What is Buddhism?
First you must remove the concept of religions, especially in the western concepts from the core of it. Buddhism, even though it is lumped into religions of the world, is not a recreation of faith. It isn’t the worship of deities, even if some cultures will try to mix that in for communities. What it is , is wisdom combined with compassion undivided.
We don’t worship a deity, but we respect a great teacher. We don’t think of the concept of I, but the flow of all consciousness in an out of vessels. We don’t focus on salvation, but rather removing the obscurations that cloud our consciousness. We don’t focus on an end, but the flow of one thing to another, life water flowing from a stream, into a river, into the ocean, or lifting to the sky to rain down on life and nurture it, becoming part of it. What you are and what part of you becomes is a continuing cycle. What remains is the conscious stream.
Some have asked me: “Does Buddhism mean giving up and giving everything up?” That is silly. There is a difference between letting go, and giving up. Your experiences can be viewed in many ways. The good and what you perceive as bad. Is the bad truly bad? Or was it a precious opportunity to gain wisdom? You mind will manifest it in the way your ego influences it. So therefore, transform it into wisdom, understanding, and compassion.
Should all studying Buddhism give up everything and all experiences? Once again that is silly. The experiences are wisdom, and we learn from it. From moment to moment, rebirth to rebirth (if you choose to believe that). Is a person who smokes cigarettes bad? Some may manifest the idea in their mind. Yet someone who has never smoked can not understand the struggle. They can say “Oh I am compassionate of it but i think….”. This is ego once again. True compassion requires true understanding, and true listening in order to gain the wisdom. When we have experiences, we learn from it. Good and bad. As we progress we cultivate the good aspects, and let the negative aspects go, striving to have the right living aspects.
As a Buddhist you learn to shift the mind to compassion for all sentient life. The interconnected state. The calm of the mind. Planting good seeds of thought to replace the negative seeds of thought, preventing the negative from arising. What is the Bodhisattva way of thinking? To think of everyone and love them the same way you would nurture and love your only dear child. To wish all sentient life is free from suffering and the cause of it. Reflect the qualities of a Buddha and the eight fold path.
8 Fold Path:
Practically the whole teaching of the Buddha, to which he devoted himself during 45 years, deals in some way or other with this path. He explained it in different ways and in different words to different people, according to the stage of their development and their capacity to understand and follow him. But the essence of those many thousand discourses scattered in the Buddhist scriptures is found in the noble eightfold path.
It should not be thought that the eight categories or divisions of the path should be followed and practiced one after the other in the numerical order as given in the usual list above. But they are to be developed more or less simultaneously, as far as possible according to the capacity of each individual. They are all linked together and each helps the cultivation of the others.
These eight factors aim at promoting and perfecting the three essentials of Buddhist training and discipline: namely: (a) ethical conduct (sila), (b) mental discipline (samadhi) and (c) wisdom (panna). It will therefore be more helpful for a coherent and better understanding of the eight divisions of the path if we group them and explain them according to these three heads.
Ethical conduct (sila) is built on the vast conception of universal love and compassion for all living beings, on which the Buddha’s teaching is based. It is regrettable that many scholars forget this great ideal of the Buddha’s teaching, and indulge in only dry philosophical and metaphysical divagations when they talk and write about Buddhism. The Buddha gave his teaching “for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world.”
According to Buddhism, for a man to be perfect there are two qualities that he should develop equally: compassion (karuna) on one side, and wisdom (panna) on the other. Here compassion represents love, charity, kindness, tolerance, and such noble qualities on the emotional side, or qualities of the heart, while wisdom would stand for the intellectual side or the qualities of the mind. If one develops only the emotional, neglecting the intellectual, one may become a goodhearted fool; while to develop only the intellectual side [and] neglecting the emotional may turn one into a hard-hearted intellect without feeling for others. Therefore, to be perfect in consciousness (your true nature) one has to develop both equally. That is the aim of the Buddhist way of life: in it wisdom and compassion are inseparably linked together, as we shall see later.
Now, in ethical conduct (sila), based on love and compassion, are included three factors of the noble eightfold path: namely, right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
Right speech means abstention (1) from telling lies, (2) from backbiting and slander and talk that may bring about hatred, enmity, disunity, and disharmony among individuals or groups of people, (3) from harsh, rude, impolite, malicious, and abusive language, and (4) from idle, useless, and foolish babble and gossip. When one abstains from these forms of wrong and harmful speech one naturally has to speak the truth, has to use words that are friendly and benevolent, pleasant and gentle, meaningful, and useful. One should not speak carelessly: speech should be at the right time and place. If one cannot say something useful, one should keep “noble silence.”
Right action aims at promoting moral, honorable, and peaceful conduct. It admonishes us that we should abstain from destroying life, from stealing, from dishonest dealings from using sexual interactions to harm or control others when not shared in a genuine bond, and that we should also help others to lead a peaceful and honorable life in the right way.
Right livelihood means that one should abstain from making one’s living through a profession that brings harm to others, such as trading in arms and lethal weapons, intoxicating drinks or poisons, killing animals, cheating, etc., and should live by a profession which is honorable, blameless, and innocent of harm to others. One can clearly see here that Buddhism is strongly opposed to any kind of war, when it lays down that trade in arms and lethal weapons is an evil and unjust means of livelihood.
These three factors (right speech, right action, and right livelihood) of the eightfold path constitute ethical conduct. It should be realized that the Buddhist ethical and moral conduct aims at promoting a happy and harmonious life both for the individual and for society. This moral conduct is considered as the indispensable foundation for all higher spiritual attainments. No spiritual development is possible without this moral basis.
(MENTAL DISCIPLINE )
Next comes mental discipline, in which are included three other factors of the eightfold path: namely, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. (Nos. 6, 7 and 8 in the list).
Right effort is the energetic will (1) to prevent evil and unwholesome states of mind from arising, and (2) to get rid of such evil and unwholesome states that have already arisen within a man, and also (3) to produce, to cause to arise, good, and wholesome states of mind not yet arisen, and (4) to develop and bring to perfection the good and wholesome states of mind already present in a man.
Right mindfulness is to be diligently aware, mindful, and attentive with regard to (1) the activities of the body (kaya), (2) sensations or feelings (vedana), (3) the activities of the mind (citta) and (4) ideas, thoughts, conceptions, and things (dhamma).
The practice of concentration on breathing (anapanasati) is one of the well-known exercises, connected with the body, for mental development. There are several other ways of developing attentiveness in relation to the body as modes of meditation.
With regard to sensations and feelings, one should be clearly aware of all forms of feelings and sensations, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral, of how they appear and disappear within oneself. Concerning the activities of mind, one should be aware whether one’s mind is lustful or not, given to hatred or not, deluded or not, distracted or concentrated, etc. In this way one should be aware of all movements of mind, how they arise and disappear.
As regards ideas, thoughts, conceptions and things, one should know their nature, how they appear and disappear, how they are developed, how they are suppressed, destroyed, and so on.
These four forms of mental culture or meditation are treated in detail in the Satipatthana Sutta (Setting-up of Mindfulness).
The third and last factor of mental discipline is right concentration, leading to the four stages of Dhyana, generally called trance or recueillement. In the first stage of Dhyana, passionate desires and certain unwholesome thoughts like sensuous lust (separate from genuine love) especially used in ways to control others, ill-will, languor, worry, restlessness, and skeptical doubt are discarded, and feelings of joy and happiness are maintained, along with certain mental activities. Then, in the second stage, all intellectual activities are suppressed, tranquillity, and “one-pointedness” of mind developed, and the feelings of joy and happiness are still retained. In the third stage, the feeling of joy, which is an active sensation, also disappears, while the disposition of happiness still remains in addition to mindful equanimity (spontaneous joy). Finally, in the fourth stage of Dhyana, all sensations, even of happiness and unhappiness, of joy and sorrow, disappear, only pure equanimity and awareness remaining. Thus the mind is trained and disciplined and developed through right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
The remaining two factors, namely right thought and right understanding, constitute wisdom in the noble eightfold path.
Right thought denotes the thoughts of selfless renunciation or detachment, thoughts of love and thoughts of non-violence, which are extended to all beings. It is very interesting and important to note here that thoughts of selfless detachment, love and non-violence are grouped on the side of wisdom. This clearly shows that true wisdom is endowed with these noble qualities, and that all thoughts of selfish desire, ill-will, hatred, and violence are the result of a lack of wisdom in all spheres of life whether individual, social, or political
Right understanding is the understanding of things as they are, and it is the four noble truths that explain things as they really are. Right understanding therefore is ultimately reduced to the understanding of the four noble truths. This understanding is the highest wisdom which sees the Ultimate Reality. According to Buddhism there are two sorts of understanding. What we generally call “understanding” is knowledge, an accumulated memory, an intellectual grasping of a subject according to certain given data. This is called “knowing accordingly” (anubodha). It is not very deep. Real deep understanding or “penetration” (pativedha) is seeing a thing in its true nature, without name and label. This penetration is possible only when the mind is free from all impurities and is fully developed through meditation.
These noble paths are generally practiced more deeply by monastic members of the Sangha, but are beneficial too all. Having the right aspects helps us deal with situations. When negative seeds of thought rise, we learn to bring up positive wise and compassionate ones to take the space, and replace them, giving the negative no further thought. When we are able to use the dharma to do this to the point only positive seeds exist, wisdom and compassion undivided, the consciousness is no longer clouded, and your true Buddha (awakened) nature is all that remains. Light a light switch flipped on in darkness, you leave behind the cycle. Your awareness of all things, all consciousness becomes vivid and bright. Spontaneous joy for all sentient life. No longer I or me.
Know yourself from within, and work through the mind to clarify it like a brilliant diamond. Reflect the compassion and wisdom for the whole community. Realize all those around you, their suffering, and their potential.