What is Buddha Dhamma?

Revised on January 16, 2016 (item #4)

Introduction

1. Newton discovered the three laws of motion which helped describe gravity. Instead of re-discovering them, we learn them at school.  We have to learn them from a teacher, who in turn had earlier learnt them from someone else. (Please excuse me for using “science examples”. You really do not need to know any science here; a science background may be helpful mainly in the “Dhamma and Science” section, but even there it is not necessary).

2. If we learn the laws of motion from someone who does not really understand them, it is harder to learn, and in some cases we may learn it incorrectly.  This is definitely true for a bit harder subject, say, relativity. If the person who explains does not have a good understanding of the theory of relativity, then it is likely that the person who learns it will not learn much.

3. As I build up this site anyone will be able to see that Buddha Dhamma is the ultimate Grand Unified Theory. It explains everything not only that we can see, but also the existence of infinite number of worlds with living beings in 29 other realms of existence (other than the human and animal realms) that we cannot see.

  • Thus Buddha Dhamma is not a religion in the sense of providing salvation. The Buddha was not a God, a prophet or a messenger. He was a human being who purified his mind to perfection so that he could see the whole of existence. He was the perfect scientist, who investigated the problem of existence and found the complete solution. We all need to find our salvation by following the Path that he prescribed to purify our minds.

4. Thus Buddha Dhamma is the most complex theory of “this world”. It is called “pubbe anunussetu dhammesu” or a Dhamma (or a theory on nature) that is not known to the world before a Buddha comes along. This is emphasized in his first sutta, where the Buddha uttered this phrase multiple times; see, “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta – Introduction“.

  • However, it has “evolved” in to many different versions since the Buddha Gotama revealed it to the world over 2500 years ago.
  • During the past 2500 years many different versions of “Buddhism” have emerged; see, “Historical Background – Introduction“. It is not possible for anyone to claim, “this is the original version that was delivered by the Buddha”. It is up to each individual to examine different versions and decide which version makes sense.
  • Thus it pays to spend some time and try to find the version(s) closest to the original. This is not an easy task these days. My goal is to present the closest version that I found. It is up to you to examine it and see whether you agree.
  • My version of Dhamma is that is in the Pali Tipitaka, not Sanskrit sutras, and not in Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga. I have pointed out the inconsistencies in both Mahayana version and also in the current Theravada version where Visuddhimagga is used as the basis; see the relevant posts in the “Historical Background” section.

5. No matter which version (or a combination) you settle on, make sure to settle on some kind of a clear path. Many people try to follow many different paths (all labeled Dhamma or “Buddhism”), afraid that they may “miss out something”, or just follow whatever is recommended by a trusted person. That would be a waste of time. The way I handled this situation was to discard those versions that have contradictions; see, “Dhamma and Science“.

6. It is first necessary  to find out what the main message of the Buddha was. Why did he say “this world is  dukkha?”; see, “Anatta and Dukkha – True Meanings“.  It is important to realize that dukkha is not the feeling of suffering; that is dukha.

  • If one did not know that he was talking about a much “bigger world” than the world we directly experience, one would think of that statement as nonsensical. The laws of kamma do not make sense unless one at least knows that the Buddha was talking about a rebirth process that has no beginning.

7. Thus one cannot even begin to follow Buddha Dhamma unless one learns about the basic concepts that are summarized in this column (see the other sections below) and “Key Dhamma Concepts“.

  • It will be quite beneficial to at least scan through the other sections, especially the “Moral Living and Fundamentals” section as well. In fact, the first stage of Nibbana (Sotapanna stage) is attained just by fully comprehending the “world view of the Buddha”, because then one clearly sees the fruitlessness of seeking lasting happiness in “this world” of 31 realms.

8. Many people, who have been exposed to a bit of Buddha Dhamma, see that there is something good about it. So, they just go to a meditation center and try to get a dose of Dhamma in a meditation retreat over several days.  It is good to do that initially, but if one sees there is much more to Dhamma than to attain some temporary relief from the stresses of this life, then one needs to spend a bit more time and learn the full message of the Buddha.

9. For those who have not had much exposure to Buddha Dhamma, it is better to spend some time in the “Moral Living” and “Working Towards Good Rebirths” sections, while contemplating on the material in the other top level menus.

Overview

1. Before one embarks on a journey, one needs to know what the journey is about, and what the destination is, and whether it is worthwhile to undertake the journey. Please be patient and first find out what Buddha Dhamma is about, the big picture, first. Please spend some time learning about the key message of the Buddha, before undertaking the journey. If one does not know where one is going (or the terrain), how can one reach the destination?

  • Buddha Dhamma describes the true nature of “this world”. But “this world” does not just mean our life as a human. “This world” is unimaginably complex. Scientists admit that they are aware of only 4% of the things in this universe; see,  “The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality”, by Richard Panek (2011). Also see, “Dhamma and science” section for details.
  • Please be patient and read through the following sections to get a brief idea first. Getting the “whole picture” will take time.

2. The next question (especially when one sees that it is indeed a complex picture) that comes to one’s mind is that “How do I know this picture is right?”. One makes that decision based on one’s own experience. But even before that, one could get an good idea by treating Buddha Dhamma as a scientific theory. This is why the section on “Dhamma and Science” is important. So, please go back and forth between that section and the current section until you get an idea of what I am talking about.

  • Please pay special attention to the rebirth process. This is the key idea in Dhamma. Many people say that rebirth is not bad, but they do not realize that the chance of rebirth as a human is extremely rare; see, “How the Buddha Described the Chance of Rebirth in the Human Realm“. One must also realize that jathi (birth) and bhava (existence in a given realm) are two different things; see, “Bhava and Jathi – State of Existence and Births Therein“.
  • As we will discuss below, there are 31 realms (or different kinds of existence); we can see only the human realm and the animal realm. Most are reborn in realms below the human realm where suffering is much worse. Scientists estimate that at any given time, there are 1 quadrillion (1000 trillion) ants living on Earth; this means for each human, there are million ants. Compared to about 7 billion of human population, unimaginable number of other living species live on this planet.
  • Even on our bodies we carry a large number of sentient beings: see, “There are as many creatures on your body as there are people on Earth!“.
  • Human population is insignificantly small compared to the animal population. Statistically, that gives an idea of “probability of a human birth”. We do not see the much higher populations in the other lower three realms because our minds are covered by defilements; if one develops jhanas and acquires abhinna powers, one can see beings in some of those realms.

3. Thus there are other beings, especially below the human realm, that we cannot see:  “Consciousness – A Dhamma Perspective“. The Buddha said that most beings are trapped in realms below the human realm. That is why he said “this world is filled with suffering”, and we need to strive diligently to stop the rebirth process, and to attain Nibbana.

  • This is also why he said it is rare to be born a human. He once told the Bhikkhus that if we compare all the beings to the volume of the Earth, the human population corresponds to only the amount soil one can pick with a thumb. And only a human possesses a mind that can be used to attain Nibbana. Therefore, we should not let this opportunity to attain Nibbana (at least the Sotapanna stage) in this very life pass by.

4. Many people think Buddha Dhamma is pessimistic. The Buddha just revealed the suffering in “this world”; that is the true nature of the world. More importantly, he showed that there is a better type of happiness, called niramisa sukha, that one gains as one moves away from “this world” towards Nibbana; see, “Three Kinds of Happiness – What is Niramisa Sukha?“.

  • This niramisa sukha increases gradually as one starts on the Noble Eightfold Path, and makes quantum jump at the first stage of Nibbana, the Stream Entry (Sotapanna) stage. There are three more levels and at the final level, Arahant, one becomes totally free from “this world” (no more rebirths) and attains Nibbana.
  • Thus Nibbana is not just a promise to be fulfilled at death; it can be experienced in this very life. Please take this journey with me for a while and see for yourself. As the Buddha said, “Come and see for yourself”.

5. My goal is to provide at least some details of the complex world view that was provided by the Buddha, which has been been muddled and distorted within the past 2500 years.

  • “Our world” is much more complex than what is grasped by our senses; see, “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma“.
  • And our lives do not end with this one; see, “Evidence for Rebirth“.
  • Those two facts constitute the basis of the true nature of existence, and need to be thought about critically; one cannot comprehend the message of the Buddha until one at least has some idea about this “big picture”.
  • Many questions people have on concepts like kamma, morality, Nibbana, etc, as well as philosophical questions like “why I am here?”, or “why is the world the way it is?”, will have answers within this big picture. It is a complete world view, but it is up to each individual to determine whether it makes sense. As the Buddha pointed out, the stakes are very high and it is a good idea to take time and critically evaluate this big picture.

Next, “Foundation of Dhamma“,………..

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