The Teachings of Buddhism are called the Buddha-Dharma. It is said that the teachings in the first dharma talk that Shakyamuni Buddha gave after attaining Awakening were about the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
He taught the Middle Way first, rebuking man’s way of seeking only pleasure as foolish. However, he also maintained that opposite, extreme asceticism, was of no benefit either. He rejected both these extremes and recommended the Middle Way between them. He then taught the Four Noble Truths.
1. The True Aspect of Life
Shakyamuni Buddha took a candid view of life. He realized that even though it might seem fine on the surface, life was actually unavoidably connected with suffering.
* Old Age
In addition to the “four types of sufferings” he added the following, to comprise the “eight types of suffering”:
* Parting from those we love
* Having to associate with those we dislike
* Being unable to acquire what we wish
* Being attached to the five elemental aggregates of which our body, mind and environment are composed.
All of these sufferings cause agony today, just as they always have in the history of mankind. We can do nothing about them.
This “truth of suffering” is not just a view of life; rather, it is the truth of life itself. It cannot be ignored no matter how hard we try. Even if we take joy in something, that joy does not continue forever, and things do not always go as we plan. This is the nature of life.
2. Truth of the Cause of Suffering
Just as the proper treatment of an illness consists of first determining its cause and then taking appropriate measures, we must first know the cause of suffering in order to resolve it.
The basic cause of our suffering, Shakyamuni Buddha taught, is our bonno-our base passions or worldly desires. Bonno is often referred to as “blind passions.” They are called “blind” because although we may often see these passions in others and may think that we understand them, more often than not, we fail to see them in ourselves.
Thus, we are blind to our own cause of suffering. Our bonno are countless, but those that cause us the most problems are greed, anger, and unawareness.
How much suffering do we bring upon ourselves by our greed, and to what extent do we cause our families and friends anguish as a result? How untenable do we render the conditions of our society because of our anger? How much effort have we expended on things that are of absolutely no benefit because of our unawareness of what is reasonable and suitable?
When we seek the root of our greed, anger, and unawareness, we come to our egotism or obstinacy. Making all our decisions based on our egocentric orientation, wanting everything to turn out just as we wish, is what underlies everything. That is how Shakyamuni Buddha made clear the cause of our suffering.
3. Transcending Suffering
Once we become aware that the cause of suffering is our blind desire, we see that the cessation of suffering comes of giving up the egoistic mind and heart and seeking the world of nirvana. This term literally means “blow out” as in blowing out the flame of a candle, and refers to the state in which blind desires no longer control us.
The basic principles of Buddha-Dharma can thus be said to be contained in the following three formulations which reflect the concepts of dependent origination and the true aspect of life:
“All conditioned things are impermanent.” All things change in relation to causes and conditions.
“Phenomenal things exist only because of conditions; hence, they have no substance.” Nothing exists independently or statically.
“Nirvana is peace.” If we can transcend suffering, we are able to live with untroubled peace of mind.
The above three formulations, which are referred to as the “seal of three laws”, make Buddha-Dharma what it is. If a teaching does not express these three laws, it is not Buddha-Dharma.
4. The Eightfold Path
Transcending the ego-the source of our suffering- is the ultimate goal of Buddha-Dharma. Shakyamuni Buddha taught that the way to transcend it was to follow the Eightfold Path.
We should learn and try to understand the Truth.
To keep ourselves free from prejudice, superstition, and delusion, and to see life as it truly is.
(Having an unshakable mind that is free from any clouding of understanding caused by wants and desires.)
We should try always to do what is right.
To turn away from evils of this world and to direct our minds towards righteousness.
(Paying attention and developing our awareness of the body and the mind. It is with constant awareness that we are able to bring about a change in ourselves. We avoid that which is harmful and promote that which is good.)
We should be truthful and kind in all we say.
To refrain from pointless and harmful talk and to speak kindly and courteously to all.
(Abstaining from any falsehood, lying, and any speech that brings disharmony.)
We should try to behave ourselves at all times.
To see that our deeds are peaceful, benevolent, compassionate, and pure; to live the teachings of the Buddha daily.
(Action that ceases from harming others and concentrates on pure actions free from the impurities of selfishness.)
We should earn our living in a way which will not harm anyone.
To earn our living honorably in such a way as to entail no evil consequences.
(Avoidance of ways of living that bring harm and sufferings to others. To live blameless and free from harm to oneself and to anyone else.)
We should constantly try to improve ourselves.
To direct our efforts incessantly to the overcoming of ignorance and selfish desires.
(Making effort to prevent the arising of harmful thoughts. It concentrates on what is going on in our minds since this is the basis of our actions.)
We should try to have good and pure thoughts because our words and actions arise from our thoughts.
To cherish good and pure thoughts, for all that we say and do arise from our thoughts.
(Thoughts that are free from ego-centeredness. They are thoughts that are harmless and nonviolent and have love toward all.)
We should think often of Amida Buddha and repeat the Name, Namo-Amidabutsu.
To concentrate our will on the Buddha, Amida’s Life and the Teachings.
(Developing a steady and undershakable mind through the development of Eight Effort and Right Purpose.)
In the Mahayana tradition, the Eightfold Path is summarized in the “six types of practice by which a bodhisattva attains Buddhahood” which are: dana (charity and kindness to others), sila (observing precepts), ksanti (patience), virya (effort), dhyana (meditation), prajna (higher wisdom).
1. Dana Paramita
May I be generous and helpful!
2. Sila paramita
May I be pure and virtuous!
3. Ksanti Paramita
May I be patient! May I be able to bear and forbear the wrongs of others!
4. Virya Paramita
May I be strenuous, energetic, and persevering!
5. Dhyana Paramita
May I practice meditation and attain concentration and oneness to serve all beings!
6. Prajna Paramita
May I gain wisdom and be able to give the benefit of my wisdom to others!
These are considered the standard practices along the Buddhist Way.