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Buddhism

Buddhist Wheels of Dharma of Noble Truths

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buddhist wheel of dharma

After he became enlightened, the Buddha gave his first sermon to five ascetic monks who were his earliest followers. At this sermon the Buddha expounded the Four Noble Truths:

  1. the truth of the pervasive existence of suffering
  2. the truth of the origin of suffering
  3. the truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. the truth of ending suffering through the Noble Eightfold Path

With this teaching he set in motion the Wheel of the Dharma, the teachings of Buddhism. The Four Noble Truths are thus the foundation of the Buddhadharma. To understand, to practice, and to realize the Four Noble Truths is to realize the whole of the Buddhadharma.

Understanding these Four Noble Truths, one has a correct view of the nature of sentient existence. Without understanding these foundation teachings, one continues in a state of confusion and delusion. For those who are not already familiar with the Four Noble Truths, we offer a brief review.

The First Noble Truth

Suffering is an unavoidable feature of sentient experience. To live and experience consciousness is to experience change and uncertainty, to feel the pangs of desire, to know pain as well as pleasure, and to be subject to the vagaries of birth, old age, illness and death. These are all suffering. Thus, the beginning point of understanding the teachings of the Buddha is to understand and accept the existence of suffering.

buddhist wheel of dharma

The Second Noble Truth

Suffering originates in our own mind due to wrong views that we have held since time without beginning. Of the mental poisons, or kleshas, the most pervasive are desire (or attachment), aversion or (hatred), and delusion (or ignorance). The ultimate purpose of following the path is to become free of these poisons.

The Third Noble Truth

Since suffering results from the deleterious effects of the three mental poisons, which themselves lack enduring reality, it is possible to be relieved of suffering by casting off the three poisons.

The Fourth Noble Truth

The way out of suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Meditation, and Right Wisdom. To follow the Noble Eightfold Path is to practice the Buddha Path to liberation from suffering which consist of:

  1. The Right View
    The correct way to look at life and everything in it is through compassion and wisdom. Whether or not you have the requisite wisdom is debatable until you find enlightenment. However, compassion is something everyone has buried within him/her; this should become an integral part of you.
  2. The Right Thoughts
    Thoughts are what shape our character, our actions. Cultivate pure thoughts, clear thoughts and good thoughts.
  3. The Right Speech
    Give respect to all human beings for they are part of you as you are part of them. Whenever you speak, only kind words should come out, for speech can be a very powerful took to hurt others.
    buddhist wheel of dharma
  4. The Right Conduct
    Our behavior is the yard-stick by which other people measure us. The right conduct means we should not be judgmental or harsh with anyone. Behave with compassion, kindness and calm.
  5. The Right Livelihood
    Whatever you do to earn money, do not do it at the cost of someone’s life or happiness. The Holy Buddha had said, “Do not earn your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy”.
  6. The Right Effort
    Endeavor to do your best ever in all the tasks you take up. Endeavor to do good at all times. The right effort is polling your whole strength toward constructive activities, and desisting from going into activities that cause harm for others or indicate in any way hostility, envy, jealousy, greed, and many other such negativity. The right effort means doing good, planning good and delivering good.
  7. The Right Mindfulness
    For the right mindfulness, you will need to have and sustain good thoughts, do good deeds and speak only kind words.
  8. The Right Concentration
    Whenever you do something, you have to focus on what you are doing at present. By focusing on one thing at a time, you can achieve wonders while you gain peace of mind.

The Buddha often compared the Noble Eightfold path with that of  cultivating a garden. You put the best things in it, the sooner we set up a wonderful garden and get only good things from it.

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Buddhism

Buddhist Concept of Heaven and Hell

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Buddhist Concept of Heaven and Hell

The wise man makes his own heaven while the foolish man creates his own hell here and hereafter. The Buddhist concept of heaven and hell is entirely different from that in other religions.

Buddhists do not accept that these places are eternal. It is unreasonable to condemn a man to eternal hell for his human weakness but quite reasonable to give him every chance to develop himself. From the Buddhist point of view, those who go to hell can work themselves upward by making use of the merit that they had acquired previously. There are no locks on the gates of hell. Hell is a temporary place and there is no reason for those beings to suffer there forever.

The Buddha’s Teaching shows us that there are heavens and hells not only beyond this world, but in this very world itself. Thus the Buddhist conception of heaven and hell is very reasonable. For instance, the Buddha once said, ‘When the average ignorant person makes an assertion to the effect that there is a Hell (patala) under the ocean he is making a statement which is false and without basis. The word ‘Hell’ is a term for painful sensations.” The idea of one particular ready-made place or a place created by god as heaven and hell is not acceptable to the Buddhist concept.

The fire of hell in this world is hotter than that of the hell in the world-beyond. There is no fire equal to anger, lust or greed and ignorance. According to the Buddha, we are burning from eleven kinds of physical pain and mental agony: lust, hatred, illusion sickness, decay, death, worry, lamentation, pain (physical and mental), melancholy and grief. People can burn the entire world with some of these fires of mental discord. From a Buddhist point of view, the easiest way to define hell and heaven is that where ever there is more suffering, either in this world or any other plane, that place is a hell to those who suffer.

And where there is more pleasure or happiness, either in this world or any other worldly existence, that place is a heaven to those who enjoy their worldly life in that particular place. However, as the human realm is a mixture of both pain and happiness, human beings experience both pain and happiness and will be able to realize the real nature of life. But in many other planes of existence inhabitants have less chance for this realization. In certain places there is more suffering than pleasure while in some other places there is more pleasure than suffering.

Buddhists believe that after death rebirth can take place in any one of a number of possible existences. This future existence is conditioned by the last thought-moment a person experiences at the point of death. This last thought which determines the next existence results from the past actions of a man either in this life or before that. Hence, if the predominant thought reflects meritorious action, then he will find his future existence in a happy state. But that state is temporary and when it is exhausted a new life must begin all over again, determined by another dominating ‘kammic’ energy. This repetitious process goes on endlessly unless one arrives at ‘Right View’ and makes a firm resolve to follow the Noble Path which produces the ultimate happiness of Nibbana.

Heaven is a temporary place where those who have done good deeds experience more sensual pleasures for a longer period. Hell is another temporary place where those evil doers experience more physical and mental suffering. It is not justifiable to believe that such places are permanent. There is no god behind the scene of heaven and hell. Each and every person experiences according to his good and bad kamma. Buddhist never try to introduce Buddhism by frightening people through hell-fire or enticing people by pointing to paradise. Their main idea is character building and mental training. Buddhists can practice their religion without aiming at heaven or without developing fear of hell.

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Buddhism

Swami Vivekananda: Buddhism is the fulfilment of Hinduism

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Swami Vivekananda Buddhism is the fulfilment of Hinduism

~ Swami Vivekananda, 26th September, 1893

I am not a Buddhist, as you have heard, and yet I am. If China, or Japan, or Ceylon follow the teachings of the Great Master, India worships him as God incarnate on earth. You have just now heard that I am going to criticise Buddhism, but by that I wish you to understand only this. Far be it from me to criticise him whom I worship as God incarnate on earth. But our views about Buddha are that he was not understood properly by his disciples. The relation between Hinduism (by Hinduism, I mean the religion of the Vedas) and what is called Buddhism at the present day is nearly the same as between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus Christ was a Jew, and Shakya Muni was a Hindu.

The Jews rejected Jesus Christ, nay, crucified him, and the Hindus have accepted Shakya Muni as God and worship him. But the real difference that we Hindus want to show between modern Buddhism and what we should understand as the teachings of Lord Buddha lies principally in this: Shakya Muni came to preach nothing new. He also, like Jesus, came to fulfil and not to destroy. Only, in the case of Jesus, it was the old people, the Jews, who did not understand him, while in the case of Buddha, it was his own followers who did not realize the import of this teachings. As the Jew did not understand the fulfilment of the Old Testament, so the Buddhist did not understand the fulfilment of the truths of the Hindu religion. Again, I repeat, Shakya Muni came not to destroy, but he was the fulfilment, the logical conclusion, the logical development of the religion of the Hindus.

Swami Vivekananda Buddhism is the fulfilment of Hinduism

The religion of the Hindus is divided into two parts: the ceremonial and the spiritual. The spiritual portion is specially studied by the monks. In that there is no caste. A man from the highest caste and a man from the lowest may become a monk in India, and the two castes become equal. In religion there is no caste; caste is simply a social institution.

Shakya Muni himself was a monk, and it was his glory that he had the large – heartedness to bring out the truths from the hidden Vedas and throw them broadcast all over the world. He was the first being in the world who brought missionarising into practice — nay, he was the first to conceive the idea of proselytising.

The great glory of the Master lay in his wonderful sympathy for everybody, especially for the ignorant and the poor. Some of his disciples were Brahmins. When Buddha was teaching, Sanskrit was no more the spoken language in India. It was then only in the books of the learned. Some of Buddha’s Brahmin disciples wanted to translate his teachings into Sanskrit, but he distinctly told them, “I am for the poor, for the people; let me speak in the tongue of the people.” And so to this day the great bulk of his teachings are in the vernacular of that day in India. Whatever may be the position of philosophy, whatever may be the position of metaphysics, so long as there is such a thing as death in the world, so long as there is such a thing as weakness in the human heart, so long as there is a cry going out of the heart of man in his very weakness, there shall be a faith in God.

On the philosophic side the disciples of the Great Master dashed themselves against the eternal rocks of the Vedas and could not crush them, and on the other side they took away from the nation that eternal God to which every one, man or woman, clings so fondly. And the result was that Buddhism had to die a natural death in India. At the present day there is not one who calls oneself a Buddhist in India, the land of its birth. But at the same time, Brahminism lost something — that reforming zeal, that wonderful sympathy and charity for everybody, that wonderful leaven which Buddhism had brought to the masses and which had rendered Indian society so great that a Greek historian who wrote about India of that time was led to say that no Hindu was known to tell an untruth and no Hindu woman was known to be unchaste.

Hinduism cannot live without Buddhism, nor Buddhism without Hinduism. Then realize what the separation has shown to us, that the Buddhists cannot stand without the brain and philosophy of the Brahmins, nor the Brahmin without the heart of the Buddhist. This separation between the Buddhists and the Brahmins is the cause of the downfall of India. That is why India is populated by three hundred millions of beggars, and that is why India has been the slave of conquerors for the last thousand years. Let us then join the wonderful intellect of the Brahmins with the heart, the noble soul, the wonderful humanizing power of the Great Master.

 

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Buddhism

Does Buddhism Have Roots in Vedic Hinduism?

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Does Buddhism Has Roots in Vedic Hinduism

~ By Stephen Knapp, also known as Sri Nandanandana dasa, writer, author, philosopher, spiritual practitioner, lecturer and president of Vedic Friends Association (VFA)

Many people may know about Buddhism, but few seem to understand its connections with Vedic culture and how many aspects of it have origins in the Vedic philosophy. To begin with, it was several hundred years before the time of Lord Buddha that his birth was predicted in the  Srimad-Bhagavatam:

“In the beginning of the age of Kali, the Supreme Personality of Godhead will appear in the province of Gaya as Lord Buddha, the son of Anjana, to bewilder those who are always envious of the devotees of the Lord.” (Bhagavatam 1.3.24)

This verse indicates that Lord Buddha was an incarnation of the Supreme who would appear in Gaya, a town in central India. But some historians may point out that Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was actually born in Lumbini, Nepal, and that his mother was Queen Mahamaya. Therefore, this verse may be inaccurate. But actually Siddhartha became the Buddha after he attained spiritual enlightenment during his meditation under the Bo tree in Gaya. This means that his spiritual realization was his second and most important birth. Furthermore, Siddhartha’s mother, Queen Mahamaya, died several days after Siddhartha’s birth, leaving him to be raised by his grandmother, Anjana. So the prediction in the Bhagavatam is verified.

When Lord Buddha appeared, the people of India, although following the Vedas, had deviated from the primary goal of Vedic philosophy. They had become preoccupied with performing ceremonies and rituals for material enjoyment. Some of the rituals included animal sacrifices. The people had begun to sacrifice animals indiscriminately on the plea of Vedic rituals and then indulged in eating the flesh. Being misled by unworthy priests, much unnecessary animal killing was going on and the people were becoming more degraded and atheistic.

Buddha

The rituals that included animal sacrifices, according to the Vedas, were not meant for eating flesh. An old animal would be placed in the sacrificial fire and, after the mantras were chanted, it would come out of the fire in a new and younger body as a test to show the potency of the Vedic mantras. However, as the power of the priests deteriorated, they could no longer chant the mantras properly and, therefore, the animals would not be brought back to life. So in the age of Kali all such sacrifices are forbidden because there are no longer any brahmanas who can chant the mantras correctly. Thus, Lord Buddha appeared and rejected the Vedic rituals and preached the philosophy of nonviolence. In the Dhammapada(129-130) Buddha says, “All beings fear death and pain, life is dear to all; therefore the wise man will not kill or cause anything to be killed.”

The Vedic literature also teaches nonviolence, but Buddha taught the people who used the Vedas for improper purposes to give them up and simply follow him. Thus, he saved the animals from being killed and saved the people from being further misled by the corrupt priests. However, he did not teach the Vedic conclusions of spiritual knowledge but taught his own philosophy.

Buddha was born in the town of Lumbini in Nepal as the son of a king of the Shakya clan. He is generally accepted to have lived during 560-477 BC but has been shown to have been born in 1887 BC and died in 1807 BC.

His mother, Queen Mahamaya, before she conceived him, saw him in a dream descending from heaven and entering her womb as a white elephant. After his birth his father sheltered him from the problems of the world as much as possible. Later, Buddha married and had one son. It was during this time that he began to be disturbed by the problems life forced on everyone, especially after he had seen for the first time a man afflicted with disease, another man who was decrepit with age, a dead man being carried to the cremation grounds, and a monk who had dedicated himself to the pursuit of finding a release from the problems of life.

Buddha

Soon after this, at the age of 29, he renounced his family and became a wandering beggar. For six years Buddha sought enlightenment as an austere ascetic. He would eat very little food, sometimes only one grain of rice a day, and his bones would stick out as if he were a skeleton. Finally giving that up, thinking that enlightenment was not to be found in such a severe manner, he again became a beggar living on alms. When he started to eat more regularly, the five mendicants who were with him left him alone, thinking that he had given up his resolution. During this time he came to Gaya where he determinedly sat in meditation under the Bo tree for seven weeks. He was tempted by Mara, the Evil One, with many pleasures in an effort to make Gautama Buddha give up his quest. But finally he attained enlightenment. It was then that he became the enlightened Buddha.

Buddha at first hesitated to teach his realizations to others because he knew that the world would not want them. Of what use would there be in trying to teach men who were sunk in the darkness of illusion? Nonetheless, he decided to make the attempt. He then went to Benares and met the five mendicants who had deserted him near Gaya. There in the Deer Park, in present day Sarnath, he gave his first sermon, which was the beginning of Buddhism.

Buddha taught four basic truths: that suffering exists, there is a cause for suffering, suffering can be eradicated, and there is a means to end all suffering. But these four noble truths had previously been discussed in the Sankhya philosophy before Buddha’s appearance, and had later been further elaborated upon in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. So this train of thought actually was not new.

Buddha

Buddha also taught that suffering is essentially caused by ignorance and our own mental confusion about the purpose life. The suffering we experience can end once we rid ourselves of this confusion through the path of personal development. Otherwise, this confusion and ignorance causes us to perform unwanted activities that become part of our karma that must be endured in this or another existence. When karma ceases, so does the need for birth and, naturally, old age, sorrow, and death. With the cessation of birth, there is the cessation of consciousness and entrance into nirvana follows. Thus, according to this, there is no soul and no personal God, but only the void, the nothingness that is the essence of everything to which we must return. Although this was the basic premise from which Buddha taught, this theory was mentioned in the Nasadiya-sukta of the Rig-veda long before Buddha ever appeared.

However, Buddha refused to discuss how the world was created or what was existence in nirvana. He simply taught that one should live in a way that would produce no more karma while enduring whatever karmic reactions destiny brought. This would free one from further rebirth.

In order to accomplish this, Buddha gave a complete system for attaining nirvana that consisted of eight steps. These were right views (recognizing the imperfect and temporary nature of the world), right resolve (putting knowledge into practice or living the life of truth and nonviolence toward all creatures, including vegetarianism), right speech (giving up lies, slander, and unnecessary talk), right conduct (nonviolence, truthfulness, celibacy, nonintoxication, and nonstealing), right livelihood (honest means of living that does not interfere with others or with social harmony), right effort (maintaining spiritual progress by remaining enthusiastic and without negative thoughts), right mindfulness (remaining free from worldly attachments by remembering the temporary nature of things), and right meditation (attaining inner peace and tranquility and, finally, indifference to the world and one’s situation, which leads to nirvana). This, for the most part, is merely another adaptation of the basic yamasand niyamas that are the rules of what to do and what not to do that are found in the Vedic system of yoga.

Buddha

However, because of Buddha’s lack of interest in discussing any metaphysical topics, many interpretations of his philosophy were not only possible but were formed, especially after his disappearance. The two main divisions of Buddhism that developed were the Hinayana, or lesser vehicle, and Mahayana, or greater vehicle. The Hinayana was more strict and held onto Buddha’s original teachings and uses Pali as the language of its scriptures. It also accepts reaching nirvana as the goal of life. Hinayana stresses one’s own enlightenment and puts less emphasis on helping others, and Mahayana emphasizes the need of enlightenment for the good of others while overlooking the need to realize the truth within. The Mahayana accepts Sanskrit as the language for its texts and integrates principles from other schools of philosophy, making it more accessible to all varieties of people. Gradually, as followers came from numerous cultural backgrounds, Mahayana Buddhism drastically changed from its original form.

The ideal of the Mahayana system is the bodhisattva, the person who works for enlightenment for all other living beings. The personification of this enlightened compassion is one of the major deities of Buddhism, Avalokiteshvara, who is represented in a variety of forms and images. The mantra that is the sound representation of this enlightened compassion is om mani padme hum, which is chanted on beads by aspiring Buddhists. The vibration of this mantra evokes compassionate qualities and feelings in the heart and consciousness of a person who chants it.

A third division of Buddhism is the Vajrayana sect. This has the same principles as the Mahayana, but the Vajrayana bases its process for achieving enlightenment on the Buddhist Tantras, which are supposed to reveal a quicker path to enlightenment. The Vajrayana path is one of transforming the inner psychological energy toward enlightenment by the use of various types of yogic techniques. First they try to change their conventional perceptions of this world by identifying themselves with the Buddhist deity that they feel affinity for, and to view the mandala of the particular deity as the world.

Ultimately, this form of meditation, as well as other techniques used in this system, is meant to give one the experience of what is called the “clear light.” This clear light is said to be experienced by everyone shortly after death, but most people hardly notice it because they are not prepared for it. The idea is that if one is prepared for it before death, it can help one to be ready to merge into it when he sees it after death.

As Buddhism flourished, the Hinayana spread through the south in Ceylan, Burma, and Thailand, while the Mahayana spread to the North and East and is now found primarily in Tibet, China, and Japan. The Mahayana school still uses knowledge of kundalini and the chakras in its teachings, other topics that are traced to the Vedic system. It is this Mahayana school which has now developed more than twenty sects with a variety of teachings that, in some cases, especially in the West, have become so distorted that it is impossible to distinguish the original principles that were established by Buddha.

Buddha

Besides the Vedic similarities in Buddhism already mentioned, there are many additional correlations between the Vedic literature and the Buddhist religion of the Far East. For example, the word Ch’an of the Ch’an school of Chinese Buddhism is Chinese for the Sanskrit word dhyana, which means meditation, as does the word zen in Japanese. Furthermore, the deity Amitayus is the origin of all other Lokesvara forms of Buddha and is considered the original spiritual master, just as Balarama (the expansion of Lord Krishna) in the Vedic literature is the source of all the Vishnu incarnations and is the original spiritual teacher. Also, the trinity doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism explains the three realms of manifestations of Buddha, which are the dharmakaya realm of Amitabha (the original two-armed form is Amitayus), the sambhogakaya realm of the spiritual manifestation (in which the undescended form of Lokesvara or Amitayus reigns), and the rupakaya realm, the material manifestation (which is where the Buddha in the form of Lokesvara incarnates in so many other different forms). This is a derivative of the Vedic philosophy. Thus, Lokesvara is actually a representation of Vishnu to the Mahayana Buddhists.

Furthermore, all the different incarnations of Vishnu appear as different forms of Lokesvara in Buddhism. For example, Makendanatha Lokesvara is the same as the Vedic Matsya, Badravaraha Lokesvara is Varaha, Hayagriva in Buddhism is the horse-necked one as similarly described in the Vedic literature, and so on. And the different forms of Lakshmi, Vishnu’s spouse as the Goddess of Fortune, appear as the different forms of Tara in the forms of White Tara, the Green Tara, etc. Even the fearful forms of Lokesvara are simply the fearful aspects of Lord Vishnu, as in the case of the threatening image of Yamantaka, who is simply the form of the Lord as death personified. The name is simply taken from Yamaraja, the Vedic lord of death.

Many times you will also see Buddhist paintings depicting a threefold bending form of Bodhisattvas and Lokesvaras much the same way Krishna is depicted. This is because the Bodhisattvas were originally styled after paintings from India, which were prints of Krishna. Most images of Tara are also similar to paintings of Lakshmi in that one hand is held in benediction. And Vajrayogini, the Buddha in female aspect, is certainly styled after goddess Kali or Durga. Kuvera, the lord of wealth in the Vedic culture, is Kuvera Vaishravana in Buddhism. There are many other carry-overs from the Vedic tradition into Buddhism that can be recognized, such as the use of ghee lamps and kusha grass, and the offerings of barley and ghee in rituals that resemble Vedic ceremonies. In this way, we can see the many similarities and connections in Buddhism with Vedic culture, which is the origin of many of the concepts found within Buddhism.

Therefore, after the disappearance of Lord Buddha, the authority of the Vedas and Vedic culture was reinstated by such scholarly personalities as Shankaracarya, Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya, Nimbarka, Baladeva Vidyabushana, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and others.

 

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