This week’s theme from The Teachings of the Buddha is “Deepening One's Perspective on the World.”—Editor’s note
In interpreting suttas, we have to take account of the circumstances under which they were spoken and the persons to whom they were addressed. During the course of his long ministry, the Buddha had to adjust his teaching to people with different capacities and needs. He taught those given to reckless behavior to abandon their self-defeating ways and engage in wholesome actions that yield pleasant fruits. He taught those inclined to resign themselves to fate that present effort determines our present quality of life as well as our future destiny. He taught those convinced that personal existence ceases with bodily death that living beings survive the breakup of the body and re-arise in accordance with their kamma. He taught those not yet ripe enough for higher attainments to aspire for rebirth among the devas, the celestial beings, and to enjoy the bliss and glory of the heavens.
A blissful heavenly rebirth, however, is not the final purpose for which the Buddha taught the Dhamma. At best it is only a temporary waystation. The ultimate goal is the cessation of suffering, and the bliss of the heavens, no matter how blissful, is not the same as the cessation of suffering. According to the Buddha’s teaching, all states of existence within the round of rebirths, even the heavens, are transient, unreliable, bound up with pain. Thus the ultimate aim of the Dhamma is nothing short of liberation, which means total release from the round of birth and death.
To continue reading the introduction to "Deepening One's Perspective on the World," click here.