Buddha was born in Nepal in the 6th Century and enjoyed the privileged position of being the son of a tribal leader.
A Buddhist is constantly striving to reach that state of enlightenment in which all the secrets and mysteries of life will be revealed. Buddhism can be seen as a set of teachings about tolerance and as a path to self-improvement, rather than as a religion, in the traditional sense.
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Lately I’ve been having an ongoing discussion with students regarding the Buddhist idea of karma. Just as in the analogy of a billiard game, our thoughts and actions ripple outward, collide with others’ thoughts and actions and generate consequences. Even if we agree that, within our lives, cause and effect creates certain patterns beyond just an arbitrary flurry of activity, several questions arise.
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For more than 2,500 years, the religion we know today as Buddhism has been the primary inspiration behind many successful civilizations, a source of great cultural achievements and a lasting and meaningful guide to the very purpose of life for millions of people. The man who was to become the Buddha was born Siddhattha Gotama around 2,600 years ago as a prince of a small territory near what is now the Indian-Nepalese border. Then at the age of 35, on the full moon night of May, he sat beneath the branches of what is now known as the Bodhi Tree, in a secluded grove by the banks of the river Neranjana, and developed his mind in deep and luminous, tranquil meditation. His Enlightenment consisted of the most profound and all embracing insight into the nature of mind and all phenomena. Having realized the goal of Perfect Enlightenment, the Buddha spent the next 45 years teaching a path which, when diligently followed, will take anyone regardless of race, class or gender to the same Perfect Enlightenment. The main teaching of the Buddha focuses not on philosophical speculation about a Creator God or the origin of the universe, nor on reaching a heaven world ever after. All beings, human and otherwise, are afflicted with all sorts of disappointments, sadness, discomfort, anxiety etc. Suffering has a final end in the experience of Enlightenment (Nibbana), which is the complete letting go of the illusion of ‘soul’ and the consequent ending of craving and ill will.
This peaceful and blissful Enlightenment is achieved through a gradual training, a path called the Middle Way, or the Eightfold Path. It would be mistaken to label this teaching as “pessimistic’ on the grounds that it begins by focusing on suffering.
The way to the end of all suffering is called the Middle Way because it avoids the two extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. Drinking alcohol and taking stupefying drugs which lead to a weakening of mindfulness and moral judgment. Right Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration refer to the practice of meditation, which purifies the mind through the experience of blissful states of inner stillness and empowers the mind to penetrate the meaning of life through profound moments of insight. Right Understanding and Thought are the manifestations of Buddha-Wisdom which end all suffering, transforms the personality and produces unshakeable serenity and tireless compassion.
According to the Buddha, without perfecting the practice of virtue it is impossible to arrive at Enlightenment Wisdom. There are also deeds of body, speech and mind that lead to one’s own well-being of others, or to the well-being of both. The Buddha pointed out that no being whatsoever, divine or otherwise, has the power to stop the consequences of good and bad karma. This natural law of karma thus becomes the force behind, and the reason for, the Buddhist practice of morality and compassion in our society. The law of karma can only be understood in the frame work of many lifetimes because it sometimes takes this long for karma to bear its fruit. Understanding that we come and go between different realms, give us more respect and compassion for the being in these realms.
The Buddha also pointed out that no God or priest nor any other kind of being has the power to interfere in the working out of someone else’s karma. No being is a Supreme Saviour, because gods, humans, animals and all other beings are subject to the law of karma.
The Buddha taught that there is no ‘soul’, no essential and permanent core to a living being. Indeed, the illusion of a ‘soul’ is said by the Buddha to be the root cause of all human suffering.
One could say that there in only one type of Buddhism and that is the huge collection of teachings originally given by the Buddha. Between 100 and 200 years after the passing away of the Buddha the Sangha (the monastic community) split over the question, apparently, of who has influence in Sangha affairs. After centuries of development, previously unknown scriptures appeared, attempting to give a philosophical justification for the superiority of the Bodhisattva over Arahant.
The Buddhism which established itself in China, and which is still vibrant in Taiwan, reflects the earlier development of Mahayana. Today, Buddhism continues to gain ever wider acceptance in many lands far beyond its original home. The Buddhist teaching of the law of karma offers people a just, incorruptible foundation and reason for living a moral life.
The teaching of rebirth places this present short lifetime of ours in a broader perspective, giving more meaning to the vital events of birth and death.
From the very beginning the practice of meditation has been at the very heart of Buddhist way. Today’s world is too small and vulnerable for us to live angrily and alone, and thus tolerance, love and compassion are so very important. Forgiveness, gentleness, harmlessness and peaceful compassion are the well-known ‘trademarks’ of Buddhism, and they are given freely and broadly to all beings, including animals of course, and also, most importantly, to oneself. Teaching and practices such as these are what bring about qualities of gentle kindness, unshakeable serenity and wisdom, identified with the Buddhist religion for over 25 centuries and sorely needed in today’s world. While it seems to bear all the hallmarks of a religious belief, the main difference is that any worship is not given up to a deity or creative power.

He sought out the most prominent spiritual teachers and soaked up all they had to say, but was always left feeling as though there was something else - an elusive something that was missing from all he learned.
Meditation is at the core of this belief system and monks will spend many hours a day in a state of altered consciousness, hoping that they will achieve the ultimate spiritual awakening.
For Buddhists, simply believing a scripture or a doctrine defeats the purpose of the whole system. Just as violent words engender violent thoughts and deeds, peaceful words also generate peaceful thoughts and actions.
In employing Right Mindfulness, Buddhists seek to achieve a non-judgemental and accepting state of mind. After that, maybe another person takes a turn and moves the balls around and then it’s your turn again. These consequences create the setting in which we initiate our next set of thoughts and actions.
The first is, when does this highly connective, interactive process between our mind and body and the events that play out in our lives actually begin? The Chakra is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. Today, large numbers of men and women from diverse backgrounds throughout the world are following the Teachings of the Buddha.
Though he was raised in a splendid comfort, enjoying aristocratic status, no amount of material pleasure could conceal life’s imperfections from the unusually inquisitive young man. Using the extraordinary clarity of such a mind, with its sharp penetrative power generated by state of deep inner stillness, he turned his attention to investigate the truth of mind, universe and life.
This Enlightenment was not a revelation from some divine being, but a discovery made by himself based on the deepest levels of meditation and the clearest experience of mind. The teachings about this path are called the Dharma, literally meaning the nature of all things or the truth underlying existence. He pointed out the danger in fashioning one’s beliefs merely on the following grounds: hearsay, tradition, because many others say it is so, the authority of ancient scriptures, the word of the supernatural being or out of trust in one’s teachers, elders or priests. Tolerance does not mean that one embraces every idea or view but that one doesn’t get angry at what one can’t accept. The teaching instead is centered on the down-to-earth reality of human suffering and the urgent need to find lasting relief from all forms of discontent. Rather, Buddhism is ‘realistic’ in that it unflinchingly faces up to the truth of life’s many sufferings, and it is ‘optimistic’ in that it show a final end to the problem: Nibbana-Enlightenment in this very life!
Only when the body is in reasonable comfort but not overindulged, does the mind have the clarity and strength to meditate deeply and discover the truth. Thus the Buddhist path is the gradual one, a middle way consisting of virtue, meditation and wisdom, explained in the Eightfold Path and leading to happiness and liberation. Thus when misfortune occurs, instead of blaming someone else, one can look for faults in one’s own past conduct. The fact that one reaps just what one sows gives the Buddhist a powerful incentive to avoid all forms of bad karma and do as much good karma as possible.
A spoon of salt mixed in a glass of water makes the whole glass very salty, whereas the same spoon of salt mixed in a freshwater lake hardly changes the taste of water at all. Thus karma and rebirth offer a plausible explanation to the obvious inequalities of birth-why some are born in great wealth whereas others are born into pathetic poverty; why some children enter this world healthy and full-limbed whereas others enter it deformed and diseased. It is unlikely, for example, that one would exploit animals when one has seen the link of rebirth that connects them with us. Even the Buddha had no power to save – he could only point out the truth for the wise to see for themselves.
Instead, that which we call a ‘living being’, human or otherwise, can be seen to be but a temporary coming-together of many parts and activities – when complete it is called a ‘living being’, but when the parts have separated and the activities have ceased it is not called a ‘living being’ any more. Now, to complete this brief sketch of Buddhism, let’s look at how these teaching are practiced today. These teachings are found in the Pali Canon, the ancient scriptures of Theravada Buddhism, widely accepted as the oldest and most reliable record of the Buddha’s word.
A controversy over some monastic rules had been decided by a committee of mostly Arahants (fully Enlightened monks or nuns) against the views of the majority. From China Mahayana spread to Vietnam, Korea and Japan, one result of which was the emergence of Zen. People throughout the world, through their own careful choice, are adopting Buddhism’s peaceful. It is easy to see how a wider embracing of the law of karma would lead any country towards a stronger, more caring and virtuous society. The understanding of rebirth removes so much of the tragedy and grief surrounding death and turns our attention to the quality of a life, rather than its mere length. Today, meditation grows increasingly popular as its proven benefits to both mental and physical well-being are becoming more widely known.
These qualities of mind, essential for happiness, are formally developed in Buddhist meditation and then diligently put into practice in everyday life. There is no place for dwelling in guilt or self-hatred in Buddhism, not even a place for feeling guilty about feeling guilty! Instead, Buddhists are continually striving for a state of enlightenment and the teachings of Buddha are integral to that process. With the majority of his needs catered for and no need to work, Siddhartha fell to contemplation, considering the meaning of man’s existence, life, death and the process of growing old.
As he travelled, Siddhartha began to deny himself material goods in every aspect of his life, going so far as to undertake long periods of fasting. However, since it gained popularity in the West during the 19th Century, Buddhism has adapted, allowing those who want to absorb it into their lives to do so on their own terms.
The Buddha taught that we are all able to uncover the truth of life’s mysteries for ourselves, focussing on a practical, spiritual approach, rather than simple acceptance of what we are told by religious leaders. Here we are obviously breaking down a process that is multi-dimensional, fast paced, and very complex into a simple metaphor for the sake of having a look at the process itself.
At the age of 29 he left wealth and family to search for a deeper meaning in the secluded forests and remote mountains of Northeast India. Thus he gained the Supreme Enlightenment experience and from then on he was known as the Buddha, the Awakened One. It meant that he was free from the shackles of craving, all-will and delusion, that all forms of inner suffering had been eliminated and that he had acquired unshakable peace.
It is beyond the scope of this pamphlet to present a thorough description of all these teachings, but the following seven topics will give you an overview of what the Buddha taught. Instead one maintains an open mind and thoroughly investigates one’s own experience of life.

As one’s meditation deepens, one eventually sees these teachings for oneself with insight, and only then do they become one’s own truth giving blissful liberation. The Buddha gave the simile of a man shot by a poison-tipped arrow who, before he would accept a doctor to treat him, first demanded to know who shot the arrow, his social standing, where he was from, what sort of bow he used, what the arrow was made of… This foolish man would surely die before his questions could be answered. Those who have achieved this ultimate peace are inspiring examples that demonstrate once and for all that Buddhism is far from pessimistic but is a path to true happiness. There are deeds of body, speech and mind that lead to one’s own harm, to others’ harm, or to the harm of both. They are motivated by generosity, compassion or wisdom and because they bring pleasant results they should be done as often as possible. If fault is found, the experience of its consequences will make one more careful in the future. Similarly, the results of bad karma in a person habitually doing only a small amount of good karma is painful indeed, whereas the result of the same bad karma in a person habitually doing a great deal of good karma is only felt mildly. The painful results of bad karma should not be regard as punishment for evil deeds but as lesson from which to learn.
There are many separate heavenly realms and grim lower realms too, including the realms of animals and the realm of ghosts. For example, if you want to be wealthy then be generous, trust-worthy and diligent, and if you want to live in a heavenly realm then always be kind to others. This present universe from the moment of the ‘big bang’ up to now, is but one among a countless number in Buddhist cosmology. Everyone must take responsibility for their own future well-being, and it is dangerous to give that responsibility to anyone else. Like a computer assembled of many parts and activities, only when it is complete and performs coherent tasks is it called a ‘computer’, but when the computer is taken apart and the activities cease it is no longer called a ‘computer’. Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion in Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos. The overruled majority were not reconciled to this decision and they probably viewed the Arahants as excessively influential. Mahayana retained most of the original teachings of the Buddha (in Chinese scriptures these are known as the ‘Agama’), but these core teachings were mostly overwhelmed by layers of expansive interpretations and new ideas. The Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia is still later development, usually referred to as ‘Vajrayana”. When stress is shown to be such a major cause of human suffering, the quieting practice of meditation becomes ever more valued.
It is this peace and tolerance, growing out of a profound yet reasonable philosophy, that makes the Buddha’s message timeless and always vitally relevant.
However, unlike many religions, the teachings are there to be questioned and tested, rather than accepted outright. While his impressive periods of abstinence earned him followers and disciples, they also served to make him weak and he realised that this could interfere with his search for the truth, so he began to eat again.
The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Chakra and The Chakra News does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. He studied under the wisest religious teachers and philosophers of his time, learning all they had to offer, but they could not provide the answers he was seeking.
When one see for oneself that a particular view agrees with both experience and reason and lead to the happiness of one and all, then one should accept that view and live up to it!
In the same way, the Buddha said, our most urgent need is to find lasting relief from recurrent discontent, which robs us of happiness and leave us in strife. When happiness occurs, instead of taking it for granted, one can look for the past good karma that cause it. For those who remember their past lives rebirth becomes an established fact which puts this life in a meaningful perspective. For example, how much better to learn about the need for generosity than to be reborn among the poor! Not only can we go to any of these realms in our next life, but we may have come from any of these realms into our present life. There is no God to ask favors from, or to put it another way, there is no corruption possible in the working of the law of karma.
When one universe cycle ends another begins, again and again, according to impersonal law and without discoverable beginning. No essential and permanent core can be found which we can truly call the ‘computer’, and just so no essential and permanent core can be found in a living being which we can call the ‘soul’.
Big egos want to control the world, average egos try to control their immediate surroundings of home, family and workplace, and all egos strive to control what they take to be their own body and mind. The disaffected monks subsequently lowerd to the exalted status of the Arahant and eventually raised in its place the ideal of the Bodhisattva (an unenlightened being said to be in training to become a Buddha). Instead, they can choose when, where and for how long they want to dedicate time to accessing their higher selves. He then struggled with the path of self-mortification, taking that practice to the extremes of asceticism, but still to no avail. Philosophical speculations are of secondary importance and are best left until after one has trained the mind in meditation to the stage where one has the ability to examine the matter clearly and see the truth for oneself.
They are motivated by craving, ill-will or delusion, and because they bring painful results they should not be done. If one find such a cause, the experience of its pleasant results will encourage more good karma in the future.
This explains a common objection against rebirth: “ How can there be rebirth when there are 10 times as many people alive today than there were a century ago?” The answer is that people alive today have come from many different realms.
Such control manifests as desire and aversion, and it results in a lack of both inner peace and outer harmony. This group of monks and nuns was first known as the ‘Maha Sangha’, meaning the ‘great (part of the) monastic community’. It is this ego that seeks to acquire possessions, manipulate others and exploit the environment.
In the same way, there was a causal link between your previous life and your present life, but no ‘soul’ went across. Such deep-rooted suffering cannot come to an end until one sees, through insight based on deep and powerful meditation, that the idea of ‘me and mine’ is no more than a mirage.

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