Updated: Jun 15
Why Buddha is Relevant in Modern Materialistic World ?
Buddha relevant in modern world: Dalai Lama
New Delhi: Buddhism has a special role to play in the modern world because unlike many other religious traditions, Buddhism uniquely propounds the concept of independence which accords closely with the fundamental notions of modern science, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Sunday.
Elaborating on the importance of Buddhism as tool for promoting peace, he said, "The 20th century was a century of war and violence, now we all need to work to see that the 21st century is of peace and dialogue."
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who along with many of his supporters fled Tibet and took refuge in India when Chinese troops moved in and took control of Lhasa in 1959,
addressed a gathering of nearly 900 Buddhist monks and scholars at a four-day Global Buddhist Congregation 2011, which began in the capital Sunday, in a televised message.
"We can think of Buddhism in terms of three main categories - philosophy, science and religion.
The religious part involves principles and practices that are of concern to Buddhism alone, but the Buddhist philosophy of interdependence as well as the Buddha science of mind and human emotions are of great benefit to everyone," said the Dalai Lama, who after coming to India headed a Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh which never won recognition from any country.
The spiritual leader said while "modern science has developed a highly sophisticated understanding of the physical world, including the subtle workings of the body and the brain, Buddhist science on the other hand has devoted itself to first-person understanding of many aspects of emotions - areas that are still new to modern science".
"I believe that a synthesis of these two approaches has great potential to lead to discoveries that will enrich our physical, emotional and social well-being," the Dalai Lama said.
The spiritual leader said "he was convinced that the most significant obstacle to religious harmony is the lack of contact between different faiths and communities and, consequently, the lack of appreciation of their mutual value".
"However, in today's increasingly complex and interdependent world, we have to acknowledge the existence of other cultures, different ethnic groups and of course other religious faiths. Whether we know it or not - most of us experience this diversity on a daily basis," he said.
"I think the time has now come to communicate freely with one another - those in the Pali tradition engaging in dialogue with those in the Sanskrit tradition," he said.
Buddha was born approximately 400 BCE in the district of Lumbini, which is now modern-day Nepal, close to the Indian border. He was brought up in a palace with all the comforts and luxuries possible. Growing up a young noble prince, it is said his father sought to shield the young prince Siddhartha from the pain and suffering of the world. It is said his father had a premonition that Siddhartha would one day renounce the world.
However, at one point in his early adult life, Siddhartha sought to find a greater meaning to life. In disguise, he left the palace and wandered around the kingdom. Here, Siddhartha came across different people suffering from old age and illness and witnessed death. This showed him the transitory nature of life, which had a great impact on him. As a consequence, Siddhartha resolved to seek a deeper meaning of life.
Secretly, Siddhartha left the palace – leaving behind his wife, son and all the worldly comforts that he had enjoyed. He devoted himself to meditation, seeking enlightenment amongst the ascetics of the forest.
In his intense quest for enlightenment, Siddhartha fasted excessively so his body wasted away; however, despite his great efforts enlightenment still remained a far cry. At one point, a passing woman gave him some food to eat and Siddhartha realised it was a mistake to seek enlightenment by torturing the body. He regained his strength and resolved to follow a ‘middle path’, avoiding excesses of both fasting and feasting.
On one day, Siddhartha resolved to sit under a Bodhi tree until he attained enlightenment. For several days, he sat in meditation seeking Nirvana. He was tested by various forces which tried to prevent him realising the goal.
However, Siddhartha was successful and entered into the blissful consciousness of Nirvana for several days. On returning to normal consciousness, Siddhartha the Buddha (Buddha means ‘enlightened one’) made the decision to spend the remainder of his life teaching others how to escape the inherent suffering of life.
III. Spreading Buddha's Teachings
For many years, Buddha travelled around India, especially around the Ganges plain and in Nepal, teaching his philosophy of liberation. His teachings were transmitted orally and not written down until many years after his death.
Many stories relate to the life of the Buddha in this teaching phase. His essential teachings were of love, compassion and tolerance. The Buddha taught that a seeker must have compassion for all living beings and this was the most important teaching. Although the Buddha disliked formal rules, a monastic following sprung up for those interested in following his path. He advocated strict celibacy for those wishing to follow his monastic path.
The Buddha would often give talks on enlightenment, but on one occasion, he simply held up a flower and maintained silence. Many left not understanding the point, but when later questioned, the Buddha replied that his real teaching could only be understood in silence. Talks could only give limited intellectual information which was not real enlightenment.
The Buddha sought to avoid deep philosophy, he avoided using the term God, preferring to talk about the practical way that a person may escape the cycle of birth and rebirth and attain enlightenment. Like many spiritual teachers, he often taught in parables to keep his teachings simple and practical.
The Buddha attracted hostility from those jealous of his popularity and spiritual development. One of his own monks Devadatta later became jealous of the Buddha and sought to split the community. He even tried on three occasions to kill the Buddha, but on each occasion, he failed. The Buddha was a contemporary of Jain teacher Mahavira, but though they had great mutual respect, they did not physically meet.
The Buddha passed away after many years of teaching and travelling throughout India. On his deathbed, he told Ananda (his dearest disciple) that he should now rely on his teachings and own ethical conduct to be the guide of his life.
For Centuries , the light of the Buddha has shone as a beacon beckoning men from across the sea of darkness. Like lost children, millions of seekers have reached out to the light with their heart’s inmost cry, and the Buddha has shown them the Way. The world stood before the Buddha with its ignorance, and the Buddha, the Enlightened One, gave man Truth. The world offered its age-old suffering to the Buddha’s heart and the Buddha, Lord of Compassion, showed man the Dharma.”
– Sri Chinmoy
IV. Buddism and Its Teachings
Some of the fundamentals of the teachings of Gautama Buddha are:
i. The Four Noble Truths:
That suffering is an inherent part of existence;
That the origin of suffering is ignorance and the main symptoms of that ignorance are attachment and craving;
That attachment and craving can be ceased; and
That following the Noble Eightfold Path will lead to the cessation of attachment and craving and therefore suffering.
ii. The Noble Eightfold Path:
The Noble Eightfold Path (also called the Middle Way, or the Threefold Way) is the fourth part (magga) of the Four Noble Truths. It gives Buddhists a path they can follow to end suffering. However, these are not steps but rather eight guiding principles that suggest the way to end suffering and ultimately achieve enlightenment.
The Noble Eightfold Path is also known as the Threefold Way as it contains the three basic aspects of Buddhist life, which are Ethics, Meditation and Wisdom. Each part of the Noble Eightfold Path falls within one of the elements of the Threefold Way :
The Threefold Way and The Noble Eightfold Path
1. Right action (behaving in a skilful way and not harming others)
2. Right speech (speaking truthfully)
3. Right livelihood (earning a living in a way that doesn’t cause suffering or harm to others)
4. Right mindfulness (being aware of yourself and the emotions of others)
5. Right effort (putting effort into meditation and positive emotions)
6. Right concentration (developing focus so that you are able to meditate)
7. Right view/understanding (remembering that actions have consequences)
8. Right intention (being clear about following the Buddhist path)
These eight actions are important as a person’s actions in life will determine what they are reborn as in their next life. Kammais gained through good actions (following the Noble Eightfold Path) and results in positive consequences. Bad actions (not following the Noble Eightfold Path) result in negative consequences.
Pic : The Buddhist symbol of the eight-spoked wheel represents the elements of the Noble Eightfold Path
V. Following the Threefold Way
Buddhists should begin with how they behave (Ethics) as by clearing themselves of bad thoughts they will be in a better position to meditate. Buddhists can clear themselves of bad thoughts through following the ideas in the Five Precepts and understanding that actions have consequences.
Meditation becomes easier the more it is done. It helps Buddhists to rid their mind of negativity.
Meditation leads Buddhists to gain Wisdom, as by acting in a morally and ethical way, Buddhists can grow their wisdom.
VI. Three Jewels of Buddhism
1. The Buddha,
2. The Dharma (doctrine, or teaching), and
3. The Sangha (the monastic order, or community).
One becomes a Buddhist by saying the words “I go to the Buddha for refuge, I go to the Doctrine for refuge, I go to the Order for refuge.”
VII . Love.
The Buddha stressed the importance of calming the mind and seeking the peace that each individual has within. With this inner peace, we can react to awkward situations with love, compassion and generosity.
Conquer the angry man by love. Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness. Conquer the miser with generosity. Conquer the liar with truth.
– The Dhammapada
VIII.Power of the Mind.
The Buddha taught it is our own mind which creates our own suffering, but also we can use this power to create happiness.
“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.”
– Lord Buddha
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him.
If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”
– Lord Buddha
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IX. The Five Precepts of Buddhism
The Five Precepts are the Buddhist version of a code of conduct or rules to help people behave in a moral and ethical way. Buddhists should follow the Five Precepts to ensure they are living a morally good life. This helps them to get rid of suffering and achieve enlightenment.
The five precepts are as follows:
1 . Refrain from taking life
Not killing any living being.
For Buddhists, this includes animals, so many Buddhists choose to be vegetarian.
2. Refrain from taking what is not given
Not stealing from anyone.
3. Refrain from the misuse of the senses
Not having too much sensual pleasure. For example, not looking at people in a lustful way or committing adultery.
4. Refrain from wrong speech
Not lying or gossiping about other people.
5 . Refrain from intoxicants that cloud the mind
Not drinking alcohol or taking drugs, as these do not help you to think clearly.
It is important to practise the precepts over time as they are not always easy to carry out. The main aim of a Buddhist is get rid of suffering, and therefore following the Five Precepts is important as they help Buddhists to avoid causing others to suffer. Following the Five Precepts is linked to kamma, as these count as skilful actions, which produce good consequences. X. Divisions of Buddhism
There are two main divisions in Buddhism: Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism.
1. Theravada Buddhism
Theravada Buddhism is older and the more conservative of the two main divisions of Buddhism and is often referred to as the ‘traditions of the elders’. Many Theravada Buddhists follow the teachings of the Buddha exactly, and many of them are monks or nuns.
Theravada Buddhists strive to be arhats. Arhats are perfected people who have gained true insight into the nature of reality. This means they have followed the Noble Eightfold Path to ‘blow out’ the three fires of greed, hatred and ignorance and have become enlightened.
In Buddhism, enlightenment leads to nibbana (or nirvana), which means freedom from the cycle of rebirth (samsara). Consequently, they will no longer be reborn through samsara.
2. Mahayana Buddhism
Mahayana Buddhists believe they can achieve enlightenment through following the teachings of the Buddha. The goal of a Mahayana Buddhist may be to become a Bodhisattva and this is achieved through the Six Perfections. Compassion is very important in Mahayana Buddhism. Therefore, Bodhisattvas choose to stay in the cycle of samsara to help others to achieve enlightenment as well as themselves.
This is a key difference between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists.
Whereas Theravada Buddhists strive to become Arhats and gain freedom from the cycle of samsara,
Mahayana Buddhists may choose to stay in the cycle of samsara out of compassion for others.
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Buddhism is a system of philosophical, spiritual and social teachings based upon the experiences of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) and his central doctrine – ‘the elimination of suffering’. “Just as the sea has one savour − salt − so my teachings have one savour − the elimination of suffering”.
Buddhism indicates a path that all human beings can follow in order to ultimately become free from suffering. Known as ‘the Noble Eightfold Path’ or the ‘Middle Way’ with simplicity at its heart, it is a path of effort, meditation, community and compassion to lead a Meaningful and Mindful Life...!!.