The only real refuge in life, the
only solid ground on which to take a stand, the only
authority that can give proper guidance and protection
is Truth, Dhamma, the Law of Nature, experienced and
verified by oneself. Therefore, in His teaching, the
Buddha always gave the highest importance to the direct
experience of truth.
If we are to
understand successfully the teachings of the Buddha, we
must first look into the life story of Siddhartha
Gothama before his Enlightenment. We must also
understand the personality of the Buddha, his attitude
towards mankind, society and the whole world in general.
To comprehend the teachings we must know the Teacher.
An incident from the early days of the Buddha’s mission
is very relevant here. Not long after the first sermon
at Baranas, the Buddha came to Uruvela where in a
wonderland grove, he met the thirty Bhaddavaggiya
friends. They were looking for a woman who had run away
with the belongings of one of them. The Fully Awakened
One inquired of them as to what they were looking for,
and they replied: “Sir, we are looking for a young
lady,” and told Him what had happened.
The Buddha replied: “What do you think of these young
men? Which is better for you, to look for a woman or you
should seek the self (atta)” I do not think that
argument or quibbling is necessary about grammatical
number of the word attanam’. The Buddha would have
meant: “Why search for a young woman? Seek each
In order to seek ourselves out, we must go inwards and
not to be crazy about going outwards. We have to seek
first what is within, and then we will be fit to know
what is outside us, and beyond us.
The Buddha wanted his followers to know themselves
first. If we know ourselves, much of our troubles will
be over. The self must be sought, protected and
well-placed before one begins charity towards others, or
before one instructs others. The Buddha says, “One
should not neglect one’s own good even for the sake of
much benefit to others. He should perceive his welfare
and be zealous for his benefit” (Dhammapada XII, 10). To
an ordinary human being, there is nothing dearer than
“The wise man should first establish himself in what is
right, and then admonish others. Then he will not give
occasion for reproach,” (Dhammapada). No one can neglect
himself and work for the benefit of others.
Charity must begin with oneself, but not stop there. It
must go beyond. This is not selfishness. One should not
be careless of himself, and neglect his own spiritual
interest. Even in worldly matters, how can a person who
neglects his own good, work for the benefit of others?
Such a person will ultimately only be a burden to
society. The Buddha’s noble words directly address us to
be independent and we should not be followers of a blind
The Buddha says, “Do not simply believe whatever you are
told, or whatever has been handed down from past
generations, or what is common opinion, or whatever the
scriptures say. But when you yourselves directly know,
“These principles are unwholesome, blameworthy,
condemned by the wise; when adopted and carried out the
they lead to harm and suffering,” then you should
And when you yourselves directly know, “These principles
are wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise; when
adopted and carried out they lead to welfare and
happiness,” then you should accept and practise them.”
The highest authority is one’s own experience of truth.
Nothing should be accepted on faith alone; we have to
examine to see whether it is logical, practical and
beneficial. If we are to benefit from the truth, we have
to experience it directly. Only then can we know that it
is really true.
The Buddha always emphasized that - He taught only what
he had experienced by direct knowledge, and He encourage
others to develop such knowledge themselves, to become
their own authorities: “Each of you, make yourself an
island, make yourself your refuge; there is no other
refuge. Make truth your island, make truth your refuge;
there is no other refuge,” the Buddha advised His
The only real refuge in life, the only solid ground on
which to take a stand, the only authority that can give
proper guidance and protection is Truth, Dhamma, the Law
of Nature, experienced and verified by oneself.
Therefore, in His teaching, the Buddha always gave the
highest importance to the direct experience of truth.
What He had experienced, He explained as clearly as
possible so that others might have guidelines with which
to work towards their own realization of truth. The
Buddha said, “The teaching I have presented does not
have separate outward and inward versions. Nothing has
been kept hidden in the fist of the teacher.” He had no
esoteric doctrine for a chosen few. On the contrary, He
wished to make the Law of Nature known as plainly and as
widely as possible, so that as many people as possible
might benefit from it. Let’s strive to see the Greatest
Buddha through the Noble Dhamma He preached for almost
forty-five years by living as an extraordinary human
being on this earth.