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Buddhism: Frequently Asked Questions: Nagasena Bhikkhu

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 What is the Dhamma? How can we understand Dhamma?

(1) Dhamma is a Pali term that defines all aspects of the teaching of the Buddha. What the Buddha taught is the foundation of how to comprehend the reality of nature and the world, rather than trying to find out who created them and why. He said that if we wanted to know how the world came into existence we could find the answer by ourselves. Though the Buddha did not emphasise all of existence in detail, he laid down the foundations of how an individual should comprehend such existence. This foundation is called Dhamma.

According to the Buddha, the entire existence of the universe operates according to the principles of Dhamma. Even the Buddha himself was under this law. Physical law is fundamental, unlike religious and human law. This basic and fundamental law has always existed and is absolute. Buddha said that He did not create the world He just provided an explanation of what the world really is. He had discovered the law, which, in Pali, we call Dhamma. His teaching explains the reality of the world - 'mind and matter' as they really are. Buddha understood clearly how the world should be rightly comprehended; therefore, His teaching is true, legitimate, logical, experimental and realisable by all through direct experience. This held true in the past, is true in the present, and will be true in the future.

(2) When words are used to explain reality, the Buddha's teaching may appear to many to be philosophical and conceptual. Whether His words are truth or not we have to study His teaching carefully. But for many people, they conclude that his teaching is nothing but philosophy, logic or a developed concept . Due to their prejudice or ignorance, they cannot see further. In fact, Buddha's teaching aimed at eradicating of misconception, of ideas and of philosophy through direct experience. All types of study i.e. logic or philosophy etc. should be understood by direct experience, not by mere concept. Buddhist philosophy does not aim to entertain as intellectual knowledge but it aims at beyond intellect. We can use an example of a thorn that is stuck in our body. In order to remove the infected thorn we need another sharp and strong thorn. We apply intellect in order to go beyond intellect. When you investigate something through intellect, after investigation you will reach a point where no intellect is needed. There you become pure. That point is the ultimate truth of the Dhamma. Otherwise, the intellect will keep you within its limits, in imprisonment. The truth that He explains is to clarify and purify the concepts, intellect and ideas, which are already polluted, infected. By putting the Dhamma into practice, a practitioner overcomes concepts, ideas, and intellect. By his own direct experience, he understands both himself and the outside world. Thereafter he requires no concepts, no words to argue about reality.

(3) Now, I have to explain by words and by intellect what Dhamma means. This explanation is not to develop a concept or idea, but to assist your practice. The meaning of the word 'Dhamma' is truth, law, nature, and concept. For example, the law of gravity, the nature of gravity, the truth of gravity and so on, which can be explained as they really are. Scientists have explained this. Similarly, the Buddha explains the law of mind-body, the truth of mind-body, the nature of mind-body, the philosophy of mind-body and so forth, as they really are. The Abhidhama emphasises the most meaningful terms of the Dhamma. We can briefly categorise the Dhamma into three technical terms: physical Dhamma, mental Dhamma and psychophysical Dhamma.

Physical Dhamma defines all corporeal substances that naturally and spontaneously exist in the universe. There are two types of physical Dhamma: visible and invisible substances. The visible, physical Dhamma is easy to identify through our senses. Earth, water, organic or non-organic materials are all visible. Each visible material contains many elemental substances that cannot be seen by the naked eye. In Pali, we call this Pasada, which is a philosophical term for subtle substances that co-exist in any visible material. Buddha does not go beyond this point. It may be that He is not interested in creating a physical microscope to see such subtleness. He is very interested in creating a mental microscope to see spiritual subtleness.

Modern scientists have developed increasingly sophisticated tools that break through and identify all possible substances. They have divided every single unique element from atom to nucleus, electrons, protons and neutrons, none of which are visible to the naked eye. Each of these particles again can produce a distinctive characteristic. Nonetheless, they cannot exist separately. For example, the characteristics of water are that it is liquid and will flow. However, water can be analysed into hydrogen (2 atoms) and oxygen (1 atom) water = H2O. We see only water. We cannot see hydrogen and oxygen, the constituents of water. This is an example of the physical Dhamma. The Buddha again very confidently emphasised that all materials are impermanent. What 'impermanent' means is understandable by the theory of water = H2O. Water changes form from liquid to ice when the temperature drops below freezing. Liquid water is impermanent because it changes into ice when it is cold, and back to liquid again when it is warm. Beyond that, water can disappear by drying up. Here again for water to dry up the temperature needs to rise. The increased temperature is the cause for drying. When it dries up, water becomes gaseous, travelling into open space or in the sky. The hydrogen (2) and oxygen (1) are still bonded as water in the form of gas, or as a cloud, and so on. When these two elements are bonded, there is water; and water again transforms into gas or cloud, and cloud again transforms into water. This is how the cycle of existence operates. When water dries up causing drought, we suffer.

The Buddha did not blame someone else but He understood the cause and effect from direct knowledge. He provided this knowledge in order to understand the nature of reality, so that we can reduce our suffering or, at least, not blame someone else. By knowing cause and effect, we can reduce our ego and live in peace and harmony. Cause and effect is the Dhamma that exists in the world. The ultimate nature of Dhamma is that all materials are subject to the cycle of arising, changing, decaying and disappearing. Thus, we have to understand the law and nature of physical elements; how they arise and how they cease. The Buddha said that whether we know it or not, such things operate by themselves. The Buddha did not give much emphasis to the elemental world since it is not concerned with the eradication of suffering. He shifted the emphasis to the mind because it is the mind that is mainly responsible for our suffering

(4) What is the mental Dhamma? Mental Dhamma relates to the nature of concepts, ideas, thoughts, and so on. It may be the concept of a god, of a deity, of father, of mother, of king, of food, etc. It relates to all materials of which we have a concept, idea, or thought. Therefore, the mind does not exist without such concepts, ideas, etc.

The mind needs external phenomena otherwise, concepts or thoughts cannot arise. Anger is one of our mental factors, i.e. both anger and the concept of anger co-exist. When anger is present, we experience it; when anger is absent, we still have its concept. Therefore, in order for loving kindness or anger to arise one needs the concept of the emotion and the object of the emotion. Anger is a state of mind. For it to arise you require two things: an inner concept and an outer object. For example, if I say that I feel loving kindness for you, I already have a concept of you, when I articulate this sentence. Therefore, my loving kindness is possible. Similarly, if I say that I hate you, the concept of hatred for you is already present in me. The concept is a state of mind which occurs inside of me, and you are an object that occurs outside of me. Without these two conditions, anger or love could not arise. So the mind arises or exists based on condition. Such condition is called mental Dhamma.

The Buddha said that the concept inside of me is to be eradicated. Ordinary people blame the outside world for their emotions. If we can remove the concept, idea, intellect of the emotions, then the outside world will not make us either angry or full of loving-kindness. As a result, we become balanced, peaceful and equanimous. In the same way, the liking or disliking of food, of material items, of beings, etc. is the product of our concepts, our intellect and our ideas, and these must be not clung if we are to be happy and peaceful. This is the ultimate point of the mental Dhamma.

(5) The characteristic of liking things or beings is acceptable to you and brings hope and joy; therefore, you encourage it in your mind. The characteristic of disliking things or beings is unacceptable to you, and brings suffering and fear. You therefore discourage it in your mind. However, whether you like or not, these phenomena of the mind are changeable: from love to hatred, and from hatred to love. Love is not eternal, neither is hatred. Therefore, suffering and happiness are states of the mind always subject to change. Why do they change? It is the result of deep-rooted ego, craving and ignorance. Whether we know it or not, these characteristics exist. The Buddha strove to explain the reality of craving, ego and ignorance that create suffering. In the end, our entire concept, idea and intellect are due to ignorance, ego and craving. In order to explain this in more detail, the Buddha laid down the foundation of the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Dependent Origination. These are the ultimate foundation of Dhamma. Such teaching directly connects to the mind. Buddha said suffering arises from craving.

What is craving? We can all agree that craving is a state of mind. The law of mind, the nature of mind, is Buddha's most important teaching. If we know the state of our own mind, this knowledge will help us to understand what is wrong and what is right. We can also transform our emotions from anger to love and to peace. This understanding and transformation will enable us to help others and do no harm by either word or deed. If you are a practitioner, you will realise that your mind is under your control and is inherently peaceful. This is the benefit of mental Dhamma.

(6) What is psychophysical Dhamma? Buddha uses the Pali word Nama-rupa, which means mind-matter. This is the set of aggregates that make up a being. (See the five aggregates). I am not going to emphasise the theory of psychophysical Dhamma here. What I want to point out is how we should understand this Dhamma in relation to our suffering. This Dhamma is the law for both mind and matter together. As I have briefly emphasised above, this Dhamma is only understandable when you have understood the first two types of Dhamma. The understanding of psychophysical Dhamma should start by looking into one's own nature. We will see that we are part of a nature that is made up of mind and matter. It is just like the theory of DNA that contains a possible life in molecules and the molecule is itself matter. Life and matter co-exist.

(7) When we suffer as the result of a storm, earthquake or natural disaster, we can accept the consequences without the need to blame God or anyone else because we know the cause is a reaction between the elements and substances. We know this is how physical elements work and that their effects can cause suffering. We should understand both the physical law and the mental law separately and together as they really are, such as how mind affects the physical law and how physical law affects the mind. When we suffer due to storm, earthquake or natural disaster, we do not blame anyone. This is because we know the law of physical nature and are able to accept its consequences. To accept this reality we require both intellect and concept in order to investigate the physical law separately. When we see both the state of mind that corresponds to a natural disaster and the nature of the disaster that corresponds to the state of mind, our wisdom and peaceful acceptance enable us to remain with and endure the suffering that results.

(8) We can here analyse our concepts, as they exist in material form. For instance, the concepts of father, mother, earth, food, etc, arise only when such things exist. The Buddha was not interested in going beyond that point. He did not talk much about God, a creator, and so forth, because such phenomena cannot be observed. The Buddha was aware of what phenomena bring about peace and agreement, and what phenomena bring about suffering and disagreement. We can logically and reasonably agree on the phenomena that exist in our society.

We give names to the objects for our own convenience. When we give the name to father, mother, king, prime minister, water, food etc, we all share the same concept although we may use a different language. Though the object is not always present when we talk, we still understand and agree what we are talking about. It is because concept and object (Nama and Rupa) co-exist in our common agreement; not only that, we also can legitimately identify such things if we want to. Now we have understood what objects and concepts are and how they work together. One important point I want to make here: because such objects are identifiable, we tend to cling tightly to them. This is a great problem. We cling because we have the concept of an object. In the end, suffering is inevitable. Suffering arises both as a result of the object and of the concept. Similarly, happiness arises because of the object as well as the concept. Thus, one should understand psychophysical phenomena. Moreover, one should understand through insight knowledge that such suffering, happiness, object, and concept are impermanent. This is to understand reality. Realisation to these phenomena, we require knowledge on middle path, which are neither matter nor is concept.

(9) Beyond the understanding of concept we must also understand the delicacy of the physical body, which has no power compared to the natural world. Yet, we go against nature because we have ego and are ignorant. The Buddha teaches us to understand the ego, ignorance and craving in relation to their effect. We can conclude what Dhamma is by pointing to physical law, mental law and psychophysical law all together. Knowing these aspects of the Dhamma as they really are, we go beyond them to the ultimate Dhamma. All we need is to put into practice the Dhamma that the Buddha discovered. Then the Dhamma allows you to penetrate the law of nature, the world and concepts as they really are. In that way, we achieve the ultimate Dhamma, the goal right here.

(10) Finally, what is ultimate Dhamma? As far as human nature is concerned, Dhamma can divide into another two types: Dhamma for beings and Dhamma for elemental natures. Dhamma for being is required possession of mind that creates his or her own quality such as good or bad life. The behavioural pattern of human mind is not much different from a monkey that jumping one branch after the other, releasing one branch and holding another; similary, mind is like a fish trembled on the shore; this examples are observable ourselves when our mind is deprived of a pleasant sensation. What do happen when we are lack of pleasant feeling? How do we feel when our desired material not present? We feel lack of something; we feel anxiety, fear and so forth. We need always something or desirable phenomena to prevent our mind from fear, worry or dispair. Therefore we seek in God, friends, relatives or materials to guard our life safe. Thus, mind continues in search of pleasance, of relaxation or of dependence. Such pleasant mind or happiness always requires a base on external material or external element. That external material we called nature. We can easily overpower by that nature. For example, for our happiness, even for a moment, we require a base on external elements i.e. home, car, phone, computer, TV, relatives. friends or food and so on. This is attachment that can lead to suffering. Because of this attached nature, we are conducive to wrong Kamma. Thus, Samsara is created. The ultimate Dhamma what Buddha explained us seemed to have opposed to mainstream being who, especially, overpowered by external phenomena. But for the the Buddha, he himself restrained against overwhelming external materials. He said that restraint is for his own well-being. This restraint we call Sila (practice of moral life) such as restraint from harming any being, stealing, cheating, sexual misconduct, lying or wrong speech and drinking so forth. Beyond that, he practised Samadhi (Meditation) that guarded restrained mind properly and achieved calm and peaceful. Thereby he developed Panna (wisdom) to perceive the world rightly. This aimed at peace, not only for himself but for worldly being. That is needed self-realisation. Although Dhamma is explainable the universe, this is unhelpful if individual does not practise and develop by oneself. After all, if we realise ourselves, we will realise entire universe and universal Dhammama. We can only realise this by practice of Sila (Morality) Samadhi (Meditation) and Panna (Wisdom).

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What is Buddhism? (How can we understand it?)

(1) To understand Buddhism we have to understand who the Buddha is. There was a rumour of His coming before the appearance of the Buddha. Astrologer and ascetic alike kept predicting His coming. They agreed that He would be the knower, the seer and the saviour. Many contemporary religious soothsayers and preachers seemed to have claimed to achievement of Buddhahood. The ascetic Siddhartha Gotama also claimed Buddhahood after six years of practice in a deep forest. On the early morning of the full moon day of May, 500 years before Christ, the ascetic Siddhartha Gotama came to understand reality under the Bodhi tree.

After He had attained Buddhahood He went to teach his former friends. He asked them: "Have you heard me claim Buddhahood before? Now I have understood the truth. Come my friends and listen to what I will teach you." In one discourse the Buddha claimed that He is

Araham, Samma, Vijjacarana-sampanno, Sugato, Lokavidu, Anuttaro purisadhamma-sarathi, Sattha deva-manussanam, Buddho and Bhagava. This translates as 'Accomplished, Fully enlightened, Endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, Serene, Knower of the worlds, Perfect trainer of those who wish to be trained, Teacher of gods and men, Enlightened and Blessed.'

We can draw out the meaning of the word 'Buddha' from His declaration and His teaching. The meaning of the word Buddha derives from the root of 'Bo', which means knowledge and wisdom. 'Dha' is a word of suffix, which signifies ownership and possession. The word Bud+dha thus means one who possesses knowledge and wisdom, or one who knows reality.

(2) One man disparaged me. He said, "Buddhism is very proud of the knowledge in its teachings! What do you think about the knowledge required for others' careers such as politicians, scientists, economists, and so on?" The Buddha never disparaged the knowledge required for common life but, such knowledge is not fruitful in terms of the spiritual life because it results in craving, conflict, and suffering. For spiritual knowledge on the other hand, it is necessary to go beyond common knowledge. You must acquire the knowledge that leads to a higher life, to freedom and to peace. This knowledge is universal and applicable to all people. Whether you are a scientist, politician, or economist, you will still have worry, fear, suffering, distress, and so on. The Buddha offers universal answers to such problems through His main teaching of the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and Dependent Origination and so forth.
How can we understand Buddhism? (What is Buddhism?)

(1) Many people believe that Buddhism is not a religion but a belief system made up of a mix of philosophy, psychology and logic. Similarly, there are other people who believe that Buddhism is not solely a faith-based religion but one whose concepts are provable through current scientific exploration. How can we judge this proposition?

There is at least one thing that none of us can deny: no matter what we understand it to be, Buddhism is aimed at perfection and purification. The Buddha teaches a universal concept where all branches of study: philosophy, logic, psychology, science, etc. can lead to human perfection, without exception. This is universal and accessible to all people, regardless of their branch of knowledge. His teaching aims at ultimate or spiritual knowledge.

Many branches of modern knowledge deal with intellectual progress only reached after humans evolved. There is no doubt about this. However, what we have learnt is only to develop material comforts rather than mental purification. The Buddha seems to have reached the same understanding 2500 years ago. Knowing this development, the Buddha stands in the middle path between mind and matter.

Without contradicting the existence of both material and mind, He points out the underlying truth of mind and matter. He points out how mind and matter can cause suffering. He says that only equilibrium between mind and matter, and moderation, can bring us to knowledge of the ultimate reality. What modern science contributes towards human well-being is very opportune; but if we do not know how to use it in the correct way this will increase our desire until it becomes infinite. Think of yourself. You want to have this and that, ever-new desires arise, one after the other. Truly, we are never satisfied with what we possess. We are always looking for more and ever more things. Do we have to? At the end, the cycle of desire and thirst leads to dissatisfaction.

The Buddha said that both desire and thirst are endless. Not only that, but the way of searching itself is endless. One can only reach satisfaction by wisdom. Otherwise, He said that we would fail to achieve a perfect life. Many people ask the question: What happens if we search for a creator? Could a creator satisfy our desire? Could He make a perfect life? The answer is No. Once a wandering ascetic asked the Buddha: "Who created you?" "Your question is an ignorant one" the Buddha replied. "You ask me this question out of ignorance." For the Buddha, searching for God and human perfection cannot go together. After all, whether we are followers of God or not, suffering remains unchanged.
How can we make a perfect life? How can we attain satisfaction in our life? The answer is

(2) easy but difficult to practice. The Buddha teaches the practice of threefold Dhamma: moral discipline, meditation and wisdom. (See Sila, Samadhi and Panna). This threefold Dhamma is the foundation of Buddhism. This threefold practice will lead you to a proper understanding of mind and matter, especially as to what knowledge we possess, what we do not possess or what is yet to be possessed for perfect life. This practice is truly capable of bringing hope and satisfaction to both mind and matter. Thereby we will be at peace and happy with what have.

Many people think that Buddhism stops you from having many things. This is misunderstanding because Buddhism does not stop you from having material success but it is true that Buddha emphasised leading a life according to middle path. They thought Buddhism emphasises much on simplicity and giving up to materials. This emphasis is to share with others, to be compassionate and to overcome from suffering that arises from over-consumption.

Moreover, the Buddha never intended you to undertake austerity, nor to block the progress of material life. Rather He teaches you how to enjoy material success in the right way, and He even appreciates the many millionaires who supported Him. If you are practitioners, you will discern what material possessions really mean in your life, and what difference they should make. By your practice, you will know both what is appropriate and what is not. This is the middle path. If you have much, you are happy and satisfied with much; if you have little, you are happy and satisfied with little. It is as simple as that.

The Buddha encourages us to develop right effort, not only for spiritual but also for material success. Whatever position, status or rank, either low or high that you hold you will still have happiness and satisfaction. Beyond that, though you may fail to achieve something, because of your right effort and right understanding you will still be satisfied and positive about the outcome. This is possible if you are practitioner.

Most importantly, you will know what state you are in and in what state you should be. For instance, if you are in the state of anger, you will know it and what a more appropriate reaction should be. Likewise, if you are in a state of success or failure, you know how to be in that state. If you can develop and maintain such a state of mind, you are closer to reality. This can only be possible if you are awake, mindful and controlled. At the end, you understand the state of mind more clearly. By this practice, gradually, you will realise the true nature of life, mind and matter; and gradually you will come to a pure, wholesome and meaningful life. Whether you are rich or poor, human perfection and peace is possible by practice of Sila, of Samadhi and of Panna. Thus, Buddhism teaches to human accomplishment, freedom from suffering, regardless of rank, of status or material possession and no matter of poor or rich life. This is universal achievement. Do not just believe me. Please practise.

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Can we get spiritual knowledge from thinking? Does spiritual knowledge come from thinking?

Can we get spiritual knowledge from thinking? Does spiritual knowledge come from thinking? Knowledge comes from the intellect, the faculty which differentiates human beings from all other beings on earth. We are capable of debating this question and may be arriving at a contradictory answer to each other. Without giving an absolute answer, I would suggest we use our common knowledge to ask what thinking actually is.

Thinking always connects with two things: what we have already experienced from the beginning of life up to now and conceptualising as to what we will be doing in the future. All of our thinking, therefore, is nothing but interpretation of our past experiences. When we think of the future, it is coloured by our past good or bad experiences. Thus, whether you are aware of your thinking or not, your thinking actually connects either to the past or to the future. No one can deny this if he is aware of what he is thinking. Truly, this thinking is influenced by the quality and experiences of your life, such as good and bad life, happiness and suffering, and so on.

You can make plans for the future based on intellectual thinking but still it does not go beyond past and future life. This is all we do. Many people also believe that the person who can explain well, talk well on a topic, etc. is in possession of knowledge. Such knowledge is, however, intellect based and influenced by memories of the past and concepts of the future. If we eradicate the intellect and thinking, both of which are deeply rooted in craving and ignorance, we can achieve the spiritual knowledge that is beyond common knowledge and intellect. Thus, ordinary knowledge is thinking, intellect or concept while spiritual knowledge transcends both the intellect and the thinking faculty. We have many experiences which show that intellectual knowledge can cause our suffering but when we are suffering due to intellect our spiritual knowledge can help us get rid of it.

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What is spiritual knowledge?

Spiritual knowledge does not share a place with human ordinary knowledge because it is not connected with either the past or the future but with the middle path of thinking, consideration. This middle path calls for an understanding of what thinking is. Spiritual knowledge is achievable through full awareness of what phenomenon is operating in your thinking. You may be thinking of matters related to the past or the future that you cannot stop. In order for spiritual knowledge to arise, the thought, concept or thinking in your mind should be transformed into present experience.

· Firstly, you need to be fully aware of what the arising thought or concept really is.

· Secondly, you must watch its effect on your body, your mind or your feelings.

· Thirdly, you should keep awareness of Dhamma, that is the arising and passing away of such phenomena.

As a result of your observations you should be able to control your mind, your feelings and your reactions, responding to the thought, intellect and concept naturally and spontaneously. By this practice, defilements and impurities will be removed from your intellect. This is the real state of wisdom. When you have no reaction to the arising thought, concept or intellect, you are beyond intellect. You are at peace and calm. This knowledge is achievable by concentration on the breath or any mental object which calms the mind. With right awareness and concentration, spiritual knowledge can easily be achieved.

All that I have explained here appears to be intellectual; but what you actually need is to practice the Dhamma. If you practice the Noble Eightfold Path, you will perceive the Four Noble Truths clearly, then the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, and what should be done and what should not be done for life will then be clear. This is spiritual knowledge.

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What is enlightenment?

What is enlightenment? Many beginners of meditation want an answer to this question but once they have had direct experience through practice they will no longer need to ask. Even though they do not experience enlightenment in its entirety, once they have had such an experience they will know what has yet to be done to overcome the hindrances. A way of examining what enlightenment is to look at the unenlightened state. To be unenlightened is, surely, to be in the ordinary human mind, which is deeply rooted in craving, ignorance and ego. The enlightened mind is the opposite. Whether enlightenment is realised or not, it is certainly a state of purification, the absence of ignorance, craving and ego. This is the state of freedom and liberation. The enlightened mind does not dwell within extremes such as liking or disliking the external world, it is without attachment, even to loved ones, because it cannot be confined either by love or by revulsion. It is beyond negative and positive; its behaviour is universal and equal to all. This state of enlightenment is achievable by the development of spiritual knowledge and by meditation.

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What is the benefit of enlightenment?

What is the benefit of enlightenment? Unless you are enlightened you cannot understand its real benefit. Enlightenment cannot be understood by prayer or by thought, only by practice. If you practice then you will comprehend the benefit through experience. You will experience freedom: a life free from fear, worry and tension; freedom from sufferings discontentment and unsatisfactoriness. You will no longer be in a state of craving, of ego and of ignorance. Your mind will be calm and at peace. You will overcome reaction, mental confusion and all Kamma. This is the real benefit. Is it easy? It is certainly not. Therefore, if you want to achieve such a state you have to walk on the path slowly; as gradually as you possibly can. The Buddha said enlightenment is achievable by all. If you experience a certain level, you will not fear death, as many do, or you will cope easily with fear. This does not mean that you can commit suicide without fear but it does mean that you can face natural death at peace. Ultimately enlightenment brings satisfaction, which cannot get materials, and acceptance of the natural state of life.

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What happens if you do not achieve enlightenment in this life?

What happens if you do not achieve enlightenment in this life? According to Buddhism, the number of our lives is uncountable. You have been born before and will be born again if you are unenlightened. This continuity remains unchanged if you are unenlightened. We do not want to die but we cannot go beyond death. We die with fear and worry. Buddha said that death does not mean the end of life, or annihilation. There is a next life but, according to the law of nature, it is not eternal either; you have even been born in heaven. A lady was telling me about her experience in meditation. She believed that she had come from heaven. I told her that if her experience is right, it means that heaven too is not eternal. Wherever you are born, you have to cease again. This is the road of the unenlightened life. However, there is the possibility to pass from unlimited to limited death. This is by the attainment of Stream Entry. If you do not achieve full enlightenment right now, in this lifetime, Buddha says you can achieve Stream Entry, which is the first stage of enlightenment. A Stream Winner will enlighten within seven lifetimes and will never again experience rebirth lower than human life. You will be born seven more times, either in the human realm or in the heavenly realm and from there you will achieve your final goal.

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How can we attain Stream Entry? What are the stages of enlightenment?

How can we attain Stream Entry? What are the stages of enlightenment? Whether monk or layperson, you can achieve Stream Entry if you practice according to the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths. These can be condensed into three factors:

· Morality (Sila),

· Meditation (Samadhi) and

· Wisdom (Panna).

· The basic requirement for a moral life is the practice of keeping Five Precepts. These are:

· Not to kill any living being;

· Not to take what is not freely given;

· No sexual misconduct;

· No lying; and

· No drinking alcohol or taking drugs that makes your mind cloudy.

Meditation is of two types: Firstly, there is the practice of mindfulness of the internal and external nature, and secondly there is concentration on what you are being mindful. Mindfulness of the internal nature is to be aware of one's feelings, emotions, anger, stress, physical and mental activity, and so on; whereas mindfulness of the external nature is to be mindful of our contact with external phenomena received through the senses.

Finally, there is wisdom. Wisdom is the most important factor here. Wisdom derives from right understanding and right observation of both internal and external phenomena. This cannot be practised through intellectual awareness, concept or thinking, but by the practice of becoming skilfully aware of our physical and mental nature. It is through this awareness that we learn to understand both the internal and external phenomena that define our contact with the world. In the stages of Stream Entry, there are three fetters to be overcome.

· Firstly, the practitioner should overcome doubt about the truth of Dhamma; the law of cause and effect.

· The second fetter: practitioner should not attach to rites and rituals as religious salvation. There are religions that believe rites and rituals are the religious path to salvation.

· Thirdly, and finally, the concept of a permanently abiding self, a spirit or soul, an ego, which you believe will have a permanent existence after death, not changing at all. This belief must be overcome to realise middle path. It is because of this concept of self that one becomes bound up in clinging, both to oneself and to others. Moreover, due to clinging to concepts such as 'myself', 'ourselves', 'our religion', 'our culture', etc, we can even harm others and thereby bring suffering to ourselves. Developing the three practices of Sila, Samadhi and Panna together, you can uproot these fetters.

These three factors of spiritual life cannot be separated for enlightenment i.e. to develop wisdom you need both meditation and morality. Similarly, to maintain meditation you need a moral life and wisdom and, again, a moral life improves by meditation, and so on. The three factors help each other like a table supported by three legs: remove one leg and the table collapses, it cannot balance.

Developing the three factors together, the practitioner can gradually attain the second stage of enlightenment, which reduces desire, ill will and anger. Further developing, the practitioner can completely eradicate the five lower fetters together. These are:

(i) Personality belief

(ii) Doubt of the Dhamma

(iii) Attachment to rites and rituals

(iv) Craving and

(v) Ill will. This is the third stage of enlightenment. With continuous practice of these three together, the practitioner further overcomes from the five higher fetters, which are:

(vi) (1) Craving to Rupabrahma existence

(vii) (ii) Craving to Arupabrahma existence

(viii) (iii) Conceit or ego

(ix) (iv) Restlessness and

(x) (v) Ignorance.

This is the last stage of enlightenment. If you attain the second stage of enlightenment you will return to the world only one more time while at the third stage there is no more coming back to the world. The last stage is the attainment of enlightenment right in this very life. The different stages of enlightenment are realizable by the degree of morality, meditation and wisdom attained. However, each stage of the path is not different. What is different is the degree of achievement. For example, the degree of moral life in the second stage is higher than that of the first one. Likewise, wisdom and meditation can be different based on the practitioner's stage of development, temperament or capability.

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What is Kamma (Karma)? How does Kamma rule our life?

What is Kamma (Karma)? How does Kamma rule our life? Kamma is one of most difficult words in Buddhism. In general the word Kamma means physical, verbal and mental action. Where there is Kamma there is consequence. All Kamma bears fruit and no Kamma fades away without fruit. Although some Kamma does not give fruit at an apparent level, at least such fruit helps when other Kamma arises. You may, for example, be found guilty of an offence but instead of imprisonment are released on payment of a fine or through performing duties. If you believe in Kamma and its result, you have realized the first stage of right understanding. Kamma is observable by the consequences of our actions: what we do. If your conduct is good, you get good result. If you bad, the result with also be bad. This is the first stage of comprehension.

The second stage of comprehension is both complex and ambiguous. There are many people who find it very difficult to see and understand the Kammic result of an action. For example, we do a good action but the result is negative, or we do a bad action yet get a good result. We want to know why and how such results occur but it requires clear vision and knowledge to comprehend this. Since the number of our lifetimes is uncountable, so too is our Kamma.. We accumulate Kamma throughout our lives. Many uncountable past Kammas are yet to be resulted in. Therefore, a good action with a bad result cannot be explained in terms of common sense but is valid in terms of moral result (you need mental tools to see it).

Most importantly, one should not attempt to examine such Kammic results by logical means, but comprehend them by the Middle Path. Attempting to find such results can leave us bewildered, even mad, thereby creating more suffering and unsatisfactoriness. However, though we cannot find the cause, such moral consequence is true because of past Kamma.

The Middle Path of comprehension of Kamma is that if a good Kamma bears bad result, instead of thinking or blaming past Kamma or believing it is God's will, you should investigate its cause. If you investigate with a meditative mind, you will soon find out what the actual cause is. Thereby you understand the real cause and accept its effect peacefully.

There are two types of causes.

Firstly, you do a good action but the result is bad, or you do a bad action but get a good result. This result occurs based on moral cause. The moral cause does not result in what you expect from your Kamma. Therefore, this result should be understood as an existing result that follows you from the past. This is moral cause.

Secondly, if you contemplate the outcome through meditation i.e. why and how this result is opposite to the act, then you will find out what the actual cause really is. This is explainable. For example, because of rain I am wet. This is the present cause and Middle Path of looking into Kamma. The moral cause results in the mind. Many Buddhists accept the undesirable consequence or opposite result of an act by believing the outcome to be the result of past Kamma. Some other religions believe that that the unexpected result is an act of God; God's will, and only God knows why. Though past Kamma exists in terms of moral result, the Buddha does not recommend that this is passively accepted as a solution because this would be to deny the present cause. The Middle Path is to understand and find out the present cause without denying the past.

There are two types of knowledge that can be used to understand Kammic effects:

(1) Knowledge of the past cause and

(2) Knowledge of the present cause.

Your undesirable outcome can be understood by these two types of knowledge. If you do not understand the past cause, which is the moral cause, you can be satisfied yourself by knowing the present cause; likewise you might accept a past cause while not understanding the present cause.

Many people, for instance, accept an undesirable result without finding the present cause; they just put everything down to a past cause or to God. Sometimes they can accept the result by knowing what has happened or what has gone wrong. This is the present cause. However, you cannot deny the moral result which follows from the past for if you do not believe in the past cause the result would have to be straightforward: a good action couldn't have a bad result, a bad action couldn't have a good result! So, if you deny the existing moral consequence is from the past, you are in one extreme and if you deny the visible cause of the result, which is explainable, then you are at the other extreme. Thus cause and effect is related both to existing moral consequences from the past and to present circumstances.

The third type of Kamma looks at more rigid results such as sickness or health, poverty or riches, good reputation, long life or short, etc. Some beings are born full of suffering, even from their mother's womb. Why are they different? Does God prefer one being to more than another? These are not valid questions in terms of Kamma. The differences are understandable by the first two Kamma which I have already briefly explained. These beings are different based on two phenomena:

    ((1) The first case is consequence of present Kamma and

    ((2) Second case is past existing consequence.

The cause of present condition is again further explainable by two phenomena:

    (1) Internal phenomena which is your own physical, verbal or mental cause, and

    (2) External phenomena such as environment, natural disaster, etc. To understand the Kamma of a disabled person you have to judge by existing moral consequences of past and present conditions. The present condition is explainable such as why and how he becomes disabled, and so on. Physicists give this explanation. Similarly, we are different partly because of present Kamma, and partly from our past Kamma's effect. Therefore, we are rich or poor, sick or healthy, and so on. Scientists do not believe in past existing moral consequences because they can explain the effect by theory. This one extreme denies a moral consequence. The Buddha stands in the middle to solve the problem without denying both validities. Because of this, Buddhism is valid both in terms of scientific concept and of religion.

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I have done good Kamma but the effect is bad. Where has my good effect gone? Where does my bad effect come from?

I have done good Kamma but the effect is bad. Where has my good effect gone? Where does my bad effect come from?

This question is answerable by examining the cause and effect of two conditions:

(1) Firstly, cause and effect of a present Kamma, and

(2) Secondly, existing moral effect from the past. The present Kamma is visible in both cause and its effect by commonsense. However, the past Kamma is only visible by mental comprehension and meditation, and so on. To understand a good Kamma of opposite result, or a bad Kamma of opposite result, one should judge both types of effect as occurring both in the present and in the past. Both are already explained above. However, I would like to add a bit more detail. In order to comprehend the bad result of a good Kamma, or in order to realize the good result of a bad Kamma, you should start examining or observing what effect occurs to you right now.

Then you will perceive the cause clearly: firstly the present Kammic effect and later the past one. How can you perceive the past one? This is a big question. The past Kamma's effect is invisible because it is a state of mind. However, there is only one mental law. If you understand the present cause and effect you will understand the past cause and effect because the law is always one, whether in the past or in the present. The law of gravity or law of atom etc is correct both in the past, the present and in the future.

You may argue that if this law is always true, why does one need to believe the past. For this case, you have to understand between the physical law and mental law. For example, the law of gravity is a physical law but not a mental law. Nonetheless, a human being has both physical law and mental law. Therefore, when we do Kamma we need a mind unlike physical law. It is because of mind that we do wrong or good Kamma. The result of such Kamma transforms through mind because we start Kamma from mind. Do we?

We can also compare this with the theory of gravity and Kamma. For instance, when you act a Kamma by throwing a stone at someone, then the stone will not stop if there is no gravity. However, the stone stops because there is gravity. Similarly, the result of Kamma also occurs dependent upon whether we do bad or good Kamma. It is not true to say, therefore, that a bad Kamma will always have a bad result or that you cannot turn good to bad, or bad to good.. You would be saying, in effect, that your happiness cannot change it will be always be happy; that you cannot suffer in this life. Therefore, scientifically, the opposite result to a Kamma is valid. You will learn more below.

There are four kinds of effect of a Kamma.

(1) First, immediately effective Kamma, which gives fruit immediately after a Kamma. A thief for instance, is caught by the police and put on trial and punished. This is immediately effective Kamma. He suffers in the present for a present act.

(2) Secondly, there is subsequently effective Kamma with delayed fruit. This Kamma may come to fruition later in this life or in a next life. For example, you could be receiving in the present some good opportunities from someone you helped thirty years ago. This type of kammic link is easily comprehensible. You can understand how present Kamma links to help given thirty years ago. This is a good example of subsequently effective Kamma.

(3) Thirdly, there is indefinitely effective Kamma, whose fruit is invisible and cannot be described definitely, how and when the effect will take place. It is very subtle and more likely to be similar to subsequently effective Kamma. If you happen to move to an unexpected state of life such as suddenly becoming rich from poor, or you fall from high rank to a low rank etc, this is a result of either subsequently or indefinitely effective Kamma. It is because you have previous Kamma which has yet to give a result.

(4) Fourthly, there is a Kamma which does not produce effect. This Kamma has gone beyond result. This is called defunct Kamma. Defunct Kamma can be explained by two circumstances: firstly, this Kamma does not produce result to an Arahat who has achieved enlightenment and, secondly, though you produce Kamma the result does not occur due to exchange of another Kamma. For example, you can eradicate a bad Kamma by doing large amounts of good Kamma. Because of the good Kamma bad Kamma does not produce fruit, and so on. Therefore, bad Kamma is defunct or deducted.

According to this theory, when you have a bad result from a good Kamma the resultant good Kamma does not disappear from you but is hindered in the present due to interruption by bad Kamma from acts you have committed in in the past. In other words, you cannot get a good result from your good Kamma because previous bad Kamma is ripening here. The result of the good Kamma you have created will, however, give you good results some time later in this life, a subsequent life, or even balance out a bad Kamma. Likewise, the effect of a good Kamma can even give fruit when you do bad Kamma. This way, the opposite result arrives due to past Kamma. The result of a good Kamma does not disappear from you; it will give fruit some time in the future. A bad result of a good Kamma has come from a past bad Kamma which ripens at this time.

Thus, you have to understand the way of moral consequence and present condition together. This is the way of Samsara, rising and falling all the time, in this life and in subsequent lives. To eradicate this Samsara, you only need to practice one thing: do not be serious about why you have a bad result from a good Kamma, and so on. Just do good Kamma time-after-time and moment-to-moment, even though you get bad results. In this way all your stock of past bad Kamma will transform into good results later on. However, most importantly, what the Buddha clearly emphasises is that when you get a bad result from a good Kamma, you should just investigate it and observe its effect through meditation. Find out the present cause rather than attempting to find the past one. Do good Kamma right now and put it into practice without denial or thinking of past Kamma. This is the Middle Path, which is Sila, Samadhi and Panna. This is the only way to stop past Kamma and Samsara.

If you do good Kamma and you receive a good result, or you do bad Kamma and you receive a bad result, this type is obviously immediately effective Kamma and it does not have an opposite result. This will happen when you do good Kamma upon good Kamma constantly. This rising and falling of Kamma exists itself as a law. As long as you do bad and good Kamma together the effect will follow you without end, i.e. one time a good result and another time a bad result, and so on. Such Kamma creates Samsara. The Buddha says to do good Kamma right now and keep doing it. Beyond that He says that you should not expect to receive the effect of a good Kamma, but should transform it into knowledge and wisdom by developing meditation. Then you will be able to give up all cause and effect together. This is Nibbana, ultimate and beyond Samsara, which the Buddha explains is beyond the reach of the Evil One. Then you do not need to come back again.

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How many type of Kamma do we have?

How many type of Kamma do we have?

There are three types of Kamma:

   (1) Good Kamma,

   (2) Evil Kamma and

   (3) Neutral Kamma.

In other words we call these Kamma morally effective Kamma or moral Kamma. These three Kammas are caused by three deeds:

(1) Mono Kamma-mental deeds,

(2) Kaya Kamma- physical deeds and

(3) Vaci Kamma- verbal deeds.

I will explain in terms of moral Kamma here. The first two Kamma, which are good and bad, bond to all ordinary human beings, whereas the last type of Kamma, which is neutral, is only possible when one has achieved enlightenment or one has achieved the attainment of the four enlightenment stages. Ordinary people cannot achieve a real neutral Kamma because their minds are not stable. Their Kamma is unprotected due to lack of knowledge and awareness. They may believe that much of the Kamma they do is neutral. However, such neutral Kamma can bring about consequences if the mind is not pure and is uncontrolled.

Whatever types of Kamma ordinary people do can be explained and categorised into good and bad consequences, at least they can be put into mental consequences, i.e. worry, tension, and so on. Though you think that your Kamma is neutral, you are actually affected by mental Kamma as your mind is affected by emotional and mental consequences. Sometimes, you find it very difficult to categorise your Kamma, instead you believe that what you have done is neutral. This can do harm to your consciousness if you do not understand your mental state. Whether you know it or not your Kamma can be categorised into these two: good or bad. Sometimes you are aware that the Kamma you do is wrong, and sometimes you know it is right. For example, when angry you behave rudely. Later you become aware that what you have done is wrong.

Sometimes you act well and do good Kamma and see the positive results for yourself. But many times you do not know the results because you do not have a meditative mind. The best way to know your Kamma is to observe your intention both before and after the Kamma. Then you will understand when your Kamma is associated with 'not knowing the reality of Kamma' which we generally call ignorance or craving. Thus, ordinary people can only produce Kamma of a good or bad category. Why? Because such Kamma has to result in a consequence, at least in a state of mind or consciousness: a mind that is not pure and is tainted. In the case of neutral Kamma, there is no result or consequence. This is because this Kamma originates in wisdom and meditation, which is a fully aware and controlled mental state. By this neutral Kamma a holy man or woman enjoys peace and harmony. In the case of ordinary people, they enjoy in conduct of both good and bad Kamma, which starts from craving and ignorance. Thus, holy men and ordinary men are opposite in terms of their Kamma. We can surely say that neutral Kamma is not inspired by ignorance and craving. This is how you should understand about a Arahat whose Kamma is neutral. Their Kamma is without effect. They live in peace.

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Who judges, and how does one judge, Kamma?

Who judges, and how does one judge, Kamma? To answer these questions ask yourself why we need laws, a police force and courts. It is because members of society do not always live in harmony. Laws are created and Courts judge those who break the law.

What is law and who creates it? The answer is easy. All types of human law are made by either a Leader, a king, an elected assembly or by conventional agreement. This is how we rule a country and its people. If you do wrong and are caught, police will put you into custody, you will be charged under the law and subsequently a court will determine your guilt or innocence, and punish accordingly. This is man-made law, applied in every country according to that country's law.

As far as Kamma is concerned, there are two laws:

man-made law and

spiritual law.

Both are valid and related in terms of Kamma's result. Sometimes, however, the outcome of a trial can be faulty. Through legal argument, even conspiracy, a wrong judgement may be reached. Someone is found not guilty when guilty, another guilty though innocent. For this result, not even a religious law could bring a true result. Then what is meaning of religious law that has given a wrong decision? To know the actual kammic outcome we need spiritual judgement. Spiritual law is most important for human salvation because to achieve our goal of peace and harmony we need to know the truth, not be deluded by false judgement. Spiritual law is better than man-made law because it relies on self and one's own understanding of right and wrong.

In order to understand spiritual law, I would like to classify by two types of consequence. They are 'morally existing consequence' and 'physically effective consequence' or 'presently effective consequence'. Both types of consequences are applicable for spiritual law. For example, you have committed a crime that nobody knows about. Man-made law will not apply here but kammic law will. The Kamma that you have done cannot be denied. This makes your consciousness impure and will remain within your consciousness. Some time later you may be harmed, cheated, even killed, and such a consequence will not appear to be connected with the crime you committed, yet it is the result of your earlier action. This means that though man-made law did not apply, the morally existing consequence has ripened. You might ask the question:

How can you know that this particular consequence is related to that past crime? For this, you have to comprehend the morally existing consequence as your own creation in the past, not that such an act is a judgement from God. The morally existing consequence is very deep and ambiguous. This can only be clearly realized by an enlightened one. If that consequence did not connect to your committed crime surely another morally existing consequence has followed you from a past life and has resulted here. In this case, the presently committed evil will remain in your consciousness in order for the next consequence to result in a subsequent life, and so on. Because of such types of morally existing consequence, we are sick, healthy, enjoy a long life, live a short life, are rich or poor, and so forth.

If you receive a legal consequence for your committed crime, such as a term of imprisonment, and accept this consequence peacefully; then you will not regenerate any more Kamma as a consequence of this wrong-doing. If you can accept the consequence of your action truly and without reaction, your committed Kamma will end without further consequence in a subsequent life. Kamma and its consequence here and in this very life have balanced for you. So you can see that the real law for human beings is to understand the real nature of Kamma and that Kamma is nothing but our mind.

In the case of physically effective consequence or presently effective consequence, we can clearly explain by our common knowledge. At least we can explain with the help of tools. For example, if you have pain or are sick you will look into the cause. If you die because of this sickness, the doctor will tell your relatives that you have died because of this or that cause. However, the doctor is only giving an explanation of what I call physically effective consequence, not a morally existing one. However, if I ask you why you have to die at such an early age, then the real answer is both. There must be something from both the morally existing consequence and the physically effective consequence.

The physically effective consequence is explainable because it connects with a present event, present condition, or so on, but the moral consequence is explainable by the realisation of a person's early death. Therefore, Kamma ripens for him in the opposite way to ordinary circumstances. For this reason, Buddhism does not believe there is any absolute law of judgment because such a law can be in error, subject to misjudgement can suffer from logical argument, etc. What Buddhism abides in is the Middle Path as the solution to all problems.

The punishment or consequence of an act approaches us by both laws and consequences. However, Buddha strongly advises us to understand physically effective consequence in order to further our spiritual achievement. He says: Do good Kamma and purify your mind right now instead of thinking of the morally existing consequence. He gives this exhortation because there are many people who do not look for a solution. They say that their consequence or their suffering is past Kamma or God's will. You will not overcome suffering with this attitude.

If you do good Kamma and purify your mind through meditation today, when you approach tomorrow, today will be past for you. Moreover, if you keep doing the same thing every day, every week, every month and year, your consciousness will become pure, positive and peaceful. In this way acts of evil will stop.

Thus, the Buddha advises us not to do bad, to do good Kamma and to purify our minds without denying the morally existing Kamma. In this way you will be saved and peaceful. "Without yourself, I cannot save you." He said. This is how Buddha understands the law of Kamma and its judgement. In order to see such Dhamma effectively you have to judge all approaches for a better comprehension. (You may ask again, what happen to those who do good Kamma?. Good Kamma gives you good results if you do not have morally existing consequence. You only need to do good Kamma with a pure mind. If we all did good Kamma we would no longer need laws, courts and police. These are only for evildoers. Can we always do good Kamma? If not, morally existing consequence is valid in terms of judgment. That is why Kamma creates Samsara, which is rising and falling of life.

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Why is Kamma different? Where does Kamma start?

Why is Kamma different? Where does Kamma start? To answer this, you should ask a counter question: Where does your ignorance come from, or why is your knowledge different from mine? We are different because the state of our minds is different. Based on different mind our Kamma is different. So long as our minds are different, our Kamma will be different. These differences we call ignorance or, based on these two differences, the Buddha says that human beings are ignorant. Therefore, mind itself is ignorant. This ignorance is responsible for Kamma. If I were to ask you: Why do we do different Kamma? You would answer me that we are different based on our mind. Therefore, Kamma is different because of mind. In other words, Kamma starts from mind. You may want to know who creates the mind. I partly explain this in the next question.

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Where does mind come from, or where does it start?

Where does mind come from, or where does it start? This question is irrelevant for the eradication of suffering or for the purification of a being. However, out of ignorance most people want to know the answer. If you ask this question I believe you have your own answer to it. If my answer is not correct according to your understanding, then you will consider me wrong, will even argue with me. We would only get into argument and misunderstanding. He who is spiritually wise, who possesses spiritual knowledge, instead of asking the question will realise for himself through meditation. He will not find the answer to the question by saying it is so, or from a scripture affirming it to be so. Through meditation he will know what ignorance is; thereby, he will know what the mind is through practice and experience. Whether our mind is created or not, originated by somebody or not, we are still subject to decay, pain and suffering. Eradication of such suffering is not necessary to know who created to us. We will never know it by mere concept or thinking, nor will we end our suffering by such concept. We can only speculate, of which Buddha never approved, because speculation can never be a reality. Speculation rather brings to fearful thought and mystery, by which the concept of religion introduces.

Almost every scientist agrees that beings and worlds have been created by conditions and evolution; they all theoretically understand how beings started to live on this earth millions and millions of years ago. They even go further and explain theories such as the big bang theory, black holes, gravity and so on; assert that the law of nature operates accurately and conditionally. If you accept some aspects of law and nature, as scientists understand them, you will then understand some aspects of Dhamma that will help you to know who or what is responsible for creation and what is the benefit of searching for it. The Buddha understood this through meditation. The Buddha offers this way of realisation for us instead of a belief in somebody or in some scriptural books. Buddha's understanding separates from scientific understanding at the point where scientific understanding is unable to explain the moral ground of life and its solution.

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Who have created the being and the world?

Who have created the being and the world? The question 'who have created being' is ignorance. Though question is itself ignorance, I would like to draw some points here in order to realise the meaning. For this realisation, the question should change to a new concept 'how being have created'. This question is closer to reality. Then we can say that according to Buddhism beings are created based on the law of Dhamma.

The Buddha says that beings are not created by themselves nor are they created by others. They are, in fact, created by both. These two types –'oneself and others' or 'others and oneself' are called Dhamma. This Dhamma is middle path because it does not resort to absolute determination of either external creation or internal creation. According to Dhamma theory, nothing can point out the absolute cause of creation or beginning of creation. Whether we believe in creation or not, Dhamma plays a dominant rule in all phenomena but not somebody else.

Dhamma is the general meaning for all beings as well as non-beings, including all material worlds. I will explain here some extent of Dhamma, which connects to being. For a better understanding, I would like to define what is Kamma and what is Dhamma. Dhamma is universal, whereas Kamma is individual. We have both universality and individuality because the Dhamma, which is universal, is always associated with our individual Kamma. We cannot separate one from the other. If you separate these two, this means you have a concept of someone who created you, instead of both being responsible for your creation. You do not need to think of metaphysical creation, just think of yourselves as you are born out of parental condition. You may ask again, who created the first parent. There is no first parent or last parent but creation is always conditions. If you believe both ultimate beginning and ultimate end, where this earth will go away at the end of this world? Do you believe some body will be taken away forever? Where would he take away? However, this is not my concern. My point here is to clarify a certain level of human Kamma by knowing Dhamma.

Because the individual's Kamma is under the law of Dhamma. . For the being of a Kamma, Dhamma has a rule; it means Dhamma has a potential law in Kamma. Similarly, Kamma has a rule for Dhamma. The way of Kamma's ruling is that we can create conventional reality according to our will and desire. For example, we create cars, houses, aeroplanes and so on, all created by convention. In other word, the aircraft, house, computer etc is the law of Dhamma that is created by human Kamma. Without our Kamma, there cannot be a house or aeroplane so on. These do not come apparently.

Someone may be asked, if these phenomena do not happen apparently; if so, how can beings and worlds arise? Who have created to them? This question is ignorance because questioner does not know the Dhamma; not only that, by putting this question, he tries to emphasise all problems and solutions based on his creator, the solution based on unknown. Given up to a complete faith to unknown, by praying to unknown, you may get soothed but this is not real solution. Because you remain unknown and is ignorant. The solution by knowing is real and peaceful. This solution is called Dhamma. We can create Dhamma of a house, an aeroplane etc, because we know their law. Thus, both the creation of a being and Dhamma of a house or an aeroplane is same law in terms of condition and nature. For example, aeroplane is a material, which creates out of law and nature. That law is Dhamma. . Whether you know or not, whether you create something or not, the law is always there. Although you do not like creation of a thing or a material, you cannot stop it since the law is abided in all phenomena; this naturally and spontaneously will create itself when conditions appropriate. Whether this law created by god or not, we can sort out our problems by knowing cause and effect, rather than solution based on unknown and ignorance. We can never bring peace by argument to whether or not this law is created, by argument to your own law or your own religion until or otherwise you realise for yourself.

Scientists have been looking for this law and nature for centuries. They have been successfully created for many materials such as satellite, TV, computer, atom bomb or nuclear bomb and so on. Observing the creation of an aeroplane for example, we can understand our own creation. For the creation of an aeroplane, our Kamma is responsible. Then who has created our Kamma? Our Kamma is created by Dhamma, which is not different from the Dhamma that created an aeroplane, but we differ from the Dhamma of an aeroplane because we have mind.

Mental law (mental Dhamma) again cannot separate from physical law in terms of creation because they both co-exist. What is different is the individual attitude of mind and concept. If we truly understand either to law of mind or to law of physic, we can understand the law of Dhamma; because the Dhamma is one both for a human being and for material world. However, though the law of Dhamma is One, there can be a difference between the law of a being and the law of the material world. Beings are possessed of a mind by which they do Kamma and receive the consequences. In the case of the material world, there is only condition, which Kamma and consequence happen naturally but nobody receives a consequence because the material world has no individual. Nonetheless, receiving a consequence does not mean that individual is receiver.

A belief on receiver can interpret to an eternal soul or atman that cannot change, from good to bad or from bad to good. This concept cannot apply in Dhamma and Middle Path. The Buddha understood that beings are suffering because of clinging to individual whereas physics are not. For the beings, suffering is further analysable to cause, which is craving and cling. Therefore, the Buddha's teaching is to overcome from such suffering by knowing to both materials and mental law.

The way we have been born, in the same way the earth has been born. They are both Dhamma. Whether we know it or not there is only one law - it is called Dhamma. Whether for the creation of problems or their cessation there is no other law than Dhamma. Under the heading of Dhamma, there are two phenomena classifiable: conditioned and unconditioned Dhamma. Relation between Kamma and Dhamma:

When we do Kamma, the law of Dhamma follows us because Dhamma is universal. Does our Kamma have a beginning point? The Buddha's answer is that one should not think of one's own Kamma in terms of creation. This is ignorance. We however, can answer it through concept of Dhamma. Since Dhamma has no ultimate creation, there is no ultimate beginning of Kamma for the reason that Dhamma conditions Kamma, similarly Kamma conditions the Dhamma, which both Dhamma and Kamma cannot separate.

If I were to ask you from where our ignorance starts, how do you give me satisfactory answer? In other words, Kamma arises through our mind and mind is itself Dhamma; if so, why is Kamma not Dhamma? That is why the Buddha says: "Mind O monk! I call Kamma". Does our mind have an absolute starting and ending point? This question is equally ignorance said the Buddha. Without Dhamma, there is no being and therefore no Kamma. Our Kamma has a self-identity that cannot be separated from Dhamma. The Kamma of a being is difficult to know because it ruled by Dhamma.

If you believe a being to be an ultimate creation, then you do not see the Dhamma. This is opposite to Dhamma and is called ignorance. Though Dhamma is deep, we can have a general understanding to it. In a special sense, we can interpret the Dhamma as Condition. This interpretation is narrow but is realisable in correspondence to the Kamma. What is beyond this interpretation is also Dhamma, which is Unconditioned such as Nibbana.

In the case of condition there are two kinds: the condition of the external world and the condition of the internal world. Both work mutually for the judgment of Kamma i.e. suffering and happiness. Because of such condition we suffer. An example of an external condition is a natural disaster that creates suffering; and similarly an internal condition which our mind and body creates for our suffering or happiness.

The Buddha says you can easily overcome any predicament by understanding both the external and internal conditions of Kamma. Knowing this, you have to be responsible for your own Kamma.. You have to make the effort to know this for yourself. For this you need meditation and observation. The Buddha says that you are your own master, your own refuge, and the owner of your nature. By developing yourself, you can understand what is Kamma and what is Dhamma; and also what and why suffering arises in you, who create for your suffering. Then, you can understand what is the solution. We can only say that Dhamma creates beings; it sustains beings, and solves their problems. This does not mean that Dhamma possess self. Dhamma is independent but without self. However, the solution is individual and that individual should know his or her own Dhamma in order for transformation to universal Dhamma. Universal Dhamma is beyond suffering. We therefore can only realise the arising of mind in terms of Dhamma. There is a similar understanding between DNA and Conditioned Dhamma. DNA is a form of molecule and particle containing life which we can find in almost every material. In this molecule, there is mind-body. Perhaps for this reason, the Buddha emphasises that mind-body and consciousness is inseparable. Once DNA forms into life, Kamma originates in that life? The DNA in a human being is the closest explanation to Kamma. Buddha says that every human being is different in terms of Kamma and similarly, I understand, according to science every human being has different DNA through his or her genes passed down from ancestors or parents. Today a DNA test has become a key tool for identification in criminal cases just as I said moral and spiritual law in above which can be justified only through oneself and mind Children born of the same parents are family; yet they are different in terms of Kamma just as their DNA is different though they are same parents. This fits with the Buddha's teaching that mind and body are created neither by oneself nor by another. It is rather by both conditions. That is the law of Conditional Dhamma.

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Do we need to be Buddhist to follow the Buddha's teachings?

Do we need to be Buddhist to follow the Buddha's teachings? We do not believe it is necessary to become a Buddhist to follow the Buddha's teachings. You may have been born into a particular religious group, have your own religious beliefs or concepts, and be perfectly happy just as you are. It is not the religion you belong to that matters but the principles by which you live your life. All beings conform to natural laws and those with religious faith follow their own particular spiritual laws. All religions have at their heart a moral life. If we understood, accepted and respected each individual's particular way of devotion and faith we would all live in harmony.

The Buddha approved this multi-faith approach. At the time of the Buddha an individual called Upali, on the advice of his teacher, Niganda, sought out the Buddha and challenged Him to debate on various issues. So impressed was Upali by the teachings and explanations of the Buddha that he requested to become a disciple of the Buddha there and then. In reply the Buddha asked Upali to continue to support his own teacher rather than advising him to follow His teachings. This attitude of the Buddha shows his compassion for Nigandha who had trained Upali for many years. Buddhist, Christian or Hindu etc are just conventional truth, outer shell but reality is different from name, race, culture and concept. The reality lay in our heart, mind and inside, which cannot identify by name form and culture.

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Why do we bow to the Buddha?

Why do we bow to the Buddha? For those who may want to know why we bow to the Buddha, I would emphasise that it is because we are Buddhist. The answer is as simple as that. However, there are some Dhamma practitioners who are reluctant to bow to the Buddha. For them the emphasis is on the Dhamma rather than the Buddha. I understand that though they are Dhamma practitioners, they find it difficult because they have been brought up in a different social background where bowing is unfamiliar or unknown. Buddha emphasised the importance of devotion and faith but not faith without wisdom. Faith must come through practice and wisdom, the Buddha teaches, but most importantly, faith should be spontaneous.

As Buddhists, we not only bow to the Buddha but we also bow to the Dhamma and Sangha. The Dhamma is his teaching, and the Sangha is the community of practitioners and disciples of the Buddha who practise in accordance with Dhamma. If you are real practitioners then spiritual wisdom is achievable. The Dhamma you practise is actually the principle of eradication of craving, anger, ego and ignorance. These are the root causes of our suffering. If you understand through practice and experience, I am sure you can dispel doubts regarding the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. Faith and devotion will be established based on experience and wisdom. According to Dhamma, if we do not respect others, it means that we have ego. We are not grateful to others who help us because our ego personality is strong. If practice does not aim at eradicating ego, or you do practice but you have substantial ego, that practice is not real; it is just like you are holding a glittering material which is not actually gold. It is like a tree without fruit. Once you are aware of the nature of the ego, instead of holding on to it you will give it up. Then you will have no misunderstanding regarding bowing and you will want to pay respect to the Buddha.

The outer signs of our practice such as bowing, chanting, ceremonies, etc. are purely the outer signs of our practice. They aid our practice but are not necessary if one is peaceful within one's inner practice. This inner practice is the practice of a moral life (Sila), meditation (Samadhi) and wisdom (Panna). Through these practices, you will understand what bowing means. Bowing not only is a sign of respect but also reflects a lack of individual ego. If you bow it means you want to develop universal Dhamma, which does not conflict with anyone. At this stage of your practice you can accept and bow to anyone regardless of religion, culture, sex or rank. By the practice of loving kindness and compassion, you can eradicate ego cynicism, pessimism and arrogance. You will without hesitation bow in dedication for the welfare of all beings and for yourself.

If I were to ask you why do we show respect to our leaders, kings, queens, monuments, memorials, parents etc., you would tell me that this is just a mark of respect, gratitude and the social norm. Likewise, bowing to the Buddha does not harm your spiritual life, but it rather proves that your ego has been eradicated. Then, not only can you respect the Buddha, but you can respect all people alike through compassion and loving-kindness. If you can bow to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, you can bow to anyone regardless of their religious faith.