Buddhism Fundamentals: 佛法真義─中道, 涅槃, 四聖諦, 八正道

I find the following quoted article by Venerable Master Hsing-Yun (星雲大師) greatly improves my understanding of the Buddhism fundamentals (佛法真義─中道, 涅槃, 四聖諦, 八正道); I thus quote the entire article here.  The original article is on this web page: 佛法真義─中道, 涅槃, 四聖諦, 八正道

The entire article (佛法真義─中道, 涅槃, 四聖諦, 八正道)

佛法真義─中道

作者:佛光山開山星雲大師】

世間法都是對待[對立]的,善和惡,是和非,好和壞,事和理,甚至於對與錯、難與易、高與低、大與小、男與女等等。佛法就不同了,佛法不講對立,講究中道。中道,是超越有無、增減、善惡、愛憎等二邊的極端,但是,「中道」並非折中之道或中庸之道,而是以般若智慧來調和事理,融和有無,以便趨向解脫之道。

佛世時,當時的印度有六師外道,在修行上有順世派的極端享樂主義者,有尼乾陀的極端苦行主義者;對於宇宙人生問題的看法上,有著極端的「宿命論」與「無因論」等,他們各執一端的說法,佛陀認為不可取,為不落於偏見,因此佛陀「離於二邊,而說中道」。

佛陀的弟子二十億耳,過去是一名琴師,隨佛出家後,急於證果,日夜不懈精進修行,卻久久沒有開悟,反而把身心弄得疲憊不堪,因此萌生退心。佛陀知道了,就來到他修行的地方,指點他:「你用音樂來幫助我宣化,長養你和大家的信心,這個很好。你在彈琴時,假若琴絃太緊了會怎樣呢?」

「琴絃太緊是會斷的!」二十億耳回答。
「那太鬆呢?」
「沒有聲音!」

「太緊太鬆都彈不成調,唯有急緩得中,才能彈出美妙的聲音;修行也是如此,過分急躁或是懈怠,都不是正常之道。」二十億耳聽佛陀教誨後,調整自己的修行方式,不久便證得阿羅漢果。

融和空有 契入世間實相

中道的思想,是空有融和的智慧,可以直接契入世間實相。有中道的般若智慧,就能在現世生活中幸福快樂。因此,不只修行要合於中道,做任何事情,過與不及都不好。例如,生活中有人過於追逐物欲,有人過分刻苦自勵,有人對金錢的使用浪費無度,有人則一毛不拔,這都不是正常之道。就像一隻手,始終緊握拳頭是畸形,只張不合也是畸形,一定要拳掌舒卷自如,才是正常。

中道是中觀的般若智慧,有了智慧,遇到事情就懂得事待理成,懂得把握其中的原則。看到果,就知道果從因生,種什麼因得什麼果,因而不會怨天尤人。佛陀告訴我們「緣起性空」,就是要我們明白「有」因「空」立,所以能真正明白緣起者,於諸法則不執著實有,亦不執著全無,所謂「色即是空,空即是色」,如此體悟非空、非有,就是「中道」。

人間佛教有擁有的生活,也有空無的生活;有群居的生活,也有獨處的生活。如能把世間所有的一切都調和起來,過著中道的生活,思想不要偏激,不要走極端,不要用二分法,用圓融才能中道。中道,世間才會太平;中道,世間才沒有紛爭;中道,人生才能有樂趣;中道,才有美好的生活。
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佛法真義─涅槃

一般人講到「涅槃」,往往與死亡劃上等號,甚至連自殺或槍斃而死的人,也稱「涅槃」;即使是佛教人士,對於大德長老辭世,也常用「涅槃」來形容,實在曲解了「涅槃」的真義。涅槃不是死了以後叫作涅槃;活著、開悟,就叫作涅槃。涅槃它是一個不生不滅的境界,所謂「去一分無明,就得一分智慧;去十分無明,就得十分智慧」。

如釋迦牟尼佛在菩提樹下、金剛座上,證悟宇宙人生的真理,成就正等正覺,這就是涅槃。他泯除人我關係的對立,超越時空的障礙,而證悟生命永恆無限的境界;但因身體尚有依報在,所以稱為「有餘依涅槃」。他八十歲時在娑羅雙樹下寂滅證入的是「無餘依涅槃」,此外五十年間行化各地,接應群機,過的是無著無染的「無住涅槃」生活;像這種住而不住,應化自在的生活,才是真正的「大涅槃」。

涅槃,不是舊有生命的結束,而是新生命的開始。涅槃是不生不死的境界,是圓滿、永恆的生命,是超越時間和空間,不在生死中流轉,因此佛教的「三法印」裡,最後一個法印即是「涅槃寂靜」。當一個人證悟到「涅槃」境界,即代表他已經得到解脫自在。

試想,人活在世間上,為什麼不能自在?別人的一句話、一個眼神不合己意,就不自在;吃飯時挑肥揀瘦,睡覺時輾轉反側,都是由於人心的貪瞋愚痴、種種煩惱妄想而讓我們不得自在。如果能體證世間實相,做得了自己的主人,便能處處自在無礙。

當然,涅槃境界也有深淺。在佛教裡,二乘羅漢開悟證果,只是證到「有餘涅槃」,必須是大乘菩薩經過百千萬劫的修行,才能證得「無餘涅槃」。「有餘涅槃」表示還有一些世間依靠,如依於精神、心理,依於悟道、智慧;能到達「無餘涅槃」,就是一個慧日朗照虛空,似無依靠卻又光輝普照的平等世界,那是一個真常、真樂、真我、真淨的世界,是沒有生死的法身實相,也是最究竟圓滿的境界。

其實佛教裡面,有很多同義不同詞的名相,它只是為了解釋某一個佛法義理,形容某一種證悟的法界實相,所延伸出來的不同名稱。比方說:如來、寂滅、真如、自性、法身、實相、本體……;其實都和涅槃、般若一樣,是同一個意義。這都是佛教的大德們,為了解釋一個人生圓滿的境界,用般若、實相、法身、理體來說明最高的境界是什麼、最高的涅槃是什麼。但是一些初學佛法的人,一下不容易進入佛法大海之中,聽到這許多名相,就生起了疑難,產生了疑惑、錯誤的解釋。

因此,人人要了解,涅槃不是死的意思,涅槃是一種圓滿,證悟法身,進入到一種沒有動盪、是非、好壞、對立,是不染一塵的寂滅境界,就像光照大千、胸懷法界一樣。所以,涅槃是生命最究竟、最圓滿的境界。
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佛法真義─四聖諦

佛陀因證悟「緣起法」而成就佛道,但是緣起法深奧難解,佛陀唯恐驟然宣說,會讓還沒有起信的眾生望而生畏,於是在鹿野苑初轉法輪時,先為五比丘宣說四聖諦法──苦、集、滅、道。這可說是佛法的綱要,說明了人生如何從「苦空無常」的此岸,邁向「常樂我淨」的彼岸之修道次第。

苦、集二諦是迷界的世間因果,是流轉門,集是因,苦是果;滅、道二諦是悟界的出世間因果,是還滅門,道是因,滅是果。若依因果順序來說,四聖諦應為集、苦、道、滅,但因眾生的根性,「果」易明而「因」難曉,為了方便化導,佛陀因此不得不先明示苦相,令眾生生起厭離之心,再示業因,使之斷集,繼而示以涅槃樂相,令其欣慕,然後再說修道之法,令其行持,目的就是要使眾生「知苦、斷集、慕滅、修道」。

四聖諦就像治病的過程,一個人生病了,痛苦不堪,是苦諦;知道病因,是集諦;對症下藥,施以各種醫療方法,是道諦;藥到病除,恢復健康,是滅諦。我們身體的疾病要接受醫生治療,我們心裡的病毒,則要依靠佛法的藥方來醫治。其藥方就是指「八正道」──正見、正思惟、正語、正業、正命、正精進、正念、正定。循此八正道,可以讓我們煩惱永斷,解脫生死輪迴之苦。

「正見」是指正當的見解、正當的信仰,對於是非善惡、真偽虛實有正確的判斷,做正確的行為,這也是八正道的主體;而「正思惟」就是正當的思想,不貪欲、不瞋恚、不愚痴,遠離邪、妄,以智慧去思量分別;與人交談以慈顏愛語,令人生起信心、歡喜,就是「正語」;平日所行,不違犯五戒,合於道德禮法,不會為一己之私欲而侵犯、傷害他人,是「正業」、「正命」;進而主動樂善好施,行善止惡,濟弱扶傾,就是「正精進」、「正念」;若遇到困難挫折,能冷靜沉著,用智慧去判斷,解決處理,即「正定」。

而佛教的四大菩薩可說是四聖諦「苦集」的解決者,也是「滅道」的完成者。例如:觀音菩薩因慈悲,遊化諸方國土,見到眾生受三毒、七難的苦,即尋聲救苦,就是實踐「眾生無邊誓願度」的大願。

地藏菩薩以大願力,發心到地獄度眾生;其地獄的痛苦,就是貪、瞋、痴、慢等聚集,而產生痛苦,地藏王菩薩發願予以救助,讓地獄有了佛日的光輝,所以是「煩惱無盡誓願斷」。

文殊菩薩因為有大智慧,具足種種不可思議功德,讓人從迷取覺、從苦得樂,給予種種的方便、所學,所以是「法門無量誓願學」。

普賢菩薩因為有大行力,鼓勵對人格的尊重,要讚美他人的美德,有施捨眾生歡喜、慚愧自謙的實力,所以他能導萬行而歸淨土,讓所有苦難的眾生都能得救,這就是「佛道無上誓願成」。

總之,佛法不只是以苦、集、滅、道來解釋宇宙人生的現象,最主要還是解決宇宙人生的問題,所以必須具有願力、修行、實踐。因此,從四聖諦而開展四弘誓願、六度行門,就是提供一個人生解脫的方便。而我們在通達、了知四聖諦的真理之後,還要學菩薩不捨一法,以四聖諦的佛法基礎,實踐四攝六度的行門,來完成菩薩道。

點亮心靈的燈光(二): Light up the mind (Part 2)

I shall practice the following quoted Buddhist teachings to maintain a peaceful mind.  The following short quote, point #2 (Maintain a diligent, precise, compact pattern in thoughts) can be a quick start for me to practice.  Source from Fo Guang Shan: 心的管理: 點亮心靈的燈光(二)
【作者:佛光山開山星雲大師】 2017-01-04

第二、點亮勤勞節儉的心燈:「流水不腐,戶樞不蠹,以其勞動不息。」人生要有朝氣,要不斷為自己注入生命的活水。思想要深入,須勤於動腦;文筆要精練,應勤於動筆;口才要練達,要勤於講說。節儉是中國傳統美德,凡事不貪心,物質的欲望就會降低,耗費的金錢就會減少。除了金錢的節省,物品的愛惜,其他如不貪、不瞋、不癡、惜時、淡薄,也都是心性上的儉約,心靈上的財富。

Entire article:

心的管理 點亮心靈的燈光(二)
【作者:佛光山開山星雲大師】 2017-01-04
宋朝茶陵郁禪師的偈寫道:「我有明珠一顆,久被塵勞封鎖,今朝塵盡光生,照破山河萬朵。」人人皆有清淨的本心,只因煩惱妄想而不能顯露,只要妄心去除,就能回歸清淨自性。每個人心中都有一盞明燈,只要我們願意打破黑暗,做一位主動開燈的人,光明就會即時來到。點亮心靈的燈光,有以下四點:

第一、點亮守法服務的心燈:一個國家有法律,自能福國利民;一個團體有制度,才能長久經營;一個人內心有規矩,君子風度才能顯發。所以人人守法,社會才能安寧,人心才能安定。服務來自於內心志願幫助他人,如教師為學子服務、公司為客戶服務、商店為顧客服務,乃至童子軍日行一善,藉由服務可以增進彼此的交流往來,藉由服務就能廣結善緣。

第二、點亮勤勞節儉的心燈:「流水不腐,戶樞不蠹,以其勞動不息。」人生要有朝氣,要不斷為自己注入生命的活水。思想要深入,須勤於動腦;文筆要精練,應勤於動筆;口才要練達,要勤於講說。節儉是中國傳統美德,凡事不貪心,物質的欲望就會降低,耗費的金錢就會減少。除了金錢的節省,物品的愛惜,其他如不貪、不瞋、不癡、惜時、淡薄,也都是心性上的儉約,心靈上的財富。

第三、點亮忍讓和平的心燈:世間最大的力量就是忍耐。《六祖壇經》云:「讓則尊卑和睦,忍則眾惡無喧。」為了息事寧人,忍讓和平是促進彼此和諧的調和劑。做人處事,橫衝直撞未必能帶來成功,甚至還會招致責怪怨懟;將心定下來,仔細思量後,能以退為進,何嘗不能卓然有成?

第四、點亮般若智慧的心燈:人光有聰明是不夠的,有時聰明反被聰明所誤;擁有智慧,凡事才能洞察秋毫。家庭的和睦,需賴尊重包容的智慧來建立;經濟的復甦,需有勤奮踏實的智慧來努力;國家的安定,需以信念一致的智慧來成就;人際的和諧,則需靠彼此信賴的智慧來維持。點亮心中般若智慧的燈光,就能看清楚方向,諸事無礙,而成就大局。

讓我們點亮心靈的燈光,照亮黑暗的每一個角落,而能「無有恐怖,遠離顛倒夢想。」

第一、點亮守法服務的心燈。

第二、點亮勤勞節儉的心燈。

第三、點亮忍讓和平的心燈。

第四、點亮般若智慧的心燈。

Stroke types, symptoms, emergency supports, warning signs

Protecting my heart and brain is one of my main self-health care focuses; I thus read a little bit about strokes, that are the third largest health killers in the U.S., following heart diseases and cancers.

Quote from Stroke: Symptoms Causes & Treatment”:

What is a Stroke

A stroke is the rapidly developing loss of brain functions due to a disturbance in the blood vessels supplying blood to the brain. This can be due to ischemia (lack of blood supply) caused by thrombosis or embolism or due to a hemorrhage. As a result, the affected area of the brain is unable to function, leading to inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, inability to understand or formulate speech or inability to see one side of the visual field.

A stroke occurs when the supply of blood to the brain is suddenly interrupted. There are two types of strokes. When the arteries carrying blood to the brain are abruptly blocked, it is called an ischemic stroke. When a blood vessel bursts and blood seeps into the brain tissue it is known as a hemorrhagic stroke.

Types of Strokes Include:

Ischemic stroke – In an ischemic stroke, blood supply to part of the brain is decreased, leading to dysfunction of the brain tissue in that area.

Hemorrhagic stroke – Intracranial hemorrhage is the accumulation of blood anywhere within the skull vault.

Thrombotic stroke – In thrombotic stroke, a thrombus (blood clot) usually forms around atherosclerotic plaques. Since blockage of the artery is gradual, onset of symptomatic thrombotic strokes is slower.

Embolic stroke – An embolic stroke refers to the blockage of an artery by an embolus, a traveling particle or debris in the arterial bloodstream originating from elsewhere.

Stroke Symptoms

According to neurologists, if a stroke can be immediately recognized and medical attention made available within three hours, it is normally possible to reverse the effects, often completely. The problem is that strokes are often unrecognized since most people are unaware of the symptoms.

A severe stroke, if not treated in time, can result in death. Even if the stroke is not fatal, it may cause neurological damage that will the leave patient incapacitated for life. The brain is one of the most complex organs in the body. Even if other organs fail, the brain may continue to keep functioning. But when the brain stops functioning completely – brain death – the other organs have nothing to control them and gradually die also.

The effects of a stroke depend on the location of the obstruction – which part of the brain is deprived of blood – and the amount of tissue damage.

One side of the brain controls the opposite side of the body and also specific organs, so a stroke occurring in the right side of the brain could result in, among others:

  • Paralysis of the left side of the body
  • Problem with vision
  • A sudden change in behavior
  • usually rapid erratic movement
  • Loss of memory

A stroke in the left side of the brain may cause:

  • Paralysis to the right side of the body
  • Problem in speaking, incoherent speech
  • Memory loss
  • Slow uncertain body movements

Warning signs of a stroke are:

  • Any sudden weakness or numbness of the face or the limbs, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden severe headaches with no discernible cause
  • A sudden onset of confusion
  • being unable to talk, speaking in an unclear or garbled manner, speaking illogically
  • Inability to understand what is being said
  • Trouble with seeing or focusing, with both or just one eye
  • A sudden onset of dizziness, loss of balance, uncoordinated physical movements or trouble in walking.

Remember that these symptoms maybe transitory, as in the case of the lady at the party. Do not ignore any of these symptoms even if these seem to disappear in a few seconds or minutes and the person appears to be fine. If a stroke has occurred, brain damage need not be immediately apparent and signs may not surface for several hours, by which time it may be too late to help.

There is a simple and medically approved way to see if a person has suffered as stroke. It is called STR and is worth remembering.

STR stands for:

Smile – ask the person suspected of having had a stroke to smile.

Talk – ask the person to speak a simple sentence: describe what kind of car he owns or where he lives.

Raise – ask the person to raise his arms above his head.

Doctors suggest one other way to know if a person has suffered a stroke – ask the person to stick out his tongue. If his tongue is not straight or droops or slants to one side rather than coming straight out of his mouth, it is an indication of a stroke.

If the person has difficulty in performing any one of these tasks, it is more than likely he has suffered a stroke and medical help should be IMMEDIATELY called for.

Until help arrives, caring for a stroke victim is limited to offering support to the victim. But this is important and may prevent further deterioration of the condition while waiting for medical help – If there is someone available with CPR training, the victim’s circulation, breathing and airway should be checked as per standard CPR procedure.

The paramedics should be briefed, when they arrive, on symptoms observed and action taken.

  • Lay the victim down flat with the head and shoulder slightly raised to reduce the blood pressure in the brain
  • If the victim is unconscious, gently roll him so he is lying on his left side and pull the chin forward. This will help to keep the airway open and allow any vomit to drain and not hamper the breathing.
  • If the victim is conscious speak reassuringly and offer all the positive support you can. Keep saying that help is on the way.
  • Never give a stroke victim any thing to eat or drink. The throat may be paralyzed and they may choke.

Strokes are the third largest killers in America, after heart disease and cancer.

There is a relationship between high blood pressure, snoring and strokes.

Various systems have been proposed to increase recognition of stroke by patients, relatives and emergency first responders. Sudden-onset face weakness, arm drift, and abnormal speech are the findings most likely to lead to the correct identification of a case of stroke.

Daily quotes from Tzu Chi Jing Si Aphorisms (靜思語) by Venerable Master Shih Cheng Yen

I will add one quote a day starting on January 2, 2017 from Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms (靜思語).

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About this Jing Si Aphorism: Quote from Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms:

“Following and applying the teachings of Buddha in our daily lives and transforming ourselves into living Bodhisattvas” is the goal that Master Cheng Yen has ardently, and without reservation, pursued for more than four decades. How can one combine the Buddha’s teachings and life lessons? How can one make the Bodhisattva path the spiritual goal of present day people? Master Cheng Yen accomplishes these goals by translating the essence of the Buddha’s teachings into simple and easy to understand language and uses everyday events to exemplify life lessons. Her exquisite words and caring thoughts inspire wisdom and provide direction amidst delusional thinking.

Direct quote, in reversed page order, from Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms (靜思語):

P064: The first step on the path of Buddhism is to lessen our desires and be satisfied with what we have.  Then our minds will relax and we will relax and we will begin to gain wisdom.

P062: The ocean can be filled [up], yet the tiny mouth of a human being can never be filled [up to stop from churning out gossip].

P060: Know your blessings, cherish them and sow more blessings.

P058: One who is content is immensely broadhearted.  A broadhearted person will not be in dispute with others over any matters.  [One who is easy to content with often has a tolerant mind.  A tolerant minded person would be tolerant of others and matters.]

P056: If we can reduce our desires, there is nothing really worth getting upset about.  [If one minimizes his wants, there will be much less chance of sweating over the small stuff.]

P054: How bitter life is when we have desires!  Our demands on others bring endless misery.  [The more we ask for more than we deserve, the more difficulties we will encounter.  If we relentlessly make demands on others, the hardship from those unsatisfied demands could become endless.]

P052: Material objects were meant to be tools for us to use.  Yet, lacking wisdom, we are perpetually discontent, and we thus become enslaved by material objects.  [Resources are meant for us to deploy; while the lack of wisdom leads to our insatiate demands for goods that in turn, enslaves us.]

P050: Because seeing virtue in others is in itself a virtue, in appreciating others, we in fact dignify ourselves.  [Admiring others could shade elegance upon ourselves.]

P048: A refined disposition is naturally expressed in the way a person walks, lives, sits, and sleeps.  [An individual’s disciplines can show in his walks, living space arrangements, sitting manner and reclining positions while resting.]

P046: The beauty of a group lies in the refinement of its individuals.  [The beauty of a group lies upon the assembly of each individual’s ethics practice.]

P044: In handling matters, let your mind influence your heart.  In dealing with people, let your heart influence your mind.  [Manage business with mind based upon your heart; while dealing with human relationship, you will let your heart drive your mind.]

P042: Good actions require everyone’s cooperation.  So let’s not cling to personal biases.  [It takes all of us: you, them and us to accomplish things; so let’s set aside our prejudices.]

P040: We must carry out our tasks according to principles, and not let our principles be compromised by our tasks.  [It is the principles that guide our actions, not to bend our principles to fit into the situation.]

P038: Abide by your principles in everything you do.  Never do things just to satisfy others.  For rather than satisfying them, you may get in over your head.  [Keep your principles in mind on everything you do; do not compromise your principles for the sake of others’ wants.  Acting to satisfy others’ wants while leaving your principles behind, you might not be helping while instead, you compromise yourself.]

P036: Nothing is impossible with confidence, perseverance, and courage.  [Confidence, perseverance and courage working together can warrant success.]

P034: The hardest thing for people to see is themselves.  [The hardest thing to see in life is to look into oneself.]

P032: Repentance purifies the mind; a pure mind can readily sweep away afflictions.  [Repentance leads to a clear mind; a clear mind rids off all worries.]

P030: It is easy to reflect on major mistakes, and [but] hard to eliminate small bad habits.

. P028: To shoulder a burden is an inspiring force.  To admit a mistake is a noble virtue.  [Taking charge a mission is a powerful motivation; Taking the responsibility from a mistake is a virtue.]

. P026: We start to slacken the minute we find excuses for ourself. [We start getting lazy the moment we find an excuse for ourself.]

. P024: People who are preoccupied with past achievements cannot humble themselves. [Note: My own translation from the original Mandarin version: Those who forget to humble themselves is often due to their being overindulging in their past achievements.]

. P022: To regard ourself lightly is prajna (wisdom).  To regard ourself highly is attachment.

. P020: To be humble is to shrink our ego until we are small enough to enter another’s eyes and [to] reside in their heart and mind.

. P018: Only those who respect themselves have the courage to be humble.

.P016 Those who have great wisdom must all the more be humble and unassuming, just like the rice stalk that bows under the weight of ripe grain.

.P014 To willingly undergo hardship for the sake of helping others is compassion.

.P(age) 012 A person with a generous heart [being forgiving] and compassion for all beings leads the most blessed life.

. Transient though life may be, one’s contributions will live on; as love knows no boundaries, its spirit will always remain.

. The future is an illusion, the past is a memory [alternating among the goods and bads].  Hold on to the goodness that is in our heart at this present moment and take care to fulfill the duties that we have at hand.

. When walking, as we step one foot forward, we lift the other foot up.  In the same way, we should let go of yesterday and focus on today.

. Use wisdom to contemplate the meaning of life.  Use resolve to organize the time you are given.

. Over time, we can build great character, achieve great success, and cultivate great virtue.

. While working, learn; while learning, awaken to the many truths of life.