Hello to all,
Here is the second in the series of talks given in the Deer Park at the Buddha Center in the virtual world of Second Life. The first talk can found here.
We picked up the thread of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutra where we left off last week.
by Wayne Ren-Cheng
“The Noble Truth of Suffering (dukkha), monks, is this: Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unpleasant is suffering, dissociation from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one desires is suffering — in brief the five aggregates subject to grasping are suffering.
The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering is this: It is this craving which produces re-becoming (rebirth) accompanied by passionate greed, and finding fresh delight now here, and now there, namely craving for sense pleasure, craving for existence and craving for non-existence.
The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering is this: It is the complete cessation of those very cravings, giving them up, relinquishing them, liberating oneself from them, and detaching oneself from them.
The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering is this: It is the Noble Eightfold Path, and nothing else, namely: appropriate understanding, appropriate thought, appropriate speech, appropriate action, appropriate livelihood, appropriate effort, appropriate mindfulness and appropriate concentration.
This is the Four Ennobling Truths’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This suffering, as a noble truth, should be fully realized’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before. ‘This suffering, as ennobling truths have been fully realized’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.”
There have been some scholars, religious and secular, who have described Buddhism as a pessimistic philosophy and psychology . . . and there are examples in Buddhist texts that support that assumption as they focus soley on the negative aspects of the human condition . . . until we look deeper. In his first dharma talk the Buddha begins with good news – that there is a path, an Ennobling Eightfold Path that leads away from suffering – before injecting a dose of reality, that suffering is truth that encompasses all of the human condition. Perhaps what is being viewed by some as pessimistic is actually pragmatic. Some people need to be shocked by the negative in order to respond with the positive.
The Four Ennobling Truths that Siddhartha awoke to are foundational principles that all Buddhist traditions accept. The Buddha offers insight into the condition of the world NOW, both in his life-time and in the life times that followed his until now. That this condition of suffering will continue depends a lot on the legacy each of us leave to those who will follow us. It is a truth that is as impermanent as all other phenomena depending on what happens in the future, a future we can’t see or react to. To prepare for an unknown future we realize that suffering, discontent, and unsatisfactoriness are real quantifiable factors of human existence so we might as well open our eyes and see clearly the cause so that we can respond now in appropriate ways that will result in positive consequences. There are five cravings, or attachments that generate psychoemotional suffering: Birth is suffering . . . aging is suffering . . . sickness is suffering . . . association with the unpleasant is suffering . . . dissociation from the pleasant is suffering . . . not receiving what one desires is suffering . . . death is suffering. These are five situations/experiences that we all must deal with from birth to death. It is how we deal with them that can increase suffering or decrease it. And, coming full-circle the Eightfold Path is the Way out of suffering, discontent and unsatisfactoriness. Yes . . . suffering is a fact of life and the first teaching the Buddha offered was that he had realized a path, an Ennobling Eightfold Path that guided one away from suffering and offered the tools necessary to help others do the same.
Siddhartha said, “This suffering, as ennobling truths have been fully realized’: such was the vision, the knowledge, the wisdom, the science, the light that arose in me concerning things not heard before.” Traditional translations use noble rather than ennobling. In EDIG we use ennobling, the adverb, as a reminder that the Four Truths are not to just be believed; they are realizations that when acted upon place us on the Noble Path, the path to liberation, the path to enlightened moments.
“As long as my knowledge of seeing things as they really are, was not quite clear concerning the Four Noble Truths, I did not claim to have realized the matchless, supreme Enlightenment, in this world with its gods, with its Maras and Brahmas, in this generation with its recluses and brahmas, with its Devas and humans. But when my knowledge of seeing things as they really are was quite clear in these three aspects, in these twelve ways, concerning the Four Noble Truths, then I claimed to have realized the matchless, supreme Enlightenment in this world with its gods, with its Maras and Brahmas, in this generation with its recluses and brahmanas, with its Devas and humans. And a vision of insight arose in me thus: ‘Unshakable is the deliverance of my heart. This is the last birth. Now there is no more re-becoming (rebirth).”
It wasn’t until Siddhartha had his first enlightened moment, when he saw past his own delusions and habits that he experienced liberation. He speaks of the world with its gods, the generation with its abundance of holy men, and proliferation of deific avatars and human gurus. These were all aspects of the Hindu culture, aspects that Siddhartha recognized as hindrances to the Noble Path. As long as man relied on outside, metaphysical, mystical, and magical forces to make positive changes; as long as they denied there own responsibility in HOW they were, then human-kind would be forever stuck in samsara.
“Unshakable is the deliverance of my heart. This is the last birth. Now there is no more re-becoming (rebirth).” The idea of rebirth as a Buddhist concept has long been debated on. Siddhartha as a Hindu knew that the notion of rebirth was an accepted, and anticipated aspect of the Hindi faiths. What is at question is does this quote, and some others point directly to Siddhartha accepting rebirth as a human reality. Did the idea of rebirth fit into the truth of human existence that Siddhartha realized? Or, was his perception of rebirth more like the Christian ideal of “I am reborn in Christ the Savior”? Rebirth is a subject we’ll leave now, but will return to it in a later talk.
“This the Blessed One said. The group of five monks was glad, and they rejoiced at the words of the Blessed One.
When this discourse was thus expounded there arose in the Venerable Kondañña the passion-free, stainless vision of Truth, he realized: “Whatever has the nature of arising, has the nature of ceasing.”
The teaching of Siddhartha had awoken knowledge of co-dependent arising in Kondanna. Suffering arose as a consequence of thought and action. As well, suffering could be made to fall away as a consequence of thought and action. This was a powerful realization for a person whose life had been one of accepting the permanence of his conscious and unconscious mind. Here, Kondanna experienced a ‘rebirth’ of worldview.
“Now when the Blessed One set in motion the Dharma Wheel, the Bhummattha devas (the earth deities) proclaimed: “The Matchless Wheel of Truth that cannot be set in motion by recluse, brahmana, deva, Mara, Brahma, or any one in the world, is set in motion by the Blessed One in the Deer Park at Isipatana near Varanasi.
Hearing these words of the earth deities, all the Catummaharajika devas proclaimed: “The Matchless Wheel of Truth that cannot be set in motion by recluse, brahmana, deva, Mara, Brahma, or any one in the world, is set in motion by the Blessed One in the Deer Park at Isipatana near Varanasi.” These words were heard in the upper deva realms, and from Catummaharajika it was proclaimed in Tavatimsa… Yama… Tusita… Nimmanarati… Paranimmita-vasavatti… and the Brahmas of Brahma Parisajja… Brahma Purohita… Maha Brahma… Parittabha… Appamanabha… Abhassara… Parittasubha… Appamana subha… Subhakinna… Vehapphala… Aviha… Atappa… Sudassa… Sudassi… and in Akanittha: “The Matchless Wheel of Truth that cannot be set in motion by recluse, brahman, deva, Mara, Brahma, or any one in the world, is set in motion by the Blessed One in the Deer Park at Isipatana near Sarnath.”
Thus at that very moment, at that instant, the cry that the Dharma Wheel is set in motion spread as far as Brahma realm, the system of ten thousand worlds trembled and quaked and shook. A boundless sublime radiance surpassing the power of devas appeared in the world.
The Four Ennobling Truths and the reality of co-dependent arising put the power to enact positive change firmly in the hands of mankind. These were truths not reached by the deities, brahmas, devas, recluses and maras so prevalent in Hinduism; the truths sublime radiance was awoken to by a man, Siddhartha. It was a spiritual and social paradigm that Siddhartha realized could surpass the power of gods over men.
“Then the Blessed One uttered this paean of joy: “Verily Kondañña has realized; verily Kondañña has realized the Four Ennobling Truths.” Thus it was that the Venerable Kondañña received the name, “Añña Kondañña’ — Kondañña who realizes.”
Anna Kondanna is put forth as the first real disciple of the Buddha. With the realization of his enlightened moment Anna Kondanna took his first step on the Noble Path. It is an ennobling step we are each capable of taking.