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Selection (from Wikipedia): Florin Leon


Four Noble Truths

Suering (Dissatisfaction)

The rst noble truth is the truth of suering (dissatisfaction, anxiety, stress, frustration, unease, unsatisfactoriness). There are three dierent categories of suering: 1. Ordinary suering: the obvious physical and mental suering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying; 2. Suering produced by change: the anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing; 3. Suering of conditioned states: a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, due to the fact that all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance. On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards. The central importance of suering in Buddhist philosophy is not intended to present a pessimistic view of life, but rather to present a realistic practical assessment of the human condition that all beings must experience suering and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable suerings of illness, aging, and death. While the central message of Buddhism is optimistic, the Buddhist view of our situation in life (the conditions that we live in) is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic. There is both happiness and sorrow in the world, but even when we have some kind of happiness, it is impermanent and subject to change. And due to this unstable, impermanent nature of all things, everything we experience is unsatisfactory. Therefore unless we can gain insight into that truth, and understand what is really able to give us happiness, and what is unable to provide happiness, the experience of unsatisfactoriness or dissatisfaction will persist. The rst noble truth says that it s part of being human to feel discomfort. Nothing in its essence is one way or the other. All around us the wind, the re, the earth, the water, are always taking on dierent qualities. We also change like the weather. We ebb and ow like the tides, we wax and wane like the moon. We fail to see that like the weather, we are uid, not solid. And so we suer. Life is challenging. For everyone. Our physical bodies, our relationships all of our life circumstances are fragile and subject to change. We are always accommodating. The rst insight is just the recognition: there is suering . That is a basic insight. The ignorant person says, I m suering. I don t want to suer. I meditate and I go on retreats to get out of suering, but I m still suering and I don t want to suer. How can I get out of suering? What can I do to get rid of it?But that is not the First Noble Truth; it is not: I am suering and I want to end it.The insight is, there is suering . 1

Then, one should understand suering, not just try to get rid of it: really accept the suering and embrace it rather than just react to it. With any form of suering physical or mental we usually just react, but with understanding we can really look at suering, really accept it, really hold it and embrace it. So that is the second aspect, we should understand suering . Finally, when you have actually practised with suering looking at it, accepting it, knowing it and letting it be the way it is then there is the third aspect, suering has been understood .


Origin of Suering

The origin of suering is commonly explained as craving conditioned by ignorance: 1. Craving for sense-pleasures: craving for sense objects which provide pleasant feeling, or for sensory pleasures; 2. Craving to be: craving to be something, to unite with an experience. This includes craving to be solid and ongoing, to have a past and a future, and craving to prevail and dominate over others; 3. Craving not to be: craving to not experience the world, and to be nothing; a wish to be separated from painful feelings. Ignorance refers to a misunderstanding of the nature of the self and reality. Causes of suering are disturbing emotions rooted in ignorance. There are three root disturbing emotions, called the three poisons, as the root cause of suering: 1. Ignorance: misunderstanding of the nature of reality; 2. Attachment to pleasurable experiences; 3. Aversion: a fear of getting what we don t want, or not getting what we do want. The cause of suering is the mind s struggle in response to challenge. The second noble truth says that resistance is the fundamental operating mechanism of what we call ego , that resisting life causes suering. Traditionally it s said that the cause of suering is clinging to our narrow view, which is to say, we are addicted to me. We resist that we change and ow like the weather, that we have the same energy as all living things. When we resist, we dig in our heels. We make ourselves really solid. Resisting is what s called ego .


Cessation of Suering

The term cessation refers to the end of suering and the causes of suering. It is the cessation of all the unsatisfactory experiences and their causes in such a way that they can no longer occur again. It s the removal, the nal absence of those things, their non-arising. Cessation is the goal of one s spiritual practice. Once we have developed a genuine understanding of the causes of suering, such as craving and ignorance, then we can completely eradicate these causes and thus be free from suering. Cessation is often equated with nibbana , which literally means blown out (as in a candle) and refers to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the res of desire, aversion, and delusion have been nally extinguished. A temporary state of nibbana can be said to occur whenever the causes of suering (e.g. craving) have ceased in our mind. The end of suering a non-struggling, peaceful mind is possibile. 2

The third noble truth says that suering ceases when we let go of trying to maintain the huge me at any cost. This is what we practice in meditation. When we let go of the thinking and the story line, we re left just sitting with the quality and the energy of whatever particular weatherwe ve been trying to resist. Contemplate: all that is subject to arising is subject to ceasing.Apply it to life in general, and to your own experience. Then you will understand. Just note: beginning ending. Contemplate how things are. This sensory realm is all about arising and ceasing, beginning and ending. To allow this process of cessation to work, we must be willing to suer. This is why patience is important. We have to open our minds to suering, because it is in embracing suering that suering ceases. When we nd that we are suering, physically or mentally, then we go to the actual suering that is present. We open completely to it, welcome it, concentrate on it, allowing it to be what it is. That means we must be patient and bear with the unpleasantness of a particular condition. We have to endure boredom, despair, doubt and fear in order to understand that they cease, rather than running away from them. When craving has ceased, you experience emptiness, non-attachment. When you have let something go and allowed it to cease, then what is left is peace.


Path to the Cessation of Suering

This path is called the Noble Eightfold Path. While the rst three truths are primarily concerned with understanding the nature of suering and its causes, the fourth truth presents a practical method for overcoming suering. The path consists of a set of eight interconnected factors or conditions, that when developed together, lead to the cessation of suering. Thus, the eight items of the path are not to be understood as stages, in which each stage is completed before moving on to the next. Rather, they are to be understood as eight signicant dimensions of one s behaviour mental, spoken and bodily that operate in dependence on one another; taken together, they dene a complete path, or way of living. The essence of the fourth noble truth is that we can use everything we do to help us to realize that we re part of the energy that creates everything. If we learn to sit still like a mountain in a hurricane, unprotected from the truth and vividness and the immediacy of simply being part of life, then we are not this separate being who has to have things turn out his way. When we stop resisting and let the weather simply ow through us, we can live our lives completely. There is a path to nding freedom from the angst of our life and experiencing more joy. Implicit is the authentic possibility that we have the power to change our inner experience of life, and there is a specic means to do so. The realization of this insight evokes the faith to undergo discipline, hard work, and renunciation. The way to realize this liberation and enlightenment is by leading a compassionate life of virtue, wisdom, and meditation. The Noble Eightfold Path is not a set of beliefs or laws but rather a practical, direct experience method for nding meaning and peace in life. Think of it as an organic blueprint from which we organize and live our lives. Each of the eight path factors denes one aspect of behavioral development needed to move from suering to joy. Its eight factors function as an integrated system or matrix that supports and informs all parts of our lives.


Noble Eightfold Path


Wisdom or discernment provides the sense of direction for the understanding of reality. It is designed to awaken the faculty to see things as they really are. When the mind has been rened by training in moral discipline and concentration, and with the gradual arising of right knowledge, it will arrive at a superior right view and right intention. 2.1.1 Right View

Right view or right perspective , right outlook or right understanding is the right way of looking at life, nature, and the world as they really are for us. It is to understand how our reality works. It acts as the reasoning with which someone starts practicing the path. It explains the reasons for our human existence, suering, sickness, aging, death, the existence of greed, hatred, and delusion. Right view gives direction and e cacy to the other seven path factors. It begins with concepts and statements, but through the practice of right concentration, it gradually becomes transmuted into wisdom, which can eradicate the fetters of the mind. An understanding of right view will inspire the person to lead a virtuous life in line with right view. Right view usually involves understanding the following reality: 1. Moral law of actions or deeds: Every action (by way of body, speech, and mind) will have results (a reaction). Wholesome (good, ethical, moral, virtuous, pure) and unwholesome actions will produce results and eects that correspond with the nature of that action. It is the right view about the moral process of the world; 2. Everything that arises will cease (impermanence). Mental and body phenomena are impermanent, source of suering and not-self; 3. Suering: Birth, aging, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, distress, and despair are suering. Not being able to obtain what we want is also suering. Craving and ignorance cause suering and their elimination ceases suering. 2.1.2 Right Intention

Right intention can also be known as right aspiration or the exertion of our own will to change . The practitioner should constantly aspire to rid himself of whatever qualities he knows to be wrong and immoral. Correct understanding of right view will help him to discern the dierences between right intention and wrong intention. It means being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill-will, on harmlessness (non-violence towards other living beings), the renunciation of the worldly things and a greater commitment to the spiritual path, good-will.


Ethical Conduct
Right Speech

Right speech deals with the way in which a practitioner would best make use of his words: 1. Abandoning false speech (lying): He speaks the truth, holds to the truth, is rm, reliable, no deceiver of the world;

2. Abandoning divisive speech: What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord; 3. Abandoning abusive speech: He speaks words that are soothing to the ear, that are aectionate, that go to the heart, that are polite, appealing and pleasing to people at large; 4. Abandoning idle chatter: He speaks what is factual, what is in accordance with the goal, reasonable words worth treasuring. In every case, if it is not true, benecial nor timely, one should not say it: 1. What he knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbenecial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say; 2. What he knows to be factual, true, yet unbenecial, unendearing and disagreeable to others, he does not say; 3. What he knows to be factual, true, benecial, yet unendearing and disagreeable to others, he must nd the proper time for saying; 4. What he knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbenecial, yet endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say; 5. What he knows to be factual, true, but unbenecial, yet endearing and agreeable to others, he does not say; 6. What he knows to be factual, true, benecial, and endearing and agreeable to others, he must nd the proper time for saying. 2.2.2 Right Action

Right action can also be translated as right conduct . As such, the practitioner should train himself to be morally upright in his activities, not acting in ways that would be corrupt or bring harm to himself or to others. Right action means abstaining from taking life, from stealing, and from sexual misconduct (illicit sex or unchastity). When a person abstains from the taking of life, he dwells with his knife laid down, scrupulous, merciful, compassionate for the welfare of all living beings. He abstains from taking what is not given: he does not take, in the manner of a thief, things in a village or a wilderness that belong to others and have not been given by them. He abstains from sensual misconduct: he does not get sexually involved with those who are protected by their mothers, their fathers, their brothers, their sisters, their relatives, those with husbands, those who entail punishments, or even those crowned with owers by another man. 2.2.3 Right Livelihood

Right livelihood means that practitioners ought not to engage in trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm for other living beings. It is also an ethical livelihood, wealth obtained through rightful means, being honest and ethical in business dealings, not to cheat, lie or steal. 5

As people are spending most of their time at work, it s important to assess how our work aects our mind and heart. Work should become meaningful, it should be a support, not a hindrance, to spiritual practice a place to deepen our awareness and kindness. There are ve types of businesses that should not be undertaken: 1. Business in weapons: trading in all kinds of weapons and instruments for killing; 2. Business in human beings: slave trading, prostitution, or the buying and selling of children or adults; 3. Business in meat: meatrefers to the bodies of beings after they are killed. This includes breeding animals for slaughter; 4. Business in intoxicants: manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks or addictive drugs; 5. Business in poison: producing or trading in any kind of poison or a toxic product designed to kill.


Right Eort

Right eort can also be translated as right endeavor or right diligence . The practitioner should make a persisting eort to abandon all the wrong and harmful thoughts, words, and deeds. He should instead be persisting in giving rise to what would be good and useful to himself and others in his thoughts, words, and deeds, without a thought for the di culty or weariness involved. Right eort has four phases: 1. Let go of the unwholesome that has arisen in oneself; 2. Prevent the unwholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself; 3. Bring up the wholesome that has not yet arisen in oneself; 4. Maintain the wholesome that has arisen in oneself. 2.3.2 Right Mindfulness

Right mindfulness is also translated as right memory , right awarenessor right attention . The practitioner should constantly keep his mind alert to phenomena that aect the body and mind. He should be make sure not to act or speak due to inattention or forgetfulness. There are four situations dening right mindfulness: 1. There is the case where a person remains focused on the body in and of itself ardent, aware, and mindful putting away greed and distress with reference to the world; 2. He remains focused on feelings in and of themselves ardent, aware, and mindful putting away greed and distress with reference to the world; 3. He remains focused on the mind in and of itself ardent, aware, and mindful putting away greed and distress with reference to the world;

4. He remains focused on mental qualities in and of themselves ardent, aware, and mindful putting away greed and distress with reference to the world. The mind is deliberately kept at the level of bare attention, a detached observation of what is happening within us and around us in the present moment. In the practice of right mindfulness the mind is trained to remain in the present, open, quiet, and alert, contemplating the present event. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped. By mindfully observing these phenomena, we begin to discern its arising and subsiding leading to the arising of insight and the qualities of dispassion, non-clinging, and release. 2.3.3 Right Concentration

Right concentration is also known as right meditation . As such, the practitioner concentrates on an object of attention until reaching full concentration and a state of meditative absorption. Traditionally, the practice of concentration can be developed through mindfulness of breathing, through visual objects, and through repetition of phrases. Concentration is used to suppress the ve hindrances in order to enter into meditative absorption, which is an instrument used for developing wisdom by cultivating insight and using it to examine true nature of phenomena with direct cognition. This leads to cutting o the delements, realizing the laws of universe and, nally, self-awakening. During the practice of right concentration, the practitioner will need to investigate and verify his right view. In the process, right knowledge will arise, followed by right liberation. There are four phases: 1. A person distant from sense desires and from unwholesome thoughts, attains to and follows in the rst concentration stage, which is detachment-born and accompanied by applied thought, sustained thought, joy and bliss; 2. By reducing applied and sustained thought he attains to, and follows in the second concentration stage, which is inner tranquillity, unication of the mind, devoid of applied and sustained thought, and which has joy and bliss; 3. By detachment from joy he enjoys bliss in body and attains to and follows in the third concentration stage, which is dwelling in equanimity, mindfulness, and bliss; 4. By giving up of bliss and suering, by the disappearance already of joy and sorrow, he attains to, and follows in the fourth concentration stage, which is neither suering nor bliss, and which is the purity of equanimity mindfulness. Right concentration is dependent on the development of preceding seven path factors.


Five Precepts

The Five Precepts constitute the basic Buddhist code of ethics. They are commitments to abstain from harming living beings, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication. They are not formulated as imperatives, but as training rules that laypeople undertake voluntarily to facilitate practice:

1. Abstain from killing; 2. Abstain from taking what is not given; 3. Avoid sensual misconduct; 4. Abstain from false speech; 5. Abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness.


Ten Fetters

A mental fetter (chain or bond) shackles a person to the cycle of lives with suering. By cutting through all fetters, one attains nibbana. There are ten fetters of becoming: 1. belief in a self; 2. doubt or uncertainty, especially about the teachings; 3. attachment to rites and rituals; 4. sensual desire; 5. ill-will; 6. lust for material existence, lust for material rebirth; 7. lust for immaterial existence, lust for rebirth in a formless realm; 8. conceit (egotism, vanity); 9. restlessness; 10. ignorance. One can cut through the fetters in four stages: 1. one cuts the rst three fetters to be a stream enterer ; 2. one cuts the rst three fetters and signicantly weakens the next two fetters to be a once returner ; 3. one cuts the rst ve fetters to be a non-returner ; 4. one cuts all ten fetters to be an perfected one .


Five Hindrances

The ve hindrances are identied as mental factors that hinder progress in meditation and in our daily lives. These factors are obstacles to the stages of concentration within meditation practice: 1. Sensory desire: the particular type of wanting that seeks happiness through the ve senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling; 2. Ill-will: all kinds of thought related to wanting to reject, feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness; 3. Sloth-torpor (laziness, lethargy, indolence): heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression; 4. Restlessness-worry: the inability to calm the mind; 5. Doubt: lack of conviction or trust. There are ve mental factors that counteract the ve hindrances: 1. Single-pointed attention counteracts sensory desire; 2. Well-being counteracts ill-will (malice); 3. Course examination counteracts sloth-torpor (lethargy and drowsiness); 4. Bliss counteracts restlessness-worry (excitation and anxiety); 5. Precise investigation counteracts doubt (uncertainty). These ve counteracting factors arise during the rst stage of concentration. 3.3.1 Sensory Desire

The hindrance of sensory desire is latching onto thoughts or feelings based on the pleasures of the ve senses. Sensory desire refers to the type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the ve senses. It specically excludes any aspiration for happiness through the sixth sense of mind alone. In its extreme form, sensory desire is an obsession to nd pleasure in such things as sexual intimacy, good food or ne music. But it also includes the desire to replace irritating or even painful ve-sense experiences with pleasant ones, i.e. the desire for sensory comfort. It is anything from the extremes of lust to just being concerned with how the body is doing, e.g. thinking about the letter that you have to write afterwards, about the rain pattering on your roof, about your house, or what needs to be built next, or where you are going to next, that s all in the world of the senses. It s also the thoughts about those things, about family, about health, about coming here, going there, and thoughts about words. It alludes to the mind s tendency to latch on to something that attracts it a thought, a visual object, or a particular emotion. When we allow the mind to indulge in such attractions, we lose our concentration. So we need to apply mindfulness and be aware of how the mind operates. We don t necessarily have to suppress all these things arising in the mind, but we should take notice of them and see how the mind behaves, how it automatically grabs onto this and that. 9

The hindrance of sensory desire is like taking out a loan any pleasure one experiences through the ve senses must be repaid through the unpleasantness of separation or loss which invariably follow when the pleasure is used up. There is also interest to be repaid on the loan. Thus, the pleasure is small compared to the suering repaid. In order to overcome the hindrance of sensory desire, the meditator must rst apply mindfulness and recognize that the hindrance is present. Then one must look at the hindrance, analyze it, make it the object of his meditation, experience it fully. He can then apply specic techniques such as contemplating the impermanence of the pleasant desire. Some imagine that the ve senses are there to serve and protect the body, but the truth is that the body is there to serve the ve senses as they play in the world ever seeking delight. The ve senses are the world and to leave the world, to enjoy the bliss of meditation, one must give up for a time all concern for the body and its ve senses. 3.3.2 Ill-will

The hindrance of ill-will is latching onto thoughts or feelings based on anger, resentment, hostility, bitterness, etc. Ill-will refers to the desire to punish, hurt or destroy. It includes sheer hatred of a person, or even a situation, and it can generate so much energy that it is both seductive and addictive. At the time, it always appears justied for such is its power that it easily corrupts our ability to judge fairly. It also includes ill-will towards oneself, otherwise known as guilt, which denies oneself any possibility of happiness. In meditation, ill-will can appear as dislike towards the meditation object itself, rejecting it so that one s attention is forced to wander elsewhere. It is the opposite of the rst hindrance, being brought about by aversion rather than attraction. When such thoughts arise, we should take note of them, not necessarily suppressing them, but seeing how they arise. The hindrance of ill-will is like being sick. Just as sickness denies one the freedom and happiness of health, so ill-will denies one the freedom and happiness of peace. The antidote is meditation on loving kindness. When it is ill-will towards a person, loving kindness teaches one to see more in that person than all that which hurts you, to understand why that person hurt you (often because they were hurting intensely themselves), and encourages one to put aside one s own pain to look with compassion on the other. But if this is more than one can do, loving kindness to oneself leads one to refuse to dwell in ill-will to that person, so as to stop them from hurting you further with the memory of those deeds. Similarly, if it is ill-will towards oneself, loving kindness sees more than one s own faults, can understand one s own faults, and nds the courage to forgive them, learn from their lesson and let them go. Then, if it is ill-will towards the mediation object (often the reason why a meditator cannot nd peace) loving kindness embraces the meditation object with care and delight. For example, just as a mother has a natural loving kindness towards her child, so a meditator can look on his breath, say, with the very same quality of caring attention. Then it will be just as unlikely to lose the breath through forgetfulness as it is unlikely for a mother to forget her baby in the shopping mall, and it would be just as improbable to drop the breath for some distracting thought as it is for a distracted mother to drop her baby. When ill-will is overcome, it allows lasting relationships with other people, with oneself and, in meditation, a lasting, enjoyable relationship with the meditation object, one that can mature into the full embrace of concentration.




Sloth-torpor is a dull, morbid state that is characterized by unwieldiness, lack of energy, and opposition to wholesome activity. In meditation, it causes weak and intermittent mindfulness which can even lead to falling asleep without even realising it. The mind has two main functions, doing and knowing . The way of meditation is to calm the doing to complete tranquility while maintaining the knowing . Sloth and torpor occur when one carelessly calms both the doing and the knowing , unable to distinguish between them. It is an unpleasant state of body and mind, too sti to leap into the bliss of meditation and too blinded to spot any insights. In short, it is a complete waste of precious time. When this hindrance is present, we lose our focus in meditation. We may not be agitated in any perceptible way, but there is no mental clarity. We gradually become more and more drowsy, and then eventually go to sleep. The hindrance of sloth-torpor is like being imprisoned in a cramped, dark cell, unable to move freely in the bright sunshine outside. When this happens, instead of persisting with the meditation, it is better to try to refresh ourselves by getting up and going for a walk or washing our face, after which we return to our meditation. Sloth-torpor is overcome by rousing energy. Energy is always available but few know how to turn on the switch. Setting a goal, a reasonable goal, is a wise and eective way to generate energy, as is deliberately developing interest in the task at hand. A young child has a natural interest, and consequent energy, because its world is so new. Thus, if one can learn to look at one s life, or one s meditation, with a beginner s mind, one can see ever new angles and fresh possibilities which keep one distant from sloth-torpor, alive and energetic. Similarly, one can develop delight in whatever he is doing by training his perception to see the beautiful in the ordinary, thereby generating the interest which avoids the half-death that is sloth-torpor. Slothtorpor is a common problem which can creep up and smother one slowly. A skilful meditator keeps a sharp look-out for the rst signs of sloth-torpor and is thus able to spot its approach and take evasive action before it s too late. Like coming to a fork in a road, one can take that mental path leading away from sloth-torpor. 3.3.4 Restlessness-Worry

The hindrance of restlessness-worry refers to a mind that is agitated and unable to settle down. Restlessness refers to a mind which is like a monkey, always swinging on to the next branch, never able to stay long with anything. It is caused by the fault-nding state of mind which cannot be satised with things as they are, and so has to move on to the promise of something better, forever just beyond. Remorse refers to a specic type of restlessness which is the karmic eect of one s misdeeds. The discomfort of restlessness creates an outward looking tendency what can I do to x this? What can I do to settle this? So the challenge in restlessness is how to turn towards it, be present for it and engage it. Restlessness is like being a slave, continually having to jump to the orders of a tyrannical boss who always demands perfection and so never lets one stop. Restlessness is overcome by developing contentment, which is the opposite of fault-nding. One learns the simple joy of being satised with little, rather than always wanting more. One is grateful for this moment, rather than picking out its deciencies. For instance, in meditation restlessness is often the impatience to move quickly on to the next stage. The fastest progress, though, is achieved by those who are content with the stage they are on now. It is the deepening of that contentment that ripens into the next stage. Remorse refers to the eect of one s misdeeds. The only way to overcome remorse, the 11

restlessness of a bad conscience, is to purify one s virtue and become kind, wise and gentle. It is virtually impossible for the immoral or the self-indulgent to make deep progress in meditation. There are a variety of ways to engage restlessness. One is learning, re ecting, meditating and contemplating what the nature of restlessness is. There might be a really good cause for you to be restless. Maybe you haven t paid your taxes in ten years. In this case you don t need meditation, you need to pay your taxes. You don t use meditation to run away from the real issues of your life. Sometimes what s needed is to really look and understand whether there are root causes for being restless. 3.3.5 Doubt

This hindrance refers to doubt about one s ability to understand and implement the meditation instructions, as well as about the teacher and teachings in general. Doubt refers to the disturbing inner questions at a time when one should be silently moving deeper. Doubt can question one s own ability (can I do this? ), or question the method (is this the right way? ), or even question the meaning (what is this? ). It should be remembered that such questions are obstacles to meditation because they are asked at the wrong time and thus become an intrusion, obscuring one s clarity. When we meditate in the presence of this hindrance, we have a constant nagging feeling: How do I know what I am doing is right? How do I know if this thing really works and if I am not just wasting my time? How do I know what the Buddhist teachings say is true? How do I know if that what the meditation teachers have taught me is right and that they are not deluded?Doubt is like being lost in a desert, not recognising any landmarks. Such doubt is overcome by gathering clear instructions, having a good map, so that one can recognise the subtle landmarks in the unfamiliar territory of deep meditation and so know which way to go. Doubt in one s ability is overcome by nurturing self-condence with a good teacher. A meditation teacher is like a coach who convinces the sports team that they can succeed. The end of doubt, in meditation, is described by a mind which has full trust in the silence, and so doesn t interfere with any inner speech. Like having a good driver, one sits silently on the journey out of trust in him.


Three Marks of Existence

The three marks of existence are three characteristics shared by all sentient beings, namely: impermanence, suering and non-self. A full understanding of these three can bring an end to suering. There is often a fourth one mentioned: nibbana is peace, it is the other shorefrom samsara (continuous ow , the repeating cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth). By bringing the three (or four) seals into moment-to-moment experience through concentrated awareness, we are said to achieve wisdom the way out of samsara. Thus the method for leaving samsara involves a deep-rooted change in world view. 3.4.1 Impermanence

Impermanence (or inconstancy) refers to the fact that all conditioned things are in a constant state of ux. In reality there is no thing that ultimately ceases to exist; only the appearance of a thing ceases as it changes from one form to another. Imagine a leaf that falls to the ground and decomposes. While the appearance and relative existence of the leaf ceases, the components that formed the leaf become particulate material that may go on to form new plants. Buddhism teaches a middle way, avoiding the extreme views of eternalism and nihilism. 12

All compounded phenomena (things and experiences) are inconstant, unsteady, and impermanent. Everything we can experience through our senses is made up of parts, and its existence is dependent on external conditions. The conditions and the thing itself are constantly changing. Things are constantly coming into being, and ceasing to be. Nothing lasts. The important point here is that phenomena arise and cease according to (complex) conditions. One should indeed always meditate on the impermanence and transitory nature of compound structures and phenomena, but one must guard against extending this to the realm of nibbana, where impermanence holds no sway. In this view, the ultimate nature of reality is free from the stains of dualistic thought, and should therefore not be labeled as one or the other permanent or impermanent. Nibbana should be viewed as beyond extremes . In many philosophies or religions, the nal goal is something that you can hold on to and keep. But nibbana is not fabricated, so it is not something to be held on to. We somehow think that we can go somewhere where we ll have a better sofa seat, a better shower system, a better sewer system, a nibbana where you don t even have to have a remote control, where everything is there the moment you think of it. But it s not that we are adding something new, which was not there before. Nibbana is achieved when you remove everything that was articial and obscuring. 3.4.2 Suering

Suering or dissatisfaction means that nothing found in the physical world or even the psychological realm can bring lasting deep satisfaction. Whatever is impermanent is subject to change. Whatever is subject to change is subject to suering. 3.4.3 Non-Self

Non-self is used to denote that phenomena are not, or are without, a self, to describe any composite, consubstantial, phenomenal and temporal things, from the macrocosmic to microcosmic, be it matter pertaining to the physical body or the cosmos at large, as well as any mental machinations, which are impermanent. It is not simply a rejection of the concept of existence or meaning, but of the distinction between existence and non-existence, or rather between being and nothingness. Phenomena are not independent from causes and conditions and do not exist as isolated things as we perceive them to be. The lack of a permanent, unchanging, substantial Self in beings and things does not mean that they do not experience growth and decay on the relative level. But on the ultimate level of analysis, one cannot distinguish an object from its causes and conditions or even distinguish between object and subject. Compounded phenomena are not t to be considered as self, and in relinquishing the attachment to compounded phenomena, a person gives up delight, desire and craving. When completely free from attachments, craving, or desire to the ve aggregates one experiences, he then transcends the very causes of suering. In this way, the insight wisdom of non-self gives rise to cessation of suering, and not an intellectual debate over whether a self exists or not. It is by realizing (not merely understanding intellectually, but making real in one s experience) the three marks of conditioned existence that one develops insight wisdom, which is the antidote to the ignorance that lies at the root of all suering.




Kamma (Pali; Sanskrit: karma) is the concept of actionor deed/doing , understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and eect (i.e., the cycle called samsara). It is used in two senses: 1. On the specic level, it refers specically to those actions which spring from the intention of a sentient being. Karmic actions are compared to a seed that will inevitably ripen into a result or fruition; 2. On the general level, it can refer to the entire process of karmic action and result. Karmic action and result state that all phenomena arise as the result of multiple causes and conditions. The Buddha said it is intention that I call kamma; having formed the intention, one performs acts by body, speech and mind. As implied by this statement, every action of body, speech, or mind is kamma, and the determining factor in the quality of our actions is our intention or motivation. The results of our actions are often delayed, even into future lifetimes. We cannot pin down one cause, because any event can be an extremely complicated mixture of many kammas ripening together. Causality is not linear. The experience of the present is shaped both by actions in the present and by actions in the past. Actions in the present shape both the present and the future. The results of past and present actions continually interact. Thus there is always room for new input into the system, which gives scope for free will. Kamma is said to be the engine which drives the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth (samsara) for sentient beings. It is believed that a genuine, experiential understanding of karmic action and result enables one to free himself from samsara and attain liberation. What, then, makes an action good or bad? It is largely a matter of intention and choice. The psychological springs of motivation are described as roots , and there are three good roots and three bad ones. Actions motivated by greed, hatred and delusion are bad while actions motivated by their opposites non-attachment, benevolence and understanding are good. Understanding how cause and eect operate is the key point of Buddhist ethics. We need to know how negative actions harm ourselves and others, and how positive deeds benet ourselves and others, in both short-and long-term ways. Of course, because of habitual tendencies, even when we know our actions aren t benecial, sometimes we still do them. But the more mindful we are and the more certain we become of how kamma works, the more our old habits fall away. It s extremely important to understand how our actions are connected with their results. It s like knowing that if you put your hand in a re, your hand will get burned. It is not a moral issue of right versus wrong but a matter of understanding cause and eect. From the Buddhist point of view, positive and negative deeds are not a moral issue; they are based on recognizing that positive actions bring benet, and negative actions bring harm. We can learn from contemplating and considering our direct experience. Through noticing the results of our thoughts, attitudes, and actions, we learn what gives the best results hence a path gets established beneath our own feet. 3.5.1 Kamma Does Not Imply Predestination

The theory of karmic action and result does not imply that our lives are predetermined because of our previous kamma. Our current situation is due to our past kamma, but our future depends on the actions that we take from this moment onward. The eects of kamma have been compared to the ow of a river; while it may not be possible to stop the river or reverse its direction, it is possible to divert its course in a new direction. 14

Certain experiences in life the results of previous actions; but our responses to those experiences, whether wished for or unwished for, are not predetermined but represent new actions which in time bear their own fruit. The understanding of individual responsibility does not mean that we should never seek or expect another s assistance in order to better cope with the troubles of life. The belief that one s broken leg is at one level to be explained as the result of unwholesome actions performed in a previous life does not mean that one should not go to a doctor to have the broken leg set. 3.5.2 Karmic Results Are Not a Judgement

The causes and conditions create certain circumstances that then come to fruition. It has nothing to do with judgement; there is no one keeping track of our kamma. Kamma is simply the wholeness of a cause, or rst action, and its eect, or fruition, which then becomes another cause. In fact, one karmic cause can have many fruitions, all of which can cause thousands more creations. Just as a handful of seed can ripen into a full eld of grain, a small amount of kamma can generate limitless eects. 3.5.3 Three Types of Misunderstanding

There are three ways of misunderstanding kamma: 1. Past-action determinism: The belief that all happiness and suering, including all future happiness and suering, arise from previous kamma, and human beings can exercise no volition to aect future results; 2. Theistic determinism: The belief that all happiness and suering are caused by the directives of a supreme being; 3. Indeterminism (or accidentalism): The belief that all happiness and suering are random, having no cause. These three misunderstandings are designated as wrong views , and they are said to lead to inaction and destroy motivation and human eort, and to undermine the concept that a human being can change for the better no matter what his past was. Kamma is continually ripening, but it is also continually being generated by present actions, therefore it is possible to exercise free will to shape future kamma. 3.5.4 Karmic Results

The Buddha most often spoke of kamma as the determining factor of the realm of one s subsequent rebirth for this reason kamma is often explained in tandem with rebirth and cosmology. E.g. describing the various rebirths that various kinds of actions produce; negative actions such as killing lead to rebirths in the lower realms such as hell, and virtuous action such as gracious behavior under duress leads to rebirth in the human or other higher realms. Further, within human rebirths in particular, virtuous actions produce desirable qualities and good fortune such as physical beauty, in uence, and so forth, whereas nonvirtuous actions lead to ugliness, poverty, and other misfortunes. Other rebirths may intervene between the time of the virtuous or nonvirtuous actions and the rebirth that they impel. One cannot avoid experiencing the result of a karmic deed once it s been committed. Karmic results are experienced either in this life or in future lives. The former may involve a readily observable connection between action and karmic consequence, as when a thief is captured and 15

punished by the authorities, but the connection need not necessarily be that obvious and in fact usually is not observable. There is a distinction between past kamma which has already been incurred, and kamma being created in the present. Therefore in the present one both creates new kamma and encounters the result of past kamma. The theory of karmic action and eect did not encompass all causes and results. Any given action may cause all sorts of results, but the karmic results are only that subset of results which impinges upon the doer of the action as a consequence of both the moral quality of the action and the intention behind the action. The consequences envisioned by the law of kamma encompass more (as well as less) than the observed natural or physical results which follow upon the performance of an action. The law of kamma also applies specically to the moral sphere, not concerned with the general relation between actions and their consequences, but rather with the moral quality of actions and their consequences, such as the pain and pleasure and good or bad experiences for the doer of the act. The theory of kamma is not deterministic, in part because past kamma is not viewed as the only causal mechanism causing the present. In the case of diseases, for instance, there are other causes which may result in disease in addition to kamma. The karmic eect of a deed is not determined solely by the deed itself, but also by the nature of the person who commits the deed and by the circumstances in which it is committed. E.g. if a person has not properly cultivated his body, behavior, thought and intelligence, is inferior and insignicant and his life is short and miserable, even a tri ing evil action done leads him to hell. In the case of a person who has proper culture of the body, behavior, thought and intelligence, who is superior and not insignicant, and who is endowed with long life, the consequences of a similar evil action are to be experienced in this very life, and sometimes may not appear at all. 3.5.5 Kamma and Nibbana

There is a further distinction between worldly, wholesome kamma that leads to samsaric happiness (like birth in higher realms), and path-consciousness which leads to enlightenment and nibbana. Therefore, there is samsaric good kamma, which leads to worldly happiness, and there is liberating kamma which is supremely good, as it ends suering forever. Once one has attained liberation, one does not generate any further kamma. The term kamma refers only to samsaric actions, not actions committed by Arahants (perfected ones ) and Buddhas (awakened onesor enlightened ones ).



Dhamma (Pali; Sanskrit: dharma) is the reality, or the law that upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe. It can have the following meanings: 1. The state of nature as it is; 2. The laws of nature considered both collectively and individually; 3. The teaching of the Buddha as an exposition of the natural law applied to the problem of human suering; 4. A phenomenon and/or its properties.


It refers to both the system of analysis regarding the causes of suering and the necessary course of action needed to be taken to undo these causes. This course of action involves leading a life of moral uprightness abstaining from unwholesome behaviours and engaging in wholesome ones. Such a lifestyle as well as keeping a person out of harm s way brings about over time a purication of any taints brought about by unskilful past activities. The end point of this path (notwithstanding the commitment to helping others to achieve the same), the nal undoing of all the internal causes of suering, is nal liberation from samsara. This is accompanied by a profound peace of mind referred to as nibbana . Reality refers to the system of natural laws which constitute the natural order of things. Dhamma is therefore reality as-it-is. The method by which people can come out of their condition of suering involves developing an awareness of reality. Any disparity between a person s view of reality and the actual state of things must be addressed. This is called developing right or correct view. Seeing reality as-it-is is thus an essential prerequisite to mental health and well-being. Reality is seen, ultimately, as a form of projection , resulting from the fruition of karmic seeds. The precise nature of this illusion that is the phenomenal universe is debated among dierent schools. For example: 1. Some consider that the concept of the unreality of reality is confusing. They posit that the perceived reality is considered illusory not in the sense that reality is a fantasy or unreal, but that our perceptions and preconditions mislead us to believe that we are separate from the elements that we are made of. Reality would be described as the manifestation of kamma; 2. Other schools of thought consider perceived reality literally unreal. In a real sense, all the visions that we see in our lifetime are like a big dream. In this context, the term visions denotes not only visual perceptions, but appearances perceived through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations, and operations on received mental objects.



Nibbana (Pali; Sanskrit: nirvana) is a term used to describe the profound peace of mind that is acquired with liberation from samsara, it is the state of being free from suering. The word literally means blown out (as in a candle) and refers to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the res of desire, aversion, and delusion have been nally extinguished. The Buddha describes nibbana as the perfect peace of mind possessed by one who is liberated (arahant). It is to be distinguished from peaceful moods arising from a temporary absence of anger, sensual desire, anxiety and other a- icting states. Nibbana is an ultimate peace that is achieved after a lengthy process of mind-body transformation during which the uprooting and nal dissolution of the volitional formations (structures within the unconscious mind that form the underlying basis for psychological dispositions) takes place. During the course of many repeated incarnations these deeply buried structures (also referred to as karmic seeds ) are either strengthened by indulgence in worldly activities or weakened by following the path of the enlightened ones. The Buddha says of nibbana that it is the highest happiness , an enduring happiness qualitatively dierent from the limited, transitory happiness derived from impermanent things. The unique character of nibbana is due to the mind having become unconditioned which is to say free from the conditions formerly obscuring it by the volitional formations. This ultimate state is described as deathlessness and naturally accrues in the fullness of time to one having lived a life committed to the Noble Eightfold Path. Such a life


is concerned with performing wholesome actions with positive results and nally allows the cessation of the origination of worldly activities altogether with the attainment of nibbana. Nibbana is a radical reordering of consciousness, made possible through the cultivation of special states of absorbed concentration. These are states of deep relaxation in which a high degree of mental alertness and concentration is present. The states of concentration in turn are made possible by a training in the establishing of mindfulness. The nibbana is never conceived of as a place (such as one might conceive heaven), but rather the antinomy of samsara which itself is synonymous with ignorance. This state of being is described as transcendent or supramundane. Nibbana is that which ends the identity of the mind with empirical phenomena. Nibbana is said of the mind which no longer is coming and goingbut which has attained a status in perpetuity, whereby liberation can be said. It carries further connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. The realizing of nibbana is compared to the ending of ignorance which perpetuates the will into eecting the incarnation of mind into biological form passing on forever through life after life (samsara). Samsara is caused principally by craving and ignorance. A liberated person performs neutral actions producing no fruit, but nonetheless preserves a particular individual personality. This is the result of the traces of his karmic heritage. Nibbana is achieved after a long process of committed application to the path of purication. The disciplined way of life is a gradual training extending often over a number of years. To be committed to this path already requires that a seed of wisdom is present in the individual. This wisdom becomes manifest in the experience of awakening. Attaining nibbana, in either the current or some future birth, depends on eort, and is not pre-determined. For liberated ones the luminous, unsupported consciousness associated with nibbana is directly known without mediation of the mental consciousness factor in dependent co-arising, and is the transcending of all objects of mental consciousness. It diers radically from the concept of accessing the individual s inmost consciousness, in that it is not considered an aspect, even the deepest aspect, of the individual s personality, and is not to be confused in any way with a Self . Furthermore, it transcends the sphere of innite consciousness, the sixth of the stages of concentration (jhanas), which is in itself not the ending of the conceit of I .



Metta (Pali; Sanskrit: maitri) is loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolence, amity, friendship, good will, kindness, close mental union (on same mental wavelength), and active interest in others. It is love without clinging. The cultivation of loving-kindness is a popular form of meditation. This practice begins with the meditator cultivating loving-kindness towards himself, then his loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and nally towards all sentient beings. This traditional approach is best known for identifying successive stages of meditation during which one progressively cultivates loving-kindness towards: 1. oneself; 2. a good friend; 3. a neutralperson; 4. a di cult person; 5. all four of the above equally;


6. and then gradually the entire universe. Metta signies friendship and non-violence, a strong wish for the happiness of others and also less obvious or direct qualities such as patience, receptivity, and appreciation. Loving-kindness is a very specic feeling a caring for the well-being of another living being, independent of approving or disapproving of them, or expecting anything in return. Practice includes reciting specic words and phrases in order to evoke a boundless warm-hearted feeling, or visualizing suering and wishing well for those beings. Non-referential compassion, also known as pure compassion , involves simply experiencing the feeling of caring for another sentient being. One special technique is to imagine the state of another. Loving-kindness is the application of love to suering. Metta is applied to all beings and, as a consequence, one experiences another of the sublime states: joy, which is true happiness in another being s happiness. All sentient beings desire happiness and do not desire misery. Think deeply about how, in this beginning-less cycle of existence, there is not one sentient being who has not been my friend and relative hundreds of times. Therefore, since there is no ground for being attached to some and hating others, I shall develop a mind of equanimity toward all sentient beings. Begin the meditation on equanimity by thinking of a neutral person, and then consider people who are friends and foes. May all beings be at ease! Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another. Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings. Radiating kindness over the entire world, spreading upwards to the skies, and downwards to the depths, outwards and unbounded, freed from hatred and ill-will. May all beings be free from enmity, a- iction and anxiety, and live happily.



Jhana (Pali; Sanskrit: dhyana) is a form of meditation, a state of consciousness in which the observer detaches from several qualities of the mind. In this state the mind has become rm and stable and the ability to concentrate is greatly enhanced. There are several levels of concentration, each of increasing depth. The jhanas are states of meditation where the mind is free from the ve hindrances craving, aversion, sloth, agitation and doubt and (from the second jhana onwards) incapable of discursive thinking. They are states of collected, full-body awareness in which the mind becomes very powerful and still but not frozen, and is thus able to observe and gain insight into the changing ow of experience. Jhana can be attained via mindfulness of breathing. There are eight progressive states of jhana. Four are called form meditations, and four are formless meditations. 3.9.1 Form Meditations

The form meditations are successive levels of meditation in which the mind is focused on a material or mental object. Each higher level is harder to reach than the previous one as it relinquishes an attachment to one of the positive experiences of the previous state. The form meditations are distinguished from formless meditations which are meditations focused without material or mental objects. To reach each successive stage of meditation, a factor of attachment in the previous stage is renounced: 1. The rst stage includes the three primary factors of the one-pointed noticing and experiencing of the object, rapture in the experience, and joy in the rapture; 19

2. In the second stage, the meditator lets go of the noticing and experiencing of the object and perceives the rapture and joy of the one pointedness; 3. In the third stage, the person detaches from the sense of rapture and perceives the onepointed joy; 4. In the fourth stage, the meditator relinquishes joy and perceives only one-pointed equanimity not disturbed even by joy. After renouncing the poison of greed and entering the realm of form, in order to renounce the poison of aversion, the meditator engages in the four meditations of form. By renouncing his attachments to objects, the rapture in objects, and joy in the rapture, he is renouncing his aversion to the absence of objects, absence of rapture, and absence of joy. When he is able to renounce even the equanimity achieved in the fourth meditation of form, he renounces the last attachment to the realm of form and is able to enter the formless realm without being overcome by either desire or aversion, and he becomes able to engage in the four formless meditations. 3.9.2 Formless Meditations

Formless meditations are four successive levels of meditation on non-material objects. These levels are higher than the form meditations, and harder to attain. In themselves, they are believed to lead to rebirth as superior beings. While form meditations dier considering their characteristics, formless ones dier as their object is determined by the level of the meditation: 5. Innite space: In the fourth stage, there is already equanimity and concentration, but the mind is still focused on a material object, as any color. In the fth stage, the meditator discovers that there is no object, but only an innite space, which is empty. This perception motivates the interest of claiming formless meditation; 6. Innite consciousness: In the sixth stage, it becomes obvious that space has no existence. There is only innite consciousness; 7. Innite nothingness: In the seventh stage appears the feeling that there is no consciousness, but nothingness; 8. Neither perception nor non-perception: The eighth stage consists in the most discrete possible state of mind, which justies the using of neither perception nor non-perception . These explanations do not refer to any intellectual, philosophical comprehension, which disappear since the second stage. They attempt to gure mental processes.



There is no word corresponding exactly to the English terms rebirth , metempsychosis , transmigration or reincarnation in the traditional Buddhist languages of Pali and Sanskrit: the entire process of change from one life to the next is called punarbhava (Sanskrit) or punabbhava (Pali), literally becoming again . The entire universal process that gives rise to this is samsara. Rebirth is the doctrine that the evolving consciousness or stream of consciousness upon death (or the dissolution of the aggregates ), becomes one of the contributing causes for the


arising of a new aggregation. The consciousness in the new person is neither identical nor entirely dierent from that in the deceased but the two form a causal continuum or stream. These lives can be in any of a large number of states of being, including the human, any kind of animal and several types of supernatural beings. Rebirth is conditioned by the kamma (actions of body, speech and mind) of previous lives; good kamma will yield a happier rebirth, bad kamma will produce a more unhappy one. The basic cause for this is the abiding of consciousness in ignorance: when ignorance is uprooted, rebirth ceases. One of the analogies used to describe what happens then is that of a ray of light that never lands. Within one life and across multiple lives, the empirical, changing self not only objectively aects its surrounding external world, but also generates (consciously and unconsciously) its own subjective image of this world, which it then lives in as reality . It lives in a world of its own making in various ways. It tunes into a particular level of consciousness (by meditation or the rebirth it attains through its kamma) which has a particular range of objects a world available to it. It furthermore selectively notices from among such objects, and then processes what has been sensed to form a distorted interpretive model of reality: a model in which the I amconceit is a crucial reference point. When nibbana is experienced, though, all such models are transcended: the world stops in this fathom-long carcase . There is no permanent consciousness that moves from life to life. But the lack of a xed self does not mean lack of continuity. In the same way that a ame is transferred from one candle to another, there is a conditioned relationship between one life and the next: they are neither identical nor completely distinct. Meditation teachers suggest that consciousness is a sequence of conscious moments rather than a continuum of awareness. Each moment is an experience of an individual mind-state such as a thought, a memory, a feeling or a perception. A mind-state arises, exists and, being impermanent, ceases, following which the next mind-state arises. Thus the consciousness of a sentient being can be seen as a continuous series of birth and death of these mind-states. Rebirth is the persistence of this process.


Enlightenment (Awakening)

Bodhi (Sanskrit, Pali) literally means to have woken up and understood and refers to the particular form of understanding or knowledge that the Buddha attained upon his awakening. This knowledge is an understanding into the causality by which sentient beings come into existence, as well as the operations of the mind which keep sentient beings imprisoned in craving, suering and rebirth. Awakening is thus the understanding of the way to liberate oneself from this imprisonment. After destroying the disturbances of the mind, and attaining concentration of the mind, the Buddha attained three knowledges: 1. Insight in his past lives; 2. Insight in the workings of kamma and rebirth; 3. Insight in the Four Noble Truths. Awakening is also being described as reaching nibbana, the extinction of the passions whereby suering is ended and no more rebirths take place. The insight arises that this liberation is certain. So awakening is insight in kamma and rebirth, insight in the Four Noble Truths, the extinction of the passions whereby nibbana is reached, and the certainty that liberation has been reached. 21

After attainment of nibbana, the ve aggregates (physical forms, feelings/sensations, perception, mental formations and consciousness) will continue to function, sustained by physical bodily vitality. This attainment is termed nibbana with a residue remaining. But with the disintegration of the physical body, the ve aggregates will cease to function, hence ending all traces of existence in the phenomenal world and thus total release from the misery of samsara. It would then be termed nibbana without residue remaining. The Buddha himself is rst identied as an arahant (perfected one ), as are his enlightened followers, because they are free from all delements, without greed, hatred, delusion, ignorance and craving. Lacking elements which will lead to future birth, the arahant knows and sees the real here and now. This virtue shows stainless purity, true worth, and the accomplishment of the end, nibbana.