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2024-02-23 22:57

EDITOR's NOTE:  This article was handed out to the June 1, 2017 Meditation Workshop attendees at Wat Tampa as one of two documents.  The other document (Meditation Explained) is also available on this website. Although this article is titled as "Introduction to Buddhism", I believe that this information is more intermediate to advanced level Buddhism. The content has not been changed from its original edition but there are some typographical changes – primarily breaking out lists within paragraphs to bullet points to more clearly identify the key points and concepts. I also added the mailing address for War Thai, D.C. for those interested in more information.

Historical Background: Buddhism was born in northeastern India in the year 588 BC founded by Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.  He was born on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month 623 years before Christ at beautiful Lumbini Garden, located between Kapilavattu and Devadaha City south west of the country known as Nepal today. His father was King Suddhodana and his mother was Queen Sirimahamaya or Queen Maya.  He married Princes Yasodhara when he was sixteen years old and became a monk at the age of 29.  He lived a luxurious life during his 29 years in the palace.  After he left the palace, he studied and practiced meditation with the very popular gurus of his time, Arala and Utaka, passing many levels of concentration or tranquil meditation.  When he completed the causes of study from those teachers, he left them to find the way known as Atthanggika Magga or Middle Eightfold Path, and he attained enlightment in the sixth year of his monkshood.  His mind became free from all the ten fetters:

  1. Personality-belief (sakkaya-ditthi),
  2. Skeptical doubt (vicikiccha)
  3. Clinging to mere rules and rituals (silabbatapramasa; upadana)
  4. Sensual craving (kama-raga)
  5. Ill will (vyapada)
  6. Craving for fine material existence (rupa-raga)
  7. Craving for immaterial existence (arupa-raga)
  8. Vanity (mana)
  9. Restlessness (uddhacca)
  10. Ignorance (avijja)

His mind filled with clear understanding, rationality, understanding of cause and effect, understanding of cause and effect on sensual craving and how to let go of craving. His mind filled with acceptance of the way things really are, and with loving-kindness and compassion, clear comprehension of both visible and invisible objects, the value of a simple and humble way of life, and he shined with the light of right understanding.  He became known as The Buddha, the Awakened One.

What the Buddha Taught

The Buddha taught us the Four Noble Truths, the truth of all beings with and without consciousness.  They are:

  1. Noble Truth of Dissatisfactoriness or hardship of maintenance (Dukkha)
  2. Noble Truth of Cause of Dissatisfactoriness (samudaya)
  3. Noble Truth of Cessation of Dissatisfactoriness (nirodha)
  4. Noble Truth of Path leading to the Cessation of Dissatisfactoriness (magga)

 Dukkha:  The Noble Truth of Dissatisfaction or Suffering.  Buddhism did not view anything in an optimistic nor pessimistic manner, but Buddhism views everything is a realistic way.  When Buddhism talks about Dukkha or Suffering or Dissatisfactoriness it means the hardship of maintenance and the problems in daily life, such as birth, old age, diseases, death, sorrow and frustrations of every kind.  What is undesirable is painful, so too is not getting something desired.  All problems are unwanted but although people try their best to avoid trouble and to be free from suffering, they cannot protect themselves from it.  The truth Buddha taught solves the problems and problematic situations which, when observed and comprehended by self-investigation, helps us learn for ourselves whether the teaching is true.  With careful observation of life we can see that all life is unstable, decaying and subject to change.

Samudaya:  The Noble Truth of Origin of Dissatisfaction (dukkhosamudaya-ariyasacca). The origin (origins) of dissatisfaction are many, depending on the conditions. Every kind of dissatisfaction has its origin in craving (tanha) or self desire, which is the result of ignorance (avijja) or delusion, resulting in hatred, destruction, violence and suffering in society in the past, today, and the future.  Craving produces re-existence and re-becoming (ponobbavika) and is bound up with passionate greed (nandiragasahagata), finding flesh delight now here and now there (tatratatrabhinandini), namely:

  1. Craving for sense-pleasures (kama-tanha)
  2. Craving for existence and becoming (bhava-tanha)
  3. Craving for non-existence or self-annihilation (vibhava-tanha)

It is this craving, desire, greed, manifesting itself in various ways, that gives rise to all forms of suffering and continuity of beings.  It should not be taken as the first cause, for there is no first cause possible as, according to Buddhism, everything is relative and hater-dependent.

Nirodha:  The Noble Truth of Cessation of Suffering (dukkhanirodha-ariyosacea), which is Nibbana or Nirvana in Sanskrit.  To uproot the suffering, the Buddha introduced the Path (magga) leading to the cessation of suffering.  It is the cessation of craving, cession of hatred, cessation of illusion or ignorance.  There are great details in the suttas about the way to practice to put an end to these mental defilements.


The Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering ( Dukkhanirodhagaminipatipada-ariyasacca.   This is known as The Middle Way (majjhima-patipada), because it avoids two extremes; one extreme is to search for happiness through the pleasures of the senses which is low, common, unprofitable and the way of ordinary people; the other method is the search for happiness through self-mortification in different forms of asceticism, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable.  The Buddha himself tried these two extremes and having found them to be useless, the Buddha discovered through personal experience.  The Middle Path, which gives vision and knowledge and leads to experiencing Calm, Insight, Enlightenment, Nibbana.  This path is known in Pali as Ariya-Atthangika-Magga because it is composed of eight categories, namely:

Wisdom Level

  1. Right Understanding (Samma-ditthi)
  2. Right Thought (Samma-sankappa)

Moral Level

  1. Right Speech (Samma-vaca)
  2. Right Action (Samma-kammanta)
  3. Right Livelihood (Samma-ajiva)

Samadhi Level

  1. Right Effort (Samma-vayama)
  2. Right Mindfulness (Samma-sati)
  3. Right Concentration (Samma-samadhi)

The whole teaching of the Buddha, to which he devoted himself for 45 years, deals with this Path.  Buddha explained the Dhamma in different ways with different words to different people, according to the stage of their development and their capacity to understand and follow him, but the essence of those many thousand discourses in the Buddhist Scriptures are found in the Noble Eightfold Path and summarized in the Threefold doctrine namely:

  1. Not to do bad
  2. To do good, and
  3. To purify the mind from its impurities or mental defilement.

The eight categories of the Path should not be followed and practiced one after the other in the numerical order as given the list above, but they are to be developed more or less simultaneously, as far as possible according to the capacity of each individual.  The eight factors aim at promoting and perfecting the three essentials of the Buddhist training and discipline:

  1. Moral Conduct (Sila)
  2. Mental Discipline (Samadhi)
  3. Wisdom (Panna)

Moral Conduct:

 Moral conduct is the basic principle of Buddhism for the training and development of an ordinary person to become a perfect human being.  It consists of commitment to:

  1. Avoid killing and harming living beings while trying to develop loving-kindness and compassion
  2. Avoid taking what is not given while trying to develop sincerity and respect for ownership and possessions of others
  3. Avoid sexual misconduct while trying to develop honesty and respect toward the opposite sex
  4. Avoid false speech while trying to develop truthfulness and sincerity
  5. Avoid taking intoxicating drink and harmful drugs while trying to develop mindfulness and awareness in daily life.

Mental Discipline:

When we develop moral conduct, we are certain to have peaceful family and peaceful society, and then we are ready to go on for meditation practice for more training in mental culture.  Mental culture develops the human mind to become a noble being and finally to become a perfect noble one through wisdom training.  There are two kinds of mental culture, namely:

  1. Concentration meditation (Samatha Bhavna) and
  2. Insight meditation (Vipassana Bhavna)

The details of meditation cannot be given here but those who want more information about meditation practice may contact Wat Thai, D.C. at the mailing address provided below.

Wat D.C of Washington D.C, 13440 Layhill Road, Silver Spring, MD 209906

Wisdom Training:

Wisdom is the way to see the ultimate truth of reality.  When the mind of the meditation practitioner becomes calm, clear and peaceful, he or she may apply peaceful mind to look at the ways of all things visible and invisible as they really are.  Their ways are as follows:

  1. Impermanence (Aniccam)
  2. Hard to maintain (Dukkham)
  3. Out of control (Anatta)

When the mind understands the way of everything as it really is, the mind does not cling and does not attach to anything, the meditation practitioner will see and view all things with a realistic approach.  At that level of meditation the mind becomes free from all kinds of mental defilement, becoming a mind that can be called free mind, independent mind, perfect mind, or enlightened mind.  The person who lives with this mind will always live his or her life in peace and happiness here and now, not waiting until after death.  This is what Buddha taught and the goal of Buddhism.

What is the Goal of Buddhism?

The Awakened One, the Buddha, classified people into two groups and set goals for both to help them according to their capabilities, namely,

  1. Goal for householders and
  2. Goals for those who live monistic life or monks.

Goal for householders is to live their life in a happy by following at least three of the precepts of the Eightfold Path namely, right action, right speech and right livelihood in moral training. This includes the administration and governmental affairs, as the Buddha introduced 10 virtues of rulers or administrators to carry out duties and responsibilities in righteous ways.

Goal for the monks or those who live monastic life is Nibbana, enlightenment or perfect freedom of the mind by following the Eightfold Path as above mentioned. The monks have to strictly observe moral conduct (Sila Visuddhi) and clarification of their moral disciplines set out by the Buddha, proved by the Sangha.  Monks must train themselves in meditation practice (Samadhi-Vipassana Bhavna) to cultivate wisdom to purify their minds from mental impurities or delusion.







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