5 PERSONAL CHOICES YOU MAKE TO OVERCOME YOUR DEMONS

Overcome your past and set up your future by doing this:

When your mindset is focused more on believing that life won’t work in your favor based off of your past circumstances, you only look at obstacles. If you can look forward to a better future and know that life will work out, you will see only the opportunities out there for you. Here are five ways you can overcome your demons to set yourself up for success.

1. Develop self-awareness

Become present with the decisions you make so that you won’t go on a downward slope. Be aware so that you can learn to better rationalize and do what is right for you.

2. Foster self-acceptance

Be sure that you don’t judge yourself for your past actions. Accept that they were decisions made when you couldn’t better rationalize your choices and don’t beat yourself up for it.

3. Study emotional intelligence

Make sure you carve out the time to learn more about yourself now that you are ready to make changes. Realize that you can learn to better manage your emotions in an individualized way.

4. Embrace generosity

You can’t expect to receive anything in life before you have given all that you had. You can increase your happiness by increasing more positive associations in your life.

5. Practice letting go

Realize that people and situations come and go in your life. And if they happen to have a detrimental impact, you need to learn to just let that go. You will be far better off when you learn to release your past and only focus on your current happiness to shape your future for the better.

5 NO-NONSENSE HABITS TO INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY RIGHT NOW

Increase your productivity right now with the help of these five no-nonsense habits that successful people use to achieve their goals. Cal Newport, a man who has “published four books, earned a PhD from MIT, published a ton of academic papers, and was hired as a professor at Georgetown University,” knows a thing or two about accomplishing tasks. Take some of his tricks and apply them to your own life. Then sit back and watch your productivity rise.

1) “Don’t schedule distractions. Schedule deep work.”

Rather than scheduling in the trivial, time-wasting activities like meetings and phone calls – schedule the times you need in your day to get into the bulk of your work that requires concentration. “Block hours for what really matters, not just for anything with a designated start time.” Make standing dates with yourself to focus on writing part of your novel every Sunday. Schedule in the morning time block to go through your list of things to do or to get immersed in that project you’ve been working on all year. Don’t be afraid to use your calendar for the work that takes concentration and not just for meetings.

2) “Keep a scoreboard for deep work.”

Measure what you do so that you can do what you need to do. Newport says, “I keep a tally so I can see every day how many hours of deep work I’ve actually performed.” This way, when things get busy, he has a way to know whether or not he is accomplishing his deep work or just his busy work. “A compelling scoreboard drives you to action.”

3) “Stop saying “yes” if you want to get things done.”

Stop jumping on the phone every time somebody calls or saying yes to every lunch date with friends. Sure, those things are incredibly important, but you need to prioritize the important activities in your life. Make sure you are saying yes to what will help you get further and find happiness and no to anything that may hold you back or waste your time. Don’t feel guilty for managing your own time and prioritizing one thing over another. It’s your life and it’s your day. Spend it in the way you need to spend it to increase both your happiness and your productivity.

4) “Have a “Deep Work Ritual.”

“Whatever gets you ready to crank. Hiding in a conference room and throwing your phone into an abyss is a good one.” When you nail down a ritual that takes you from procrastination to deep work, you are hitting a jackpot. Give yourself a ritual so that you can slip away from busy work and really accomplish tasks for the day because you have set your mind to it and you have the time and the energy to do so. Rituals help carve out this time and the right mindset to have positive energy going into the bulk of the workload.

5) “Ask your boss how much time they want you spending on deep vs. shallow work.”

Define your expectations so you know what you need to get done and what can be pushed to the back burner. If you need to take time to shut your email down and focus for a couple of hours, do so – but use clear communication and be sure that you show results. Assure your boss and yourself that you are spending the appropriate amount of time balancing busy work and answering emails with the demands of producing real results.

7 HARMFUL HABITS ARE KILLING YOUR CONFIDENCE

Having confidence gives you the ability to take on the world.

If you want to maintain a level of success, you need to make sure you portray confidence. Pull out traits from your arsenal such as tenacity, faith, and determination to make sure that you appear confident to others. Avoid these seven traits to consistently display confidence.

1. Second guessing

If you want to appear confident, stick and stay with any decision you make.

2. Compromising priorities

If something is important to you, you will continue to fight for it and not let other people talk you out of it.

3. Refusing to learn new skills

Take a leap of faith and get out of your comfort zone.

4. Focusing on external validation

Confident people know that the work they do is great, and they aren’t seeking to just please people.

5. Worrying about what competitors are doing

If you are confident, you’ll stand behind what you are doing rather than worrying about what others might say or be doing themselves.

6. Avoiding public speaking and networking

If you are confident, you have faith that you will portray and represent yourself well to others.

7. Being ignorant of current trends

Confident people are keenly aware of what’s going on and how they fit into the modern, changing world.

5 KEYS TO FINDING HAPPINESS IN YOUR TROUBLED MARRIAGE

A troubled marriage will lead to a troubled life. When you have problems at home, as much as you try to deny it or ignore them in the workplace, they’re going to bleed over. Avoid those pitfalls by unlocking these five keys in your marriage.

1) Communicate clearly

We’re not children anymore. Suggestions of what you want don’t do anybody any good. You need to be crystal clear about your intentions or your questions or your desires. The guessing game has only led to more guesses and more trouble. Never make your partner play the guessing game because, if they are assuming what you want… they won’t ever know exactly what it is you want. This will only lead to more arguments. Speak clearly and with intention.

2) Fight fair

Don’t hold grudges and don’t play trump cards to win arguments. You will both make mistakes and you will both need to recover from said mistakes. Be forgiving and be generous about understanding one another. Forgiveness and fair arguments will go a lot further in finding happiness in your marriage than arguing will.

3) Remember to laugh

If you aren’t laughing – find a reason to. Go to a comedy show. We’re serious. Put yourself in a situation where you can find happiness if you currently don’t have happiness and laughter in your marriage. Quit holding onto the anger and actively seek happiness. It doesn’t just happen – you have to work for it every single day.

4) Respect

Respect your significant other’s needs, wants and desires. Respect their life and their job. Even if you think something is trivial, if it is important to them – it is important that you recognize that and make it important to you. When you don’t have respect for the things they value, you’re sending your marriage into a downward spiral. It doesn’t mean you have to love new shoes, but making fun of her excitement over that new pair is going to hurt your marriage more than smiling and being happy for her will hurt your ego.

5) Spend time apart

Take a breather! Go to the gym, go to work, go out and find a new hobby. You don’t have to spend every waking moment together and doing so may just be the disaster you’re attempting to avoid. Leave room in your life for other things and you will discover that you are more eager to get back to your spouse and share with them the new things you’re trying out.

5 TIPS TO BE LIKED BY PEOPLE

When you are seeking approval from other people because you want a promotion or you want to move your desk or just simply are trying to get people in your office to like you more – these five tricks are ones that you could try out. Easy to use and easy to learn, these simple tactics will help improve your daily interactions tenfold.

1) Stop judging others

Unless you are working as a judge for an event, judging others less will help people like you a lot more. It is not always your place to tell people when they are wrong or right, or to judge them for their actions – especially if their actions did not involve or affect you. Learning to listen rather than give your input when a co-worker talks about the partying they did over the weekend will get you much further than arguing with them about whether or not they should have done something. Plus, especially in regards to events that have already happened, if you can’t change something that already happened – you will just be arguing for no reason.

2) Ask and Listen

When you are trying to get to know someone or get along with people, asking them questions about themselves is a surefire way to get the agreements moving along. The key here, however, is to listen to their responses. You cannot ask people about themselves without taking the time to listen to what they say back, otherwise you nullify the original intention. Ask your co-workers about their day, and then listen to their responses. Once again, you don’t necessarily need to give input – but show you genuinely care about them.
 

3) Remember

Once you’ve asked people about their lives, try not to forget that their little brother is visiting for the weekend. If you are able to remember the details of someone’s life, they will like you a lot more than the person who still can’t remember how to pronounce their name. Remembering a small detail can take you a long way with people.

4) Relax

Joking around and hanging out with your co-workers is important to earning their trust and respect – which are intrinsic to them liking you. If you are the stuffy person in the office who always has their headphones in, ignoring the world around them… you are much less likely to get your co-workers to like you. Try relaxing a bit and taking your lunch break with one of your co-workers every now and then. You may be surprised at the results.

5) Be kind

Finally, the easiest way to get people to like you is to be kind to them. Don’t give them a reason to dislike you. Be hospitable. Offer them coffee or invite them when you make a run to Starbucks. A little bit of kindness can go a long way. You never know – it may be the first smile your coworker has seen all day and it may lift their mood incredibly if you just take the time to extend a kind hand their way every day.

10 HABITS OF CHRONICALLY UNHAPPY PEOPLE

Happiness comes in so many different forms that it can be hard to define.
Unhappiness, on the other hand, is easy to identify; you know it when you see it, and you definitely know when it’s taken hold of you.
Unhappiness is lethal to everyone around you, like secondhand smoke.
The famous "Terman Study" from Stanford followed subjects for eight decades and found that being around unhappy people is linked to poorer health and a shorter life span.
Happiness has much less to do with life circumstances than you might think.
A University of Illinois study found that people who earn the most (more than $10 million annually) are only a smidge happier than the average Joes and Janes who work for them.
Life circumstances have little to do with happiness because much happiness is under your control — the product of your habits and your outlook on life.
Psychologists from the University of California who study happiness found that genetics and life circumstances only account for about 50% of a person’s happiness. The rest is up to you.
"The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." —Benjamin Franklin

Unhappy habits

When people are unhappy, it’s much more difficult to be around them, let alone work with them. Unhappiness drives people away, creating a vicious cycle that holds you back from achieving everything that you’re capable of.
Unhappiness can catch you by surprise. So much of your happiness is determined by your habits (in thought and deed) that you have to monitor them closely to make certain that they don’t drag you down into the abyss.
Some habits lead to unhappiness more than others do. You should be especially wary of the 10 habits that follow as they are the worst offenders. Watch yourself carefully to make certain that these habits are not your own.

Waiting for the future.

Telling yourself “I’ll be happy when … ” is one of the easiest unhappy habits to fall into. How you end the statement doesn’t really matter (it might be a promotion, more pay, or a new relationship) because it puts too much emphasis on circumstances, and improved circumstances don’t lead to happiness.
Don’t spend your time waiting for something that’s proved to have no effect on your mood. Instead, focus on being happy right now, in the present moment, because there’s no guarantee of the future.

Spending too much time and effort acquiring "things."

People living in extreme poverty experience a significant increase in happiness when their financial circumstances improve, but it drops off quickly above $20,000 in annual income. There’s an ocean of research that shows that material things don’t make you happy.
When you make a habit of chasing things, you are likely to become unhappy because, beyond the disappointment you experience once you get them, you discover that you’ve gained them at the expense of the real things that can make you happy, such as friends, family, and hobbies.

Staying home.

When you feel unhappy, it’s tempting to avoid other people. This is a huge mistake as socializing, even when you don’t enjoy it, is great for your mood.
We all have those days when we just want to pull the covers over our heads and refuse to talk to anybody, but understand that the moment this becomes a tendency, it destroys your mood. Recognize when unhappiness is making you antisocial, force yourself to get out there and mingle, and you’ll notice the difference right away.

Seeing yourself as a victim.

Unhappy people tend to operate from the default position that life is both hard and out of their control. In other words, "Life is out to get me, and there's nothing I can do about it." The problem with that philosophy is that it fosters a feeling of helplessness, and people who feel helpless aren’t likely to take action to make things better.
While everyone is certainly entitled to feel down every once in a while, it’s important to recognize when you’re letting this affect your outlook on life. You’re not the only person that bad things happen to, and you do have control over your future as long as you’re willing to take action.

Pessimism.

Nothing fuels unhappiness quite like pessimism. The problem with a pessimistic attitude, beyond it being hard on your mood, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you expect bad things, you’re more likely to get bad things.
Pessimistic thoughts are hard to shake off until you recognize how illogical they are. Force yourself to look at the facts, and you’ll see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem.

Complaining.

Complaining itself is troubling as well as the attitude that precedes it. Complaining is a self-reinforcing behavior. By constantly talking — and therefore thinking — about how bad things are, you reaffirm your negative beliefs.
While talking about what bothers you can help you feel better, there’s a fine line between complaining being therapeutic and it fueling unhappiness. Beyond making you unhappy, complaining drives other people away.

Blowing things out of proportion.

Bad things happen to everybody. The difference is that happy people see them for what they are — a temporary bummer — whereas unhappy people see anything negative as further evidence that life is out to get them.
A happy person is upset if they have a fender bender on the way to work, but they keep things in perspective: "What a hassle, but at least it wasn’t more serious." An unhappy person, on the other hand, uses it as proof that the day, the week, the month, maybe even their whole life, is doomed.

Sweeping problems under the rug.

Happy people are accountable for their actions. When they make a mistake, they own it. Unhappy people, on the other hand, find problems and mistakes to be threatening, so they try to hide them. Problems tend to get bigger when they’re ignored.
The more you don’t do anything about a problem, the more it starts to feel as though you can’t do anything about it, and then you’re right back to feeling like a victim.

Not improving.

Because unhappy people are pessimists and feel a lack of control over their lives, they tend to sit back and wait for life to happen to them.
Instead of setting goals, learning, and improving themselves, they just keep plodding along, and then they wonder why things never change.

Trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Jealousy and envy are incompatible with happiness, so if you’re constantly comparing yourself with others, it’s time to stop.
In one study, most subjects said that they’d be OK with making less money, but only if everybody else did too. Be wary of this kind of thinking as it won’t make you happy and, more often than not, has the opposite effect.

Bringing it all together.

Changing your habits in the name of greater happiness is one of the best things that you can do for yourself. But it’s also important for another reason — taking control of your happiness makes everyone around you happier too.

SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE SCHEDULE THESE 5 ACTIVITIES INTO ALL OF THEIR DAYS

Looking at the way successful people schedule their days can help you alter your own schedule so that you can maximize your success every day of the year. With the help of studies conducted on high-achievers, we have pointed out five activities that successful people schedule into their daily routines so that you can catch a glimpse and learn a few things from people who have already seen success.

1) “The Morning Ritual.”

When you get your morning ritual down, you can start your day out with the same strong foundation every time you open your eyes. “Laura Vanderkam studied the schedules of high achievers,” and she discovered a few things that you may find useful. “They rise early. Almost all have a morning ritual.” The reason you want to wake up early is so that you can get your mind on the right track before any outside influences can push in and change your course of action for the day. “Before demands are made on you. Before your goals for the day have competition.” Getting your goals in line and your day in control helps you truly take charge of your day in the fashion that you want.

2) “Important Work First Thing – With No Distractions.”

Your work that is the most pressing deserves the best of your attention. “Research shows that 2.5 to 4 hours after waking is when your brain is sharpest.” This means that when you get into the office, your first few hours are pivotal to your success for the day. They are the hours when your mind has the potential to be the clearest, the most focused. “Studies show that alertness and memory, the ability to think clearly and to learn, can vary between 15 and 30 percent over the course of a day. Most of us are sharpest some two-and-a-half to four hours after waking.” Rather than scheduling all of your meetings for the morning so you can get them out of the way, schedule your time to do your work in the mornings and hold your meetings for later. Allow the problems of the day to sit on hold while you use clarity and a fresh mind to tackle the work that requires the most thinking first thing in the morning.

3) “Regroup When You Slow Down.”

The next thing that all successful people schedule into their day is time to regroup when their mind needs to take a break. Rather than attempting to push through the energy drop, they take a moment to reset their mind. “What you need next is a mini-version of your morning ritual. Review your goals and the progress you’ve made this morning.” The reason you want to stop and look back on the work you’ve done is two-fold. On one hand, you want to be able to look and see the progress you have made so you can re-evaluate what you need to do with the rest of your day. “Harvard research shows nothing is more motivating than progress.” Allow yourself some time to check out your progress for that boost of energy, and then re-apply yourself to your goals for the rest of your workday.

4) “Meetings, Calls and People Stuff in The Afternoon.”

If your energy in the morning is going to be spent on your own work, your energy in the afternoon can be spent on other activities that involve conversations with other people. “When energy is high, that’s when you want to focus on creative, challenging work. When energy is low, do busy work.” Therefore, you have the ability to do the busy work when your mind is less sharp. In fact, “Research shows the afternoon really is the best time for meetings – specifically, 3pm.” So stop scheduling your meetings for first thing in the morning and allow the afternoon to take up the space for that. In fact, “When tasks are dull and you’re feeling distractible, friends can make you more productive.” So the meetings you are in can actually be helpful in the afternoons, yet could be distracting in the mornings.

5) “A Relaxing Evening.”

“Though successful people do work long hours, the greats almost all take the evening off to recharge.” You want to work hard, and you will likely work a lot, if you want to be successful. However, just like any type of energy – you need to refuel in order to meet your maximum level of productivity the next day. “According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby.” Allow yourself the evening to engage in these stress-reducing activities so that you can lower your stress levels and recharge your batteries before they’re needed to work at maximum productivity levels the next day.


BASIC BUDDHISM - A 5 MINUTES INTRODUCTION

 What is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from 'budhi', 'to awaken'. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.

* Is Buddhism a Religion?

To many, Buddhism goes beyond religion and is more of a philosophy or 'way of life'. It is a philosophy because philosophy 'means love of wisdom' and the Buddhist path can be summed up as:
(1) to lead a moral life,
(2) to be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions, and
(3) to develop wisdom and understanding.
* How Can Buddhism Help Me?

Buddhism explains a purpose to life, it explains apparent injustice and inequality around the world, and it provides a code of practice or way of life that leads to true happiness.

* Why is Buddhism Becoming Popular?

Buddhism is becoming popular in Western countries for a number of reasons, The first good reason is Buddhism has answers to many of the problems in modern materialistic societies. It also includes (for those who are interested) a deep understanding of the human mind (and natural therapies) which prominent psychologists around the world are now discovering to be both very advanced and effective.

* Who Was the Buddha?

Siddhartha Gotama was born into a royal family in Lumbini, now located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found 'the middle path' and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism � called the Dhamma, or Truth � until his death at the age of 80.

* Was the Buddha a God?

He was not, nor did he claim to be. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience.

* Do Buddhists Worship Idols?

Buddhists sometimes pay respect to images of the Buddha, not in worship, nor to ask for favours. A statue of the Buddha with hands rested gently in its lap and a compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.
* Why are so Many Buddhist Countries Poor?

One of the Buddhist teachings is that wealth does not guarantee happiness and also wealth is impermanent. The people of every country suffer whether rich or poor, but those who understand Buddhist teachings can find true happiness.

* Are There Different Types of Buddhism?

There are many different types of Buddhism, because the emphasis changes from country to country due to customs and culture. What does not vary is the essence of the teaching � the Dhamma or truth.

* Are Other Religions Wrong?

Buddhism is also a belief system which is tolerant of all other beliefs or religions. Buddhism agrees with the moral teachings of other religions but Buddhism goes further by providing a long term purpose within our existence, through wisdom and true understanding. Real Buddhism is very tolerant and not concerned with labels like 'Christian', 'Moslem', 'Hindu' or 'Buddhist'; that is why there have never been any wars fought in the name of Buddhism. That is why Buddhists do not preach and try to convert, only explain if an explanation is sought.

* Is Buddhism Scientific?

Science is knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws. The core of Buddhism fit into this definition, because the Four Noble truths (see below) can be tested and proven by anyone in fact the Buddha himself asked his followers to test the teaching rather than accept his word as true. Buddhism depends more on understanding than faith.

* What did the Buddha Teach?

The Buddha taught many things, but the basic concepts in Buddhism can be summed up by the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.

* What is the First Noble Truth?

The first truth is that life is suffering i.e., life includes pain, getting old, disease, and ultimately death. We also endure psychological suffering like loneliness frustration, fear, embarrassment, disappointment and anger. This is an irrefutable fact that cannot be denied. It is realistic rather than pessimistic because pessimism is expecting things to be bad. lnstead, Buddhism explains how suffering can be avoided and how we can be truly happy.

* What is the Second Noble Truth?

The second truth is that suffering is caused by craving and aversion. We will suffer if we expect other people to conform to our expectation, if we want others to like us, if we do not get something we want,etc. In other words, getting what you want does not guarantee happiness. Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want, try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.

* What is the Third Noble Truth?

The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.

* What is the Fourth Noble Truth?

The fourth truth is that the Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.

* What is the Noble 8-Fold Path?

In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

* What are the 5 Precepts?

The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

* What is Karma?

Karma is the law that every cause has an effect, i.e., our actions have results. This simple law explains a number of things: inequality in the world, why some are born handicapped and some gifted, why some live only a short life. Karma underlines the importance of all individuals being responsible for their past and present actions. How can we test the karmic effect of our actions? The answer is summed up by looking at (1) the intention behind the action, (2) effects of the action on oneself, and (3) the effects on others.

* What is Wisdom?

Buddhism teaches that wisdom should be developed with compassion. At one extreme, you could be a goodhearted fool and at the other extreme, you could attain knowledge without any emotion. Buddhism uses the middle path to develop both. The highest wisdom is seeing that in reality, all phenomena are incomplete, impermanent and do no constitute a fixed entity. True wisdom is not simply believing what we are told but instead experiencing and understanding truth and reality. Wisdom requires an open, objective, unbigoted mind. The Buddhist path requires courage, patience, 
flexibility and intelligence.

* What is Compassion?

Compassion includes qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring. In Buddhism, we can really understand others, when we can really understand ourselves, through wisdom.

* How do I Become a Buddhist?
Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Buddhism teaches that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves not outside. The Buddha asked all his followers not to take his word as true, but rather to test the teachings for themselves. ln this way, each person decides for themselves and takes responsibility for their own actions and understanding. This makes Buddhism less of a fixed package of beliefs which is to be accepted in its entirety, and more of a teaching which each person learns and uses in their own way.

BY Bhikkhu Shravasti Dhammika
(Good Question, Good Answer)

BECOMING A BUDDHIST

What you say so far is very interesting to me. How do I become a Buddhist? 
Once there was a man called Upali. He was the follower of another religion and he went to the Buddha in order to argue with him and try to convert him. But after talking to the Buddha, he was so impressed that he decided to become a follower of the Buddha. But the Buddha said:
"Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like yourself.""Now I am even more pleased and satisfied when the Lord says to me: 'Make a proper investigation first.' For if members of another religion had secured me as a discipline they would have paraded a banner all around the town saying: 'Upali has joined our religion.' But the Lord says to me: Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like yourself."
In Buddhism, understanding is the most important thing and understanding takes time. So do not impulsively rush into Buddhism. Take your time, ask questions, consider carefully, and then make your decision. The Buddha was not interested in having a large number of disciples. He was concerned that people should follow his teachings as a result of a careful investigation and consideration of the facts.


If I have done this and find the Buddha's teaching acceptable, what would I do then if I wanted to become a Buddhist?
If would be best to join a good temple or Buddhist group, support them, be supported by them and continue to learn more about the Buddha's teachings. Then, when you are ready, you would formally become a Buddhist by taking the Three Refuges.

What are the Three Refuges?
A refuge is a place where people go when they are distressed or when they need safety and security. There are many types of refuges. When people are unhappy, they take refuge with their friends, when they are worried and frightened, they may take refuge in false hopes and beliefs. As they approach death, they might take refuge in the belief in an eternal heaven. But, as the Buddha says, none of these are true refuges because they do not give comfort and security based on reality.
Truly these are not safe refuges,
not the refuge supreme.
Not the refuge whereby one is
freed from all sorrow.
But to take refuge in the
Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha
and to see with real understanding
the Four Noble Truths.
Suffering, the cause of suffering,
the transcending of suffering and
the Noble Eightfold Path that leads
to the transcending of suffering.
This indeed is a safe refuge,
it is the refuge supreme.
It is the refuge whereby one is
freed from all suffering.
Taking Refuge in the Buddha is a confident acceptance of the fact that one can become fully enlightened of the fact that one can become fully enlightened and perfected just as the Buddha was. Taking Refuge in the Dhamma means understanding the Four Noble Truths and basing one's life on the Noble Eightfold Path. Taking Refuge in the Sangha means looking for support, inspiration and guidance from all who walk the Noble Eightfold Path. Doing this one becomes a Buddhist and thus takes the first step on the path towards Nirvana.

What changes have taken place in your life since you first took the three refuges?
Like countless millions of others over the last 2,500 years, I have found that the Buddha's teachings have made sense out of a difficult world, they have given meaning to what was a senseless life, they have given me a humane and compassionate ethics with which to lead my life and they have shown me how I can attain a state of purity and perfection in the next life. A poet in ancient India once wrote of the Buddha:
To go to him for refuge, to sing his praise, to do
him honour and to abide in his Dhamma is to
act with understanding.
I agree with these words completely.
I have a friend who is always trying to convert me to his religion. I am not really interested in his religion and I have told him so but he won't leave me alone. What can I do?
The first thing you must understand is that this person is not really your friend. A true friend accepts you as you are and respects your wishes. I suspect that this person is merely pretending to be your friend so he can convert you. When people are trying to impose their will on you they are certainly not friends.

But he says he wants to share his religion with me.
Sharing your religion with others is a good thing. But I suggest that your friend doesn't know the difference between sharing and imposing. If I have an apple, I offer you half and you accept my offer, then I have shared with you. But if you say to me "Thank you, but I have already eaten" and I keep insisting that you take half the apple until you finally give in to my pressure, this can hardly be called sharing. People like your 'friend' try to disguise their bad behaviour by calling it 'sharing', 'love', or 'generosity', but by whatever name they call it, their behaviour is still just rude, bad manners and selfish.

So how can I stop him?
It is simple. Firstly, be clear in your mind what you want. Secondly, clearly and briefly tell him so. Thirdly, when he asks you questions like "What is your belief on this matter?" or "Why don't you wish to come to the meeting with me?", clearly, politely and persistently repeat your first statement. "Thank you for your invitation but I would rather not come".
"Why not?"

- "That is really my business. I would rather not come."
"But there will be many interesting people there."
- "I am sure there will be but I would rather not come."
"I am inviting you because I care about you."
- "I am glad you care about me but I would rather not come."

If you clearly, patiently and persistently repeat yourself and refuse to allow him to get you involved in a discussion he will eventually give up. It is a shame that you have to do this, but it is very important for people to learn that they cannot impose their beliefs or wishes upon others.

Should Buddhists try to share the Dhamma with others?

Yes, they should. And I think most Buddhists understand the difference between sharing and imposing. If people ask you about Buddhism, tell them. You can even tell them about the Buddha's teachings without their asking. But if, by either their words or actions, they let you know that they are not interested, accept that and respect their wishes. It is also important to remember that you let people know about the Dhamma far more effectively through your actions than through preaching to them. Show people the Dhamma by always being considerate, kind, tolerant, upright and honest. Let the Dhamma shine forth through your speech and actions. If each of us, you and I, know the Dhamma thoroughly, practise it fully and share it generously with others, we can be of great benefit to ourselves and others also.

BY Bhikkhu Shravasti Dhammika
(Good Question, Good Answer)


THE DEVELOPMENT OF WISDOM

Though right concentration claims the last place among the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, concentration itself does not mark the path's culmination. The attainment of concentration makes the mind still and steady, unifies its concomitants, opens vast vistas of bliss, serenity, and power. But by itself it does not suffice to reach the highest accomplishment, release from the bonds of suffering. To reach the end of suffering demands that the Eightfold Path be turned into an instrument of discovery, that it be used to generate the insights unveiling the ultimate truth of things. This requires the combined contributions of all eight factors, and thus a new mobilization of right view and right intention. Up to the present point these first two path factors have performed only a preliminary function. Now they have to be taken up again and raised to a higher level. Right view is to become a direct seeing into the real nature of phenomena, previously grasped only conceptually; right intention, to become a true renunciation of defilements born out of deep understanding.


Before we turn to the development of wisdom, it will be helpful to inquire why concentration is not adequate to the attainment of liberation. Concentration does not suffice to bring liberation because it fails to touch the defilements at their fundamental level. The Buddha teaches that the defilements are stratified into three layers: the stage of latent tendency, the stage of manifestation, and the stage of transgression. The most deeply grounded is the level of latent tendency (anusaya), where a defilement merely lies dormant without displaying any activity. The second level is the stage of manifestation (pariyutthana), where a defilement, through the impact of some stimulus, surges up in the form of unwholesome thoughts, emotions, and volitions. Then, at the third level, the defilement passes beyond a purely mental manifestation to motivate some unwholesome action of body or speech. Hence this level is called the stage of transgression (vitikkama).

The three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path provide the check against this threefold layering of the defilements. The first, the training in moral discipline, restrains unwholesome bodily and verbal activity and thus prevents defilements from reaching the stage of transgression. The training in concentration provides the safeguard against the stage of manifestation. It removes already manifest defilements and protects the mind from their continued influx. But even though concentration may be pursued to the depths of full absorption, it cannot touch the basic source of affliction -- the latent tendencies lying dormant in the mental continuum. Against these concentration is powerless, since to root them out calls for more than mental calm. What it calls for, beyond the composure and serenity of the unified mind, is wisdom (panna), a penetrating vision of phenomena in their fundamental mode of being.

Wisdom alone can cut off the latent tendencies at their root because the most fundamental member of the set, the one which nurtures the others and holds them in place, is ignorance (avijja), and wisdom is the remedy for ignorance. Though verbally a negative, "unknowing," ignorance is not a factual negative, a mere privation of right knowledge. It is, rather, an insidious and volatile mental factor incessantly at work inserting itself into every compartment of our inner life. It distorts cognition, dominates volition, and determines the entire tone of our existence. As the Buddha says: "The element of ignorance is indeed a powerful element" (SN 14:13).

At the cognitive level, which is its most basic sphere of operation, ignorance infiltrates our perceptions, thoughts, and views, so that we come to misconstrue our experience, overlaying it with multiple strata of delusions. The most important of these delusions are three: the delusions of seeing permanence in the impermanent, of seing satisfaction in the unsatisfactory, and of seeing a self in the selfless. Thus we take ourselves and our world to be solid, stable, enduring entities, despite the ubiquitous reminders that everything is subject to change and destruction. We assume we have an innate right to pleasure, and direct our efforts to increasing and intensifying our enjoyment with an anticipatory fervour undaunted by repeated encounters with pain, disappointment, and frustration. And we perceive ourselves as self-contained egos, clinging to the various ideas and images we form of ourselves as the irrefragable truth of our identity.

Whereas ignorance obscures the true nature of things, wisdom removes the veils of distortion, enabling us to see phenomena in their fundamental mode of being with the vivacity of direct perception. The training in wisdom centres on the development of insight (vipassana-bhavana), a deep and comprehensive seeing into the nature of existence which fathoms the truth of our being in the only sphere where it is directly accessible to us, namely, in our own experience. Normally we are immersed in our experience, identified with it so completely that we do not comprehend it. We live it but fail to understand its nature. Due to this blindness experience comes to be misconstrued, worked upon by the delusions of permanence, pleasure, and self. Of these cognitive distortions, the most deeply grounded and resistant is the delusion of self, the idea that at the core of our being there exists a truly established "I" with which we are essentially identified. This notion of self, the Buddha teaches, is an error, a mere presupposition lacking a real referent. Yet, though a mere presupposition, the idea of self is not inconsequential. To the contrary, it entails consequences that can be calamitous. Because we make the view of self the lookout point from which we survey the world, our minds divide everything up into the dualities of "I" and "not I," what is "mine" and what is "not mine." Then, trapped in these dichotomies, we fall victim to the defilements they breed, the urges to grasp and destroy, and finally to the suffering that inevitably follows.

To free ourselves from all defilements and suffering, the illusion of selfhood that sustains them has to be dispelled, exploded by the realization of selflessness. Precisely this is the task set for the development of wisdom. The first step along the path of development is an analytical one. In order to uproot the view of self, the field of experience has to be laid out in certain sets of factors, which are then methodically investigated to ascertain that none of them singly or in combination can be taken as a self. This analytical treatment of experience, so characteristic of the higher reaches of Buddhist philosophical psychology, is not intended to suggest that experience, like a watch or car, can be reduced to an accidental conglomeration of separable parts. Experience does have an irreducible unity, but this unity is functional rather than substantial; it does not require the postulate of a unifying self separate from the factors, retaining its identity as a constant amidst the ceaseless flux.
The method of analysis applied most often is that of the five aggregates of clinging (panc'upadanakkhandha): material form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.

 Material form constitutes the material side of existence: the bodily organism with its sense faculties and the outer objects of cognition. The other four aggregates constitute the mental side. Feeling provides the affective tone, perception the factor of noting and identifying, the mental formations the volitional and emotive elements, and consciousness the basic awareness essential to the whole occasion of experience. The analysis by way of the five aggregates paves the way for an attempt to see experience solely in terms of its constituting factors, without slipping in implicit references to an unfindable self. To gain this perspective requires the development of intensive mindfulness, now applied to the fourth foundation, the contemplation of the factors of existence (dhammanupassana). The disciple will dwell contemplating the five aggregates, their arising and passing:
The disciple dwells in contemplation of phenomena, namely, of the five aggregates of clinging. He knows what material form is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what feeling is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what perception is, how it arises, how it passes away; knows what mental formations are, how they arise, how they pass away; knows what consciousness is, how it arises, how it passes away.
Or the disciple may instead base his contemplation on the six internal and external spheres of sense experience, that is, the six sense faculties and their corresponding objects, also taking note of the "fetters" or defilements that arise from such sensory contacts:
The disciple dwells in contemplation of phenomena, namely, of the six internal and external sense bases. He knows the eye and forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and odours, the tongue and tastes, the body and tangibles, the mind and mental objects; and he knows as well the fetter that arises in dependence on them. He understands how the unarisen fetter arises, how the arisen fetter is abandoned, and how the abandoned fetter does not arise again in the future.
The view of self is further attenuated by examining the factors of existence, not analytically, but in terms of their relational structure. Inspection reveals that the aggregates exist solely in dependence on conditions. Nothing in the set enjoys the absolute self-sufficiency of being attributed to the assumed "I." Whatever factors in the body-mind complex be looked at, they are found to be dependently arisen, tied to the vast net of events extending beyond themselves temporally and spatially. The body, for example, has arisen through the union of sperm and egg and subsists in dependence on food, water, and air. Feeling, perception, and mental formations occur in dependence on the body with its sense faculties. They require an object, the corresponding consciousness, and the contact of the object with the consciousness through the media of the sense faculties. Consciousness in its turn depends on the sentient organism and the entire assemblage of co-arisen mental factors. This whole process of becoming, moreover, has arisen from the previous lives in this particular chain of existences and inherit all the accumulated kamma of the earlier existences. Thus nothing possesses a self-sufficient mode of being. All conditioned phenomena exist relationally, contingent and dependent on other things.


The above two steps -- the factorial analysis and the discernment of relations -- help cut away the intellectual adherence to the idea of self, but they lack sufficient power to destroy the ingrained clinging to the ego sustained by erroneous perception. To uproot this subtle form of ego-clinging requires a counteractive perception: direct insight into the empty, coreless nature of phenomena. Such an insight is generated by contemplating the factors of existence in terms of their three universal marks -- impermanence (aniccata), unsatisfactoriness (dukkhata), and selflessness (anattata). Generally, the first of the three marks to be discerned is impermanence, which at the level of insight does not mean merely that everything eventually comes to an end. At this level it means something deeper and more pervasive, namely, that conditioned phenomena are in constant process, happenings which break up and perish almost as soon as they arise. The stable objects appearing to the senses reveal themselves to be strings of momentary formations (sankhara); the person posited by common sense dissolves into a current made up of two intertwining streams -- a stream of material events, the aggregate of material form, and a stream of mental events, the other four aggregates.

When impermanence is seen, insight into the other two marks closely follows. Since the aggregates are constantly breaking up, we cannot pin our hopes on them for any lasting satisfaction. Whatever expectations we lay on them are bound to be dashed to pieces by their inevitable change. Thus when seen with insight they are dukkha, suffering, in the deepest sense. Then, as the aggregates are impermanent and unsatisfactory, they cannot be taken as self. If they were self, or the belongings of a self, we would be able to control them and bend them to our will, to make them everlasting sources of bliss. But far from being able to exercise such mastery, we find them to be grounds of pain and disappointment. Since they cannot be subjected to control, these very factors of our being are anatta: not a self, not the belongings of a self, just empty, ownerless phenomena occurring in dependence on conditions.

When the course of insight practice is entered, the eight path factors become charged with an intensity previously unknown. They gain in force and fuse together into the unity of a single cohesive path heading towards the goal. In the practice of insight all eight factors and three trainings co-exist; each is there supporting all the others; each makes its own unique contribution to the work. The factors of moral discipline hold the tendencies to transgression in check with such care that even the thought of unethical conduct does not arise. The factors of the concentration group keep the mind firmly fixed upon the stream of phenomena, contemplating whatever arises with impeccable precision, free from forgetfulness and distraction. Right view, as the wisdom of insight, grows continually sharper and deeper; right intention shows itself in a detachment and steadiness of purpose bringing an unruffled poise to the entire process of contemplation.

Insight meditation takes as its objective sphere the "conditioned formations" (sankhara) comprised in the five aggregates. Its task is to uncover their essential characteristics: the three marks of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness. Because it still deals with the world of conditioned events, the Eightfold Path in the stage of insight is called the mundane path (lokiyamagga). This designation in no way implies that the path of insight is concerned with mundane goals, with achievements falling in the range of samsara. It aspires to transcendence, it leads to liberation, but its objective domain of contemplation still lies within the conditioned world. However, this mundane contemplation of the conditioned serves as the vehicle for reaching the unconditioned, for attaining the supramundane. When insight meditation reaches its climax, when it fully comprehends the impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness of everything formed, the mind breaks through the conditioned and realizes the unconditioned, Nibbana. It sees Nibbana with direct vision, makes it an object of immediate realization.

The breakthrough to the unconditioned is achieved by a type of consciousness or mental event called the supramundane path (lokuttaramagga). The supramundane path occurs in four stages, four "supramundane paths," each marking a deeper level of realization and issuing in a fuller degree of liberation, the fourth and last in complete liberation. The four paths can be achieved in close proximity to one another -- for those with extraordinarily sharp faculties even in the same sitting -- or (as is more typically the case) they can be spread out over time, even over several lifetimes.

The supramundane paths share in common the penetration of the Four Noble Truths. They understand them, not conceptually, but intuitively. They grasp them through vision, seeing them with self-validating certainty to be the invariable truths of existence. The vision of the truths which they present is complete at one moment. The four truths are not understood sequentially, as in the stage of reflection when thought is the instrument of understanding. They are seen simultaneously: to see one truth with the path is to see them all.

As the path penetrates the four truths, the mind exercises four simultaneous functions, one regarding each truth. It fully comprehends the truth of suffering, seeing all conditioned existence as stamped with the mark of unsatisfactoriness. At the same time it abandons craving, cuts through the mass of egotism and desire that repeatedly gives birth to suffering. Again, the mind realizes cessation, the deathless element Nibbana, now directly present to the inner eye. And fourthly, the mind develops the Noble Eightfold Path, whose eight factors spring up endowed with tremendous power, attained to supramundane stature: right view as the direct seeing of Nibbana, right intention as the mind's application to Nibbana , the triad of ethical factors as the checks on moral transgression, right effort as the energy in the path-consciousness, right mindfulness as the factor of awareness, and right concentration as the mind's one-pointed focus. This ability of the mind to perform four functions at the same moment is compared to a candle's ability to simultaneously burn the wick, consume the wax, dispel darkness, and give light.

The supramundane paths have the special task of eradicating the defilements. Prior to the attainment of the paths, in the stages of concentration and even insight meditation, the defilements were not cut off but were only debilitated, checked and suppressed by the training of the higher mental faculties. Beneath the surface they continued to linger in the form of latent tendencies. But when the supramundane paths are reached, the work of eradication begins.

Insofar as they bind us to the round of becoming, the defilements are classified into a set of ten "fetters" (samyojana) as follows: (1) personality view, (2) doubt, (3) clinging to rules and rituals, (4) sensual desire, (5) aversion, (6) desire for fine-material existence, (7) desire for immaterial existence, (8) conceit, (9) restlessness, and (10) ignorance. The four supramundane paths each eliminate a certain layer of defilements. The first, the path of stream-entry (sotapatti-magga), cuts off the first three fetters, the coarsest of the set, eliminates them so they can never arise again. "Personality view" (sakkaya-ditthi), the view of a truly existent self in the five aggregates, is cut off since one sees the selfless nature of all phenomena. Doubt is eliminated because one has grasped the truth proclaimed by the Buddha, seen it for oneself, and so can never again hang back due to uncertainty. And clinging to rules and rites is removed since one knows that deliverance can be won only through the practice of the Eightfold Path, not through rigid moralism or ceremonial observances.

The path is followed immediately by another state of supramundane consciousness known as the fruit (phala), which results from the path's work of cutting off defilements. Each path is followed by its own fruit, wherein for a few moments the mind enjoys the blissful peace of Nibbana before descending again to the level of mundane consciousness. The first fruit is the fruit of stream-entry, and a person who has gone through the experience of this fruit becomes a "stream-enterer" (sotapanna). He has entered the stream of the Dhamma carrying him to final deliverance. He is bound for liberation and can no longer fall back into the ways of an unenlightened worldling. He still has certain defilements remaining in his mental makeup, and it may take him as long as seven more lives to arrive at the final goal, but he has acquired the essential realization needed to reach it, and there is no way he can fall away.

An enthusiastic practitioner with sharp faculties, after reaching stream-entry, does not relax his striving but puts forth energy to complete the entire path as swiftly as possible. He resumes his practice of insight contemplation, passes through the ascending stages of insight-knowledge, and in time reaches the second path, the path of the once-returner (sakadagami-magga). This supramundane path does not totally eradicate any of the fetters, but it attenuates the roots of greed, aversion, and delusion. Following the path the meditator experiences its fruit, then emerges as a "once-returner" who will return to this world at most only one more time before attaining full liberation.

But our practitioner again takes up the task of contemplation. At the next stage of supramundane realization he attains the third path, the path of the non-returner (anagami-magga), with which he cuts off the two fetters of sensual desire and ill will. From that point on he can never again fall into the grip of any desire for sense pleasure, and can never be aroused to anger, aversion, or discontent. As a non-returner he will not return to the human state of existence in any future life. If he does not reach the last path in this very life, then after death he will be reborn in a higher sphere in the fine-material world (rupaloka) and there reach deliverance.

But our meditator again puts forth effort, develops insight, and at its climax enters the fourth path, the path of arahatship (arahatta-magga). With this path he cuts off the five remaining fetters -- desire for fine-material existence and desire for immaterial existence, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. The first is the desire for rebirth into the celestial planes made accessible by the four jhanas, the planes commonly subsumed under the name "the Brahma-world." The second is the desire for rebirth into the four immaterial planes made accessible by the achievement of the four immaterial attainments. Conceit (mana) is not the coarse type of pride to which we become disposed through an over-estimation of our virtues and talents, but the subtle residue of the notion of an ego which subsists even after conceptually explicit views of self have been eradicated. The texts refer to this type of conceit as the conceit "I am" (asmimana). Restlessness (uddhacca) is the subtle excitement which persists in any mind not yet completely enlightened, and ignorance (avijja) is the fundamental cognitive obscuration which prevents full understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Although the grosser grades of ignorance have been scoured from the mind by the wisdom faculty in the first three paths, a thin veil of ignorance overlays the truths even in the non-returner.

The path of arahatship strips away this last veil of ignorance and, with it, all the residual mental defilements. This path issues in perfect comprehension of the Four Noble Truths. It fully fathoms the truth of suffering; eradicates the craving from which suffering springs; realizes with complete clarity the unconditioned element, Nibbana, as the cessation of suffering; and consummates the development of the eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path.

With the attainment of the fourth path and fruit the disciple emerges as an arahat, one who in this very life has been liberated from all bonds. The arahat has walked the Noble Eightfold Path to its end and lives in the assurance stated so often in the formula from the Pali Canon: "Destroyed is birth; the holy life has been lived; what had to be done has been done; there is no coming back to any state of being." The arahat is no longer a practitioner of the path but its living embodiment. Having developed the eight factors of the path to their consummation, the Liberated One lives in the enjoyment of their fruits, enlightenment and final deliverance.

BY BHIKKHU BODHI

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