Introduction to Philosophy/What is Buddhist Philosophy?
The Buddha expressed his philosophy when he said: "I teach only two things, O disciples, the nature of suffering and the cessation of suffering."
The Buddha taught the famous "Four Noble Truths" and "Eightfold Path," which allows people to achieve enlightenment. Enlightenment (nirvana, awakening, realization, satori) is the cessation of suffering, freedom from conditioned existence (samsara). The Buddha taught that every action has a consequence; things are because of previous conditions. If one practices the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, then one will no longer be subject to the cycle of existence samsara.
"My teaching is not a philosophy. It is the result of direct experience... My teaching is a means of practice, not something to hold onto or worship. My teaching is like a raft used to cross the river. Only a fool would carry the raft around after he had already reached the other shore of liberation."
To his favourite disciple, Ananda, the Buddha once said (from: Old Path, White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh):
Three Marks of Existence
- Annica - Everything is subject to change.
- Dukkha - All pervasive unsatisfactoriness.
- Anatta - Everything is empty of a separate self.
Four Noble Truths
- Dukkha - Life is unsatisfactory, disjointed, suffering.
- Samudaya - There is a cause of suffering, which is attachment or desire (tanha).
- Nirodha - There is a cessation of suffering, which is to eliminate attachment and desire.
- Marga - The path that leads out of suffering is called the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Buddha taught that in order to realize enlightenment, man must free himself from his ego, and give up all desires. He taught that by having so many desires (such as wanting pleasure, wealth, happiness, security, success, long life, etc.), man condemns himself to suffering, and will never escape the cycle of rebirths.
Therefore Buddhism believes that suffering is self-created.
The Eightfold Path
Wisdom - Prajna
1. Right Understanding (or Right View, or Right Perspective)
"And what, monks, is right understanding? Knowledge with regard to dukkha, knowledge with regard to the origination of dukkha, knowledge with regard to the stopping of dukkha, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the stopping of dukkha: This, monks, is called right understanding.
2. Right Thought (or Right Intention, or Right Resolve)
"And what is right thought? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right thought.
Morality - Sila
3. Right Speech
"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.
4. Right Action
"And what, monks, is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity: This, monks, is called right action.
5. Right Livelihood
"And what, monks, is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This, monks, is called right livelihood.
Concentration - Samadhi
6. Right Effort (or Right Endeavour)
"And what, monks, is right effort? (i) There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (ii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen. (iii) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen. (iv) He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort.
7. Right Mindfulness
"And what, monks, is right mindfulness? (i) There is the case where a monk remains focused on the body in & of itself -- ardent, aware, & mindful -- putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (ii) He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves -- ardent, aware, & mindful -- putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iii) He remains focused on the mind in & of itself -- ardent, aware, & mindful -- putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. (iv) He remains focused on mental qualities in & of themselves -- ardent, aware, & mindful -- putting away greed & distress with reference to the world. This, monks, is called right mindfulness.
8. Right Concentration
"And what, monks, is right concentration? (i) There is the case where a monk -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities -- enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. (ii) With the stilling of directed thought & evaluation, he enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, one-pointedness of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation -- internal assurance. (iii) With the fading of rapture, he remains in equanimity, mindful & fully aware, and physically sensitive of pleasure. He enters & remains in the third jhana, of which the Noble Ones declare, 'Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasurable abiding.' (iv) With the abandoning of pleasure & pain -- as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress -- he enters & remains in the fourth jhana: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This, monks, is called right concentration."
Buddhism's world view
The Buddha taught that beings were born into their position because of past karma. He taught that there were six realms of existence: hell, insatiable-spirit, animal, fighting-spirits, human, and heavenly-being. A human birth was most desired because you have the best chance of enlightenment.
- Life is dukha (suffering)
- Karma: Cause-effect relationship.
- Enlightenment: Escape from samsara.
- Everything is marked by suffering, change and emptiness
- Emptiness in this context means empty of an unchanging essence or self or soul.
- The following quote by The Buddha summarizes many of his beliefs1:
- On ignorance depends karma;
- On karma depends consciousness;
- On consciousness depend name and form;
- On name and form depend the six organs of sense;
- On the six organs of sense depends contact;
- On contact depends sensation;
- On sensation depends desire;
- On desire depends attachment;
- On attachment depends existence;
- On existence depends birth;
- On birth depends old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, and despair.
- Retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/bits/bits009.htm