Buddha’s Teachings on Enlightenment and Nirvana
According to Shakyamuni Buddha enlightenment is comprehension of the nature of reality which produced a complete freedom from all suffering.
The nature of the reality he taught involves the principle that all things are ultimately relative. Everything arises from causes and conditions, therefore, nothing whatsoever exists naturally or by way of its own heritage. The innate inconsideration of oneself and other experience being truly existent gives rise to desire, hate, envy, and the other ills of living beings.
Table of Contents
What is Compassion?
This negligence of the true nature of reality is the ultimate root of all suffering. The demands and hatreds that arise from this ignorance bind one to torment in the cycle of rebirths, a state called samsara. Each being has been born again and again in a beginningless series of lifetimes.
The sufferings of birth, sickness, aging, and death, as well as the terrible miseries of lower, even infernal states of making samsara an endless source of suffering. Realizing the real nature of reality is the wisdom that frees one from samsara.
Such wisdom arises only in the presence of profound and endless compassion for the pain of all other living beings.
Therefore compassion is the natural randition of wisdom. Compassion arises with the understanding of one’s innate and natural connectedness with each and every living being.
True compassion entails a profound and immutable desire to lead other beings to the state of ultimate wisdom where they are freed from all suffering and gain true happiness.
To aid his followers in their pursuit of liberating wisdom, Shakyamuni Buddha created the first monasteries in the history of the world, where they could live and meditate without being completely disturbed by the world around them.
What Is Nirvana?
The Buddha told his monks that nirvana cannot be imagined, and so there is no point speculating what it is like. Even so, it is a word that Buddhists use, so it needs some kind of definition.
As an advanced bodhisattva, one becomes powerful and effective in bringing about the freedom of beings. Great bodhisattvas like Manjushri or Avalokiteshvara can save vast numbers of beings from the misfortunes and terrors of the world and become extensively worshiped by ordinary people as gods and goddesses.
Avalokiteshvara is idolized as Guanyin in China, Kannon in Japan, and in Tibet is known to take on many aspects, such as the Dalai Lama, in order to better understand the welfare of the world.
What is Vajrayana Buddhism?
Vajrayana Buddhism, which is the form of Buddhism exercised in Tibet, provides a great variety of special practices, meditations, and rituals to accomplish the goals of cultivating compassion and the ultimate freedom of all living beings.
Vajrayana is based on the cryptic teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni given to selected disciples. It uses yogic systems of meditation, mantra, and ritual to bring about psychological and physiological changes. Initiations and acknowledgments are needed to understand and engage in these techniques and to use the spiritual implements such as the vajra and ghanta (bell), sacred images, hand and body gestures (mudra), and sacred power words (mantra).
Tibetan Buddhism comprises four lineages. All trace themselves back to Buddha Shakyamuni in an unconnected lineage of enlightened masters and disciples that extends down to the present day. They are remarked much more by lineage than by any major difference in teachings or practice. The four lineages are Gelukpa, Sakyapa, Nyingmapa, and Kagyupa.
Bön, Tibet’s Indigenous Belief
Bön, Tibet’s aboriginal religion, is a high form of religious ritualism importantly concerned with righting the causes of human ailment and tragedy and coexisting with the underlying forces of the universe.
It focuses on the living, but has a clear sense of an afterlife and seeks to bring benefits and happiness in both this place and the places to come.
The Bön outlook is usually one where humans are attacked by a variety of spiteful demons and temperamental local gods, who are the major cause of disease and suffering in this world and danger in the next.
Some of the Bön practices of ejection have been borrowed from Tibetan Buddhism, while some of its frightening deities and mighty demons were converted and tamed to serve as guardians of Buddhism.
Bön ingests a great deal of Buddhism’s profound teachings and powerful rituals and has come to emulate many basic Buddhist theories and practices, but it also influenced Tibetan Buddhism.
In the Bön view, mountain gods are particularly valuable. It is through them that many clan leaders track their ancestry from mythic god-heroes to the first kings of Tibet, and down to the present day. It is not that they themselves were gods, but that the idol of a local mountain sent a hero to lead its clan, giving divine definability to their dynasty.
The Four Noble Truths
- The Noble Truth of Suffering
- The Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering
- The Noble Truth of Cessation of Suffering
- The Noble Truth of the Way leading to the Cessation of Suffering
Buddhism begins with the fact of suffering. However, before we can do anything about it, we must know its cause, which is the deeply-rooted sense of ‘I’ that we all have.
Because of this, we are always struggling to get things that are pleasurable and avoid things that are painful to find ease and security, and generally to manipulate people and situations to be the way ‘I’ want them.
And because the rest of the world does not necessarily fit in with what I want, we often find ourselves cutting against the general flow of things, and getting hurt and disappointed in the process.
Suffering may be therefore brought to an end by transcending this strong sense of ‘I’ so that we come into greater harmony with things in general. The means of doing this is The Noble Eightfold Path.