Buddhism FAQ0 >> 1.What is Buddhism
(Frequently Asked Questions About Buddhism)
1. What is Buddhism & What is Buddhist Awakening? Edit
Buddhism is the path of Spiritual Awakening based on experience.
(in ignorance/delusion; Also Avijja ; Sanskrit Avidya ,not knowing inner truth)
An ordinary person experiences the world through sensual organs(actually nervous system & mind) and develops bonds of likes(Raag) & dislikes(Dosa; Sanskrit : Dvesh) with the material world, which lead to increase of negative characteristics i.e. anger,hatred,violence,lust,greed,attachment,material desire,craving,depression,sadness,rage etc. These bonds are also called Sanhara(Sankhara; sanskrit sanskar). After death one may be reborn in any state & in any world according to these bonds, desires & deeds (karma). Good deeds (donation etc) may lead to being reborn in heaven as an angel or as human again, harmful/lustful bad deeds may lead to 4 woeful states of suffering (animal/insect, ghost/peta/preta, hell or asura/violent demon). These bonds lead a being to many many rebirths and in every rebirth, the being experiences suffering. (Though angelic rebirths in heavens are of bliss but angels/devas do not live forever, and the end of angelic life, after millions of years, also causes suffering). Thus every creature is getting reborn again & again for many (uncountable) number of times while the universe is also undergoing cycles of expansion(big bang) and then universal contraction(collapse) on & on. The devil (called Mara ; pronounced Maar in pali), the Lord of death,desire & rebirth, sees that every creature remains in the bonds & thus gets rebirth again & again, so every creature is a prisoner to one's own desires & attachments of worlds(lokas). Removing these evil bonds of likes & dislikes will cause awakening & finally to Nirvana/Moksha/Salvation i.e blissful immortal life.
For Mara (devil, shaitan, lord of death, desire, wealth & rebirth) see : SN 35.115 Marapasa Sutta, SN 35.199 Kumma Sutta, Therigatha6.3,Therigatha7.2, Maha-samaya Sutta, Pañcagaru-Jātaka, Dhammapada Verse 40 - Pancasatabhikkhu Vatthu, Mara-samyutta , Bhikkhuni-samyutta_-_Nuns
This Awakening is achieved through (a)Morality; (b)Meditation; (c) Trance/Enlightenment:
(a) Morality/Ethics (Sheel in Pali) such as No stealing, No Lies, No violence, No intoxication & No sex. (There are many more rules of ethics for Monks/Bhikkus). Morality is extremely important, without it, the awakening will not occur or even if it occurs, it may be lost.
Achieving morality(sheel) is like achieving tranquility of surface of water in a pool, and with tranquility of surface ,one can now see what is within the depth.
Morality is required to ensure that nervous system remains capable of spiritual awakening.
(b) Meditation (Samadhi) : It is achieved through first, focussing attention on breath while removing thoughts to keep steady attention and then secondly, entire body is scanned with attention moving to various organs while keeping mind in equanimity i.e. keeping attitude of neither like nor dislike to any feeling/sensations. At the end of meditation, one is supposed to transmit goodwill to all beings with this idea 'May all beings be happy'.
During meditation(see left, as in Vipassana), a person may experience many different spiritual experiences i.e. pleasant visions, horrifying visions etc. however one is expected to keep the practice steady & not give up. Actually, the meditation acts as a soap to cleanse dirt i.e. bonds of likes & dislike to the world. If a person dies before experiencing any level of awakening, one's fate will be similar to an ordinary person(above) i.e. process of rebirths continues. However, the fruits of meditation are not lost, one remains under unseen spiritual protection & in some future lifetime, the divines help such persons to again find teachers , learn meditation & the progress continues.
(c) Awakening/Trance (Panna) Pragya in sanskrit meaning Pratyaksh Gyan. After a long practice of meditation many hours a day (may take years), trance states are achieved and 4 types of Awakening occur step by step , all with extreme bliss :
1. First, Within : One experiences the entire spinal column & brain extremely alive & active, filled with divine light ,super charged as well as radiating goodwill to all
This state occurs in the first four trance states(1,2,3 & 4, see at end of page) when a lot of evil bonds are shattered. The process is similar to a Linear Particle Accelerator or the operation of a Laser. A person achieving first awakening now understands the divine(spiritual) element within, which is one's very source of life. Experiencing it first hand, this person now refrains from doing any wrong act(or intention/thought) because the wrong act may deprive one from the experience of the first awakening. This person is now freed from being reborn into any state of suffering (animal/insect, ghost/peta, hell or asura/violent demon). Rather one can only be reborn 7 times, that also in the higher states either in human world or in heaven as angel/deva and there too one practices meditation and will become free(achieve Nirvana) in 7 rebirths only. Life of an angel in heaven is considered in many millions of human years. The state is called Sotapana (one who is in the stream/sota). Buddha, as Prince Siddharth, already had this state from childhood , being an advanced being who had been meditating in past lives.
2. Second, Universal: The attention/consciousness expands out of body & permeates now to entire universe upto infinite space with infinite consciousness. One can know anything anywhere, even the upper heavens filled with arch angels(brahmalokas), heavens with angels(devas), all the material world, the world of ghosts and also various hells. This state may lead to making one wrongly believe that one has achieved the final truth (and as God) but it is not so. Buddha achieved this state following his Indian gurus such as Alara Kalama & Uddaka Ramputta but unlike others, he was not convinced about the finality because some bonds(sanharas) were still there.
This state occurs in trance states 5 & 6 (see list below) when most of evil bonds are removed but only little remain. A person achieving this state now understands one's unity & link with all the creatures. And after death of the body , this person may be reborn only 3 times either in heaven as angel/deva or in upper-heaven/brahmaloka as arch-angel/brahma (as a being with form & mind) and there also one continues meditation and gets liberated (achieves Nirvana) according to the efforts put in. Life of arch-angel is considered in billions of human years. This state is called Sakadagami (one who returns). Magical powers may also be attained here (and also in next stages) because one may learn to manipulate anything anywhere in the universe. This state can be considered as god mode in a virtual reality game. Here individuality of the person (self/ego/sense of I) remains.
3.Third, Nothingness : Now the attention is withdrawn from the worldly and all worlds vanish from the sphere of attention, nothingness/emptiness (this is only an intermediate state):
This state occurs in trance states 7 & 8 (see list below) when extremely little evil bonds remain. A person achieving this state now understands that there is nothing real & everything is unreal as illusion, virtual reality, as mirage and as pictures shown on screen in cinema hall. This state is similar to a person in cinema hall who turns one's attention away from the screen and now looks at the dark hall around. After the death of the body , this person may be reborn only one time that also in the highest upper-heaven/brahmaloka as arch-angel/brahma (having no form but having only mind) and there also continues meditation and gets liberated (achieves Nirvana) from there. Life of this formless arch-angel is considered in many kappas(Sanskrit: kalpas) i.e. many cycles of expansion(big bang) & contraction(collapse) of universe. This state is called Anagami (one who does not return after getting reborn in higher plane). Here also, individuality of the person (self/ego/sense of I) remains.
4. Fourth, Nirvana : The final state of Nirvana when one experiences as becoming the ocean of divine light, everywhere, eternal state having no change , no time & final bliss, what people of other faiths also call as God (Buddha was also called as Bhagava or Bhagavanta meaning God):
This occurs in trance state no. 9. Here all the evil bonds are removed completely. A person achieving this state now understands reaching the non-returnable other shore. This state is similar to a person in cinema hall who moves away one's attention from the screen , looks around , turns one's head in opposite direction and sees the source of light. Here one also simultaneously experiences 3 phenomenon (1) Seeing past lives & knowing how one lived & what acts caused what effects (many past rebirths).(2) The lives of other creatures are also known with divine eye , along with knowledge of their causes & effects . (3) The understanding of elimination of one's all evil bonds completely. After achieving this state of Nirvana/Moksha, there is no more rebirth, it is the state of final enlightenment. It is also dissolution of the sense of 'I' or self because one's identity now merges with the universal singular state (Nirvana) which Buddha called as the ocean of (divine) light. This is just like pouring bottled water into ocean, now the water dissolves into ocean & is now called ocean. The person achieving this final state is called Arahat/Arahant/Arihant in Buddhism meaning, one who has conquered all evil (bonds of lusts) and after death of the body, this person remains eternally alive in supreme bliss forever in the state where there is no time, as the ocean of divine light i.e. transcendental omnipresence (probably Nirvana is the scientific concept of omnipresent invisible Dark Energy whereas the realm of Devil i.e. Mara can be considered as the Dark Matter + Material Universe ).
Many disciples of Buddha achieved this state of Nirvana whom Buddha called as equal to him. As told by Buddha , the only difference between him and the Arahant/Arahat is that Gautam Buddha was self-awakened (called Samyak-Sam-Buddha).
A person can also experience any state of awakening directly, without going through intermediate states depending upon the amount of evil bonds remaining. There are examples of monks & nuns directly experiencing the final state of enlightenment because they were meditating in past lives.
Thus, Buddhism is not a faith nor worship of God. Rather, it is the path of experience of becoming one, the almighty, that which people of other faiths call as God.
The other shore : Dhammapada Verse 385 - Mara Vatthu
The entire process of awakening can be understood from the analogy of the flip of a coin with the worlds on one side and Nirvana on the other side of the coin. The intermediate state in which coin stands on edge is the state of nothingness.
List of various trance states :
1.First Awakening, Within Self(divine light in brain & spine)
2.Without Thoughts (only pure attention within)
3.Equanimous(all above but beyond Likes & Dislikes)
4.Detachment(from I/self while experiencing all above)
5.Perception of Infinite Space
6.Infinite consciousness (I everywhere)
8.Neither perception nor non-perception (Transcendence from worldly Plane)
9.Nirvana/Moksha(non returnable state, no more rebirths)
Source : The various Trance states (9 Nos.) are described here :