Today I will continue to talk about Buddhism in Plain Terms.
We learn Buddhism to liberate ourselves, because in our lives, once we reach middle age, we will start to recall memories of our entire lives and of the times when we were young. We tend to ponder, why is it that we tend to lose so much in our lives, what we had during our youth is now gone, that includes friends and homes. For what reasons do we come to this human realm?
This is why many people have said, is the purpose of our coming into this world the same as that of other people, simply walking through this course called life? As we finish walking this path, we do not understand why we have come here. It is only when we are nearly complete with this course of life do we finally understand that we should be here to learn Buddhism, we should know where we are headed next, but no one knows this.
When you are in the human realm, you wouldn’t think about learning Buddhism. Firstly, you do not have the karmic affinity for it, because you are too caught up in your own small home, you have forgotten that you actually have a wisdom-life. Everyone has their own wisdom-life, your physical body is a home, but your wisdom-life is also another home, and this wisdom-life can help you to unshackle your life from frustration and suffering.
Therefore, many people in this society suffer from intense pain throughout their lives. They have not found their wisdom-life. In the physical aspect, many people own houses, cars, luxurious abodes and have some friends, but these are all like fleeting clouds, they will be gone in an instant.
No one thinks that “I should make preparations for my future, where am I prepared to go to, I want to make some preparations for my future, why am I suffering from such hardships, why did so many things happen to me during my middle age.” This is because you have not found your other life, and that is your wisdom-life.
So, I wish you could liberate yourself from suffering, from afflictions, and possess your own wisdom-life. We humans are very pitiful, many people who have just started learning Buddhism and have just found their own home, but due to their own ignorance, they create a lot of unwholesome habits for themselves, and later they become lax in their practices. They found Buddhism, but slowly they lose Buddhism.
In the course of practising Buddhism, there are many afflictions that they are unable to overcome; they cannot practise self-restraint and patience, they cannot forget their karmic conflicts with others accumulated through many lives, they cannot forgive nor tolerate others. Every day they live in suffering and worries.
They have also lost their wisdom-life. This is because what they can see in their external surroundings is nothing but rivalry, jealousy among friends, and afflictions in everyday life. Hence, they jump on the bandwagon and stray further away from their wisdom-life.
So, as Buddhists, let me tell you all, we need to know what it is that brings the greatest suffering in your life, and that is your physical body. Your body is well at one time, and not well at another time, your body suffers pain at one time, and after some time the pain is gone. You use your body to experience life’s pleasures, and use it to enjoy what is not seen, and enjoy the fleeting riches and glory. Then one day when you come to know that you suffer from a terminal disease, all of these are like the passing of the fleeting clouds.
Thus, as we remain in the cycle of rebirths, we keep walking along our predetermined path. We cannot let go, so we can never liberate ourselves. So, when many people found out that they are suffering from a serious illness, they leave this world with regrets. This is what happens when you only have a physical body without your wisdom-life. This is why I advise you to learn Buddhism, Buddhism can guide us to liberate ourselves from life’s suffering.
In Buddhism, there is the greatest doctrine known as the Four Noble Truths, this is to tell you that there exists this great truth. Do you know that in this human realm, as long as you fully grasp this truth, you will know how this world operates, you will know how to overcome your anxiety, you will then know how to come out of the doldrums of your life.
So, let me share with you a simple lesson on the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha said that the simplest doctrine is the Four Noble Truths. The basic doctrine in Buddhism is the Four Noble Truth; this is to tell us what the truth is about. I will find some other time to tell you more in detail.
Today, as I have so much to share with you all about the sutras, so I will give a basic description, and tell you the important points.
First of all, the word “truth” in the Four Noble Truths means the absolute truth. It is the truth and no one can refute it. Then what are the four truths? As you know, they are: The truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering. These are the Four Noble Truths.
Then, why is this considered an eternal truth? It is because this is how life works, you may not comprehend this human life, it is a truth that you need to experience for yourself. For example, in looking at the truth of suffering, think about it, the suffering of humankind is birth, old age, illness, and death. No one can escape from them.
As rich as you are today, as famous and as highly reputed as you are, you cannot escape from birth, old age, illness, and death. No one can. This is the truth. Would you say that rich men do not die? Would you say that people with great health will not die? No matter what, you must understand that this is the suffering that we are taught in Buddhism.
Sometimes, death is very painful. When you grow old, even if you want to do something you do not have the energy for it. When you are born, it is painful too. When a baby is born, the baby cannot eat anything because it has no teeth. It gets too cold or too hot but the baby cannot speak, the baby can only cry. When people grow old, you can see how much they suffer. Hence, the Bodhisattva tells us that the first truth is suffering. No one can escape from birth, old age, illness and death.
The Second Noble Truth is the cause of suffering. Why are you having hardships? It is because all sentient beings, since beginningless time, have been troubled by afflictions, resulting from greed, hatred, and ignorance. Your greed, hatred, and ignorance from your previous life are brought forth into your next life.
The Second Noble Truth comprises the 25 causes of suffering. These 25 causes refer to the 25 different types of the cycles of life and death, which are the six realms of existence. Many people come from these six realms, which are the hell realm, the hungry ghost realm, the animal realm, the asura realm, the human realm, and the heavenly realm. Well, the six realms are due to these 25 causes.
For example, within the heavenly realm, there are the Realm of Desire (which consists of six heavens), the Realm of Form, and the Formless Realm. It also comprises saints who have reached the first three stages of enlightenment. The Bodhisattva tells us that all these exist in this world, you ought to know, by categorizing them together, there are 25 types; hence the name “25 stages of existence”.
As long as you wander in this cycle of rebirths, you cannot get out of the cycle. This is the truth because we remain stuck in the cycle of life and death. Thus, the Bodhisattva tells us about the causes of suffering. As there are the 25 stages of existence, from which we continue to suffer from the cycle of rebirths. This leads to your accumulation of greed, hatred, and ignorance, which result in your endless suffering in the cycle of birth and death within the three realms.
So, the Second Noble Truth is about the causes of suffering. You need to find out the reasons for your suffering. Some religions talk about the concept of sin, that is, humans are born with sin, in Buddhism, we refer to the Four Noble Truths, and the Second Noble Truth talks about how we bring our karma from past lives into our current life.
In this life, we continue to receive the rewards or undergo the retribution. We reap what we sow. Good begets good and evil begets evil. We will continue to face retribution from our karmic debts which have not been settled in previous lives.
The Third Noble Truth is the cessation of suffering. This means that any human or objects in this world will eventually come to an end. There will come a day when they will end. What comes to life will come to an end, to say it in an unpleasant manner, if a place is on fire, the fire will be extinguished sooner or later.
If you make a phone call and enjoy having long conversations, remember that no matter how much you talk, the other person will hang up the phone eventually. That person will speak with you for an hour, but he will eventually have to hang up the phone.
The same goes with human life. After you are born, no matter how healthy your body is, how much you have enjoyed a good life, someday you will have to leave this world. No matter how fancy your house you is, would you be able to stay there for hundreds of years?
Everyone will inevitably cease to exist one day, so the Third Noble Truth refers to what the Bodhisattva mentioned as nirvana. Many people think that once you reach nirvana it means you have died. In actuality, nirvana is a state of liberation.
Once you understand this, once you know that our consciousness does not die, then you have attained liberation. So, in this truth there is the continuation of life and death, because in Buddhism, it does not mean that a dead person ceases to exist. After death, the person will know where they are headed to, their death does not mean the end of their existence, so the cycle of rebirth continues. Perhaps they will be reborn in the heavenly realm, or the lower realm, so this continuation of life and death is the Third Noble Truth.
This is to let you know the truth of this world, whether your mind is confused or clear, eventually your confusion will end. And if you have great intellectual abilities, no matter what you gain, they will all come to an end. So, we must understand that such is the nature of the world. Someday your suffering will end, your happiness will end, so why don’t you try to realise your enlightenment sooner, so that you can be freed from your worldly suffering, be freed from the pain of life and death? This is the Third Noble Truth.
Within the Fourth Noble Truth, there lies the path. This means that when you have found this path, like when we are driving, if we lose our direction and don’t know where to go, once you have finally found this path, after going round and round the road, you have found your way home.
As long as you continue to drive along the path, that you have found, you would find the truth. As you continue to bravely forge ahead until you attain liberation, you will totally comprehend the true meaning of this human life, thus achieving nirvana. You finally understand that this world is nothing more than what is highlighted by the Four Noble Truths.
These profound teachings are what Buddhism seeks to teach us, to let us know that no matter what you do, you will eventually face the impermanence of life and death, you will eventually experience birth, old age, illness, and death. All will reach the state of cessation. Hence, do not compete with others in this human world, because all will eventually come to an end. This is the Noble Truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering.
Hence, we should learn to put our minds in a state of equanimity, and to remain humble. Do not fight over every single thing. Place less focus on our own strengths and focus more on the strengths of others, turn your sense of arrogance into humility and respect for others. As you can see, those who are respectful of others will be rewarded the same way. When you are respectful to all of those around you, you will feel a great sense of harmony with your environment. Where does this harmony come from? It comes from you.
So, being good to others will attract the same back to you. If you are jealous and hateful towards others, they will treat you the same way. Thus, the many conflicts that happen among people are often created by your own self. You don’t know that you won’tstay in this world for a long time and that all things will pass. Think about the time when we were young, we have passed through our youth very quickly, our youth and middle age are like an illusion.
So, I hope that you can understand, do not be arrogant, because everyone is the same in that we cannot escape the Four Noble Truths. If you keep thinking that you are better than others, that you are more knowledgeable than others, then slowly you will experience more conflicts in life. Family conflicts stem from one’s difficulty in remaining humble, whether with your wife or husband. There are conflicts happening because you can’t remain humble, you always think you are right. This is arrogance.
There are those who haven’t practised Buddhism well, they have acquired the habit of complaining, they often complain about other people’s flaws. By doing so, you would feel as if your heart was shackled. There is not one moment that you would feel liberated, as long as the shackle remains in your heart, there is no way out, you cannot liberate your inner world, you will suffer from much pain and suffering.
Thus, we need to truly understand what happiness in this world is. Let me tell you, happiness is not about how much you gain, it is about less complaining. The less you complain, the more happiness you will experience in your life. If you complain and worry all the time, you will not enjoy a happy life and destiny. So, after learning Buddhism for some time, don’t be too harsh with others, don’t complain when things don’t go your way.
In learning Buddhism, you need to learn to control your emotions and state of mind. When you know that you are not in a good mood today, you need to learn to control it, only then can you attain inner peace. In this world, we often hear people say, as described in Buddhism, life is impermanent and nothing is eternal. On hearing this, “Gosh! This is meaningless.”
It gives rise to a feeling of misery in your heart. “Gosh! Everything is transient.” How unbearable it is! You feel that everything in this world would go to ruins in the end, rendering all your efforts meaningless. You have put in so much effort but things won’t last. You may feel you will lose everything. When you die, so there is no value to your life. You will feel agonised, there is no anchor in your heart. What do you really want to do, what are you here in this human realm for, day by day you live through life aimlessly.
For some people, when they hear about impermanence, they hold a different attitude. Since nothing is permanent and eternal, then I should take this opportunity to experience pleasures in life. They indulge themselves in hedonistic pleasures, in greed, hatred, and ignorance, and lose themselves in their sensory pleasures and vanity. All of these are done to fill the void within them. But after the pleasures are gone, what they bring for themselves is only more suffering, emptiness, loneliness and unease.
Just like when a person is feeling troubled, he takes to drinking alcohol. He can only temporarily forget his worries, but later on he will feel frustrated again. So, I want you to know that if you are a non-Buddhist, a layperson, you would only have a unilateral understanding of impermanence.
You would say, “Sigh, what can I do, everything does not last anyway.” Hence many people have a wrong view on impermanence. Since you know that impermanence is the nature of life, since you know that everything in the world is impermanent, if you do not have the right perception of impermanence, then you would not hold out the right hope for your life.
Hence, in your mind and in your real-life interaction with others, you will use idealism as your yardstick, thereby causing many conflicts with others. To give an example, people may say, “I should work hard, but why should I work hard when everything is impermanent? All will vanish in the future.” Actually this kind of thinking creates endless suffering and obstacles for yourself.
So there is a gap between reality and idealism, gradually you will think, “Why am I born to suffer so much?” As such, many children often think, “Why did my parents give birth to me only for me to suffer?” If you think this way, you won’t have a correct view towards life. You wouldn’t understand what the beginning of a complete life is about.< Master Lu: Buddhism in Plain Terms < 白话佛法共修分享