By Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
The first thing we would like you to realize is that Buddhism, or Dhamma, is a medicine for curing disease. This is a strange and special medicine because it can be taken by anyone, regardless of religion, nationality, ethnic background, education, class, or language. Anyone may use this medicine, for Dhamma is like those modern drugs that cure physical ailments. Such drugs can be taken by people all over the world, no matter what their religion, race, sex, profession, or language. Although we come from different cultures, we can use the very same kind of medicine. Take aspirin, for example. No matter who and where we are, we can take a few aspirin to get rid of a headache. Dhamma is the same. It is the universal medicine.
We like to say that Dhamma is a medicine for disease or roga. I would like for us to use this Pali word "roga," because it has a clear and useful meaning. Although it's usually translated as "disease," roga literally means "that which pierces and stabs," thus causing pain. We don't really know where the English word "disease" comes from, so we prefer "roga." Its meaning is certain and appropriate: stabbing, piercing, skewering. Dhamma is something that can cure this stabbing and piercing of roga.
The roga with which we're most concerned is spiritual. We can call it "spiritual disease." Physical disease pierces the body; spiritual disease stabs the mind or spirit. Dhamma is the latter's remedy. If we have no spiritual disease, to come and study Dhamma is a complete waste of time. Hence, everyone must look closely in order to know both kinds of roga: physical disease, roga of the body, and spiritual disease, roga of the mind, heart, or spirit. Then, look within yourselves -- right now! -- is there any spiritual disease in you? Are you free from disease or merely enduring it?
We begin our study of Dhamma by getting to know our own roga. You must look and search within yourself until seeing and discovering how spiritual disease afflicts you. To do so, you must look inside! If you don't, you won't have a proper beginning to your study of Dhamma. Unless we understand the roga from which we suffer, we will only study Dhamma in a foolish, aimless way. Actually, most of you already have some knowledge about your spiritual disease, but for most that knowledge will be slight, scattered, or unclear.
Let's talk about the disease a bit more in order to clarify it. All of the problems which disturb the mind are problems which arise from aging, illness, and death. These are the first symptoms of the disease. Our minds are disturbed and pestered by problems that result from the fact that we all must grow old, fall sick, and die. These problems are the first thing to look at. Next, there are three general, miscellaneous problems: we get separated from the things we love, we experience things we dislike, and we have wishes which go unfulfilled. These are general problems leading to spiritual disease. Before anything else, each of you must know these problems or roga as you actually experience them within yourselves.
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