THE TEACHINGS OF GAUTAM BUDDHA (SAMYA MUKHERJEE)
THE TEACHINGS OF GAUTAM BUDDHA
The teachings of Lord Buddha are aimed solely at liberating the sentiment of beings from suffering. The basic teachings of Buddha, which are core to Buddhism are ‘The Three Universal Truths’, ‘The Four Noble Truths’, ‘The Noble Eightfold Path’ and ‘The Five Precepts’. After ‘enlightenment’, Lord Buddha went to the deer-park near the holy city of Varanasi and shared His new understandings with five holy men. They understood immediately and became his disciples – this marked the beginning of the Buddhist community.
For the next 45 years, Gautam Buddha and his disciples went from place to place in India, spreading the ‘Dharma’, his teachings. Their compassion knew no bounds, they helped everyone along the way. At night they would sleep where they were; when hungry they would ask for a little food. Gautam Buddha won the hearts of many people, because he dealt with their true feelings. He advised them not to accept his words on blind faith but to decide for themselves whether His teachings are right or wrong, then to follow them. He encouraged everyone to have compassion for each other and to develop their own virtue – “You should do your own work, for I can teach only the way.” He never became angry or impatient or spoke harshly to anyone, not even those who opposed him. Gautam Buddha always taught his disciples in such a way that everyone could understand. Each person thought that Gautam Buddha was speaking especially for him. Gautam Buddha told his followers to help each other on the way.
THE THREE UNIVERSAL TRUTHS :
One day Gautam Buddha sat down under the shade of a tree and noticed how beautiful the countryside was. Flowers were blooming and trees were putting on bright new leaves, but among all these beauty, Gautam Buddha saw much unhappiness. A farmer beat his ox in the field, a bird pecked at an earthworm and then an eagle sooped down on the bird. Deeply troubled He asked, “Why does the farmer beat his ox? Why must one creature eat another to live?” During His enlightenment, Gautam Buddha found the answer to these questions and discovered three great truths. These three truths are explained in a simple way so that everyone could understand them.
1) Nothing is lost in the Universe - The first truth is that ‘nothing is lost in the universe’. Matter turns into energy and energy turns into matter. A dead leaf turns into soil. A seed sprouts and become a new plant. Old solar systems disintegrate and turn into cosmic rays. We are born of our parents and our children are born of us. We are the same as plants, as trees, as other people and as the rain that falls. We consist of that which is around us, we are the same as everything. If we destroy something around us, we destroy ourselves. If we cheat other, we cheat ourselves. Understanding this truth, Gautam Buddha and his disciples never killed any animal.
2) Everything changes - The second universal truth of Lord Buddha is that everything is continuously changing. Life is like a river flowing on and on, ever-changing. Sometimes it flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. It is smooth and gentle in some places but later on snags and rocks crop up out of nowhere. As soon as we think we are safe, something unexpected happens. Once dinosaurs, mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed this earth. They all died out, yet this was not the end of life. Other life forms like smaller mammals appeared and eventually humans too. Now we can even see the earth from space and understand the changes that have taken place on this planet. Our ideas about life also change. People once believed that the world was flat but now we know that it is round.
3) Law of cause and effect - The third universal truth, explained by Gautam Buddha is that there are continuous changes due to ‘the laws of cause and effect’. This law of cause and effect is found in every textbooks of modern science. In this way, Science and Buddhism are alike. The law of cause and effect is known as ‘karma’. Nothing ever happens to us unless we deserve it. We receive exactly what we earn, whether it is good or bad. We are the way we are now, due to the things we have done in the past. Our thoughts and actions determine the kind of life we can have. If we do good things, good things will happen to us in future. Similarly, if we do bad things, then bad things will also happen to us in future. Every moment we create new ‘karma’ by what we say, do and think. If we understand this, we do not need to fear karma. It becomes our friend. It teaches us to create a bright future. Gautam Buddha said, “The kind of seed sown will produce that kind of fruit. Those who do good will reap good results. If you carefully plant a good seed, you will joyfully gather good fruit.”
THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS :
1) Suffering (Dukkha) – Suffering is common to all. Everyone suffers from suffering. When we born we cry (birth), when we are sick we are miserable (sickness), when we are old we will have ache and pains and find it hard to get around (old age), none of us wants to die because we feel deep sorrow when someone dies (death). Other things we suffer from are : ‘being with those we dislike’, ‘being a part from those we love’, ‘not getting what we want’, ‘all kinds of problems and disappointments that are unavoidable’. Lord Buddha did not deny that there is happiness in life but he pointed out that it does not last forever. Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering. He said, “There is happiness in life, happiness in friendship, happiness of a family, happiness in a healthy body and mind,....but when one losses them, there is suffering.”
2) The cause of suffering (Samudaya) – Gautam Buddha explained that people live in a sea of suffering, because of ignorance and greed. The people are ignorant of the law of karma and are greedy for the wrong kind of pleasures. They do things that are harmful to their bodies and peace of mind – so they cannot be satisfied. For example, once the children have had a taste of candy, they want more. When they can’t have it they get upset. Even if children get all the candy they want, they soon get tired of it and want something else. Although they get a stomach ache from eating too much candy, they still want more. The things people want most, cause them the most suffering. Of course there are basic things that all people should have like adequate food, shelter and clothing. Everyone deserves a good hoe, loving parents and good friends. They should enjoy life and cherish their possessions instead of becoming greedy.
3) The end of suffering (Nirodaya) – To end suffering one must cut off greed and ignorance. This means changing one’s views and living in a more natural and peaceful way. It is like blowing out a candle. The flame of suffering is put out for good. Buddhists call the state in which all sufferings are ended in form of ‘Nirvana’. Nirvana is an everlasting state of great joy and peace. Gautam Buddha said, “The extinction of desire is Nirvana” -this is actually the ultimate goal in Buddhism. Everyone can realise it with the help of Gautam Buddha’s teachings. It can be experienced in this very life.
4) The path to the end of suffering (Magga) - The path to the end of suffering is known as ‘The Middle way’.
THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH :
When Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon in the deer-park, He began the ‘Turning of the Dharma Wheel’. He chose the beautiful symbol of the wheel with its eight spokes to represent the Noble Eightfold Path. Lord Buddha’s teaching goes round and round like a great wheel that never stops, leading to the central point of the wheel – the only point which is fixed is ‘Nirvana’. The eight spokes on the wheel represent the eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path. Just as everyone spoke is needed for the wheel to keep turning, we need to follow each step of the path.
1) Right View – The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of Lord Buddha with wisdom and compassion.
2) Right Thought – We are what we think. Clear and kind thoughts build good, strong characters.
3) Right Speech – By speaking kind and helpful words, we are respected and trusted by everyone.
4) Right Conduct – No matter what we say, others know us from the way we behave. Before we criticize others, we should first see what we do ourselves.
5) Right Livelihood – This means choosing a job that does not hurt others. Lord Buddha said, “Do not earn your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy.”
6) Right Effort – A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will towards others. This also means not wasting effort on things that harm ourselves and others.
7) Right Mindfulness – This means being aware of thoughts, deeds and words.
8) Right Concentration – Focus on one thought or object at a time. By doing this we can be quiet and attain true peace of mind.
Following of ‘The Noble Eightfold Path’, can be compared to cultivating a garden but in Buddhism one cultivates one’s wisdom. The mind is the ground and the thoughts are the seeds. Deeds are the ways one cares for the garden. Our faults are weeds. Pulling them out is like weeding a garden. The harvest is real and lasting happiness. ‘The Noble Eightfold Path’ is one of the teachings of Theravada Buddhism, which teaches eight practices in life to cease sufferings and attain spirituality. The principles of the Noble Eightfold Path make human beings sagacious, intelligent which adds wisdom to life.
THE FIVE PRECEPTS :
All religions have some basic rules that define what is good conduct and what kind of conduct should be avoided. In Buddhism, the most important rules are ‘The Five Precepts’, which have been passed down from Lord Buddha himself.
1) No Killing – Gautam Buddha said, “Life is dear to all beings. They have the right to live the same as we do.” We should respect all life and not to kill anything. Killing ants and mosquitoes is also breaking this precept. We should have an attitude of loving kindness towards all beings, wishing them to be happy and free from harm. Taking care of the earth, the rivers and airs are also included. One way that many Buddhists follow this precept is by being vegetarian.
2) No Stealing – If we steal from another, we steal from ourselves. Instead we should learn to give and take care of things that belong to our family, to the school or to the public.
3) No Sexual-misconduct – Proper conduct show respect for oneself and others. Our bodies are the gifts from our parents, so we should protect them from harm. Young people should especially keep their natures pure and develop their virtue. It is upto them to make the world a better place to live. In happy families, husband and wife both respect each other.
4) No Lying – Being honest, brings peace into the world. When there is a misunderstanding, the best thing is to talk it over. This precept includes no gossip, no back-biting, no hash words and idle speech.
5) No Intoxicants – The fifth precept is based on keeping a clear mind and a healthy body. One day, when Gautam Buddha was speaking about the Dharma for the assembly, a young drunkard staggered into the room. He tripped over some monks, who were sitting on the floor and started cursing loudly. His breath reeked of alcohol and filled the air with a sickening stench. Mumbling to himself, he reeled out of the door. Everyone was astonished at his rude behaviour but Gautam Buddha remained calm. “Great assembly”, he spoke. “Take a look at this man! He will certainly loss his wealth and good name. His body will grow weak and sickly. Day and night he will quarrel with his family and friends, until they abandon him. The worst thing is that he will loss his wisdom and become stupid.” Little by little one can learn to follow this precept. If one sometimes forgets them, one can start all over again. Following the precepts is a lifetime job. If one kills or hurts someone’s feelings by mistake, that is breaking the precepts, but it was not done on purpose.
No matter what religion one follows, in what culture one have been born and brought up in, Lord Buddha’s teachings are universal. His teachings have the strength to awaken people to reality and make them introspect themselves. Lord Buddha’s teachings have not only given a deeper insight into one’s existence, but also made significant contribution in liberating one from the day-to-day conflicts in minds. Inspiring millions of people today, Lord Buddha’s wisdom in older days was kept alive through the oral tradition. It was only after 400 years of his death, that the first manuscript was written. Following are some basic teachings of Lord Buddha :
1) The secret of health for both mind and body is not mourn for the past, worry about the future or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.
2) Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who had said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reasoning and your own common sense.
3) Teach a triple-truth to all : A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
4) One of the best lessons one can learn from life is to master how to remain calm.
5) Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.
6) The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.
7) We are shaped by our thoughts and we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.
8) Every situation in life is temporary. So, when life is good, make sure you enjoy and receive it fully. When life is not so good, remember it will not last forever and better days are on the way.
9) A man is not called wise because he talks again but if he is peaceful, loving and fearless then he is in truth called ‘wise’.
10) Even as a solid rock is unshaken by the wind, so are the wise unshaken by praise or blame.