Trevince House on Wednesday night is Study night for the Devonshire locals of Buddhafield. This is a weekly event and from now on a weekly post on what has been taught. My knowledge of Buddhism is still in its early stages so from my point of view I enjoy these nights as I am learning more about how I am to look at myself and my path. Vidyadasi leads these groups sensitively as she started at the beginning for those of us who are ‘beginner’ Buddhists. I feel very privileged to be a ‘beginner buddhist’ in this environment as there are many minds in the room all at different stages and there is a wealth of wisdom being shared as I listen and take notes (thank you for sharing your wisdom with me!). I may come across parts that I don’t understand as much but I will endeavour to try and be true to what was taught and open it up for discussion as much as possible.
The Truth of Cause and Effect
The Story of the Buddha
The Buddha was a man, he was born into a royal family and his name Siddhartha Gautama. During his childhood a group of astrologers predicted that the young prince would grow up to be either a great emperor or a great spiritual leader. The prince grew up within the palace walls, sheltered from the world outside. He married and fathered a son.
Siddhartha’s father would not allow Siddhartha to leave the palace and see what lay beyond the walls. It took much persuasion and once permission had been granted all Siddhartha saw beyond the palace were young and happy people. His father had previously ordered the streets to be cleaned of the old and sick. He did however come across a weak man laying by the side of the road. This was a sight that Siddhartha had never seen before, he asked why the man was weak and here he learnt about growing old. Struck by this sight Siddhartha visited the city three more times where he encountered a sick man, a dead man and a sage. These sights had a profound effect on his life as he left his wife and son to set out in order to find peace from the suffering of all men. He stripped himself of his princely possessions and wandered through the forests to seek understanding from wise men and ascetics. However, this was not enough. He finally settled under the bodhi tree to meditate. He stayed here for many days and this is where he gained Enlightenment. And these are some of his teachings:
The Four Noble Truths
- Human existence just involves suffering
- Cause of suffering is that we want things to be other then as they are.
- There is an end to suffering
- This is to follow the eight fold path (or the three fold way which consists of Ethics, Meditation and Wisdom)
The stages in the eight fold path are:
- Perfecting vision
- Perfecting emotion
- Perfecting speech
- Perfecting action
- Perfecting livelihood
- Perfecting effort
- Perfecting mindfulness
- Perfecting samadhi (loosely means concentration)
This path is split into two parts, the first half, perfecting vision, emotion, speech and action are to do this being aware of yourself and knowing yourself enough to be able to see, feel, speak and act mindfully. Once these four things are in place then the next four concerns what you have to offer others and how you place yourself within the wider community and the world. If you can get all eight then you are on your way to enlightenment.
At times we chant that we are going for refuge. When a person is ordained into the Buddhist order it is said that they are going for refuge. This is an important part of Buddhism, we all go for refuge all the time and all for different reasons for instance security, comfort, satisfaction, shelter, protection. By going to refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma (spiritual path) and the Sangha (spiritual community) otherwise know as the Three Jewels we also go for refuge to ourselves, we acknowledge these same qualities that exist in each person and set ourselves the task of searching for the truth. In this country there is a culture of Christianity and it is important to understand that The Buddha is not a God, he is an enlightened man, there is no judge in Buddhism, you are a good Buddhist but not to please any higher being but to please yourself. To meditate is to give yourself the stillness and the space to look at your mind and see the building blocks behind it, the conditions that make you up. To see all of the causes and effects is to understand yourself better and to understand yourself better is wisdom. It is not just this, it is important to find the middle way – it is not all in the mind or all in the body, ‘Form is no other than emptiness / Emptiness no other then form / Form is only emptiness / Emptiness only form’ (extracted form the Heart Sutra).
You must put all the conditions in place for enlightenment to arise, enlightenment is not a given and is not guaranteed.
In this particular study night we had an open forum for any questions that anyone had a burning desire to ask. Within this we encountered to large discussion points which I will try and form something cohesive by way of explanation from my badly taken notes!
Renunciation in Buddhism is to break the habits that hold you back, a tool for loosening yourself. Siddhartha renounced his princely possessions in order to gain enlightenment. This is a difficult concept as it has much to do with the letting go of the self which is an important and clear step towards enlightenment. By leaving these deeply ingrained habits behind means that you have more space to explore new thoughts and feelings or just leaving that space clear and enjoying that stillness.
Buddhism doesn’t recognise a soul, a soul implies that you do not change. Also there is no reincarnation within Buddhism but there is rebirth, a cycle of life that is a chain of processes. Much like what I mentioned in the above paragraph of renunciation deeply ingrained habits can stay with you from new life to new life. The more work that is put in this life to break these habits the better off the next life will be. As a stream of consciousness that we are throughout the ages we are bundles of knots that need untying.
It is worth noting that much of what is written in Buddhist texts is open to interpretation, I do not know how much I believe in rebirth in that my ‘self’ gets transferred into another body after my death. My interpretation of rebirth is to break the conditioning of generations before me and pass this down to new generations. This is something that is at the forefront of my mind all the time. I believe that renunciation is also an important factor in breaking my conditioning though it is hard. This first study night really helped to put a clear instruction into my mind especially to do with the eight fold path of things that I need to be aware of.
Study night over!