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This blog is created by a Buddhist living in Singapore. He embraces the Mahayana spirit of Bodhicitta, deeply respecting all Buddhist Traditions as expressions of Kindness guiding us on the path towards human perfection ~ Buddhahood.

He likes to post stuff that he had read or think is good to share here, sometimes he adds a little comments here and there... just sometimes..

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“Sariputra, if there are people who have already made the vow, who now make the vow, or who are about to make the vow, ‘I desire to be born in Amitabha’s country,’ these people, whether born in the past, now being born, or to be born in the future, all will irreversibly attain to anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Sariputra, all good men and good women, if they are among those who have faith, should make the vow, ‘I will be born in that country.’”

~ Amitabha Sutra

When I obtain the Buddhahood, any being of the boundless and inconceivable Buddha-worlds of the ten quarters whose body if be touched by the rays of my splendour should not make his body and mind gentle and peaceful, in such a state that he is far more sublime than the gods and men, then may I not attain the enlightenment.

~ Amitabha Buddha's Thirty-Third Vow

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What the Buddha did NOT teach

Extracted from Dharma e-News Issue 13 (January 2008 – to April 2008) by Christopher Titmuss

The Pali Discourses (Suttas) are the original body of texts of the words of the Buddha.

The purpose of this article is to point out some aspects of what the Buddha did not teach.The Pali suttas show that the Buddha refuted many views that today we attribute to him. Dharma practitioners, who regard the Buddha as their primary teacher, may need to check what the Buddha said in the Suttas.

Let us apply a discerning wisdom. Obviously, there are depths of insights outside the wisdom of the Buddha.

Source: flickr.com

(In alphabetical order)

1. Abhidhamma. According to the Theravada Buddhist tradition, Abhidhamma constitutes the teachings of the Buddha that he gave to his mother in Tusita heaven. Historical research shows that Buddhist/monks scholars wrote the Abhidhamma as a commentary on the words of the Buddha. Consisting of seven books, the Abhidhamma provides a detailed and analytical breakdown of mind and body into a variety of groups and elements. The Abhidhamma was composed over a long period and is not the Buddha´s word but only an interpretation. The Abhidamma is one of a number of Buddhist schools of interpretation of the suttas.

2. Acceptance. In the 5000 discourses of the Buddha, it is not possible to find a Pali word for acceptance. He points to an inquiry that goes deeper than acceptance of what we cannot change.

3. Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta are the true reality of existence. The Buddha has never made such a claim about impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-self. He said that these are three characteristics of existence. If they were the true reality, there would no release, no liberation. The Unconditioned is anatta but not anicca or dukkha.

4. Belief in God. The Buddha regards belief in the Creator God of monontheism as just one of many kinds of religious belief. He dismissed it and numerous other religious beliefs. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam it is regarded as the only religious belief. In ancient India, the creator God is called Brahma. Yet the Buddha pointed the way to Abiding with Brahma (Brahma Viharas). It is important to understand that the Creator God of ancient India cannot be compared to the Western Creator God, who is absolute and all powerful. Brahma is a God among the Gods.The profound and liberating force of love, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity reveal an abiding with Brahma, a creative force. The Buddha never wavered on his focus of complete liberation rather than a unitive experience with Brahma. See also number 16. See also article on the power of love following this article.

5. Being in the here and now. The Buddha does not give teachings to be here and now. Buddhist scholars have very freely translated ditthe dhamme as here and now. Ditthe means view and dhamme refers to dharma, namely all objects (in the mind and in the world, past, present or future), the teachings and truth. The Buddha did not give any kind of self entity or adopt a substance view to the present moment. Ditthe dhamma can also mean seeing with regard to the dharma.

6. Belief in God, a saviour, a sacred book, prophet or guru. God”-language is “self”-language. Ultimately the belief in God and self are two sides of the same coin, the former belief reconfirming the latter belief. An “Absolute God” is not a big issue in the suttas because it was not an influential teaching then Buddha pointed to seeing clearly, to release love (metta) and understand the nature of dependent arising. He is not opposed to ‘God’ (Brahma) language.- as used in India. He regarded the entire notion of God dependent on feelings, perceptions and beliefs. He did not refer to himself as a prophet, guru, deity or avator (incarnation of God). He did not refer to himself as an ordinary mortal. He said: I am awake. The Buddha did not appoint a successor before he died. He told his Sangha to rely upon the Dharma.

7. Cause. The Buddha kept strictly to dependent arising. He does not adopt a simplistic cause and effect, A to B, thinking such as ‘this meditation technique leads directly to liberation. The Buddha referred to cause (Pali: hetu) as a distinctive condition (paccaya). He tended to put the two questions together. What is the cause? What is the condition? (ko hetu ko paccayo). Numerous causes or conditions for numerous effects are mentioned in the suttas. The Buddha does not apply any kind of simplistic model – this alone will cause that – for awakening. He refers to a direct path (eke-yana) to awakening.

8. Choice. The view that we are always free to make a choice does not accord with experience. We did not choose to be born, to stop growing old, to get sick or to suffer pain. We can’t choose to live for ever. We can’t choose to be happy in every moment of the day. We can’t choose the outcomes of events that effect our life. We might think we make free and independent choices only to find out later that the so-called free choice that we made turned out be a nightmare. Our so-called choices are limited. We make choices without knowing countless conditions influencing those choices either from the past, present or that might arise in the future. We are heirs to our karma and bound to our karma (MLD 135). Is this a choice? Is it wise to use the language of choice? Is the notion of consumer choice keeping us deluded and imprisoned as customers? The Buddha placed more emphasis on intention affecting body, speech and mind. In clarity, we naturally cultivate ethics, samadhi and wisdom. It is a natural priority. Wisdom says that there doesn’t feel to be any choice about it. It is simply conducive to a liberated way of life. Deep down, there is really no choice.

9. Determinism and Fatalism. The past certainly can determine the process of dependent arising. The fact that the past can determine the present does not mean that we are prisoners, because the past is not an agent that ultimately can imprison us. This also means that there are no events that just happen without causes and conditions. The Buddha also does not teach fatalism. If the past absolutely determined our life, then the teachings of the Four Noble Truths are irrelevant. We would be a total prisoner to our past. Again, there would be no liberation from the past, from the unresolved forces of karma. The Buddha teaches dependent arising and liberation.

10. Enlightenment. The word ‘enlightenment’ does not appear anywhere in the Buddhist texts. Enlightenment is a Western concept referring to the modern era in the West where science and reason gradually replaced God who gave out punishments and rewards for human beliefs and behaviour. The word ‘bodhi’ means awakening. It comes from the root word ‘budh’ – to wake up. It sounds arrogant to say “I am enlightened.’ it sounds like belief in a “Self” to say “I am enlightened” since it implies a Self coming to Light We can appreciate those who woke up. In Seven Factors of ‘Enlightenment’ the Pali word is bojjhanga – bodhi to awake and anga – aspects of.or limbs of (NB A decade ago I wrote a book called Light on Englightenment. A Pali scholar made the distinction to me clear years later between awakening and enlightenemt. We live and learn!

11. Faith. In the Western sense, faith is often associated with religious faith such as there is life after death or one has faith in a sacred book, a prophet or God. There is no such equivalent word in the Buddha’s teachings. Saddha, the Pali word translated as faith, or sometimes confidence or trust, means sad – heart, dha – to put or to place. When our heart moves to action, such as to explore the teachings, then saddha has arisen rooted in going towards the profound.

12. Free will. For the will to be free, it would have to be independent, self supporting and not conditioned by circumstances inner and outer. The Buddha does not teach free will. The Buddha taught the middle way between free will and determinism. The self is tied to the notion of free will and equally tied to the notion of determinism. Truly knowing and seeing dependent arising is liberating. It reveals the emptiness of a real self and real things

13. Escape. The texts speak of the escape from suffering. Pali word nissarana means way out or exit. We often associate escape with flight, with fear that forces us to run away from ourselves, from responsibility. We need to remember the support that the Buddha gives to finding the way out. Gautama, the Buddha-to-be escaped from his responsibilities as a prince, husband and father. After his awakening, six years later, he taught about the gratification of the pursuit of pleasure, the danger in it and the way out from it.

14. Extinction of desire. The word ‘khaya’ often translated as extinction, destruction or dissolution, means the ‘exhausting’ of desire. In the exhausting of desire, we can engage in wise intention and wise action not corrupted with the preoccupations of the self and what it pursues.

15. Five Precepts. It is extraordinarily hard to find the block of Five Precepts in the teachings of the Buddha. This list of five appears on one occasion in an obscure text in all of the Suttas. The Buddha never limited sila (ethics) to five precepts. He spoke much more widely about ethics, about morality, than the Buddhist tradition has opted for. He told the monks and nuns about the importance of restraint of the senses, purification of livelihood and skillful use of food, clothing, shelter and medicine are equally important features of sila. It was convenient for the wealthy that the Buddhist tradition ignored the Buddha and confined ethics to the five precepts. The wealthy could pursue sensual gratification and privileges unchecked since the tradition largely excluded it as a moral issue. The Buddha also lists 10 paths of unskilful action and skillful action, 3 of body, 4 of speech, 3 of mind (the first 4 of which are the basis of the first 4 precepts). MN 41, Saleyyaka Sutta

16. Interconnection. This implies that every ‘thing’ is connected to every ‘thing’ else. It is a view based on the notion that there is some ‘thing’ in the first place. Is the car the engine? No. So take away the engine. Is the car the wheels? No. So take away the wheels. Is the car any other part? No. So throw away the rest of the parts. What is left of the car to be connected? Nothing of it ‘self.’ There is the conventi0on that there is a car. Many women joined the Buddha in the homeless way of life of Dharma exploration. One of the women, named Vajira, experienced disturbing thoughts in meditation.

By whom has this human being been created?
Where is the Maker of the being?
Where has the human being arisen?
Where does the human being cease?

Then it occurred to her.

Who took up this question?. A human being or a non-human being?
Ah, it comes from temptation (Mara) to arouse fear and trepidation? she realised.

Truth arose in her. Shre responded:

Just as with an assemblage of parts
the word chariot is used
So, when the aggregates exist
There is the convention a human being.

It was then said at the end of the discourse by the voice to arouse fear.
Vajira knows me and then the voice disappeared right there. SN.1.Page 230.

17. Life is suffering. This is a common misstatement of the first noble truth Again, there is no such statement from the Buddha. If this was reality, then there would be no escape. When suffering arises in life, it is due to the conditions. When the conditions for suffering are not present, then suffering does not arise.

18. Mantras. Mantras are generally a devotional practice to a Higher Self, to a God or use of sheer repetition of a word to condition the mind to reduce stress or extensive thinking. The Buddha taught direct experience with the breath, body, feelings, states of mind and dharma rather than any mantra as the priority of attention. Mantras can certainly be a useful meditation for calming the mind.

19. Metta is loving kindness. Many Pali translators defined metta as loving kindness. The Pali-English Dictionary of the much respected Pali Text Society in Britain uses the word ‘love’ for metta. Perceptions of the kindness of Buddhist monks may have influenced the modern translation of metta. The dictionary says metta derives from ‘mid’ –to love. Loving Kindness is an inadequate translation. Metta expresses unconditional love, profound friendship and limitless kindness, wide and unbounded. The Buddha spoke to Anuruddha of liberation through love (metta ceto-vimutti) and again in Itivuttaka 27.19-21. See also S.ii.265. Ananda also encouraged meditating on the characteristics of metta to realise liberation.

20. Method and Technique to develop Metta. In the Metta Sutta, the Buddha simply revealed the qualities, attitude and state of being of one deeply established in metta. Love without limits is the mark of a truly realised person. The Buddha only instructed the directing of metta in all directions so that it is unbounded. Metta, that is love, is a transformative and divine force that shares similar features as liberation. Both liberation and love know no limits. The modern methods and techniques to develop metta bear very little relationship to the realisaton of metta as a Diving Abiding. Nevertheless, the application of methods and techniques to develop metta can be very helpful. In his 5th century classical book of the Theravada tradition, the Visuddhimagga (the Path of Purification), the Venerable Acharya Buddhaghosa took some of the statements of the Buddha and used them as phrases to develop metta. Eg. May all beings be free from enmity. May they live happily’.

21. Mindfulness is the most important link in the Eightfold Path. The Buddha has never isolated one link above the others. In the Discourse on the Four Applications of Mindfulness, he said that ‘mindfulness is cultivated to the extent necessary for knowing in order to abide freely and independently in the world.’ There is no instruction in the teachings of the Buddha to be ‘mindful in every moment.’ He could not live up to such an ideal. Nor can anyone else. It is an impossible undertaking. The Buddha was not always mindful of the consequences of his decisions and would change his mind later. To take one aspect of the path and elevate it above others abandons dependent arising. This would give selfhood to mindfulness. In MLD 117, the Buddha stated that right view, right effort and right mindfulness support each other while giving a comprehensive explanation of the mutual support and meanings of each link in the Noble Eightfold Path.

22. Moment to Moment Practice. The Buddha does not adopt such a view. He advocate the application of minfulness to body, feelings, state of mind and dharma. It is a means to realise a timeless liberation . He does not teach concentrating on mindfulness for its own sake. He does not give any kind of selfness to mindfulness. There are no words for moment to moment in any of the Suttas. One develops mindfulness along with six other limbs for awekening, namel inquiry, energy, deep happiness, calmness, meditative concentration and equanimity to reach true knowing of lliberation. (MLD 118).

23. Knowing and Seeings things as they are. Not uttered by the Buddha. A common mistranslation. of yathabhutam-ñana- dassana. This celebrated one line statement of the Buddha literally means “knowing and seeing according to what has become.” Bhuta come from the root word ‘bhu’ to become. It refers to the action of knowing and seeing. There is no mention of things in this statement. This correct translation is a more dynamic and challenging approach than the mistranslation that suggests a fixed view. ‘What has become’ refers to dependent arising.

24. No-Self. The Buddha remained in noble silence when asked whether there was a self or no self. He simply stated that body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, including thoughts, and consciousness were not oneself and did not belong to self. He taught not self as vehicle for liberation from misperception. Anatta literally means ‘not-self’; if the buddha had meant ‘no self’ he would have said ‘na-atta’.

25. Oneness is the ultimate realty. The Buddha did not refute the importance of Oneness. He refers to it in the experience of Brahma Viharas (Divine Abode or Abode of God ). He does not refer to this Abode as ultimate reality since it posits the notion of a self that unites with other. The Buddha refutes All is One and equally refutes All is Many and points to dependent arising. In MLD 117, the Buddha said: Unification of mind equipped with the other seven links of the Eighfold Path is called noble right rconcentation with its supports and requisites.

26. Open to Desire. Desire (tanha), as well as craving and thirsting after, leads to unsatisfactoriness and suffering. The Buddha never endorsed a view about being open to desire. Desire springs from contact, identification with particular feelings that condition the desire and feeds clinging. The view that we can have what we desire without attachment to results compromises the Buddha’s teachings on the unsatisfactoriness of desire. Open to desire sends out a message to Buddhist consumers to be open to their desires provided they follow them through without craving. The temporary peace of mind we experience when we succeed in getting what we want is due to the temporary abeyance of the desire in our mind. Open to Desire waters down the Buddha’s teachings to fit them into Western ideology of going for what we want. It is a common view in contemporary American Buddhism where often the raft to the other shore has become an ocean going liner. The Buddha uses other words for ‘desire’ such as dhamma-canda, zeal for the dharma, when referring to the intention, practices and actions required for awakening and liberation.

27. Passion (raga) is to be eradicated. The Buddha encourages passion such as Dharma rage (Passion for the Dharma). It is not to be confused with the raga for desire. He referred to the giving up of any raga that colours and distorts objects. The word raga means to colour or dye.

28. Paramis (perfections) The Buddha did not teach the 10 Perfections. They are not found anywhere in the Suttas. He refuted the belief that we can achieve a perfection of mind no matter how much cultivate dana (giving), ethics, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, resolution, metta (love, loving kindness) and equanimity. The 10 Perfections are found in the commentaries in the Theravada and Six Perfections are found in the Tibetan tradition. The Buddha taught liberation from the notion of perfection and imperfection.

29. Personal Salvation. Personal salvation matters to those who believe in a self to be saved.

30. Rebirth. There is no word in the teachings of the Buddha that literally translates as rebirth. This word seems to come from the Pali word punnabbhava which literally means ‘rebecoming.’ In the Kalama Sutta, one of the most cherished of all his discourse on inquiry, the Buddha takes a provisional view about rebecoming rather than referring to it as an indubitable fact. There is rebecoming due to being bound to the force of desire.

31. Reincarnation. The Buddha refuted the belief of a soul, self or essence that passes from one life to the next.. Our meditation cannot show anything permanent within to leave the body upon death.

32. Right View. The Pali word for ‘right’ such as “Right View, Right Intention and the remaining six links in the Noble Eightfold Path is Samma. Samma means conducive - conducive towards complete awakening. A conduciive view reveals a depth of understanding that is liberating. Samma does not carry any implication of a moral commandment, of right and wrong. Miccha Magga means an Unconducive Path to follow in life.

33. Samatha (calmness) and vipassana (insight) are separate practices from each other. The Buddha never refers anywhere to samatha and vipassana as techniques. If so, they would be opposed to each other. He taught samatha-vipassana as qualities of experiences and insights essential for understanding the Dharma. He said some people are developed in both calmness and insight; some are developed in calmness; some are developed in insight and some remain undeveloped in both. The Buddha never said one technique is samatha (such as mindfulness of breathing) and another technique (such as body awareness or witnessing thought) is insight meditation or Vipassana. Different Buddhist traditions set one apart from the other.

34. Seeing impermanence is all that matters. The Buddha never took the exploration of impermanence in isolation from the rest of the body of his teachings. On impermanence, he encouraged a fivefold perspective – one sees the arising, the passing away (of events, phenomena, experiences, relationships etc), the gratification, the danger and the way out from the world of impermanence. The experience of impermanence (anicca - literally not permanent) is available as step towards letting go of clinging.

35. Sub atomic particle (kalapas). The Buddha did not teach development of the power of concentration (samadhi) in meditation in order to experience sub-atomic particles. The word ’kalapas’ does not appear anywhere in the suttas. The Buddha did not support such a materialistic view or non materialistic views.

36. Truth is within you. Never stated by the Buddha. He said we preserve truth when we don’t make claims about having it. Truth is neither within, nor within another, nor in between. We can’t find a thing called Truth within. Truth is that which wakes us up (bodhi-sacca), knowing truth ( sacca-nana) It is not a substantial entity that some have and some don’t have.

37. Vipassana as a technique. There is nothing in the teachings of the Buddha to indicate that Vipassana is a technique. The word simply means ‘insight.’ A moment of insight is a moment of vipassana that can arise anywhere at any time. Calmness supports insight and insight supports calmness. Calm and insight point to liberation.

38. True Self. Various senior Buddhist teachers will use in their talks and writings the concept True Self. There is nothing to validate a True Self. Who or what within determines that this is my True Self and this is not my True Self?

39. Vegetarian diet. The Buddha was concerned with what came out of our mouths rather than what went into it. He did not object to the homeless seekers receiving meat to eat, as long as animals were not killed for the them.(MLD 55). In vegetarian India, even today, wanderers, yogis, sadhus and ascetics very, very rarely touch meat. Hindus treat cows in India with holy reverence for their peaceful manner and dairy products. It is unlikely that Hindus offered the Buddha’s homeless Sangha anything with a face to eat – namely animals, birds or fish. The Buddha would need to revise radically his view today about eating of meat. There is cruelty to animals in our massive abattoirs. Livestock are provided with an unhealthy diet. Cows, sheep, pigs and birds consume a huge amount of food, whether locked up in animal factories or occupying valuable land that could provide grain, fruit and vegetables. Millions of Buddhists chant about saving all sentient beings and send out loving kindness to animals, birds and fish but they continue to eat them, often on a daily basis.

40. Visualisation Meditations. The Buddha gave direct practices to see and know through our own experience what has become rather than impose upon experience visual pictures, images or mental archetypes. As with methods for metta, use of mantras, visualation practices can be a very beneficial form of meditation.

41. We create our own reality. The Buddha never made this claim. You see this one-liner attributed to the Buddha on posters and in calendars. It is a bizarre idea. Can the mind create the sky above, the earth, below, nature and countless sentient beings. The belief that we create our own reality is a wild projection. Dependent arising conditions shape reality. The mind cannot create it. The self has substituted God the Creator with Self the Creator . It is another projection.It arises from mistranslation of the first verse in the Dhammapada. The Buddha said that all dharmas are mind made. It means that the mind makes self out of what is perceived. The mind gives sustance, essence, soul or selfness to what is dependent arising.

42. Wise Attention. A simple translation. Pali words are yoniso manasikara. Yoni is mother’s womb. Manas is mind. Kara is action. It is the action of the mind emerging from the depth of our being. Yoni is metaphorically used. Manas is mind. Kara is action. Yoniso-manasikara points to establilshing the mind.

PS. A Buddhist practitioner ordered a hot dog with dressing from the Vendor. He gave the Vendor a $20 bill.
The Vendor gave the monk the hotdog but with no change.
Where is my change?“ asked the monk.
The Vendor replied:
I don’t give change. Change comes from within.


Special thanks to
Patrick Kearney for his advice. www.dharmasalon.net,
Jenny Wilks,
Hans Gruber www.buddha-heute.de and
Asaf Federman. English: www.warwick.ac.uk/go/asaffederman
Hebrew: www.notes.co.il/assaff


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