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Dharma-Exposition of Buddhism by Paul Carus
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Reservations   Contents    

  1. Four Noble Points
  2. Preach a Glorious Doctrine
  3. Ten Great Standards
  4. Seven Jewels of the Law
  5. The Abhidharma Outlined
    Karma. Samskara. Metaphysics. Transiency and Permanence. Continuity and Evolution. Soul. Reincarnation. Selfhood and Enlightenment. Nirvana.
  6. A Summary of Tenets


Meadow flowers

Many go through troubles, and want to reverse untoward happenings. Others see perils ahead, and want to arrest their steps in such directions.

Buddhism teaches us to turn our attention inward through meditation, but there is much more to it, such as guarding our happiness and bulwarking against many troubles and sufferings. There are many sorts. Regular, daily meditations may become a good habit, and to many a deep delight as well. Some results of proper inward-turning are on one's character. Also, along the course of life, we should profit from the help of reliable friends and experienced people.

When we do such things and start living on an even keel by blissful mediations combined with work that elevates us and serves good fortune, fit schooling, and wealth, we may come to band better with those of similar interests, for a group is usually held together by mutual interests. A fine group (sangha) can have a beneficial effect on all members.

All along one should go for good fortune, deep rest, and sensible efforts. Having very few deep attachment can work well too. Thus we have good chances not do not lose dignity by words and actions.

The above sums up some of the things Paul Carus says in his condensed book about Buddhism, called The Dharma, or The Religion of Enlightenment; An Exposition of Buddhism. (3rd ed. London: The Open Court Publishing Co., 1896). The extracts from it below are given page references, and there are few additions. The complete Carus book is on-line.

If you wonder what the word means, see the dictionary (left column).


1. Four Noble Points

Dharma means truth and religion, among other things.

The Dharma taught by the Buddha (the Enlightened One) and held by the Buddhist Brotherhood is formulated in four statements, called the noble truths.

The first truth is that there are sufferings in birth and old age, disease, and death. It is sad to be joined with that which we abhor, and be separated from what we love, and crave for what which can neither be nor had.

The second truth is that some sufferings are caused by desires. {p 3) Some of them contribute to blunt selfishness, self-harm or self-destruction, as the case may be.

The third truth is how to get free from suffering. Some freedom is had by reducing unnessecary wants, some is had by reducing the amount of wrong ideas around, some is had by filtering off harmful influences and maximise good sides to life instead, and so on. Increase your degree of freedom. And at the bottom of this list is the idea of quelching desires completely, as the very last resort, perhaps.

The fourth truth covers a very practical way to lessen sufferings and increase gladness - a happy and healthy life. The means is systematised into the eightfold path.
      The eightfold path is (1) right comprehension (right understanding); (2) right aspirations; (3) right speech; (4) right conduct; (5) right living; (6) right endeavor; (7) right self-discipline; and (8) the attainment of the right bliss. {p 4-5)

He who is wise will enter that path to lessen suffering, increase what is decent, good, and smart, and attain to better karma, a better future, and work toward freedom from want too. That is how Buddha saw it.


2. Preach a Glorious Doctrine

In the Mahavagga (I, II) the Tathagata, the Blessed One, said to his disciples:

"Go now, disciples, and for the welfare of mankind and for the benefit of the many, wander forth, out of compassion. Preach the doctrine which is glorious in the beginning, glorious in the middle, and glorious in the end, in the spirit as well as in the letter. There are beings whose eyes are scarcely covered with dust, but if the doctrine is not preached to them they cannot attain salvation. Proclaim to them so that they may understand the doctrine and accept it." {6)


3. Ten Great Standards

By ten things all acts of living creatures become bad, and by avoiding ten things they become good. There are three sins of the body, four sins of the tongue, and three sins of the mind.

The sins of the body are murder, theft, and adultery; of the tongue, lying, slander, abuse, and gossip; of the mind, envy, hatred, and error, the scriptures tell. The mind, however, is involved in far more than envy, hatred and error too - the "sins of the tongue" are of the mind too, and the same holds true with "sins of the body". Body and mind are a team, at least.
      These are the counsels:

  1. Avoid killing, but have regard for life.

    Comment: And if you cannot avoid it, reduce it, and reduce its gross impact so that sufferings are lessened, a high-standing life is not reduced in worth and standing, and so on.

  2. Avoid stealing and robberies; but help worthy and deserving persons. A more limited approach: Help others to be masters of the fruits of their labours.

  3. Abstain from impurity, and lead a life of chastity.

    Comment: Think as cogently as you can. And be firm to remain clean in body, mind and speech, as far and as good as you can.

  4. Do not lie, but be truthful. Speak the {7) truth with tact or discretion, fearlessly and with a gentle heart, all in all.

  5. Neither invent false reports nor repeat them. Do not bring false witness. Adhere to some measure of positive thinking, and look for the good sides of your fellow-beings. Noble and decent hearts may need help against base, cruel and significant enemies.

  6. Avoid swearing and verbal abuse. Speak properly and with enough dignity, rather.

  7. Avoid spending time on unfair gossip. Speak to the purpose if speaking at all.

  8. Avoid coveting and envying. Rather, rejoice at the good fortune of others.

  9. Cleanse your heart of malice. Cherish no hatred, not even against moderate enemies. Remain firm to be as kind as you are up to

  10. Free your mind from bad ideas and gross ignorance and seek to come by truths, learn truths, embrace them and putt he best of them to use. You should not fall victim to either insolvence, gross scepticism, and severe errors in life, but rather walk the noble path that should help your living conditions by and by or even faster, and which leads to greater and greater freedom - and the attainment of Nirvana in one rounded package.


4. Seven Jewels of the Law

SevenN are the jewels of the law - or facets of righteous living, by another simile - which when united form the bright diadem of Nirvana and its bliss. These factors serve us on the way to it also, and there is no reason to dispense with any of them.

(i) Purity; (2) calmness; (3) comprehension; (4) bliss; (5) wisdom; (6) perfection; and (7) enlightenment.

These jewels manifest themselves in earnest meditation; struggle against sin; bright moral; wisdom; righteousness; and in producing the organs of spiritual sense; {p 9)

You can meditate on ideas and on how things are. These are two basic ways. Good meditations are for attaining enlightenment. There are lesser aims to serve in life too.

In the struggle against sin, these count: (1) prevent sin from arising; (2) put away sin that has arisen; {p 11) (3) produce goodness that does not as yet exist; and (4) increase goodness that exists.

Along the road or path you need some OK self-discipline for preparing heart.

Five moral powers: (1) self-reliance; (2) indefatigableness; (3) watchfulness; (4) concentration; and (5) self-control.

The five moral powers are soul functions, and correspond the five organs of spiritual sense. They are: (1) faithfulness; (2) activity; (3) thoughfulness; (4) attention; and (5) discretion.

If follows from the above that discretion is a better part of self-control. Awareness and the ability to focus, function as a twin team. Learn to consider. {p 11)

There are many sides to wisdom apart from folk wisdom, and wisdom has many shades. It goes along with serenity. And in the Carus survey, wisdom encompasses (i) energy; (2) thought; (3) contemplation; (4) investigation; (5) cheerfulness; (6) repose; and (7) serenity.

What is called righteousness can be had by entering the eightfold path, the Middle Way of Buddhism: (1) right comprehension; (2) right aspirations; (3) right speech; (4) right conduct; (5) right living; (6) right endeavor; (7) right self-discipline: and (8) attaining right bliss (that is proper, fit, etc).


5. The Abhidharma Outlined


Karma (Pali, kamma) means deeds and effects of deed in modifying the subsequent character and fortunes of the doer. These effects are thought to be inside, in the mind of the doer, and also manifested outwardly as time goes by. The inward marks and effects of deeds and moral stands are called in Sanskrit samskaras, in Pali sankharas, words which mean " memory-structures, dispositions, soul-forms. Good karma and sad karma are counted on. {p 13-14)
      The character of a man consists of his samskaras, which are through Karma. "Mass karma" belongs to a people or race. In addition comes a person's special Karma. Each being is determined by its own Karma. {p 14)

Very early samskaras become actualities; from childhood to age they can manifest themselves in dullness or brightness, weakness or strength, viciousness or uprightness; and with each feature modified by confluence with other characters. A character eventually passes on to its incarnation in new bodies. {p 15)

Karma which passed from life to life can be modified in each life by proper moral expressed, by fit thoughts, words and acts. "Every little helps" thus to improve one's lot by intelligent efforts, hard work as needs by, by good company and avoiding fools and degrading ones. {p 16)

[Buddha's karma teachings]


Samskaras are understood by Patanjali to mean impressions (marks) in the subtle mind. The impressions can be patterns. Anf in a wide sense the samskara is the revolving world as we perceive it.


Teachers of metaphysics would have others believe this and that which they cannot prove themselves. In Buddhism you are encouraged to practice such as TM (a form of mantra-meditation) and don't give in to blind belief, but think and act soundly for your own good.

Teachers of metaphysics resort to analogies without proofs to mention.

Buddhism per se does not deny individuality, not the ego but the independent existence of an ego; not the self either. We read in the Samyutta Nikaya: " Let a man who holds self dear keep that self free from wickedness." And the Dhammapada devotes a whole chapter (xii.) to the contemplation of " self. {p 21)

Nirvana and oneness with all that now is, that has ever been, that can ever be, shall lift you up - at any rate progress in self-culture and delighing well {p 22, 23).
      Buddhism sheds a better light than Christian doctrines, and does not hail sacrifice of anyone. It teaches that men and women and children reincarnate with effects of previous deeds, and represents, for good and for evil, as their essential or legitimate continuation. {p 24)

"His good works receive him who has done good, and has gone from this world to the other; as kinsmen receive a friend on his return," says the Dhammapada.

Transiency and Permanence

Life is fleeting, but work which is essential, forms us deep inside and co-tetermines our fate. {p 26)

The Visuddhi-Magga (Chap. VIII.) says, "Strictly speaking, the duration of the life of a living being is exceedingly brief . . . " It may take a philosopher to appreciate this wide scenario. {p 26)

There is a constant change taking place in the world, yet there is a preservation of the character of all the events that happen and of all the deeds that are done, teaches Buddhism. {p 27)

Continuity and Evolution

Reincarnated ones appear as new individuals, yet they are about the same inside as their former incarnations from which they spring, says "the law" of Karma. {p 28)

The Soul

By soul-activities (such as seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, etc.) soul-forms are established. These interact with the senses deep in the mind somehow.

The senses are not united indiscriminately one to another; they combine well. {p 29)

With attention and practice a man in time becomes an expert. {p 30)

Reincarnation not Soul-Transmigration

Features of a face do not pass into the mirror; nevertheless an image of the face appears there. Some images are distorted. (31)

Similes are illustrations, and some are annoyingly untrue or devoid of facts. Similes may be used for taming the beginner minds to the end that they conform to right and wrong teachings. There is a danger in it.

Selfhood and Enlightenment

The state of Nirvana can be attained in this life, says Buddha.

Mara, the personification of evil, profits by inducing errors into victims.

Against it, a follower of the Enlightened One regards her property as property, regards her sensations as sensations, regards her sentiments as sentiments, and goes on performing the main deeds that tend toward enlightenment. She endeavors to attain the truth and spreads it. For what she does constitutes her character, and effects will lives after her and deep in her.

Many things must be left behind, yet effects of fit deeds should continue and may flourish in time. {p 35-36)

Enlightenment means recognition of Truth (a state) affecting one's whole personality; it illumines the head, warms the heart, and guides the hand. {p 41)


All who have attained Nirvana have got enough. {p 37) Who has entered Nirvana is not annihilated; is energetic but aspires not toward vainglory.

Such salvation does not consist in first going to Heaven (dying) for it {p 38). It is, rather, a state of rest and bliss and cosmic selfhood, so to speak.

Having it, it is still possible to cultivate good-will {p 39)

And Gautama Buddha can be found in the doctrine that he has revealed. It is claimed that whoever sees the truth of his doctrine, he senses the Blessed One (Buddha) himself through it.


6. A Summary of Tenets

But smart and energetic efforts and close, fair and fit investigations of facts are recommended.

By enlightenment we learn that a main evil is moral badness.

The true self of a man goes deeper than his personality. As Enlightenment It inheres in the interconnection of all life, imparts substantial kindness towards beings and a deep compassion that can say, "Poor fools!" Buddha gives examples.

Great Enlightenment is more than knowledge, more than morality, more than goodness. It is comprehensive Truth reigning and masquerading through thoughts, certain sentiments, and regulated ways of life. Better adjust to that to be on the safe side and improve well, is the teaching - adjust your normal life to sides to Enlightenment, that is.

Nirvana is sensed in individuality deep inside the soul, and in the individuality Eternity-and-Truth-land (that state) is contemplated - and one's existence, one's self and solid truths that endure well. {p 43)

He who has attained to perfect enlightenment is called a Buddha, an Enlightened One. {p 44)

Buddhists revere the Buddha Gautama Siddhartha for clearly pointing out a good way on and up.

Buddhism has no dogmas. Every Buddhist is free to investigate for himself the facts from which the Buddhist doctrines have been derived. Buddha had a penetrating insight into the nature of things and men, and was able to propose remedial actions and a well rounded way of living through it.

Buddha's injunctions are that we should accept and incorporate all propositions which have been proved to be true by careful scientific investigation.

Buddha taught only things essential for the good life, lifting it up gradually into glorious joy and clarity - that salvation.

Buddhism is commonly said to deny the existence of the soul. This statement is correct or incorrect according to the sense in which the word soul is used. Buddhism is not denying the feeling, thinking, aspiring soul, such as from experience we know ourselves to be. {p 45-46)

Enlightenment is the cessation of ignorance, not of thinking, joy, and life.

Nirvana-land is not self-annihilation, but attainment of truth and bliss inside, even while in the body.

Buddhism is commonly said to deny the existence of God. This, too, is true or not true, according to the definition of God. {p 47)

Buddhism teaches Bodhi is the everlasting prototype of truth, so to speak, the basis of the Dharma, including the good law of righteousness, and the ultimate authority for moral conduct.

Buddhism does not enjoin asceticism or self-mortification, but preaches the improvement way of living; its aim is Nirvana and the leading of a life of truth, which is attainable here on earth.

Buddhists hail truth and purity wherever they find it.

Buddhists are all those who, like Buddha, seek salvation in enlightenment. Some adhere to formal and rigid regiments, others have got further, or maintain more freedom, abundance, and personal independence than monks and nuns. Enlightenment is possible for both lay persons and monastics, is the ancient Buddhist teaching. So it is said that lay members may attain the bliss of salvation, they too. There are no formal restrictions in that Prime Concern.


Paul Carus, Dharma-Exposition of Buddhism, Literature  

Carus, Paul. The Dharma, or The Religion of Enlightenment; An Exposition of Buddhism. 3rd ed. London: The Open Court Publishing, 1896.

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