Dharma Class 2 : The Essense of Buddhism

 

Dharma Class 2 was held on 16th September in Nanyang House. We invited venerable Phra Goh Chun Kiang as our speaker, and the topic is ‘The Essence of Buddhism’. To explain more about this topic, I think the best way to illustrate it is by drawing a mind map:

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As you can see, the core of all Buddha’s teachings is the Four Noble Truths. The Four Noble Truths itself consist of suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, and also the path to end suffering. So basically the objective of Buddhism is to cease the suffering.

The Four Noble Truths

The first noble truth is suffering (dukkha). Suffering means the inability to accept changes that are happening. In other words, life is full of changes, from birth to aging and death, and these changes are stressful. The Buddha reveals that our mental and physical existence is a composite of five factors which are called the five aggregates of clinging. These five aggregates are material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formation, and consciousness. These aggregates are what we experience as human beings. Furthermore, we Buddhists believe in reincarnation, therefore the clinging of these five aggregates is endless.

The second noble truth is the origin of suffering (dukkha). According to Buddha, the origin of suffering is craving. As a human, all of us crave for something. We crave for happiness in the world, we crave for becoming something great, and we crave for not becoming something bad. This causes the inability to accept things as they are when they do not go our way.

The third noble truth is the cessation of dukkha. This emphasises on the fact that there is a way to the cessation of dukkha. Buddha said, “And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.” However, to fade these cravings is not easy. It needs a lot of practice.

Hence, the Buddha mentioned about the fourth noble truth – the way to the cessation of Dukkha. The way to cease the cravings is by following the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

Noble Eightfold Path

Buddha mentioned that the way to cease suffering begins with wisdom. It begins with the right understanding of what we should do, and the understanding of the four noble truths itself. Then, followed by right thought, which is the thought of non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion.

Understanding it is not enough, we need to practice it (sila). We begin with the right speech, which is the speech that abstains from lying, divisive, abusive, and idle. The flowchart below provides us the framework to practise right speech in our daily life . Then followed by right action, which is an action that does not harm yourself and also others, such as abstaining from taking things ungiven, stealing, and also performing sexual misconduct. The next one is right livelihood. Right livelihood is the livelihood that does not involve dishonest practices, and also livelihood that is not a business in weapons, human beings, meat, intoxicants, and poison.

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After practicing wisdom and moral virtue, we can start practicing meditation (Samadhi). It begins with the right effort, which is the effort to develop and maintain good and to avoid bad qualities. Then, it is continued by right mindfulness. Then, followed by the last path which is right concentration.

Concentration and mindfulness are not the same thing. Mindfulness means to be aware, while concentration means to focus on one object. Mindfulness can be in form of body, such as breathing, posture, activities, etc.; can also be in form of feeling, such as painful, pleasant, neither-painful-nor-pleasant experience; mindfulness in the form of mind, such as passion, aversion, delusion, etc.; and also in the form of mental qualities, like four noble truth, five clinging aggregates, etc.

The end goal of Buddhism is to achieve Nirvana, which is the state of non-reborn, because with non-born there is no suffering. Buddhists believe that suffering is caused by the inability to accept things that are happening to us. In other words, it is our own mental state. If we can control our inner thoughts and our feelings, no matter what happens we can stay calm and happy. Of course, this is not an easy task. That is why we need practice. One way of practicing is by meditation, which is a way to control our mind, to let go of everything for a moment, and just focus on an object of your thinking.

In conclusion, the essence of Buddhism is simply ways to end suffering, which is the noble eightfold path. However, doing this is not easy, therefore we need to practise it in our everyday lives.

Writer’s Note

Dharma Class 2 is not just about hearing the dharma. We had an ice-breaking game session and fellowship session conducted by the fellowship team. This is a very good opportunity to meet new people. I think that NTUBS is strong in the fellowship already, and with these fellowship sessions, I believe that the bonding of each member can be stronger. Besides, we also had lots of fruit prepared by the welfare team. So be sure to join our next Dharma Talk 🙂

 

Dharma Class 1 : Who is Buddha?

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Written by Anthony Morgan and Marshall Lugan

“Conquer the angry one by not getting angry; conquer the wicked by goodness; conquer the stingy by generosity, and the liar by speaking the truth.” – Dhammapada 223

Buddha is a title given to those who reach enlightenment through his own effort, without any guidance from other people or supreme being. For this Dharma Class, Ven. Chun Hui shared a tale about Siddharta Gautama or more commonly known as Sakyamuni Buddha.

It is believed that Siddhartha was born 623 BC in the Lumbini Park, in the region of India and Nepal today. He was the only child  of King Suddhodhana and Queen Mahamaya from Kapilavatthu kingdom. The moment he was born, it is said that he instantly took seven steps to the north. Flowers blossomed and the baby prince was bathed by heavenly beings. To commemorate this legend, during the Vesak day we have a tradition to bath Buddha statues. The baby was then named Siddhartha, which means “wish fulfilled”.

One day, a hermit came to the palace to see Siddharta. The moment he saw Siddharta, he laughed and then cried. When the King asked him, he explained that he laughed because Siddharta would become Buddha one day, and he was sad because at the moment Siddharta would reach enlightenment, the hermit would not live long enough to hear the teachings. King Suddhodana wanted his son to become a king and not a Buddha, therefore he treated his son with the luxury of the kingdom, preventing him from things that could trigger the fulfilment of the prophecy . Thus, Siddharta only saw happiness in His early life.

Unimpressed by the luxurious yet monotonic life in palace, Prince Siddharta decided to stroll around the surrounding park. At that moment, He saw The Four Sights (the aging, sick, deceased, and an ascetic), which caused him to contemplate. “One day, all of us will become sick, old, and die. Why don’t people think about this? Why don’t they think of the solution?” Driven by the compassion and love to all beings, Prince Siddharta vowed to find the solution to end these sufferings and take the renunciation.

“No enemy can harm one so much as one’s on thoughts of craving, hate, and jealousy” – Dhammapada 42

Life journey is never easy, and so thus Siddhartha’s. He left his family at midnight, searched for teachers that could guide him to enlightenment, and practised self-mortification. He almost faced death and was appointed to evil deeds by his own cousin . Finally, at the age of 35 years old, by his very own effort, by his very own method, He finally attained enlightenment as well as the title Buddha.

There were three things that stood out in Buddha’s life – compassion, wisdom, and ability to enlighten others. He gave his first discourse to the five ascetics at Deer Park, also known as The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of the Dharma Sutra (Dharmacakrapravartana Sutra). This marked the beginning of Buddha’s Disciple (Sangha) as well as Buddha’s teaching (Dharma).

Propagation-wise, it  was not easy as well  . The Buddha faced a lot of criticisms, not only from other religions and beliefs but also from his own Disciples who were not really convinced by His teaching. However, he was full of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity, and thus, more people were inspired to follow the Dharma and realise the truth. Some of his notable Disciples are Sariputta, Moggallana, and His personal assistant, Ananda. His main teachings include Four Noble Truth, Noble Eightfold Path, The Five Precepts, and Six Paramitas  (wonder what are they about? Join the next Dharma Class :P).

After forty-five years of teaching and promoting love and wisdom to all beings, the Buddha, getting older and weaker, rested in Kusinara (Kushinagar district in modern India), where He decided to give His last teachings. He laid down between two Sala trees and eventually attained Mahaparrinirvana (fully passing away).

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule” – The Buddha

Writer’s Takeaway

From this story, we can learn that even as a Buddha, He could not escape from problems, criticisms, aging, sick, and death. However, Buddha always stayed calm in all situation and maintained his loving-kindness to all beings. This applies to us as well. Life is always uncertain and things we own are impermanent. Knowing this, we don’t need to be afraid anymore if something or someone disappeared from our life. Do our best in everything we do and be nice to all beings. After all, we never know what has happened and what will happen to the people we meet.

The Buddha has inspired me to live according to His teachings. As it will benefit myself in any way, I still place my hope to lead a better life. Going through ups and downs, the Dharma teachings occasionally remind me of the struggle and the relaxation they offer to my life.

Sabbe Satta Bhavantu Sukhitata,

May you all be well and happy always

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