Nirvana, the ultimate goal of Theravada Buddhism, is not
a mystic state but a state in which the mind is Buddhist
Meditationk purged and purified of all ego conceit and all
traces of attachment, greed, aversion, hatred, and delusion.
Buddhism offers its own critique of religion. Buddhism Practices In this, religion is not theocentric, centered around
the idea of a creator, but rather seen as being centered around the
interest of man. Religion is not something that has come down from
heaven to fulfill a divine purpose, but something that has grown up
on earth to satisfy the deepest of human needs. It is not based on
divine revelation - but on human discovery.
Buddhism is not dependent on blind faith and worship but on the
understanding of experience through the use of human intelligence.
It is not based on history or a story which if proved false would
tumble down, but stands on the hard rock of direct personal experience.
The practice of Theravada Buddhism is not based on the idea of punishment and reward but on selflessness
and love. Maithri Publications
Theravada Buddhism does not regard
man as a sinner who is incapable of anything better than appealing
to the creator for forgiveness. It regards man as capable of rising
above all human weaknesses and cultivating a divine mind through
his own efforts. One cannot be saved by any external means but he
has to save himself through this own efforts and right technique
developed by his mind. The Buddha is not a savior but a guide who
teaches the technique of saving oneself after having tested it himself.
The destiny of man is not controlled by the whims of a creator,
but by the kind of life he leads, his thoughts, speech and actions
in accordance with the law of cause and effect One's state of mind
even determines the situation in which he is reborn.
The Buddha taught about rebirth in Theravada
Buddhism but not in the reincarnation or the transmigration
of permanent souls. The life after death is only a continuation
of the present process of existence. The Buddha realized that our
existence does not begin with this human life nor end with this
life in some kind of eternal heaven or hell afterwards, out he beheld
that we have been existing since beginningless time in countless
numbers of various existences according to our accumulated Karma
and will continue to do so until the whole process is understood
and gradually brought to a standstill. Theravada Buddhism is a gradual path of mental evolution, where man transcends human
weaknesses and attains perfection of mind and finally solves the
problem of existence, attains Nirvana.
All problems in life
boil down to one psychological problem called Dukkha or suffering.
Suffering is not just poverty, starvation and sickness and so
forth which modern man commonly talks about. It is more related
to mental suffering in the form of confusion, anxiety, depression,
grief, worry, restlessness and so forth which are mainly psychological
states. Normally these states of mind are considered to be the
fault of circumstances. This is why these arc seen commonly as
economic or social problems. Yet the Buddha points out that they
are caused by our mental attitudes and reactions to circumstances,
not by the objects or situations themselves. If we really check
up inside our mind we will find this is true.
This suffering is understood in Theravada Buddhism to
be the clash between ourselves and the world around us. To put
it in other words, it is the clash between our desires and reality.
This means that suffering is caused by unrealistic desires. Reality
frustrates these desires in most cases so we wish that reality
were otherwise. Our desires are insatiable. The real cause of
our suffering is the unrealistic desire, not the reality that
frustrates it. The real cause of the economic problem is not the
absence of means to satisfy our endless wants, but the presence
of these insatiable wants. So the solution of our problems in
life is the eradication of these unrealistic desires which clash
with reality and frustrate us and cause us unhappiness. In other
words, we have to awaken from our world of dreams and come down
to reality, to face and accept reality as it is. This is why Theravada
Buddhism is not an other-worldly religion or a kind of escapist
asceticism but a this-worldly and down to earth realism. Nirvana
is not an escape into a trance state of mystical bliss, but rather
perfect sanity which goes beyond the so called normality that
is itself insanity, from a Buddhist point of view.
To understand Theravada Buddhism we have to understand
ourselves, as it is merely a description of ourselves What has
to be done is not to examine the pages of old worn out texts,
though this may be useful at the outset to find out where we have
to go; nor do we have to make long excursions into outer space
or make complicated mathematical calculations The Buddha's Teachings
are like routes on a map which help us to journey through the
labyrinths of our own mind When the mind is understood we have
understood everything. The Buddha said, "The world, the beginning
of the world, the end of the world, and the path leading to the
end of the world is right here in this fathom-long body with its
perceptions and consciousness."
The person who understands in this way need not worry about the
problem of an after life. Buddhism is not a worry about circumstances
here or hereafter, but a concern about mental states here and
now. If we look after the present state of mind, the future will
look after itself. Nirvana is a state of being in which the mind
is purified of all clinging, craving, aversions, ego-conceit and
ignorance here and now, not a trance or life after death. If Buddhism
is understood and practiced by mankind, this earth would become
a place of harmony and happiness; happiness not through plenty
and power, but happiness through desire-lessness and wisdom.