The Buddha said one can learn ‘in this fathom-long body together with its perceptions and mental activity’.
When the Buddha spoke of the origin of the world, the complete extinction of the world, and the way of practice leading to the complete extinction of the world, he meant that the whole Dhamma is to be found within the body and the mind.
Learn here. Don’t learn in a school, in a cave, in a forest, on a mountain, or in a monastery; those places are outside. Build a school inside; build a university within the body. Then examine, study, investigate, research, scout around, find out the truth — how the world arises; how it comes to be a source of suffering; how there may be complete extinction of the world, extinction of suffering; and how to work towards attaining that complete extinction, that is to say rediscover the Four Noble Truths yourself.
The Enlightened One sometimes used the word ‘world’ and sometimes the word ‘suffering’ (dukkha). The nature of the world, or suffering, the nature of its arising (its origin and source), the nature of its complete extinction (that is, the nature of the cessation of suffering and the turbulent world), and the nature of that practice — these can be searched for and found in this body and nowhere else. If one appears to have found it elsewhere, it can only be as an account in some book, or hearsay, just words, not the Truth itself. However, when it is looked for and found in this fathom-long body, together with this mind, then it will be the Truth.
So where do we learn? We learn here in this very body with its perceptions and mental activity.
Published in the October 1989 edition of Buddhism Now
Image: Pancaraksha Mandala with the Buddha Sakyamuni. © President and Fellows of Harvard College