Buddhism is a religion that strives to understand the nature
of mind. It is more of a philosophy than a theology. Buddha
taught that an enlightened mind is like a vast blue sky
without the slightest cloud. Clouds are obstructions that
Tibetans call "nyon-mong", or hurtful emotions.
There are thousands of nyon-mongs but they can be grouped
into three main categories: desire, hatred, and ignorance.
These are called the "three poisons." Of these
three, ignorance is the fundamental cause of all mental
and physical suffering.
Buddha realized Four Noble Truths. The first noble truth
is about the truth of suffering - the pain that accompanies
birth, sickness, old age, and death - the suffering that
accompanies not getting what we want, or not wanting what
we have, or being separated from loved ones, or being with
people or things we dislike.
The second Noble Truth is the truth about the cause
of suffering. The three poisons (desire, hatred, and
ignorance) are the causes of suffering, ignorance being
the epitome of all three.
The third Noble Truth is about the end of suffering.
The power to end suffering is in our own hands. The law
of cause and effect, or "karma," dictates that
we reap what we sow. If we are joyful in this moment we
are reaping the fruits of our past positive actions. If
we are suffering, it is because of our past negative actions.
It is also important to know that the way we respond to
our suffering also sows seeds for the future. We have the
power to create a better future for ourselves. Buddha taught
that to avoid suffering we should not engage in what he
called the ten un-virtuous actions - killing, stealing,
sexual misconduct, lying, harmful speech, gossip, divisive
speech, greed, hatred, and perverted views. Whenever we
cause harm or suffering to another we sow a seed of suffering
The fourth Noble Truth reveals the path to end of suffering.
This is an eightfold path of right view, right intention,
right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort,
right mindfulness, and right concentration.
This path is summarized as the development of morality,
meditation, and wisdom.
Morality = Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood
(In essence, the development of love and compassion.)
Meditation = Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right
Concentration (Control of thoughts and emotions that produce
Wisdom = Right View and Right Intention (Understanding
the twelve links of interdependence and selflessness.)
At the heart of Buddhism is the understanding that ignorance
is the root cause of all suffering.. The antidote to ignorance
is wisdom and the most important wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism
is the doctrine of selflessness, or "emptiness,"
or "no-self." There is no independent "self"
or "I" either in us or in the world around us.
Everything in the universe exists because of its dependence
on something else. Nothing can be born or sustained by itself.
The universe is interdependent.
On a superficial level, we do experience a sense of self
and Buddhism contends that this comes from an amalgamation
of five aggregates: form, feeling, perception, conception,
and consciousness. Form is made of matter, which is a composition
of five elements: earth, fire, water, air, and space. Feeling
is the sensations of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral.
Perception is the grasp of the world through the senses.
Conception includes concentration and intentions that precede
an action. Consciousness includes six organs of consciousness:
eye, nose, ear, tongue, body, and mind. Our suffering comes
from our ignorance and our mistaken belief in the importance
of and attachment to these five aggregates.
On further examination we will find that these aggregates
came into existence because of interdependence. Here we
come to the second most important doctrine of Buddhism -
the Twelve Links of Interdependence:
1.Ignorance produces --> 2.Karma (Law of Cause &
Effect) --> 3.Consciousness --> 4.Form --> 5.Senses
--> 6.Contact --> 7.Feeling --> 8.Desire -->
9.Grasping --> 10.Becoming --> 11.Birth --> 12.Old
age and death.
Reversal of the above links frees one from ignorance and
propels one into a state of nirvana (a state devoid of any