Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Ultimate Truth of Nature

The Buddhist Centre

The Ultimate GOAL
The ultimate goal for students of the Buddha-Dhamma is to escape the cycle of samsara, the endless rebirths, and attain the peace of Nibbana. While those of theistic faiths hope to be 'born again in Heaven,' the Buddhist aims not to be born anymore. This is indeed a huge difference.

The idea of extinction is very often misunderstood.
Greed, hatred and Ignorance is what is extinguished, ego is what is being extinguished - the sense of separation and isolation of "I" from the rest of existence.

But the idea that people are striving to literally not exist in any possible sense of the word is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Dhamma.

Suffering is a fundamental fact of life, a common denominator to the rich and poor. The fact that we constantly seek for movies, music, tasty food or even just conversation and company, are ceaseless acts of escape from a fundamental disatisfaction with what is at present. For all beings, life has suffering and suffering is bad. Thus the aim of all Dhamma classes or sharing is to learn how to live lives that can minimise and ultimately END suffering, to do that we learn to lessen desires and eventually directly see the delusion of self, so that suffering ceases.

Suffering is
suffering, pain is pain. Physical pain is inevitable while mental suffering is optional. One is unavoidable so long as we are in the world of form, the other is not. We can learn from all experiences including pain (which is one form of suffering), but there is a difference between psychological and physical pain. Some people through a strong faith or believe in God or gods, are able to find relief from their pain and suffering with prayers and devotions, hoping for a future rebirth in a pain-free heaven. In this, religions truly act as the opiate for the suffering masses.

From the Buddha Dhamma we know that neither God nor gods can save anyone for while they are powerful and have very long lives, they are still Unenlightened and within the realms of samsara,
hence deities like humans have emotions of jealousy, anger and even threaten "Vengeance is mine"; the Dhamma is not about the imagery of creation or judgement but the Ultimate Truth of Nature. Within samsara all our actions should be in accord with virtues such as unconditional love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. How good or virtuous humans are is NOT based on any religious label but 'By their fruits shall you know them.' It is our Thoughts, speech and actions which makes us what we are.

Ceaseless Change, hence HOPE
All form is impermanent – things change. The greatest "sinner" of today eg the mass murderer Anggulimala can be the great saint of tomorrow. No surprise, then, that the idea of sin or sinner is not a part of the Buddhist vocabulary. If we are permanent entities then there will be NO HOPE but it is because we are ceaselessly changing that we can evolve to be better beings.

The three poisons (greed, hatred, and ignorance), which are the root cause of suffering, are born of delusion or our stupidity regarding Ultimate Reality. It is the wisdom of the Truth that finally liberates.

A Peaceful & Calm Way of Life
The Buddha is not a saviour who ferries one from earth to heaven BUT a TEACHER who teaches us to free ourselves from Ignorance and be Enlightened. The distinction is that one must walk his own path, not that one does so selfishly. It is a way of life, NOT of"Do this ritual, kneel, say this prayer, sing this hymn, take this sacrament, memorise this Creed".

And there is no evangelism; whether one wishes to take the SHORT CUT to Enlightenment or the LONG CUT of the ups and downs of existence in Heaven, Hell and earth is entirely an individual choice. Most Buddhists would not be comfortable debating the contentions of other faith traditions, the emphasis is upon the simple sharing of the teachings of the Buddha should one wishes to hear it.

However some people take this open and mild mannered approach as one of weakness.

If we are to "evangelise", then it should be by the example of a virtuous life, not by words. Even if we accept "evangelism" as being a synonym for “converting people to a religion”,
there is no conversion per se in Buddhism.

If a person wishes, he or she can the vows of refuge, but this is not like the notion of baptism. Nor is it even necessary to take such vows in order to practice the Dhamma. Nor does anyone have to renounce being of any other religion.

No one has anything sprung on them. There is no pressure to join a cell group or to conform to rituals, if they just want to learn to meditate or chant, that is fine. If they want to learn about the Buddha's discourses, that is fine too.
Ehipassiko.. come and hear what the Dhamma is and then decide for yourselves if you agree and want to learn more. No one is ever condemned as a sinner or threatened with eternal damnation if they don’t accept what is being taught.

It is never about "numbers", it isn’t about luring people into the temples but about genuine sincerity in loving thy neighbor, and valuing the worth of each person whether or not they believe. I was so proud and happy last Vesak day when a centre that I am affiliated to gave bursaries to 10 needy students, NONE of whom were from Buddhist families- they were simply people in need.

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many beliefs that wind and twist,
While just the art of being kind,
Is basically what this sad world needs.
My religion is very simple,
It's simply kindness!

Our actions "speak" so loud that you cannot not hear what we say!

HT: Punna

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