Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Buddhism is nothing
but the NOBLE TRUTH.
is Buddhism? This question has puzzled many people who often inquire if
Buddhism is a philosophy, a religion, or a way of life. The simple answer
is that Buddhism is too vast and too profound to be neatly placed in any
single category. Of course, Buddhism includes philosophy and religion and
a way of life. But Buddhism goes beyond these categories.
The categories or labels
given to Buddhism are like signboards to let the people know what is being
presented. If we compare Buddhism to a medicine shop, it will be clear
that the signboard on the medicine shop will not cure a person of his
sickness. If the medicine is effective, then you can use it to heal
yourself without being concerned as to the signboard that merely gives a
label for the medicine. Likewise, if the Teaching of the Buddha is
effective, then use it and do not be concerned about the label or
signboard. Do not try to slip Buddhism into any single category or limit
it under any signboard.
Different people live at
different times and in different places have given different labels and
interpretations to Buddhism. To some people, Buddhism might appear to be
only a mass of superstitious practices. To another group of people,
Buddhism might be a convenient label to be used for temporal gains. To
another group, it is old fashioned. To yet another group, Buddhism will
have significance as a system of thought for intellectuals only. To some
others, it is a scientific discovery. To the pious and devout Buddhist,
Buddhism means his entire life, the fulfillment of all he holds near and
dear to him.
intellectuals see Buddhism as a product of its Indian environment or as an
outgrowth of another kind of Indian religious teaching. Buddhism is
nothing but the Noble Truth. It is an intellectual approach to reality.
The Buddha's realization of universal problems did not come through a
purely intellectual or rational process but through mental development and
purification. The intellectual stance reminiscent of the scientific
attitude, surely makes the Buddha absolutely unique among religious
teachers of all time. Of course, the high standard of intellectual inquiry
and ethical endeavor prevailing at the time in India were prime conditions
for the re-emergence of the light of the Dhamma from the darkness of
oblivion. Thousands of years of religious and philosophical development
had left on the intellectual soil of India a rich and fertile deposit of
ideas and ideals which formed the best possible environment into which the
seed of the Dhamma could fall. Greece, China, Egypt and Babylonia, for all
their loftiness of thought, had not attained the same quality of vision as
the forest and mountain-dwelling sages of India. The germ of Enlightenment
which had been borne, like a winged seed from distant fields, from worlds
in space and time infinitely remote from ours _ this very germ of
Enlightenment found growth and development in the north-eastern corner of
India. This very germ of Enlightenment found its full expression in the
experience of the man, Gautama Buddha. The fountainhead of all Buddhism is
this experience which is called 'Enlightenment'. With this experience of
Enlightenment, the Buddha began His Teaching not with any dogmatic beliefs
or mysteries, but with a valid, universal experience, which He gave to the
world as universal truth. Therefore, the real definition of Buddhism is
NOBLE TRUTH. Remember that the Buddha did not teach from theories. He
always taught from a practical standpoint based on His understanding, His
Enlightenment, and His realization of the Truth.
with the Truth embodied over 2500 years ago in the person of Gautama, the
Buddha. When the Buddha introduced His teachings, His intention was not to
develop the concept of self in man's mind and create more ambition for
eternal life and sense pleasure. Rather, His intention was to point out
the futility of the worldly life and to show the correct, practical Path
to salvation that He discovered.
Teachings of the Buddha disclosed the true nature of life and the world.
However, a distinction must be made between the Buddha's original Teaching
(often called the Dhamma or the Buddha Word) and the religion that
developed based on His Teachings.
The Teachings of
the Buddha not only started a religion, but inspired the blossoming of a
whole civilization. These Teachings became a great civilizing force that
moved through the history of many a culture and nation. Indeed, Buddhism
has become one of the greatest civilizations that the world has ever
known. It has a wonderful history of achievement in the fields of
literature, art, philosophy, psychology, ethics, architecture and culture.
In the course of centuries, countless social educational institutions were
established in the various nations that were dedicated to the Buddha's
Teaching. The history of Buddhism was written in golden letters of
brotherhood and goodwill. The religious beliefs and practices turned into
a rational, scientific and practical religious way of life for spiritual
development from the day the Buddha preached His Teaching and realized the
real purpose and meaning of a life and a religion.
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