1. As long as one considers something to be valuable, it is not easy to give it up, It does not matter what ANYONE ELSE says. One will go to much effort and expense to make sure it stays with oneself.
- But if one’s own mind sees that something is useless and worthless, then what is the point of keeping it? One will gladly get rid of it.
- One’s perception of the “world out there” and “what is valuable and what is not” depends on one’s mind. Even though we look at a pile of feces with disgust, a dog or a pig may eat it with relish. And a dog does not have any cravings for gold or money.
- While some people gain pleasure by torturing animals, most are disgusted by such acts. It depends on the level of understanding. A purified mind will see things in a better perspective.
2. The common thinking about Buddhism goes like this: “The Buddha said that this rebirth process is full of suffering, and to stop the rebirth process we need to give up everything in this world to detach from it. But that is not easy to do. I like the stuff that I have and I enjoy life. May be I can attain Nibbāna in a future life”.
- That is not a correct interpretation of what the Buddha said. The Buddha did say that “this rebirth process is full of suffering”. He never asked anyone to give up anything that they had. His only advice was “learn the true nature of this wider world of 31 realms that is characterized by anicca, dukkha, anatta and realize the dangers in staying in it”.
- If one truly understood the true nature of the world one’s own mind will see the futility of hanging onto worldly things. Nekkhamma or “giving up” is not done forcibly, IT JUST HAPPENS when one comprehends the true nature of “this world”.
3. If one understands the above few paragraphs, then one knows more about Buddha Dhamma compared to 90% of the “Buddhists”. Even many Theravada bhikkhus say, “May you attain Nibbāna after enjoying future lives in Deva realms”, or “May you have much worldly pleasures and attain Nibbāna when the next Buddha [Maitreya (Sanskrit), Metteyya (Pāli),Maithree (Sinhala)] appears in the world”. They apparently do not comprehend the dangers in staying in the rebirth process.
- This is in sharp contrast with Buddha Gotama’s last words, “appamadena sampadeta” or “strive diligently and comprehend “san” (and attain Nibbāna)”, because this rebirth process is wrought with unimaginable dangers. Even if we live perfectly moral lives, we do not know what kind of kamma that we have done in past lives, and thus there is no way to guarantee a good rebirth unless one attains the Sotāpanna stage and makes those worst kamma bīja ineffective.
- This life of about 100 years is just a “blink of an eye” compared to trillions of years in future lives (unless one attains Nibbāna); but it is also unimaginably precious because we very rarely get a chance to be born human and most living beings are in the lowest four realms; see, “How the Buddha Described the Chance of Rebirth in the Human Realm“.
4. Buddha Dhamma is all about PURIFYING one’s mind so that the mind can grasp the true nature of this world. The only actions one needs to take are to live a moral life, gradually adhere to a lifestyle that avoids the ten defilements (dasa akusala), AND learn Dhamma, in particular truly understand anicca, dukkha, anatta. Everything else will fall into place.
- When one purifies one’s mind, it becomes clear that the things that one believes to be valuable are not valuable at all, AND such cravings can bring so much suffering in the future. But one cannot take that advice coming from even a Buddha and act on it forcibly; ONE’S MIND HAS TO SEE IT.
- One may take many precautions to safeguard a “gem” that one thinks has much value. But if the gem is assessed by an expert and is found to be worthless, then one will no longer have the same “attachment” for the “gem” and may throw it away. But until the perception is there in the mind that the “gem” is valuable, one will not part with it.
5. There is another aspect of this forcibly giving up. In addition to the fact that one will be under stress if one tries to do that, one may be accumulating bad kamma vipāka if one acts irresponsibly. For example, if one decides that he needs to become a bhikkhu and abandons his kids and wife, that is an unwise thing to do.
- We have to act mindfully and with wisdom, making sure that we do not hurt ourselves, our families, or anyone else. Buddha Dhamma is all about the mind, and not about mechanically doing meaningless rituals. As we discussed in several posts, it is the intention and the enthusiasm for doing good, that really matters.
- One can progress all the way up to the Anāgāmi stage of Nibbāna as a “householder”, i.e., while fulfilling one’s responsibilities as a husband/wife, parent, etc. While one should certainly give to charity, one needs to make sure that there is enough left to support one’s family. And it is not possible to contemplate or meditate if one has to worry about the next meal or a place to stay.
6. As one makes progress, giving up will happen automatically at the level of one’s understanding, and as needed. One does not have to make plans in advance about what to give up or anything like that: “Dhammo ha ve rakkhati dhamma cari”, or “Dhamma will guide and protect those who follow the Path”. As the mind becomes clear of the hindrances, one will make better decisions, and will not hurt anyone in the process.
7. About 20 years after the Buddha attained Enlightenment, he had to start adding “vinaya rules” for the bhikkhus. When Buddha Dhamma started flourishing, many unscrupulous people started to enroll as bhikkhus to enjoy “a good life”. The Buddha admonished that such bhikkhus accumulate much bad kamma by getting indebted to those people who make offerings out of saddha.
- Vinaya (“vi”+”naya” where “naya” means debt) means stay free of debts. The bhikkhus can do that by diligently pursuing Nibbāna and also by explaining Dhamma to those people, while making sure not to abuse their privileged life where they are honored for these very acts.
8. Getting to debt is bad for lay people too. All our current responsibilities have their origins in the past where we became indebted to others. It may take a while to comprehend this, but we are really paying off debts to even our kids. And if we do not do a good job of it, we WILL have to do it in future lives. Any other relationship is the same way; see, “Kamma, Debt, and Meditation”.
- One time a bhikkhu started sharing his food from the alms round with his parents, and other bhikkhus complained to the Buddha. The Buddha asked why he did that he said his parents had become beggars and that is why he did that. The Buddha praised that Bhikkhu and officially endorsed it as a vinaya rule, that bhikkhus can take care of their parents if the need arose. Even as a Bhikkhu, one is obliged to take care of one’s parents.
9. When someone gets help from another, it is the obligation of the receiver to show his/her gratitude for that kindly act, by doing a pattidana or “giving merits” to that person; see, “Transfer of Merits (Pattidāna) – How does it Happen?”. If the receiver becomes able to pay back in kind, that should be done too.
- When we deal with people in everyday life, we are engaged in paying back debts even unknowingly. Thus it is a good idea to fulfil one’s responsibilities to the best of one’s ability. This applies to most everyday things we do. Our employment responsibilities needs to be done to the best of our ability. When we do not fulfil our responsibilities anywhere, we stay indebted and accumulate more debt with interest.
- When doing transactions, we need to make sure that everyone is compensated adequately; otherwise, such debts will have to be paid in the future. Again, intention and the “state of mind” are key factors: We may be able to fool other people, but we cannot fool our own minds.
- We have enemies because we have had conflicts with them before. And someone has to break that vicious cycle. This is why the Dhammapada verse, “na hi verena verani….” says: “Hatred never ceases through hatred, but through love alone they cease”. This is an eternal law.
10. Beings in the lower four realms DO NOT HAVE an advanced mental state to affect their future even short term, i.e., in this life; they are simply paying off debts and paying for their immoral acts in the past . They just “go with the flow” spending kammic energy that has been accumulated; unless they are fortunate to receive the benefits of a “good kamma bīja” from the past (when they were in higher worlds) at the time of death, they are stuck in the lower realms.
- On the other hand, HUMANS CAN totally change their future, within this lifetime (mundane progress), but also affect the future lives: If one wants to avoid the niraya (hell) one needs to remove the causes that could cause rebirth in niraya, i.e., deep hate. If one wants to avoid rebirth as a hungry ghost (peta loka), then one need to remove causes for that, i.e., excessive greed. If one does not want to be reborn an animal one needs to remove both greed and hate. To avoid birth as an asura, one needs to take care of oneself, and not depend on others.
11. Buddha Dhamma is a complete theory on existence. EVERYTHING can be explained in a systematic way. If everyone can grasp the basic message of the Buddha, our world will be much safer place.
- When a tree is growing all we need to do is to water it, provide nutrients, and generally take care of it; the fruits from the tree will come out naturally. No amount of praying or wishing is going to get the tree to give more fruits. In the same way, when we follow the Path correctly, everything else will “fall into place”. There is no need to pray or to make wishes or do anything else.
- This world, for all its drawbacks, plays by the rules. Things just do not happen; they happen due to causes. When one understands the causes for bad outcomes, one can work to stop such causes and make sure bad outcomes NOT TO ARISE in the future; this is the meaning of the “nirödha” (=”nir” + “udä“, where “nir” is stop and “udä” is arising; thus “stop from arising”).
12. The real message of the Buddha is that spending one’s whole life in making mundane progress is really insignificant in the sansaric time scale; why spend all that time to achieve a high status, earn a billion dollars, or anything else mundane if one has to leave all that behind within 100 years? We have done this over and over countless times. This rebirth process can run into many more trillions of years into the future and this larger world of 31 realms is wrought with unimaginable dangers.
- The ultimate solution is to stop the rebirth process (eliminate causes for future rebirths), and to release the mind from the material body that leads to much suffering.
- Thus the key message of the Buddha was to “attain the suffering-free Nibbāna by eliminating the causes for rebirth: greed, hate, and ignorance”.
- But that message itself can only be grasped via purifying one’s mind to a certain extent by learning about the true nature of the wider world of existence: anicca, dukkha,anatta.
Also see, “The Way to Nibbāna – Removal of Āsavā“, “Nibbāna – Is It Difficult to Understand?“, and “What are Rupa? (Relation to NIbbana)“.