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Buddha counsels householders to lay up wealth
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Buddhist Steering of Life

On one occasion Buddha said to King Kosala who was displeased on hearing that a daughter was born to him: "A woman child may prove even a better offspring than a male."

In order to succeed in life, you need enough control and not fall behind. You can seek to increase your area of control or influence. To get to good enough control over one's life is very much of what Buddhism is about, and a woman may be better than a male in such matters and other matters too.

It is told that Gautama Buddha himself strenuously practiced all forms of severe austerities for six long years. His body was reduced to almost a skeleton. Later he found that approach missing a vital ingredient, balance, and devised the Middle Path of avoiding extremes. He aimed for firm control but saw one should not be marringly hard on oneself or others.

Buddha teaches self-help as paramount: "You should exert yourselves, the Tathagatas [Buddhas] are just teachers." However, other Buddhas may be gates to heaven (Nirvana) for their disciples. The choice is theirs.

At any rate, Buddhas point out the path and it is left for us to follow that path. As it is said, "To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself is positive." In exhorting His disciples to be self-dependent Buddha says in the Parinibbana Sutta: "Be islands to yourselves, be a refuge to yourselves, seek not for refuge in others."

Buddha does not claim any monopoly of Buddhahood. According to the Teaching of Buddha, anybody may aspire to that supreme state of perfection if he makes the necessary effort - may I add: "in a fit way by a meditation method that lead up to it" to that. Instead of disheartening followers and reserving that exalted state only to himself, Buddha encourages and induces followers to emulate Him. He teaches that man can gain his deliverance and purification by own exertion without depending on an external God or mediating priests.

In the social arena Buddha went against the humbling caste system and taught equality of mankind and gave equal opportunities for all. Irrespective of caste, colour or rank He established for both deserving men and women a democratically constituted celibate Order. He granted complete freedom of thought. Very many benefited by His words of wisdom and compassion.

Paying tribute to Buddha, Sri Radhakrishnan says: "In Gautama Buddha we have a master-mind . . . second to none so far as the influence on the thought and life of the human race is concerned . . . judged by intellectual integrity, moral earnestness, and spiritual insight, He is undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in history."

Prominent Features of Buddhism

Karma, or giving back

On one occasion a certain young man named Subha approached Buddha, and questioned why and wherefore it was that among human beings there are the low and high states.

Buddha briefly replied: "Every living being has karma as its own, its inheritance, its cause, its kinsman, its refuge. Karma is that which differentiates all living beings into low and high states."

Thus, from a Buddhist standpoint, present mental, intellectual, moral and temperamental differences are much due to our own actions and tendencies, both past the present, and karma can be improved. Yet, according to Buddhism, more than one's karma operates in a life. There are also seasonal winds and rains, germs, mental processes, power of mind, question of norms and ethics, and accidents that matter, and malevolence and benevolence of others, and much else, including serendipity and grasping one's good chances.

Karma is, therefore, not "the sole ruler" of the destiny, nor will it be. Circumspect forethought may, further, disarm it. Besides there are yogic ways of forestalling bad repercussions of past deeds, and so on.

Karma is neither fate nor predestination imposed on us. So one has the possibility to divert the course of Karma to some extent. How far one diverts it depends on oneself.

Rebirth

Does the worthy one (arhant) exist or not after death?

Buddha says: "The arahant who has been released from the five aggregates is deep, immeasurable like the mighty ocean. To say that he is reborn would not fit the case. To say that he is neither reborn nor not reborn would not fit the case."

Can a man be more unclear if knowing what he is talking about?

Ancients texts have it that Buddha was able to read past and future lives. Disciples too developed such knowhow.

According to Buddhism we are born from the matrix of action (Kammayoni).

The constant succession of birth and death in connection with each individual life flux constitutes what is technically known as Samsara recurrent wandering, i.e. the world as we know it.

What is the ultimate origin of life? Buddha declares:

"Without cognizable end is this Samsara. A first beginning of beings, who, obstructed by ignorance and fettered by craving, wander and fare on, is not to be perceived."

He does not demand blind faith from anyone.

And the doctrine of rebirth is not easy to document, at any rate.

Nirvana

Nirvana is a goal of Buddhists. Literally, Nirvana means non-attachment. It should not be understood that Nirvana is a state of nothingness.

Maybe Nirvana is not adequately expressed in Buddhism. Yet Narada Thera writes

Nirvana is a Dhamma which is "unborn, unoriginated, uncreated and unformed." Hence eternal (Dhuva), desirable (Subha), and happy (Sukha).

In Nirvana nothing is "annihilated," besides suffering.

He further teaches there is just one single Nirvana, receiving its name according to the way it is experienced before and after death. For example, when Nirvana is realized in this life with the body remaining, it is called Sopadisesa Nirvana-dhatu.

Nirvana is a state, a supramundane state, and an attainment (Dhamma).

The Path to Nirvana

How is Nirvana gained?

It is by following the Noble Eight-fold Path which consists of Right Understanding (Samma-ditthi), Right Thoughts (samma-sankappa), Right Speech (samma-vaca), Right Actions (samma-kammanta), Right Livelihood (samma-ajiva), Right Effort (samma-vayama), Right Mindfulness (samma-sati), and Right Concentration (samma-samadhi).

  1. Right Understanding stands at the beginning as well as at its end. At the culmination of the practice, Right Understanding has matured into perfect Insight Wisdom (vipassana-paa), which is Good.
  2. Right Thoughts (samma-sankappa), serve inner purity and staunchness at it. Loving-kindness and some compassion should not be eliminated in a life.
  3. Right Speech includes abstaining from falsehood, slandering, harsh words, and frivolous talk.
  4. Right Action abstains from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.
  5. Right Livelihood: Purifying one's livelihood by refraining from trading in arms, human beings, animals for slaughter, intoxicating drinks and drugs, and poisons is fit still. Wrong or faulty livelihood consists of hypocritical conduct and wrong means of life.
  6. Right Effort involves development of good, promotion of good.
  7. Right Mindfulness is present mindfulness with regard to body, feelings, thoughts, and mind-objects.
  8. Right Effort and Right Mindfulness lead to Right focus (advanced concentration). It is one-pointed and culminates in meditative absorptions, dhyanas (jhanas).

Of these eight sides to the Noble Eightfold Path the first two are grouped under the heading of Wisdom (paa), the following three under Morality (sila), and the last three under Concentration (samadhi). But according to the order of development the sequence is:

  1. Morality (sila) consists of proper speech, action, and livelihood. Morality is the first stage.

    Securing a firm footing on the ground of morality, the progressing pilgrim then embarks upon the culture of the mind.

  2. Samadhi (focus) consists of proper effort, mindfulness and focus.

    There is to be persistent effort to focus one's mind until he becomes greatly absorbed or enwrapped in meditation, jhana. When one gains good one-pointedness of the mind it is possible to develop Supernormal Powers: Divine Eye Divine Ear, Reminiscence of past births, Mind Reading, and different Psychic Powers. Supernormal powers are hardly essential for great attainments, though. What may matter more is cultivating sublime or deep states and loving-kindness (Metta), compassion (Karuna), sympathetic joy (Mudita), and equanimity (Upekkha) are generally commendable, if individually applicable or well adjusted to one's temperament and fare.

  3. Wisdom is rich in understanding and thoughts, it is twofold. Insight enables one to see things as they truly are. That is understanding. And deep thoughts can be helpful too. The two of them, insight and thoughts, can complement one another. Holding Illusions, great conceit, ignorance, harmful doubts, and indulging in (wrongful) rites and ceremonies can be marring to the development of great wisdom.

Applying oneself to this process one becomes in time a stream-winner, stream-enterer, sotapanna. The stream inwards from gross to subtle leads to Nirvana. That is Arriving.

Not everyone is expected to lead the life of a monk or nun or celibate to achieve one's goal.

Concentration on the Breath

Concentration on the breathing process can lead to one-pointedness of the mind. Anapana Sati is mindfulness on respiration. Ana means inhalation and Apana exhalation.

When one practices concentration on the freely flowing breath, temporary peacefulness may set in. In some discourses this simple and harmless method of respiration is described as follows:

"Mindfully he inhales; mindfully he exhales.

  1. When making a long inhalation he knows: 'I make a long inhalation'; when making a long exhalation he knows; 'I make a long exhalation.'
  2. When making a short inhalation he knows: ' I make a short inhalation'; when making a short exhalation he knows: 'I make a short exhalation.'
  3. Clearly perceiving the entire breathing process (i.e., the beginning, middle and end), 'I will inhale; thus he trains himself; clearly perceiving the entire breathing process, 'I will exhale'; thus he trains himself.
  4. Calming the respiration, 'I will inhale'; thus he trains himself; calming the respirations, 'I will exhale'; thus he trains himself."

Exercise to benefit those near to you

Think of all your near and dear ones and fill them with thoughts of loving-kindness, with no enmity or obstruction, affirming as you like, "May they all be sound and well and happy," and wish them all peace and happiness.

Great perfections to go for

May I be:

  • clean in my dealings;
  • enlightened and be able to enlighten.
  • refined and well polished in manners;
  • wise and able to see things as they truly are.

May I work well until I achieve my goal and bravely surmount all needed obstacles and see the good and beautiful!

May I keep to being

  • truthful and honest and not hide the truth to be polite to my loss or the loss of others involved;
  • firm and resolute enough;
  • kind and deeply calm.

Contents


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Source: www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/narada/nutshell.html, of Sunday 18 June 2006.

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