By Dr Justice Chandradasa Nanayakkara
Buddhism is the teaching founded by Buddha around 2500 years ago. Buddha is the one who has attained bodhi. Bodhi means wisdom which is an ideal state of intellectual and ethical perfection, which can be achieved by any man only through his own efforts and perseverance. The term Buddha literally expresses the idea of the enlightened and it is through his free will, his compassion and his wisdom that the Prince Gautama attained Buddhahood.
All of the Buddha’s teachings can be summed up in one word. That’s to say Dhamma. It means the truth. This is the principle of justice. It is said that if a man lives by the Dhammahe will escape misery and reach nirvana, which is the final liberation from all suffering. Dhamma reveals the truths taught by the Buddha, it also gives people a way of life that can lead them to enlightenment.
Buddhism cannot be considered a religion, as the word is commonly understood. It is not a system of faith or worship. In Buddhism, there is no belief in a body of dogma which must be accepted as truth, such as belief in a supreme being, a creator of the universe, a personal savior who is supposed to accomplish the will of a supreme deity (Bhikkhu Thittila).
The Buddha taught that all conditioned things have three characteristics. Impermanence (Annique)Suffering or Dissatisfaction (dukkha)and altruism or insubstantiality (anata). These three basic facts were first discovered and formulated over 2500 years ago by the Buddha. They are designated in Buddhist terminology as tillakana. Of the three, the first and the third apply directly to inanimate as well as animate existence. The second characteristic suffering is of course only an animate experience. A person who fails to understand these three fundamental characteristics views the impermanent as permanent, and the unsatisfactory as satisfying, and altruism as possessing an unchanging, unchanging self. (Nyanaponika). The Buddha attributed these erroneous tendencies to ignorance, which in Pali means avija. being ignorant of our true nature and the true nature of the things around us, we engage in actions based on these illusions, accumulating karma that keeps us in bondage to the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, ignoring and distorting the three basic facts ultimately only leads to frustration, disappointment, and despair, and we must see things as they really are in the light of the three characteristics. Life can only be properly understood if these three basics are understood in this way. It is through a clear understanding of these fundamental characteristics that wisdom (panna) jumpscares.
Another fundamental philosophy of Buddhism, which the Buddha himself discovered and revealed to the world, was the Four Noble Truths. In proposing it, the Buddha did not claim any divine authority because the Four Noble Truths were based on his insightful observation and pure reasoning and they can easily be verified and validated by anyone with discernment.
According to Majhima Nikaya “The Noble Truths have been well exposed Dhamma by the Exalted, to be self-realized, with immediate fruit, inviting inquiry, leading to Nibbana, to be understood by the wise, every man for himself.
The Buddha is said to have repeatedly referred to the Four Noble Truths in his discourses throughout his life, continually expanding and clarifying its meaning. Walpola Rahula states that the heart of the Buddha’s teaching lies in the Four Noble Truths which he expounded in his very first sermon to the five ascetics, at Isipathana in Benares. Although he briefly referred to the Four Noble Truths in his first sermon, these are countless places where this fundamental doctrine has been explained time and time again in greater detail and in different ways.
The Four Noble Truths are as follows. 1. The truth of Dukkha (suffering or dissatisfaction) 2. The truth of the origin of Dukkha. 3, The truth of the cessation of Dukkha. 4. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of Dukkha. The first three represent the philosophy of Buddhism, while the fourth represents the ethics of Buddhism in accordance with this philosophy.
The First Noble Truth which explains the nature of Dukkha has the following three aspects. (a). The patent and latent physical and mental suffering associated with birth, old age, illness and death. (b). Anxiety or stress from trying to hold on to things that are constantly changing. (vs). fundamental dissatisfaction that permeates all forms of existence, due to the fact that all life forms are changeable, impermanent and without core or substance.
The central importance of Dukkha in Buddhist philosophy has led some thinkers to treat Buddhism as pessimistic. However, it is worth highlighting the emphasis on Dukkha is not intended to present a pessimistic view of life, but rather to present a realistic and practical assessment of the human condition. All beings must experience suffering and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable suffering of disease, aging, and death.
As stated in the First Noble Truth, life is full of suffering without exception. From the cradle to the grave, wherever there is life, whether it flows gently or abundantly, there is suffering. Wherever we turn our eyes or wherever we direct our minds, there is a vast spectacle of suffering, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. This is what confronts our everyday vision. The rich and the poor, the high and the low, and even the man who occupies a high position must experience and suffer their share of joys and sorrows. During our brief existence on this earth, even though abundance seems to abound in some of our prosperous homes, the glamor of wealth and the splendor of our life will disappear once our beloved is taken away from us.
The second Noble Truth explains the reason for suffering. According to her, the desire or the desire (thanna) is the root cause of suffering. Craving (thanna) is conditioned by ignorance (avija). Desire is a powerful mental force latent in everyone and is the root cause of most of life’s ills. It is this desire, gross or subtle, which leads to repeated births in samsara and which makes us cling to all forms of life. The third Noble truth is the complete cessation of dukkha. It is complete and total annihilation, dissolution, abandonment, renunciation, liberation and detachment from her.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the path leading to the cessation of suffering, known as the Noble Eightfold Path or the Middle Path. Namely the right understanding, the right thought, the right speech, the right action, the right livelihood, the right effort, the right conscience and the right concentration. This path existed regardless of the birth of the Buddha. The Buddha, however, was the first person to put them in a coherent and proper order and to put them at the center by suggesting a practical approach to solving them. The Four Noble Truths sum up the entire Buddhist philosophy. Without a proper understanding of the Four Noble Truths, it is impossible to fully integrate the concepts and practices of Buddhism into our daily lives.
Another central concept of Buddhism is karma. Word karma literally means action and its result is called vipaka although generally the word karma is used to cover both actions and results. However, not all actions are considered karma. The word simply denotes all willful, intentional and voluntary acts, not involuntary or mechanical actions. These voluntary acts can be healthy (kusala), who is morally good or morally bad (akusala), or morally (neutral). Neutral karma has no moral consequences either because of the very nature of the action or because it is done involuntarily or unintentionally. Actions can be physical, verbal or mental. In other words, the word karma refers to all voluntary activities, which find expression in thought, speech and physical acts, which may be wholesome or unwholesome.
The first two lines of Dhammapada State it succinctly like this: “Mind precedes all conditions, they are made of mind. If anyone speaks or acts with an evil spirit, because of this suffering follows him, as the wheel follows the hoof of the draft ox. If we speak or act with a good spirit, because of that happiness follows us” (Fri. Narada). It is therefore obvious that in the operation of karma it is the mind that plays the dominant role.
The Karma is the law of nature, which applies to all beings, whether they are Buddhists or not. The mental qualities that motivate a person to resort to a particular action will determine the moral quality of the action. In other words, Karma simply means that what we do, we become. All our actions are bound to produce corresponding consequences. Even if we do not feel the consequences immediately, they will inevitably come back to us as soon as the weather and the conditions are right. It is important to remember that whatever we have earned in life is what we have earned. We ourselves are responsible for our happiness and our misery. We are the architects of our own destiny.
Most of the pleasant and unpleasant things that we experience in this life represent the maturation of actions committed mainly in previous lives. It is believed that these consequences of karma are programmed into us from birth. Good or bad consequences are the fruits we deserve. Kamma is an immutable law of cause and effect, we cannot easily avoid the consequences and we owe them as our just rewards.
When we look around us, we see the truth of cause and effect. Every action, no matter how insignificant, produces an effect. Each effect in turn becomes a cause and produces yet other effects. So there is no sense in looking for a root cause. The root cause is inconceivable and incomprehensible. Cause and effect are cyclical. The origin of the universe, like that of every individual person or thing in it, depends on the chain of preceding causes, which continues indefinitely in an endless cycle of earth births and rebirths. This is the principle of dependent origination or paticca-samuppada.