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Lord Buddha’s basic teachings

28/01/2014

Lord Buddha had no doctrine, rather he presented certain basic teachings to his followers in order to facilitate the practice of the Middle Way.

The Four Noble Truths were formulated to show that:

  1. Ordinary life is inadequate, incomplete, unsatisfactory, with physical and mental anguish the common lot of every being;
  2. Such ill is caused by craving—craving not only for food, sex, wealth, and domination but also for ideas, set theories, and hard-and-fast beliefs;
  3. Craving can be eliminated by casting off attachments, casting of limiting thoughts and opinions,  and casting off all notions of self; and
  4. The best way to eradicate suffering and craving is by following the Eightfold Path with: proper understanding, proper thought, proper speech, proper action, proper livelihood, proper effort, proper mindfulness, proper meditation.

He taught that all conditioned things share Three Marks: impermanence, imperfection, and non-substantiality. Everything flows in an endless stream. Everywhere there is pain, turmoil, confusion, and unrest. No place is there an enduring self. If all decays, why chase after material things? If life is suffering, why not seek true bliss? If there is no abiding personality, why cling to ego?

The Wheel of Life describes the ceaseless whirl of existence: ignorance of reality leads to wilful acts;  wilful acts lead to conscious discrimination; conscious discrimination leads to name and form; name and form lead to sense perception; sense perception leads to contact; contact leads to desire; desire leads to clinging; clinging leads to becoming; becoming leads to birth; birth leads to old age and death. As long as there is ignorance, the cycle of birth and death revolves. Root out ignorance through practice, and the Wheel of Life will cease to spin.

Lord Buddha instructed his followers to tread the Middle Way by avoiding any type of physical, psychological, or philosophical extreme. The Middle Way is much more than simple moderation; it signifies the flexibility, openness, and freedom that is found when one is centred between all poles of opposition.

All of the main elements, positive and negative, that constitute the phenomenon known as Buddhism were present right from the beginning, continually expressed in new ways and borrowed forms, it is true, but always essentially the same, not bound to one place or era. The message is as clear as ever, and the challenges and rewards of Buddhist practice remain undiminished.

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