THE BUDDHA: BASIC TEACHINGS


Source: Mario Bussagli, 5000 Years of the Art of India (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., n.d.).


The following is a Buddhist text that presents the basic teachings of this religion. How do the values and teachings of this text explain the appearance of the images that you have seen?



THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS - THUS has it been said by the Buddha, the Enlightened One: It is through not understanding, not realizing four things, that I, Disciples, as well as you, had to wander so long through this round of rebirths. And what are these four things? They are the Noble Truth of Suffering, the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering, the Noble Truth of the Path that leads to the Extinction of Suffering. As long as the absolutely true knowledge and insight as regards these Four Noble Truths was not quite clear in me, so long was I not sure, whether I had won that supreme Enlightenment which is unsurpassed in all the world with its heavenly beings, evil spirits and gods, amongst all the hosts of ascetics and priests, heavenly beings and men. But as soon as the absolutely true knowledge and insight as regards these Four Noble Truths had become perfectly clear in me, there arose in me the assurance that I had won that supreme Enlightenment unsurpassed. And I discovered that profound truth, so difficult to perceive, difficult to understand, tranquilizing and sublime, which is not to be gained by mere reasoning, and is visible only to the wise. The world, however, is given to pleasure, delighted with pleasure, enchanted with pleasure. Verily, such beings will hardly understand the . . . end of all formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving; detachment, extinction, Nirvana. Yet there are beings whose eyes are only a little covered with dust: they will understand the truth.

FIRST TRUTH THE NOBLE TRUTH OF SUFFERING - WHAT, now, is the Noble Truth of Suffering? Birth is suffering; Decay is suffering; Death is suffering; Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief, and Despair, are suffering; not to get what one desires, is suffering . . . . To beings subject to birth there comes the desire: "O that we were not subject to birth! O that no new birth was before us!" Subject to decay, disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the desire comes to them: "O that we were not subject to these things! O that these things were not before us!" But this cannot be got by mere desiring; and not to get what one desires, is suffering.

[EXISTENCE] - [T]he belief in an [individual soul] is merely an illusion. Just as that which we designate by the name of "chariot," has no existence apart from axle, wheels, shaft, and so forth: or as the word "house" is merely a convenient designation for various materials put together after a certain fashion so as to enclose a portion of space, and there is no separate house-entity in existence:- in exactly the same way, that which we call a "being," or an "individual," or a "person," or by the name "I," is nothing but a changing combination of physical and psychical phenomena, and has no real existence in itself.

THE . . . CHARACTERISTICS OF EXISTENCE - Corporeality is transient, feeling is transient, perception is transient, mental formations are transient, consciousness is transient . . . . Suppose, a man who is not blind, were to behold the many bubbles on the Ganges as they are driving along; and he should watch them, and carefully examine them. After carefully examining them, they will appear to him empty, unreal, and unsubstantial. In exactly the same way, does the monk behold all the corporeal phenomena, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and states of consciousness- whether they be of the past, or the present, or the future, far, or near. And he watches them, and examines them carefully; and, after carefully examining them, they appear to him empty, void, and without an [individual soul]. Whoso delights in corporeality, or feeling, or perception, or mental formations, or consciousness, he delights in suffering; and whoso delights in suffering, will not be freed from suffering. . . . In deepest darkness you are wrapped! Why do you not seek for the light? . . . All life must truly end in death.

SAMSARA, THE WHEEL OF EXISTENCE - Which do you think is the more: the flood of tears, which weeping and wailing you have shed upon this long way- hurrying and hastening through this round of rebirths, united with the undesired, separated from the desired- this, or the waters of the four oceans? . . . But how is this possible? Inconceivable is the beginning of this Samsara; not to be discovered is any first beginning of beings, who, obstructed by ignorance, and ensnared by craving, are hurrying and hastening through this round of rebirths. And thus have you long time undergone suffering, undergone torment, undergone misfortune, and filled the graveyards full; verily, long enough to be dissatisfied with all the forms of existence, long enough to turn away, and free yourselves from them all.

SECOND TRUTH THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE ORIGIN OF SUFFERING - WHAT, now, is the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering? It is that craving which gives rise to fresh rebirth, and, bound up with pleasure and lust, now here, now there, finds ever fresh delight.

INHERITANCE OF DEEDS (KARMA) - For, owners of their deeds (karma) are the beings, heirs of their deeds; their deeds are the womb from which they sprang; with their deeds they are bound up; their deeds are their refuge. Whatever deeds they do -- good or evil -- of such they will be the heirs. And wherever the beings spring into existence, there their deeds will ripen; and wherever their deeds ripen, there they will earn the fruits of those deeds, be it in this life, or be it in the next life, or be it in any other future life.

THIRD TRUTH THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE EXTINCTION OF SUFFERING - WHAT, now, is the Noble Truth of the Extinction of Suffering? It is the complete fading away and extinction of this desire, its forsaking and giving up, the liberation and detachment from it. But where may this craving vanish, where may it be extinguished? Wherever in the world there are delightful and pleasurable things, there this craving may vanish, there it may be extinguished. Be it in the past, present, or future, whosoever of the monks or priests regards the delightful and pleasurable things in the world as "impermanent," "miserable," and "without a [soul]," as a disease and cancer; it is he who overcomes the craving. And released from Sensual Craving, released from the Craving for Existence, he does not return, does not enter again into existence.

NIRVANA - This, truly, is the Peace, this is the Highest, namely the end of all formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving: detachment, extinction- Nirvana. Enraptured with lust, enraged with anger, blinded by delusion, overwhelmed, with mind ensnared, man aims at his own ruin, at others' ruin, at the ruin of both parties, and he experiences mental pain and grief. But, if lust, anger, and delusion are given up, man aims neither at his own ruin, nor at others' ruin, nor at the ruin of both parties, and he experiences no mental pain and grief. Thus is Nirvana immediate, visible in this life, inviting, attractive, and comprehensible to the wise. The extinction of greed, the extinction of anger, the extinction of delusion: this, indeed, is called Nirvana.

FOURTH TRUTH THE NOBLE TRUTH OF THE PATH THAT LEADS TO THE EXTINCTION OF SUFFERING - THE TWO EXTREMES AND THE MIDDLE PATH - TO GIVE oneself up to indulgence in sensual pleasure, the base, common, vulgar, unholy, unprofitable; and also to give oneself up to self-mortification, the painful, unholy, unprofitable: both these two extremes the Perfect One has avoided, and found out the Middle Path, which makes one both to see and to know, which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to Nirvana.

THE EIGHTFOLD PATH - It is the Noble Eightfold Path, the way that leads to the extinction of suffering, namely: 1. Right Understanding, 2. Right Mindedness, which together are Wisdom. 3. Right Speech, 4. Right Action, 5. Right Living, which together are Morality. 6. Right Effort, 7. Right Attentiveness, 8. Right Concentration, which together are Concentration. This is the Middle Path which the Perfect One has found out, which makes one both to see and to know, which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to Nirvana.

THE SILENT THINKER - "I am" is a vain thought; "I am not" is a vain thought; "I shall be" is a vain thought; "I shall not be" is a vain thought. Vain thoughts are a sickness, an ulcer, a thorn. But after overcoming all vain thoughts, one is called "a silent thinker." And the thinker, the Silent One, does no more arise, no more pass away, no more tremble, no more desire. For there is nothing in him that he should arise again. And as he arises no more, how should he grow old again? And as he grows no more old, how should he die again? And as he dies no more, how should he tremble? And as he trembles no more, how should he have desire?

THE TRUE GOAL - Hence, the purpose of the Holy Life does not consist in acquiring alms, honor, or fame, nor in gaining morality, concentration, or the eye of knowledge. That unshakable deliverance of the heart: that, verily, is the object of the Holy Life, that is its essence, that is its goal.

From: Buddha, the Word. Edited by Nyanatiloka. Electronically Enhanced Text (C) Copyright 1991, World Library, Inc.

/ Return to "Starving Buddha" / Assignment /

/ Return to the Beginning /

/ Ouwendijk's Syllabus / Rednour's Syllabus /