of Buddhism. Its goal is the complete understanding and penetration of them. They are "Buddhism in a Nutshell."
  1. All conditioned-things are disappointing.
  2. There is a cause of disappointment.
  3. There is an end to disappointment.
  4. There is a path leading to the end of it.
Time is an illusion, but I should have started sooner.
The Buddha has stated that it is because of not understanding and not fully comprehending the Four Ennobling (enlightening) Truths that living beings suffer.

Beings are constantly becoming, never static, wandering on ad nauseum through the cyclical rebirth process (powered by karma, manifesting on various planes of existence).

We are trapped between incessant rebirth and consequent (re-)death, subject to unfathomable suffering via innumerable disappointments.
  1. Not all conditioned-phenomena are pleasant.
  2. There is a reason why.
  3. There is an all-pleasant state (nirvana, the unconditioned).
  4. There is a path to it.
Let's be quite clear what is meant by "understanding." Firstly, there is the understanding arising from reading and hearing (suta-maya-ñāṇa) about the Dharma, the Buddha's Teachings.

This is, of course, only the first step, insufficient by itself but nevertheless to be done carefully because a wrong grasp of the letter and meaning, at this stage, will adversely affect the following stages of understanding.

Then there is the understanding arising from contemplating and thinking over (cinta-maya-ñāṇa) what one has learned, drawing out the implications of the words, digesting, and relating them to personal experience.

All my effort last time paid off in this life!
Finally, there is the understanding arising from actually putting the Buddha's Teaching into practice -- “understanding derived from cultivation” (bhavana-maya-ñāṇa),  that is,  by  meditation and other practical applications -- treading the path that culminates in the direct experience of nirvana, the ultimate aim of Buddhism.

And this last type of understanding is what is intended here. Then the Four Stages of Enlightenment arise in due order, consisting of an understanding that is irreversible -- never to be lost -- and which may be called to mind whenever one wishes.
The final stage of enlightenment is complete deliverance of mind from all suffering. To have actual assurance of this final goal, it is imperative to reach the initial stage, called the "Path of Stream-entry" or the "possession of clear seeing" into the Four Noble Truths.

Without reaching this stage we have no actual guarantee of making irreversible progress on the Buddha’s path to freedom from all suffering. We are liable to be swept away and lose all that has been gained in a single moment if circumstances go against us, as would happen, for instance, if we were to die before reaching this stage.

The Buddha teaches that it may be very long indeed before we might become fortunate enough to hear of the Dharma again and have the capacity to be able to put it into practice.

Therefore, our aim should be to reach this stage of certainty and self-assurance, this Path of Stream-entry.

The question now arises how are we to produce that kind of understanding leading to enlightenment? The answer lies in the preparedness of the mind for understanding.

Many times in the Buddhist sutras we are told of individuals who, on hearing but a few words on the Teaching immediately gained a deep understanding and attained the stages of enlightenment, apparently without effort.

But these are actually exceptional cases. Most of the Buddha’s disciples had to go through a long and laborious training before being ready to attain the goal. More

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