The body is born, grows old, weakens, and dies. The self has little or no control over this process. The self and the mind are not in harmony. Our mind is often beyond our control. It races from one idea to the next like a wild horse. Delusional thought is the source of all of our suffering. Although we may know this, we still find it very hard to control the mind. The self and its desires are not in harmony.
There are good and bad desires. Good desires can improve the self, and even benefit others. However, if we poorly manage these desires, they may become burdens. Bad desires, such as coveting material things and being attached to physical desire, create more suffering. We may under- stand that desire produces negative karma and suffering, but that does not mean the mind will be able to con- trol itself easily. Self-control is difficult precisely because what we know to be best for us is not always what we most want. Yet if we do not attempt to control our de- sires, then the self will suffer even more.
The self and its views are not in good harmony. This basi- cally means that we have wrong views or false percep- tions. When what we believe is not in accordance with the truth, we cause ourselves endless trouble, repeating the same mistakes time and again. The self is not in harmony with nature. Rain, floods, droughts, storms, waves, and all forces of nature are be- yond our control, often causing us to suffer. Despite the overwhelming nature of its ex- istence, the Buddha taught the truth of suffering not to make us despair but to help us clearly recognize the realities of life.
When we understand the extent of our suffering and the impossibility of avoiding it, we should feel inspired to overcome it. This refers to the hopefulness of the third and fourth noble truths, the possibility of the cessation of suffering and the path leading us away from our suffering. Throughout our lives, we create a lot of unwholesome karma be- cause of our ignorant urges and cravings.
Unwholesome karma is like a seed that bears the fruit of suffering. Thus, our suffering is caused by our own karma, and we are subject to the effects of wha- tever actions we have done.
Karma does not disappear; it only accu- mulates. However, karma is not all bad. There is also good karma. Whether we taste the fruit of suffering or of joy depends on the karmic seeds that we sow. We chain ourselves to the painful and delu- sive world through our strong attachments to these poisons, result- ing in the never-ending cycle of birth and death. Afflictions are referred to by many names.
Afflictions are ob- structions or shroudings, as they obstruct our intrinsic nature. Af- flictions are knots or entanglements. Afflictions are ropes that coil around our minds. Afflictions are bindings or restraints constrain- ing our bodies and minds. Should we achieve this, a blissful life is not far away. A thorough understanding of the causes of suffering is necessary before we can arrive at the extinction of suffering. The Third Noble Truth The cessation of suffering refers to the elimination of the afflictions of greed, anger, and ignorance, uncovering our intrinsic Buddha nature.
It is the liberation that moves beyond the confusion of afflictions and suffering, the dualities of self and others, right and wrong, and the limitations of ignorance. In other words, nirvana is a state of oneness, of freedom and ease, light and happiness, and release from the cycle of birth and death. The bliss of nirvana can be attained by anyone at any moment and is the ultimate ideal. This path shows us how to overcome the causes of suffering and leads to nirvana. The most basic way to move forward in this effort is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
Its eight steps include: This includes developing a clear understand- ing of the law of cause and effect, wholesome and un- wholesome karma, impermanence, suffering, and emp- tiness. It encompasses observations that lead us away from delusion. This means to not have thoughts of greed, anger, and ignorance. It involves contemplating and dis- tinguishing the true features of phenomena with wis- dom. This includes speaking words of truth, compassion, praise, and altruism. This includes the correct conduct of re- fraining from killing, stealing, engaging in sexual mis- conduct, and using intoxicants.
This refers to occupations and ways of making a living that do not cause harm to ourselves or to others, a harmonious, altruistic, and wholesome lifestyle. This refers to the exertion of diligence in order to remain focused on advancement and not lose ground. It also means striving to do good and refrain- ing from doing bad. In the Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise, this goal includes four components: This means to have a mind that is pure, aware, and does not give rise to unwholesome thoughts. It is contemplating the right path. There are four bases of right mindfulness: This includes cultivat- ing meditative concentration to focus the mind and settle the distracted body so we can better cultivate ourselves.
This cultivation will reveal our Buddha nature to us. When he neared his final nirva- na, the Buddha told his disciples that if any of them had doubts about the validity of the Four Noble Truths, they should speak up to have their questions answered before it was too late. The close attention that the Buddha paid to the Four Noble Truths throughout his forty- nine years of teaching shows the importance he placed on them.
When the Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths, he explained them three times from three different angles in order to aid sentient beings in their understanding of his message. In this teaching, the Buddha explained the content and meaning of the Four Noble Truths so his disciples might understand their importance. Such is the cause of suf- fering, which beckons.
Such is the cessation of suffering, which is attainable. Such is the path, which can be practiced. In this assembly, the Buddha encouraged his disciples to put the Four Noble Truths into practice in order to eradicate their afflictions and attain liberation. Such is the cause of suffering, you should end it. Such is the cessation of suffering, you should realize it. Such is the path, you should practice it. Here, the Buddha showed his disciples that he had already realized the Four Noble Truths, and encouraged them to dili- gently practice so that they, too, could realize the Four Noble Truths.
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Such is the cause of suffering, I have ended it. Such is the cessation of suffering, I have realized it. Such is the path, I have practiced it. The cosmos where human beings re- side, known as the mundane world, is characterized by suffering and the causes of suffering. To transcend to the supramundane realm, where suffering and the cause of suffering are nonexistent, it is nec- essary to learn the path leading to the cessation of suffering.
The best way to end suffering is to understand the Four Noble Truths. Therefore, the Buddha is the doctor with the perfect medicine. All we need to do is take it. Due to the significance that the Buddha placed on the Four No- ble Truths, they constitute the core of all Buddhist teaching. Today, every school of Buddhism uses the Four Noble Truths as their philo- sophical foundation. It is inadequate, however, to merely learn the Four Noble Truths.
We must resolve, cultivate and practice accordingly. We must end the causes of suffering, practice the path, and reach the cessation of suffering in order to achieve liberation.
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Consequently, the Four Universal Vows and the six perfections, which are derived from the Four Noble Truths, comprise the skillful means for us to arrive at this state. Through professing these vows, bodhisattvas aspire to benefit sentient beings and act in accord with the truth to reach this same end. And with these vows complimenting the Four Noble Truths, our own prac- tice becomes more complete and effective, enabling us to travel the bodhisattva path of Mahayana Buddhism. If we understand suffering and its causes, yet do not vow to eliminate them, how could we claim to be cultivating ourselves to become bodhisattvas?
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Even if we know the infinite teachings, if we do not practice them, we will not be able to solve our problems in life, much less enter the right path. How then could we possibly ful- fill the vows of bodhisattvas to attain Buddhahood? Therefore, after understanding the Four Noble Truths, we should proceed to make the Four Universal Vows and work to cultivate and fulfill them.
There are limitless sentient beings tormented by the suf- ferings of birth and death. How can we not resolve to rescue these beings and guide them to the other shore? How can we not resolve to help them unlock those shackles, eradicate afflictions and the ac- cumulation of karma, and free themselves to experience complete liberation from all suffering? Of course, it is not easy to eliminate the causes of suffering.
To do so, we need to rely not only on the power of our vows, but also on the power of the great vows of highly cultivated masters, bodhi- sattvas, and Buddhas to guide us in our practice. This is like shaping gold pieces. The process is dependent upon the goldsmith, for gold does not have a predeter- mined shape. The power of vows is required to fully accomplish this. As an analogy, the power of an ox can pull a cart, but a driver is required for the cart to reach its destination.
Th examples further demonstrate that the vows made by the Buddhas and bodhisatt abide within the paradigm of the Four Universal Vows.
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The Collection of Translated Terms states that practicing Bud- dhism requires three states of mind: Aspiring to these three states of mind means to follow the Four Universal Vows, to aspire to the bodhi mind, to seek the attainment of Buddhahood, and to liberate all sentient beings. Let us look more closely at these vows. Sentient beings are limitless; I vow to liberate them. In order to practice the Mahayana path, we must make this vow. However, while it is easy to make such a vow to ourselves, it is much more difficult to make such a vow before the Buddhas and oth- er sentient beings.
Liberating sentient beings necessitates more than providing them with food when they are hungry or medicine when they are sick. These superficial provisions will not enhance their wis- dom, nor help them to escape from the cycle of birth and death. Afflictions are endless; I vow to eradicate them. To practice Buddhism is to fight our afflictions. Once our afflictions have been conquered, our Buddha nature will appear, and we will have made progress toward Buddhahood.
Yet if we cannot end our own afflictions, not only will we be unable to escape suffering, it will be impossible to liberate other sentient beings. Consequently, the first thing we must do in practicing Buddhism is to live well ourselves and accomplish the cessation of all afflictions. Afflictions can hurt us and prevent us from experiencing peace. For example, greed causes us to strive in harmful ways, resulting in suffering. Anger agitates us so that we cannot find serenity. Ig- norance and wrong views cover our wisdom and prevent us from walking the right path.
We must vow to eradicate all afflictions and diligently practice the threefold trainings of morality, meditative concentration, and wisdom that will enable us to achieve libera- tion and live with joy. The sutras describe a hierarchy of eighty-four thousand afflictions. Without the support of great vows, we could easily lose the whole battle and be claimed by the sea of our afflic- tions forever. Would this not be regrettable? Teachings are infinite; I vow to learn them.
Generally, if we want to live a worry-free life, it is necessary to acquire many skills and forms of knowledge.
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To liberate sentient beings, not only do we need to learn Buddhism, but also all forms of knowledge open to us. Just as the ocean accepts the current from the tiniest stream, so, too, should Buddhists learn all teachings to liberate all sentient beings. The Flower Adornment Sutra actively encourages bodhisattvas to study and learn extensively, including the Tripitaka and the three- fold trainings, as well as the many teachings and methods of the numerous Buddhist schools.
We must strive to learn them all! Buddhahood is supreme; I vow to attain it. Becoming a Buddha requires undergoing many hardships over long periods of time. Still, we should strive to follow in the footsteps of the sages and attempt to reach their level. By making this vow we not only pledge to attain Buddhahood for ourselves, but also for all sentient beings. It also required his subjugation of maras, which include both the external temptations of sounds, sens- es, forms, and material gains, as well as the internal forces of greed, anger, and ignorance.
As we cultivate through the many cycles of birth and death, there may be times when we become intimidated, lose our initial resolve, and are overrun by maras. However, the difficulty of the endeavor makes Buddhahood even more valuable. In short, after understanding the Four Noble Truths, we need to emulate the bodhisattvas and learn all of the teachings. Then we need to apply these fundamental teachings in our lives, including the Four Noble Truths, the four means of embracing, and the six perfections, in order to fulfill the Four Universal Vows of the bodhi- sattva path.
Cultivation is a pressing matter, but one must first make vows. Once vows have been made, sentient beings can be liberated. With determination, Buddhahood can be attained. They share the same essence. And such a parallel grants us a greater understanding of the concept of prac- tice across Buddhist schools. He continues, explaining that Mahayana bodhisattvas, whose bodhi mind has arisen as a result of learning and practicing the Four Noble Truths, need to fulfill the bodhisattva path and expound the true nature of the Four Universal Vows.
Indeed, Buddhist scriptures, such as the Agama Sutra, are rich with teachings of the Buddha that reflect the importance of spread- ing the Dharma for the benefit all sentient beings. As mentioned earlier, after understanding the Four Noble Truths we need the pow- er of the great vows to guide us toward liberation from suffering. As sentient beings who are mired in the difficulties and torments of life, we struggle to cross to the other shore of enlightenment, but we cannot even find the ferry.
Therefore, we need the sages and wise teachers who pilot the ships of great vows. The four great bodhisattvas, Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Ksitigar- bha, and Samantabhadra, are the embodiment and personification of the Four Universal Vows. Their combined achievement of merits and virtues lead to the realization of the ideal world of perfect enlight- enment and contemplation. Through the spirit of their great vows, they encourage our own footsteps on the path.
We can begin use our blossoming understanding of the Four Noble Truths to find our own spiritual voice, our own strength of commitment, and our own expression of compassion and loving-kindness. This is why the Buddha would, at times, teach existence and at other times, emptiness; at times, teach nature and at other times, form; at times teach entities and at other times, functionality.
Th examples express two related points to understand and consider when learning the Dharma. First of all, just as the Bud- dha recognized the varying needs of his audiences, we too, can use skillful means to aid our own understanding of the teach s as well as to assist others. We can listen to wise teach s, study sutras and commentaries, and att Dharma functions, all the while building skillful means into our own way of communicating. Secondly, the Buddha specifi established the four reliances as the basis of learning the Dharma, and to help us recognize the true teach s.
Rely on the Dharma, not on individual teachers. People espouse varied beliefs and perceptions and are subject to impermanence, but the Dharma never changes. Rely on the meaning, not on the words. Rely on wisdom, not on knowledge. Wisdom is the truth that already lies within us. Knowledge comes from our experiences in the outside world and constantly shifts. When we use wisdom as a mirror to look at phenomena, it will reflect things as they really are. Rely on the ultimate truth, not the relative truth. This means that we rely on the definitive meaning and not on the various methods of teaching.
We should rely on our mind of wisdom which comes from our own Buddha nature rather than our ordinary, judgmental mind.
Our learning and cultivation of the Dharma should be based on the fundamental teachings of the Four Noble Truths, the three Dharma seals, and the twelve links of dependent origination, before moving on to the Four Universal Vows. These skillful teachings give substance and direction to our vows, and with time and proper pro- gression we can come to understand them all. The Dharma is adapt- able, all-encompassing, and capable of perfect integration in order to meet the needs of all who choose to enter the path. Therefore, Buddhahood is possible to achieve!
After gaining in- sight into the Four Noble Truths and the Four Universal Vows, we are able to give rise to the bodhi mind, make vows in accordance with the Dharma, practice diligently without indolence, and accu- mulate merits, virtues, and good conditions. Then, Buddhahood will be within our reach. Las Cuatro Nobles Verdades son la realidad del sufrimiento; la realidad de las causas del sufrimiento; la realidad del cese del sufrimiento, y la realidad del camino que conduce al cese del sufrimiento.
En otras palabras, las Cuatro Nobles Verdades son indiscutibles. Cuando somos ignorantes, nos hallamos sumidos en el caos de los seis reinos de la existencia. Para comprenderlas, debemos ser lo bastante sabios como para contemplar todo en profundidad y sobreponernos a nuestra ignorancia. La primera verdad es un efecto de la segunda, y la tercera, un efecto de la cuarta.
Cuando nos percatamos de las primeras dos verdades, naturalmente deseamos desprendernos de nuestras aflicciones. La primera noble verdad El sufrimiento es el estado en el que las aflicciones invaden el cuerpo y la mente. En el budismo hablamos sobre el sufrimiento para ayudar a tomar conciencia de que, en nuestro planeta, existen toda clase de tormentos. Una vez que descubrimos su verdadera naturaleza, podemos avanzar hasta hallar la forma de acabar con ellos.
Probablemente el lector se pregunte: Hay quienes no tienen demasiadas ambiciones materiales y pueden soportar las inclemencias del tiempo o aceptar las penurias de la pobreza. Otros incluso son capaces de sobreponerse al asedio de las emociones y tolerar la tristeza que implica separarse de sus seres queridos o el fastidio de lidiar con personas desagradables.
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