Many people find much of modern Buddhism in general hard to understand, irrelevant to their lives, or lacking instruction on how to use the teachings practically in their everyday life. I can honestly say when the excess is trimmed away, the direct teachings of the brilliant individual who is known as the Buddha, are extremely relevant, accessible to all, and practical to us in ways that once realized, are extraordinarily helpful in leading a life of happiness.

 

By Richard Daley

Together we will be exploring the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the man who later became known as the Buddha.

There are over 10,000 suttas within the Sutta Pitaka, which is the earliest known textual record of the discourses given by the Buddha and his contemporary disciples. These teachings are referred to as the Dhamma, and they are accessible by anybody, regardless of any individually defining characteristic. Siddhartha Gautama—the Buddha—was a human being just like you and I; therefore the path he walked is accessible to all.

Part 1: Introduction & The Simsapa Sutta

The Buddha would often use a word “ehipassiko” in Pali, which translates to something like “come and see for yourself.”

He never told us to believe what he taught on blind faith. He encouraged inquiry and investigation, and to look deeply at all phenomena and how they arise and pass away. His instructions were to listen to his teachings, to hear his Dhamma, and to apply it in our lives. During this application we can then see how these teachings work first hand, or if they work at all!

There doesn’t need to be anything magical or mystical about it. There is no amount of bowing, circumambulating, chanting, or cash in the donation box that will help us escape stress and dissatisfaction. Only by looking within ourselves, and coming to understand the sources of this stress and dissatisfaction, will we have any hope of extracting its deep rooted hook.

When we listen to the original Dhamma, we come to understand that the Buddha wanted us to pay attention to what is occurring in life, as life unfolds. Many people find much of modern Buddhism in general hard to understand, irrelevant to their lives, or lacking instruction on how to use the teachings practically in their everyday life. I can honestly say when the excess is trimmed away, the direct teachings of the brilliant individual who is known as the Buddha, are extremely relevant, accessible to all, and practical to us in ways that once realized, are extraordinarily helpful in leading a life of happiness.

You don’t have to call yourself a Buddhist, put up an altar, or anything like that. You just have to give it a try and see for yourself.

The first sutta I will be sharing and discussing is the Simsapa Sutta (Samyutta Nikaya 56.31). When this discourse was given by the Buddha, he and the monks in his company were about 100 miles from modern day Varanasi, India in the ancient city of Kosambi.

Let’s look at the sutta.

Once the Blessed One was staying near Kosambī in the Siṁsapā forest. Then, picking up a few Siṁsapā leaves with his hand, he asked the monks, “What do you think, monks? Which are more numerous, the few Siṁsapā leaves in my hand or those overhead in the Siṁsapā forest?”

“The leaves in the hand of the Blessed One are few in number, lord. Those overhead in the forest are far more numerous.”

“In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous (than what I have taught). And why haven’t I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the [spiritual] life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding. That is why I haven’t taught them.

“And what have I taught? ‘This is stress … This is the origination of stress … This is the cessation of stress … This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress’: This is what I have taught. And why have I taught these things? Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the [spiritual] life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding [from views that are ignorant of these truths]. This is why I have taught them.

“Therefore your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is stress … This is the origination of stress … This is the cessation of stress.’ Your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.’”

This sutta is such a succinct expression of the core teachings of the Buddha’s Dhamma. For those who want to know “what did the Buddha actually teach?” Here it is explained simply. I will break it down into a simple list, which is a great point of practice for anybody interested in these teachings, no matter where they are on the path.

You don’t have to call yourself a Buddhist, put up an altar, or anything like that. You just have to give it a try and see for yourself. ~ Richard Daley Click To Tweet

Four Noble Truths

This is stress [and dissatisfaction]…
This is the origination of stress [and dissatisfaction] …
This is the cessation of stress [and dissatisfaction] …
This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress [and dissatisfaction]  … [The Noble Eightfold Path]

After explaining this is what he teaches, he gives us homework.

“Therefore your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is stress … This is the origination of stress … This is the cessation of stress.’ Your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.’”

To simplify, we can look at the instructions given as if we are to work toward accomplishing a few tasks.

Task 1: Understanding stress and dissatisfaction.
Task 2: Understanding the origination of stress and dissatisfaction.
Task 3: Coming to terms with the fact that the ending of stress and dissatisfaction is possible.
Task 4: We must develop the path of practice (The Noble Eightfold Path) that leads us to the ending of stress and dissatisfaction.

These core teachings are some of the pillars that have held the Buddha’s Dhamma up for 2,600 years. These teachings are practical, and extremely relevant to our lives. I am sure there may be questions after reading this like “well what is the origination of stress?” The next installment will dive a little deeper into these core teachings, and hopefully together we can make it a little bit further down the path.

 

*Thank you to Thanissaro Bhikkhu for his wonderful translations. You can see the source sutta here.

 

Photo: source

Editor: Dana Gornall

 


 

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