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1. The Buddha's First Discourse
2. 4 Noble Truths
3. The Noble Eightfold Path
4. Tipitaka
5. Kamma
6. Rebirth
7. What is Metta?
8. Dhammapada


  • The Buddha's First Discourse

    The first discourse delivered by the Buddha after his Enlightenment is called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. Dhammacakka is understood to mean "The Wheel of Truth". To drill down further, Dhamma here means wisdom or knowledge, and cakka means founding or establishment. Therefore, Dhammacakka means the establishment of wisdom. Dhammacakkappavattana means the exposition of the establishment of wisdom. Sutta refers to a discourse

    In this discourse, the Buddha teaches the Middle Path which was discovered by himself. He opens the discourse by advising his disciples to avoid the 2 extremes of sensual pleasures and self-mortification. Indulgence in sensual pleasures retards one's spiritual progress, while self-mortification weakens one's intellect. The 4 Noble Truths were the other central theme of this discourse.

 

  • 4 Noble Truths

    Noble Truth #1: Suffering

    Known as Dukkha in Pali, the 1st noble truth can be translated to mean suffering, or (in a seemingly less pessimistic sense) unsatisfactoriness. To say that we encounter suffering every now and then may not be obvious; but then Dukkha encompasses more: unfulfilled wish is also suffering, coming into contact (and being forced to spend long hours) with people we do not like is Dukkha, separated from people we love is Dukkha. Drilling down further, we may come to realize that we do at least now and then come into contact with suffering. Some people could take Dukkha too hard to bear that they resort to ending their lives. 

    Noble Truth #2: Cause of Suffering

    The cause of all the suffering is craving, or attachment. This is the 2nd noble truth. 

    Noble Truth #3: End of Suffering

    The 3rd noble truth is the complete end of suffering - Nibbana. This can be achieved when all forms of craving are eradicated. 

    Noble Truth #4: Way Leading to the End of Suffering

    How to reach the end of suffering? This could be explained by the 4th noble truth - The Noble Eightfold Path.

 

  • The Noble Eightfold Path

    The Noble 8-fold Path comprises of:-

    • Right Understanding
      The understanding of things as they really are; the knowledge of the 4 Noble Truths.
    • Right Thought
      Includes benevolent and loving-kindness thoughts, which are the opposites of ill-will and cruelty respectively.
    • Right Speech
      Not lying, slandering, using harsh words and engaging in frivolous talks (including meaningless gossiping).
    • Right Action
      Refraining from killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.
    • Right Livelihood
      Not having occupation that trades in arms, human beings, life stocks, intoxicating drinks, and poisons. 
    • Right Effort
      Effort made to eradicate/reduce evil-doings and effort made to promote/enhance good deeds.
    • Right Mindfulness
      Being mindful (as opposed to heedlessness/carelessness) of body, mind, etc. 
    • Right Concentration
      One-pointedness of the mind (as can be seen and achieved in meditation).

     

  • Tipitaka

    Tipitaka (or Tripitaka in Sanskrit) comprises of collection of the Buddha's teachings. It consists of 3 sections of teachings

    • Sutta Pitaka
      Sutta Pitaka consists of Discourses delivered by the Buddha. It can be further classified into Nikayas, or collections:-
      • Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses)
      • Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-Length Discourses)
      • Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)
      • Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses arranged according to number)
      • Khuddaka Nikaya (Smaller Collection)

    • Vinaya Pitaka
      Vinaya Pitaka deals with the rules and regulations for the Order of monks and nuns. 

    • Abhidhamma Pitaka
      Abhidhamma expounds higher teachings of the Buddha, which covers the psychological and philosophical aspects. 

      (Note: Tipitaka could sometimes be observed to precede the names of venerable Buddhist monks. These designations given would suggest that the monk has mastery over the Tipitaka)

 

  • Kamma

    Kamma could simply be defined as action. However, it is not any kind of action, but intentional action, including physical action, speech, or thought. So, an intentional evil thought constitutes a Kamma - an unwholesome one.

    Kamma (action) is always discussed in conjunction with Vipaka (fruits, or the reaction). To a farmer, it is reaping what seed that is sowed. To a scientist, an analogy would be cause and effect (e.g. Newton's Law). To sum up, bad Kamma begets bad Vipaka, and good Kamma reaps good results. Thus, Kamma explains many of the inequalities experienced by mankind - why some are born handicapped, etc.

    Having mentioned the above, Buddhists believe that Kamma is not a pre-destination for oneself and nothing could be done. Having suffered this life, a person could actively perform more good deeds such that not only others would benefit from the good deeds, but good Kamma could be accumulated, no matter when in the future the good results are reaped --> Cannot just sit around and let things to fate; must make constant effort to change for the better for oneself and other sentient beings!

    Understanding Kamma is only the first step. One must encourage wholesome Kamma and avoid (if not eliminate) unwholesome Kamma. At the end of the day, as mentioned in the Dhammapada (verse 165):
    By oneself is evil done,
    By oneself is one defiled,
    By oneself is no evil done,
    By oneself is one purified.
    Both defilement and purity depend on oneself.
    No one is purified by another.

  • Rebirth

    The notion of rebirth in Buddhism is that when a sentient being (a human, animal, etc) dies, that is not the end of the story - rebirth takes place, in most of the cases. Note the words "most of the cases": some people had made great progress in their spiritual development that they eradicated ignorance and other hindrances that the conditions for rebirth were not present anymore. But for most of us ordinary folks, rebirth is almost certain, much more certain than winning the lottery!

    It should be noted here that the Buddhist idea of rebirth is NOT about re-incarnation (a term used liberally in some publications, unfortunately). Re-incarnation refers to the transmigration of a permanent soul into another physical body - and Buddhism does not talk about the existence of a permanent, unchanging soul that was created. (More will be said about impermanence and no-soul in coming days - look out!)

    For Buddhists who believe in rebirth, death does not mean the starting of an eternal life or 'total annihilation'. Instead, rebirth takes place. Thus, for people whom committed suicide (and for those contemplating that), it pays to remember that death is not a one-off solution or escape route. More growth, decay and death would follow suit. Understanding of this and the knowledge of Dhamma could instill a sense of bravery and calmness to face up to life, difficult it may be.

    While the scope and depth of rebirth could not be elucidated completely here, it pays at least to know that rebirth is conditioned by cause and effect, and is underpinned by the concept of Dependent Origination. It goes this way: -

    • Dependent on Ignorance (not knowing the true nature of our existence) arises Volitional Actions (kamma formation).
    • Dependent on Volitional Actions arises Consciousness (due to the conditioning of volitional actions, and this leads to a new spark of life again).
    • Dependent on Consciousness arises Mind & Matter (mental and physical components of a life).
    • Dependent on Mind & Matter arises 6 Senses (of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and the mind).
    • Dependent on 6 Senses arises Contact.
    • Dependent on Contact arises Feeling (e.g. I like that chicken burger).
    • Dependent on Feeling arises Craving (e.g. I want more chicken burgers).
    • Dependent on Craving arises Attachment (e.g. can't live without chicken burgers, or more important things).
    • Dependent on Attachment arises Actions.
    • Dependent on Actions arises Birth.
    • Dependent on Birth arises Decay (e.g. old age), Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief, and Despair.
    • And the same cycle goes again, spinning in the Wheel of Life.

    Just when the above ends with an unhappy note, it is heartening to know that the converse is also true: With the cessation of ignorance ends volitional actions, with the cessation of volitional actions ends consciousness, with the cessation of ...... it goes on. Here's another manifestation of the mechanism of cause and effect. Learning to walk the Noble Eightfold Path is a good starting point. 

    Lastly, as to there might be scepticism over the validity of rebirth, there were numerous reports of people able to remember their past lives and places they stayed before, and found to be true upon investigations. Also, the notion of rebirth and its relation to the ending of suffering actually encourage people to practise the Dhamma, be it helping oneself or others.

     

  • Metta

    Metta is a Pali word for loving-kindness (Sanskrit = Maitri). 

    Put simply, loving-kindness means wishing all beings be well and happy, and that harm and suffering be away from them. It is a wish, a prayer , and a state of mind. For a Buddhist practising loving-kindness, it is supposed to be universal --> you cannot be wishing your loved ones well and on the other hand wishing your competitors/enemies to go to hell! Some Buddhists practise meditation on loving-kindness. 

    According to the Buddha, a person who practises meditation on loving-kindness regularly could see some results, e.g. sleeps peacefully, disturbing dreams do not occur, pleasing to others, etc. 

    We can start practising loving-kindness too. Some Buddhists recite (verbally or mentally) the following: -

    May I be free from enmity, disease and grief and may I guard myself happily;

    As I am, so also may my teachers, parents, intimate, indifferent, and inimical beings be free from enmity, disease and grief, and may they guard themselves happily;

    May all beings be void of enmity, disease and grief, and may they take care of themselves happily;

    May I be free from envy, may I be free from jealousy. May I be free from malice; may my beloved parents be well and happy; may my loving brothers and sisters be well and happy; may my kind teachers be well and happy; may my dear friends and relatives be well and happy; may my dutiful servants be well and happy; may all the non-friendly be well and happy. 


    Loving-kindness could be directed towards non-
    human too, to animals, such as this wombat.
    (Photographed July 1999, Australia)

     
  • Dhammapada

    The Dhammapada is one of the 31 books that comprise the Tipitaka. It could be translated to mean The Way of Truth.

    The Dhammapada consists of 423 melodious Pali verses, uttered by the Buddha on about 300 occassions, to suit the temperaments of the listeners in the course of his teaching tours.

    It is not solely a book to be read superficially like a novel and then shelved aside, but to be read and re-read so that it may serve as a constant companion and source of inspiration in times of need.

    Any truth seeker, irrespective of his/her religion, can read this book and may reflect on these sayings and apply them in one's daily life for one's and other's benefit. A sample verse from the Dhammapada, abstracted from the Twin Verses, is as follows: -

    Mind is the forerunner of all evil states.

    Mind is chief; mind-made are they.

    If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, because of that,

    Suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox.

     

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