A Buddhist or a Bhauddhaya?

Revised August 18, 2016

1. The terms “Buddhism” and “Buddhist” were invented by the English, French, and German historians in the  nineteenth century when they first came across Buddha Dhamma in India and Sri Lanka.

  • The discovery of the “Asoka pillars” in India was followed by the discovery of the Pali literature on Buddha Dhamma in Sri Lanka and other countries such as Burma and Thailand (together with translated Chinese scripts); of course there were no practicing “Buddhists” or any Buddhist literature in India.

2. Here are two key points that should be the basis of defining the terms:

  • Up to that time it was “Buddha Dhamma” or the “Dhamma or Teachings of the Buddha”.
  • And a person who diligently followed the Path advised by the Buddha was called a “Bhauddhayä” (=bhava + uddha+= one who strives to stop the rebirth process, i.e., to stop suffering).

3. However, many people today have been exposed to bits and pieces of Buddha Dhamma. Many people are just happy to follow the precepts of moral conduct, do some samatha meditation (breath meditation) to relieve the stresses of modern life, and to see where that leads them. And that is a perfectly good approach, at least to start off.

4. Each person understands Buddha Dhamma differently, mainly based on the level of exposure to “correct Dhamma”.

  • Thus most people have the following misconceptions: (1) that Buddha Dhamma will help alleviate suffering from physical ailments, (2) that it provides only temporary relief (also called niramisa sukha) from mental stress (as in breath meditation).

5. However, the Buddha pointed out two forms of hidden suffering that humans are not aware of:

  • That incessant distress or agitation that we all feel (but mostly are unaware of)arises due to greed, hate, and ignorance.
  • Immoral deeds that we commit due to these greedy, hateful, or ignorant mindset will lead to much higher forms of suffering in future rebirths (especially in animal and other lower realms).

6. Some do not believe in the rebirth process, so they cannot really “get traction” with the second type suffering associated with the rebirth process.

  • However, many have experienced the niramisa sukha while participating in meditation retreats or regular meditation programs at home.  However, they do not realize that such niramisa sukha can be made permanent, by learning pure Dhamma and by comprehending the anicca nature of this world; see, “Starting on the Path without Belief in Rebirth“.
  • It is only when one starts realizing the anicca nature, that one becomes a true Bhauddhaya in the sense of its meaning in #2 above.

7. A  Bhauddhaya starts to realize the futility of staying anywhere in the 31 realms, and at some point will attain the first stage of Nibbana, i.e., become a Sotapanna.

  • At that stage one would have made that niramisa sukha permanent, i.e., if one did not do any mediation for the rest of the life, he/she will retain that niramisa sukha.
  • A  Sotapanna would also be automatically be released from future births in the apayas or the four lowest realms.
  • How that happens is described in other sections of the site, especially in the section,  “Sotapanna Stage of Nibbana“.

8. Many people initially become Buddhists because  of either a desire to learn more about the “wider world”, contemplate on the “long-term existence”, i.e., the never ending rebirth process, or because they are interested in living a moral life that provides a sense of happiness.

  • But in the very strict sense, if one really wants to follow the Path prescribed by the Buddha and become a “Bhauddhaya“, one needs to first understand what the rebirth process is, and why it is important to stop the rebirth process, i.e., they need to understand anicca, dukkha, anatta. 

9. There are no rituals to become either a Buddhist or a Bhauddhaya. As one becomes convinced of the Buddha’s world view and starts seeing that it is fruitless to HARM ONESELF OR OTHERS to gain anything “in this world”, he/she starts becoming a better Budhist or a Bhauddhaya.

  • As one becomes a Buddhist/Bhauddhaya, his/her personality may start changing without forcefully changing it. That is because one starts seeing the world differently and reacting to outside events differently. It is all about changing perceptions about “this world”, i.e., it is all mental.
  • Because of this, one cannot become a Bhauddhaya or even a good Buddhist by just following rituals. One becomes a good Buddhist/Bhauddhaya by attempting to comprehend the message of the Buddha, and by experiencing the benefits as one progresses.

Dhammo ha ve rakkati Dhammacari”, i.e., “Dhamma will guide and protect one who lives by Dhamma”. If one really starts becoming a Buddhist/Bhauddhaya, one will be able to see the changes in oneself as time goes by (others will start noticing after a bit longer). One’s likings and associations are the first to change.

Next, “What Reincarnates? – Concept of a Lifestream“, ……….

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