Finding solace in Buddha’s teachings

“Hence the purpose of the holy life does not consist in acquiring wealth, honour, or fame, nor in gaining morality, concentration, or the eye of knowledge. That unshakable deliverance of the heart: that, indeed, is the object of the holy life, that is its essence, that is its goal. (MN 29)

And those who in the past were Holy andEnlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones too have pointed out to their disciples this self-same goal as has been pointed out by me to my disciples. And those who in the future will be Holy and Enlightened Ones, those Blessed Ones too will point out to their disciples this self-same goal as has been pointed out by me to my disciples. (MN 51)

However, disciples, it may be that after my passing away you might think: “Gone is the doctrine of our master. We have no master anymore.” But you should not think thus; for the Doctrine (dhamma) and the Discipline (vinaya) that I have taught you will be your master after my death.

Let the Doctrine be your isle!
Let the Doctrine be your refuge!
Look for no other refuge!

Therefore, disciples, the doctrines that I taught you after having penetrated them myself, you should well preserve, well guard, so that this holy life may take its course and continue for ages, for the good and welfare of the many, as a consolation to the world, for the happiness, good, and welfare of heavenly beings and humans. (DN 16)”

– The Word of the Buddha

The Word of the Buddha – An Outline of the Buddha’s Teaching in the Words of the Pali Canon is a superb little work by the eminent German scholar-monk Ven. Nyanatiloka Mahathera. It is probably the best compact sourcebook in English on the Buddha’s basic teachings, all expounded in his own words.

In his book, Ven. Nyanatiloka Mahathera has mentioned that ‘The Word of the Buddha’, published originally in German, was the first strictly systematic exposition of all the main tenets of the Buddha’s teachings presented in the Master’s own words as found in the Sutta Pipaka of the Buddhist Pali Canon. While it may well serve as a first introduction for the beginner, its chief aim is to give the reader who is already more or less acquainted with the fundamental ideas of Buddhism, a clear, concise, and authentic summary of its various doctrines, within the framework of the all-embracing Four Noble Truths, i.e., the truths of suffering (inherent in all existence), its origin, its extinction, and the way leading to its extinction.

Gradual Development of the Eightfold Path in the Progress of the Disciple

CONFIDENCE AND RIGHT THOUGHT

Suppose a householder, or his son, or someone reborn in a good family, hears the Doctrine; and after hearing the Doctrine he is filled with confidence in the Perfect One. And filled with this confidence, he thinks: “Full of hindrances is household life, a refuse heap; but the homeless life (of a monk) is like the open air. Not easy is it, when one lives at home, to fulfil in all points the rules of the holy life. Let me know, cut off my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and go forth from home to the homeless life.” And in a short time, having given up his possessions, great or little, having forsaken a large or small circle of relations, he cuts off hair and beard, puts on the yellow robe, and goes forth from home to the homeless life.

MORALITY

Having thus left the world, he fulfils the rules of the monks. He avoids the killing of living beings and abstains from it. Without stick or sword, conscientious, full of sympathy, he is desirous of the welfare of all living beings. He avoids stealing, and abstains from taking what is not given to him. He takes only what is given to him, waiting till it is given; and he lives with a heart honest and pure. He avoids unchastity, living chaste, celibate, and aloof from the vulgar practice of sexual intercourse.

He avoids lying and abstains from it. He speaks the truth, is devoted to the truth, reliable, worthy of confidence, no deceiver of people. He avoids tale-bearing and abstains from it. What he has heard here, he does not repeat there, so as to cause dissension there; and what he has heard there, he does not repeat here, so as to cause dissension here. Thus he unites those that are divided, and those that are united he encourages; concord gladdens him, he delights and rejoices in concord; and it is concord that he spreads by his words. He avoids harsh language and abstains from it. He speaks such words as gentle, soothing to the ear, loving, such words as go to the heart, and are courteous, friendly, and agreeable to many.

He avoids vain talk and abstains from it. He speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the Doctrine and the Discipline; his speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by arguments, moderate and full of sense. He takes food only at one time of the day (forenoon), abstains from food in the evening, does not eat at improper times. He keeps aloof from dance, song, music, and the visiting of shows; he rejects flowers, perfumes, ointment, as well as every kind of adornment and embellishment. High and gorgeous beds he does not use. Gold and silver he does not accept. He does not accept raw corn and flesh, women and girls, male and female slaves, or goats, sheep, fowls, pigs, elephants, cows or horses, or land and goods. He does not go on errands and do the duties of a messenger. He eschews buying and selling things. He has nothing to do with false measures, metals, and weights. He avoids the crooked ways of bribery, deception, and fraud. He has no part in stabbing, beating, chaining, attacking, plundering, and oppressing.

CONTROL OF THE SENSES

Now, in perceiving a form with the eye … a sound with the ear … an odour with the nose … a taste with the tongue … an impression with the body … an object with the mind, he cleaves neither to the whole nor to its details. And he tries to ward off that which, should he be unguarded in his senses, might give rise to evil and unwholesome states, to greed and sorrow; he watches over his senses, keeps his senses under control. By practising this noble control of the senses (indriya samvara), he feels in his heart an unblemished happiness.

MINDFULNESS AND CLEAR COMPREHENSION

He is mindful and acts with clear comprehension when going and coming; when looking forward and backward; when bending and stretching his limbs; when wearing his robes and carrying his alms bowl; when eating, drinking, chewing, and tasting; when discharging excrement and urine; when walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, and awakening; when speaking and keeping silent. Now being equipped with this noble morality (sila), equipped with this noble control of the senses (indriya samvara), and filled with this noble mindfulness and clear comprehension (sati-sampajanna), he chooses a secluded dwelling in the forest, at the foot of a tree, on a mountain, in a cleft, in a rock cave, on a burial ground, on a wooden table and, in the open air, or on a heap of straw.

ABANDONING THE FIVE HINDRANCES

He has cast away lust (kamacchanda); he dwells with a heart free from lust; he cleanses his heart from lust. He has cast away ill-will (vyapada); he dwells with a heart free from ill-will; cherishing love and compassion toward all living beings, he cleanses his heart from ill-will. He has cast away torpor and sloth (thinamiddha); he dwells free from torpor and sloth; loving the light, with watchful mind, with clear comprehension, he cleanses his mind from torpor and sloth.

THE ABSORPTIONS

He has put aside these five hindrances, the corruptions of the mind that paralyse wisdom. Detached from sensual pleasures, detached from evil states, he enters into the four absorptions (jhana). (MN 38)

INSIGHT

But whatsoever there is of corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, or consciousness, all these phenomena he regards as impermanent (anicca), subject to pain (dukkha), as infirm, as an ulcer, a thorn, a misery, a burden, an enemy, a disturbance, as empty, and not self (anatta); and turning away from these things, he directs his mind towards the Deathless thus: “This, truly, is peace, this is the highest, namely, the end of all karma-formations, the forsaking of every substratum of rebirth, the fading away of craving, detachment, extinction, Nibbana.” And in this state he reaches the cessation of passions (asavakkhaya). (AN 9:36)

NIBBANA

And his heart becomes free from sensual passion (kamasava), free from the passion for existence (bhavasava), free from the passion of ignorance (avijjasava). “Freed am I!”—this knowledge arises in the liberated one; and he knows: “Exhausted is rebirth; fulfilled the holy life; what had to be done has been done; nothing more remains for this world.” (MN 39)

Forever am I liberated, this is the last time that I’m born, No new existence waits for me. (MN 26) This is, indeed, the highest, holiest peace: appeasement of greed, hatred, and delusion.

THE SILENT THINKER

“I am” is a vain thought; “I am this” 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 whereby he should arise again. And as the Progress of the Disciple arises no more, how should he grow old again? And as he grows old no more, 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? (MN 140)

– Daily News Sri Lanka

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