The purpose of instantkarma.org.uk is:
To promote and promulgate those ideas that came about in India circa 400-500 BCE (or 400-500 B.C.) as a result of the personal investigations made by Siddhattha Gotama, the historical Buddha, into the true nature of self.
Who was the Buddha ?
Siddhattha Gotama is the Buddha's given name. "Buddha" is a title meaning the "awakened one" or "the enlightened one" which Siddhattha Gotama became known by and which signifies his having achieved the most perfect state of peace and harmony possible in which one's mind becomes imperturbable by greed, hatred or delusion. Such a state of peace and harmony can only come about when one sees one's own human condition with perfect clarity and to achieve this one must remove all obstacles to such clarity. Siddhattha Gotama rooted out these obstacles and rid himself of them once and for all and then preceded to pass the knowledge he had gained onto all who came seeking.
These obstacles are known by various names due to the complex nature of the human condition. There are the Three Unwholesome Roots, The Five Hindrances, The Ten Fetters and The Ten Defilements. The enumaration of defilements is a complex matter since they encompass all negative mental and emotional states and include Unwholesome Roots, The Hindrances and The Fetters. Furthermore lobha or greed encompasses desire, attachment, covetousness, clinging, thirst and passion to name a few. Thus it can be seen that these terms include conditions that encompass a wide array of conditions of varying levels of grossness and subtlety, consequently, a more comprehensive enumeration of defilements (in the Abhidhamma) consists of 108 states or conditions.
Three Unwholesome Roots so called because they are considered to be the cause of all suffering. They are greed or attachment (lobha), hatred or repulsion, also ill-will and anger (dosa) and delusion or confusion (moha).
The Five Hindrances are mental factors that hinder progress in meditation and in our daily lives.
Ill will (vyapada) ...
Sensory desire (kamacchanda) is the latching onto thoughts or feelings based on the pleasures of the five senses
Sensory desire (kamacchanda) is the latching onto thoughts or feelings based on the pleasures of the five senses Ill will (vyapada).
Sloth-torpor (thina-middha) is physical and mental laziness respectively.
To properly understand these terms and the concepts behind them it is best to read from the original texts so that one can see how they are used in context, in other words in the way they were used or explained by the Buddha and the particular explanations being made at the time of the various teachings.
How did he become the Buddha ?
The Buddha to be was born a prince and lived a life of luxury and indulgence, though he eventually tired of the shallowness of such a life and became vexed by the sufferings of humanity. Tormented by the apparent futility of the human condition he sought true peace and happiness and left his home and family to lead the life of a sadhu in search for truth and a means to overcome the sufferings of humanity.
For six years he searched, initially endeavouring to gain the wisdom of the teachings of the great spiritual masters of his day. He sought out two of the most respected, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta. Having achieved such advanced states of mental and emotional discipline and calm, known as the "Five Strengths" or the "Five Spiritual Faculties":
Five Strengths or the Five Spiritual Faculties
Faith or Conviction (saddhā)
- Effort or Persistence (viriya)
Mindfulness or Awareness (sati)
- Concentration or One-Pointedness (samādhi)
- Wisdom or Discernment (pañña)
Siddhattha Gotama approached Alara Kalama to be taught spiritual practices leading to what is known as akimcanya ayatana, "The experience of nothingness" or the state of no-thing-ness. Uddaka Ramaputra, taught spiritual practices leading to what is known as naiva saṃjñā, "The experience of conscious unconsciousness". These levels of achievement are of most sublime in nature and bring a state of peace and harmony to one's mental and emotional faculties unknown to ordinary conscious awareness.
The spiritual states that these practices lead to are also known (respectively) as the first seven levels of jhana and the eighth (immaterial) jhana. These are often compared (some say correspond) to ecstatic or rapturous states or levels of sainthood within other faiths and are in this regard within the realms of the highest level of perfection of the human condition that are achievable or to put it another way, within the realms of the greatest level of peace and wisdom possible. However, being within the realm of greatest level of peace and wisdom possible is still a mere distraction compared to that greatest level of peace and wisdom. It is still disatisfactory, for until one's abode is that purest peace and that purest wisdom, one cannot be without disatisfaction. One remains wanting. One suffers, albeit so subtly, one mistakes it for pleasure, until one's awareness is so sublime it roots out all forms of suffering no matter how subtle, hidden or deep rooted.
Why are these states or conditions considered to be such great achievements ? Some might say that going out into the world and producing great works of art or engineering (or getting the buses to run on time) are far more laudable than sitting on one's backside contemplating one's navel. Crude though the expression is, many a folk can identify with this sentiment, what is the point of such a self-absorbed pursuit as "spiritual practice" ? There is a very good reason why many ordinary people (and even those considered extraordinary) identify with this point of view, because on the surface it appears to be a rather unproductive pursuit. However, the whole point of almost all spiritual practices are, initially, to improve one's mental, emotional and psychological condition. This invariably leads to happier more fullfilled states of being. Improving oneself in this way also invariably improves one's ability to achieve those more practical pursuits and yet the spiritual exercises that allow one to achieve this seem incredibly simple in themselves since they rely upon the simple exercise of a single-pointed focus of awareness upon one's inner being. Furthermore, what good is compassion without wisdom, one might say possibly downright destructive. It has been wisely stated that 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions' and 'that fools rush in where angels fear to tread', for if we wish to achieve good works either for ourselves or others surely we must endeavour to do so wisely. It may be considered equally as valid to consider the inverse, what good is wisdom without compassion. However, on closer inspection on the true nature of these most laudable qualities, it will be found that one cannot truly exist without the other, they are in actual fact mutually interdependant. Many may consider that wisdom can exist without compassion, though it can invariably be shown in such instances that wisdom is being mistaken for intellect.
Even though human society and its various institutions are meant to have a positive effect on the development of the human being, the haphazard way in which we learn and develop (which inevitably forge our "personality" or "character") through the jumble of influences from the wide variety of sources such as our parents, peers, education and (worst of all) the media, our personalities are, in the end, random, chaotic and accidental. There is at present in the "West" no exact science for human character or personality development. This may be because the very idea of mental development techniques organised around an intitutionalised base would cause concerns of mass brainwashing, especially if the final aim or purpose of any such scheme was not properly defined or defined along the lines of the creation of individuals that are more efficient functioning "social instruments" and any state-based institution would, in all likelihood only ever be able to offer aims as vague as these without alienating any particular social group. However the present scenario is that most people are left with trying to be the best sort of person they can be and this is usually only ever some vague aim, since education, career and peer and relationship (not to mention financial and social) pressures all play a part in undermining any personal ideal (for our self) that we may harbour or attempt to develop to the extent to which we develop our career or academic skills. Generally, human society's remit tends towards pragmatism and is not geared towards improving human nature, per se. That's usually left to the individual and occasionally the law courts. Consequently there is no methodology for the perfection of human nature in a secular society, despite the perfection people seek to achieve in the arts, sciences and engineering, etcetera. The thought of this occurring within politics is also laudable, but alas laughable. Put into this perspective it is ludicrous then that any so called civil-isation does not have something that attempts to assist its people with such laudable aims. Therefore the only "salvation" for humankind would truly seem to be what we "do" with ourselves and how we treat each other. This remit has always been at the heart of any true spiritual practice.
In his pursuit for the means to true peace and wisdom the Buddha discovered that the human condition has a tendency toward personal deceit on a level unsurpassed by the devil himself. Our very nature depends upon senses, feelings, perceptions, thoughts, memories and imaginations that fool us into believing that at the core of our being is a rock solid immovable, eternal thing, we call or imagine as "self". We do this because it is easier to see than our true essence of being, this is because our true essence of being can only be known by way of such subtleties of awareness that it is beyond normal comprehension and is hidden behind all the constructions of character we create for pragmatic purposes. Constructions consisting of all our angers, fears, frustrations, pet-hates, delusions and ill-fated presumptions. Our true nature is far more dynamic and creative than we ever dreamed possible, unfortunately the insecurities and conceit we develop thoughout our lives (which are inextricably bound up with our constructions of character or personality) stifle our ability to face our true dynamism and creativity because these (true) aspects of our being do not sit pretty with the conception of a core "self" that is something solid, immovable, unchanging and above all immortal, for despite the fact that we may accept intellectually that we are mortal, emotionally we do not. In stark contrast to our conceptions of "self" is the truth of our "being", since reality is not a "static-state universe" and neither are we, reality is dynamism as we are ourselves. Our existence is as dynamic as a flowing river and we cannot hold on to any part of it, thus we cannot find solace or refuge in anything we consider "permanent", this is delusory, the only true refuge is the peace we find in truth and the wisdom of accepting reality in place of the false hope of the illusion that ignorance brings.
Assuming these statements are true (and in the words of the Buddha "ma itikiraya" i.e. do not go by hearsay, in other words, don't take my word for it) since they can be verified by investigation of the true nature of being, how does one verify such statements ? Answer: through the investigation of the phenomena of being itself, to be exact, the investigation of kaya (body), vedana (feeling or sensation), citta (mind or consciousness) and dhamma (mind objects). With these investigations come an understanding and realisation of such profundity it is truly astonishing, the realisation of what is known as the three marks of existence. To explain it in words may or may not carry much gravity, it all depends on our past experiences, and what these have taught us. However, the three marks of existence is what we begin to perceive through the direct investigations that we make upon our body, sensations, consciousness and mind-objects. The three marks of existence are Annica (impermanence), Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness) and Anatta (non-substantiality). The three marks of existence once we become aware of them brings an understanding of the truth of our own dynamic nature and the futility of seeking solace in anything that is fleeting and the awareness that refuge can only lie in understanding truth and wisdom for only here does true peace arise. To achieve any headway in any of these pursuits one must learn to still the mind, for it is a fact that the mind is of such unknown territory it is quite bewildering. Until we examine the mind in a careful, patient, compassionate and disciplined manner we are completely oblivious to its truly haphazard nature.
Meditation In General
The English word meditation comes from the latin meditatio which means to think over or to contemplate a subject. However the act of meditating whether from from an eastern perspective or from a Christian point of view such as in contemplative prayer is not at all the same kind of act. The former is to engage in a thought process, whereas the latter is rather the opposite in the sense that one develops a skill in which one stills the mind in order to focus upon an object exclusively in order quell the mind from darting around, to still it and remain with that object so that the mind becomes calm.
In Buddhism there are many terms related to both these mental processes but usually when people use the word meditation in the latter form of mental exercise it is typically a translation of either sati (mindfulness) or jhāna (an extremely collected and absorbed mental state).
Stilling the Mind and Heart
The aspect of spiritual practice that leads to a stilling of the mind and heart within the Buddhist tradition is typically known as śamatha, which means "to become calm" or "to dwell in tranquility" and is achieved through a deep and absorbed level of concentration of mindful awareness by preventing distractions from being affective. Śamatha is akin to many other practices within various other traditions, such as aṣṭanga and rāja yoga for the development of dhāraṇā (likewise a form of deep and absorbed level of concentration) within Hinduism. Similarly, contemplatio or contemplative prayer in Christianity or Hesychasm (from hesychia meaning “stillness”) within the Greek Orthodox Church, ding as "intent contemplation" or "perfect absorption" in Daoism and kavana in the Kabbalah of the Jewish mystical tradition.
Regardless of the tradition or the various techniques within any particular school the purpose is to bring the attention to a single object in order to prevent the mind from darting around. This darting around is often referred to in Buddhism as the monkey mind in the sense that, like monkeys that jump from branch to branch in a tree, our minds move from thought to thought, idea to idea, memory to memory and thought to idea to memory to thought and back and forth again and again, over and over. In fact, bewildering as it may seem, on average the mind will flit between approximately 50,000 thoughts each day.
Furthermore each "one" of those thoughts can be broken down into thousands of separate instances known as "mind-moments". These "mind-moments" or citta can only be "known" or perceived through a highly developed practice of insight meditation (vippasana) and insight practice can only be achieved after a certain level of calm has been developed.
The above descriptions of mind-moments pertain to what can be achieved with a certain level of mental discipline and cultivation of Buddhist meditation practice known as dhamma vicaya or investigating or discrimination of phenomena. The point of which is the development of wisdom or intuitive knowledge known more colloquially as "seeing things as they are" or a direct perception of reality without distortion.
This is akin to looking into a pool of water that is both perfectly clear and perfectly still. Unfortunately the average mind tends to be more like a pool that is disturbed by a whole array of disturbances rather like the pool of water that cannot be looked into due to stormy weather causing the surface to become turbulent due to the great waves taht thrash about the surface. Disturbances can also be caused due to turbulances at deeper levels within the pool of water itself, such great sharks or other creatures moving within its depths or sea weed blocking the view. Even deeper levels of disturbances could be due to volcanic eruptions beneath the surface of the waterbed. All of these disturbances and turbulences have equivalences of the kind of mental and emotional disturbances that inhibit our abilities to develop our meditaion practice and this is why is is good to have some kind of guide be that a text or a teacher.
Thus in order to be able to "see" into the true nature of our mind (and consequently, ultimate reality) with insight (vipassana) we first need to develop some level of calm (śamatha).
The stilling of the mind is achieved by a very seemingly simple act of bringing our attention or awareness onto a single object, such as the breath. So as we breathe we place our mind or awareness onto the breath as it enters and leaves our body via the nose. However, it we be more condusive to set ourselves up for calmness by ensuring that we will not be disturbed while attempting to cultivate a calm mind and heart. This we do by choosing a place suitable for this and a posture in that place that is equally suitable. Posture is as important as the immediate environment. A sitting posture with a straight, unsupported back is best. Whether this is sat on the floor on a cushion or on a chair does not matter, what matters that once we have found a comfortable (but not so comfortable that we slouch or become drowsy) position. If one normally suffers from pain whilst sitting up straight then a more supportive position would probably be more condusive. Lighting should be neither too dim nor too bright and if one wishes to light incence this can help create the right mood or atmosphere.
Developing the Mind and Heart
Insight (Vipassana) and Divine Abodes (Brahma Viharas)
The kind of practice that leads to the development of specific qualities of heart and mind such as the eradication of unwholesome conditions and the active development of wholesome states includes both insight practices and the bramha viharas. Insight practices are used in the development of wisdom, in the sense that one improves one's ability to "see" with greater and more subtle levels of intuitive and experiential knowledge of the workings and origins of various mental and emotional conditions that determine our responses to our mundane (worldly) and supramundane (higher spiritual attainments) experiences. The bramha viharas (literally "divine abodes") are four in number: Metta (loving-kindness), Karuna (compassion), Mudita (sympathetic-joy) and Upekkha (equnimity)
The reason why the bramha-viharas are called "abodes" is because they are states or conditions that we exist in or can exist in, if we dvelop them within ourselves. There are specific meditation techniques that allow us to develop these states so that we become more adept at encouraging and improving our abilities to dwell in these states or conditions. States and conditions that are considered to be wholesome, as oposed to dwelling in states or conditions that are unwholesome. The table below relays the relationship between the wholesome states and those unwholesome states and conditions that undermine the brahma viharas. However, developing the brahma viharas undermine our propensity to engage in the unwholesome states and conditions.
Spiritual practices usually consist of two general pursuits:
- Stilling or focussing one's mind or thoughts (and consequently one's feelings and emotions)
- Developing positive mental/emotional states and eradicating negative mental/emotional states
The first pursuit uses simple exercises that trains one to focus single-pointedly on an object to the absolute exclusion of everything else. The point being, that until one attempts to do this one simple act, do we realise how difficult a thing it is, since we are not really used to examining the contents of our mind with such discipline. Yet it quickly becomes apparent that our minds are, generally speaking, rarely ours. Now this may sound like an odd statement, but in fact it is not. Our thoughts, once examined are found to be incredibly fleeting, chaotic and whimsical with as much direction and purpose as would appear a housefly, flitting around seemingly purposelessly. Sights, sounds, smells, memories, all darting in and out, coming and going like a kaleidoscopic menagerie as if they have a life of their own, which on examination they quite evidently do. Strange as this sounds the contents of our mind are at the beck and call of both internal and external stimuli, through our five senses and the mind itself. We ourselves do so very little of the directing, that, once we become aware of this, it is quite surprising ! However, after some success has been achieved in focussing the mind and allowing it a greater measure of purposeful direction, a level of calm and confidence, unlike anything typically experienced, ensues. Especially since for once in the whole of our lives do we realise that we have some measure of purposeful control over the contents of our own mind. This is such a shocking revelation, that only through directed, disciplined meditations or contemplation, do we ever have any proper, sustained control over our own minds, that it is equally incredible, that the western scientific disciplines concerned with the human mind and human behaviour, such as psychology, psychiatry, neurology, sociology and cognitive science pay so little attention to such important facts. Fortunately this is beginning to change and at long last western science may be (truly) becoming enlightened in that it is allowing itself to turn it's gaze upon itself, that is to say the true nature of our own reality.
Now the point of this first exercise, as incredibly useful as it is in and of itself, as a spiritual exercise it is merely a stepping stone to a far greater purpose. That of giving us the ability to improve the human condition, to have an overall better nature, in that we become much less disturbed creatures, more human, less animal. The removal of greed, envy, averice, worry, ill-will, anger and the development of modesty, discretion, composure, equanimity and eventually true (some might say perfect) insight into the nature of our own being. It is also through such insights into the true nature of our own being that we come to see the true nature of all phenomena by experiencing it directly first hand, without the distortion of ignorance or distorted perspectives brought about by the taints of negative mental or emotional states.
|To use an analogy here, consider looking into a crystal clear pool of water in order to see the water bed, on which the water rests. If the water is still, and undisturbed and there is nothing clouding the water or blocking the view of the water bed, then the view of the water bed will be as clear as it could possibly be.
|If the surface of the water is disturbed by wind, rain or the wake of an object moving across the water's surface then the water may still be clear, especially if the disturbance hasn't affected the depth of the water down to the water bed. However, although the water itself is clear, the surface disturbances causes waves that prevent the waterbed being seen as clearly as it was originally when the water was still. Such disturbances may not block the view of the waterbed, but it may distort its view to such an extent that it can hardly be seen.
|Likewise, if there are objects in the water, below the surface this may prevent the view of the waterbed being as clear as it could be, either by causing waves within the water itself or by physically blocking the view of the waterbed. If the objects within the water are deep enough then the view of the waterbed may even be obscurred due to the waterbed being stirred up causing not only the waterbed to be disturbed and distorted, but also additionally the water itself being polluted and clouded by the waterbed mixing with the water.
|Another scenario that could affect the view of the waterbed would be that the water was disturbed, distorted and/or obscurred either by volcanic or seismic activity or hot springs from below the waterbed. Such turbulance from deep below the waterbed itself would not just distort the view of the waterbed, due to waves and the stirring of the waterbed, but also the very waterbed itself would become distorted and the water would also become polluted.
Now this analogy has been taken to quite an extent and in considerable detail, so much so that some may consider this to be a little tedious. However, for each and every scenario presented there is an counterpart to the nature of our own minds and emotions that warrants such detail and is testament the incredible level of understanding that the Buddha had of human nature and the intracies of our minds and emotions, that I will reiterate, puts modern day psychology and psychiatry to shame, considering it was almost two and a half millenia (millenia, not centuries) apart.
All the causes of disturbances both within and out of the water that prevent a clear view of the water can be likened to all the negative mental/emotional states or conditions that we can be afflicted with. Unfortunately, without knowing what is causing the disturbances, the afflictions cannot be dealt with. To some, the thought of delving into such depths may seem more than a little harrowing, yet for others it may be an exciting, even exhilarating, challenge. For those that find the prospect daunting, some words of comfort. It is typically found that those with meditative and contemplative experience report overall that the mere examination of the depths of one's thoughts and emotions, as long as this is done free of emotive response, that is to say, one does not get caught up in the content of what one examines, i.e. one merely notes the contents of one's thoughts or type of emotions passively and merely watch them come and go, any disturbance they once caused, ceases. It is almost as if our mental or emotional afflictions act like childish attention seekers in a tantrum. They eventually calm down when they realise the tantrum doesn't bring attention because one completely ignores them and the tantrum. That is exactly how these disturbances seem to "react", they thrive off attention and response. Don't respond and they dissipate. This has not only been noted by contemplatives, saints, mystics and meditators thoughout the ages, but also quite recently by likes of Oxford professors researching ways and means to treat depression (known as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy). Several prisons across the world (both India and the United States) that have suffered due to the extreme levels of violence and corruption have also benefitted from a practice known as Insight Meditation. Thus these skills have been used not only for the advancement of ordinary minds to find serenity and peace but also to help troubled even disturbed minds find peace and equanimity.
Once much of these skills have been aquired, we are literally on the path to sainthood. For one to respond with "who wants to be a boring goody two-shoes" is truly a wretched condition, since one is denying oneself true peace of mind. Surely it is better to be "better" from ailments than afflicted and disturbed. For in contrast to a state of true peace of mind is that endless fly-like quality constantly darting around chasing continuously interrupted half-whims of which the origins we aren't even consciously aware of, so subtle and deeply buried they are. The endless pursuit of the excitement of attempting to satisfy desires that once achieved will eventually fade to dreary memories can bring nothing but disappointment. No matter what we own, no matter how much material wealth we achieve, however brilliant a career we have, only truly deep insights into our very being and the advancement of that being can bring true happiness, since until we do achieve true insight, we will be bogged down by negative states that we don't even realise are consuming us. Until we succeed in overcoming our deep mental and emotional afflictions we will never be able to achieve our full potential. Thus it is that spiritual practices are truly worthwhile endeavours.
The spiritual practices found within Buddhism stems from the discoveries made by Siddhattha Gotama whilst perfecting the teachings of many great spiritual teachers of his day, culminating in the mastery of Alara Kalama's and Uddaka Ramaputra's, yet he remained dissatisfied, doubtlessly respecting that timeless maxim "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing", since he understood that these great spiritual achievements were, in essence, transient and therefore, ultimately at the least a distraction, despite their lofty heights.
The two esteemed masters requested Siddhattha join them to teach their respective meditation techniques, but Siddhattha knew that there was more to learn and decided to strive further, since the techniques he had learnt did not help achieve that perfect peace he was in search of.
The Buddha-to-be realised that he could not learn true wisdom from others, but rather, he had to strive for and within himself. Thus he took his ascetic practices to as far as one possibly could, eventually reaching a point of such extremity that he was almost at the point of death and yet he had still not achieved his goal. Siddhattha had gone from one extreme to another. He had begun his life as an over indulged prince with every whim satisfied and become the most advanced practitioner of the most extreme forms of asceticism and neither one nor the other had brought him true peace.
However, remembering, from long ago, a state of meditative peace and equanimity that he once naturally entered as a child he decided to employ a middle way of neither over-indulgence nor extreme asceticism and through his meditative practices he vowed to sit at the foot of a Peepal tree and meditate until he found the truth that achieves perfect peace. This he did, after 49 days, through a meditative practice that leads to an understanding of the true nature of the mind and also, eventually, of all conditioned phenomena. A method of spiritual training that leads to a direct understanding of the true nature of self and all existence, ascending to the pinnacle of human wisdom and peace. Thus he became the Buddha, one with perfect peace, perfect insight and perfect compassion.
On achieving liberation from suffering, the goal that Siddhattha Gotama set out to achieve, the Buddha found that this goal was inextricably linked with the eradication of ignorance, desire and hatred. Or to put it another way, the development of wisdom, detachment and compassion. Understanding the true nature of our being leads to the development of wisdom and thus the eradication of ignorance, which in turn shows us how it is our hungers and desires are the source of all our suffering, since the very nature of that which we desire is fleeting, impermanent and essentially nonsubstantial. Just as the nature of our very minds are fleeting, such is the nature of our desires and the objects of our desires. No sooner do we achieve or aquire what we have long craved for, our desires fade as does the attractive qualities of that once desired. The eradication of ignorance and the development of wisdom also leads to an understanding of our basic and therefore universal need for peace and happiness, the liberation from suffering that drove the Buddha to his goal. In understanding our basic nature to be free from suffering and the realisation that as a basic aspect to our being it is also necessarily universal we are therefore led to the sublime illumination of the interconnectedness of all beings, the suffering of one is the suffering of all. Therefore, the eradication of ignorance and the development of wisdom is equivalent to the eradication of hatred and the development of compassion and also the eradication of desire and the development of detachment. From a western perspective the "development of detachment" may sound cold or heartless, when in fact it is quite the opposite for it is the single most compassionate action we can employ; to eradicate blind desires since they are the source of all our sufferings, and learning how to detach ourselves from such blind desires and cravings lead us to a state of mind that that has such great depth, clarity and truly deep understanding, that any concern, care or compassion we have for either ourselves or others goes way beyond any shallow or superficial sentimentality.
Thus it is that the nature of reality is shown to have, what in Buddhism is called, the three marks of existence (tilakkhaṇa), specifically:
impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and nonsubstantiality.
These marks essentially point to the hard truths of reality, in that all conditioned phenomena (i.e. anything and everything that exists as a result of some cause) is by nature impermanent and nonsubstantial, in that it is dependant upon other phenomena for its existence, i.e. all observed phenomena is neither absolute nor pure in substance and consequently, by definition, unsatisfactory, since (by definition and by its innate nature) it cannot bring lasting happiness or comfort. For a fuller explanation (and to place tilakkhaṇa in proper context)
At the core of Buddha's teaching, and (allegedly) the very first thing uttered by the Buddha following his enlightenment (bodhi), is the Four Noble Truths (cattāri ariyasaccāni):
The Four Noble Truths
- The Noble Truth of Suffering (Dukkha Ariya Sacca)
- The Noble Truth of the Origin of Dukkha (Dukkha Samudaya Ariya Sacca)
- Noble Truth of the Cessation of Dukkha (Dukkha Nirodha Ariya Sacca)
- Noble Truth of the Way to the cessation of Dukkha (Dukkha Nirodha-Gamini Patipada Ariya Sacca)
The Noble Truth Of Suffering (Dukkha Ariya Sacca)
Dukkha is often rendered into English as "suffering", however, dukkha encompasses a far broader concept to which the term "suffering" cannot. It also alludes to a depth of subtlety that is rarely, truly discerned. The subtlety of the true nature of reality, most of which one typically considers pleasant, is only considered pleasant due to a profound ignorance that can be fathomed only through equally profound and subtle insights. Thus the terms "ill-ease", "dis-ease" and "unsatisfactoriness" are often employed as alternative renderings.
However, the root meaning of du-kkha, "dus" and "kha", originate from "bad" and "ether" or "space" respectively (the latter in reference to the space or gap of an axle of a cart) "having a poor axle hole," leading to discomfort. Thus the root meaning of the word Dukkha originates with the concept of the discomfort one would experience from riding in a cart that had an uneven axel-hole on a wheel and consequently if we ourselves are not "aligned" correctly, we are disturbed or in discord with nature, we too will suffer in life.
What is it that is dukkha ? That is to say, what is this "suffering" ? In answering this the Buddha expounded thus:
"Suffering, as a noble truth, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; association with the loathed is suffering, dissassociation from the loved is suffering, not to get what one wants is suffering — in short, suffering is the five categories of clinging objects."
from the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (Setting Rolling the Wheel of Truth).
Understanding dukkha can be difficult due to its subtlety and profundity not least because one's ego prefers to deny its deeper more subtle existence for they are, to some extent, one and the same and a black sheep is a black sheep. However, it can be understood rather simply too in the sense that one's being can be compared to that of a cloth which can be considered clean or tainted and we as persons are very rarely untainted. Once we remove those negative aspects of being we rid ourselves of the causes of suffering, thus dukkha is the effect arising from our negative aspects, i.e. dukkha is the direct consequence of own negative baggage. Though it is important to realise that dukkha is not cause, it is effect.
One of the most misunderstood aspects of dukkha is that before it can erradicated it must first be known. I could have said "seen" but I decided to make the distinction a little more explicit since dukkha cannot be "seen" in a superficial manner for that is how it remains, by our inability to recognise its deepest most subtle aspects. Only when we see dukkha in this way can it be truly erradicated.
The Noble Truth Of The Origin Of Suffering (Dukkha Samudaya Ariya Sacca)
The word translated as "origin" is Samudaya, the roots of which is "sam" from "with", " ud" from "up" and "aya" from "to come", thus "with, up, to come". In transposing the grammar to English we have: "to come, up, with", thus one could say "where something comes from" or as is also used "arising" or "cause".
Therefore the Second Noble Truth is regards the origin, the arising or the cause of "Dukkha".
What is the "samudaya" of "dukkha", or the cause of suffering ? It is craving, thirst, desire (tanha), which in turn is the result of attachment, grasping, clinging (upadana).
The Way Leading To The Cessation Of Suffering
The teachings can be grouped as a three-fold path of practice: Morality/Virtue (Sila), Concentration/Calm-Abiding (Samatha) and Wisdom/Understanding (Paññā) encompassing the Noble Eightfold Path (ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo).
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path is a practical guide intended to assist one in achieving the peace and wisdom that the Buddha himself achieved. The Pali term "sammā" refers to that which assists one in in achieving the goal of the path, no more and no less. Consequently equivalant english synonyms are: Perfect, Right, Correct, Proper, Skillful, Wholesome. However, some of these english terms carry connotations that are more than a little misleading. For example "right" is used in the sense of correct, as opposed to "not bad", thus when translating "sammā" to "right" it is not meant in regard to any sense of "moral correctness" (as in righteous), but more in the sense of "the proper way to do something for a specific purpose". The purpose is: the perfection of being through the e/fontemquot;, /spanfont color="#ffcc00"ight perfections.
- Right Speech (sammā-vācā)
- Right Action (sammā-kammanta)
- Right Livelihood (sammā-ājīva)
- Right Effort (sammā-vāyāma)
- Right Mindfulness (sammā-sati)
- Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi)
- Right Viewpoint/Thought (sammā-diṭṭhi)
- Right Intention (sammā sankappa)
Certainly the terms "speech", "action", "livelihood" and "intention" are well understood in the english-speaking world. However, these terms are, as always, an approximation since translation is rarely perfect between languages, thus some explanation is required.
The Three Marks of Existence, Dependant Origination, Interdependance, Compassion and Wisdom
Tilakkhaṇa (The three marks of existence) has already been alluded to in the approximate renderings impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and nonsubstantiality of the translations of the pali terms anicca, dukkha and anatta. Some commentators consider tilakkhaṇa to be the single most important aspect of the Buddha's teachings in that understanding this leads to an understanding of all aspects of the teachings and thus once these are truly understood, from a deep experiential perspective, enlightenment will surely ensue. In short, to gain knowledge deeply from, not only of one's day to day experience, but also one's moment-to-moment experiences, of the truth of the three marks of existence, one inevitably attains enlightenment in that one truly sees things as they are. One sees REALITY.
In the context of Dependant Origination (paticcasamuppāda) and Interdependence, anicca, ,
This term has already been explained in detail in relation to the Four Noble Truths, however, with regards to tilakkhaṇa (the three marks) in the broader sense of not just one's own existence, but in the context of Dependant Origination (paticcasamuppāda) and Interdependance.
Anatta (nonsubstantiality, no-self)
In the context of Dependant Origination (paticcasamuppāda) and Interdependence, anatta, refers to that which arises from or has some other as the cause of its being, thus it is conditioned, inessential in nature, in that it has no essential nature, since it is co-dependant on 'other' for its existence, it is compounded in nature. Consequently, that which is compounded, nonsubstantial, co-dependant and conditioned is also not-self.
Obstacles To The Perfect Peace & Wisdom Of Enlightenment
As already explained, the human condition is the result of a wide variety of influences, both personal and environmental, such as our peers, our upbringing and authority figures and forces and although most people develop into, what they believe to be an overall positive state, often referred to as "a good person" arrived at from a general, though mostly vague intention to be "good", as impressed upon us from the various influences this "overall positive state" is arrived at by haphazard or accidental means. Although there happens to be a vague intention to be "good" we are also plagued by many negative influences to greater or lesser degrees, though much of these negative influences are either ignored or poorly dealt with, due to either folly or fear. Some people are plagued more than others and many people may be acutely aware of (some, but most certainly not all) of these negative influences much to one's disatisfaction and may even lead to a most dreadful tendency of self-loathing, though we also have (as a kind of defence mechanism of ill-informed compassion for ourselves) methods of hiding or burying the self-loathing tendencies, creating a complex and tangled state of (personal) affairs. Many such defense mechanisms thrive on ignorance and lead to quite destructive tendencies that harm not just ourselves but others too, since quite often whilst failing to admit to our shortcomings we employ blame and aim it outwards to others.
Thus it is that we find ourselves to be a complex mix of what may be described as (to use a western concept) a sinner-saint. However, quite possibly one of the single-most important and decidedly cheerful aspects of Buddhist thought is that unlike most "religious philosophies" compassion extends to one's self for how can one grow or develop if one is not heart-warmingly concerned with one's self. Put in this way it seems rather obvious and yet whenever the idea of compassion is considered, it usually, almost exclusively, is in consideration to anyone or any-thing (creature) other than one's self. Almost as if compassion cannot have anything to do with one's self and yet this is quite plainly paradoxical, since how can one truly be compassionate, whilst engaging in self-loathing or self hatred. Is not compassion meant to be unconditional ? If it is not unconditional, then it is not true or real compassion and for compassion to be truly unconditional it most also, by definition, be totally unprejudiced. This being so, there cannot be room for self-loathing or hatred otherwise it is prejudicial against ourselves, thus it is that for us to be truly compassionate we must by definition include ourselves as worthy of compassion.
Unfortunately being so nice to ourselves (and others) is easier said than done quite simply because of that tangled mess referred to earlier. In order that the tangled mess be untangled we must first understand the nature of it, in finest of detail. Many wise and wonderful individuals have endeavoured, endured and enamoured themselves to this end, not least the Buddha and to be privy to such gains is a wonderful thing.
Yet another western concept lies in the expression "the devil is in the detail" and this is no truer than our own personal details, particularly if we consider that our path to peace, wisdom, clarity and kindness lies in conquering our demons and there is no bigger demon than the devil himself, the master of lies. Thus it is that the first step we must take is one of brutal honesty, with ourselves and look within, once we see that which holds us back from peace, wisdom, clarity and kindness we can overcome it and with it comes joy, happiness and equanimity.
So what are these obstacles ? They are those aspects of a persons being that are destructive to ourselves and others and lead to harm and disharmony. We have a natural tendency toward peace and happiness as opposed to conflict and distress, but quite often we can distort these positive tendencies towards unhealthy levels of excitement and even danger. The obstacles are specifically those mind-states and emotions that first harm us and most often eventually lead us to harm others, they are negative and destructive to one's peace of mind, specifically they are:
Taints, the gross defilements or corruptions, distortions or perversions, hindrances, the subtle defilements or latent tendencies, fetters or limitations.
Four Taints (āsava)
"Six" Corruptions (kilesa)
Four Distortions (vipallasa)
Five Hindrances (pañca nīvaraṇā)
Seven Latent tendencies (anusaya)
Ten Fetters (saṃyojana)
About "Instant Karma"
The phrase "instant karma", popularised by John Lennon whilst still in the Beatles, is a western term that borrows ideas from eastern thought, but the original concept from which it sprang has an altogether different meaning. The bottom line being, karma (deed, action or cause) became known as reward/punishment (consequence, effect, fruition)
This confusion arises since the idea of divine punishment, i.e. being punished for one's sins (by (the Judeo-Christian) God), is often directly translated to the Indian concept of kamma (pali, sanskrit: karma), which is more akin to the 'will behind an action' ("cause", as in "cause and effect") which leads to some result (the effect) and here lies the crux of the problem between eastern and western philosophies and how and why so much confusion arises. Since in the west kamma is often mistaken for the result (the effect) and not the 'volitional action' (the cause) to which kamma (or karma) references. The word karma is a sanskrit term that originates from the root "kam" meaning "to do" "to commit" or "to perform", thus karma literally means action.
A Note concerning Indian Languages (Pali is included in brackets following essential or difficult to translate terms for those who wish to study a little deeper)
Sanskrit is a liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Mahayana Buddhism, consequently it may be considered India's Latin. Pali is considered to be the closest language to which the Buddha orally transmitted his teachings. This language is known as Magadhi and was chosen specifically by the Buddha since it was the language of the common people, as opposed to Sanskrit, the language of Vedic Brahmanism, used and taught only to those of high caste. The Buddha was totally opposed to the caste system (even though he was born into one of the highest, the warrior caste) and considered Dhamma to be the birthright of all, thus it was that he transmitted his teachings in a language that cut across any and all cultural barriers ensuring that all he came across would benefit from his teachings.
Western Language and the
Western language and philosophy places considerable focus and perspective on external phenomena to the detriment of philosophies aimed at understanding the human condition and human nature, particularly the understanding of mind as a phenomena and as a set of experiences, especially as the basis to understanding ourselves, which for centuries in the west, was resolutely intertwined with the idea of soul. Additionally, the problem of how the mind interacted with the body, within classical western philosophy, was such an intractable problem, that this almost wholly distracted philosophers from attempting to understand how the mind itself functions and whether or not it could be nurtured, let alone how one may nurture it, so much so that, even though no one would deny how terribly useful such knowledge would be, it is almost wholly relegated to areas of scientific discipline that deal with the diseased or dysfunctional to this day. Furthermore, the fact that within the priesthood and monastics of the west, most likely inherited from the Judaic traditions of the Pharisees and Sadducees, developed a schism between holymen and the laity in that the scriptures belong to the priesthood to be interpreted to the laity, possibly in order to protect the scriptures from distortion or the laity from misuse and later, quite evidently for less than pious purposes, creating a scenario in which the soul (and therefore at that time, the mind) was a great mystery to the general populous. Added to this the idea that one recieved grace if God deemed one worthy, eventually degenerating to a rather base teaching in which humans should just behave themselves, think of God a lot, atone (through prayer) and cross one's fingers. One's soul was about as far away as God, i.e. in heaven, and the laity rarely transcended that far from the wicked, earthly domain to which they belonged. This was of course counteracted with the possibility of transcendence through good works, i.e. charity and other such "service to others", unfortunately this had no bearing on the western understanding of mind.
In contrast to this perspective, the Indian languages (specifically sanskrit and pali) and philosophy has a greater focus upon the actual functioning of the mind relative to emotions and behaviour and the human condition as a whole and thus developed philosophies that dealt with problems of this nature. Admittedly, this trend (and trend it was, though now ancient) began as a means to employ less philosophical/metaphysical concepts for concepts regarding the higher functions of the human-condition and yet it is also a consequence of the deep-rooted concern that the ancients of the Indian subcontinent had on the nature of human existence and our relation to the cosmos.
Thus it is that the east and west have developed almost diametrically opposed approaches to understanding the mind and the human condition, resulting in the western corruption of the term karma (sanskrit), kamma (pali).
Why then, is the very western term "instant karma" employed for and by this website ? Firstly, since Lennon's attitude towards personal responsibility for one's actions is an excellent means to understanding the Buddha Dhamma, and secondly if one partakes of the Buddha Dhamma, one embodies the "instant karma" concept instantly, as all actions must, but is also a useful tool for anyone who does not wish to rush into things too quickly in that it encourages a positive attitude towards personal responsibility.
The Tipiṭaka is the collection of books that make up the complete Buddhist texts or scriptures and is considered the most original source of the wisdom of the Buddha. It is also known as the Pali Canon, since Pali is the language in which they have been preserved and the pali term "tipiṭaka" means three (ti) baskets (piṭaka) as there are three main sections to the texts: the Vinaya Piṭaka, the Sutta Piṭaka, and the Abhidhamma Piṭaka. In order to put some kind of perspective on the content compared to the Christian Bible, which consists of approximately 1200 pages, the Pali Canon or Tipiṭaka consists of approximately 20,000 pages in English translation.
The Vinaya Piṭaka consists of the rules and regulations (Pāṭimokkha) set down by the Buddha for the community of monks (bhikkus) and nuns (Bhikkhunīs) with some additional advice for interested lay people. There are no commandments nor compulsion, whether one follows or takes the advice, monk, nun or lay person is a matter of personal choice, this is expressed in the term Vinaya which itself means discipline, as in personal discipline. However, monks and nuns can face expulsion from the order (Sangha) if they do not follow certain rules or regulations. Lay affiliation is entirely a matter of personal responsibility and there is no compulsion or commandments. There are however precepts that a lay person may take, however the lay person is only expected to endeavour, albeit sincerely, to follow them.
The situation for monks and nuns is rather different, if they do not follow a certain way of life and hold to their precepts they will face disciplinary action from admonition to expulsion depending on the severity of the lapse in behaviour. For the first 20 years following the Buddha's enlightenment (i.e. when he first began teaching the Dhamma (Truth)) there was no Vinaya because up until that point there was no need. For the first 20 years the community of Buddhist monks and nuns (bhikkus and bhikkhunīs) lived exemplary lives in accordance with the Buddha Dhamma and thus there was no need for an expressed Vinaya (discipline) since the community lived with discipline. Eventually, however, as the community expanded and a greater number of people joined the Saṅgha, some for less than wholesome reasons, events occurred that the Buddha believed required his intervention in order to safeguard what it meant to live "the holy life", thus the Vinaya came into being.
There are 227 major and minor rules and regulations for monks and 311 for nuns.
The Vinaya Piṭaka consists of the following sections:
The Sutta vibhaṅga, (meaning "rule-analysis of the Suttas") contains the Pāṭimokkha, i.e. the rules and regulations for monks and nuns (bhikkus and bhikkhunīs) along with commentary and analysis and the origin story, i.e. how the Buddha came to lay such a rule down.
Includes accounts of the the Buddha's and his main disciple's enlightenment and rules for Uposatha, which means observance and it is a day in which one intensifies or strengthens one's spiritual practice in order to bring about inner calm and joy and to rid the mind and heart of destructive or unwholesome tendencies. In addition to this the Khandaka (which means collection) also covers the rules for ordination.
There is a difference between how rules apply between the Suttavibhaṅgaand the Khandhaka in that the Suttavibhaṅga is proscriptive, that is it explains what ought to be observed, whereas the Khandhaka is prescriptive, so it describes what ought not be observed.
Parivara means accessory and is offers both summary and analysis of the contents of both the Suttavibhaṅgaand the Khandhaka particularly for the purposes of moral instruction, obviously from a Buddhist perspective, meaning that the intention is to impart wisdom that leads one to clarity, wisdom, kindness and compassion.
The Sutta Piṭaka are the Buddhist teachings as expounded by the Buddha and the (occasional) teaching by the Buddha's chief disciples. It would be difficult to give a brief overview of the contents of the Sutta Piṭaka or even each one of the five books since the Buddha's teachings spanned 45 years and the cover a wide range and depth of teachings. It is divided into five volumes or Nikāyas as follows:
Digha Nikāya (Collection of Long Discourses)
Also known as the "Collection of Long Discourses", since the discourses are long in length. It contains much in the way of social, metaphysical and religious matters and thus covers a broad understanding of the Buddha's teachings, including suttas that cover what may be described as the "life and times of the Buddha" and how he responded to the various scenarios. It also includes the Buddha's comparison and analysis of various other spiritual practictioners of the day in relation to past, present, future and the universe, the Mahāparinibbāṇa Sutta, which includes an account of the Buddha's final passing away and his final advice to his disciples and suttas that offer advice for lay practiioners and the development calming (or śamatha) meditation
Majjhima Nikaya ("Collection of Middle-length Discourses")
This collection has been described by the American born scholar monk Bhikkhu Bodhi as the richest variety of contextual settings with the deepest and most comprehensive assortment of teachings. It is without doubt one of the most comprehensive in terms of the breadth of teachings of the five volumes within the Sutta Piṭaka.
Saṃyutta Nikāya ("Connected Discourses")
This collection also contains a broad and deep range of subject matter including many that are in verse, though also those not in verse covering subjects such as cause, effect and moral consequence, the nature of that which makes up the human psycho-physical being, the connection between the various senses, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, emotions, conscious states and the kind of actions these lead to depending upon their nature and how we respond to them. As with the other five volumes there are also suttas that cover various meditative methods and techniques, how they should be approached and the various benefits to be achieved, as well as the various aspects of what the Buddhist path consists of.
As always, the Buddha's teachings, no matter the subject, contained a moral objective in that it was always taught in relation to the path towards enlightenment, to lead beings out of suffering, to cause neither oneself nor others harm and only to do good and never evil.
Aṅguttara Nikāya ( or "Numerical Discourses")
The texts here are arranged in a way that has been purposely designed to assist and aid with not only retention and memorisation, but also comprehension. Not surprisingly since the subject matter covers the problems facing busy lay practioners and issues with maintaining virtue, as well suttas that cover advancement of mental discipline through to the highest meditative attainments and spiritual practice and also the importance of the development of mettā (loving-kindness).
Khuddaka Nikāya (Minor Collection)
Although this "volume" is called or translated as ‘Minor Collection’ it actually consists of around fifteen books (depending on the version, i.e. Thai, Burmese, Sri Lankan, etc) and these books range between less than a dozen pages to over a thousand, so it is far from minor. It is also not as yet available in a single volume, if it ever will be since the various books in english translation consists of nearly four thousand pages. Of the many translations available (only the Niddesa remains to be translated) the most famous of all being the Dhammapada which is considered to contain a distillation of the whole of the Buddha's teaching presented in verse form particularly accessible for the laity and general public. There are also many other books within this collection that are in prose or verse form including the Theragatha and the Therigatha (sayings of the elder monks and nuns, respectively) as well as the Jātaka tales, these tell of the Buddha's previous lives prior to becoming the Bhuddha and are often used for the education of moral instruction for children since they all have a particularly useful moral to them, much as the various folklore from around the world.
The Abhidhamma Piṭaka consists of advanced exegesis or explanations of the contents of the Suttas and the Vinaya and is often as considered in the west as Buddhist psychology and philosophy since it references much to do with mind, consciousness and reality in considerable detail. There are seven volumes and is approximately one third of the whole of the Pali Canon, compared to approximately, fifty percent for the Suttas and around 15% for the Vinaya. The Abhidhamma can be fascinating though it is without doubt a tour de force and not for the faint-hearted. In fact it has been described as "monumental feat of intellectual genius", furthermore Buddhism and particularly the Abhidhamma far exceeds modern psychology and psychiatry in what it has to teach with regards to the understanding of the mind and consciousness. The western term "unconscious mind" was supposedly 'coined' by the German Romantic philosopher Friedrich Schelling in the 18th century which led to the breakthough in western thought and science of Jung and Freud which spawned the birth of the fields of psychology and psychiatry in the west, yet the term asampajana mano-sankhāra are mental dispositions that one is unaware of, clearly a description of unconscious mechanisms, yet this Buddhist concept is thousands of years old. In addition to this there is also the understanding of how thoughts, feelings and perceptions relate to one another for example within Buddhism it is well known that mental formations are the thoughts and emotions that arise in relation to one's feelings and perceptions. The level of detail that the Abhidhamma describes such processes are summarized as follows:
"28 physical phenomena co-arise with 52 mental factors, manifesting as 89 types of consciousness, which unfold in series of 17 mind moments, governed by 24 types of causal relation. One of its methods is to take a single thought-moment of experience, accessible by means of (rather advanced capabilities of) insight meditation, and then identify the characteristics of that moment of consciousness."
This explanation is not based upon theoretical musings but on the practical application of highly advanced meditation techniques that have led to an incredible understanding of how human awareness operates that far outstrips any modern explanations or descriptions of mental or conscious phenomena.
The seven books of the Abhidhamma are:
Dhammasangani ("Enumeration of Phenomena")
This book enumerates, in various ways, all the paramattha dhamma (ultimate realities) that exist in the world, one enumeration being:
52 cetasikas (mental factors), 89 different possible cittas (states of consciousness), 4 primary physical elements, and 23 physical phenomena derived from them.
Vibhanga ("The Book of Treatises")
A continuation of the analysis of the Dhammasangani.
Dhatukatha ("Discussion with Reference to the Elements")
This revisits the previous analysis, in questions and answer form.
Puggalapaññatti ("Description of Individuals")
The Puggalapaññatti details personality "types" in the form of character analysis.
Kathavatthu ("Points of Controversy")
Rather self explanatory in that it details and clarifies controversies pravalent around the 3rd century BCE between the various extant Buddhist schools at the time.
Yamaka ("The Book of Pairs")
A logical analysis of various concepts in the previous volumes.
Patthana ("The Book of Relations")
The Patthana describes the 24 paccayas (laws of conditionality, i.e. the natural laws of cause and effect, or the operation of kamma) through which the dhammas (mental phenomena) interact. These laws, when applied in every possible permutation with the dhammas described in the Dhammasangani, give rise to all knowable experience.
Visualising The Tipitaka (Pali Canon)
Below are some images to assist with visualising the content of the Tipiṭaka.
Block Diagram Of The Tipitaka
Tipitaka Chart With Page Numbers
The Tipitaka and The Vinaya Pitaka
Tipitaka and The Sutta Pitaka
Tipitaka And The Abhidhamma Pitaka
The Collection Of Volumes of the Pali Tipitaka
Further to the expanations above regarding the Buddha's teachings, there is below a list of the aforementioned 108 defilements and an explanation of what occurs during an actual thought-process. This information is taken from the Abhidhamma and is the result of the investigations of those who have followed in the Buddha's path towards enlightenment and the insights gained as a consequence Thus it shows the kind of advancements that can be made as a consequence of following such teachings. Additionally there will be forthcoming a list of antidotes for overcoming each of the defilements listed above and references to practices to assist in this.
Thought Process and Defilements
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: The teachings of the Buddha, or how to tap into and advance one's greatest potential using the most perfect self-development programme known in the history of human existence.
instantkamma presents the teachings of the Buddha from the perspective of a western layperson and consequently follows an understanding of these teachings as presented to westerners by westerners and by the laity and monastics from the various traditions of both "northern" and "southern" schools, though mostly Theravadan. Most importantly, regardless of one's particular bent is to remember that the Buddha was born Siddhattha Gotama, a human being and that as a human being found the way to the ultimate peace of Nibbana. Liberation from our own folly, the folly of greed, hatred and delusion; the states of mind that control our thoughts, our words and our deeds, to the detriment of our own human development. Liberation from those states that bring suffering.
A quote from popular culture seems apt here, although the language employed is a little different, in that the tradition is Christian, the sentiment is fitting:
"Eckhart said: 'The only thing that burns in hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life: your memories, your attachments. They burn 'em all away. But they're not punishing you,' he said. 'They're freeing your soul. If your frightened of dying, and your holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. If you've made your peace then the devils are really angels freeing you from the earth.' " - film: Jacob's Ladder 
Sanskrit: Sraddha, श्राद्ध from the root 'srat' meaning ‘to be trustful’, ‘steadfast’, ‘confident’, and ‘to have conviction’. The suffix ‘dha’ means ‘to support’, ‘uphold’, and to ‘sustain'. Saddhā thus conveys the meaning of the kind of faith or conviction one has when the facts are laid bare and there is no confusion, misunderstanding or deviation from reality in one's knowledge of those facts. The kind of faith or belief that then arises, this is Saddhā and ought best be rendered into English as 'trustful confidence’ or ‘to have steadfast conviction’ based on wisdom or knowledge of reality.
A wandering holy man or ascetic who has given up secular society or family life and dedicated his life for the pursuit of spiritual advancement.
The Seven Factors of Enlightenment
Pali: Satta Bojjhaṅgā or Satta Sambojjhaṅgā. Sanskrit: Sapta Bodhyanga
Mindfulness (sati) i.e. to recognize the dhammas (phenomena or reality, two ways one can translate "dhamma").
Investigation (dhamma vicaya) of dhammas.
Energy (viriya) also determination
Joy or rapture (pīti)
Relaxation or tranquility (passaddhi) of both body and mind
Concentration, clear awareness (samādhi) a calm, one-pointed state of concentration of mind, or clear awareness
Equanimity (upekkha), to be fully aware of all phenomena without being lustful or averse towards them..
The Five Spiritual Faculties
Faith/conviction (saddhā) is faith in the Buddha's awakening.
Energy/persistence (viriya) refers to exertion towards the Four Right Efforts.
Mindfulness (sati) refers to focusing on the four satipatthana.
Stillness of the mind (samādhi) refers to achieving the four jhanas.
Wisdom/understanding (pañña) refers to discerning the Four Noble Truths.
svástika ( स्वस्तिक 卐 or 卍)
The swastika appears in many cultures across the world, over vast stretches of time. Consequently it has gathered a variety of terms by which it is known such as the hakenkreuz, gammadion cross, cross cramponnée, croix gammée, fylfot, or tetraskelion. As a character the '卐' or '卍' it dates back, at least, to the Vinča script c. 6000 BCE. As an ancient religious symbol particularly of the Indian subcontinent, it is considered 'the' symbol of peace, continuity and good fortune as a sacred and auspicious symbol not only in Buddhism, but also Hinduism and Jainism possibly dating as far back as 11,000 years. It was of great importance to so many peoples and cultures, decorating neolithic Croatian pottery of the 6th millenium, Minoan pottery of the 2nd millenium BCE, 6th century BCE Corinthian coin, on the floors of the ruined city of Pompeii, the Ein Gedi synagogue of the 3rd to 5th century CE, a 5th century druid altar, 6th century Kentish graves, around the 8th century Tang Dynasty, China it was decreed a symbol for the sun, two centuries later it entered the Liao Dynasty written script, a 9th century Viking sword found at Saebo in Norway, the Cathedral of Cordoba built in the 10th century, a 12th century Ukranian church mosaic, a 12th/13th century Ethiopian church, in a 15th century painting it is one of several versions of the Christian cross depicted on a priest's ceremonial robes, adorning 15th century Ghanan goldweights, in tribal art of the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys and in the culture of the Navajo, Hopi and Dakota tribes of North America, Rudyard Kipling's 'magic mark' in his 1902 "The Crab That Played With The Sea" just-so-story, is a swastika, he also used it as a motif on many of his other books, in Canada 'Swastika' is the name of a small town, founded in 1908 in northern Ontario, it was employed as an emblem for the Krit Motor Company of Detroit from 1909 to 1915, it adorned Russian banknotes in 1917, the boy scout movement in Britain used the symbol on a Medal of Merit issued in 1922. However, most people in the west consider it to be solely related to the National Socialist Party when, on 7th August 1920, they adopted it as the 'Hakenkreuz' (hooked cross), at the Salzburg Congress. Quite evidently, it has played a far greater role within human history than to be a symbol of notoriety.
Buddhas Hand Gestures: these are meant to enhance and authenticate the spoken word with a specific meaning depending on the particular symbolism of each gesture. The one depicted here is the "Dhamma-Speaking Muddika" and could be interpreted in a colloquial sense as "here is truth".
Dhamma: to support that which forms a foundation; preaching, religious discourse, sermon, also truth or law, as in natural-law.
Muddika: an authentication, i.e. that which is true or real in the sense that a seal sanctifies or rejects things as authentic, particularly Buddhist and non-Buddhist, thus it is of a trustworthy source, since the term Buddha is a title meaning "awakened one".
Buddhist Swastika: it is necessary to explain to those in the west who may be confused as to why an image of the Buddha has a swastika on it. The swastika is generally considered to represent the German National Socialists of the 1920's through to the 1940's and later proponents of Nazism. However, the swastika is in fact an ancient religious symbol dating back to neolithic times and possibly as far back as paleolithic (prehistoric stone age) times. The term swastika originates from the Sanskrit svástika स्वस्तिक (Pali: Sotthika or Suvatthika also 卐 or 卍 from the Vinča script c.6000 BCE) from "su" meaning well or good and "as" from the root "asti" meaning "to be". Thus it may be rendered "to be good" or "to be well" and later came to mean "well-being" or that which brings good luck or fortune. It has been used throughout the world from asia through medieval europe right up until the early 20th century until being misappropriated and tainted.
The German National Socialists mis- appropriated its use and named it Hakenkreuz (hooked cross). To mistake a Buddhist swastika or any other Indian (Jain or Hindu) or even European medieval or prehistoric swastika for a so-called "nazi swastika", or rather a hakenkreuz, would be a grave error, in that they are symbolically poles apart. In considering the Vinča symbol 卐 from the Vinča script c. 6000 BCE South Eastern Europe or the Samarran Bowl c.5000 BCE of Iraqi antiquity
it is plain to see that the swastika is, without doubt, one of the most ancient symbols of the whole of humanity. It has been used in almost every country of the world in almost every age of humanity's history and prehistory of which there is ample archeological and even paleological record as illustrated above. For the vast part of this history and prehistory it was (and still is throughout Asia and the far East) considered an auspicious symbol of good fortune.
The swastika on the main buddha image is left-facing and consequently represents love and mercy. The right-facing swastika (particularly in Buddhist iconography) represents strength and intelligence. Thus it is that the use of both right and left facing swastikas embody many of the well balanced sentiments of the Buddhist ideal state for a person wishing to succeed in the Buddhist path.
Glossary (in development)
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