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THE STORY OF THE BUDDHA: A MESSAGE FOR A WORLD IN TURMOIL Tao Lecturer Thomas E. Maher (Shan Ping) Kuang Ming Saint Tao Temple, El Monte, California February 12, 2011
SYNOPSIS • This lecture will trace the life of the Buddha (Gautama Siddartha) from utter sensuality to unrelenting asceticism to the Middle Way of Enlightenment. In the process, it will be noted that all sentient beings desire to be happy and that life is precious. • It will be emphasized that “Middle-way” does not mean “Halfway!” For example, it does not mean half a martini, instead of a whole martini, half a “joint” instead of a whole “joint,” or torture instead of murder!
SYNOPSIS • The two most significant events in the Buddhas’s pre-enlightenment phase will be identified: • (1) his sadness at the age of 16 when he noticed the inadvertent killing of insects at the Spring planting festival • (2) the loving kindness of the young girl who brought him food as he lay dying of starvation after his self-imposed asceticism.
SYNOPSIS • The audience will be reminded that the Buddha is almost always depicted in a meditative state, thus alluding to the process of “knowing oneself,” the essence of “enlightenment.” The structure of the brain will be discussed at some length in order to show its relationship to happiness, the mind and the true path to enlightenment: “loving kindness for all creatures.” The audience will be challenged to respond to the Zen Master’s demand: “Where is your mind? Show me your mind!”
SYNOPSIS • Finally, it will be noted that when one opens the door of the PRESENT MOMENT, one enters the realm of the ETERNAL NOW.
IS HAPPINESS POSSIBLE IN A WORLD OF TURMOIL? • Life is a continuous sequence of problems with two aspects • The OBJECTIVE Aspect • The Buddha’s message does not address this but sometimes affects it • The SUBJECTIVE Aspect • This is the area that the Buddha’s message addresses and where it seeks to be effective
ASSUMPTIONS • All sentient beings want to be happy • Life is precious • Life is intended to be enjoyed to its fullest • Happiness requires awareness • To be happy, one must know oneself • Concentration (meditation) is the pathway to knowing oneself
THE BRAIN AND HAPPINESS: THE NEURONAL STRUCTURE • Neuronal activity • The billions of neurons that comprise the brain, an organ that weighs only three pounds • The three major functional areas of the brain • The brain stem (survival) • The limbic system (empathy) • the hippocampus (memory) • the amygdala (emotion) • The neo-cortex (conceptual)
THE BRAIN AND HAPPINESS: THE NEURONAL STRUCTURE • To create a single thought, the three areas of the brain must work together • The neuronal structure of the brain can be changed by concentration (meditation) • Habits: their creation, modification and replacement
THE BRAIN AND THE MIND • The brain is the organ of the mind but is not mind, just as the eye is the organ of sight but is not sight • The Zen Master’s challenge: “Show me you mind; where is your mind?
THE BUDDHA: THE TWO DEFINING MOMENTS IN HIS LIFE • At the age of 16, witnessing the suffering of insects at the Spring planting festival • The loving kindness of the young girl who brought him food and nursed him back to health as he lay dying of starvation caused by his self-imposed asceticism
THE MIDDLE WAY: WHAT IS IT? • Middle way does not mean half way! It is not half a martini, instead of a whole martini, half a “joint” instead of a whole “joint,” or torture instead of murder! • The Middle Way is action based on wisdom, rather than on greed or anger • It is a conversion of the three poisons into their opposites, where greed becomes generosity, anger becomes loving kindness, and delusion becomes wisdom. It is a balance between two “goods.”
HOW CONCENTRATION (MEDITATION) CREATES HAPPINESS IN A WORLD OF TURMOIL • Changing the brain structure through concentration (meditation) • Emptiness: total potential • Mindfulness and its cultivation • Uncovering one’s natural state of loving kindness when “change” is thoroughly understood • The PRESENT MOMENT: the door way to the ETERNAL NOW
TWO QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION • What is meant by the “Middle Way?” How did this phrase originate? • Why does meditation lead to a knowledge of one’s True Self? What does one do in meditation? What obscures one’s True Self?” What is meant by the phrase, “You are already a Buddha (enlightened one)?”