Saturday, February 11, 2012

The most important teaching in life that you'll need to know!

Today, we had an insightful session at SBM on "happiness" and "4 noble truths". While preparing the sharing materials and doing my research online, I stumbled upon some wisdom an Ajhan (Teacher/Venerable) shared in his website. This is the extract from his introduction to 4 Noble Truths:

Within the Buddhist world, there are not many Buddhists who use the Four Noble Truths anymore, even in Thailand. People say, ‘Oh yes, the Four Noble Truths - beginner’s stuff.’ Then they might use all kinds of vipassana techniques and become really obsessed with the sixteen stages before they get to the Noble Truths. I find it quite boggling that in the Buddhist world the really profound teaching has been dismissed as primitive Buddhism: ‘That’s for the little kids, the beginners. The advanced course is....’ They go into complicated theories and ideas - forgetting the most profound teaching.

The Four Noble Truths are a lifetime’s reflection. It is not just a matter of realising the Four Noble Truths, the three aspects, and twelve stages and becoming an arahant on one retreat - and then going onto something advanced. The Four Noble Truths are not easy like that. They require an ongoing attitude of vigilance and they provide the context for a lifetime of examination

Ajahn Sumedho

Ajhan Sumedho's statement has struck a chord in my heart and made us reflect on the experiences that we had. From some of the instances we have experienced, there are usually two ends of the spectrum. On one end, there are Buddhists who have been faithfully practicing for years but when questioned on the beauty of the religion, fall short of being able to answer. On the other end, there are many who need to learn as much "Dhamma" from the Suttas (Scriptures) before feeling confident enough to be called a practicing Buddhist. In reality, the "Dhamma" that we have been cultivating is as simple, yet as difficult as the 4 Noble Truths!

Simple - simply because we really do not need to look that far. Difficult to practise - because if it was truly that easy, we all would have become Arahants and Buddhas!

The 4 Noble truths is simply the essence of the Buddha's teachings. Every Sutta or teaching out there can be categorised under the 4 Noble Truths! The Buddha's teaching is about realising Dukkha and eradicating Dukkha. Even cause and effect can be seen in the 4NT.

1. In life, there is Dukkha (dissatisfaction/impermanence/Change/Sianness) - Effect
2. The cause for Dukkha is Craving - Cause
3. There is a way to get rid of Dukkha - Effect
4. The way to get rid of it is the Noble 8 fold Path - Cause

As such, this is the beauty of the 4 noble truths and it cannot be emphsised more that it was the basis for the very first sermon that the Buddha made after gaining enlightenment.

There are many current Buddhist, new Buddhist or hibernating Buddhist which in time to come may want to know the essence of Buddhism. So what is it that we should be sharing with them? Life story of the Buddha? Who the Buddha was? Dependent origination? Miracles and Supernatural powers? 5 Aggregates?

I think its very clear that as a Buddhist or interested Buddhist, we should know or intellectually try to understand the 4 Noble Truths. You do not even need to know Who the Buddha was. Why? Because if the teaching is so great and inspiring, the end user would naturally be interested to learn more about the Enlightened One.

The Buddha himself knew alot of things and his knowledge was vast beyond comprehension. However, what he taught to us was the essence of liberation and happiness - SN 56.31 Simsapa Sutta: The Simsapa Leaves.



SN 56.11 First Sermon, Turning of the Dhamma Wheel

SN 56.31 imsapa Sutta: The Simsapa Leaves

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