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Becoming Genius Series Completed

October 8, 2013

Yesterday’s post completes the 6-video Skillful Living: Becoming Genius series. Along with the Skillful Living: Foundations series, these videos provide very valuable background and methods for understanding the teaching of the Buddha. Judging by the lack of comments on this site, our reader engagement and participation is less than optimal. The purpose of these videos is to give readers the means to better understand the often difficult subject matter.

We make no apology for the level of difficulty of our writing; the subject matter demands it. Too many western Buddhist writers, even monks, ‘dumb down’ the subject matter it make it more approachable; but IMHO, they simply wind up distorting the Buddha’s teaching. I would rather be as accurate and faithful as possible to the original teaching than deliver a distorted message to a broader audience.

The teaching of the Buddha is remarkably sophisticated. Though limited by the constraints of the language of his time, he managed to communicate a complex ontology of being. He also revealed a wonderful gift for teaching a strategy of enlightenment that evades the greatest traps of the path of self-realization.

Our principal difficulty in approaching the Buddha’s teaching is that we expect a great world religion to include a comprehensive ontology and cosmology, a map of the universe and its possibilities. While later commentators tried to construct such a grand intellectual scheme—with varying degrees of success—the Buddha’s original teaching is striking in its absence.

The Buddha was a practical man. He discovered the path to ultimate enlightenment, and gave the instructions necessary to attain it for ourselves. That’s all; though he may have attained omniscience, he did not reveal all he knew. He thought it more important to give us the relatively simple knowledge of how to attain it for ourselves.

Once the Blessed One was staying at Kosambi in the simsapa forest. Then, picking up a few simsapa leaves with his hand, he asked the monks, “What do you think, monks: Which are more numerous, the few simsapa leaves in my hand or those overhead in the simsapa forest?”

“The leaves in the hand of the Blessed One are few in number, lord. Those overhead in the simsapa forest are more numerous.”

“In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven’t I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. That is why I have not taught them.

“And what have I taught? ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress… This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress’: This is what I have taught. And why have I taught these things? Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. This is why I have taught them.

“Therefore your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is stress… This is the origination of stress… This is the cessation of stress.’ Your duty is the contemplation, ‘This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress’.”—Simsapa Sutta (Saṃyutta-Nikāya 56.31)

However, people trying to approach the teaching of the Buddha today have a significant handicap: their early school training. Their intelligence and initiative are weak, compared to people of the Buddha’s time. Our video series is a small, imperfect attempt to raise and discuss the missing knowledge and learning methods that were taken for granted in the Buddha’s time, but are rarely encountered in today’s environment. Please take advantage of it.

From → Skillful Living

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