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    Modern version of the Eternal Knot by Charles Huttner
A View on Buddhism
Teksty w jezyku polskim     Deutsche Seiten

BUDDHIST ARTICLES

PAGE CONTENTS
What did Lord Buddha really have to say about God?
Is Buddhism Scientific?
Miraculous Powers
The Healing Power of the Precepts: Building self-esteem the Buddhist way
Jesus and Buddha as Brothers
Sound of Mindfulness
The Enlightened Ones
Buddhist Views on Marriage
Do the thoughts ever stop?
Basic Points Unifying The Theravada and the Mahayana
Taking Personal Responsibility

What did Lord Buddha really have to say about God?

At times, He did remain silent on this topic. But there is an account given by Him on the genesis of the "Creator" and this should settle the issue. But before going on with that, we should note that Buddha was not an agnostic (one who does not know). In fact, He was a gnostic or 'one who knows' (in Pali- "janata") and was also called "Sabbannu", the 'All-knower". This means that to whatever subject Lord Buddha attended to, He knew all the contents of that subject. It does NOT mean that He always knew everything about every subject all at once, for this very claim was one He emphatically and specifically denied about himself.
Now, to settle this question of "God" we can investigate. It happens that in the beginning of a new cycle (after one of the periodic cosmic collapses), a being according to his or her kamma (karma) is reborn into a heavenly realm or state where no other beings are to found. (That one's kamma being a condition for the arising of that particular heavenly experience.) That one does not remember her or his past life among other "gods" in the "higher" heavenly realms, and comes to believe during the passing of ages that s/he has lived there forever. With the passing of immense time spans, that one wishes for the company of others and then, since according to their kamma some other beings appear in that realm, s/he comes to believe that they were produced by her or his will. From this s/he goes on to glorify herself or himself, her or his supposed "creation" and this aids that being's vanity since such a being does not remember the past life it was subjected to and so imagines that it is a creature of Brahma.
One of these great Brahmas called by the name of Baka, was made to see the emptiness and futility of his claims to eternal existence and creatorhood when Lord Buddha while in meditation paid a visit to that realm. And not only that, the "Buddhist" attitude to Brahma or God or "the Creator" is fairly if somewhat seemingly acridly summed up in these translated verses:

"He who has eyes can see the sickening sight;
Why does not Brahma set his creatures right?
If his wide power no limit can restrain,
Why is his hand so rarely spread to bless?
Why are all his creatures condemned to pain?
Why does he not to all give happiness?
Why do fraud, lies, and ignorance prevail?

From: "The God Idea" By Rev. Bhikkhu Dhammapiyo copyrighted 1999, Buddhadharma International Foundation, Inc.
Free Distribution Only, as a Gift of Dharma, Otherwise All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Is Buddhism scientific?

Before we answer that question it would be best to define the word 'science'.
Science, according to the dictionary is: "knowledge which can be made into a system, which depends upon seeing and testing facts and stating general natural laws, a branch of such knowledge, anything that can be studied exactly".
There are aspects of Buddhism that would not fit into this definition but the central teachings of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, most certainly would. Suffering, the First Noble Truth, is an experience that can be defined, experienced and measured. The Second Noble Truth states that suffering has a natural cause, craving,which likewise can be defined, experienced and measured. No attempted is made to explain suffering in terms of a metaphysical concept or myths. Suffering is ended, according to the Third Noble Truth, not by relying on upon a supreme being, by faith or by prayers but simply by removing its cause. This is axiomatic. The Fourth Noble Truth, the way to end suffering, once again, has nothing to do with metaphysics but depends on behaving in specific ways. And once again behaviour is open to testing.

Buddhism dispenses with the concept of a supreme being, as does science, and explains the origins and workings of the universe in terms of natural law. All of this certainly exhibits a scientific spirit. Once again, the Buddha's constant advice that we should not blindly believe but rather question, examine, inquire and rely on our own experience, has a definite scientific ring to it. He says: "Do not go by revelation or tradition,do not go by rumour, or the sacred scriptures, do not go by hearsay or mere logic, do not go by bias towards a notion or by another person's seeming ability and do not go by the idea 'He is our teacher'. But when you yourself know that a thing is good, that it is not blameble, that it is praised by the wise and when practised and observed that it leads to happiness, then follow that thing."
So we could say that although Buddhism in not entirely scientific, it certainly has a strong overtone and is certainly more scientific than any other religion.

From: 'Good Question, Good Answer' by Bhikkhu Shravasti Dhammika

See also my essay Mount Emptiness on comparing modern science and the concept of 'emptiness'.

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Miraculous Powers

If a wicked man can become religious, to Buddhism, this is a practical miracle. In every religion we hear some sort of miracles performed by either the founders of these religions or by some of their disciples. In the case of the Buddha, we also come across some miracles from the day of his birth up to his passing away into Nibbana. Many of the psychic powers (called 'miraculous powers' in other religions) of the Buddha were attained through his long and intense training meditation. The Buddha meditated and passed through four stages of contemplation that culminated in pure self-possession and equanimity; he became free from emotions. Such meditation was considered nothing miraculous but within the power of any trained ascetic. Then there arose within the Buddha a vision of his previous births, the hundreds and thousands of existences with all their details. He remembered his previous births and how he had made use of these births to gain his enlightenment. Then the Buddha had a second and wider vision in which he saw the whole universe as a system of kamma and rebirth. He saw the universe made up of beings that were noble and wicked, happy and unhappy. He saw them all continually "passing away according to their deeds", leaving one form of existence and taking shape in another. Finally, he understood the nature of suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.

Then a third vision arose within the Buddha. He realized that he was completely free from all bandages, human or divine. He realized that he had done what had to be done. He realized he has no more rebirths to go through because he was living with his final body. This knowledge destroyed all ignorance, all darkness and light arose within him. Such is the psychic power and the wisdom that arose within the Buddha as he sat meditating under the Bodhi tree.

The Buddha had a natural birth; he lived in a normal way. But he was an extraordinary man as far as his enlightenment was concerned. Those who have not learned how to appreciate his supreme wisdom, try to find out his greatness by peeping into his life and looking for miracles. However, the Buddha's supreme enlightenment is more than enough for us to understand the greatness of the Buddha. There is no need to introduce any miraculous power in him to make him a great man.

The Buddha was aware of the powers that could be developed by training the human mind. He was also aware that his disciples could train themselves to develop such powers. Thus the Buddha advised his disciples not to exercise such psychic power in order to convert less intelligent people. He was refering to the 'miracle' or power to walk on water exorcise spirits, raising the dead, and so on. He was also referring to the 'miracles of prophecy' such as thought-reading, sooth-saying, fortune-telling, and so on. When the uneducated believers see such powers, their faith deepens. But the nominal converts who are attracted by these miraculous powers are not valuable assets to any religion. These people embrace the new faith, not because they realize the truth, but because they harbour hallucinations. Therefore the Buddha drew converts only by appealing to their reason.

The following story illustrates the Buddha's attitude toward miraculous powers: one day the Buddha met an ascetic who sat by the bank of a river. This ascetic had practiced austerities for 25 years. The Buddha asked him what he had received for all his labour. The ascetic proudly replied that now at last he could cross the river by walking on the water. The Buddha tried to point out that this was such little gain for so much labour, since for one penny the ferry would take him across the river.

In certain religions, man's miracles can help him to become a saint. But in Buddhism, miracles can bar a person from sainthood. Buddhist sainthood is a gradual attainment and nobody else can make another person a saint. Sainthood is an individual concern. Each person himself must work for his sainthood through self-purification.

Many people who are supposed to have obtained some miraculous power, have succumbed to vain glory at having obtained some personal gain. According to the Buddha, a real miracle is the miracle of instruction: when a murderer, thief, terrorist, drunkard, or adulterer is made to realize that what he is doing is wrong and then gives up his bad and sinful way of life, this action is a real miracle. This is also the highest miracle that a man can perform. Many of the other miracles talked about by people are merely imaginations and hallucinations create' own mind due to lack of understanding of things as they are. All these miracles remain as miracles until people know what these powers really are.

Buddha says that anyone can gain supernormal power without also gaining spiritual power. He taught us that if we first gain spiritual power, then we automatically receive the miraculous or psychic powers too. But if we develop miraculous without spiritual development, then we are in danger. There are many who have fallen away from the right path by using their miraculous powers without having any spiritual development

From:"What Buddhist Believe" by Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda, published by Buddhist Missionary Society

The Healing Power of the Precepts: Building self-esteem the Buddhist way

Throughout the history of Buddhism, the Buddha has been described as a doctor, treating spiritual ills. The path of practice he taught has likewise served as therapy for suffering hearts and minds.
This understanding of the Buddha and his teachings dates back to the earliest texts, but its meaning for contemporary practitioners has become more relevant than ever. Buddhist meditation is often touted as a form of healing, and many psychotherapists now recommend that their patients try meditation as part of their treatment. But the Buddha understood-and experience has shown--that meditation on its own can't provide a total therapy. It requires outside support.
In many ways, modern meditators have been so destabilized by the stimuli of mass civilization that they often lack the resilience, persistence, and self-esteem needed to achieve concentration and cultivate insight. To provide a grounding in these qualities, and to foster a personal environment conducive to meditation, the Buddha prescribed a path made up not only of mindfulness, concentration, and insight practices, but also of virtue. And virtue begins with the Five Precepts, which are: to refrain from intentionally killing any animal, from insects on up the evolutionary ladder;to refrain from stealing;to refrain from illicit sex, that is, sexual intercourse outside of a stable, committed relationship;to refrain from lying;to refrain from intoxicants (such as alcohol, marijuana, and psychotropic drugs).
These precepts constitute the first step on the path. There is a tendency to dismiss them as Sunday-school rules bound to old cultural norms that no longer apply to modern society, but this misses the role that the Buddha intended for them: to be part of a therapy for wounded minds. In particular, they are aimed at curing two ailments that underlie low self-esteem and block progress on the path--regret and denial. When our actions don't measure up to certain standards of behavior, we either regret the actions or engage in one of two kinds of denial--denying that our actions did, in fact, happen, or denying that the standards of measurement are really valid. These responses are like wounds in the mind. Regret is an open wound, tender to the touch, while denial is like hardened scar tissue twisted around a tender spot. When the mind is wounded in these ways, it can't settle down comfortably in the present, for it finds itself resting on raw, exposed flesh or calcified knots.
This is where the Five Precepts come in. Healthy self-esteem comes from living up to a set of standards that is practical, clear-cut, humane, and worthy of respect. The precepts provide just such a set of standards. The standards are simple. They may not always be easy or convenient, but they are always possible to live by. Some people translate the precepts into standards that sound more lofty or noble. To some, taking the second precept, for example, means not abusing the planet's resources. But that's an impossibly high standard.
The Buddha understood that if you give people standards that take a little effort and mindfulness but are still possible to meet, their self-esteem soars dramatically as they find themselves actually meeting those standards. They can then face more demanding tasks with confidence.

The precepts are formulated with no ifs, ands, or buts. This means that they provide very clear guidance. There's no room for waffling or less-than-honest rationalizations. An action either fits in with the precepts or it doesn't.
Anyone who has raised children has found that while they may complain about hard and fast rules, they actually feel more secure with them than with rules that are vague and always open to negotiation. Clear-cut rules don't allow for unspoken agendas to come sneaking in the back door of the mind.
If, for example, the precept against killing allowed you to kill living beings when their presence is inconvenient--as in the case of mosquitos--that would place your convenience on a higher level than your compassion for life. Convenience would become your unspoken standard--and unspoken standards provide huge tracts of fertile ground for hypocrisy and denial to grow. If, however, you stick by the standards of the precepts, then you are providing unlimited safety for all. In terms of other precepts, you provide safety for their possessions and their sexuality, and truthfulness and mindfulness in your communication with them.
The precepts are humane both to the person who observes them and to the people affected by his or her actions. If you observe them, you are aligning yourself with the doctrine of karma, which teaches that the most important powers shaping your experience of the world are the intentional thoughts, words, and deeds you choose in the present moment.
This means that you are not insignificant. With every choice you make--at home, at work, at play--you are exercising your power in the ongoing shaping of the world. At the same time, this principle allows you to measure yourself in terms that are entirely under your control: your intentional actions in the present moment. In other words, they don't force you to measure yourself in terms of your looks, strength, brains, financial prowess, or any other criteria that depend less on your present karma than they do on karma from the past. Also, they don't play on feelings of guilt or force you to bemoan your past lapses. Instead, they focus your attention on the ever-present possibility of living up to your standards in the here and now.
When you adopt a set of standards, it's important to know whose standards they are and to see where those standards come from, for in effect you are joining their group, looking for their approval, and accepting their criteria for right and wrong. In this case, you couldn't ask for a better group to join: the Buddha and his noble disciples. The Five Precepts, in the words of the Buddha, are "standards appealing to the noble ones." From what the texts tell us of the noble ones, they aren't people who accept standards simply on the basis of popularity. They have put their lives on the line to see what leads to true happiness and seen for themselves, for example, that all lying is pathological, and that any sex outside a stable, committed relationship is spiritually and emotionally, as well as physically, unsafe.

Other people might not respect you for living by the Five Precepts, but noble ones do, and their respect is worth more than that of anyone else in the world. You can look at the standards by which you live and breathe comfortably as a full-fledged, responsible human being. For that's what you are.

By Thanissaro Bhikkhu, who was ordained in the Thai forest tradition of Buddhism in 1976 and is the abbot of Metta Forest Monastery near San Diego, Calif. He is the translator of numerous Buddhist texts, among them the Dhammapada. His most recent books include "The Wings to Awakening" and "Noble Strategy." His translations and commentary on the Buddha's teachings can be found in "Access to Insight: Readings in Theravada Buddhism."

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Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

The dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity has not gone very far, in my opinion, because we have not been able to set up a solid ground for such dialogue. This is a reflection of the present situation.
Buddhists believe in reincarnation, the possibility for human beings to live several lives. In Buddhist circles, we do not use the word incarnation very much: we use the word rebirth. After you die, you can be reborn and can have another life. In Christianity, your life is unique, your only chance for salvation. If you spoil it, then you will never get salvation. You have only one life.
Buddhism teaches that there is non-self, anatta. Christianity clearly teaches that a Christian is a personalist. Not only are you a person, self, but God is a person, and He has a self. The Buddhist teaching of emptiness and no substance sounds like the teaching of no being. Christianity speaks of being, of existence. The teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of the philosophy of being, la philisophie de l'etre, the confirmation that the world is.
There is compassion and loving-kindness in Buddhism, which many Christians believe to be different from the charity and love in Christianity. Charity has two aspects: your love directed to God, and your love directed to humankind. You have to learn how to love your enemy. Our Christian friends have a tendency to remind us that the motivation of love is different for Christians and Buddhists. There are theologians who say that Buddhists practice compassion just because they want liberation; that Buddhists don't really care about the suffering of people and other living beings; that they are only motivated by the desire to be liberated. In Christianity, your love is grounded in God. You love God, and because God said that you must love your neighbor, so you love your neighbor. Your love of your neighbor springs from the ground of your love of God.
Many people, especially in Christian circles, say that there are things in common between Christianity and Buddhism. But many find that the philosophical foundations of Christianity and Buddhism are quite different. Buddhism teaches rebirth, many lives. Christianity teaches that only this one life is available to you. Buddhism teaches that there is no self, but in Christianity there is a real self. Buddhism teaches emptiness, no substance, while Christianity confirms the fact of existence.
If the philosophical ground is so different, the practice of compassion and loving kindness in Buddhism and of charity and love in Christianity is different. All that seems to be a very superficial way of seeing. If we have time and if we practice our own tradition well enough and deeply enough, we will see that these issues are not real.

First of all, there are many forms of Buddhism, many ways of understanding Buddhism. If you have one hundred people practicing Buddhism, you may have one hundred forms of Buddhism. The same is true in Christianity. If there are one hundred thousand people practicing Christianity, there may be one hundred thousand ways of understanding Christianity.

In Plum Village, where many people from different religious backgrounds come to practice, it is not difficult to see that sometimes a Buddhist recognizes a Christian as being more Buddhist than another Buddhist. I see a Buddhist, but the way he understands Buddhism is quite different from the way I do. However, when I look at a Christian, I see that the way he understands Christianity and practices love and charity is closer to the way I practice them than this man who is called a Buddhist. The same thing is true in Christianity. From time to time, you feel that you are very far away from your Christian brother. You feel that the brother who practices in the Buddhist tradition is much closer to you as a Christian. So Buddhism is not Buddhism and Christianity is not Christianity. There are many forms of Buddhism and many ways of understanding Buddhism. There are many ways of understanding Christianity. Therefore, let us forget the idea that Christianity must be like this, and that Buddhism can only be like that.
We don't want to say that Buddhism is a kind of Christianity and Christianity is a kind of Buddhism. A mango can not be an orange. I cannot accept the fact that a mango is an orange. They are two different things. Vive la difference. But when you look deeply into the mango and into the orange, you see that although they are different they are both fruits. If you analyze the mango and the orange deeply enough, you will see small elements are in both, like the sunshine, the clouds, the sugar, and the acid. If you spend time looking deeply enough, you will discover that the only difference between them lies in the degree, in the emphasis. At first you see the difference between the orange and the mango. But if you look a little deeper, you discover many things in common. In the orange you find acid and sugar which is in the mango too. Even two oranges taste different; one can be very sour and one can be very sweet.

From "Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers" by Thich Nhat Hanh, Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1999. Thich Nhat Hanh, a rare combination of mystic, scholar, and activist, is a Vietnamese monk and one of the most beloved Buddhist teachers alive today. Poet, Zen master and chairman of the Vietnamese Buddhist Peace Delegation during the Vietnam War, he was nominated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the author of many books, and lives in France.

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THE SOUND OF MINDFULNESS

Turning off the shower at 2.15am, I hear something for the very first time - the sound of mindfulness; the sound of the ticking of a small clock on a shelf in the bathroom. I had no idea it ticked so "loudly". The ticking was highlighted by the still of the night, by my mind silenced by the stillness. It was amazing how definite and crisp the ticking sounded - without the sound of the running shower, without the chatter of my mind's thoughts.
It made me wonder what other wonders I'd been missing in daily life.
What is the sound of mindfulness? It is the sound of whatever is around here and now. Miss the sound of here and now and you miss that much of your real life, which can only happen here and now. We are partially deaf when we are not totally aware of all the sounds of here and now. In the same way we are blind... and numb in the other senses.

When was the last time you looked up and marvelled at a starry night? Do you SEE the myriad colours and shapes in all you see? Do you stop and SMELL the scent of the roses? Do you TASTE the rich flavours of every meal? Do you FEEL and enjoy the hot shower at the end of a hard day's work? And perhaps more importantly, are you mindful of your mind, of your thoughts and feelings? Without mental mindfulness, there is no mindfulness of the senses.
If you are often not mindful of here and now, you are seldom truly alive - for only here and now can you live, not elsewhere, in the past or future. Do you bask in the light of mindfulness? Do you savour it?

The next night, while I was waiting for the bus, I looked for the moon, searching for the familiar white disc which breaks the blank emptiness of the night sky. I became mindful that I was searching for something to fill the momentary emptiness, the existential hollowness of my heart. With that, a thought came to mind- "When you gaze at the cloudless sky, you either see the emptiness of the sky (xu|kong|) or the emptiness of your heart (kong|xu|)." Just being mindful of this made me feel better. I am not lost. The lost are not aware. After being aware of my spiritual emptiness in the moment, I am already searching for my way out. Lo! Behold! Listen! Don't get lost in this moment. Pay attention! What sound of mindfulness are you missing now?

[email protected], from a posting at The Daily Enlightenment.com (Slightly edited)

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THE ENLIGHTENED ONES

What are enlightened people like? Well, some are men and some are women. You might find them in a monastery or a suburban home, in the forest or in a small country town.
It is true that there are not many of them but there is a lot more than people usually think. It is not that enlightenment is inherently difficult; the sad truth is that most people cannot be bothered to pull themselves out of the bog of ignorance and craving.
At first you wouldn't notice the enlightened person in a crowd because he's rather quiet and retiring. But when things started to get heated, that's when he'd stand out. When everyone else was enflamed by rage he'd still be full of love. When others were in turmoil because of some crises he'd be as calm as he was before. In a mad scramble to get as much as possible, he'd be the one over in the corner with the content expression on his face.

He walks smoothly over the rough, he's steady amidst the shaking. It's not that he wants to make a point of being different, rather it's because freedom from desire has made him completely self-contained. But strangely, although others can't move him, his calm presence moves them.

His gentle reasoned words unite those at odds and bring even closer together those already united. The afflicted, the frightened and the worried feel better after they have talked with him. Wild animals sense the kindness in the enlightened one's heart and are not afraid of him. Even the place where he dwells, be it village, forest, hill or vale, seems more beautiful simply because he is there.

Reflections by Ven. S. Dhammika based on the original buddhist Scriptures

BUDDHIST VIEWS ON MARRIAGE

In Buddhism, marriage is regarded as entirely a personal, individual concern and not as a religious duty. Marriage is a social convention, an institution created by man for the well-being and happiness of man, to differentiate human society from animal life and to maintain order and harmony in the process of procreation. Even though the Buddhist texts are silent on the subject of monogamy or polygamy, the Buddhist laity is advised to limit themselves to one wife. The Buddha did not lay rules on married life but gave necessary advice on how to live a happy married life. There are ample inferences in His sermons that it is wise and advisable to be faithful to one wife and not to be sensual and to run after other women. The Buddha realized that one of the main causes of man's downfall is his involvement with other women (Parabhava Sutta). Men must realize the difficulties, the trials and tribulations that he has to undergo just to maintain a wife and a family. These would be magnified many times when faced with calamities. Knowing the frailties of human nature, the Buddha did, in one of His precepts, advise His followers to refrain from committing adultery or sexual misconduct.

The Buddhist views on marriage are very liberal: in Buddhism, marriage is regarded entirely as personal and individual concern, and not as a religious duty. There are no religious laws in Buddhism compelling a person to be married, to remain as a bachelor or to lead a life of total chastity. It is not laid down anywhere that Buddhists must produce children or regulate the number of children that they produce. Buddhism allows each individual the freedom to decide for himself all the issues pertaining to marriage. It might be asked why Buddhist monks do not marry, since there are no laws for or against marriage. The reason is obviously that to be of service to mankind, the monks have chosen a way of life which includes celibacy. Those who renounce the worldly life keep away from married life voluntarily to avoid various worldly commitments in order to maintain peace of mind and to dedicate their lives solely to serve others in the attainment of spiritual emancipation. Although Buddhist monks do not solemnize a marriage ceremony, they do perform religious services in order to bless the couples.

Divorce

Separation or divorce is not prohibited in Buddhism though the necessity would scarcely arise if the Buddha's injunctions were strictly followed. Men and women must have the liberty to separate if they really cannot agree with each other. Separation is preferable to avoid miserable family life for a long period of time. The Buddha further advises old men not to have young wives as the old and young are unlikely to be compatible, which can create undue problems, disharmony and downfall (Parabhava Sutta).

From: 'What Buddhists Believe' by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera

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DO THE THOUGHTS EVER STOP?

The Buddha advised bhikkhus, "Bhikkhus when you have assembled together you should do one of two things: have Dhamma discussions or observe noble silence."
Noble silence is the state of mind where there are no thoughts. The mind is totally silent. Thoughts can be stopped only if we train our mind to do so through correct meditation practice.
A meditator should begin by paying undivided and uninterrupted attention to one single object without verbalizing the experience in the mind. When you verbalize and conceptualize things, you interrupt your attention on the one hand and on the other you perpetuate your thoughts.
When you verbalize, you add more and more concepts or ideas. The reality is not a word or verb. The reality is what you experience. When you experience aches and pains or pleasure and happiness in or out of your meditation, you directly notice the experience exactly as it is. You don't need a conceptual bridge between your experience and direct knowledge. When you are hungry, you experience hunger without saying: "I am hungry, I am hungry."
You need nouns and verbs only to communicate your experience. When you meditate you observe total silence, not trying to talk to anybody about your experience. You should know yourself exactly as you are. You should feel yourself exactly as you are.
From babyhood through college, we learn to use words, concepts and ideas to make others understand us. But during meditation you are not trying to express your experience to anybody. By training your mind to remain silent, you make it silent. If you add more words to the mind, the mind simply remains busy.
We all have noticed people sitting or walking down the street carrying on a monologue with themselves. They cannot silence their minds. This is an extreme example of being unable to still thoughts. But in our own way, we wrestle with this in daily life and in meditation. It comes down to this; unless you try, you can never stop all that thinking. You still the thoughts only when you determine to do so.
Pay total attention to what you experience through the six senses without labeling what arises. There are certain things you experience for which no words are necessary. You simply know them. Your mind knows them. You stay with this knowing. When you feel cold, the normal habit is to say to yourself, "Gee, it is cold." When you feel hot, you automatically think, "Boy, it is hot." Simply pay attention to the cold you feel without this additional thought. Simply feel the heat without verbalizing the experience. When you remember visiting a place, or talking to someone, or eating ice cream or holding someone by the hand, simply become aware of those objects of your memory.
You need to gain full concentration to stop your thoughts. You do this by paying total attention to one object at a time. If you start the practice by focusing your mind exclusively on one object, gradually you condition your mind to overcome discursive thoughts by sustaining initial contact with the object.
When you listen to your heartbeat you don't need concepts to feel this subtle occurrence. Similarly, during meditation as you pay total attention to your in-breathing and out-breathing, you can notice the beginning, middle, and end of each inhaling and each exhaling. You can notice the brief pause between inhaling and exhaling. You can notice these natural occurrences in your breath if you pay total attention to them.
The mind moves so rapidly yet we can train it to notice these events exactly as they happen because they happen in succession. If you conceptualize these occurrences then you will be unable to notice them. Instead, you hang on to the words and miss the actual experience. You don't have to say, "This is the beginning of breathing in," or "This is the middle" or "This is the end." Simply notice these stages. You don't need thought to notice them. All you need is attention.
By no means do we become a vegetable when we still our thoughts. A quiet mind is receptive to insight. And you can stop the thought process by systematically training the mind.
I use the phrase "quieting the mind" or "silencing the mind" to mean not having thought in the mind, but this does not mean slowing down the mind like slowing down a body's metabolism during hibernation. It simply means not having thought-creating habits in the mind.
The brain does not manufacture thoughts unless we stimulate it with habitual verbalizing. When we train ourselves by constant practice to stop verbalizing, the brain can experience things as they are. By silencing the mind, we can experience real peace. As long as various kinds of thoughts agitate the brain, we don't experience 100 percent peace.
Peace is not a thought, not a concept, it is a nonverbal experience. One can stay in this peaceful state up to seven days. But before one attains such a totally peaceful state of mind, one should gradually train oneself to slow down thoughts. Once slowed down, thoughts fade away and no more new thoughts are fed into the brain.
Even while not meditating, we experience many things deeply for which often there are no words. We may try to find a word or verb for that experience. We may call it intuition. Yet intuitions may arise with no associated words or concepts. You can also listen to sounds without any words arising in the mind. It is said the best way to enjoy music is to listen to music. While hearing music, you listen to the sound without trying to verbalize the sound. Or consider how you listen to a bird's song; you don't verbalize the sound. You may say "The robin sings like this..." but that is your imagination.
This means that even outside of meditation you can experience many very subtle things simply by paying total attention to your senses. Most of the time, we verbalize things after we have experienced them, not while experiencing them. But when you pay total, nonverbal attention to something, you gain concentration which is not possible by verbalizing. Words stimulate the mind. Therefore the mind keeps producing more and more words and we express them in thoughts. By nonverbal attention, you can minimize the number of words you use. When the words are minimized, thoughts are minimized. Finally, this process makes the mind truly free from thoughts. But if you don't minimize the words, you can't free the mind from thoughts.
When you experience something, if you don't try to translate the experience into words you simply have the experience, not thoughts. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, they can all be experienced directly without words. When you use words, you block your direct experience of sensory objects.
After all, it is not the words that make you experience what you experience. Suppose the color white appears before your eyes. The whiteness reflects on your eyes. The minds knows it as it is. Only if you want to express what you have seen do you really need words. Yet whiteness is not a word, but what it is. Blackness is not a word, but what it is. The same is true for sweetness, bitterness, sourness, toughness, and everything in your experience.
The brain does not manufacture thoughts from nothing. It has to be fed something to use as raw material for manufacturing thoughts. The raw material is what you have fed to it in the past. If you do not feed it words, if you have trained it by avoiding verbalization, the brain cannot manufacture thoughts from a vacuum.

by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

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BASIC POINTS UNIFYING THE THERAVADA AND THE MAHAYANA

The World Buddhist Sangha Council was first convened by Theravadins in Sri Lanka in 1966 with the hope of bridging differences and working together. The first convention was attended by leading monks, from many countries and sects, Mahaayaana as well as Theravaada.

The following, written by Ven. Walpola Rahula was approved unanimously.

1. The Buddha is our only Master.

2. We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.

3. We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a God.

4. Following the example of the Buddha, who is the embodiment of Great Compassion (mahaa-karu.naa) and Great Wisdom (mahaa- praj~naa), we consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth.

5. We accept the Four Noble Truths, nameley Dukkha, the Arising of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Dukkha; and the universal law of cause and effect as taught in the pratiitya-samutpaada (Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination).

6. We understand, according to the teaching of the Buddha, that all conditioned things (sa.mskaara) are impermanent (anitya) and dukkha, and that all conditioned and unconditioned things (dharma) are without self (anaatma).

7. We accept the Thirty-seven Qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhipak.sa-dharma) as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment.

8. There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment, according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely as a disciple (sraavaka), as a Pratyeka-Buddha and as a Samyak-sam-Buddha (perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and mostheroic to follow the career of a Bodhisattva and to become a Samyak-sam-Buddha in order to save others.

9. We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard to the life of Buddhist monks, popular Buddhist beliefs and practices, rites and ceremonies, customs and habits. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.

From: Walpola Rahula; The Heritage of the Bhikkhu; (New York, Grove Press, 1974)

TAKING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

With mindfulness, we can be independent of the positions other people are taking. We can stand on our own two feet and take responsibility for acting in a virtuous way, regardless of what the rest of sociery is doing.I can be kind, generous, and loving toward you, and that is a joy to me.But if I make my happiness dependent upon your being kind to me, then it will always be threatened, because if you aren't doing what I like-behaving the way I want you to-then I'm going to be unhappy. So then, my happiness is always under threat because the world might not behave as I want it to.

It's clear that I would spend the rest of my life being terribly disappointed if I expected everything to change-if I expected everybody to become virtuous, wars to stop, money not to be wasted, governments to be compassionate, sharing, and giving-everything to be just exactly the way I want it! Actually, I don't expect to see very much of that in my lifetime, but there is no point in being miserable about it ; happiness based on what I want is not all that important.

Joy isn't dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way you want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their giving you all the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn't dependent upon anything but your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving.
It's that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science of goodness. Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human realm. So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing is beyond my control-I can't go around making everything how I want it- still, I can be kind, generous, and patient,and do good, and develop virtue. That I can do, and that's worth doing, and not something anyone can stop me from doing. However rotten or corrupted society is doesn't make any difference to our ability to be virtuous and to do good.

Excerpted from 'The Mind and the Way' by Ajahn Sumedo.

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Last updated: February 6, 2011