The Teaching of All Buddhas

by Dr. Khin Maung U

The teachings of all Buddhas can be summed up in the following verse (Verse No. 183 in Dhammapada):
Sabba pāpassa akāranam
Kusalassa upasampadā
Sa citta pariyoda panam
Etam buddhāna sāsanam.

The English translation is:
To refrain from all evil,
To do what is good,
To purify the mind,
This is the teaching of the Buddhas.

To understand the above verse, we should first understand:
(1) what is meant by evil (bad), and evil (bad) roots
(2) what is meant by good, and good roots, and
(3) how we can purify the mind.

What is evil (bad)?
The Buddha taught that ten akusalā kamma are bad, namely:
1. Killing any living creature
2. Stealing
3. Sexual misconduct
(The above three are bodily actions – kāya akusalā kamma)
4. Lying
5. Tale bearing
6. Harsh language
7. Frivolous talk
(The above four are verbal actions – vaci akusalā kamma)
8. Covetousness
9. Ill will
10. False views
(The above three are mental actions – mano akusalā kamma)

What are bad roots? They are:
1. Greed (lobha), i.e., desire for sensual pleasures, wealth, rank, etc.
2. Hatred (dosa), i.e. ill will or anger or resentment of another
3. Ignorance (moha), or delusion. Ignorance is the primary root of all evil that accompanies greed and hatred. Due to ignorance, a person cannot distinguish between right and wrong.

What is good?
Abstaining from the ten akusalā kamma is good, namely:
1. To abstain from killing any living creature
2. To abstain from stealing
3. To abstain from sexual misconduct
4. To abstain from lying
5. To abstain from tale bearing
6. To abstain from harsh language
7. To abstain from frivolous talk
8. Absence of covetousness
9. Absence of ill will
10. Right understanding

What are good roots? They are:
1. Absence of greed (unselfishness or alobha)
2. Absence of hatred (adosa or metta: loving kindness)
3. Absence of ignorance (amoha or pannā: wisdom)

The Buddha taught also that ten kusalā kamma are good. In Abhidhammā, kusalā means meritorious, wholesome or moral; kusalā is so-called because it eradicates evil. All types of kusalā are naturally free from fault and bring about happiness.

The ten kusalā kamma are:
1. Generosity (dāna)
2. Morality (sila)
3. Meditation (bhāvana)
4. Reverence (apacāyana): Showing respect to monks and elders
5. Service: (vēyāvicca): Performing work for the monks, temple or congregation
6. Sharing (pattidāna): sharing one’s religious merit with others
7. Taking joy in sharing others’ religious merit (pattānu mōdanā)
8. Listening to dhamma discourses (dhamma sāvana)
9. Expounding or discussing the dhamma (dhamma dēsanā)
10. Taking the right view (ditthiju kamma)

Mere ceasing from evil actions (bodily, verbal or mental) is not enough.

A noble effort is needed to replace them by good actions (bodily, verbal or mental, the kusalā kamma) mentioned above, so that the individual – through his good thoughts, words and deeds – helps all his fellow beings.

How can we purify the mind?
In the Buddhist philosophy, there are three classes of thought, namely:
1. consciousness in the plane of sense desire (world desires),
2. higher grades of consciousness, and
3. supramundane consciousness.

Consciousness in the plane of sense desire (worldly desires) is mainly of two types: bad and good.
1. The consciousness or thoughts that are accompanied by the three bad roots of greed, hatred (ill will) and ignorance) are bad, and lead to bad words and bad deeds.
2. The consciousness or thoughts that are accompanied by the three good roots of unselfishness, good will and insight, are good, and lead to good words and good deeds.

To purify one’s thoughts, one does so by purging the three bad roots of greed, hatred and ignorance, and acquiring the three good roots of unselfishness, goodwill and insight.

This can be performed in three stages, because defilements of the mind exist in three stages:
1. In the first stage, the defilements lie latent in each of us, not in any way becoming manifest in words or deeds.
2. In the second stage, when awakened or disturbed by any object – pleasant or unpleasant – these defilements of the mind arise from the latent state up to the level of thoughts, emotions and feelings.
3. In the third stage, the defilements become so fierce and ungovernable that they produce evil actions in words and deeds.

To dispel these three stages of defilements of the mind, three stages of development are necessary as follows:

1. Morality (Sila): In the Noble Eightfold Path (Magga siccā), Right Speech (Samā Vācā), Right Action (Samā Kammanta) and Right Livelihood (Samā Ājiva) come within the category of morality (Sila).
The development of morality is able to temporarily inhibit the third stage of the defilements. However, the first and second stages of defilements remain unchanged; therefore, these third stage defilements can arise again sooner or later.
This is called the “temporary putting away” (Tadangapahāna).

2. Concentration (Samādhi): In the Noble Eightfold path (Magga siccā), Right Effort (Samā Vāyama), Right Mindfulness (Samā Sati) and Right Concentration (Samā Samādhi) come in the category of concentration (Samādhi).
The development of concentration is able to inhibit the second stage of the defilements, but not the first. The defilements would still arise again, but in this case not too soon, because concentration represents higher mental culture and is more powerful than morality.
This is called “putting away to a distance” (Vikkhambhanapahāna).

3. Wisdom (Paññā): In the Noble Eightfold path (Magga siccā), Right View (Samā ditthi) and Right Thought (Samā Sankappa) come in the category of wisdom (paññā).
Only the development of wisdom or insight (vipassanā paññā) is able to dispel entirely the first stage of the defilements that are unaffected by morality or concentration.
The stage of the defilements eradicated through wisdom or insight will never arise again.
It is like cutting a tree by the root; thus putting away by insight is called “the permanent cutting away” (Samucchedapahāna).

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