Bhikkhu Bodhi is one of the most respected Buddhist scholars in the West nowadays. His most favorite teacher, Nyanaponika Thera ( whose teacher was Nyanatiloka Maha Thera b.t.w. ) , would certainly be pleased about his development. .
I haven't read the book yet only the free available introduction . Noting the very favorable response of members I like to share my first impression and would appreciate comments especially from those who have read the whole book .
The Venerable writes in his introdution:
The Buddha asks us to stop drifting thoughtlessly through our lives and instead to pay careful attention to simple truths that are everywhere available to us, clamoring for the sustained consideration they deserve.
One of the most obvious and inescapable of these truths is also among the most difficult for us to fully acknowledge, namely, that we are bound to grow old, fall ill, and die. It is commonly assumed that the Buddha beckons us to recognize the reality of old age and death in order to motivate us to enter the path of renunciation leading to Nibbāna, complete liberation from the round of birth and death.
I recall that the Buddha stated without old age, sickness and death there would be no teaching.The 3 messengers come into mind .. Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote in a respective essay ( ' Meeting The Divine Messengers' see http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_32.html
extract , quote
„If in this process of awakening we must meet old age, sickness, and death face to face, that is because the place of safety can be reached only by honest confrontation with the stark truths about human existence. We cannot reach safety by pretending that the flames that engulf our home are nothing but bouquets of flowers: we must see them as they are, as real flames. When, however, we do look at the divine messengers squarely, without embarrassment or fear, we will find that their faces undergo an unexpected metamorphosis. Before our eyes, by subtle degrees, they change into another face — the face of the Buddha, with its serene smile of triumph over the army of Mara, over the demons of Desire and Death. The divine messengers point to what lies beyond the transient, to a dimension of reality where there is no more aging, no more sickness, and no more death. This is the goal and final destination of the Buddhist path — Nibbana, the Unaging, the Unailing, the Deathless. It is to direct us there that the divine messengers have appeared in our midst, and the good news of deliverance is their message“.
I wonder whether the Ven. repeats lateron his emphasis on the deathless dated from 1998 , as the point of freedom from the round of rebirth isn't necessarily a priority for those knowing it only by hearsay or even doubt it.
However, while this may be his ultimate intention, it is not the first response he seeks to evoke in us when we turn to him for guidance. The initial response the Buddha intends to arouse in us is an ethical one. By calling our attention to our bondage to old age and death, he seeks to inspire in us a firm resolution to turn away from unwholesome ways of living and to embrace instead wholesome alternatives.
The point of ethics is supposed to explain the why of moral which I think is by the Law of Kamma plausible presented having the background in mind that without moral the Noble Path training is without substance . Hence moral is a mean for liberation not really the intial response , isn't it ?
„Rather, as we saw above, the first lesson he draws from the fact that our lives end in old age and death is an ethical one interwoven with the twin principles of kamma and rebirth. The law of kamma stipulates that our unwholesome and wholesome actions have consequences extending far beyond this present life: unwholesome actions lead to rebirth in states of misery and bring future pain and suffering; wholesome actions lead to a pleasant rebirth and bring future well-being and happiness. Since we have to grow old and die, we should be constantly aware that any present prosperity we might enjoy is merely temporary. We can enjoy it only as long as we are young and healthy; and when we die, our newly acquired kamma will gain the opportunity to ripen and bring forth its own results. We must then reap the due fruits of our deeds. With an eye to our long-term future welfare, we should scrupulously avoid evil deeds that result in suffering and diligently engage in wholesome deeds that generate happiness here and in future lives“.
Again strong emphasis on rebirth which -I.M.H.O. - would be better treated in a later chapter of the book ...at least for the Western reader.
In the second section, we explore three aspects of human life that I have collected under the heading “The Tribulations of Unreflective Living.” These types of suffering differ from those connected with old age and death in an important respect. Old age and death are bound up with bodily existence and are thus unavoidable, common to both ordinary people and liberated arahants—a point made in the first text of this chapter. In contrast, the three texts included in this section all distinguish between the ordinary person, called “the uninstructed worldling” (assutavā puthujjana), and the wise follower of the Buddha, called the “instructed noble disciple” (sutavā ariyasāvaka).
The first of these distinctions, drawn in Text I,2(1), revolves around the response to painful feelings. Both the worldling and the noble disciple experience painful bodily feelings, but they respond to these feelings differently. The worldling reacts to them with aversion and therefore, on top of the painful bodily feeling, also experiences a painful mental feeling: sorrow, resentment, or distress. The noble disciple, when afflicted with bodily pain, endures such feeling patiently, without sorrow, resentment, or distress. It is commonly assumed that physical and mental pain are inseparably linked, but the Buddha makes a clear demarcation between the two. He holds that while bodily existence is inevitably bound up with physical pain, such pain need not trigger the emotional reactions of misery, fear, resentment, and distress with which we habitually respond to it. Through mental training we can develop the mindfulness and clear comprehension necessary to endure physical pain courageously, with patience and equanimity. Through insight we can develop sufficient wisdom to overcome our dread of painful feelings and our need to seek relief in distracting binges of sensual selfindulgence.
A reader may question the credibility of the dogma , as the third Noble Truths promise the cessation of what has been specified within the first Noble Truth.
It is not stated that bodily pain is excluded and must be endured though with a different reaction by the instructed (noble) disciple . I don't think that reference to the second dart is satisfying. (Please compare with General Theravada Discussion , topic 'First and Third Noble Truth , where a lucid explanation is sought. )
„Many, fearful of annihilation at death, construct belief systems that ascribe to their individual selves, their souls, the prospect of eternal life. A few yearn for a path to liberation but do not know where to find one. It was precisely to offer such a path that the Buddha has appeared in our midst.“
Am I alone to miss what has been quoted before as an extract of Bhikkhu Bodhi 's earlier essay: 'Meeting the Divine Messengers ' or is it only an issue of the introduction ...?