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A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY
( Breaking Silence in support of Tibet,
Released on the occasion of Festival of Tibet 2000, Bombay )
O, she who manifests
the true nature of all,
The Buddha is the supreme friend of all the mundane worlds, possessed of an inconceivable treasury of knowledge, who clearly and truthfully shows the path to higher rebirth, liberation and Buddha-hood. Just as the lion's roar subdues the wolves, so also the Buddha clearly declaims the teachings of Dependent Worlds are completely obscured by the darkness of ignorance. Sentient beings are bound by the suffering of being born and becoming old, sick and dying, they are constantly afflicted by disturbing thoughts and fearful of the external elements. The Buddha, with a supremely compassionate mind, like a mother looking upon her only child, observes all who in every aspect experience afflictions of body and mind and who are mourning. Whoever happens to see, hear, touch and remember him experiences great bliss.
First he generated Bodhicitta for the benefit of sentient creatures; then, he voluntarily engaged in difficult practices involving much effort over a period of many aeons; and gradually he attained perfection in the accumulation of merit and wisdom. Finally he attained the highest state of enlightenment and gained knowledge spontaneously to benefit both self and others, and he became the Lord of Dharma of the three realms.
After attaining enlightenment he became free from conceptual thought and realized all phenomena as they exist without fabrication. He no longer needed to put effort into working for the benefit of sentient being, because his mind generation and extensive prayers as vast as the ocean caused his every word and deed automatically to be beneficial. He appeared in this degenerate era, and by performing the twelve deeds he liberated many fortunate sentient creatures according to their intention, mental caliber and so forth.
In the appearance of common people, this Buddha was born in the Shakya lineage and later renounced the luxurious royal life style as if it was of no consequence. He became an ascetic, expended great effort and destroyed all the dark forces of delusion ( Mara ) at dusk one day. The following morning, he performed the deeds of attaining enlightenment and after that remained for 49 days without teaching Dharma. Later at Sarnath near Varanasi, when he was requested by Lord Brahma and others, he turned the first wheel of Dharma. Starting with Four Noble Truths ( the great condensed teaching of Buddhism), he taught this to his five main disciples, Kondania, etc, and to both gods and men.
Then he turned the second wheel of Dharma ( the Essence of Buddhism ), at Vulture's peak in Rajgir, in which he principally discussed the non - characteristic phenomena which show emptiness, to hearers, gods and men, and also to Bodhisattvas. Later at a place known as Vaishali, he turned the third wheel Dharma, where he clarified the true existence of the three types of phenomena. For very skilled and talented people he also gave the teachings on Tantra. Among his wheels of Dharma, as a means of applying antidotes, there are 21,000 to desire and attachment , 21,000 are antidotes to hatred and anger, 21,000 are antidotes to closed mindedness and 21,000 are antidotes to all the three root delusions in equal proportion.
The 84,000 doctrines are condensed into twelve scriptural categories, namely the sets of discourses (sutram ) , intermediate verses (geyam), prophetic teachings (vyakaranam), versified teachings (gatha), specific teachings (udanam), introductory teachings (nidanam), parables (avadanam), legends ( itivrttakam), life-stories (jatakam), grand teachings (vaipulam), marvelous teachings ( adbutadharma) and finalized teachings (upadesa).
The twelve categories can be further condensed into the three Higher Trainings, consisting of three baskets; the basket of discipline is principally concerned with morality; the basket of discourses with contemplation; and the basket of knowledge with cultivation of wisdom. So these three baskets focus on morality, concentration and wisdom. Preserving excellent moral discipline leads one to be freed from gross delusions such as mental distractions arising from objects of attachment, ignorance, anger and so forth. Concentration applies antidotes to the subtle delusions, so that one is able to concentrate one's mind upon positive objects for extended periods of time and gain the potential to know what mental activity to accept and what to discard. With the wisdom of realizing emptiness based on these two former training one can uproot delusions and need not longer experience any kind of suffering.
The practice of the Six Perfections is greatly enhanced by an understanding of emptiness, which leads one to apprehend the illusory and non-inherently existent nature of phenomena and thus to refine and develop one's generosity, moral discipline, patience, meditation, wisdom and joyous effort. The eightfold Nobel Path is included within The Three Higher Trainings. Correct action, correct speech and correct livelihood relate to the training of moral discipline. Correct effort, correct mindfulness and correct concentration relate to the training of concentration. Correct view and correct realization relate to the training of wisdom.
Beings who wish to be free from suffering should practice Three Higher Trainings. Those who are not able to guard their minds cannot practice these trainings. Being unable to guard one's mind is a result of ignorance, since it is ignorance which leads the mind to an incorrect understanding of phenomena, seeing them as truly existent. This causes a clinging attachment and hatred in the mind and is reflected in the three actions of body, speech and mind. Actions performed out of desire, attachment, hatred and anger leave imprints in the continuum of one's consciousness and result in that consciousness taking birth again and again in cyclic existence. for as long as one is unable to overcome ignorance, birth after birth occurs and in each lifetime various kinds of suffering must be experienced, such as the suffering of being unable to fulfill one's desires and finding oneself in undesirable circumstances, of being unable to overcome one's enemies and of experiencing highs and lows.
In Buddhist philosophy, it is said that one brings suffering upon oneself by one's own actions. Everything arises from one's way of thinking and putting those thoughts into actions. Buddhists believe neither in God, time or indivisible permanent particles as being the creator of the world. it is believed that every environmental factor of the world, as well as sentient creatures and suffering all come about as result of karma. The karma comes neither from the blessing of the Buddha nor from the gods, but through delusions which arise from one's own untamed mind.
The various mundane worlds are a result of one's own actions, not the actions of others. It is generally said that there is collective as well as personal karma. As an example, our present world come into existence as a result of our collective karma where as personal karma manifests in the pleasures and sufferings of one's day to day life. Another explanation karma is that if one must remain in the same place for ten years, that is the result of one's karma. If one stays for one month in a particular place and experiences pain and happiness, this also comes about through one's karma. The subtle explanation karma is known only by the Buddha himself.
Karma comes into existence through the deluded mind. Among the various delusions, the root is ignorance, by which one mistakenly perceives phenomena as truly existent. As is stated in Aryadeva's four hundred stanzas: "as sense faculties of body pervade our whole body, ignorance exist everywhere. Therefore, by overcoming ignorance, all the delusions come to cease." It is the mind's habit of exaggeration which causes us to see people and objects as wholly beautiful or unpleasant. This can be traced back to one's ignorant mind. The root of every downfall is ignorance. If ignorance is the root of every delusion, then one must carefully examine, whether or not we are able to eliminate this ignorance and whether or not it is an inborn quality of the mind. This is an important point. It is said that the nature of mind is luminous and the stains arise occasionally. The nature of the subtle mind is very clear and untainted by any kind of contaminated delusions. There is no difference between the Buddha's most subtle nature of mind and one's own. The delusions all arise and cease at the gross level of the mind.
All delusions are in the nature of attachment, anger and ignorance. Grasping at the true existence of the "I" is the main cause of suffering and is mistaken thought. In the face of mistaken thought objects appear to exist truly, although in fact they do not. When one receives a clear explanation of emptiness or lack of true existence and contemplates it repeatedly, the mind which perceives through mistaken thought naturally ceases. As one gradually trains one's mind in the positive aspects, mistaken notions slowly become less. Finally, one perceives the reality of phenomena directly and attains nirvana. As is said, all changeable phenomena of the mundane and non mundane world arise not without cause. If one feels uncomfortable with the suffering one experiences, it is important to cease producing its causes. All functioning phenomena arise out of their cause. There's no use in just feeling dislike for one's suffering; one must work to eliminate its cause. Only by eliminating its cause will one be able to eradicate the suffering of cyclic existence. One must recognize ignorance in the mind, which creates a fantasy of the self as existing concretely. Adhering to that false notion of a concrete 'I', one interacts with the external world, being attracted to people, places and situations which satisfy one and give pleasure in body and mind. Then one reacts with hostility and fear towards anyone who attempts to destroy that pleasure. One is not only dealing with these notions by day, but also in dreams while one sleeps at night. Therefore, one must train in knowing dependent arising to counteract that false sense of concrete existence. In short, by recognizing suffering and its cause, practicing the path and understanding the mind that realizes emptiness, one will become free from cyclic existence since one has abandoned its root which is ignorance. One is free from delusions and attains nirvana.
However, one cannot attain the highest state of enlightenment without boddhicitta, so it is said that boddhicitta is the entrance gate to the Mahayana path. Relying upon boddhicitta, any kind of practice will become the direct cause and accumulating merit and wisdom to attain the highest state of enlightenment. In order to do this, one must abandon the obscurations to enlightenment and this can only be done with help of boddhicitta. So in order to attain Buddhahood, one must train concurrently in the wisdom which understands the reality of phenomena, and in the method which is altruistic desire to benefit all sentient beings. When referring to method here, it is in the sense of boddhicitta and all other positive thoughts and action. The wisdom referred to here means the mind which realizes the emptiness. Therefore, the two aspects to practice in order to attain the highest state of enlightenment are method and wisdom, also known as conduct and view.
One must train one's mind in the graduated path, the profound and extensive dharma teachings, by relying on the three different mentalities of beings. Accordingly, there are three paths to suit people of small scope, of middle scope and of excellent scope. It is said that by relying upon the graduated path one will realize the teaching of Buddha without condradiction, and every teaching given by the Buddha appears as instruction.
If this is so, why are all Buddha's teachings condensed into the three different mentalities of beings? This is because, in order to realize the path of the people of highest scope, first one must undergo the training in the path of the people of middle scope and its common path. And in order to know the path of the people of middle scope, one has to undergo the training in the path of people of small scope and its common path. All paths which are explained in Buddhist treatises and canons are condensed into the graduated path of people of the three scopes because Buddha generated the altruistic mind in the beginning. Then in the middle he accumulated merit; and finally attained the highest state of enlightenment. He performed all these activities only for the sake of benefiting sentient beings.
There are two main goals for those sentient beings who desire to fulfill the wishes of all beings. The first the temporary goal of higher attainment, and the second is the attainment of definite goodness. From the specific point of view of practice, it explains that people of small scope are those who have realized the impermanence of life and death and are filled with fear of descending to the lower realms. They wish to attain a human rebirth, and in order to achieve this aim they preserve the law of cause and effect and practice the ten virtuous deeds. The people of middle scope are those who see the drawbacks cyclic existence and the benefit of attaining liberation. They train in the three higher trainings for a long time and attain nirvana. The people of the highest scope are those who, with the aim of attaining the highest state of enlightenment, train their minds in the seven manifold instructions of cause and effect or practice of exchanging self for others and the six perfections, and finally enter into the Tantrayana.
Within Mahayana, there are the two paths of Sutrayana and Vajrayana, but whichever path one wishes to follow, the entrance gate is invariably boddhicitta. To generate boddhicitta, one needs to have a compassionate mind, seeing all sentient creatures tormented by suffering. To generate this great compassion one needs to feel within oneself fear of descending to the lower migrations and of cyclic existence, and to have a firm faith in the triple. With such intention, one must fervently seek refuge in the triple gem by thinking that it is the only thing which can support one and prevent one from being drawn repeatedly into cyclic existence.
Without the genuine wish to be free from cyclic existence and the lower migrations one cannot generate great compassion. If one doesn't truly feel the quality of one's own suffering, how can one aim to relieve the sufferings of others? therefore, it is important that one first trains in renunciation and boddhicitta before engaging in the great tantric practices. Once one is trained in renunciation and boddhicitta, everything will follow smoothly.
Those excellent beings who seek Buddhahood should search for a spiritual teacher and practice the beneficial teachings given to them to eliminate the sufferings of themselves and others. To practice the dharma one must listen to the profound and extensive teachings given by highly experienced spiritual masters and the contemplate repeatedly on whatever meaning one derives from what one has heard. In this way, one generates the wisdom of contemplation. Latter, after extensive contemplation, one should do one-pointed meditation on the meaning one has derived through contemplation and in this way gradually increase one's level of insight.
To assist in this process it is important to have a very well-trained spiritual teacher who is endowed with the ten qualities. The first of these qualities is pure ethics. Since one is training one's mind to make it more calmer and more peaceful, one needs a spiritual mentor who has experienced calm and tranquility in his or her own practice. The second quality is experiencing meditative concentration. The third quality is deep understanding of wisdom. These three reflect the three higher trainings.
The fourth quality is possessing a greater knowledge and deeper realization of the subjects being taught than the student has. The fifth quality is an interest and persistence in guiding and teaching students. The sixth quality is extensive learning gained by following experienced teachers. The seventh quality is right understanding of the mind which realizes emptiness, either through inferential knowledge or through direct meditative insight. The eighth quality is skillfulness in explaining the complex teachings in a simple way that can be understood by the students. The ninth quality is teaching the dharma out of a sense of strong love and compassion. The tenth quality is teaching all levels of intelligence with willingness and patience.
When one generated bodhicitta by relying on one's spiritual teacher, it is said that one is on the first path, that is the path of accumulation. Then gradually, by hearing, contemplating and meditating, one generates special insight focusing on emptiness and attain the second path which is the path of preparation. After further, continuous training one sees emptiness directly and abandoning intellectually acquired delusions and then one can be said to have attained the path of seeing. One then attains the path of meditation by abandoning innately born delusions and gradually entering into the ten grounds, one attains the highest state of enlightenment. One is in cyclic existence not because of the gods but because of one's mind. One has to know the dharma, as is said in the four hundred stanzas of Aryadeva: "there are three kinds of dharma, dharma of the eyes, ear and mind."
The Buddha dharma is the dharma of the mind, the other two referred to hear being Jainism as the dharma of the eyes, that which is to be seen, and Brahmanism as the dharma of ear, that which is be heard. So, the method which helps to shape and train the mind is labeled as Buddha dharma. If the dharma were not available, one would be able to attain nirvana and enlightenment and one would have to stay in cyclic existence forever, so it is clear how important dharma is. But just lazing around and thinking of attaining the knowledge of dharma is useless. If one does not know the dharma, one must actively seek it out and learn it from the beings who do know it. For that one needs to have teacher. From the teacher's side, one should have a full command of the subject matter through one's own experience. Showing the clear and actual teaching can only be done by the Buddha himself.
Those who wish to be free from the suffering of cyclic existence definitely have to practice the dharma, which involves having an excellent teacher. Therefore, in Buddhism, there are three objects of refuge, the Dharma, Buddha and Sangha. The triple gem is the connection to reality. At present most beings are not endowed internally with this triple Gem. But by relying on the external Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and training in the opposite aspects of the mind, practicing the ten wholesome deeds and the six perfections, one is able gradually to attain dharma within oneself and one becomes the actual Sangha. Then by repeadetly applying the antidotes and eradicating the subtle obscurations, one will attain the highest state of enlightenment of a Buddha.
Generally people rely on external sense objects for happiness, seeking out pleasant sights, sounds, tastes and so forth. But relying wholly on external objects as the source of one's happiness is unwise, for it leaves the mind subject to disturbance when it cannot find that which it seeks or when the pleasant external object changes or disappears. The Buddhist focus on training the mind, on the other hand, enables one to find true inner peace, harmony and happiness which are not totally dependent on external factors. Thus, a change in one's external circumstances will not adversely affect the mind or internal balance. This fortunate happy state of being is only to be found when the mind is subtly trained in the Buddha dharma.
Some religions explain that the status of God and men cannot change so that a God will remain as a God and people will remain as people. But Buddhism states that Buddha himself in the beginning was an ordinary being. By training his mind and eliminating the drawbacks he finally attained the highest path. The only difference between the Buddha and sentient beings is that Buddha is always working for the sake of others whereas sentient beings work for themselves and their relatives. In the guide to bodhisattva's way of life, it is said, "one should not be depressed by thinking that one is unable to practice and overcome one's delusions since even the smallest of insects, bugs, when they meet with the right conditions, can attain the highest state of enlightenment. So, why should one not be able to attain such an enlightened state, having been born as a human being with potential to accept what is right and discard what is wrong?".