A couple of new faces and good times had by all! Shooting for late January for the next meetup.
A couple of new faces and good times had by all! Shooting for late January for the next meetup.
If you’re interested in Buddhism and what it can add to your life, you’re on a good path. This religion is founded on the teachings of Buddha, who lived twenty-five hundred years ago. He taught his followers about human suffering and also explained to them exactly where this type of suffering comes from. In addition, he showed people common-sense methods for minimizing or eliminating their own suffering. Students who used his methods of easing suffering on a consistent basis moved towards a state of enlightenment known as Nirvana. These primary elements of the Buddha’s teachings are the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.
Here we share information about each Noble Truth.
Dukka (The Truth of Suffering)
The First Noble Truth of Buddhism is that all human beings are subject to suffering. Reasons for suffering vary. Everyone suffers and understanding that suffering is universal is the foundation upon which the path to enlightenment is founded. Without considering that fact that there will always be things that hurt us, and knowing that suffering is an integral aspect of the human condition, we cannot know ourselves (and others) well enough to find the right ways to handle suffering.
Samudaya (The Truth of the Cause of Suffering)
Age, sickness, the prospect of death and the pain caused by the deaths of others all cause suffering, as do desire and greed. As well, hate and the urge to cause destruction are causes of suffering. Delusion and ignorance also trigger the sense of loss. The Buddha encouraged his followers to self-examine by thinking about how they might, even unconsciously, be bringing new suffering into their lives via their own thoughts, feelings and actions.
When you contemplate this Second Noble Truth of Buddhism, and begin to ease out of behaviors which are triggers for suffering, you will move forward.
Rooting out desire, greed, hatred, destructive urges, delusions and ignorance won’t be easy. However, doing so will help you to live a better life which doesn’t provoke as many negative emotions. While aging can’t be avoided and sickness is often beyond our control (as is death, most of the time), understanding the truth of the cause of suffering will prepare you to end your own misery, by practicing the Third Noble Truth.
Nirhodha (The Truth of the End of Suffering)
The Third Noble Truth of Buddhism is that the key to ending distress is development a mindset of non-attachment. It’s all about recognizing the causes of suffering and choosing to live life in a way that is more detached. Since most emotional pain stems from our attachments (romantic relationships which don’t measure up to our expectations are just one example), letting go of these attachments, while still honoring other people, is the truth of the end of suffering.
It’s fine and good to care about others. Non-attachment doesn’t mean not caring. It’s not lack of compassion. Buddhists value compassion greatly. Those who practice non-attachment understand that no one can be owned and that everything is temporary. They find mental balance by not getting too attached to people, things, money and other common triggers for suffering. When they detach, the triggers lose their power. Non-attachment actually breeds compassion.
Magga (The Truth of the Path That Frees Us from Suffering)
The secret of achieving enlightenment (Nirvana) is taking the Middle Path. This is the Fourth Noble Truth of Buddhism. The middle path is an “eightfold” path, which is about embracing a positive attitude that is free of anger and greed, speaking the right way (no lies, gossip or mean words), righteous actions (no destruction of life, no stealing and no cheating on spouses), doing work that doesn’t harm oneself or other people, making an honest effort in the correct direction, remaining attentive and aware (right mindfulness) and steadying and calming the mind, in order to see the truth in things.
Now that you know more about these four truths and how they benefit mankind why not follow the Buddha’s instructions with regular meditation upon these important truths to help you move towards enlightenment? Studying practical Buddhism regularly will help you to stay on track. This religion has helped so many people to become happier and to achieve their spiritual destinies, by living peaceful and good lives.
If you are new to the path you may be pleasantly surprised that Buddhists often participate in festivals and holidays which honor key events in the life of the Buddha. These special days may also honor important events in the lives of an array of Bodhisattvas.
Dates for these Buddhist events vary based on tradition and country. It’s interesting to note that the dates do follow the lunar calendar.
Festival days are usually joyful events for participants and they tend to start with visits to local temples. At the temples, food or other offerings are given to Buddhist monks. As well, participants usually listen to talks about Dharma.
In the afternoon, Buddhists might give out food to the needy, with a mind to gaining merit. They might also walk around their temples a trio of times, to pay homage to the “three jewels” (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha), meditation and chanting.
The act of walking around the temple is called circumambulating.
Now, let’s look at ten events which have important spiritual significance.
The Buddhist New Year
The date of this sacred day may vary based on country. In Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka (these are the Theravedin nations), the Buddhist New Year starts on the initial full moon day in the month of April and continues for three days. In nations which are Mahayana, the Buddhist New Year typically begins on the initial full moon day in the month of January.
Most Tibetan Buddhists honor this sacred day during the month of March.
The Buddha Day (Vesak)
The Buddha Day is a sacred day which is also known as Vesak and it’s a special occasion which honors the date of birth of the Buddha. This festival is commonly considered to be the most important of all Buddhist festivals! Vesak (The Buddha Day) begins on the initial full moon day of the month of May. Buddhists all over the globe honor the birth of the Buddha, as well as his enlightenment and passing, over the course of just one day.
The word, Vesak, is an Indian word for the Indian month in which the festival is held.
Fourfold Assembly Day (Sangha Day)
This meaningful Buddhist holiday may also be known as Magha Puja Day. This special day honors a special event, which was Buddha’s visit to an Indian monastery in Rakagaha. The name of the monastery was Veruvana Monastery. According to Buddhist history, twelve hundred and fifty “perfect persons” (arhats) returned from their journeys on the day that the Buddha visited the monastery.
Fourfold Assembly Day is held on the initial full moon day of the month of March.
Asalha Puja Day (Dhamma Day)
This Buddhist holiday is known as Asalha Puja Day or Dhamma Day. It recognizes the very first sermon that the Buddha gave, which was called, “Turning the Wheel of the Dharma”. This sermon was delivered at a location known as Sarnath Deer Park. If you wish to celebrate this Buddhist holiday, you may do so when the moon is full in the month of July.
Uposatha (Observance Day)
This special day is called Uposatha or Observance Day. It signifies all of the group of four traditional holy days per month, which remain observed in nations which are Theravada. Theravada is a branch of Buddhism. The four holy days happen on new moon, quarter moon and full moon days. Sri Lankans call Upsatha by another name (Poya Day).
Robe Offering Ceremony (Kathina Ceremony)
The Robe Offering Ceremony (also known as Kathina Ceremony) may be held on any date which convenient, as long as the date falls within a single month of the end of the Vassa season (monthly rains retreat season). During this day, non-monastics, who are also called the laity, offer brand-new robes and a range of other necessary items to nuns and monks.
Loy Krathong (Festival of Floating Bowls)
When the Kathin Festival period concludes, and the canals and rivers are filled with water, this Buddhist festival is held throughout Thailand, on the evening o the full moon, during the 12th lunar month. During the festival, people offer bowls crafted from leaves, which are filled with incense sticks, blossoms and candles, and then float the bowls upon the waters. When they do, bad luck is supposed to depart.
Originally, the practice of floating bowls was done in order to pay respect to the Buddha’s holy footprint, which was found on a beach near India’s Namada River.
The Elephant Festival
The Buddha utilized a story about a wild elephant who was harnessed to a tame elephant in order to show people that new Buddhists should be assisted by older ones. To honor the meaning of this story and the Buddha’s views on helping others who are interested in Buddhism, an Elephant Festival is held on the 3rd Saturday of the month of November.
The Festival of the Tooth
There is a large temple in Sri Lanka which is found on a compact hill. It was constructed in order to become the resting place of the Buddha’s tooth. The relic cannot be viewed. It’s stored deep within a series of caskets. Every year, in the month of August, when the moon is full, a procession honors the tooth and its spiritual significance.
Ulambana (Ancestor Day)
In nations which are Mayahana, Buddhists believe that hell’s gates open up on the first day of the 8th lunar month (September or October, depending on the lunar year). It’s believed that the opened gates of hell allow spirits (ghosts) to visit earth for fifteen days.
During Ancestor Day, offerings of food are made which are given in order to ease the sufferings of these wandering spirits. On the 15th day of Ulambana, people go to cemeteries and give offerings to their ancestors who have passed away. A lot of Theravadins in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos observe Ancestor Day.
Diving headfirst into anything all on your own can be daunting, and more of a challenge than most of us ever assume at the outset – but when you’re trying to make an earnest entry into something as all-encompassing and as ancient as Buddhism, going at it alone brings its own set of hurdles.
Thankfully though a lot of the frustration and anxiety that some of us feel when we begin to teach ourselves the path fades away after you simply get to it – placing one foot in front of the other and moving towards the ideals that Buddhism teaches.
Sure, those that start off with guidance are going to have a bit of an advantage in that they are likely following a traditional curriculum and will have assistance through the early transition into this new lifestyle. As an independent student however, you’re going to have to be disciplined and resourceful.
By embracing the road before you, recognizing that there is struggle in everything beautiful, and realizing that the lessons Buddhism has to teach you will come to you as you progress, you’ll be able to fight back against this spiritual gravity regardless of the volume of material you believe you have to push through to get started.
But committed self-study practitioners do have more flexibility and can set their own pace of learning. Not to mention freedom in choosing the source material and in what order. Often, the solo practitioner is able to progress more quickly than matriculated students simply because they carve out larger blocks of uninterrupted time to study – as opposed to a scheduled hour with a teacher so many days per week.
It is of critical importance that you embrace the need for regular, routine, and proper scholarship as you begin to learn all that Buddhism has to offer. You’ll want to look into the different teachings of Buddhism, you’ll want to look into the different pathways to Buddhism, and you want to search for guides – physical, tangible, as well as mental and emotional – that have the opportunity to shine the brightest light of Buddhism on you.
It’s also important to remember that a true dharmic understanding of Buddhism is only going to unfold in three different stages
An intellectual understanding of the material that you are studying is only going to provide you with a framework of Buddhism. You’ll need to wrestle with the material, force it into your subconscious, and fold it into the very fabric of your personality while contemplating it as often as you can. Different life situations will obviously bring different teachings to the surface, and this is when you’re going to want to capture the moment, embrace all that contemplation has to offer, and spend time really trying to understand all that this lesson is promising.
Finally, you’ll want to spend time every day (ideally every morning and every night) looking for new opportunities to meditate on the lessons that you have been studying as well as the lessons that you have uncovered through your daily life. This time spent meditating on both the mysteries and the lessons of Buddhism will pay off significantly, especially if you are committing to master all that this spiritual pathway has to offer.
At the end of the day, there is a larger amount of research available to anyone and everyone hoping to study Buddhism today than ever before. On top of that, Buddhist lessons from a number of different experienced practitioners are available as well – many of them at your fingertips free of charge thanks to the reach of the internet – and it’s never been easier than it is today to self-study Buddhism.
Of course, it’s impossible to represent all the knowledge and lessons that Buddhism has to offer in a book, DVD, or YouTube series. Buddhism is, at its very core, something distinctly personal and something separate from our physical world and you’ll do well to strive to understand as much of this mysticism as you can along your path without fighting the fits and starts that are inevitable along the way.