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The Word of the Buddha'
THE FOUR HOLY TRUTHS.
HE Perfect One (Tathāgata)2 Brothers, the Holy One, the Fully Enlightened One (Buddha), at Isipatana, in the deer-park at Benares, has established the supreme kingdom of Truth, and none can withstand it,-neither ascetic nor priest, nor invisible being, nor good nor evil spirit, nor anyone whatsoever in all the world; it is the making known, the pointing out, the laying down, the setting forth, the unveiling, the explaining, the making evident, of the Four Holy Truths.
I. The " Buddha," The Enlightened One, is the title of honour bestowed upon the Indian sage, Gotama, the founder of that ethico-philosophical system known to Europe by the name of Buddhism. He was born about the year six hundred before Christ, as the son of one of the princes of Northern India, not far from the borders of modern Nepal. Up to his twenty-ninth year-the year in which he renounced the world and exchanged his princely life for that of a homeless mendicant-he lived with his wife. the Princess Yasodhara, who bore him a son named Rahula, the same who later became one of his favourite disciples.
The teaching of the Buddha, the "Dhamma" (Law, Truth) is set forth in the three collections of the sacred writings, the Tipitaka (literally, three baskets), named respectively The Vinaya Pitaka, The Sutta Pitaka, and The Abhidhamma Pitaka. The Vinaya Pitaka for the most part, contains the mere regulations that govern the life of the monk; the Doctrine of Deliverance, again, as set forth in the Four Holy Truths", is treated of in the Sutta Pitaka or "Collection of Discourses"; whilst the Abhidhamma Pitaka is exclusively concerned with profound psychological enquiries.
The Sangha" (literally, Assemblage) is the order of Mendicant Monks (Bhikkhus) founded by the Buddha, and is the oldest order of mendicants in the world. Its most famous members in the Buddha's day were: Sariputta, who, after the Master himself, possessed the profoundest knowledge of the Doctrine ;-Moggallana, who had the greatest super-human powers;— Ananda, the favourite disciple and constant companion of the Buddha ;-Kassapa, the president of the council held at Rajagaha immediately after the Buddha's death ;--Anuruddha the metaphysician, and Rāhula the Buddha's own son. The Judas among the disciples was Devadatta, the Buddha's nephew.
At the present day the total number of those who hold the Buddha in reverence, in Burma, Siam, Ceylon, India, Japan, China, Tibet and elsewhere amounts to about five hundred millions, that is to say,--to about onethird of the human race. The threefold confession of these runs follows:
Buddham saranam gacchāmi.
I put my trust in the Buddha.
I put my trust in the Holy Brotherhood.
2. A title of Gotama Buddha. The following titles are also use 1: Bhagava, the Blessed One; Sakyamuni, the Sage of the Tribe of the Sakyas; Sugata, the Welcome One, and many others.
What are these Four Holy Truths? The Holy Truth of Suffering, the Holy Truth of the Cause of Suffering, the Holy Truth of the Cessation of Suffering, the Holy Truth of the Path that leads to the Cessation of Suffering.
And the Blessed One said: So long, Brothers, as my knowledge and insight as regards each one of these Four Holy Truths was not quite clear, so long was I doubtful as to whether I had won to complete insight into that knowledge which is unsurpassed in the heavens and upon the earth, unexcelled among all the hosts of ascetics and priests, of invisible beings and of men. But so soon, Brothers, as my knowledge and insight as regards each one of these Four Holy Truths had become perfectly clear, there arose in me the assurance that I had won to complete comprehension of that knowledge which is unsurpassed in the heavens and upon the earth, unexcelled among all the hosts of ascetics and priests, of invisible beings and of men.
And that deep knowledge have I made my own,-that knowledge, difficult to perceive, difficult to understand, peacebestowing, and which cannot be gained by mere reasoning; which is profound and only accessible to the wise disciple.
The world however is given to pleasure, ensnared in pleasure, enchanted with pleasure. Verily those that are given to pleasure, ensnared in pleasure, enchanted with pleasure will hardly understand the Law of Causation, the conditionality of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppāda); incomprehensible also will be to them the cessation of all existence, the freeing one's self from every form of Becoming, the Annihilation of Craving (taṇhā), the turning away from Desire; cessation and Nibbana.
Yet among beings there are some whose eyes are only a little darkened with dust: they will perceive the Truth (Dhamma).