MORALITY through A TELESCOPE
by K.G. Justin de Silva
An heir to a Kingdom in India , Prince Siddhartha lived amidst luxury and material comfort . No luxury or Comfort could stop prince Siddhartha from the feeling of worthlessness of such material benefits, that caused sensual enjoyment and pleasure: He later renounced worldly pleasures to become an ascetic in search of permanent happiness. After seven years of strenuous effort , he realized the root cause of suffering , and the way to eradicate suffering. Over this enlightenmet, prince Siddhartha became to be known as “GAUTAMA BUDDHA’.
What he found out , he revealed and that is the doctrine of Buddhism. The total doctrine of Buddhism rests on four solid foundations which are the Four Noble truths.
Let us hence examine these four Noble truths.
1st Noble Truth:
All sentient beings , universally experience suffering, by way of birth , decay ,old age, and death. Suffering is also unsatisfactioin, disappointment, the need to fulfill five sensuous desires arising through the ear , nose, mouth, eyes and bodily (tactile) feelings. Pain , Grief , Sorrow, lamentation, despair, and death are all suffering too.
2nd Noble truth
The 2nd noble truth explains the origins of suffering , as craving. All suffering mentioned in the 1st noble truth arises because of craving. Craving is three fold such as Bhava, Vibhava, and Kama. (Explained as craving for continued existence, craving for momentary existence, and craving for sensual enjoyment respectively).(Sensual enjoyment is the satisfaction of five senses materially.)
The above first two truths are best explained by the law of dependant origination, described by Lord Buddha.
- Through Ignorance (Avijja) conditioned are Karma formations. (Sankhara)
- Through Karma formations (Sankhara) is conditioned is consciousness (in a new birth)
- Through consciousness conditioned are Mentality and corporeality (Nama Rupa)
- Through Mentality and corporeality (Nama Rupa) are conditiond Salayatana (six sense bases).
- Through Salayathana are conditioned Phassa (impressions)
- Through impressions are conditioned Feelings or Vedana.
- through Impressions are conditioned feeling (Vedana)
- Feeling or Vedana conditions Tanha or desire.
- Through Tanha is conditioned greed or Clinging (Upadana)
- Throuhg Upadana are conditioned Bhava (Continutiy in life).
- Through Bhava are conditioned Jati rebecoming
- Through the Process of re becoming (Jati) is conditioned Jara Marana (old age and death)
The above law of dependant origination is a non ending cycle which can be stopped with right understanding, and right effort.
The law of dependant origination is natural process on this earth. (and may be at any other place in the universe where life exists) Lord Buddha only explained the nature of process of existence of beings. To further explain this let us peruse over the eleven points in dependant origination of beings.
Starting from Nama Rupa for clarity,
- A person exists as the mind and the body.
- Eyes ,nose, mouth, ear and the rest of the body, and the mind - forms of the beings , as they essentially are necessary to protect itself or themselves from the environmental effects arising from objects such as sun, wind and other natural phenomena, and also to find the nutrition for existence.
- The six bases locate its nutrition and identify adverse conditions against living by impressions.(Sangna).So are all other impressions, may it be sound falling in the ear, or smell entering the nose, etc. tactile sensations, with other impressions necessary in reproducing , as required as a need of the nature.
- The impressions reaching the body, then registers in the brain until we sense the impressions as a feeling. The feeling for food, and water for drinking are felt by impression and they are activated by commands given by our brain , directed through our cravings.
- If you think for a while , the impressions will give rise to a desire as craving. One craves for good smell, beautiful colours, god taste, smooth noises such as music, and bodily comfort on the skin and body,
- The cravings tempts one to cling to sensual impressions., which will give rise to so called sensual enjoyment. It is time to think , further about these impressions, and learn whether these impressions and satisfaction of cravings , is real or an illusion. It is this craving that one tempts to cling to life as satisfying desires. It is an affair that continues from moment to moment , occuring endlessly.
- As clinging occurs the process of continuity & re-becoming takes effect. As we cling on to life , the process of producing new blood , new cells in the body, with the process of absorbing the essence of food (re-becoming) into our system takes effect.
The process of re- becoming is best understood as a process taking place from moment to moment.
- Through the process of re-becoming , re-becoming continues. The body that I am, is a body that has become re-become from the body that was there while ago. The present cells in the body have re-become (or replaced), form the past cells in our system. As a person gets older the physical process of re-becoming gets weaker and as a result, symptoms of old age appears. Unseen and undetected by the naked eye . This is another reason that the older person looks different from his own young self in appeaence.
- As the process of re-becoming gets weaker the replacement of cells and nutrition within the body delays, while the process of re-becoming gets weaker, until death occurs, though the desire to live still lingers with the mind.
Note: The above points from 1 to 9 are essentially guided by the nature as is required by the earth. On this matter please refer to the ten points mentioned by Nerbadsky (referred formerly in the lasr chapter)
- Ignorance of the reason of desire and craving , will keep one performing and continuing the actions performed through attachment and clinging. When Lord Buddha found out the cause for craving and desire , he took steps to control craving and desire. In fact we can call that controlling or eradicating craving.is the reverse process of re-becoming. However nature has trapped the beings in an impossible manner for a person to get away from desires, unless a special attention and effort is maintained, for doing so. Let us imagine a person that a person is trapped inside a building with trap doors. The trap doors are the five senses. Unless the trapped person is aware of the trapped doors, he will always be trapped without an escape. Beings are similarly trapped. Until and unless the knowledge of the trap is realised .
- All actions that occur owing to our craved desires , is followed by a reaction. It is these reactions which is known as “Karma” or the result of a cause. All formations owing to such rections are known as “Karma formations” (Pleas efollow the note on Karma )
- Karma been the reaction of ones deeds , morally and physically , forms the force in re-creating the mind and the body , either at the next immediate instance , or a little later or else in the next life after death.
The 3rd Noble truth
This truth explains that cessation of craving is Nirvana which is the ultimate peace for a being.
Nrivana is further explained as the state of unborn , unformed, uncreated and unoriginated , , the escape from the world of born, originated , and created and the formed would not be possible. In short it means that everything else except Nirvana is conditioned. (On a scientific basis Nirvana is the state of energy which is unconditioned) Suffering originates on a state of energy with the formation of beings or minds conditioned with certain other forces of energy. )
The 3rd noble truth , states that if there is no cause there is no effect, referring to the law of causality, the dependant origination.
(Karma is the cause of intention depending on its morality)
The 4th Noble truth
The path leading to Nirvana or ‘ the state of no desires ‘, is the fourth noble truth. This path leading to Nirvana is popularly known as The noble eight fold path which is as follows.
In the Noble eight fold path , all eight stages carry the word “ right” . Therefore it is necessary to find out the meaning of rightfulness in the context of the Buddhas teachings of Lord Buddha.
In Buddhism the following explanations are given for rightfulness.
- Thoughts free from ill will, thoughts free from lust, thoughts free from cruelty, is the right thought. Further more , the thought free from ill will cruelty and lust is then directed towards the cessation of desires or craving.
- Right understanding which is the first factor in the noble eight fold path , is the understanding leading to a clear knowledge of firstly a personnel awareness of his own forms of thoughts and then a knowledge of rightfulness.
- All forms of speech free from ill will , free from lust and cruelty is the right speech.
- All forms of action free from ill will , free from lust and cruelty is the right action.
- All forms of livelihood from ill will , free from lust and cruelty is the right livelihood.
- Right effort , right mindfulness and right concentration are described in Buddhism as “Samadhi”
Right effort , right mindfulness and right concentration are described in Buddhism as “Samadhi”
Evil thoughts are a natural tendency of a normal being. One can drive away these evil thoughts of ill will cruelty and lust only with a great effort. It is the effort , that is known here as the right effort Of overcoming , developing, maintaining the rightfulness after developing wisdom and overcoming the wrong mentalities.
- One has to be aware from moment to moment ,every instant to drive away evil thoughts and to be away from lust and ill will. It is this awareness to drive away thoughts of lust, illwill and cruelty that is said to be right mindfulness.
- The most difficult thing for a person to accomplish is to gain the ability of total concentration of the mind. Without concentration we cannot achieve the rightfulness described in the seven mentioned as of above. The absolute concentration necessary thus is the right concentration or samma samadhi
The person, who follows the noble eight fold path successfully, attains the four stages Sovan, Sakadagami, Anagami and Arahat ,which means Stream entrant, Once returner, Non returner, and Holy one respectively. The arahat is not bound by any craving forces on the earth. In fact the state of arahat is known “Appamana Vibhanga” , which means “Unbounded states”.The four unbounded states , that an arahat has achieved are known as Brahma Viahara. Which are mental states of Loving kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic joy and equanimity. In Buddhist texts these four states are termed Mettha, Karuna, Muditha and Upekkha.
On following the eight fold path nobly, the followers go through seven factors of enlightenment. Passing through the stages sovan, sakadagami, anagami, and finally reaches the absolute state of unboundedness which is “Arahat” to attain NIRVANA.
The even factors of enlightenment mentioned here are:
|English Term||Pali Term
|Investigating Dhamma or states||Dhamma |
During enlightenment the ten fetters that are overcome are the following
The belief in a permanent state (Sakkaya Ditthi)
- Sceptical thought (Vicikicca)
- Addiction to rules and rituals (Silabbatha Paramasa)
- Sensual desires and craving (Kamaccanda)
- Aversion or Anger and hatred (Vyapada)
- Craving to exist in form (Rupa) in the world ( Rupa raga)
- Craving to exist in non form (arupa) in the world (Arupa raga)
- Pride ( Mana)
- Restlessness (Uddacca)
- Ignorance and delusion (Avijja)
In stages the noble person (Arahat) overcomes the fetters as stream entrant or sovan from 1 to 3.
Once returner or Sakadagami overcomes fetters 1 to 3 and and partly 4 and 5.
Non returner or Anagami overcomes fetters from 1 to 5 fully.
Arahat or the noble one overcomes the fetters 1 to 10 fully.
The chapter that is completed now is a rief explanation fro the Buddhist texts. Further explanation to the above for the above can only be made by referring to Buddihst texts of Abhidhamma. It is my feelng that I I I have touched the subject of Buddhism for a novice to understand , how Buddhism explains the involvement of Human beings, who unknowingly are attached to sensual desires, and the stream of escape from evil behavior , guided by sensual desires.
A note on Karma:
Buddhism explains that Humans and other sentient beings exist on this earth as conditioned by five laws or Niyamas which are,
|Utu Niyama||Physical laws|
|Bija Niyama||Law of heredity|
|Citta Niyama||Psuchological laws|
|Kamma Niyama||Law of volition or Morality|
|Dhamma Niyama||Law of causations|
Here it is made clear that Karma is only one of the five factors that conditions a being. But Karma is a very strong factor, because it is the Karma factor, that decides the conditioning of the mind. Karma also has a strong impact on the selection of the status of a being. In the next after life. Unwholesome Karma can only be manipulated by willful adjustment towards good moral living.
Scholars on philosophy have made philosophical research into the areas of links between heredity, Karma and physical laws.. The book , the nature existence and some dogmas of religions of religion by Profesor John Mactaggart is one such fruitful efforts. In fact the greatest scientist, Albert Eistein, mentions of a future cosmic religion, and refers to Buddhism as the basis of this cosmic religion.
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