Monday, June 29, 2015

Dharma - Principle Factors of Buddhism

Dharma is a word that holds one of the key concepts in the Buddhist tradition. Dharma is also recited as Dhamma in Pali language. Dharma is simply described as “Teachings of Buddha” and it holds much more deep meaning in Buddhism. In Buddhist tradition, Dharma is learned as the truth told by Lord Buddha but the depth meaning of Dharma is gradually uncovered through regular practices and prepared mind.
Dharma is also the second jewel of Three Jewels. The other two jewels are Buddha and Sangha. Dharma basically means cosmic law and order. It refers to the nature of existence or the manifestations of reality. Buddhist monks and practitioner believed that there is no word wider than Dharma itself. Everything inside and outside the universe, every aspect of good or bad, are included in Dharma.

“If you were to follow the Dharma purely out of love for me or because you respect me, I would not accept you as a disciple. But if you follow the Dharma because you have yourself experienced its truth because you understand and act accordingly – only under these conditions have you the right to call yourself a disciple of the Exalted One.” – Said By Lord Buddha in Old Path.

Dharma as Buddha Teachings

Buddhist monks referenced Dharma as the fundamental teachings of Buddhism and commonly called as Buddha-Dharma. According to Dharma doctrines, it includes the sutras related to Noble Eightfold Path and Noble Four Truths. Many Buddhist tradition regarded Dharma as the ultimate truth or the source of all the things that is believed to exist beyond “three realms”. It is said that Dharma is seen as “the 84,000 different aspects of Buddha teachings”. During early Buddhism, after the death of Lord Buddha, Dharma was considered as the teachings left by Lord Buddha but later after new Buddhist traditions were evolved, the addition of sutras and interpretation was also included in Dharma teachings. Lord Buddha referred the path of Dharma as the “Dhamma-Vinaya” which means “This path of Discipline”. This discipline prevents oneself from
  1. Sexual Activity
  2. Code of ethical behavior
  3. One’s effort in cultivation of Mindfulness and wisdom

Mahayana Buddhism

In Mahayana Buddhism, use of Dharma generally refers to the teachings of Buddha and further the realization of Nirvana. “Three Turnings of Dharma Wheel” was often used by early Mahayana Buddhist. These early Mahayana scholars refer these three turnings as the three revelations of Buddhist teachings. Mahayana Buddhist practitioner must realize that dharma is not all about reciting the sutras or Dhamma-Vinaya, but it is a state where one can realize the true meaning of Dharma.
Mahayana Buddhism referred Dharma in many sutras such as Heart Sutra as well as Lotus sutra.
“Oh, Sariputra, all dharma are emptiness”
Here Lord Buddha taught Sariputra that all phenomena (all dharma) are empty self-essence (Sunyata).
In Lotus Sutra:
“Of all dharma to be without duality
Just like empty space”
Here, all dharma means all phenomena.

Theravada Buddhism

Dharma in Theravada Buddhism is used to indicate all aspects of existence whether it is a factor that is inside or outside the universe or it good or bad. In Theravada, Dharma has a fourfold meaning and they are:
  • It takes phenomenal world as it is
  • Law of nature
  • Duties needed to be performed in accordance of law of nature
  • Outcome of duties performed

In Theravada Buddhism, dharma is not just a specific doctrine of Buddha teachings but it is the very teachings of Lord Buddha, it is the practice related to teachings of Buddha, and attaining enlightenment having read and practiced the teachings of Buddha.

Qualities of Dharma in Buddhist teachings

Dharma is believed to possess six supreme qualities as the teaching of Buddha. They are:
  • Svakkhato (Self-proclaimed)
    The teachings of buddhism in not based on the belief but the realization of the universal law of Nature. Dharma is taught based on the analysis of Natural phenomena such as death, birth, old age etc. 
  • Sanditthiko (Able to be examined)
    Dharma is not based on the belief and is open to every kind of scrutiny. Anybody can test Dharma teachings by self-practicing and study. 
  • Akaliko (Timeless & Immediate result)
    One can easily see the timeless and immediate result after learning Dharma and one should not wait for the future or next life.
  • Ehipassiko (Come & See)
    Every living being are welcome to see the teachings of Dharma and test it by themselves.
  • Opanayiko (Leading one close to)
    Dharma isn’t something that can be learned through hearing from others, but it can only be learned by practicing by yourself. 
  • Paccattam Veditabbo Vinnuhi (meant to perceive directly)
    No one can help other to attain Nirvana. It can be only attained by noble disciples who have developed their practice in supreme wisdom. Dharma cannot be bestowed to one by others, but one have to practice enough to learn Dharma.
"He Who Lives By DhamraIs Protected By Dharma"

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Birth of Buddha & Buddhism

Religion is recognized as the collection of belief systems, cultural systems that is related to spirituality, humanity and belief of God and higher power. There are around 86% of total populations in the world who are religious and follow different religions. According to statistics, there are around 4200 world religions that existed in the world and among them, only a few are widely spread in the world. They are Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and etc.
One of the widely followed religions in Eastern and Western Asian Countries is Buddhism. The Buddhism religion started around 2500 years ago and was started by Gautama Buddha. Buddhism was founded on the teachings of Lord Buddha. According to world religious statistics of 2014, around 396 million people are following Buddhism in the present time, making it one of the major religions of the World.

How Buddhism was born?

In order to know how Buddhism started, we need to know the biography of young Prince Siddhartha. Around 2500 years ago under the roof of the Himalayas, the lands were ruled by many royal clans and Shakya clan was one of them. Shakya clan was reigning over Kapilvastu, which is now present in Lumbini, Nepal. King Suddhodhana was the current king of Shakya clan and Queen Maha Maya was the wife and current queen of Kapilvastu. According to Buddhist legends, Siddhartha was born in the way when Maha Maya was traveling to her birthplace and it is also said that Gautama Buddha took seven steps after prince Siddhartha was born.
After prince Siddhartha was born, King Suddhodhana invited many experienced Scholars and astrologer in order to know the future of Prince Siddhartha. Everyone except one young scholar predicted that Prince Siddhartha will either become great emperor or leave all the royal life and became Enlightened One who will lead people away from Samsara. But Kaundinya, who later became the disciples of Lord Buddha, predicted that young Prince Siddhartha will become the Enlightened One leaving the life of royalty.
Upon hearing such future of young prince, King Suddhodhana immediately ordered his men to build a beautiful palace away from the every aspect of life and decided that young prince would never have a glance of pain, death, sick, disease, etc. And young Prince started living the life of beauty, comfort without any hardship. But there was incident when young prince along with other Shakya Princes were playing, prince Devadatta shoot a flying duck with an arrow and wounded duck fell in the ground, and prince Siddhartha defended the duck from Devadatta from killing it and cured it and freed the duck.
When Siddhartha become an adult, he felt the feelings of vacant in his heart in the palace that King Suddhodhana built for the prince. At that time, the prince was already married with Shakya princess Yasodahara, daughter of King Suppabuddha and Queen Pamita, sister of King Suddhodhana. In order to reduce these feelings, the prince asked King Suddhodhana to visit the kingdom and see the life of kingdom with his own eyes. King Suddhodhana accepted prince wishes and ordered his men to announce that the Prince was visiting the kingdom and band any kind of violence, suffering, old people and dead people. But the fate wanted the exact opposite, Prince saw an old man walking from his house and transportation of dead man. Later, Prince Siddhartha along his trusted men went behind King Suddhodhana’s back and went to look the kingdom alone without any preparation. Prince saw all the aspects of life like sick people, dead people, old people, and violence. Seeing such condition of the life, he wonders the answer to these aspects of life. After much thinking, Prince Siddhartha wanted to find the answer and decided to leave the palace. During his last days at the palace, he visited his wife Yasodhara, and his newly born son, Rahula.
After leaving the palace, Prince Siddhartha seeks the knowledge of so-called “Enlightened saints” but the knowledge of these saints couldn’t satisfy the hunger of the young prince. Later he went to Rajagaha began his ascetic life and begging the alms in the street. The king Bimbisara of Rajagaha upon knowing the quest of Prince Siddhartha offered him the throne of Rajagaha. But prince rejected the offer and left Rajagaha and finally meets two hermit teachers and masters their teachings. But unsatisfied prince left the two hermit teachers and started performing extreme meditation practices like meditating without eating any food and so on.

gautama buddha in Nirvana form
Lord Buddha With Halo Under Bodhi Tree

After much extreme practice, his body wasn’t able to sustain and his health started to degrade and reach on the verge of death. While the ascetic prince was sitting under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, a young girl named Sujata seeing his condition, offered him Payasam(pudding with milk and jaggery) in a bowl. After eating the Payasam, he started to reconsider his path and started meditative dhyana with much more focus and concentration, and found the right way to Enlightenment. At the age of 35, Prince Siddhartha is believed to attain Nirvana while meditating under Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, and finally discovered the Middle Way or Noble Eightfold Path.
After attaining “Nirvana,”, Prince Siddhartha was called “Enlightened One”, “Gautama Buddha”, “Shakyamuni Buddha”, “Buddha”, etc. Then Lord Buddha seeks his two hermit teachers but knowing that they were dead, he met two merchant brothers known by the name Taphussa and Bhallika. They were known as first lay disciples of Lord Buddha. Later he met five scholars led by Kaundinya, who prophesized Buddha future and passed on his knowledge to these five scholars. Kaundinya became Stream Enterer after hearing Lord Buddha first preaching. Later five scholars became arahants and established the Sangha and started teaching Dharma to the newly ordained Monks.
Ordination in Sangha
Buddhist Monks being Ordained in the Order of Sangha

From that moment, Buddhism was founded and gained significant numbers of followers. Many great kings started following Buddhism not long after. King Bimbisara of Rajagaha was one of the great followers of Gautama Buddha. According to Buddhist philosophers, Shakyamuni Buddha made 200 vows before attaining Buddhahood.