BUDDHISM IN A NUTSHELL

Buddhism is a collective name for the diverse philosophical, esoteric and religious beliefs that are derived from the way of liberation taught, in the 6th century B.C., by the North-Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha, which means the Awakened or Enlightened One. Buddhism is a non-dual philosophy and non-comparative way of life derived in turn from Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka, or philosophy of the Middle Way. The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to help us to become a true part of the whole. Because of its open character and structure, it is difficult to determine how many Buddhists share the views of Vajrayana Buddhism worldwide at this time.

The three main schools of Buddhism: Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana.

It is indisputable that the Buddha did not believe in Brahman (God, transcendent Absolute) or in the atman or atta (soul, immortal self) and taught that man suffers because he does not understand and accept that all things in life are instead utterly changeable and transitory; if the Buddha had ever expressed belief in Brahman and the atman or atta, such a fact would have been unequivocally recorded in History. Man is prone to suffering (duhkha, dukkha) quite simply because he strives after and tries to hold on to things and concepts which he believes to be permanent, but are not.

Man's mistaken view of things is produced by a thirst or craving (called trishna in Sanskrit and tanha in Pali) which is in turn caused by his fundamental ignorance (avidya, avijja) of the true nature of reality. And this thirst or craving can easily take on a more unwholesome form: already as sensuous desire, ill-will, laziness, impatience or distrust will it seriously hinder any efforts to better his circumstances.

His compliance, however, with the five precepts that apply to all followers of the Buddha will allow him to arrest his thirst or craving and to commence removing the root cause of his suffering, i.e. his fundamental ignorance of the true nature of reality. The five fundamental Buddhist precepts are not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and abstinence from alcohol and drugs. Man's observance of these precepts in his daily life gives him the moral strength required to embark upon the Buddha's Middle Way that, avoiding first the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, will in due course bring him to the blessed state of Nirvana.

Nirvana is the complete extinction (nirodha) of all suffering (duhkha, dukkha) as a result of our full reconciliation with reality as it truly is. Nirvana and Samsara are not two different realities or two different conditions of reality. Nirvana is to experience the phenomenal world at the level of ultimate truth (paramartha-satya), i.e. truth divested of all our preconceptions, including even those expressed here. Samsara is to experience the same phenomenal world at the level of conventional everyday truth (samvriti-satya). It is as a result of the purification of our perception of the phenomenal world at the level of conventional truth by following the Buddha's Middle Way, that we shall come to understand the significance of ultimate truth.

The Middle Way devoid of extremes that we must follow is concretely the Noble Eightfold Path that the Buddha taught in his very first sermon in Sarnath, near Benares. The Eightfold Path, when interpreted dynamically, is that of our best (samyak, samma) comprehension followed by our best resolution, our best enunciation, our best disposition, our best implementation, our best exertion, our best observation, and our best reflection or meditation, which brings us to a yet better comprehension, and so forth. We thus regain our place in totality advancing over time, in human terms, towards better and better, breaking, as we advance along the Path, the fetters (samyojana) that restrict us to Samsara.

Buddhism indeed considers progress (pratipada, patipada) as the fourth sign of being, this next to the changeable and the transitory nature of all things and the universality of suffering in the world, which are the three signs or marks of being traditionally taught in Buddhism. When the Path expounded by the Buddha as the correct existential attitude and way of life is viewed accordingly as a reflexion at the level of our personal lives of overall existence becoming over time, it follows that human beings experience as good, right or beneficial that which takes place in the otherwise indifferent direction that time-being as a whole flows in of its own accord. The teaching of the Buddha must be seen as a Way of Reconciliation with wondrous existence as a whole just right as it is, i.e. as it truly is beyond our commonly limited and biased personal experience of it. Nirvana is the ultimate reconciliation with reality achievable by man. Indeed, in certain schools of Buddhism, Nirvana itself is seen as the fourth sign of being or seal of the dharma.


The revelation of Buddhism is in its practice:

The Noble Eightfold Path is that of our best (samyak, samma) comprehension followed by our best resolution, our best enunciation, our best disposition, our best implementation, our best exertion, our best observation, and our best reflection or meditation, which brings us to a yet better comprehension, and so forth. By following the Noble Eightfold Path you get in tune with overall existence and sorrow starts disappearing. Adherence to the Five Precepts and a well-considered understanding of the Four Noble Truths suffice to start off on the Path at any time. Nirvana is, in Advayavada Buddhism, the total extinction of suffering as a result of our complete reconciliation with reality as it truly is.

Kwan-yin symbolizes the goodness of all life's inner driving force.