An Introduction to Buddhism

Today there are some new people so I will discuss some basic topics. All people, religious or non religious, are looking for peace and joy. Even insects run around in search and joy. Anger and hate are not natural and their result is suffering. At the beginning we feel anger works, but it makes suffering for us. We can have joy and happiness by being kind and compassionate, because these are natural. I think all religions have this as a basis, but they have different instructions on how to do this.

Buddha Shakyamuni was not a person who lacked material wealth. But when he saw the suffering of birth, old age, and death and he saw that all beings have to undergo these sufferings, he developed a strong resolution to discover how to end these sufferings. At the time of practice we should make the effort to tame the mind, and as a result we will attain permanent freedom of mind, which will end our suffering.

The cause of suffering, I think, it is attachment. But if someone loves you, don’t you have to care for them? Attachment and love are totally opposite. Attachment is selfish and love is unselfish. If you marry from attachment, it will easily end in divorce, because attachment is temporary. If you marry because of love, the marriage will last, because love is kind and you will care for each other. If you have love, you will do good things. If you are attached, you will act for this moment only. If you are attached to food, you will eat whatever you are greedy for. If you are not you will take care to eat what is healthy. If you eat only out of attachment the consequence will be different diseases, but if you eat out of love for yourself you will eat healthy.

Most of our problems are caused by desire and attachment. I consider desire the most powerful of the three kleshas. Anger and hatred are powerful at the moment, but when you are not angry you can be convinced by argument that it is wrong. But even when greed is not strong, it is hard to convince someone it is bad. So greed is very subtle and hard to overcome. Every being has love and compassion, but in some persons it is great and in others it is small. Even a flesh eating animal will never eat its own child. So desire and hatred are the two main reasons we spin in samsara. But without attachment we would not generate anger, so its root is desire. When you pursue happiness it is not easy to achieve the result. It requires difficulties. But negative emotions like anger and attachment are easy to have. The causes of suffering occur easily and the causes of happiness are difficult. It’s like going to school. School’s not playing and having fun. But the result of going to school is a better life. If you stay on the street, that would be easy, but in the long run the result will be a hard life.

I was asked to give a talk to a vipassana meditation group. They told me they like to come there to relax. I told them there are two kinds of relaxation, physical and mental. I get the best physical relaxation by lying down and sleeping. To have mental relaxation, you have to create a space in the mind by eliminating desire and anger. Those who want to know dharma must know the fundamental teaching of the four noble truths. Buddha said there is suffering and its cause. And he said there is happiness and its cause. So you have to understand the importance of the four noble truths. It’s not a question of whether you are religious or not. It’s a question of whether you want to eliminate suffering or not. You have to understand the causes of suffering and happiness. They are the mental attitudes that create them. If you create the causes of happiness, not only will you be happy, but the people around you will be happy too.

There are many schools in Buddhism, but the fundamental philosophical view in them is interdependence. Interdependence is established through the laws of cause of effect and establishing the modes of existence of objects. Emptiness should be understood by analytically establishing the mode of existence of objects. Emptiness and interdependence can only be understood in terms of one another. You cannot have one without the other.

The way to establish emptiness, the grasping after truly existing self, is to see that a truly existent object will never change. How a thing exists is not how it appears to exist. If a phenomena exist truly, not depending on anything, it would be ultimately true and would never change. But when we analyze, we see that it changes, so we can see that it is empty. If it did not change, when its emptiness could not be established. A car changes every moment, or else it would not get old. The same is true for us. The most important thing in attaining the ultimate goal is the proper understanding of emptiness, the wisdom that understands the ultimate nature of phenomena. Meditators in other traditions may become powerful in this or the next life, but they do not have an understanding of emptiness. There was a practitioner in Tibet who had a strong practice of Yamantaka, but because he held a wrong view he was reborn as a Mara and harmed those near him with obstacles and ill health. So meditation without the correct view can be dangerous.

Buddhists regard non-violence and not harming others as the only proper behavior. He said that those that harm themselves or others are not my disciples. He didn’t make this distinction between rich and poor or male and female.