To see the Buddha “as he really is” we should explore some of the major episodes in his many lives and appreciate how Buddhist mythology, cosmology, and rituals, relate to one another. We’ll be less likely to view these doctrines as “popular Buddhism” – degeneration from reason (philosophy) to religion (mythology). The teachings of the Buddha are about liberation not affiliation. Their truth isn’t a matter of historical/factual correctness – it’s a matter of the presence or absence of suffering when we internalise the message and strive to live up to it.
It’s not uncommon for Buddhists to feel like their practice has stalled. Concentration wavers, awareness is lost, doubts arise, and the Buddha’s supreme freedom from samsara seems hopelessly unattainable. It can be an especially trying time if you’re a solitary practitioner lacking the guidance of a skilled meditation teacher. But it’s also an opportunity to straighten your views and re-affirm your refuge in the Triple Gem.
Newcomers to Buddhism are frequently told that Buddhism isn’t a religion. However, one must employ a very narrow misunderstanding of the word religion in order to exclude Buddhism. Ancient Buddhist doctrine is suggestive of a polytheistic religion. Deities and devotional rites remain an important fact of Buddhist life as far as many practitioners in the heartlands of modern day Asia are concerned…
The Noble Search sutta offers some excellent Dhamma lessons and also mentions a few incidents in the Buddha’s life that are found nowhere else in the Sutta Pitaka.
An Introductory Course on Early Buddhism
Compiled and published for free distribution
by Bro. Chan Khoon San
“The eight factors of the Eightfold Path of the Buddha, the path of practice, are nothing other than this very body: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, one tongue, and one body. This is the Path. And the mind is the one who follows the Path. Therefore both the study and the practice exist in our body, speech, and mind…” – Ajahn Chah
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
Unfortunately, the Buddha’s goal of freedom through wise renunciation is so often misperceived – “How does sitting on a cushion help people who are starving or oppressed? Isn’t some amount of desire good? So at least we would feel the motivation to eat, to go to work, to have children… etc.?” To anyone who thinks this way I would say contemplate seriously whether or not lust and aversion are the only human motivators and whether or not meditation really is a recipe for inaction…
If the Buddha taught that there is no self then who is it that is experiencing the fruits of kamma and wandering endlessly in samsara? If there is no self then what is the point of meditation and why bother to lead a spiritual life? Questions like these are frequently asked by the Buddha’s critics and by those who are new to the dhamma…