Monday, 31 August 2009

Vinegar May Be A Fat Buster

The latest fat-busting weapon may be found right in your kitchen.

According to health website WebMd, Japanese researchers said that ordinary household vinegar appears to turn on genes that help the body break down fats. This helps prevent fat buildup in the body, thwarting weight gain.

Vinegar has been used in folk remedies since ancient times. In recent years, research has suggested that acetic acid, the organic chemical in vinegar which gives it is sour taste, can help control blood pressure and blood sugar.

The Japanese researchers, led by Dt Tomoo Kondo from the Central Research Institute of the Mizkan Group Corporation, found that vinegar could influence genes lined to fatty acid oxidation and hear-generating (energy-burning) proteins.

They fed mice a high-fat diet. One group of mice was given vinegar through a stomach tube. Another group was given a lower dose – vinegar diluted with water – and a third group was not given vinegar.

The experiment showed that all the vinegar-fed mice developed a lot less body fat (up to 10 per cent less) than mice which did not receive the vinegar compound. The amount of food eaten by the mice was not affected.

The research suggests that vinegar might help a person lose weight or fight obesity.

The findings were published in the Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

A Joke Carried Too Far

              A man was accused of stealing a tool kit from someone else’s garage. “But I just took it as a joke,” he protested before the judge.
              “How far did you carry the tool kit?” the judge wanted to know.
              “Just three blocks,” replied the defendant.
              “Thirty days, then,” proclaimed the judge, “for carrying the joke too far.”

Saturday, 29 August 2009

What Is The Purpose Of Life?

To know the purpose of life, you will first have to study the subject through your experience and insight.

First, you must understand the nature of man and the nature of life. Next, you keep your mind calm and peaceful. 

When these conditions are met, the answer you seek will come like the gentle rain from the sky.

Understanding the nature of man

As yet, man is still wrapped in ignorance. He does not know who he really is or what is expected of him. Man must make an effort to overcome ignorance to arrive at realization and Enlightenment.

Man must realize that what he is today is the result of an untold number of repetitions in thoughts and actions. He is continually in the process of becoming, always changing. And it is in this characteristic of change that his future lies, because it means that it is possible for him to mould his character and destiny through the choice of his actions, speech and thoughts. Indeed, he becomes the thoughts and actions that he chooses to perform.

Understanding the nature of life

Most people fail to realize that life is uncertain, but that death is certain. One way of understanding life is to face and understand death which is nothing more than a temporary end to a temporary existence. Recollections on death with the right mental attitude can give a person courage and calmness as well as an insight into the nature of existence.

Besides understanding death, we need a better understanding of our life. We are living a life that does not always proceed as smoothly as we would like it to. Very often, we face problems and difficulties. We should not be afraid of them because the penetration into the very nature of these problems and difficulties can provide us with a deeper insight into life. The worldly happiness in wealth, luxury, respectable positions in life which most people seek is an illusion.

The need for a religion 

To understand the real purpose of life, it is advisable for a person to choose and follow an ethical-moral system that restrains a person from evil deeds, encourages him to do good and enables him to purify his mind. For simplicity, awe shall call this system 'religion'. 

Practicing a religion is nothing more than the development of one's inner awareness, goodwill and understanding. It teaches a person how to calm down the senses, make the heart, and mind peaceful. The secret of claming down the senses is to eliminate desire which is the root of our disturbances. 

It is very important for us to have contentment. The poorest men who have learnt to have contentment may enjoy their lives far more than the richest people do. Everyone aims for happiness in life, yet experience shows time and again that its attainment is so elusive.

- Author Unknown 

Friday, 28 August 2009

Can We Find True Security In The World?

In the desperate search for happiness, a person places his hopes and dreams on his family, friends, success in business, acquiring wealth and property, pleasure and beauty. Yet, does he get happiness from any of them?

Family and friends? While loving family and good friends can be a constant source of happiness, he cannot depend on them forever, someone he loves may pass away or leave him. If his love is centred on one person, the separation will cause him great sorrow.

Business? His business can go bankrupt. Someone he trusts may abscond with the money. A sudden change in the international political scene may destroy his factories and property overseas.

Money? The only reason people want money is because they think it can get them what they want. While money can ensure a comfortable life, it cannot guarantee happiness. Have you seen how some rich people live? They surround their homes with huge walls and gates. The doors are padlocked and all windows barred. They live in constant fear – fear of being robbed, of having their children kidnapped, of losing the wealth they have so painfully gathered, of relatives and friends who might take advantage, of being cheated when responsibilities are give to others.

Pleasure? For the moment he is lost in a good show, fine music or a game, he thinks that is all he wants. The entertainment has to be better and more vigorous each time to maintain interest. After it is over, he cannot escape the feeling of boredom and the fruitlessness of these pleasures.

Beauty and Youth? While still young, he spends hours maintaining his looks to draw attention from everyone. But no one can remain young forever. Time will be his greatest enemy. The skin that is smooth and delicate will later be furrowed with wrinkles. Muscles that are agile will become weak. The body that responds to any whims of the mind becomes the home of sickness and pain.

There is no security in family, friends, money, position, youth and beauty. The short-lived pleasures are only brief interludes to pain and drudgery. There is no guarantee against failure and disappointments. There is no guarantee to perfect health. Not even the richest and most influential can buy true joy. In this, the man who owns an empire is equal to a pauper who lives in a lean-to shed. Both have their share of sorrow and disappointments. Both will fall sick, grow old and die.

- Author Unknown 

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Cause Of Human Problems And How To Overcome Them

Ignorance which arises from the lack of proper understanding of the nature of life and the mere imaginations regarding the nature of inherent cosmic laws – this is the main cause of all human problems.

As long as man’s mind is clouded by ignorance of the truth of human existence and of the laws that govern its existence, man’s life will involve suffering of various nature – problems and difficulties, worries and miseries, conflicts and disappointments.

Out of ignorance you create your own suffering which you then share with your fellowmen. The miseries and worries that come to you are due to worldly conditions, your unbalanced and undeveloped mind, and the reactions of evil practices done by you. Whilst the unbalanced mind is easily swayed and troubled by worldly conditions such as profit and loss, praised and blamed, fame and ill-fame, sorrow and happiness, the undeveloped mind prolongs the sway and increased the trouble by its very adamant attitude – blaming yourself or other people and external sources for all your troubles and disturbances.

If you avoid blaming yourself as well as others, you will understand that you are responsible for everything that happens in this world and that there is no world without you. In the highest level of thinking, you should see things as they really are, not as you are. Then you will know that you are responsible for everything.

It is one thing to realize that you are also responsible for all the troubles and problems that come to you. It is another thing to know what you must do to overcome the disturbances that come to you through other people and external sources.

When somebody does something wrong to you owing to his ignorance, misunderstandings and human emotions, then it is time for you to reveal and to utilize your wisdom, your education, your sympathy and your religious background.

It is when others do wrong to you that you must take these actions as opportunities for you to get rid of your defilements and to practise and develop the noble virtues of patience, tolerance and understanding. If you know how to make good use of these noble humane qualities, then you will be able to realise how they can be of great help to relieve you from many of the enormous miseries and sufferings that burden your life.

To take revenge on your troublemaker is to invite more problems and difficulties. Negative feelings and negative actions only bring hatred and suffering to you and your troublemaker. In order to take revenge you have to create hatred and anger in your own minds thus polluting it. This hatred and anger is like a poisonous substance which is secreted, by the glands in your own body. Please remember that when you are going to throw cow dung or mud at another person, you will first have to dirty your own hands. By hating and getting angry with others, you only give them power over you, but you do not solve your problems. Such behaviour make you no better than your enemies.

The Buddha says, “Ah, happily do we live without hate amongst the hateful. Amidst the hateful men, we live without hate.”

Perhaps you may not be strong enough or good enough to love your enemies, but for the sake of your own health and happiness, you must learn at least to forgive and forget.

Many people do evil because of their ignorance and you should not curse them or condemn them into eternal suffering. Instead you should try to correct them, without showing your emotions, that they are wrong and point out where they have gone wrong. With this understanding, you can treat the evildoer as a patient who is suffering from a sickness. If you can help to remove the cause of the sickness then the patient can be cured and can be well and happy.

Try to follow the good example set by the Buddha who always returned food for evil. The Buddha said, “The more evil that comes to me, the more good will radiate from me.” Some people think that it is not practical to return good for evil. Try and see for yourself. If you find that it is too difficult to return good for evil, then you can still do a great service to yourself and to others by not returning evil for evil.

Remember that whatever happens you cannot feel hurt if you know how to keep a balanced mind. You are hurt only by the mental attitude that you adopt towards others. No one can hurt you unless you allow him to hurt you. If another person blames or scolds you and if you are following the Dharma, the Dharma will protect you from the unjust attacks. The Buddha says. “Whoever harms a harmless person, one pure and guiltless, upon that very fool the evil recoils like find dust thrown against the wind.” If you allow others to be successful in hurting you, you are responsible.

To protect whatever inner peace and calm you have managed to create within your mind, you must know when to surrender yourself; you must know when to throw away your pride; when to subdue your false ego and when to change your adamant attitude or false conviction.

To guard yourself from unjust criticism and how to make use of constructive criticism, you must look objectively at whatever criticism that others give to you. If the criticism that comes to you is just, well founded and given with good intention, then accept that criticism and put it to use. 
However if the criticism that comes to you is unjust and ill founded and given with bad intention, you are under no obligation to accept this kind of criticism. If you know that your attitude is correct and appreciated by wise and cultured people then do not worry about the ill-founded criticism. Your attitude towards both constructive and destructive criticism is important.

Unnecessary worry and troubles can be avoided by not comparing yourself with others. So long as you regard others as your ‘superior’, ‘equal’ or as your ‘inferior’, you will continue to have problems to worry about. If you think you are better than others, you may become proud; if you think you are equal to others you may stagnate; if you think you are inferior to others you may become useless to yourself and to others. 

Comparing yourself with others can be a source of unnecessary worry. Try to realize that superiority, equality and inferiority are all changing, relative states; at one time you may be a beggar, at another time you may be a rich person. In the endless rounds within the oceans of life and death, we are all equal, inferior and superior to each other at different times. So why worry.

If at all you have to make any comparison, then you should compare the degree of your problems and difficulties with that experienced by others. Whenever problems and difficulties arise you must realize that you are not the only ones in the world with such problems. Many others are worse off than you and yet they do not worry unduly. You should also realize how you have gone through many problems and difficulties, under similar or worse situations and, somehow or other you have managed to overcome your difficulties to ‘drown you’. You have to develop your self-confidence and face the worst of situations in this manner.

There are various ways and means for you to reduce your mental agony and happiness. First and foremost, you must try to understand the nature of the world where you live. You must never expect everything in this world to be perfect and to run smoothly all the time. You must be prepared to face difficulties. The more you crave for worldly pleasures the more you have to be prepared to pay the price in terms of physical and mental agony. There is nothing free in this world.

Human nature being what it is, all of us are incline to put the blame on others for our own shortcomings or misfortunes. The sooner we realize that our shortcomings are due to our own ignorance of the real nature of life and the laws which govern it, the sooner we will be able to realize that bliss incomparable and peace eternal. Our sorrows are not caused by a family curse that is handed down from one generation to the next nor are they caused by the original sin of some ancestor who has returned from beyond the graves to haunt us. Nor are our sorrows and miseries created by God or by Devil. Our sorrows and miseries are our own making. We are our own jailer; we are our own liberator.

- Author Unknown 

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Buddhism To Combat Social Problems

Buddhism is more of a way of life as it offers a course of simple, pure and harmonious living. The Teachings of Buddha emphasize on self-reliance, self-responsibility and more – on the cultivating of both social and spiritual values which help to mould a person into a typical Buddhist character.

In His teachings, Lord Buddha stressed on the importance of cultivating good social values in life like generosity, perseverance, determination, patience, truth fullness and loving kindness and not forgetting the spiritual values of morality, renunciation and equanimity.

We are fully aware that nobody is born with good values. Good personalities and qualities are to be cultivated in life’s long journey.

Perseverance and determination are two transcendental virtues which Buddha advised His disciples to cultivate and practise.

As we cultivate perseverance, we may eventually find ourselves not only having the physical strength of doing moral actions, but also developing the mental vigour and strength of character.

Life is not always a bed of roses; there is always life’s harder moments to encounter. Ours is a rat race world where the impact of changes and challenges in every corner of the world is so immediate and pressing. With perseverance, mental vigour and strength of character, we may be able to survive the pace. With this value of perseverance, we are in a position of setting goals and accomplishing them and thus making ourselves complete, total persons in life.

Determination is another very salient feature taught by Lord Buddha. It is this value that keeps a man driving towards hard and distant goals. With sufficient will power, a person will never turn away from his goal. A very concrete example is none other than the Buddha in His six long years of superhuman struggle for Enlightenment in the face of innumerable problems, particularly so when His five favourite disciples deserted Him at a crucial moment when He most needed their help.

The Buddha often emphasized on self-reliance and not to rely on others for salvation. He exhorted His disciples saying, “Be ye islands unto yourselves, be ye a refuge unto yourselves, seek no refuge in others.” He revealed how vital is self-exertion to accomplish one’s objective. This portion of His teachings is exceptionally realistic and practical to this society of ours – highly competitive one where everybody wants to be better off than others and hence they do not have time for others but ‘self’.

The first step towards self-reliance is to assume responsibility for ourselves and the decisions that affect our lives. We have to indulge in periodical self-evaluation, tell ourselves after each evaluation where we went wrong and improve on them with self effort. No amount of external worship and prayer can make a person progress in insight and righteousness – it is self-restraint, self-effort.

The Buddha, in the course of His ministry pointed out to His disciples the real nature of the world and advised them not to be ‘surface seers’ seeing and acknowledging only the beautiful things in life and pushing aside the ugly side of it. In the hustle and bustle of modern life, we have got to compete against tensions, distractions, stress and strains and none of us would be spared these realities.

Another salient feature of Buddhism is the Buddhist concept that nothing in this world is permanent. Everything in this world is so very uncertain and short-lived nowadays. At any point of time, we may be faced with an involuntary separation, either death of a loved one or the breaking up of a relationship. With a clear perception of the impermanency on life, we will find ourselves being more capable to handle our problems calmly. We will be more ready to face problems in life. Although we are not robots and are still vulnerable to feelings and pains, we will be in a better position to confront and deal with such feelings and pain with realistic approach and be able to survive through the agony.

Very much connected with this Buddhist concept of impermanency is the question of aging which has become a social problem to many people. If we cultivate right understanding (the keynote of Buddhism) we will not be tormented by the thought of old age and will accept it as part of life.

Cultivating right understanding and putting it into practice is essential to solve the day-to-day problems.

- Author Unknown 

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

A Fish A Day Keeps Dementia Away

A new study of 15,000 people aged 65 and older in China, India, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Peru and Dominican Republic found that those who ate fish nearly everyday were almost 20 per cent less likely to get dementia than those who ate fish just a few days a week.

Furthermore, adults who ate fish a few days a week were almost 20 per cent less likely to develop dementia than those who are no fish at all.

The findings appeared in the August issue of The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition.

Participants’ dietary habits were assessed through face-to-face interviews and dementia was diagnosed by using culturally validated criteria.

“There is a gradient – the more fish you eat, the less likely you are to get dementia,” sad Dr Emiliano Albanese, a clinical epidemiologist at King’s College London and the study’s senior author.

Meat had the opposite effect. “The more meat you eat, the more likely you are to have dementia,” he said.

Fish, especially oily fish, may be protective against dementia because it is rich in omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, which studies suggest may have numerous health benefits including anti-inflammatory properties.

In animal studies, omega-3 fatty acids were found to reduce the build-up of atherosclerotic plague and may also prevent amyloid plaque accumulating in the brain, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr Albanese said

- The New York Times

Monday, 24 August 2009

Preventing Alzheimer’s

Elderly folk who are physically active appear to be at lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as are those who eat a heart-healthy diet, rich n fruits and vegetables and low in red meat. A new study has found that the effects of the two types of lifestyle behaviour are independent – and the benefits add up.

The Columbia University study followed a diverse group of 1,880 New Yorkers in their 70s, assessing their diets and levels of physical activity, and screening them periodically for Alzheimer’s disease. After an average of five years, 282 cases of Alzheimer’s were diagnosed.

Those who followed the healthiest diets were 40 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with the worst diets, and those who got the most exercise were 37 per cent less likely to develop the disease than those who got none. However, the greatest benefits occurred in those who both ate healthy and remained active.

Participants who scored in the top one-third for both diet and exercise were 59 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s then those who scored in the lowest one-third.

While one in five participants with the lowest scores developed Alzheimer’s fewer than one in ten of the top scorers developed the disease.

Diet may be protective because it can improve metabolic factors and reduce cardiovascular risks, inflammation and oxidative stress, suggested Dr Nikolaos Scarmeas, an associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Centre and the main author of the paper published in The Journal Of The American Medical Association.

He added that the amount of activity needed to make a difference was not very substantial; the most active elderly were getting only about four hours of moderate activity or 1.3 hours of vigorous activity each week.

- The Hew York Times 

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Encyclopaedia For Sale

              FOR SALE: Complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Forty five volumes. Excellent condition. One thousand dollars or best offer. No longer needed. Got married last weekend. Wife knows everything.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Buddhism Views

Buddhism’s views on the following topics.


Buddhism gives full responsibility and dignity to man. It makes man his own master. According to Buddhism, no high being sits in judgment over his affairs and destiny.

The Buddha Himself has clearly expressed that neither the recital of holy scriptures, nor self-torture, nor sleeping on the ground, nor the repetition of prayers, penances, hymns, charms, mantras, incantations and invocations can bring the real happiness of Nirvana.

In place of prayer, Buddhists practise meditation for mental culture and for spiritual development.

To have a healthy body and mind and to have peace in life, one must learn how to practise meditation.

When the mind is free from mental disturbances, it can see many things that other cannot see with their naked eyes.

If you practice meditation, you can learn to behave like a gentleman even though you are disturbed by others. Through meditation, you can learn how to relax the body and to calm the mind; you can learn to be tranquil and happy within.

The worship of the Buddha really means paying homage, veneration and devotion to Him and what He represents, and not to the stone or metal figure. Buddhists use the statue as a symbol and as an object of concentration to gain peace of mind. When Buddhists look upon the image of the Buddha, they put aside thoughts of strife and think only of peace, serenity, calmness and tranquillity. The statue enables the mind to recall this great man and inspires devotees to follow His example and instructions.

An understanding Buddhist does not ask favours from the image nor does he request forgiveness for evil deeds committed. An understanding Buddhist tries to control his mind, to follow the Buddha's advice, to get rid of worldly miseries and to find his salvation.

Buddhists do not see the Buddha image as a dead idol of wood or metal or clay. The image represents something vibrant to those who understand and are purified in thought, word and deed.

The Buddha images are nothing more than symbolic representations of His great qualities. This is basically a human phenomenon. People need physical representation, for various purposes – could be for focus and concentration, could be for relief. People need representation of their faith and belief.


Taking fish and meat by itself does not make a man become impure. A man makes himself impure by bigotry, deceit, envy, self-exaltation, disparagement and other evil intentions. Through his own evil thoughts and actions, man makes himself impure. There is no strict rule in Buddhism that the followers of the Buddha should not take fish and meat. The only advice given by the Buddha is that they should not be involved in killing intentionally or they should not ask others to kill any living being for them. However, those who take vegetable food and abstain from animal flesh are praiseworthy.

As Buddhism is a free religion, His advice was to leave the decision regarding vegetarianism to the individual disciple.

They must remember that there is no precept in the original Teachings of the Buddha that requires all Buddhists to be vegetarians. We must realize that Buddhism is known as the Middle Path.

Vegetarianism alone does not help a man to cultivate his humane qualities. There are kind, humble, polite and religious people amongst non-vegetarians. Therefore, one should not condone the statement that a pure, religious man must practise vegetarianism.

If one eats without greed and without directly being involved in the act of killing but merely to sustain the physical body, he is practising self restrain.


Looking at life, we notice how it changes and how it continually moves between extremes and contrasts. We notice rise and fall, success and failure, loss and gain; we experience honour and contempt, praise and blame; and we feel how our hearts respond to all that happiness and sorrow, delight and despair, disappointment and satisfaction, fear and hope. 

These mighty waves of emotion carry us up, fling us down, and no sooner we find some rest, then we are carried by the power of a new wave again. How can we expect a footing on the crest of waves? Where shall we erect the building of our life in the midst of this ever-restless ocean of existence?

This is a world where any little joy that is allotted to beings, is secured only after many disappointments, failure and defeats. This is a world where scanty joy grows amidst sickness, desperation and death. This is a world where beings who a short while ago were connected with us by sympathetic joy are at the next moment in want of our compassion. Such a world as this needs equanimity. This is the nature of the world where we live with our intimate friends and the next day they become our enemies to harm us.

The Buddha described the world as an unending flux of becoming. All is changeable, continuous transformation, ceaseless mutation, and a moving stream. Everything exists from moment to moment. Everything is a recurring rotation of coming into being and then passing out of existence. Everything is moving from birth to death. Life is a continuous movement of change towards death. The matter of material forms in which life does or does not express itself, are also a continuous movement or change towards decay. 

This teaching of the impermanent nature of everything is one of the main pivots of Buddhism. Nothing on earth partakes of the character of absolute reality. That there will be no death of what is born is impossible. Whatever is subject to origination is subject also to destruction. Change is the very constituent of reality.

The world is a passing phenomenon. We all belong to the world of time. Every written word, every carved stone, every painted picture, the structure of civilization, every generation of man, vanishes away like the leaves and flowers of forgotten summers. What exists is changeable and what is not changeable does not exist.


Until you experience the supreme state of Bliss, you can only speculate what it really is. The text suggests that Nirvana is a supra-mundane state of unalloyed happiness.

When that ultimate state is attained, you will fully understand this worldly life for which you now crave. This world will cease to be an object of your desire. You will realise the sorrow and impermanence and impersonality of all that lives and that does not live.


Suicide is a foolish act, a wastage of a useful life. Being born as human beings we are given an excellent opportunity to serve our fellow men and gradually work out our total deliverance from the 'States of Sorrow'. That opportunity will be lost and the 'Circle of Life' is lengthened. 

Suicide is foolish as it does not help the person at all to solve the problems that he wanted to avoid. Death is not the end of life, other lives will follow; and there the problems will be more complicated.


Buddhist texts do not mention anything on homosexuality. So long as a relationship is warm and caring, there is no reason why homosexuality should not be treated on equal terms as heterosexuality.

Buddha had included in his embrace the likes of murderers and prostitutes. Homosexuals, surely would not be below them?

Buddha said all sentient beings are equal and should be treated with compassion. If we can treat animals with compassion, surely we can also treat homosexuals with compassion? 

The goal of all Buddhists is to achieve Nirvana. Anyone who's serious about achieving enlightenment should not waste time on sensual pursuits. 


In Buddhism, there is no sin. When a person does something morally or ethically wrong, Buddhism points out that it is only an unskilful act. He acted wrongly and unthoughtfully out of ignorance. Sin comes in when there are commandments.


To be free, people will have to look within their own minds and work towards freeing themselves from the chains of ignorance and craving. Freedom in the truest sense is only possible when a person uses the Dharma to develop his character through good speech and action and to train his mind so as to expand his mental potential and achieve his ultimate aim of enlightenment.


Buddhist texts have plenty of references to gods. Note the use of the word god in small letter, and pluralized. The god concept in Buddhism does not refer to an all-powerful divine Lord, as the Christians and Muslims know it. In Buddhism, god simply refers to a state of being, another form of rebirth, on a higher plane of existence. 

Friday, 21 August 2009

Reflection On Death

“I am subject to death, I have not overcome death – thus should everyone – men, women, the laity and the monks – constantly reflect.” - Unknown 

There are in this world, people in various walks of life, who resent the very word ‘death’, let alone reflect on it. Infatuated by long life, good health, youth and prosperity, they completely forget the fact that they are subjected to death. Immersed in the evanescent pleasures of the five-fold senses, they seek only after material progress in this world completely disregarding a future life, and indulging in vice through the mind, body and speech. They regard this impermanent and evanescent life as permanent and everlasting. 

It is to rouse a sense of dissatisfaction in such blind and ignorant people, to allay the pangs of sorrow caused by the separation of animate objects like parents and children, and inanimate objects like wealth and property, to inculcate the doctrine of impermanence in all beings, and thereby convince them of the unsatisfactorines of life, and direct them towards the attainment of everlasting peace, that the Buddha preached these words.

A person who has not comprehended the doctrine of the Buddha, is infatuated by long life and considers himself as immortal, even though he may see deaths around him: he is infatuated by good health and considers himself free from disease even though he may see countless diseased persons around him; he is infatuated by youth even though he may see many aged persons and considers himself as one who is not subjected to old age; he is infatuated by wealth and prosperity even though he may see countless persons rendered destitute through loss of wealth; and he never thinks for a moment, that he too might be subjected to such a state.

Thus infatuated, the ignorant ones lead a life of vanity, heedless of the perils of this world and the next, deluded by the evanescent pleasures of life. Their only aim in life is to satisfy their five fold senses. To such persons who are blinded with the greed for worldly pleasures and worldly honours, death comes quite unexpectedly. Since they had not even dreamt of disease, old age and death, they are taken aback when such calamities strike them and they lose their senses; they are frightened and they lament, not knowing what to do. To such blind persons, immersed in the satisfaction of carnal pleasures, reflection on death certainly gives a true view of life. It also helps them to destroy their vanity and pride.

Furthermore, reflection on death affords solace to the multitudes who lament and torment themselves, unable to bear the pangs of sorrow caused by separation from their beloved ones.

Whoever constantly keeps in mind the fact that he would someday be subjected to death and that death is inevitable, would be eager to fulfil his duties to his fellowman before death, and this would certainly make him heedful in respect of this world and the next.

To the average man, death is by no means a pleasant subject for talk or discussion. It is something dismal and oppressive – a veritable killjoy, a fit topic for funeral house only. The average man immersed as he is in the self, ever seeking after the pleasurable, ever pursuing that which excites and gratifies the senses, refuses to pause and ponder seriously that these very objects of pleasure and gratification will some day reach their end. If wise counsel does not prevail and urge the unthinking pleasure-seeking man to consider seriously that death knock at his door also, it is only the shock of a bereavement under his own roof, the sudden and untimely death of a parent, wife or child that will rouse him from his delirious round of self – gratification and rudely awaken him to the hard facts of life. Then only will his eyes open, then only will he begin to ask himself why there is such a phenomenon as death. Why is it inevitable? Why are there these painful partings which rob life of its joys?

To most of us at some moment or another, the spectacle of death must have given rise to the deepest of thoughts and profoundest of questions. What is life worth, if able bodies that once performed great deeds now lie flat and cold, senseless and lifeless? What is life worth, if eyes that once sparkled with joy, eyes that once beamed with love are now closed forever, bereft of movement, bereft of life? Thought such as these, if wisely pursued, will ultimately unfold the potentialities inherent in the human mind to receive the highest truth.

According to the Buddhist way of thinking, death, far from being subject to be shunned and avoided, is the key that unlocks the seeming mystery of life. It is by understanding death that we understand life; for death is part of the process of life in the large sense. In another sense, life and death are two ends of the same process, and if you understand one end of the process, you also understand the other end. Hence, by understanding the purpose of death, we also understand the purpose of life. It is the contemplation of death, the intensive thought that it will someday come upon us, that softens the hardest of hearts, binds one to another with cords of love and compassion, and destroys the barriers of caste, creed and race among the peoples of this earth, all of whom are subject to the common destiny of death. Death is a great leveller. Pride of birth, pride of position, pride of wealth, pride of power must give way to the all-consuming thought of inevitable death.

It is the contemplation of death that helps to destroy the infatuation of sense-pleasure. It is the contemplation of death that gives balance and a healthy sense of proportion to our highly over-wrought minds with their misguided sense of values. It is the contemplation of death that gives strength and steadiness and direction to the erratic human mind, now wandering in one direction, now in another, without an aim, without a purpose.

The Buddha emphasized death as the most forceful reminder of the true nature of existence. Death has always been a puzzle to mankind; it leaves man in a helpless, pitiable condition for none can escape its inevitable sting. The sudden and unexpected occurrence of death all around a person should urge him to find a solution to the inexplicable recurring death. To meditate on death is to seek the elusive meaning of life.

Death had to be accepted as universal and inevitable. But death is not the end; this is a fundamental doctrine of Buddhism. Death is only a passing phase – a brief incident between one existence and another. Thus the meditation on death leads one to the recognition of law of Cause and Effect and the Doctrine of Dependent Origination.

- Source Unknown 

Thursday, 20 August 2009


Through love one adds to the find of human happiness, one makes the world brighter, nobler and purer and prepares it for the good life better than in any other way. There is no ill luck worse than hatred, it is said, and no safety from others’ hostility greater than the heart of love, the heart which hate is dead.

If one has developed a love that is truly great, rid of the desire to hold and to posses, that strong clean love which is untarnished with lust of any kind, that love which does not expect material advantage and profit from the act of loving, the love which is firm but not grasping, unshakable but not tied down, gentle and settled, hard and penetrating as a diamond but unhurting, helpful but not interfering, cool, invigorating, giving more than taking, not proud but dignified, not sloppy yet soft, the love that leads to the heights of clean achievement, then in such a one can there be no ill-will at all.

Love is an active force. Every act of the loving is done with the stainless mind to help, to succour, to cheer, to make the paths of others easier, smoother and more adapted to the conquest of sorrow, the winning of the highest bliss.

The way to develop love is through thinking out the evils of hate, and the advantages of non-hate; through thinking out accordingly to actuality, according to karma, that really there is none to hate, that hate is a foolish way of feeling which breeds more and more darkness, that obstructs right understanding. 

Hatred restricts; love releases. Hatred strangles, love enfranchises. Hatred brings remorse; love brings peace. Hatred agitates; love quietens, stills, calms. Hatred divides; love unites. Hatred hardens; love softens. Hatred hinders; love helps. And thus through a correct study and appreciation of the effects of hatred and the benefits of love, should one develop love. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Love and Compassion

The following article was extracted from the book - Awakening A Kind Heart by Ven. Sangye Khadro


All beings are important from the point of view of our spiritual development. Even enemies are important because they incite our anger and thus give us the chance to work on patience, one of the most valuable qualities on the spiritual path.

All beings are the same in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. They are, at heart just like ourselves.

Every being has Buddha-nature, the potential to become free and enlightened. Even those who live unethically and do many harmful deeds have a nature that is pure and good, and one day (probable after many lives) they will attain enlightenment. If we can accept these ideas and keep them in mind whenever we meet another living being, then instead of feeling, “you are different from me,” we will feel, “ you are just like me” and loving-kindness will arise naturally.

The love we develop should be pure and unselfish, expecting nothing in return. Pure love also transcends boundaries.

Love is an inexhaustible energy. Learning to be more loving is like discovering a natural spring within us: however much love we give, more will always come bubbling up. It is our habitual self-centeredness and self-limiting ways of thinking that constrict the flow of love. As we gradually lessen these, our ability to love will increase.


Compassion differs slightly from love. Love wants others to be happy, while compassion wants them to not have pain, problems or unhappiness. Love comes from appreciating others’ kindness, or just respecting them as fellow beings, whereas compassion comes from realizing that they suffer.

Our own experiences of suffering are the basis for compassion. We know what it’s like to be sick or in pain, to be lonely or have our feelings hurt by an unkind remark, to fear the unknown or mourn the death of a loved one. When we then see or hear of others experiencing these things, our heart opens with a feeling of empathy and a wish to help.

Compassion is a quality desperately needed in the world today. If there could be more compassion in people’s hearts and live, if more people could develop the awareness that: “Just as I do not like being hurt, others also do not like being hurt, so we should stop hurting each other,: then there would be fare fewer stories in the news about war, terrorism and violent crimes. All the cruel things human beings do to one another are due to a lack of compassion. It is compassion that keeps us from harming others, imagine what the world would be like if we were all to develop such compassion.

Compassion is something that already exists in each and every one of us. It is a matter of learning how to get in touch with it and how to expand it so that we can feel it more often and for more people.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Is Red Wine Healthier?

The claim: Red wine is better for you than white wine

The facts: Many studies have shown that red wine contains healthy compounds that are less abundant in white wine, including resveratrol, the heart-healthy substance derived from grape skins.

As white wine is produced with limited exposure to the skin, it contains lower levels of resveratrol, not to mention flavonoids, antioxidants and the bitter-tasting tannins that are also linked to cardiovascular health.

According to studies, the wines with the greatest amounts of those compounds come from Sardinia, Spain, and south-western France, in particular, those from the grape Grenache.

One caveat: few epidemiological studies have compared white wine to red. Of those that have, some have demonstrated that red wine has a health advantage while others have not.

Yet others have stated that drinkers of red and white wines are too different to compare. One study found that red wine drinkers had a significantly lower risk of colon cancer than white wine drinkers, but the researchers later explained that among other things, the white wine drinkers were also more likely to smoke, which could have made the difference.

The best answer may be to go with your palate, so long as you remember to drink in moderation.

The bottom line: On red versus white wines, the evidence is mixed.

The New York Times 

Sunday, 16 August 2009


Wanting to put up a sign? Or writing an instruction? You should double check how you phrase it, in case it ended up with a different meaning, or sounding stupid. 

On a food processor: 
Not to be used for the other use.

On a peanut jam: 
Warning: Contains peanuts.

On a child’s Superman costume: 
Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.

On a shampoo:
Use repeatedly for severe damage.

On a hotel provided shower cap in a box: 
Fits one head.

Advertisement for donkey rides:
Would you like to ride on your own ass?

Airline ticket office:
We take your bags and send them in all directions.

A laundry in Rome:
Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

At a Cocktail lounge:
Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

At a Doctors office:
Specialist in women and other diseases.

Dry cleaners:
Drop your trousers here for the best results.

On a road:
Take notice: When this sign is under water, this road is impassable. 

On a poster:
Are you an adult that cannot read? If so we can help.

In a City restaurant:
Open seven days a week and weekends.

A hotel's rules and regulations:
Guests are requested not to smoke or do other disgusting behaviours in bed.

In a Hotel:
You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

In the lobby of a hotel:
You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

A sign posted in a Forest:
It is strictly forbidden on our Black Forest Camping Site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for this purpose.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Emptiness Is The True Nature

This article explains the concept of “Emptiness', - a tenet of Buddhism. 

According to the Buddha’s teaching on emptiness, (also known as ‘selflessness’), all phenomena are like an illusion. Emptiness is the actual, correct way in which everything exists: things and beings, animate and inanimate. It is the ultimate, true nature of all things. 

Emptiness is not nothingness; it does not mean that things do not exist at all. Things do exist, but they do not exist the way we think they do. Our mind projects a way of existing onto the objects we perceive – like an extra layer on top of what is actually there – and then we believe that things really do exist that way. However, they are empty of the false, mistaken way of existing that our mind projects onto them. That false way of existing is called ‘inherent existence’, ‘ independent existence’ or ‘true existence’. It means that we see things as if they were permanent, independent, existing from their own side, in and of themselves. If we carefully analyse, we will come to see that things do not exist in this way – that such a way of existing is false, an illusion.

Take a flower for example. When we walk into a room and see a flower in a vase, we instinctively perceive the flower as something permanent, unchanging, existing all on its own, as if it did not depend on anything else for its existence. It seems very real, concrete, out there, existing in and of itself – almost as if it is saying: “I’m a flower. I’ve always been here and always will be here, just like this!”. The flower appears to us and we believe it to exist in this way. But this way of appearing and the actual way the flower exists are quite different. In reality that flower is impermanent, dependent on various causes and conditions, and not existing in and of itself. The flower came into existence in dependence upon a seed, soil, moisture and sunlight. It grew little by little and when it was in full bloom, someone cut it and placed it in a vase. Its existence is also dependent on its parts: stem, petals leaves, as well as on the cells and atoms that make it up. When first cut, the flower was fresh and beautiful but as the days go by, it withers and turns brown, and soon it will die and be thrown away. That is the true story of the flower, but that is not what we see when we look at it. When we look at it, it seems to be permanent, unchanging and independent of anything else.

Furthermore, our mind grasps at the object being a flower from its own side, not realizing that ‘flower’ is just a name people have given to a certain phenomenon with certain characteristics, and that people of other languages would call it by other names. So, although there appears to be a real, solid, permanent and independently-existing flower existing out there, in and of itself, when we investigate and search for such a flower, it cannot be found. Such a flower is an illusion – like a dream or a rainbow. It appears, but does not exist the way it appears. But this does not mean that there is no flower at all. There is a flower – an impermanent collection of parts that came into existence in dependence on causes and conditions, is changing and will go out of existence, and to which we give the name “Flower”. That exists, but not the permanent, independently-existing flower that we perceive and grasp at when we say: “Oh, isn’t it beautiful!”

In the same way, all things appear to be permanently, inherently, independently existent, but on closer examination, we realize that they exist in a completely different way. And that is their reality, their true nature: being empty of inherent existence.

This tendency to perceive, believe in and grasp at things as truly existing or inherently existing lies at the root of all our problems. Fear, worry, frustration, dissatisfaction, loneliness, grief, pain, and all the other myriad problems and sufferings of mind and body that we experience are caused by this attitude, which in Buddhism is known as ‘self-grasping ignorance.” We all have the potential to enjoy ever-lasting peace, bliss, wisdom and freedom from all suffering – the state of enlightenment of Buddhahood – but we are unable to attain this as long as our mind is caught up in ignorance, and does not understand the true nature of things.

Self grasping ignorance pervades our view of everything. We see ourselves as inherently existing – we cling tightly to an illusory image of a permanent, independently existing I or self. We hold on to self-limiting concepts about ourselves, believing that mistakes made in the past have become permanent aspects of our personality. These ‘permanent faults’ become the basis of low self-esteem and even self-hatred, obscuring our potential to be pure, perfect and free – an enlightened being. All this arises from ignorant misperception.

Moreover, we tend to cherish our sense of self, as if it were the centre of the universe. Out of this strong self-centeredness, we develop desire and attachment for people and things that make us happy and support our sense of I, we have aversion and fear towards people and things that disturb us or threaten our sense of I, and we are indifferent towards whoever or whatever neither helps nor harms us. Believing all these people and objects to also exist in a real, permanent, independent way further intensifies our attitudes of attachment and aversion. These attitudes disturb our mind and motivate us to create negative actions or karma, such as harming our enemies, and lying or stealing to benefit ourselves and our loved ones, and this karma is the cause of suffering and problems in the future. Self grasping ignorance is also the main factor that keeps us circling in Samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth.

That is why we should be concerned about our tendency to see things as truly or inherently existent, and why we should learn to perceive things in their correct way, as empty of inherent existence, or, as it says in the verse, as ‘illusory’. Perhaps a simple way to understand this is by thinking of the analogy of a rainbow. Due to certain conditions in the atmosphere and the play of sunlight and moisture, a rainbow appears in the sky. Although it looks as real we would like to touch it, it is insubstantial, a momentary and completely dependent on causes and conditions. It exists for a while and then disappears. Everything else, all conditioned phenomena – animate and inanimate – can be compared to a rainbow. Although most things last longer than a rainbow, the way they exist is similar: they arise due to the coming together of different causes and conditions, exist for a while, and then, again due to causes and conditions, they go out of existence. So, like a rainbow, they are illusory, empty of permanent, independent, substantial existence.

Keeping in mind that all things are illusory, one should engage in the practice of The Dharma, ( The Dharma is The Teachings of the Buddha ), the path leading to enlightenment, without grasping at anymore or anything as truly existing. In this way, one frees him – or herself from disturbing states of mind and karma – the causes of all suffering in the prison of Samsara – and works to help all other living begins to likewise become free.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Metta - Loving Kindness

Metta in short is somewhat like the affectionate attitude of mind that a good mother has towards her child while protecting him even at the risk of her own life. If you can cultivate such an attitude of mind towards all, breaking down all barriers of caste, colour, creed, sex, etc, then you have cultivated Metta in full. It is not of course easy for anyone to attain this high standard at once, unless one had such past experience in this ‘round of rebirth’ called Samsara. However, anyone can acquire this standard by following a graduated course of meditation and conscious application of the principle in everyday life.

The practice of Metta is the very essence of the Buddhist way of life. It is a positive quality of the mind which promotes an ethical attitude. The man, who attends to his fellow-beings the love and affection which a mother reserves for her only son and says with conviction and feeling, “May all beings be happy,” finds no place in his mind for malice, jealously, envy or pettiness. 

By the very practice of loving kindness, he becomes incapable of killing, stealing, lying slandering or using harsh language. Not only does he avoid doing harm to others whether by deed, word or thought, but also develops the tendency to engage himself in the task to make his neighbours happy, to help them in times of difficulty, to care for the sick and the old and to look after the welfare of the poor and the destitute.

He that practice Metta lives the sublime life. Free from malice and jealously, he looks upon all with equanimity. 

Most outstanding characteristics of Metta are the absence of its opposites - hatred, anger, ill-will etc. They are two opposites that are inter-related in this manner, one reducing the other, or one’s presence causing the other’s absence. Therefore the first step in the meditation of developing Metta is to reduce the opposite tendencies of hatred and ill-will.

According to the Buddha, war and peace begin in the minds of men. Therefore most of His Teachings, if not all, are directed towards understanding, developing and controlling the mind, eventually leading to perfect purity of conduct, perfect peace of mind, and perfect wisdom. Metta is only one such method prescribed by the Buddha for the purpose of this mind culture. If you develop Metta, your attitude of mind will change for the better and that will in turn change your whole personality.

If you have adequate patience to continue this meditation regularly at least for a few minutes each day and maintain the consequent attitude of mind throughout your waking life, you will realize how happy and pleasant you are. This is the cumulative and collective benefit of practicing Metta.

Anyone who practices Metta even a few minutes a day or a short time, will be rewarded in proportion to the sustained effort and the sincerity of purpose. One need not wait long to see the result of such elementary practice. The meditator himself will feel the difference resulting from the presence of Metta as a dominant part of the content of his psychological field.

The Buddha urged that we love unconditionally ~ love that is non possessive, non seeking, unselfish love.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Four Noble Truths – explained

The Buddha, after an early life of wealth and luxury, observed that all humanity suffered, and resolved to seek out the cause and the cure. He studied and put into practice for himself all the philosophies of the time, but realizing that none of them could provide an answer, he determined to find his own Enlightenment, and, seated under the Bodhi tree, he did so.

The Buddha’s approach to the problems of the world was not that of a saviour, or of a prophet, or of a philosopher, but that of a physician. First, he examines the patient, observing the symptoms of the sickness; then by analysing the symptoms, he diagnoses the cause of the sickness. Next, like any good physician, he explains to the patient that there is hope, and he tells of the nature of the cure. Finally, he gives the prescription and the course of the treatment which is to be followed.

These stages are set out in what all Buddhists know as the Four Noble Truths. They are called Noble because of the lofty, spiritual insight, and they are at the heart of the Buddha’s teaching.

In the first Noble Truth, the Buddha identified the basic cause of the problems of humanity as “Dukka”. This is the Pali word which the Buddha used. Now, because the full meaning of words cannot be directly translated from one language to another, it is necessary to explain the concept of ‘dukkha’ in some detail. In ordinary usage, ‘dukkha means suffering, pain, sorrow or misery. But in the First Noble Truth, representing what the Buddha saw in the world and in life, the word has a deeper and wider philosophical meaning. It includes the ideas of imperfection, impermanence and insubstantiality, and comprises also the corruptibility of all things living or inert, and their liability to disease, ageing and death.

‘Dukkha’ even involves happiness, whether those of family life, or of the senses, or even the higher pleasures of exalted spiritual states, not because they are suffering in the ordinary sense of the word, but because they are impermanent and liable to change. 

Thus, in the First Noble Truth, the Buddha pointed to the factual existence of dukkha.

In the Second Noble Truth he showed its origin, which is “tanha”. The direct meaning of this is ‘thirst’, but it also includes desire, greed and craving. At one level this means greed and craving for material things, sense pleasures, wealth and power. At a deeper level it involves a desire for permanence, continuance and changelessness even in the face of the fact, shown in the First Noble Truth, that in reality nothing is changeless. According to the Buddha’s analysis, all troubles and strife in the world, from quarrels in families to wars between nations, arise out of this selfish ‘thirst’. 

The third Noble Truth given to us by the Buddha is that we can achieve an end to “dukkha”, and that it is called “Nirvana”. Volumes have been written about ‘Nirvana’ in attempts to explain what it is. But the only reasonable reply to the question is that it can never be answered satisfactorily, because human language is too poor to express the nature of Absolute Truth, or Ultimate Reality, which is Nirvana. Parallel situations are to be found in all religions; Ultimates are not to be named, are inexpressible.

In one sense, there is ‘Nirvana’ when “dukkha” ceases, because of the ending of ‘tanha’. If this seems obscure, we may say that when wisdom is developed and cultivated according to the Fourth Noble Truth, (which we will take up later), the secret of life will be seen, the reality of things as they actually are. When that secret – one which in truth is blindingly obvious – is discovered, then all the forces feverishly producing the illusion of reality, and therefore the desire for it, are stilled. “Tanha” is like a mental disease, which is cured when the cause of the malady is discovered and seen by the patient.

One who has realized the Truth is truly happy. He is free from all complexes and obsessions and has perfect mental health. As he is free from selfish desire, hatred, ignorance, conceit, pride and all such “defilements”, to use the Buddhist term, such a person is pure and gentle, full of universal love, compassion, kindness, sympathy, understanding and tolerance. 

The Fourth Noble Truth is that of the way leading to the cessation of “dukkha”. This is known as the ‘Middle Path’, because it avoids two extremes; on the one hand, the search for happiness through the pleasures of the senses, which is “low, common and unprofitable”, and, on the other hand, the search for happiness through self-mortification in various forms of asceticism, which is “painful and unworthy”. Having himself tried these two extremes and found them to be unproductive, the Buddha discovered through personal experience the Middle Path, which gives “vision and knowledge leading to calm, insight, enlightenment and Nirvana”. It is generally referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path, because it is composed of eight categories, namely, Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. 

The Buddha devoted 45 years of his life to his teaching, and nearly all of it deals in one way or another with this Noble Path. 

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Law Of Dependent Origination

The Law of Dependent Origination is one of the most important teachings of he Buddha, and it is also very profound. The basis of dependent origination is that life or the world is built on a set of relations, in which the arising and cessation of factors depend on some other factors that condition them.

On this principle of interdependence and relativity rests the arising, continuity and cessation of existence. This principle is known as the Law of Dependent Origination. This law emphasizes an important principle that all phenomena in this universe are relative, conditioned states and do not arise independently of supportive conditions. A phenomenon arises because of a combination of conditions which are present to support its arising. And the phenomenon will cease when the conditions and components supporting its arising change and no longer sustain it. The presence of these supportive conditions, in turn, depends on other factors for their arising, sustenance and disappearance.

The Law of Dependent Origination is a realistic way of understanding the universe. The fact that everything is nothing more than set of relations is consistent with the modern scientific view of the material world.

The fundamental principle at work in dependent origination is that of cause and effect. Since everything arises because of some preceding causes, there can be no first cause.

Can a First Cause be Known?

According to the Buddha, it is inconceivable to find a first cause for life or anything else. For in common experience, the cause becomes the effect and the effect, becomes the cause. In the circle of cause and effect, a first cause is incomprehensible.

As to the question how all beings came into existence without a first cause, the Buddha's reply is that there is no answer because the question itself is merely a product of man's limited comprehension. If we can understand the nature of time and relativity; we must see that there could not have been any beginning. It can only be pointed out that all the usual answers to the question are fundamentally defective.

The theory of a creator does not solve any problem, it only complicates the existing ones. Thus, Buddhism does not pay much attention to theories and beliefs about the origin of the world. Whether the world was created by a god or it came into existence by itself makes little difference to Buddhists. Whether the world is finite or infinite also makes little difference to Buddhists. Instead of following this line of theoretical speculations, the Buddha advises people not to waste our time over this unnecessary speculation and devote out time to strive for our salvation.

The Buddha was more concerned with teaching a practical understanding of the four Noble Truths that He discovered: what suffering is; what the origin of suffering is; what the cessation of Suffering is; how to overcome Suffering and realize final Salvation. 

He taught the fact of suffering only so that He could show people how to overcome this suffering and move in the direction of happiness. According to the Buddha, even the worst sinner, after paying for what he has done, can attain salvation. Buddhism offers every human being the hope of attaining his salvation.

Buddhism is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Rather, Buddhism encourages us to be realistic: we must learn to see things as they truly are.

The origin of the world

The Buddha did not give any specific teaching regarding the origin of the universe or of life. The question was said to be unanswerable from the level of ordinary mundane intelligence. He taught what He deemed was absolutely essential for one's purification and was characteristically silent on questions irrelevant to His noble mission.

It is laid down, as a natural consequence of he Law of Dependent Origination, that in the ceaseless cycle of cause and effect there cannot be any link in the sequence that can be designed a First Cause, and the beginning is nowhere apparent; it is a closed circle of related conditions, each factor being dependent on the preceding ones.

All that reason can do is to show a First Cause, in the sense in which we understand it, is not only unnecessary but impossible. The truth can only be gained by Insight in accordance with the teachings of the Exalted Buddha, which means rising above the realm of relative and conditioned factors. That point being gained, it will be found that there is no answer to the problem, but that the problem never existed save as an illusory product of Ignorance.

One might argue that life must have had a beginning in the infinite past and that Beginning or the First Cause is the Creator. In that case there is no reason why the same demand may not be made of this postulated Creator.

The beginning of this world and of life is inconceivable since they have neither beginning nor end. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our thoughts.

The Buddha did not waste His time on this issue. The reason for His silence was that this issue has no religious value for gaining spiritual wisdom. The explanation of the origin of the universe is not the concern of religion. Such theorizing is not necessary for living a righteous way of life and for shaping our future life.

In the eyes of the Buddha, the world is nothing but Samsara - the cycle of repeated births and deaths. To Him, the beginning of the world and the end of the world is within this Samsara. Since elements and energies are relative and inter-dependent, it is meaningless to single out anything as the beginning. Whatever speculation we make regarding the origin of the world, there is no absolute truth in our notion.

To Him, gaining knowledge about such matters was a waste of time because a man's task was to liberate himself from the present, not the past or the future.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path is the Buddhist way of life that is intended for all people. This way of life is offered to all mankind without any distinction. If you understand the spirit of Buddhism correctly, you can surely follow and practise it while living the life of an ordinary man. It is certainly more praiseworthy and courageous to practise Buddhism living among fellow beings, helping them and offering service to them.

Right View or Right Understanding requires the disciple to be equipped with correct ideas about the world and the significance of life. No superstitions or delusions should mislead him; he must follow neither any person nor anything unquestioningly, sheep-like baaing in chorus, but he should satisfy himself, as far as he can judge that the doctrines he professes and the deeds he performs are good, wise and therefore, conducive to happiness. He must make full and free enquiry regarding everything that is put before him, but suspend final judgment till he knows the full facts. He should look straight at the facts of existence, unflinchingly, unprejudiced and unafraid and realize the universality of suffering. The Buddhist is not required to accept anything on faith, unless he does so of his own free will. 

Right Resolve or Right Thought is the determination to foster noble aspiration and endeavour, to renounce sensual pleasures, to be freed from malice and ill-will, from all desire to inflict pain for whatsoever cause, and to cultivate a temper of kindness and benevolence.

Right Speech is abstention from every kind of falsehood, from backbiting and slander, from rude malicious and abusive language, from foolish talk and unworthy chatter and gossip.

Right Action ensures that the disciple's conduct shall be peaceful, honourable and pure; that he shall, above all, abstain from injury to any living thing, from appropriating to himself that which is not willingly given by its owner and from carnal indulgence.

Right livelihood is the abandonment of wrong occupations and getting one's living only by right methods. Five occupations are specially mentioned as bad: those of trader in weapons of war, butcher, slave-dealer, purveyor of poisons and purveyor of sex.

Right Endeavour or Right Effort demands assiduous self-discipline, the prevention of evil states of mind from arising, and the suppression of evil states that have arisen. Good states of mind not yet arisen must be produced, well-established, developed and brought to perfection. It consists not merely in the suppression of evil but also in making all the good things in one to grow, acquiring new aloofness, fostering and increasing it.

Great stress is laid on Right Mindfulness whereby the disciple is mindful not only of his body in all its actions, such as eating and drinking, sleeping and waking, talking and being silent, but also in watchfulness over his mind. It amounts to complete self-mastery by full awareness of what we do and see, think and feel, and allows nothing to happen needlessly or mechanically, and controls not merely our conscious doings but even those activities of the mind in which we generally regard the mind as being just receptive and passive.

The eighth and the last is Right Concentration which leads to mental equipoise and balance. The disciple's body and mind become permeated with a feeling of purity and peace; he can focus his mind to one point and apply all his mental powers to such great matters as he may select or he may revel in the enjoyment of supernatural powers, such as recalling his past births, or clairvoyance or clairaudience. But, what is really important is that he now realized the full significance of the four truths, of sufferings, its cause, its cessation and the way thereto. He also realizes the origin of the three great evils of love and pleasure, desire for continued existence and ignorance. Thus seeing and knowing, his heart is set free. The knowledge of this freedom fills him with joy. "Just as if in a mountain vastness there were to be a pool of water, clear, transparent and serene and a man standing on the bank with eyes to see should perceive therein the mussels and the shells and the gravels and the pebbles, and the shoals of fish as they move about in the water or live therein, even so the whole world and everything within it and the nature of life appears within the disciple's vision. He sees the truths and is full of serene joy, with intelligence alert and the conscious of freedom won and duty done."

It will be seen that the various divisions of the path are not mutually exclusive; also that it involves discipline of great severity, sustained energy, prolonged endeavour and unwearied patience. Not everyone can undertake to cover the whole Path in a few, short, sharp strides.

The Buddha recognized the frailty of human nature and the differences that exist among men in temperament and capability. He, therefore, indicated in his teachings how each one can, according to his swill and power, follow the Path in graduated stages. Those who cannot lead the perfect life, can at least practise the common virtues, the common duties of the good man, follow conduct that would ensure him happy re-birth, realizing at least in glimpses, the vanity of worldliness and the advantages of abandoning the sensual desire.

The Noble Eightfold Path has certain features that deserve special mention. It is not a divine revelation, but a way, discovered after long search and experiment. The goal is to be reached by earnest and incessant activity: mere belief can achieve nothing, nor prayer or sacrifice.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Four Noble Truths

The Four Noble Truths, together with The Noble Eightfold Path forms the backbone of Buddhism. 

The Truth will liberate you! 

The Noble Truth of Suffering
The Noble Truth of Arising of Suffering
The Noble Truth of The Cease of Suffering
The Noble Truth of The Approach to the Ceasing of Suffering

The Truth of Suffering
Everybody knows there is sorrow and suffering in the world; even a hungry street-dog knows that. It is a truism. But the Buddha and He alone of all thinkers of all times points out that everything is sorrow-fraught. He shows that not only Death is sorrow, but even birth a necessary condition from which all sorrows spring, and life itself is but a process of change. For it is in change that lies Disharmony which is the root of sorrow. The very fact of striving for better, for rest, for satisfaction, proves the existence of evil, of unrest of dissatisfaction. And that is found in everything because everything which is composed tends by it very nature to decompose. In the permanent nature of a process of change is found the reason of sorrow and Disharmony.

The first truth of the universality of 'suffering' teaches us in short, that all forms of existence are of necessity subject to suffering. The cause of feeling of sorrow is 'selfishness.'

The Truth about the origin of Suffering
All suffering is rooted in selfish "craving " and "ignorance". Nothing in the world can come into existence without reason and cause; not only all our latent tendencies, but our whole destiny, all weal and woe result from causes which we have to seek partly in this, partly in former states of existence. The future life, with all its weal and woe must result from the seeds sown by this and former lives.

The cause of sorrow, therefore is that craving which gives rise to re-birth and , bound up with greed for pleasure, seeks ever fresh delights. It is the sensual craving, that craving for individual existence, the craving for temporal happiness.

The Truth about the path leading to cessation of sorrow
Our desires beget discontentment. The only way to remove that discontentment or disharmony is, by means of the removal of its cause, namely, craving. The cessation of Craving will produce the end of sorrow.

The Truth about the path leading to cessation of sorrow
It is the Noble Eightfold Path which shows the way or means by which the goal is reached. It is the middle path avoiding all extremes of self indulgent materialism and self-mortifying idealism. It is a path of understanding and practice, a culture of intellect and will.

Pilgrims in this Middle Way, avoiding the two extremes, who weary of the "fretful fever" life, have seriously set their faces away from its illusions towards the freedom and the silence of Nirvana.