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Excerpt from Buddha’s Lists, chap. 1


See home page for the link to the complete book.

“Science without religion is lame; Religion without science is blind.”

Albert Einstein


“Do not believe in something because it is reported. Do not believe in something because it has been practiced by generations or becomes a tradition or part of a culture. Do not believe in something because a scripture says it is so. Do not believe in something believing a god has inspired it. Do not believe in something a teacher tells you to. Do not believe in something because the authorities say it is so. Do not believe in hearsay, rumor, speculative opinion, public opinion, or mere acceptance to logic and inference alone. Help yourself, accept as completely true only that which is praised by the wise and which you test for yourself and know to be good for yourself and others.”

The Buddha, The Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka


1

Introduction; The Nine Ways not to accept something as true

The famous and very revolutionary quote on the previous page is from the Buddha and summarizes much of his teachings. No longer were people to rely on the words of authorities, scriptures, or even gurus or teachers. All power was given to the individual in finding his or her way to salvation. Even the Buddha shunned away all forms of extreme glorification or worship of himself. The Buddha never claimed to be a god or anything other than human and his revolutionary teachings are becoming increasingly popular in the modern age. The statement above by the Buddha clearly puts the Buddha’s teachings in line with that of a type of scientific analysis. Based on personal experience and observation and nothing else, is seen as the foundation for accepting anything as true or worth practicing.

The Buddhist scriptures of the Pali Canon consist of three sections or baskets; the Suttas, which are the Discourses; the Vinaya, which is the rules of the monks and nuns; and the Abhidhamma, the higher doctrine of the philosophy and psychology of the teachings written only in Ultimate Truth language of analysis. The complete Pali Canon is roughly about 20,000 pages long. Setting aside the stories and the biographical / historical information in the scriptures and you are virtually left with only a whole pile of lists from the Buddha and long explanations about the lists. The Buddha was like a scientist observing reality and Ultimate Truth from the deepest levels of Insight and enlightenment of this mind-body. The lists are the break-down of the doctrines, concepts, reality, and the mind-body.

Thus, we find all of the Buddha’s teachings and a summary of the 20,000 pages of scriptures in the lists. The most important lists are discussed in detail in the chapters that follow. After further study of these concepts from books, scriptures, and practice, these lists can then be a reference for recalling the major concepts and doctrines of Buddha-Dharma. It can be used as a reference for teachers and students. Not all of the Buddha’s lists could be included here, there are simply too many. The Buddha literally had hundreds of lists. Included here are only the most important ones, but still providing a good summary of all three baskets of scriptures.

Many philosophical and religious traditions require a self-realization of truth, not a mere blind-faith acceptance of a scripture. The Buddha’s Middle Way (or Path) is one such philosophy, which requires practice through meditation to reach the ultimate truths. However, to decide on taking a path, any path, one must choose based on logic and reason. The ultimate enlightenment may be through an experiential event, but the process requires a conscious decision based on logic and reason.

That is, a person may obtain enlightenment (seeing into the nature of all things, a right understanding of the ultimate truths) through meditational practice, however, the decision to search or meditate requires some foundation in reasoning and logic as to which course of action to take.

The Buddha’s teachings are highly scientific and compatible to the findings of modern science. This statement does not mean that we all need to put on white laboratory coats and perform experiments. The term science is used here to refer to logic, personal observation, and scientific method. In the scientific method a hypothesis is created, which is an educated guess of some outcome you might expect. This becomes the theory which is to be tested. Some type of experiment may be performed or survey and then the research is concluded with a discussion of the results and the conclusion. Scientific method is not just used by members of the hard core natural sciences, but also in the social science fields such as sociology and in nearly all other fields, including journalism. The crux of scientific method is actual observation of facts and testing of the theories.

This scientific method is used in spiritual traditions such as Buddhism with its use of an experiential event of meditation. The practitioner engages in various techniques to delve into the mind and experience reality and obtain wisdom. Just like the Buddha did with his many lists, a scientist breaks down his subject into parts, even to the smallest parts, visible only by a microscope. The Buddha’s lists go to this extent too, analyzing every thought moment and mental formation.

There were many forms of meditation practice in place even during the Buddha’s time, but the Buddha was the founder of vipassana. Vipassana means insight meditation and when done correctly leads to the inner calm found in other meditation practices and also to insight or wisdom.

This book contains information that will hopefully be helpful to the beginner in showing the logic and science of this way of life, thereby encouraging one to proceed with this practice. This book will also be helpful to the more intermediate and advanced practitioners by encouraging the continuation of their practice and also I have included some information that has not been compiled or presented in other dharma books. This includes chapters on the many lists of The Buddha, focusing on the 28 most important lists. A total of 28 lists are discussed in detail in the 20 chapters. There is also a chapter which presents some of the other lists which are not discussed in detail. The lists in this book summarize the entire Pali (Theravada Buddhist) scriptures. Also included here is a chapter on the Ten Hindrances to Enlightenment, which is rarely talked about, but in my opinion, perhaps the most important thing to talk about in a dharma book. The ten hindrances to enlightenment is a subject fitting for analysis by all levels of practitioners from all, any, or no religions.

There is a chapter on tolerance which includes the new and never done before translation of key verses from the Bible from the original biblical Hebrew to English. This corrected translation is not a new interpretation of the Bible, but simply a corrected translation of key verses. These verses are translated to the correct words, not to disprove the Bible, but on the contrary to show the Bible’s valuable information to shed more information on the nature of divinity in the Bible and how it relates to the Buddha’s teachings.

There is a chapter on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment and a step-by-step guide to Awakening. Again, this is unique to this dharma book as I have not seen any other dharma book delve into an attempt to finally lay out the step-by-step procedure to full enlightenment.

The knowledge and use of the lists in personal practice is designed to assist all in reaching full Awakening. It is the hope that this will be a useful reference in your practice. The lists can be referred back to over and over again so that your knowledge will be like second-nature. A complete memorization of the 28 most important lists is not necessary, just the general knowledge of the material so that you can apply the information to your daily practice.

Vipassana (Insight) meditation and the eightfold middle path represent the art of living. It is a technique, philosophy, and teaching that is traced back to the Buddha. The Buddha did not teach a sectarian religion, only dharma (dhamma in Pali, meaning Truth or Law) which is the way to liberation, to the end of suffering. The teachings are universal and applicable to all religions and people from all backgrounds and religions. People who practice vipassana include Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, and atheists. It is a universal teaching which is beyond petty cultural rituals, blind-faith, and intolerance.

All world religions have in them a mystical side which includes common doctrines and practices, including karma and re-birth, the one-ness of the universe, some form of meditation for self-realization, and a concept of God that is impersonal, such as a Universal Consciousness in which enlightened souls unite with upon their passing from this life. In Judaism the mystical tradition is the Kabbalists; in Christianity, the Gnostics; in Islam, the Sufis. Most mystical traditions practice some type of meditation, typically for union with God or for relaxation. Vipassana leads to the inner calm of relaxation and also to the insight or wisdom of reality.

Current teachers and leaders of vipassana in America include everyone from brain surgeons to college professors to monks and nuns to lawyers to auto mechanics. It is a teaching that rejects all forms of discrimination be it race, sex, religion, economic status, national origin, or handicap. The Buddha was the first person in known history to condemn slavery, racism, and the caste system of ancient India. He was the first person in known history to try to abolish slavery. (Narada, 1992)

The teachings are completely experiential. One must find their beneficial value by himself / herself through the practice of Insight meditation. Nothing needs to be accepted by faith alone.

The truth will become realized through the practice and not by the sermon or preaching of some individual. The answers to life and the end to suffering are found by yourself as your own teacher and discoverer. As the Buddha stated, everything can be found within your own mind-body. This is achieved through the practice of Insight meditation.

The Buddha


The Buddha was born a prince of the Shakya province in ancient India on the Full Moon day of May 563 B.C. (Mahayana school typically uses April 8 for the birthday celebration). He lived over 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. He gave up his kingdom and claim to the throne in search of philosophical Truth. He tried all of the ascetic, extremist practices and reached high levels of tranquility and trance, but no ultimate liberation. Finally after six years of struggle in the forests of India including practices such as extreme fasting to the point of near death, he discovered that the middle way was best. By avoiding the extremes he attained enlightenment with full wisdom into the answers of birth, death, suffering, and the end to suffering. Enlightenment came to him at the age of 35 in the year 528 B.C. He taught to all for 45 years until his death at the age of 80 in the year 483 B.C.

Modern historians have uncovered information, which states that he may not have been the son of a king, but rather the son of an elected official. Whichever the case may be, his father being an elected leader or king, he clearly was of a privileged birth due to the evidence of life in palaces with many servants. He was born into a high (warrior) caste, but rejected these hereditary rights and power for the pursuit to the answers that will lead to the end of suffering.

Archaeological evidence has confirmed the life of the Buddha who was born in Lumbini, in present day Nepal. The famous King Ashoka of India erected many stone pillars and edicts praising the Buddha and marking his sites. Buddhist writings on locations, culture, and cities have been confirmed in the physical archaeological record.

The information we have about the Buddha and his teachings, like most religions also come from scriptures. The Theravada-Pali scriptures are about 20,000 pages in length. Other schools of Buddhism, such as the Mahayana and Vajrayana (Tibetan) have additional scriptures, but not as long or detailed as the Pali. In general, the other schools of Buddhism accept all or nearly all of the Theravada scriptures and simply have added other writings to be inclusive with them. The Theravada scriptures are written in Pali, which is by historical records either the language of the Buddha or the closest written language to the Buddha’s dialect. The Mahayana scriptures are in Sanskrit that is further removed from the Buddha’s language, but a close relative in linguistic form. Like other religions the Buddha’s teachings remained oral for 150 to 300 years before being written down into scriptures. The same is true in regard to the scriptures of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Taoism, etc. The story we hear in the Buddhist scriptures is that the oral tradition (up until the time it was written) was maintained by enlightened monks who because of their full-enlightenment had the same insights as the Buddha and thus, the words and teachings were the same, with no deviation from truth or the Buddha.

The authenticity of religious scriptures strikes great debates and controversy in every religion. The difference, however, with the Buddha’s teachings is that there is no blind-faith. As we have seen in the Buddha’s quote at the beginning of this chapter, the authenticity is not quite so important in Buddhism. This is because the Buddha’s teachings are a come and see approach. The Buddha advises us, perhaps even commands us to see for yourself if the teachings make sense, are scientific, are and agreeable to what is correct and good. Thus, the literal word of each verse has little meaning or purpose in the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha explains his philosophy, but in the end it is up to us to discover the truth on our own.


The Mustard Seed


There are many legends about the Buddha. Some of these include multiplying food, walking on water, and a later story that he was conceived by immaculate conception. Such legends about great religious leaders are common. However, the Buddha never claimed to be anything other than a man. All Buddhist schools and historians agree on that point.

There are many stories and incidents in the Buddha’s life that portray his wisdom, but just one is presented in this section as it particularly wakes us to the realities of life. This is the story of the mustard seed that demonstrates the wisdom and logic of the Buddha’s teachings.

A woman named Gotami came to the Buddha crying that her son had died and she wanted the Buddha to bring her son back to life. The Buddha told her to find some mustard seed from a family that has never experienced a death in their household. Gotami was excited and went all over looking for mustard seed. She found mustard seed in every household she visited but could not find a household that had not experienced a death in the family. Finally she realized what the Buddha was teaching her and she asked for more instruction. The Buddha was teaching her that death is unavoidable and he also taught her compassion. Gotami had discovered that death is unavoidable and also that everyone grieves from this loss of loved ones, thus she developed compassion. No one escapes this suffering from mourning. If there was a personal-God who freely brings people back to life, such as the raising of Lazarus in the New Testament, the logical question is, why did God allow him to die in the first place? It does not make logical sense and is not fitting with everyday life where death is common and guaranteed. This should not be taken as a criticism of Jesus; no it is a question raised to the authenticity of the legend created by the Greek writers of the New Testament. The Buddha never claimed to be the only Buddha or enlightened one. He stated that there were several before him who existed in pre-historical times and that there will be many, many more. Jesus could very well be an enlightened one too (see below, the chapter on Buddha and Tolerance: The 84,000 Dharma Doors).

The Four Noble Truths and the
Eightfold Middle Path

The Buddha’s teachings are primarily centralized in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Middle Path. This is outlined in the next two chapters. The first part of the Path is Right Understanding. Right Understanding is the focus of this book because it is where a practitioner starts and ends. Right Understanding begins with faith, then knowledge, then experience, and then wisdom. To begin on the Buddha’s Middle Path one first needs some faith or some level of understanding that this is something worth pursuing. After that one proceeds on the Path, following and practicing the other components of the Eightfold Middle Path. As one proceeds, one learns the Buddha’s doctrines and concepts. After that one continues with the concentration and mindfulness exercises of meditation, which results in first-hand experience, and then finally to the wisdom which enlightenment experiences provide. Thus, the following summarizes the role of Right Understanding to the Eightfold Middle Path of the Buddha:

Right Understanding:


Faith in the teachings, that it is something worth pursuing.
Knowledge of the teachings and their compatibility to logic and science.
Experience of the teaching through meditation techniques.
Wisdom through enlightenment experiences.

The Eightfold Middle Path is a cyclical process where one starts with Right Understanding and finishes with Right Understanding. During the whole process or Path, the other components are just as important and practiced and experienced simultaneously. On the cover of this book is a circular representation of the Eightfold Middle Path.

The four parts of Right Understanding are very much related to the four evolutionary stages of religion, discussed by Bhante Punnaji in the Foreword. You start with a faith in the teachings, which is similar to the devotion stage in the evolution of religion. The second stage of religion is discipline, which is similar to the knowledge you get in the second part of Right Understanding. The third stage of religion is tranquility, which is achieved through the experience of meditation techniques, the third part of Right Understanding. The final stage in religion and Right Understanding is wisdom and understanding from enlightenment experiences.

The organization of this book is to the four parts of Right Understanding. This is done by looking at the most important lists of the Buddha. The beginning chapters demonstrate the amazing wisdom of Buddha, discussing his accomplishments and how his teaching became the forerunners of many modern scientific discoveries. The amazing things that the Buddha knew more than 2,500 years ago, before science discovered the same facts gives us faith in the wisdom of Buddha before we ourselves have experienced any sort of enlightenment.

Subsequent chapters demonstrate the logic and science of the Buddha’s teachings. This encourages us on the Path and to continue the practice. Some final chapters deal with the techniques of meditation that will allow us to experience the Buddha’s truth.


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