Today, I'd like to talk about Buddhism.
Buddhism is the teachings of Buddha.
So we need to know what "Buddha" means.
In Buddhism, generally, the term "Buddha" has two meanings.
One is a title for enlightenment.
Sakyamuni Buddha taught that there are 52 levels of enlightenment, known literally as "the 52 stages of enlightenment".
Each of these stages has a specific name of its own.
Needless to say, enlightenment is achieved through rigorous training and by working diligently from the lowest to the highest stage.
The highest stage of all is called Buddha's Enlightenment.
Then, what is enlightenment?
The answer is that it is awareness of the truth of the universe.
Here, the term, truth, does not refer to mathematical truth, such as 1+1=2, or scientific truth as in the molecules of hydrogen and oxygen combine to form water.
So even if we study mathematics or science, we can't attain any enlightenment.
When somebody asks me "How many stages did Einstein and Newton attain?", I will say "No, they didn't attain any stages of enlightenment."
Rather, it refers to the truth that enables all people to attain true happiness.
Of course we feel convenience when utilizing the development of science technology.
We can converse naturally with one another using the internet, especially Skype; we should be grateful for the development of science technology.
But have we got true happiness?
I guess many people answer "No" to this question.
For example, war has become more devastating in recent times, like the machine gun, toxic gas, or the atomic bomb.
Or tragic airplane crashes, which didn’t occur in the past.
We can say that they occurred because of the development of science and technology.
So, when talking about "truth" in Buddhism, it's different from those meanings.
It refers to the truth that enables all people to attain true happiness.
Why do you live?
When asked this question, people, consciously or not, reveal their innermost desire to be happy.
For instance, they claim to live for their family or their jobs, to travel and enjoy their hobbies, to bring peace to the world, and so on.
While these answers seem different on the surface, the underlying aspiration that ties all these activities is the same: to live a fulfilling life.
Put more directly, we live in order to find happiness.
Therefore, is it not reasonable to say that the purpose of life is to attain happiness?
So, the next question becomes, "How can we become happy?" or "What is the path to finding true happiness?"
Have you ever thought about these questions?
In Buddhism, one who knows the truth that enables all people to attain lasting happiness is said to have attained enlightenment.
Attaining enlightenment is akin to climbing a mountain; the higher one climbs, the better the view.
Once one finally makes it to the summit, one can enjoy a panoramic view.
In the same way, once one attains the highest, or the 52nd, stage of enlightenment, one will become aware of the whole truth of the universe.
This is the first meaning of the term "Buddha."
A title for enlightenment.
Another meaning of the term “Buddha”, is a person who attained the enlightenment of "Buddha."
Only by reaching this stage of Buddhahood, does one become qualified to be called Buddha.
The second meaning may be easy to understand.
Now I have a question.
How many people have been able to attain the enlightenment of Buddha on this earth?
Do you know the answer?
Or can you guess it?
The answer is "only one."
His name is Sakyamuni Buddha. He is also called as "Siddharta" or "Gautama."
For no one has ever reached this level of enlightenment except Sakyamuni Buddha, it is said, "There was no Buddha before Sakyamuni Buddha; there is no Buddha after Sakyamuni Buddha."
Keep in mind also Buddhism refers to the teachings of Buddha.
Since there has been no Buddha on earth besides Sakyamuni Buddha, Buddhism is the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Teachings of others are not Buddhism.
This may sound obvious to you now, but it is indeed easily misunderstood.
Please note carefully that only the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha are considered Buddhism.
Sakyamuni Buddha attained Buddha's enlightenment at the age of 35.
What was his life like before he attained enlightenment?
To know this is to know the teachings of Buddha.
About 2,600 years ago in what is now known as Nepal, King Suddhodana and Queen Maha Maya resided in the castle of Kapilvastu.
At around the age of 40, Queen Maha Maya gave birth to her son named Siddhartha Gautama; he was born into the Sakya clan in the beautiful village of Lumbini.
There is a famous story recounting Sakyamuni Buddha's birth.
When he was born, he took seven steps in each of the four directions, north, south, east and west, and pointed one hand to the heavens above, and the other hand, to the earth below.
Then, he said as follows:
"In the sky above and in the sky below, we alone are precious."
Perhaps you are wondering how a newborn baby could possibly walk.
You may also be questioning whether this story is true or not, but it conveys an important message.
It means that there is a very special goal or purpose that only humans can accomplish, and that every single one of us born into this world has one and only sacred mission to achieve.
This mission is the purpose of life.
Then what is ''The purpose of life'' told in Buddhism?
In fact, a former number 7 expresses it but I will explain it somewhere else in detail.
King Suddhodana was determined to raise the prince as a great king and heir to the throne.
He called upon two of the kingdom's most renowned scholars to instruct his son, Badarani in the literary arts, and Sendaidaiba in the military arts.
The prince excelled in both of these arts, and he was second to none.
One day, Badarani came to see the king.
The king suspected that the prince was not doing well in his studies, but discovered it was just the opposite.
The scholar uttered,
"Your Majesty, the young prince is so smart that he can grasp a hundred different ideas if he just hears one of them once.
I have nothing more to teach, and can no longer be of service to your son.
May I please be excused from my service?"
The king could not say or do anything but to accept his request.
Subsequently, the king had another visit, this time, from Sendaidaiba, his son's master in the military arts.
The king cried out in disbelief, "You didn't come here to resign, did you?"
"Your Majesty, the prince excels in everything, and there is nothing more for me to teach.
People call me a crack shot, and I may miss one shot out of a hundred.
Yet, the prince never misses the target.
This is just one example.
He is the master of all military arts.
Please allow me to resign from my service."
Indeed, Siddhartha was not only blessed with fortune, materials, and status as a future king but was also gifted in all fields.
As Prince Siddhartha grew older, he became often absorbed in deep thoughts.
King Suddhodana also noticed that Siddhartha had become more and more contemplative.
Siddhartha was struggling; he was torn between his metaphysical concerns and his duty to his father and the kingdom.
The king became worried, and thought he should do something to make his son happy.
Maybe he needs a wife, he thought.
Before long, the most beautiful woman in the kingdom was chosen to marry Siddhartha.
Her name was Yasodhara, the daughter of a wealthy king.
The prince was 19 when he married, and soon regained his good spirits and lived happily for a while.
The king was relieved and thought his worries were over.
But the prince had a strong urge to see the world beyond the castle compound.
One day, he asked his guards to take him outside the castle.
He exited the castle through the East Gate.
Everything was new to him, and the prince was very excited.
As he walked outside the castle, he encountered an old, ailing man, with a wrinkled face and a cane.
The prince became fearful at the sight of the old man, for he had never seen such a person.
The prince asked,
"What is wrong with the man? Why is he walking like that?"
The guards answered,
"He is an old man. He was once young, but now he is old and can walk only with a cane.
This happens to all people.
No one can remain young forever."
"Am I going to be old too?"
implored the prince.
"Yes. Once born, people are bound to age and become old."
Shocked at the realization of aging, the prince returned to the castle despondently.
After some time, the prince again decided to explore the world beyond the castle.
This time, he exited the castle from the South Gate.
He walked with the guards, looking around with curiosity.
They came upon a man on the ground with a contorted face, moaning in pain.
The man could not walk, and continued to moan as he was picked up and carried away.
Siddhartha was startled and asked, "What is the matter with him?"
The guards replied, "He is ill. He is in pain and cannot walk."
"How did he get sick?" inquired the prince.
"Everyone eventually becomes sick.
We begin to age the moment we are born and are exposed to various diseases throughout our lives."
The prince was saddened by the news.
Siddhartha thought to himself, 'Why are we born? Just to be old and sick?'
He did not want to walk anymore, and returned to the castle in a melancholic state.
'Why do people live? What is the purpose of life?'
The more he learned of human suffering, the more he wanted to know the meaning of life.
More time passed, and Siddhartha decided to once again explore the outside world.
This time, he exited the castle through the West Gate.
During this excursion, he saw a funeral.
There were many people gathering around a coffin and crying.
There was a profound sadness in the air.
This time, he prince learned of the inescapable end to human life, death.
As people are born, they become old and sick and inevitably die.
Siddhartha grew pensive and pondered,
'Is there anything more to life, besides birth, old age, sickness, and death?
What should be done on this journey of human life?
We must have a purpose, or else life would only mean suffering.
Though I am young and healthy, I am no different than others.
I will become sick, old, and die someday.
Why must I go through these painful events?'
Unable to identify the true meaning of life, Siddhartha became dispirited.
Finally, Siddhartha exited the castle through the North Gate.
During this walk, the prince observed a very calm man, meditating with his eyes closed.
"What is he doing?"
asked the prince.
"The man is a monk, engaged in an ascetic practice.
On learning that everything in this world is fleeting, he decided to seek the purpose of life.
He is training in hopes of attaining enlightenment so that he can transcend this world of impermanence and achieve genuine happiness."
The prince exclaimed,
"This is what I have been looking for.
I can no longer languish in a life without purpose or direction."
Siddhartha was in conflict;
he knew that he could not continue to live, not knowing his true purpose in life.
Ultimately, he made the difficult decision to follow his spiritual path, and asked the king,
"Father, please allow me to leave the castle so that I may seek true happiness."
Startled and dismayed, the king burst out,
"Why do you make such a request?
What are you lacking?
I will give you everything you wish.
Tell me your desires, and I will grant them to you."
The prince replied,
"I have three wishes."
"And what are those wishes?" inquired the king.
"My first wish is not to grow older;
I want to remain young forever.
My second wish is to never become ill;
I want stay healthy forever.
My third wish is that I will not die,"
revealed the prince.
Upon hearing his son's wishes, the king exclaimed,
Why would you ask for the impossible?"
Siddhartha Gautama was blessed with youth and talents.
He also had wealth, status, a beautiful wife and a healthy child, everything that one could wish for.
Yet, he knew that such so-called happiness was fleeting and that it would eventually leave him.
Keenly aware about the impermanence of worldly happiness, the prince was unable to feel the true peace of mind and satisfaction.
"What is true happiness?
How can I attain happiness that does not fade?"
These questions lingered in his mind, and his desire to seek the truth grew stronger by the day.
Finally, Siddhartha Gautama left the castle in a quest for true happiness.
It was the 8th of February, and he was 29 years-old.
Traveling deep into the mountains, he led the life of an ascetic with unparalleled intensity for the next six years.
At the age of 35 on December 8, at last Siddhartha prevailed over his inner beasts of temptation and reached Buddha's enlightenment.
From then on, he was called Sakyamuni Buddha.
He devoted the rest of his life to conveying the true purpose of life-the attainment of imperishable, eternal happiness-until his death at the age of 80 on February 15.
All of Sakyamuni Buddha's teachings are recorded in what are known as sutras.
There are more than 7,000 sutras.
They are also called the "Complete Sutras."
What are taught in these 7,000 volumes of sutras?
If you read each sutra a day, how many years will have passed by the time you finish reading all of them?
About 20 years.
So if you are 20 years old, you will become 40 years old.
If you are 40, you will be 60.
...we don't want to think about it.
And of course, each sutra has really deep meanings, that's why it is very difficult to understand their true meanings.
Add to that, unfortunately, there is no existence of the complete sutras translated into English.
The complete sutras only exist in ancient Indian language, called Sanskrit, which is also translated in Chinese.
But in Buddhist history over 2,500 years, there are people who read the Complete Sutras perfectly.
One of the most famous masters who did that is Master Shinran.
Master Shinran was born in Japan, about 800 years ago.
He read the Complete Sutras many times, and taught the Teachings of Buddha correctly.
Earlier, we learned that enlightenment is awareness of the truth of the universe that leads all people to happiness.
So Master Shinran also taught the truth of the universe that leads all people to happiness.
I'm learning the teachings of Master Shinran, the teachings of Buddha, and trying to share them.
Buddhism taught how to obtain absolute happiness, which is true peace of mind and full satisfaction that does not fade even in the face of old age, illness, and death.
Within the 7000 sutras there are just two things that need to be explained.
The first one is
"What kind of mind is the unchangeable happiness like?"
and the other is,
"Then how can we attain that happiness?"
If you listen to these teachings, you will be able to know what true happiness is, and how to attain that happiness.
I'd like you to continue listening to buddhism from the buddhist teacher whom I introduce you to.
Then, you can learn these concepts in detail.
Why don't you join us to listen to buddhism!
Thank you for coming today.
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