A clear understanding of the purpose of meditation is essential
for the practice of Buddhist meditation to become an
effective means to spiritual development. You can only grasp
the purpose itself when you understand the
framework of principles underpinning the practice. To follow
the Dhamma correctly two things must go together hand in hand:
Understanding here means comprehending our experience correctly
— the ability to distinguish the valid from the invalid, the
true from the false, the wholesome from the unwholesome.
Through thorough investigation you learn to reject what is
detrimental to your growth and to apply yourself with confidence
to cultivating what is truly beneficial. While meditation without
understanding may bring the mundane benefits
of greater calm, awareness and equanimity, without having reached
a preliminary conceptual understanding it is questionable whether
it can lead to the penetrative realization of the Dhamma, or
to its final goal, the complete cessation of suffering.
When understanding and practice can be brought into unison,
when they are made to compliment and support each other, the
pursuit of the goal can be brought to a successful conclusion.
But if we have only one without the other, then that can only
lead perhaps to a futile end.
To have knowledge and understanding without practice might be
compared to reading the menus in a restaurant without eating
anything, Looking at all the menus of the fanciest restaurants
in town won’t satisfy our own appetite.
On the other hand, to practice without having the prerequisite
understanding as a grounding for the practice will not bring
us to our desired destination.
Thus we need these two elements: understanding and practice — pariyati and patipati And
these have to work together hand-in-hand to bring about the achievement
of the goal of the Buddha’s teaching — enlightenment
Think of learning as a part of practice not a supplement, for
the entire Buddhist discipline aims at the growth of the wisdom
or understanding. Wisdom is the key to realization.
The Buddha teaches that wisdom develops in three stages.
The wisdom born of learning
The wisdom born of reflection
wisdom born of meditation
To actualize the teachings of the Buddha you pass through these
three stages, one by one: first learning, then reflection,
and then meditation.
It is meditation that transforms the content of learning and
reflection into actual experience.
Studying the Dhamma
This course is not meant to give a thorough and scholarly account
of the Buddha’s teaching. Rather the aim is to lay down
the essential fundamentals of Buddhist teaching as a foundation
The teaching of the Buddha itself is called the Dhamma. The
word Dharma comes from the root dhar, which means to
uphold or sustain. Thus the word Dhamma means literally that
The Dhamma as part of our spiritual quest
The word Dhamma signifies the truth realized
by the Buddha. It is the truth which subsists by
itself whether is understood or not, whether it is taught or
not – the
true nature of phenomena, the real mode of existence of things.
The word Dhamma also signifies the path that leads to the realization
of the truth.
As well it signifies the doctrine which elucidates the truth
and makes known the path.
The three jewels
Taking the Buddhist path implies that we have acknowledged our
need for spiritual guidance and are looking to the Buddha’s
teaching on the true nature of the human condition, a teaching
designed to awaken in us a perception of this truth as
the means for reaching the full and final end of suffering.
The Buddha's teaching can be thought of as a kind of building
with its own distinct foundation, stories, stairs, and roof.
Like any other building the teaching also has a door, and in
order to enter it we have to enter through this door. The door
of entrance to the teaching of the Buddha is the Triple
The Buddha - the teacher (and the discoverer of the Dhamma)
The Dhamma – the Buddha’s teachings of the truth
The Sangha – the community of those
who have realized the teaching and embody it in their lives
These are referred to as The Three Jewels (or Triple Gem) because
for one who is seeking the way to liberation, they are the most
precious things in the World.
Our organization of this course’s exploration of the Dhamma
is organized according to the three jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma
and the Sangha.