JOURNAL - PAGE 15.
ARTICLES INDEX - PAGE 15
J15.01 Next Economy, Buddhist Economy
J15.02 World peace - ideal or fantasy? - The cold war has allegedly ended...
J15.03 Buddhism and Green Issues - Ecology deals with relations of living organisms to their environment...
J15.04 Initiating Bhikkhuni Order - The sister of Queen Mahamaya, the aunt of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha...
J15.05 Significance of Binara poya - The Buddha’s initial rejection for a Bhikkhuni Sasana...
J15.06 The world is created and established through ignorance
J15.07 Dhamma in life’s journey - Sakyamuni Sri Siddhartha Gauthama enlightened the humanity...
J15.08 The Full Moon Poya Day of Medin in the Buddhist year 2556
J15.09 Scientific Principles of Death and Rebirth in Buddhism
J15.10 The Buddha Proclaims the Second Law of Thermodynamics as Parting Gift
J15.11 The Spirit of Buddhism and its prevalence this day
J15.12 I want happiness - Once a rich prince went to his spiritual teacher
J15.13 Physical and spiritual health
J15.14 Death: Is it the end? - The intellectual debate between two philosophers...
J15.15 Western Science, Astrology and Arsenic - Part I II III IV
J15.16 How did the Buddha give his knowledge? - When we were in school we had two types of subjects...
J15.17 The driving force in Samsara - As long as man was attached to craving, and ignorance...
J15.18 Buddhist psychology of womanhood - Contribution which Buddhism has made to the spiritual... - Part I II
J15.19 Decline of the Buddha’s teaching to a religion - The word religion has never been used by the Buddha
J15.20 Scientific Basis Of Brain, Consciousness And Rebirth - We have heard much about rebirth in books - Part I II
J15.01 Next Economy, Buddhist Economy
Pavel G. Somov, PH.D., Pittsburgh, PA (USA)
November 6th, 2012: the day we vote on economy… the year of apocalyptic partisanship… the year of promises of new economy…
I usually don’t mess with economics. The last time I spoke on the topic was when I re-phrased the all-too-familiar "It’s economy, stupid!" meme into "It’s psychology, stupid!" in my 2009 Huffington Post blog.
My question is this:
What kind of economy are we trying to build?
The kind of economy where everyone who wants to work can work?
Or the kind of economy that works by itself without the need to work?
Or the kind of economy where work doesn’t feel like work?
These are all very different questions and the answers to these questions range from industrial age pragmatism to utopian fantasies.
But I am looking for something in the middle, for an economy of the Middle Way for the middle class…
Is there such a beast?
Turns out there is and it’s called Buddhist Economics as described (in the 1970s) by E. F. Schumacher in "Small is Beautiful" (a must read!).
A couple of excerpts and a few points.
"There is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is human labor. Now, the modern economists have been brought up to consider "labor" or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, [labor] is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum… say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, [labor/work] is a "disutility;" to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment."
Exactly: that’s what I, as an immigrant to this country, have witnessed over the past 20 years – employers try to get rid of employees and the working public keeps dreaming the American dream of early retirement.
I am a big fan of the television show "Shark Tank" and after the last episode I said to my wife: "the American dream is well alive." Week after week I am blown away by inventive, hard-working people that seem to be motivated by the fantasy of financial independence (which is fine) and early retirement (arguably problematic).
This gets at one of my initial questions: what kind of economy are we trying to build – an economy that works by itself? That seems to have been the American dream – to work hard, strike it rich, and not have to work anymore.
So, that’s the American way, the American economics. Here’s the Buddhist way, the Buddhist economics, in Schumacher’s words:
"The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence."
Making this kind of living would be "right livelihood" in terms of the Buddhist doctrine of Noble Eightfold Path.
"To strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure."
Schumacher never formally challenges the American economic dream (of striking it rich and becoming financially independent and retiring early) but, indirectly, his theorizing about Buddhist economics is exactly that kind of challenge.
I love what I do (but I am not what I do). I have no plans of retiring. And I am not a workaholic: I work three long days, seeing clients back to back, and these three days of work are some of my best days on this planet. Not because I am "helping" someone (I resent that view anyway, the view of mental health as a "helping profession" – just about any occupation can be construed as such – plumbers too are in a "helping profession;" this whole "helping profession" business is just a bit too self-congratulatory, too ego-boosting for my taste).
I love what I do exactly because when I do what I do I cease to be my conceptual self, I vanish into the flow of the moment, I disappear into my work not as some escapist workaholic but as a cliff-diver into the oblivion of the water.
I realize I am fortunate that I am able to do what I do. But I also have no false modesty about the matter: I have worked hard, very hard for this privilege to work in a manner that develops my faculties and in a manner that meditatively erases my ego and in a manner that also happens to have social value. And it’s exactly because of this privilege to work that I don’t have the American dream of striking it rich and retiring early.
(All this book-writing that I’ve done – that was me chasing the American dream, wanting to pay off the student loans fast and get a lifestyle upgrade. But I am mostly done with that – I mean with craving and book-writing… Not just because I grew and matured but also because I am finally catching on to the fact that the American dream of striking it rich through book-writing for no-names like me is mostly a pipe-dream).
I am rambling and, perhaps, over-sharing (and that’s okay, that’s what blogging is about). So, I want to end this voting-day blog-post with this summation: in my humble opinion, to build a new economy we have to let go of the old dream, of that American dream that equates work with necessary evil.
And I’ll let Schumacher wrap this up for me:
"While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is "The Middle Way" and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence… amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results."
Schumacher – writing in the 1970s – was right then and is right now: an economy that is based on craving, an economy based on competing with the Joneses is an economy of Jonesing, an economy of addiction. We don’t just need more jobs, we also need a rehab of the American dream. We need a pattern break.
Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and the author of "Eating the Moment" (New Harbinger, 2008), "Present Perfect" (NH, 2010), "The Lotus Effect" (NH, 2010), "Smoke Free Smoke Break" (2011), and "Reinventing the Meal" (in press, 2012). He is in private practice in Pittsburgh, PA. His book website is www.eatingthemoment.com
Marla Somova, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice and an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Counseling at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the co-author of "Smoke Free Smoke Break" (2011).
Courtesy: Buddhist Channel
11 11 2012 - Sunday Island
J15.02 World peace - ideal or fantasy ?
Ven. Dr. M Vajiragnana, Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain
The cold war has allegedly ended. There is now a scramble to share the peace dividends. Can we be sure of a future era of sustained and unsuspecting peace? Open warfare, civil wars, bitter enmity among leading nations hit headlines everyday. In such a context the contents of this article, eloquently expressed from a Buddhist standpoint, are most topical and relevant. The article is based on a lecture given by the author at the second general conference of the World Buddhist Supreme Tathagata Followers held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 1994.
Throughout this century Western leaders have made great efforts to ensure world peace. How far have they succeeded in these efforts? We have had two world wars, and the periods that followed have been full of civil strife, terrorism and blood letting. To ensure world peace, many agreements have been entered into. The main strategy behind them has been the creation of a balance in the production and deployment of armaments. This has, of course, led to an 'equilibrium of terror.' Can we call this peace? Now there is another great fear that was not originally envisaged or visualised : the fear that the nuclear stockfile of the former USSR and the now independent Eastern European block will be sold to the highest bidder! Did the balancing of armaments ensure peace? Perhaps it curbed the possibility of another world war for a few years, but the world will be much more dangerous if the nuclear armaments get into wrong hands. And still the manufacture of arms continues as a major world industry.
Buddhist view There is a simple description of the highly emotive word 'peace'. Peace is the active presence of JUSTICE. If we aspire to create or achieve peace at all, let alone world peace, justice must be at the forefront of all our ideals. Justice is 'respect' - respect for the whole of the humanity, for all beings and for all of nature.
The Buddha constantly explained that the world was full of dukkha. This is human existence. There is no peace for any ordinary individual. The only totally peaceful state for a human being is Enlightenment. But this state does not abolish violence. What it does, however, is to allow the mind to be completely detached from fear and bodily attachment. After all, even Maha Moggallana was murdered! And, assassination attempts were made even on the greatest human of our time, the Tathagata himself.
We have a right to talk about peace and to aspire to world peace. More than any other religion or philosophy, Buddhism presents a clear vision of peace. The Noble Eightfold Path unambiguously maps out the way to achieving lasting personal peace. If everyone could but perfect their own personal life, world peace would come almost naturally. Buddhism preaches love, kindness, compassion, benevolence and respect for the lives of all. It advocates abstention from causing any harm to or inflicting any suffering on any living being. All disputes and conflicts among families, communities or nations should be settled by peaceful means, such as tolerance mutual respect, mutual agreement and wisdom.
The three motives The Buddha was very clear about the causes of rivalries, conflicts, quarrels and wars. These, he explained, resulted from three kinds of motives:
TANHA - selfish desire for pleasure and acquisition.
MANA - Egotistical lust for power and dominance.
DITTHI - clinging to opinions, faiths and ideologies.
Modern situations caused by economic systems, political ideologies and religious fanaticism all fit in to one or more of these categories. There is no situation in today's world that is outside of what the Buddha's teachings explored.
Society grows through a network of relationships which are interdependent. We can do nothing, nor can we exist or progress, unless we are committed to one another. As human beings, we are unique in our ability to see what is good. We can choose to realise it in our own speech and actions. It is we who can create a safe and peaceful world by means of practising love, tolerance and mutual respect in the way the Buddha taught.
Karmic laws To create a safe and peaceful world there are factors more important than the mere control of arms. These are the five Karmic laws which can often be thrown off balance by modern science and technology.
Physical laws - such as seasons. Rain forests are being cleared, rivers diverted, scrub land on our hills cleared for the cultivation of cash crops such as tobacco. When the physical laws are altered in such ruthless ways, can the world remain peaceful?
Biological laws - seeds, genes, germs, etc. There is no need for any elaboration on this topic. The threat of science is being constantly discussed. Science is able to produce new breeds of animals, or reproduce exact likenesses. Genes are being reproduced and implanted into humans. Germ warfare is an ever present threat. But we cannot restrict the ever-expanding field of science.
Psychological laws - many countries seems to excel in psychological torture! Psychology is used throughout the world today, even down to advertising which aims solely to produce a state of covetousness and envy. There is no way that the widespread abuse through psychology can be stemmed.
Moral laws - action and results. If only the law of kamma could be successfully taught to all peoples of the world! If everyone understood rebirth and karma most of their actions would become wholesome.
Order of Norms - such as gravity. Atomic warfare, burial of atomic waste, bad building techniques of atomic plants and the like will surely break the order of Norms should a large disaster happen. The ozone layer is breaking, which threatens global warming. Who knows what terrible inventions science will produce in the 21st century?
Even in this situation of unpredictability, the great thoughts expressed by the Buddha remain solid and unreputable. Take, for example, the Buddha's explanation of the three types of impurity: gross, sensuous and subtle. Gross impurity is wrong conduct in deeds, words and even thoughts. Anger and violent thoughts form sensuous impurity, while subtle impurity is to do with nationality, country, family, home and reputation.
Buddhism teaches that there is nothing called "righteous anger"! Is there any other religion that considers such a view? The Buddha was deeply moved by inhumanities and political oppressions in his time. The concept of good government aroused great concerns in him. Hence the introduction of the notion of "Dasa raja dhamma" - the ten duties of a King. These are as valid and relevant today as they were 2500 years ago. The Buddha has said that "nothing is fit to be clung to." If world peace is to be achieved, all nations, religions and persons must rid themselves of all ego.
J1503 Buddhism and Green Issues
Prof. J B Dissanayaka
This article is based on a talk given by Prof. J B Dissanayaka, at the Joint Vesak Celebration at Hammersmith Town Hall in 1993. He is Professor of Sinhalese at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. A qualified linguist, Professor Dissanayaka has written extensively on a variety of subjects, ranging from modern linguistics, grammar, Buddhism and aspects of Sri Lankan and Maldivian culture.
Today, at the turn of another century, we are told that we are passing through perhaps the gravest crisis in human history: the ecological crisis. It is considered ‘grave’ because it seems to threaten the very survival of the earth, and invariably, its inhabitants - both man and beast.
Ecology deals with relations of living organisms to their environment, and the present crisis stems from the fact that the natural eco-systems have been disturbed by man. Of course, a certain degree of disturbance cannot be helped because man is not simply a part of nature but also the one who can control it. For what is human civilization but the control of nature?
However, in the course of our civilization, we seem to have mismanaged our affairs. We seem to have exploited nature in such a way as to create an imbalance in the natural eco-systems. As Krishna Chaitanya says, in his ‘Profile of Indian Culture’: "With the growth of the megalopolis and with town-planners thinking in terms of continuous conurbation extending right across continents, man is tending to forget how profoundly his life is linked with that of nature. He has stripped the hills and valleys of their mantle of green and the rivers, thus abetted in their assault on the weakened earth, are washing away the future into the sea. It is the forest cover that conserves the soil from erosion, regulates the flow of streams and purifies the air we breathe".
In view of this destruction, international organizations are today addressing themselves to this problem of environmental crisis. They are seeking answers to this problem from every possible source: science, religion, folk wisdom and so on. In this context, what wisdom can Buddhism offer?
The Buddha’s view of the relation between man and his environment finds expression in his view of ‘Ideal living’ prescribed for the householder. In the Mangala Suttanta, where he enumerates a list of ideal factors conducive to the well-being of an individual, he mentions one as ‘patirupa desa vaso’ which means ‘to reside in a suitable locality’. The Buddha enumerated these factors at the request of a deity who asked him to name the "highest blessings" (‘mangalani’). Of course, the Buddha does not discuss, in this discourse, what is meant by ‘suitable’ but we are able to interpret it in the light of his own sensibility enshrined in the events of his life-story, and rules of conduct he recommended for his monks.
The word ‘suitable’, obviously, is a relative term and its meaning depends on questions such as ‘suitable for whom?’ or ‘suitable for what?’ What is suitable for the monks may not be suitable for the householder and vice versa. But, in general, a ‘suitable locality’ in the Buddha’s view, was one in which green vegetation played an integral part.
The narrative of the Buddha’s life is symbolic of his love of nature, particularly of forests, parks and gardens. His birth itself is symbolic of this love. "In Queen Maya’s dream of the annunciation," observes Chaitanya, "the Buddha comes to her in the form of a white elephant holding a white lotus in his trunk. She was delivered of the flower of the human race while reaching for the flowering spray of a tree in the Lumbini grove which at that time was one mass of flowers from the roots to the tips of the branches." Of course, the Buddha had no choice in the selection of his place of birth, but in the later events of his life, he certainly had his choice.
The site the Buddha chose for his Enlightenment was the bank of river in the kingdom of Magadha. The river was Neranjara in the village of Uruvela. The bank of a river is always rich in vegetation, in addition to its tranquillity that comes from the waters that flow. Even there, he chose the foot of a spreading tree to sit and contemplate. The tree was one that was considered a vanaspati in Indian culture. The term vanaspati means ‘the lord of the jungle’ and there were a number of trees that qualified to be lords of the jungle: they rose up to great heights and were considered abodes of deities (devata). The assattha or ashvastha tree the Buddha chose was one that was considered the abode of Vishnu and his wife, Lakshmi. It was also a tree that had associations with ancestor worship. Since the Buddha attained Enlightenment (bodhi) under this tree, botanists have named it ‘ficus religiosa’. The Buddhists call it the bodhi rukkha and because of its associations with the Buddha, no one cuts it, even a branch of this, unless accompanied by ritual. The fact that Sujata, the daughter of a rich merchant, came to offer milk-rice to the deity of the tree under which the Buddha sat is evidence of the belief that it was the abode of a deity. In fact, it is said that she mistook the Buddha for the rukkha devata (tree deity).
The site that the Buddha chose for his first sermon, the Dhamma cakka pavattana sutta, was again an environment marked by peace and tranquillity of the park. If its tranquillity was disturbed at all, it was by the movement of the deer (miga) who roamed about leisurely in the park, which was hence forth called Migadaya (Deer Park). It was in Isipatana, which was also frequented by seers (isi).
Finally, the Buddha chose another garden to pass into parinibbana. This was the park of Sala trees near the township of Kusinara, which was the capital of the Malla clan. "I am weary, Ananda," said the Buddha, on the last lap of his journey towards Kusinara, with Ananda, his personal attendant, "and would lie down. Spread over for me the couch with its head to the north between the twin sala trees". So says the Maha Parinibbana Sutta. "And when he lay down at last to rest, two small trees were in bloom though it was not the flowering season, and they shed their blossoms on him, washing away life gently in a soft, fragrant rain of petals."
Monasteries (arama) for the monks were also built in environments closer to woods, parks and gardens. For such places are conducive to meditation. The Buddha himself encouraged his benefactors to build monasteries in such places. In fact, the Pali word vihara, which signifies a Buddhist monastery, means ‘an open place in the forest’.
One of the earliest monasteries offered to the Buddha was the Veluvanarama in Rajagaha, the capital of the kingdom of Magadha. It was named Veluvanarama because it was located in a grove of bamboo (velu) trees. The monastery where the Buddha spent most of his rains-retreats (vassa) was in the Park known as Jetavana near the city of Savatthi in the kingdom of Kosala. The monastery built there by Anathapinika was called the arama of Anathapinika (Anathapinikassa arame). The Buddha spent 18 vassa seasons at this monastery and anyone who visits this site today, at Sahet Mahet, would realize what a tranquil garden it would have been in the days of the Buddha.
It is also interesting to note that the Buddha retired to a forest, the Parileyyaka vana, near Kosambhi, when two parties of monks entered into a dispute. "As they could not be reconciled and as they did not pay heed to his exhortation, the Buddha retired to the forest". Thus, even the Buddha found solace in the tranquillity of the forest, when he was unable to resolve human problems.
If these narratives of the Buddha’s life tell us about the Buddha’s sensibility towards nature, his code of conduct for the monks spells it out in sharper terms. In the Book of the Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), which is a collection of rules and regulations for the guidance of monks, there is a specific rule relating to the cutting down of trees. Once, some monks of Alavi were blamed and criticised by people for cutting down trees for making repairs.
"How can these recluses, sons of the Sakyans, cut down trees and have them cut down? These recluses, sons of the Sakyans, are harming life that is one-facultied," said the people. The Buddha called the monks and asked them, "Is it true, as is said, that you, monks, cut down trees and had them cut down?".
"It is true, lord," they said.
The Enlightened one, the lord, rebuked them, saying: "How can you, monks, cut down trees and have them cut down? It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not yet pleased. And thus, monks, this rule of training should be set forth: For destruction of vegetable growth there is an offence of expiation".
In Buddhist terminology, expiation refers to a type of offence known as pacittiya, and the term for ‘vegetable growth’ here is bhutagama, which is explained as five-fold: (a) what is propagated from roots, (b) what is propagated from stems (c) what is propagated from joints, (d) what is propagated from cuttings, and (e) what is propagated from seeds.
For monks to be charged with this offence, several conditions have to be fulfilled, says the Vinaya Pitaka:
"If he thinks that it is a seed, when it is a seed, (and) cuts it or has it cut or breaks it or has it broken or cooks it or has it cooked, there is an offence of expiation. If he thinks that it is not a seed when it is a seed (and) cuts it (and so on) ... there is no offence. If he thinks that it is a seed when it is not a seed, there is an offence of wrong-doing. If he thinks that it is not a seed when it is not a seed, there is no offence."
It is clear from the above, that what ultimately matters is one’s intention (cetana) and in the Buddha’s view cetana is kamma.
How the Buddha’s respect for plant-life has been translated into action in different Buddhist cultures in Asia is another fascinating study but that should be the subject of another inquiry. Let me conclude this talk by recalling one of the observations made by another great son of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru, in 1959, when India was celebrating her ninth Vana Mahotsava: "There should be a strict rule that no one should cut down a tree without planting two in its place."
And let us hope that, with our new understanding of nature, and the new strategies of conservation, "May all beings be happy !" (sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta).
J1504 Initiating Bhikkhuni Order
The sister of Queen Mahamaya, the aunt of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, who was later the foster-mother of the Buddha was the first Bhiksuni-Buddhist Nun in Buddhism. On three occasions, the Blessed One, turned down her request. In her fourth attempt she was successful. It was Ven Ananda - the Secretary of the Blessed One - The "Dhammabandagarika" was the negotiator in her attempts.
Considering her appeals, Buddha gave the green light for the establishment of the Bhikkhuni Sasanaya or Bhikkuni Order, under Eight (8) strict disciplinary code of conduct called Garudamma.
They are as follows:
(1) A Nun who has completed even 100 years of Higher Ordination should respectfully worship a Monk who received His Higher Ordination the very same day.
(2) A Nun should not live in an area where there are no monks for her to receive advice.
(3) A nun should receive doctrinal advice from monks once a fortnight.
(4) A Nun who spent her Rainy Retreat (Vas season) should receive the appropriate completing Precepts and absolve herself before Nuns and Monks of the Order.
(5) A Nun, who has transgressed a Precept (committed a fault) should own up and declare her error before the Monks and Nuns of the Order, and follow their advice to make up for it, for fourteen day (14) respectively, according to their orders.
(6) Before receiving Higher Ordination, the Novice should observe the necessary six precepts well for two years, and receive Higher Ordination in the presence of the two-fold Sangha, namely, the Nuns and Monks with Higher Ordination.
(7) On no account should a Nun scold or call out rough words with the idea of causing pain or insult to monks.
(8) A Nun should respect the advice given by a Monk. On no account should she advice a Monk.
"Ananda, if Prajapati Gotami accepts, these Eightfold Noble Rules (Garudhamma) this will be her admission and Higher Ordination as well."
The above quote in from "The Enlightened Nuns of the Buddha Era" - written by the Sri Lankan Nun the Great Vajira Silmatha - BA (London) pious scholarly Nun - a Great writer, who contributed immensely for the uplift of Sri Lanka's Bhikkuni Sasanaya. We, Buddhists are indebted to her. Every Buddhist should read this book written after a lot of Research study. Gracious Silmatha, I humbly worship you.
The story of Great Enlightened Nun Maha Prajapathi Gotami - the Foremost Nun of the Order is like a Fairy Tale.
In her Samsaric Journey, about hundred Thousand Kalpas - Aeons - (A period of time so long that it cannot be measured), during the Buddha Padumuttara - she was born as the daughter of a Royal Minister. After Buddha Padumuttara's sermon, he elevated her foster mother to the rank of the Foremost Nun. While accompanying his Minister father, Gotami witnessed this event. Seeing this, she made a sincere earnest resolve "May I become the Foremost Nun for a Future Buddha."
During the Siddhartha Gauthama Buddha Era, Gotami was born as a charming, pretty princess in the city of Devadaha. Her father was Suprabuddha - King of Koliya clan. Her elder sister was Princess Mahamaya - mother of Gauthama Buddha. This baby princess who possessed auspicious birth marks was named Prajapati - leader of many.
As her elder sister Mahamaya died, Prajapati became the foster-mother to Buddha. Her own son - Nanda was also born during the same period and she fed both Prince Siddhartha and Prince Nanda.
There was a war later between the two Royal clans - Sakya-Koliya clans. Gautama Buddha, preached the parties the virtue of peace and the war ended. The war hero's 500 wives, under the leadership of Prajapati sought permission from Buddha to establish a Bhikkhuni Sasana. On the fourth attempt she was successful.
The Blessed One Gautama Buddha, gave Prajapati Gotami advise on Meditation. She followed it. As a result, she attained Noble Enlightenment, Three Higher Knowledges and six great psychic powers. Monk Nanda, delivered a special sermon for 500 nuns, titled Nandakovada Sermon, as directed by the Buddha. Hearing the news, many ladies reached the city of Visala to become nuns. Among them were Princes Yasodhara and Nanda.
On this significant moment, Gautama Buddha informed the August Assembly, that Prajapati Gothami achieved her wish after 100,000 "Kalpas" - aeons to gain the Rank of the Foremost nun. Many miracles occurred at that time.
After Gothami delivered the vote of thanks to the Buddha and Sangha, the Blessed one stated "Oh, Monks, the Mother of Buddha is worthy of respect. Let us go behind her." Prajapati Gothami paid her last honour and respect to Buddha. This was the only occasion in Buddha's life, when the Blessed one walked behind a person as the Mother of Buddha.
Then, Chief Nun Maha Prajapati Gotami followed the Four Meditations and rose up to the four Immaterial states.
They are as follows:
(a) Space (Akasanchcayatana) (b) Consciousness (Vinnanancayatana) (c) Nothingness (Akinnayatana) (d) Neither Percpetion nor Non-Perception (Nevasannanasannayatana). Then she arose to the fourth Meditative Absorption (Chatuttahadyana) and attained great bliss of Deathlessness - Nibbana.
The Mother of Buddhism Maha Prajapati Gotami passed away including the 500 nuns. She and nuns were accorded a great state funeral. Licchavi kings, princes erected five hundred pyres. This was the first occasion Gautama Buddha attended a funeral. The Blessed one followed the Funeral Procession along with Sariputta and Moggallana and Eighty (80) Chief Disciples. Royalty followed them. Up above people witnessed many miracles.
After the bodies were burnt completely, Prajapati Gotami's, few bones remained like tiny pearls. They were collected into the old bowl of her were presented to Buddha.
"Buddha stated "Oh Monks, strong huge tree fell, broken. While the Big branch broken and fell, main tree (order of nuns) remained. Monks, she was a role model for all women folk she was.
Oh monks! Realise the Impermanence of life. Strive hard. Meditate. Gain the seven factors of Enlightenment and attain your goal." The Licchavi kings received the Relics from the Buddha and erected a shrine in honour of her.
May the Triple Gem Bless You!
J1505 Significance of Binara poya: Mothering a sage
The Buddha’s initial rejection for a Bhikkhuni Sasana is scoffed at by feminists from some quarters. They question if the woman cannot achieve the nibbana. This shows their lack of common sense as well as ignorance of teachings. The Buddha was only reluctant to install the bhikkhuni order, but he preached to women such as his mothers and wife: Maya, Pajapathi and Yasodhara.
Pajapathi had the support of 500 wives of princes. They all shaved their heads, wore yellow robes, and met monk Ananda. Only following monk Ananda’s continuous request did the Buddha accept the Bhikkhuni Sasana on a Binara Poya. Pajapathi became the first nun in the Buddhist order, but on eight conditions:
Picture by Saman Sri Wedage
The monk shall be given priority in respect and deference over the nun.
The nun shall spend rain retreat away from the monks.
The nun shall seek consent from monks about Uposatha and teaching of Dhamma.
Upon violating a rule, the nun shall be punished before the community of both nuns and monks.
The nun shall confess any wrongdoing before the community of nuns and monks.
The nun shall be ordained before a gathering of nuns and monks.
The nun shall not treat a monk badly.
The nun shall not teach a monk.
Maha Pajapathi Gothami – the name goes on to mean that she would have a large retinue - played an instrumental role in the Buddha’s lay life, by bringing him up following Queen Maya’s death. She was Maya’s younger sister. Dandapani and Suppabuddha were her brothers. She had Nanda and Sundari Nanda from King Suddhodana, hence they became the Buddha’s step siblings.
The Buddha always stressed the fact the woman can always achieve nibbana being a laity. Women entering the monk establishment will lead to more complications. If the monk order has the life span of 10,000 years, the Buddha went on to say, it will go down to 5000 years when women join it.
He likened the Bhikkhuni participation as a house full of women being vulnerable for smugglers. It will disturb the peace of monk mind and make path for misuse, mostly.
Suddhodana’s death left no reason for Pajapathi to remain laity, since she was already a Sotapanna. She was looking out for a chance to approach the Buddha on initiating the nun order. The Blessed One visited Kapilavatthu to settle the row between Sakyans and Kolyans on obtaining water from River Rohini. The Buddha preached the Kalahavivada Sutta, and 500 princes became monks leaving their wives alone. Gothami had the support of these wives. The validity of Gothami’s ordination became an issue, because some nuns did not like to become nuns under her. The Buddha interfered and declared the validity of Gothami’s bhikkhuni status.
Gothami once made an elegant looking robe for the Buddha with a distinctive material. The Buddha refused to accept it alone and suggested it should be given to the whole order. Gothami was feeling down, but then she realised it was to her own benefit – to accrue more merits.
No more re-becoming
Andrew Olendzki translates a stanza from Theri Gatha which is uttered by Pajapathi Gotami. The stanza is reproduced along with the translator’s introduction.
The woman who is said to have composed this poem was Pajapati, the Buddha’s stepmother and a Queen of the Sakyas. Her younger sister was Maya, married to King Suddhodana only after Pajapati herself was unable to conceive an heir. Queen Maya died in childbirth, and it was Pajapati who raised Gotama as her own son. After his enlightenment, Pajapati also left the palace and became the first of the bhikkhunis, the order of nuns.
The third stanza suggests that her attainments included the recollection of past lives, by which she was able to verify empirically the truth of continual rebirth —the ‘flowing on’ (samsara) from one life to another. This process, as she mentions in her poem, is fueled by craving and by ‘not understanding’. In the second and fourth stanzas Pajapati declares her attainment of nibbana, of final and complete liberation in this very life.
It is remarkable to think that when Maya is remembered in the last stanza, the author has in mind not the icon of motherhood and sacrifice that Maya became in the Buddhist tradition, but a dearly-loved younger sister who died tragically young —without ever seeing what her son had become.
Buddha! Hero! Praise be to you!
You foremost among all beings!
You who have released me from pain,
And so many other beings too.
All suffering has been understood.
The source of craving has withered.
Cessation has been touched by me
On the noble eight-fold path.
I’ve been mother and son before;
And father, brother — grandmother too.
Not understanding what was real,
I flowed-on without finding [peace].
But now I’ve seen the Blessed One!
This is my last compounded form.
The on-flowing of birth has expired.
There’s no more re-becoming now.
The Buddha proved his gratitude by attending to Gothami when she was ill. He preached to her consolation. When it comes to discipline, however, the Buddha seems to have been stricter for the Bhikkhuni by making 311 rules for Bhikkhunis, whereas 227 for Bhikkhus.
J15.06 The World
Ven. Ajahn Chah’s talks, compiled by Dr Stalin Wettimuny
The world is created and established through ignorance. It’s because we are not mindful that the mind attaches importance to things, fashioning and creating sankhara the whole time. Turn inwards to know within yourself. Don’t always be turning outwards.
These activities of happiness, unhappiness and so on are constantly arising because they are characteristics of the world. The Buddha’s enlightenment was simply enlightenment of this very world. Gain and loss, praise and criticism, fame and disrepute, happiness and unhappiness were all still there. If they weren’t, there would be nothing to become enlightened to! What he knew was just the world, that which surrounds the cittas of people.
If people follow these things, seeking praise and fame, gain and happiness, and trying to avoid their opposites, they sink under the weight of the world. Gain and loss, praise and criticism, fame and disrepute, happiness and unhappiness - this is the world. The person who is lost in the world has no path of escape, the world overwhelms him.
This world follows the Law of Dhamma so we call it worldly Dhamma. He who lives within the worldly Dhamma is called a worldly being. He lives surrounded by confusion. Therefore the Buddha taught us to develop the path - morality, concentration and wisdom. One should develop them to completion. This is the path of practice which destroys the world.
Where is this world? It is just in the minds of beings infatuated with it! The action of clinging to praise, gain, fame, happiness and unhappiness is called ‘the world’. When these things are there in the mind, then the world arises, the worldly being is born. The world is born because of desire. Desire is the birthplace of all worlds. To put an end to desire is to put an end to the world. Practice of morality, concentration and wisdom is otherwise called the Eightfold Path.
This Eightfold Path and the eight worldly Dhammas are a pair. How is it that they are a pair? If we speak according to the scriptures, we say that gain and loss, praise and criticism, fame and disrepute, happiness and unhappiness are the eight worldly Dhammas. Right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration: this is the Eightfold Path. These two eight ways exist in the same place.
The eight worldly Dhammas are right here in this very mind, with the ‘one who knows’; but this ‘one who knows’ has obstructions, so it knows wrongly and thus becomes the world. It’s just this one - ‘one who knows’, no other. The Buddha-nature has not yet arisen in this mind, it has not yet extracted itself from the world. The mind like this is the world. When we practise the path, training our body and speech, it’s all done in that very same mind. It’s in the same place, so they see each other; the path sees the world.
If we practise with this mind of ours we encounter this clinging to the worldly Dhammas, we see the attachment to the world. Buddha said, ‘You should know the world. It dazzles like a king’s royal carriage. Fools are entranced, but the wise are not deceived.’ He wanted us to watch this mind which attaches to the world. When He told us to look at the world, He didn’t want us to get stuck in it, but to investigate it, because the world is born just in this mind.
When there is desire the world comes into being right there. Wanting is the birth place of the world. To extinguish wanting is to extinguish the world. When in meditation we want the mind to become peaceful, but it’s not peaceful. Why is this? We don’t want to think but we think. It’s like a person who goes to sit on an ants’ nest: the ants just keep on biting him. When the mind is the world, then even sitting still with our eyes closed, all we see is the world.
Pleasure, sorrow, anxiety, confusion - it all arises. Why is this? It’s because we still haven’t realized Dhamma. If the mind is like this the meditator can’t endure the worldly Dhammas, he doesn’t investigate. If they feel content they just follow contentment, feeling discontent they just follow that.
Following the worldly Dhammas the mind becomes the world. Sometimes we may think, ‘Oh, I can’t do it, it’s beyond me,’ so we don’t even try. This is because the mind is full of defilements; the worldly Dhammas prevent the path from arising. We can’t endure in the development of morality, concentration and wisdom. It’s just like that man sitting on the ants’ nest. He can’t do anything, the ants are biting and crawling all over him, he’s immersed in confusion and agitation.
Worldly Dhammas exist in the minds of worldly beings, and when they wish to find peace the worldly Dhammas arise right there. When the mind is ignorant there is only darkness. When knowledge arises the mind is illumined, because ignorance and knowledge are born in the same place. When ignorance has arisen, knowledge can’t enter, because the mind has accepted ignorance. When knowledge has arisen, ignorance cannot stay. So the Buddha told us to practise with the mind, because the world is born in this mind, the eight worldly Dhammas are there.
The Eightfold Path, that is, investigation through calm and insight meditation, our diligent effort and the wisdom we develop, all these things loosen the grip of the world. Attachment, aversion and delusion become lighter, and being lighter, we know them as such. If we experience fame, material gain, praise, happiness or suffering we’re aware of it.
We must know these things before we can transcend the world, because the world is within us. When we’re free of these things it’s just like leaving a house. The action of the mind entering the worldly Dhammas is like entering the house. The mind which has destroyed the worldly Dhammas is like one who has left the house. So the practitioner must become one who witnesses the Dhamma for himself.
He knows for himself whether the worldly Dhammas have left or not, whether or not the path has been developed. When the path has been well developed it purges the worldly Dhammas.
It becomes stronger and stronger. Right view grows as wrong view decreases, until finally the path destroys defilements - either that or defilements will destroy the path! Right view and wrong view, there are only these two.
Right view is above the world. Worldly beings merely follow the flow of the stream. The teaching grates against our desires.
So the practice of developing the path is that which kills defilements.
The Buddha said, ‘Don’t cling to the five khandha, let them go, give them up!’ Why can’t we let them go? Because we don’t see them or know them fully.
WE SEE THE FIVE KHANDHAS AS OURSELVES, WE SEE OURSELVES IN THE FIVE KHANDHAS.
(Compounding of conditions causes one to see and object as a separate identity. It camouflages the conditions which caused it to arise. Thus an identity of an exclusive ‘individual’ or a ‘self’ takes place, totally ignoring those conditions which brought this ‘individual’ or a ‘self’ into existence.
Thus the four elements which brought about these khandhas, and these khandhas which brought about this ‘individual’ or a ‘self’ is totally disregarded).
Thus we see happiness and suffering as ourselves, we see ourselves in happiness and suffering. We can’t separate ourselves from them. That means we can’t see Dhamma, we can’t see nature. Happiness, unhappiness, pleasure and sadness - none of them is ‘us’, but we take them to be so. These things come into contact with us, and we see a lump of ‘atta’, or ‘self’.
WHEREVER THERE IS ‘SELF’, THERE YOU WILL FIND HAPPINESS, UNHAPPINESS AND EVERYTHING ELSE.
So the Buddha said to destroy this ‘lump’ of self; that is to destroy Sakkaya-Ditthi (personality view). When atta is destroyed, anatta naturally arises.
We take nature to be us and ourselves to be nature, so we don’t know nature truly. If it’s good we laugh with it, if it’s bad we cry over it. But nature is simply sankhara. ‘Tesam vupasamo sukho’ - pacifying the sankhara is real happiness. How do we pacify them? We simply remove clinging and see them as they really are.
So there is truth in this world. Trees, mountains and vines all live according to their own truth, they are born and die following their nature. It’s just we people who aren’t true. We see it and make a fuss over it, but nature is impassive, it just is as it is. We laugh, we cry, we kill, but nature remains in truth. No matter how happy or sad we are, this body just follows its own nature, being born, it grows up, changes, getting older all the time. It follows nature in this way.
When there is attachment to either happiness or suffering, there must be the clear and certain understanding that any attachment to either of these states is deluded. It is attachment to the world. It is being stuck in the world. Happiness and suffering means attachment to the world. This is the way worldly attachment is.
Don’t cling to goodness, don’t cling to badness. These are attributes of the world. We are practising to be free of the world, so bring these things to an end. Lay them down; give them up, because they only cause suffering.
The sense of world-weariness that grows with insight, however, leads to detachment, turning away and aloofness that comes naturally from investigating and seeing the truth of the way things are.
The clarity of insight is so strong that you no longer experience any sense of a self that has to struggle against the flow of its desires or endure through attachment. You live in the world, but at the same time you remain separate from it.
IT IS FREE FROM ATTACHMENT TO A SENSE OF ‘SELF’ THAT ATTEMPTS TO CONTROL AND FORCE THINGS TO GO ACCORDING TO ITS DESIRES. RATHER, YOU LET GO WITH AN ACCEPTANCE OF THE WAY THINGS ARE.
The sense bases function just as they did before. You experience sensory impingement in just the same way as you always have. Your ability to experience the world through the senses remains intact, just the same as before you started practising insight, but the mind’s reaction to sense impingement is to see it as ‘JUST THAT MUCH’. The mind doesn’t attach to fixed perceptions or make anything out of the experience of sense objects. It lets go.
The mind knows that it is letting go. As you gain insight into the true nature of the Dhamma, it naturally results in letting go. There is awareness followed by abandoning of attachment.
There is understanding and then letting go. With insight you set things down. Insight knowledge doesn’t lead to clinging or attachment; it doesn’t increase your suffering. That’s not what happens. True insight into the Dhamma results in letting go. You know that attachment is the cause of suffering, so you abandon it. Once you have insight the mind lets go. It puts down what it was formerly holding on to.
The mind doesn’t create things around sense contact. Once contact has occurred you automatically let go.
The mind discards the experience. This means that if you are attracted to something, you experience the attraction in the mind but you don’t attach or hold on fast to it.
If you have a reaction of aversion, there is simply the experience of aversion arising in the mind and nothing more: there isn’t any sense of ‘self’ arising that attaches and gives meaning and importance to the aversion. In other words the mind knows how to let go; it knows how to set things aside. Why is it able to let go and put things down? Because the presence of insight means you can see the harmful results that come from attaching to all those mental states.
When you see forms the mind remains undisturbed; when you hear sounds it remains undisturbed. The mind doesn’t take a position for or against any sense objects experienced. This is the same for all sense contact, whether it is through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body or mind. Whatever thoughts arise in the mind can’t disturb you. You are able to let go. You may perceive something as desirable, but you don’t attach to that perception or give it any special importance - it simply becomes a condition of mind to be observed without attachment.
This is what the Buddha described as experiencing sense objects as ‘JUST THAT MUCH’. The sense bases are still functioning and experiencing sense objects, but without the process of attachment stimulating movements to and fro in the mind.
J15.07 Dhamma in life’s journey
Sakyamuni Sri Siddhartha Gauthama enlightened the humanity with sublime Dhamma. His wish was for them not just to acquire knowledge and store it in one head. Nor it is to be listened, grasped and forgotten with time, but to understand it properly and apply it to one’s life for successful righteous living and for liberation thereafter. It is to be applied and practiced in everyday life.
Its remarkable focus was on the practical application of the noble faith to daily life. According to Buddha, the sublime Dhamma is a noble and a practical guide for calm and quiet, religious living. The emphasis is more on practice than theory. What the Buddha expected was not the mastery of facts but its practice and application to one’s existence till life lasts.
According to Buddha’s Dhamma, life is the most precious gift of nature given to all living beings – man and the rest. The Buddha, throughout his teachings placed the human being or the individual in very high esteem, so much so that Buddhist literature reveals pride of place given to the individual. His view was that it is very important to respect everyone because everyone is special and everyone deserves to be valued and that human being towers above all other beings. Sublime Dhamma had taken firm root as a great faith centered round the individual and his welfare. It has always been directed towards bringing about a meaningful transformation in human life.
The Great Master’s wish was that the individual could follow the Dhamma meaningfully. His doctrine and the moral code offered, helped the individual to reap the benefits throughout their life and even after their demise. Anguttara Nikaya describes Buddha as “a unique being who arose in this world for the happiness of the many”. While emphasizing the value of the individual, Dhamma calls for strong self effort and firm self commitment. Each individual has to struggle for their own salvation or the spiritual liberation.
The code of morality advocated by the Buddha, Panchaseela or the five precepts form the requisite foundation and guide the Buddhist in their journey through life. Some commit sinful activities violating the above, by killing, stealing, misconduct and consuming liquor etc. These honoured ideals are meant for their righteous journey towards liberation. True Buddhists should make a sincere effort to observe the five precepts as much as possible.
This is very important because if one does not get the opportunity to listen and follow the Dhamma, one may not be able to tread the correct path. The Buddha had a solution to every problem of mankind. It lies in the essentials of the message conveyed by him, the way of life outlined by him. It is the ideal, the most relevant and the most suitable for correct living through elimination of evil.
According to Buddha, Dhamma is one’s Kalyana Mitta, that is the one that directs you to end suffering and helps you to be free from Samsaric life. Buddha has mentioned this in various discourses. In Sariputta discourse of Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha refers to himself as a noble friend. In each of the discourses, life stories or the Jataka stories – the pre birth tales of the Buddha were focused as examples for exemplary behavior. Among the examples too numerous to be mentioned, the story of Poothygatha Tissa is an outstanding one.
He personally attended on him, comforted him with kind words much more than a Kalyana Mitta. Every Sutta has a direct application to daily living which means that they are taken away from the vice. Dhamma, when carefully cultivated and observed leads man to spiritual heights keeping him away from evil. The Buddha encouraged the spirit of investigation in his followers and advised them not to accept his teachings with blind faith. Though his teachings are over 2,600 years old, they are still relevant to contemporary society.
Dhamma in everyday life
In today’s society, major events in life are touched by Buddhism. All the major events from birth to death are associated with Dhamma. All these include religious activities. In modern society, Dhamma is encouraged in the interest of all members of the family. Today, the entire family can participate in Buddhist activities. This emphasis on the family as a unit is a special feature in Buddhism.
The Buddhist ceremonies such as Pirith, Dana and Katina Pooja etc. are performed in the house with the participation of the entire family. To bless the new born, the naming and marriage ceremonies too involve religious activities.
Many Buddhists abroad, have their marriage ceremonies in the Buddhist temple to invoke blessings and protection of the Noble Triple Gem. Even prior to birth, the most sacred Angulimala Pirith is chanted for safe delivery of the newborn for seeing the world without any danger.
Every Sutta has a direct application to daily living, which means that they are being blessed with supreme Dhamma. It is very clear that Dhamma is there throughout one’s life’s journey. Thus, the truth of Dhamma is experienced by every Buddhist in real life. May the Noble Triple Gem bless all beings in the universe.
27 12 2012 - Daily News
J15.08 Medin Full Moon Poya Day: Its importance
The Full Moon Poya Day of Medin in the Buddhist year 2556 falls today and it is March 26, 2013 as per the Gregorian calendar.
It was on such a Full Moon Poya Day that the Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gauthama Buddha in the seventh year of his attainment to Englightenment, in response to the persuasion of Arahat Kaludai, set out from Rajagahanuwara to Kapilavasthupura with 20,000 Bhikkhus, which led to four most significant events:
1. Attainment of Sothapanna by his father King Suddhodana and of his step- mother Prajaphathie Gothami
2. Taking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha of Princess Yasodara
3. The ordination of his son Rahula
4. Ordination of his step- brother Prince Nanda, assisting him overcome the distraction caused by the beauty of his bride Janapadakalyani, by showing him visions of heavenly maidens and the seared dead body of a female monkey.
No sooner, the message that the Buddha had come to the palace, spread in a few minutes all over the city and around like a whirl-wind, causing the environment around the palace assume a pleasant atmosphere as to welcome the arrival of the Buddha.
The Sakyan elders who gathered at the palace premises overwhelmed with their Sakyan pride, disclosed their reluctance to pay respect to the Buddha saying, ‘Siddhartha is younger than us, he is my nephew, he is my grandson, after all we are Sakyans’, and so on. However, only the youngsters were put forward for the ritual.
This Sakyan elders’ arrogance, so compelled the Buddha to counter their pride that he rose to the sky and performed ‘Yama Maha Pelahera’, the twin miracle. The crowd witnessing this miracle was simply enthralled.
It was on this occasion that King Suddhodana – the father of the Buddha - worshipped the Buddha for the third time. Then all the Sakyans marveled at this strange phenomenon and worshipped the Buddha.
The first act of worship was carried out when infant Siddhartha was worshipped by the teacher/advisor of his father King Suddhodana, the second was when child Siddhartha was observed floating in the air in a meditative position.
The following day the Buddha went from house- to- house begging for alms. On seeing this scene, the king was very greatly depressed and met the Buddha and informed him that begging in this manner is a great blemish and an insult to the Sakya clan.
The Buddha in response told the king that it was the Buddha clan and it was customary for ‘our clan to beg for food. Yours is Sakya clan. Mine is the Buddha clan.’ Then the king kept quiet. The Buddha continued, ‘0 King, it is customary when one has found a hidden treasure for one to offer it to one’s father. Allow me to offer you this treasure of mine which is the Dhamma.’
After the meeting, King Suddhodana invited the Buddha to the palace. The Buddha along with his two chief disciples went to see his former Princess Yasodhara. When she beheld the Buddha, she held him by his feet and wept bitterly. Then the Buddha explained to her how she had been of great assistance to him throughout the Sansara trek until he became the Buddha.
Her grief was immediately transformed into joy as she heard the Buddha speak in this manner. The following day after the Buddha’s return to Kapilawasthu, his son Rahula asked for his inheritance from the Buddha. Immediately after the Buddha had His meal and blessings he returned to the temple. Prince Rahula followed Him asking for his inheritance. The Buddha turning to Ven. Sariputta and Moggalana told them the desire of His son.
However, after Prince Rahula expressed his desire to be ordained a Bhikkhu, that it so happened. The other thing is that when the Buddha was returning to the temple, he handed over his bowl to Prince Nanda the step- brother. As was his desire Nanda was also ordained.
During the visit of the Buddha to the palace, the King Suddhodana and Queen Maha Prajapathi Gothami attained Sothapanna. Princess Yasodhara took refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.
26 03 2013 - The Island
J15.09 Scientific Principles of Death and Rebirth in Buddhism
Dr Tilokasundari Kariyawasam
The process of birth and death is explained by the Buddha based on the theories of Patticca Samuppada (the conditioned genesis or dependent origination, soullessness (anatta) and kamma. The formula of dependent origination runs as follows: Through ignorance are conditioned the sankhara the rebirth-producing volitions (cetana) or kamma formations. Through kamma formations in past life is conditioned consciousness (in the present life). Through consciousness are conditioned mental and physical phenomena (nama - rupa), which makes up our so-called individual existence. Mind and matter are interdependent entities subject to an unending flux of momentary arising and disappearing in a series of cause and effect. Mind and matter are simply a phenomena of an underlying unity. In this most thorough exposition on dependent origination, the Buddha comes very close to modern Science and modern neuropsychology. The fact that consciousness conditions the individual is now accepted by modern scientists. It also agrees with the reality that solid matter is only a concentrated manifestation of an underlying unmanifested field of energy. Quantum physics has demonstrated that there is more to the world than what we can see and touch. We now know that the physical body, once considered a solid form, is actually made up of billions of whirling atoms expressing themselves at particular frequencies. As it is whirling at a terrific rate it appears as a solid. (ruppati ruppa). We also know that matter can neither be destroyed or created, only transformed into energy and back once more into matter, again depending upon its rate of vibrations.
In Buddhism the individual is called nama-rupa (mind and matter) or five aggregates (khandas). The term mind is generally used as a collective name for the four mental groups viz sensation feeling (vedana), perception (sannana) and consciousness (vinnanas). Matter constitute four elements solidity, liquidity, heat and motion.
With regard to the impersonality and dependant nature of mind and matter, it is said in the Digha Nikaya that by means of their mutual working together, this mental and bodily combination may move about, stand up and appear full of life and activity.
Thus, there is a vastly complex consciousness in which all operate, governed by the law of kamma. Consciousness arises and vanishes, every moment of it, with matter as its base.
The appearance of the psycho physical phenomenon is conditioned by kamma of the past births. It is necessarily kamma of the immediate past birth that conditions birth. The process of becoming is conditioned by craving of the previous births, too. Both kamma and rebirth are intimately interconnected in the fundamental doctrine of the Buddha. Kamma is an individual force transmitted from one existence to another. Laws of science itself postulate that nothing can be destroyed––there is only transmutation of force or energy and it is only that energy that can be transferred back to matter. It is all important to realise the cause and effect relationship in Buddhism. Life is a psycho-physical energy, which in conventional terms is the self or atta in Buddhism. It is only a process and not an identify that is thus termed. The Buddhist philosophical term for an individual is santati that is flux or continuity of psycho-physical phenomena conditioned by kamma. This is the individual in the conventional term.
According to Buddhism there is no such person as I. The individual is only a psycho-physical energy. "When a person dies there is no transfer of matter from one existence to another. There is no transfer of self, as it is only an illusion. There is only a transfer of energy, as psycho-physical energy. After death the four qualities of matter will again manifest as another form. Because matter cannot be destroyed, it will again form into matter. It is neither the person of the past birth, nor a different person (naca so naca anno). It is kamma which decides the present birth.
Based on scientific research it is absolutely clear that the body does not separate itself from the mind at the time of death. This is a misconception arrived at by studies done on near death experience.
In Buddhism, we have a phenomenological approach to existence and for that reason matter is only important in so far as it is an object for experience––in so far as it affects our psychological existence. So, whereas in certain systems we have radical and absolute dualism, a dichotomy between mind and body, in Buddhism, we simply have a subjective-objective form of experience and mind is supreme.
The body is the product of past kamma, past consciousness and is at the same time is the basis of present consciousness.
Human beings like all other forms of nature, experiences, cycles of life, death and rebirth subject to kamma. All of us are influenced both positively and negatively by our past-life relationships.
When death is near, the life continuum (bhavanga) that arise after vitti-citta, there arises death - consciousness (enti-citta). Accordingly, when the present existence is over, immediately after death- consciousness, there arises the patisandhi citta that links that present existence with the immediately succeeding existence. Relinking of birth on the new plane of existence is the resultant volitional activities (kamma) of a wholesome or unwholesome act done in this or a previous existence (Sankha rena janiya - mano). The kamma that gave rise to the relinking (patisandhi) and which is now dormant is rooted in craving. The relinking conscious process (patisandha - citta) does not arise alone, without its respective concomitant mental factors such as contact sensation perception and thinking.
The moment life ebbs on one side and consciousness of that existence comes to an end, the new existence begins immediately (bhavantaena patisandhana vasena). The re-linking and the new existence arise simultaneously. The passing away of consciousness of the past birth is the occasion for the arising of the new consciousness in the subsequent birth. There is no breach in the stream of consciousness. Rebirth takes place instantaneously and leaves no room whatsoever for any intermediate state. The Ghost Foundation in the UK based on their research has confirmed there can be physical forms, homeless restless beings with focussed energy generating noises unpleasant odours etc. There are individuals who have just died and wish to be with loved ones to reassure them. Research also highlights "that a tragic and sudden death means a faster return to earthen plane, sometimes only hours or days later'. A couple of centuries is like only a few months.
This intermediated stage is not a gandabha state. This view is contrary to the teaching of Buddhism and Science.
Gandabha state in Abhidhamma has to be understood from the context. "Where three are found in continuation, there a germ of life is planned …. If mother and father come together and it is the mother’s period, and the being to be born is also present, then, by the combination of these three a germ of life is planted". No gandabha awaits for conception. It is triggered by kamma.
There is a misconception among some that the subsequent birth is conditioned by the last death consciousness (cutiatta). What actually conditions rebirth is that which is expensed during the javana process.
Javana process arise after a stimuli of an object impinges with the bhavanga chitta where with the moments entry, vibration and interruption have taken place. Then the stimulus of the object enters the mind door conscious sphere. It does this through the occurrence of the 4th moment which is the moment of the adverting consciousness (mano dvarajjana) arises and passes away. Then comes the javana process, which runs only for five thought moments. A thought moment occurs much in this manner that a bubble arises and then breaks up. It is said with in the time taken by a flash of lightning many millions of such thought impulses may have passed away. Its main function is to regulate the new existence. The tadatantana consciousness may or may not follow. Alter this occurs the death consciousness the last thought moment to be expensed in this present life.
The mother’s womb is not the only way of birth. We learn from the teaching that there can be birth in four different way
i. by way of the womb
ii. by way of eggs
iii. by way of moisture and
iv. by way of spontaneous birth
In the heavenly planes and in hell there is only spontaneous birth. Human birth is not the only route of birth. Beings are infinite in number and so are world systems. There are innumerous forms of life, devas, demons, ghosts prethas, animals and humans.
Rebirth takes place instantaneously and leaves no room whatsoever for any intermediate state. Buddhism does not state that the deceased individual takes time searching for a suitable plain for its birth. This aspect of instantaneous rebirth is expressed in this Milindas Prasna.
King Milinda queries:
"Ven. Nagasena, if somebody dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, and another dies here at the same time and is reborn is Kashmir, which of them would arrive first"?
"They would arrive at the same time, o king"
"In which town were you born, o king"
"In a village called Kailasi, venerable, sir"
"How far is Kailasi from here o king"
"About two hundred miles, Ven. sir"
"And how far in Kashmir from here, o king" "About twelve miles, Ven. sir"
"Now think of the village of Kailasi, o king," "I have done so, Ven. sir’
"And now think of Kashmir, o king"
"It is done, Ven sir"
"Which of these two, o king, did you think the more slowly and which the more quickly"
"Both equally quickly, Ven. sir"
"Just so, o king, he who dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma is not reborn later then he, who dies here and is reborn in Kashmir"
"Give me one more simile, Ven. sir!"
"That do you think, O king" "Suppose two birds were flying in the air and they should settle at the same time, one upon a high and the other upon a low tree, which bird’s shade would first fall upon the earth, and which bird’s later"
"Both shadows would appear at the same time, not one of them earlier and the other later" In the case where there is a gap of time between the death of person and rebirth, this gap of time is considered as an intermediate state of existence. Any gap may give the clue to the existence of some other forms of life. Buddhism does not leave any room for an intermediate state whatsoever; as consciousness does not perish, consciousness has to continue with matter as its base. It is absolutely not a gandabha state. This view is contrary to the teaching of Buddhism and science as well. Glen Williswarth and Judith Jhonson contend that some form of life exist in the sense that an unquiet energy is read as new forms of life. It is the focussed energy of a person who has just died and wishes to be with loved ones.
There is clear documentation of many cases in which the NDE (Near Death Experience) accrued in the absence of any medicinal hallucinatory agent, thus making the drug induction hypothesis completely untenable in such situations.
Recently a new substance was discovered within the human brain, B-endorphin. This substance appears to possess many of the characteristics of morphine sulfate. B-endorphins have been proposed as a cause of the profound painlessness reported by persons during an NDE, as suggested by the following statements.
All of a sudden the pain completely stopped and I could feel my being rising out of my body. It seemed like I got upto ceiling high and I could look back and see my body and I looked dead. Then I started floating back down to my body."
Epileptogenic discharges originating in the parietal or temporal lobes of the brain may produce a complex set of phenomena known as psychical seizure.
According to Ludwig, individuals experiencing an altered state of consciousness report splitting of mind from body.
These manifestations are briefly summed by Dr Ludwig as due to pharmacological causes as narcotics, endorphins etc.
An elevated levels of Carbon dioxide also produce a sense of bodily detachment. "I felt as though I was looking down at myself, as though I was way out here in space. I felt myself being separated, my soul drawing apart from the physical being."
Fourteen patients were injected with B-endorphin. They experienced happiness, ecstasy and felt themselves floating in space. As soon as the feeling of floating vanished and the body floated back, they felt excruciating pain. A blood clot in the hypothalamus makes the individual feel an out of body experience a body and mind split.
These do not prove that NDE as a possible out of body event a mind-brain split.
Recent investigations into the techniques of bio-feed back have shown that in a laboratory setting, an individual can modify certain bodily functions heretofore regarded as not under voluntary control. The body can be controlled through voluntary effort, suggests there is a source of volitional control.
Brain hypoxic is a common physiological consequence of a near-death crisis event. Normally, an adequate supply of oxygen to the brain is ensured by its rich arterial blood supply. Interference with cerebral blood flow for only a brief period of time will result in a marked alteration of mental function. Total cessation of blood flow to the brain, as seen in a cardiac arrest, will produce unconsciousness in seconds and progressive brain damage in three to five minutes. This type of death is similar to death experienced by most individuals.
Physicians and scientists, say for sure that the Near Death Experience is absolutely not the final bodily death. There is no one in the world who has experienced death. Those reporting their experience were not brought back from dead, but were rescued from a point very close to death. Thus, in the strictest sense these experiences are not of death itself. Dr Sabom concludes there is a life after death and not just death itself, that death does not occur by separating the individual’s body and mind.
The view human beings as a energy sources rather than solid physical bodies, help us understand life after death is scientific. That leads us to understand the power of consciousness and emotions.
The potentialities for self-development are virtually limitless. The truth is that a great sense of freedom grows out of the awareness that we are not pawns of fate, but rather that we are free to create precisely the lives we wish.
For the individual who is born death is certain and certain is birth for the one that has died. In twenty five countries Buddhism has expanded into thirty six Asian countries and more than twenty two languages. Astronomy, theology, metaphysics, medicine, psychology, physics and other disciplines are converging towards the theory that the human being are finely tuned organisms that are recognised as constellations of energy fields operating on various frequencies, which we denote as mind and body.
Our actions and words affect not only this life time, but all the others we have ever had or ever will have. We become aware of other aspects of ourselves through many channels, including visions, dreams, voices, thought, forms, insights and intuitions.
One of the most important feature of the rebirth principle is its affirmation of free will.
These exist in man’s mental make-up powers of a telepathic and clairvoyant nature. Swedenborge, the great Mathematician and scientist in later years possessed a supernormal gift. It was attested by distinguished persons including Immannel Kant. Scientists have discovered that many individuals can demonstrate extrasensory perceptions under laboratory conditions. Scientifically, there is a -growing body of laboratory data that testified by repeatable experiments that man can experience beyond the normal range of the senses. Many of the hallusenagenic drugs apparently have broken down barriers at disclosed memories beyond the range of conscious perception.
Re-linking of one birth with another does not take place by chance or accident. It is the consequent resultant of volitional activities of wholesome or unwholesome act done in this or a previous existence. The re-linking and the new existence arise together simultaneously.
The non solid nature of matter, the interchangeability of matter and force and the reality of thought transference, through telepathic means explains the details of rebirth. However, the existence of infinite number of beings and the world systems, the fact that all forms of birth are not as human beings and the earth is not the only habitable planet and humans are not the only living beings and the affirmation that rebirth takes place instantaneously do not conform to the view that there exists an intermediate stage as a gandabha.
17 04 2013 - The Island
J15.10 The Buddha Proclaims the Second Law of Thermodynamics as Parting Gift
Prof. Suwanda H J Sugunasiri, Toronto, Canada
The Buddha’s last words, and last advice to his Disciples, were, "Samkharas are subject to decay. Strive with diligence" (Vaya dhammÓ saŘkhÓrÓ. AppamÓdena sampÓdetha).
Samkhara is a difficult term which is probably why there is no Sinhala term for it. All we have is a Sanskritized phrase, samskÓra dharma. What I remember seeing on a funeral banner half a century ago was a jocular (anisa saema) sakaradam, a rhythmic invitation to dance, it sounded, more than a call to share grief! But that’s altogether another story.
An English translation of Samkhara captures the sense better. ‘Forces’. So ‘Forces are subject to decay’.
What, then, are these ‘forces’?
First, there are the psychological processes - what we sense through the eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. But there is also the sixth mind process itself. They all involve neuronal processes centralized in the brain. And neuropeptides, carrying messages, along the neurons. Yes, there are literally, no kidding, an estimated 10 billion to a trillion of them! So they are no simple force to reckon with. Then there are the physical forces: breathing, using your limbs, using language, etc.
Both the psychological and the physical forces do use high quality energy, technically, ‘exergy’. So how and why does that high quality energy go to decay? As explained in Western Science, "The quality of energy deteriorates gradually over time. How so? Usable energy is inevitably used for productivity, growth and repair. In the process, usable energy is converted into unusable energy." And this process is called ‘entropy increase’, "a measure of unusable energy within a closed or isolated system".
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, or the entropy law, explains this process in relation to matter. But is there any reason why it would not equally apply to the mindbody? It is as much a ‘closed system’, meaning that it enjoys its own independent existence. Is there anybody other than you in yourself?
As usable energy decreases and unusable energy increases, entropy increases. Living, by definition, means using up high quality energy – breathing, thinking, digesting food, maintaining our health, going on with our daily activities, even sleeping and resting and meditating.
So the Buddha’s last words would be "Forces are of the nature of entropy". What we have translated here as ‘of the nature of’ is Dhamma, which in Western Science is called ‘Law’ as in the ‘Law of Thermodynamics’. (Law. Hm! Note any theistic connotations in Western Science?)
Entropy is the result of change, i.e., impermanence - anicca. And this impermanence, says the Buddha, is of everything in the total mindbody. And in life, everything relating to the mindbody undergoes change in three phases: whatever ‘high energy’ rises, comes to be used and ends up as ‘low energy’ at break-up (uppaada, thiti, bhanga). Or in four phases, if we were to count the two types of genesis as in the Abhidhamma: initial and subsequent. Gray’s Anatomy, the standard Medical Text, calls it prophase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase.
But it is not just a matter of usable energy going to waste being turned into useless energy. Like used up food ending down the toilet! "Entropy is also a gauge of randomness or chaos within a closed system. As usable energy is irretrievably lost, disorganization, randomness and chaos increase." Ever heard of Dukkha?
As would be heard at a funeral oration from a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni , "Of entropic nature indeed are the forces; arising and cessation their nature. Having arisen, they cease to be. Calming it is bliss."
If the translation doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps the Pali rendering will:
aniccÓ vata saŘkhÓrÓ ; uppÓda vaya dhammino.
uppajjitvÓ nirujjhanti ; tesam vňpasamo sukho.
Entropy is dukkha; Calming the yo yo of arising, staying put and ceasing is sukha. Be it in life, or in terms of Nibbana.
Get it? Got it! It’s as simple as that.
Thus the Buddha advices, "Strive with diligence". Don’t let chaos, disorganization and loss pull you down. Pull up your socks (strive) and walk with head high (with diligence). But humbling your mind, of course, retaining your equilibrium, mental and physical, and cultivating equanimity (upekkha). Remember, your Autonomous Nervous System is watchin’ ya. Nervously!
Did I say the Buddha was anointing the Second Law of Thermodynamics as his parting gift?
And what a parting gift! What Western Science limits to matter, Buddhian science extends to the mind, and cumulatively, to the totality of sentience.
But more, the Buddha, as elsewhere, ethicalizes it, too. Shall we then say, "Good to see you around, Lord(ess) Entropy. But how do I work around you to make my life happier, and spiritually uplifting, and eventually work myself towards liberation?"
Unlike in Western Science, then, where knowledge is just for the sake of knowledge, the Buddha’s proclamation of yet another reality on his deathbed was a final pragmatic, and compassionate, contribution to the welfare of sentient beings.
Saadhu saadhu saadhu. Well said. Well declared. Well proclaimed!
FOOTNOTE: It is to mean ‘The Enlightened One’, ‘The Awakened One’ that I’ve used the nomenclature, ‘The Buddha’. ‘Lord Buddha’, as I see in common usage, is to equate the historical Buddha with mythical figures, such as Lord Ganesh, Lord Siva, Lord Rama, etc. It is also to turn an epithet into a proper noun.
(Prof. Suwanda H J Sugunasiri <email@example.com> is author of several books on Buddhism, including one on Abhidhamma, You’re What You Sense: Buddha on Mindbody, 2001; Dehiwala: Buddhist Cultural Centre. His latest publication is Arahant Mahinda - Redactor of the BuddhapňjÓva in Sinhala Buddhism, 2012. You may visit http://youtube/g7b5X7c-vCs for a brief overview).
26 05 2013 - Sunday Island
J15.11 The Spirit of Buddhism and its prevalence this day
White, orange, red, yellow, blue – flowers in profusion, flags and lanterns, white clad crowds seated sedately, bana preachings and pirith chanting and then in the evening garish pandals, generous dansalas, music and crowds. This is Wesak. The religious days are over. Tonight will witness the milling crowds jostling to sight-see decorations and listen to the stories of the pandals. This will continue for around three days more and the country will then subside to its usual apathy.
This weekend the spirit of Wesak is strong and pervasive – a spirit compounded of piety, of reverence, of joyful sightseeing and of course commercialism. We pick and choose what we want and I wish to retain for at least today, continuing from Friday, a sense of peace and calm; of relaxed piety.
To me the added significance of the three most crucial occasions of the Buddha’s life is that he was born, attained enlightenment and died in the open. His birth was in a sal grove in Lumbini, Nepal; his finally realizing the truth of life and the samsaric cycle of dependent origination in the shade of a bo a tree in Gaya; and his parinibbana, on his request on a bed made between two sal trees in Kusinara. Thus the environment and trees were of paramount importance to him and should be to us. He was, it is said, the first environmentalist. He treated plants as living beings and thus important.
What are we doing now? Cutting trees, decimating forests, creating fissures in eco systems and imbalance between man and elephant, with tragic consequences. People, singly or in groups are guilty of cutting trees – through sheer necessity for building houses and for fuel. This is minor. The culprits are the illicit fellers of trees and the worst, to me, are those who on government orders decimate the forests in the name of development. It’s cutting your nose – your link to breathing and thus living - to improve the appearance of your face. We have recently seen on TV the havoc and misery caused to chena cultivators/villagers near forests, and elephants. Humans have their guns; what have the elephants got to defend their territory – merely instinct. We have pleaded to stop the Deyata Kirulla exhibitions. But no, they are obstinately, mindlessly conducted annually with not a care for public opinion. They cause destruction to forests, encourage massive malpractices including robbery this year to the tune of millions, and slow torture to elephants. What benefit does the ordinary villager reap from these exhibitions? Large roads built in rural areas is NOT development.
Metta and Karuna
Prince Siddhartha Gautama left his family, his palace and his bestowed right to the throne of Kapilawastu for the greater good of mankind, to give them an understanding of why life is unsatisfactory. He could not eradicate other’s dukkha, but he showed clearly that life is unsatisfactory; the reason why and cause; there being a way out and what it is – in short the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path to deliverance from samsaric rebirth. All this due to the immense love he had for humanity; the metta that he was full of accompanied by karuna – loving kindness and fellow feeling and sympathy. Stories are legion about this kindness of his and love for all beings. Remember how he saved a bird shot by Devadatta his cousin, later brother-in-law, and had the hunter nearly attack Siddhartha. Remember the compassion shown Kisa Gotami refusing to accept the fact her baby was dead. If he too had said the baby was dead, she would have suffered more. He made her realize death is ever present since she could get no mustard seed as decreed by him for a cure from any house. All families had suffered deaths. She accepted the fact her baby was no more, had him cremated and joined the order of nuns.
Are these two qualities, not so difficult to cultivate and maintain, present in present day Sri Lankan society? Not over all. We older people know how much human nature has deteriorated in this our country. We had good living of fellow feeling; the richer helping the poor; governments looking after the poor. Of course there was poverty and the caste system; but not to evil extends. Hierarchies were accepted and the poor were helped by individuals, temples and most importantly the Government of the day. Consider D S Senanayake and his opening up land in the Dry Zone after malaria was eradicated to give landless people homesteads. Did he do it for personal monetary gain or fame? The very thought is repugnant. Even J R with his freeing the economy designated young, energetic Gamini Dissanayake to compact successfully a 35 year plan of diverting the Mahaveli Ganga to a mere six years. I do not need to mention the vast so called ‘development projects’ of the present which are in stark contrast. Consider the news items in daily papers and scenes on TV where schools are utterly dilapidated; home compounds turned marshy; children crossing precarious edandas to get to their schools and sick patients being carried piggy-back across streams to hospital for the lack of a bridge. How many deaths have been caused at unprotected railway crossings? We were told there was no money to build these simple little gates with a man to see it closed and opened. But there is money for building a lotus tower of gigantic proportions in Colombo and a new sports stadium in Hambantota for the 2014 Asian Games. Why ever not develop the Sugathadasa sports complex, making it uptodate but at such less expense. Both local and foreign sports events could conveniently be held in Colombo and not so far away as Hambantota which would necessitate travelling and thus unnecessary expenditure.
There is no karuna in people’s minds, judging by the cases of sexual and emotional harassment, rape, and incest. Morals are way down and most often the culprits are provincial political leaders.
Along with the four brahma viharas of metta, muditha, karuna and uppekha, the Buddha emphasized gratitude as a noble quality. Is there sufficient gratitude shown by pupils to their teachers, of sons and daughters to parents? There has been no gratitude shown those who deserved this; instead vilification and revenge. Consider the case of General Fonseka stripped of his medals and denied even his pension. Consider the continued hounding of CJ 43. We believe she was derided and taunted by the Parliamentary Commission, or at least a member or two of it. A civilized country like Britain would have invited General Fonseka to the Victory Parade held recently, since he was right in the battlefield with the brave soldiers who were the excuse for the parade and show of arms. A civilized country would never have subjected a woman to such indignity as Dr Shirani Bandaranayake had to face.
Feed the hungry
A destitute had once approached the place where the Buddha was to preach. Seeing the man and divining through His mental ability his state, the Buddha directed the monks to give the man a meal, adding that one cannot listen to a sermon and follow a religion while hungry. It is much the case in Sri Lanka of now. People are hungry, people are near starving and they are being burdened with bigger taxes. Of course morality is preached from political platforms, mataka thitha included. But how be content and non combative when hunger gnaws the stomach and one sees one’s family starving?
The conclusion is that there is no sympathy nor concern for the people of the country by those elected to do so. Absolutely not. We are near starving. Consider the number of parents who commit suicide doing the same to their children. The cause is fairly and squarely economic. When they cannot make ends meet; when they cannot give their children a square meal; the husband imbibes and beats the wife. She has nothing to live for - mere existence has proved beyond her ability. So not wanting the children to live and suffer, through misguided pity or revenge, she kills them along with herself. Have we heard of such suicides in such numbers before now? All blame is laid on the government. Extravagance of the most outrageous extent continues by those high above. Those below are taxed even on the slice of bread eaten and the gulp of milk fed a child. Trips abroad go on apace with large contingencies; Rolls Royces are ordered for CHOGM. Visiting countries will not admire us; rather would they be derisive that a struggling country puts on such a show. So then we realize the cars are really for distribution to nearest, and most loyal. (On Thursday 23rd a news item reports that G L Pieris has said no luxury cars are being imported. Sorry, we don’t believe you, Sir. And to you is a Rolls, a Benz and a BMW not in your classification of a luxury car? Only a stretch limo qualifies for this categorization?)
The Middle Path
The Buddha’s advocated middle path between extremes is forgotten. He nearly starved himself to death as poignantly displayed in the seated Buddha bronze statue with ribs showing in the Lahore Museum. He then decided he had to take sufficient food to maintain his physical and mental wellbeing. Thus his propounding the virtue of avoiding extremes. Are we as a nation following his advise? No! There are two paths at present: profligacy, extreme extravagance, luxury living of politicians and their henchmen and sycophants. You and I and the common man are mired in financial difficulty and so in discontent. We grope on the road of poverty to perdition due to no fault of ours. We see the extravagance around like night racing and overspending. Well and good if the economy of the country is sound. The Central Bank may make out that we are fine financially but there is much profligacy at the top of the ladder while those on lower rungs are in dire need.
When numbers increased in those who had left their lay lives and joined the order of monks, the Buddha said: "Go now and wonder for the welfare and happiness of gods and men, and proclaim the life of purity." And thus the dhammaduta work started in His time with monks travelling to Siam, Cambodia and other countries to the East and Emperor Ashoka sending his son and daughter to Lanka to propagate Buddhism.
What about monks of today? There are many earning and deserving our respect and reverence. They not only guide individuals and hosts of people, but often attempt influencing those in power. Sadly and shockingly, we find their advice flouted. It has been said that though the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter disapproves and advises against holding night road racing in Kandy, this event is to be held. We have become jaded with the sight of politician offering the ubiquitous atapirikara to the Head Prelates of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters, nodding their heads sagely at the advice given by the revered monks and doing just as they please with a view to benefitting themselves and ensuring victory at the next election.
Consider the worse scenario of the Head Monk of the Dambulla Rajamahaviharaya building a temple, which is garish and grotesque in the absolutely pristine site of the famed rock temples. Artificial rocks have been made around this Golden Temple and placed against that wonderful huge rock we used to scale. He it was that recently took some followers with clubs and stakes to claim temple land on which a Muslim had built a house. More recently he barged into a shop, opened the deep freezer to ascertain whether meat was being stored.
Even worse are the Bodhu Bala Sena members – militant and threatening. They denied their latest warning – whipping of those guilty of corruption among Wesak sightseers, with them mingling with the crowd engaged in detective work! They should take their whips to Parliament!
The essence of Buddhism survives
The silver lining or light of wisdom shines through in spite of all that has been said above. Annually we find more people observing sil; offering flowers with the thought of these wilting, turning putrid and fading like humans lose beauty; are subject to disease and death. They light pahanas with the thought of dispelling the dark of ignorance and recognizing that just as a breeze would extinguish the flame, life could end in an instant, any time. More individuals and organizations are engaged in helping the poor, the destitute, the sufferers. Hospitals have no money to buy necessary medicines; schools have no equipment due to the imbalance of allocation of funds. People strike asking for remedies. And there are fine monks to lead people on the correct path. Ordinary people to people are fine. So, all is not lost!
24 05 2013 - Sunday Island
J15.12 I want happiness
Professor Wasantha Gunathunga, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo
Once a rich prince went to his spiritual teacher and demanded that he wanted to be happy. Not happy from the next birth, next year nor from tomorrow, but from now on. He was willing to go through the required training.
Where does lasting happiness come from? Is it important for us to know it nowadays?
The aim of this article is to present an experiential and pragmatic happiness formula offered by one of the greatest spiritual leaders of mankind to a wealthy young man. The need for happiness and the pattern of thinking of the modern youth have not changed over time. Hence, this formula for happiness is very much applicable to the modern world as well.
The prince had all the luxuries in life that money could buy and also political power. He had ample material resources ranging from all imaginable kinds of food, leisure activities, and other entertainment. However, he realized that the happiness gained by these luxuries was short lived and there seemed to be no lasting happiness in any of those. The reflective mind of this intelligent prince soon realized that enjoying these luxuries was not the road to permanent happiness.
Many people in the modern world experience the same need for lasting happiness and contentment. Many of them enjoy a luxurious life but underlying mental stress is overwhelming. Some people realize the damaging nature of stress. However, others fail to recognize this silent danger and continue to work under severe mental stress.
Mental stress is also experienced by people who do not lead luxurious lives. Many people who are in the middle and low income communities suffer from stress related to work, family and social life.
What was the formula for happiness that the prince was offered by his spiritual teacher?
"Prince, you already have all the luxuries of lay life. You are still not contented and feel something is lacking in your life which makes you unhappy. If you are given the formula for everlasting happiness and contentment, are you ready to accept it and train yourself to get it"
"Most certainly, venerable sir," the prince agreed.
"Very well! Sit down here in the lotus position. I will teach you the formula for permanent happiness. This technique has eight components to be accomplished. You will stay still for one hour during this training in which these eight components are fulfilled. You need a vision in this new life which you have already come to. This is the vision of lasting happiness and freedom from distress in the mind. Adopting this vision is the first component. Without this vision you will be aimless and will not take up this exercise seriously. We will call this the Right Vision. Second is an attitude, the attitude that you do not stop this training until you reach the permanent happiness which also means freedom from mental distress and discontentment you go through now. This, prince, is called the Right Attitude, the second of the eight components. An attitude is something driven deeply into oneself which doesn’t go easily. This attitude remains till you achieve the final goal in this endeavour".
With this vision and attitude the prince is now sitting by the side of the teacher with determination.
"During this one hour of training you do not speak in order to accomplish absolute verbal discipline, the third component. You do not move any part of your body to fulfill the absolute physical discipline, the fourth. When you are verbally and physically disciplined in absolute terms, you are disciplined socially as well, an absolute requirement in this formula for happiness. This social discipline is the fifth."
With determination to end the mental stress and discontentment and to achieve permanent happiness the prince, now is sitting in the lotus position closed lipped and the body still. At this stage, he has fulfilled five out of the eight components of this technique.
"Now prince you are ready to watch your mind using your mind. For this I will teach you a method. Close your eyes fully or about 70 percent. Start looking at your body using your mind as an eye. Look at it one part at a time. To do this it is helpful to identify a certain number of body parts that you are familiar with. I suggest you to consider 25 body parts, namely head, forehead, right eye, nose, left eye, right cheek, left cheek, mouth, chin, neck, upper chest, lower chest, upper abdomen, mid abdomen, lower abdomen, right thigh, right knee, right lower leg from knee to heel, right foot , right side toe, left thigh, left knee, left lower leg, left foot and left side toes.
"From now on this technique is entirely a mental exercise. You take your mind to one of these body parts. You can start from the head. While taking your mind in a circle on the top of the head contemplate 'may all be well, happy and peaceful' once. Then you let go the head and come to the forehead and contemplate the same. Similarly, you let go every part one by one from the head to the toes of the left leg. From the toes of the left leg you come back to the top of the head and start the next cycle."
"Here, prince, you engage your mind to scan the body using loving kindness as a tool of removing attachment or aversion. Loving kindness is not love. Love is attachment which turns out to be painful when broken. Loving kindness gives the mind a skill of associating without attachment hence, no mental pain results when the association is terminated.
"You will come across distractions when you do this. There are three sources of such distraction. One source is the world outside you. You will hear voices, conversations, music and so on among many other things. Your mind, prince, has affinity to listen to these. When you hear those let them go immediately. There can be only one thought in the mind at one point of time. If your mind occupies an outside thought it replaces the thought in meditation. So, these distracting thoughts take your mind off the meditation. When you smell something pleasant such as a perfume or an unpleasant one let them go disregarding its pleasant or unpleasantness. So is any tactile sensation on the body. These noises, smells and touch are the three disturbances from outside. As we have closed the eyes when we start we are not distracted by visual inputs. As we do not eat during this training we do not get disturbances from taste. These are the five distractions that can generate thoughts disturbing meditation. These are the five types of external objects that you always lived with before sitting down here to practice this, exercise.
"Now venerable sir, do we not let go all disturbances from the outside world of attachment during this exercise?"
"You are correct prince. You let go the attachments from the outside world during this exercise. The second world you have to let go is the world associated with the physical body. You will feel pain, hunger, thirst and sometimes pleasant feelings as well. Whatever these feelings are you let them go without letting those feelings creating thoughts".
"Now you know how to deal with two sources of distractions. Prince, you still have another world to let go. You still have thoughts emanating from your consciousness consisting of memory and its values and attitudes. This is the third source of distractions. What you do now is watch those thoughts and let them go as they arise. However, initially you cling on to these and engage in thought processes. You will sooner or later learn to see these popup thoughts and let go". The more frequent and the longer you practice the faster you distinguish those distracting thoughts and let them go. This is the sixth of the eight components and also called Right Mindfulness."
"Prince, To sit down to practice this you need lot of courage. To continue doing it you need even more courage. When you continue you will gradually remove attachments already stored in the consciousness. No new attachments created during this period of training. State of non-attachment will be expanded. This courage and expansion of non attachment is called the Right Effort which is the seventh of eight components.
"Now you start practicing this. From the first thought in this exercise you will feel relieved. This relief can be interrupted until you train yourself enough to maintain it as long as you want. You will go though four levels of deep absorption during this period of regular training. Once successfully stabilized in the exercise you would enjoy relief, contentment and happiness with lesser disturbances. This is the eighth component also called Right Concentration.
"Venerable Sir, I spent one hour trying to do it. Sir, it was a struggle right from the beginning. My mind was so disobedient and violent. I was listening to music from the street and enjoying the fragrance of food in the street. I was thinking of home for a long time unable to bring my mind back to meditation. My legs were hurting like in hell. But sir, I was determined. Last few minutes I was able to defeat all these and bring my mind back to body scan. I felt much better".
"Very well prince, you had a glimpse of the reality associated with your body, mind and consciousness. Had you not sat here in this meditation you would never have even sensed this reality. You have just made an initial observation of the nature of physical and mental distress of being human and the route cause of this distress which is a static self called myself in this dynamic interplay of body, mind and consciousness."
As you proceed in the training you should
1. Develop your stamina to continue this exercise. To develop your stamina in this you should also
a. develop your born talent further in doing this exercise.
b. not be lazy
c. organize your lifestyle to allocate time for this exercise. You should give it a very high priority in your life.
d. You should manage your mundane life and super-mundane life that you just initiated. You may have to give up activities that are not essential such as social events which can be skipped, meetings, and certain entertainment that you used to spend time on.
e. Experiment with in the training to make the exercise give intended results of removing attachment.
2. Protect and nurture the non-attachment achieved. This needs frequent and regular practice, at least two hours a day initially and increasing as you proceed.
3. Associate the non-attached mind which is blissful, as much as possible. As this happens during meditation you must make sure you find time to meditate.
4. Stay in the final blissful state of mind the source of lasting happiness and contentment. This is the state where mind is free from the attachments to living and inanimate possessions, body and the consciousness unruffled and possessing exceptional capabilities.
"During this exercise you begin to see how the mind behaves. Mind dwells in the body, external world and in the memories of the consciousness. Almost all of these encounters generate separate thought processes which often create a distress. Even happy thoughts in inappropriate situations create a distress by disturbing concentration and creating uncalled for facial expressions that people struggle to conceal".
"Venerable Sir, I noticed that the thoughts frequently arose are those that the mind liked or had a conflict with. I mean, Sir I had a land dispute before I came here. I was about to lose a land that belonged to me. This thought kept disturbing me. However, when I kept letting this thought go the distress started waning".
"You are right, prince when the strength of an attachment weakens it creates less and less thoughts and with low intensity. Ultimately, this thought of losing the land will never arise spontaneously freeing you from this distress one hundred percent. It does not mean that this information is not there in the memory. It is still there, however, mind is free from its attachment to this thought. When you keep practicing this exercise, freedom of mind is achieved in relation to all the thoughts making yourself totally free. Coincidentally, your mind will be filled with happiness, contentment and sense of fulfillment" .
"Will I then be happy and contented for ever, venerable Sir"?
"You need to practice further till you are able to maintain this state of the mind as long as you want. It takes more time and commitment. However, you will feel happier, more contented and freer along this path as you proceed".
"Venerable Sir, will I lose all my memory once I achieve this ultimate state of happiness?"
"No prince! You will not lose those, but the attachment to those. Then these memories in the consciousness will not automatically pop up into your mind unlike earlier. They remain to be accessed only when you purposely intend to retrieve them. As this access takes place without attachment but only for a specific purpose and by that time the tenacity of the mind has disappeared these retrieved thoughts will not cause any distress. So, you won't lose memory but you access it only when you need it. Hence, your emotional stability, happiness and contentment are not affected by the memories of the past".
"Venerable Sir, what will be my relationship with my family?
"You can practice this exercise at home. When your mind's attachments become less and less your day to day arguments, conflicts and disappointments with family members will gradually disappear. Mutual respect will be developed creating peace and happiness within the family. This, is because your need for defending yourself, your ego and the psychological need to dominate wane. They will know when you need more time to practice and your chances of finding time to practice will be assured".
"Venerable Sir, do I have to be modest in my clothes, look and the vehicle I use"?
"Not necessarily prince! You can wear what you wear now and you can use the same vehicle. You do not have to change your look either. When you advance in this path you will realize what to do and what not to do. What you wear or what kind of vehicle you use will not matter much. Your mind will let you know these outside things do not matter much and you will be happy with what you have. You will be unruffled when you lose those".
"Venerable Sir, I used to eat deliciously cooked meat and fish served on my table. Should I stop eating meat and become a vegetarian"?
"The most important thing is to start the training. Your mind will gradually learn that you do not live to eat but eat to live and food never gives lasting happiness. In time to come you will be happier without meat.
"Thank you venerable sir, now I see the path to happiness. I will practice the exercise you gave me giving it the highest priority in my life".
Many people in the contemporary world seek happiness. Indulging in sense pleasure gives only temporary happiness. Some people among us enjoy peace in mind and spend quite happy lives. Those who enjoy peacefulness without comprehending the deceptive nature of the pleasure based on the five sense organs are, however, vulnerable. Subtle distresses in their minds are ignored by them or not visible outwardly or not recognized by them. However, when the circumstances change this sense of peacefulness can be seriously affected. It is important to know that this peacefulness is temporary and that they depend on a born talent. These born talents either remain the same or slowly deteriorate. That is why training for permanent happiness is so important. One who is seeking permanent happiness should understand this and not be deceived by temporary states of peace in mind or happiness.
This article is based on the interpretation of Vyaggapajja Sutta through my personal experience gained by vipassana meditation in the Noble Eightfold Path and as a medical doctor and a researcher into the mind. I sincerely acknowledge the guidance provided by the most venerable arahath Lankapura Sariputta thero for me to get into the Noble Eightfold Path expounded by the Siddhartha Gowthama Samma Sambuddha.
22 06 2013 - The Island
J15.13 Physical and spiritual health
Dr. Upul Wijayawardhana
(Based on the lecture delivered during Vesak Celebrations at the London Buddhist Vihara on 26 May 2013)
When Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thera, Chief Incumbent of the London Buddhist Vihara, invited me to deliver this lecture I was delighted, as this would be an act of redemption for me, but was perplexed when he suggested the topic, as I was not sure what spiritual health is.
My last lecture was around fifteen years ago and it was on "Buddhism and science". During question time when someone asked ‘Can one be a good Buddhist without going to a temple?’ my answer was an emphatic ‘yes’. It was my son, who was an undergraduate studying Genetics at University College, London, who told me on our way back ‘Dad, perhaps you should have been a bit diplomatic and added that we need to go to Temple for other reasons like cultural’. Well, I learned a lesson from him.
When I referred to the dictionary, Spiritual was defined as:
1. of the human spirit or soul
2. of the Church or religion
Spiritualism was defined as;
attempted communication with spirits of the dead
As I needed clarification, I spoke to Ven. Teldeniyaye Amitha, Head Monk of the recently established Shanthi Buddhist Vihara in Nottingham, who quoted ‘Madu Pindika Sutta’ wherein the Buddha has stated not to analyze the word but try to find the meaning in context, which is what I will try to do, perhaps using the terms mental health and spiritual health loosely.
Physical health and mental health are inter-related and one may assume that if you are healthy it is easier to have a healthy mind but it may not be necessarily true. We now know that mind can have a profound effect on our health. After all it was the Buddha who pointed out that the whole world is a perception in our mind.
Physical health is not treating disease but preventing disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle. I have highlighted these issues through articles I have written to ‘The Island’ over a period of time and will dwell on some of the more important issues.
We are witnessing an epidemic of obesity right round the world, even in developing countries. We are increasing our body weight in spite of consuming less calories. This is due to the technological advances that have made us exercise less. When we were young we walked to school but children of today are dropped at the gates of their schools. Lack of exercise is one of the biggest causes of ill-health and it is not necessary to go to a gym to exercise. Walking is the best exercise and it is free! Though jogging is fashionable some adverse effects have been recently identified, like trauma to joints causing arthritis.
For a long time fat was considered the culprit for many diseases, a theory that was popularized by the American Biologist Ancel Keys, but it is now realized sugars are even worse confirming the facts stated, way back in 1972 by the British Physiologist John Yudkin, in his book ‘Pure White and Deadly’. Fizzy drinks are the worst culprit and drinking a can a day can increase the risk of diabetes three times! There is no doubt that the increased consumption of fizzy drinks is contributing significantly to the obesity epidemic. Sugar free ‘diet’ varieties of fizzy drinks are no better according to recent research. It is better to drink water or tea!
There are many health benefits of tea and a cup of tea has three times the protective antioxidants in a glass of red wine. Recent data shows that tea slows heart rate, which is beneficial, and lowers blood pressure. Coffee also lowers blood pressure but not heart rate. Green tea is considered to have maximum health benefits. Milk may attenuate health benefits of tea. Sri Lanka still produces the best tea in the world but we drink the worst cup of tea, laced with a large dose of poison; sugar! I have often been asked whether I am Diabetic when I requested tea without sugar!!.
Vegetarians have a reduced chance of around a third of getting heart attacks or strokes compared to meat eaters. Very recent data shows that eating less red meat reduces the chance of getting diabetes. Fish, specially oily fish, are known to be cardio-protective but recent data shows that fish oil supplements do not impart the same benefit. Egg yolk as well as red meat is acted on by bacteria in the gut to produce TMAO, a substance that is highly atherogenic (produces fat deposition in vessel walls which leads to narrowing causing heart attacks and strokes)
It seems rather paradoxical that Buddhism does not have a stronger attitude towards vegetarianism but increasing data showing health benefits, itself, should make more of us vegetarians.
Alcohol, though discouraged in Buddhism, has been shown to have beneficial effects if taken in very small amounts. Though, initially, it was thought that it was due to the antioxidants in red wine, recent research shows that other alcoholic drinks also may have similar benefits but we, as doctors, do not advice patients to take alcohol mainly because this may unmask latent dependence. Dependence on alcohol is genetically determined and one need not drink a lot to become dependent. This is totally different from ‘drunkards’ whom we see a plenty in Sri Lanka. These facts justify the fifth precept!
The other threat we are facing, specially the younger generations, is illicit drugs. It has become very easy to manufacture mind altering drugs and Governments are finding it increasingly difficult to control. The availability on the internet has compounded the problem.
As Buddhists, we have a better way of controlling our mind and getting mental satisfaction; Meditation. Perhaps, Buddha was the first Psychiatrist. One of the best descriptions of the mind is in the great book "Food for the thinking mind" written by the late Ven. Kirinde Dhammananda, one of the great, if not the greatest, writers on Buddhism in recent times. He had an in-depth knowledge of all the major religions and has quotations from all sources in this book, which is a great read for anyone, religious or otherwise. He states:
"Modern discoveries are confirming what the Buddha realised twenty-five centuries ago: that the mind is not a thing or an entity with a separate existence but that, which arises dependent on conditions.
It is an energetic intelligent force which arises in an individual and which can be cultivated to develop positive values such as kindness, sympathy, compassion and love. These values can be utilized to serve the world. A powerful mind, fully developed, like that of a Buddha’s can even purify the atmosphere. On the other hand, when abused by developing negative qualities like hatred, greed, jealousy and ill-will it can become a potent destructive force. A mind like Hitler’s, Idi Amin’s or Pol Pot’s can be a source of great misery and suffering to living beings. On a smaller scale, individual humans also can create sufferings to those around them. A mind, which is not properly guarded and trained, can become a dangerous force.
In modern times, great minds are being exerted to discover many truths about the workings of the universe through science but if these discoveries are allowed to be used by untrained minds, great havoc can result. We only have to consider how the discovery of nuclear fission led to the creation of the most horrible weapon of destruction in our time. The human mind is capable of great achievements that benefit all human beings, but conversely, it can also be the source of untold sufferings. In trying to explain the tremendous power of the mind, Einstein had said ‘Science may have split the atom but it cannot control the mind’. What he meant was that mental energy was far more powerful than atomic energy.
The only way this tremendous energy can be harnessed and controlled, is by adopting the age-old mind controlling techniques developed by the ancient sages of the past, like the Buddha. In his teachings, the Buddha analysed the workings of the human mind, its function and its development. He then showed how, given proper spiritual guidance, the mind can be directed to work for the benefit of all living things"
I could not have stated any better. Let us make a start with mindfulness meditation and progress, with experience, to insight meditation so that we may attain spiritual health as well.
22 06 2013 - The Island
J15.14 Death: Is it the end?
Dr Upul Wijayawardhana
The intellectual debate between two philosophers, Shaymon Jayasinghe and Eymard De S Wijeyaratne, about after life (‘The Island of 6th, 12th & 24th July) made me think about death again! As I mentioned in a previous article, being in ‘the departure lounge’, as one of my friends suggested, I need no reminder! The obituaries I read, remind me that my compatriots are leaving but are they waiting to meet me again? Perhaps, they have had enough of me in this life! I have written appreciations for some of them but am sure they would have preferred to write something about me and will they get that opportunity in the next life? Perhaps not, if, as some believe, death is followed by eternity!
Having practiced Medicine for over 47 years, prior to retirement, devoting the last ten years of my working life to the treatment of heart failure patients, a disease that carries a higher mortality rate than many cancers, I am more qualified than most to write about death . I have seen how devastating a death can be; how cruel it can be and, on occasions, what a relief it can be. As doctors, we are, in a way, obsessed with death as our success is measured by mortality (death) rates. Most trials on drugs, devices and procedures have mortality rate as the end point, probably because it is the only ‘hard’ end point.
We are so obsessed with death that we forget death is the inevitable consequence of life and overlook the importance of care for the dying. Treating heart failure patients was an enlightening experience for me as I could discuss freely with my patients how we change strategy as the disease progressed. Though, initially, treatment was directed towards prolonging life when it became obvious that the disease process is advancing in spite of treatment we had to change treatment to make patients comfortable and prepare them for a peaceful death. It was amazing how most patients faced this inevitability with calm and courage and the numerous cards and letters of appreciation which our heart failure team received from relatives, after the death of a beloved one, was a humbling experience.
I remember, about 20 years ago, when I was requested to fill in for a lecturer who could not turn up at a ceremony held in Thames Buddhist Vihara in Selsdon, in the outskirts of London, I chose death as my subject which took the audience by surprise. Though the only thing certain in life is death we are reluctant to discuss it probably because of our fears. When I asked the audience who is prepared to sleep next to a dead body no hands, as expected, went up. In spite of knowing that a dead body can not harm us, unless we believe that the spirit or the soul is hovering around, we still fear as we fear death rather than the dead. It is the living we should be careful of! It is the living who can harm us physically as well as mentally, by forcing us to believe in half-truths and falsehoods.
It is very likely that when humans developed conceptualization, it was difficult to accept that death is an end. How can all this, which was so good, end so suddenly? Did we invent the after-life or eternity to overcome this dilemma? Rather than worrying about the next birth or after-life is it not better to live this life concentrating on doing something good for this beautiful planet of ours and its inhabitants? Buddha was once asked why his disciples who did not have any possessions radiated happiness. His reply was that they were so, as they did not worry about the past or the future but lived for the present.
We are often disturbed by well meaning religious persons who tap on our door to hand over leaflets on God and salvation. I talk to them very nicely and when I tell them that I do not believe in a god they are surprised and inquire what I believe in. When I tell them that I believe in myself they are even more surprised and leave disappointed that they could not help to save my soul. I respect them for their kindness but pity them for their delusions.
God, to me, is a good term for the unknown but with the rapid advancing frontiers of science is a progressively diminishing entity. Hinduism has many gods as at the time of its inception many things were not scientifically explained. We now know an electrical discharge causes thunder and lightning but before it was explained scientifically, it was an act of god. If my grandfather was told that his grandson would one day be flying between Colombo and London he could not have believed it. In spite of knowing that chicken pox, measles etc. are caused by viruses some still call it ‘Deviyange lede’!
It is surprising how far brain washing in the name of religion can proceed, to propose alternate explanations in spite perfect scientific explanations. A very good point at issue is evolution by natural selection as proved by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Darwin delayed the publication of his masterpiece ‘On the Origin of Species’ because of his religious background and his findings going against the teachings but was spurred into action by the paper from Wallace as well as the great disappointment caused by the death of Annie, his favourite daughter. This is countered with ‘Intelligent design’!
Mr Jayasinghe refers to the works of Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei, who proved that the earth goes round the sun, thus diminishing our importance. Church could not tolerate the insult from Galileo and imprisoned him till death for his ‘sin’; discovering the truth!
It is a pity by the actions of a misguided few, Buddhism has recently attracted criticism. Notwithstanding these, the teachings of the Buddha are very stimulating to all thinkers, even disbelievers. Buddha encouraged questioning and wanted us to convince ourselves before acceptance. As I stated in my previous articles, rebirth may be interpreted in ways different to the usual explanation. It is a concept that is not proved yet and I like to have an open mind. By the way, the recent claims by an Australian, Alan John Miller, that he is the reborn Jesus, surely, support the Buddhist concept of after-life than the Christian concept of eternity!
With my experience in medicine, not philosophy, what is my answer to the question I raised – Death: is it the end? I do not know is the best answer I can give in the present state of knowledge. I do not work towards or for an after-life. On a practical level, I do whatever good I can for my family, friends and society with no expectations. If there is an after-life I feel I probably have done enough to secure a good place which, obviously, will be a bonus!
27 07 2013 - The Island
J15.15 Western Science, Astrology and Arsenic - I
Nalin de Silva
This is a response to two articles by Mr. R. Chandrasoma and Dr U P de S Waidyanatha entitled respectively Astrology is humbug and CKDu: Scientific evidence and anti-science zealotry published in The Island on 19th April 2013 and 29th and 30th April 2013. I am not an anti science zealot but I have evidence in Aristotelian logic as well as in Catuskoti logic to demonstrate that western science is nothing but humbug. I do not claim that Dr. Waidyanatha calls me an anti science zealot but I thought it is appropriate to respond to his article as well. He has referred to Chulla Haththi Padopama Sutta on coming to conclusions with bits and pieces of information. However, he may not realize that the Chulla Haththi Padopama Sutta is against the so called scientific method propagated by western philosophers of western science.
I do not believe that there is a scientific method as such as claimed by the western intellectuals and their apologists here, but there is a method which could be called storytelling and if one may add one more word it is abstract story telling which is not found in our culture. Abstract story telling is found not only in western science but also in western novels and short stories which Martin Wickremasinghe and Ediriweera attempted to introduce to Sinhala Literature. Gunadasa Amarasekera preaches abstract story telling but to his credit does not practice it. His characters though he may like them to represent abstract people representing what he would wish to call social reality are nothing but concrete creatures who could be identified easily.
The so called scientists in Sri Lanka are probably not aware of abstract story telling as they are confined to what Kuhn called normal science very often engaging in "scientific" cookery where one adds one liter of such and such to one gram of something else and heat to a certain temperature. The so called theories in western science are nothing but abstract stories and they are not in harmony with what is advocated in Chulla Haththi Padopama Sutta. No wonder that many a scholar in Sri Lanka have misunderstood some Suttas in their zealousness to rationalize Bududahama. The oft quoted Kalama Sutta is a case in point which a well known Professor who can remember almost anything he hears for the first time but fails to understand even after twenty five years of repeating what he has heard.
Before we discuss the Chulla Haththi Padopama Sutta in respect of Arsenic we will discuss what Mr. Chandrasoma has to say on Astrology. He says among other words of wisdom the following: "It must be remarked at this point that famous and clever people in the past were great believers in astrology - the likes of Kepler and Isaac Newton. These people also believed in Alchemy and Biblical prophecy. That great men in the past were mistaken in some of their fundamental beliefs is no reason to adhere to dated and stupid views that are demonstrably and palpably false given our current knowledge of the world and of man’s place in it. Today, only the daft and the incorrigibly purblind will be persuaded by the argument that a perturbation in planetary positions will influence the marriage prospects of a bipedal Hominid in Moratuwa." I am not sure how Mr. Chandrasoma came to the conclusion that Astrology is humbug. In my case I have come to the conclusion that western science is humbug after studying it as an adolescent, then as a so called scientist having gained a Ph. D. in Relativistic Astrophysics, having being a member of the so called International Astronomical union, having taught subjects connected with Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in three universities in Sri Lanka though none would take me back even if I was under sixty five today, and of course having studied western philosophy of western science on my own for more than thirty years and not by reading Kuhn, Feyerabend though I am familiar with their work. I wonder whether Mr. Chandrasoma had studied Astrology before he came to the conclusion that Astrology is humbug.
I only hope that Mr. Chandrasoma did not come to the conclusion that Astrology is humbug after reading Popper or any other person great or otherwise as in his own admission "great people" such as Newton had been wrong. On the other hand we do not know whether the "great persons" who claim that Astrology is humbug or words to that effect have themselves studied Astrology. How many western scientists whether Nobel Laureates or otherwise have studied Astrology? If not how did those who have come to the conclusion that Astronomy is humbug did so? Astronomy or Nakshasthra is part of Astrology and the Nakshasthra I have studied including Rahu Ketu and the Rahu catching (swallowing) the Sun and the Moon during what are now known as eclipses are valid concepts. Rahu and Ketu are the points of intersections of the paths of the Sun and the Moon relative to Earth. Only those who are ignorant of relative motion would claim that the Sun does not move with respect to Earth acknowledging the so called absolute motion which perhaps only the God observes. Even the nonagatha period during the avurudda has a good explanation in nakshastra.
Mr. Chandrasoma, however, asks a very pertinent question. He wants to find out how the grahayas ( not the planets or graha vastu according to the official glossary– Planets are some of those physical objects that are supposed to go round the sun, while Rahu, Ketu, Ravi, Chandra are grahayas though not planets. Some grahayas may be planets but that does mean that all the grahayas are planets) could affect the matrimonial prospects of a bipedal couple in Moratuwa. An intellectual in Sri Lanka could have asked why Moratuwa of all the places? Whatever the reason for selecting Moratuwa could Mr. Chandrasoma tell us how the Sun and the other planets affect the motion of the Earth? Or how could these extra terrestrial objects affect the motion of the bipedals in Moratuwa? Or worse than that how could extra galactic objects affect the motion of the bipedals in Moratuwa?
When Newton said that any two particles in the Universe (it must be remembered that Newton did not have the modern western concept of the Universe) attract each other with a certain force called the gravitational force how did he know? Did he explain how the particles could influence each other the way he has preached according to his well known formula? In fact when his contemporaries asked him to explain how the Sun exerted this so called gravitational force he had no answer. There was no concept of force as understood in western science during Newton’s days and all that they knew was an object was either pulled or pushed with hands or using a rope or a pole as the case may be. When the contemporaries of Newton asked the latter where was the rope with which the Sun attracted the Earth Newton had no answer. All that he could say was that it was "action at a distance".
The action at a distance was not accepted by some of the contemporaries of Newton and the western science had to wait for Maxwell to come out with a mechanism to explain how the Sun exerted a force on the bipedals of Moratuwa or Timbuktu. Maxwell introduced the concept of a field in connection with electromagnetism, and it was borrowed by the gravitational physicists to explain Newton’s action at a distance using the concept of gravitational force. Gravitational field constructed using the concept of an Electromagnetic (Electrostatic Magnetostatic ) field is an abstract story and nothing else. Nobody has experienced a gravitational force or a gravitational field and it is only a mechanism (story) constructed by the western physicists to explain how a particle on the other side of the universe exerts a force on a given particle. The bipedals in Moratuwa are supposed to be comprised of these particles.
01 05 2013 - The Island
Western Science, Astrology and Arsenic – II
Nalin de Silva
It is a necessary condition that one should study something, or believes somebody who has studied the subject and declared that the subject matter is humbug before one goes public to the effect that the subject matter is humbug. However, it is not sufficient and one should be able to demonstrate that the subject is humbug. Mere pronouncement that something is humbug without studying the subject under consideration by himself or depending on an "authority" who has studied and demonstrated that it is humbug, is mere pontification and we should not be awed by these decrees.
In the first installment of the present series I mentioned that there was no "explanation" given by Newton for the so called gravitational force exerted by any one particle on any other particle in the universe whatever the distance between the two particles may be. Newton only said that it was action at a distance without ropes poles etc. However, many Physicists believed what Newton had to say though it cannot be said that Newton’s predictions based on his "theory of gravitation" agreed with observations. For example according to a deduction from Newton’s theory of gravitation the planets (not the grahayas in Astrology but the graha vasthus) should go round the sun, assumed to be still, or relative to the sun along fixed ellipses, if the masses of the planets are negligible compared to the mass of the sun. It has to be realized that the deduction predicts that the planets move in fixed ellipses, parabolae or hyperbolae relative to the sun, and theoretically alone there is no way to deduce that planets move in fixed ellipses relative to the sun. In that sense Newton’s theory of gravitation does not predict strictly that a planet moves in a fixed ellipse relative to the sun. However, a planet or any other object such as a comet cannot move in a fixed ellipse and a parabola or hyperbola at the same time relative to the sun and if an object moves in a fixed ellipse relative to the sun then it can be said that the object moves in a fixed ellipse! Some comets do not describe fixed ellipses relative to the sun though the same gravitational theory of Newton applies to these objects as well. They could be moving along parabolae or hyperbolae never to return to the vicinity of the earth or the sun.
However, the more important thing, I would not use the term fact that is theory laden anyway, is that none of the planets move in fixed ellipses relative to the sun. It was known even during the time of Newton that the planet Mercury did not describe a fixed ellipse relative to the sun! The closest point of the path of the planet to the sun, called the perihelion, did not remain the same and it advanced during the "tour" (courtesy Newton’s Travels and Tours), a phenomenon known as the advance of the perihelion. This did not prevent the vast majority of the physicists from accepting Newton’s Theory though Mercury and other planets would have laughed at the former. Of course about 250 years later Einstein came out with his own theory of "gravitation" without any gravitational force as such, and was able to "explain" the advance of the perihelion, though the theory is not without its weaknesses. It should be emphasized that Newtonian Theory and Einsteinian Theory are poles apart conceptually and the former cannot be considered as an approximation of the latter.
What I am trying to point out is that there is no unique explanation of a given phenomenon and that no "explanation" explains the phenomenon "accurately". There are phenomena observed in the "universe" and people come out with stories to explain these phenomena. It is storytelling and nothing else and so called theories in western science, especially in physics, are abstract stories told by Newton, Einstein and others. These grandpas or "seeyas" of western science are not different from our own grandpas and grandmas (seeyas and achchees) who told us fairytales when we were small. We believe Newton and Einstein the same way we believed our seeyas except for that we attempt to justify our beliefs in the case of "science seeyas". The so called grown up people remain not grown as they could be deceived by political seeyas, science seeyas and others though they grow physically over the years. It can even be said that men and women are born to be deceived! Considering it as a phenomenon could somebody come out with a nice little story or theory to explain it? In other words could somebody deceive us with a nice little story on deceiving?
Now before Maxwell, Newtonians had no explanation of the so called gravitational attraction, and they "understood" it as action at a distance. What Maxwell did was to introduce the concept of Field in order to explain certain phenomena connected with electromagnetism. For example it can be said that according to him an electron creates an electrostatic field around it and when another electrically charged particle "experiences" the field created by the electron it responds in a certain way depending on the charge distance between the particles etc. Now that is an explanation of say the electrostatic force between two charged particles in Classical Theory, though Quantum Physics would describe it differently. As said last time the gravitational physicists borrowed the concept of field to explain the "action at a distance" of Newton. Thus any particle creates or has its own gravitational field around it and the other particles respond to the field thus created. Thus the gravitational field takes some time to propagate, not instantaneous action at a distance, and there is no gravitational interaction between any two particles separated by a distance. The second particle only responds to the gravitational field created by the first particle and it may be called a particle field interaction.
Now with the concept of field do we understand "gravitational attraction"? Many so called educated people say they can understand the gravitational attraction but not how those grahayas affect the lives of the bipedal hominids in Moratuwa or wherever they may be. What I do not understand is how they understand that a particle can affect another particle with or without a field. Most of the people are not familiar with the concept of a field but they have no difficulty in understanding that one particle exerts a gravitational field without a rope or a pole so to say. Nobody has experienced the gravitational force though a senior lecturer at Kelaniya with a Ph. D. from Cambridge once told me that he could sense the gravitational force. When I wanted to look at this particular sense organ with which he sensed the gravitational force he could not show it to me. Perhaps he was little embarrassed.
Now has anybody sensed the field? The answer is no, I suppose in the case of vast majority of men and women unless like the lecturer mentioned above they have some peculiar sense organ that the others do not have. Understanding what is meant by understanding is a big problem and naturally it goes in cycles. A culture with linear thinking (what I call rekheeya chinthanaya as thinking is not adequate in this connection) cannot understand what is meant by understanding and it is clear that there cannot be a definition of understanding. The dominating western chinthanaya at present is Greek Judaic Christian Chinthanaya that replaced the Catholic Chinthanaya over a period of time beginning in the fifteenth century, both of which are linear. It has to be mentioned that in a cyclic chinthanaya there are no definitions as such and only in abstract systems of knowledge such as western mathematics one could begin with definitions. Nobody understands a definition and I really enjoyed teaching Mathematics without understanding it. (To be continued)
07 05 2013 - The Island
Western Science, Astrology and Arsenic – III
Nalin de Silva
What the gravitational physicists did after Maxwell was to introduce the concept of gravitational field in order to explain or understand how a particle exerts a gravitational force on any other particle wherever in the universe the two particles may be. However, it is a so called explanation as nobody understands what is meant by an explanation in this case. In this regard I would like to mention what I "learnt" from my Chemistry teacher in the fourth form (Grade 10). He wanted the students to define an acid. When we could not define an acid to his satisfaction, he asked us to explain definition. Needless to say the fourteen year olds could not come up with an answer and then he in his inimitable style he said define explanation! With these questions he consciously or unconsciously exposed the inadequacy of linear thinking definitions etc., and introduced at least me to cyclic thinking (chakreeya chinthanaya) many years later.
Of course one could say that in the case of gravitational force it is a physical force but in the case of astrology it could be said that the grahayas influence even the mental state of bipedal hominids, and it is necessary to explain this phenomenon. As it is said at present there are physical, biological and mental states associated with the bipedal hominids, and some others would say these states are associated not only with bipedal hominids but with all animals whether with no feet two feet, four feet, or poly feet (apa, depa, sivupa or bahupa). When one could "demonstrate" that physical, biological and mental states are interconnected as in the case of say psycho somatic phenomena, one could come out with a "theory" or an "explanation" of how the grahayas influence the mental states of bipedal hominids. It could be through some ‘field", say an astrological field exerted by the grahayas including Rahu and Kethu that are points of intersection of the paths of the sun and the moon relative to the earth. It could even be theorized that in general the points of intersection of the paths of sun and any planet or of the paths of any two planets or of the paths of the moon and any planet relative to the earth influence the bipedal hominids but they are negligible!
It is unfair if one wants to experience the astrological field in order to believe it or understand it or whatever, as to my knowledge nobody except that lecturer at the University of Kelaniya has experienced the gravitational field. Also it could be said a grahaya has many properties such as astrological, gravitational electromagnetic etc., and that some grahayas such as Rahu and Kethu exert only fields but not gravitational or electromagnetic fields. In the case of Sun it is believed in Newtonian Physics that it exerts gravitational as well as electromagnetic influences through relevant field and it may be that there are other fields such as astrological fields not recognized by the western scientists. The recognition by the western scientists need not be the sole criterion for us to accept, believe or whatever and we do not have to be guided by their dominant knowledge imposed on us. All theories western or otherwise are mere stories constructed in a certain chinthanaya relative to a culture. Merely because a theory is not accepted or believed in one culture it does not follow that the other cultures also should discard the theory.
There is a western scientific church or mafia and it is the high priests or the leaders of the mafia who decide which theory is to be accepted or rejected. As has been shown by Feyerabend this church is more dominant than the Catholic Church in medieval Europe, and they would not listen to alternative theories or explanations constructed even within the western culture. In the case of the Catholic Church the Pope was prepared to listen to Galileo and gave the latter a fair trial. The Pope did not object to Galileo believing that the earth went round the sun, but he wanted the latter to demonstrate it if he were to teach it to the general public. Galileo could not demonstrate that the earth went round the sun and the pope had no alternative but to imprison Galileo and keep him away from the public.
The present day high priests of the western scientific church do not have the power to imprison people but they debar theories and other knowledge not acceptable to them reaching the public through their so called learned societies and "internationally recognized" journals. Now if one were to ask who has the power to recognize these "internationally recognized journals" the answer is it is the internationally recognized people and societies. Thus it is a case of one recognizing oneself through societies and other instruments that have been empowered to do so by none other than the political powers of the particular culture. The Royal Society of London has been recognized by a Royal Charter and our own National Academy of Science has obtained its charter from the Parliament of Sri Lanka, though its Fellows have not produced anything original enough to be recognized by the "international community". In this regard it has to be mentioned that when the University of Kelaniya group that studied the Chronic Kidney Disease unidentified etiology CKDu came out with Arsenic as the main cause of the disease, the National Academy of Science went so low as to reproduce cartoons that vilified me in their official website.
The irony is that the scientists in El Salvador have recognized that Arsenic is the cause of their Kidney Disease , and recently invited Drs. Channa Jayasumana and Kumudu Dahanayake to their country and thanked Sri Lanka for the information, knowledge or whatever on Arsenic that have been conveyed to them and other South American countries at a seminar held in another South American country by Dr. Jayasumana the most unwanted person the University of Kelaniya that attempts to deny him a postgraduate degree using so called University Autonomy throwing the work he has done during the last two and half years to the Kelani Ganga. In essence El Salvador has recognized Natha deviyan and Vipassaka deviyan when the imitators in Sri Lanka of high priests of the western scientific Church and its Cardinals and Pope refuse to do so. The Kelaniya Arsenic group holds a media conference today to inform the public more details of the El Salvador recognition.
The western scientific church did not recognize the work done by Rupert Sheldrake on what are known as Morphological fields. In essence what he says is that "past forms and behaviour of organisms influence present organisms through direct immaterial connections across time and space". For example a crystal formed say for the first time at the University of Kelaniya with difficulties would influence the formation of a similar crystal in a University or research institute in El Salvador and it would be done much easily. This is what has happened in connection to Arsenic in Agro Chemicals with reference to the Kidney Disease. It could be said that the Arsenic experiments done at the University of Kelaniya for the first time have created a morphological field across space and time or space - time.In the South American countries cane farmers are affected by the Arsenic present in the Agro chemicals.
The high priests of the western scientific church object to research on Homeopathy. They do not recognize Homeopathy as a so called science or a technology and when some researchers in France about twenty five years ago were able to get a paper on Homeopathy principle based on dilution in the Nature the high priests of western science and medicine intervened and the editor of Nature had no alternative but to withdraw the published paper under pressure! That is the freedom of expression in the western scientific church and the high priests do not give even the freedom to believe that was not denied to Galileo by the Pope.
14 05 2013 - The Island
Western Science, Astrology and Arsenic – IV
Nalin de Silva
It is not difficult to "explain" how the "grahayas" [planets] affect the destiny of people (bipedal hominids) in terms of an Astrological field exerted by the former. It has to be emphasized that the grahayas are not graha vasthu or planets though in certain cases we may identify the grahayas with the planets. In the case of Hiru and Sandu the objects associated them are not planets and Rahu ad "Kethu" cannot be identified with any physical objects as such, as we have mentioned in the previous installments. Now in the case of a planet such as Saturn, or Sun or Moon we may say that it exerts a gravitational field, an electromagnetic field and an astrological field in addition to many other fields we have not been able to create. Systems of knowledge including the phenomena are created by human beings and theories are nothing but stories created to "explain" phenomena that we observe or create. All concepts and theories are relative and are created within cultures based on chinthanayas. Rahu and Kethu being the points of intersection of the paths of the Sun and the Moon relative to the Earth we may say that they exert astrological fields but neither gravitational fields nor electromagnetic fields.
There are so many factors that affect the lives of the bipedal hominids, the astrological fields exerted by the grahayas being only one such factor. The self confidence, free will are also such factors in addition to political, economic and cultural factors not to mention kamma which the Buddhists the Hindus believe. It is not the resultant of all these factors or "forces" that affect the lives of the bipedal hominids but one or few of them as the case may be. The resultant of forces is a concept that belongs to the Newtonian Paradigm in which we are not interested. One of the factors would become the significant factor putting all the others into the oblivion. For example the Buddhists believe that when a bipedal hominid or even an animal for that matter dies it is the Cuti Citta that decides where the animal has its punabbhava and not whether the animal or the bipedal hominid is treated by the best western surgeon or the best western physician, or whether the government has supplied a dialyzer of so called international standards.
The electromagnetic field does not influence neutral bodies but affect only bodies that are amenable to electromagnetic fields. It is different from the gravitational field which is said to be universal, in the sense that all bodies and particles are affected by the gravitational field. Not all people can "observe" gods bhootas and such pranins (living beings not biological systems) and many people are neutral as far as these pranins are concerned. It is two such pranins who told our team that worked on CKDu that Arsenic is the main cause of the disease and that has been accepted by western scientists in El Salvador and Cuba who studied the Kidney Disease prevalent among sugar cane farmers in some South American countries. The South Americans had called their Kidney Disease that due to non traditional causes before they also found that Arsenic is the main cause. As the bhootas and such pranins could be observed only by those with some kind of spiritual power to do so, it may be that the astrological field is not universal and some bipedal hominids are not affected by the field.
In the absence of all the other factors one may say the astrological field decides the fate of the some bipedal hominids but when the other factors are also active the astrological factor could predict the destiny of the hominid bipedal only on a statistical basis. Some of the predictions may become true but others not true. In western sciences even when other factors are not considered statistical methods are used in arriving at conclusions. Western science that depends on generalizations from few (even if it is thousands of observations it is only a tiny fraction of the possible observations) observations using induction has to depend on statistical methods. However these very same people who use statistical methods even when prescribing medicines would demand that Astrology should predict with hundred percent certainty if it is to be believed. Western Science is nothing but induction and storytelling.
This brings us to Cullahatti Padopama Sutta that Dr. Waidyanatha had mentioned in his article. This Sutta was conveyed to the Sinhala people by Ven. Mahinda Thero and is supposed to be the first Sutta by the Venerable Thero to the former, though it is certainly not the first Sutta to be conveyed in this island. Even before the arrival of Ven. Mahinda Thero there had been people who had attained Nibbana (Rahathan Vahanse) and Bhikkus who belonged to the Yaksha Gotra (not the tribe in the sense of English and other westerners who refer to African tribes), according Vargapurnikava, a book of the Yakshas, and we would say that before the arrival of Ven. Mahinda Thero there was what we could call the Hela Vihara and Bhikkus who could be called Hela Viharavasins. The pioneer Bhikkus of Hela Vihara had listened to Budun Vahanse according to Vargapurnikava, and what we received from Ven. Mahinda Thero was the Bududahama of the third Sangayana (Council). Ven. Mahinda Thero went on to establish a Vihara which became the dominant Vihara in time to come and came to be known as the Maha (great or dominant) Vihara with Hela Vihara losing its influence.
In any event what Ven. Mahinda Thero conveyed in the Cullahatti Padopama Sutta is that prathyaksha is the mean of knowledge and inference (anumana) should be discarded. The Thero pronounced "Do not reach judgment on the identity of the elephant merely on the basis of the size of its footprints or the tusk marks it has made on tree trunks or the height of branches it has broken". The identity of the elephant should not be inferred based on the footprints etc., but should be made after seeing it by prathyaksha. Western Science relies on induction and storytelling and not on prathyaksha. As I have mentioned in my previous installments western science first rejects prathyaksha though not in the same sense as in Bududahama, and then use induction to generalize observations, and construct a story (so called theory) to explain the generalized observation and then use prathyaksha to verify or test the theory. There is a contradiction in this so called scientific method that uses Statistics to generalize a observation to the whole population using some arbitrary samples, though the western scientists calim that the samples are selected in a scientific manner.
There may be so many "scientists" in Sri Lanka coming out with various substances as the cause of the CKDu. They are all inferences and guess work, however "intelligent" the guessing may be, and as Dr. Waidyanatha says they are only "bits of information", at best. They could be bits of disinformation as well as none of the so called scientists vouch that they are their prathyakshas. Our group has based our work on the prathyaksha of the pranins mentioned above and according to them Arsenic is the main cause of the CKDu. What they told us was that Arsenic from Agrochemicals gets hidden the Magnesium and Calcium salts in hard water and reach the kidneys of the poor farmers who consume hard water (kivul jalaya) in the affected areas. It is certainly not an inference arrived from bits of information and it is we who have followed the Cullahatti Padopama Sutta and not the so called scientists. It should be finally said that like the Kalama Sutta misquoted by pundits Cullahatti Padopama Sutta is being presented as a Sutta that tallies with the so called method of western science.
28 05 2013 - The Island
J15.16 How did the Buddha give his knowledge?
Dr. Granville Dharmawardena
When we were in school we had two types of subjects, religious knowledge and other subjects. Religious knowledge is knowledge founded by founders of religions and other subjects are knowledge founded by knowledgeable people such as scientists. What is the difference between these two types of knowledge? How do we get knowledge and how did the Buddha get his knowledge? The basic fact is that we all possess two streams of knowledge, the rational stream and the intuitive stream. But, we use only one of them, the rational stream of knowledge. The Buddha used the intuitive stream of knowledge.
The rational stream of knowledge operates through the five sense organs, the left half of of the brain and the conscious mind. Sense organs receive stimuli from the outside world, convert them to electrical pulses and transmit them to the brain. The brain computes them and presents the results to the conscious mind which completes the process of interpreting the stimuli. For example when one looks at an object, an upside down image of it falls on the backs of the eyes, the retinas. The retinas convert the image to electrical pulses and transfer them, through the optic nerves, to the brain which does the relevant computations and passes on the results to the mind. The mind, then, constructs an image out of the information and compares it with past memories and recognizes the object or registers it as a new experience.
The mind goes further using rational thinking to work out the possible variations and possibilities with the object and stores them all as memories. What a person calls ‘the world’ is the collection of such memories accumulated in his mind throughout his lifetime. What we call ‘the world’ is not exactly the same thing for everyone. It differs from person to person depending on each person’s experiences. For example, this writer met a Greek scientist in Libiya who didn’t know that there is a country called Sri Lanka in the world. What he called ‘his world’ did not include Sri Lanka. The knowledge accumulated in this manner by gathering information through the sense organs is known as visualisable knowledge. The big question arising out of this is, "Does this knowledge represent the true reality of the universe?" The answer to this question is, "Definitely not!"
The reason is that the sense organs have limitations. Their scope is limited to three spatial dimensions. They can perceive only the three dimensional aspects of the universe. They cannot perceive what is going on beyond three dimensions. With sense organs we cannot see our mind, where we were before coming here, where will a person go after death or if there are beings called devas and demons.
The fact is that just as there are visualizable aspects of the universe there are also unvisualizable aspects of it, which are beyond three dimensions, beyond the perceptible capabilities of our sense organs, and outside the concept of the world we have constructed in our minds using the information received through the rational stream of knowledge. Therefore our view of the universe is not complete and we have to manage our affairs with that incomplete knowledge.
But some of the happenings in the unvisualizable realms of the universe influence our lives and therefore it is important to know them. What should we do to avoid harmful influences and invite the beneficial influences that come our way as a result of these unvisualizable phenomena? Often we meet people who claim that they can access and influence invisible beings, stop their harmful influences and invoke their blessings on their clients. However, these people also can get information only through their sense organs and cannot see or communicate with such invisible beings. When one talks about some thing one has never seen one can only make guesses. Therefore these people can only guess what the invisible beings are like and what they are capable of.
This is where Buddhism comes in. The role of Buddhism is to guide us through the maize of unvisualizable phenomena in the universe safely and meaningfully throughout our existence, in this life and in future lives.
The only way a human being can look at the unvisualizable realms of the universe is through the intuitive stream of knowledge. The intuitive stream uses the right half of the brain and the subconscious mind to acquire knowledge. It does not use sense organs and therefore is not subject to the limitations of the sense organs, Therefore it can see all dimensions. It can see everything in visualizable realms and unvisualizable realms of the universe.
Dr. Fritjof Capra, an Indian Hindu, who is a nuclear scientists in the USA has studied this subject in depth and says, "Throughout history, it has been recognized that the human mind is capable of two kinds of knowledge, or two modes of consciousness, which have often been termed the rational and the intuitive, and have traditionally been associated with science and religion, respectively. ….The Upanishads, for example, speak about a higher and a lower knowledge and associate the lower knowledge with various sciences, the higher with religious awareness. Buddhists talk about ‘relative’ and ;absolute’ knowledge or about ‘conditional truth’ and ‘transcendental truth"
Dr. Brian Weiss, a Jewish professor of Psychiatry in the USA, says, referring to the subconscious mind, "This is the part of our mind that lies beneath ordinary consciousness, beneath the constant bombardment of thoughts, feelings, outside stimuli, and other assaults on our awareness. The subconscious mind functions at a level deeper than our usual level of awareness. In the subconscious mind mental processes occur without our conscious perception of them. We experience moments of intuition, wisdom and creativity when these subconscious processes flash into our conscious awareness. The subconscious is not limited by our imposed boundaries of logic, space and time. It can remember everything , from any time. It can transmit creative solutions to our problems. It can transcend the ordinary to touch upon a wisdom far beyond our everyday capabilities."
Dr. Joseph Murphy, an Irish Catholic Priest, says, "Within your subconscious depths lie infinite wisdom, infinite power, an infinite supply of all that is necessary. It is waiting there for you to give it development and expression. If you begin now to recognize these potentialities of your deeper mind, they will take form in the world without. Provided you are open-minded and receptive, the infinite intelligence within your subconscious mind can reveal to you everything you need to know at every moment of time and point of space. You can receive new thoughts and ideas, bring forth new inventions, make new discoveries, create new works of art. The infinite intelligence in your subconscious can give access to wonderful new kinds of knowledge.
If one sees through the intuitive stream of knowledge, one can see the entire universe, both its visualizable and unvisualizable aspects. Everyone of us possesses the intuitive stream of knowledge, but we do not know how to use it. It is like a person who has a microscope in his pocket, but tries to learn about germs and viruses by looking at them through the naked eyes because he doesn’t know how to use the microscope. If a person wants to learn about germs and viruses he has to either learn to use the microscope or get the information from a person who has looked at them through microscopes, Most of our knowledge about these things have come from information published by scientists who have examined them under microscopes.
Similarly, we possess the intuitive stream of knowledge, but do not know how to use it. Therefore, if we want to understand the true reality of nature, we have to either acquire the capability to look at it through that stream of knowledge or ask a person who has acquired that capability and looked at it through that.
The nature of the intuitive stream of knowledge is that when the rational stream of knowledge is active it remains shut and when the rational stream is shut it awakens. If a person shuts down his rational stream of knowledge his intuitive stream awakens and knowledge of the true reality of nature begins to flow into his mind. There is no thinking involved in this and intelligence is irrelevant to it. Dr. Fritjof Capra says, "When the rational mind is silenced, the intuitive mode produces an extraordinary awareness; the environment is experienced in a direct way without the filter of conceptual thinking." Chuang Tzu says, "The still mind of the sage (a person whose rational stream has been shut down) is mirror of heaven and earth, the glass of all things."
The only technique that can shut down the rational stream of knowledge is meditation. Before the time of the Buddha there were, in India, sages like Alara Kalama and Uddaka Rama Putra who had practised samatha (concentration) meditation and reached very high levels of stillness of the mind (samadhi). Through samatha meditation they had got to know some phenomena operating in unvisualizable realms. But through this technique one cannot completely shut down the rational stream of knowledge. Therefore one cannot completely awaken the intuitive stream of knowledge and acquire the capability to clearly see the unvisualizable realms of the universe through it.
Twenty six centuries ago, King Suddhodana of the Magadha Kingdom of India was grooming his son, Prince Siddhartha, to succeed him to the throne and he was given the best possible training and education. This took Prince Siddhartha to the highest possible level of knowledge accessible through the rational stream. But his innate desire was to understand the basic problems of existence and solutions to those problems. He realized that those could not be understood through the rational stream of knowledge. He also realized that those could not be accessed while living a lay life with a family. Therefore he left lay life at the age of 29, became an ascetic and practised samatha meditation under Alara Kalama and Uddaka Rama Putra to shut down the rational stream of knowledge and awaken the intuitive stream.
He reached the highest level of stillness of the mind one could reach through samatha meditation and realized that that technique of meditation could not help him to completely shut down the rational stream of knowledge and completely awaken the intuitive stream. The level of stillness of the mind he could reach through samatha meditation could not make him understand the basic problems of existence and the way to solve them. He realized that techniques to completely shut down the rational stream of knowledge were not available in the world.
Thereafter he ventured on his own to discover a new technique that could completely awaken the intuitive stream of knowledge. The new technique he discovered is vipassana (insight) meditation. This is like the problem the Danish Physicist, Niels Bohr, encountered when he found that electrons hovering around the atomic nucleus did not obey Newton’s Laws of Motion that everything else obeyed and were universally accepted and revered as the natural laws of motion of nature that everything in the universe obeyed. Any scientist who disputed that at that time would have got branded as an eccentric. He found that there were no known laws of science that explained the behaviour of electrons. He had the courage to venture on his own and discover quantum mechanics which described the behaviour of electrons accurately and won the Nobel Prize for Physics. Quantum mechanics describe the motion of electrons and everything else very accurately.
Through vipassana meditation Ascetic Siddhartha could completely shut down the rational stream of knowledge and completely awaken the intuitive stream. Through the intuitive stream of knowledge he could see for himself the true reality of the universe, its visualizable aspects and unvisualizable aspects. He could see the problems of existence and how to solve them. He could see that the problems of existence were due to greed, hatred and and ignorance, and to solve these problems one must eliminate these causes. He explained these in the celebrated form of the Four Noble Truths which are suffering, causes of suffering, that suffering can be eliminated and the way to eliminate it.
After the Ascetic Siddhartha completely awakened his intuitive stream of knowledge he was enlightened and became The Buddha. What he taught after seeing the true reality of nature in its entirety is Buddhism. What Lord Buddha taught cannot be changed because it is reality and anyone who looks at all aspects of nature will see the same things.
In Kalama Sutta The Buddha has asked us not to accept what he taught through blind faith. He has advised us to verify what he taught and satisfy ourselves that they are true before accepting.
How can a person verify if what The Buddha taught is true? How can one verify if something told by someone is true? It is normally done by checking it through another channel, by going and looking at it or asking another person who has seen it. The only way one can check something in the unvisualizable realms is through modern science or quantum science. Quantum science has developed mathematical techniques to peep in and examine some of the phenomena happening in unvisualizable realms of the universe. All findings made so far using quantum science have been found to be true, accurate and reliable, and do not change with time. Scientists accept these as the most accurate description of nature.
For example impermanence is a basic tenet of Buddhism. Quantum science says that everything is made up of energy waves in a quantum vacuum, ie. the basic nature of everything is wave like which confirms that everything is impermanent and constantly changing. Rebirth is a basic tenet of Buddhism and it has been proved to be true according to modern science procedures.
In 1997 Quantum Scientist Nicolu Gisin of Geneva University proved that the universe is nonlocal in nature and that all things are interconnected. Earlier scientists believed that the universe was local in nature and not interconnected. Gisin’s discovery revolutionised the way the scientists had understood the basic nature of the universe and it is recognised as the greatest discovery in the whole history of science. There is nothing in the Western world that can be used as examples to illustrate this discovery. Therefore scientists use the Surangama Sutta in Buddhism to illustrate it
These modern science discoveries have made many eminent modern scientists to accept that what is taught in Buddhism accurately describe the nature of the universe and that Buddhism is a religion based on the true reality of nature. The topmost scientist of all times, Albert Einstein, endorsed Buddhism and said "If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism." The brilliant Nobel Laureate for Physics who made the first atom bomb in the USA, Robert Oppenheimer, and the Danish Noble Laureate Niels Bohr, a founder of quantum science endorsed Buddhism in a similar way.
Problems relating to human existence are so accurately described in Buddhism that such topics as family planning, abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research which have become very controversial topics in the Western World are not controversies for Buddhists. The satisfaction of being guided by a religion that is based on true reality of nature drove this writer to pursue research work on rebirth and quantum science discoveries that help to verify that what Lord Buddha taught is true and correct.
(Text of a talk given to the Indian community in Melbourne)
24 08 2013 - The Island
J15.17 The driving force in Samsara
Upali K. Salgadu
The Venerable monk pointed out that as along as man was attached to craving, and ignorance and clinging to one’s desire, clinical death was not the final end. He would continue in the "WHEEL OF EXISTENCE", the endless poly of action and reaction, kept in perfect motion by KAMMA, concealed by ignorance, and propelled by craving.
It is through this driving force, the thirst for existence (bhave thanha) the Cycle of Existence (SAMSARA) ceases.
Buddhist scriptures say the voluntary taking of the Five or Eight Buddhist injunctions (Precepts) and one’s adherence to them faithfully will determine the course of one’s present life and one’s future life when reborn.
By ourselves is evil done,
By ourselves we pain endure
By ourselves we cease from wrong
By ourselves we become pure
No One serves us but ourselves,
No one can, and no one may help,
We ourselves must tread the Path
Buddha’s only show the way.
Gotama Buddha, in the CHULA VIBANGA SUTTA said, "Beings are owners of Kamma, heirs of Kamma. They have Kamma as their homing-place". The ever present doctrine of Kamma is one of action, reaction and result.
Author, Leonard A Sullen has said, The Buddha doctrine emphasizes the moral skillful thought, speech and action brings happiness to the doer at sometime or another, while in the same way, activities which are morally unskillful gives rise to future suffering. The late Ven. Piyadassi Nayake Thera of the Vajiraramaya Temple, Colombo, when delivering the 1980 V.F. GUNARATNA MEMORIAL LECTURE said "Kamma is the hand of moral causation and shapes the destiny of man and brings about rebirth. The technical term for KAMMA is VOLITIONAL ACTIVITY" (in Pali: CHETANA). This can be Kusala (Morally good) or Akusala (Morally evil). Kamma is a law in itself, with no need for a law giver. An external agency or unseen power (or a creator God) that punishes ill deeds and Rewards good deeds has no place in Buddhist philosophy. Whilst the doctrine of kamma projects man’s life in Samsara (Circle of births and death).
The Venerable monk pointed out that as along as man is attached to craving, and ignorance, and clinging to one’s desire, clinical death is not the final end. He will continue in the "WHEEL OF EXISTENCE", the endless poly of action and reaction, kept in perfect motion by KAMMA, concealed by ignorance, and propelled by craving. It is through this driving force, the thirst for existence (bhave thanha) the Cycle of existence (SAMSARA) ceases.
Emeritus Professor P.D. Premasiri, PhD (Hawai), M.A. (Cantab) in an article "BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY ON REBIRTH" states: Buddhist Philosophy begins with the Enlightenment experience of Gotama Buddha, and is attempt to convey to mankind, by means of language. Buddhist scriptures refer to the paean of joy augured by Gotama Buddha immediately after enlightenment. In this it was claimed that he wandered hither and thither, coming repeatedly to numerous births, some woeful, without being able to find who the maker of this personality was. His enlightenment was an insight to the maker".
In that happy scenario, when the devas (gods of Brahma Loka) witnessed Mara (the personification of evil run away, the famous Pali stanza was said:
Anekajathi samsaram sandhavissam anibbisam
Gahakarakam gavesantho dukka jati punappunam
Gahakaraka ditthosi puna geham na kahasi
SABBE te phasaku bhagga oakutam visamkitam
Visam khara-gatam citam tanhanam kaya majjhaga
Translated by Lord Chalmers:
"Through birth and rebirth endless rounds
Seeking in vain, I hastened on
To find who framed this edifice
What misery, birth, incessantly…
Oh, builder, I have discovered thee
This fabric to shall never build,
Thy rafters are broken now
And the pointed roof, demolished lies
This mind has demolition reached,
And seen the last of all desire"
According to Buddhist philosophy one’s forces and energies do not cease at death. No force is ever lost. It undergoes transformation, Energy does travel from place to place and ceases to be manifest in one place. In man the greatest force is His Will to Live, to exist to want more, and a better life always. Life resets, and reforms in new conditions harmonising itself, in fresh conditions that we call, REBIRTH or RENEWED EXISTENCE.
MECHANISM OF REBIRTH, BRIEFLY
When a person has died what is the mechanism of rebirth? Ven Piyadassi Nayake Thera that said, "According to biology a new life begins in that miraculous instance when the sperm cell from a Father merges with the egg or ovum within a Mother. Three factors are necessary for conception to take place. It should be the Mother’s healthy season, and in the being born Gandabba is present. The germ of life is planted there. The word "GANDABBA" means REBIRTH CONSCIOUSNESS (Patisandhi Vinnana). The second force is the Energy released by the father. Rebirth consciousness is not a permanent self, a soul or ego entity that experience good or evil deeds. Craving like any other thought is an expression of energy, and the before cannot be destroyed. The powerful craving will live and does not die with man, who is clinically dead. It makes him re-exist, and makes him grasp another existence. The third factor, is tanha (greed); it becomes the grasping force (Upadana) and magnet like attracts itself to another existence. It is the last thought force that carrys with it the grasping force. These are natural laws. At a dying moment of man, karmic energies like a flash of lightening bears fruit, and reaches a mother’s womb ready for conception. A fresh life begins....
The Kamma process (Kamma Bhava) is the energy of the present life that conditions a future life (in the godly, animal, Human and ghost or spirit worlds) in unending sequence.
19 09 2013 - The Island
J15.18 Buddhist psychology of womanhood - Part I
Dr. Thilokasundari Kariyawasam
Marriage of Shiddhartha and Yasodhara: A Gandhara sculpture
The contribution which Buddhism has made to the spiritual, moral, social and intellectual advancement of woman is indeed notable. Buddhism is a moral code based on compassion, universal, love, non violence, equanimity and a practical philosophy for daily life.
In the twin doctrine of Kamma and Punabbhava (Rebirth), an increased sense of self-respect for the individual as one who is master of his own actions is firmly established ‘One is one’s own refuge (Attaahi attano naatho). It requires above all that person should will what he does he should act and not be acted upon. The law of kamma or cause and effect is the sole pivot on which the whole system turns. Such a conception implies, however, a very precise notion of the significance of the individual.
An effect of a kammic act may continue to manifest itself even in life after death. In the concept of kamma and rebirth–animals and human beings, whether man or woman are equal. This concept of equality is the central theme of Buddhism. In this context, Buddhism has known nothing of distinction between man and woman, laymen and clergy, high caste and low caste, privileged and deprived. Every being is born free. It is only by one’s actions, not by birth that one becomes a Brahmin or slave. This concept resulted in the ideal of freedom to the woman. The theory of selflessness in this context, it has nothing which may be considered as totally religious. It is an achievement, a realization of Nibbana, the ultimate truth through moral, spiritual, social and intellectual development. Self-mortification is condemned and aspects of Middle Way-moderate participation is recommended. Buddhism is a living learning for women, their own life experience of childbirth, waning of their beauty with age was sufficient examples to convince them of the doctrine. Lack of negative liberties appealed in particular to the women.
Nibbana requires constant spiritual and intellectual exercise and contemplation of each person’s duties to the community for the free and full development of the personality of man as well as of woman. Obligations and duties -of each are crystal clear in the doctrine of the Buddha. They are based on the twin pillars of Compassion and Tolerance.
‘All the rights and obligations of parents are given.
Duties of a son to his parents are
‘To mother and to father should thou show
Humility to the eldest brother too, and firstly to thy father.’
In five ways should a wife be ministered by her husband, by respect, by courtesy, by faithfulness, by handing over authority to her, by providing her with adornments. In these five ways does the wife minister to her husband: love him, her duties are well performed by hospitality to the kin of both, by faithfulness, by watching over the goods he brings, by skill and industry in discharging all the business.
The duties of a king are laid down. Each is an institution by itself. Duties of the disciples (male and female) are also spelled out. These ideas were introduced to the life of the people, and were very effective and contributed to their spiritual development.
The regular moral system provides secure framework for women. It has also the added distinction of containing real recognition or concern for her as an individual. The capacity for relationships is bound up with the capacities of the individual for ethical living.
The woman’s influence did not terminate at the home, but through the men, permeated the whole of society where religion was of much accord as government.
In the exercise of her rights and freedoms, she was subject to such limitations, as were determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedom of others, and of meeting the just requirements of morality, order and the general welfare of society.
Women entering the order were exempted from any punishments for any offence committed before entering the order. The criminal, the destitute, adulterous woman were all rehabilitated. Buddhism maintains that it was never too late to learn. Rohitaka, Angulimaala, Ambapaali and Sirima are examples supporting this assumption. Unmarried girls, who had conceived, were treated with bit contempt and were admitted to the order without any discrimination. Such a woman was never driven to destroy her unborn child. No person was condemned and made an outcast for his actions. Once rehabilitated they moved freely in society with all their rights.
Angulimaala who is said to have severed the fingers of 999 individuals was ordained and became and arahant. He was respected with such high esteem that even today Angulimaala piritha, which is named after him is recited at childbirth to ease the mother of her agonies of birth-pangs and enable a smooth delivery. Such positive attitudes were created by the ideology of Buddhism, which reckoned the rights of individuals as supreme.
The Buddha only taught the Way. Freedom of thought allowed by the Buddha was unheard of elsewhere in the history of religions. He told the bhikkhus that they should examine even the Buddha himself. Buddha advocated tolerance of views. He had no wish to convert anyone. ‘Oh! Monks!, said the Buddha ‘do not accept even my words out of respect for me’.
In this context, woman had the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right included even freedom to change her belief and to manifest the doctrine or belief of teaching, practice, worship and observance. ‘All beings are potential ‘Tathagata’s, said the Buddha.
`No almswoman (bhikkhuni) was forced to remain in it against her will.
Nor was it an inhuman institution.
On the contrary being unenclosed there were opportunities for association with other relatives and friends among the laity.’
Buddhism does not favour very much, sentences in the imperative. Sentences which express value judgments behave logically in quite a different way, e.g. ‘I shall abstain from stealing.’ The difference between sentences and commands is observed in Buddhist syntax. This is the very essence of Buddhism and imperatives are reduced to statements. This is done by representing them as expressions of the mind of the speaker. Instead of commanding ‘do not kill’ it reduces the imperative to a statement ‘I shall refrain from killing’. This too, is a benevolent way of safeguarding the intellectual rights of an individual. Practising this has the greatest psychological appeal to a Buddhist woman.
The Buddha was a great psychologist who understood all the subtleties of the mind. According to him the mind was a great force to be reckoned with. He enlightened us on unconscious motives that direct human action. Whatever non-conforming behaviour of woman that is expressed in Buddhism are only examples of explaining the effect of kammic action on human nature in all its complexity.
They are not generalizations, which deny the rights of women. With Buddha’s penetrative insight it was realized that the individual life cannot be moulded on a single style, and that allowance should be made for individual differences which were explained by the working of kamma. Buddhism excluding fable, myth and superstition was the most powerful determinant of the moral social, spiritual and intellectual development of the woman.
Horner’s masterly summarising of this runs: "The growth of an Order of almsmen was, as it were, an experiment in religious construction successful at first. Women were eager to take part in the venture, the times were propitious distinguished by a greater freedom and reverence for women than had hitherto been the case. Hence, it is not altogether surprising that they were allowed to join the order subject to the same ceremonial regulations as had been made for the almsmen and subject to certain other disciplinary measures drawn up on their admission. As time went on, many showed that they were capable as men in gaining arahantship, the supreme goal of the religious life".
In reading this account it should not be forgotten that a similar process was taking place in the order of almsmen. They had to be restrained as much as the women by the discipline of rules. The approximation to equality of women with men indicates the amount done by Buddhism for women. On the other hand, an unprejudiced reading of the Pali classics throws into high relief the amount done by women as props and stays of the religion.
The needs, aspirations and accomplishments of the Buddhist women, that contributed to their social, spiritual, and intellectual development are immense.
In Buddhism, that women was many centuries old. Imagine the stir caused in pre-Buddhist India when she was admitted to the Sasana: the revolutionary steps brought about in caste-conscious India by an order where outcastes vasalas and brahmins, men and women were declared equal. Also just imagine royalty, where princes and princesses went begging for their alms, from house to house not violating the sequence whether they were lowly or high.
In less than five years of its inception, the effects of Buddhism had its massive impact on women, as to change, their attitudes and aspirations. Mrs. Rhys David is absolutely correct in pronouncing that throughout in Buddhism women secured a real advance. This development was inevitable and was the work of women themselves. "Women fought their own battle along the line all the time and forced the hand of the good but reluctant saviours of women." It was women themselves who made the sasana recognize them. How and why was it possible? The ideologies and the philosophy of the Buddhist Doctrine itself provided for it. Its ideology of tolerance and compassion, its unique doctrine of selflessness and its unique doctrine of Kamma and rebirth mothered this woman.
A significant new emphasis on the woman’s role originated with her admission to the Sasana. This encompasses all areas of man’s role in society. Women irrespective of their birth or socio-economic status could move freely in society and participate in the religion and development of society.
There were significant aspirations of women like interest in liberty and advancement of her nature as a human being apart from femininity. As a result, a deep respect for feminism and recognition of femininity as a potential tool for development evolved.
This development reveals that every aspect of human rights was ensured to the Buddhist woman. She was recognized as human being born free and equal in dignity and rights with man. She was regarded as endowed with intelligence and other mental faculties of reasoning and conscience equal to man. She was entitled to all the rights and freedom without distinction to participate in the religion.
She had the right of life, liberty and security. Slavery was condemned in all its form and social mobility of a very high order prevailed in society. She was not subjected to torture, degrading treatment or punishment. She enjoyed the supreme right of being recognized as a person before the law. She had the right to marry and to find a family and had equal rights regarding marriage and during marriage.
Marriage was entered into only with her free and full consent.
The family was recognized as the fundamental unit with motherhood as the most venerated institution. She had enjoyed freedom of thought, conscience to manifest her religion in teaching, practice, worship and observance. She had the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. She enjoyed the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The Buddhist ideology, ensured the rights to a standard of living adequate for the well-being of the individual such as socio-and economic requisites.
Her security in the event of sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other aspects of life was ensured by a closely-knit social structure, strengthened by a healthy kinship system, where all living things are bestowed with compassion and benevolence. As a parent she had the right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to her children. Every individual as a member of six distinct sub-groups had his or her duties to the community.
21 09 2013 - The Island
Buddhist psychology of womanhood - Part II
Dr. Thilokasundari Kariyawasam
This contributed to the free and full development of her personality. In the exercise of her rights and freedom, she was subjected only to such limitations as were determined by the Buddha solely for the purpose of securing the recognition and respect for rights and freedom of herself, and others and of meeting the fair requirements of morality, law and order and the welfare of society.
Buddha’s dissertations and parables and the ritualistic elements of the doctrine, illuminated the lives of millions of women in Buddhism. Informal education as a potential tool in learning becomes meaningful in the context of Buddhism. This system takes account of diverse learning clientele and consequently of alternative delivery systems.
Given the diversity of target groups and educational tasks, the Buddha made effective use of informal education to teach and educate the fourfold Buddhist community. The spiritual, moral, intellectual and social development of women would not have been possible without its informality and ritualistic nature. ‘Had the Buddha merely taught philosophy’ wrote Processor Rhys Davids ‘He might have had a small, following as Comte.’ Her multiple role as mother, wife, kins. woman, friend, bhikkuni’ manageress, developed spontaneously within this informal system.
The role of the social relationships in her personal development has great relevance today. The Buddhist woman is subtly shaped by the nature of social attainment formed during her development. The commitment to their intellectual comprehension of the doctrine makes man and woman restrain many stimuli, so that they evolve other kinds of emotions e.g. an older woman is a mother, a younger woman is a sister to a man.
Such attitudes foster healthy social relationships between man and woman. Thus living is associated with imagination, with mind and cultural influences and this mean that it is at least partly a matter of volition. Sex is fully human and personal and is linked with affection, tenderness and awareness of the feelings of others. It is the normal outcome of a warmly affectionate and a reasonably rational Buddhist upbringing.
There was a Buddhist society in which the social influences surrounding women contributed to tie sex with affection inextricably together. This has certain social implications for the present day. A case could be made for saying that if sex is to be fully human and personal, then it ought to be linked with affection, tenderness and awareness of the feeling of others. Buddhism has immensely contributed to such a development in the woman.
For instance (Kunala Jataka). Remarriage was allowed (Uchchata Jataka).
Adultery could be an offence against the state as well as against the moral law. An individual had the right to defend himself in such cases. There is the glaring example where the Buddha says to a person who is accused of committing adultery to defend himself. ‘Take your right’. This approach is strong evidence to prove Buddhism was very considerate to people. Adultery is not only to be unfaithful to one’s legal spouse; it sees no virtue, in the person who is physically chaste, but is unchaste in thought and words.
In widowhood she suffered no moral degrading, as a consequence of her husband’s death. There was no change in the social status. She inherited her husband’s property and managed it. She was considered as a rational human being with a right to maintain her recognized position in the social structure and was even branded by no stigma. She did not become the despised creature of ill omen. Such concepts were outside the rational trend of Buddhist thought where everything is subject to decay.
The husband and wife exercised a co-equal outlook in all affairs. Women are able to hold property in kind or in money, independently of their male relatives. She had rights of tenure and administration even of other forms of property.
Women’s attitude to chastity has been moulded through such life stories like ‘Yasodhara Vata’, ‘Vessantara Jatakaya’. At most of the funerals today these are recited through-out the nights. Its effect is at the unconscious level.
The glories of Yasodhara, her virtuous character, loyalty to her husband is extolled in eulogic form. Through the ideal of womanhood in Yasodhara and Mantri Devi, solace is sought for those in deep sorrow. Buddhism in everyday life to a woman is a ritual, an experience and a learning. This is reinforced by examples set by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis.
In Buddhism we see women like Visakha moving freely in society and speaking to men without restriction. It was the custom for women to wander and challenge others into controversy with them. Apparently without any sense of impropriety on their part of womanhood in the minds of others. This can be considered as a lofty constructive role a woman would play in society even today.
‘Sangha was the community of one caste’. So Buddhism is a community of living where equal access and participation was granted to women and bhikkunis.
It did not keep this community life on exclusive right of men. He proclaimed it to be a right for women. The Buddha organized his followers into four orderly ranks, namely monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen.
Buddha firmly believed that women had the same claim as man and was in a way intellectually well-equipped to attain Nibbana.
‘And be it woman, be it man for whom such chariot doth want, by that same can enter Nibbana’s presence shall they come.’
Whatever is said about the Buddha’s reluctance to admit women to the Buddhist order, may probably be attributed to the social and public opinion of the 6th century B.C. It was definitely a complex and crucial task to make the decision.
There are numerous instances when Buddha spoke to and ‘gladdened’ individual women, held religious discourse with them and also instructed them. The freedom of thinking allowed is unparalleled in the history of religion.
Thus a community of men, women, male and female, disciples who are known to hold the same views dedicated to the same cause, opinion and principles and following the same religious teaching emerged. It was a highly organized community possessing stability and a high degree of efficiency without any loss of functions to the individual members whether man or woman. Woman had the right freely to participate in the social life of the religion.
Therigatha — whose beautiful poems are supposed to have been uttered by theris (female disciples) are a true exposition of the rights of expression enjoyed by woman in the past. There is nothing in their nature to prevent them from willing- and attending.’
The speakers in the Therigatha constitute all castes, and there are even courtesans.
Further, women who came from merchant families like Dhammadinna became the better preacher while Sukka too was renowned in this field. Patachara became versed in the Vinaya and was revered as a saviour-no less in persuasiveness than the Buddha himself.
From this it is quite clear, that it was accessible to women of ail walks of life and they enjoyed rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
Several prominent women preachers participated in the dissemination of the Dhamma. Subha became a famous teacher and she with a great company seated round her taught the doctrine. And they all listened to her, rapt, motionless and intent.
Of Dhammadinna, Buddha said ‘Learning and great wisdom dwell in Dhammadinna. Had you asked me, I should have made answer precisely as she did. Her answer was correct and you should treasure it up accordingly. Similarly, Kanjangala was praised for preaching to the laymen. Such generous tributes from the Buddha justify the peaceful participation and association that was allowed to the theris. Khema, though a slave so excelled in the doctrine that King Pasenadi was enlightened on the concept of selflessness, that he worshiped her. Thus a theri who was a slave could preach even to a king. Thullananda too preached to King Pasenadi. These accounts indicate the amount of social mobility that was possible in Buddhism.
‘In trying to reconstruct the days of the first women preachers, we are tantalized by the documents, so matter of fact, so compact and yet so bald and superficial. There is no hint that the theris could not cooperate with them in making known the truth among the lay followers or in helping to capture and increase their interest, loyalty and friendly intercourse’.
A dynamic spirit of freedom of opinion and expression is evident in Buddhism. Permission was granted to the monks to visit other monks and bhikkunis, samaneras, samaneris, mother and father. The Novice Rodanta availed of this to see his mother. The rights and duties to live upto the Buddha’s expectations were undifferentiated. A woman grows in faith, grows in virtue, in learning, in generosity, in wisdom.
Similarly Buddha’s conversation with Sakka confirms this. It is further asserted that anyone, man or woman, who performs deeds of deliberate choice reaps a destiny which in no way depends upon the sex of the caller.
These show that a certain amount of equality was granted to all members of the fourfold congregation. As a matter of fact, some women of the Buddhist period were not behind their male brothers in education.
A Bhikkuni had the freedom to hold opinion and to seek receive, impart information and ideas regardless of her position as a woman.
It is true that bhikkunis by the rules of their order rank lower than bhikkhus, so that a bhikkuni of even hundred years standing was to rise and respectfully salute even the youngest bhikkhu. She must submit to receive advice from him. Further a bhikkuni may not keep the rainy retreat (vassa) in a district in which a monk resides.
It was not due to contempt for women, but in recognition of her own freedom that the Buddha announced the rules. More damaging were feelings of being subjected to contempt if these laws were not enforced. Pre-Buddhist society expected women to take a subordinate role in all matters. It was almost drastic and revolutionary to free her from this bondage. This freedom which he was advocating for women was alien to the very spirit of the culture that prevailed.
It was definitely a step forward and Buddha was cogniscent of the spiritual unrest and the intellectual ferment it would create. As a result the Buddha with meticulous care enunciated a framework of rules and regulations to be followed by women. It was the very laws that granted her freedom. In the absence of such a code she would have plunged herself into behaviour unacceptable to that society. This would have been more damaging and could be interpreted as loss of freedom. Freedom to a woman meant the recognition of the necessity of adhering to these rules.
This freedom was rooted in actual will power, which is attained by actual experience, direct intellectual insight (Yatha-bhuta-nana-dassana) Buddha aimed at a new spiritualism to women within a framework of law, which was acceptable to the society of the 6th century B.C. It was a state of perfect inward peace, accompanied by the conviction of having attained spiritual freedom, through law and order. It is a position of being forewarned, hence fore-armed.
Thus Buddhism provides a way of life to be followed, practised and developed by every individual man or woman.
There were significant aspirations of women, like interest in liberty and advancement of her nature a s human being apart from femininity. As a result, a deep respect for feminism and recognition of femininity as a potential tool for development evolved.
This development reveals that every aspect of human rights was ensured to the Buddhist woman. She was recognized as a human being born free and equal in dignity and rights with man. She was regarded as endowed with intelligence and other mental faculties of reasoning and conscience equal to man. She was entitled to all the rights and freedom without distinction to participate in the religion. She had the right of life, liberty and security. Slavery was condemned in all its form and social mobility of a very high order prevailed in society. She was not subjected to torture, degrading treatment or punishment. She enjoyed the supreme right of being recognized as a person before the law. She had the right to marry and to find a family and had equal rights regarding marriage and during marriage. Marriage was entered into only with her free and full consent.
The family was recognized as the fundamental unit with motherhood as the most venerated institution. She had enjoyed freedom of thought, conscience to manifest her religion in teaching, practice, worship and observance. She had the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. She enjoyed the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The Buddhist ideology ensured the rights to a standard of living adequate for-the well-being of the individual such as socio-and economic requisites.
Her security in the event of sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other aspects of life was ensured by a closely-knit social structure, strengthened by a healthy kinship system, where all living things are bestowed with compassion and benevolence. As a parent she had the right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to her children. Every individual as a member of six distinct subgroups had his or her duties to the community.
This contributed to the free and full development of her personality. In the exercise of her rights and freedom, she was subjected only to such limitations as were determined by the Buddha solely for the purpose of securing the recognition and respect for rights and freedom of herself, and others and of meeting the fair requirements of morality, law and order and the welfare of society.
Buddha’s dissertations and parables and the ritualistic elements of the doctrine, illuminated the lives of millions of women in Buddhism. Informal education as a potential tool in learning becomes meaningful in the context of Buddhism. This system takes account of diverse learning clientele and consequently of alternative delivery systems.
Given the diversity of target groups and educational tasks, the Buddha made effective use of informal education to teach and educate the fourfold Buddhist community. The spiritual, moral, intellectual and social development of women would not have been possible without its informality and ritualistic nature. ‘Had the Buddha merely taught philosophy’.
An individual needs relationships with other people. The more capable a woman becomes in participating in such relationships, the mere effective is the choice she has informing relationships, which she values. A person is the better if she is able to make a responsible and informal choice between possible courses of behaviour.
The more aware a woman is of there possibilities, the more freedom she has in the way she conducts her life. Concepts such as generosity, unselfishness, love and kindness make no sense if at all in the context of autonomy for any sort of moral behaviour involves the making of choices, which are conscious, rational and free. This autonomy was an overriding goal in Buddhism and was educational and had the effect of fostering the development of personal autonomy in women.
28 09 2013 - The Island
J15.19 Decline of the Buddha’s teaching to a religion
Prof. M. M. J. Marasinghe
The word religion has never been used by the Buddha to describe his message which he declared as capable of healing the suffering of mankind. It differed from all religions not only of the time, but of all time in that it was neither a system of worship and prayer, nor a system of severe austerities as practiced by some of the ascetic communities of the time. What the Buddha offered was a systematic scheme of training which gradually matured the individual from where he is to the highest spiritual level without the need for offering or prayer.
Thus, what the great teacher Gautama Buddha revealed to the sixth Century world was a path of gradual training, gradual practice and gradual progress. It was a message with a clear, distinct difference. It was different from the theistic Brahmanic religion which claimed to lead its followers to union with the great maker and creator Brahma, through its system of sacrifices performed by the specially trained Brahmanic priesthood. It was different also from the severe ascetic practices advocated by the Sramana ascetic groups of the time who alleged that the disciples of the Buddha were leading comfortable lives living in weather protected monasteries while they themselves braved the elements as part of their austerities, except during the monsoon rains.
Buddhist path to liberation
The Buddhist path to Nibbanic liberation from all suffering did not at any stage require either religious offerings like sacrifices of flesh or other items of food or drinks. The word pooja (offering) is not found used in this sense in the first four Nikayas(of the Pali canon which record events and discussions which took place during the Buddha’s time. The Buddha’s process of training the individual to Nibbanic realization was a systematic maturing process culminating in the attainment of perfection, without the aid of accompanying external physical activity.
This process starts with Sila (morality) which functions in two ways. First, through Sanvara Sila (control or disciplining), the individual abstains from the commission of all immoral actions which are spelt out as ten in the Nikaya texts. This first and initial step is to be followed by the second step of Sikkha Sila (training) which trains the individual in the cultivation of the moral qualities which are opposite to the abstinences. For example, the individual who has abstained from killing or destroying life, not only abstains from all types of torture towards all living creatures, not only does he give up weapons of destruction and torture, he now develops kindness and love towards all living creatures. These are the kusala qualities which purifies him of excessive greed for all sensory attractions, making him devoid of all tension and enriches him endowed with equanimity.
Gradual process of training
This takes him to the next step in the gradual process of training which is Samadhi (concentration). The individual who has by now calmed down by his subduing of greed and tension is able to be the commander of his sense organs, instead of being pathetically at their command as most of us are. This gives him the ability to concentrate his full and un-disturbed, undivided attention on a single object, taking him to the initial step of Jhanic (ecstasy) concentration. When he becomes quite adept in the entry, remaining within and exiting from the first Jhana at his will, he moves on to the Second, Third and the Fourth Jhanas and ultimately reaches Nibbanic realization by the total and complete eradication of greed and ignorance spelt out in the Anguttara Nikaya as Ragaviraga ceto vimutti, avijja viraga panna vimutti (eradication of greed brings freedom of the mind,eradication of ignorance brings knowledge A.1.61).
It is clear from the above discussion that neither ritual offering nor recitation of ritual formulae formed part of the above detailed process of spiritual attainment in Buddhism. This, it must be clearly stated is the one and the only path of spiritual attainment taught by the Buddha. If one requires the assistance of Puja (offering) or Vandana (worship) as an aid to start the process, It may be so used, but no purpose will ever be served by adopting such ritual as a vrata (routine), without moving out of it, into the path of gradual training.
The Buddha being aware of the uniqueness of his teaching knew that it might be difficult for his disciples to maintain the quality of his teaching. Therefore he made provision to prevent the acceptance of wrong interpretations of his teachings and the adoption of practices hitherto not accepted as part of the path of gradual training. He promulgated that any such interpretation or adoption of practices derived from such interpretation must agree with the core values obtained by immersion of the new in the relevant sutta contexts. The long history of Buddhism does not show evidence that the Theravadins took notice of this very important provision made by their great Teacher to ensure the unique quality of his teaching for posterity.
It is recorded that Sri Lanka was one of several countries into which Buddhist missions were sent after the conclusion of the Third Buddhist Council held at Pataliputra under the patronage of Emperor Asoka. It is also recorded that two Buddhist sects, the Rajagiriyas and the Siddhattikas claimed that merit accruing of actions can be donated by the one who earns it as he wishes. This was rejected by the Third Buddhist Council. But the Sri Lankan fraternity has adopted it at some point contrary to the acceptances of the Third Council and also contrary to canonical acceptances.
Human nature of the Buddha
The Theravada tradition upholds the human nature of the Buddha. Having left a life of luxury in his early youth, he lived a simple exemplary life. He always collected his only meal of the day by begging after the tradition of the ascetic communities of the period, if he did not have an invitation which was neither expected nor usual. It is accepted by the Theravada school of Buddhism that the Buddha passed away into anupadisesa parinibbana (death without any residue remaining) and is no longer in existence. Quite contrary to this, Hindu gods unlike the Buddha never die and what is more, they possess eternal youth according to their belief. They are able to accept offerings and respond to prayer and request. Hindus offer them food, garments and other items depending on the preferences of each individual deity. Can this be an excuse for the Buddhists to offer all such items to the Buddha who is believed to have passed away in the fifth Century B.C. It is quite clear that modern ritual Buddhism has become a bad, destructive copy of Hindu ritualism.
It may be excused if this is the only blind imitation that has been smuggled into Buddhist ritual practices. According to Adikaram, Pandukabhaya fixed a banyan tree near the Western Gate of Anuradhapura as the abode of Vaisravana and a Palmyra palm as that of Vyadhadeva. It must be noted here that the pre-Buddhist Sri Lankans worshiped the banyan tree and the Palmyra palm, not to honour the trees but to seek the help of the deities who were according to them living in the two trees. We have to admit that these pre-Buddhist Sri Lankans were much more intelligent because they worshiped only those two particular trees - the particular banyan tree and the particular Palmyra palm near the Western gate of Anuradhapura. There is no evidence that the Sri Lankans at the time worshiped all the banyan trees and Palmyra palms in Sri Lanka, wherever they sprang up.
The Bodhi tree was brought here apparently with the best of intentions, to convert the tree worshippers to Buddhism. Honestly, have we ever asked ourselves whether and how far this expectation has been fulfilled? Is it to remind themselves that the Buddha attained Buddhahood under this sacred tree that devotees flock in their millions to worship the Bodhi tree? Is it to honour the memory of the Buddha that devotees keep on piling up various kinds of cooked food under it? How has the Bodhi become a wishing tree, its powers being sought to beget children by the childless, pass examinations, cure all diseases,etc.
Further up you witness hordes of Kapuwas (mediator between man and deity) with their hands full of rolls of white thread made ready to be worn by the calling devotees. These are bought by the callers at the udamaluwa (upper compound), the fee depending on the nature of the assistance sought from the deities and the social standing of the client. Are these in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha?
Joy ride on Samsaric luxury
Even the Sanghagata Dakkhina (the Sanghika Dana) has declined from the simple ritual sanctioned by the Buddha. We witness with helpless dismay how the members of the Sangha bring a casket made to hold the relics of the Buddha and place it on a specially prepared seat. A sample of the different items of food, including the wide variety of desserts and herbal medicaments are offered to the casket symbolizing the presence of the Buddha. The ritual Pali verses request the Buddha to partake of the items offered. The Vinaya rules clearly state what the concluding admonition of the alms giving should be and what it should not be. When you listen to some of the modern concluding sermons you cannot fail to realize how these take you on a joy ride on Samsaric luxury. A still new feature added on to the alms giving ritual is the inclusion of several brown or green cash notes as special pujas( offerings) to the participating bhikkhus.
All Buddhist rituals end with a concluding verse requesting the Buddha’s forgiveness for any physical verbal or mental misdeed committed in advertence. This seems a direct copy from a theistic religion Buddhism did not accept that there were gods in charge of trees or sacred places. Throughout his forty five year long missionary career he is never recorded to have come across such places, sanctified by deities or was ever visited by any such god, as he was visited by other gods like Sakka or Brahma. It is never recorded that the Buddha ever had a theistic security guard or a security guard of the underworld. But Sri Lankan Buddha sasana had according to the author of Mahavamsa to be protected by the gods, and was ultimately entrusted to a South Indian Dravidian deity. According to the Pali canonical texts, it is gods who worship the Buddha and also good laymen. Gods cannot accept offerings (puja) or respond to prayer or request. It is not clear how Sri Lankans have made them accept punya (merit).
It is clear that instead of converting the pre-Buddhist tree worshippers and ancestor worshippers into Buddhism, the Sri Lankans have made tree worship and ancestor worship integral parts of mainstream Buddhist practice. As a critical examination of ritual Buddhism has never been undertaken during its long history in the island, it is very important to do it even at this late stage when it has become possible for anybody to start a new Buddhist practice if they can get a following.
The Buddha has made it clear to his disciples that after his passing away, the Dhamma and the Vinaya must be regarded as their teacher. This shows that neither a single disciple nor any number of them can override the authority of the Dhamma and Vinaya. Applied to the adoption of alien ritual, it is an extremely important and delicate matter which must be handled with great care. Certain rituals can be accepted provided they are added as entry points to the path of gradual training. It is time that the Buddhists woke up from their long and unconcerned slumber and safeguard this unique teaching. What is practised today as Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism has only very little of canonical Buddhism. It is a very rich mixture of practices from several religions which have been added on in violation of the laid down procedure. If this trend is not arrested immediately Buddhism will be only an item of past history of Sri Lanka.
09 10 2013 - The Island
J15.20 Scientific Basis Of Brain, Consciousness And Rebirth - Part I
Dr. Granville Dharmawardena Ph.D.(Cambridge)
We have heard much about rebirth in books, journals and speeches. Some small children talk about their past lives spontaneously and adults talk about their past lives when they are in a hypnotic trance. Some others recall their past lives when they are in deep meditation. Verifiable details of what people revealed about their past lives have been verified by reputed scientists and found to be true and rebirth has been proved as a scientifically true phenomenon.
A person who dies and is reborn normally carries with him/her his/her knowledge, skills, emotions, enmity, friendship, fears and even sexual tendencies to the reincarnate. Memories relating to these get lodged in the subconscious mind of the reincarnate. They remain hidden and pop up into the conscious mind when stimulated.
This writer visited a very poor family living in a hut in Gampaha and was surprised to find a violin in that hut. It belonged to the 14 year old boy who lived there. He played it for us and was very talented in playing it. He said that it was presented to him by the music teacher in school. He had to be very talented to get it as a present from the music teacher and such a talent cannot develop while living in such poor conditions. Therefore his talent must have come from his past life. Under hypnotic trance he revealed that he was well to do in his past life. His past life parents were both teachers. His past life father had bought him a violin and taught him how to play it. His past life home was only five miles away from his present hut and he had died at the age of 25 years of a motor accident. He was immediately driven to his past life home and we could recover his past life violin. His past life parents agreed to pay for his education.
A 14- year- old sinhalese buddhist girl from a suburb of Colombo met this writer because she fainted frequently attacks. Under hypnotic trance she revealed that she was a trained LTTE cadre in her past life. The LTTE had trained her in fighting methods including karate and Bharatha dancing. Under hypnotic trance she performed both karate and Bharatha dancing. Although she had never learned Tamil language and lived in a sinhala environment she could understand a Tamil conversation.
Memories of injuries sustained at the time of death get deeply ingrained in the astral body and after it links itself with the brain of a foetus, it influences the development of the body of the foetus. Bullet wounds and stab injuries sustained at the time of death usually appear as birth marks. Professor Ian Stevenson of the USA has studied a large number of such cases and written a book on the subject titled "The Biology of Reincarnation". He has even found tyre marks on the chest of a person who had got run over by a car and died in his past life.
This writer met a young man with one leg shorter than the other. Under hypnotic trance he revealed that he had got run over by a train in his past life near the Wilwatte railway station and one of his legs got severed in that accident. That leg is now shorter than the other in this life and he feels handicapped by that because he in now a cricketer.
A- 14- year old boy had four birth marks. two in his belly and two on his back. He revealed that in his past life he lived in China and died when he was shot by a terrorist. He had received two gun shots and the birth marks are where the bullet had entered and exited his body.
A young girl in the USA who had become very obese could not lose weight because the normal weight losing techniques were not working for her. Later it was found that the cause of her obesity had come from her past life. In her past life she had been a pretty girl who got abducted and raped. After that she had thought that the reason for the abduction and rape was her beauty and made a vow not to be beautiful. As a result of the vow she had become very fat to lose her beauty. After her death her astral body had carried the vow to her current life and lodged it in her present life subconscious mind and that made her very obese and resistant to weight losing techniques. After erasing the memories of the past life vow from her subconscious mind she could lose weight.
A lady working at the Matara Hospital came to meet this writer with her twelve- year- old son and complained that her son was her sole companion in life, but he treated her as an enemy. He always used to beat her with whatever that came to his hand and beat and kick her even while walking on the road or travelling in a bus. No treatment had worked and she was desperate. Under hypnotic trance it was revealed that in their past lives they had lived in India, the mother was a rich lady and the son was her servant girl. The lady had been cruel to the servant girl and when she contracted malaria at the age of 16 years she was not looked after and as a result she died. The servant girl’s astral body had carried the memories of the cruelty she had suffered under the lady and became the son of the lady’s reincarnate at Matara to take revenge. Under hypnotic trance most of the memories of cruelty in the boy’s subconscious mind could be erased.
Change of sex during rebirth result in gender confusion. If a man dies and is reborn as a girl, his male sexual tendencies and desires are carried in his astral body and get lodged in the subconscious mind of the reincarnate girl. But her body possesses female tendencies and desires. Having opposite tendencies and desires in the subconscious mind and the body result in gender confusion preventing her from performing a female role in sex. Such a girl will not have boy friends and avoid getting married. If she gets married under compulsion the unlucky partner, most likely, will separate after getting frustrated.
Near death experiences (NDE) and out of body experiences (OBE) are two rebirth related phenomena. Here a person who is unconscious or in deep sleep can see thins around him/her, some times things happening far away or even in spiritual worlds. If it happens when a person is unconscious , very often when a person is anaesthetised, it is referred to as a NDE and if it happens in deep sleep it is an OBE. When it happens while a person is unconscious most people can, now, recognise it as a NDE, but when it happens during deep sleep most people believe that it was a dream. Now, a lot of literature is available on this subject.
A lady who was anaesthetised in a London hospital experienced a NDE and saw not only what was happening around her unconscious body but also some things on the roof of the tall hospital building. After regaining consciousness she told the doctors that she had seen everything the doctors and nurses were doing and heard everything they spoke. When she realized that the doctors were going to ignore what she said about her experience, she told them that she saw not only what was happening around her, but went over the roof of the hospital building and saw an old shoe blocking the gutter on the roof edge. The doctors sent people to the roof of the building to check it and found that what she had said was true. This was the incident that made the western scientists and psychologists accept NDE and OBE seriously as real phenomena.
A totally blind woman in the US became unconscious due to a cardiac arrest. Doctors gave her prompt attention and managed to revive her. During the period she was unconscious she could see everything that happened round her unconscious body, but was blind again after she regained consciousness.
Investigations have shown that consciousness disembodies during NDE and OBE and the disembodied consciousness can remain floating for quite some time before it re-embodies. A disembodied consciousness is referred to as an astral body (manokaya). An astral body can see, hear, smell and recognise and remember objects and events, and relate and describe them after re-embodiment and regaining consciousness. An astral body carries with it the entire memory bank, the karmic records and the identity of the person. Until the astral body re-embodies, the person is all but dead and doctors, often, pronounce such a person as dead.
When a person dies his/her consciousness disembodies and the resulting astral body remains afloat until it finds another body, normally a foetus, enters and settles down there. Then we say that the person is conceived in a new mother’s womb and the person is reborn when the new mother gives birth.
When a person’s consciousness is disembodied in an NDE situation, it is possible for the astral body of a deceased one to enter the unconscious body. This causes confusion because when the person who went unconscious regains consciousness he/she will have a new identity, the identity brought by the astral body that came in, ie. the identity of the deceased one. Here the new person that is created has the same body and a different consciousness. In rebirth the new person created has the same consciousness and a different body. The description, "Na ca so na ca anno" (not the same person, not a totally different person either) applies to both these cases.
A -16 -year old Norwegian girl was unconscious after meeting with a motor accident. After a few days she regained consciousness and found that all the knowledge she had before the accident had got erased out of her mind. She could not speak Norwegian language, her mother tongue. She could not recognise her parents and her home. She refused her identity as a Norwegian girl. Instead, she recognised herself as a Russian girl. She could speak Russian language fluently, a language she hadn’t known before the accident. She spoke of her parents and home in Russia. On investigation it was found that she was identifying herself as a Russian girl who died while she was unconscious.
The girl created in this way as a result of the motor accident had the body of the Norwegian girl who met with the accident with the identity (knowledge, memories, beliefs, parents and other acquaintances) of a Russian girl. Investigators traced the Russian family which lost a girl while the Norwegian girl was unconscious. The new Norwegian-Russian girl recognised the parents of the deceased girl, her home and her other belongings.
Part II next week
26 10 2013 - The island
Scientific Basis Of Brain, Consciousness And Rebirth - Part II
Dr. Granville Dharmawardena Ph.D.(Cambridge)
What had happened here is when the consciousness of the Norwegian girl disembodied in an NDE situation, the astral body of the Russian girl which left her body at death came and entered the Norwegian girl’s body before her own consciousness re-embodied. This clearly shows that the identity, the memories, the self and the I-ness of a person resides in his/her consciousness.
The entry of a deceased person’s astral body into the body of a person who is experiencing an NDE is a very rare event. The norm is that the astral body of a deceased person remains afloat until it enters the foetus in a lady’s womb resulting in a conception. Research work carried by the Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Joel Witton has shown that an astral body could remain afloat for up to 800 years before entering into a foetus. This writer has met people whose astral bodies have remained afloat for up to 40 years before meeting their new mothers. Almost all of them said that while remaining afloat they were trying to collect enough merit to qualify to get a better mother and join a good family. An astral body can acquire merit offered to deceased relatives by those who offer merit to departed ones. Acquiring merit helps an astral body to be born in a better place.
It has been found that floating astral bodies have a shift competition among themselves in finding future mothers. They are looking for ladies who have become pregnant recently having foetuses that do not have consciousness attached to them or women who are likely to become pregnant shortly. Often, several astral bodies quarrel to enter the foetus in a single lady and the one who has accumulated more merit succeeds. For an astral body to go into a lady’s womb its merit level must match the merit level of the lady. An astral body with low merit level cannot enter the womb of a lady who is higher on merit level. Normally a lot of astral bodies float above places of religious worship like the Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwan veli Seya, Temple of the Tooth, Kelani Viharaya, Tissa Vehera and the Kiri Vehera where they can acquire merit and also find mothers to come to the human world. Sometimes an astral body may choose a lady as its future mother, follow her to her residence and wait there until she gets pregnant to enter her foetus. Some astral bodies go straight into the houses of pregnant ladies and enter their foetuses. Sometimes an astral body can provoke a lady and a man and get them to unite to create a pregnancy to enter the lady’s uterus. Ladies who find it difficult to get pregnant have a better chance of becoming pregnant if they frequently visit one of the above places of worship where a lot of astral bodies float around looking for ladies who can become their future mothers.
The astral body of a lady who died in India by performing Sathi Pooja( suicide committed by a widow by plunging into husband’s funeral pyre) was looking for a mother to be reborn into the human world. It was floating over Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura and chose a prosperous teenage school girl from Ambalangoda who had gone to Anuradhapura on pilgrimage as her next mother, followed her car to her residence, a journey of over 150 km, and and waited there until she became pregnant. She being a school girl studying for the GCE(O/L) exam a Colombo school was not getting pregnant. The astral body then provoked her and a boy who had visited her on her birthday. They, then, went into room and united. After she got pregnant the astral body entered the foetus in her uterus. The girl who was born as a result could describe in detail, under hypnotic trance, the mother’s journey from Anuradhapura to Ambalangoda. She also described her suffering in the burning pyre.
A 20 year old girl from Colombo studying for the GCE(A/L) exam started crying when she was hypnotised and her age regressed to her foetus stage. When asked for the reason for crying she said that she loved her mother very much but her mother didn’t love her. She explained that she loved her mother so much that she (her astral body) came to the mother’s house and waited there for six months for the mother to get pregnant. After that she provoked the mother and the father, got them to unite and entered mother’s uterus after she got pregnant. The mother explained that it was an unexpected pregnancy at a time they were not financially ready for another baby and therefore they were unhappy about the pregnancy. She could describe some of the things that happened in that house during the six month period before she went into the mother’s womb and got conceived.
Most of these are investigations carried out to understand the nature and the mechanism of rebirth. How does science explain the mechanism of rebirth?
Functioning of the brain and consciousness, and rebirth take place in unvisualisable realms and, therefore, is beyond old classical science and rational knowledge. We are generally conditioned by classical science to think in terms of Isaac Newton’s mechanical model of the universe. There are lot more things that happen in the universe than what this mechanical model can explain. Most people, unfortunately, are conditioned to reject anything that transcend the capabilities of rational thinking. No mechanical model of brain and consciousness can explain the capacity of human beings to feel pleasure, pain, love and hate, and for spontaneous and purposive activity. They transcend the rational stream of things and therefore cannot be understood through classical science and old models of philosophy.
To understand these we need a science that can ‘transcend’ the normal and traditional way of thinking. Transcend here means going beyond rational thinking, classical science and old models of philosophy. Fortunately scientists have discovered, during the last few decades, quantum science which can transcend the normal and help us appreciate the phenomena taking place in unvisualisable realms. To appreciate these we must, for a moment, stop limiting our thinking to the rational scenario and focus our mind on the unvisualisable penomena happening around us that we cannot understand such as what makes a man different from a robot. Robot has a body and a computer all of which are material and operate in visualisable realms . Man has a body which is material and operates within visualisable realms, a brain which partly transcend the visualisable realms and consciousness which completely transcend the visualisable realms.
Here we consider man as consisting of body, brain and consciousness (mind). The body is material and its functioning is very well understood through old classical science because rational knowledge and rational thinking can explain it. The brain controls the organs of the body by sending electrical signals in the way a computer controls various parts of a complex mechanical set up by sending electrical signals. If a part of the brain gets damaged the organs controlled by that part of the brain become inactive.
The functioning of the body is classical while that of the brain is both classical and transcendental. Consciousness is completely transcendental. It is quantum scientist David Bohm who first found, in the 1950s, that thought processes were quantum in nature. In 1992 physicists working at Southampton University in England experimentally tested if thought processes were quantum in nature and their work confirmed David Bohm’s discovery. Since then a lot of research work has been carried out on the quantum nature of the brain and consciousness. The brain has two modes of functioning, classical and quantum. The brain links itself with the body through its classical functioning, its slow operating interface, and with consciousness through its quantum functioning, its infinitely fast operating interface. Brain is made up of over a hundred billion brain cells known as neurones of about hundred different types. Neurones are different from other body cells and they communicate with each other through chemical and electrical signals. Neurones are like the electronic elements in a computer. The transfer of signals in computers happen through the movement of electrons which are very light and in neurones it happens through the movement of positively charged ions which are heavy. Movement of ions is much slower than that of electrons, but the transfer of information inside the brain happens at infinite speed. How can slow moving ions transfer information at infinite speed? This is the crux of the problem of how a material body becomes a living person. It is beyond comprehension and it transcends the mechanistic scenario.
Recent advances in quantum science help us appreciate how this happens. In neurones the slow moving ions transcend the normal and create the property of holism. Holism, here, means that the many individual parts of a quantum system get so fully integrated that they behave as a single unified whole like in a laser beam. In a laser beam the boundaries of individual photons get so overlapped that the beam behaves as though there were only one large single photon present and that makes a laser beam so very focussed and powerful.
The special class of quantum structure that possesses the property of extreme holism was discovered by Sathyendra Bose and Albert Einstein and it is called a Bose-Einstein condensate. It is this type of quantum coherence that gives special properties to lasers, super conductors, super fluids and neutron stars. The essence of a Bose-Einstein condensate is that it is the most highly ordered and highly unified structure possible in nature. Its many parts are so unified that they get inside each other. They share an identity.
Magneto encephalography (MEG) studies have shown the existence of 40 Hz (hertz) waves in the human brain which are higher in frequency than the beta, alpha, theta, and delta brain waves which are normally observed in a electro encephalograph (EEG). They are created by the movements of ions in neurones. These 40 Hz waves created all across the brain enter into a quantum coherence creating a Bose-Einstein condensate where information transfer happens at infinite speed, much faster than the speed of light. While the movement of electrons carry information in computers at normal speeds the information transfer in the brain is not done directly by the movement of ions. Ion movement, instead, creates 40 Hz brain waves which enter quantum coherence creating a Bose-Einstein condensate which transcends the normal and transmit information at infinite speed.
Consciousness is another independent quantum entity, a Bose-Einstein condensate, where information transfer takes place at infinite speed and it is linked to the brain through the brain’s 40 Hz wave Bose-Einstein condensate. It has been found that when a person is anaesthetised the 40 Hz brain waves disappear resulting in the breakdown of the link between the brain and consciousness. When a person is under the influence of drugs or liquor they get disrupted and disorderly making the brain consciousness link loose and the person becomes unsteady. At death all brain waves disappear and consciousness separates from the brain and floats away. It is then referred to as an astral body. It then looks for a new brain which possesses a 40 Hz wave Bose-Einstein condensate and has no consciousness attached to it. Normally it is a brain in a foetus in a pregnant lady. Consciousness is a bundle of energy vibrations in a quantum vacuum (shyunyatha) which is the background state of the universe and it is the ultimate transcendental reality describable by modern science. Consciousness being made up of energy waves is utterly impermanent and therefore one cannot say that something migrates from the deceased person to his reincarnate. Consciousness is the store house of all our thoughts, memories, images, emotions and karmic records. Self, ego and I-ness reside in consciousness. Bose-Einstein condensates operating in the brain and consciousness transforms a material body to a living person.
A prominent physicist who has studied this subject expresses it , "These ideas only seem strange when we apply them to micro-objects because, by habit and by virtue of our cultural environment, we think of micro-objects as inanimate. It is no doubt true that to assert that micro-objects have volition is too strong a statement, but the have attributes that are they beginnings of volition and activity.
02 11 2013 - The Island
End of Aloka Journal Page 15
The Four Reliances
First, rely on the spirit and meaning of the teachings,
not on the words;
Second, rely on the teachings,
not on the personality of the teacher;
Third, rely on real wisdom,
not superficial interpretation;
And fourth, rely on the essence of your pure Wisdom Mind,
not on judgmental perceptions.