Myth and legend are inextricably woven into the tapestry of culture, food, fashions and more that form the entirety of human history and experience. Through the proliferation of lore and legend, came the advent of rites, rituals, and beliefs, and the wonder and confusion that accompanied them. In our pursuit of the truth buried among the annals of sorcery and circumstance, it is these hidden philosophies behind the stories that continue to spur our research. There exist many facets of the world that yet remain unexplained by science or sense.
To some extent, legends possess their own artistic license, adding, removing, appending or exaggerating as it sees fit. The annals of history have been kind to some stories from a distant past, and less so to others. Even regional variations may result in vastly different interpretations of the same lore. One widely-known example is the story of Hanuman
Much of the lore surrounding Thai amulets, as we have observed, had their roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and were often further transmogrified by the influence of other deeply spiritual Eastern traditions, e.g. Tibetan, Cambodian, Chinese, Thai etc. The wicha of Inn Thong
Some key phrases and themes recur throughout our articles, such as ‘Du Sa Ni Ma
This article is neither meant to be taken as a scholarly piece nor to be used as a template for practice, much less to be used as a point of contention and conflict to challenge another’s beliefs, faith or knowledge. Because of the archaic nature of some of the subjects discussed, certain Pali words may even, in present-day, be a source of disagreement between both academics and experts, their true meaning perhaps lost to the ravages of time.
What this aims to be, is a primer regarding the early teachings of the Buddha. The Pali words we chose to include are merely intended to provide the utmost clarity. The correct meditation practices should be undertaken with a qualified teacher to ensure that these protocols result in their fullest effects in your life, the specifics of which will be discussed later in this article.
The word “Buddha” in Pali means an “Awakened One”. He who is awakened to the cause of suffering and why it arises in all living beings (even almighty heavenly ones) and transcended it.
The Buddha was a prince named Siddhartha Gautama
He set out on a path of his own making, seeking the answers that had yet escaped him. Eventually, this led him to Enlightenment, a newfound consciousness that afforded him clarity of mind and medium, where he came to recognise impermanence (Anicca
The First Sermon
According to the Theravada
Through these 4 Noble Truths, he advised his 5 students to take the middle path, avoiding the two extremes; indulgence in sensual pleasures, and self-torture.
Here, we present a condensed version of these teachings, meant as a primer for newcomers. Upon familiarising oneself with these concepts, you might choose to kick it up a notch by pursuing Vipassana meditation under the tutelage of an orthodox teacher.
The First Noble Truth: Noble Truth of Suffering – to be perceived (Dukkha-ariya-sacca
- Unease (includes illness, grief, lamentation, pain, displeasure, despair)
- Association with the unpleasant
- Separation from the beloved
- When one does not obtain what one desires
- In brief, the 5 aggregates (Matter/Body, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formations, Consciousness) are suffering
The Second Noble Truth: Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering – to be eradicated (Dukkha-samudaya-ariya-sacca
- Craving for sensual pleasures
- Craving for Existence
- Craving for Non-Existence
The primary cause of suffering is described by the Buddha as Tanha
The Third Noble Truth: Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering – to be realised (Dukkha-nirodha-ariya-sacca
- Enlightenment, Supreme Bliss, Emancipation
The Fourth Noble Truth: Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering – to be developed (Dukkha-nirodha-gaminipatipada-ariya-sacca
The Noble Eightfold Path:
The Noble Eightfold Path – Morality (Sila)
- Abstention from lying
- Abstention from slandering
- Abstention from harsh speech
- Abstention from vain talk
- Abstention from killing
- Abstention from stealing
- Abstention from sexual misconduct
- Not trading in arms
- Not trading in living beings
- Not trading in flesh
- Not trading in intoxicants and addictive substances
- Not trading in poisons
The Noble Eightfold Path – Mental Development (Samadhi)
To fully comprehend the aspects of Mental Development discussed here, (which encompass Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration), one must engage in the practice of Buddhist meditation.
The first part, Right Effort, coupled with Morality (explained above) emphasizes the conduct of an individual, wherein his mind is insulated from extreme wounding or agitation due to the consequences of his actions. Once this is achieved, one proceeds to the practice of Samatha
- The Effort of Avoidance
The will or intention to sidestep thoughts of unwholesome acts, and prevent them from arising.
- The Effort of Overcoming
The will and effort to overcome unwholesome acts which have already occurred.
- The Effort of Development
The pursuit of wholesome acts which you have yet to undertake. These are so-named as the 7 factors of Enlightenment:
- Mindfulness/ Awareness
- Investigation/Understanding of the teachings
- Energy/ Effort
- Concentration/ Focus
- The Effort of Maintenance
The cultivation of one’s will and determination to sustain wholesome acts, until the point of fruition.
- Right Mindfulness
This encompasses meditation techniques to enable people to overcome desire, and recognise the fundamental nature of phenomena as unsatisfactory, impermanent and beyond the locus of the self, and that all things are the composite result of many other things.
The fruit of the Buddha’s teachings was the Dhamma, an art of living in pursuit of erasing the ills of human nature and mental suffering, which is inherent in all human beings. A doctor curing the sick and needy for example, despite not being a Buddhist himself, is practising the Dhamma by applying his skills in pursuit of wholesome deeds. Morality, mental focus, and the wisdom to do the right thing are said to take precedence over the petty particularities inherent to each system of organized religious systems.
“Right Mindfulness”, encompasses the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness. They are:
- Mindfulness of the Body
- An awareness of the natural “in-out” breath
- Acute awareness of the four postures (sitting, walking, standing and lying down)
- Clear and sustained mindfulness of the self in daily tasks
- Reflection on the repulsiveness of the body
- The 4 elements of the body (Temperature – Heat, Fluid – Water, Movement – Air, Mass – Earth)
- Contemplating the decomposition of human bodies
- Mindfulness of Feelings
- as pleasurable
- as uncomfortable
- neither pleasurable nor uncomfortable
- Bodily elation
- Bodily pain
- Mindfulness of State of Mind
- Lustful or the lack thereof
- Hate or empathy
- Delusion or clarity of mind
- Attuned or distracted
- Developed or undeveloped
- Surpassed or unsurpassed
- Focused or chaotic
- Liberated or unliberated
- Mindfulness of Mind-Objects
- The 5 Hindrances; sensual desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and remorse, doubt
- The 5 Aggregates; form, feeling, perception, mental fabrications and consciousness
- The 6 Sense Faculties; Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, Touch, Thinking
- The 7 Factors of Enlightenment; Mindfulness, Investigative Efforts into the nature of reality, Energy (Determination and Effort), Joy or Rapture, Tranquillity, Concentration and Equanimity
- The 4 Noble Truths
To guide the mind to a place of serenity using Samatha, where it may then seek insight through Vipassana. In most cases, focusing on the breath is the primary tool for achieving this state. A total of 40 meditation methods exist, available to everyone from the staunchest faithful, the lustful, those with strong feelings of ill-will, to the most sceptical and lost.
(Meditation should always be guided by a qualified teacher.)
These meditation subjects are divided into;
- the 10 Kasina(Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Blue, Yellow, Red, White, Light and Space),
- the 10 Unattractive Objects (the bloated, the livid, the festering, the cut-up, the gnawed, the scattered, the hacked-up and cut-up, the blood-stained, the worm-infested, the skeletons)
- The 10 recollections (of the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, morality, giving, virtues of the deities, of death, of the body, of the breath, of peace)
- The 4 Immeasurable Sublime states (Loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity)
- The 4 Immaterial states (perception of boundless space, boundless consciousness, nothingness and “neither perception nor non-perception”)
- 1 Perception (the repulsiveness of food)
- 1 Analysis (contemplation of the body in terms of the 4 elements; earth, fire, air, water)
The 4 Great Efforts;
- Restraint of the senses
- Abandonment of defilements
- Cultivation of the 7 Factors of Enlightenment (Mindfulness, Investigative Efforts, Energy (Determination and Effort), Joy or Rapture, Tranquillity, Concentration and Equanimity)
The Noble Eightfold Path – Wisdom and Liberating Insight (Panna)
- The 4 Noble Truths
- Ten Kinds of Immorality to be understood and eradicated
- Sexual Misconduct
- Harsh Speech
- Vain Talk
- Wrong Views
- Ten Kinds of Meritorious Deeds to be understood and cultivated
- Sharing and Transference of Merits from virtuous deeds
- Rejoicing for and Partaking in others’ virtuous deeds
- Hearing and learning the Dhamma
- Explaining or expounding the Dhamma
- Correcting one’s wrong views
- The 3 Universal Characteristics
- Impermanence/ Transient Nature
- Unsatisfactory or Imperfect nature
- Insubstantial / Composite nature of all phenomena
- The 4 Stages of Liberation – Eradicating the 10 fetters which plague beings
- The Sotapanna(eradicating 3 mental fetters of identity view, doubt and attachment to rites and rituals)
- The Sakadagamin(weakening 2 more mental fetters; sensual desire and ill-will
- The Anagamin(eradicating the above 5 mental fetters)
- The Arahant(eradicating the last 5 mental fetters; lust for material existence, lust for immaterial existence or formless realms, conceit, restlessness and ignorance)
- The Sotapanna
- Dependent Origination (Paticca-Samuppada)
- Thoughts free from lust, desire, craving, clinging
- Thoughts free from malevolence, anger, hatred, other forms of ill-will
- Thoughts free from cruelty, desire to harm, offend.
The Eightfold Noble Path can be thus be summarized into 3 components; Sila (Morality), Samadhi (Mental Training) and Panna (Liberating Insight or Wisdom)
Morality – Abstain from all that is sinful, harmful or unwholesome, be they physical or vocal. When carried out, they may disrupt the peace and harmony of other beings.
Mental Training – Perform wholesome deeds with mindfulness.
Liberating Insight or Wisdom – Purify the totality of our mind by developing insight through Vipassana meditation.
In order to understand and transcend the suffering of existence, one must be able to attain the states of liberation. Only then will one get a glimpse into the possibilities that lie beyond our everchanging world of mind and matter.
In order to reach the different states of liberation, one must be able to undertake the correct mental meditation practices such as Vipassana.
Achieving the highest states of liberation can only come with a comprehensive pursuit of truth and wholesomeness, which extends far beyond mere meditative practices. It should also be sought through actions and employment, engaging in activities that free the mind of clutter and agony.
The message of the Buddha’s teachings, ultimately, was that to free ourselves from suffering is to walk the same path he did, and unlock our own doors using the keys we afford in our hearts, minds, and actions until the very weight of the existence itself lifts off our shoulders.