Thursday, January 01, 2009
The Significance of Wesak lies with the Buddha and his universal peace message to mankind.
As we recall the Buddha and his Enlightenment, we are immediately reminded of the unique and most profound knowledge and insight which arose in him on the night of his Enlightenment. This coincided with three important events which took place, corresponding to the three watches or periods of the night.
During the first watch of the night, when his mind was calm, clear and
purified, light arose in him, knowledge and insight arose. He saw his
previous lives, at first one, then two, three up to five, then multiples
of them .. . ten, twenty, thirty to fifty. Then 100, 1000 and so on....
As he went on with his practice, during the second watch of the night, he saw how beings die and are reborn, depending on their Karma, how they disappear and reappear from one form to another, from one plane of existence to another. Then during the final watch of the night, he saw the arising and cessation of all phenomena, mental and physical. He saw how things arose dependent on causes and conditions. This led him to perceive the arising and cessation of suffering and all forms of unsatisfactoriness paving the way for the eradication of all taints of cravings. With the complete cessation of craving, his mind was completely liberated. He attained to Full Enlightenment. The realisation dawned in him together with all psychic powers.
This wisdom and light that flashed and radiated under the historic Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya in the district of Bihar in Northern India, more than 2550 years ago, is of great significance to human destiny. It illuminated the way by which mankind could cross, from a world of superstition, or hatred and fear, to a new world of light, of true love and happiness.
The heart of the Teachings of the Buddha is contained in the teachings of the Four Noble Truths, namely,
1. The Noble Truth of Dukkha or suffering
2. The Origin or Cause of suffering
3. The End or Cessation of suffering
4. The Path which leads to the cessation of all sufferings
The First Noble Truth is the Truth of Dukkha which has been generally
translated as 'suffering'. But the term Dukkha, which represents rhe
Buddha's view of life and the world, has a deeper philosophical meaning.
Birth, old age, sickness and death are universal. All beings are subject
to this unsatisfactoriness. Separation from beloved ones and pleasant
conditions, association with unpleasant persons and conditions, and not getting what one desires - these are also sources of suffering and
unsatisfactoriness. The Buddha summarises Dukkha in what is known as the Five Grasping Aggregates.
Herein, lies the deeper philosophical meaning of Dukkha for it encompasses the whole state of being or existence.
Our life or the whole process of living is seen as a flux of energy
comprising of the Five aggregates, namely the Aggregatc of Form or the Physical process, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formation, and
Consciousness. These are usually classified as mental and physical
processes, which are constantly in a state of flux or change.
When we train our minds to observe the functioning of mental and physical processes we will realise the true nature of our lives. we will see how it is subject to change and unsatisfactoriness. And as such, there is no real substance or entity or Self which we can cling to as 'I', 'my' or 'mine'.
When we become aware of the unsatisfactory nature of life, we would
naturally want to get out from such a state. It is at this point that we
begin to seriously question ourselves about the meaning and purpose of life. This will lead us to seek the Truth with regards to the true nature of existence and the knowledge to overcome unsatisfactoriness.
From the Buddhist point of view, therefore, the purpose of life is to put an end to suffering and all other forms of unsatisfactoriness - to realise peace and real happiness. Such is the significance of the understanding and the realisation of the First Noble Truth.
The Second Noble Truth explains the Origin or Cause of suffering. Tanha or craving is the universal cause of suffering. It includes not only desire for sensual pleasures, wealth and power, but also attachment to ideas', views, opinions, concepts, and beliefs. It is the lust for flesh, the lust for continued existence (or eternalism) in the sensual realms of existence, as well as the realms of form and the formless realms. And there is also the lust and craving for non-existence (or nihilism). These are all different Forms of selfishness, desiring things for oneself, even at the expense of others.
Not realizing the true nature of one's Self, one clings to things which
are impermanent, changeable and perishable. The failure to satisfy one's desires through these things; causes disappointment and suffering.
Craving is a powerful mental force present in all of us. It is the root
cause of our sufferings. It is this craving which binds us in Samsara -
the repeated cycle of birth and` death.
The Third Noble Truth points to the cessation of suffering. Where there is no craving, there is no becoming, no rebirth. Where there is no rebirth, there is no decay. no old age, no death, hence no suffering. That is how suffering is ended, once and for all.
The Fourth Noble Truth explains the Path or the Way which leads to the cessation of suffering. It is called the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold path avoids the extremes of self-indulgence on one hand and self-torture on the other. It consists of Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
These path factors may be summarised into 3 stages of training, involving morality, mental culture and wisdom.
Morality or good conduct is the avoidance of evil or unwholesome actions -- actions which are tainted by greed, hatred and delusion; and the performance of the good or wholesome actions, - actions which are free from greed, hatred and delusion, but motivated by liberality, loving-kindness and wisdom.
The function of good conduct or moral restraint is to free one's mind from remorse (or guilty conscience). The mind that is free from remorse (or guilt) is naturally calm and tranquil, and ready for concentration with awareness.
The concentrated and cultured mind is a contemplative and analytical mind. It is capable of seeing cause and effect, and the true nature of
existence, thus paving the way for wisdom and insight.
Wisdom in the Buddhist context, is the realisation of the fundamental
truths of life, basically the Four Noble Truths. The understanding of the Four Noble Truths provide us with a proper sense of purpose and direction in life. They form the basis of problem-solving.
The message of the Buddha stands today as unaffected by time and the expansion of knowledge as when they were first enunciated.
No matter to what lengths increased scientific knowledge can extend man's mental horizon, there is room for the acceptance and assimilation for further discovery within -the framework of the teachings of the Buddha.
The teaching of the Buddha is open to all to see and judge for themselves. The universality of the teachings of the Buddha has led one of the world's greatest scientists, Albert Einstein to declare that 'if there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism'
The teaching of the Buddha became a great civilising force wherever it went. It appeals to reason and freedom of thought, recognising the
dignity and potentiality of the human mind. It calls for equality,
fraternity and understanding, exhorting its followers to avoid evil, to
do good and to purify their minds.
Realising the transient nature of life and all worldly phenomena, the
Buddha has advised us to work out our deliverance with heedfulness, as 'heedfulness is the path to the deathless'.
His clear and profound teachings on the cultivation of heedfulness
otherwise known as Satipatthana or the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, is the path for the purification of beings - for the overcoming of sorrows and lamentation, for the destruction of all mental and physical sufferings, for the attainment of insight and knowledge and for the realisation of Nibbana. This has been verified by his disciples. It is therefore a path, a technique which may be verified by all irrespective of caste, colour or creed.
(Source: Buddhist Council of New South Wales,
http://www.zip. com.au/~lyallg/ index.html )
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NEW YEAR MESSAGE FROM BHANTE MAHINDA
As we approach the new calendar Year of 2009, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you about the New Year resolutions.
You must have heard people talking about it. But what are the resolutions to make and how to make them?
Before you make your resolution for the New Year, please recall to mind of the good things you've done throughout the year 2008.
When you recall an action or an event which is good or wholesome you'll feel some joy & happiness in your hearts. That's how you'll recognise a good or wholesome action.
Try to recall of at least 3 of such actions or events which you participated. The practice of contemplation of virtues or merits is called SILÄNUSSATI. This will help to establish in you a sense of confidence in cultivating good or wholesome qualities. When you develop this skill you will find it very useful, especially when you are feeling somewhat low and depressed. The contemplation of virtues or merits will help to uplift your spirits and get out of your negative state of mind.
For example, those of you who have been to Bodhgaya for the Novitiate Programme, just recall to mind of this event and the time you spent under the Bodhi tree or in the sacred shrine or the meditation garden, observe the joy/happiness that arise in your heart. Similarly when you recall of how you saved the life of a cat or dog, or performed some other charitable act, you can feel the joy of doing good. That's how you'll be motivated to do more good things.
That's when you're ready to think of a few good things that you'll do for this coming year. Then you make a firm resolution to carry them out.
The thought of avoiding or overcoming certain bad habits (in body, speech or mind) is a good thought.
Basically we should all try to resolve to avoid all evil, to do the good and to purify one's own mind. But merely repeating the words is not good enough. You need to identify at least one bad habit that you'll try to quit and get rid off and at least one good thing you'll do again and again (such as cultivating metta or loving kindness throughout one full day a week. Then increasing to everyday and in every direction whether standing, walking or moving around, sitting or lying down. The thought of purifying your own mind is a good one. Resolve to go for longer retreats next year.
Once you've made these resolutions and you're happy, and quite comfortable with them, then go to the Buddha â€“ to a shrine or a quiet and sacred spot â€“ and make the resolution again & again until you've sure that's what you really want to do. Seek the blessings, guidance and protection from the Triple Gem so that you'll be able to fulfill your aspirations and overcome whatever obstacles that may arise. The good things that you wish to do are the aspirations. The resolutions you make is your determination, the effort and perseverance to fulfill your aspirations.
If your aspirations is to attend a month long retreat to purify your mind and if you so resolve to do it, then that resolutions will give you the strength and courage to do so thus fulfilling your aspiration.
ADITTHANÄ or resolutions/determination is one of the 10 Paramita or Perfections.
If you wish to do something and do not have the resolutions or determination, your mind tend to waver. You get into the situation where you're undecided yes, no, yes, no. If you are really resolved and determined to do something then the wavering disappears.
Remember how the Buddha made his resolutions under the Bodhi tree. He declared to himself:
"Let my body wither away, let my blood dry up.
I will not get up from this seat until I realise the Truth."
Such was the strength of his determination. This gave him the power to confront and overcome whatever challenges and threats that Mara had plotted and carried out against the Buddha.
The next thing to consider is that when making your resolution/determination you need to weigh and consider the pros and cons of the situation that you are in. You need to be fairly confident that what you wish to carry out is feasible.
If you go to that Bodhi tree now and make the resolution which the Buddha made, then you are in for big trouble. So take time to weigh and consider things.
That's why you need a few days to prepare your resolutions. You may list out all the things that you wish to do for the year. Then prioritise them. Which one more urgent, which one needs greater attention.
When you've decided then go to your favourite shrine or a quiet and sacred spot and declare your resolutions for the New Year. It is good if you can do it on the New Year day itself. Because somehow Jan 1 tends to make some people feel new, i.e. time for a change, a change for the better (however for those with wisdom everyday can be a New Year).
Once you are clear with your resolutions, repeat iT again and again. During that time you may make some adjustments and even drop off some things that you're not so confident with or even add on something that has arisen in your mind.
If your faith and confidence in the Triple Gem is established then seek blessings, guidance and protection so that you'll be able to fulfil all your aspirations for the year. After you've made your aspiration you don't have to cling on to them, reciting them day in day out. What you need to do is to learn to connect with your heart. Day by day practice the Dhamma with right effort, create the necessary conditions for your aspirations to be fulfilled. That's how your resolution will be accomplished.
Wishing you and all other members of your family and friends, a peaceful and Happy New Year.
P/S: Bhante wishes to thank all those who have done Bodhi puja and other prayer dedicated for his good health during the past few months. His health is now almost back to normal, but will be spending most of next year in self-retreat.
Ven.Mahinda's 60th Birthday Celebration on 12 March'09 @ 7:45am
We are happy to let you know that in conjunction with Bhante Mahinda's 60th Birthday celebration, we will be conducting a puja/chanting session to dedicate merits for Bhante's good health, long life and happiness:
Date : 12th March 2009 (Thursday)
Time : 7.45am (Morning)
Venue : Meditation Hall, AlokaHouse @ Dana 1
2nd Floor, D8-9-2, Block 8,
Pusat Perdagangan Dana 1, Jalan PJU 1A,
47301 Petaling Jaya,
Please be at Alokahouse @ Dana 1 by 7.30am. After the puja/chanting session, there will be a live video feed with Bhante
from Aloka Meditation Centre, Sydney, Australia (approx. 11.30am Aust time).
We apologise for the inconvenient hour especially for those of you who are working, but the time for puja/chanting session has to be set in the morning in order to coincide with Australia's time (3 hours ahead of us) where they will be celebrating Bhante's birthday.
For further information, you may contact Sis. May Lin 012-213 5845.
Do invite your friends and relatives to come and join us in wishing Bhante "Happy Birthday" and showing Bhante our love, support and gratitude. Hope you can make it!
If you can't, do dedicate your merits to Bhante on this auspicious occassion.