The Religion of Thailand
Printed for free distribution
We live in the eternal Now, and it is Now that we create
our destiny. It follows, that to grieve over the past is
useless and to make plans for the future is a waste of time.
There is only one ambition that is good, and that is: so to live
Now that none may weary of life's emptiness and none may have
to do the task we leave undone.
From the Book of Sayings of Tsiang Samdup
- We pay homage to the Buddha for revealing to us the eternal
truths of liberation.
- We pay homage to the Dhamma (the teaching of the Buddha)
for making known to us the nature of existence.
- We pay homage to the Sangha (the order of monks) for
preserving the Teaching and practicing its precepts.
In recent years Western visitors to Thailand have
displayed an increasing interest in our national religion,
Buddhism. "Who was the Buddha?" "What do Buddhists believe about
life after death, good and evil and the beginning of the world?"
To answer these and similar questions the present writing is
The Buddha's teachings can be understood on two distinct
levels. One is logical and conceptual and is concerned
with an intellectual comprehension of man and the external
universe. It is on this level that the above questions are
more easily answered.
The second level is empirical, experiential and
psychological. It concerns the ever-present and inescapable
phenomena of everyday human experience -- love and hate, fear
and sorrow, pride and passion, frustration and elation. And most
important, it explains the origins of such states of mind
and prescribes the means for cultivating those states which
are rewarding and wholesome. It was to this second level that
the Buddha gave greater emphasis and importance, for its truth
is demonstrable within the realm of everyday human existence,
and its validity is independent of any world view or belief about
life after death.
However, as a means of introducing Buddhisms to those who
have little or no previous knowledge of the religion, this
writing will give greater emphasis to the former level. The
experiential and psychological aspects of the Teaching are
outlined at the end.
THE BUDDHA AND HIS TEACHINGS
In this pamphlet we shall focus ourattention on the
teachings of the Buddha as preserved in the Pali language. These
scriptural writings form the basis of the Theravada school of
Buddhism which predominates in Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Ceylon.
About the year 543 B.C., in a region which is now the land
of Nepal, a son was born to King Suddhodana, ruler of the
Sakiya clan. The child was named Siddhatta Gotama, and his
father surrounded him with vast stores of material wealth
and luxury. Although the young prince was given an excellent
education, King Suddhodana took measures to prevent the boy
from learning of the misery and suffering which prevailed
throughout the world. However, we are told that on a certain
occasion young Siddhattha rode through the village streets and
beheld a man old and decrepit, then he saw a man severely
stricken with illness, a dead man, and finally an ascetic or
holy man. Shocked by the cruel realities of life and moved by a
deep compassion for the sufferings of humanity, the young
prince abandoned the pleasures of his aristocratic heritage
and went forth alone in search of truth and salvation.
First, he sought out the great spiritual teachers of
his day and mastered their meditative exercises. He soon
realized, however, that trance states and myusticism are not the
paths to salvation. Next, he undertook the disciplines of rig
orous self-mortification, as was commonly practiced in
ancient India. But asceticism proved to do little more than
produce a weak and fragile body. Finally, after six long and
strenuous years he sat in quiet meditation beneath the now-
famous Bodhi Tree. There looking deep into the nature of his
own being, he achieved a level of insight which few men have
known. This he called Nirvana, and from that time forth he
became known as "The Buddha" or "The Enlightened One". The
remaining 45 years of his life were dedicated to the service and
instruction of his fellow beings.
FIVE FUNDAMENTAL CONCEPTS
The Buddhist world view can best be under stood if we see
it as being based upon five major assumptions:
I. Mutability or Change
All objects, conditions and creations are regarded as
being in a continuous state of change. Nothing finite is
eternally fixed or unchanging. Birth, growth, decay and death
are inevitable for all material objects, men, societies and
states of mind. Herein lies the answer to the mystery of
creation: new forms arise out of the old; each new condition is
determined by that which preceded it.
II. Cause and Effect
This process of change, however, is not con sidered to be
chaotic but rather is regulated by a universal Law of cause and
effect. The laws of cause and effect are impersonal,
impartial and unchanging. The only things which do not change
are the laws of change.
III. Selfishness and Suffering
The Law of cause and effect includes not only the laws of
physics and chemistry so familiar to the Western world, but also
includes laws of moral or psychological cause and effect known as
karma-vipaka, or more commonly, karma.
Karma acts through time, and thus the full effects of
one's thoughts and deeds may not become manifest until some
years later. Karma is ines capable, for the Buddha said:
Not in the sky, not in the midst of the
sea, nor if we enter into the clefts of
the mountains, is there known a spot in
the whole world where a man might be
freed from an evil deed.
Not in the sky, not in the midst of the
sea, nor if we enter into the clefts of
the mountains, is there known a spot in
the whole world where death could not
overcome a mortal.
One important aspect of the law of Karma is that
selfishness results in suffering for the selfish party in
proportion to the amount of wrong that has been committed.
Conversely, love, com passion and other virtuous states of mind
create proportionate amounts of happiness and emotional well-
being. Often this is stated as "Desire is the cause of
suffering". And in this context the word which has been
translated into English as "suffering" is the Pali word dukkha.
Dukkha is a term which includes all types of unpleasant exper
iences such as worry, fear, sorrow, dissatisfac tion,
disharmony, etc. When the mind is craving pleasures or is
strongly motivated by greed, hatred or egotism, it
becomes predsposed to dukkha. A paradox is noted in that
happiness is best found by those who are not preoccupied with
looking for it. Thus we find in Buddhism no eternal
punishment or eternal reward, but rather happiness and sorrow
in proportion to one's own thoughts and actions.
Karma operates independently of any social mores or
cultural standards of good and evil. Also, it does not
account for all pleasure and displeasure, for the Buddha
said that many of one's pleasures and painful experiences are
not the result of ones previous actions. (Anguttara-Nikaya I,
IV. Nirvana (Nibbana)
Since all which is born must die, since all which is
finite must change, the only thing immor tal, infinite and
unchanging is that which was never born and is not compounded.
This is Nir vana. But the Buddha talked relatively little
about Nirvana, for since it is neither matter nor energy, and
since it does not exist within space and time, it is
completely unrelated to anything with which we are familiar.
Thus, it cannot be described, conceptualized nor understood
by the normal human mind. It is known only by direct
experience beyond sense preception and is the end of all dukkha.
When Nirvana is experienced, ego tism has died, for Nirvana
comes only with the abolition of all selfishness and craving.
Yet one does not vegetate bu continues to act and work as long
as the body remains alive. This is Buddhist salvation, and it
is found by the training of one's mind and a maturing of the
personalilty. Since it can never be known or comprehended except
by direct experience, one should not concern one self with
looking for Nirvana per se, but rather one should seek to
abolish selfishness from his own personality, and this is a
rewarding endeavour regardless of whether or not the highest
goal is reached. Said the Buddha;
"Liberated, the wise are indifferent to the senses, and
have no heed to seek anything; pass ionless they are beyond
pleasure and displeasure."
Finally, it is stated that the above four premises can
be verified by one's own reasoning and experience with no
dependence on external authority. In a Tibetan text the
Buddha is quoted; "Just as people test the purity of gold by
burning it in fire, by cutting it, by examining it on a
touchstone, so exactly should you, my disci ples, accept my
words after subjecting them to a critical test and not out of
reverence to me." (Self Mastery, by Soma Thera. Kandy,
Ceylon: Buddhist Publication Society.)
SOME FURTHER ASPECTS OF THE DOCTRINE
On the basis of the above five postulates there develop
a number of important ramifications:
1. Universality -- Truth is universal and unchang ing, and thus
depends upon no one revelation or institution. The facts
discovered by the Buddha are available for all to discover,
and in this sense a man can be a Buddhist and never hear about
the religion of Buddhism nor the teachings of the Buddha. The
Buddha is quoted as saying:
"It is certainly hard to change one's
set opinions, but a man should let him
self feely test all philosophical sys
tems, adopting and rejecting them as he
sees fit. But the man who is wise no
longer concerns himself with this or
that system (of philosophy), he neither
prides nor decieves himself. He goes
along his independent way."
2. Unsupernatural -- To one who accepts the teach ings of the
Buddha, rituals, offerings, prayer wheels and similar
attempts to bring forth super natural help are of virtually no
value. The only value of rituals, chanting and homage to
Buddha images is the humble and earnest state of mind which
may be produced, for such a state of mind has great karmic
In the final stages of the path to Nirvana one must rely
solely on one's own efforts and not seek the aid of gods or men.
The Buddha's dying words were : "Decay is inherent in all
compounded things. Strive on with mindfulness." (Digha-
Nikaya II, 156)
On an earlier occasion, he spoke: "The man enmeshed in
delusion will never be purified through the mere study of
holy books, or sacri fices to gods, or through fasts, or
sleeping on the ground, or difficult and strenuous vigils, or
the repetition of prayers. Neither gifts to priests, nor
self-castigation, nor performance of rites and ceremonies can
work purification in him who is filled with craving. It is not
through the partaking of meat or fish that a man becomes
impure, but through drunkeness, obstinacy, bigo try, deceit,
envy, self-exaltation, disparagement of others and evil
intentions -- through these a man becomes impure."
(Fundamentals of Buddhism, by Nyanatiloka Mahathera, Buddha
Sahitya Sabha, Colombo, Ceylon, 1949, p. 8)
3. World View -- The Universe (and all that is in it) is
ordered by impartial, unchanging laws. These laws have been
operating throughout all time into the infinite past and will
continue to operate into the infinite future. There is no
unknown first beginning, and there never will be a final end
(Samyutta-Nikaya II, 182). The Buddha further said that
there are at least a billion other world-sun systems like our
own (Anguttara-Nikaya I, 227-228), and as these grow old and
die out new solar systems evolve and come into being. Yet
unlike the laws of physics and chemistry, the course op events
is not a blind matter of chance. Buddhism regards the
Universe as a harmoniously functioning whole with a unity behind
its divers ity. Man was created by the laws of nature; the
world was not created for man.
4. Worldliness and Other-Worldliness. The world as such
is not regarded as evil, but rather it is craving for the gross
and subtle pleasures of material existence that Buddhism seeks
to de stroy. Thus when speaking of liberation, the Buddha
meant freeing of the mind from enslaving passion and
prejudices, not abhorrnece for mater ial existence per se. He
also denounced self-torture. Consequently, the Buddha's
first dis course taught the Middle Way, which is avoiding the
extremes of excessive sensusal indulgence and asceticism.
Buddhist monks undertake to train themselves to give up all
but a few necessary possessions in order that they may not be
deceived by uncon sciously clinging to worldly possessions.
And since most of the Buddha's teachings were directed to monks
and nuns, the majority of recorded dialogues are concerned with
the ideals of non-materialism and non-atachment. However,
the Buddha recognized the needs of the lay people and gave
them much advice also. He once said.
The wise and virtuous shine like blazing
He who acquires wealth in harmless ways
is like a bee that gathers honey.
Riches mount up for him like an ant
hill's rapid growth.
With wealth acquired in this way, a
layman fit for household life in
portions four divides his wealth.
Thus will he win friendship.
One portion for his wants he uses (in
Two portions he spends on his business.
A fourth he keeps for times of needs.
(Digha-Nikaya III, 188)
5. Epistemology. -- To the Buddhist knowledge should be
obtained through one's own experience and reasoning. This is
the same method as employed by modern science, except that
Buddhism expands this to a study of one's own mind as well as a
study of the worlds of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.
Faith, scriptures, mysticism and revelations are not considered
to be infall ible roads to truth.
On one occasion the Enlightened One came to the village
of Kesaputta where lived certain tribesmen known as the
Kalamas. They knew the Buddha to be a renowned spiritual
teacher and addressed him as follows:
There are some monks and Brahmins, Ven
erable Sir, who visit Kesaputta. They
illustrate and illuminate only their own
doctrines; the doctrines of others they
despise, revile and pull to pieces.
Venerable Sir, there is doubt, there is
uncertainty in us concerning them.
Which of these reverend monks and Bra
hmins spoke the truth and which false
To this the Buddha replied;
It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt,
to be uncertain. Uncertainty has arisen
in you about what is doubtful. Come,
Kalamas. Do not go upon authoritative
tradition; nor upon what has been ac
quired by repeated hearing; nor upon
rumour; nor upon what is in a scipture;
nor upon speculative metaphysical theo
ries, reasons and arguments; nor upon a
point of view; nor upon specious reason
ing; nor upon accepting a statement as
true because it agrees with a theory
that one is already convinced of; nor
upon another's seeming ability; nor upon
the consideration "Our teacher says thus
and so". Kalamas, when you yourselves
know: "these things are bad; these
things are blamable; these things are
censured by the wise; undertaken and
observed, these things lead to harm and
ill", abandon them.
(Anguttara-Nikaya I, 189)
6. Ethics -- Buddhists ethics has two levels, a postive and a
negative. Negatively it advocates the eradication of all greed,
hatred and delusion from one's mind. Positively, it advocates
the cultivation and development of metta, compassion,
sympathetic joy and equanimity as inherent aspects of one's
personality. "Metta" is a Pali word and is usually translated
into English as "love". However, in Pali there are several
words, each with different shades of meaning, all of which can
be translated as "love". If we simultaneously think of the
words "friendship", "love", and "kindness", we will have some
understanding of the true meaning of "metta". In the Metta
Sutta the Buddha is quoted:
Just as a mother might protect from harm
the son that was her only child, let
all-embracing thoughts of love for every
living theng be thine. An all-embracing
love for all the universe in all its
heights and depth and breadth. An un
stinted love, not marred by enmity.
The Buddha was the first man in history known to have
advocated the returning of good for evil:
Hatred ceases not by hatred in this
world. Through love it comes to an
end. This is an ancient law.
Overcome anger by love, evil by good.
Conquer the greedy with liberality
and with truth the speaker of
If one has truly removed all selfishness and developed
love and compassion, there is no need for strict moral codes
or other artificial rules of conduct. For such a person
would never be inclined to do wrong, and thus his virtue would
be natural and spontaneous rather than arbitrary and
premeditated. Said the Buddha:
Some there are who having taken vows and
observing them think morality alone to
be the highest and say that purity is
achieved by restraint. They say "Here
then let's train; purity lies herein".
If such a one has fallen away from some
rule or ritual, having failed to do a
certain performance, he is agitated,
yearning all the time for purification;
just as one who has lost his caravan
while away from home.
All rule and ritual left behind, all
karma blamable and praiseworthy, not
concerning himself with cleansing nor
with stains may one freely fare.
However, rules of ethics are of great value and
importance to the majority of mankind. And thus, when speaking
to lay people, the Enlightened One gave much practical advice,
such as in the Sigalovada Sutta:
In five ways, young householder, a child
should minister to his parents:
1. Once supported by them I shall now be
2. I shall perform duties incumbent on
3. I shall keep up the lineage and tra
dition of my family.
4. I shall make myself worthy of my
5. Furthermore, I shall offer alms in
honour of my departed relatives.
In five ways, young householder, parents
thus ministered to by their children
show their compassion:
1. They restrain them from evil.
2. They persuade them to do good.
3. They train them in a profession.
4. They contract a suitable marriage for
5. In due time, they hand over their
inheritance to them.
In five ways should a master minister to
his servants and employees
1. By assigning them work according to
2. By supplying them with food and
3. By tending them in sickness.
4. By sharing with them unusual del
5. By granting them leave at times.
Thus, ministered to as the zenith, the
clergy show their compassion to the
layman in six ways:
1. They restrain him from evil.
2. They persuade him to do good.
3. They love him with kindly thoughts.
4. They make him hear what he has not
5. They correct and purify what he has
6. They reveal the path to a heavenly
(Digha-Nikaya III, 189-190)
Action is precipitated by thought, and for this reason
evil exists first in the mind. Consequently, Buddhism
regards hatred, egotism and immoral intent as wrong regardless
of the actions which they may or may not produce. Unlike
Western religions, Buddhist ethics are not founded upon
obedience to a set of commandments, but rather they are based
upon true insight into the hazards of greed, hatred and
delusion and the inherent values of love, equanimity and
compassion. Consequently the words "good" and "evil" in
Buddhism do not carry the same connatations of shame and guilt
as in the West. In fact the Buddha often avoided the words
"good" and "evil" and instead used "wholesome" and
"unwholesome", or "desirable" and "undesirable".
7. Society -- Buddhists are taught not to depend on the
arbitray customs, traditions and mores of society to find
truth, happiness and well-being; nor should they look to society
to find a code of ethics. This, however, does not imply a
total apathy toward social organizations. The Buddha not
only taught against the inequalities of the caste system, but
also opposed the institution of slavery.
For over 2,000 years, Buddhists have built hospitals and
rest-houses, while Buddhist rulers have, in the name of
their religion, drained swamps, built wells and carried out
other measures in the interest of public welfare.
On the subject of illness, the Buddha said:
Whosoever, brethren, would wait upon me,
whosoever, brethren, would honour me,
whosoever, brethren, would follow my
advice, he should wait upon the sick.
And regarding the caste system he taught:
Not by birth is one an outcast.
Not by birth is one a noble.
But by deeds is one an outcast.
And by deeds is one a noble.
8. Psychology -- Since all finite creations must perish, since
all which is born must die, nowhere in man is there to be found
an immortal soul. Instead, Buddhism regards the human
personality as a functioning aggregate of sensations, memories,
perceptions and concepts all manifesting on a background of
consciousness. The only thing which is regarded as immortal is
that which is never born, is not finite and not personal:
this is Nirvana.
9. Death -- If there is no soul, does Buddhism then teach
that death is the terminatrion of all conscious existence?
This question cannot be answered by a simple "yes" or "no".
It is not strictly true that Buddhism teaches reincarnation,
nor does it advocate an absolute annihilation. Rather, it
takes a position some place between these two extremes. The
Buddha was born a Hindu much as Christ was born a Jew. And in
the Hindu religion each conscious being is regarded as
having an immortal and unchanging soul. Each soul is a
manifestation of the great Universal Soul which the Hindus
call Brahma or God. Brahma is the Absolute, the basis of
all creation, and the ultimate goal of the finate soul is to
return and unite with Brahma. This union with Brahma is the
Hindu conception of Nirvana and is achieved after many
reincarnations. With each new life the soul learns new lessons,
sins, suffers from its sins, and goes to the next life
somewhat better than before. At last it is purified of all
selfishness, attains Nirvana, and is no longer reborn. It is
important that one distinguishes this Hindu belief from the
Buddhist position which follows.
In relpy to the question "What will happen to me when I
die?", the Buddha might answer, "What are you?" For the word
"I" or "self" includes not one thing but many. Death, of
course, means the cessation of all bodily functioning. What
then becomes of the mind? With our modern knowledge of
neurophysiology, there can be little question that most, if not
all, of the things we call mental activities are directly
dependent upon the electrochemical workings of the brain. When
the brain ceases to function, sensations, perceptions,
thoughts and consciousness come to an end.
Buddhism teaches that the mind without matter is an
impossibility; a body is a prerequisite for consciousness.
However, it also teaches that a body alone is not enough.
There is a non-physical aspect of the human psyche which must be
present before consciousness can occur.
Mind and body form an interdependent rela tionship, like
two bundles of reeds neither of which can stand alone but stand
by leaning on each other. Without a psychic component, the body
does not develop and thrive, and without a material substrate
consciousness does not manifest.
Instead of an unchanging soul which inhabits successive
bodies and itself independent of those bodies, Buddhism
teaches a dynamic changing process, the manifestation of which
is determined by its physical substrate. It is like a match
flame which is used to light a candle, and then the match is
extinguished. Then with the candle, one lights a pressure
lantern and extinguishes the candle. We might ask: Is the
flame now burning in the pressure lantern the same flame which
once burned in the match? The answer can be either yes or
no. Similarly, the Buddha said there are two extremes. One
extreme is to say that when a man dies that same person is born
again, and the other extreme is to say that at death that
person is forever annihilated. The Buddhist position is between
Furthermore, the Buddha noted that which we call mind or
self is continually changing from moment to moment and day to
day. Different and often opposing moods, attitudes,
opinions and concepts continually arise and fall in the focus
of awareness. No one of these is the true self; rather the
self is the total of all of them. Or again, one's personality
at age four is quite different from that at age 12, which is
different still from the personality of that "same" person at
age 20 or again at age 40. Like the match flame burning in
the pressure lantern, the self is not the same person but rather
an evolving process. Similarly the phenomenon of rebirth
as taught in Buddhism is the continuation of process rather
than the transfer of an entity or substance.
As most people go through life they are in fluenced by
their families, societies and other features of their
environments to the degree that they become products of their
enmvironments. As a result, the development of their
personalities is largely a matter of chance. The purpose of
Buddhism is to guide and direct the evolution of one's
personality so that such development is no longer fortuitous.
Nirvana is the ultimate goal in this process of maturation,
and with Nirvana rebirth comes to an end.
What is it, Venerable Sir, that will be
A psycho-physical combination, O King,
is the answer.
But how, Venerable Sir? Is it the same
psycho-physical combination as this
No, O King. But the present psycho-
physical combination produces karm
ically wholesome and unwholesome
volitional activities, and through
such karma a new psycho-physical
combination will be reborn.
Karma which has been produced in one lifetime and has not
manifested its results by the time of death will manifest
itself in the following life and can even determine the time
and circumstances of the new birth. Consequently, the condition
in which each man finds himself is the result of his own former
thoughts and deeds. His present behavior is what will determine
his future state. Thus each man makes his own destiny.
10. Knowledge and Intelligence -- On this matter the Buddha
If a man can become pure simply by
changing his views if by mere knowledge
he can be freed of sorrow, then some
thing other than the Noble Eightfold
Path makes pure and puts and end to
sorrow. But this cannot be.
The understanding of only a few important facts is
necessary for salvation. One can go on indefinitely acquiring
facts and yet never achieve the understanding which leads to
Nirvana. Thus, knowledge of oneself is more importnat than
knowledge of the world. Said the Buddha:
It is not from views, from tradition,
from mere knowledge, nor from virtue and
achievement, that purity is attained,
Magandiya. Nor is it from being without
views, without tradition, without know
ledge, without virtue or achievement
that purity is attained.
Intelligence, like knowledge, is regarded as a valuable
tool, a means to an end but not an end in itself. In the
final analysis reality transcends normal human understanding,
and thus one of the highest achievements of the intellecdt is
seen when it points beyond itself to reality.
11. Discipline -- Said the Buddha: "Though he may conquer a
thousand thousand men in battle, greater still is the man who
conquers himself." (Dhammapada 103)
Discipline is essential. Only through per sistent self-
discipline, said the Buddha, can one overcome passions and sloth
and eventually achieve Nirvana. Yet, though a man must purify
himself, he cannot take himself to Nirvana, for Nirvana is
beyond the realm of finite human endeavour and becomes
manifest of its own when one has finally established the
prerequisite conditions. Again the Buddha is quoted:
He who does not rouse himself when it is
time to rise, who, though young and
strong, is full of sloth, whose will and
thought are weak, that lazy idle man
never finds the way to wisdom.
12. As an Institution -- Buddhism regards itself as a group of
important truths, which, when properly understood, can be of
great value to almost any human being. It is important that
these teachings become institutionalized and an indi genous
part of a society, for there is no other way that they can
reach all levels of humanity and also last for a period of many
generations. In addition, if such a teaching does not exist,
intolerant ideologies, superstitions and erroneous
theologies will necessarily arise to satisfy the spiritual
needs of a given culture. At one time the Enlightened One
Released am I, monks, from ties both
human and divine. You also are deliv
ered from fetters human and divine.
Wander for the welfare and happiess of
many, out of compassion for the world,
for the gain, for the welfare and happi
ness of gods and men. Proclaim the
Teaching excellent in the beginning,
excellent in the middle and excellent in
the end, in the spirit and in the
letter. Proclaim ye the life of consum
(Samyutta-Nikaya I, 105)
On the other hand, once a man becomes con cerned with
Buddhism as an institution and works for this as his primary
cause, he has lost sight of the fact that truth is universal.
The word "Buddhism" is only a symbol which represents cer tain
beliefs and concepts. These truths could be equally as well
represented by some other word, institution, or symbol. Once we
become prejudiced towards Buddhism, we cease to be Buddhists in
the true sense of the word. Each Buddhist has the
opportunity to give his knowledge to others. It is not really
necessary that he gives it to them under the name of Buddhism,
but to do so helps to insure an embodiment of this knowledge
and thus advances the opportunity for it to be acquired by
others. In Digha-Nikaya I the Buddha said:
Monks, if others were to speak against
me, or against the Teaching, or against
our monastic order, you need not on that
account entertain thoughts of ill-will
and spite and be dissatisfied with them.
If you do harbour hatred, that will not
only impede your mental development, but
you will also fail to judge how far that
speech is right or wrong. But also,
monks, if others speak highly of me,
highly of the Teaching and our monastic
order, you need not on that account be
elated, for that too will mar your inner
development. You should acknowledge
what is right and show the truth of what
has been said.
To its credit, Buddhism can claim that in 2,500 years of
its history, it has not burned one witch, nor fought one holy
way and has had few instances of persecution of heritics.
However, no religion can exist for long among millions of
people without undergoing some change and corruption. Prayer
wheels, the worship of images and the offerings to the Buddha
are all examples of this. Also, later Buddhists, espec ially
in China and Japan, created many legendary stories about the
Buddha and his teachings. Nirvana was replaced by a glorious
heaven where the Lord Buddha sits on His throne, and faith
became more important than understanding.
AS A WAY OF LIFE
The most fundamental and important aspect of human
existence is not one's beliefs, nor social status, not
intellect, nor material possessions; rather it is motives,
emotions, feelings. Almost by definition it is feelings, and
feelings alone, which give purpose, meaning, value and signif
icance to our every action and encounter. Without feeling or
motives there would be no incentive for one to think, speak or
act; life would be chronic apathy. Yet some feelings are more
rewarding, wholesome and meaningful than others. And quite
often feelings (be they mental or physical) are unpleasant,
empty, sorrowful, disharmonious, worrisome, irritating,
frustrating or in some way of negative value; in other words,
Thus the Buddha summarized his doctrine into the Four Noble
Truths, which are:
1. Dukkha (i.e., suffering), in all its
varied forms is an inherent and universal
aspect of conscious existence.
2. The cause of this suffering is desire
or craving. (Desire in this sense should not
be confused with the simple recognition of a
pleasurable or happy experience. The recog
nition and acceptance of such an experience
is not in itself unwholesome; rather the
danger arises from craving or attachement to
such an experience.)
3. There is an end of dukkha which man
4. This end of suffering is achieved by
following the Noble Eightfold Path.
However, it is not the mere attainment of a blissful
existence which should motivate one towards moral behavior.
On this matter the Buddha said:
To be seized by spirits (allegorically)
means living a virtuous or religious
life chiefly in the hope of being born,
as a result of one's merit, in a heaven
ly world, as an angel, or a divine being
(and this is to be avoided.)
(Two Buddhist Parables by Nyanasata
Thera, Buddhist Publication Society:
The Noble Eightfold Path consists of:
1. Right Understanding -- the
development and application of one's in
intellectual capabilities for the sake of
understanding and resolving the problems
of selfishness and suffering.
2. Right Thought -- thoughts free
from lust, thoughts free from ill-will
and thoughts free from cruelty.
3. Right Speech -- to abstain from
harsh language, lying and vain talk.
4. Right Action -- to abstain from
killing, stealing, intoxicating drink
and sexual misconduct. (For monks,
complete celibacy is expected; laymen
are advised to abstain from adultery or
other inappropriate sexual behavior.)
5. Right Livelihood -- the
avoidance of any occupation which leads
to harm or undesirable conduct, such as
dealing in intoxicating drinks, slavery
or murder weapons.
6. Right Effort -- the exertion of
one's will and self-discipline to develop
wholesome mental states and overcome
7. Right Mindfulness -- This is
probably the most important and profound
aspect of Buddhist mental development
and includes a variety of different
meditation practices and psychological
techniques. Such practices and tech
niques are varied according to one's
individual spiritual needs and personal
ity structure and include developing
awareness of unconscious motives and
8. Right Concentration -- the
training of the mind to remain concen
trated on a single object and not wander
from thought to thought.
These steps are not taken one at a time, but rather are
worked on simultaneously in the maturation of one's personality.
No man finds Nirvana overnight, and to rigidly force oneself to
abandon all worldly conduct before one is capable of such a step
can be as detrimental as clinging to habits of excessive sensual
indulgence. In the words of the Buddha:
Just as, brethren, the mighty ocean
deepens and slopes gradually down, hollow
after hollow, not plunging by a
sudden precipice; even so, brethren, in
this Dhamma-Discipline the training is
gradual, it goes step by step; there is
no sudden penetration of insight.
By degrees, little by little, from time
to time a wise man should remove his own
impurities, as a smith removes the dross
This fickle, unsteady mind, difficult to
guard, difficult to control, the wise
man makes straight, as the fletcher
straightens the arrow.
As the fish drawn from its watery abode
and thrown upon the land quivers and
throbs, so quivers and throbs the mind
while forsaking the realm of senses.
Hard to control, unstable is this mind;
it flits wherever it likes. Good it is
to subdue the mind. A subdued mind