The fundamentals of existence are visible form or corporeality (Rupa); feelings of pleasure, pain or indifference (Vedana); names, allusions or perceptions (Sanna); conditioned mental formulations (Sankhara); and cogniscance, consciousness, or awareness (Vinnana). According to the Buddha, these five ‘aggregates’ are impermanent (anicca), unsatisfactory (dukkha) and not-self (anatta), and that is how we should contemplate them.
Does modern science lend support to Buddhist ideas about the human mind? Does modern science lend support to the logic behind Buddhist meditation practice? After summarizing what Buddhism says about human minds and meditation, I refer to three scientific studies which may enable one to answer ‘yes’ to both questions.
The Four Noble Truths sutta was the first teaching given by the Buddha after his awakening. In this teaching, the Buddha presented his enlightened understanding as a set of ennobling truths which not only diagnosed the human condition as ‘suffering’ but also prescribed a cure. On first hearing the Buddha’s diagnosis we might be tempted to object that it is overly pessimistic. Either the Buddha is mistaken or he’s a killjoy!
An Introductory Course on Early Buddhism
Compiled and published for free distribution
by Bro. Chan Khoon San
“The footsteps of the Buddha lead to a descent from the delusion of feeling ourselves to be at the controlling pinnacle and centre of the universe, to accepting the fact that we are simply no more than a grain of sand, a subsystem, a temporary and local autonomous mechanism that functions as part of a much bigger system, itself autonomous. This process of coming to terms with these immutable facts is the ‘spiritual path’.” – Dr Desmond Biddulph
“The journey of five thousand miles starts with a single step and so it is with the spiritual path… There are three stages: listening with the ear, reflecting in the heart and then putting into practice… We can obstruct, but if the obstructions are removed or dropped through following in the instructions of the Buddha then the heart unfolds according to its nature.” – Dr Desmond Biddulph
Today there is no shortage of Buddhist primers. Unfortunately, the historical Buddha (‘Awakened One’) never did write a line of doctrine, and much of what passes for ‘Buddhism’ today he never actually spoke. To make sense of the religion attributed to him requires a lot of digging…
THERAVADA BUDDHISM IN A NUTSHELL
Adapted from a talk given during a November 1997 retreat at the Angela Center, Santa Rosa, California.
HEARTWOOD OF THE BODHI TREE
Nothing whatsoever should be clung to as ‘I’ or ‘mine’
Specially adapted from Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree: The Buddha’s Teaching on Voidness by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu 1994
Thanks to the Early Buddhist Texts (EBTs) we can be reasonably sure of where, when and how the Buddha lived, who he associated with and what he taught. This is the main argument of Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Brahmali in their peer-reviewed book, The Authenticity of The Early Buddhist Texts, published by the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies…