[Advayavada Study Plan – week 31] In Secular Buddhism generally, firmly bearing in mind the impermanence and changeability of everything (see week 27) and the selflessness and emptiness (and, therefore, finitude) of all things and beings (see week 28), the focus is on the correct interpretation and realization of the historical Buddha’s so-called ‘four noble truths’ or ‘four truths for the noble’ (catur ariyasacca in Pali, catur aryasatya in Sanskrit). The first of these truths is that of the ubiquity of existential suffering in the world (see week 29); the second truth is that ignorant craving and attachment are the actual and immediate causes of such suffering (see last week, week 30); the third truth is that this suffering shall cease altogether when we deal with and overcome its causes (also week 30); and the fourth truth is that the sure way to achieve this is by following the Noble Eightfold Path. In Advayavada Buddhism, the Path is understood dynamically, as an ongoing and fully autonomous, non-prescriptive, investigative and creative process of progressive insight, reflecting in human terms wondrous overall existence becoming over time in its manifest direction; this evolution or progress is seen in Advayavada Buddhism as the fourth sign or mark or basic fact of being. Our thus personalized Path (to be highlighted in the coming weeks) is composed stepwise of (1) our very best (samma in Pali and samyak in Sanskrit) comprehension or insight, followed by (2) our very best resolution or determination, (3) our very best enunciation or definition (of our intention), (4) our very best disposition or attitude, (5) our very best implementation or realization, (6) our very best effort or commitment, (7) our very best observation, reflection or evaluation and self-correction, and (8) our very best meditation or concentration towards an increasingly real experience of samadhi, which brings us to (1) a yet better comprehension or insight, and so forth. Feel free to share this post. Please take care of yourself and others in these challenging times! Follow the official pandemic guidelines, particularly those concerning social distancing and where and when to use a mask!
Advayavada Buddhism is a secular, non-dual and life-affirming philosophy and way of life derived from Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka, or philosophy of the Middle Way. The most important tenet of Advayavada Buddhism is that there is a fourth sign (or mark) of being implicit in the Buddha’s teaching, namely that, expressed purely in terms of human perception and experience, reality is sequential and dynamic in the sense of forever advancing for the better; what human beings experience and identify as good, right or beneficial, indeed as progress, is, in fact, that which takes place in the otherwise indifferent direction that overall existence flows in of its own accord.
To understand this important tenet, one should first come to realize most deeply, for instance through meditation on the incontestable non-duality of the world, that not the human manifestation of life (i.e. its ongoing process of re-combination, mutation, concatenate multiplication and disintegration of the expended units, and its vicissitudes and perils, even possible extinction, self-inflicted or not) is the measure of things in space and time, but that it is the whole of infinite interdependent reality itself, which, hardly affected, if at all, by the negligible impact of mankind’s doings on the overall scheme of things, will continue to become exactly as it, by definition, must.
It then becomes very clear to us that the Middle Way taught by the Buddha as the correct existential attitude is not meant to in the least deviate from the Dharma of the whole; that the objective of the Middle Way is, in fact, to reconnect and reconcile us with wondrous overall existence; and that the Middle Way in its dynamic Noble Eightfold Path mode must indeed be seen as an ongoing reflexion at the level of our personal lives of wondrous overall existence becoming over time in its manifest direction. Now, as the Eightfold Path takes us forward for the better and better, it follows, inductively if you will, that, in human terms, existence as a whole becomes over time for the better and better as well. Inversely, we experience as good, right or wholesome those events which are in agreement with the overall otherwise indifferent pattern and direction of existence – it is for this reason that they are experienced thus; this fact is, indeed, the fourth sign or mark of being we speak of.
The purpose of Buddhism is then, obviously, not to shun life as many choose to believe, but, on the contrary, to return mankind to the fold of wondrous overall existence and to delight in it. Buddhism must be understood correctly as a ‘way of reconciliation’ with the whole of existence just right as it is, i.e. as it truly is beyond our commonly limited and biased personal experience of it. The aim of Advayavada Buddhism is to help us understand this main purpose of Buddhism more clearly and to give us individually the necessary tools to become a true part of the whole, here and now.
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[Advayavada Study Plan – week 30] Non-liberated human beings are essentially prone to existential suffering (see week 29) because they wrongly strive after and try to hold on to things, concepts and situations which they believe to be permanent, but are not. Their mistaken view of things is produced by a thirst, craving or clinging (tanha in Pali, trishna in Sanskrit) which is in turn caused by their fundamental ignorance (avijja in Pali, avidya in Sanskrit) or disbelief of the true nature of existence, particularly the impermanence and changeability of everything (see week 27) and the selflessness and emptiness (and, therefore, finitude) of all things and beings (see week 28). That thirst, craving or clinging, which is the second of the Buddha’s four noble truths or four truths for the noble ones (catur ariyasacca in Pali, catur aryasatya in Sanskrit), blinds them to the actual wonders and blessings of overall existence and can moreover easily take on a more unwholesome form: already as sensuous desire, ill-will (vyapada, also byapada), laziness, impatience or distrust will it seriously hinder the individual’s efforts to better his or her circumstances, as well as contaminate the efforts of others to improve theirs. Advayavada Buddhism, on its part, invites us all to instead intelligently make the very best of our own lives by attuning as best as possible with actual wondrous overall existence becoming over time now in its manifest direction; this evolution or progress is seen in Advayavada Buddhism as the fourth sign or mark or basic fact of being. We do this by adhering to the five basic precepts (not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and refraining from alcohol and drugs) and conscientiously following our personalized Noble Eightfold Path. Feel free to share this post. Please take care of yourself and others in these challenging times! Follow the official guidelines, particularly those concerning social distancing and where and when to use a mask!
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 29] As already asserted, in Advayavada Buddhism the Path reflects the Whole and does not tell you what to do or believe. The purpose of this ongoing and autonomous Advayavada Study Plan (ASP), which is based on the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.
The third preliminary subject of the ASP is dukkha (Pali) or duhkha (Sanskrit), which means suffering, sorrow, dissatisfaction, frustration, anxiety, or stress; it is the first of the four noble truths (or four truths for the noble) of Buddhism and also the third of the three or, in Advayavada Buddhism, four signs or marks or basic facts of being, the other three being the impermanence or changeability of everything (see week 27), the selflessness and emptiness of all things (see week 28), and evolution or, in human terms, progress (see next week, week 30).
In Advayavada Buddhism, dukkha or duhkha does not include, in the context of the four truths, emotional grief nor physical pain, and is, above all, not seen as a permanent or inevitable feature of reality; it is chiefly understood as the existential distress and distrust of life non-liberated human beings are prone to and which are essentially caused by the unhealthy and socially infectious feeling that reality does not conform to their petty desires and mistaken expectations. The ubiquity and unremitting persistency of human distress, alienation and conflict is undeniably especially due to the very many everywhere in the world not being taught or not comprehending or simply disbelieving and often dogmatically denying the basically impermanent and finite nature of their individual existence.
This might be as good a place as any to mention that for many people social drinking is a potential source of much future suffering. Bear in mind in this context the persistent irrational taboo of not admitting to alcohol abuse by ourselves or those close to us. Can one beat alcoholism? One can certainly fully neutralize alcohol addiction by stopping to drink alcoholic beverages altogether, one day at the time, with the help of (a) your GP, (b) a personal psychological coach or counsellor, and (c) by joining a reputable support group to help you develop the necessary emotional counterpunch. The ASP provides an appropriate overall training to overcome the harm caused by this costly and disruptive biopsychosocial (bps) disease. Feel free to share this post. Please take care of yourself and others in these challenging times! Follow the official guidelines, particularly those concerning social distancing and when and where to use a mask!
[Advayavada Study Plan – week 28] As already asserted, in Advayavada Buddhism the Path reflects the Whole and does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The 13-week Advayavada Study Plan (ASP), which is based on the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, is repeated four times a year for this lofty purpose and the second preliminary subject of this third quarter is again anatta (Pali) or anatman (Sanskrit), which literally means no-self and is traditionally considered the second of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being. The Buddhist anatta or anatmata doctrine teaches that no soul, spirit or self exists in the person in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance.
In Mahayana Buddhism, the nissvabhava doctrine teaches further that because, in fact, all things without exception are produced by interdependent origination (pratityasamutpada, all-conditionality), indeed everything is empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava); svabhava-shunyata (lit. self-nature emptiness) is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy: in Advayavada Buddhism, the selflessness [and, therefore, the finitude] of all things is one of the four signs or marks or basic facts of being, the other three being the impermanence or changeability of everything (see last week, week 27), the ubiquity of existential suffering (see next week, week 29), and evolution or, in human terms, progress (see week 30). Feel free to share this post. Please take care of yourself and others in these challenging times! Follow the official guidelines, particularly those concerning social distancing and when and where to use a mask!