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introduction to Buddhism and its permutations

What is Self


The Buddha regarded this world as the world of hardship, and taught the ways to cope with it. Then, what are the reasons which make it a world of hardship? The first reason, as given by the Buddha is that all things are selfless or egoless, which means that all things-men, animals and inanimate objects, both living and not living-do not have what we may call their original self or real being. Let us consider man. A man does not have a core or a soul which he can consider to be his true self. A man exists, but he cannot grasp his real being-he cannot discover his own core, because the existence of a man is nothing but an "existence depending on a series of causations." Everything that exists is there because of causations; it will disappear when the effects of the causations cease.

The waves on the water's surface certainly exist, but can it be said that a wave has its own self? Waves exist only while there is wind or current. Each wave has its own characteristics according to the combination of causations-the intensity of the winds and currents and their directions, etc. But when the effects of the causations cease, the waves are no more. Similarly, there cannot be a self which stands independent of causations

As long as a man is an existent depending on a series of causations, it is unreasonable for him to try to hold on to himself and regard all things around him from the self-centered point of view. All men ought to deny their own selves and endeavor to help each other and to look for co-existence, because no man can ever be truly independent. If all things owe their existence to a series of causations, their existence is a conditional one-there is no one thing in the universe

that is permanent or independent. Therefore, the Buddha's theory that selflessness is the nature of all things inevitably leads to the next theory that all things are impermanent (anitya).

Men in general seem to be giving all of their energy to preserving their own existence and their possessions. But in truth it is impossible to discover the core of their own existence, nor is it possible to preserve it forever. Even for one moment nothing can stay unchanged. Not only is it insecure in relation to space but also it is dual and insecure in relation to time. If it were possible to discover a world which is space-less and time-less, that would be a world of true freedom, i.e., Nirvana.

If, as the modern physicists assert, space is curved and time is relative, this world of space and time is our enclosed abode from which there is no escape-we are tied down in the cycles of cause and effect.

As long as men cannot discover a world which is not limited by time and space, men must need be creatures of suffering,

To assert that such a state, unlimited in time and space, is attainable by man is the message of Buddhism.

Of course there is no such thing as a limitless space or limitless time. Even modern physical science does not recognize infinity in time and space. However, the Buddha brought forward his ideal, of his ideal, Nirvana (extinction), following his theories of selflessness and impermanence. Nirvana means extinction of life and death, extinction meaning of worldly desire, and extinction of space and time conditions. This, in the last analysis, means unfolding a world of perfect freedom.

Selflessness (no substance) and impermanence (no duration) are the real state of our existence; Nirvana (negatively extinction; positively perfection) is our ideal, that is, perfect freedom, quiescence.

the fourfold truthsThe Buddha organized these ideas into the Fourfold Truth as follows

1. That life consists entirely of suffering;

2. That suffering has causes;

(The above two are the description of reality.)

3. That the causes of suffering can be extinguished;

4. That there exists a way to extinguish the causes.

(The last two express the ideal.)

These constitute the Fourfold Truth to be believed by the ariya or those who pursue the way toward Nirvana. In explanation of the fourth Noble Truth the Buddha taught the Eightfold Way to be pursued by the ariya as follows:

I. Right View, by which to see the real state of all things.
2. Right Thought
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action

(Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action are the elements of human character.)

    1. Right Mindfulness
    2. Right Endeavor
    3. Right Livelihood
      (These three are the elements of human life or the dynamic aspects of human character.)
    4. Right Concentration, which is the motive power to carry one through all the worlds-this human world of desire, the heaven of (bodily-) beings, the higher heaven of formless (bodiless) beings and holy beings (arhats) -finally to reach the state of Parinirvana (Highest Nirvana), the Buddhahood.

The Eightfold Way may be regarded as the practical ethics of Buddhism for the purposes of building up the human character and improving it, but at the same time it is the way of the holy religion for attaining the highest enlightenment - the Buddhahood.


The Eightfold Way may be regarded as the practical ethics of Buddhism for the purposes of building up the human character and improving it, but at the same time it is the way of the holy religion for attaining the highest enlightenment - the Buddhahood.

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