Friday, August 1, 2014

Buddhism 101 - first lesson: Empirical evidence of reality

For those who are really interested in practicing Buddhism but without (or avoid having) a guru...

Empirical evidence of reality (三法印 [Tri-drsti-namitta-mudra]: 诸行无常、诸法无我、涅槃寂静 )

Unlike Christianity that rests on a belief of an Almighty God, Buddhism (like Taoism) rests upon internal empirical evidence. By which I mean a direct experience (or feeling) of the reality as defined by the religion. In Buddhism, there are three fundamental realities that a practitioner has to experience.

The first is called non-permanence (诸行无常). Living things grow and die. Non-living things give us different perceptual realities depending on our individual subject experience at a certain time-space environment. Not withstanding the requirement of theoretical understanding, a perceptual reality of non-permanence of the false reality of permanency is the empirical evidence that a practitioner has to strive for. Moreover that non-permanency is rested upon specific causes, though the exactness of which is out of our perceptual limitation. One cannot influence the past though one can influence the future. This concept is called karma (缘起), and the resulting behavioral response is good deeds (善行) and rules/disciplines (戒律).

The second is called non-self (诸法无我): After a practitioner has attained the stage of non-permanence understanding (empirical in nature), he has another hurdle to overcome. It is the understanding (empirical in nature) of the non-permanence of the perceiving self itself.  The self is defined as mind-body continuum of a person. Its particularity is defined and constructed by karma or the influence of karma (including nature and nurture). Buddhist practice aiming at such understanding. And the best demonstration of which is for the practitioner to make personal changes towards Enlightenment and the accompanying perception (or perceptual understanding) of the changing or growing self. Such change will be limited to our physical life but will continue in the next life and thereafter. The only permanency is change and karma, which brings about change. One important indication of non-self is a perceptual (and actual) freedom from "holding on to worldly things" (我执).

The third is called nirvana (涅槃寂静): This is the perceptual evidence of Enlightenment. If a Buddhist practitioner cannot feel or experience the calmness and joy of the condition of nirvana, he is not yet Enlightened. However, the pure feeling of calmness and joy is not nirvana if a practitioner cannot perceive himself having achieved the perception of non-permanency and non-self.

So much for this post, in the coming posts I shall talk about the followings:

1. The Buddha's road to Enlightenment

2. Practice procedure

Three realities

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