What is Buddhism? Is it a religion or a philosophy?
A true Buddhist would accept the basic Buddhist analysis of life as one that accommodates the teachings of the Buddha.
It involves no dogmatism, no form of worship. One could say it is a code of morality, a way of life as it were.
The Buddha with his infinite wisdom discovered the fundamental disease affecting all men and women, the unsatisfactory nature of all phenomenal existence.
All the desires by which we are cursed leads to misery; if not gratified, alike to misery: if gratified, to misery of extreme satiety
It was he who raised the veil and showed us the world as it is, the unending suffering and pain all men, women and all living beings are heir to.
In Buddhism, there is no creator-God who rewards or punishes.
“Look not for refuge to anyone but oneself. I am only your teacher,” the Buddha said. These words give us the satisfaction of knowing that in our own hands lies the power to mould our future lives.
We and we alone are the creators of our destiny. Did not Shakespeare himself say, “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, which we ascribe to heaven”
It was the Buddha who said that there was a solution, a cure to this problem. He prescribed the four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-Fold Path that led to a place free of distress and danger - Nibbana
No prayers, no entreaties to heaven, no priest’s absolution, any rites and rituals can liberate us from the entanglements of human life. As we sow, we reap. That is the karmic theory.
So, it seems imperative that we find a method of escape from this unending chain of suffering called Sansara.
It was the Buddha who said that there was a solution, a cure to this problem. He prescribed the four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-Fold Path that led to a place free of distress and danger - Nibbana.
What is Nibbana and what is its ultimate purpose? The answer to this world-old question is contained in a word for which there is no English correlation.
“If any teach Nirvana is to cease,
Say unto such they lie,
If any say Nibbana is to live,
Say unto such they err.”
Such is Edwin Arnold’s admonition.
There are the three great instruments of Dhana, sila and Bhavana. Sila or more aptly called discipline regulates our words and deeds.
It is the foot-rule that marks out a straight line to a life of virtue. Meditation is the compass that helps dispel all vanity, pride and selfishness and helps fill our minds with Metta or universal love. No easy task. It requires resolve and great dedication.
It was he who raised the veil and showed us the world as it is, the unending suffering and pain all men, women and all living beings are heir to
“Ananda. They who are correct in living according to the Dhamma are the ones who will reach their goal,’ the Buddha said.
“We see men’s lives riddled with lust, greed and revenge usually it is the ‘I’ and the ‘mine,’ the foremost factors in our lives, that bring on these defilements of the mind. It sprang and flourished on the soil of selfish desire, passions and delusion.
The cause of all suffering according to the Buddha was the craving for worldly things. This craving is often deep, unending and insatiable. Dazzled by life’s deceptive show, its allure, we are drawn to everything that brings us joy and satisfaction. Good food, fine clothes, the fame that gives weight to one’s slightest word, are they not good things? Of course, they are.
Yet, one must think about its impermanence, its illusionary nature. Blinded by these false delights we cling to them, not realizing their emptiness, their hollowness.
Herbert Spencer, a renowned philosopher, impressed by the transiency of the world wisely said,
“The one thing permanent is the reality hidden under ever-changing things.”
Thomas Macaulay, another English writer voiced his sentiment thus: “All the desires by which we are cursed leads to misery; if not gratified, alike to misery: if gratified, to misery of extreme satiety.”
The lesson to be learnt is not to ossify the hearts ill it cannot feel, but to transfer desire to a higher plane of being, a loftier one.
The key word that should dominate our minds is detachment. Do not cling to worldly things.
‘Let Go’ the Buddha said over-and-over again.
So weed out the noxious weeds of greed and avarice. Do not let it blur your vision and block your path to deliverance. The Buddha extolled us to practise virtues like generosity, compassion and kindness to all living things. We must shun evil thoughts like anger, hatred and revenge.
These defilements only corrode the mind and heart and bring on unending misery.
Wounding and killing others is a heinous crime.
“Kill not for pity’s sake the
Give freely and receive and take from none
by greed or force, or fraud what is not yours.”
Always there will be a retribution justice. Punishment for evil acts will be pitiless and will go beyond the penalties of courts and jails.
Giving should not be tainted by any idea of favour or return. It must flow from a heart full of sympathy “and love for all living things.
Then comes death, the end of life. All sentient beings are doomed to die. This is true not just for one man, one family, one city, but for the whole world. Some live in abject fear of death but face it we must. It is only an incident in life, a mere incident of being.
Parting from loved ones is inevitable. One must restrain one’s tears knowing how fragile, how uncertain life is. Wailing, lamentations bring no comfort. Let those who grieve meditate on the teachings of the Buddha, seek solace from his doctrine.
“I teach my disciples but one thing - sorrow and the deliverance from sorrow.” So, said the Buddha.
It is after a mighty struggle each one of us has acquired the human form. Endeavour to tread the spiritual path and so break the bonds that tie us to this world, a world filled with pain and misery and anguish. Strive to save oneself from all of it and so reach that blissful state called Nibbana.
“Walk ye -as Princes who follow the way of right living,” extolled the Buddha.
“Be like unto brethren; one in love, one in holiness and one in zeal for doing good.”
This is the only way to live and also the only way to die.