Of Buddha, Dharma & The Virtue of Buddhist Existence
According to legend, Siddhārtha Gautama sat under what is considered to be the holiest tree in the world, Ficus religiosa, for 49 days meditating, was enlightened and with that became Buddha. Even today, by visiting the temple of Sri Mahabodhi in India, it can be witnessed growing as a direct descendant of the Buddha’s holy enlightenment tree.
Tibetan people, from whom Siddhārtha Gautama was also born from, use the term ‘Lojong’, a training to development an enlightened mind that follows the bodhicitta, a Buddhist teaching of compassion, self-equalization with others and, eventually, an awakening that exceeds the boundaries of oneself – a calm support that derives from within, a deeper knowledge that provides us with answers to guide us towards the right actions.
Buddha refers to the ‘Enlightened’, the ‘Awakened One’. The Buddha thus evolves as Buddhadharma, the know-and-see-all being, who is liberated from obstacles of the mind and has the ability to embrace all consequences with great and virtuous compassion. The Buddha, awoken from the dormant state of ignorance, recognizes both the wheels of the past and the future in cosmic motion, universally evolving and currently present.
Dharma presents itself as a humanly form through Buddha, and the divine attributes of exponential truth and natural law as universal components are the very qualities of Buddha himself. Dharma equally refers to the existing natural order of all things, phenomena emerging in the sensory realms, as well as the central concept within the actualization of Buddhist teachings. Through these teachings Dharma embodies the protecting path, the wisdom that is acquired by abiding to the Buddhist guidelines. While practicing the duty, custom and principles as outlined by the Noble Truths, we actively protect ourselves from dukkha, the suffering attached to the elements of the humanly self, the one clinging to impermanent desires. The most meaningful passages and thresholds of life actualize through bardo, the limbo in between, where one is faced with revolutionary challenges. A skillful mind can approach the questions, overcome them, succeed upon the task and transcend into a more evolved being.
Dr. Lopen Karma Phuntsho describes that to Buddhists the mind represents the definitive feature observing phenomena, and it is through the mind that the reality of the objective world is presented and interpreted, thus determining our understanding of the world. This can, according to Mattia Salvini as discussed in the Journal of Indian Philosophy, be referred to as dependent arising.
Buddhist teachings essentially emphasize, that the morality and ethics of actions are dependent upon their evaluated degree of harmfulness to others. As these teachings state, it is by the power of our mind, and therefore through our understanding of the surrounding phenomena, that is to dictate us the right path in order to avoid any unnecessary suffering caused to others, to elude personal possibilities for regret and remorse. In this quest, a skilled mind of attention and meaningful self-restriction helps to navigate in the complex sphere of morality. As Mark Siderits marks, the faculties of rationality can act as valuable guiding realms to decide upon the appropriate action in Buddhism, pointing out that a sacred Hindu text Bhagavad Gītā assigns four paths depending upon the talents and aspirations of an individual, yet all leading to the ultimate yearning of salvation, nirvana – Buddhist traditions simply teach there being one right path consisting of a variety of practices.
Buddhism teaches that this right path is, however, consisting of Four Noble Truths. The unavoidable element of existence consists of suffering and anxiety referred to as dukkha, this view representing a rational perception over the prevalent essence of human life. Dukkha represents the first Noble Truth, and the other truths follow to dictate that dukkha can be defined and appointed to a certain source, the ceasing of dukkha can be seen as the ultimate fulfillment and the final truth states the path towards this ceasing, referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path. This interacting guidance emphasizes for example the vitality of knowledge, understanding over the nature of truth, a deep and clarified contemplation over the nature of dukkha and the essence of pondering the central Buddhist virtue, patience, and its origins itself.
The Buddhist virtues thus include characteristics of cultivating realization, a pure and clarified grasp over the essence of truthfulness and the conditions and origins of it, the permanence of impermanence, selflessness and the aim towards it, awareness of sensation and the ability to address the necessary points leading us across the path towards cessation. Cessation, as the rewarded liberation, as nirvana, that will eventually lead us away from samsara, the series of repeated cycles of life and death. Through the dedicated practice of Dharma, the realization of happiness arises from acknowledgement of the passing self and the aim to benefit others through one’s own inner balance.
It is also important to distinct the two main Buddhist schools, Theravada and Mahayana, and to acknowledge that these two approach the truth teachings to a degree differently, while unified in the goals of enlightenment. In our future writings we will continue to unfold the schools and the teachings themselves through these approaches more in detail and in depth. The Buddhist discourses that are brought together into the form of Noble Truths form the grounding basis of Buddhist beliefs and guide the way into a deeper realization over what, essentially, as humans unites us and perhaps also sometimes separates us in the perception and interpretation over the right practices to reach fulfillment.
Ajahn Sumedho states that “the more we contemplate and investigate grasping, the more the insight arises, ‘desire should be let go –“. Pacification and peace, withdrawal from violence and agonizing actions, along with it the ceasing consumption of humanly desires that present us as earthly wants and needs. It is in our nature to reflect upon others and to build the complex strands of our unique personality entwined into the perception of others, and yet, while we aim on becoming more knowledgeable over the nature of perception itself, we also nourish an ability to differentiate the perception from the truth. We realize that we cannot ask of others for our fulfillment – we must seek for the wisdom within ourselves, and then let the wisdom go, resonate back into the world where it belongs, an intellect available to all.
We seek the truth, the truth remains hidden. Until one day, a discovery reveals itself to us: the truth is in the search itself, the truth gains strength through our pursuits to conclude it, to better realize who we are as those who are collectively crafted into humans, those with the power to reach for others, to sympathize and to understand.