I. Life Involves Suffering
The First Noble Truth is that life is dukkha,
usually translated “suffering.” ... He did not doubt that it
is possible to have a good time and that having a good time is
enjoyable, but two questions obtruded. First, how much of life is thus
enjoyable. And second, at what level of our being does such enjoyment
proceed. Buddha thought the level was superficial, sufficient perhaps
for animals but leaving deep regions of the human psyche empty and
wanting. (The World’s Religions [WR], 99-100)
Is Buddhism “world-affirming” or “world-denying”?
What about Shinto?
II. The Cause of Suffering
The cause of life’s dislocation is tanha . ... Tanha
is a specific kind of desire, the desire for private fulfillment. When
we are selfless we are free, but that is precisely the
difficulty — to maintain that state. Tanha
is the force that ruptures it, pulling us back from the freedom of the
all to seek fulfillment in our egos, which ooze like secret sores. Tanha
consists of all “those inclinations which tend to continue or
increase separateness, the separate existence of the subject of desire;
in fact, all forms of selfishness, the essence of which is desire for
self at the expense, if necessary, of all other forms of life. Life
being one, all that tends to separate one aspect from another must
cause suffering to the unit which even unconsciously works against the
Law. Our duty to our fellows is to understand them as extensions, other
aspects, of ourselves — fellow facets of the same Reality.”
Is “selfish desire” the root cause of suffering?
What about for Shinto?
The Third Noble Truth follows logically
from the Second. If the cause of life’s dislocation is selfish
craving, its cure lies in the overcoming of such craving. If we could
be released from the narrow limits of self-interest into the vast
expanse of universal life, we would be relieved of our torment. (WR, 103)
III. Suffering Will Cease
When Selfish Desires Cease
What is karma? How does it lead to rebirth?
And why should we escape from the cycle of rebirth?
Is “salvation” possible in the Shinto tradition?
IV.The Eightfold Path
to the Cessation of Suffering
The Fourth Noble Truth prescribes how the cure can be accomplished. The overcoming of tanha, the way out of our captivity, is through the Eightfold Path. (WR, 103)
The path can be divided into 3 groups:
1. Right Understanding
2. Right Thought
- Forming the
intention to pursue the Buddha’s path, including the resolution
to practice benevolence or “nonharmfulness” to sentient beings.
3. Right Speech
speech should always be in
accordance with the principle of “nonharmfulness.”
4. Right Action
actions should also be in accord
with the principle of “nonharmfulness.”
5. Right Livelihood
- In line with the
previous ethical principles, laypeople should pursue a line of work
that promotes the welfare of other sentient beings and minimizes
actions that might harm them.
The effort to
eliminate harmful karma at the mental level; this represents the
the self-examination process.
meditation employs aspects of the two main types of Buddhist meditation: samatha (calming)
and vipassana (insight). Samatha
for stabilizing the mind and preventing new karma,
but only “insight” leads to nirvana. Mindfulness meditation
combines these by first stabilizing the mind by focusing on the breath,
and then directing the mind to contemplate the nature of body, mind,
and their relationship to the totality of things.
builds on the practice of mindfulness by focusing on a particular
mental object until one reaches a state of “one-pointedness,” which in
turn leads to penetrating “insight” (vipassana) into the object of focus. There is a traditional list of forty objects for meditative concentration, ultimately leading to “formless meditations” (arupajhana) on mental objects such as “nothingness” (sunyata) and “neither perception nor non-perception” (nevasanyanasanyayatana), which are regarded as the highest states of consciousness that provide a glimpse into the nature of parinirvana — the final release from samsara that occurs at the death of one who has fully awakened.