The Buddhist Philospohy


Buddhism is a major world philosophy that arose from the inspiration and teachings of the Buddha over 2,550 years ago (over 625 BC). Its teachings create a complete way of life. Buddhism is not only scientific, but also very much environmental friendly. It is concerned with the wholesome development of individuals and the surroundings, teaches us to understand the ‘inner-self’, and how to overcome our problems and difficulties by finding inner peace and happiness.

Buddhism teaches us the path to self-liberation, and is perhaps the most optimistic religion. While meditation is the path that Buddha taught for the welfare of human beings and development of wisdom, practicing Dhamma is necessary to eliminate attachments of greed, etc, which leads to purification of the mind and attaining the final goal of nibbana (i.e., liberation from the cycle of suffering and rebirth-the samsara). The purpose of meditation or the practice of Buddhism is not to expect benefits, create beliefs, or faith. On the contrary, Buddhist meditation and practices are designed us to develop clarity of the mind, which assists us in eliminating hatred, jealousy, and wrongdoings, leading to terminating suffering. Meditation opens the door to self-understanding, development of spiritual dimensions of love and compassion, and the serenity within us. Meditation practice via the traditions of Theravada Buddhism and Buddha’s teaching would help one to understand him or herself better, add joy and meaning to the lives. It would also facilitate taking positive steps towards elimination of suffering in the samsara. With improvements in our ability to concentrate, meditation practice will assist us in day-to-day life including problem solving.

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The Buddhist Attitude to God

The Oxford dictionary defines God as “Supreme being, creator and ruler of the Universe.” A Theistic text defines God as “There is but living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts or passions, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness, the maker and preserver of all things both visible and invisible.” It is clear the word is used in many different ways by different sects. The definition of creation and concept of a personal god varies according to the tradition.

In general, the Personal Creator Supreme Being God possesses characterises of omniscience, all-powerfulness, and infinite goodness. Some believe God’s matter of creation is a production or emission from the being of God, whereas other traditions indicate God creates matter out of nothing (nihilo). Still others believe that God’s creation consists of fashioning co-existent chaotic matter and making an ordered cosmos out of chaos.

Both the Theravada and Mahayana forms of Buddhism refute the existence of gods (i.e., Buddhist are none believers of god(s); atheistic). There were attempts by some Western scholars to link Mahayana Buddhism with God, claiming that both arose during the same period―the Christian era. Recent scholars, among others Gunapala Malalasekera and K.N. Jayatillake, have disproven this myth. In fact, Mahayana Buddhism came to existence during the period of the Mahasarighika Council, when a liberal group broke away from the Theravada conservative elder group, which was about 100 years after the death of the Buddha. In fact, none of the Mahayana schools teach the existence of a creator god.

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The Lord Buddha

Our Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha and attained Buddha-hood. Through his mental training, he developed deep powers with reference to chanda, citta, viriya, and vimansa. Chanda is desire, citta is the mind, viriya is effort, and vimansa is investigation.

Kalpa refers to the maximum life span of human beings. If the maximum life-span was 130 years, Buddha could have lived for 100 years or more. However, when Avijja [Mara] approached the Lord Buddha and said, "Since you have fulfilled all your wishes, it is now time for you to pass away,” he accepted it, as none opposed it or requested him to live longer.

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Everyone born will eventually die. Thus, if one want to avoid birth and consequent suffering, one need to avoid rebirth phenomenon; i.e. achieved the Supreme of Nibbana. Nevertheless, the fear of death is a complex phenomenon. If someone told you that you would die on a specific day at a specific time, would it cause fear in you? From that day onward, would you feel happy every time you thought of that remark? You would wonder how you could escape this issue and gain freedom from death.

One has to be clever to overcome the fear as well as the recurrent deaths in the samsara. Those who learn and practice the Dhamma are the closest to Nibbana. Through the practice of Dhamma and meditation, one’s faculties are developed and guide one to attain the Nibbana.

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Survival and Kamma

Buddhist teaching states that there is a correlation between moral conduct and its consequences. This does not imply fatalism; in fact, it implies the opposite. Understanding of his or her own nature could lead to control of the present and future destinies. The Buddhist doctrine of rebecoming (punabbhava) is not a transmigration of a self-identical soul or substance. Such survival is neither proved nor disproved in light of modern science and its understanding of mind-brain connections.

An individual is undergoing many lives, whether or not there is a continuity of memory and mental depositions. Buddhism entertains the possibility of animals and humans, becoming humans in future lives. Thus, increasing human population, now more than 7+ billions in this world and more in the future can be easily accounted for. Rebirth was occurring at a higher level of animal evolution, and is in agreement with the biogenesis.

Identical conjoined twins (Siamese twins) have share the same genetic makeup, heredity, and environment, yet they have distinctly different characters and temperament. Such is attributable to a third factor. Such differences are likely to be associated with skills, attitudes, and inherent abilities from prior lives. Such extraordinary abilities or negative deeds cannot be accounted for by genetics, heredity, or the environment.

Our desires influence and in fact condition our beliefs. Consequently, we cling to these desires and attachments (tanhã paccayã ditthupãdãman), which does not necessarily mean they right or false. When they happen to be “Right” beliefs (sammã ditthi), they are in fact proved to be true. Although desires affect our beliefs, they are not relevant to the truth or falsity of the beliefs because our emotions are involved with the beliefs in weighing the evidence for or against the truth or falsity without prejudice. Thus, the desire to believe or not to believe does not affect the truth or falsity of the belief. Nevertheless, we do not have a shield against the prejudice resulting from these desires in our quest for the truth.

Dhammapada illustrates “Arogyã paramã lãbhã.” If we are healthy, then we can only adopt the means to gain material and spiritual riches. If health is a desirable end to achieve good, then what is instrumental in achieving a state of health is also good as a means. Medicine for physical health or meditation for mental health is considered to be good as a means or instrumentally good for us. Nevertheless, good health is only a relative end because the ultimate goal that we seek is happiness. Thus, good health is only a basic condition required for happiness. Good health contributes to one’s well-being and happiness, but we can enjoy a good state of physical health only in a relative sense because we may become ill or injured at any time; even the healthiest men eventually become sick and die, with no exceptions.

Right actions are also called good actions, as opposed to evil actions. Right actions are also explained as kusala (puññya), which means skilful actions. Thus, the right actions require both understanding and implementation of the act. Consequently, a person who has attained a higher goodness is said to have accomplished skills or higher skills (sampannakusalam parama-kusalam). In contrast, akusala means un-skilled. Puññya, as used for Right action, is considered as a meritorious deed, as opposed to papa, which indicates a de-meritorious deed. It is interesting that a person who has attained the highest good, such as Sothapanna, is said to have “set aside both meritorious and de-meritorious actions.

The path for self-salvation, the path leading to cessation of suffering and nibbana, is a gradual path. We may start this path with egoistic and selfish desires as a motive for self-advancement that does not cause any harm to the self or others. However, such desires and motives gradually are set aside to pave the path for goodness. Actions alone will remain without personal motivations for doing good. Therefore, if we should strive to achieve ethical ideals or the conception of what is intrinsically good, we would be in a higher mental plane to understand Dhamma and the Buddhist concepts of right versus wrong.

Buddhist teachings consider the ethical ideals of Happiness, Equanimity, Perfection, Realisation, and Freedom. The social ideal is the well-being and happiness of the multitude or mankind (bahujanahitãya bahujanasukhãya). Here the well-being and happiness are conceived materially and spiritually. This can be applied to an ideal society, in which optimum well-being, happiness, and freedom are prevailing as both socialistic and democratic best opportunities, a righteousness society.

The Buddha exemplified that the path to the acquisition of wealth is one, whereas the path to nibbana is another (añña hi lãbbupanisa añña nibbãna-gãmini). It is said that even social ideals can be attained by people with high motivations to achieve the good, using the Ten Virtues (dasa kusala-kamma). Such a society will be built on a open and fair economy, with a political and moral foundation and freedom.

People are motivated to act because of their “desires for happiness and/or repulsion for unhappiness.” This is somewhat linked to one of the central truths of Buddhism—the Four Truths concerning unhappiness (dukkha-sacca). Such is embedded with the human desire for happiness and urge to stay away from unhappiness.

Nibbana is the experience of the bliss of freedom (vimutti-sukha-patisamvedi). This is very much different from the happiness of the worldly existence. The latter is accompanied by conditionality: suffering—vedanã (feeling of it). However, Buddha did not advocate asceticism (self-denial). Instead, he taught the ways for people to realize their limits, which include desire for pleasure and sex (kãma-tanhã); gratifying our egoistic instincts (bhava-tanha); and the desire for self-preservations (jiviti-kama), destruction (vibhava-tanha), aggression (patigha), possessions, fame, power, and immorality. We justify these desires by rationalization and erroneous beliefs. Some may believe they are created for enjoyment, eating and drinking, or destroying others, so why should they do good deeds.

Dhammapada states, “If by renouncing a little pleasure we can find a great deal of happiness, then the prudent man should relinquish such trifling pleasures on discovering an abundant happiness” (Dh. 290).

Buddhist ethics recognizes the hedonistic, self-indulging tendencies of humans, but it does not fall into the trap of pleasure-seeking (hedonism) by asserting that pleasure alone abstracted from everything else is worth achieving. The path to happiness described in Buddhism is also the path for mental stability, serenity, awareness, integration, and mental purity. Buddha classified illnesses as bodily diseases (kayika) and mental diseases (cetasika). Most of us suffer from bodily diseases and illnesses from time to time in our life. However, although we may not recognize it, we suffer from mental instability and illnesses almost continually, until we achieve the Supreme nibbana. Perfect mind is only achieved with nibbana.

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The Four Noble Truths: Introduction

The Four Noble Truths explain the path from unhappiness to the path to happiness. It describes:

  1. The nature of the illness
  2. The causes of the illness
  3. The nature of the state of health that we ought to achieve
  4. The remedial measures to be taken to achieve this

From a medical point of view, a diseased state of mind is generated as a result of unsatisfied desires and the conflicts caused by desires of both the conscious and subconscious minds. Desires for sense pleasures and selfish pursuits prevail at the subconscious level and in latent tendencies. Consequently, mental stability, serenity, or sanity cannot be achieved via self-indulgence or trying to satisfying our sensual desires (kama-sukhãllikama-thanuyoga).

Ref: “So happily we live, free from anger among those who are angry” (Dh. 197).

Four Noble Truths of Core Teaching of the Buddha:

  • Life as we know it normally brings dissatisfaction and suffering
  • This suffering has a cause, so it is not an intrinsic or necessary part of the nature of things
  • The cause of suffering is our habitual, subconscious clinging to impermanent things as if they had some permanent essence
  • There is a path to end this habitual clinging to a wrong view of things, to make one free from the suffering that results from it


According to the Noble Truth, birth is suffering, decay is suffering, disease is suffering, death is suffering, to be associated with the unpleasant is suffering, to be separated from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering, and in brief the Five Aggregates of attachment are suffering.

Cause of suffering

The Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering: it is craving that produces rebirth, accompanied by passionate clinging, welcoming the life. It is the craving for sensual pleasures, or kamathanha, craving for becoming, or bhavathanha, and craving for annihilation, or vibhavathanha.

Cessation of Suffering

The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering: it is the complete separation from and destruction of this very craving, its forsaking, renunciation, liberation, and detachment.

Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering

The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering in the Noble Eightfold Path.

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The Four Noble Truths: Explanation

Although the first Noble Truth has been called pessimistic, Buddhist scholars have pointed out that Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic. It presents things just as they are neither better nor worse. The Buddhist outlook is one of tremendous hope, since a solution to the problem of dukkha is given in the fourth Noble Truth, a solution that amounts to a guarantee. That solution is the Nobel eight-fold path. Anyone who follows the eight-fold path to its completion will arrive at the end of suffering.

The message of the Noble Truths is positive and hopeful. It gives a path to achieve total freedom from dukkha, which is happiness greater than we could imagine.

Another concept contained in the First and Second Noble Truths, and perhaps one of the most important teaching of Buddhism, is that of anatta. Anatta is a Pali word, translated as non-self, not-self, soullessness, insubstantiality, and impersonality. The Buddha declared that no self exists anywhere in the universe, but only within the minds of beings. It is merely a convention, an imaginary construct, an illusionary image(s) due to ignorance. In practical terms, anatta means that, one cannot influence or control mind and matter.

If something is our-self we ought to be able to control and direct it fully; whereas things that are not-self cannot be entirely controlled. We think that the body is self, that it belongs to us. However, how much control do we have over it? Can we prevent it from growing old and dying? Can we make it taller or prettier as we wish? The body goes its own way in those regards. Body and mind cannot be influence or affect by willpower alone; the relevant conditions must be present.

We should not misunderstand non-self to mean that we are powerless, that we can only throw up our hands. Non-self and conditionality do not mean that things are destined to be a particular way. We can effect changes and the destiny, even total transformations. That is also taught in the Noble eight fold-path.

Anatta, non-self, makes up the last characteristic in the three qualities common to all conditioned phenomena. These three qualities are dukkha (unsatisfactoriness, or suffering), anicca (impermanence), and anatta (non-self). The three characteristics are merely different aspects of the same quality, like different facets of a diamond. Buddha taught us that those who understand these characteristics would transcend mind and matter, and therefore transcend suffering.

Where does dukkha or unsatisfactoriness, come from? The cause of dukkha arises from within ourselves. Since, the cause of suffering arises within our own minds, its cessation is entirely within our power.

The Second Noble Truth states that dukkha results from craving or desire. Although other causes are involved, desire is the predominant one. Desire is a cause of suffering because it leads to renewed existence. We were (re)born, because of our past craving and ignorance; with the mind and body that we have today.

Buddhist theory states that beings, until they eliminate desire and ignorance, are reborn into the world repeatedly. However, not the soul or self, passes from one existence to another. At each rebirth, a new configuration of mind and body arises, prompted into existence by conditions, and accumulated kamma in past births. One could also argue that rebirth occurs each moment, because flashes of consciousness arise and vanish continually, from one instant to the next.

Once reborn, the cycle of unsatisfactoriness and suffering occur. More the good kamma we have accumulates; lesser the amounts of suffering would be in the new birth. However, if we could prevent rebirth from occurring, then no unhappiness or dukkha could occur at all. This is the extinction of suffering. Therefore, the ultimate aim of the Buddhist is to stop the process of rebirth and enter into Nibbana. Nibbana is the liberation from the cycle of birth and death—liberation from suffering.

The Buddha's teachings are based on the premise that the process of re-birth and the existence occurs according to laws of cause and effect. Desires and attachments are causes for rebirth, because whenever we desire and cling to people, sensations, and material, we create cravings, what is called bad kamma. Hence, kamma produces rebirth, which, in turn, entails suffering.

In Buddhism, "kamma" does not mean fate or destiny, but intentional or volitional actions. An action triggered by unwholesome mind gives an unpleasant result, one triggered by wholesome mind-states will leads to a pleasant result. The result may appear immediately, or later date than the cause, the kamma; even in another lifetime.

Buddha's key teachings revolved around the concept of "cause and effect," or “dependent origination,” All mental and material phenomena exist only dependent upon conditions, and that suffering results from a process, a chain-reaction that can be interrupted with mindfulness.

By desiring and forming attachments to things, we create kamma. That kamma produces rebirth, which in turn entails suffering. Hence, as long as we accumulate kamma, we have unending cycle of samsaric sufferings.

The Third Noble Truth illustrates, "the truth of the cessation of dukkha." It is possible to be liberated from dukkha, from existence. That eternal freedom is known as Nibbana. Nibbana is the extinction of craving; hence suffering. "Nibbana is the greatest bliss" (Majjhima Nikaya. 75). However, nibbana is not a physical place, like heaven. In comparison with cosmological descriptions of many realms, including heavens and hells, which are temporary; the nibbana is permanent.

Nibbana is goal that the Buddha urged his disciples to work toward with diligence. Nibbana is still within reach of us, and we need not wait until after death to reach it. By eliminating cause of dukkha, craving, we can free ourselves at any time.

Nibbana is not nothingness. Nor it is the extinction of the self, since, no -self existed in the first place. Hence, it is difficult to speak or describe of nibbana. Nibbana must be experienced directly to be comprehended. It can be explained as the total extinguishing of greed, hatred, and delusion with ultimate freedom.

Nibbana is reached by practicing the eight-fold path, and the fourth Noble Truth. If they are to transform one's life, the Noble Truths should be realized directly, in a personal epiphany, not merely grasped intellectually or believed in. Those who see these Truths clearly, realize nibbana; they are said to be "enlightened." Fact is that any human being is capable of attaining enlightenment.

The Four Noble Truths realize by cultivating the Noble Eight-fold Path: right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, right understanding, and right thought. These eight factors are categorized into three categories: morality, concentration, and wisdom. Morality is a necessary foundation for higher states of spiritual knowledge. The basic level of morality that a Buddhist should work to establish is given in The Five-Precepts. One undertakes to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and harmful speech, and taking intoxicants.

All eight-fold path can be cultivated simultaneously through the practice of insight meditation (vipassana-bhavana), achieving the mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness lies at the very heart of Buddhism.

One does not have to call oneself a "Buddhist" to follow the Buddha's teachings. Nor is it necessary to make obeisance before monks, or offer incense at a temple. Ritual and materials are not part of true Buddhism.

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Laymen Ways to Happiness

Life in the modern age has become particularly trying and problematic. Though it remains a fact that the standard of living has generally improved, man is still suffering immensely under the weight of present-day craving. The physical condition of man has been reduced to such a pathetic level that he succumbs to premature death by killer diseases such as cancer, heart failure, diabetes, etc. to an unprecedented degree. Mentally, he is so tension-ridden that he has forgotten the art of relaxing, and he cannot even enjoy sound sleep without the aid of tranquilizers.

In this set up the interpersonal relations have become so brittle and vulnerable that the divorce rate has indeed become alarmingly high, thus letting loose a whole series of other social problems such as uncared-for children, juvenile delinquency, suicide, etc. Thus, life has become a problematic burden and a solution to make life tolerable and enjoyable is a great, crucial and pressing need.

As the word of the Buddha is of everlasting value and universal applicability, and as the Buddha preached not only to monks and nuns, but also to the lay public as well, it is useful to find a teaching of the Buddha which is relevant to our present-day problems: In the Pattakammavagga of the Anguttara Nikaya (A II, 69) the Buddha preached a sutra to Anāthapindika on the fourfold pleasures of a layman. It is our considered opinion, that this sutra offers adequate insight to meet the demands of the present-day problems as well. The four types of pleasure listed there are:

  1. Atthisukha, the pleasure of having material wealth;
  2. Bhogasukha, the pleasure of enjoying material wealth;
  3. Ananasukha, the pleasure of being debtless; and
  4. Anavajjaskha, the pleasure of being blameless.

Let us take these for discussion, one by one, and see how these four sources of pleasure can be harnessed for living a happy life in the present-day world.

Man should not only have a righteous means of living, avoiding blameworthy trades such as dealing in meat, liquor, poison, firearms and slavery, he should also entertain a wholesome attitude towards his right occupation. For instance, if a doctor welcomes epidemics in the locality in order to make much money, or a trader hopes for natural calamities to send market prices up, the money earned by such unscrupulous individuals is not righteous money as their intentions are impure, foul and evil. In addition, one should not deceive or exploit others in carrying out one's occupation.

Exerting oneself with great energy, one should earn one's living, and such hard-earned wealth is called righteous wealth (dhammika dhammaladdha). One could have great wealth, but if one does not experience a sense of contentment with what one has, one cannot really enjoy atthisukha or the pleasure of having. The amassing of wealth of such a person is like trying to fill a bottomless vessel. This is one of the widely spread maladies we see in the present-day society. Inordinate expansion of wealth becomes a source not of happiness, but of greed, anxiety, and envy. Such wealth exposes the possessor to the jealousies, and the maneuvers of other unscrupulous individuals, hence the occurrence of blackmailing and kidnapping from time to time. However, if one does have a correct means of earning one's living and the correct attitude to wealth, one can escape many of the hazards which money brings in its wake to modern man.

Wealth has only instrumental value, and the proper enjoyment of wealth is an art, which is worth carefully cultivating. Buddhism deplores both extravagance, and miserly hoarding. One must maintain a healthy balanced standard of living according to one's means. If, in the enjoyment of wealth, one overindulges in sense pleasures, one is bound to run into health hazards in a very short time. For instance, one overindulges in food just because one can afford it, one will soon be overcome by diseases such as heart failure, high blood pressure and diabetes. Such a one will be faced with the situation of "cutting his neck with his own tongue." Moderation in food is a virtue praised in Buddhism, and it is a health-promoting habit. Often in the name of enjoying wealth, man cultivates unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking. It is paradoxical that man, who actually loves himself most, should act as if he were his own worst enemy, by indulging in habits, which ultimately reduce him to a physical wreck. It is medically established that smoking causes the highest percentage of lung cancer, and that drinking cause irreparable damage to vital organs of the body including brain and liver.

If only one pauses to just ponder over one's own welfare, and if only one entertains at least some degree of compassion towards oneself, then one would not get into the clutches of these vicious habits. Wealthy men often end up in the pitiful plight of the ant fallen in the pot of honey. Such men did not know the art of enjoying bhogasukha. The regard the body as an instrument for pleasure, and they wear out and debilitate the body's capacity for enjoyment in double quick time, long before the natural process of wear and tear sets in. If we love ourselves, we have to treat our bodies with proper care without taxing it with overindulgence and deprivation. It is with the body that we can enjoy not only the pleasures of the senses, but also even the spiritual bliss of Nibbāna. Another aspect of the joy of wealth is the art of sharing. Without being an Adinnapubbaka, a miserly "never-giver," if one learns to share one's riches with those worthy, the less fortunate and have-nots, one will have the noble experience of rejoicing at the joy of another. At the same time, one will learn the love and good will of others, instead of becoming the target of envy, jealousy and intrigue.

The satisfaction of leading a blameless life is the highest form of satisfaction that a layman can have. Every society has a code of ethics to be followed by its members. According to Buddhism the minimum code of ethics regulating the life of its adherent disciples is the pañcasila; the Five Precepts. If one practices these virtues, one can have the satisfaction of leading a righteous life to a great extent. Refraining from doing to others, what one does not like others to do to oneself, is the basic inviolable principle underlying these virtues. Buddhism speaks of hire and ottappa, the sense of shame and the fear of doing wrong, as deva-dhamma or celestial qualities. These are the basic qualities, which separate man from the animal kingdom. Unlike the animals, man has a conscience, which makes him squeamish about doing wrong.

Buddhism recognizes blameless mental activity as well. Mental activities, which arise from greed, hatred & ignorance, are detrimental and thus blameworthy. Let us see how such mental behavior causes unhappiness: Take for instance the case of a person who is angry. What are the symptoms of anger? Hard breathing, accelerated heart beat, faster circulation of blood, feeling hot, sweating, trepidation, restlessness, etc. — these are the physical manifestations of anger. These are certainly not pleasant physical experiences. Each time the cause of anger is remembered, even though the rage of physical manifestations of anger may not be that marked, one feels quite restless and mentally not at ease.

We use expressions such as "boiling with anger," "I got the devil on to me," etc. to mean getting angry and these sayings are literally expressive of the situation. It is impossible for one to be angry and happy at the same time. An irritable person is truly a very sad person, and what is worse he infects others around him too with the same sadness! The cultivation of 4-sublime modes of behavior such as loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity are truly conducive to happy living. Those who live with such attitudes habitually are pleasant and amicable people, who can be happy when all alone even in remote and desolate locations, as well as in any company.

If we truly understand the sound significance of these 4 kinds of happiness elucidated in our sutra, and translate them into action, then our life will be much more pleasant, easy, calm, happy and Noble even in this modern age.

Shared by Ven. Vicittalankara, Mumbai, India

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Happiness is Transient

Buddhist teachings on ways to find perfect and lasting happiness in one's life.


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Gift of Time

When we die, none of us take our material wealth with us. Among all our wealth, time is the most precious treasure to us, because it is very limited. We can produce more wealth, but we cannot produce more time. When we give someone “our” time, we actually give a portion of our life that we will never take back a great gift. The best present that one can give to the family, friends, and others is your time. Offering one's time to others, help them succeed. Thus, compassion and the time which go together are valuable gifts, which is only surpassed by the gift of Dhamma (The Truth).

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Three Great Joys: Great Wholesome Actions

By Bandula Jayathilaka

With meditation becoming very popular, many different teachings have arisen. In this social context, it is important to remember that the Buddhist path is a gradual one. Buddhas attempt to accommodate those who are at the early stages of development as well as those who are capable of attaining enlightenment in their present lives. Hence, the famous teaching “sabba papassa akaranam …” i.e. “refrain from unwholesome, do wholesome and develop the mind (in purity)” is applicable at all levels of development. Doing meritorious deeds to develop wholesome is an important component of the Buddhist path. This covers a range of practices from ten meritorious acts (“dasa punya kriya) to ultimate liberation or attainment of nirvana.

In this Vesak season, I thought it would be appropriate to relate three wholesome experiences without compromising my mental balance (i.e., not giving way to ‘conceit’) to arouse gladness in others.

First Intense Joy

Having little time with my semi-retirement, I embarked on a ‘spiritual project’, which requires development of a concentration approach. As necessary, I sit for a pre-determined time so external (and/or internal) hindrances will not abruptly terminate the session. Few weeks ago, at the end of the set time, an intense wholesome memory related to a great giving arose. Unprompted or spontaneous recollection was “have given ‘great giving’”. As it arose, the illumination of the mind intensified and a spontaneous joy arose – independent of the five senses1. The joy was so intense that it caused waves through the body and lightness of the body arose. They were comfortable waves, devoid of sensual pleasures. It’s called ‘sukha’. The joy, associated ‘sukha’ and lightness of the body lasted for several hours (as expected with the need to do other chores, they faded. However, just recollection of that event causes joy, comfort and a minor lightness even at the present).

‘Great giving’ refers to giving to Buddha and bhikku sangha (congregation of monk disciples). As usual with my skeptical nature, I checked with Tripitaka terminology and confirmed this usage with another monk – who confirmed ‘agra daana’ is alms given to the Buddha and bhikkhus at the same time. According to the classification given in a sutta in Tripitaka, ‘great giving’ brings most results. This also confirms the teaching that doing wholesome deeds bring happiness while doing and later as well.

Another Intense Joy

During my teenage years, I started practicing loving-kindness. After few years, in long duration sessions, the practice became successful that culminated in intense joy. This was about forty-five years ago. However, when compared that intense joy is somewhat different from the experience described previously. It is important to look at this in terms of Buddha’s teachings.

Buddha stated that pervading unlimited, unbounded metta even for a very short moment brings greater outcomes than the previously mentioned ‘agra daana’. However, achieving that level of metta requires practice as well. (it is not just mentally ‘saying’ may all beings be happy).

Third Intense Joy

The third intense happiness occurred prior to the previously mentioned experience with metta. Late teen years are the period when actions get ahead of thinking due to physical energy. During that time in my life, I had an opportunity to look at magazines that contain photos of women. Being a normal teenager, I was enjoying them. One day an unforgettable experience occurred. In one of the magazines, a page contained a posing woman’s photos. On the opposite page, along with the woman’s photos there were pieces of a car, which appeared to be parts of an old car. My attention went to those car parts and thoughts of impermanence arose in the mind – ‘just as the car has decayed, the bodies that I see would decay’. As this thought arose, a joy arose in the mind. At that time, I felt like it was ‘heavenly’. Later after learning more dhamma, I came to know such contemplation of impermanence brought a moment of ‘detachment’ or turning away from attachment to the object, that mind grasped previously.

Buddha stated that proper ‘perception’ of impermanence brings greatest outcomes than the previously mentioned metta (as well as ‘great giving’ - mentioned at first). Just a quick note, bringing an effective perception of impermanence is not the same as just ‘saying’ everything is impermanent.

See “Dhakkina Vibanga Sutta” in Majjima Nikaya for the full clarification on types of giving.

1 Niramisa prithi : joy not dependent on sense organs. Usual happiness arises due to five sense organs, e.g., when we listen to beautiful music happiness arise. This is due to ear (sense organ). Niramisa prthi is a joy not associated with sense organs (i.e., eye, ear, nose, tongue and body)

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Letting Go and Enjoy

Happiness comes from the heart; so, comparing self with others always makes you unhappy. Instead, see what you can do for others.

Forgive, forget and move on. Do not hold grudges. Do not get bogged down with mistakes of yours or others; keep moving on what you want to do―the right thing to do for the right reason.

Aiming to achieve perfection will not take you anywhere, as most of the time, you cannot achieve that.

Live in the present moment (as Buddhist meditation teaches). Living in the past memories will prevent your future success. Learn to say yes and no appropriately.

There are fights worth fighting (e.g., for the right justice); but at many times, what we fight for are trivial and only drains our energy.

Focus attention on what is in hand. That is the way to solve problems.

One needs to avoid the influence from negative people and eternal complainers; they will only drag you down with them.

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The Buddhist Concept of Marriage

In view of what has been said about “birth and suffering,” some people have criticized Buddhism saying that it is against the married life. They are mistaken. The Buddha never spoke against married life. However, he pointed out all the problems, difficulties and worries that people would have to face when they take on the responsibility of marriage. Just because he warned the problems in marriage does not mean that the Buddha condemned marriage.

The act of marriage itself implies that a person continued attached to the physical world. Since our mental faculties are influenced by craving, attachment and human emotions, it is natural that problems would arise. This happens when we have to consider the need of others and to give in to what others need.

A deep analysis of the nature of self is important to help us to understand the origin of our problems; worries, miseries and use the wisdom on how to overcome them. Here, religious advice is important for maintaining a tranquil life. However, a man should not become a slave to any religion. Man is not for religion, religion is for man. That means man must know how to make use of religion for his betterment and for his happiness in a respectable way, without getting attached to. Simply by following certain religious vows, precepts or commandments with blind faith or by force, thinking that we are duty-bound to observe them will not develop proper understanding.

Buddhism does not have religious laws

One important aspect of Buddhism is that the Buddha did not impose any religious laws or commandments. The Buddha was a unique teacher who had set out a number of disciplinary codes for us to uphold according to our way of life. Those who follow the precepts observe them voluntarily but not as obligatory religious laws. It is up to us to follow the advice through our own understanding and experience of what is good for us and for others. Through trial and error, we will learn to follow the advice, which will give us peace and happiness.

One should try to understand the nature of the worldly life. By knowing that one has to face problems, he/she will be able to strengthen the mind and be more prepared to face the problems that could arise if one gets married. Religion is important to help one overcome problems. What you learned about religious principle when you were young can be adopted to avoid misunderstanding, disappointment and frustration. At the same time, certain good qualities such as patience and understanding, which we learned and practice through the religion, are important assets to help us to lead a peaceful single or a married life.

In most instances, it is due to a lack of mutual understanding of married couples that lead to miserable lives. The result of this is that their innocent children will suffer. It is better to know how to handle your problems in order to lead a happily married life. Religion can help you to do so.

One of the causes of greatest concern among those who do not belong to the non-Semitic religions is the problem of conversion before marriage. While Buddhists and Hindus never demand that, a couple must belong to the same religion before a marriage can be solemnized, while others tend to take advantage of this tolerance.

Marriage, contrary to what many romantic novels say, does not mean the total and absolute merging of two people to the extent that each loses his or her own identity. When a religion demands that, partners must have the same religious label, it denies the basic human right of an individual to believe what he or she wants. Societies throughout history have proved that “Unity in Diversity” is not only possible but also desirable. Out of diversity comes greater respect and understanding. This should apply to marriage also. There are many living examples all over the world where the husband and wife maintain their own beliefs and yet are able to maintain their happy married life without confronting each other.

Generous attitude

Buddhists do not oppose the existence of other religions even within the same household. Unfortunately, unscrupulous religionists who are out to converts others by any mean have exploited this generous attitude.

Intelligent Buddhists must be aware of this stratagem. No self-respecting intelligent human being who really understands what he believes according to his own conviction should give up his beliefs merely to satisfy the manufactured demands of another religion. Buddhists do not demand that their partners embrace Buddhism. Neither should they surrender their own beliefs. When young people are in love, they are prepared to make many sacrifices so long as they can get married. However, after a few years, when the real task of building, especially when children are born, a successful marriage may begin to shutter and frustrations may set in. When a partner who had given up his deep-seated religious beliefs for “love” begins to regret having done so; unnecessary misunderstandings may arise. These provide added tensions at a period when there is financial and other stresses and boredom in a marriage.

True conviction

There will be quarrels. One of the main causes of these quarrels will be the question of which religion the children should belong to. Therefore, it is important for one to know that if there is a process of conversion involved, it must be based on true conviction and not mere convenience or compulsion. Buddhists maintain the freedom of the individual to choose. This principle should be respected by all concerned. There is no specific Buddhist ritual or procedure to conduct a marriage. What people are practicing is social and cultural aspects of marriage. Buddhism recognizes various traditions and cultures practiced by people in different countries. Hence, Buddhist religious ceremonies differ from one country to another.

In general, practice, a religious service for blessing and giving advice to the couple is customarily performed either in the temple or at home to give a greater significance to the marriage. Nowadays, in many countries, besides the blessing service, religious organizations also have been given the authority to solemnize and register marriages together with the issuance of legal marriage certificates.

Largely, the most important point is that the couple should be utterly sincere in their intention to cooperate with and understand each other not only during times of happiness, but also whenever they face difficulties. This would leads to sustained happiness.

Slightly modified from, Ven Kirinde Sri Dhammananda

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Foundations of Awareness

Awareness is the ability to firmly affix the attention on a chosen object and prevention of wandering of the mind. When the awareness is established, mind is focused without any distractions or interruptions. The best way to achieve this is the regular practice of meditation. The four foundations of developing the awareness are:

Once one is able to achieve the foundation of awareness through the breath/mindful meditation, he or she can further develop the mind contemplating the following basic principles: (A) the body as a set of fragile organs, tissues and fluid, (B) feelings are subjective and mere reactive responses, (C) mind is constantly changing and move from place to place – highlighting the impermanency, and (D) all phenomena appears momentarily, and are mere mental states. These are basic principles of Vipassanā meditation. With the recollection that pleasures, happiness, and miseries are all temporary phenomena.

Development of sustained mindfulness is one of the best things one can do for yourself. It brings peace for yourself and the happiness.

What Really Happens When You Meditate

When you sit down to meditate, your brain waves shift and enter a deeper level of consciousness.

Brain Wave Frequency (Cycles per second)

  • BETA: 14-21 cps and higher: Waking state, the five senses. Perception of time and spaces
  • ALPHA: 7-14 cps: Light sleep, meditation, intuition. No time and space limitation
  • THETA: 4-7 cps: Deep sleep, meditation
  • DELTA: 0-4 cps: Deeper sleep. You are unconscious at Delta

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Meditation and Spirituality: Tools for Stress and Anger Management, and Enhancing Individual Performance

On Meditation – How this Process Could be Extended to Daily Life

  • In simple actions like “sitting’ ‘standing’, raising a hand, lowering the hand – turning round and such simple activities – mindfulness can be developed gradually. This gradual process of being alert, being mindful, living in the present moment are all helpful for young students in their education.
  • The Buddha emphasized the value of meditation in not only development of concentration but also for good health. Walking meditation is used for physical exercise as well as developing concentration, one-pointedness of mind.
  • When taking food, it is useful to concentrate on what you eat, the texture and nature of the food, the steps I taking the food from the plate onto the mouth and so on. Usually when we eat , we do not focus on the texture of the food and so on, But as a subject for meditation, it is important to be mindful of each step in the eating process. With concentration, the partaking of food is pleasing to the onlooker, it is disciplined and orderly.

Tools for Stress and Anger Management Leading to Enhanced Individual Performance.

  • With simple examples and activities such as using a cup/bowl of very hot water….you can ask questions like – can you take this hot water easily to your mouth? Can it be used to wash our face or hands? Similarly, a person who is intensely angry and in a rage is shunned by others – no one likes to come near them – try to get as far away from such persons as possible –
  • Control of such intense negative emotions is possible for a disciplined mind – a mind that has developed alertness – whereby he/she is in an instant aware when anger arises – knows that that some change has occurred in the mind – and asks how and why it happened and then takes steps to curb the negative emotion by using the opposing action of friendliness – loving kindness ‘maitri’.
  • For an uncultivated mind it is not easy to spread maître when in a disturbed and turbulent mental state but meditation that helps to cultivate mindfulness is the key to anger management and stress related problems. When angry, look into a mirror and see how the face changes – eyes, mouth and exhibit the feelings and these can only be neutralized by generating loving kindness.

What Mindfulness Exercises Can Do For You

If you’ve been dismissing mindfulness as just another feel-good, New Age fad, you’re missing out on an invaluable tool for improving your health and mental well being.

Mindfulness is a practice in which you focus entirely on the present. Your current thoughts, feelings, and sensations are accepted without judgment. The benefits of mindfulness can be transformational — physically and mentally, in personal and professional relationships, and in your understanding and acceptance of yourself.

What Is Mindfulness?

In Buddhist writings, our minds are referred to as “monkey minds.” Just as monkeys screech and chatter as they swing from tree to tree, so do our minds chatter away, swinging from thought to thought.

Mindfulness enables you to tame the chatter and manage your thoughts. You do this by focusing on the present and accepting your feelings and thoughts as you experience them.

Mindfulness meditation differs from other forms of meditation in that it involves consciously focusing on the now. It means stilling all the random would-have, should-have, could-have thoughts. Instead, you experience the moment with total acceptance. Mindfulness can be achieved not just during meditation, but in daily life.

Getting Started

Below are several mindfulness exercises you can practice right now! It’s helpful to do them in a quiet, comfortable place with few distractions. Don’t be concerned if your mind strays; simply refocus.

  • Concentrate on your breathing. As you inhale and exhale, what parts of your body respond? How does oxygen feel streaming through your nostrils? Can you hear yourself breathe?
  • Pick up a piece of fruit. Look at it closely and note the texture of its surface. Can you see changes in the texture when you hold it up to light? Hold it to your nose. What does it smell like?
  • Eat the fruit. For the first few bites, focus on the smell, texture, and flavor. What muscles in your body are used? What does swallowing feel like?

As you practice mindfulness, begin to try to bring it into your everyday life. Work on being “in the moment” each moment of each day, in whatever situation you find yourself in.

Why Mindfulness is Important

Mindfulness can be very effective in relieving stress. This is important because our bodies are built to handle stress in times of crisis, but prolonged stress can take a toll on your physical and psychological wellness. Your entire body is affected by stress, but you are especially vulnerable to:

  • high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
  • pain from muscle tension, especially in your neck, shoulders, and back
  • disruption of your digestive system and your sleep
  • headaches
  • mental disorders, particularly depression, and anxiety
  • skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne flare-ups

The Myriad Benefits of Mindfulness

The positive effects of mindfulness have been widely studied. According to theAmerican Psychological Association, mindfulness has been shown to:

  • reduce stress
  • boost memory
  • improve focus
  • increase emotional resilience
  • enhance self-insight and empathy
  • Mindfulness at Work and School

    Mindfulness is used in schools, prisons, and even in the Marine Corps. Companies such as General Mills, Goldman Sachs, and Apple have embraced mindfulness. Why are they jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon? Because they’ve found it helps employees banish negative thoughts, enables their minds to focus better, enhances creativity, allows practitioners to view situations and issues with greater clarity, and gives them the ability to make better decisions.

    Meditation has become a secular way of connecting with yourself and your environment. Its origins, however, are in the ancient religion Buddhism. The ultimate goal of Buddhist meditation is to reach enlightenment, a place of greater understanding and knowledge.

    Also use the little activity of the tea cup /juice cup to teach the technique of mindfulness to beginners - both children and adults. Gradually they will learn to extend the technique to daily activities as well.

    Another activity to be set for "homework" could be to guide the audience into recollecting the activities of the day just before falling asleep - devote a few minutes each day to thinking mindfully on the activities of that day. Also a good exercise and would lead to planning a better day next. Any negative actions to be mindfully avoided and build up on positive actions.

    Five Things Successful People Do Each Morning

    • They wake up early
    • They make time to exercise
      Exercising, even for as little as 30 minutes each morning, can make a world of difference throughout your workday. In fact, when you exercise in the morning, your metabolism gets triggered and remains elevated for hours, helping you feel energized throughout the day.
    • They eat a healthy breakfast
      This one should be a no-brainer by now. Scientists and successful professionals alike have been lauding the benefits of a good breakfast for decades. Breakfast provides the nutrients and energy needed to jump-start your day after fasting for six to ten hours overnight. Willpower is also at its highest in the morning, so choosing a healthy breakfast sets the tone for the decisions made during the rest of the day.
    • They meditate
      According to the Huffington Post, meditation helps lower stress levels, improve cognitive functioning, creative thinking and productivity, and can even improve your physical health. Because of this, many corporate leaders are finding that meditation helps them deal with the stress and pace of their high-pressure roles.
    • They visualize their day
      Benjamin Franklin had it right: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Successful people tend to be notorious list-makers and planners. Spend a few minutes in the morning mapping out the rest of the day, and which projects are most important to complete. Prioritize these and get them done early in the day when your willpower is still high. Think about how this day fits into your larger goals in life, and visualize what it will be like to get there.

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    Mindfulness is…

    Being aware of what is happening NOW – within oneself, without thinking about whether you are experiencing something good or bad, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, or venturing into the past or to the future.

    Be mindful of…

    • What you see, hear, smell, taste and touch
    • Your thoughts and feelings
    • Your surroundings
    • How you respond to these

    It is important to learn to observe these without reacting. Merely observe these without judgmental, and then let go of these experiences, so that you can continue to be mindful.

    How to practice mindfulness…

    Choose any task we often do without thinking, such as breathing, walking, eating, brushing your teeth, washing your face, showering, exercising, etc. and do it with full attention of your mind. For example; when eating, know that you are eating, when listing to music know that you are listing to music etc. The key element is to be aware of whatever process is happening in the present moment without reacting (positively or negatively). Almost any neutral or good activity can be a mindfulness exercise.

    The goal is to keep the mind in the present movement.

    When to practice…

    • At a specific time every morning or evening and stick to it daily
    • At any time of the day
    • Can practice when you are travelling or speaking with others
    • More you practice, better you will be
    • Start with a session of five minutes at a time and gradually increase it.

      Mindfulness exercises would…

      • Improve memory, attention, concentration and creativity
      • Improve inner peace and make you a pleasant person
      • Improve health and happiness
      • Reduce worry and stress
      • Change the brain structure and the function, for the better

      When one is unmindful…

      We lose the beauty and magic of great life experiences because we are often either;

      • Stuck in a past moment
      • Dreaming about the future
      • Develop hatred and anger against others
      • Rushing from one moment to the next
      • Being unproductive to self and to others

      By bringing mindfulness to our everyday activities…

      We will be able to have wonderful experiences of the things that might otherwise pass us by, without us even noticing.

      There is no down-side to the development of mindfulness.

      Mindfulness exercises are fun and they help us in many ways!

      (modified after Lakni Weerasinghe)

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      Sensual Pleasure

      The Buddha said: 
due to craving for sense pleasure, conditioned by sensuous craving, compelled by craving for sense pleasure, people start to fight with each other. Thus, lost in conflict, quarrelling, and hostilities, they attack one another. Thereby they suffer pain and discomfort or even death. Further, due to this craving for sense pleasure and short-term gain, people rob, plunder, pillage whole villages, and commit highway robbery, engaged in sexual misconducts. When the rulers caught them, they inflict various forms of punishments. This is the misery of sensuous craving: The accumulation of pain in this present life, due to craving for short and trivial sense pleasure... Furthermore, one accepts evil modes of behaviour, speech, and thought. Such is the heaping up of future 
suffering caused by craving for this short-lived simple sense pleasure... All this misery results from craving for sense pleasure...!

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      Signs of Spiritual Progress

      by Pema Chodron

      It is tempting to ask ourselves if we are making “progress” on the spiritual path. But to look for progress is a set-up—a guarantee that we won’t measure up to some arbitrary goal we’ve established.

      Traditional teachings tell us that one sign of progress in meditation practice is that our kleshas diminish. Kleshas are the strong conflicting emotions that spin off and heighten when we get caught by aversion and attraction.

      Though the teachings point us in the direction of diminishing our klesha activity, calling ourselves “bad” because we have strong conflicting emotions is not helpful. That just causes negativity and suffering to escalate. What helps is to train again and again in not acting out our kleshas with speech and actions, and also in not repressing them or getting caught in guilt. The traditional instruction is to find the middle way between the extreme views of indulging—going right ahead and telling people off verbally or mentally—and repressing: biting your tongue and calling yourself a bad person.

      Now, to find what the middle way means is a challenging path. That is hard to know how to do. We routinely think we have to go to one extreme or the other, either acting out or repressing. We are unaware of that middle ground between the two. But the open space of the middle ground is where wisdom lies, where compassion lies, and where lots of discoveries are to be made. One discovery we make there is that progress isn’t what we think it is.

      We are talking about a gradual awakening, a gradual learning process. By looking deeply and compassionately at how we are affecting ourselves and others with our speech and actions, very slowly we can acknowledge what is happening to us. We begin to see when, for example, we are starting to harden our views and spin a story line about a situation. We begin to be able to acknowledge when we are blaming people, or when we are afraid and pulling back, or when we are completely tense, or when we can’t soften, or when we can’t refrain from saying something harsh. We begin to acknowledge where we are. This ability comes from meditation practice. The ability to notice where we are and what we do comes from practice.

      I should point out that what we’re talking about is not judgmental acknowledging, but compassionate acknowledging. This compassionate aspect of acknowledging is also cultivated by meditation. In meditation we sit quietly with ourselves and we acknowledge whatever comes up with an unbiased attitude—we label it “thinking” and go back to the out breath. We train in not labeling our thoughts “bad” or “good,” but in simply seeing them. Anyone who has meditated knows that this journey from judging ourselves or others to seeing what is, without bias, is a gradual one.

      So one sign of progress is that we can begin to acknowledge what is happening. We can’t do it every time, but at some point we realize we are acknowledging more, and that our acknowledgment is compassionate—not judgmental, parental or authoritarian. We begin to touch in with unconditional friendliness, which we call maître—an unconditional openness towards whatever might arise. Again and again throughout our day we can acknowledge what’s happening with a bit more gentleness and honesty.

      We then discover that patterns can change, which is another sign of progress. Having acknowledged what is happening, we may find that we can do something different from what we usually do. On the other hand, we may discover that (as people are always saying to me), “I see what I do, but I can’t stop it.” We might be able to acknowledge our emotions, but we still can’t refrain from yelling at somebody or laying a guilt trip on ourselves. But to acknowledge that we are doing all these things is in itself an enormous step; it is reversing a fundamental, crippling ignorance.

      Seeing but not being able to stop can go on for quite a long time, but at some point we find that we can do something different. The main “something different” we can do begins with becoming aware of some kind of holding on or grasping—a hardness or tension. We can sense it in our minds and we can feel it in our bodies. Then, when we feel our bodies tighten, when we see our minds freeze, we can begin to soften and relax. This “something different” is quite do-able. It is not theoretical. Our mind is in a knot and we learn to relax by letting our thoughts go. Our body is in a knot and we learn to relax our body, too.

      Basically this is instruction on disowning: letting go and relaxing our grasping and fixation. At a fundamental level we can acknowledge hardening; at that point we can train in learning to soften. It might be that sometimes we can acknowledge but we can’t do anything else, and at other times we can both acknowledge and soften. This is an ongoing process: it’s not like we’re ever home free. However, the aspiration to open becomes a way of life. We discover a commitment to this way of life.

      This process has an exposed quality, an embarrassing quality. Through it our awareness of “imperfection” is heightened. We see that we are discursive, that we are jealous, aggressive or lustful. For example, when we wish to be kind, we become more aware of our selfishness. When we want to be generous, our stinginess comes into focus. Acknowledging what is, with honesty and compassion; continually training in letting thoughts go and in softening when we are hardening—these are steps on the path of awakening. That’s how kleshas begin to diminish. It is how we develop trust in the basic openness and kindness of our being.

      However, as I said, if we use diminishing klesha activity as a measure of progress, we are setting ourselves up for failure. As long as we experience strong emotions—even if we also experience peace—we will feel that we have failed. It is far more helpful to have as our goal becoming curious about what increases klesha activity and what diminishes it, because this goal is fluid.

      It is a goal-less exploration that includes our so-called failures. As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion. We will just continue to buy into our old mindsets of right and wrong, becoming more solid and closed to life. When we train in letting go of thinking that anything—including ourselves—is either good or bad, we open our minds to practice with forgiveness and humor. And we practice opening to a compassionate space in which good/bad judgments can dissolve.

      We practice letting go of our idea of a “goal” and letting go of our concept of “progress,” because right there, in that process of letting go, is where our hearts open and soften—over and over again.

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      Success in Business and the Workplace

      by Ajahn Brahmavamso

      Overcoming Workplace Stress

      Take a glass filled with water. Hold it in your stretched hand. How heavy is it? The longer you hold it, it becomes heavier. When your arm aches, what should you do? Keep it on the floor for a few seconds at least and then pick it up again. That is exactly what you should do with regard to workplace stress as well. When you are stressed, just stop thinking of the challenge or the task that make you feel stressed, but rather relax for a few minutes and that will help you regain energy and face the challenge even better.

      In workplaces you should have at least 30 minutes per day to rest properly. That can be a real investment towards improving productivity. You will find it useful to use some guided meditation through your head phones to relax and rest at the workplace for a few minutes in between. It is very easy to download such instructions from the internet.

      Responding to Kindness

      In the workplace if people do not experience gentle kindness, the moment they get a chance they will leave the organisation. When experienced people leave it is a big loss to the business. It can take at least six months before the same level of experience and relationship can be developed. Therefore it is better to keep the good people. To do that one of the best ways is to promote gentle kindness in the work place.

      Listen to people. Spend time with people during lunch breaks and other free times. Do not speak business with them – speak something useful other than work. That way you create a bond of kindness, you promote understanding in the office. Good understanding between persons is very important to better performance. In cricket if both batsmen do not have a good understanding between each other, they get run out. How many run-outs take place in offices because people do not understand each other and do not support each other?

      Think of ‘US’

      When I bless newlyweds, I tell the bride and the groom not to think of themselves from today. This they accept. Then I tell them not to think of each other as well. This makes them confused. When confused, people generally listen better. Then I tell them: “From today onwards think of US. Think how anything affects both of ‘us,’ when there is a problem, think of it as OUR problem.”

      The same thing applies to the workplace as well. Think as ‘US’ and the organisation will be successful. For instance, if there is a weak person, think of him as OUR problem. And it is indeed OUR problem, not only his. If we consider it as OUR problem, then we can find better solutions.

      Recognize Cooperation

      In your organisation reward and recognise those who promote cooperation among each other! Soon after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, two friends of mine were talking about the success of West Germany. Earlier, one was from East Germany and other was from West Germany. The East German guy attributed it to the hardworking quality of the West Germans for its success. But the one from West Germany said, “No – it was because we work together!”

      Organisations are like soccer teams. Winning teams are like one body with 22 legs. That is why they win all the time. It is the job of the managers and CEOs to promote that culture just like good managers and coaches of winning soccer teams. Many a time we see the same team play very badly the moment the manager or the coach is changed. In getting the best out of the team they facilitate understanding between each other and reward and recognise cooperation. Super heroes do not win matches – it’s the super teams!

      Lower Expectations

      I learnt this when I was a mathematics teacher. When I first had to set a test paper, a senior teacher said “do not set the paper very tough” then many students will fail and that will kill their enthusiasm. They will think they cannot do maths and give up. Don’t make the paper very easy either. Then it is just a waste of time. But aim for a level where most of the students can get 70%. Then as a teacher you too can understand the difficult areas of students and help them to improve.” The same principle applies in business.

      When you set goals very high, the team gets de-motivated even before they start. Or they get de-motivated when they realise they failed to reach the goal. If the goal is too low, then also they will take it too easy and you will not develop the business at all. But if you also aim for a 70% level, they will stretch but they will become successful most of the time. Success breeds success. When they achieve they become confident and you can sustain the enthusiasm and energy.

      This is applicable even in other areas of life. Do not expect 100% from your spouse. Do not look for 100% if you are looking for a partner. Lower your expectation, then you will be successful. Have lower expectations from your children, then you will be happier. Not too low, not too high!


      Praise is such a powerful force but this is hardly used in organisations. We started the Bodhiyanna Monastery with absolutely nothing. I had to learn how to do plumbing myself. Though I had learnt theoretical physics, I had never learnt plumbing. So I took the diagram of our building and asked the sales person of the building material shop to show me how to do it. This guy was so helpful and he explained everything to me.

      I did the plumbing job accordingly and the local authorities tested and certified it as ‘good’. I sent a letter thanking the shop assistant. The letter reached the CEO. He spoke to Fred, the shop assistant and gave him a raise. Next time I visited the shop to exchange a part, Fred recognised me at once and took me in and allowed me to pick the part I wanted. When I asked how much, he said: “To Ajahn Brahm the cost is ‘nothing’!” That is the economic benefit of praising.

      Everyone likes to be praised. Whenever a person does something right, please praise him. They will do even better. They become happy and stay longer.


      I want you to use the ‘Sandwich method’ of criticising the next time you have to do that. That is what I do with my monks in my monastery. I call them and appreciate their positive qualities. When I do that, they open their ears better. I then explain what the weaknesses are. Then I close the discussion also with some positive comments. The person goes away with a feeling of wanting to improve. If you just blame the person, he starts thinking more of what he does, compares the mistake with what he does and feels it’s not fair to blame him. When the person thinks like that, they never correct themselves.

      Lack of Trust

      In many organisations the transaction costs get increased because there is lack of trust. Just add the overall cost to the economy because we cannot trust our co-workers, our suppliers! Hence there are many scholars who argue that it makes sense that we bring the religious values strongly to the business world and that is one way to reduce this colossal waste. If yours is a company that pays on time, delivers on time and provides good quality products and services that can be trusted, use that to differentiate yours from competition. Advertise it. Being a business that can be trusted will definitely guarantee long-term success and sustainability.

      This is true even at the individual transaction level. Once a disciple of mine, an Australian was negotiating with a big contract with a group of Taiwanese businessmen. They had almost agreed but wanted one condition to be fulfilled. That was to come and drink with them and provide them with women.

      My disciple did not agree. He said that he valued his integrity and protection of precepts more than the million dollar business. He walked away from the deal. In the night he got a call from his counterparts. They said: “We thought about it. We would rather do business with a person who would not cheat on his wife than a person who will break the wife’s trust.” If a person can cheat on his wife, he will certainly do that to you as well.

      Focus on Positives

      People spend far too much on negatives and mistakes – what went wrong and what was not successful. Rather, spend time understanding what was successful and improve on it. This is far more productive than trying to correct mistakes. This is what positive psychology is about. Let go of the weaknesses of failure, study the reasons of success and keep improving on it. You will be far more successful than doing research on mistakes. Human beings are naturally preconditioned to focus more on mistakes rather than positives.

      Lessons from Buddhism

      All these are from deeper understanding of how the human mind works. There are so many lessons you can bring in to be successful in business. There are many successful global CEOs who are Buddhists. Even if you are not a Buddhist, if something is good, just apply it. Once the Ford CEO came to Thailand. When he met the Prime Minister, the first question he asked the PM was whether he knew Ajahn Chah, and for the next two hours the discussion was on Buddhism!

      It is not success that creates happiness, but happiness creates success. When you are happy, you have more energy. A happy mind has intentions that are good. Good intentions lead to good actions and they naturally bring better results. That is the true path to success, not the other way about.

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      Twelve Life-Changing Lessons Learned from The Buddha

  1. Thoughts and words have power. They can either hurt or heal:
  • “Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world. So, choose wisely.” − Buddha
  • All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” − Buddha
  • “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care, for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” − Buddha
  • “You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” − Buddha
  • “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” − Buddha
  • “He is able who thinks he is able.” – Buddha
  • There is abundance for all. Happiness never decreases by being shared
    • “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha
  • Let go of all fears:
    • “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.” – Buddha
  • The truth will always be revealed. Always believe your own truth:
    • “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha
    • “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” − Buddha
    • “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. However, after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” – Buddha
  • You, yourself, deserves your love and affection. Self-love is the most deserving love:
    • “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
  • We are all spiritual beings in need of a spiritual life that nourishes the mind:
    • “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” − Buddha
    • “The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.” − Buddha
    • “To conquer oneself is a greater task than conquering others.” − Buddha
    • “The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” − Buddha
  • True peace comes from within. Peace is the answer:
    • “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” – Buddha
    • “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” − Buddha
    • “Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.” – Buddha
  • Choose friends wisely:
    • “An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.” − Buddha
    • “A good friend who points out mistakes and imperfections and rebukes evil is to be respected as if he reveals a secret of hidden treasure.” − Buddha
  • Remove separation and give up labels; we are all ONE group of human beings:
    • “In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” − Buddha
    • “Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.” − Buddha
    • He who experiences the unity of life sees his own self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.” − Buddha
  • Happiness is the journey, not the destination. Enjoy the journey:
    • “There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.” − Buddha
    • “A jug fills drop by drop.” − Buddha
    • “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” − Buddha
  • Health is wealth:
    • “Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.” − Buddha
    • “To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” − Buddha
    • “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” − Buddha
  • Replace hate or jealousy with love, kindness, and admiration:
    • “Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.” − Buddha
    • “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” – Buddha

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    Buddhism Resources

    The following is a collection of links for more information about Buddhist teachings, meditation techniques, as well as how Buddhist practices can enable recovery from alcohol abuse and drug addictions.

    Lifestyle Trades One Should Refrain From
    (Those That Harm Others)

    Sigālaka Sutta

    Dharma Teachings

    Ven. Heenapola Gunaratne

    Ven. Bhikku Bodhi

    Ven. Sri Dhammananda

    Ven. Wimala

    Ven. Uduwela Dhammajeewa

    Ven. Balabowe Dhammakitti

    Ven. Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu

    Ven. Ajahn Brahma

    Ven. Inguruwatte Dhammagawesi

    Ven. Sayadaw Jotika

    Ven. Ajan Sujatho

    Ven. Mirisse Dhammika

    Ven. Gangodawila Soma

    Ven. Ajahn Jayasaro

    Many Monks

    Meditation Resources

    Dr. Barry Kerzin on Meditation and the Changing Structure of the Brain

    Metta Meditation by Ududumbara Kashyapa Thera

    How Can Meditation Help You?
 The scientific Evidence

    Insight Meditation Society:

    Wildmind: Buddhist Meditation:

    Mindfulness for Recovery – Buddhist Based Practices for Abstinence & Recovery from Alcohol and Other Drug Addictions:

    Relaxing Music for Meditation:

    Buddha Statue: 3 HOURS Buddhist Songs and Spiritual Meditation Music

    8 HOURS of Relaxing Music - Meditation, Sleep, Spa, Study, Zen

    Meditation Relaxing Music | Bamboo Flute`s Melody

    Relaxing Music. Deep Meditation Music for Stress Relief, Yoga, Brain Power

    Buddhist Foundations

    Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism:

    Frederick P. Lenz Foundation Grant Activities, 2003–2013:

    Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition:

    Buddhist Education Foundation for Canada

    Darahasa Sangha – Buddhism Foundations:

    Buddhist Foundation Diamond Way:

    Bangladesh Buddhist Foundation:

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    Additional Buddhist Resources

    Buddhist Dhamma Portal:

    Dhagpo Kagyu Ling: A Place for Enlightenment:



    Buddhism and Science

    Bhikku D. Bodhi, Berkley, California; March 2011

    Bikku Bodhi - West with Buddhism

    Sinhela Buddhist Books

    Pansil & Pirith


    Jayamangala Gatha

    The Buddha, Documentary from PBS

    Buddhist Ideals of Government

    Everyman’s Ethics -- Four Discourses of the Buddha

    Professor B.M. Hegde Speaking at TEDxCharminar 2012 About The New Science of Man

    Five Tallest Buddha Statues in the World

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    Articles by Ms. Srima Warusawithana

    Sathyakriya - The Power of Truth

    Download PDF file

    Sappuriso - Qualities of a Virtuous Person

    Download PDF file

    Blessings of Loving Kindness - The Power of Maitri

    Download PDF file

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