This teaching on the Four Seals of Buddhism was given at Vajra Vidya Downeast in Ellsworth, Maine (US).
The Four Seals are:
Group photo thanks to Philip Frey / Vajra Vidya Downeast.
by Maggy Jones
Contrary to tradition this Teaching was actually written down at the time. When Ananda was asked to be Buddha’s attendant he made two conditions; 1. Buddha would not give any teachings in his absence. 2. Buddha would answer any of Ananda’s questions. But he did not become an Arhat because he was too busy to focus his own meditation. Buddha said that there would be no one successor after his death – the Dharma was the only teacher needed. Stories of the early Sangha and dispute of Sanskrit over Pali. The founding of the different schools; the distinguishing mark of authentic Buddhism was the 4 Seals.
1st Seal. Everything that is compounded is impermanent. Note: this includes ourselves so live your life with purpose. If you truly understand impermanence you will understand “emptiness”. Jataka tale of the ring with 2 stones – everything will pass. Q & A
2nd Seal. All negative emotions (kleshas)* bring suffering. At Buddha’s birth it was predicted he would be either a great emperor or a great teacher and he became a teacher. If you cannot change external circumstances – change your own reactions. Transforming the kleshas, including ignorance to wisdom. When you realise that nothing will last, or has a solid existence, your problems will disappear. There are many methods and vary according to the School but they have the same aim.
Wars increase the power of the kleshas, hatred, anger, greed. This all happens because we don’t have compassion. Story of Ashoka and vendetta. As there is nothing called “I” why feel these kleshas. “If it is not useful or good – then don’t do it”. Dharma practice is how you do your daily activities.
3rd Seal. All phenomena are selfless and empty. Examine your body, made of the 5 different elements. How solid is it? What is consciousness? We can’t see it but it is there; it leads us into the creation of concepts. The nature of a rainbow. Our delusion and dualistic view creates our samsara. There is so much pain, compassion is the only answer.
* 5 Kleshas: Anger, jealousy, pride, attraction / aversion (one), ignorance.
Taking Refuge in the Buddha is deciding to follow the path of the Buddha and his teaching – we are all sentient beings, we all have Buddha Nature, and we can all transform. (Taking refuge) in Dharma means the experience of the Buddha and the teachings. (Taking refuge) in the Sangha means the people who have studied and practised; they are our teachers. We do this not only for our own benefit but for the benefit of all beings.
3rd Seal. When we arrive at the experience of non-duality enlightenment is a possibility. Every object can be divided into atoms, then sub-divided again and again until we reach what the scientists call “presumed existence”. This is “emptiness” and from this state of interdependence anything can arise..
4th Seal. Only Nirvana is peace. Parable of Shepherd and views of the village. The way things “are” depends on your view. Is it relatively true – the way we see things or ultimately true – the way they really are? Without this understanding, there will always be samsaric experiences.
The whole of Buddhist dharma and practice is contained within these 4 seals. Q & A