The Cat among the Pigeons

August 31, 2009

(I am the Buddhist rep’ on the Warwick District Faiths Forum and I was recently asked by the secretary to provide an introduction to Buddhism which will feature in an Introduction to ‘Faiths’ booklet. I was limited to 2 A5 sheets. Here it is. If you’d like to print it off or copy it feel free, but please acknowledge the source.
I am beginning to see that it might be a useful thing to have Buddhism presented along with the other religions, since it provides a singular and sorely needed voice of reason and truth amongst all the other delusion. One sometimes feels like the cat among the pigeons.)
Buddhism
Introduction
Buddhism is the Teaching and Practice that originated from the Buddha’s experience of Enlightenment. Over the centuries his teachings spread throughout the world, resulting in a diversity of schools and traditions that all have at their core the Buddha’s preoccupation with suffering and its end.
The Buddha
The man who was to become the Buddha was born Prince Siddhattha Gotama in India over 2500 years ago. Brought up in total refinement it wasn’t long before an awareness of the inevitability of old age, sickness and death took root in his mind and lead to him abandoning his palaces in search of truth.
One evening, at the age of thirty-five, after six years of intense striving, he seated himself beneath a great tree and focused his mind on his breathing. When his mind had reached a sufficiently deep state of concentration and clarity he focused on investigating the cause of suffering. As the dawn drew near he penetrated to the fundamental level of reality and came to know suffering’s cause and thereby its end. It is from this point that we know him as the Buddha – the ‘One who Knows’, the ‘Awakened One’.
For the next forty-five years until his passing he wandered the dusty roads of Northern India teaching people how they too could be free from suffering.
The Four Noble Truths
At the heart of the Buddha’s teachings are the Four Noble Truths. Just as all the spokes of a wheel centre on the hub, so too all the teachings of Buddhism centre on the hub of the Four Noble Truths. Essentially they concern suffering and its cause, and happiness and its cause.
1. Suffering; Unsatisfactoriness
Life is inherently unsatisfactory: we are born, we grow old and we die. All things of this mundane world are transient and unable to fully satisfy us.
2. The Cause of Suffering
Craving, according to the Buddha, is the root of suffering. If we take into account the First Noble Truth then craving can never be satisfied. With craving present in our minds we live at odds with the true nature of things.
3. The End of Suffering; Happiness
This is the goal of Buddhist practice. The Buddha used the term ‘Nibbana’ (Nirvana) which literally means ‘extinguishing’, i.e. the extinguishing of the fire of craving. Nibbana is freedom from all greed, hatred and delusion. Nibbana is neither annihilation, nor an eternal heaven.
4. The Path Leading to the End of Suffering
This is the Noble Eightfold Path: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Acton, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. In other words, the path of Morality, Meditation, and Wisdom.
Free Inquiry
Blind faith is anathema to Buddhism. The Buddha cautioned his followers against merely believing his words, instead encouraging them to actively probe and investigate. Scriptures may point the way to truth but it is down to each individual to realise it for his or herself through direct knowledge.
God, the Soul and Creation
Buddhism is a non-theistic religion in that is does not recognise an all-knowing, all-loving creator God. The Buddha actually stated that to hold such a belief is a delusion. In contrast to relying on forces outside oneself, Buddhist teaching emphasises personal responsibility (see Kamma).
Regarding the origin of things, he taught that no beginning can be found, and that to search for such is the way to madness.
Central to the Buddha’s teaching is the doctrine of ‘anatta’ – ‘no-self’, ‘no-soul’, which states that beings are an ever-changing, evolving combination of mind and matter, within which no permanent entity or essence abides.
Kamma
Kamma (or Karma) means action, and it is the intention behind an action that determines the result (Vipaka). Actions that are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion bring about suffering; whereas those rooted in generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom bring happiness. The Law of Kamma highlights the fact that we alone are responsible for our own happiness and suffering.
Loving-Kindness and Compassion
The Buddha taught that we should try at all times to act out of loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves and all beings everywhere.

.

(This is not my Dhamma Diary entry.)

I am the Buddhist rep’ on the Warwick District Faiths Forum and I was recently asked by the Secretary to provide an introduction to Buddhism which will feature in an ‘Introduction to Faiths’ booklet. I was limited to 2 A5 sheets. Here it is. If you’d like to print it off or copy it feel free, but please acknowledge the source.

Writing this introduction has made me think it might actually be a useful thing to have Buddhism presented with the other religions. I’ve had my doubts: seeing that they all have been the cause of inestimable trouble and have such a bad name wouldn’t it be better to keep Buddhism well clear of them? Possibly. But being up there on the same platform, Buddhism provides a singular and sorely needed voice of reason, free-inquiry and truth amongst all the primitive, superstitious and mind-shrinking nonsense espoused by the others.

As a Buddhist on these multi-faith things one feels very much like the cat among the pigeons. I hope they all read the part on Buddhism in this leaflet, especially the words on free-inquiry, God, the soul and creation! (That is if the editor doesn’t omit those juicy bits…)

Although I’m critical of the other religions I must say it strikes me that many people on this Forum are very well-intentioned, genuine, caring and friendly people. It’s better to be friends than to fight, though of course whilst acknowledging our differences.

I finished the piece with a sentence on harmlessness, loving-kindness and compassion as they are so badly needed in this world. If everyone could just stop harming each other wouldn’t things be so much better? To love all beings is a tall order, but to stop harming is less so. So let’s stop harming and maybe love will come afterwards.

.

Buddhism

.

Introduction

Buddhism is what we call the original teachings and discipline established by the Buddha, as well as the family of separate but related movements that have grown out of those early beginnings and spread in a vast and complex diversity of forms throughout the world. They all have at their core the Buddha’s preoccupation with suffering and its end.

The Buddha

The man who was to become the Buddha was born Prince Siddhattha Gotama in India over 2500 years ago. Brought up in royal splendour it wasn’t long before an awareness of the inevitability of old age, sickness and death took root in his mind and lead to him abandoning his palaces in search of truth.

One evening, at the age of thirty-five, after six years of searching, he seated himself beneath a great tree and focused his mind on his breathing. When his mind had reached a sufficiently deep state of concentration and clarity he focused on investigating the cause of suffering. As the dawn drew near he penetrated to the fundamental level of reality and came to know suffering’s cause and thereby its end. It is from this point that we know him as the Buddha – the ‘One who Knows’, the ‘Awakened One’.

For the next forty-five years until his passing he wandered the dusty roads of Northern India teaching people how they too could be free from suffering.

The Four Noble Truths

At the heart of the Buddha’s teachings are the Four Noble Truths, and it is from these that all of his other teachings stem.

1. Suffering; Unsatisfactoriness

Life is inherently unsatisfactory and experienced as suffering: we are subject to birth, aging, sickness and death. Even the happiness and pleasant experiences are unsatisfactory since they all must pass.

2. The Cause of Suffering

Craving, according to the Buddha, is the root of suffering. We crave for pleasure, to exist, to not exist and for things to be other than they are. With craving present in our minds we continually live at odds with the true nature of things.

3. The End of Suffering

This is the goal of Buddhist practice. The Buddha used the term ‘Nibbana’ (Nirvana) which literally means ‘extinguishing’, i.e. the extinguishing of the fire of craving. Nibbana is freedom from all greed, hatred and delusion. Nibbana is neither annihilation, nor an eternal heaven.

4. The Path Leading to the End of Suffering

This is the Noble Eightfold Path: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Acton, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. In other words, the path of Morality, Meditation, and Wisdom.

Free Inquiry

Blind faith is anathema to Buddhism. The Buddha cautioned his followers against merely believing his words, instead encouraging them to actively probe and investigate. Scriptures may point the way to truth but it is down to each individual to realise it for his or herself through direct knowledge.

God, the Soul and Creation

Buddhism is a non-theistic religion that does not recognise a creator God. The Buddha held that such a belief is a deluded one. In contrast to relying on forces outside oneself, Buddhist teaching emphasises personal responsibility.

Regarding the origin of things, he taught that no beginning can be found, and that to search for such is the way to madness.

Central to the Buddha’s teaching is the doctrine of ‘anatta’ – ‘no-self’, ‘no-soul’, which states that beings are an ever-changing, evolving combination of mind and matter, within which no permanent entity or essence abides.

Karma and Rebirth

Karma means action, the results of which depend upon the intention behind the action. Actions that are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion bring about suffering; whereas those rooted in generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom bring happiness. The Law of Karma highlights the fact that we alone are responsible for our own happiness and suffering. Rebirth is conditioned by the actions that we perform through our life.

Loving-Kindness and Compassion

The Buddha taught that we should try at all times to be harmless, and to act out of loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves and all beings everywhere.

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