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The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

Page history last edited by andy2xiu 14 years ago

The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

By Thich Nhat Hanh



Part One: The Four Noble Truths


01. Entering the Heart of the Buddha

  • Buddha was not a god.
  • Suffering helps one grow.
  • Suffering = Holy Truth


02. The First Dharma Talk

Discourse on Turning the Wheel of the Dharma (Dhamma Cakka Pavattana Sutta – Samyutta Nikaya V, 420)

Three points:

  • The Middle Way (madhyama pratipad)
  • The Four Noble Truths (chatvari arya satyani)
  • Engagement in the world


03. The Four Noble Truths

  • Suffering (dukkha)
  • Origin of suffering (samudaya)
  • Cessation of creating suffering (nirodha)
  • Path to freedom from suffering (marga)

Figure 1: The Four Noble Truths


04. Understanding the Buddha’s Teachings

  • Having an open mind and open heart for the dharma

Brief history of Buddhism

  • Mahasanghika (majority)
  • Sthaviravada (school of elders)
    • Sarvastivada (school that proclaims everything is) -> Sarvastivada texts / Northern transmissions
    • Vibhajyavada (school that discriminates)
      • Tamrashatiya (wearers of copper-colored robes) -> Theravada Pali Canon / Southern transmissions

Schools of Buddhism

  • Source Buddhism
  • Many-Schools Buddhism
  • Mahayana Buddhism

Understanding Buddhist teachings

  • All teachings are one, like a “necklace of precious jewels.”
  • Teachings are only a guide, like a “finger pointing to the moon.”


05. Is Everything Suffering?

Three Kinds of Suffering (NOT a teaching of the Buddha)

  • The suffering of suffering (dukkha dukkhata)
  • The suffering of composite things (samskara dukkhata)
  • The suffering of things associated with change (viparinama dukkhata)

List of afflictions (kleshas)

  • Craving (raga)
  • Anger (pratigha)
  • Ignorance (avidya)
  • Suspicion (vichikitsa)
  • Arrogance (mana)
  • Wrong views (drishti)

Dwelling happily in things as they are (drishta dharma sukha viharin)


06. Stopping, Calming, Resting, Healing

  • Stopping (shamatha)
  • Looking deeply (vipashyana)

Stopping (shamatha)

  • Mindfulness vs. Forgetfulness
  • Habit energies (vashana) are obstacles

Calming – five stages:

  • Recognition
  • Acceptance
  • Embracing
  • Looking deeply
  • Insight

Resting -> Healing


07. Touching Our Suffering

Figure 2: The Twelve Turnings of the Wheel

Four Nutriments

  • Edible food
  • Sense impressions
    • contact (sparsha) with sense objects (ayatanas)
  • Intention
  • Consciousness

First and Second Holy Truths


08. Realizing Well-Being

Third and Fourth Holy Truths

Interconnectedness of the Four Holy Truths

  • Understanding things as they are (yatha bhuta jnana)
  • Four Noble Truths are one


  • Well-Being (#3)
  • Noble Eightfold Path that Leads to Well-Being (#4)
  • Suffering (#1)
  • Ignoble Eightfold Path that Leads to Suffering (#2)



Part Two: The Noble Eightfold Path

Arya ashtangika marga (a noble path of eight limbs)

  • Right View (samyag drishti)
  • Right Thinking (samyak samkalpa)
  • Right Mindfulness (samyak smriti)
  • Right Speech (samyag vac)
  • Right Action (samyak karmanta)
  • Right Diligence (samyak pradhana)
  • Right Concentration (samyak samadhi)
  • Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva)


09. Right View

  • Right View (samyag drishti)
  • Right view - ability to distinguish:
    • Wholesome roots (kushala mula)
    • Unwholesome roots (akushala mula)
  • Base of our views - perceptions (samjna)
    • Chinese = xiang3
    • Object of our perception = our consciousness
  • Non-conception  - go beyond ideas
    • Chinese = wu2 nian4
    • All views are wrong views
  • Mother of All Buddhas (prajna paramita)
    • Practice of Right Mindfulness (seeing the seed of Buddhahood everywhere)
  • Figure 3: The Interbeing of the Eight Elements of the Path


10. Right Thinking

  • Right Thinking (samyak samkalpa)
  • Wrong thinking -> upside-down way (viparyasa)

Two parts of thinking:

  • Initial thought (vitarka)
  • Developing thought (vichara)

Four practices:

  • “Are you sure?”
  • “”What am I doing?”
  • “Hello, habit energy (vashana).”
  • “Bodhichitta” – mind of love

Other phrases:

  • “Changing the peg”
  • “Think non-thinking”


11. Right Mindfulness

  • Right Mindfulness (samyak smriti)
  • Chinese = nian4
  • Buddhist psychology = super dharma (abhidharma)
    • Trait attention (manaskara) is universal
      • May be appropriate (yoniso) or inappropriate (ayoniso)

Seven Miracles of Mindfulness

  • Be present
  • Make others be present also
  • Nourish the object of your attention
  • Relieve the other’s suffering
  • Looking deeply
  • Understanding
  • Transformation

Four Establishments of Mindfulness (smriti upasthana)

  • Mindfulness of the body (kaya) in the body
    • Note the body’s positions and movements
    • Recognize all body parts
    • See the four great elements (mahabhuta) of the body (earth, water, fire, air)
      • Air - mindful breathing: in/out; counting
  • Mindfulness of the feelings (vedana) in the feelings
  • Mindfulness of mind (chitta) in the mind
  • Mindfulness of phenomena (dharma) in phenomena
    • Counting the breath
    • Observing interdependent arising
    • Observing impurity
    • Observing with love and compassion
    • Observing the different realms
      • Six elements: earth, water, fire, air, space, consciousness
      • Six realms: happiness (sukha), suffering (dukkha), joy (mudita), anxiety (domanassa), letting go (upeksha), ignorance (avidya)
      • Six realms: craving (kama), freedom from craving (nekkhama), anger (vyapada), absence of anger (avyapada), harming (vihimsa), non-harming (avihimsa, ahimsa)
      • Three realms: desire realm (karma dhatu), form realm (rupa dhatu), formless realm (arupa dhatu)
      • Realm of the conditioned (samskrita)
      • Realm of the unconditioned (asamskrita)


12. Right Speech

  • Right Speech (samyag vac)

Explanation of right speech:

  • Speaking truthfully
  • Not speaking with a forked tongue
  • Not speaking cruelly
  • Not exaggerating or embellishing

Sources of right speech:

  • Right thinking
  • Right listening


13. Right Action

  • Right Action (samyak karmanta)

Five Mindfulness Trainings (pancha shila)

  • Reverence for life
  • Generosity
  • Sexual responsibility
  • Right speech
  • Responsible eating, drinking, consuming


14. Right Diligence

  • Right Diligence (samyak pradhana)

Fourfold Right Diligence

  • Preventing unwholesome store consciousness seeds from rising
  • Helping sprouted unwholesome seeds to return to store consciousness
  • Finding ways to water wholesome seeds in store consciousness
  • Nourishing the sprouted wholesome seeds


15. Right Concentration

  • Right Concentration (samyak samadhi)

Two forms of concentration:

  • Active
  • Selective

Nine levels of meditation (dhyana):

  • Four Dhyanas – form realm
    • 1. First dhyana (prathama dhyana)
    • 2. Second dhyana (dvitiya dhyana)
    • 3. Third dhyana (trtiya dhyana)
    • 4. Fourth dhyana (caturtha dhyana)
  • Four Dhyanas – formless realm
    • 5. Limitless space
    • 6. Limitless consciousness (manovijnana)
    • 7. Nothingness (manas = mind)
    • 8. Neither perception nor non-perception (alaya = store)
  • 9. Cessation

Practicing samadhi (concentration / absorption):

  • Realm of desires (karma dhatu) -> realm of forms (rupa dhatu) -> formless realm (arupa dhatu)


16. Right Livelihood

  • Right Livelihood (samyag ajiva)
  • Not needing to transgress the Five Mindfulness Trainings
  • Practicing the Noble Eightfold Path



Part Three: Other Basic Buddhist Teachings

  • The Two Truths
  • The Three Dharma Seals
  • The Three Doors of Liberation
  • The Three Bodies of Buddha
  • The Three Jewels
  • The Four Immeasurable Minds
  • The Five Aggregates
  • The Five Powers
  • The Six Paramitas
  • The Seven Factors of Awakening
  • The Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising
  • Touching the Buddha Within


17. The Two Truths

  • Relative, or worldly, truth (samvriti satya)
  • Absolute truth (paramartha satya)
  • Five Remembrances:
  • Old Age
  • Illness
  • Death
  • Impermanence and inseparation of all that is dear
  • Actions are the only true belongings


18. The Three Dharma Seals

  • Three Dharma Seals (dharma mudra)
    • Impermanence (anitya)
    • Non-self (anatman)
    • Nirvana
    • Eight Concepts
      • Birth
      • Death
      • Permanence
      • Dissolution
      • Coming
      • Going
      • One
      • Many
    • Opposites
      • Impermanence
      • Non-self
      • Interdependent co-arising
      • The middle way
    • Drishtadharma nirvana (nirvana in this very life)
    • Four Dharma Seals
      • Impermanence
      • Non-self
      • Nirvana
      • Suffering
    • Two Dharma Seals
      • Suffering
      • Nirvana
    • One Dharma Seal
      • The Seal of the True Mark
    • Two Relevances
      • Relevance to the Essence
      • Relevance to the Circumstance
    • Four Standards of Truth (siddhanta)
      • The worldly
      • The person
      • Healing
      • The absolute
    • Four Reliances
      • Rely on the teaching, not the person
      • Rely on the absolute truth, not the relative truth
      • Rely on the meaning, not the words
      • Rely on the insight of looking deeply (jnana), not on differentiation and discrimination (vijnana)


19. The Three Doors of Liberation

  • Emptiness (shunyata)
  • Signlessness (animita)
  • Aimlessness (apranihita)

Four signs

  • Self
  • Person
  • Living being
  • Lifespan


20. The Three Bodies of Buddha

Three Bodies (trikaya) of Buddha

  • Dharmakaya (body of bliss / enjoyment)
  • Nirmanakaya (historical embodiment)
  • Sambhogakaya (transformation bodies)


21. The Three Jewels

Faith (shraddha) in the Three Jewels (triratna)

  • Buddha (shows the way in this life)
  • Dharma (the way of understanding and love)
  • Sangha (community that lives in harmony and awareness)


22. The Four Immeasurable Minds

Four Immeasurable Minds (brahmaviharas)

  • Love (maitri)
  • Compassion (karuna)
  • Joy (mudita)
  • Equanamity (upeksha)


23. The Five Aggregates

Five aggregates (skandhas)

  • Form (rupa)
  • Feelings (vedana)
  • Perceptions (samjna)
  • Mental formations (samskara)
  • Consciousness (vijnana)


24. The Five Powers

Five Faculties / Bases (indriyani) -> Five Powers (balani)

  • Faith (shraddha)
  • Energy (virya)
  • Mindfulness (smriti)
  • Concentration (samadhi)
  • Insight (prajna)
  • [Capacity / Inclusiveness (kshanti)]

Three Kinds of Pride

  • Better than others
  • Worse than others
  • Just as good as others

Bodhisattva Never-Despising

  • “I do not dare to underestimate you. You are a future Buddha.”
  • Practicing joy
  • Living in the present moment

Good time to start watering positive seeds in store consciousness when the following are dormant:

  • Internal formations (samyojana)
  • Suffering (dukkha)


25. The Six Paramitas


  • Paramita: “perfection,” “perfect realization”
  • Chinese = du4
  • Figure 4: The Six Paramitas
  • Giving (dana paramita)
  • Mindfulness trainings (shila paramita)
  • Inclusiveness (kshanti paramita)
  • Diligence (virya paramita)
  • Meditation (dhyana paramita)
  • Understanding (prajna paramita)


Giving (dana paramita)

  • Our true presence
  • Our stability
  • Our freedom
  • Our freshness
  • Peace
  • Space
  • Understanding


Mindfulness trainings (shila paramita)

  • Five Mindfulness Trainings


Inclusiveness (kshanti paramita)

  • Love (maitri)
  • Compassion (karuna)
  • Joy (mudita)
  • Equanamity (upeksha)


Diligence (virya paramita)

Four practices (Fourfold Right Diligence):

  • Refrain from watering the negative seeds in us
  • Return already risen negative seeds to store consciousness
  • Touch positive seeds in store consciousness -> manifest in mind consciousness
  • Maintain the wholesome seed

Figure 5: Seeds of Mindfulness


Meditation (dhyana paramita)

Two aspects:

  • Stopping (shamatha)
  • Looking deeply (vipashyana)


Understanding (prajna paramita)

  • Wave metaphor


26. The Seven Factors of Awakening

Seven Factors of Awakening / Seven Limbs of Enlightenment (sapta bodhyanga)

  • Mindfulness (smriti)
  • Investigation of phenomena (dharma-pravicharya)
  • Energy, effort, diligence, perseverance (virya)
  • Ease (prashabdhih)
  • Joy (priti) – as opposed to happiness (sukha)
  • Concentration (samadhi)
  • Equanamity (upeksha)


27. The Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising

Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising (pratitya samutpada)

  • Cause = en1
  • Figures 6, 7, 8, 9, 10


Twenty-four conditions (paccaya)


Four kinds of conditions (pratyaya)

  • Cause / seed / root condition (hetu-pratyaya)
  • Condition for development (adhipati-pratyaya)
  • Condition of continuity (samanantara-pratyaya)
  • Object as condition (alambana-pratyaya)
  • Motivating / creative force (karana-hetu)
  • Concurrent condition (sahabhu-hetu)
  • Seed condition of the same kind (sabhaga-hetu)
  • Associated condition (samprayukta-hetu)
  • Universal condition (sarvatraga-hetu)
  • Ripening condition (vipaka-hetu)


28. Touching the Buddha Within

  • Seeking meaning for our life
  • Looking deeply in the Five Aggregates
  • Finding places for practicing mindfulness and concentration
  • Seeking world peace and universal compassion


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