What did Lord Buddha really have to say
At times, He did remain silent on this topic. But there is an account given
by Him on the genesis of the "Creator" and this should settle the issue. But
before going on with that, we should note that Buddha was not an agnostic
(one who does not know). In fact, He was a gnostic or 'one who knows' (in
Pali- "janata") and was also called "Sabbannu", the 'All-knower". This means
that to whatever subject Lord Buddha attended to, He knew all the contents
of that subject. It does NOT mean that He always knew everything about every
subject all at once, for this very claim was one He emphatically and specifically
denied about himself.
Now, to settle this question of "God" we can investigate. It happens that
in the beginning of a new cycle (after one of the periodic cosmic collapses),
a being according to his or her kamma (karma) is reborn into a heavenly realm
or state where no other beings are to found. (That one's kamma being a condition
for the arising of that particular heavenly experience.) That one does not
remember her or his past life among other "gods" in the "higher" heavenly
realms, and comes to believe during the passing of ages that s/he has lived
there forever. With the passing of immense time spans, that one wishes for
the company of others and then, since according to their kamma some other
beings appear in that realm, s/he comes to believe that they were produced
by her or his will. From this s/he goes on to glorify herself or himself,
her or his supposed "creation" and this aids that being's vanity since such
a being does not remember the past life it was subjected to and so imagines
that it is a creature of Brahma.
One of these great Brahmas called by the name of Baka, was made to see the
emptiness and futility of his claims to eternal existence and creatorhood
when Lord Buddha while in meditation paid a visit to that realm. And not only
that, the "Buddhist" attitude to Brahma or God or "the Creator" is fairly
if somewhat seemingly acridly summed up in these translated verses:
"He who has eyes can see the sickening sight;
Why does not Brahma set his creatures right?
If his wide power no limit can restrain,
Why is his hand so rarely spread to bless?
Why are all his creatures condemned to pain?
Why does he not to all give happiness?
Why do fraud, lies, and ignorance prevail?
From: "The God Idea" By Rev. Bhikkhu Dhammapiyo copyrighted 1999, Buddhadharma
International Foundation, Inc.
Free Distribution Only, as a Gift of Dharma, Otherwise All Rights Reserved
Is Buddhism scientific?
Before we answer that question it would be best to define the word 'science'.
Science, according to the dictionary is: "knowledge which can be made into
a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general
natural laws, a branch of such knowledge, anything that can be studied exactly".
There are aspects of Buddhism that would not fit into this definition but
the central teachings of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, most certainly would.
Suffering, the First Noble Truth, is an experience that can be defined, experienced
and measured. The Second Noble Truth states that suffering has a natural cause,
craving,which likewise can be defined, experienced and measured. No attempted
is made to explain suffering in terms of a metaphysical concept or myths.
Suffering is ended, according to the Third Noble Truth, not by relying on
upon a supreme being, by faith or by prayers but simply by removing its cause.
This is axiomatic. The Fourth Noble Truth, the way to end suffering, once
again, has nothing to do with metaphysics but depends on behaving in specific
ways. And once again behaviour is open to testing.
Buddhism dispenses with the concept of a supreme being, as does science,
and explains the origins and workings of the universe in terms of natural
law. All of this certainly exhibits a scientific spirit. Once again, the Buddha's
constant advice that we should not blindly believe but rather question, examine,
inquire and rely on our own experience, has a definite scientific ring to
it. He says: "Do not go by revelation or tradition,do not go by rumour, or
the sacred scriptures, do not go by hearsay or mere logic, do not go by bias
towards a notion or by another person's seeming ability and do not go by the
idea 'He is our teacher'. But when you yourself know that a thing is good,
that it is not blameble, that it is praised by the wise and when practised
and observed that it leads to happiness, then follow that thing."
So we could say that although Buddhism in not entirely scientific, it certainly
has a strong overtone and is certainly more scientific than any other religion.
From: 'Good Question, Good Answer' by Bhikkhu Shravasti Dhammika
See also my essay Mount Emptiness on
comparing modern science and the concept of 'emptiness'.
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If a wicked man can become religious, to Buddhism, this is a practical miracle.
In every religion we hear some sort of miracles performed by either the founders
of these religions or by some of their disciples. In the case of the Buddha,
we also come across some miracles from the day of his birth up to his passing
away into Nibbana. Many of the psychic powers (called 'miraculous powers'
in other religions) of the Buddha were attained through his long and intense
training meditation. The Buddha meditated and passed through four stages of
contemplation that culminated in pure self-possession and equanimity; he became
free from emotions. Such meditation was considered nothing miraculous but
within the power of any trained ascetic. Then there arose within the Buddha
a vision of his previous births, the hundreds and thousands of existences
with all their details. He remembered his previous births and how he had made
use of these births to gain his enlightenment. Then the Buddha had a second
and wider vision in which he saw the whole universe as a system of kamma and
rebirth. He saw the universe made up of beings that were noble and wicked,
happy and unhappy. He saw them all continually "passing away according to
their deeds", leaving one form of existence and taking shape in another. Finally,
he understood the nature of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation
of suffering, and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.
Then a third vision arose within the Buddha. He realized that he was completely
free from all bandages, human or divine. He realized that he had done what
had to be done. He realized he has no more rebirths to go through because
he was living with his final body. This knowledge destroyed all ignorance,
all darkness and light arose within him. Such is the psychic power and the
wisdom that arose within the Buddha as he sat meditating under the Bodhi tree.
The Buddha had a natural birth; he lived in a normal way. But he was an extraordinary
man as far as his enlightenment was concerned. Those who have not learned
how to appreciate his supreme wisdom, try to find out his greatness by peeping
into his life and looking for miracles. However, the Buddha's supreme enlightenment
is more than enough for us to understand the greatness of the Buddha. There
is no need to introduce any miraculous power in him to make him a great man.
The Buddha was aware of the powers that could be developed by training the
human mind. He was also aware that his disciples could train themselves to
develop such powers. Thus the Buddha advised his disciples not to exercise
such psychic power in order to convert less intelligent people. He was refering
to the 'miracle' or power to walk on water exorcise spirits, raising the dead,
and so on. He was also referring to the 'miracles of prophecy' such as thought-reading,
sooth-saying, fortune-telling, and so on. When the uneducated believers see
such powers, their faith deepens. But the nominal converts who are attracted
by these miraculous powers are not valuable assets to any religion. These
people embrace the new faith, not because they realize the truth, but because
they harbour hallucinations. Therefore the Buddha drew converts only by appealing
to their reason.
The following story illustrates the Buddha's attitude toward miraculous powers:
one day the Buddha met an ascetic who sat by the bank of a river. This ascetic
had practiced austerities for 25 years. The Buddha asked him what he had received
for all his labour. The ascetic proudly replied that now at last he could
cross the river by walking on the water. The Buddha tried to point out that
this was such little gain for so much labour, since for one penny the ferry
would take him across the river.
In certain religions, man's miracles can help him to become a saint. But
in Buddhism, miracles can bar a person from sainthood. Buddhist sainthood
is a gradual attainment and nobody else can make another person a saint. Sainthood
is an individual concern. Each person himself must work for his sainthood
Many people who are supposed to have obtained some miraculous power, have
succumbed to vain glory at having obtained some personal gain. According to
the Buddha, a real miracle is the miracle of instruction: when a murderer,
thief, terrorist, drunkard, or adulterer is made to realize that what he is
doing is wrong and then gives up his bad and sinful way of life, this action
is a real miracle. This is also the highest miracle that a man can perform.
Many of the other miracles talked about by people are merely imaginations
and hallucinations create' own mind due to lack of understanding of things
as they are. All these miracles remain as miracles until people know what
these powers really are.
Buddha says that anyone can gain supernormal power without also gaining spiritual
power. He taught us that if we first gain spiritual power, then we automatically
receive the miraculous or psychic powers too. But if we develop miraculous
without spiritual development, then we are in danger. There are many who have
fallen away from the right path by using their miraculous powers without having
any spiritual development
From:"What Buddhist Believe" by Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda, published by
Buddhist Missionary Society
The Healing Power of the Precepts: Building
self-esteem the Buddhist way
Throughout the history of Buddhism, the Buddha has been described as a doctor,
treating spiritual ills. The path of practice he taught has likewise served
as therapy for suffering hearts and minds.
This understanding of the Buddha and his teachings dates back to the earliest
texts, but its meaning for contemporary practitioners has become more relevant
than ever. Buddhist meditation is often touted as a form of healing, and many
psychotherapists now recommend that their patients try meditation as part
of their treatment. But the Buddha understood-and experience has shown--that
meditation on its own can't provide a total therapy. It requires outside support.
In many ways, modern meditators have been so destabilized by the stimuli of
mass civilization that they often lack the resilience, persistence, and self-esteem
needed to achieve concentration and cultivate insight. To provide a grounding
in these qualities, and to foster a personal environment conducive to meditation,
the Buddha prescribed a path made up not only of mindfulness, concentration,
and insight practices, but also of virtue. And virtue begins with the Five
Precepts, which are: to refrain from intentionally killing any animal, from
insects on up the evolutionary ladder;to refrain from stealing;to refrain
from illicit sex, that is, sexual intercourse outside of a stable, committed
relationship;to refrain from lying;to refrain from intoxicants (such as alcohol,
marijuana, and psychotropic drugs).
These precepts constitute the first step on the path. There is a tendency
to dismiss them as Sunday-school rules bound to old cultural norms that no
longer apply to modern society, but this misses the role that the Buddha intended
for them: to be part of a therapy for wounded minds. In particular, they are
aimed at curing two ailments that underlie low self-esteem and block progress
on the path--regret and denial. When our actions don't measure up to certain
standards of behavior, we either regret the actions or engage in one of two
kinds of denial--denying that our actions did, in fact, happen, or denying
that the standards of measurement are really valid. These responses are like
wounds in the mind. Regret is an open wound, tender to the touch, while denial
is like hardened scar tissue twisted around a tender spot. When the mind is
wounded in these ways, it can't settle down comfortably in the present, for
it finds itself resting on raw, exposed flesh or calcified knots.
This is where the Five Precepts come in. Healthy self-esteem comes from living
up to a set of standards that is practical, clear-cut, humane, and worthy
of respect. The precepts provide just such a set of standards. The standards
are simple. They may not always be easy or convenient, but they are always
possible to live by. Some people translate the precepts into standards that
sound more lofty or noble. To some, taking the second precept, for example,
means not abusing the planet's resources. But that's an impossibly high standard.
The Buddha understood that if you give people standards that take a little
effort and mindfulness but are still possible to meet, their self-esteem soars
dramatically as they find themselves actually meeting those standards. They
can then face more demanding tasks with confidence.
The precepts are formulated with no ifs, ands, or buts. This means that
they provide very clear guidance. There's no room for waffling or less-than-honest
rationalizations. An action either fits in with the precepts or it doesn't.
Anyone who has raised children has found that while they may complain about
hard and fast rules, they actually feel more secure with them than with rules
that are vague and always open to negotiation. Clear-cut rules don't allow
for unspoken agendas to come sneaking in the back door of the mind.
If, for example, the precept against killing allowed you to kill living beings
when their presence is inconvenient--as in the case of mosquitos--that would
place your convenience on a higher level than your compassion for life. Convenience
would become your unspoken standard--and unspoken standards provide huge tracts
of fertile ground for hypocrisy and denial to grow. If, however, you stick
by the standards of the precepts, then you are providing unlimited safety
for all. In terms of other precepts, you provide safety for their possessions
and their sexuality, and truthfulness and mindfulness in your communication
The precepts are humane both to the person who observes them and to the people
affected by his or her actions. If you observe them, you are aligning yourself
with the doctrine of karma, which teaches that the most important powers shaping
your experience of the world are the intentional thoughts, words, and deeds
you choose in the present moment.
This means that you are not insignificant. With every choice you make--at
home, at work, at play--you are exercising your power in the ongoing shaping
of the world. At the same time, this principle allows you to measure yourself
in terms that are entirely under your control: your intentional actions in
the present moment. In other words, they don't force you to measure yourself
in terms of your looks, strength, brains, financial prowess, or any other
criteria that depend less on your present karma than they do on karma from
the past. Also, they don't play on feelings of guilt or force you to bemoan
your past lapses. Instead, they focus your attention on the ever-present possibility
of living up to your standards in the here and now.
When you adopt a set of standards, it's important to know whose standards
they are and to see where those standards come from, for in effect you are
joining their group, looking for their approval, and accepting their criteria
for right and wrong. In this case, you couldn't ask for a better group to
join: the Buddha and his noble disciples. The Five Precepts, in the words
of the Buddha, are "standards appealing to the noble ones." From what the
texts tell us of the noble ones, they aren't people who accept standards simply
on the basis of popularity. They have put their lives on the line to see what
leads to true happiness and seen for themselves, for example, that all lying
is pathological, and that any sex outside a stable, committed relationship
is spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically, unsafe.
Other people might not respect you for living by the Five Precepts, but noble
ones do, and their respect is worth more than that of anyone else in the world.
You can look at the standards by which you live and breathe comfortably as
a full-fledged, responsible human being. For that's what you are.
By Thanissaro Bhikkhu, who was ordained in the Thai forest tradition of
Buddhism in 1976 and is the abbot of Metta Forest Monastery near San Diego,
Calif. He is the translator of numerous Buddhist texts, among them the Dhammapada.
His most recent books include "The Wings to Awakening" and "Noble Strategy."
His translations and commentary on the Buddha's teachings can be found in
"Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism."
^Top of Page
Jesus and Buddha as Brothers
The dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity has not gone very far, in
my opinion, because we have not been able to set up a solid ground for such
dialogue. This is a reflection of the present situation.
Buddhists believe in reincarnation, the possibility for human beings to live
several lives. In Buddhist circles, we do not use the word incarnation very
much: we use the word rebirth. After you die, you can be reborn and can have
another life. In Christianity, your life is unique, your only chance for salvation.
If you spoil it, then you will never get salvation. You have only one life.
Buddhism teaches that there is non-self, anatta. Christianity clearly teaches
that a Christian is a personalist. Not only are you a person, self, but God
is a person, and He has a self. The Buddhist teaching of emptiness and no
substance sounds like the teaching of no being. Christianity speaks of being,
of existence. The teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of the philosophy
of being, la philisophie de l'etre, the confirmation that the world is.
There is compassion and loving-kindness in Buddhism, which many Christians
believe to be different from the charity and love in Christianity. Charity
has two aspects: your love directed to God, and your love directed to humankind.
You have to learn how to love your enemy. Our Christian friends have a tendency
to remind us that the motivation of love is different for Christians and Buddhists.
There are theologians who say that Buddhists practice compassion just because
they want liberation; that Buddhists don't really care about the suffering
of people and other living beings; that they are only motivated by the desire
to be liberated. In Christianity, your love is grounded in God. You love God,
and because God said that you must love your neighbor, so you love your neighbor.
Your love of your neighbor springs from the ground of your love of God.
Many people, especially in Christian circles, say that there are things in
common between Christianity and Buddhism. But many find that the philosophical
foundations of Christianity and Buddhism are quite different. Buddhism teaches
rebirth, many lives. Christianity teaches that only this one life is available
to you. Buddhism teaches that there is no self, but in Christianity there
is a real self. Buddhism teaches emptiness, no substance, while Christianity
confirms the fact of existence.
If the philosophical ground is so different, the practice of compassion and
loving kindness in Buddhism and of charity and love in Christianity is different.
All that seems to be a very superficial way of seeing. If we have time and
if we practice our own tradition well enough and deeply enough, we will see
that these issues are not real.
First of all, there are many forms of Buddhism, many ways of understanding
Buddhism. If you have one hundred people practicing Buddhism, you may have
one hundred forms of Buddhism. The same is true in Christianity. If there
are one hundred thousand people practicing Christianity, there may be one
hundred thousand ways of understanding Christianity.
In Plum Village, where many people from different religious backgrounds come
to practice, it is not difficult to see that sometimes a Buddhist recognizes
a Christian as being more Buddhist than another Buddhist. I see a Buddhist,
but the way he understands Buddhism is quite different from the way I do.
However, when I look at a Christian, I see that the way he understands Christianity
and practices love and charity is closer to the way I practice them than this
man who is called a Buddhist. The same thing is true in Christianity. From
time to time, you feel that you are very far away from your Christian brother.
You feel that the brother who practices in the Buddhist tradition is much
closer to you as a Christian. So Buddhism is not Buddhism and Christianity
is not Christianity. There are many forms of Buddhism and many ways of understanding
Buddhism. There are many ways of understanding Christianity. Therefore, let
us forget the idea that Christianity must be like this, and that Buddhism
can only be like that.
We don't want to say that Buddhism is a kind of Christianity and Christianity
is a kind of Buddhism. A mango can not be an orange. I cannot accept the fact
that a mango is an orange. They are two different things. Vive la difference.
But when you look deeply into the mango and into the orange, you see that
although they are different they are both fruits. If you analyze the mango
and the orange deeply enough, you will see small elements are in both, like
the sunshine, the clouds, the sugar, and the acid. If you spend time looking
deeply enough, you will discover that the only difference between them lies
in the degree, in the emphasis. At first you see the difference between the
orange and the mango. But if you look a little deeper, you discover many things
in common. In the orange you find acid and sugar which is in the mango too.
Even two oranges taste different; one can be very sour and one can be very
From "Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers" by Thich Nhat Hanh, Riverhead
Books, an imprint of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1999. Thich Nhat Hanh, a rare combination
of mystic, scholar, and activist, is a Vietnamese monk and one of the most
beloved Buddhist teachers alive today. Poet, Zen master and chairman of the
Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation during the Vietnam War, he was nominated
by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the author
of many books, and lives in France.
^Top of Page
THE SOUND OF MINDFULNESS
Turning off the shower at 2.15am, I hear something for the very first time
- the sound of mindfulness; the sound of the ticking of a small clock on a
shelf in the bathroom. I had no idea it ticked so "loudly". The ticking was
highlighted by the still of the night, by my mind silenced by the stillness.
It was amazing how definite and crisp the ticking sounded - without the sound
of the running shower, without the chatter of my mind's thoughts.
It made me wonder what other wonders I'd been missing in daily life.
What is the sound of mindfulness? It is the sound of whatever is around here
and now. Miss the sound of here and now and you miss that much of your real
life, which can only happen here and now. We are partially deaf when we are
not totally aware of all the sounds of here and now. In the same way we are
blind... and numb in the other senses.
When was the last time you looked up and marvelled at a starry night? Do
you SEE the myriad colours and shapes in all you see? Do you stop and SMELL
the scent of the roses? Do you TASTE the rich flavours of every meal? Do you
FEEL and enjoy the hot shower at the end of a hard day's work? And perhaps
more importantly, are you mindful of your mind, of your thoughts and feelings?
Without mental mindfulness, there is no mindfulness of the senses.
If you are often not mindful of here and now, you are seldom truly alive -
for only here and now can you live, not elsewhere, in the past or future.
Do you bask in the light of mindfulness? Do you savour it?
The next night, while I was waiting for the bus, I looked for the moon, searching
for the familiar white disc which breaks the blank emptiness of the night
sky. I became mindful that I was searching for something to fill the momentary
emptiness, the existential hollowness of my heart. With that, a thought came
to mind- "When you gaze at the cloudless sky, you either see the emptiness
of the sky (xu|kong|) or the emptiness of your heart (kong|xu|)." Just being
mindful of this made me feel better. I am not lost. The lost are not aware.
After being aware of my spiritual emptiness in the moment, I am already searching
for my way out. Lo! Behold! Listen! Don't get lost in this moment. Pay attention!
What sound of mindfulness are you missing now?
Shiqin01@hotmail.com, from a posting at The
Daily Enlightenment.com (Slightly edited)
^Top of Page
THE ENLIGHTENED ONES
What are enlightened people like? Well, some are men and some are women.
You might find them in a monastery or a suburban home, in the forest or in
a small country town.
It is true that there are not many of them but there is a lot more than people
usually think. It is not that enlightenment is inherently difficult; the sad
truth is that most people cannot be bothered to pull themselves out of the
bog of ignorance and craving.
At first you wouldn't notice the enlightened person in a crowd because he's
rather quiet and retiring. But when things started to get heated, that's when
he'd stand out. When everyone else was enflamed by rage he'd still be full
of love. When others were in turmoil because of some crises he'd be as calm
as he was before. In a mad scramble to get as much as possible, he'd be the
one over in the corner with the content expression on his face.
He walks smoothly over the rough, he's steady amidst the shaking. It's not
that he wants to make a point of being different, rather it's because freedom
from desire has made him completely self-contained. But strangely, although
others can't move him, his calm presence moves them.
His gentle reasoned words unite those at odds and bring even closer together
those already united. The afflicted, the frightened and the worried feel better
after they have talked with him. Wild animals sense the kindness in the enlightened
one's heart and are not afraid of him. Even the place where he dwells, be
it village, forest, hill or vale, seems more beautiful simply because he is
Reflections by Ven. S. Dhammika based on the original buddhist Scriptures
BUDDHIST VIEWS ON MARRIAGE
In Buddhism, marriage is regarded as entirely a personal, individual concern
and not as a religious duty. Marriage is a social convention, an institution
created by man for the well-being and happiness of man, to differentiate human
society from animal life and to maintain order and harmony in the process
of procreation. Even though the Buddhist texts are silent on the subject of
monogamy or polygamy, the Buddhist laity is advised to limit themselves to
one wife. The Buddha did not lay rules on married life but gave necessary
advice on how to live a happy married life. There are ample inferences in
His sermons that it is wise and advisable to be faithful to one wife and not
to be sensual and to run after other women. The Buddha realized that one of
the main causes of man's downfall is his involvement with other women (Parabhava
Sutta). Men must realize the difficulties, the trials and tribulations that
he has to undergo just to maintain a wife and a family. These would be magnified
many times when faced with calamities. Knowing the frailties of human nature,
the Buddha did, in one of His precepts, advise His followers to refrain from
committing adultery or sexual misconduct.
The Buddhist views on marriage are very liberal: in Buddhism, marriage is
regarded entirely as personal and individual concern, and not as a religious
duty. There are no religious laws in Buddhism compelling a person to be married,
to remain as a bachelor or to lead a life of total chastity. It is not laid
down anywhere that Buddhists must produce children or regulate the number
of children that they produce. Buddhism allows each individual the freedom
to decide for himself all the issues pertaining to marriage. It might be asked
why Buddhist monks do not marry, since there are no laws for or against marriage.
The reason is obviously that to be of service to mankind, the monks have chosen
a way of life which includes celibacy. Those who renounce the worldly life
keep away from married life voluntarily to avoid various worldly commitments
in order to maintain peace of mind and to dedicate their lives solely to serve
others in the attainment of spiritual emancipation. Although Buddhist monks
do not solemnize a marriage ceremony, they do perform religious services in
order to bless the couples.
Separation or divorce is not prohibited in Buddhism though the necessity
would scarcely arise if the Buddha's injunctions were strictly followed. Men
and women must have the liberty to separate if they really cannot agree with
each other. Separation is preferable to avoid miserable family life for a
long period of time. The Buddha further advises old men not to have young
wives as the old and young are unlikely to be compatible, which can create
undue problems, disharmony and downfall (Parabhava Sutta).
From: 'What Buddhists Believe' by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
^Top of Page
DO THE THOUGHTS EVER STOP?
The Buddha advised bhikkhus, "Bhikkhus when you have assembled together
you should do one of two things: have Dhamma discussions or observe noble
Noble silence is the state of mind where there are no thoughts. The mind is
totally silent. Thoughts can be stopped only if we train our mind to do so
through correct meditation practice.
A meditator should begin by paying undivided and uninterrupted attention to
one single object without verbalizing the experience in the mind. When you
verbalize and conceptualize things, you interrupt your attention on the one
hand and on the other you perpetuate your thoughts.
When you verbalize, you add more and more concepts or ideas. The reality is
not a word or verb. The reality is what you experience. When you experience
aches and pains or pleasure and happiness in or out of your meditation, you
directly notice the experience exactly as it is. You don't need a conceptual
bridge between your experience and direct knowledge. When you are hungry,
you experience hunger without saying: "I am hungry, I am hungry."
You need nouns and verbs only to communicate your experience. When you meditate
you observe total silence, not trying to talk to anybody about your experience.
You should know yourself exactly as you are. You should feel yourself exactly
as you are.
From babyhood through college, we learn to use words, concepts and ideas to
make others understand us. But during meditation you are not trying to express
your experience to anybody. By training your mind to remain silent, you make
it silent. If you add more words to the mind, the mind simply remains busy.
We all have noticed people sitting or walking down the street carrying on
a monologue with themselves. They cannot silence their minds. This is an extreme
example of being unable to still thoughts. But in our own way, we wrestle
with this in daily life and in meditation. It comes down to this; unless you
try, you can never stop all that thinking. You still the thoughts only when
you determine to do so.
Pay total attention to what you experience through the six senses without
labeling what arises. There are certain things you experience for which no
words are necessary. You simply know them. Your mind knows them. You stay
with this knowing. When you feel cold, the normal habit is to say to yourself,
"Gee, it is cold." When you feel hot, you automatically think, "Boy,
it is hot." Simply pay attention to the cold you feel without this additional
thought. Simply feel the heat without verbalizing the experience. When you
remember visiting a place, or talking to someone, or eating ice cream or holding
someone by the hand, simply become aware of those objects of your memory.
You need to gain full concentration to stop your thoughts. You do this by
paying total attention to one object at a time. If you start the practice
by focusing your mind exclusively on one object, gradually you condition your
mind to overcome discursive thoughts by sustaining initial contact with the
When you listen to your heartbeat you don't need concepts to feel this subtle
occurrence. Similarly, during meditation as you pay total attention to your
in-breathing and out-breathing, you can notice the beginning, middle, and
end of each inhaling and each exhaling. You can notice the brief pause between
inhaling and exhaling. You can notice these natural occurrences in your breath
if you pay total attention to them.
The mind moves so rapidly yet we can train it to notice these events exactly
as they happen because they happen in succession. If you conceptualize these
occurrences then you will be unable to notice them. Instead, you hang on to
the words and miss the actual experience. You don't have to say, "This
is the beginning of breathing in," or "This is the middle"
or "This is the end." Simply notice these stages. You don't need
thought to notice them. All you need is attention.
By no means do we become a vegetable when we still our thoughts. A quiet mind
is receptive to insight. And you can stop the thought process by systematically
training the mind.
I use the phrase "quieting the mind" or "silencing the mind"
to mean not having thought in the mind, but this does not mean slowing down
the mind like slowing down a body's metabolism during hibernation. It simply
means not having thought-creating habits in the mind.
The brain does not manufacture thoughts unless we stimulate it with habitual
verbalizing. When we train ourselves by constant practice to stop verbalizing,
the brain can experience things as they are. By silencing the mind, we can
experience real peace. As long as various kinds of thoughts agitate the brain,
we don't experience 100 percent peace.
Peace is not a thought, not a concept, it is a nonverbal experience. One can
stay in this peaceful state up to seven days. But before one attains such
a totally peaceful state of mind, one should gradually train oneself to slow
down thoughts. Once slowed down, thoughts fade away and no more new thoughts
are fed into the brain.
Even while not meditating, we experience many things deeply for which often
there are no words. We may try to find a word or verb for that experience.
We may call it intuition. Yet intuitions may arise with no associated words
or concepts. You can also listen to sounds without any words arising in the
mind. It is said the best way to enjoy music is to listen to music. While
hearing music, you listen to the sound without trying to verbalize the sound.
Or consider how you listen to a bird's song; you don't verbalize the sound.
You may say "The robin sings like this..." but that is your imagination.
This means that even outside of meditation you can experience many very subtle
things simply by paying total attention to your senses. Most of the time,
we verbalize things after we have experienced them, not while experiencing
them. But when you pay total, nonverbal attention to something, you gain concentration
which is not possible by verbalizing. Words stimulate the mind. Therefore
the mind keeps producing more and more words and we express them in thoughts.
By nonverbal attention, you can minimize the number of words you use. When
the words are minimized, thoughts are minimized. Finally, this process makes
the mind truly free from thoughts. But if you don't minimize the words, you
can't free the mind from thoughts.
When you experience something, if you don't try to translate the experience
into words you simply have the experience, not thoughts. Sights, sounds, smells,
tastes, touch, they can all be experienced directly without words. When you
use words, you block your direct experience of sensory objects.
After all, it is not the words that make you experience what you experience.
Suppose the color white appears before your eyes. The whiteness reflects on
your eyes. The minds knows it as it is. Only if you want to express what you
have seen do you really need words. Yet whiteness is not a word, but what
it is. Blackness is not a word, but what it is. The same is true for sweetness,
bitterness, sourness, toughness, and everything in your experience.
The brain does not manufacture thoughts from nothing. It has to be fed something
to use as raw material for manufacturing thoughts. The raw material is what
you have fed to it in the past. If you do not feed it words, if you have trained
it by avoiding verbalization, the brain cannot manufacture thoughts from a
by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
^Top of Page
BASIC POINTS UNIFYING THE THERAVADA
AND THE MAHAYANA
The World Buddhist Sangha Council was first convened by Theravadins in Sri
Lanka in 1966 with the hope of bridging differences and working together.
The first convention was attended by leading monks, from many countries and
sects, Mahaayaana as well as Theravaada.
The following, written by Ven. Walpola Rahula was approved unanimously.
1. The Buddha is our only Master.
2. We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.
3. We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a God.
4. Following the example of the Buddha, who is the embodiment of Great Compassion
(mahaa-karu.naa) and Great Wisdom (mahaa- praj~naa), we consider that the
purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination
and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom leading
to the realization of Ultimate Truth.
5. We accept the Four Noble Truths, nameley Dukkha, the Arising of Dukkha,
the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Dukkha;
and the universal law of cause and effect as taught in the pratiitya-samutpaada
(Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination).
6. We understand, according to the teaching of the Buddha, that all conditioned
things (sa.mskaara) are impermanent (anitya) and dukkha, and that all conditioned
and unconditioned things (dharma) are without self (anaatma).
7. We accept the Thirty-seven Qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhipak.sa-dharma)
as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment.
8. There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment, according to
the ability and capacity of each individual: namely as a disciple (sraavaka),
as a Pratyeka-Buddha and as a Samyak-sam-Buddha (perfectly and Fully Enlightened
Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and mostheroic to follow the
career of a Bodhisattva and to become a Samyak-sam-Buddha in order to save
9. We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard
to the life of Buddhist monks, popular Buddhist beliefs and practices, rites
and ceremonies, customs and habits. These external forms and expressions should
not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.
From: Walpola Rahula; The Heritage of the Bhikkhu; (New York, Grove Press,
TAKING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
With mindfulness, we can be independent of the positions other people are
taking. We can stand on our own two feet and take responsibility for acting
in a virtuous way, regardless of what the rest of sociery is doing.I can be
kind, generous, and loving toward you, and that is a joy to me.But if I make
my happiness dependent upon your being kind to me, then it will always be
threatened, because if you aren't doing what I like-behaving the way I want
you to-then I'm going to be unhappy. So then, my happiness is always under
threat because the world might not behave as I want it to.
It's clear that I would spend the rest of my life being terribly disappointed
if I expected everything to change-if I expected everybody to become virtuous,
wars to stop, money not to be wasted, governments to be compassionate, sharing,
and giving-everything to be just exactly the way I want it! Actually, I don't
expect to see very much of that in my lifetime, but there is no point in being
miserable about it ; happiness based on what I want is not all that important.
Joy isn't dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way you
want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their giving you all
the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn't dependent upon anything but
your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving.
It's that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science
of goodness. Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human realm.
So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing is beyond
my control-I can't go around making everything how I want it- still, I can
be kind, generous, and patient,and do good, and develop virtue. That I can
do, and that's worth doing, and not something anyone can stop me from doing.
However rotten or corrupted society is doesn't make any difference to our
ability to be virtuous and to do good.
Excerpted from 'The Mind and the Way' by Ajahn Sumedo.
February 6, 2011