Buddha and Buddhism
3. Doctrine (Dharma)
Having taught for forty-five years from his enlightenment to his death, the Buddha left behind a large compendium of teachings that were memorized by various of his disciples. Since writing was a rarity then in India they were passed on through the community until they were written down several centuries later. These earliest texts are in the common Pali language and usually are dialogs between the Buddha and others. Often the Buddha emphasized that it was more important for disciples to see the dharma (doctrine) than the Buddha, because the dharma would remain and was what they needed to practice to attain enlightenment and even afterward. The third refuge for the Buddhist was in the community (sangha) of monks and nuns.
The Buddha advised his followers not to feel ill will or get angry when others spoke against them, because this might disrupt their self-mastery and prevent them from being able to judge whether the criticism was valid or not. For the same reason they should not be overly glad when the doctrine is praised.
In regard to the moral precepts the Buddha described himself as having put away the killing of living things, holding himself aloof from the destruction of life. Having laid aside weapons he is ashamed of roughness and full of mercy, being compassionate and kind to all creatures. He does not take what has not been given, is chaste, and speaks truth being faithful and trustworthy, not breaking his word to the world. He has put away lying and slander and does not raise quarrels. Thus does he live:
as a binder together of those who are divided,
an encourager of those who are friends,
a peacemaker, a lover of peace, impassioned for peace,
a speaker of words that make for peace.4
In describing the fruits of living as a recluse the Buddha emphasized to King Ajatasatru the importance of mindfulness toward the ethical significance of every action and word. Then having mastered the moral precepts, restrained the senses, endowed with mindfulness and self-possession, filled with content, the recluse chooses a lonely and quiet spot to meditate in order to purify the mind of lusts, the wish to injure, ill temper, sloth, worry, irritability, wavering, and doubt.
At the end of this long dialog King Ajatasatru confessed his sin in putting to death his father and asked to be a disciple of the Blessed One. The Buddha accepted his confession and noted that in the tradition of the noble ones' discipline whoever sees one's fault as a fault and correctly confesses it shall attain self-restraint in the future.
The Buddha was quite a penetrating psychologist and described the psychological causality that leads to suffering in his theory of pratitya-samutpada (dependent origination). Sorrow, lamentation, misery, grief, despair, old age, and death are all caused by birth, which depends on existence, which depends on attachment, which depends on desire, which depends on sensation, which depends on contact, which depends on the six senses, which depend on name and form, which depend on consciousness, which depends on karma, which depends on ignorance. However, by ending ignorance, then karma, consciousness, name and form, the six senses, contact, sensation, desire, attachment, existence, and birth with all the misery that comes after birth can be ended. Sensation and desire also lead to pursuit, decision, gain, passion, tenacity, possession, avarice, and guarding possessions, which can lead to blows and wounds, strife, quarreling, slander, and lies.
This process is further described in a parable about an ancient kingdom where the celestial wheel symbolizing the dharma disappeared. The king ignored the advice of the sages that he should share some of his wealth with the destitute. This led to widespread poverty and theft. At first the king gave some wealth to a thief to solve his problem, but then not wanting to reward stealing he ordered that thieves have their heads cut off. This led to the arming of the poor, increased violence associated with their stealing, and more murders. This also caused more lying, evil speaking, and false opinions. Eventually greed, adultery, perverted lust, and incest became common followed by lack of respect for parents, religious teachers, and the heads of the clans. Human life became like hunters feel toward their game, and at times people treated each other like wild beasts.
Finally deciding to do something good, people started to abstain from taking life, which led to abstaining from taking what is not given, abstaining from lying, and abstaining from adultery. As the virtues were practiced, the health of the society returned. When this happens, a fully awakened one (Buddha) called Maitreya will come. Until then the Buddha recommends that people live as islands unto themselves, taking the dharma as their refuge, letting the mind be filled with love, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
In another dialog the Buddha clarified the meaning of the eightfold path by saying that right view is knowledge of the four noble truths of suffering, its cause, cessation, and the way that leads to its cessation. Right aspiration is towards benevolence and kindness. Right speech is to abstain from lying, slander, abuse, and idle talk. Right doing is to abstain from taking life, from taking what is not given, and from carnal indulgence. Right livelihood is only described as putting away wrong livelihood. Right effort is toward preventing bad states from arising, putting away evil that has arisen, toward good states arising, and nurturing good that does arise.
Right mindfulness is being self-possessed and mindful in regard to the body, overcoming craving and dejection in feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Right rapture is being aloof from sensuous appetites and evil ideas, entering into and abiding in the four levels of higher awareness. The first of these has cogitation and deliberation born of solitude and is full of ease and joy. The second suppresses cogitation and deliberation evoking by itself concentration, calming the mind and dwelling on high. In the third stage one is disenchanted with joy, is calmly contemplative and aware. The fourth state leaves behind ease and transcends former happiness and melancholy by entering into the rapture of pure mindfulness and equanimity, feeling neither ease nor ill.
According to the Buddha the four motives that lead to evil deeds are partiality, enmity, stupidity, and fear. The six channels for dissipating wealth are being addicted to liquors, frequenting the streets at unseemly hours, haunting fairs, gambling, bad companions, and idleness.
These ethical teachings and discourses on many other subjects are from the sayings (Nikaya) of the Buddha in the first of the Three Baskets (Tripitaka) that make up the Pali Canon. The second basket contains the discipline (Vinaya) books for the monks and nuns. Later commentaries on the original teachings make up the third basket of "higher doctrines" (Abhidharma). The first book in this last collection has been called A Manual of Psychological Ethics (Dhamma-sangani).
The Dhamma-sangani lists the good states of consciousness as the following: contact, feeling, perception, volition, thought, application, sustained thinking, zest, ease, self-collectedness; the faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, insight, ideation, gladness, and life; right views, endeavor, mindfulness, and concentration; the powers of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, insight, conscientiousness, and the fear of blame; the absence of greed, hate, dullness, covetousness, and malice; serenity, lightness, plasticity, facility, fitness, and directness in mind and mental factors; intelligence, quiet, intuition, grasp, and balance.
The list of bad states of consciousness is similar except that the views, intention, endeavor, and concentration are wrong instead of right, and there is unconscientiousness, disregard of blame, lust, dullness, and covetousness instead of their absence. In a further discussion of these ties the perversion of rules and rituals and the disposition to dogmatize are added to covetousness, lust, and ill will. To the cankers (asavas) of sensuality, rebirth, and ignorance is added speculative opinion about useless metaphysical questions such as whether the world is eternal, the soul is infinite, the soul and body are different, or whether one exists after death.
A work on human types (Puggala-pannatti) analyzes individuals in terms of many characteristics such as the six sense organs and their objects (including mind as the sixth sense); eighteen elements of cognition, twenty-two faculties or functions, and such negative traits as being wrathful, vengeful, a hypocrite, a charlatan, jealous, avaricious, shameless, impudent, disobedient, associating with the wicked, having unguarded senses, being immoderate as to food, forgetful, unmindful, infringing moral laws, having wrong views, internal and external fetters as well as their opposites. However, these texts mostly consist of dry and abstract lists with many repetitions.