The purpose of Advayavada Buddhism is to become a true part of the whole.
Our quest is fully personalized: it is firmly based on what we increasingly know about ourselves and our world, and trusting our own intentions, feelings and conscience. Adherence to the familiar five precepts (not to kill, not to steal, sexual restraint, not to lie, and refraining from alcohol and drugs) and a well-considered understanding of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs of being and the Buddha’s four noble truths (which were, this quarter, the subjects of weeks 14 to 18) suffice to start off on this Path at any time.
Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by indeed attuning as best as possible with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction. The Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is repeated four times a year.
The purpose of the autonomous ASP is that we study (and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends) the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, such as our health, relationships, work, study, our place in society, etc.
My own specific personal objective this quarter is to improve my understanding of the practice of meditation (dhyana in Sanskrit, jhana in Pali) whose purpose is to attain a deeper concentration of the mind (Samadhi in Sanskrit and Pali), but without becoming preoccupied, however, with a factually non-existent self (svabhava-shunyata, lit. self-nature emptiness, is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy) – what’s your specific objective this quarter?
In week 14 we observed and studied the impermanence or changeability of all things, in week 15 we studied the selflessness and finitude of all things, in week 16 we observed the ubiquity of existential suffering in the world, in week 17 we continued to deepen our understanding that ignorant craving and attachment are the immediate causes of existential suffering, and in week 18 we surveyed the Noble Eightfold Path that eliminates the immediate causes of existential suffering, thus concluding the preliminary subjects.
In week 19 we honestly reviewed and took stock of our personal situation (first step), in week 20 we took an appropriate and timely decision to adjust our course (second step), in week 21 we again put our decision and objective in writing (third step), in week 22 we further developed our very best attitude to carry out our improved objective (fourth step), in week 23 we implemented our improved way of doing things (fifth step), and, to continue this 13-week action plan, in week 24 we shall concentrate on mustering our very best effort and commitment to fulfil our improved objective.
This task is based on the sixth step on the Noble Eightfold Path: samma-vayama (in Pali) or samyag-vyayama (in Sanskrit); in Advayavada Buddhism’s usage: our very best effort and commitment; in Dutch: onze beste inspanning (de zesde stap op het edele achtvoudige pad). And importantly, as we advance properly along the Buddha’s Middle Way responding to his promise of Nirvana, we shall rid ourselves of the so-called ten fetters (dasa-samyojana) that restrict us to samsaric life: 1) belief in the self, 2) scepticism regarding the Path, 3) attachment to rituals, 4) partiality for certain things, 5) prejudice against certain things, 6) clinging to physical life, 7) hope of a hereafter, 8) conceit and pride, 9) intolerance and irritability, and 10) the last remnants of our ignorance.
Other translations of the sixth step are: right thought (Arnold), right effort (Bodhi, Burt, Ch’en, Conze, David-Neel, Dhammananda, Eliot, Fernando, Gethin, Grimm, Harvey, Humphreys, Keown, Khemo, Kornfield, Malalasekera, Narada, Narasu, Nyanatiloka, Rahula, Rhys Davids, Saddhatissa, St Ruth, Stroup, Thich Nhat Hanh), appropriate effort (Batchelor), right exertion (Dharmapala, Guenther), right endeavour (Bahm, Dharmapala, Horner, Takakusu), right application (Watts); proper effort in the proper direction (Edwardes); correct exertion (Kloppenborg), right striving (Melamed), correct striving (Scheepers), right exercise (Warder).
Nirvana is, in Advayavada Buddhism, the total extinction of our existential suffering as a result of our complete reconciliation and harmonization with reality as it truly is beyond our commonly limited and biased personal experience of it; the unremitting persistency of human distress, alienation and conflict is undeniably due to the very many not knowing or not understanding or simply disbelieving the true nature of existence.
Feel free to share these ASP instalments.