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, this quarter, are 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, and to continue this 13-week action plan, in week 17 we shall continue to deepen our understanding that ignorant craving and attachment are the immediate causes of existential suffering (the second noble truth of Buddhism) and that this suffering shall cease altogether when we deal with and overcome its causes (the third noble truth); in Dutch: het hechten is de directe oorzaak van het lijden en door ons te onthechten verlossen wij ons daarvan (de tweede en de derde edele waarheid).
According to Advayavada Buddhism, it is indisputable that the Buddha did not believe in Brahman (God, transcendent and immutable Absolute) nor in the atta or atman (soul, immortal self, in Pali and Sanskrit) and taught that man ultimately suffers because he does not understand and accept that all things in life are instead utterly changeable and transitory; if the Buddha had ever expressed belief in Brahman and the atta or atman (as e.g. in Advaita-Vedanta), such a crucial fact would have been unequivocally recorded in History.
Man is prone to existential suffering (dukkha, duhkha) quite simply because he wrongly strives after and tries to hold on to things, concepts and situations which he believes to be permanent, but are not. His mistaken view of things is produced by a thirst, craving or clinging (called tanha in Pali and trishna in Sanskrit) which is in turn caused by his fundamental ignorance (avijja, avidya) of the true nature of reality, and this thirst, craving or clinging can moreover easily take on a more unwholesome form: already as sensuous desire, ill-will, laziness, impatience or distrust will it seriously hinder the individual’s efforts to better his or her circumstances, as well as affect the efforts of others to improve theirs.
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 essentially due to the very many not knowing or not understanding or simply disbelieving the true nature of existence.
Feel free to share these weekly ASP instalments.