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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
spring 2 0 1 7 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 49 for the mind free of and beyond worldly conditions. The Buddha accepted a number of the old teach- ings, perfecting them within his lokuttaradhamma system as he did so. The Buddhist teaching on karma—the noble eightfold path that ends karma— is a perfect example of how the Buddha completed the old teachings and traditions. The Buddha accepted some teachings that existed in India before his awakening, such as non- vengeance (avera), non-harming or nonviolence (avihimsa), the five sila, various samadhi practices, and the form and formless jhanas. All of these are older teachings and practices that he did not reject. Instead, he further developed, completed, and perfected them. Please be aware that Bud- dhism contains a certain amount of older teachings and practices that the Buddha included, deepened, and completed for the sake of quenching dukkha. Understanding this fact is important so that we will not confuse the old versions of such teachings with the new, perfected versions. The Buddha completed the Upanishadic teaching on karma and the like. To do so, he taught the end of karma. Two Levels of Teaching These examples clearly show that there are two lev- els of teaching, both of which are necessary. One is for the sake of morality, for those who still believe in and hold to self. The moral level of teaching is necessary for those who can only understand things in terms of me and mine, who require moral and therapeutic teachings that operate on a worldly level. It teaches people how to live in the world morally and peacefully, to be less selfish about the selves to which they cling, and thereby suffer less. For those aiming higher, the Buddha’s teaching focuses on letting go of self, that everything is not- self and nothing is worth clinging to as me or mine. This level does not ignore or reject the moral teach- ings; it simply goes beyond them. This is the more comprehensive transcendent level of ultimate truth that truly liberates from all suffering. If both levels are understood, there is no conflict between them. They can coexist for the sake of both those who want to live in and of the world (lokiya) and those aiming to live above and free of the world (lokut- tara), in it but not of it. Each person decides their own preference and way. If you want to travel the paths of the world and have no wish to transcend the world, you can follow the worldly teachings and receive the moral- istic explanation of dependent co-arising given by various commentators. You can continue rebirthing yourself in a worldly way, but with healthy moral- ity, not harming others and living relatively peace- fully. If you want to be free, to transcend the world and no longer be caught by all its trappings, you must study the transcendent teachings such as “the end of karma” that do not involve self. For this, we have the dependent co-arising of ultimate truth that enables us to see through all the concoctings of self. Dependent co-arising also has these two levels or two models. The choice of which to follow is yours. adapted from Under the Bodhi Tree, forthcoming from Wisdom in may To be trapped forever in the prison of karma is not Buddhism. If everything constantly happens to us according to karma, there could never be any liberation.