Revised October 25, 2019
If you have not read the introductory post, “What is Buddha Dhamma?“, please read and understand that first. It describes the unique aspects of Buddha Dhamma, in the sense that it is not a religion by some definitions, and the Buddha was not a savior.
A Worldview Not Known Without a Buddha
1. There are two co-existing facets of Buddha Dhamma:
- The Buddha said, “This Dhamma is unlike anything that the world has ever seen.” It needs a paradigm change to get into the “new perspective about this world view of the Buddha.” One needs to be able to put aside all preconceived notions to understand the core message.
- However, the Buddha also said, “My Dhamma is good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good at the end”. There is something to be gained from Buddha Dhamma for people who just come to know about it to those who have really grasped the core concepts. That is why I have separated posts into three categories on the site.
- Many essential terms and verses, even whole suttas, can be interpreted at several levels, ranging from superficial to profound meanings. As I build the site, I will try to give some examples. For example, the five precepts have much deeper meanings than the ones that are apparent. It is gratifying and exhilarating to see deeper meanings as one progresses. Thus, there is something to be gained at any level.
Three Levels of Practice
2. There are three basic ways to practice Buddha Dhamma:
- At the fundamental level (see, “Moral Living and Fundamentals“), one can find happiness or suffering according to the way one lives one’s life. One whose actions are harmful to oneself or the others will be living in misery. Someone may seem to be living in luxury but could be living with a stressed mind. We know about many wealthy/famous people who even committed suicide.
- At the next level, one leads a moral life and accumulates good kamma that could lead to a good rebirth. However, we need to keep in mind that even if one does not commit a single immoral kamma, the next birth could be a bad one. That is because we may have done enough immoral deeds in our previous lives; see, “Working Towards Good Rebirths.”
- At the highest level, one will act to remove all evils from one’s mind so that the mind becomes liberated from the body, which causes all suffering. Thus one will be working to achieve Nibbāna, the unconditioned, permanent happiness; see, “Seeking Nibbāna” and “Sōtapanna Stage of Nibbāna.”
3. The organization of this site at three levels:
- Most people intuitively know the benefit of moral life. Dhamma will help understand why and even point to some possible improvements.
- When one lives a moral life and EXPERIENCES the benefit of that, one will be automatically drawn to think about whether there is a life after death. One reads about the evidence for/against this possibility. If the answer is “yes,” then one can find possible ways to work towards a better life in the next birth. That is not much different from the moral behavior above. It is just that one will learn a lot about “the world” that we live in.
- Once achieving the second stage, some may want to explore the third stage. That third stage encompasses THE message of the Buddha, that no matter where one is born in the next life there are NO guarantees that the lives after that will be suffering-free. That is the path to Nibbāna, to cease suffering permanently.
A Systematic Approach Is Required
4. Going straight to the third level will be like trying to get into high school without finishing primary and secondary schooling.
- However, even if one has not yet heard anything about Buddha Dhamma before, some may be already at the second stage, and few may also be ready for the third stage. This life did not start at this birth. Each of us has come a long way and has molded our character through countless lives in the past. Thus, even if one is unaware of it, one may already be mentally prepared to tackle the third stage. So, please look around and find a starting point that is comfortable for you. See, “Where to Start on the Path?“. Only you know about yourself!
- Also, see, “Starting on the Path Even without Belief in Rebirth” and “Is It Necessary for a Buddhist to Eliminate Sensual Desires?.”
Critical Thinking Is Essential
5. It is critical to realize that “knowledge” is not perfect at any level as long as one remains “in this world.” Even though he was not talking about that, the famous physicist Richard Feynman illustrates this point well in this video:
- Let us take his example of someone slipping on ice. A drunk person stepping onto the ice-covered surface does not even realize that it is icy and slippery. At the next level, an alert person knows that the surface is freezing, and thus will be careful. But if one needs to understand why the icy-surface is slippery, then a bit of fundamental physics is required to understand “why ice is slippery.” See the next post, “The Importance of Purifying the Mind.“
- It is not necessary to understand “why ice is slippery” if one has an uncontaminated mind; a sober person with a calm mind will take precautions when stepping on an icy surface. More complex situations require the cleansing of an “average mind” further. That is where Buddha Dhamma makes a difference.
A Defiled Mind Is Unable to Grasp Deep Dhamma
6. Even though humans have an innate sense of what is right and what is wrong, the human mind becomes cloudy due to the five hindrances (see, “Key to Calming the Mind – The Five Hindrances”).
- Once Dhamma Theory is understood, just that understanding leads to the clearing up of some of these hindrances; furthermore, the logic of a moral life comes naturally out the Dhamma Theory. At least some idea of the foundations of Buddha Dhamma is CRITICAL before the “practice stage.”
- If one living a moral life reads about the Dhamma Theory, he/she may be motivated to explore the second stage, i.e., to think about the validity of the process of rebirth, which is a fundamental axiom of Buddha Dhamma.
- When one LIVES a life with the belief that what one does in this life will affect how one will fare after this life, then one may realize the danger in this traversing this endless cycle of rebirths. That will lead to exploring the third stage, which is THE real message of the Buddha.
Each Person Needs to Take the Initiative
7. No one else can steer anyone else to any meaningful mundane happiness with nirāmisa sukha (in this life or next) or to Nibbāna.
- The Buddha said, “Attā hi attano nātho, kō hi nāthō parō siyā”, or, “One indeed is one’s refuge; how can others be a refuge to one?”.
- Purification of the mind is the key. That means removing greed and anger and dispelling wrong views by learning Dhamma. That is the key to attain a peaceful life now, a better rebirth, or even to attain Nibbāna.
- Each one is in charge of one’s mind. Others can only help.
- It is entirely up to the individual. This site will help one find the right path.
Next, “The Importance of Purifying the Mind“, ………