Thursday August 04, 2005
Dhamma is endless and boundless
by Ven. Boralesgamuwe Pemaratana,
London Buddhist Vihara
Dhamma is the truth of all phenomena in the world. This is the gift that we received revealed by the Buddha. Human beings have suffered from stress, anger, confusion and fear, throughout time and space. By understanding and applying the teachings of the Buddha, the Dhamma, we see how to change our lives for the better. Buddhism is a living tradition. The teachings are handed down to us, to study and contemplate throughout our daily lives. The Buddha said, “The Tathagathas are just teachers, you yourself should make the exertion.” It is only by the actual practice of Dhamma, that we can overcome all sorts of mental impurities. Dhamma is that which gradually and systematically can cut through our problems and difficulties. Both material and spiritual progress are essential for our development. It is by practising Dhamma that we develop and maintain this progress. It is only as human beings that we can understand and apply the teachings to our present situation. We all have strengths and weaknesses. By understanding and practising the Dhamma, we can transform our internal negative tendencies and develop qualities of patience, skilfullness, loving kindness, wisdom and compassion.
Dhamma, the natural law, was realized, understood and taught by the Buddha. By practising these teachings, we realise that liberation from all conditions is not external, not something apart from ourselves, but in our own hearts. Then only do we act on it, taking the Dhamma as our refuge. The Buddha taught that we should understand the three characteristics of existence. These three characteristics of existence are that all conditioned things are transient (anicca), sorrowful (dukkha) and that everything is selfless (anatta). This is the truth of all animate and inanimate things in the world. The objective in Dhamma is to enable the mind to give up unskilful grasping which leads us to endless wandering in samsara. The Buddha said, “In this fathom long body is the world and its origin, its making, and its end.”
The Four Noble Truths show us the way to liberate ourselves from suffering. The First Noble Truth is the recognition of suffering, of illbeing. The first step is to understand and find the roots of suffering. The Second Noble Truth is that craving, manifesting itself in various ways, gives rise to all forms of suffering and the continuity of being. These steps, that there is suffering and causes of suffering, leads us to the Third and Fourth Noble Truths. This is that there is an end to suffering - and the path that consists of certain steps, such as Right Understanding, Right Thinking, Right Speech, Action and Livelihood. All living beings are composed of mental and physical forces. Through these two factors, we come to know the taste of pleasurable and unpleasurable sensations. We cling to these sensations and as a consequence, we become firmly attached and suffer. But the Dhamma teaches us how to become mentally healthy, by guarding our minds against impure thoughts and feelings and developing pure thoughts and embodying the qualities of loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.
Dhamma is a medicine which can cure the disease which keeps us endlessly wandering in samsara. Once the Buddha said, “There seems to be people who enjoy freedom from physical illness even for a year or two, or even a hundred years or more. But, O monks rare in this world are those who enjoy freedom from mental illness even for a moment, except those who are free from mental defilements. Of all medicines in the world manifold and various, there is none like the medicine of Dhamma.”
The Dhamma is the antidote which overcomes unskilful mental states. The antidote to violence and hatred is loving kindness and compassion. The antidote to anger is kindness, to weakness is goodness, to selfishness is through charity, to falsehood through truthfulness. Dhamma also contains a moral code which enables us to develop ourselves, to act righteously in order to find a refuge in our own hearts. It is practising the Dhamma that prevents us from performing immoral actions. Due to the absence of moral shame and moral fear, many people in the world today live inhumanely, causing suspicion and tension, destruction and misery. By practising the Dhamma we develop moral shame and moral fear and also refrain from committing mental, verbal or physical wrong deeds. Dhamma brings light to achieve the path of purification, the way to gain peace of mind. It begins right here, right now.
Value of Dhamma
The value of Dhamma lies in its power to change the lives of ourselves and others in a positive way. The Buddha advising his own son, Ven Rahula, says, “Rahula, whenever you do things repeatedly reflect on it thus: Is this deed conducive to my harm, or to the harm of another, or both. Then, is this a bad deed, entailing suffering? From such a deed you must resist. If there is a deed, Rahula, that you wish to do, reflect thus: Is this deed not conducive to my own harm, nor to the harm of another, nor to that of both. Then is this a good deed entailing happiness? Such a deed you must repeat, again and again.” Many families and societies have been broken by violent speech - often through the accumulation of negative, built up and handed down to us by our families and societies. We bring suffering on ourselves, by what we read, eat, drink and how we work. With gradual practice, we transform our negative thoughts and develop the wisdom which gives an inner guiding light that reveals the right path. Through direct experience, by degrees, we begin to realize peace, joy and happiness in this life. We need to train in order to transform the seeds of anger and greed within ourselves. Dhamma is not far away from us, it is right here with us. By being present in this moment, by developing our minds, and awareness of all our mental and physical actions, we receive the gift of the Dhamma, the truth of ourselves and the world. Our responsibility is to transform our suffering, so that we can transform the suffering in those around us.
So the gift of Dhamma is a wonderful blessing. It brings self confidence and self protection. The pleasure of the gift of Dhamma is endless and boundless. It is apparent here and now. It is timeless. It leads us onwards. The Dhamma is a raft, on which we cross the ocean of suffering to reach shore of Nibbana. This raft of the Dhamma carries man to the safest and most peaceful state of happiness, and the bliss of Nirvana.
The Buddha said “The gift of Dhamma excels all other gifts” (Sabba danam Dhamma danam jinati). May we all benefit from the gift of the Dhamma.