Buddhist Wisdom

Throughout history people have wondered about the universe in which we live in
and looked for a purpose of our existence. Many Western philosophers believed
that an individual is a separate entity from every other individual and nature.


In the Buddhist belief however, there is no separation between you and any other
person or animal. The goal of living and dying is to eventually see the world as
it actually is instead of the illusion that we see with our senses. This state
of enlightenment is known as Nirvana. To reach Nirvana it is necessary to give
up attachments to the things of this world, see the interconnectedness of
everything, and clear your mind so that you can see things the way they actually
are. In the Western world we are very attached to our possessions, to the people
that we care about, and especially to ourselves. Most Westerners would be glad
to sacrifice something to help another person or even an animal in need if we
could. But most people would not sacrifice something very important to us and
very few would give up their lives in the spirit of compassion. On the other
hand, because the Buddhist belief is that we are all connected to each other by
helping another you help yourself and by hurting Polinsky 2 another you hurt
yourself. In the story of “The Bodhisattva and the Hungry Tigress” the
Buddha tells of a prince who sacrifices his life so that a starving tigress that
has just given birth may live. To be able sacrifice shows that you truly
understand that there is more than just this life: Yes self-sacrifice is so
difficult! It is difficult for people like us, who mare so fond of our lives and
bodies, and who have so little intelligence. It is not at all difficult,
however, for others, who are truly men, intent on benefiting their
fellow-creatures, and who long to sacrifice themselves (Buddhist Scriptures, p.

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57). The prince was able to give up his life for the tigress because he was
aware of that his own life was just a temporary state. His body and his life are
not permanent but only a small part of a chain of births and deaths. It is
almost impossible for us to imagine having no attachment to our lives or our
bodies because in the Western belief that is our self and we are born and grow
up with very strong self-preservation instincts. Buddhists on the other hand,
believe that we need to “recognize the true nature of the living world, and do
not be anxious; for separation cannot possibly be avoided (Buddhist Scriptures,
p. 59). This attachment to our present lives and bodies will help us to ease our
suffering and see the world as it truly is. Another of the beliefs in Buddhism
is the system of births and deaths called Samsara. A person is born and reborn
until that person reaches enlightenment. Death is not an ending but just a new
beginning. Time has no importance and is just an illusion like the world is. All
people and things are connected to each other as well as all of the people that
those people have been and will be in other lives “in a thousand relationships
to each other, loving, hating, and destroying each other and becoming newly
born” Polinsky 3 (Hesse, p. 133). In Hesse’s Siddartha, Govidna experiences
this “unity in diversity”. The Buddhist image of reality is everything
simultaneously together without divisions such as time and space. These
divisions such as time, space, past lives, and everything else around us are
simply illusions according to Buddhist beliefs. If everything is just an
illusion then why should we love nature and our fellow creatures? The Buddha
responded to this by saying “If they are illusion, then I also am illusion,
and so they are always the same nature as myself. It is that which makes them so
lovable and venerable” (Hesse p. 132). This is what the prince had in mind
when he fed himself to the tigress. Losing our attachment to the things of this
world and our connection with everything else in the universe go hand in hand
towards seeing things the way they truly are and becoming enlightened. Even
after we lose we attachment to this world and we become aware of our
interconnected role in the universe we cannot become enlightened unless we have
clarity of mind. To become enlightened is to be aware of your true nature, but
that is impossible to do by thinking about it since “our true nature is beyond
our conscious experience” (Suzuki, p. 180). Zen Buddhists practice zazen, or
sitting meditation, to achieve a calm mind: “it is when you sit in zazen that
you will have the most pure, genuine experience of the empty state of mind.


Actually, emptiness of mind is not even a state of mind, but the original
essence of mind” (Suzuki, p. 181). Since this world is a world of illusions
then by thinking about the things of this world we are thinking delusions. But
when you realize that these clouded thoughts are just delusions, they will drift
away and you will be Polinsky 4 left with a pure and calm mind. This is the
enlightened mind. So by realizing that you are in a world of illusions and that
you are thinking in delusions is when you become enlightened. You have to accept
the delusion because if you try to expel it, “it will become busier and busier
trying to cope with it” (Suzuki, p. 182). By clearing your mind you can expect
every moment to be a moment of enlightenment experience. All of these readings
deal with different aspects of Buddhist belief, but they also have certain
things in connection with each other. The goal of Buddhism is not to lead a good
life, although that should come along as well, but to see things as they
actually are and to reach enlightenment. To see things as they really are means
understanding that everything is interconnected with everything else regardless
of space or time, understanding that this world is a world of illusions and so
should have no attachments to the things of this world, and finally realizing
that the enlightened part of us lies in the “true self” of the clear mind.


Bibliography
Buddhist Scriptures. “The Bodhisattva and the Hungry Tigress and
Parinirvana.” Roots of World Wisdom: A Multicultural Reader. 2nd Edition. Ed.


Helen Buss Mitchell. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing 1999. Hesse, Hermann. “Siddhartha.”
Roots of World Wisdom: A Multicultural Reader. 2nd Edition. Ed. Helen Buss
Mitchell. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing 1999. Suzuki, Shunryu. “Beyond
Consciousness.” Roots of World Wisdom: A Multicultural Reader. 2nd Edition.


Ed. Helen Buss Mitchell. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing 1999.

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