|VOLUME 1. BUDDHA DESANA
Part I. The Buddha Desana.
|1. The Teaching of the Buddha||2. Not an 'ism'|
|3. Not a religion||4. Not a philosophy|
|5. The distinguished characteristics of Buddhism||6. A psycho-ethical philosophy|
|7. Relevant principles of Man : Sayadaw U Pannadipa||8. Outstanding facts in Buddhism|
|Part II. The Buddha|
|1. The Perfectly Enlightened One||2. Life of the Buddha|
|3. Supreme Qualities of the Buddha|
|Part III. The Dhamma|
|1. His teaching||2. Noble Attributes of the Dhamma|
|3. Some salient points|
|Part IV. The Sangha|
|1. His Noble disciples||2. The founder|
|3. Two devoted lay disciples||4. The origin of the Sangha|
|5. Yasa, the second convert into the order||6. Yasa's friends|
|7. The Holy Order of the Sangha||8. The advantages of being a Sangha|
|9. Noble Attributes of the Sangha|
|VOLUME 2. THE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES FOF
Part I. Kamma and Rebirth
|1. Kamma and its result||2. Short life and long life|
|3. Sickness and health||4. Ugliness and beauty|
|5. Few friends and many friends||6. Poverty and wealth|
|7. Low-born and high-born||8. Ignorance and intelligence|
|Part II. The Dependent Origination|
|1. An effect depends on a cause||2. The links between cause and effect|
|3. Two root defilements||4. Three rounds in the process of existence|
|5. Links in natural order||6. Links in reverse order|
|7. Grasping on the aggregates||8. A being — merely mind and matter|
|9. Cutting of the wheel of lives|
|Part III. The Doctrine of Anatta|
|1. The origin of religion||2. Basic knowledge of the Noble Truths|
|3. Four great religions||4. The fundamentals of The Buddha-Dhamma|
|5. The views of other three religions||6. Atta versus Anatta (Soul and no-soul)|
|7. Natural law and The Buddha-Dhamma||8. No-soul view and human being|
|9. Arising and passing away of mind and body||10. Nothing reality in the phenomenal existence|
|11. No-self, no-ego||12. Anatta, the ultimate reality|
|13. Origin of life||14. Three tenses of life-process|
|15. The practice of one's sake||16. The noble advice of the Buddha|
VOLUME 1. BUDDHA DESANA
Part I. The Buddha Desana.
One of the great religions commonly known to various part of the world as Buddhism is the Teaching of the Buddha. In general, the real essence of Buddhism is not properly understood by many people of the world especially in the West. The term Buddhism is generally used all over the world as a religion which is believed by the Buddhist people. Some scholars who have earnestly done research in comparative study of religions understand Buddhism correctly in its proper sense. However, many are, as a matter of course, liable to be mistaken with other 'isms' as the word Buddhism" itself is exposed with its suffix 'ism'.
The teaching of the Buddha in terms of Buddha desana was discovered by Gotama the Buddha who was fully enlightened and awakened in the Four Noble Truths (ariya sacca) in India over 2,500 years ago. Gotama is the name of a clan; and the term Buddha is a Pali word which literally means the Enlightened One. This particular name was given to the holy man who had perfectly realized the Noble Truths and became an All-knower or Omniscience (sabbannu).
Before he became the Buddha, he was born as a prince of King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya. But perfections for aeons of time in long long past lives searching for the Noble Dhamma and aiming at the cessation of sufferings for himself and for all sentient beings as well. That is, Buddha intended if He could attain Nibbana He would help other beings so that they also could attain it like Himself. He, having practised through strenuous effort and by human means, found out the very state of utter liberation in Nibbana and revealed it to others with His enlightened wisdom. That is, He taught to all mankind His Dhamma - the only straight path of enlightenment that lead thereto. And as such, the main objective or the final goal of His Teaching is for the attainment of Nibbana - the ultimate liberation from all the endless sufferings in samsara (the cycle of birth and death). Here, in order to attain the state of happiness of Nibbana we have only to follow devotedly the footpath of the Buddha or the principles of the Dhamma laid down by the Buddha.
As the term "Buddhism" is exposed with the suffix 'ism', many are, however, led to believe incorrectly that it is a kind of sins like several other ideological 'isms', such as socialism, communism, capitalism, feudalism etc. Since the term is liable to confusion with other 'isms' as described above, I am really afraid that Buddhism, especially Theravada Buddhism, is not well understood in its proper sense by the majority of the people of the world.
As you may know, an 'ism' is a system, theory, doctrine, method of practice and so forth, adopted by philosophers or politicians. Buddhism, however, is not a system of practice for material development only, nor is it theory merely to be studied, nor a doctrine revealed by the miracle power of Buddha. But Buddhism is the natural principles of man and the universe discoverable only by the supremely enlightened human individuals for moral and spiritual attainment of the highest and noblest character now and hereafter or at least for self-purification and self-enlightenment.
The question of whether Buddhism is a religion as casually known and accepted depends either on one's own inner attitude or conviction or on the definition of the term 'religion' referred to. If religion is defined as constancy in the acceptance of duty as a divine command or as self-surrender of the human spirit to the Divine Power or God, or as a belief in the Divine Power or Heavenly Being for guidance on one's destiny or for sanctifying any committed sins, then obviously Buddhism is not any such kind of religion.
If on the other hand, the religion is defined in a modern or wider sense as a system of thought, a rational faith or practice followed by individuals, or as an object of veneration and devotion for the attainment of mental perfection and peace of mind and body, then Buddhism may be called a religion.
Most of world religions originally based their teachings on the idea of God. The believers in God always maintain that God is the only Supreme One who is eternally existent indefinitely everywhere in the heaven and elsewhere. Their ultimate aim is more or less ever connected or concerned with the will or command of God. They ever pray to God to get rewards for their good and for sanctification of their sins. Such being the case, when they say 'religion', they mean only the idea of God. In most cases, when they come up to the stage of unsolved mystery of thought, they hand up at last all their problems into the will of God.
Quite contrary to the above view, in Buddhism there is no Heavenly Being or Almighty God who can guide one to one's own fate or destiny, make judgements on one's own behaviour or answer to any supplications of prayer. In short, Buddhism believes in one's own actions of how one has done either good or bad and in the results of how one has to reap the fruits as reaction out of their very actions previously done. For the aforesaid reasons Buddhism, as seen from the Western religious point of view, cannot possibly be called a 'religion'.
Moreover, another question, that of whether Buddhism is a philosophy or not also depends on the definition used. If the term 'philosophy' is defined as 'love of wisdom', 'serious thinking, 'world view of things' or 'speculation about reality', then Buddhism is obviously not a philosophy.
But, if the scope of philosophy is wide enough to cover the deeper and more profound sense of 'search of truth', then Buddhism may be called, in the same way, a philosophy. The interpretation 'search of truth' is quite similar to the search after the Noble Truth (ariya sacca in Buddhism. But generally, most of the philosophers in the West are usually seeking outward as well as inward to find out underlying reality behind the temporal manifestations.
They generally avail themselves of the different ways of finding out Ultimate Reality. They enjoy, mostly, the intellectual satisfaction in the quest itself and thus are not necessarily concerned with arriving at the ultimate truth. Philosophy, as is commonly known, asserted by several well-known philosophers, is found different in ideas, views and opinions. That is only because of the fact that an inference asserted by a philosopher was often times rejected by another one when it was disagreeable to his own view or opinion. That, in fact, proves that the inferences were not really mature and true enough, but still lacking any real validity.
The statements of their philosophy guide one to take part not in a steady and orderly advance form speculation to knowledge, but in a series of marches and counter-marches of views and criticisms. They are hardly able to arrive at the final goal, instead they are choosing to tread in the footsteps of their predecessors. Thus we see that their quest is essentially speculative.
The Western philosophers, of course, had admirably reasoned and laboriously worked out what they could, but their tremendous conflict of opinions largely cancelled out each other's value and left the students bewildered, ignorant and confused in their attempt to see in a dim light. Moreover, the Western thinkers usually claimed that nobody had discovered ultimate truth and that human intellectual limitations were so narrow that nobody was likely to discover it. However, the Buddhist canon claimed that the ultimate truth was certainly discoverable and that even many sages had actually realized it. The Western philosophers, apparently in such a gloomy search, had not reached the stage of the Noble Truth which was discoverable only by the Perfectly Enlightened One, as they were naturally incomplete and lacking in systematic methods or principles of the Absolute Truth (paramattha Sacca).
In the case of Indian philosophers, their quest after the Truth was also not absolutely perfect and final though they exerted themselves to a great extent within their practice. So what they had realized was not the final goal as seen from the view of Buddhist sages who had become the Noble Ones (Ariyas). Their interpretations regarding the Ultimate Reality were true only to the extent of their own realizations, going no further and not wholly true. The knowledge of truth that they had attained was only part and partial knowledge. And so the perfection of human wisdom could never develop out of any mystical hermitage. In fact, they could enter into mystic trances, yet they were not really enlightened in the higher stages of insight or supreme wisdom (adhipanna).
In the case of enlightened ones in Buddhism, their approach was empirical like the approach of the scientists and Indian philosophers, but the difference was that the latter could reach only the culmination of the trance and no further. As for the Noble Ones in Buddhism, when they came to the end of the meditative journey, there needed to be no speculation for them as they had fully realized that they had reached the final end, (Nibbana), by their actual experience of the Noble Truth (sacca). This decidedly shows that there are the Noble Ones in the Buddhist dispensation for some of whom there is no more rebirth as they have attained the final state of Nibbana, i.e., totally cutting off the fetters, thereby going beyond the mind-body complex, above the space-time and cause-effect order of life-existence. Therefore it is a true fact that the way to achieve the Ultimate Reality can be found only in the Teaching of the Buddha, as the Buddha Himself taught in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta that in this doctrine and discipline of Him, the Eightfold Noble Path is duly realizable.
The whole teaching of the Buddha, in terms of Buddhism, can also be called 'Dhamma', 'Sasana', or 'Desana'. The term, "Dhamma", is a Pali word which means to bear or to hold up or support. That is, the Dhamma holds up or supports one who lives up to its principles so that one will not suffer in lower miserable abodes (apaya). The Dhamma in its full sense means truth, that which really is. It also means Law, the law which exists in man's mind-body and in the universe. It consists of the natural principles of its own cosmic order.
The Dhamma has been founded on the original conditions of man and the universe and therefore man and the universe are only the states or the conditions of the Dhamma. Just as the Dhamma, the natural Law exists in the universe, it also positively exists in the man's mind and body. The Dhamma actually means natural principles of righteous path for a man to liberate himself from the miseries of life and to reach the state of supreme peace and happiness — Nibbana. The Buddha Himself had found out the very state of ultimate liberation and revealed it to others with His enlightened wisdom, i.e., He taught to all mankind the Dhamma — the only straight path that leads thereto.
Nevertheless, Buddhism is not the kind of revelation created by any Supernatural Being or God, but natural or universal principles discovered through a practical experience by a holy human being, the enlightened Buddha. The principles in the Teaching are something like guidance for one who has mistaken a wrong way, or like the medicine for a patient who is seriously sick from diseases of defilements, or like a map for a traveller who is ignorant of the way to take for his journey. The Dhamma indeed consists of ways and means on how one is to live for one's mental or spiritual evolution of life towards the climax of ever-lasting peace and happiness.
The other two terms — "Sasana" and "Desana" - have also the same connotations. Sasana is a Pali word which means advice or exhortation or injunction of the Buddha. There are three kinds of Sasana, namely, 1. study or theoretical aspect of the Dhamma (pariyatti,), 2. practice or practical aspect (patipatti,), and 3. attainment of enlightenment in Nibbana by way of the Path (magga) and Fruition (panna), i.e. realizable aspect (pativedha). Desana is also a Pali term too, which consists of all the words or teachings delivered by the Buddha Himself during His life-time.
As the Dhamma is the embodiment of natural or universal principles, as mentioned above, Buddhism is therefore in the strictest sense of the term, neither a religion nor a philosophy, nor an 'ism' as known in many parts of the globe. The Dhamma discovered by the Buddha through His supreme enlightenment is for every individual the practice to improve self-discipline, self- morality, self-purification, to develop self-enlightenment and to strive for self-emancipation from the miseries of life in Samsara (round of rebirths).
The Buddha not only showed the ways and means for the attainment of supramundane wisdom (lokuttara nana), but also prescribed social principles to solve the various problems of the different classes of mankind in His time. These social principles laid down by Him over 2,500 years ago are still fresh and quite applicable to the present age of scientific achievement and computer era.
The Scholars of Buddhism might find that different branches of study, such as philosophy, psychology, ethics, sociology and many others in modern cultural arts, are so to speak, embraced in His Teaching. This is one of the reasons why it is not easy for us to define exactly whether the Dhamma of the Buddha is a philosophy , psychology, ethics or sociology. That is why Theravada Buddhist scholars in particular prefer to call it "Buddha-dhamma" or "Buddha-desana" or "Dhamma" or psycho-ethical philosophy" instead of Buddhism.
The Buddha-dhamma which was discovered by the supremely enlightened man is therefore free from dogmas and divine commands, and not related to any kind of Divine Power or God. In fact, there is no punishment nor threat of hell-fire, nor reward of the Heavenly Being, nor forceful conversion, It only appeals to man's reason to choose a right kind of belief or faith. Since Buddhism is founded on reasoning knowledge, compassion (karuna) and wisdom (panna) it encourages each and every person to have a critical outlook by himself, reason with his own experiments and to have free thoughts, free choice. It also guides one to strive with his own effort for the progress of one's mature life because one is solely responsible for one's own destiny and salvation.
Obviously, Buddhism believes that good or evil actions are done only by oneself and thereby oneself is to reap its corresponding fruits, either good or bad as a natural consequence. The obvious fact is that, in Buddhism, there is no Heavenly Being or God who can shape or create one or make judgements on one's behaviour or destiny. In fact, one is wholly responsible to develop one's own standard or stage of morality (sila), concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (panna) in order that one can finally reach the very end of Supreme Enlightenment (adhipanna). By only so doing can one evolve one's potential stages of enlightenment in life, say from the stages of an ignorant worldling to a virtuous person, then to a junior Stream-winner (culasotapanna) who has realized the actual nature of mind and matter as well as of the cause and effect, then to the Noble Ones or Holy Saints (ariyas) till up to the Supremely Enlightened One (arahanta).
The Buddha-dhamma is a complete discovery of a dynamic cosmic order. So to say, complete scientifically because it accounts not only for human life, but also for the life of all sentient beings from the lowest to the highest; and also complete morally because it includes all these forms of life in the one moral order. Buddhism, in fact, teaches a cosmic law that exists everywhere; hence the same moral law of spiritual evolution must prevail everywhere. Cosmic law and moral order in Buddhism are related to one another as they are not in any other religious systems.
Apparently, Buddhism does not condemn anybody to eternal hell just because he happens not to be a Buddhist. If a being goes to the regions of great woeful misery after death, it is only because his own bad deeds have sent him there, and not because he happens to believe in the wrong set of dogmas. The Dhamma only teaches that whatever suffering a man may bring upon himself is commensurate with the gravity of his own evil actions — neither more nor less. He may suffer through several lives because of some very heavy evil actions (garu akusala kamma), but sometime that suffering must come to an end when the evil that has been generated has spent itself. The atrocious idea or view that a being may be made to suffer throughout eternity for the sins committed in one short lifetime does not exist in Buddhism. Neither does the equally unjust doctrine that he may wash out all his sins by formal acts of contrition or by mere faith in one particular deity or God for whom man has invented with his own idea.
In Buddhism, there is no personal judge who condemns, but only the working of an impersonal law that is just like the law of gravitation. Buddhism indeed indicates that the natural law is immutably just, in other words, it is an absolute truth or cosmic principle for which one has to keep up oneself with love, compassion, morality, nobility, holiness, wisdom, etc., that only makes oneself divine or supreme.
In Buddhism, the first and foremost fact, most difficult to understand is "rebirth" (jati) that one oneself has created with one's own action. An ordinary person may surely find very hard even to appreciate series of lives until and unless he understands cause-effect cycles of the Dependent Origination (paticcasamuppada). The very inexplicable question that this present life is out of measureless eternity, is still unsolved and undiscovered by modern scientists and philosophers. But the Enlightened Buddha, since over 2,500 years, had vividly shown the ample light of the theory of Kamma and rebirth, that life-series and samsara are so long that the beginning as well as the end of beings is unknowable.
Naturally, a serious thinking person, seeing the various sights of inequality amongst mankind is by no means satisfied as to why one becomes differentiated from another and ever in quest of obtaining an appropriate answer of the real cause or reason. Evidently, there are untold numbers of blind, deaf and dumb, mentally deficient and diseased human beings whose pitiful conditions are not due to any fault of theirs in this present life, nor any remediable defect in the organization of human society.
In this respect, Buddhism is alone in presenting rebirth as a scientific principle. When I say here scientific, I mean that it is a principle in accordance with other universal laws which can be understood scientifically and even investigated by scientific methods. The principle of change (aniccata), serial continuity (santati) and passing away (vaya ) is one that runs throughout nature; all scientific principles are based on it. The three fundamental characteristics of existence taught by the Buddha are common to each and every one and everywhere. They are: "all conditioned things are impermanent, all conditioned things are suffering and all things are insubstantial". What is transient that is painful; what is painful that is soulless, impersonal or insubstantial (anatta) i.e. the absence of a permanent unchanging self or soul or ego in anywhere or in anybody.
All beings must come into being as the result of past Kamma and pass away again just as we do here in our human existence. As we all are subject to these three characteristics of impermanence (anicca), suffering dukkha ) and insubstantiality or soulless or egoless ( anatta), all sentient beings also follow just the same universal principles. For instance, the composition of an aggregate of every being is changing all the time, not remaining the same even for two consecutive moments.
Similarly, the Four Noble Truths — suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the way to cessation of suffering — are quite universal principles relating to each and every being. And this being so, the three characteristics and the four Noble Truths are utterly valid wherever life exists.
Moreover, with regard to the phenomena of mind and matter, the Buddha also taught that every being is composed of mind and matter, yet one finds very hard to know the real fact of these two phenomena. So one must strive to realize the differentiation between mind and matter of his own physical and mental being. This also is quite a valid principle for each and every one of humankind.
In the last but not the least, the ultimate release, the attainment of the everlasting unchanging state of Nibbana is something, so to say, the most supreme Peace and happiness of life, that man can reach since man is the supreme master of himself. This very state of Nibbana is to be attained only by eliminating all the factors of rebirth that are rooted in the two fundamental defects of defilement, i.e. ignorance ( avijja) and craving (tanha), in other words, the three kinds of canker, greed (lobha), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha). Nibbana, which the Buddha described as the Unconditioned (Asankhata), the Ageless (Ajara), the Deathless (Amata) and the Ever-permanent (Dhuva) is the Absolute Reality that lies outside the realms of conditioned and illusory cycles of rebirths (samsara). In reality, Nibbana can be reached only by the actual practice of giving charity (dana), of morality ( Sila), and of mental development by meditation (bhavana); in other words, giving charity (dana) eliminates greed (lobha), loving kindness (metta) or morality (Sila) eradicates anger (dosa), and mental development (bhavana) roots out ignorance (moha). In this way, when all cankers or defilements are exterminated then only Nibbana can be attained.
Part II. The Buddha
The founder of the Buddhist religion is Gotama, the Buddha. The name "Buddha" is a Pali word which literally means "The Knower, or 'The Awakened One", or 'The Enlightened One" of the Four Noble Truths (Sacca). Gotama is a family name and the personified title "Buddha" is so known as He was endowed with supreme wisdom of Omnipotence and Omniscience by virtue of His eminent honorific attributes. The Buddha attained the highest and loftiest Dhamma, called Nibbana, through His strenuous practice of Supreme Morality (Adhisila ), Supreme Concentration ( Adhicitta ) and Supreme Wisdom (Adhipanna).
For the above reasons, the Buddha should, by no means, be regarded as a mere prophet or a messenger deputed by the Almighty Gad, or a Supreme Being, or a Brahma to visit the earth for the salvation of mankind. In this respect Buddhists believe that Buddhas appear in the world occasionally for saving those who are fit and perfect enough to be saved, not as Saviours but by showing them the way leading to the happiest state of Nibbana which was discovered by themselves. Men and Gods alike who follow His teaching and guidance, are, like the Buddhas themselves, assured of attaining Nibbana where all kinds of suffering would be totally exhausted and non-existent altogether.
Any one who wants to become a Buddha can spire to attain Buddhahood, but one could only accomplish it in a very long distant future. The present Buddha before he attained enlightenment went through innumerable existences (i.e. four aeons and one hundred thousand world cycles), had fulfilled ten categories of Perfection ( Dasa Parami ), more difficult services Upaparami) and the most difficult sacrifices (paramattha parami) such as forsaking his children, wife, body and oven his life for the welfare of all beings.
In this world-cycle, the aspiring Buddha was born as a son of King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya in the sixth century B.C. about 566, in the state of Kapilavatthu of the royal Sakya dynasty, near the borders of present day Nepal in northern India. The prince was given the name of Siddhattha meaning wish-fulfilled.
On the birth of the prince, the royal father invited eight Brahmins to predict the prince's future. The youngest Brahmin Kondanna raised one finger and predicted precisely that the prince would certainly become a Buddha, while other seven raising two fingers and prophesied that the prince would become a great spiritual leader or a universal monarch.
Naturally the king desired his son to become a universal monarch rather than a Buddha. Therefore he brought up his son amidst worldly pleasures and luxuries as bountiful as possible. Then at the age of sixteen, he was not only provided with three magnificent palaces according to the three seasons, but also got married with his beautiful cousin Princess Yasodhara. In this way his royal father had showered upon him the utmost of all the pleasures of life. The king's purpose was to allure the prince to the mundane world in the fond hope that his beloved son and heir would not think of renouncing the World. In due course, the king hoped that his son would become the greatest king ruling over the whole world. Thus in a great voluptuous manner the royal prince lived in the fullest enjoyment of all the pomps and pleasures up to the age of 29 years.
One day the prince being desirous of visiting the Royal Garden went out in a chariot. On the way he saw an aged man, a sick man and a dead man. He was very much shocked and alarmed to observe the true nature of conditioned life, its impermanence, suffering and impersonality. Then upon seeing a holy hermit, he came to realize that it was the only way for escaping from these worldly miseries and attaining the supreme happiness. Again on his return, incidentally a messenger brought the news that a son was born to princess Yasodhara. Hearing thus his mind was more deplored and distressed by the thought that "a son is a mere fetter."
He realized his responsibilities as a married man with a son and also his position as a prince. He thought that if he remained a ruler he would have to spend his precious life absorbed in kingly duties rather than in searching for a way out of the universal sufferings of humanity. He therefore finally renounced all his royal including his wife and son, and went forth in search of Truth and Peace. Wearing the yellow robe and wandering about the valley of the Ganges for six years as an ascetic, he studied all the systems of philosophies and religious beliefs of his time.
First he practised under the sage Alara who could only teach up to a seventh mental absorption stage of the eight Jhanic trances. So he left him and went to practise under another sage Udaka who also could teach him only up to a still higher mental stage of the eighth ecstasy. The Bodhisatta then realized that these Jhanic states were only mundane and incapable of releasing him from the sufferings of old age, disease and death of one's life that he sought for. At most he might attain only one of the Formless Realms (Arupa) with life spans of 60,000 and 84,000 world-cycles in each plane.
He therefore departed from these sages and continued the search for truth on his own accord. He practised many forms of severe austerities (dukkaracariya) for six long years. Yet he was still far from his goal. These misleading practices only reduced him physically almost to a skeleton with pale complexion, dry skin, sunken eyes and almost to the verge of death.
At this stage he reminisced over his past experiences and discerned the knowledge that he should give up these extreme ascetic practices and have some food to renew his strength in order to continue his search of Buddhahood. Thus he reverted to a normal diet and balanced mode of living by avoiding the two extremes, i.e. self-indulgence in sensual pleasures and self-mortification, and followed the new path known as the "Middle Way (Majjhima Patipada). Then one evening under the Bodhi Tree on the bank of the River Neranjara at Buddha-Gaya (in modern Bihar), during his deep meditation on in-breathing and out-breathing, He first attained the higher Jhanic states and spiritual powers. The Bodhisatta then meditated on the arising and vanishing of the five groups of clinging (Pancupadanakkhanda) which again enabled him to penetrate into higher Insight and supreme knowledge. Finally at the age of 35 years, he gained the knowledge of Remembrance of innumerable past lives (Pubbenivasa nana), the Divine Eye which could see the birth and death of all beings (Dibbacakkhu nana) and the total exhaustion of all Passions (Asavakkhaya nana). Having realized perfectly the Four Noble Truths (the truth of Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the Cessation of Suffering and the Way to the Cessation of Suffering), he at last became a Sammasambuddha which means the supremely Self-Enlightened One or Fully Awakened One.
The Buddha therefore by virtue of His Supreme Enlightenment is endowed with the following nine inherent qualities
1. The Lord is worthy,
3. Endowed with Supreme Knowledge and Virtue,
4. Well-gone to Nibbana
5. Knower of all worlds,
6. An incomparable Charioteers for the training of persons.
7. Teacher of Gods and Men,
8. Fully Enlightened and
9. Supremely Glorious.
After attaining Buddhahood, the Buddha expounded the Doctrine which He Himself found out in His search. In His Teaching, the Dhamma, the Buddha proclaimed to the world that man in his nature has latent inconceivable possibilities and talented creative power within himself for the attainment of supreme happiness. He, of course, can gain purification, enlightenment and deliverance, by his own effort through the practice of the Dhamma .
The Buddha made no discrimination as to caste, colour, race, sex, rank or position, but He taught that all beings are the same, as they have been made up of two constituent components, i.e. mind and body, and also pointed out that they have therefore equal opportunities for the attainment of liberation.
He explicitly encouraged His followers to have freedom of thought and action to practise the Teaching aiming only at one objective, i.e. that they might be liberated from the woeful anguish of life and attain the Ultimate Peaceful Happiness of Nibbana.
Part III. The Dhamma
After the attainment of Buddhahood, the Buddha expounded the sublime Dhamma for forty-five years. The Dhamma or the Teaching of the Buddha, commonly known as Buddhism, is collected and divided into two main parts, namely:
I. The Law of Truth (Dhamma) and
II. Codes of Discipline (Vinaya).
The teaching is also classified into three parts called the Baskets (Tipitaka), as follows:
1. Discourse (Sutta),
2. Codes of Discipline (Vinaya) and
3. Higher Teaching of the Truth (Abhidhamma).
The Tipitaka is again further divided into five collections (Pancanikaya), namely:
1. The Collections of Long Discourses (Dighanikaya),
2. The Collections of Middle Length Discourses (Majjhimanikaya),
3. The Collections of Kindred Sayings (Samyuttanikaya),
4. The Collections of Discourses from Gradual Sayings (Anguttaranikaya) and
5. The Collections of Minor Anthologies (Khuddakanikaya).
The Tipitaka is again further divided into nine parts called Navangani. They are:
1. Discourses (Suttam),
2. Prose and verse (Geyam),
3. Prose (Veyakaranam),
4. Verse (Gatha),
5. Paean of Joy (Udana),
6. Thus-said Discourses (Itivuttaka),
7. Birth Stories (Jataka),
8. Admired Doctrine (Abbhutadhamma) and
9. Explanatory Conversations (Vedalla).
On the whole the Tipitaka consists of 84,000 groups of doctrines which is called Caturasitisahassani Dhammakkhandha. The Dhamma, an immutable law of nature or the eternal truth of the nature of universe, is always in existence whether the Buddhas appear in the world or not. However, it can be discovered and fully realized only by the Buddhas. The Dhamma itself is, therefore, that what really is. In other words, it is the doctrine of Reality or Truth comprehensible only by the wise or Noble Ones, and therefore, it is a mean of Deliverance from all sufferings of life. Thus the Dhamma prevents one who lives by its principles from falling into the miserable and woeful planes of existence (apaya). The Dhamma contains only non-aggressive morals and psycho-philosophical principles; it demands no blind faith, expounds no dogma, and encourages no superstitions.
The Dhamma is not regarded as a divine revelation, but simply as the advice of a great religious Teacher to His Disciples. It is not to be accepted and believed but to be understood and practised. It, in fact, does not appeal to blind faith, but to practical and experimental intelligence.
Here, we can observe how the Buddha taught the Kalama Princess in Kesamutti Sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya: Now, you Kalamas, do not be led by hearsay nor by what is handed down by tradition nor by what people say, nor by what is stated on the authority of your traditional teaching. Do not be led by reasoning, nor by inferring, nor by argument as to method nor by delight in speculative opinions, but by seeing possibilities, by the directions from your teachers. But O Kalamas, when you know by yourselves that certain actions done by you are not good, wrong and considered worthless by the wise; when followed and put into practice, lead to loss or suffering, then give them up ... and when you know by yourselves that certain actions done by you are good, true and considered worthy by the wise, then accept them and put them into practice.
The Dhamma therefore advocates a golden rule that guides a person by pure thought and good living to attain supreme wisdom, with liberation from life's miseries. The Dhamma is not a subject to be studied from a historical or literary standpoint but is to be learned and put into actual practice in the course of one's life, It lays emphasis mainly on practice, for without practice one can never expect to realize the truth.
Theoretical learning of the Dhamma (pariyatti) and constant meditation practice (patipatti) will sooner or later bring about insight and higher knowledge of knowing the Path and Fruition (pativedha). In other words, one must learn the Dhamma thoroughly for general knowledge of the scriptures (sutamaya nana) there by developing the reasoning faculty (cintamaya nana). Then one must develop oneself for the meditative attainment (bhavanamaya nana) and the final realization of Supreme Wisdom (adhipanna).
Ordinary worldlings, being deluded with the darkness of ignorance (avijja) and ensnared with craving (tanha), indeed find it very difficult to realize the true nature of things as they really are. As such, the Buddha and His Noble Disciples, having realized the Supramundane Dhamma through their enlightenment, showed the light of it to all beings so that they also may attain like themselves the Noble Path towards the Deliverance of Nibbana.
That is the only reason why the Dhamma can prevent a person not to sink down into lower miserable plane of existence (apaya) and convey him to the stage of the Path, Fruition and Nibbana by virtue of its (Dhamma) preventability from doing evils. The true followers of the Buddha who actually live up to the principles of the Dhamma can enjoy the Blissful Happiness of Liberation from passions (Vimutti sukha) and comprehend the real Essence of Emancipation from all sufferings of life (Vimutti rasa).
The Dhamma therefore proves itself that "one who practices Dhamma will, in turn, be certainly protected by the Dhamma. He who imbibes the Dhamma lives happily with the purified mind, and the wise ever delight in the Dhamma revealed by the Noble Ones (Ariyas). The gift of Truth (Dhamma) excels all gifts, the flavour of the Truth excels all flavours, the delight of the Truth excels all delights; and the final victory over all sufferings is the extinction of craving".
The Dhamma is thus endowed with the following six special attributes:
1. (Svakkhato) The Dhamma is not speculative philosophy but is the Universal Law found through enlightenment and is preached precisely. Therefore, it is excellent in the beginning (Sila - Moral Principles), excellent in the middle (Samadhi - Concentration) and excellent in the end (Panna. - Wisdom).
2. (Samditthiko) The Dhamma can be tested by practice and therefore he who follows it will reap the results through his own experience;
3. (AkalIiko) The Dhamma is able to bestow timeless and immediate results here and now, for which there is no need to wait till the future or next existence;
4. (Ehipassiko) The Dhamma welcomes all beings to put it to the test and see for themselves;
5. (Opaneyyiko) The Dhamma is capable of being entered upon and therefore it is worthy to be followed as a part of one's life;
6. (Paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi,) The Dhamma can be perfectly realized only by noble disciples (Ariyas) who have matured enough in supreme wisdom.
In the Dhamma, the Buddha enunciated many salient points but some points will be explained here.
"He who sees the Dhamma sees me. He who practices the Dhamma to the best of his ability, honours me best. One is one's own refuge who else could be the refuge?"
"By oneself evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity being dependent on one's ownself, no one can purify another."
"You should do your work, for the Buddhas only teach and show the way. You yourself should make an effort, the Buddhas are only Teachers."
"Be ye enlightened unto yourself, be ye a refuge unto yourself, be ye a refuge unto the Dhamma, there is no external refuge.
Here taking refuge in the Dhamma and oneself means to actually practise it accordingly. The Buddha said that the essence of the Dhamma lies in the practice of it. Throughout His life the Buddha always inspired His disciples to practise virtuous conduct (Sila), concentration (samadhi) and realize supreme wisdom (panna).
The ultimate goal in the Buddhism is the realization of the truth (sacca), through the actual practice of the Teaching. On the whole, in the Dhamma there can be found neither divine revelation nor divine messenger, neither reward nor punishment, neither fear nor prayer to the Almighty God, neither self-mortification nor self-indulgence, neither metaphysical way nor ritualistic way, neither pessimism nor optimism, neither skepticism nor dogmatism, neither eternalism nor nihilism. The Dhamma therefore, in a word, is a unique principle to be practised for the attainment of supreme wisdom (adhipanna and perfect Enlightenment, Nibbana. The Dhamma maintains that the final realization depends only upon the individual exertion of His followers and on no other factors. The Buddha shows us the path, but we ourselves must tread on the path. Even the last words which the Buddha uttered were "Vayadamma sankhara appamadena sampadetha". "The compounded things are transient, do ye be vigilantly mindful."
In the teaching of the Dhamma, the following main salient factors are of importance:
1. Kamma and Kammavipaka, i.e. proper understanding of one's action and its fruit,
2. The four Sublime Factors of Living (Brahmavihara),
3. The Dependent Origination(Paticcasamuppada),
4. The Forty objects of Concentration (Samatha),
5. The Penetrating insight in the Real Nature of Mind and Body (Vipassana),
6. The Four Noble Truths (Ariya sacca),
7. The Noble Eightfold Path (Ariya atthangika magga),
8. The Supramundane Blissful Happiness (Nibbana) or the State of Ultimate Deliverance from all sufferings.
To sum up all these main factors in the Dhamma, the Buddha instructed us only in a verse:
The meaning is this, 'Refrain from all evils, cultivate what is good and purify one's mind, this is the Teaching of the Buddha."
In conclusion if one really practises the Dhamma diligently and strenuously developing self-discipline, self purification and self-enlightenment, one is in consequence, assured of attaining the Supreme Blissful of Nibbana in this present life.