Friday, January 20, 2006

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Why religion? Why Spiritualism? Why Buddhism?

Religion comes from people feeling alienated and separated;

from each other and from their own suffering.

The Buddha's teaching is about direct experience.
Buddhism is not a 'belief system'.

The basic Buddhist teaching is 'The Four Noble Truths'
Suffering; it's cause; it's end; and the way to that end.

The goal of Buddhism is freedom from suffering:
(Nibbana in Pali, Nirvana in Sanskrit).

Religions usually start when one person has a profound understanding of life (the universe and everything). They try and share their insight - they teach. Other people get interested in religion because they see something in that person's TRUTH; they too want to know about the truth.

The word 'religion' is from the 12th century Latin 'religio', meaning fear of the supernatural and from 'religare', to tie up, from 're' and 'ligare', to bind or to join with..

So then, what is this 'some-thing' that we are to join with - or be afraid of? Most religions say that this 'thing' is God. But what is this God thing? And it goes on like this and on like this and on like this. The trouble with words is that they are limited - the word can never be the same as the thing it is describing.

You can listen to many different teachings but only through your own study can you actually realise THE TRUTH.

What is absolutely true?
What is always, forever good?
Where is freedom?

Religion points to the unlimited - the REAL thing - which is no-thing.
Infinity is where parallel lines meet.
In the beginning there was . . . nothing.
My true nature is outside my self
In the beginning there was everything - it just didn't know it was god!

Religion can be a bit of a mind bender.
Take a break here and have a look at the word 'PARADOX' - and relax. Enjoy - or change channels!

paradox: A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement that is or may be
true: religious truths are often expressed in paradox. A self-contradictory
proposition, such as: 'I always tell lies'. A person or thing exhibiting
apparently contradictory characteristics. An opinion that conflicts with common

Because life - religion - everything is a bit of a paradox, the Buddha didn't teach about whether there is or isn't a god or gods. He said that just because you believe in something doesn't mean that it is true. I am writing this and I say to you 'I am a monk'. You can believe me if you want but you don't really know if it is true. And then you meet me and see that I am just some crazy punk - ''NO! NO! its really true! I am not a punk I am a monk. Believe me.'' And you use your intelligence and wisdom (you have got some for sure) and you decide -- 'is it true or not?'

The Buddha based his teaching on what can be directly experienced. Like, if I have a bad feeling then I can know that. God I can't be so sure of but when I am grumpy I can be sure I am grumpy. What you believe is really grumpy might be different but I know what I know, for me.

Religion is about solving life's problems. So that's where the Buddha started. He began with the one thing that every human being has - problems. Because this is something that everyone has at different times it is called a 'truth'. The Basis of the Buddha's teaching is:''The Four Noble Truths''

''The Four Noble Truths''

They are called 'Noble' because they lead to peace, to freedom. They liberate. And - yes, you guessed it (clever, clever) - there are four of them - TRUTHS that is.

Usually people get interested in religion because of some problem or difficulty in life. This tendency to problems is what the Buddha was pointing to in the first Noble Truth. The word he used is from the Pali language - DUKKHA. It is usually translated as suffering.


''There is suffering.''

I have never met anyone who disagrees with this.

The suffering is not so much physical as mental. It is what we 'add on' to a situation. For example you have a nice china coffee mug -- you drop it and it breaks. Maybe it drops on your toe and there is pain. I'm sure you can survive this much. What is difficult to deal with are the add-ons . . . ''Oh, that was my favourite mug. My best friend gave me that; I will never get another. What stupid idiot left it balanced there anyhow? How can I tell my friend? And look at the stain on the carpet. My mother will kill me. It's not fair. Why do these things happen to me?''

Grizzle, whinge, whine, moan, complain, whimper, snivel

S U F F E R I N G !

It's difficult to accept the facts of life the way they are!
Mug is broken -- sweep it up and make another drink!
Your boy/girl friend leaves you -- oh well, things change!
You want to go to the beach and it starts raining -- no worry;
'I'll stay home and read a book.'

To be content with things just the way they happen is not easy.

So the dukkha, the suffering is something we actually create -- we make the problem. Mugs break, friends come & go, the weather changes -- all of this is natural. Do you suffer because of these kind of things? Would you like it if they didn't happen?


''There is suffering because of desire.''

We don't want things to go wrong we want them to go right. This is only natural. But the bad news is that it is natural for things to go wrong (sometimes). Most people can see this but it is very difficult to fully accept it. The good news is - it will change (eventually).

'I want my mug in one piece'
'I want my lover back'
'I want to go surfing'

Because we do have some control in the world, and can often get what we want (and that is nice) we want that all the time. SORRY. No can do. Sure, you are careful with mugs; you try and look after your friends, but ... you've got to allow nature to do its thing.

Go with the flow.

If you can see when it is time to stop wanting and just leave things be your suffering will decrease. Like if you are trying to push start a car with a dead battery. You push -- and it nearly goes -- push -- and push again -- its worth making the effort. You want the engine to go. But maybe the nature of that engine means it won't start. Know when to stop. Take a break. Flag someone down. Call the repair man.

Knowing when to let go of desire is using wisdom.


''The end of suffering comes with the end of desire.''

Pretty obvious really.

An itching story:

Maybe you know what poison ivy is? There is one variety that really itches. You get it on your skin and little blisters form -- and do they itch. Drives you crazy. So -- you scratch. And does it feel good? Only trouble is that the blisters burst and the liquid spreads on the skin and -- oh no! and more blisters form -- and do they itch. Drives you crazy. So -- you scratch. And it feels good. Ahhhh! But this goes on and on until you begin to think 'This is suffering. I've got to stop scratching and just let nature heal all these blisters.'

How does your suffering appear? People itch after material things: cars, money, etc. -- after sensual things: drink, drugs, sex, etc. -- after emotional things: love, praise, etc.

You're itching to be ... what? intelligent; good looking; cool; tough; fast; loveable; rich; artistic; whatever. You know your not all of that but you want it so much. This desire is the itching. So you go for it -- the scratching. And it kind of feels good? Only trouble is ... if it is against nature ... there is a bad result. Fakes fall over. If you're not tough and you scratch someone tough ... Ooooow.

Desire (itching); leads to bad, unwise action (scratching); leads to more itching; leads eventually to suffering. Somewhere down the line you've got to stop scratching.

Just be yourself. Be true to your own nature.


''There is a way to let go of desire.''

This 'way' is called 'The Eightfold Path' - because there are eight steps. They steps are usually divided into two groups
wisdom - morality - concentration

1 · Right View - understanding human nature - understanding The Four Noble Truths.
2 · Right Thought - or right intention. Thoughts free frrom greed, anger and cruelty.

3 · Right Speech - avoiding: false; slanderous; harsh; frivolous speech.
4 · Right Action - not killing; not stealing; avoiding sexual misconduct.

5 · Right Livelihood - it should be by legal and peaceful means.
6 · Right Effort - to overcome ones unwholesome mind states.
7 · Right Mindfulness - developing mental clarity, being awake & alert
8 · Right Concentration - is 'one pointedness of mind'

This eight-fold path leads to the goal of Buddhism - enlightenment.

Every one wants to be happy. True or false? You may get some (weird) people that like physical pain. But that is their way of seeking happiness. We all have different ideas about what will make us happy - free from unhappiness.

What we really want is freedom. This is the goal of Buddhism.

But what is freedom?

It is very difficult to define freedom so let's start by looking at what it is not - SLAVERY!

What are you a slave to?
Who me? A slave?

Yes you. Slavery is: 'being subject to some influence or habit that has power over you.' If you smoke cigarettes (yuk) then chances are you are a slave to tobacco. Surf the net a lot? Maybe you are a cyberslave. Television slavery? "I've just have to watch!" Sweet, sugary things? These are all quite obvious addictions for some people. Physical addictions are easily seen and, with something 'visible' to work on, not such a problem. It is the mental things we are addicted to that are much more difficult to notice. These mental things tend to be ideas we have about ourselves as a person. Who we think we are. How we think others see us or, how we want them to see us.

We are slaves to self-view.

We are all a bit of a slave to fashion. How our hair and our clothes look. 'I wouldn't be seen dead in those colours.' Slave to beauty? Clear skin, good looks, not too fat . . . get a big zit and SUFFER? Changing your hair style is not such a problem but can you be content with how your body is and the way changes?

How about praise? Everybody likes it but how is it for you when you get blamed or criticised? 'You're such a jerk. What a really dumb thing to do.' 'You're not really going to wear that revolting thing are you. You've got no taste at all.'

When you want things to be a certain way - well dressed, good looking, etc. - and someone points out that they aren't that way - do you suffer? Can you let go of your desire - to be chic and attractive - and just be the way you are. Sure, you can make changes, but right now -you're reading these words - is it OK? Do you like yourself? Can you accept that right now you have to be like this?

Freedom is being able to not make it a problem.
Freedom is not being a slave to anything.
Freedom is allowing it to be.
Freedom is free.
Freedom is.


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