PRINCIPLES OF BUDDHISM IN BRIEF
1. There are 2 levels in Buddhist teachings.
A. Sila Level or the lower level teaches us to refrain from evil deeds and to do good deeds. Taught to people with less ability to reason, such as villagers. Results are that individuals and society are more contented.
B. Higher Level teaches us to purify the mind, or, to cease dukkha in each moment using principles that are common to science. Taught to people with more capacity for reasoning. The results are that we can cease all dukkha.
2. Principles that Buddhism and science have in common
A. Study things that actually exist.
B. Study using sound reasoning.
C. Study systematically.
D. Believe only in results that have been clearly proven.
3. All Buddhist teachings in brief
A. Refrain from all evil deeds.
B. Do only benevolent deeds.
C. Purify the mind.
4. The most significant Buddhist teaching, the higher level teaching, is the Four Noble Truths. It regards the cessation of all suffering.
A. Dukkha may be translated, in part, as all mental states of dissatisfaction in the human mind in each moment.
B. Cause: the cause of all dukkha.
C. Cessation: it is possible to experience no dukkha at all, ever.
D. The Way: how to cease all dukkha.
Sila level teachings are not important in Buddhism because all religions have had such teachings since even before Buddha's time. Also, superstitions and other non-Buddhist beliefs and practices have been introduced into sila level teachings since Buddha's time. They're unscientific and clearly contradict higher level teachings. If someone clings to sila level teachings the higher teachings will not be understood. So most Buddhist teachings focus strictly on cessation of dukkha.
5. Buddhism teaches that, when we just start out studying Buddhism, we should pay no attention to these things.
A. Did Buddha really exist, and have other enlightened people really existed? What were they like?
B. Is Samadhi (firmly sustained awareness) really possible? Is it possible that something so precious could arise? àThere has been much misunderstanding since Buddha's time regarding Samadhi so Buddha taught that it's best to disregard this when we first start to study Buddhism.
C. Is it true that the results of our actions will come to us at some time in the future?
D. All the little piddly worldly things that have nothing to do with the cessation of dukkha.
The reason to pay no attention to these things is that they have no relevance to the cessation of dukkha. And they cannot be proven using scientific methods. They are a waste of time and could lead to misunderstanding or confusion. By applying the principles of Buddhism until we reach a crystal clear understanding, interest in these questions will automatically disappear.
6. Buddhism teaches only the present and does not teach what happens after death. Buddhism teaches us to study our life in the present using the methods Buddhism has in common with science. When we reach a crystal clear understanding of our life we will understand by ourselves what happens after death. No need to believe what someone else says or writes.
7. Buddhism teaches to place wisdom before belief. It teaches us to not believe in anything simply because
A. it is passed around by word of mouth
B. it has become traditional practice.
C. we hear that it has spread far and wide.
D. it appears in religious texts.
E. it makes sense logically.
F. it makes sense philosophically.
G. it appeals to our common sense.
H. it concurs with our opinions.
I. it appears believable.
J. our teacher says it's so.
When encountering a new teaching contemplate it carefully to see if it is harmful or beneficial. If you see it as harmful and of no benefit, and if the speaker speaks with a critical attitude, toss it aside. If however, you see no harm and see that it is beneficial, and the speaker does not speak with a critical attitude, practice the teachings. After you've practiced the teachings the fullest, if you haven't realized the promised results, toss the teachings out. But if you have practiced them to the fullest and have clearly realized the results, carefully continue the practice
8. Buddhism has a curriculum of study with three steps
A. Study oral or written teachings
B. Contemplation according to the teachings
C. Practice the teachings The first step is to listen or read the teachings.
Then carefully contemplate these teachings with sound reasoning until you come to a crystal clear understanding. Then practice the teachings until you clearly notice results. Just listening or reading will not bring results. Even a solid understanding can do no more than reduce dukkha. We must seriously practice the teachings in order to cease dukkha.
9. To know Buddhism correctly it is necessary to practice, not only listen to and read the teachings. It's necessary to verify the teachings because what we hear and read may not be correct. You need to get to the stage where you understand clearly to be able to say that you really understand Buddhism correctly. In order to get that clear understanding, you need to study nature's ultimate law. Study this law until you understand that in reality there is no self. Then take that understanding and contemplate carefully your own body and mind until the mind sheds the attachment to your body and mind as yourself. Dukkha will simultaneously decrease (even if only temporarily) and a "coolness" or a "peace" (Nibbana or, Nirvana) will arise in its place. Only then will true understanding occur.
10. Buddhism teaches easy things, the basics, things we can all study and practice to gain an understanding with no need for special talents. There are things that Buddhism teaches us to pay no attention to. Teachings that are deep and difficult to understand appeared after Buddha's time. They're either hard to study or can't be studied at all. Also, they will not lead to understanding, but will instead increase confusion.
11. All Buddhist teachings can be summarized in one sentence. And, from this it is possible to expand the teachings widely. That one sentence is, "Absolutely nothing at all should be attached to as me or mine." This is the principle of the Four NobleTruths.
12. The principle of the Four Noble Truths teaches that, "All dukkha in the human mind arises from the attachment that this body and mind are ourself." (This attachment is a desire to have all things be as the mind wants them to be. But as soon as this is not the case, dukkha arises in the mind.)
13. The principle of the Four Noble Truths teaches that, "As long as there is no attachment to body and mind as me and mine, dukkha will not arise." When there is no dukkha in mind, the mind will be quiet and cool, open and free, fresh and bright. Buddhism calls this Nibbana, which translates as the extinguishment of dukkha.
14. This way to practice in order that attachment does not arise is to use SAMADHI (a firmly concentrated mind) to suppress this attachment, with WISDOM (understanding that this is not ourself), and SILA (to be firmly rooted in the moral precepts) as the basis for practice. Dukkha decreases for the period of time that you use these three pillars of practice. (Please understand that the teachings regarding samdhi, wisdom, and sila are complex and take time to understand.)
15. We can all practice sila (the moral precepts). We determine to refrain from using our body and speech to cause harm to all objects and all lives, including our own. This includes harmful use of sexuality. Simply by behaving accordingly, we are firmly rooted in sila.
16. Samadhi is to remain firmly and continually aware of our mental activity, our speech, and our bodily movements. In this way, we are able to cease dukkha. If you are not able to remain aware, you will need to practice long term awareness.
17. It's wise simply to understand that actually there is no thing, and no state of mind that can be called one's self. With even just this understanding, we're gaining true wisdom.
18. To understand that there is no self we must understand nature's ultimate law, which is that everything that arises, arises due to causes. In other words, everything that exists, exists because many other things have come together to create its existence. Nothing can exist or occur on it's own, without other things existing as causes.
19. Everything, whether material or immaterial (including states of mind), arises and exists for a period of time due to causes, so there is nothing eternal, unchanging, existing forever. So, there is no eternal, unchanging self. (Before Buddha's time, spiritual teachers commonly taught, and it was commonly believed, that the "true self" is everlasting. Buddha taught that this is absolutely not true. Yet, this is still commonly taught and believed by Thai Buddhists.) Everything, whether material or immaterial (including states of mind) will sooner or later disappear.
20. All material things in this world occur as a result of causes. So, there is no material thing that has the condition of being permanent, unchanging forever.
21. The bodies of all living creatures, human and animal, come into existence, and exist for a period of time, because of causes. (That is, due to food, water, heat, and air.) As soon as the causes no longer exist, these bodies will no longer exist as they once were, or, these bodies will die. So, the bodies of all living creatures are not an everlasting self. We can conclude that these bodies are ephemeral, temporary, and that they are things that we mistakenly suppose to be eternal.
22. The minds of all living creatures, human and animal, come into existence, and exist for a period of time, because of causes. (That is, there is a living body, thus giving rise to a mind that can know and feel things. Also, the living body allows memory to exist, giving rise to the possibility for humans to remember, and to think.) When the causes disappear, the mind will also immediately disappear. So, the minds of living creatures are not an everlasting self. We can conclude that these minds are ephemeral, temporary, and that they are things that we mistakenly suppose to be eternal.
23. We can conclude that there is no thing, and no state of mind that we can say is an everlasting, eternal self, because everything exists simply because of causes. Because everything arises due to causes, when those causes disappear, the things that arise because of them will also disappear. This expresses the impermanent nature of absolutely everything, whether material or immaterial (including states of mind).
24. Everything that arises depends on causes for it to exist, and during the time it is in existence, it struggles to maintain existence. It may struggle a lot or it may struggle only a little, but it struggles just the same. Of course it can only maintain its existence temporarily and will eventually no longer exist.
25. An ignorant mind doesn't understand that nothing, especially body and mind, is a self in the sense of an everlasting self. This mind also doesn't know that everything struggles to maintain stasis. This mind will cling to other impermanent things. As those things change in ways that don't please, the mind will helplessly experience dukkha.
26. When we've studied to the point of understanding that "that is not me", we take that understanding and contemplate body and mind (and of others). Doing this steadfastly and over a sustained period of time, the mind can become firmly settled in samadhi. This samadhi will dissolve the attachment to body or mind as our self (even if only temporarily).
27. When we don't attach to the idea that there is a self, which is the root of all dukkha, there will naturally be no dukkha. When the mind does not experience dukkha, the opposite state, a peaceful coolness (Nibbana), naturally arises in place of dukkha.
28. In every moment that we practice such that wisdom and samadhi arise, Nibbana will appear in those moments. But whenever we let wisdom and samadhi fade, dukkha will return. In so far as we practice so that wisdom and samadhi are continually present over a long period of time, until the attachment (which is deep within our subconscious) to this body and mind as our self slips away once and for all, Nibbana will appear and not fade away.
29. To sum up the principles of Buddhism: to attach to body and mind as one's self, and to things as belonging to one's self, the mind will experience dukkha. But with wisdom we will not attach to anything as one's self or belonging to one's self, the mind will not experience dukkha. To understand just this much is to understand all of Buddhism. To practice just this much is to practice all of Buddhism. And, to realize just these results is to realize the results of all of Buddhism.
By : Techapanyo phikku
(Translator : Troy Santos. Email : firstname.lastname@example.org 28 October 2011)