Who Is The Buddha? Charateristics and Greatness Of The Buddha

Characteristics of the Buddha

After a stupendous struggle of six strenuous years, in His 35th year the ascetic Gotama, unaided and unguided by any supernatural agency, and solely relying on His own efforts and wisdom, eradicated all defilements, ended the process of grasping, and, realizing things as they truly are by His own intuitive knowledge, became a Buddha -- an Enlightened or Awakened One.

Thereafter he was known as Buddha Gotama, one of a long series of Buddhas that appeared in the past and will appear in the future.

He was not born a Buddha, but became a Buddha by His own efforts.
The Pali term Buddha is derived from "budh", to understand, or to be awakened. As He fully comprehended the four Noble Truths and as He arose from the slumbers of ignorance He is called a Buddha. Since He not only comprehends but also expounds the doctrine and enlightens others, He is called a Samma-Sambuddha --a Fully Enlightened One -- to distinguish Him from Pacceka (Individual) Buddhas who only comprehend the doctrine but are incapable of enlightening others.

Before His Enlightenment He was called Bodhisatta which means one who is aspiring to attain Buddhahood.

Every aspirant to Buddhahood passes through the Bodhisatta Period -- a period of intensive exercise and development of the qualities of generosity, discipline, renunciation, wisdom, energy, endurance, truthfulness, determination, benevolence and perfect equanimity.

In a particular era there arises only one Samma-Sambuddha. Just as certain plants and trees can bear only one flower even so one world-system (lokadhatu) can bear only one Samma-Sambuddha.

The Buddha was a unique being. Such a being arises but rarely in this world, and is born out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men. The Buddha is called "acchariya manussa" as He was a wonderful man. He is called "amatassa data" as He is the giver of Deathlessness. He is called "varado" as He is the Giver of the purest love, the profoundest wisdom, and the Highest Truth. He is also called Dhammassami as He is the Lord of the Dhamma (Doctrine).

As the Buddha Himself says, "He is the Accomplished One (Tathagata), the Worthy One (Araham), the Fully Enlightened One (Samma-Sambuddha), the creator of the unarisen way, the producer of the unproduced way, the proclaimer of the unproclaimed way, the knower of the way, the beholder of the way, the cognizer of the way."

The Buddha had no teacher for His Enlightenment. "Na me acariyo atthi" -- A teacher have I not -- are His own words. He did receive His mundane knowledge from His lay teachers, but teachers He had none for His a supramundane knowledge which He himself realized by His own intuitive wisdom.

If He had received His knowledge from another teacher or from another religious system such as Hinduism in which He was nurtured, He could not have said of Himself as being the incomparable teacher (aham sattha anuttaro). In His first discourse He declared that light arose in things not heard before.

During the early period of His renunciation He sought the advice of the distinguished religious teachers of the day, but He could not find what He sought in their teachings. Circumstances compelled Him to think for Himself and seek the Truth. He sought the Truth within Himself. He plunged into the deepest profundities of thought, and He realized the ultimate Truth which He had not heard or known before. Illumination came from within and shed light on things which He had never seen before.

As He knew everything that ought to be known and as He obtained the key to all knowledge, He is called Sabbannu -- the Omniscient One. This supernormal knowledge He acquired by His own efforts continued through a countless series of births.
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Who is the Buddha?

Once a certain Brahmin named Dona, noticing the characteristic marks of the footprint of the Buddha, approached Him and questioned Him.

"Your Reverence will be a Deva ?"
"No, indeed, brahmin, a Deva am I not," replied the Buddha.
"Then Your Reverence will be a Gandhabba?"
"No indeed, branmin, a Gandhabba am I not."
"A Yakkha then?"
"No, indeed, brahmin, not a Yakkha."
"Then Your Reverence will be a human being?"
"No indeed, brahmin, a human being am I not."
"Who, then, pray, will Your Reverence be?"
The Buddha replied that He had destroyed Defilements which condition rebirth as a Deva, Gandhabba, Yakkha, or a human being and added:

"As a lotus, fair and lovely,
By the water is not soiled,
By the world am I not soiled;
Therefore, brahmin, am I Buddha."

The Buddha does not claim to be an incarnation (Avatara) of Hindu God Vishnu, who, as the Bhagavadgita charmingly sings, is born again and again in different periods to protect the righteous, to destroy the wicked, and to establish the Dharma (right).

According to the Buddha countless are the gods (Devas) who are also a class of beings subject to birth and death; but there is no one Supreme God, who controls the destinies of human beings and who possesses a divine power to appear on earth at different intervals, employing a human form as a vehicle.

Nor does the Buddha call Himself a "Saviour" who freely saves others by his personal salvation. The Buddha exhorts His followers to depend on themselves for their deliverance, since both defilement and purity depend on oneself. One cannot directly purify or defile another. Clarifying His relationship with His followers and emphasizing the importance of self- reliance and individual striving, the Buddha plainly states:

"You yourselves should make an exertion. The Tathagatas are only teachers."

The Buddha only indicates the path and method whereby He delivered Himself from suffering and death and achieved His ultimate goal. It is left for His faithful adherents who wish their release from the ills of life to follow the path.

"To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself is positive." Dependence on others means a surrender of one's effort."

"Be an island unto yourselves; be a refuge unto yourselves; seek no refuge in others."

These significant words uttered by the Buddha in His last days are very striking and inspiring. They reveal how vital is self-exertion to accomplish one's ends, and how superficial and futile it is to seek redemption through benignant saviours, and crave for illusory happiness in an afterlife through the propitiation of imaginary gods by fruitless prayers and meaningless sacrifices.

The Buddha was a human being. As a man He was born, as a Buddha He lived, and as a Buddha His life came to an end. Though human, He became an extraordinary man owing to His unique characteristics. The Buddha laid stress on this important point, and left no room for any one to fall into the error of thinking that He was an immortal being. It has been said of Him that there was no religious teacher who was "ever so godless as the Buddha, yet none was so god-like." In His own time the Buddha was no doubt highly venerated by His followers, but He never arrogated to Himself any divinity.


The Buddha's Greatness

Born a man, living as a mortal, by His own exertion He attained the supreme state of perfection called Buddhahood, and without keeping His Enlightenment to Himself, He proclaimed to the world the latent possibilities and the invincible power of the human mind. Instead of placing an unseen Almighty God over man, and giving man a subservient position in relation to such a conception of divine power, He demonstrated how man could attain the highest knowledge and Supreme Enlightenment by his own efforts. He thus raised the worth of man. He taught that man can gain his deliverance from the ills of life and realize the eternal bliss of Nibbana without depending on an external God or mediating priests. He taught the egocentric, powerseeking world the noble ideal of selfless service. He protested against the evils of caste-system that hampered the progress of mankind and advocated equal opportunities for all. He declared that the gates of deliverance were open to all, in every condition of life, high or low, saint or sinner, who would care to turn a new leaf and aspire to perfection. He raised the status of down-trodden women, and not only brought them to a realization of their importance to society but also founded the first religious order for women. For the first time in the history of the world He attempted to abolish slavery. He banned the sacrifice of unfortunate animals and brought them within His compass of loving kindness.

He did not force His followers to be slaves either to His teachings or to Himself, but granted complete freedom of thought and admonished His followers to accept His words not merely out of regard for Him but after subjecting them to a thorough examination,

"... as the wise would test gold by burning, cutting, and rubbing it on a piece of touchstone."

He comforted the bereaved mothers like Patacara and Kisagotami by His consoling words. He ministered to the deserted sick like Putigatta Tissa Thera with His own hands. He helped the poor and the neglected like Rajjumala and Sopaka and saved them from an untimely and tragic death. He ennobled the lives of criminals like Angulimala and courtesans like Ambapali. He encouraged the feeble, united the divided, enlightened the ignorant, clarified the mystic, guided the deluded, elevated the base, and dignified the noble. The rich and the poor, the saint and the criminal, loved Him alike. His noble example was a source of inspiration to all. He was the most compassionate and tolerant of teachers.

His will, wisdom, compassion, service, renunciation, perfect purity, exemplary personal life, the blameless methods that were employed to propagate the Dhamma and His final success -- all these factors have compelled about one fifth of the population of the world to hail the Buddha as the greatest religious teacher that ever lived on earth.

Paying a glowing tribute to the Buddha, Sri Radhakrishnan writes:

"In Gotama the Buddha we have a master mind from the East second to none so far as the influence on the thought and life of the human race is concerned, and sacred to all as the founder of a religious tradition whose hold is hardly less wide and deep than any other. He belongs to the history of the world's thought, to the general inheritance of all cultivated men, for, judged by intellectual integrity, moral earnestness, and spiritual insight, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in history."
In the Three Greatest Men in History, H.G. Wells states:

"In the Buddha you see clearly a man, simple, devout, lonely, battling for light, a vivid human personality, not a myth. He too gave a message to mankind universal in character. Many of our best modern ideas are in closest harmony with it. All the miseries and discontents of life are due, he taught, to selfishness. Before a man can become serene he must cease to live for his senses or himself. Then he merges into a greater being. Buddhism in different language called men to self-forgetfulness 500 years before Christ. In some ways he was nearer to us and our needs. He was more lucid upon our individual importance in service than Christ and less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality."

The Poet Tagore calls Him "the Greatest Man ever born".
In admiration of the Buddha, Fausboll, a Danish scholar says -- "The more I know Him, the more I love Him."

A humble follower of the Buddha would modestly say: --"The more I know Him, the more I love Him; the more I love Him, the more I know Him."


Narada Mahathera
("The Buddha and His Teachings")
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Practical Buddhism: Taking Responsibility For Our Lives

The quality of our lives is conditioned by the quality of our actions. Buddhism teaches us to have a firm conviction in human potential. It says that we are creatures that possess the wonderful ability to take responsibility for what we think, do, and say, and to make our lives expressions of wisdom and compassion, rather than selfishness, fear, and greed.

We can develop the power and skill to refrain from acts of body, speech, and mind that cause ourselves and others pain. We can learn to perform those acts of body, speech, and mind that lead to happiness and peace. We can purify our minds. Thus Buddhism is concerned with the nature of our lives and the means by which we can eradicate the discontent and hollowness which so afflicts them. Consequently the teachings of Buddhism are not to be seen as dogmas to be adhered to, but tools to be used to develop our inherent potential.

Buddhism is a religion that considers wisdom, rather than faith, to be the single most important virtue. The Buddha said that if we look at ourselves very closely and honestly, we find a well of disease and conflict within our mind. He said that the underlying root of that pain is our ignorance of and the fundamental misconceptions that we cherish about the true nature of our existence. The way to true happiness thus lies in remedying our wrong ideas about the way things are, and for this task we need a wisdom founded on generosity and morality and fortified by a calm clarity of mind. In Buddhist perspective our lives have dignity and meaning to the extent that they incline towards and testify to truth.
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GENEROSITY

On its most basic level, our wrong understanding of life, characterised by a tenacious clinging to the sense of "me" and "mine", manifests externally as selfishness and possessiveness. The first level of Buddhist practice entails undermining our foolishness by countering its expressions. We develop a generous heart. The Buddha encouraged us to give, wisely and selflessly, not seeking for any kind of reward.

He spoke of three kinds of giving: the giving of material things to those deserving of it, e.g., food to mendicant monks, alms to the poor; the giving of forgiveness to those that have wronged us; and lastly and most excellently, the giving of truth, gladly sharing any worldly knowledge or spiritual understanding that we have acquired.

Generosity, apart from eroding selfish concern, gives a joy and lightness to the mind and creates bonds of love and friendship within a society. The less grasping at things we have, the more we can open up to the world around us and contribute positively to it.

MORALITY


Morality, the second aspect of Buddhist training, is also deeply concerned with the things we do and the things we say. Action and speech that proceeds from unwholesome mental states harms both ourselves and others. In Buddhism, morality is defined as the will to refrain from all such words and deeds. By not reinforcing the power of ne.g.ative emotions through internal repression or outward expression, but by simply observing and calmly enduring through them, the hold of the afflictions over us is weakened, and we be.g.in to free ourselves from them.

The training in morality consists of a commitment to certain precepts as guiding principles in one's daily life. For lay Buddhists these precepts are five in number, namely:

  1. to refrain from taking life
  2. to refrain from stealing
  3. to refrain from sexual misconduct
  4. to refrain from false speech
  5. to refrain from use of intoxicants.
These precepts are not commandments or to be blindly obeyed but are tools to be skilfully used to harmonise the way we live with spiritual truths.

Although framed ne.g.atively the precepts naturally engender virtues of kindness, honesty, contentment, truthfulness, and heedfulness. One who keeps the precepts purely finds feelings of guilt and self-reproach supplanted by those of well-being and self-respect. One's mind inclines toward peace and clarity. Morality is thus the firm basis for all spiritual endeavour and can be seen to provide the indispensable foundation for an intelligent and caring society.

MEDITATION


The third aspect of Buddhism is meditation, the development of mental calm and insight. In their normal state, our minds are scattered and out of control. We find it hard to stop thinking even for a moment. The tremendous energy of the mind is thus never harnessed and put to good use. Meditation is a way to focus the mind, so as to enable it to withdraw from its usual preoccupations, and penetrate the truth of our existence.

Meditation is not merely a means of relaxation, nor is it a technique to escape from stressful responsibility into blissful trance. It is rather a precise means for sharpening, strengthening, and ultimately purifying the mental faculties. Initially one concentrates the mind on a particular object, just as to tame a wild animal, one might tie it to a post. There are many possible objects to use for this purpose. One that many people find useful is the sensation of the breath at the tip of the nostrils, but whatever object is employed, the important point is to maintain a close, alert, and continual awareness of it.

At first, of course, we can't. Concentration is difficult. It goes against the grain of our distraction. But with patience, perseverance, and good humour, it is not impossible. When the mind strays away from the object one gently but firmly brings it back again - again and again and again.

Eventually the concentration becomes more or less effortless and the mind bright and firm. Here, fore.g.oing the initial object, one merely maintains a sharp, bare awareness of whatever is arising consciousness - be it a physical sensation, a feeling, a thought, a perception, or whatever - staying with the changing nature of each phenomenon rather than its content.

If the mind has been sufficiently stabilised by concentration one is able to maintain an equanimous gaze on the present reality and a direct non-conceptual appreciation of the true nature of our existence be.g.ins to grow. As we come to realise the changing, unstable, and inconsequential nature of all that goes to make up our lives, our wrong ideas and assumptions about ourselves fall away and our grasping attachment to things is completely undermined. It is here that true peace and liberation, the highest achievement of human beings and the goal of Buddhism, is finally achieved.

Buddhist Way of Observing the Problems in Our Lives

As lay people living an ordinary lay life with all the commitments, involvements and responsibilities that are normally involved in lay living, it's difficult to devote much time to really develop meditation. So I think for many Western people Buddhism seems to create a bit of a dilemma because of the way Buddhism is taught in the West. You come here and the teachings that we give are quite high aspects of Buddhist teaching, quite refined aspects, pointing always to meditation, pointing always to the development of awareness in order for insight, a deeper understanding, to arise. A penetration into the way things really are rather than the way they appear to be. I think for many Westerners it's very difficult to apply that teaching within the normal daily life they're living. Many Westerners who are now becoming interested in Buddhism and trying to practise the teachings of the Buddha, trying to really follow them, feel somehow a bit of conflict there.

It's difficult to live your ordinary daily life with its ordinary responsibilities, commitments, social involvements, and still want to develop this degree of refinement of the Buddhist path. And it's a dilemma because it's difficult to do. If one's life is very much involved with socialising, very much involved with family, very much involved with commitments, and responsibilities, then of course one has to compromise one's time, one's energy, one's interests. You can't devote that much time to the practise of making yourself calm and clearing the mind, and developing a refined sort of introspection. And so that teaching which is so refined sometimes seems a bit out of a reach for you.

The Buddha's teaching is still very applicable, very useful, very relevant even if one can't meditate every day. Even if one can't spend hours meditating, one can still appreciate the Buddha's teachings and apply a lot of that teaching. A lot of the teaching is to do with ordinary daily living, knowing how to make the best use of this life as an ordinary person. Being born as a human being in Buddhism is considered a great blessing and privilege because human beings can free themselves from mechanical, habitual existence patterns. A human being can reflect on the results of living and can choose which direction to go. But one must make that choice, one must take that opportunity to make the choice. That is one must take an interest in one's life, reflecting on it.

So many people want to escape from themselves and they do all sorts of things to escape from themselves because it's difficult and there are problems. So when I said that human beings have the opportunity to reflect on their lives, this is what I mean. Observing our lives. Observing the problems in our lives.

The Buddha reflected on life, he reflected on his own life, he reflected on other people's lives. He observed and he came to the conclusion that the source of the problem is the ego. The ego gets in the way. Reflect on this. What is the ego? It's a sense of me. A separation, me separate from you, and when I'm separate I have my own interest. Desire and aversion only arise from ego, nothing else. Where there's no ego, there's no desire, no aversion. Desire for what? What do we desire? That which gratifies and flatters the ego. We like that, we want that, it makes the ego feel good. I see somebody, they say I'm wonderful, so I want to get close to them. What is aversion? That which challenges the ego, threatens the ego, insults the ego, humiliates the ego. The ego doesn't like that so it reacts with aversion and anger.

When there is this ego present there are bound to be problems arising in relationships. When I say relationships I don't mean just relationships between you and another person, I mean in every experience in life. Every experience that you're involved in is a relationship. And where there is ego, there will be problems. That's the situation, that's why life is not ideal. The Buddha had no ego. The Buddha was at peace and he is a blessing to the world, a blessing to all beings; that's the result of having no ego.

But of course, we have an ego. You can hear the Buddha's teaching, 'Everything is not self,' There is no self. But you feel you have a self. So there's an ego. What do we do with it? This is what the Buddha taught when he spoke about skilful ways of living. Learning to live within this limitation. Learning to live with an ego. Learning to work with this ego. How can one live with an ego and still create more happiness than misery? What do we do? The Dhamma the Buddha taught is something which he said is self-evident. Anyone who observes can see it. The Buddha said that if there is a problem, there's a cause. If you get rid of the cause, the problem is also removed. What is the problem? It is the problem of suffering and of unhappiness of unsatisfactoriness. The cause of it is the ego. Can you get rid of it? Not yet. So what do you do in the meantime. There are a few qualities which are absolutely essential and yet they are very much lacking in life. That's why there are so many problems today.

The first quality is called 'sacca' in Pali. Sacca is like honesty, truthfulness. It's an openness, frankness, being able to share. Openness doesn't mean just giving out. Openness means that you can also receive, it's an exchange. Bring this openness into your relationships, all relationships.

Just think of meditation, you've really got to be honest with yourself, frank with yourself. Why are you meditating? Because meditation is an opening up, you are sitting there listening to yourself, not trying to distract yourself. So you need this quality of inner honesty, of being able to look at yourself and seeing what's there.

The second quality which I've observed to be lacking is patience (khanti). Patience means 'space', giving a lot of 'space', allowing failings, allowing shortcomings, allowing imperfections, allowing differences. Allowing and giving room is to be patient, it's being kind. You can allow failings within yourself Allowing, giving space, being patient enough to allow people to be different, to have failings, to have good and bad sides is very important.

In meditation you must be patient, you must allow the mind space, give it room. Give the mind time to settle down, to calm down. Concentration is not a forced thing, concentration is an agreement, the mind agrees to calm down, agrees to come to rest here. You can't force it. Brute force is not necessary, you have to give it this space.

In a relationship give yourselves space. Allow differences. Allow imperfections. This giving of space requires a lot of humility. To accept failings in yourself, to accept failings in others requires humility, doesn't it? The ego can't tolerate failure, so you've got to be very humble to accept the nature of the body, to accept that this body is imperfect. To accept the failings and limitations of your own mind.

So if you can just begin to implement some of these qualities, you will see how many problems would very, very quickly be resolved in our lives. Problems in our meditation, problems in our relationships. We would be able to cope with life a lot better. We would be at peace with life for a greater portion of the day.

By Ajahn Jagaro(Newsletter, January-March 1994, Buddhist Society of Western Australia)

Our Modern World's Problems: Is Buddhism the Answer?

Twenty six centuries ago the Lord Buddha entered this Samsara world with the vow the show all sentient beings the path to liberation. Nowadays humankind has made enormous technological progress. We are now able to explore outer space thousands of light years away from the planet earth, whereas our spiritual life has been almost neglected. Except for certain superficial hypotheses about our inner mind by Jungian psychologists, our spiritual life has made no progress at all. All of us must agree that we are in a spiritual crisis. Yet, more than two thousand years ago, not only did the Lord Buddha have a vision of thousands of universes in the cosmos, the Honoured One also shed light on the inner spiritual world and showed us our sources of suffering.
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In the nuclear age, there needs only a slight misunderstanding between the super powers for our planet earth to be destroyed in a blink of eye. The real danger, however, is not the bombs themselves but some sick minds behind the scene who are troubled with their inner life. To destroy the source of troubles we have to pacify our mind as the Lord Buddha taught: See your own real mind - you can realise Buddhahood. Only if we all have a peaceful mind, can lasting peace be achieved. The technological progress does not bring about peace and happiness.

Greed, Anger and Hatred are the enemies that every Buddhist must subdue. In Buddhist terminology, they are the three poisonous things that everyone must overcome. Until they are subdued no peace in mind can be achieved. The Lord Buddha taught: "The most glorious conquest is the conquest of yourself." After many years of wandering and learning different doctrines, the Lord Buddha finally found the path to liberation to cease all the suffering of the sentient beings. And the World Honoured One's teachings are very simple: "Wisdom and Compassion". Wisdom can help us to see the roots of our suffering and compassion can help us live harmoniously with ourselves, with other sentient beings and with the environment on the planet earth.

The Lord Buddha once told his disciples to recite a gatha when drinking a glass of water, because there are 84,000 living micro-organisms in it. That gatha has the power to make those living things have a better existence in the next life. Any disciple who forgets to recite that gatha when drinking water would have violated the first precept, refraining from taking life just as if they had eaten the flesh of living things. The World Honoured One likes us to respect these micro-organisms, just as we do to other living things like trees, animals or human beings!

The path to liberation is one of the most simple but the most powerful and effective in creating a loving, caring and peaceful world. It can create a humane and just society. If every one of us lives in mindfulness, cultivates our spiritual life and treats other beings with mutual respect and understanding, we would have created the Pure Land (Tinh Do) or heaven on earth. There is no need to go far way to find the solution to our society which has been riddled with violence and hatred; just go back to see your mind and subdue it.

With all humility we can say that the Lord Buddha deserves to be called the Greatest Teacher of all time. I would like to quote a European writer's opinion about the Buddha's teaching as follows: "Here is the teaching we can follow with confidence". Where in the world of religions, cults and creeds can we find a master of such brilliance? In a pageant of stars, he was a giant of the greatest magnitude. Little wonder that scientists, philosophers and men of literature have proclaimed him the 'Greatest Man Ever Born'.

The radiance of this great teacher goes through a world of suffering and darkness like a beacon light to guide and illuminate mankind. Many brilliant brains have contributed to the technological progress and the material civilisation is now at its peak and we are all proud of this. But Greed urges humankind to possess more and more. The two World Wars no doubt were originated in human greed. Even though the cold war is over, nobody can be sure that we will enjoy everlasting peace. While new technological advances continue, what does the future hold for us?

We are living in a time when individualism becomes a cult. We have created many super-human beings and put them on the pedestal: movie stars, sports stars heroes and now, we are coming to the age of communication super-highways. Youth nowadays has so many attractions in life yet there are almost no ethical models to admire and no civic lessons are taught seriously at school. We are surrounded by a culture of violence. Family life, the fabric of any society, is gradually disintegrating. This is the red alert that we must heed.

Concerning the future of humankind, a French intellectual, Pierre Garreau said: "In the time when the Lord Buddha was born, ethical guidance was needed but it is more so in our time". Our world is in a crisis and the symptoms appearing in the way of life of the young is most is most easily recognisable. We really need the total transformation of our spiritual outlook. As Andre Malraux realised that, ever since the Roman Empire, there has never been a crisis as deep as the one we have in our time. In the West this is a period of falling idols. In the 19th century, most philosophers only believed in the "ism " and many idols kept on falling or expired. The feudal world, the democratic regimes and other forms of dictatorship all crumbled. At that time people had nowhere to turn and they only hoped that, in the 20th century, science would bring in a new era. The values initiated by Buddhism are still very much attractive while many other values have quickly crumbled. Andre Malraux also commented that the Buddhist Community was established the earliest and it still survives in our time, while other idols eventually disintegrated. (Pierre Garreau- Key-note Speech on the Vesak Day 2517 at the Buddhist University of Van Hanh, Saigon)

Facing the danger which may make our civilisation as we know it disintegrate, we just can't sit there. We have to do something as in an old saying 'something is better than nothing'. We have to come back to our inner life, see our true mind and subdue it in any way we can. We have to fight against our real enemies : Greed, Anger, Hatred and Craving for all material things. To celebrate Vesak Day in a meaningful way, we should heed carefully the Lord Buddha's message of compassion, understanding, mutual respect. In that spirit we pray that the leaders of the super powers will sit down and work out a way to make our world a better and a pleasant place for us and, particularly for future generations, to live in.

- by Thich Bao Lac, Sydney, Australia, 1996.

(Venerable Thich Bao Lac is the President of the United Vietnamese Buddhist Congregations of New South Wales, Australia, and Abbot of the Phap Bao Temple in Sydney. This is his Vesak Address delivered on the 26th of May, 1996)

Study Finds People With Ambitious Goals Are Happier And More Satisfied

We often believe we would be happier if we are grateful enough. This might mean not pushing yourself too hard and accept what you have already/what you do not have now. That’s why sometimes ambitious people are thought to be less happy, as they are busy working on their goals. However, a study has proven the opposite. Here’s why.

Ambitious Goals VS Conservative Goals

study conducted at the University of California-Riverside compared people who set ambitious goals to those who set more conservative goals. The results: The people who set ambitious goals were happier in the “long run”.
Turns out when you set an ambitious goal versus a conservative goal you end up feeling happier. After all, ambition is defined as: A strong desire to do or to achieve something; typically requiring determination and hard work.
Often when we set a goal we expect a specific result. If we set a conservative goal, we get conservative results. The opposite is true when you set an ambitious goal, you end up getting astonishing results.
In this study conducted at the University of California-Riverside people often set goals with two reasons in mind: expectancy and value.  The expectancy portion of the goal is how likely the person will be successful at achieving their goal. The value portion relates to how good it will feel when reach your goal.
When you set a goal, be mindful of also setting aside limiting beliefs. Goals are set to achieve something bigger than what you are currently doing. So why set a conservative goal which in turn will only get you conservative results? Ambitious goals provide great results when achieved.
The tricky thing about goals is knowing whether or not the goal is for personal growth or if it is a “worldly goal”. Besides ambitious goals, setting goals full of intrinsic value are great for your overall happiness.

Goals For Personal Growth Are The Key

Let’s first define an intrinsic goal: A goal that relates to personal growth, something that is “good for the soul”. An extrinsic goal is a goal that relates to “worldly goals” or anything that has to do with money or social status.
A study conducted in 2003 at the University of Rochester requested 147 college graduates share their life aspirations and the end result. The students who set intrinsic goals, set goals such as working on personal relationships and expanding personal growth.  Whereas the students who set extrinsic goals, set goals such as fame, earning a certain dollar figure and appearance.
The result: The students who set intrinsic goals versus extrinsic goals experienced a higher level of happiness. Those who set extrinsic goals reported no improvement in their well-being even after achieving their goal.

The Relationship Between Goals And Happiness

The findings can actually be explained by a psychological theory, the “Self-Determination Theory”, which states the three things in order for people to be happy:
  1. Autonomy: The sense of being in control of their behavior and goals
  2. Competence: Having mastery over tasks and skills
  3. Relatedness: Having a sense of belonging and connectedness to others.
Turns out, extrinsic goals (money and fame) do not meet these three criteria. Whereas intrinsic goals (goals good for the soul) nourish these psychological needs to be happy.
When you set a goal ask yourself: How will this goal provide me with a sense of being in control of my behavior? How will this goal allow me to attain a specific mastery of a skill? Will this goal afford me the opportunity to connect with others?

Conclusion

When you choose to set a goal, be mindful if you’re setting a conservative or an ambitious goal. If you want big results, set an ambitious goal. If you want to feel happier when you achieve your goal, set a goal that is an intrinsic goal that satisfies our autonomy, competence and relatedness. Goals can be a scary thing to set and then to declare, but when you chose a goal that is ambitious and most likely provide happiness, achieving your goal will be worthwhile.

10 Signs You’re Sacrificing Your Health For Your Work And It’s Not Worth It

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Work and Health
Everybody has to work. In doing so we are supporting ourselves, our families, our need for purpose and if we are lucky, fulfilment. Yet statistics show that there is a dangerous inability to not only know when to switch off from work, but to understand how we might be affecting our health by working too much and not living a balanced life. Here are some signs you might be working too much:

1. Health problems

Ailments regarding health can range from the largely unobserved world of mental health problems, to other physical issues such as obesity. You find yourself eating too much or eating too few meals. Joints have become as so stiff that you can’t even afford to do vigorous exercise.

2. Cognitive problems

You may be dealing with poor memory. Things people said just minutes ago to you are always forgotten.

3. Poor interpersonal relationships

Your relationships with family and friends have become a bit distant. You have little time to spend with them. When you finally go out with them or have a meal with them, your anxious mind cannot stop thinking about work-related stuff. Such stress puts a barrier between you and your loved ones.

4. Have to bring unfinished work home

You are unable to differentiate between work time and leisure time as your workload increases. You cannot stop thinking about your work even if you’re on vacation.

5. Always feel tired

You may have difficulty waking up in the morning, have an over-reliance on coffee, or find it hard to concentrate. You feel like you’re at least 10 years older in just one year.

6. Dominated by negative thoughts

Your thought process has become agitated and stressed. Small things can irritate you though you don’t want to be like that.

7. Lower level of satisfaction

You may find it harder to feel satisfied in the things that you used to. Those things lack their colors and you sometimes doubt the meaning of your whole life.

8. Easily frustrated

You are easily irritated and feel frustrated with many things.

9. Poor performance at work

Your professionalism and expertise may be slipping from its best level. You still try hard but the performance is not the same anymore, as your body cannot sustain such exceeding workload.

10. Weaker self-control

You may find yourself giving in to things easier because you feel deflated or over-run.

Beware of the bias social proof

Working overtime seems to have become common business for many workers today. Unfortunately it is now the norm to get a phone call saying that your friend or loved one has been “held back” at the office. There are a few reasons for this, and pressures play a decent part in it. You may feel guilty about leaving when there is still work to be done, or when others have left work that needs doing. You may feel guilty that others are staying behind when you are ready to leave. This susceptibility is called ‘Social Proof’.
To avoid this, we should always be aware of our rights, and what we want and are entitled to. If what you have signed up for is to work until a certain point, work until that time and make it a point to leave then. Practice this. This is the job you were hired to do and you are doing it. If you are required to do more it should be agreed upon before hand, and not after. You are doing nothing wrong.

Try ‘different instead of ‘harder’

When you push yourself too hard, you stop enjoying yourself. And while we don’t always love work, we shouldn’t loathe it. Instead of pushing yourself harder, try a different tact. Try different ways to work with your time rather than spending so much time at the workplace. Have specific goals in mind. Instead of saying “I will stay at work until this is done” perhaps say “I will get the hardest parts of this done now, then when I come back to it in the morning, it will be a breeze to finish”. That way you can finish at a reasonable time, and be able to enjoy your free time with less stress.

How To Remember 90% Of Everything You Learn

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Wish you could learn faster?
Whether you’re learning Spanish, a new instrument, or a new sport, we could all benefit from accelerated learning. But the problem is, there’s only so much time in the day.
The key to accelerated learning is not just putting in more hours, but maximizing the effectiveness of the time spent learning.

The Bucket And Water Analogy

Let’s say you were to fill up a bucket with water. Most buckets should not have any problem retaining the water inside, until it starts overflowing at the top.
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But in reality, this isn’t how our brains function. In fact, most of the information that enters our brain leaks out eventually. Instead of looking at our brain’s memory as a bucket that retains everything, we should treat it for what it is: a leaking bucket.
leaking-bucket
While the leaky bucket analogy may sound like a negative connotation, it’s perfectly normal. Unless you were born with a photographic memory, our brains weren’t designed to remember every fact, information, or experience that we go through in our lives.

How To Remember 90% Of Everything You Learn

The development of the Learning Pyramid in the 1960’s — widely attributed to the NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine— outlined how humans learn.
As research shows, it turns out that humans remember:
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from a lecture (i.e. university/college lectures)
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading (i.e. books, articles)
20% of what they learn from audio-visual (i.e. apps, videos)
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
90% of what they learn when they use immediately (or teach others)
Learning-Pyramid-synap (2)
Yet how do most of us learn?
Books, classroom lectures, videos — non-interactive learning methods that results in 80-95% of information going in one ear and leaking out the other.
The point here is that instead of forcing our brains on how to remember more information with “passive” methods, we should focus our time, energy, and resources on “participatory” methods that have proven to deliver more effective results, in less time.
This means that:
  • If you want to learn how to speak a foreign language, you should focus on speaking with native speakers and gain immediate feedback (instead of mobile apps)
  • If you want to get in shape, you should work with a personal fitness trainer (instead of watching Youtube workout videos)
  • If you want to learn a new instrument, hire a local music teacher in your city
Ultimately, it comes down to this…

Time Or Money?

How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t have time to do X…”
I’m certainly guilty of this myself, as I’ve made excuse after excuse about the lack of time I have in my life.
But time is the greatest equalizer of all. No matter who we are, where we are in the world, or how much we strive for efficiency, there are only 24 hours in each day. Every single minute is unique, and once it’s gone, it can never be regained, unlike money.
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“You May Delay, But Time Will Not.”
― Benjamin Franklin
So if we all have 24 hours in a day, how do we explain the success stories of young millionaires that started from nothing, or a full-time student going from beginner to conversation fluency in Spanish after just 3.5 months? They learned how to maximize for effectiveness instead of only efficiency.
Let’s say person A spent one hour learning a language and retained 90% of what they learned. And person B spent nine hours learning and retained 10% of what they learned. Doing simple math, person B spent 9x more time learning than person A, only to retain the same amount of information (A: 1 * 0.9 = B: 9 * 0.1).
While the exact numbers can be debated, the lesson is clear. The way to have more time is not to go for small wins, like watching 5-minute YouTube tutorials instead of 15-minutes, but to go for big wins, like choosing the most effective method from the beginning. Or constantly relying on free alternatives, when investing in a premium solution can shave off months, if not years, worth of struggles, mistakes, and most importantly, time.
It’s making the most out of the limited time we have by focusing on solutions that deliver the most impact, and saying no to everything else.
The ability to retain more knowledge in an age of infinite access to information and countless distractions is a powerful skill to achieve any goal we have faster.
By learning how to remember more information everyday, we can spend less time re-learning old knowledge, and focus on acquiring new ones.
We’re all running out of time, and today is the youngest you’ll ever be. The question is: how will you best spend it?

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