Faith (Confidence).  A Buddhist is said to have faith if “he believes in the Buddha’s Enlightenment,” or in the 3 Gems (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha), by taking his refuge to them.  His faith, however, should be “reasoned and rooted in understanding.”  Through wisdom and understanding, faith becomes an inner certainty and firm conviction based on one’s own experience. Faith is called the seed of all wholesome states because it inspires the mind with confidence and determination for “launching out” to cross the flood of Samsara (the Sea of Life).  (See: Samsara)

The Lotus Sutra   stresses the importance of faith on the path to liberation, as a result of which the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can offer their help.  The faith consists in the conviction that grows in followers through their own direct experience with the Buddha’s teaching.  The Buddha himself warned his followers against blind faith. (See: Lotus Sutra)

Feeling (Sensation) is one of the 5 Skandhas (5 Aggregates).  There are 3 types of feelings: pleasant, unpleasant and neutral.  Fearlessness, joy and empathy are identified as absolute feeling, since they correspond to the nature of the psyche.  All other feelings are relative, since they are the result of varying conditions. (See:  5 Skandhas)

Form is one of the 5 Skandhas.  Forms are the things that we can perceive with our senses. There are 2 types of form:  (1) Causative Form:  the four physical elements (earth, water, fire and wind); and (2) Perceived Form:  the five senses (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and sense of touch) with their corresponding perceptions (sounds, smells, tastes, visible and tangible objects), as well as the form for mental consciousness.  (See:  Consciousness)

Four Noble Truths are the basis of the Buddha’s teaching.  The Four Noble Truths are: (1) the truth of suffering; (2) the truth of the origin of suffering; (3) the truth of the cessation of suffering; and (4) the truth of the Noble 8-fold Path that leads to the cessation of suffering.

The first truth says that all existence is characterized by suffering and does not bring satisfaction.  Everything is suffering:  birth, sickness, death; coming together with what one does not like; separating from what one does like; not obtaining what one desires; and the 5 Skandhas of attachment that constitute the personality.  The second truth gives as the cause of suffering craving or desire, the thirst for sensual pleasure, for becoming and passing away.  This craving binds beings to the cycle of existence.

The third truth says that through remainderless elimination of craving, suffering can be brought to an end.  The fourth truth gives the Noble 8-fold Path as the means for the ending of suffering.  Non-recognition of the Four Noble Truths is ignorance.

The discovery of the Four Noble Truthes by the Buddha constituted his actual enlightenment.  The Buddha expounded these truths in the Benares discourse as his first teaching immediately after his Perfect Enlightenment.

Happiness may be either bodily or mental.  There are the happiness of the senses and the happiness of renunciation, worldly and unworldly happiness.  True happiness is an indispensable condition for attaining concentration of mind.  “The mind of the happy one has concentration as its fruit and reward.”

Happiness and joy are mental states and feelings.  The same is true of sadness and pain.  These are all states of mind.  And, yet, we neglect the mind.  Because pain and pleasure are mental states, if we do not pay attention to our minds, then no matter how intent we may be to obtain happiness and reduce pain, we will not succeed.  The more effective way of dealing with our unhappiness is to pay attention to inner values.

Heart Sutra  is the shortest of the forty sutras that constitute the Prajna-paramita Sutra .  It is one of the most important sutras in China and Japan, and it is recited by monks and nuns of almost all schools.  The sutra is especially emphasized in Chan (Zen); since it formulates in a particularly clear and concise way the teaching of emptiness, the immediate experience of which is sought by Chan (Zen) practitioners.  The essential sentence of the Heart Sutra is “Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness is no other than form,” an affirmation that is frequently referred to in Chan (Zen).

Hinayana (Small Vehicle) is one of the two great schools of Buddhism, the other being Mahayana (Great Vehicle).  Theravada was one of the schools of Hinayana, the only one still existing today.  Hinayana is also referred to as southern Buddhism, since it is prevalent chiefly in countries of southern Asia (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Laos, etc.)

The Hinayana is called the “Small Vehicle” because, in contrast to the Mahayana, it has one’s own liberation as goal rather than that of all beings. It is regarded as the first stage of the Buddha’s exposition of the teaching, in which only a small part of the Buddha’s teaching is given.  Only later did the Buddha expound the complete teaching, the Mahayana.

Ignorance is defined as “not knowing the 4 Noble Truths, namely suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the way to its cessation.  Ignorance is a state of mind that does not correspond to reality, that holds illusory phenomena for reality, and bring forth suffering. Ignorance is the cause of craving and is thereby the essential factor binding beings to the cycle of rebirth.   As ignorance is the foundation of all life-affirming, of all evil and suffering, therefore it stands first in the formula of the 12 Factors of Dependent Origination.

Impermanence is one of the most basic truths taught by the Buddha.  It is the concept that all conditioned phenomena will arise, abide, change, and disappear due to causes and conditions. These things never stay in the same way, but that they are vanishing and dissolving from moment to moment. They are constantly changing.  All formations , or conditioned phenomena, are impermanent and subject to suffering.  It is from the fact of impermanence that suffering and non-self are derived.

Impermenence is a basic feature of all conditioned phenomena, be they material or mental, coarse or subtle, one’s own or external.  The insight leads to the first stage of deliverance.  Whatever is subject to origination, is subject to cessation.  Without deep insight into the impermanence and unsubstantiality of all phenomena of existence there is no attainment of deliverance.

The Buddha said, “Everything that ever has come into existence, or ever will come into existence, inevitably, must, and will again pass out of existence.  In the whole world, there is only one law, that nothing lasts forever.”

“All things decay.  Be mindful, be righteous and be vigilant.  Be lamps, unto yourselves.  Transient are all component things.  Therefore, strive earnestly to attain perfection.”  These were the Buddha’s last words.

Insight is the penetrative understanding by direct meditative experience, of the impermanence, suffering and non-self of all material and mental phenomena of existence.  It is Insight that leads to entrance into the supermundane states of Holiness and to final liberation.  “If Insight is developed, wisdom is developed, and all ignorance is abandoned.”

Karma  (Deed) refers to the wholesome and unwholesome actions and their accompanying mental factors and is related to the Law of Cause and Effect.  All deeds, whether good or bad, produce effects.  The effects may be experienced instantly, or they may not come into fruition for many years, or even many lifetimes.    Our actions shape our destiny, lead to future retribution or reward, in the present or future lifetimes.  As the Buddha taught, often we can  not clearly see those consequences because they are complex and entangled.

Threefold is the fruit of Karma: ripening during the present lifetime, ripening in the next birth,and ripening in later births.  The Buddha said, “Whatever Karma they perform, good or bad, thereof they will be the heirs.”

The 5 Karmical Causes are: Ignorance, Karma-Formations, Craving, Clinging, and Karma-Process. The 5 karmical causes of the past birth are the condition for the 5-karma-results of the present birth; and the 5 karmical causes of the present birth are the condition for the 5 karma-results of the next birth.

Liberation (Deliverance).  The Three Liberations are: (1) the Conditionless Liberation:  Whoever being filled with determination, such a one attains the Conditionless Liberation; (2) the Desireless Liberation:  Whoever being filled with tranquility, considers all formations as painful, such a one attains the Desireless Liberation; (3) the Emptiness Liberation:  Whoever being filled with wisdom, considers all formations as non-self, such a one attains the Emptiness Liberation.

Lotus  is a sacred flower representing beauty, purity, and perfection. In Buddhism, the lotus is a symbol of  the true nature of  beings, which remains un-stained by the mud of the world of Samsara and by ignorance and which is realized throug enlightenment.  Buddhas and Kuan Yin  are always depicted as sitting, or standing on the lotus throne, or holding the stem of lotus flower.  The lotus is also the identifying attribute of Kuan Yin .  In the Pure Land School, it is the symbol of the Buddha’s doctrines.

Lotus Sutra  is the Sutra of the lotus of the Good Dharma; one of the most important and much-loved sutras of Mahayana Buddhism.  It’s also one of the most widely read sutra in the present day, having a profound influence on the development of Buddhist doctrine in China, Japan and Tibet.  It contains the doctrines of the transcendental nature of the Buddha and of the possibility of universal liberation; and the complete teachings of the Buddha.  It is said to have been expounded by the Buddha at the end of his period of teaching.   It was written down in about the year 200 C.E.  Its aim is to offer help to all people, regardless of their social status.  This text, consisting of twenty-eight chapters, expresses inner freedom and indestructible faith in the teachings of Buddha.

The Buddha preached The Lotus Sutra   on Vulture Peak Mountain before an endlessly large throng of various kinds of sentient beings.  In it the Buddha shows that there are many methods through which a being can attain enlightenment.  The Buddha teaches three vehicles as “skillful means” in accordance with the capabilities of his disciples.  In reality, however, there is only one vehicle, the buddha vehicle, which leads to enlightenment.The

(Spring Liao, 06/16/2011)