1.) The First Noble Truth - "Dukkha"
A.) The First Noble Truth seems to be an intrinsic understanding that all
things are impermanent. This impermanence causes us to feel frustrated when we
can't hold on to people or things we think we need. This need helps us feel
wanted and/or important.
Dukkha can also be described as the suffering we experience and see in
our lives. Unpleasant conditions such as being sick, seeing our loved ones get
sick and die, getting aggravated over things our children do, losing a job, etc.
cause us to experience Dukkha. The Buddha felt that this suffering was brought
on by our attachment to people and things. Only by detachment and selfless acts
can we become free from the unpleasantness of Dukkha.
Another aspect of Dukkha deals with the belief in the
importance of oneself. The Five Aggregates are the foundation of this aspect.
The "I" saying "I" creates the illusion of "I" which consists of matter,
sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. These five items
produce the compound being that experiences Dukkha.
B.) I Believe I give significance to things or events that aren't intentionally
producing Dukkha. I'm leaving my house to go to work and I happen to leave a
couple of minutes late knowing that there is a possibility that I might be late.
As I'm driving someone pulls in front of me and is maybe doing the speed limit.
I immediately go into reaction mode. This is where I have to realize that the
person in front of me is not intentionally trying to make me late for work. (not
until I flash my highbeams or honk my horn)
Looking at situations objectively and being more proactive can help
us deal with Dukkha better. I believe the Buddha understood that "Dukkha
Happens" so its how we deal with it that can cause the frustration, sadness, and
C.) I have mixed feelings on the concept of Dukkha. Specifically with the
element of detachment.
I agree with the idea of detachment from material things but I don't agree
when it comes to people. Although I believe material things come and go with
memories of them fading as time goes on, I feel as people come and go
through our lives, the memories of attachment stay with us embedded in our
hearts as well as in our mind. (Darshana ?)
The idea of everything being an illusion or Maya is tough to
conceptualize. I do believe we are the thinker behind the thought. The "I"
creates the illusion of who we are and how we behave. I also believe that by
combining the Five Aggregates, The "I" saying "I" helps us to be "Ever-
changing physical and mental forces" capable of realizing our potential
but within our limitations.
2.) The Second Noble Truth - "Tanha"
A.) I'm struggling to find differences between the first and second Noble Truths.
I see the definition of Dukkha encompassing all the elements of Tanha. I guess
that's why it is so important to remember when trying to understand Dukkha that
"The arising of Dukkha is within Dukkha itself, and not outside". Also, "The
destruction of Dukkha, is also within Dukkha, and not outside".
Within Tanha, the concept of Karma is explained. The force to continue
whether good or bad is the cause of Karma. It's not the effect when something
happens but the act that causes something to happen.
The idea of life after death is also discussed within Tanha. The Buddha
explains that because there is no self, only a combination of the Five
Aggregates which the "I" creates, "One thought moment conditions the next
thought moment". We are in a constant state of change which explains why nothing
is permanent. B.) Our Ego causes us to want to have things our way. This desire
or craving is apparent in our everyday lives. When I feel I have an idea on how
my children should behave, there is a desire for them to do something as I would
do it. Not letting them grow in there own way and watching as a helpful observer
causes Dukkha within me. If the craving for a new car causes me to lose track of
immediate needs, frustration knowing that I have a need that has a priority over
a want also causes Dukkha.
When I saw a colleague get a job that I thought I was more capable and
qualified to do my reaction was to become angry. "Who is He getting the job over
a more qualified Me?". C.) For the same reasons I wrote about in question 1
section C, there are ideas within Tanha I agree with and ideas I don't agree
with. Maybe the items I don't agree with I just don't understand fully. I feel
the objectiveness the Buddha spoke of is real important although I don't believe
there can be true objectivity. I try to back away and see situations as
objectively as possible. Everything we see or do is based on our view from our
experience which is our frame of reference. It seems to be almost human nature
for us to react instead of looking at the situation, thinking about the effects
of our actions or reactions, and making a decision based on those effects.
3.) Samsara & Karma
Because of all the trouble we experience in life (Dukkha), Samsara or the wheel
of life consisting of birth, death and rebirth, is not desirable in Buddhism.
There is a "Fundamental dissatisfaction with the human condition as we know it".
This dissatisfaction causes us to experience Dukkha and react accordingly. When
we react we produce Karma which keeps us in the loop of Samsara. Karma is
produced when we act selfishly under the illusion that everything is separate.
This illusion causes us to give significance to elements within the "Whole"
illusion, or life as we know it. When we have a desire to want more, grow more,
be more, the illusion becomes real for us. These desires can be good or bad but
once we give them significance we want them to continue. We want to follow
through with them. This craving is within Samsara. Only after we create more
selfless acts and eliminate our ego led selfishness do we reduce the Karma we
have. Samsara ends when we get to a state of pure selflessness which is called
Nirvana. Intellectual knowledge can not get you there which is why this concept
is hard for the analytical mind to understand. Going inside our thoughts and
realizing what fears, habits, limitations, obsessions, etc. are running our
lives and maybe even listening to our intuition is a start to understanding.
4.) The Eightfold Path - "Magga"
A.) First, I think it's important to understand and realize that the Buddha did
not create this path of self development as a moral or ethical doctrine. His
whole focus was on the end result of achieving enlightenment. If people took
this as a way of behaving according to the Buddha, they would be giving
significance to an attachment to the Buddha himself. Through self help and
discipline, using the Eightfold Path as a guide, you can follow a path to
enlightenment. There is no sequential order in following the elements within
Magga. Each one should be practiced to it's full extent and each one relies on
the others to make the individual "Whole". Magga consists of three disciplines
Wisdom, Ethical Conduct, and Mental Discipline. Wisdom consists of Right
Understanding which is the "Understanding of things as they are". Here you have
to understand the Four Noble Truths before you can assimilate them into action.
Right Thought is having the attitude that drives your action once you have the
understanding. This is where we decide what we really want and put our heart
into it. What we think about expands into our actions. Ethical Conduct is based
on love and compassion. Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood make up
Ethical Conduct. With Right Speech, we have to notice how we speak to each other
and understand how what we say reflects our character. We have to abstain from
gossiping, lying, abusing, etc. not only in the obvious form of directness but
also in the covert or subtle form where a sneak attack is used. Right Action is
where the Five Precepts are explained and is the understanding that how we act
also reflects our character. The Five Precepts are Don't kill or injure living
things, Don't steal, Don't lie, Have self control in matters of sex (here we
should pursue a loving relationship over unmeaning sensual pleasure), and
Abstain from intoxicants. Right Livelihood is having an occupation that
"Promotes life instead of destroying it".
Occupations such as bartender, butcher, and prostitute go against the Five
Precepts and would not promote spiritual growth. Mental Discipline is the third
essential element in the Eightfold Path. Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and
Right Concentration are the factors of Mental Discipline. Right Effort is the
Steady pursuit of attaining your goal. The Buddha said that "We can escape
misery only by earnestly and steadfastly persevering in the way". We may meet
stumbling blocks along the way to enlightenment but our Right Effort will draw
us through them. Right Mindfulness is the constant awareness of our feelings,
thoughts, and actions. The Buddha wanted us to be in control of these things
instead of them being in control of us. Right Concentration is an element of the
Eightfold Path that addresses stillness or being aware of a still center as
everything around us is flowing and changing. This is the idea I have the most
B.) I believe that true intelligence is Wisdom providing a synthesis between the
mind and heart. The knowledge gained from studying the Eightfold Path is
worthless without the compassion for others. Under wisdom, I would learn as much
as possible about Magga by studying different texts and possibly going to a
Buddhist retreat. This would help me get to Right Understanding. Understanding
and believing in Magga would change my attitude and eventually change my
behavior. Realizing how important my character is, using Right Mindfulness I
will be more aware of how I speak to people. Practicing better listening skills
and not shooting from the hip would prevent me from saying things I don't mean.
Being true to people and not talking about them behind their back would also be
a virtue. Watching my actions and making sure they don't contradict my thoughts
or beliefs would be something very important to attain. Right Livelihood is an
area I would have a problem with right now. If I were to follow the Path I would
have to find something else to do and am not ready to give up the security.
Right Effort is something that can help me deal with and ultimately get rid of
any fears, anxieties, and compulsions. Together with Right Mindfulness the
freedom from these evils would come by being "In Control" and being self aware.
Right Mindfulness would help me enjoy the things in life I take for grant