Four Assurances, Second of the Four


In the second assurance, the Buddha postulated a scenario contrary to his experience—one where there is no rebirth and no karmic retribution. He did this so that those who were doubtful could still benefit from his teachings.

He showed that even within such a scenario, one who remains free of greed, anger, and their resultant suffering will be truly happy!

Today, this assurance is especially helpful as people ask if they have to accept the existence of rebirth before they can benefit from the practice. As the Buddha showed, they do not have to accept rebirth in order to reap the benefits. Those who are free of greed, anger, and their ensuing suffering have a mind of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity in this lifetime.

They no longer experience greed, no longer crave the emotional high from acquiring that which is new—they simply appreciate what they already have. Craving and its shadow, disappointment, are eliminated as people become contented with their situation. This is true happiness.

We can only imagine how wonderful it would be to never again crave sensations and experiences—to appreciate what we already have.

And imagine never again feeling angry or unsettled but always feeling calm and peaceful instead. Such a person would surely always be happy and be at ease, and thus always be welcomed wherever he or she goes. Without craving and without anger there will be no suffering—just happiness, a lifetime of happiness. And all this can happen here and now, because even if one does not believe in rebirth, one will still benefit if one lives a life free of craving, animosity, and unhappiness.



Four Assurances, First of the Four

The first assurance is based on the existence of rebirth and causality. If one commits wrongdoing, then one will have a bad rebirth. If one does good deeds, one will have a good rebirth. It is because of this premise that many people strive to live a moral, selfless, and caring life. We all wish to end our suffering and to find happiness. But an awakened being who has eliminated the three poisons and who is thoughtful and caring goes one step further—this being wishes to help others eliminate suffering and attain happiness as well.

It is difficult to be a truly compassionate person. It takes many, many lifetimes to become such a person. Believing in the reality of karma and rebirth, we understand that immorality and selfishness will lead us to miserable rebirths, unable to help ourselves or others. We have already wasted more lifetimes than we can count. Failing to practice the Buddha’s teachings, we will waste many more. The only way to truly help people is to create and accumulate good fortune. Good fortune includes a safe place to live, enough material resources, skills, wisdom, time, and good health. These are the conditions found in a good rebirth.

But only by using our good conditions to benefit others can we continue to generate more good conditions for future use. If we selfishly use the goodness we have created to make our own lives more pleasurable and neglect the needs of others, we will exhaust that goodness and at some point face painful situations.



Four Assurances

The Buddha said a “noble disciple” who is free of greed, anger, and ignorance and who keeps pervading everything and every being in the cosmos with boundless loving-kindness, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity will receive four assurances.

The first assurance is if there is rebirth and retributions from good or ill karmas, then through his good karmas, he will have a good rebirth.

The second assurance is if rebirth does not exist, he will be happy in this lifetime, as he will feel neither greed or anger nor their attendant suffering.

The third assurance is if a person who commits bad karmas suffers the related retributions, the noble disciple will not suffer because he will never give rise to bad thoughts, utter bad words, or commit any bad actions.

The fourth assurance is if a person who commits bad karmas does not suffer the related retributions, then the noble disciple is purified anyway.




When others hurt us, we usually react with resentment, anger, even a wish for revenge. But these actions will only prolong our suffering, for to hold onto resentment in our hearts only serves to make us feel worse. If instead, we can forgive those who harm us, we will release ourselves from this pain. Then, if we can go one step further—to let go of even the thought of having forgiven—we will reduce thoughts of pride and dissolve memories of unhappiness. In doing so, we will know peace.



One-hundred Percent

956849-786934-thumbnail.jpgWe do not need to wait for the big challenges in life to to work on developing our virtue.  We can work at increasing virtue in small, everyday ways. We can practice moderation in eating just what we need to be healthy and in sleeping just enough to be rested.  We can work on our patience while waiting in line at the post office and on our impartiality when two children are each telling us their version of how the glass was broken.

Gradually, we will become more adept at our practice and as we encounter life's more difficult challenges, we will be better skilled at reacting wisely and calmly.

I realize this sounds very simple and obvious, but unfortunately, even small acts of virtue require much effort on our part to accomplish them perfectly. So while this may sound simplistic and repetitive, the question we need to ask ourselves is "Am I doing this one-hundred percent of my time with one-hundred percent of my effort?"