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:
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.
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.
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 🙂