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(Phật Học Phổ Thông)

Ven Thích Thiện Hoa


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 1

The Four Noble Truths




A- Introduction: Dhammackkapavattana Sutta is first sermon of Buddha to five ascetics (Kodanna, Assaji, Vappa, Badhayi, Mahanam) expounding the 4 Noble Truths. After enlightenment, Buddha went to Deer Park to preach it to the five ascetics.


B- Main Subject:

1- Definition: Four Noble Truths are the four truths unmovable, precious, complete, bringing the practitioner from the ignorance to the enlightenment. In the Small Vehicle, the Four Noble Truths are the basic teaching.

2- What are the Four Noble Truths?

1- Suffering (Dukkha): most evident truth. All sentient beings must bear these sufferings of life: 4 (birth, old age, sickness, death) or 8 (4 above + can’t get what hoped for, have to meet with hatred, separated from loved ones, exaggeration of five skandhas SkNxs (form, sensation, perception, volition, consciousness)

2- Origin of Suffering (Samudaya): craving leads to renewed existence, sensual pleasures, delight.

3- Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha): cessation of same craving & freedom from it.

4- Way leading to Cessation of Suffering (Magga): the eightfold path leading to that Cessation (right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration).

3- Wondrous Presentation of the Four Noble Truths.

            Buddha first shows tragedy of life, visible, sensible, in each of us, universal, unavoidable. Then He shows the cause, the reason of that suffering which is attachment. Next He shows the joy once the cause of suffering is destroyed with detachment. Lastly He shows us the way to realize that joy by the ways of practice.

            It’s like a painting: lower part is infinite sea of suffering, boats & people shaking & drowning (Dukkha), and the causes in the dark clouds, the storms (Samudaya); the upper part is ascending plains & plateau, calm & clear (Nirodha), with many roads filling with fairy-like people (Magga).

4- Important Position of the Four Noble Truths in the Buddha’s Teachings. Basic in Small Vehicle, the Truths help practicing detachment for Mahayanists.


C- Conclusion: We need to understand and practice the Four Noble Truths.


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 2

Suffering (Dukkha)




A- Introduction: Life is a sea of suffering, not a big feast; joy is fake, temporary.


B- Main Subject:

1- Definition: Suffering comes from Du  difficult, hard to, and kkha  sustain, meaning whatever is unsatisfactory to us. This is a complete, unmovable truth.

2- The Suffering in the World. Impossible to enumerate all; Buddha said:

1- Three kinds of Suffering: first 2 inevitable, 3rd optional:

      - Dukkha-dukkha (khổ khổ): 3 great teachers (sickness, old age, loss of loved one), but really all 8: birth, sickness, old age, death, separated from loved ones, associated with unpleasant ones, not getting what desired, physical/mental suffering.

      - Viparinama-dukkha (hoại khổ):  suffering because of impermanence of things. Even happiness will pass away.

      - Samkhara-dukkha (hành khổ): suffering of conditional states. Changing states of mind (“the mind has its own mind”), subconciousness,  due to attachment to 5 aggregates. It is evitable.

2- Eight kinds of Suffering: birth, sickness, old age, death, separated from loved ones, associated with unpleasant ones, not getting what desired, exaggeration of fives skandhas.

3- Why did the Buddha told us about these Sufferings? Why exposed the behind-the-scene? Children are happy because of ignorance, why not imitate them?

      - not scared in suffering. Since they are inevitable, understand and endure them with calm.

      - not attached to, so less suffering. The more we want & attach to things, the more suffering we’ll endure at their loss. Example of prisoners quarreling with each other.

      - practice diligently to escape from suffering. Not following the forces of the 5 skandhas.


C- Conclusion: Once understood, we have to find the Causes of Suffering to eradicate them. Having seen the appearances of Suffering, we’ll try to find out the reason for that, in the next lesson.


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 3

Causes of Suffering (samudayāryasatya)

Part 1of 2





A- Introduction: Knowing the 8 sufferings, we learn now their causes..


B- Main Subject:

1- Definition: Samuday = accumulation; arya = noble, saint; satya = truth. Samudayāryasatya means the noble truth about accumulation (of sufferings)

2- The Causes of Suffering. Afflictions (klesas = phiền năo), 84000, from 10 great afflictions:

1- Greed (tham): raga. Wealth, fame, for ourselves and ours.

2- Anger (sân): ratigha. Resentment, hatred. Cause of unbelievable evils

3- Ignorance (si): mudhaya. No wisdom, can’t discernate good from evil.

4- Conceit (mạn): mana. Arrogance. 7 kinds: superiority (mạn), egotism (ngă mạn), equality with superior (quá mạn), superiority over superior (mạn quá mạn), assertion of possessing truth (tăng thượng mạn), vaunting inferiority (ty liệt mạn), vaunting lack of virtue (tà mạn).

5- Doubt (nghi): vicitiksa. Lack of trust, 3 ways: self, dharma (way of practice), others. Obstacle to progress.

6- False View (ác kiến): driçti. Wrong views of self & world. Five:

      - illusion of self (thân kiến). See self as real. Root of all evils.

      - extreme view (biên kiến). Either permanence or nihilism.

      - clinging to false view (kiến thủ). Either by ignorance or conceit.

      - clinging to rituals and rules (giới cấm thủ). Even though illogical.

      - deviant view (tà kiến). Especially against Cause and Effect.


(to be continued)


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 4

Causes of Suffering (samudayāryasatya)

Part 2 of 2





3- The Characteristics of the Ten Great Afflictions. Afflictions (klesas = phiền năo) are different in character: strong or weak, easy or difficult to eradicate. Various nomenclature:

1- Fetters (kiết sử 結使): shackle (kiết) and command (sử). So called because they fetter aggregates in this life to aggregates of the next, or karma to its fruit. As long as ones exist, there’s no cessation of others. Cause of unending reincarnation. 2 types:

- sharp envoys (lợi sử), quick, easy to arise and easy to eradicate. These are 5 delusions of view: illusion of self (thân kiến), extreme view (biên kiến), clinging to false view (kiến thủ), clinging to rituals and rules (giới cấm thủ), deviant view (tà kiến).

- dull envoys (độn sử), slow, rooting deep and difficult to eradicate. These are 5 delusions of body/self: greed (tham), anger (sân), ignorance (si), conceit (mạn), doubt (nghi).

2- Delusions of View (kiến hoặc 見惑): shallow, can be rid of at first fruit (sotapanna = kiến đạo), born from view (discerning mind). 88: 32 in realm of Desire (10 great afflictions in 1st Truth, 7 in 2nd & 3rd [no thân, biên & giới cấm thủ], 8 in 4th [no thân & biên], 28 each in realms of Form & Formless (same as Desire but without Anger).

3- Delusions of Mind (tư hoặc 思惑): the 4 dull envoys Greed, Anger, Ignorance, Conceit. Inborn, deep rooted. 81 kinds: 3 (high, middle, low) x 3 classes = 9, times 9 bhumis:

- realm of Desire: 1 (bhumi of five classes of beings: hell, hubngry ghosts, animals, human, celestial beings.

- realm of Form: 4 jhanas (1: detachment, joy; 2: concentration, joy; 3: mindfullness, no joy; 4: beyond pleasure/pain, no sensation).

- realm of Formless: 4 jhanas (1: Infinite Space; 2: Infinite Consciousness; 3: No-Thingness; 4: Neither Perception nor Non-Perception).

4- Summary: delusions of view easy to overcome; delusions of mind (inborn) more difficult.


C- Conclusion: Causes of Suffering are Delusions, of view (acquired), and of self (inborn). Getting rid of them get us to sotapanna (view), or up to arhat (mind).


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 5

Cessation of Suffering (dukhanirodhayāryasatya)

Part 1of 2

 Listen to Lesson 5: Cessation of Suffering, explained by Minh-Quang Nguyễn Lê Đức on Sunday April 1, 2007, at 10am, at Chùa Hải-Đức, Jacksonville, Florida. mp3 stereo, 27MB, 57 min.





A- Introduction: Knowing the nature and the causes of suffering, namely afflictions, the Buddha now teaches us the containment of reactions to these sufferings.


B- Main Subject:

1- Definition: Dukha = suffering; ni = down; rodha = earth bank; arya = noble, saint; satya = truth. Literally, being down behind a sheltering of earth to confine against suffering. Dukhanirodhayāryasatya means the noble truth about containment (of sufferings)

2- The Stages of Eradication of Afflictions. Since afflictions vary in nature, eradication must also be progressive:

1- Eradication of Delusions of View (kiến đạo sở đoạn hoặc) born from false teachers, evil friends & teachings. Needs good teachings & friends.

2- Eradication of Delusions of Mind (tu đạo sở đoạn hoặc) from inborn errors turning into bad habits. Needs intense training & practice.

3- The Stages of Attainment, from low to high:

1- Four Additional Practices (tứ gia hạnh) in Surangama sutra, book 8: Level of Heat (noăn vị) emerging spark, Level of Summit (đỉnh vị) climbing up to top of mountain, Level of Patience (nhẫn vị) where mind is clear, Level of Being First in the World (thế đệ nhất vị) with no more designation, like a kite.

2- Sotapanna (tu đà hoàn): 1st fruit, mind is clear, but self-attachment still present.

3- Sakrdagamin (tư đà hàm): 2nd fruit, eradicates only 6 of 9 Delusions of Mind in the realm of Desire.

4- Anagamin (a na hàm): 3rd fruit, no further delusion, reborn in 5 pure-dwelling heavens (tịnh cư thiên) of the upper 5 fourth dhyana heaven: avhras (vô phiền), atapas (vô nhiệt), sudrsas (thiện hiện), sudrsanas (thiện kiến), akanisthas (sắc cứu cánh).

5- Arhat (a la hán): 4th fruit, 3 meanings: venerable (ứng cúng), slayer of evils (phá ác), non reborn (vô sanh). Dull arhat vs great arhat.

4- Wonderful Value of the Four Saints: progressive and limitless. 5 miraculous powers (abhijnas = thần thông): seeing without hindrances (dibba cakkhu = thiên nhăn), hearing without hindrances (dibba sota = thiên nhĩ), knowing minds (cetopariyanana = tha tâm), knowing former existences (pubbenivasanus sati = túc mạng), taking forms (iddhi vidha = thần túc).

(to be continued)


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 6

Cessation of Suffering (dukhanirodhayāryasatya)

Part 2 of 2



5- Cessation of Suffering is Nirvana (涅槃): Sarvastivādin commentary, Abhidharma-mahavibhāsa-sāstra (A Tỳ Đạt Ma Đại Tỳ Bà Sa Luận), gives possible meanings from its Sanskrit roots:

bullet Vāna, implying the path of rebirth, + nir, meaning leaving off' or 'being away from the path of rebirth.'
bullet Vāna, meaning 'stench', + nir, meaning 'freedom': 'freedom from the stench of distressing kamma.'
bullet Vāna, meaning 'dense forests', + nir, meaning 'to get rid of' = 'to be permanently rid of the dense forest of the five aggregates (panca skandha), or the 'three roots of greed, hate and delusion (lobha, dosa, moha)' or 'three characteristics of existence (impermanence, anitya; unsatisfactoriness, dukkha, soullessness, anàtma).
bullet Vāna, meaning 'weaving', + nir, meaning 'knot' = 'freedom from the knot of the distressful thread of kamma.'

1- Nirvana With Remainder (Hữu Dư Niết Bàn, Saupadisesa-nibbana). Cause of Rebirth annihilated but Effect of Rebirth still present through 5 skandhas. Three first fruits.

2- Nirvana Without Remainder (Vô Dư Niết Bàn, Anupadisesa-nibbana). Desire is extinct; no further Rebirth. Arhatship.

6- Nirvana of Mahayana. Not different from Hinayana in nature, only in scope, ie. Mahayanist Nirvana encompasses Hinayanist Nirvana. Two kinds:

1- Nirvana of No Abode (Vô Trụ Xứ Niết Bàn): of Bodhisattvas. From indifference to afflictions. No fixed valuation. No real life and death.

2- Nirvana of Pure Nature (Tánh Tịnh Niết Bàn): of own nature, always pure, always clean, always still. Permanent (thường), happy (lạc), self-contained (ngă), pure (tịnh).

7- Clarification about Nirvana. Too vast and high for commoner to grasp, Nirvana meaning is frequently beyond the reach of most people, concluding Nirvana as illusory.

Parable of the fish meating a turtle which explained unconvincingly to him about the life and things on earth which he never knew and seemed illusory to him.

Nirvana is not Nothingness, nor Paradise, nor heavens of different religions. It is the realization of the universal nature, not beyond action.

8- A Story about Nirvana. Sutra 315 of the Samyuktāgama or Zá Ahánjīng (雜阿含經).

            Buddha once at Kosambi told Bikkhus: box (body) containing 4 snakes (4 elements), given to man who ran away, then met 5 killers (5 skandhas) running after, then 6 robbers inside (6 senses) and a group of thugs (afflictions). At the river (desire), he used 8 branches (8 paths) making a raft, using arms/legs (constant practice) crossing to other shore (Nirvana).


C- Conclusion: Cessation of Suffering is the immovable Truth about what a practitioner can ultimately achieve, Nirvana.


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 7

Way (to end) Suffering (margayāryasatya)

Part 1: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

(catvāri sṃṛṭiupasṭhānani)




A- Introduction: Practice to end suffering is told by Buddha in Mahasatipatthana sutta (DN 22) and Satipatthana sutta (MN 10), namely the 37 factors to Enlightenment (phẩm trợ Đạo): 4 Frames of Reference (Tứ Niệm Xứ), 4 Right Exertions (Tứ Chánh Cần), 4 Bases of Power (Tứ Thần Túc), 5 Faculties (Ngũ Căn), 5 Strengths (Ngũ Lực), 7 Factors of Awakening (Thất Bồ Đề Phần), Eightfold Path (Bát Thánh Đạo).

1- Definition: catvari: four; smrti: memory, recollection; upasthana:  to establish; four methods to establish mindfulness:

1- Contemplation of Body (quán thân = kayasmrtyupasthana) inside & out: realize that the body is impure by nature, subject to decay & death; thus not clinging to anything. 9 contemplations in graveyard:

1- corpse dead, bloated, oozing matter. Observe inside & out.

2- corpse livid, shrunk, stiff. Observe inside & out.

3- corpse crumbling. Observe inside & out.

4- corpse blood oozing out. Observe inside & out.

5- corpse flesh & skin decomposing. Observe inside & out.

6- corpse flesh devoured by animals. Observe inside & out.

7- corpse tendons & membranes destroyed. Observe inside & out.

8- corpse bones & pieces of skull left. Observe inside & out.

9- corpse bones bleached, rotten & crumbled. Observe inside & out.

2- Contemplation of Mind (quán tâm = cittasmrtyupasthana) ever changing: realize that the mind, like everything else, is impermanent; no real self..

3- Contemplation of Dharma (quán pháp = dharmasmrtyupasthana) as no-self: realize that everything exists conditionally. Selflessness of all dharmas.

4- Contemplation of Sensation (quán thụ  = vedanasmrtyupasthana) as suffering: realize that all perception is cause of suffering.


C- Conclusion: the Four Establishments of Recollection are the basic of the Noble Truth of the Way; in fact, the most often practice of all methods to enlightenment.


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 8

Way (to end) Suffering (margayāryasatya)

Part 2: The Four Right Exertions Tứ Chánh Cần 四正勤

(catvāri samyakprahānani)



A- Introduction: Effort is needed for constant practice.

1- Definition: catvari: four; samyak: right; prahanani: effort; four methods to avoid evil & promote goodness.

2- View of good and evil. Evil is whatever harmful to us & others; Good is whatever beneficial to us & others.

3- Contents:

1- Prevent the arising of unarisen evils, anytime, anywhere.

2- Eradicate already-arisen evils, eg the 10 bad deeds.

3- Cultivate the arising of as yet unarisen goodnesses, “hell is paved with good intentions”.

4- Maintain already-arisen goodnesses, no goodness is good enough.

B- Conclusion: 4 methods to act good & avoid evil, guaranteeing sainthood.


Part 3: The Four Bases of Power Tứ Thần Túc 四神足

(catvāri ddhipāda)

A- Introduction: Sufficiency or Base of Power is concentration practice.

1- Definition: catvari: four; rddhi: supernatural power; pada: foot; four steps to sufficiency (adedquacy) or supernatural power (from these 4 samadhi).

2- Contents:

1- Adequacy of Will (dục thần túc = chandarddhipada) concentration of intention.

2- Adequacy of Effort (cần thần túc = viryarddhipada) concentration of energy.

3- Adequacy of Mind (tâm thần túc  = cittarddhipada) concentration of thought.

4- Adequacy of Contemplation (quán thần túc = mimamsarddhipada) concentration of observation, deep thinking.

B- Conclusion: called Adequacy or Sufficiency because these 4 are the bases for all practice to develop according to our endeavor; called Supernatural Power because they have energy to eradicate ignorance. Once ignorance disappears, all karmas follow suit; countless wisdom & virtue appear.


Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 9

Way (to end) Suffering (margayāryasatya)



Part 4: The Five Faculties (Ngũ Căn 五根)

(pañca endriyani)


A- Introduction: Like any other in 37 methods to practice the Way, Five Faculties are precious, able to bring the practitioner from a commoner to a saint.

1- Definition: pañca: five; endriyani: faculty, positive agent, root to wholesome dharma; five bases giving rise to all goodnesses.

2- Contents:

1- Trust faculty (sraddhendriya = tín căn 信根), not from blindness, but from analytical mind, wisdom. Trust in Buddha, in Dharma, in Sangha. White = purity.

2- Energy faculty (viryendriya = tấn căn 精根), constant effort in practice. The Mahāyānasaṃgraha (Nhiếp Đại Thừa Luận = 攝大乘論) by Asaṅga (Vô Trước) gave 3 types of endeavors: wearing shield (bị giáp), continuous practice (gia hạnh), unhappy sufficiency (vô hỷ túc). Red = endeavor.

3- Mindfulness faculty (smrtindriya = niệm căn 念根), 3 types: gift, rules, concentration. Yellow = mindfulness.

4- Concentration faculty (samadhindriya = định căn 定根), 3 levels of concentration: in space (from stillness), in time (from unworriness), in fulfillment (from benefaction). Blue = samadhi. (emptiness).

5- Wisdom faculty (prajnendriya = tuệ căn ), clear mind realizing true nature of all dharmas, without distinguishing, 3 levels. Black = wisdom.

B- Conclusion: five senses helping pratitioner to progress.


Part 5: The Five Powers (Ngũ Lực 五力)

(pañca balāni)

A- Introduction: five magical powers from the five faculties. Faculty is like an arm, Power is like its strength.

1- Definition: pañca: five; balāni: power; five powers from the five faculties giving rise to all goodnesses.

2- Contents:

1- Trust power (śraddhābala = tín lực 信力) from faith, conviction.

2- Energy power (vīryabala = tấn lực 精力) from practicing the four Right Exertions to eliminate all evils

3- Mindfulness power (smrtibala = niệm lực 念力) from practicing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

4- Concentration power (samādhibala = định lực 定力) from concentration, eliminating greed & attachment.

5- Wisdom power (prajñābala = tuệ lực 慧力) from the understanding of the Four Noble Truths.

B- Conclusion: five faculties & five powers are both bases & energies to develop innumerable virtues for the practitioner..


Part 6: The Seven Limbs of Enlightenment
(Thất Giác Chi

(sapta bodhyangāni)


A- Introduction: these seven parts (branches, limbs) to wisdom are part of practice for the Way, as are the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness, the Four Right Exertions, the Four Bases of Power, the Five Faculties, the Five Powers and the Eightfold Path.

1- Definition: sapta: seven; bodhi: enlightenment;  ańgāni: limbs, branches. Seven branches or means to enlightenment.

2- Contents:

1- Investigation into Dharma (dharma pravicaya sambodhyanga = trạch pháp giác chi 擇法覺支), discriminating mind to avoid false view, helping find right practice.

2- Constant Effort (virya sambodhyanga = tinh tấn giác chi 精進覺支), like the second in the Five Faculties & Five Powers, necessary for daily practice.

3- Happiness (priti sambodhyanga = hỷ giác chi 喜覺支), cheerfulness & high spirits from elimination of worriness are important for constant practice.

4- Calmness (prasrabdhi sambodhyanga = khinh an giác chi 輕安覺支), tranquility, peaceful mind, not perturbated by the 8 vicissitudes (8 winds).

5- Mindfulness (smrti sambodhyanga = niệm giác chi 念覺支), remembrance of the Dharma. Like a lawn, if grass doesn’t grow, weeds will.

6- Concentration (samadhi sambodhyanga = định giác chi 定覺支), ability to maintain mind & mental properties in balance.

7- Equanimity (upeksa sambodhyanga = xả giác chi 捨覺支), complete abandonment, indifferent to all disturbances of the sub-conscious or ecstatic mind. Equanimity is the result of a calm concentrative mind.

B- Conclusion: practitioner of these Seven Limbs of Enlightenment will surely get the 4 precious results: evils eliminated, goodnesses rising, always happy, get Buddhahood.



Third Course

(Khóa Thứ Ba)


The Voice-Hearer Buddhist Vehicle

(Thanh Văn Thừa Phật Giáo)


Lesson 10

Way (to end) Suffering (margayāryasatya)



Part 4: The Eightfold Path (Bát Chánh Đạo 八正道)

(ārya ṣṭāṅga mārgaḥ)


A- Introduction: more referred to than any other in 37 methods to practice the Way, the Eightfold Path is most representative of the 4th Noble Truth, encompassing all others.


B- Main Subject:

1- Definition: ārya: saint; stānga: eight parts; mārga: the way. The eightfold path.

2- Contents:

1- Right View (samyag-dṛṣṭi  = chánh kiến 正见), or Right Understanding, see things as they are, “as is”.

2- Right Intention (samyak-saṃkalpa = chánh tư duy 正思维), or Right Thought, Right Aspiration,“and what is right thought? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill will, on harmlessness: This is called right thought”, (Magga-vibhanga Sutta).

3- Right Speech (samyag-vāc = chánh ngữ 正语), 4 types: abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, from idle chatter.

4- Right Action (samyak-karmānta = chánh nghiệp 正业), 3 types: abstaining from taking life, from stealing, from unchastity.

5- Right Livelihood (samyag-ājīva = chánh mệnh 正命), not engaged in trades or occupations resulting in harm to other sentient beings; self sufficient.

6- Right Effort (samyag-vyāyāma = chánh tinh tấn 正精进), continous, applying the Four Exertions.

7- Right Mindfulness (samyak-smṛti = chánh niệm 正念), or Right Memory, keeping the mind alert to phenomena as they are affecting the body & mind. All judgments and interpretations have to be suspended, or if they occur, just registered and dropped (Bikkhu Bodhi).

8- Right Concentration (samyak-samādhi = chánh định 正定), practice of Buddhist meditation, five: meditation on impurity (quán bất tịnh), meditation on compassion (quán từ bi), meditation on dependent origination (quán nhân duyên), meditation on no-self (quán giới phân biệt), meditation on breathing (quán sổ tức).

B- Conclusion: often taken as synonym of the Fourth Noble Truth itself, the Eightfold Path is indispensable in the daily practice of any Buddhist.


            Minh Quang posted April 29, 2007

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