12 September 2007

Sutra of the Eight Realizations

This has been described as a short summary of Mahayana Buddhism and was one of the first sutras translated into Chinese. The speaker was Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha. The commentary under each Realization is by Venerable Master Hsing Yun, founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order of which the Hsi Lai Temple is a part.

The First Realization
Realize that this world is impermanent, that nations are unsafe and unstable, the the four elements cause suffering and are empty, and that there is no self within the five skandhas; that all things that arise must change and decline, and that they are but false appearances without any stable essence; that the mind is a source of evil, and that form is a congregation of wrong-doings. Contemplate all of this, and gradually you will disentangle yourself from the cycle of birth and death.

The "skandhas" are: form, sensation, perception, mental activity, and consciousness.
Just as good things can turn to bad, so also can bad things turn to good. Change leads us out of difficult situations, it relieves us of our cares, and is the process by which we transform ourselves into Buddhas. If nothing changed, we would never grow.
Emptiness is a special term in Buddhism. It means "having no permanent, definite, or absolute aspect whatsoever.
The concept of emptiness flies in the face of basic human psychology, for one of our strongest tendencies is to treat ourselves, other people, and the things of the world as if they were permanent.

None of this says the world is not here, or that nothing exists, or that we must despair of our condition. Emptiness simply means that nothing has an unchanging essence or self-nature that is independent of other things.

The four elements are earth, water, fire and wind. i.e all material phenomena.

The Second Realization
Realize that excessive desire causes suffering. The fatigue and troubles of the cycle of birth and death arise from greed and desire. Have few desires, be receptive, and you will be content in body and mind.

The Third Realization
Realize that the mind is insatiable, and that it constantly strives for more, thus adding to its transgressions and mistakes. The bodhisattva is not like this; he thinks often of being satisfied with what he has, and he is peaceful in poverty and upholds the Dharma. Wisdom is his only concern.

The Fourth Realization
Realize that laziness leads to downfall. be diligent and break the hold of harmful fixations. defeat the four demons and escape the prison of this dark world.

The Fifth Realization
Realize that ignorance gives rise to the cycle of birth and death. The bodhisattva studies widely, listens carefully, and thinks often in order to increase his wisdom and develop his talents in speaking so that he is fit to teach and transform others, and show them the greatest joy.

The Sixth Realization
Realize that resenting poverty and suffering leads only to more of the same. A bodhisattva is generous and equal minded toward both friend and foe. he does not dwell on old wrongs, or make new enemies.

The Seventh Realization
Realize that the five desires bring nothing but trouble. Though we live in this world, we do not become stained by worldly pleasures. Instead, we think often of a monk's garb, his bowl, and his chanting instruments. Having set our minds on monastic life, we uphold the way and purify ourselves. Our morality encompasses all, our compassion includes everyone.

The "five desires" are for wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep. "Each of the five desires can be understood as an exaggeration of a normal and valuable human need. Desire is not wrong if it is kept in proportion."
The Eighth Realization
Realize that life and death are like flickering flames, and that suffering is endless. Take the Mahayana Vow to befriend all things. Vow to take on the illimitable suffering of sentient beings, and to lead them all to ultimate bliss.

Vowing is an important part of Buddhism. A vow is an act of consciousness that alters the nature of the consciousness that makes it.

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