The Buddha’s teachings is the Dhamma. Dhamma is the doctrine of reality. Dhamma is the original Pali term for 'Buddhism'. Dhamma closely translates to English as 'that which upholds and sustains'. The Dhamma is to be realised by oneself or a teaching to be practiced until self-realisation (enlightenment) occurs.
The Buddhas (Thathagathas) are teachers of the path to enlightenment. Gautama Buddha, 623BC-543BC (also known as Siddhartha Gautama or Shakyamuni Buddha) is the Buddha of this age. There have been 27 other Buddhas ('the enlightened ones') in the ages and eons past.
The Buddha-Dhamma is a moral and philosophical system that offers a unique path to enlightenment. Its salient characteristics are the middle path (i.e. avoiding extremes), meditation and service: where 'Do no harm', 'Do good' and 'Purify one's mind' are in essence the practice of the Buddha-Dhamma.
In the devotional practice of the Buddha-Dhamma, a person pays homage to what the object represents. For example, the image of the Buddha is a symbol of the Dhamma, the Bodhi tree is a symbol of enlightenment and a flower offered is a symbol of the transient nature of reality. In this moral-philosophical system there are no gods that can lead to one's salvation. Instead, one comes to the understanding that "By oneself is one purified; by oneself is one defiled." It is up to us to know the path and walk the path.
The Buddha described Three Worldly Conditions:
- Anithya (annica) - Impermanence: Worldly things are subject to change
- Dukkha - Sorrowful is samsara and the mundane world
- Anathma (anatta) - The non-existence of a permanent soul.
[Because worldly things are constantly changing, our attachment to changing things eventually leads to dukkha, which translates as 'sorrow' or 'that which is difficult to be endured'].
Dukkha - 'Sorrowfulness' or 'that which is difficult to be endured'.
- Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, illness is dukkha, death is dukkha [Samsara is dukkha]
- Sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are dukkha;
- Association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha
- Not getting what is wanted is dukkha
In conclusion, the five clinging-aggregates are subject to dukkha:
- Rupa - form (matter or body)
- Vedana - sensations (feelings, received from form)
- Samjna - perceptions
- Sankhara - mental activity or formations
- Vijnana - consciousness
The foundations of Dhamma are the Four Nobel Truths:
- First truth: The existence of dukkha ('sorrow'),
- Second truth: The existence of the cause of dukkha, which is thanha ('attachment' or 'craving')
- Third truth: The existence of Nibbana (nirvana) - the reality of the complete cessation to dukkha
- Fourth truth: The existence of an eight fold path to the cessation of dukkha (i.e. the achievement of Nibbana)
Nibbana (nirvana or sublime bliss) is a supermundane state that is beyond space and time. It is a state where causal conditions no longer exist.
The complete cessation of dukkha (i.e. the achievement of Nibbana) is possible through the understanding and practice of non-attachment through the Noble 8 fold path.
The Noble Eight Fold Path leads to the complete cessation of dukkha (i.e. the achievement of nibbana)
The Noble Eight Fold Path:
SILA - Morality
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
SAMADHI - Concentration
4. Right Effort
5. Right Mindfulness
6. Right Concentration
PANNA - Wisdom
7. Right Understanding
8. Right Thoughts
The three unwholesome roots - ('The three poisons')
- Raga - Greed and sensual attachment
- Dvesha - Aversion and hate
- Moha [Avidya] - Ignorance and delusion
These three roots are the three afflictions or character flaws innate in a being. They give rise to thanha ('attachement' or 'craving'), which gives rise to dukkha (suffering) and rebirths. The three unwholesome roots are destroyed by sila, samadhi and panna of the Noble 8 fold path.
The ultimate goal of Nibbana is achieved through the practice of the Dhamma: through the middle path (i.e. avoiding extremes), meditation and service: 'Do no harm', 'Do good' and 'Purify one's mind'.
The Five Precepts ('Do no harm')
- Do not kill
- Do not steal
- Do not engage in inappropriate sexual relations (i.e. sexual misconduct)
- Do not engage in false speech (lying, gossip, slander, harsh words, ill-will, ambiguity, arrogance etc.)
- Do not take intoxicants (e.g. alcohol and other substances that alter perception)
The Four Sublime Virtues ('Do good')
- Mettha - Loving-kindness
- Karuna - Compassion
- Muditha - Appreciative joy
- Upekka - Equanimity
The Ten Transcendental Virtues - Dasa Paramitha
- Dana - generosity, giving of oneself
- Sila - virtue, morality, proper conduct
- Nekkhamma - renunciation
- Panna - transcendental wisdom, insight
- Viriya - energy, diligence, vigour, effort
- Khanti - patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
- Sacca - truthfulness, honesty
- Adhitthana - determination, resolution
- Metta - goodwill, friendliness, loving-kindness
- Upekkha - equanimity, serenity
The Noble Eight Fold Path:
1 Samma Ditthi - Right Understanding- Knowledge of the four Noble Truths.
2 - Samma Samkappa - Right Thoughts- Eliminating evil thoughts and developing pure thoughts: Nekkhamma (non-attachment and selflessness), Avyapada/Mettha (Loving-kindness and goodwill) and Avihimsa/Karuna (harmlessness and compassion)
3 - Samma Vaca - Right Speech- Refrain from false speech (lying, gossip, slander, harsh words etc.)
4 - Samma - Kammanta - Right Action- Refrain killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.
5 - Samma Ajiva - Right LivelihoodRefraining from the trade in arms, trade human beings, trade in flesh (i.e. breeding of animals purely for slaughter), trade in intoxicants and trade in poisons
6 - Samma Vayama - Right Effort- Discard evil that has already arisen, prevent the arising of unarisen evil, develop unarisen good and promote good which has already arisen.
7 - Samma Sati - Right Mindfulness- Constant mindfulness with regard to the body, feelings, thoughts and mind objects.
8 - Samma Samadhi - Right Concentration- One pointedness of the mind. To see things as they really are.
"Subject to change are all component things. Strive with diligence."- The Buddha
- The Buddha and his Teachings - Narada Thera- The Buddhavamsa- Kalama sutra
Unlike religions of the world that are based on faith, the moral-philosophical system that is the Buddha-Dhamma encourages freedom of thought and mindfulness, and empowers the individual to seek the truth through contemplation.
The following is an extract from the Kalama Sutra which illustrates this:
“Do not accept anything merely because you have heard it or repeatedly heard it. Do not accept anything merely because it has been handed down through the generations. Do not accept anything merely because it is spoken and rumoured by the many. Do not accept anything merely because it is found written in your scriptures. Do not accept anything by mere supposition. Do not accept anything by mere inference. Do not accept anything merely on appearance.
Do not accept anything merely because it agrees with your preconceived notions. Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable.
Do not accept anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
This contemplative is our teacher. ...
When you know for yourselves, such things are unwholesome, blameworthy, censured by the wise and when practiced, leads to ruin or sorrow (of one or all) then indeed reject them.
And when you know for yourselves, such things are wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise and when practiced, leads to wellbeing and happiness (of one and all) then embrace it and live up to it”.
- Shakyamuni Buddha (Kalama sutra)