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How to Attain Perfection According to Buddha

Most religious leaders advocate the critical importance of leading an ethical life based on righteousness. They claim that an ethical life is the best life to lead. However, none of them inform why we need to lead an ethical life. Just in case they cite the reason for leading an ethical life, the basis of their evidence cannot be supported. For instance, they would claim their source in scriptures or direct command from God or as a means to attain heaven. Most of us in the 21st century will find these evidential bases pretty challenging to accept.

However, Buddha’s claim is quite different. In fact, the focus of Buddha’s teaching is on leading an ethical or virtuous life because that’s how mind can be controlled. Buddha didn’t preach about God or the other world but merely focused on how to address pain and suffering in this world. After enlightenment, Buddha went on to realize that “mind” is a great puzzle. It is the mind that creates our belief system about the passage of time, changes taking place through time, the pain and sorrow encountered in the process of living, the disease and death. It became clearly evident to Buddha that we experience pain and suffering because we have the desire to experience the good and bad events of life. Buddha also realized that the desire is real but the events are illusory as they are located in a time frame that is itself illusory. Further, the illusion of time is made possible by our mind. This is what the philosopher Emanuel Kant has also claimed.

According to Buddha, in order to attain perfection one needs to overcome the illusory nature of mind. In other words, as a perfect human being, someone should be capable of observing the reality as it is, not as it is filtered through an untamed mind. This could be understood better when we understand that human beings live at different levels of consciousness. Most of us live at the ordinary level of consciousness, but there are a few who live at an advanced or expanded level of consciousness. For instance, as a normal human being I would see a criminal as a criminal and driven by lower instinct I would recommend harsh penalty to a criminal, but if I am a little evolved and compassionate, I would not see a criminal as a criminal but a victim of circumstance that drove him to criminality, so I would recommend acts of transformation for him rather than harsher penalty that would be painful without any outcome.

Buddha’s recommendation for an ethical way of life can be understood better in the background of the above discussion. Buddha held that if you are ethical, you can have greater control over your mind with greater autonomy and better decision making. In other words, there is not just a correlation between a tamed mind and being ethical but there is a causal relationship between the two. So, if you are leading an ethical life, you are conscientious. The mind or consciousness of an ethical person is restrained and peaceful. Such a person probably does not encounter stress in the same way as an unethical person does. Here is an example: if I have done no crime but caught by the police on suspicion I will be less disturbed and agitated in comparison to someone who has actually committed a crime and is apprehended.

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