The Way to the End of Suffering: The Causes of Suffering

A teaching proposing to lead to the end of suffering must, as we said, give a reliable account of its causal origination. For if we want to put a stop to suffering, we have to stop it where it begins, with its causes. To stop the causes requires a thorough knowledge of what they are and how they work; thus the Buddha devotes a sizeable section of his teaching to laying bare "the truth of the origin of dukkha." The origin he locates within ourselves, in a fundamental malady that permeates our being, causing disorder in our own minds and vitiating our relationships with others and with the world. The sign of this malady can be seen in our proclivity to certain unwholesome mental states called in Pali kilesas, usually translated "defilements." The most basic defilements are the triad of greed, aversion, and delusion. Greed (lobha) is self-centered desire: the desire for pleasure and possessions, the drive for survival, the urge to bolster the sense of ego with power, status, and prestige. Aversion (dosa) signifies the response of negation, expressed as rejection, irritation, condemnation, hatred, enmity, anger, and violence. Delusion (moha) means mental darkness: the thick coat of insensitivity which blocks out clear understanding. 

From these three roots emerge the various other defilements -- conceit, jealousy, ambition, lethargy, arrogance, and the rest -- and from all these defilements together, the roots and the branches, comes dukkha in its diverse forms: as pain and sorrow, as fear and discontent, as the aimless drifting through the round of birth and death. To gain freedom from suffering, therefore, we have to eliminate the defilements. But the work of removing the defilements has to proceed in a methodical way. It cannot be accomplished simply by an act of will, by wanting them to go away. The work must be guided by investigation. We have to find out what the defilements depend upon and then see how it lies within our power to remove their support. 

The Buddha teaches that there is one defilement which gives rise to all the others, one root which holds them all in place. This root is ignorance (avijja).1 Ignorance is not mere absence of knowledge, a lack of knowing particular pieces of information. Ignorance can co-exist with a vast accumulation of itemized knowledge, and in its own way it can be tremendously shrewd and resourceful. As the basic root of dukkha, ignorance is a fundamental darkness shrouding the mind. Sometimes this ignorance operates in a passive manner, merely obscuring correct understanding. At other times it takes on an active role: it becomes the great deceiver, conjuring up a mass of distorted perceptions and conceptions which the mind grasps as attributes of the world, unaware that they are its own deluded constructs.

In these erroneous perceptions and ideas we find the soil that nurtures the defilements. The mind catches sight of some possibility of pleasure, accepts it at face value, and the result is greed. Our hunger for gratification is thwarted, obstacles appear, and up spring anger and aversion. Or we struggle over ambiguities, our sight clouds, and we become lost in delusion. With this we discover the breeding ground of dukkha: ignorance issuing in the defilements, the defilements issuing in suffering. As long as this causal matrix stands we are not yet beyond danger. We might still find pleasure and enjoyment -- sense pleasures, social pleasures, pleasures of the mind and heart. But no matter how much pleasure we might experience, no matter how successful we might be at dodging pain, the basic problem remains at the core of our being and we continue to move within the bounds of dukkha


Buddha's Message for All

Buddha--the flower of mankind, is no more in this world, but the sweet fragrance of His peace message remains forever. 
Buddhism is one of the oldest religions still being practised in the world today. While the names of many other religions which existed in India have been forgotten today, the teachings of the Buddha, (better known as the Dhamma) are still relevant to the needs of today's society. This is because the Buddha has always considered himself as human religious teacher whose message was meant to promote the happiness and well-being of other human beings. The Buddha's primary concern was to help His followers to live a normal life without either going to the extremes of self-denial or totally surrendering to sensual desires.
  
The practical nature of the Buddha's teaching is revealed in the fact that not everyone is expected to attain exactly the same goal in one lifetime, since the mental impurities are deeply rooted. Some people are spiritually more advanced than others and they can proceed to greater heights according to their state of development. But every single human being has the ultimate potential to attain the supreme goal of Buddhahood if he has the determination and will to do so.


Even now does the soft, sweet voice of the Buddha ring in our ears. And sometimes we perhaps feel a little ashamed because we do not understand Him fully. Often we only praise His Teaching and respect Him, but do not try to practise what He preached. The Buddha's Teaching and message have had their effect on all people for thousands of years whether they believe in religion or not. His message is for all.
  
Though the Buddha, the flower of mankind, is no longer in this world, the sweet fragrance and exquisite aroma of His Teachings have spread far and wide. Its balmy, diffusing fragrance has calmed and soothed millions. Its ambrosial perfume has heartened and cheered every nation which it has penetrated. The reason that His Teachings have captured millions of hearts is because they were spread(not by weapons or political power)but by love and compassion for humanity. Not a drop of blood stains its pure path. Buddhism wins by the warm touch of love, not by the cold claws of fear. Fear of the supernatural and the doctrine of everlasting hell-fire have no place in Buddhism. 

During the last 25 centuries since the appearance of the Buddha, many changes have taken place in this world. Kingdoms have risen and fallen; nations have prospered and perished. However, the world today has forgotten many of these past civilizations. But the name of the Buddha remains alive and fresh in the minds of millions of people today. The Kingdom of Righteousness that He built is still strong and steady. Although many temples, pagodas, images, libraries and other religious symbols erected in His honor were destroyed, His untainted Noble Name and the message He gave remain in the minds of cultured people. 

The Buddha taught man that the greatest of conquests was not the subjugation of others but of the self. He taught in theDhammapada, 'Even though a man conquers ten thousand men in battle, he who conquers but himself is the greatest of conquerors'.
  
Perhaps the best example of how the gentle message of the Compassionate One could rehabilitate the most savage of men is the case of the Emperor Asoka. About two hundred years after the Buddha, this king waged fierce battles across India and caused great anguish and fear. But when he absorbed the Dhamma, he regretted the evil that he had done. We remember and honor him today because after his conversion to the path of peace, he embarked on another battle: a battle to bring peace to mankind. He proved without doubt that the Buddha was right when He asserted that true greatness springs from love, not hatred, from humility, not pride; from compassion, not cruelty. 

The Emperor Asoka's conversion from cruelty to kindness was so complete that he forbade even the killing of animals in his kingdom. He realized that his subjects stole because of want and he set out to reduce want in his kingdom. But above all, he instructed the followers of the Buddha to remember the Master's teaching never to force their beliefs on others who were loyal to other religious leaders. In other cases we have heard of kings who, upon conversion, diverted their thirst for blood by spreading their new religion by the sword! Only Buddhism can take pride in a king who has never been equaled in such greatness before or ever since. 
The Buddha's Teachings were introduced in order that societies could be cultured and civilized and live in peace and harmony. All of life's most difficult problems can be better understood if we but try to learn and practise His teachings. The Buddha's approach to the problems and suffering of mankind is straightforward and direct.
  
The Buddha was the greatest conqueror the world has ever seen. He conquered the world with His infallible weapons of love and truth. His Teaching illuminates the Way for mankind to cross from a world of darkness, hatred, and suffering, to a new world of light, love and happiness.

The Way to the End of Suffering: The Range of Suffering

The Buddha does not merely touch the problem of suffering tangentially; he makes it, rather, the very cornerstone of his teaching. He starts the Four Noble Truths that sum up his message with the announcement that life is inseparably tied to something he calls dukkha. The Pali word is often translated as suffering, but it means something deeper than pain and misery. It refers to a basic unsatisfactoriness running through our lives, the lives of all but the enlightened. Sometimes this unsatisfactoriness erupts into the open as sorrow, grief, disappointment, or despair; but usually it hovers at the edge of our awareness as a vague unlocalized sense that things are never quite perfect, never fully adequate to our expectations of what they should be. This fact of dukkha, the Buddha says, is the only real spiritual problem. The other problems -- the theological and metaphysical questions that have taunted religious thinkers through the centuries -- he gently waves aside as "matters not tending to liberation." What he teaches, he says, is just suffering and the ending of suffering, dukkha and its cessation. 

The Buddha does not stop with generalities. He goes on to expose the different forms that dukkha takes, both the evident and the subtle. He starts with what is close at hand, with the suffering inherent in the physical process of life itself. Heredukkha shows up in the events of birth, aging, and death, in our susceptibility to sickness, accidents, and injuries, even in hunger and thirst. It appears again in our inner reactions to disagreeable situations and events: in the sorrow, anger, frustration, and fear aroused by painful separations, by unpleasant encounters, by the failure to get what we want. Even our pleasures, the Buddha says, are not immune from dukkha. They give us happiness while they last, but they do not last forever; eventually they must pass away, and when they go the loss leaves us feeling deprived. Our lives, for the most part, are strung out between the thirst for pleasure and the fear of pain. We pass our days running after the one and running away from the other, seldom enjoying the peace of contentment; real satisfaction seems somehow always out of reach, just beyond the next horizon. Then in the end we have to die: to give up the identity we spent our whole life building, to leave behind everything and everyone we love.


But even death, the Buddha teaches, does not bring us to the end of dukkha, for the life process does not stop with death. When life ends in one place, with one body, the "mental continuum," the individual stream of consciousness, springs up again elsewhere with a new body as its physical support. Thus the cycle goes on over and over -- birth, aging, and death -- driven by the thirst for more existence. The Buddha declares that this round of rebirths -- called samsara, "the wandering" -- has been turning through beginningless time. It is without a first point, without temporal origin. No matter how far back in time we go we always find living beings -- ourselves in previous lives -- wandering from one state of existence to another. The Buddha describes various realms where rebirth can take place: realms of torment, the animal realm, the human realm, realms of celestial bliss. But none of these realms can offer a final refuge. Life in any plane must come to an end. It is impermanent and thus marked with that insecurity which is the deepest meaning of dukkha. For this reason one aspiring to the complete end of dukkha cannot rest content with any mundane achievement, with any status, but must win emancipation from the entire unstable whirl.

Was Buddha an Incarnation of God?

Never had the Buddha claimed that He was the son or a messenger of God.
The Buddha was a unique human being who was self-Enlightened. He had no one whom He could regard as His teacher. Through His own efforts, He practised to perfection the ten supreme qualities of generosity, discipline, renunciation, wisdom, energy, endurance, truthfulness, determination, goodwill and equanimity. Through His mental purification, He opened the doors to all knowledge. He knew all things to be known, cultivated all things to be cultivated, and destroyed all things to be destroyed. Indeed, no other religious teacher was comparable to Him in terms of cultivation and attainment. 

So special was He and so electrifying His message, that many people asked Him 'What(not so much as Who) He was'. Questions on 'Who He was' would be with respect to His name, origin, ancestry, etc., while 'What He was' referred to the order of beings to which He belonged. So 'godly and inspiring was He that even during His time, there were numerous attempts of others to turn Him into a god or a reincarnation of god. Never did He agree to be regarded as such. In the Anguttara Nikaya, He said: 'I am not indeed a deva, nor a gandharva, nor a yaksa, nor a manusya. Know ye that I am the Buddha.' After Enlightenment, the Buddha could no longer be classified even as a 'manusya' or an ordinary human being. He belonged to the Buddha Wangsa, special race or species of enlightened beings, all of whom are Buddhas.


  
Buddhas appear in this world from time to time. But some people have the mistaken idea that it is the same Buddha who is reincarnated or appears in the world over and over again. Actually, they are not the same person, otherwise there is no scope for others to attain Buddhahood. Buddhists believe that anyone can become a Buddha if he develops his qualities to perfection and is able to remove his ignorance completely through his own efforts. After Enlightenment, all Buddhas are similar in their attainment and experience of Nibbana. 

In India, the followers of many orthodox religious groups tried to condemn the Buddha because of His liberal teaching which revolutionized the Indian society. Many regarded Him as an enemy when increasing numbers of intellectuals as well as people from all ranks of society took up the religion. When they failed in their attempt to destroy Him, they adopted the reverse strategy of introducing Him as a reincarnation of one of their gods. This way they could absorb Buddhism into their religion. To a certain extent, this strategy worked in India since it had, through the centuries, contributed to the decay and the subsequent uprooting of Buddhism from the land of its origin. 

Even today there are certain religionists who try to absorb the Buddha into their beliefs as a way of gaining converts among Buddhists. Their basis for doing so is by claiming that the Buddha Himself had predicted that another Buddha would appear in this world, and that the latest Buddha will become even more popular. One group named a religious teacher who lived 600 years after Gautama the Buddha as the latest Buddha. Another group said that the next Buddha had already arrived in Japan in the 13thcentury. Yet another group believed that their founder came from the lineage of great teachers (like Gautama and Jesus) and that founder was the latest Buddha. These groups advised Buddhists to give up their old Buddha and follow the so-called new Buddha. While it is good to see them giving the Buddha the same status as their own religious teachers, we feel that these attempts to absorb Buddhists into another faith by misrepresenting the truth are in extreme bad taste. 

Those who claim that the new Buddha had already arrived are obviously misrepresenting what the Buddha had said. Although the Buddha predicted the coming of the next Buddha, He mentioned some conditions which had to be met before this can be possible. It is the nature of Buddhahood that the next Buddha will not appear as the dispensation of the current Buddha still exits. He will appear only when the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path have been completely forgotten. The people living then must be properly guided in order to understand the same Truth taught by the previous Buddhas. We are still living within the dispensation of Gautama the Buddha. Although the moral conduct of the people has, with very few exceptions, deteriorated, the future Buddha would only appear at some incalculable period when the Path to Nibbana is completely lost to mankind and when people are ready to receive Him.

The Way to the End of Suffering

The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying. 

At first such changes generally are not welcome. We try to deny our vision and to smother our doubts; we struggle to drive away the discontent with new pursuits. But the flame of inquiry, once lit, continues to burn, and if we do not let ourselves be swept away by superficial readjustments or slouch back into a patched up version of our natural optimism, eventually the original glimmering of insight will again flare up, again confront us with our essential plight. It is precisely at that point, with all escape routes blocked, that we are ready to seek a way to bring our disquietude to an end. No longer can we continue to drift complacently through life, driven blindly by our hunger for sense pleasures and by the pressure of prevailing social norms. A deeper reality beckons us; we have heard the call of a more stable, more authentic happiness, and until we arrive at our destination we cannot rest content.


But it is just then that we find ourselves facing a new difficulty. Once we come to recognize the need for a spiritual path we discover that spiritual teachings are by no means homogeneous and mutually compatible. When we browse through the shelves of humanity's spiritual heritage, both ancient and contemporary, we do not find a single tidy volume but a veritable bazaar of spiritual systems and disciplines each offering themselves to us as the highest, the fastest, the most powerful, or the most profound solution to our quest for the Ultimate. Confronted with this melange, we fall into confusion trying to size them up -- to decide which is truly liberative, a real solution to our needs, and which is a sidetrack beset with hidden flaws.

One approach to resolving this problem that is popular today is the eclectic one: to pick and choose from the various traditions whatever seems amenable to our needs, welding together different practices and techniques into a synthetic whole that is personally satisfying. Thus one may combine Buddhist mindfulness meditation with sessions of Hindu mantra recitation, Christian prayer with Sufi dancing, Jewish Kabbala with Tibetan visualization exercises. Eclecticism, however, though sometimes helpful in making a transition from a predominantly worldly and materialistic way of life to one that takes on a spiritual hue, eventually wears thin. While it makes a comfortable halfway house, it is not comfortable as a final vehicle.

There are two interrelated flaws in eclecticism that account for its ultimate inadequacy. One is that eclecticism compromises the very traditions it draws upon. The great spiritual traditions themselves do not propose their disciplines as independent techniques that may be excised from their setting and freely recombined to enhance the felt quality of our lives. They present them, rather, as parts of an integral whole, of a coherent vision regarding the fundamental nature of reality and the final goal of the spiritual quest. A spiritual tradition is not a shallow stream in which one can wet one's feet and then beat a quick retreat to the shore. It is a mighty, tumultuous river which would rush through the entire landscape of one's life, and if one truly wishes to travel on it, one must be courageous enough to launch one's boat and head out for the depths.

The second defect in eclecticism follows from the first. As spiritual practices are built upon visions regarding the nature of reality and the final good, these visions are not mutually compatible. When we honestly examine the teachings of these traditions, we will find that major differences in perspective reveal themselves to our sight, differences which cannot be easily dismissed as alternative ways of saying the same thing. Rather, they point to very different experiences constituting the supreme goal and the path that must be trodden to reach that goal.

Hence, because of the differences in perspectives and practices that the different spiritual traditions propose, once we decide that we have outgrown eclecticism and feel that we are ready to make a serious commitment to one particular path, we find ourselves confronted with the challenge of choosing a path that will lead us to true enlightenment and liberation. One cue to resolving this dilemma is to clarify to ourselves our fundamental aim, to determine what we seek in a genuinely liberative path. If we reflect carefully, it will become clear that the prime requirement is a way to the end of suffering. All problems ultimately can be reduced to the problem of suffering; thus what we need is a way that will end this problem finally and completely. Both these qualifying words are important. The path has to lead to a complete end of suffering, to an end of suffering in all its forms, and to a final end of suffering, to bring suffering to an irreversible stop.

But here we run up against another question. How are we to find such a path -- a path which has the capacity to lead us to the full and final end of suffering? Until we actually follow a path to its goal we cannot know with certainty where it leads, and in order to follow a path to its goal we must place complete trust in the efficacy of the path. The pursuit of a spiritual path is not like selecting a new suit of clothes. To select a new suit one need only try on a number of suits, inspect oneself in the mirror, and select the suit in which one appears most attractive. The choice of a spiritual path is closer to marriage: one wants a partner for life, one whose companionship will prove as trustworthy and durable as the pole star in the night sky.

Faced with this new dilemma, we may think that we have reached a dead end and conclude that we have nothing to guide us but personal inclination, if not a flip of the coin. However, our selection need not be as blind and uninformed as we imagine, for we do have a guideline to help us. Since spiritual paths are generally presented in the framework of a total teaching, we can evaluate the effectiveness of any particular path by investigating the teaching which expounds it. 
In making this investigation we can look to three criteria as standards for evaluation: 

  1. First, the teaching has to give a full and accurate picture of the range of suffering. If the picture of suffering it gives is incomplete or defective, then the path it sets forth will most likely be flawed, unable to yield a satisfactory solution. Just as an ailing patient needs a doctor who can make a full and correct diagnosis of his illness, so in seeking release from suffering we need a teaching that presents a reliable account of our condition.
  2. The second criterion calls for a correct analysis of the causes giving rise to suffering. The teaching cannot stop with a survey of the outward symptoms. It has to penetrate beneath the symptoms to the level of causes, and to describe those causes accurately. If a teaching makes a faulty causal analysis, there is little likelihood that its treatment will succeed.
  3. The third criterion pertains directly to the path itself. It stipulates that the path which the teaching offers has to remove suffering at its source. This means it must provide a method to cut off suffering by eradicating its causes. If it fails to bring about this root-level solution, its value is ultimately nil. The path it prescribes might help to remove symptoms and make us feel that all is well; but one afflicted with a fatal disease cannot afford to settle for cosmetic surgery when below the surface the cause of his malady continues to thrive.
To sum up, we find three requirements for a teaching proposing to offer a true path to the end of suffering: first, it has to set forth a full and accurate picture of the range of suffering; second, it must present a correct analysis of the causes of suffering; and third, it must give us the means to eradicate the causes of suffering. This is not the place to evaluate the various spiritual disciplines in terms of these criteria. Our concern is only with the Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha, and with the solution this teaching offers to the problem of suffering. That the teaching should be relevant to this problem is evident from its very nature; for it is formulated, not as a set of doctrines about the origin and end of things commanding belief, but as a message of deliverance from suffering claiming to be verifiable in our own experience. Along with that message there comes a method of practice, a way leading to the end of suffering. This way is the Noble Eightfold Path (ariya atthangika magga). The Eightfold Path stands at the very heart of the Buddha's teaching. It was the discovery of the path that gave the Buddha's own enlightenment a universal significance and elevated him from the status of a wise and benevolent sage to that of a world teacher. To his own disciples he was pre-eminently "the arouser of the path unarisen before, the producer of the path not produced before, the declarer of the path not declared before, the knower of the path, the seer of the path, the guide along the path" (MN 108). And he himself invites the seeker with the promise and challenge: "You yourselves must strive. The Buddhas are only teachers. The meditative ones who practise the path are released from the bonds of evil" (Dhp. v. 276).


To see the Noble Eightfold Path as a viable vehicle to liberation, we have to check it out against our three criteria: to look at the Buddha's account of the range of suffering, his analysis of its causes, and the programme he offers as a remedy.

THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS AS TAUGHT BY THE BUDDHA

Four Noble Truths

Why are we here? Why are we not happy with our lives? What is the cause of our unsatisfactoriness? How can we see the end of unsatisfactoriness and experience eternal peace?
The Buddha's Teaching is based on the Four Noble Truths. To realize these Truths is to realize and penetrate into the true nature of existence, including the full knowledge of oneself. When we recognize that all phenomenal things are transitory, are subject to suffering and are void of any essential reality, we will be convinced that true and enduring happiness cannot be found in material possessions and worldly achievement, that true happiness must be sought only through mental purity and the cultivation of wisdom.
The Four Noble Truths are a very important aspect of the teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha has said that it is because we fail to understand the Four Noble Truths that we have continued to go round in the cycle of birth and death. In the very first sermons of the Buddha, the Dhammachakka Sutta, which He gave to the five monks at the Deer park in Sarnath was on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. What are the Four Noble Truths? They are as follows:

The Noble Truth of DukkhaThe Noble Truth of the Cause of DukkhaThe Noble Truth of the End of DukkhaThe Noble Truth of the Path leading to the end of Dukkha
There are many ways of understanding the Pali word 'Dukkha'. It has generally been translated as 'suffering' or 'unsatisfactoriness', but this term as used in the Four Noble Truths has a deeper and wider meaning. Dukkha contains not only the ordinary meaning of suffering, but also includes deeper ideas such as imperfection, pain, impermanence, disharmony, discomfort, irritation, or awareness of incompleteness and insufficiency. By all means, Dukkha includes physical and mental suffering: birth, decay, disease, death, to be united with the unpleasant, to be separated from the pleasant, not to get what one desires. However, many people do not realize that even during the moments of joy and happiness, there is Dukkha because these moments are all impermanent states and will pass away when conditions change. Therefore, the truth of Dukkha encompasses the whole of existence, in our happiness and sorrow, in every aspect of our lives. As long as we live, we are very profoundly subjected to this truth.


Some people may have the impression that viewing life in terms of Dukkha is a rather pessimistic way of looking at life. This is not a pessimistic but a realistic way of looking at life. If one is suffering from a disease and refuses to recognize the fact that one is ill, and as a result of which refuses to seek for treatment, we will not consider such a mental attitude as being optimistic, but merely as being foolish. Therefore, by being both optimistic or pessimistic, one does not really understand the nature of life, and is therefore unable to tackle life's problems in the right perspective. The Four Noble Truths begin with the recognition of Dukkha and then proceed to analyse its cause and find its cure. Had the Buddha stopped at the Truth of Dukkha, then one may say Buddhism has identified the problem but has not given the cure; if such is the case, then the human situation is hopeless. However, not only is the Truth of Dukkha recognized, the Buddha proceeded to analyze its cause and the way to cure it. How can Buddhism be considered to be pessimistic if the cure to the problem is known? In fact, it is a teaching which is filled with hope.

In addition, even though Dukkha is a noble truth, it does not mean that there is no happiness, enjoyment and pleasure in life. There is, and the Buddha has taught various methods with which we can gain more happiness in our daily life. However, in the final analysis, the fact remains that the pleasure or happiness which we experience in life is impermanent. We may enjoy a happy situation, or the good company of someone we love, or we enjoy youth and health. Sooner or later, when these states change we experience suffering. Therefore, while there is every reason to feel glad when one experiences happiness, one should not cling to these happy states or be side-tracked and forget about working one's way to complete Liberation.
If we wish to cure ourselves from suffering, we must first identify its cause. According to the Buddha, craving or desire (tanha or raga) is the cause of suffering. This is the Second Noble Truth. People crave for pleasant experiences, crave for material things, crave for eternal life, and when disappointed, crave for eternal death. They are not only attached to sensual pleasures, wealth and power, but also to ideas, views, opinions, concepts, beliefs. And craving is linked to ignorance, that is, not seeing things as they really are, or failing to understand the reality of experience and life. Under the delusion of Self and not realizing Anatta (non-Self), a person clings to things which are impermanent, changeable, perishable. The failure to satisfy one's desires through these things causes disappointments and suffering.

The Danger of Selfish Desire
Craving is a fire which burns in all beings: every activity is motivated by desire. They range from the simple physical desire of animals to the complex and often artificially stimulated desires of the civilized man. To satisfy desire, animals prey upon one another, and human beings fight, kill, cheat, lie and perform various forms of unwholesome deeds. Craving is a powerful mental force present in all forms of life, and is the chief cause of the ills in life. It is this craving that leads to repeated births in the cycle of existence.
Once we have realized the cause of suffering, we are in the position to put an end to suffering. So, how do we put an end to suffering? Eliminate it at its root by the removal of craving in the mind. This is the Third Noble Truth. The state where craving ceases is known as Nibbana. The word Nibbana is composed of 'ni' and 'vana', meaning the departure from or end of craving. This is a state which is free from suffering and rounds of rebirth. This is a state which is not subjected to the laws of birth, decay and death. This state is so sublime that no human language can express it. Nibbana is Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there were not this Unborn, this Unoriginated, this Uncreated, this Unformed, then escape from the conditioned world is not possible.

Nibbana is beyond logic and reasoning. We may engage in highly speculative discussions regarding Nibbana or ultimate reality, but this is not the way to really understand it. To understand and realize the truth of Nibbana, it is necessary for us to walk the Eightfold Path, and to train and purify ourselves with diligence and patience. Through spiritual development and maturity, we will be able to realize the Third Noble Truth.
The Noble Eightfold Path is the Fourth Noble Truth which leads to Nibbana. It is a way of life consisting of eight factors. By walking on this Path, it will be possible for us to see an end to suffering. Because Buddhism is a logical and consistent teaching embracing every aspect of life, this noble Path also serves as the finest possible code for leading a happy life. Its practice brings benefits to oneself and other, and it is not a Path to be practised by those who call themselves Buddhists alone, but by each and every understanding person, irrespective of his religious beliefs

INTRODUCTION: BUDDHA, DHAMMA, SANGHA

The Buddha

BUDDHA or Enlightened One-lit. Knower or Awakened One-is the honorific name given to the Indian Sage, Gotama, who discovered and proclaimed to the world the Law of Deliverance, known to the West by the name of Buddhism. 

He was born in the 6th century B.C., at Kapilavatthu, as the son of the king who ruled the Sakya country, a principality situated in the border area of modern Nepal. His persona1 name was Siddhattha, and his clan name Gotama (Sanskrit: Gautama). In his 29th year he renounced the splendor of his princely life and his royal career, and became a homeless ascetic in order to find a way out of what he had early recognized as a world of suffering. After a six year's quest, spent under various religious teachers and in a period of fruitless self-mortification, he finally attained to Perfect Enlightenment (sammaa-sambodhi), under the Bodhi tree at Gayaa (today Buddh-Gayaa). Five and forty years of tireless preaching and teaching followed and at last, in his 80th year, there passed away at Kusinara that 'undeluded being that appeared for the blessing and happiness of the world.' 



The Buddha is neither a god nor a prophet or incarnation of a god, but a supreme human being who, through his own effort, attained to Final Deliverance and Perfect Wisdom, and became 'the peerless teacher of gods and men.' He is a 'Saviour' only in the sense that he shows men how to save themselves, by actually following to the end the Path trodden and shown by him. In the consummate harmony of Wisdom and Compassion attained by the Buddha, he embodies the universal and timeless ideal of Man Perfected. 

The Dhamma

The Dhamma is the Teaching of Deliverance in its entirety, as discovered, realized and proclaimed by the Buddha. It has been handed down in the ancient Pali language, and preserved in three great collections of hooks, called Ti-Pi.taka, the "Three Baskets," namely: (I) the Vinaya-pi.t aka, or Collection of Discipline, containing the rules of the monastic order; (II) the Sutta-pi.taka, or Collection of Discourses, consisting of various books of discourses, dialogues, verses, stories, etc. and dealings with the doctrine proper as summarized in the Four Noble Truths; (Ill) the Abhidhamma-pi.taka, or Philosophical Collection; presenting the teachings of the Sutta-Pi.taka in strictly systematic and philosophical form. 

The Dhamma is not a doctrine of revelation, but the teaching of Enlightenment based on the clear comprehension of actuality. It is the teaching of the Fourfold Truth dealing with the fundamental facts of life and with liberation attainable through man's own effort towards purification and insight. The Dhamma offers a lofty, but realistic, system of ethics, a penetrative analysis of life, a profound philosophy, practical methods of mind training-in brief, an all-comprehensive and perfect guidance on the Path to Deliverance. By answering the claims of both heart and reason, and by pointing out the liberating Middle Path that leads beyond all futile and destructive extremes in thought and conduct, the Dhamma has, and will always have, a timeless and universal appeal wherever there are hearts and minds mature enough to appreciate its message. 

The Sangha

The Sangha-lit. the Assembly, or community-is the Order of Bhikkhus or Mendicant Monks, founded by the Buddha and still existing in its original form in Burma, Siam, Ceylon, Cambodia, Laos and Chittagong (Bengal). It is, together with the Order of the Jain monks, the oldest monastic order in the world. Amongst the most famous disciples in the time of the Buddha were: Saariputtawho, after the Master himself, possessed the profoundest insight info the Dhamma; Moggallaana, who had the greatest supernatural powers: Ananda, the devoted disciple and constant companion of the Buddha; Mahaa-Kassapa, the President of the Council held at Rajagaha immediately after the Buddha's death; Anuruddha, of divine vision, and master of Right Mindfulness;Raahula, the Buddha's own son. 

The Sangha provides the outer framework and the favorable conditions for all those who earnestly desire to devote their life entirely to the realization of the highest goal of deliverance, unhindered by worldly distractions. Thus the Sangha, too, is of universal and timeless significance wherever religious development reaches maturity. 

The Threefold Refuge

The Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha, are called 'The Three Jewels' (ti-ratana) on account of their matchless purity, and as being to the Buddhist the most precious objects in the world. These 'Three Jewels' form also the 'Threefold Refuge' (ti-sara.na) of the Buddhist, in the words by which he professes, or re-affirms, his acceptance of them as the guides of his life and thought. 
The Pali formula of Refuge is still the same as in the Buddha's time: 

Buddha.m sara.na.m gacchaami
Dhamma.m sara.n a.m gacchaami
San gha.m sara.na.m gacchaami.
I go for refuge to the Buddha
I go for refuge to the Dhamma
I go for refuge to the Sangha. 
 It is through the simple act of reciting this formula three times that one declares oneself a Buddhist. (At the second and third repetition the word Dutiyampi or Tatiyampi, 'for the second/third time,' are added before each sentence.) 

The Five Precepts

After the formula of the Threefold Refuge follows usually the acceptance of the Five Moral Precepts (pa~nca-sila). Their observance is the minimum standard needed to form the basis of a decent life and of further progress towards Deliverance. 

  1. Paanaatipaataa veramani-sikkhaapadam samaadiyaami. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from killing living beings. 
  2. Adinnaadaanaa veramanii-sikkhaapada.m samaadiyaami. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from taking things not given. 
  3. Kaamesu michcaacaaraa verama.ni-sikkhaapada.m samaadiyaamiI undertake to observe the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct. 
  4. Musaavaadaa verama.ni sikkhaapada.m samaadiyaami. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from false speech. 
  5. Suraameraya - majja - pamaada.t.thaanaa verama.nii-sikkhaapada.m samaadiyaamiI undertake to observe the precept to abstain from intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness.

Choose your companions with care!

"These are the four drains on one's store of wealth: being debauched in sex; being debauched in drink; being debauched in gambling; and having evil people as friends, associates, and companions. Just as if there were a great reservoir with four inlets and four drains, and a man were to close the inlets and open the drains, and the sky were not to pour down proper showers, the depletion of that great reservoir could be expected, not its increase. In the same way, these are the four drains on one's store of wealth: being debauched in sex, being debauched in drink, being debauched in gambling, and having evil people as friends, associates, and companions."
— AN 8.54
"These four, young householder, should be understood as foes in the guise of friends: he who appropriates a friend's possessions, he who renders lip-service, he who flatters, he who brings ruin...
The friend who appropriates, the friend who renders lip-service, the friend that flatters, the friend who brings ruin, these four as enemies the wise behold, avoid them from afar as paths of peril...
"These four, young householder, should be understood as warm-hearted friends: he who is a helpmate, he who is the same in happiness and sorrow, he who gives good counsel, he who sympathises...
The friend who is a helpmate, the friend in happiness and woe, the friend who gives good counsel, the friend who sympathises too — these four as friends the wise behold and cherish them devotedly as does a mother her own child."
— DN 31

Our Human Life and Problems

As human beings we have achieved a level of material progress we would not have even dreamed of barely a century ago. The marvels of modern technology have given us enormous power over the forces of nature. We have conquered many disasters but the ultimate question is: 'Are we happier than our ancestors were in the past?' The answer is: 'No'.

The abuse of women, children and the underprivileged religious and racial discrimination, color bar, and caste distinction continue on unabated.

Perhaps those who enjoy material comforts suffer more acutely than their 'poor' fellow beings. Mental illnesses, stress and loneliness are some of the serious problems we now face in our modern society. But the vital question is: Who is responsible for all the evils that haunt the world today?'
There are many who are quite eager to take the credit for the progress that mankind has achieved. Religionists, scientists, politicians and economists- are all quick to claim that humanity is indebted to them for progress. But who must share the blame? I believe that everyone is equally responsible. Let us turn the spotlight on ourselves and ask ourselves to declare in all honesty if we also have been responsible for failing to bring peace and happiness to our fellow beings.

All of us are responsible for some of the horrors taking place in our midst today because we are too afraid to tell the truth. Let us take for example the exploitation of man's desire for sensual gratification. Greed for money and power has led some unscrupulous people to develop a multi-million dollar industry, to providing sensual pleasures in every possible way and young children are being trapped and victimized in the process.

Never before in the history of the world, has the human race been in such great need to be free from conflict, ill-feeling, selfishness, decent and strife. We are in dire need of peace nor only in our personal life at home and work, but also at the global level. The tension, anxiety and fear arising from the conflict are not only disruptive but continue to exert a constant drain on our well-being, mentally and physically. In their desire to completely dominate everything around them, humans have become the most violent beings in this world. They have succeeded, to some extent, but in so doing have paid a terrible price. They have sacrificed peace of mind for material comfort and power.

The basic problem we face today is moral degeneration and misused intelligence. In spite of all the advances made by science and technology, the world is far from being safe and peaceful. Science and technology have indeed made human life more insecure than ever before. If there is no spiritual improvement in the way we handle our problems then humanity itself is in danger of being wiped out.

GOING BEYOND WORLDLY PLEASURES

The religions of the world have always maintained that human happiness does not depend merely upon the satisfaction of physical appetites and passions, or upon the acquisition of material wealth and power. Even if we have all the worldly pleasures, we still cannot be happy and peaceful if our minds are constantly obsessed with anxiety and hatred arising from ignorance with regard to the true nature of existence.

Genuine happiness cannot be defined solely in terms of wealth, power, children , fume or inventions. These no doubt bring some temporary physical and mental comfort but they cannot provide lasting happiness in the ultimate sense. This is particularly true when possessions are unjustly acquired or obtained through misappropriation. They become a source of pain, guilt and sorrow rather than bring happiness to the possessor.

Too often we are made to believe that pleasing the five senses can guarantee happiness. Fascinating sights, enchanting music, fragrant scents, delicious tastes and enticing body contact mislead and deceive us, only to make us slaves to worldly pleasures. While no one will deny that there is momentary happiness in the anticipation of pleasure as well as during the gratification of the senses, such pleasures are fleeting. When one views these pleasures objectively, one will truly understand the fleeting and unsatisfactory nature of such pleasures. One will thus gain a better understanding of realty: what this existence really means and how true happiness can be gained!

We can develop and maintain inner peace only by turning our thoughts inwards instead outwards. We must be aware of the dangers and pitfalls of the destructive forces of greed, hatred and delusion. We must learn to cultivate and sustain the benevolent forces of kindness, love and harmony. The battle-ground is within us and is not fought with weapons or with any other sources but only with our mental awareness of all negative and positive forces within our minds.

Mindfulness makes a full man. A full man speaks with an open mind. And like a parachute, the mind works better when it is fully opened. This awareness is the key to unlock the door from conflict and strife as well as wholesome thoughts emerge.

The mind is the ultimate source of all happiness and misery. For there to be happiness in the world, the mind of an individual must first be at peace and happy. Individual happiness is conducive to the happiness of society, while the happiness of society means happiness of the nation. It is on the happiness of nations that the happiness of this world is built. Here we must use the image of a net. Imagine the whole universe as an immense net and each being as a single knot in this net. If we disturb one knot, the whole net is shaken. So each individual must be happy to keep the world happy.
From the lessons of life, it is clear that real victory is never gained by strife. Success is be never achieved by conflict. Happiness is never experienced through ill-feeling. Peace is never achieved by accumulating more wealth or gaining worldly power. Peace is gained only by letting go of our selfishness and helping the world with acts of love. Peace in the heart conquers all opposing forces. It also helps us maintain a healthy mind and live a rich and fulfilling life of happiness and contentment. 'Since it is in the minds of men that wars are fought, it is in the minds of men that the fortresses of peace must be built'.

OUR SENSUAL PLEASURES

Today, especially in many so-called affluent societies, people are facing more problems, dissatisfaction and mental derangement than in under-developed societies. This is because men have become slaves in their sensual pleasures and crave for worldly enjoyment without proper moral and spiritual development. Their tensions, fears, anxieties, and insecurity disturb their minds. This state of affairs has become the biggest problem in many countries. Since people in developed societies have not learnt to maintain contentment in their lives hence naturally they will experience unsatisfactoriness.

There are four areas where man is trying to find the aim of life:
- Material or physical level;
-Likes and dislikes or pleasant or unpleasant feeling;
- Studying and reasoning;
- Sympathetic understanding, based on pure justice and fair dealing,
The last one is the realistic and lasting method which never creates disappointment. Today, people need more wealth, not only for their living and to fulfill their obligations, but because their craving for accumulation has increased. It has become a sort of competition.

In experience worldly pleasure there must be an external object or partner but to gain mental happiness it is not necessary to such have an external object.

Many young people have lost confidence in themselves and have to face difficulty in dealing what to do with their lives. The main cause of this mental attitude is excessive ambition and anxieties created by competition, jealousy and insecurity. Such problems naturally create a very bad atmosphere for others who want to live peacefully. It is a fact that when one individual creates a problem, his behavior in turn effects the well being of others.

Animal never experience happiness but pleasure. Happiness is not based on the arbitrary satisfaction of one's own self but in the sacrifice of one's pleasure for the well-being of others.

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