If one wishes to fully understand
All Buddhas of the past, present, and future,
One should contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm:
Everything is only a creation of the mind.
“Who and what am I?” “Why do I exist?” Each of us, during some part of our life, wonders about these questions. While we are aware of our own being, we don’t actually know how or why we came to be. Our existence poses a great mystery. Our views of who we are and why we’re here, consciously or unconsciously, affect every moment of our lives. The Buddha was both troubled and fascinated by these questions. He was troubled, in that life unexamined, unsolved seemed meaningless; he was fascinated, in that the solution to this deep riddle was accessible, within reach, almost beckoning.
The teaching of the Buddha, known as the Dharma, grew out of his personal discovery, his awakening to “things as they really are.” Indeed, the word Dharma literally translated is “law”, meaning the universal laws that govern all of reality. These laws are eternal. A Buddha is merely a human being who discovers these laws of reality and compassionately makes them known for others. Buddhism explains the mystery of existence in a way that we can both understand and not understand. This was for a reason: enlightenment must be directly experienced, not simply explained. Properly taught, it should awaken in us a sense of great wonder; a resolve to seek enlightenment ourselves. The Buddha taught that:
1. All of existences is a creation the mind. The true nature of our mind has no particular location in space and no beginning or end in time. It is not born and does not die. The realization of this true nature is known as Nirvana – something so profound and extraordinary that it cannot be described in words or conceived in thought. It can only be known by direct realization. Because of its profundity, the Buddha spoke of Nirvana in terms of what it is not:
There is, Monks, that realm, wherein there is no earth, no water; no fire, no air; no sphere of infinite space, no sphere of infinite consciousness, no sphere of nothingness, no sphere of thought nor lack of thought. There is not this world or a world beyond, or both together, or sun or moon. This, I say, Monks, has no coming, no going, no staying, no passing away, and no arising without support; without duration and without any basis. This, indeed, is the end of suffering.
2. Because of ignorance we experience our “self” within Samsara, the realm of birth and death. This unreal “self” undergoes limitless suffering. This suffering is perpetuated life after life as long as we thirst for the pleasures of existence in Samsara.
3. The purpose of the Buddha’s teaching is to point the way to the elimination of ignorance that covers over our true nature. Once we have awakened to it, out of great compassion, we strive to help all beings to also awaken to their true nature; to liberate all that lives. Thus, personal enlightenment and universal enlightenment, self and others, become one and the same.
When you can see that the mountains, the rivers, the great earth and all that originates from them, are things within your own inherent nature; that the Three Realms of Existence are only the mind, and that the myriad dharmas are only consciousness; once you attain that state, then everything, every phenomenon is devoid of origination and cessation. Everything you see – the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, the plants are all one true Reality.
The Four Noble Truths & The Bodhisattva’s Four Magnificent Vows
In the Buddha’s teaching, the problem of existence and its solution are precisely expressed in the Four Noble Truths and the corresponding Bodhisattva’s Four Magnificent Vows. The Four Noble Truths are best described by an analogy. The First Truth diagnoses the symptom of an illness and the Second determines its cause. The Third Truth describes the final cure of the disease once the cause has been eliminated, and the Fourth prescribes the medicine or treatment that will bring about the cure. The Four Magnificent Vows extend these same truths beyond oneself to include all living beings. Thus in numerous discourses the Buddha said:
Formerly and now, also, it is just suffering and the cessation of suffering that I teach.
Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word. It is a compound made up of the two words: bodhi which means “awakened” or “enlightened”; and sattva which means “being”. A Bodhisattva is both an “awakened being” and “one who awakens beings”. He is one imbued with great wisdom and compassion who simultaneously strives to perfect his own awakening along with his ability to awaken all other living beings. When the Bodhisattva has totally perfected these, he becomes a Buddha, one already perfected in wisdom and compassion.
Part I of Buddhism: A Brief Introduction is divided into chapters on each of the Four Truths and Vows. A final chapter explains the meaning of Sangha. Each chapter begins with passages from the Sutras to illustrate each of the Vows and Truths.