[Advayavada Study Plan – week 42] 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 attuning as best as possible, by means of the Noble Eightfold Path, with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction; we seek to become a true part of the whole in this way and our reference standard is wondrous overall existence and not misguided and failing mankind.
In Advayavada Buddhism, the Noble Eightfold Path 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), a well-considered understanding of the Buddha’s four noble truths and of the, in Advayavada Buddhism, four signs or marks or basic facts of being (lakshanas), suffice to start off and proceed on the Noble Eightfold Path at any time.
Evolution or, in human terms, our natural impulse or drive to thrive and advance, is recognized, in Advayavada Buddhism, as the fourth sign of being or caturtha lakshana (cf. conatus). To follow the personalized Noble Eightfold Path is our way of responding to it and when the Path is followed conscientiously, it becomes nothing less than the main karmic (and neuroplastic) factor in one’s life, i.e. in one’s fleeting share in the universal interdependent origination process (madhyamaka-pratityasamutpada) that brings forth wondrous overall existence.
The purpose of this autonomous and open-ended 13-week Advayavada Study Plan (ASP), which can conveniently be repeated four times in a calendar year, 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, or affected by, such as our health, relationships, work, study, social environment and circumstances, etc.
This week, week 42, the third preliminary subject of the ASP is again dukkha (Pali) or duhkha (Sanskrit), which means suffering, sorrow, dissatisfaction, frustration, anxiety, or stress; it is the first of the Buddha’s four noble truths or four truths for the noble ones (catur ariyasacca or catur aryasatya) and also the third of the three or, in Advayavada Buddhism, four signs or marks or basic facts of being (lakkhanas or lakshanas), the other three being the impermanence or changeability of everything (see week 40), the selflessness and emptiness of all things (see week 41), and evolution or, in human terms, progress (cf. conatus, see next week, week 43).
The basic causes of suffering are known traditionally as the ‘three poisons’ (three kleshas): greed, ignorance and hatred, which are often represented as a rooster, a pig and a snake. In Advayavada Buddhism, dukkha or duhkha does not include, in the context of the four truths, emotional grief nor physical pain, which are part and parcel of sentient existence, and it is, above all, not seen as a permanent or inevitable feature of reality; it is chiefly understood as the existential distress and distrust of life non-liberated human beings are prone to and which are essentially caused by the unhealthy and socially infectious sentiment that reality does not conform to their petty desires and mistaken expectations. The ubiquity and unremitting persistency of human dissatisfaction, alienation and conflict in the world is, in our view, especially due to the very many everywhere not being taught or not comprehending or simply disbelieving and often dogmatically denying the basically impermanent and finite nature of their individual existence; note in the latter context the inevitable further ‘devaluation of actual life’ (Pinker) due to the mistaken belief in an afterlife.
This might again be as good a place as any to mention that for many people social drinking is a potential source of much future suffering (cf. viparyasa). Bear in mind in this context most specially the persistent irrational taboo about admitting to alcohol abuse by ourselves or those close to us. Can one beat alcoholism? One can certainly fully neutralize alcohol addiction by ceasing to drink alcoholic beverages altogether, one day at the time, with the help of (a) our GP, (b) a personal psychological coach or counsellor, and (c) by joining a reputable support group to help us develop the necessary emotional counterpunch. This ASP provides an appropriate overall regular training to further help us undo the harm and trauma caused by this costly and disruptive biopsychosocial (bps) disease.
Please take care of yourself and others by following the official pandemic guidelines, particularly those concerning hand washing, social distancing and where and when to use a mask! Please be supportive of the vaccination programmes as they are rolled out; beware of false information about the vaccines and of conspiracy theories generally – population immunity is a must. Feel free to share this post: these systematic teachings are beneficial for anyone (also non-Buddhists) and those interested can follow this weekly ASP themselves on, for instance, advayavadabuddhism dot org and/or by joining our research network on Facebook. Our earlier but recently updated website advayavada dot org contains comprehensive information about our secular, non-dual and life-affirming understanding of Buddhism and has a handy search box at the bottom of each page.