Wrapping Up

 

Qualities of the Dharma
The Four Noble Truths
The Noble Eightfold Path
The True Nature of Existence
  The Five Aggregates of Clinging
  Anicca, Dukkha and Rebirth
  Dependent Arising
  Kamma, Nibbana and Rebirth
  Kamma
  Rebirth
 

Nibbana

Meditation
The Sangha
The Buddhist Sangha
The Social Dimension of Buddha 's Teaching
The Social Dimension
Economics and Politics


 

 

We live at a time when Buddhism is exerting a strong appeal upon an increasing number of people, both East and West. The remarkable success of Buddhism, as well as its contemporary appeal, can be understood principally in terms of two factors which you've learned about in this course: the aim of the teaching and its methodology.

The aim
The Buddha formulated his teaching in a way that directly addresses the critical problem at the heart of human existence -- the problem of suffering. Those who follow his teaching to its end, he said, will realize here and now the highest happiness and peace. This pragmatic thrust of the Dharma is clearly illustrated by the main formula into which the Buddha compressed his program of deliverance, namely, the Four Noble Truths.

The Buddha not only made suffering and release from suffering the focus of his teaching. Since suffering arises from our own minds, the cure must be achieved within our minds, by dispelling our defilements and delusions with insight into reality. The beginning point of the Buddha's teaching is the unenlightened mind, in the grip of its afflictions, cares, and sorrows; the end point is the enlightened mind, blissful, radiant, and free.

To bridge the gap between the beginning and end points of his teaching, the Buddha offered a clear, precise, practicable path made up of eight factors — the Noble Eightfold Path. When all eight factors of the path are brought to maturity, one penetrates with insight the true nature of existence and reaps the fruits of the path: perfect wisdom and unshakable liberation of mind.

The methodology
The Buddha's teaching emphasizes self-reliance. The key to liberation is mental purity and correct understanding. Since wisdom or insight is the chief instrument of emancipation, the Buddha always asked his disciples to follow him on the basis of their own understanding, not from blind obedience or unquestioning trust. He invited inquirers to investigate his teaching, to examine it in the light of their own reason and intelligence. The Dharma is experiential, something to be practiced and seen, not a verbal creed to be merely believed. As one takes up the practice of the path, one experiences a growing sense of joy and peace, which expands and deepens as one advances along its clearly marked steps.

The Dharma is open and lucid, simple but deep. It combines ethical purity with logical rigor, lofty vision with fidelity to the facts of lived experience. Though full penetration of the truth proceeds in stages, the teaching begins with principles that are immediately evident as soon as we use them as guidelines for reflection. Each step, successfully mastered, naturally leads on to deeper levels of understanding, culminating in the realization of the supreme truth, Nirvana.

On the path
This course has provided a foundation for your study and practice, but it is, of course, only an introduction. Each of the teachings can be studied and practiced in depth; this is the path of the Dharma. Ashoka will be offering courses on each of the topics presented in this course — the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Noble Path, the three marks of existence, dependent arising, and meditation. These course will guide you in studying the truth of suffering in your life and walking the eightfold path.

On Ashoka you can now study:

Liberating the Heart: The Brahma Viharas, an Ashoka course on the Brahma-Viharas taught by Sharon Salzberg, guiding teacher, Insight Meditation Society.

The Metta Sutta, an Ashoka course taught by Andrew Olendzki, Director of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

Sources and resources

The following are Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations of the Buddha's teachings:

The Connected Discourses of the Buddha - translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi - Wisdom Publications
The Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha - translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi - Wisdom Publications
Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology from the Anguttara Nikaya - by Bhikkhu Bodhi and Nyanaponika Thera, 2000, AltaMira Press
In the Buddha's Words : An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon - to be published September 2005, Wisdom Publications

The Buddhist Publication Society, for which Bhikkhu Bodhi served as president and editor, offers a wealth of material on Theravadan Buddhism, including several books by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Many of these are available online at Access to Insight, along with the Buddhist Publication Society's Wheel publications, booklets covering a wide range of topic, and Bodhi Leaves, small hand-size booklets published by the BPS. Newcomers to Buddhism and meditation will find these booklets very accessible.The series also includes accurate annotated translations of the Buddha's discourses from the Pali Canon.

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