The purpose of learning from the Buddha

Author Charles Yeung      Translated by Soula Lo

During a series of activities celebrating the Buddha’s birthday on April 8th of the lunar calendar, there was one called “Guangdong and Hong Kong Buddhist cooperation and exchange forum.” Many Buddhist leaders and cadre members from Beijing, Guangdong and Hong Kong attended this forum. It was an extraordinary gathering. While for this rare occasion, I didn’t prepare to speak, but somehow inspired by the atmosphere in the forum, I managed to share my experience in this topic, “The purpose of learning from the Buddha.” The purpose of learning from the Buddha can be divided into the following three stages:

1. Liberate from suffering and obtain happiness.

2. To end the cycle of birth and death.

3. Become a Buddha.

How to liberate from suffering? How to obtain happiness? Before we liberate from suffering, we need to eradicate vexation or anxiety. How to eradicate vexation? The Buddha said, “Remove greed, hatred and illusion.” Because sentient beings in samsara have innate strong greed, hatred, jealousy and illusion, and these are in our genes, this is also our original sin. Thus the source of vexation and suffering is also the cause of suffering. In order to eradicate vexation and suffering, we need to learn and practice precepts, meditation and wisdom.

Buddhism advocates that the beginning level of learning from the Buddha is to practice according to The Five Precepts and The Ten Commandments.

The five Precepts are: no killing, no stealing, no adultery, no lying, and no intoxicating liquors.

The Ten Commandments are: no killing, no stealing, no adultery, no lying, no slandering, no harsh speech, no idle talks, no greed, no hatred, and no illusion.

How to obtain happiness? Buddhism’s main thesis is “cause and effect” and “cause and condition.” One of the ideas is “Plant the good cause, gain the good fruit.” Therefore, in order to obtain happiness, we have to plant the happy causes widely.

Buddhism also advocates The Six perfections (pāramitās) and The Four Immeasurable minds.

The Six Perfections are: charity, morality, forbearance, effort, meditation and wisdom.

The Four Immeasurable Minds are: kindness, compassion, delight and renunciation.

Kindness: Wish all sentient beings have happiness and happy causes.

Compassion: Wish all sentient beings be liberated from suffering and the cause of suffering forever.

Delight: Wish all sentient beings delight to accomplish all good deeds.

Renunciation: Wish all sentient beings renounce duality or extreme conceptions, and reside in perfect equality.

While practicing Bodhisattvas’ good deeds, the more detailed descriptions are in The Ten Perfections or pāramitās. They are charity, morality, forbearance, effort, meditation, wisdom, adaptability, great vows, force of purpose and knowledge.

The second level of the purpose of learning from the Buddha is to end the cycle of birth and death. How to end birth and death? One needs to see one’s original enlightened mind, to understand one’s natural mind and see one’s true self.

One’s mind is like a monkey or a horse, the mind is to act like a restless monkey and the thought is to act like a wild horse. So how do we tame our minds? We must practice meditation. Only through deep meditation, can we have the chance to tame the restless monkey mind and match the fast speed of the wild horse, and allow the mind and the horse to be united in one. This way, one can dominate the wild horse of the mind and run thousands of miles together. Many people’s daily speech does not match their heart, or may be full of lies. Thus one must practice one of the five precepts: no lying. Our mind will only start to settle down when we stop lying. When our meditation reaches a certain level, we will discover our original mind, see our true self.

When we touch the original mind and the true self in deep meditation, we will be enlightened. The most virtuous ancient man said, “Once the mind enlightened, all things would be crystal clear.” At this point, we will be able to reach a status of no birth and death.

The third level of learning from the Buddha is to become a Buddha. There are many standards of Buddha, one of them is a Buddha must have perfect virtuous blessing and wisdom. Virtuous blessing means wealth, fame and social status. Wisdom is to understand the cause and effect, to know the cause and condition, and then be able to cure the illness with the right medicine.

How to obtain blessing and wisdom of these two fortunes?

The method is to connect theory with practice. So, only by corresponding with knowledge and practice, can one establish virtuous blessing and wisdom these two sublime excellences.

If we can continually accumulate these two fortunes, we can withdraw them when we are in need, and be able to remove ours and others’ worry and suffering, making us and others happy. One day when we achieve the infinite and boundless fortunes, the perfect enlightenment, then we can obtain a Buddha’s state of mind and status.

The methods to achieve the above three levels are: faith, understanding, practice and verification.

Faith: belief or faith.

Understanding: understanding is to learn the Buddha’s teachings and the theory of the predecessors’ experience.

Practice: to feel the benefit through practice, and be able to master the methods.

Verification: to testify and verify through theory and practice, then gain the fruit of our learning and thus obtain wealth and wisdom.

This means one needs to experience and testify it. The feeling is such as when one drinks water, and only oneself can understand the warmth or cold.

Everything mentioned above must start from oneself. Where is the path? The path is under our feet. If only we are brave enough to bear the burden, carry the responsibility of leading ourselves and all sentient beings to liberate from suffering and obtain happiness. One can vow to the infinite universe, then start to plant one’s feet on solid ground, walk forward bravely, and learn continually, then we will gain wisdom eventually. We will be liberated from suffering, obtain happiness; achieve the blissful state of carefree. In the meantime, receive longevity, even infinite long life.

 

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