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Does a Doctor Promote Disease?
 
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Does a Doctor Promote Disease?
- by S. N. Goenka

(The following is an extract from “Was the Buddha a Pessimist?” which is the translation and adaptation of the VRI Hindi publication “Kyā Buddha Dukkhavādī The?” written by Goenkaji.)

An expert doctor comes to examine a sick person. He explains to the sick person: “This is your disease; this is the cause of your disease; and here—I have a medicine for your disease. The medicine will remove the cause of the disease and thus cure the disease.” The sick person takes the medicine and becomes healthy. Now, would we say that this doctor is promoting disease or promoting health?

In exactly the same manner, the Buddha explains to the suffering people what their misery is; what the root cause of their misery is; then he gives the solution to eradicate all misery. He clearly explains to them that if they practise the solution, they will come out of their misery. People suffer from impurities of the mind. When they follow this wise man’s advice, they come out of misery because mental impurities are removed. Is it then logical to say that the Buddha is promoting misery?

Patanjali on misery
King Pushyamitra Shung ruled about four hundred years after the Buddha. His royal priest, Patanjali, wrote the Yoga Sutra based on Vipassana. He used synonyms of the words used by the Buddha for the four Noble Truths: heya, hetu, hāna and upāya. These are equivalent to the four Noble Truths of the Buddha. Would one call Patanjali a pessimist because of this? Patanjali even said, “Duhkhameva sarvaṃ vivekinah.” (Yoga Sutra 2.15)

Every serious meditator experiences that the entire field of the cycle of birth and death is misery. However, most importantly, one also knows that there is a way out of this misery. How wrong it is to call the Buddha a preacher of misery when he has actually given us a way out of all misery!

Direct experience of the Noble Truths is beneficial here and now
It is said of those who directly experienced the Noble Truths:
…catubbhi vātehi asampakampiyo…
…yo ariyasaccāni avecca passati.
The ones with direct experience of the Noble Truths remain unshaken by the wind coming from four directions, similar to a properly established protective pillar at the entrance of a town.

It was also said:
Ye ariyasaccāni vibhāvayanti,
na te bhavaṃ aṭṭhamādiyanti.
Those who have inculcated the Noble Truths,
such (stream-enterers) will not take the eighth birth.

In other words, they will attain the state of full liberation of an arahant within seven lives at most.

The teaching to realize the Noble Truths is not only for monks and nuns. In the Maṅgala-sutta, the Buddha instructed the householders in detail about their true welfare:
Tapo ca brahmacariyaṃ ca,
ariyasaccāna dassanaṃ;
nibbānasacchikiriyā ca,
etaṃ maṅgalamuttamaṃ.
Ardent practice, a life of purity,
witnessing the Noble Truths,
experiencing enlightenment—
This is the highest welfare.

Clearly, his teaching is not only for monks but also for householders.


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