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 JOURNAL - PAGE 17.

VESAK 2016

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  ARTICLES INDEX - Page 17 

 

J17.01    Buddha's Wisdom and a Universal Law - A world lost in abysmal darkness for countless aeons...

J17.02    A life spent in meditation - Clad in deep brown robes the monastic Bhikkhus walk...

J17.03    Beyond mere tolerance - The Buddhist viewpoint on other religions

J17.04    Thoughts for Vesak - He who reveres those worthy of reverence, the Buddhas and their disciples...

J17.05    Is it correct to call the Buddha’s Teaching a religion? - Having just ushered in a traditional new year...

J17.06    A 2500-year-old message of compassion and love - The Nepalese frontier of Kapilavasthu was where Buddha...

J17.07   Buddha’s wisdom and a universal law - Around 26 centuries ago on a day as today...

J17.08   Discovering the law of cause and effect under the Bo tree - The Blessed One, the Buddha Sakyamuni, proclaimed...

J17.09   An introduction to Buddhism and Gothama Buddha - The Buddha, the founder of the great religious philosophy...

J17.10   Message for a globalized World - Over the past three decades the world has been dramatically...

J17.11   Self-transformation - It is perhaps symptomatic of the "fallen" nature of the ordinary human condition...

J17.12    Truth-seeking and path-following: Moral conundrum for the ardent Buddhist

J17.13   A discipline of sobriety - Several months ago I went for a two-week retreat to a hermitage...

J17.14   Definition of Faith in Buddhism - Buddhistic faith or ‘Saddha’...

J17.15   Are we becoming ‘Nominal Buddhists’? The greatest revolutionary...

J17.16   Gautama Buddha visits His Relatives in Kapilawasthupura - Significance of Medin Full Moon Poya day

J17.17   Free from bonds; the Dhamma; Buddhism and relatives; visit to Kapilawastu

 

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J17.01    Buddha's Wisdom and a Universal Law

Mervyn Samarakoon

Around twenty six centuries ago on a day as today a most remarkable event in the history of the world took place when wisdom dawned on earth with the Great Enlightenment of Gautama Buddha. A world lost in abysmal darkness for countless aeons was swathed in the benign glow of an astounding discovery made by the Great Sage. The abstruse mentality - materiality nexus of life and the solitary path to the extinction of existential desire, lay bare. Hitherto mysterious phenomenon known as "karma" appeared to Him in all its clarity and formed a cornerstone of the marvellous doctrine He presented before the world. The great repository Tripitaka stands lucid testimony.

Kamma as pronounced by the Enlightened One briefly denotes wholesome and unwholesome volitions (cetana) that arise in one’s mind and accompanying mental factors that shape his destiny. Wholesome actions of mind, speech and body He said, beget benevolent results and unwholesome actions unwholesome results. This law is timeless, insurmountable, applies in equal measure to all, a SammaSambuddha included. The text says there is no place in the sky or in the bowel of the earth or at the bottom of the sea that one can escape it. Even the Greatest Being on earth is not exempt from the juggernaut.

Yet, disbelievers abound and one who did in ancient India was Makkalighsla the propounder of the theory that it is totally inconsequential if a man walks the banks of river Gangis maiming and killing one and all he confronts on the way. The human mind knows no bounds in its depths of aberration.

Profound Abidhamma preached to devas and thereafter to Ven. Sariputta by Buddha explained that even an unpleasant sight (such as of a tortured or murdered man) is the consequential result of one’s unfortunate kamma (acts) of the past, and if one is saddened or angered by it, he acquires further harmful kamma of an ominous nature that adversely bears upon him in the future. An adept and trained mind however, is capable of harnessing that sight into a topic of insight meditation on anicca, dukkha, anatta leading to the final understanding of oneself, of the cosmos and all things beyond. The said rationale behoves a pleasant consciousness gained such as the vision of benign Buddha or the sound of sublime dhamma preached generates equally beneficial after-results. The principle applies to beings even lesser than humans, eg. the nocturnal bird who gained happiness from the sight of the Noble One early every morning-commentary on Mangala Sutta.

The enormity of a Buddha’s samsaric merit (good karma) prevents Him from witnessing anything abhorrent such as the agonizing last moments of the evil monks Devadatta and Kklika. Law of nature holds supreme over all things corporeal and incorporeal until the principle is theoretically comprehended and practically overcome through the insightful eightfold path.

The present essay concerns Buddha’s sermon titled Pubbakammapilthikpadna, a sensational, most humbling preachment delivered by the Noble One to his disciples while resting on an outcrop near lake Anothaththa in the vicinity of the magnificent Himalayas. It begins dramatically, "O monks, listen to my past karma. Karma-result spares not even a Buddha". During the dispensation of Kashyapa Buddha, He was a brahmin of high cast by the name of Jothipala and he ridiculed Kassapa Buddha as a bald-headed empty recluse. Later he entered the order under He Himself where He made the definitive prediction that he would be a future Buddha called Gautama. However, that unpardonable at of his made Him undergo untold suffering in countless lives and pursued him unto his very last life on earth. As punishment for the vile utterance, he was made to starve for six long years during his search for the ultimate truth by following a wrong path of inflicting rigors on himself and abstaining from taking food. His physical appearance took the form of a living skeleton, a peta. He dropped unconscious on countless occasion until he realized penance was not the path of emancipation. Thus did the Noble One pay for a crime long lost from memory.

Incidentally, the one who introduced Jothipala to Kassapa Buddha then was Ghateekara the low-caste humble potter of Vehalinga, faithful friend of Kassapa Buddha, attainer of Angmihood, leading a chaste life and caring for his blind parents, receiving the bare necessaries of life with barter of his pottery produce since he refrains from handling money. The unending effort of Ghateekar to persuade his close and proud friend to meet Kassapa Buddha as traced in the sutta is simply spellbinding, to say the least. How one day kalpas later, Ghateekara reborn as a deva in AvihaBrahmwsa, soon after midnight descends on Jetawanrmaya lighting up the entire sky and begins a "nostalgic" conversation with his old friend Jothipala now Gautama Buddha, recounting their friendship at Vehalinga is equally fascinating. The Kassapa Buddha-Jothipala-Ghateekara encounter verily requires a separate presentation.

Of the twelve kamma-effect instances mentioned by Buddha, the second concerns vilification He had to face at the hands of a ravishingly beautiful woman named Chinchi. Spurred on by her religious teachers the heretics whose popularity was on the wane because of the Noble One, she pretends she leaves Jetawanrmaya in the morning about the same time devotees come in to pay homage. It is none of your business says she when questioned by the devotees where she spent the night. As time passes she is bold enough to say she spends the night with Buddha. The mundane ones believe it, not attainees of sowanhood. On a particular day when Buddha is preaching to an audience with the king in attendance, she arrives covered in a red cloth to hide her simulated pregnancy and blurts out "Great preacher, you deliver sermons here but do not inquire whether I who carries your child need a crumb of food (lunumiris). Buddha declares calmly, "Sister, only two persons, you and I know whether it is truth or not". Those words of a Samma Sambuddha are too profound to go unacknowledged. Through intervention of gods Chinchi’s simulated pregnancy disappears and she is chased out of the preaching hall by the gathering. As she exits Buddha’s view, the earth unable to remain still, opens up for rising flames from Avichi hell to envelop her. Not even the Noble One could help it.

Buddha declared His past karma- "In the long past as a man of low birth by the name of Munli given to many a vice, I insulted a Pacceka Buddha named Surabhi possessed of immense irdi powers as an immoral sinner. In consequence, I spent several tens of thousands of years in Avichi, the residue being the insinuation of Chinchchi".

It being so, misguided heretics never abandoned hope. In a desperate situation of succour, they relied on another follower of theirs, a young woman called Sundari who in her foolhardiness agrees to come to their rescue. The plot was identical as Chinchi’s, where she is seen moving in the temple in the wrong direction at the right time. To whomever she meets her demure reply he is that it is a rendezvous with Buddha. Her masters do not fail to join her in chorus. Again skeptics begin to believe them.

However, heretics soon realize their scheme does not yield the desired results with the Noble One becoming ever popular and admired like "the full moon on a clear sky". The heretics decide on their final move. They hire some criminals to murder Sundari and the body to be hidden in the refuse pit near Jetawanrmaya. Having it done, the king is informed of the murder and Buddha is slandered across the city. Finally however, the murderers are found out by the king’s spies and the conspirators along with the murderers are ordered by the king to be executed together and buried in the same pit. The commentary presents a vivid account of the episode.

The Noble One was a brahmin once who abandoned the lay life to become a pious hermit in the Himalayas living a rigid life with his students. While so living he came across a virtuous ascetic named Bheema possessed of supernormal powers. Being mundane and overcome with jealousy, he derided the ascetic as an immoral knave. His pupils did the same. Vagaries of the human mind however developed, are unpredictable. The temporary but intense humiliation Buddha and His disciples faced through Sundari was its sequel.

Again Bodhisatta born into a prosperous family aeons ago, after the demise of his father quarrelled with His younger brother over father’s wealth. He dispossessed his brother of his share and finally killed him. A countless number of years spent in netherworld did not dissipate the crime, and in His birth as Seriwanija he was to meet his future tormentor who would follow Him unto the end. He was Devadatta, His brother-in-law, nature’s own conduit of reprisals. He caused a bleeding injury on Buddha’s foot in an attempt to do the impossible, to kill Him. As explained by Buddha, it was the consequence of an evil act of His in the extreme past where as a boy playing on the street He injured an alms-seeking Pacceka Buddha with a stone. Time did not obliterate the misdeed.

The incident concerning the drunken tusker Nlgiri charging towards the Noble One in all its fury as plotted by Devadatta is known to all. The boundless compassion Buddha displayed towards His son Rahula, His tormentor Devadatta and towards every living being was directed at Nlgiri this time in equal measure. The mighty beast struck by the avalanche of kindness fell at His feet like a docile pet, whereupon Buddha placed His palm on its forehead. The commentary states, petrified onlookers in hiding rushed out to throw their jewelry at Nlgiri in exultation. The origin of this episode was traced by the Buddha to a time when He was a mahout who prodded His animal to advance menacingly at an alms-seeking Pacceka Bodhi-attainer. The monstrous act followed Him up to His last birth of none less than Buddahood itself.

Buddha recounts in vivid detail remainder of the twelve instances when nature accosted Him with unpleasant repercussion of His previous unwholesome deeds despite the fact that He was the undisputed Master of the three worlds.

As an extremely sadistic provincial king of yore, he went about hacking people with a sword for no reason whatever, on account of which he spent an unfathomable length of time in purgatorial and animal worlds, left over of which Devadatta accounted for by inflicting a bleeding injury on Him.

Buddha suffered from a recurring headache, the cause of which was, as a boy born in a fishing village rejoicing at the sight of a catch of fish on throes of death after being taken out of water. The fishermen due to some good karma of theirs were all born as Shakyan princes, but annihilated en-masse by Vidhudaba in the infamous Shakya-Koliya war. A crime in collaboration it is said, reaps the fruits in collaboration.

Again, Buddha and a group of monks while at Verangja had to survive entirely on gruel offered by some horse traders for three whole months. During the time of Pussa Buddha ninety two kalpas ago, being a man of low birth derided a disciple of Pussa Buddha partaking of a good meal that the shaven-headed vagabond should be made to eat horse-feed instead.

Yet another physical ailment Buddha frequently suffered from was a backache. At times in the middle of a sermon He requests Ven. Sriputta to continue with the preaching till He rests a while to overcome the pain. In a previous birth Buddha was born a deaf midget with enormous strength. In a wrestling bout with a man who was in the habit of challenging everyone to wrestle with him, the Bodhisatta threw him hard on the ground which dislocated his spine. He was picked up, the spine set right and threatened never to challenge anyone again. In consequence the backache followed him birth after birth.

The twelfth and final misdeed which pursued him unto Buddhahood relates to a time when he was a clever physician. Being negligent in the treatment of a patient entrusted to his care who ought to have been given a particular course of treatment knowingly administered a wrong drug instead which made the patient vomit blood. When Buddha’s life-span was about to end, time was also ripe for the aeons-old misdeed to come alive. The Great Being was afflicted with the disease known as "lhithapakkndika"- vomiting of blood. The strength of millions of elephants simply vanished, said the commentary of Arahats. Kamma did not spare even the Deity of Deities. Thus ended the rarest life on earth.

"Being are owners of their actions, heirs to their actions, they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as refuge. It is actions that distinguish beings as inferior or superior.

They are the cause and condition for people to be short-lived and long-lived, sickly and healthy, ugly and beautiful, uninfluential and influential, poor and wealthy, low-born and high-born, stupid and wise" said the Buddha in reply to a question of Subha, a brahmin’s son-Chlakammavibhanga Sutta, Majjima Nikaya.

Buddha in His wisdom did not beseech people to relegate all things to kamma in complacence. Kamma is a facet of the doctrine, not its terminus. He invoked one and all to penetrate the veil of delusion and seek the dhamma in earnest like a "man desperately attempting to extinguish a fire that has overwhelmed him".

"Constantly engulfed in flames, what laughter, what merriment?" said He. "Immersed in darkness, why isn’t the light being sought?"- Jar Wagga, Kuddhaka Nikaya.

Karmic theory and Nirvana are beyond the reach of scientific research since they are not subjects of empirical study, but objects of super mundane "vision".

03 05 2015 - Sunday Island

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J17.02    A life spent in meditation

Conversation with a monastic Bhikkhu at Bodhinagala forest hermitage

Story and pictures by Mahil Wijesinghe

 

Clad in deep brown robes the monastic Bhikkhus walk in single file, composed, silent, and sedate. There is beauty in this simple task, a kind of tranquility and harmony that is in sync with the forest surroundings. With alms bowl in hand, the monks make their way towards the ‘Dana Salawa’ (alms hall) where the devotees wait in postures of piety, head bowed, hands clasped.

Ven. Thibbotugoda Rahula, in front, walking along with other Bhikkhus of Pindapatha under the forest canopy for midday meal to the alms hall in Bodhinagala hermitage. 

The scene is near surreal. Some of the male devotees wash the feet of the Bhikkhus while the others serve the ‘dana’ all the while chanting “Sadu, Sadu.”

In silent procession, the Bhikkhus retire to another alms hall a little distance away, sit down and prepare to partake of the food they just received. A sole brown robed figure stays behind in the ‘Dana Salawa’ to confer merit on the devotees who served alms.

Daily routine

This is a moment in the daily routine of the Bhikkhus of the Bodhinagala forest hermitage.

Nestling on the bank of the Kalu Ganga, near the Dobagaskanda hill in the outskirts of Ingiriya, the Bodhinagala hermitage lies beneath the leafy canopy of a rain forest reservation extending over 347 hectares. The natural rain forest shields the hermitage from the outside world, providing picture perfect serenity for the meditating Bhikkhus.

When I was a school boy in Botalegama, an adjoining village of Dombagaskanda, I used to hear the reverberation of Hevissi sound from the Bodhinagala forest hermitage in the early hours of the morning and evening. In those days, I had a fixed lens small camera and used to visit the hermitage to shoot the daily life in the hermitage. Each time I visited the hermitage I used to see one Bhikkhu, slender in build and fair in complexion, always walking in front of the group of Bhikkhus when they moved towards the alms hall. That was in the 1980s. However, during my recent visit to the hermitage, I decided to talk to this lone Bhikkhu and find out more about his life.

Up a stone pathway is his kuti (hut), furnished with a narrow bed, table and a low stool. The walls are adorned with pictures of the Buddha. The Kuti is surrounded by huge trees, which provide both ample shade and a sense of absolute calm. The silence of this serene scene is occasionally broken by the sound of a hornbill or monkey.

The Bhikkhu, 67-year-old Ven. Thibbotugoda Rahula, who has been living in the Bodhinagala forest hermitage since 1966, is the most senior resident of the hermitage. Welcoming me to his humble abode, he recounts the extraordinary story of journey to the hermitage and a life spent in meditation.

Ven. Thibbotugoda Rahula washes his bowl after the midday meal (Dana)

History

The history of the Bodhinagala forest hermitage goes back to the early 1950s. Ven. Olaboduwe Sri Revatha Dammakirthi Thera, a pious Buddhist monk and the principal of the Dharmadeepa Vippassana Piriwena in Kaluwamodara in Aluthgama was the founder of the hermitage. He came to Ingiriya to observe Vas on the invitation of devotees in the Raigam Korale. After the Vas season was over, the Bhikkhu prepared to go back, but the devotees persuaded him to stay permanently. The Bhikkhu with the help of a few villagers visited the thick forest of Dombagaskanda and at first sight, realized it was ideal for a forest hermitage.

The villagers and devotees in the Raigam Korale constructed the Kutis and other buildings in the Dobagaskanda forest and on June 4, 1955, the complete hermitage of Bodhinagala was offered to the Sanga. Initially, five Bhikkhus lived in the small Kuti (hut) in five acres of forest and later, it was expanded to 50 acres. Today, this hermitage has numerous constructions including Kutis, meditative walkways and medical halls, linked together and developed as a reputed forest hermitage in the country with around 15 resident Bhikkhus.

Born to a Buddhist farming family in Thibbotugoda in Horana in 1948, Somawardena Kaluarachchi, as he was then known, had his primary education at the Welikala Primary School in Pokunuwita. From there he joined Sri Palee Collage, Horana, and continued till ordinary level education. When Somawardena Kaluarachchi was a small boy, he used to frequently visit his grandmother’s house next door, because of the plethora of books available there. Among the books he most liked to read were Buddhist Jathaka stories.

Being the only son in a family eight, his father gave everything for him. They had large acres of paddy lands, so they were fairly well to do. He went to school by bullock-cart owned by his father.

Ven. Thibbotugoda Rahula feeds dogs at the hermitage.

He studied up to the ordinary level, and dropped out, opting to study the Buddhist doctrine and enter the Bhikkhuhood. He had always associated with the village temple where he had learnt a lot about Buddhism.

“Soon I began to read more Buddhist books and I found myself being interested in the forest hermitage in Ingiriya. One day, I visited the hermitage with my father and met the Chief Monk. I told him I would like to enter the Bhikkhuhood. My parent gave permission for me to be a Bhikkhu,” once called Somawardena recalls while sitting on a stone slab in front of his humble Kuti.

His dreams were realized in 1966, when at the age of 19 he was ordained as Thibbotugoda Rahula under the guidance of Ven. Olaboduwe Dammakirthi Thera, the Chief Incumbent of the Bodhinagala hermitage. He lived in the hermitage as a samanera for several years, studying meditation practices with five Bhikkhus, before he attained Upasampadha in 1971 at the Asgiriya Temple in Kandy.

“Soon I became a Bhikkhu of the hermitage. I was provided everything I wanted as a Bhikkhu. Devotees gifted robes. My family members and relatives come to see me time to time. Even today, my sisters who are old now, visit me regularly,” he says.

Organized timetable

Since becoming a monastic Bhikkhu, Ven. Rahula has an organized timetable for daily routine in for meditation, study and worship, which usually lasts until 10 p.m. insight meditation, usually sitting still last for one and a half to two hours, twice a day. The daily program also includes a few domestic duties, with priority being given to personal cleanliness. So the hermitage timetable includes a daily bath, which is a must unless otherwise indisposed.

Ven. Thibbotugoda Rahula in a pensive mood at his Kuti.

In the past forty years, Ven. Rahula has spent his monastic life practicing insight meditation, which is one of the most widely use Anapanasathi, the concentration on rhythmic inhalation and exhalation of breath.

How to get there

To reach the Bodhinagala forest hermitage, one has to travel on the Panadura-Ratnapura (A-8) highway, turn left at the Aduragala junction and travel a further 2 kilometers along the minor road, which leads to the Kalu Ganga. Before coming to the river, the road branches off to the left and continues for another 1.5 kilometers and comes to an area where it reaches the foot of Dombagaskanda. Although the road up to the hill is motorable, it’s better to get off one’s vehicle at this point and walk through the forest.

“My day starts at 4.a.m. At 6.00 a.m. I walk (Pindapatha) for breakfast and around 9.30 a.m. have a bath and get ready for the midday meal Pindapatha, which is at 10.a.m at the alms hall. All the Bhikkhus in the hermitage gather in the upper alms hall from where we go pindapatha to the lower alms hall, which is a little distance away, where devotees offer alms to our begging bowls. We return to the upper alms hall and partake in our midday meal with all the Bhikkhus. After Dana, we rest for a little while and read the Dhamma books, which are gifts of the devotees,” he says, elaborating on the daily schedule, which rarely varies.

Ven. Rahula has been in charge of the Dhamma Chetiya in the hermitage for several years and he is responsible for holding the daily Buddha Puja. “At around 7.00 p.m. the devotees, who come to offer alms the following day, take part in this special Buddha Puja called ‘Buddha Watha’, which takes about one hour. After finishing the day’s work I go to sleep at around 10.00 p.m.,” he explains.

So do the monastic monks ever venture into the outside world? Being Vipassanadhura monks, Ven. Rahula says he and his fellow Bhikkhus are mainly in contemplation, and that with Vippassana Bhavana, insight meditation, being the dominant and central theme, they live mostly in secluded forest hermitage complexes call Aranya.

They do not take part to any religious activities in outside of the hermitage but if someone invites them to preach a sermon they will accept it.

03 05 2015 - Sunday Observer

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J17.03    Beyond mere tolerance

The Buddhist viewpoint on other religions

Lionel Wijesiri

 

From its inception, the Buddhist attitude to other religions has been one of critical tolerance. But significance is that not a drop of blood has been shed throughout the ages in the propagation and dissemination of Buddhism in the many lands to which it spread. Religious wars either between the schools of Buddhism or against other religions have been unheard of.

Buddhism has also shown a remarkable degree of tolerance and adaptability in the course of its historical expansion. It may be useful to recall the famous words of Lord Acton who said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death, your right to say it”. What this means is that mere tolerance is not enough. What is needed for our society today is for everyone to believe what he or she wants to believe without any hindrances from any quarter. This goes far beyond mere tolerances. It involves a deep respect for the beliefs of others.

Acceptance

The followers of the Buddha were advised not to believe anything without considering it properly.

In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha gave the following guidelines to a group of young people: ‘Do not accept anything based upon mere reports, traditions or hearsay; Nor upon the authority of religious texts; Nor upon mere reasons and arguments; Nor upon one’s own inference; Nor upon anything which appears to be true; Nor upon one’s own speculative opinion; Nor upon another’s seeming ability; Nor upon the consideration: ‘This is our Teacher.’ ‘But, when you know for yourselves the certain things are unwholesome and bad: tending to harm yourself of others, reject them; And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good: conducive to the spiritual welfare of yourself as well as others, accept and follow them.’

Buddhists are advised to accept religious practices only after careful observation and analysis, and only after being certain that the method agrees with reason and is conducive to the good of one and all.

A layman faces a problem now. How can he select the right religion for him? Perhaps the Sandaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya seems to supply the answer to this question.
Ananda, staying at the Ghosit?rama in Kosamb?, visits the Pilakkhaguha, where the Paribbajaka Sandaka is staying with some five hundred followers. Ananda is asked to give a discourse on the Buddha’s teachings, and he speaks of describes four wrong ways (views) of religious life.

(1) When the teacher holds the view that it does not matter whether actions are good or bad;

(2) When the teacher who holds the view that no evil is done by him who acts himself or causes others to act;

(3) When the teacher holding the view that there is no cause for either depravity or purity; and, lastly,

(4) the teacher who holds, among other things, the view that men make an end of ill only when they have completed their course of transmigrations, like a ball of twine which continues rolling as long as there is string to unwind.

This is evidently with reference to the teachings of Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala and others.

Ananda then continues with the wrong views of leader of a religion. (1) When the teacher who claims to be all knowing and all seeing; (2) When the teacher whose doctrine is traditional and scriptural; (3) When the teacher is a rationalist of pure reason and criticism teaching a doctrine of his own reasoning; and, lastly, (4) When the teacher is stupid and deficient.

Ananda then describes the Buddha’s own teaching, leading up to the four Jhanas. Sandaka and his followers accept the Buddha as their teacher.

Religious labels

It should be clear from the above that the Buddhist attitude to other religions cannot be classified as one of dominance. The attitude would depend on the nature of the religion dealt with. Of course, if we discuss metaphysics and theology, there are differences among all religions. There is no way to get around the differences. It is more beneficial to look at the things that are in common. All the accepted world religions are seeking to improve the situation of humanity and to make life better by teaching people to follow ethical behaviour.

They all teach people not to become totally caught up in the material side of life, but at least to strike a balance between seeking material progress and spiritual progress.

From the Buddhist point of view, religious labels are not the most important aspects for people to be considered religious, but any person leading a respectable and harmless way of life can be regarded as religious. The methods used to introduce the teachings of the Buddha are rational and reasonable. The Buddha made his appeal through reason and experience. The teachings were presented with clear and impressive simplicity and yet kept free from religious and national narrowness and fanaticism.

They have produced clear and sober-minded people. This method of presentation cleared doubts and removed superstitious beliefs. Thus the teachings of the Buddha enlightened the hearts and minds. The Buddhist attitude of tolerance and understanding convinced many great thinkers, philosophers, rationalists, freethinkers and even agnostics to appreciate Buddhism as a peaceful way of life devoid of fear and superstition.

Example
Often the interaction among religions is at the highest level, where the people are open and do not have prejudices. It is at lower levels that people become insecure and develop a football team mentality: “This is my football team and the other religions are opposing football teams!” With such an attitude, we compete and fight.

Nowadays, there is a growing dialogue, based on mutual respect, between Buddhist masters and leaders of other religions. It is a good sign. On one occasion the Buddha was approached by an extremely wealthy person called Upali. This man was the follower of another religion and he wanted to join the Buddha but was unsure of how to treat his former teachers. The Buddha clearly stated that he was to treat them with the same respect as before and to continue to support them even if he no longer followed them. Throughout his life the Buddha urged people to respect all religious people in spite of the differences of opinion between them`

03 05 2015 - Sunday Observer

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J17.04    Thoughts for Vesak
 
Pramod de silva


He who reveres those worthy of reverence, the Buddhas and their disciples, who have transcended all obstacles and passed beyond the reach of sorrow and lamentation - he who reveres such peaceful and fearless ones, his merit none can compute by any measure. (Buddhavagga, Dhammapada)

Vesak, which celebrates the Birth, Enlightenment and the Passing Away of the Buddha has now become a global event, but it is only in Sri Lanka that Vesak is celebrated on such a large scale. There are spiritual and material poojas to the Buddha all over the country, where Vesak is celebrated as a national festival, not just a festival limited to Buddhists.

Vesak has always been, and always will be, a time for unity. It is not only Buddhists who take part in Vesak activities. It is truly a national event where the whole country comes together as one. Many Vesak dansalas, pandals and decorations are put up by organisations headed by non-Buddhists. Singers from all communities join hands to sing devotional songs for Vesak.

In fact, some of the most well-known Buddhist songs, played repeatedly on radio stations during Vesak, have been performed by non-Buddhists. Non-Buddhists help their Buddhist neighbours with their Vesak decorations. Such religious and communal unity is vital to the development of our country and Vesak is an occasion which reinforces these bonds. This is in accordance with the teachings of the Enlightened One, who advised His followers to respect other religions and their views.

Vesak, the Holiest Day for Buddhists, gives them another opportunity to begin life anew by adhering firmly to the Dhamma. “He who practices the Dhamma abides in happiness with mind pacified; the wise man ever delights in the Dhamma.” (Pandithavagga, The Dhammapada). The Dhamma has shown us how to lead fulfilled, pious lives without contaminating our minds with evil thoughts. Our Nation too is making a new start after three decades of bloodshed, under a new administration that is committed to uphold Buddhist values of compassion and peace.

Appropriate

Thus Vesak this year is most appropriate for spreading the message of peace and reconciliation, the need of the hour. Today, the Nation is at a crossroads, having opted for unity and peace instead of discord and rancour. We have the Herculean task of rebuilding the Nation ahead of us. And the Buddha Dhamma offers ample guidance for such a process of healing and rebuilding of trust among all our peoples.

The Buddha during one of his visits to our island settled a dispute between two factions, stressing the importance of peace. His message of peace resonates to this day, for His words are immortal and timeless. The Buddha advocated compassion for all beings, human and animal and enunciated that hatred does not cease by hatred, but by love.

Indeed, these are moral values that our society has lost sight of in the relentless pursuit of material wealth. This is not surprising in a highly commercialised world, where money is generally regarded as ‘everything’. In fact, the Vesak festival itself is commercialised to such an extent that many have forgotten its very purpose and foundation. We see the glitter and glamour in the illuminations, the pandals but fail to turn the light inwards to our inner selves with a view to purifying our thoughts, words and deeds. We should see beyond the decorations and strive to understand the Buddha Dhamma and how it relates to our day-to-day lives.

Suffering

The Buddha exhorted that affinity towards material things leads to constant suffering through Samsara. The Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path espoused by the Buddha point the way towards a permanent end to this suffering - Nirvana, the State of Supreme Bliss. According to the Dhammapada: “Do not follow a life of evil; do not live heedlessly; do not have false views; do not value worldly things. In this way one can get rid of suffering.” (Lokavagga, The Dhammapada).

While this is the ultimate goal of every Buddhist, it would be wrong to assume that Buddhism is a very complicated philosophy that offers nothing for our lay lives. The Buddha had plenty of advice to offer for lay persons who want to lead to pious lives in their Samsaric journey. He made it clear that inner peace or cleansing the mind was the first step in this endeavour. “The mind is hard to check. It is swift and wanders at will. To control it is good. A controlled mind is conducive to happiness.” (Chitta Vagga, The Dhammapada). Thus thoughts of peace and compassion should emanate from the mind at all times and a Nation that collectively engages in this exercise will see peace and unity.

In this exercise, it is essential to revive the link between the village and the temple (and other places of worship). Many of us have distanced ourselves from places of worship. This Vesak should see a revival of this age-old link. It is also vital to inculcate moral values in the younger generation who have embraced the material world and even the virtual world via the Internet. They are exposed to a high level of violence through movies and video games from an early age.

Tolerance

Indeed, practising tolerance and compassion as taught by the great religious leaders will help reduce violence and crime in our society. Crimes almost always happen due to hatred of some sort and the Buddha’s immortal words (“Hatred does not cease by hatred, hatred ceases by love alone”) can heal wounds of the mind and make us better human beings. We need plenty of love and compassion in our society, not only towards humans but also towards animals who live in our midst. A love of nature was one of Buddha’s major traits (He paid a tribute to the very tree that gave him shelter to attain Enlightenment) and we too should have the same respect for nature.

“Of all the paths the Eightfold Path is the best; of all the truths the Four Noble Truths are the best; of all things passionlessness is the best: of men the Seeing One (the Buddha) is the best.” (Maggavagga, Dhammapada)

03 05 2015 - Sunday Observer

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 J17.05    Is it correct to call the Buddha’s Teaching a religion?

Dr. Primrose Jayasinghe

 

Having just ushered in a traditional new year, swiftly to be followed by the most important Buddhist celebrations, it seems an opportune moment to take stock of what one has learned during the past year, especially any ‘new revelations’. My thoughts were mixed as I had done only a few important things, but the one thing that kept recurring was the thought that Buddhism is not really a religion after all! Let’s consider if this might be valid:

To my mind, Buddhism is a doctrine that surpasses the narrow confines of a ‘religion’. These are my own inferences, having read some of the salient features of Buddhist Teaching.

Buddhism is very well established throughout the world, more particularly in the East, and still continues to offer solace, without distinction, to the millions who have followed Buddha’s Teaching for over 2,600 years. Although there’s no convention for an institutionalisation of Buddhism as a ‘religion’, as found in the various other popular religions of the world, the Buddha’s Teaching swept far and wide merely by word-of-mouth, encompassing the Middle East, ancient Greece and parts of Europe (including Russia), on its way to becoming a world ‘religion’. Presently, however, while it persists in the East, Buddhism has dwindled elsewhere, as newer religions have become established. ‘The Teaching of the Buddha’ or Buddhism, in commonly parlance, is generally practised as a ‘religion’, with all the trimmings associated with that word. I cannot help but wonder whether this is truly the right thing to do. It is possible that some readers concur with my line of thinking, but let me present my case anyway, about why I think ‘religion’ is a misnomer here.

Although there are places of Buddhist ‘worship’ that one could visit in order to contemplate His Teaching (The Dharma or The Doctrine), there is no compulsion to attend these temples’

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘religion’ as a “belief in, and worship of, a superhuman controlling power – a God or Gods”. Thus, it is obvious that Buddhism cannot be defined as a ‘religion’ in these conventional terms. The very first fact we accept is that Buddha is not a God; hence there is no compulsion to ‘worship’ him. There is no acknowledgement of a super-being in heaven, with an omnipotent presence and power over beings on Earth. The Buddha is human, with no ‘controlling power’. Therefore, the use of the word ‘religion’ is already questionable. Buddha is not derived from a ‘powerful spiritual being’, so He is not a ‘messenger’ from heaven; neither has He described Himself as a ‘God’. Though there is no coercion to worship Him, all Buddhists will invariably show Him respect as acknowledgement of His status – as a Buddha or “Enlightened One” – by bringing their palms together. This is not only a mark of reverence but also an expression of gratitude for the incomparable Teaching He has placed before us. According to the Mangala Sutta, to ‘venerate’ those who deserve to be venerated, is a ‘blessing’. So to Buddhists, the Buddha is a ‘special human being’ suitable to be revered and venerated.

Although there are places of Buddhist ‘worship’ that one could visit in order to contemplate His Teaching (The Dharma or The Doctrine), there is no compulsion to attend these temples. The word ‘worship’ is used here in the broadest sense (such as when it is used in the act of showing respect to one’s parents, teachers or elders); it is not equivalent to ‘praying’. Buddhism recognises the individual freedom in the choice of one’s ‘religion’, but if the need is for ‘prayer’, then Buddhism is not the right choice – there is indeed no-one to pray to! Buddha is not a god. He does not answer prayers. He is not in ‘heaven’. Unless the word ‘prayer’ is used casually, the chanting associated with Buddhism is merely recitation of the Buddha’s word, written down by disciples many years after His passing. Buddhism is one doctrine that existed for three centuries in the oral tradition, with no written scriptures or ‘prayers’.

The sole aspiration of each disciple was to break away from repeated births: in other words, to attain Nirvana. To achieve this, it was necessary to develop an advanced culture of Morality (Seela), Mental Discipline (Samadhi) and Wisdom (Pragna) – under a proficient teacher in the absence of The Buddha Himself. There was no need for the written word then. This discipline is unique to the practice of Buddhism. To follow it, one merely needs to be convinced of The Dharma. Accordingly, can Buddhism be a ‘religion’?

There are a few principles of Buddhism that make His doctrine stand out from other ‘religions’. One is the identification and acknowledgement of the everyday-problem of ‘Dukkha’ or, for the lack of a better word, ‘Suffering’. The Pali word, dukkha, is not easy to define: it is a state of ‘un-satisfactoriness’ that exists in every aspect of our lives. The happiness we enjoy is short-lived or could end up in sorrow. Think about it or observe it objectively and you’ll see that this is what life offers us. This is the reality, but we tend to ignore it as we are enthralled with the few moments of enjoyment or pleasure we perceive. The fact that life is fraught with ‘un-satisfactoriness’ is not recognised in other religions. Although difficult to comprehend, those who are open-minded are likely to understand what is meant by ‘suffering’.

The ‘reality’ of dukkha was propounded by the Buddha in His first sermon after Enlightenment, the Dhammachakkappavattana Sutta, before His five fellow ‘truth-seeker’ ascetics. Dukkha was the first of The Four Noble Truths, one of The Founding Principles of Buddhism, explaining the reality of this existence. One is responsible for one’s own state; no god can be blamed for it. Therefore the Buddha’s Teaching is to define ‘Reality’. Bringing it closer to home, think of the changes that accompany ageing: degeneration and decay. These are not changes we like; they cause dukkha – distress and pain – but that is the certain reality: nothing remains the same in the present or forever. Nothing is eternal. Everything is Impermanent (Anichchaā) causing pain and disgust. It’s impossible to deny ‘suffering’ or ‘un-satisfactoriness’, but most unfortunately nothing can be done, no ‘medicine’ be taken, to stop this onslaught. The only way out is through a fervent effort to break away from this dreary state of woe and cut short the cycle of rebirth.

Rebirth, did I say? One cannot, so far, prove or disprove rebirth, but there is enough circumstantial evidence that that’s the most likely outcome following our death. Research around rebirth has been conducted and books have also been written, for instance by the likes of Professor Ian Stevenson and his team from the University of Virginia.

If one has an enquiring mind and is convinced that there is dukkha in everything around us, then one can decide to eradicate it by following the Noble Eight-fold Path. As outlined in the above sermon, the Buddha encourages us to look at everything objectively; in so doing, you’ll realise that you’re the only one who can help yourself to change this status quo, and that is by eradicating dukkha. There is no place for faith here; no amount of praying will help. The eradication of dukkha takes place only through your own efforts to attain Nirvana. Buddhism teaches us to focus on ‘reality’ or ‘things as they really are’. Scientifically-speaking, we know what we’re made of – the elements of the universe! Various combinations of these elements form everything in this world, including our body, which is functional through chemical and electrical reactions that have developed according to specific cellular programming over millennia. Nothing remains static; everything is in a state of flux across this universe. Therefore everything can be broken down to the finest particle, but also rebuilt when conditions are satisfied for the process. Broadly speaking, there is nothing more than that. Science cannot deny dukkha or impermanence as part of ‘reality’, and no other ‘religion’ professes these two realities are worth overcoming.

There is no concept of a ‘creator’ in Buddhism. Instead, the Buddha strongly confirms that we undergo repeated cycles of birth and death, depending on our own actions. He calls it Karma – actions we all do, good or bad, through mind, word and deed. Just as science confirms that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so would karma become instrumental in conditioning another existence relevant to the accumulated worth of the karma. This process will continue until one breaks away from the cycles of rebirth on attaining the final stage of sainthood (arahanth), on the verge of Nirvana. This is His Teaching of the existence of the ‘Cause and Effect’ phenomenon, known as ‘Patichcha Samuppada’ or ‘Dependent Origination’. In other words, the arising of everything is dependent on a cause. There is no place for an intermediary; it’s all a part of the ‘reality’ of the existence of things.

Just as the phrase ‘things as they really are’ means that we’re made of the same stuff as the rest of the universe, to my mind, the Buddha’s Teaching offers the prospect of extrapolating the process of evolution. We, as human beings have ended up in the most desirable of existences, being at the top of the animal kingdom. The Buddha stated that this Earth (mangala loka in Pali) is the most salubrious place to be born, and to be born a human is indeed the highest blessing! What the Buddha elaborated is what is most needed by us to end these cycles of rebirth and therefore, dukkha.

Nirvana is not ‘heaven’. It is supra-mundane alright, but quite unlike ‘heaven’. The use of the prefix ‘Ni’, meaning “without”, describes it in the negative, as that “state which is ‘free of’ craving”; thereby denoting the ending of the continuity of the ‘being’ through his/her cycles of existence when the flames of craving that establishes rebirth are totally extinguished.

Given the above, albeit in gist, I am of the firm opinion that Buddhism is certainly not a religion. Can we call it a science? We could. However, as this doctrine was propounded over 2,500 years ago, none of it is in the scientific terms we use today, although there is undoubtedly a great deal of science and reasoning to comprehend within it. One needs patience and commitment to delve into its depths, if one is serious enough to want to study it.

Is it a philosophy? To my mind this is quite unlikely, too. It is not a belief system or a set of theories or hypotheses that can be broken down or superseded in the expanse of time. Buddhist Teaching has endured and remained true to the original writing, even going into this third millennium. There are no addenda, revisions or alterations. The doctrine has been described as ‘timeless’ and equally valid at any given time. When one ‘looks back’ on the Teaching, it is ‘true’ today, as it was yesterday, and it will remain true in the future, as it deals with ‘things as they really are’.

Becoming a Buddha is an extraordinary feat for a human to achieve. Being called The Enlightened One means that He has actively achieved infinite knowledge, wisdom, science, vision and light, and through this expertise He has guided countless other human beings to break away from sansara (cycles of birth and death) and attain Nirvana, after which rebirth is extinguished.

My own conclusion is that the Buddha Dharma is the Teaching of the existing ‘reality’. Therefore, I would like to call the Buddha’s Doctrine, ‘Realism’ rather than a ‘religion’ or a ‘philosophy’, since it teaches us what is real and factual, and encourages us to view things ‘as they really are’. What about you? Why not take the opportunity to read the Teachings of the Buddha yourself and see if they fit in with your line of thinking? No compulsion!
  

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J17.06    A 2500-year-old message of compassion and love

Udumbara Udugama

The Nepalese frontier of Kapilavasthu was where Buddha lived until he gave up his worldly life in search of truth and Enlightenment


As the country prepared to celebrate Vesak, we received the shattering news that Nepal, the Buddha’s country has been devastated by a massive earthquake which caused the loss of over 5,000 lives. Homes and historic sites in the land of the Buddha have also been destroyed.

A man cries as he walks past a damaged statue of Lord Buddha surrounded by debris from a collapsed temple in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bhaktapur on April 26, in Bhaktapur, Nepal. Such World Heritage Sites are a major part of Nepal’s tourism industry, which will take a major hit as a result of the earthquake (Reuters)

This year, the full-moon Poya falls today, May 3 and Buddhists the world over will celebrate the Thrice Blessed Day of Vesak, the Birth, Enlightenment and Parinibbhana of the Sakyamuni Gautama Buddha.

Kapilawasthu or Kapilavatthu on the Nepalese border, the capital of the kingdom of the Sakyans was where the young Prince Siddhartha Gautama lived until he gave up his worldly life in search of truth and Enlightenment.

Kshatriya King Suddhodana was the ruler of Kapilawasthu. His Queen Mahamaya, a princess of the Koliyas, on her way to her parental home stepped into the Lumbini Sal Grove where the sweet scented Sal flowers were in bloom. It was under the shade of a Sal tree that the Queen gave birth. The King’s happiness knew no bounds. Named Siddhartha Gautama, the prince lived in the lap of luxury. At his birth, it was predicted by the wise men, seven Brahmins, that if he remained to rule he would become a universal monarch, a cakravarti but if he renounced the world, he would become a Supremely Enlightened One. But Kondanna, the youngest and the wisest, said that he would definitely go in search of truth and become a Supremely Enlightened Buddha. The King was not happy to learn of this prediction, as he wished his son to inherit his kingdom and rule as a cakravarti. At the young age of sixteen, the Prince was married to his beautiful cousin Princess Yasodhara.

The worried King Suddhodana built three palaces for the prince to spend the three seasons in India. Living in the lap of luxury with music, song and dance, food and laughter, the Prince did not know of any sorrow; an illusion that was created to keep the Prince tied to the material world. But the father’s endeavours to keep his son attached to worldly pleasures was futile.

The turning point for the deep thinking, contemplative Prince was the four visions he encountered during his visits to the city. On the first occasion, when he was on his way to the royal gardens he saw a man very old and feeble. Next, he saw a sick man with sores on his body. On the third occasion he saw some men carrying a dead body on a plank. He looked at Channa his charioteer in surprise who explained to the Prince that everyone born to this life ages, will be subject to disease and finally die. On the fourth occasion, the Prince saw a calm and serene figure of a recluse. The Prince was impressed and was in deep thought. On his way home, he received a message that his wife Yasodhara had given birth to a son. He uttered the words “it is a fetter, I have a bond.” He believed that this attachment would deter his search for the Truth.

A painting at Isipathanaramaya in Colombo depicting the birth of Prince Siddhartha

At the age of 29, he renounced his worldly life to lead the life of an ascetic, a mendicant. He struggled for six long years without any results.Realising that self-mortification did not help him in his search, he gave up fasting and took normal meals and believed in the Middle Path. His search was directed inwards to his own mind. Regaining strength in body and mind, he sat in solitude under a Bo tree on the bank of Neranjara the river which flowed through Gaya (Buddhagaya) to meditate and resolved, “even though only my skin, sinews and bones remain and my blood and flesh dry up, I will not rise from this seat until I have attained full enlightenment.”

He concentrated on his ‘in and out breathing’ to gain mindfulness (anapana sati). His mind was cleared of impurities and at the age of 35, again on a full moon day in May, attained Supreme Enlightenment, to be the Buddha. For 45 long years he fulfilled his mission of teaching the dhamma and at the age of 80 passed away, the final parinibbhana, ending the life circle of birth and death, once again on a full moon poya day in May, in Kusinara, the kingdom of the Mallas.

With the spread of Buddhism, society changed. Buddha categorised the people as Bhikkshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, Upasika and not according to caste or creed. Due to the spread of Buddhism, the culture, architecture and rituals influenced the life-style of the people in countries around the world.

Today Buddhism is alive as it was over 2,500 years ago. We should venerate the Buddha on Vesak day by remembering His message of compassion and universal love to all beings and not only by way of material worship. In their hour of need, as a meritorious deed, we should think of sending all that we would spend on Vesak ‘dansalas’ to the people of Nepal who are suffering today with the loss of their loved ones and homes.

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J17.07    Buddha’s wisdom and a universal law

Mervyn Samarakoon


Around 26 centuries ago on a day as today a most remarkable event in the history of the world took place when wisdom dawned on earth with the Great Enlightenment of Gautama Buddha. A world lost in abysmal darkness for countless aeons was swathed in the benign glow of an astounding discovery made by the Great Sage. The abstruse mentality-materiality nexus of life and the solitary path to the extinction of existential desire, lay bare. Hitherto mysterious phenomenon known as “karma” appeared to Him in all its clarity and formed a cornerstone of the marvellous doctrine He presented before the world. The great repository Tripitaka stands lucid testimony.

‘Kamma’ as pronounced by Gautama Buddha denotes wholesome actions of mind, speech and body that beget benevolent results and unwholesome actions unwholesome results. This law is timeless, insurmountable and applies in equal measure to all

Kamma as pronounced by the Enlightened One briefly denotes wholesome and unwholesome volitions (cetana) that arise in one’s mind and accompanying mental factors that shape one’s destiny. Wholesome actions of mind, speech and body, He said, beget benevolent results and unwholesome actions unwholesome results. This law is timeless, insurmountable, applies in equal measure to all, a Samma Sambuddha included. The text says there is no place in the sky or in the bowel of the earth or at the bottom of the sea that one can escape it. Even the Greatest Being on earth is not exempt from the juggernaut.

Yet, disbelievers abound and one who did in ancient India was Makkalighsla the propounder of the theory that it is totally inconsequential if a man walks the banks of river Ganges maiming and killing those he confronts on the way. The human mind knows no bounds in its depths of aberration.

Profound Abidhamma preached to devas and thereafter to Ven. Sariputta by Buddha explained that even an unpleasant sight (such as of a tortured or murdered man) is the consequential result of one’s unfortunate kamma (acts) of the past, and if one is saddened or angered by it, he acquires further harmful kamma of an ominous nature that adversely bears upon him in the future. An adept and trained mind however, is capable of harnessing that sight into a topic of insight meditation on anicca, dukkha, anatta leading to the final understanding of oneself, of the cosmos and all things beyond. The said rationale behoves a pleasant consciousness gained such as the vision of benign Buddha or the sound of sublime dhamma preached generates equally beneficial after-results. The principle applies to beings even lesser than humans, eg. the nocturnal bird who gained happiness from the sight of the Noble One early every morning-commentary on MangalaSutta.

The enormity of a Buddha’s samsaric merit (good karma) prevents Him from witnessing anything abhorrent such as the agonising last moments of the evil monks Devadatta and Kklika. The law of nature holds supreme over all things corporeal and incorporeal until the principle is theoretically comprehended and practically overcome through the insightful Eightfold Path.

The present essay concerns Buddha’s sermon titled Pubbakammapil thik pad na, delivered by the Noble One to his disciples while resting on an outcrop near lake Anothaththa in the vicinity of the magnificent Himalayas. It begins dramatically, “O monks, listen to my past karma. Karma-result spares not even a Buddha”. During the dispensation of Kashyapa Buddha, he was a brahmin of high caste by the name of Jothipala and he ridiculed Kassapa Buddha as a bald-headed empty recluse. Later he entered the order and made the definitive prediction that he would be a future Buddha called Gautama. However, that unpardonable act made him undergo untold suffering in countless lives and pursued him unto his very last life on earth. As punishment he was made to starve for six long years during his search for the ultimate truth by following a wrong path of inflicting rigours on himself and abstaining from taking food. His physical appearance took the form of a living skeleton, a peta. He dropped unconscious on countless occasions until he realised penance was not the path of emancipation. Thus did the Noble One pay for a crime long lost from memory.

Incidentally, the one who introduced Jothipala to Kassapa Buddha then was Ghateekara, the low-caste humble potter of Vehalinga, faithful friend of Kassapa Buddha, attainer of Angmihood, leading a chaste life and caring for his blind parents, receiving the bare necessaries of life with barter of his pottery produce since he refrained from handling money. The unending effort of Ghateekar to persuade his friend to meet Kassapa Buddha as traced in the sutta is simply spellbinding, to say the least. How one day kalpas later, Ghateekara reborn as a deva in AvihaBrahmwsa, soon after midnight descends on Jetawanrmaya lighting up the entire sky and begins a “nostalgic” conversation with his old friend Jothipala now Gautama Buddha, recounting their friendship at Vehalinga is equally fascinating. The Kassapa Buddha-Jothipala-Ghateekara encounter verily requires a separate presentation.

Of the 12 kamma-effect instances mentioned by Buddha, the second concerns vilification He had to face at the hands of a ravishingly beautiful woman named Chinchi. Spurred on by her religious teachers the heretics whose popularity was on the wane because of the Noble One, she pretends she leaves Jetawanaramaya in the morning about the same time devotees come in to pay homage. It is none of your business, says she, when questioned by the devotees where she spent the night. As time passes she is bold enough to say she spends the night with Buddha. The mundane ones believe it, not attainees of sowanhood.

On a particular day when Buddha is preaching to an audience with the king in attendance, she arrives covered in a red cloth to hide her simulated pregnancy and blurts out “Great preacher, you deliver sermons here but do not inquire whether I who carries your child need a crumb of food (lunumiris). Buddha declares calmly, “Sister, only two persons, you and I know whether it is truth or not”.

Those words of a Samma Sambuddha are too profound to go unacknowledged. Through intervention of gods Chinchi’s simulated pregnancy disappears and she is chased out of the preaching hall by the gathering. As she exits Buddha’s view, the earth unable to remain still, opens up for rising flames from Avichi hell to envelop her. Not even the Noble One could help it.

Buddha declared His past karma- “In the long past as a man of low birth by the name of Munli given to many a vice, I insulted a Pacceka Buddha named Surabhi possessed of immense irdi powers as an immoral sinner. In consequence, I spent several tens of thousands of years in Avichi, the residue being the insinuation of Chinchchi”.

It being so, misguided heretics never abandoned hope. In a desperate situation of succour, they relied on another follower of theirs, a young woman called Sundari. The plot was identical to Chinchi’s, where she is seen moving in the temple in the wrong direction at the right time. To whomever she meets her demure reply is that it is a rendezvous with Buddha. Her masters do not fail to join her in chorus. Again sceptics begin to believe them.

However, heretics soon realise their scheme does not yield the desired results. They hire some criminals to murder Sundari and the body to be hidden in the refuse pit near Jetawan r maya. The king is informed of the murder and Buddha is slandered across the city. Finally however, the murderers are found out by the king’s spies and the conspirators along with the murderers are ordered by the king to be executed together and buried in the same pit. The commentary presents a vivid account of the episode.

The Noble One was a Brahmin once who abandoned the lay life to become a pious hermit in the Himalayas living a rigid life with his students. While so living he came across a virtuous ascetic named Bheema possessed of supernormal powers. Being overcome with jealousy, he derided the ascetic as an immoral knave. His pupils did the same. Vagaries of the human mind however developed, are unpredictable. The temporary but intense humiliation Buddha and His disciples faced through Sundari was its sequel.

Again Bodhisatta born into a prosperous family aeons ago, after the demise of his father quarrelled with his younger brother over the father’s wealth. He dispossessed his brother of his share and finally killed him. A countless number of years spent in the netherworld did not dissipate the crime, and in his birth as Seriwanija he was to meet his future tormentor who would follow him unto the end. He was Devadatta, his brother-in-law, nature’s own conduit of reprisals. He caused a bleeding injury on Buddha’s foot in an attempt to do the impossible, to kill him. As explained by Buddha, it was the consequence of an evil act of his in the extreme past where as a boy playing on the street he injured an alms-seeking Pacceka Buddha with a stone. Time did not obliterate the misdeed.

The incident concerning the drunken tusker Nlgiri charging towards the Noble One in all its fury as plotted by Devadatta is known to all. The boundless compassion Buddha displayed towards His son Rahula, His tormentor Devadatta and towards every living being was directed at Nlgiri this time in equal measure. The mighty beast struck by the avalanche of kindness fell at His feet like a docile pet, whereupon Buddha placed His palm on its forehead. The commentary states, petrified onlookers in hiding rushed out to throw their jewellery at N l giri in exultation. The origin of this episode was traced by the Buddha to a time when he was a mahout who prodded his animal to advance menacingly at an alms-seeking Pacceka Bodhi-attainer. The monstrous act followed Him upto His last birth of none less than Buddahood itself.

Buddha recounts in vivid detail, the rest of the 12 instances when nature accosted Him with unpleasant repercussion of His previous unwholesome deeds despite the fact that He was the undisputed Master of the three worlds.

The twelfth and final misdeed which pursued Him unto Buddahood relates to a time when he was a clever physician. Being negligent in the treatment of a patient entrusted to his care who ought to have been given a particular course of treatment knowingly administered a wrong drug instead which made the patient vomit blood. When Buddha’s life-span was about to end, time was also ripe for the aeons-old misdeed to come alive. The Great Being was afflicted with the disease known as “l hithapakk ndika”- vomiting of blood. The strength of millions of elephants simply vanished, said the commentary of Arahats. Kamma did not spare even the Diety of Deities. Thus ended the rarest life on earth.

“Beings are owners of their actions, heirs to their actions, they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as refuge. It is actions that distinguish beings as inferior or superior.

They are the cause and condition for people to be short-lived and long-lived, sickly and healthy, ugly and beautiful, uninfluential and influential, poor and wealthy, low-born and high-born, stupid and wise” said the Buddha in reply to a question of Subha, a brahmin’s son-ChlakammavibhangaSutta, MajjimaNikaya.

Buddha in His wisdom did not beseech people to relegate all things to kamma in complacence. Kamma is a facet of the doctrine, not its terminus. He invoked one and all to penetrate the veil of delusion and seek the Dhamma in earnest like a “man desperately attempting to extinguish a fire that has overwhelmed him”.

“Constantly engulfed in flames, what laughter, what merriment?” said He. “Immersed in darkness, why isn’t the light being sought?”- Jar Wagga, Kuddhaka Nikaya.

Karmic theory and Nirvana are beyond the reach of scientific research since they are not subjects of empirical study, but objects of supermundane “vision”.

 

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J17.08    Discovering the law of cause and effect under the Bo tree

Anagarika Dharmapala

 

The Blessed One, the Buddha Sakyamuni, proclaimed the Doctrine of Nirvana for the happiness and welfare of human and divine beings, who had the qualifications to comprehend the lofty doctrine, which had been similarly proclaimed by the Buddhas of the past.

To comprehend the principles of the Nirvana Doctrine one has to walk in the Noble Eightfold Path, destroy the ten ‘samyojana’ fetters, get rid of the five ‘nivaranas’ which are obstacles for the attainment of mystic illumination which is called Dhyana or Jhana. Pragna and Dhyana are inter-related, as is declared in the Dhammapada gatha.

‘Natti Jhanam apannassa natthi ajhyato’, which means that Dhyana is not for the man deficient in the higher wisdom, and to him who has not the attainment of Jhana there can be no super-wisdom. When the two are combined in the devotee he stands on the threshold of Nirvana.

The path of mortification of the body is traversed by ascetics to gain emancipation from ‘sanasara’. In ancient India asceticism was a form of religion practised until death. The Prince Siddhartha after he made the Great Renunciation in his 29th year practised the most oppressive form of bodily mortification in order to gain deliverance from samsaric sorrow. Ancient Indian sages knew of the torments of samsara, and they made asceticism a vehicle in order to get out of the circle of samsara. The Prince Siddhartha followed the ancient method and continued the ascetic method for six years in the most virulent form as detailed in the ‘Bhaya berana sutta’ in the Majjima Nikaya. When he had realised that even the extremist form of asceticism did not give an insight into the comprehension of truth he abandoned the tortuous path and discovered the Middle Path which avoids the extremes of asceticism and sensuous pleasures.

To get an insight into the history of the evolution of the doctrine of Nirvana, the earnest student has to get a clear view of the life of the Blessed One. This means that he has to study the Pali texts as they contain authentic accounts of the life of the Blessed One. The first book that one should read is the Mahavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka to get an idea of the foundation of the Nirvana doctrine.

There you read the Prince ascetic sitting at the foot of the Bodhi Tree on the bank of the river Neranjara was enjoying the bliss of deliverance (‘vimurisuka pati samvedi’) and in that state He had discovered the law of inter-related causes and effects beginning with Ignorance as the immediate cause of all sorrows and sufferings in the world of cosmic phenomenon. Why should man as such suffer, was the question he wished to solve. The cause of sorrow, misery, suffering, disappointment, despair, lamentation,anguish in the life of man was due to ‘avidya’ (ignorance). Ignorance produces sankharic ideations in the mind, which giveth rising to ‘Trishna’, and the two elemental causes keep men and gods tied to the wheel of samsara, and they continue to whirl round until the two causes are destroyed. In the Anamatagga Samyutta, Samyutta Nikaya, the Blessed One declares: Beginning-less is the circle of samsara, whose ultimate point is beyond knowledge. Under the glamour of ignorance, and fettered by unsatisfying sensuous desire the individual being (‘satta’) continues to run round the circle.

It is said that the Bodhisatva before He gained supreme enlightenment of a perfect Buddha gained the divine right to look back into the past and to the future. He saw by his divine knowledge that man was not a created being but had existed from the beginning-less past and that after death he was reborn according to karma he had done, that the karma of the past had brought him into the present existence, and that the karmic energy generated here in this life make him to be reborn in the next. He saw an infinite past, and an infinite future, and the law of cosmic change working in the universe, with numberless solar systems, world systems in their nebulous states, other habitable worlds also numberless. Birth, death and decay are the constituents of the endless samsara, and in this net He found men and Gods struggling and dying. Under the Bodhi tree he discovered the panacea of Immortality, which brings relief to the suffering wayfarer. He arrived at the condition of supreme wisdom which gave Him power to keep the mind disentangled from sansaric reproductions. and cosmic desires. No more birth, no more death. He had won the state of Nirvana.

Nirvana is a state of; positive realization free from ignorance, ignoble desires, hatred, ill-will, pride, covetousness, false beliefs, and full of faith, energy, vigilance, peace and wisdom. Love universal and supreme wisdom find their consummation in Nirvana. The path to reach the goal is the Noble Eightfold Path: Right Insight, Right Yearnings, Right Speech, Right Deeds, Right Livelihood, Right Exertion, Right Analysis and Right Illumination. To elaborate, Right Insight is to be freed from metaphysical aberrations, superstitions, heathen beliefs, dependence on ignoble rituals; Right Yearnings generating thoughts of love, compassion, pity, harmlessness, and renunciation from ignoble sensuous pleasures; Right Deeds freed from destruction, dishonesty, lustfulness and intemperance; Right Livelihood wherein one gains from one’s livelihood freed from cruelty, selling nothing that will cause suffering or pain to another; Right Exertion where he makes a strenuous effort to avoid evil and do good in the word, deed and thought; Right Analysis whereby he purifies his mind from the impurities of the body, feelings, thoughts and acquires the right mind to follow the principles of enlightenment avoiding the obstacles which prevent his progress in the path of Nirvana. With these weapons in hand he prepares himself to enter the right Samadhi which requires the wayfarer to practise the four Jhanas, whose realization brings him into the threshold of Vimuktic emancipation. All Ignorance is annihilated, ignoble desires are forever abandoned, and he lives realizing Nirvana in perfect consciousness.

From Mahabodhi Journal Vol.31, July 1923. Paper read at the first Buddhist Convention held in connection with the Sarnath University. 


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J17.09    An introduction to Buddhism and Gothama Buddha

Ven. Piyadassi Thera


The Buddha, the founder of the great religious philosophy of Buddhism, lived in North India over two thousand and five hundred years ago and was known as Siddhattha (Siddhartha = one whose purpose has been achieved). Gotama (Sanskrit = Gautama) was his family name. His father, King Suddhodana, ruled over the land of the Sakyans at Kapilavatthu on the Nepalese frontier. His queen was Mahamaya, a princess of the Koliyas.

On a full-moon day of May, when the trees were laden with leaf, flower and fruit, and man, bird and beast were in joyous mood, Queen Mahamaya was travelling in state from Kapilavatthu to Devadaha, her parental home, according to the custom of the times, to give birth to her child. But that was not to be, for halfway between the two cities, in the Lumbini grove, under the shade of a flowering Sal tree, she brought forth a son.

Lumbini or Rummindei, the name by which it is now known, is 100 miles north of Variinasi and within sight of the snowcapped Himalayas. At this memorable spot where Prince Siddhattha, the future Buddha, was born, Emperor Asoka, 316 years after the event, erected a mighty stone pillar to mark the holy spot. The inscription engraved on the pillar in five lines consists of ninety-three Asokan (brahmi) characters, amongst which occurs the following:

‘Hida Budhe jate Sakyamuni’, ‘Here was born the Buddha, the sage of the Sakyans’. The mighty column is still to be seen. The pillar, ‘as crisp as the day it was cut’, had been struck by lightning even when Hiuen Tsiang, the Chinese pilgrim, saw it towards the middle of the seventh century after Christ. The discovery and identification of the Lumbini park in I896 is attributed to the renowned archaeologist, General Cunningham.

Queen Mahamaya, the mother, passed away on the seventh day after the birth of her child, and the baby was nursed by his mother’s sister, Pajapati Gotami. Though the child was nurtured till manhood in refinement amid an abundance of material luxury, the father did not fail to give his son the education that a prince ought to receive. He became skilled in many a branch of knowledge, and in the arts of war easily excelled all other. Nevertheless, from his childhood the prince was given to serious contemplation. When the prince grew up the father’s fervent wish was that his son should marry, bring up a family and be his worthy successor; but he feared that the prince would one day give up home for the homeless life of an ascetic.

According to the custom of the time, at the early age of sixteen the prince was married to his cousin Yasodhara, the only daughter of King Suppabuddha and Queen Pamita of the Koliyas. The princess was of the same age as the prince. Lacking nothing of the earthly joys of life, he lived knowing nothing of sorrow. Yet all the efforts of the father to hold his son a prisoner to the senses and make him worldly-minded were of no avail. King Suddhodana’s endeavors to keep life’s miseries from his son’s inquiring eyes only heightened Prince Siddhattha’s curiosity and his resolute search for Truth and Enlightenment.

With the advance of age and maturity the prince began to glimpse the woes of the world. As the books say, he saw four visions: the first was a man weakened with age, utterly helpless; the second was the sight of a man mere skin and bones, supremely unhappy and forlorn, smitten with some pest; the third was the sight of a band of lamenting kinsmen bearing on their shoulders the corpse of one beloved for cremation. These woeful signs deeply moved him. The fourth vision, however, made a lasting impression. He saw a recluse, calm and serene, aloof and independent, and learnt that he was one who had abandoned his home to live a life of purity, to seek Truth and solve the riddle of life. Thoughts of renunciation flashed through the prince’s mind and in deep contemplation he turned homeward. The heartthrob of an agonized and ailing humanity found a responsive echo in his own heart. The more he came in contact with the world outside his palace walls, the more convinced he became that the world was lacking in true happiness. In the silence of that moonlit night (it was the full moon of July) such thoughts as these arose in him:

‘Youth, the prime of life, ends in old age and man’s senses fail him when they are most needed. The hale and hearty lose their vigour and health when disease suddenly creeps in. Finally death comes, sudden perhaps and unexpected, and puts an end to this brief span of life. Surely there must be an escape from this unsatisfactoriness, from aging and death.’

Thus the great intoxication of youth, of health, and of life left him. Having seen the vanity and the danger of the three intoxications, he was overcome by a powerful urge to seek and win the Deathless, to strive for deliverance from old age, illness, misery and death, to seek it for himself and for all beings that suffer. It was his deep compassion that led him to the quest ending in Enlightenment, in Buddhahood. It was compassion that now moved his heart towards the Great Renunciation and opened for him the doors of the golden cage of his home life. It was compassion that made his determination unshakable even by the last parting glance at his beloved wife asleep with their babe in her arms.

Now at the age of twenty-nine, in the flower of youthful manhood, on the day his beautiful Yasodhara, giving birth to his only son, Rahula, made the parting more sorrowful and heart-rending, he tore himself away - the prince with a superhuman effort of will renounced wife, child, father and a crown that held the promise of power and glory, and in the guise of an indigent ascetic retreated into forest solitude to seek the eternal verities of life. ‘In quest of the supreme security from bondage-Nibbana’.

This was the great renunciation. Dedicating himself to the noble task of discovering a remedy for life’s universal ill, he sought guidance from two famous sages, Nara Kimma and Uddaka Ramaputta, hoping that they, being masters of meditation, would show him the way to deliverance. He practiced concentration and reached the highest meditative attainments possible thereby, but was not satisfied with anything short of supreme enlightenment. Their range of knowledge, their ambit of mystical experience, however, was insufficient to grant him what he earnestly sought. He left them in turn in search of the still unknown.

In his wanderings he finally reached Uruvela, by the river Neranjara at Gaya. He was attracted by its quiet and dense groves and the clear waters of the river. Finding that this was a suitable place to continue his quest for enlightenment, he decided to stay.

Five other ascetics who admired his determined effort waited on him. They were Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji. There was, and still is, a belief in India among many of her ascetics that purification and final deliverance from ill can be achieved by rigorous self-mortification, and the ascetic Gotama decided to test the truth of it. And so there at Uruvela he began a determined struggle to subdue his body, in the hope that his mind, set free from the shackles of the body, might be able to soar to the heights of liberation. Most zealous was he in these practices.

He lived on leaves and roots, on a steadily reduced pittance of food, he wore rags from dust-heaps; he slept among corpses or on beds of thorns. The utter paucity of nourishment left him a physical wreck.

‘Rigorous have I been in my ascetic discipline. Rigorous have I been beyond all others. Like wasted, withered reeds ‘became all my limbs. . . .’ In such words as these, in later years, having attained to full enlightenment, did the Buddha give his disciples an awe-inspiring description of his early penances. Struggling thus, for six long years, he came to death’s very door, but he found himself no nearer to his goal. The utter futility of self-mortification became abundantly clear to him by his own experience; his experiment for enlightenment had failed. But undiscouraged, his still active mind searched for new paths to the aspired-for goal. Then it happened that he remembered the peace of his meditation in childhood under a rose-apple tree, and confidently felt: ‘This is the path to enlightenment’. He knew, however, that, with a body so utterly weakened as his, he could not follow that path with any chance of success. Thus he abandoned self-mortification and extreme fasting and took normal food. His emaciated body recovered its former health and his exhausted vigour soon returned. Now his five companions left him in their disappointment; for they thought that he had given up the effort to live a life of abundance.

Nevertheless with firm determination and complete faith in his own purity and strength, unaided by any teacher, accompanied by none, the Bodhisatta (as he is known before he attained enlightenment) resolved to make his final search in complete solitude. Cross-legged he sat under a tree, which later became known as the Bodhi tree, the ‘Tree of Enlightenment’ or ‘Tree of Wisdom’, on the Bank of the river Neraiijara, at Gayii (now known as BuddhaGaya)-’a pleasant spot soothing to the senses and stimulating to the mind making the final effort with the inflexible resolution:‘Though only my skin, sinews and bones remain, and my blood and flesh dry up and wither away, yet will I never stir from this seat until I have attained full enlightenment (samma-sam-hodhi).’ So indefatigable in effort, so unflagging in his devotion was he, and so resolute to realize Truth and attain full enlightenment.

Applying himself to the ‘Mindfulness on in-and-out Breathing’ (ana + pana sati), the meditation he had developed in his childhood, the Bodhisatta entered upon and dwelt in the first meditative absorption. By gradual stages he entered upon and dwelt in the second, third and the fourth jhanas. Thus cleansing his mind of impurities; with the mind thus composed, he directed it to the knowledge of recollecting past births. This was the first knowledge attained by him in the first watch of the night (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.).

Then the Bodhisatta directed his mind to the knowledge of the disappearing and reappearing of beings of varied forms, in good states of existence, and in states of woe, each faring according to his deeds (cuti + upapata). This was the second knowledge attained by him in the middle watch of the night (10 p.m. to 2 a.m.). Next he directed his mind to the knowledge of the destruction of the taints. He understood as it really is: This is suffering (dukkha), this is the arising of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering, this is the path leading to the cessation of suffering.’ He understood as it really is: These are the taints, this is the arising of the taints, this is the cessation of the taints, this is the path leading to the cessation of the taints.

Knowing thus, seeing thus, his mind was liberated from the taints: of sense-pleasures, of becoming and of ignorance (avijjiisava). When his mind was thus liberated, there came the knowledge: ‘liberated’ and he understood: 

Destroyed is birth, the noble life (brahma cariyam) has been lived, done is what was to be done, there is no more of this to come (meaning, there is no more continuity of the mind and body, that is, no more becoming, rebirth). This was the third knowledge attained by him in the last watch of the night (2 a.m. to 6 a.m.).’ Thereon he spoke these words of victory: 

‘Being myself subject to birth, ageing, disease, death, sorrow and defilement; seeing danger in what is subject to these things; seeking the unborn, unageing, diseaseless, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled, supreme security from bondage-Nibbana, I attained it (literally I experienced it). Knowledge and vision arose in me; unshakable is my deliverance of mind. This is the last birth, now there is no more becoming, no more rebirth. Thus did the Bodhisatta Gotama on another full moon of May, at the age of thirty-five, attain Supreme Enlightenment, by comprehending in all their fullness the Four Noble Truths, the Eternal Verities, and become the Buddha, the great Healer and Consummate Master-Physician (bhirakko) who can cure the ills of beings.

For a week, immediately after this enlightenment, the Buddha sat at the foot of the Bodhi tree experiencing the bliss of deliverance. Then he thought over the Dependent Arising (paticca samuppada). The Blessed One then spent six more weeks in lonely retreat at six different places in the vicinity of the Bodhi tree. At the end of the seven weeks, he made up his mind to communicate the Dhamma, his, discovery of the Ancient Path (puranam maggam), to his former friends, the five ascetics. Knowing that they were living at Varanasi in the deer park at Isipatana, the Resort of Seers (modern Sarnath), still steeped in the unmeaning rigours of extreme asceticism, the Buddha left Gaya for distant Varanasi, India’s holy city, walking by stages some 150 miles. 

There at the deer park (migadaya) he rejoined them. Now on a full moon day of July, at eventide, when the moon was rising in a glowing Eastern sky, the Blessed One addressed the five ascetics:’Monks, these two extremes ought not to be cultivated by the recluse, by one gone forth from the house-life. What two? Sensual indulgence and self-mortification which lead to no good. The middle way, understood by the Tathagata,’ the Perfect One, after he had avoided the extremes, gives vision, and knowledge, and leads to calm, realization, enlightenment, Nibbana. And what, monks, is that middle way? It is this Noble Eightfold Path, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

Then the Buddha explained to them the Four Noble Truths. Thus did the Enlightened One proclaim the Dhamma and set in motion the matchless ‘Wheel of Truth’ (anuttararm dhammachakkam). With the proclamation of the Dhamma, for the first time, and with the conversion of the five ascetics, the deer park at Isipatana (Sarnath) became the birth place of the Buddha’s Dispensation (Buddha-sasana), and of the Sangha, the community of monks, the ordained disciples. Before long fifty-five others headed by Yasa, a young man of wealth, joined the order of the Sangha. When the rains ended (vassana, July-October), the Buddha addressed his disciples, the Accomplished Ones (arahats), now sixty in number and said:

"Released am I, monks, from all ties whether human or divine. You also are delivered from fetters whether human or divine. Go now and wander for the welfare and happiness of many out of compassion for the world, for the gain, welfare and happiness of gods and men. Let not two of you proceed in the same direction.

Proclaim the Dhamma (doctrine) that is excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle, excellent in the end, possessed of meaning and the letter and utterly perfect. Proclaim the life of purity, the holy life consummate and pure. There are beings with little dust in their eyes who will be lost through not hearing the Dhamma. There are beings who will understand the Dhamma. I also shall go to Uruvela, to Senanigama to teach the Dhamma."

Thus did the Buddha commence his sublime mission which lasted to the end of his life. With his disciples he walked the highways and byways of Jambudipa, Land of the rose apple (another name for India), enfolding all within the aura of his boundless compassion and wisdom.

04 05 2015 - The Island

 

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J17.10    Message for a globalized World

Bhikkhu Bodhi

Over the past three decades the world has been dramatically transformed in ways that none but a handful of prophets and visionaries could have foreseen even a hundred years ago. From a multitude of loosely connected nation-states it has quickly evolved into a tightly knit global community linked together by rapid means of transportation and instantaneous media of communication. Old barriers of space and time have dropped away, confronting us with new vistas of self-understanding and forcing us to recognize the hard truth that we all face a common human destiny. The claims to special privilege of a particular people, nation, race, or religion now sound hollow. As occupants of the same planet — a bright blue jewel suspended in the frigid blackness of infinite space — we either flourish together or perish together. In the long run between these two alternatives no middle ground is feasible.

But while our proud technology has enabled us to split the atom and unscramble genetic codes, the daily newspapers remind us that our mastery over the external world has not ushered in the utopia that we had so confidently anticipated. To the contrary, the shrinking of global boundaries has given rise to fresh problems of enormous scope — social, political, and psychological problems so grave that they throw into question the continued survival of our planet and our race. The problems that challenge the global community today are legion. They include the depletion of the earth’s natural resources and the despoliation of the environment; regional tensions of ethnic and religious character; the continuing spread of nuclear weapons; disregard for human rights; the widening gap between the rich and the poor. While such problems have been extensively discussed from social, political, and economic points of view, they also cry out for critical examination from a religious viewpoint as well.

A spiritually sensitive mind would not look upon these problems as isolated phenomena to be treated by piecemeal solutions, but would insist on probing into unexplored areas for hidden roots and subtle interconnections. From such a perspective, what is most striking when we reflect upon our global ailments as a whole is their essentially symptomatic character. Beneath their outward diversity they appear to be so many manifestations of a common root, of a deep and hidden spiritual malignancy infecting our social organism. This common root might be briefly characterized as a stubborn insistence on placing short-term, narrowly considered self-interests (including the interests of the limited social or ethnic groups to which we happen to belong) above the long-range, vital good of the broader human community. The multitude of social ills that assail us cannot be adequately accounted for without bringing into view the powerful human drives that lie behind them. And what is distinctive about these drives is that they derive from a pernicious distortion in the functioning of the human mind which sends us blindly in pursuit of factional, divisive, circumscribed ends even when such pursuits threaten to be ultimately self-destructive.

The most valuable contribution that the Buddha’s teaching can make to helping us resolve the great dilemmas facing us today is twofold: first, its uncompromisingly realistic analysis of the psychological springs of human suffering, and second, the ethically ennobling discipline it proposes as the solution. The Buddha explains that the hidden springs of human suffering, in both the personal and social dimensions of our lives, consist of three mental factors called the unwholesome roots. These three roots — which may be regarded as the three prongs of the ego-consciousness — are greed, hatred, and delusion. The aim of the Buddhist spiritual path is to gradually subdue these three evil roots by cultivating the mental factors that are directly opposed to them. These are the three wholesome roots, namely: non-greed, which is expressed as generosity, detachment, and contentment; non-hatred, which becomes manifested as loving-kindness, compassion, patience, and forgiveness; and non-delusion, which arises as wisdom, insight, and understanding.

If we contemplate, in the light of the Buddhist analysis, the dangers that hang over us in our globalized world order, it will become clear that they have assumed such precarious proportions due to the unrestrained proliferation of greed, hatred, and delusion as the basis of human conduct. It is not that these dark forces of the mind were first awakened with the Industrial Revolution; they have indeed been the deep springs of so much suffering and destructiveness since time immemorial. But the one-sided development of humankind — the development of outward control over nature, coupled with the almost complete neglect of any attempts to achieve self-understanding — has today given the unwholesome roots an awesome, unprecedented power that veers ever closer to the catastrophic.

Through the prevalence of greed the world has become transformed into a global marketplace where human beings are reduced to the status of consumers, even commodities, and where materialistic desires are provoked at volatile intensities. Through the prevalence of hatred, which is often kindled by competing interests governed by greed, national and ethnic differences become the breeding ground of suspicion and enmity, exploding in violence and destruction, in cruelty and brutality, in endless cycles of revenge. Delusion sustains the other two unwholesome roots by giving rise to false beliefs, dogmatic views, and philosophical ideologies devised in order to promote and justify patterns of conduct motivated by greed and hatred.

In the new era marked by the triumph of the free-market economy the most pernicious delusion that hangs over us is the belief that the path to human fulfillment lies in the satisfaction of artificially induced desires. Such a project can only provoke more and more greed leading to more and more reckless degrees of selfishness, and from the clash of self-seeking factions, the result will necessarily be strife and violence. If there is any validity in the Buddhist diagnosis of the human situation, the task incumbent on humankind today is clear. The entire drive of contemporary civilization has been towards the conquest and mastery of the external world. Science probes ever more deeply into the hidden secrets of matter and life, while technology and industry join hands to harness the discoveries of science for their practical applications. No doubt science and technology have made appreciable contributions towards alleviating human misery and have vastly improved the quality of our lives. Yet because the human mind, the ultimate agent behind all the monumental achievements of science, has pitifully neglected itself, our patterns of perception, motivations, and drives still move in the same dark channels in which they moved in earlier centuries — the channels of greed, hatred, and delusion — only now equipped with more powerful instruments of destruction.

As long as we continue to shirk the task of turning our attention within, towards the understanding and mastery of our own minds, our impressive accomplishments in the external sphere will fail to yield their proper fruits. While at one level they may make life safer and more comfortable, at another they will spawn baneful consequences of increasing severity and peril, even despite our best intentions. For the human race to flourish in the global age, and to live together happily and peacefully on this shrinking planet, the inescapable challenge facing us is that of coming to understand and transform ourselves.

It is here that the Buddha’s Teaching becomes especially timely, even for those who are not prepared to embrace the full range of Buddhist religious faith and philosophical doctrine. In its diagnosis of greed, hatred, and delusion as the underlying causes of human suffering, the Buddha-Dhamma enables us to see the hidden roots of our private and collective predicaments. By defining a practical path of training which helps us to remove what is harmful and to foster the growth of what is beneficial, the Teaching offers us an effective remedy for tackling the problems of the globe in the one place where they are directly accessible to us: in our own minds. Because it places the burden of responsibility for our redemption on ourselves, calling for personal effort and energetic application to the taming of the mind, the Buddha’s Teaching will inevitably have a bitter edge. But by providing an acute diagnosis of our illness and a precise path to deliverance, it also offers us in this global era an elevating message of hope.

(Courtesy: Buddhist Publication Society)


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J17.11    Self-transformation

Bhikkhu Bodhi


It is perhaps symptomatic of the "fallen" nature of the ordinary human condition that few of us pass the full extent of our lives comfortably reconciled to our natural selves. Even in the midst of prosperity and success, grinding notes of discontent trouble our days and disturbing dreams come to haunt our sleep. As long as our eyes remain coated with dust we incline to locate the cause of our discontent outside ourselves - in spouse, neighbor or job, in implacable fate or fluky chance. But when the dust drops off and our eyes open, we soon find that the real cause lies within.

When we discover how deeply the cause of our unhappiness is lodged in the mind, the realization dawns that cosmetic changes will not be anywhere near enough, that a fundamental internal transformation is required. This desire for a transformed personality, for the emergence of a new man from the ashes of the old, is one of the perennial lures of the human heart. From ancient times it has been a potent wellspring of the spiritual quest, and even in the secular, life-affirming culture of our own cosmopolitan age this longing has not totally disappeared.

While such concepts as redemption, salvation and deliverance may no longer characterize the transformation that is sought, the urge for a radical reshaping of the personality persists as strong as ever, appearing in guises that are compatible with the secular worldview. Where previously this urge sought fulfillment in the temple, ashram and monastery, it now resorts to new venues: the office of the psychoanalyst, the weekend workshop, the panoply of newly spawned therapies and cults. However, despite the change of scene and conceptual framework, the basic pattern remains the same. Disgruntled with the ruts of our ingrained habits, we long to exchange all that is dense and constrictive in our personalities for a new, lighter, freer mode of being.

Self-transformation is also a fundamental goal of the Buddha's teaching, an essential part of his program for liberation from suffering. The Dhamma was never intended for those who are already perfect saints. It is addressed to fallible human beings beset with all the shortcomings typical of unpolished human nature: conduct that is fickle and impulsive, minds that are tainted by greed, anger and selfishness, views that are distorted and habits that lead to harm for oneself and others. The purpose of the teaching is to transform such people -- ourselves -- into "accomplished ones": into those whose every action is pure, whose minds are calm and composed, whose wisdom has fathomed the deepest truths and whose conduct is always marked by a compassionate concern for others and for the welfare of the world.

Between these two poles of the teaching -- the flawed and knotted personality that we bring with us as raw material into the training, and the fully liberated personality that emerges in the end -- there lies a gradual process of self-transformation governed by highly specific guidelines. This transformation is effected by the twin aspects of the path: abandoning (pahana), the removal from the mind of all that is harmful and unwholesome, and development (bhavana), the cultivation of qualities that are wholesome, pure and purifying.

What distinguishes the Buddha's program for self-transformation from the multitude of other systems proposing a similar end is the contribution made by another principle with which it is invariably conjoined. This is the principle of self-transcendence, the endeavor to relinquish all attempts to establish a sense of solid personal identity. In the Buddhist training the aim of transforming the personality must be complemented by a parallel effort to overcome all identification with the elements that constitute our phenomenal being. The teaching of anatta or not-self is not so much a philosophical thesis calling for intellectual assent as a prescription for self-transcendence. It maintains that our ongoing attempt to establish a sense of identity by taking our personalities to be "I" and "mine" is in actuality a project born out of clinging, a project that at the same time lies at the root of our suffering. If, therefore, we seek to be free from suffering, we cannot stop with the transformation of the personality into some sublime and elevated mode as the final goal. What is needed, rather, is a transformation that brings about the removal of clinging, and with it, the removal of all tendencies to self-affirmation.

It is important to stress this transcendent aspect of the Dhamma because, in our own time when "immanent" secular values are ascendent, the temptation is great to let this aspect drop out of sight. If we assume that the worth of a practice consists solely in its ability to yield concrete this-worldly results, we may incline to view the Dhamma simply as a means of refining and healing the divided personality, leading in the end to a renewed affirmation of our mundane selves and our situation in the world. Such an approach, however, would ignore the Buddha's insistence that all the elements of our personal existence are impermanent, unsatisfactory and not self, and his counsel that we should learn to distance ourselves from such things and ultimately to discard them.

In the proper practice of the Dhamma both principles, that of self-transformation and that of self-transcendence, are equally crucial. The principle of self-transformation alone is blind, leading at best to an ennobled personality but not to a liberated one. The principle of self-transcendence alone is barren, leading to a cold ascetic withdrawal devoid of the potential for enlightenment. It is only when these two complementary principles work in harmony, blended and balanced in the course of training, that they can bridge the gap between the actual and ideal and bring to a fruitful conclusion the quest for the end of suffering.

Of the two principles, that of self-transcendence claims primacy both at the beginning of the path and at the end. For it is this principle that gives direction to the process of self-transformation, revealing the goal towards which a transformation of the personality should lead and the nature of the changes required to bring the goal within our reach. However, the Buddhist path is not a perpendicular ascent to be scaled with picks, ropes and studded boots, but a step-by-step training which unfolds in a natural progression. Thus the abrupt challenge of self-transcendence -- the relinquishing of all points of attachment -- is met and mastered by the gradual process of self-transformation. By moral discipline, mental purification and the development of insight, we advance by stages from our original condition of bondage to the domain of untrammeled freedom.

(Courtesy: Buddhist Publication Society)

02 06 2015 - The Island


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J17.12    Truth-seeking and path-following: Moral conundrum for the ardent Buddhist

R. Chandrasoma

 

The Tathāgata was a seeker of the Truth before his enlightenment - and his career as the Great Expositor was preceded by a dialectical interaction with the leading saintly intellects of the day. The Jaina teachings provided the initial stimulus for his path-breaking spiritual innovations and the Brhaminic wisdom of the day was an ever-present background against which he set his revolutionary teachings on Anatta and Anicca.

The point to stress is that he was a quester of the truth before he turned discoverer of the path. The earnest Buddhist Pilgrim or Devotee of today is faced with a puzzling choice – must he, like the Great Teacher, seek the truth before adopting a creed or Follow the Path that the Enlightened One had discovered and luminously set forth for the good of all? Seemingly all established religions set forth a path that must be traversed before the attainment of that spiritual and moral excellence that is the necessary prerequisite for a fulfilled life. Must it not be conceded, however, that a huge gulf separates the Seeker from the mere Follower? As that Modern Sage Krishnamurti puts it ‘Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices’.

We say all this because the Buddhists of Sri Lanka are fast becoming Path Followers and that questing metaphysical spirit – the desire to know the truth through personal endevour – has all but gone. Earnest seekers of the Truth must tussle with the enemy of ignorance by reviewing all pretenders to this truth – including those beliefs and systems of thought that seem greatly at variance with the enthroned beliefs of their own religion. In this day and age Science is religion’s chief adversary - and for a sincere Buddhist to set aside or overlook this high achievement in secular matters is not merely odd but perilous. In our country contrariness is equated with the heretical and to hew to a well-known path of lofty indifference to anything outside the professed orthodoxy seems to be the accepted wisdom – the wisdom of only looking backwards. Orthodox Monks of the Sinhala Tradition speak glibly of Heavens and Hells - glorious Abodes for the Worthy and Punishment Centres of extraordinary cruelty for the Wicked.

This phantasmagoric vision of ethical re-balancing in distant worlds is a childish dream but it persists in the kind of debased folk-Buddhism that the masses are made to believe. In the latter, karmic merit is treated as a transferable commodity and placatory ‘poojas’ for the gods play a foremost role in the pious endevours of the lackadaisical Buddhist masses of our country.

Above all, an Ecclesiastical Brotherhood of Renuncients - the Monks - now play the role of the Exclusive Interpreters of the Doctrine (Sacerdotalism). Religious Services – not the pursuit of the Sacred Truth - is at the heart of the new orthodoxy. That this is a truly lamentable metamorphosis of a great religion that has illumined the lives of countless millions will be conceded by all who treasure the truth as against the trumpery of a show-piece public religion for the masses. A concluding word on Buddhism – it is an awakening to transcendence– the aquistion of a spiritual vision that makes the worldly and mundane a distraction in the great task of being one with the Absolute, (Nirvana).

21 10 2015 - The Island

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J17.13    A discipline of sobriety

Bhikkhu Bodhi

 

Several months ago I went for a two-week retreat to a hermitage in the low country highly respected for the austere, meditative life of its monks. Each day a different group of dayakas (donors) comes to the monastery bringing almsfood, often from remote towns and villages. They arrive the previous evening, prepare an early breakfast which is sent up to the refectory, and then, in the forenoon, offer alms directly to the monks when they come down on alms round. After the other monks have collected their food and gone back up, one elder stays behind to give the Refuges and Precepts, preach a short sermon, and conduct the dedication of merit.

One day during my retreat I noticed some of the male dayakas behaving rather oddly near the abbot's quarters. I asked my friend, a German monk, about their strange behavior, and the explanation he gave me jolted my mind. "They were drunk," he told me. But that wasn't all. He continued: "The only thing unusual about yesterday's incident was that the men had gotten drunk early in the day. Usually they put on their best behavior until the formalities are done, then they break out the bottles."

This stark revelation aroused in me both indignation and sorrow. Indignation, at the idea that people who consider themselves Buddhists should flaunt the most basic precepts even in the sacred precincts of a monastery -- indeed one of the few in Sri Lanka where the flame of arduous striving still burns. Sorrow, because this was only the latest evidence I had seen of how deeply the disease of alcoholism has eaten into the entrails of this nation, whose Buddhist heritage goes back over two thousand years. But Sri Lanka is far from being the only Buddhist country to be engulfed by the spreading wave of alcohol consumption. The wave has already swept over far too much of the shrinking Buddhist world, with Thailand and Japan ranking especially high on the fatality list.

The reasons for this ominous trend vary widely. One is rising affluence, which for the rich makes of liquor (hi-grade imported) a visible symbol of newly acquired wealth and power. Another is a burgeoning middle class, which blindly imitates the social conventions of the West. Still another is poverty, which turns the bottle into an easy escape route from the grim face of everyday reality. But whatever the reason, it is more than our woes and worries that alcohol is dissolving. It is gnawing away at the delicate fabric of Buddhist values on every level -- personal, family, and social.

For his lay followers the Buddha has prescribed five precepts as the minimal moral observance: abstinence from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and the use of intoxicants. He did not lay down these precepts arbitrarily or out of compliance with ancient customs, but because he understood, with his omniscient knowledge, which lines of conduct lead to our welfare and happiness and which lead to harm and suffering. The fifth precept, it should be stressed, is not a pledge merely to abstain from intoxication or from excessive consumption of liquor. It calls for nothing short of total abstinence. By this rule the Buddha shows that he has understood well the subtle, pernicious nature of addiction. Alcoholism rarely claims its victims in a sudden swoop. Usually it sets in gradually, beginning perhaps with the social icebreaker, the drink among friends, or the cocktail after a hard day's work. But it does not stop there: slowly it sinks its talons into its victims' hearts until they are reduced to its helpless prey.

To dispel any doubt about his reasons for prescribing this precept, the Buddha has written the explanation into the rule itself: one is to refrain from the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs because they are the cause of heedlessness (pamada). Heedlessness means moral recklessness, disregard for the bounds between right and wrong. It is the loss of heedfulness (appamada), moral scrupulousness based on a keen perception of the dangers in unwholesome states. Heedfulness is the keynote of the Buddhist path, "the way to the Deathless," running through all three stages of the path: morality, concentration, and wisdom. To indulge in intoxicating drinks is to risk falling away from each stage. The use of alcohol blunts the sense of shame and moral dread and thus leads almost inevitably to a breach of the other precepts. One addicted to liquor will have little hesitation to lie or steal, will lose all sense of sexual decency, and may easily be provoked even to murder. Hard statistics clearly confirm the close connection between the use of alcohol and violent crime, not to speak of traffic accidents, occupational hazards, and disharmony within the home. Alcoholism is indeed a most costly burden on the whole society.

When the use of intoxicants eats away at even the most basic moral scruples, little need be said about its corrosive influence on the two higher stages of the path. A mind besotted by drink will lack the alertness required for meditative training and certainly won't be able to make the fine distinctions between good and bad mental qualities needed to develop wisdom. The Buddhist path in its entirety is a discipline of sobriety, a discipline which demands the courage and honesty to take a long, hard, utterly sober look at the sobering truths about existence. Such courage and honesty will hardly be possible for one who must escape from truth into the glittering but fragile fantasyland opened up by drink and drugs.

It may well be that a mature, reasonably well-adjusted person can enjoy a few drinks with friends without turning into a drunkard or a murderous fiend. But there is another factor to consider: namely, that this life is not the only life we lead. Our stream of consciousness does not terminate with death but continues on in other forms, and the form it takes is determined by our habits, propensities, and actions in this present life. The possibilities of rebirth are boundless, yet the road to the lower realms is wide and smooth, the road upwards steep and narrow. If we were ordered to walk along a narrow ledge overlooking a sharp precipice, we certainly would not want to put ourselves at risk by first enjoying a few drinks. We would be too keenly aware that nothing less than our life is at stake. If we only had eyes to see, we would realize that this is a perfect metaphor for the human condition, as the Buddha himself, the One with Vision, confirms (see SN 56:42). As human beings we walk along a narrow ledge, and if our moral sense is dulled we can easily topple over the edge, down to the plane of misery, from which it is extremely difficult to re-emerge.

But it is not for our own sakes alone, nor even for the wider benefit of our family and friends, that we should heed the Buddha's injunction to abstain from intoxicants. To do so is also part of our personal responsibility for preserving the Buddha's Sasana. The Teaching can survive only as long as its followers uphold it, and in the present day one of the most insidious corruptions eating away at the entrails of Buddhism is the extensive spread of the drinking habit among those same followers. If we truly want the Dhamma to endure long, to keep the path to deliverance open for all the world, then we must remain heedful. If the current trend continues and more and more Buddhists succumb to the lure of intoxicating drinks, we can be sure that the Teaching will perish in all but name. At this very moment of history when its message has become most urgent, the sacred Dhamma of the Buddha will be irreparably lost, drowned out by the clinking of glasses and our rounds of merry toasts.

(Courtesy: Buddhist Publication Society)

27 10 2015 - The Island

 

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J17.14    Definition of Faith in Buddhism

Mervyn Samarakoon

Buddhistic faith or ‘Saddha’ is iconic, wholly rational. Defined ‘Akarawathi Saddha’, the concept is not speculative ideology but experiential functionality founded upon absolute conviction following dialectic enquiry. Oft quoted Kalama Sutta too is indicative of its substance to some extent. For the same reason hearsay and divine dicta have no application here. Faith in its unshakable, most intense form (achala) is achieved at acquisition of first stage of liberation, sowanhood, until which it remains questionable, shaky and suspect. In combination with wisdom, ‘Saddha’ transforms itself into the mightiest force on earth. Surambatta, faithful follower of Buddha affords a touching example.

Having returned home from Jetawanaramaya where he attained sowanhood, he was shocked to find Buddha at his doorstep a while later. In bewilderment he rushed up to his great benefactor when the latter made the stunning pronouncement that he made a mistake at Jetawanaramaya when he said all things are ‘anicca’, ‘dukkha’ and ‘anatta’, whereas there are things in the world that are not. Steeped in unassailable faith where fake is easily identifiable, Surambatta ordered the supremely malevolent imposter Mara, celestial personification of evil to disappear forthwith, which he did ‘as if struck with an axe’, declared the marvelous commentary.

The present essay concerns the sensational life of the good king of Taxilla, Pukkusathi, a living example of faith in Buddha’s time. He was one of the five bhikkhus who perished on the mountain top in their desperate bid to seek samsaric liberation before the disappearance of Kassapa Buddha’s dispensation towards the end of its rapid decline many aeons ago. An outstanding symbol of faith in Gautama Buddha’s dispensation as well, Pukkusathi’s life story is a classic instance of evolutionary biography where varied states of mental development and innate human traits pass from life to life in unending succession. He ranked among the most benevolent kings of ancient India. It is said he was both mother and father to his subjects and ensured their happiness as a parent would the child in his lap.

Through interstate traders Great King Bimbisara of Rajagaha came to know of the merciful provincial king of Taxilla. He was elated when he heard the details- was of the same age as his and righteous too, so he requested the traders to make him friends with Pukkusathi- eternal phenomenon of like-minded coming together. Pukkusathi in time sent King Bimbisara a gift of eight shawls of extreme value, four of which were offered to Buddha by the king and four retained by him. For a gift in acknowledgement, Rajagaha abounded in valuable treasures, but he was in a quandary. Ever since he became a stream winner (Sowan), no treasure on earth other than the Triple Gem could evoke happiness in him. Hence, he was looking for the right treasure, the unparalleled one for his friend. He asked later visitors from Taxilla whether the Triple Gem Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha is seen in their kingdom. Not even heard of, let alone seen they said. The king pondered, there was no way Buddha, Sariputta or Mugalan could be sent to Taxilla, but their word as good as their image, could.

Having observed the eight-fold precepts early one morning, he climbed the top most floor of the palace, closed the door and began writing an immortal message in meticulous letters on a plate of gold.

A Buddha has appeared on earth from the Thusitha world. He was known by this name while in the mother’s womb and by this, as a layman. Attained Supreme Enlightenment from the unconquerable seat under the bo-tree. He is possessed of nine incomparable virtues. There isn’t a like treasure in the human or the heavenly words. May the power of this truth bestow blessings upon you. Thanks were heaped on the Dhamma. The profound doctrine is to be discerned intelligibly, individually, separately. Anantariya Samadhi, the subtle, extremely refined state of concentration reached consequent to the attainment of supermundane consciousness of each fruit of the path was explained briefly. No other concentration comes anywhere near, wrote the sowan-attainer. Finally he laid praise upon the astute clansmen who having listened to the Blessed One have abandoned their homes , their kingdoms and their generaliships to enter the order of discipline and solitude leading up to the non -lingering, totally woeless state. Very importantly, he gave a concise description of anapanasathi meditation and prophetically declared Pukkusathi should leave his kingdom and don the yellow robe, if possible. It may not have been a samsaric accident that king Bimbisara thought of citing anapanasathi. The gold sheaf was encased in eleven caskets one after another made of gold, silver and priceless gems. After accompanying it to the border of his kingdom in a spectacular procession and worshiping the casket falling on his knees, he instructed the royal emissaries to request King Pukkusathi to open it in seclusion, not in the presence of women in the harem.

Pukkusathi accepted the sacred gift in a ceremony conducted with equal solemnity and followed his friend’s instructions to the letter. When he commenced reading the virtues of the Blessed One, all ninety nine thousand hairs stood on end, was not aware whether he was seated or standing. Unprecedented joy pervaded his whole body, sat down awhile and next commenced reading on Dhamma and Sangha. Swiftly he reached the fourth and fifth jhana on the given meditation and full fifteen days he abided in its absorption. There was no inspection of the army, rejoicing with dancing women or arbitration of disputes, but just one question remained - kingdom or Buddha?. Numberless were the times of managing kingdoms and holding ministerships; I shall bear the noble doctrine. He cut off his hair with the sword, clad himself in a saffron robe obtained from the marketplace through a minor employee and entered the street with a clay bowl in hand, heading towards Buddha and his royal friend in Rajagaha in the company of a group of caravanners, leaving behind a weeping nation.

He wouldn’t get on to a pair of single strap sandals or carry an umbrella to walk the 192 yojuns (720 miles ) lest he shames his Master who never ever boarded an animal- drawn carriage in the entirety of His majestic forty five year Buddha- hood. When Pukkusathi reached Rajagaha at nightfall, he discovered he had passed Jetawanaramaya where Buddha was residing then, by forty five yojuns. He was directed by townsfolk to Bhaggawa the potter, whose workshop served as the resting place for late - arriving ascetics in the city. Pukkusathi obtained his permission to spend one night in it until he begins his journey back to Jetawanaramaya at break of day.

That morning the Great Being perceived in His vision the clansman Pukkusathi having read only a letter of his friend, abandoning his 375 mile wide kingdom, taking to robes and walking over 700 miles in His honour and dying a feeble death after living a night in a humble shed. If He goes Pukkusathi will receive the third reward of noble disciplehood. That morning, surrounded by bhikkhus He went on His morning alms-round in the city of Savaththi, rested awhile after the meal and left for Rajagaha in the guise of a wandering ascetic suppressing the visual splendour like a dark cloud obliterating the glow of the full moon. Two chief disciples themselves were not wise to it. The Great Being did not travel astrally, neither did he constrict the earth, but walked the entire 170 miles from Savaththi to Rajagaha to reciprocate Pukkusathi’s grateful deed. He reached Bhaggava’s workshop soon after Pukkusathi. There was no bold announcement that that he was Buddha, but sought Bhaggava’s permission to spend a night there. The potter agreed if the homeless one already in it consented. Buddha went upto Pukkusathi, said if it is not inconvenient to the bhikkhu he would remain one night there. Why would he crave for another’s shed when the kingdom he left was over 300 miles wide. Empty men ordained in this immaculate discipline unable to conquer their vicious greed continue to keep bickering shamelessly over temple premises and their lodgings.

"The potter’s workshop is large enough friend, let the venerable one stay as long as he likes" replied Pukkusathi. Having forgone the perfumed chamber at Savaththi, the extremely delicate Buddha laid the folded pansakulika robe on a spread of grass at one end of the unkempt floor littered with ash, broken jars and chicken droppings to sit in perfect cross-legged composure as in heavenly abode.

The Great Being arose from unfractured royal lineage. The clansman too grew up in a royal womb. Buddha had enormous merit. So did the clansman. Buddha abandoned royalty for reclusion. So did the clansman. They both had a radiant complexion. Both were princely hermits. Both had acquired mental absorptions. The lowly workshop dazzled with their presence. Not a thought occurred they ought to take a moments rest. The Great being instantly entered nirodha sampaththi (attainment of state of extinction), the clansman the fourth jhana. Did not Buddha travel the enormous distance in order to preach Dhamma? Clansman in a state of exhaustion would not absorb it. In the third watch of the night Buddha exited from nirodha sampaththi and opened his jewel- like eyes to see the absolutely motionless clansman seated like a golden statue, inspiring confidence. A unique exchange of words, of mystique then takes place.

Buddha- "Under whom have you gone forth, bhikkhu ? Who is your teacher?"

"Friend, there is the recluse Gotama who went forth from the Sakyan clan. A good report of the Blessed Gotama is that he is accomplished, fully enlightened, perfect in knowledge and conduct, sublime, knower of the worlds, incomparable tamer of persons, teacher of men and gods, enlightened and blessed."

"Bhikku, have you seen that Blessed One before? Could you recognize him?"

"No friend, I have not seen him before, neither would I recognize him."

The Blessed One addressed venerable Pukkusathi "Bhikkhu, I will teach you the Dhamma, listen closely to what I shall say". Why would he not, when he didn’t meet one person in his entire journey from Taxilla to Rajagaha who could tell him a word of the sweet Dhamma, the sole purpose of his mission. "Yes friend," venerable Pukkusathi replied.

The Samma Sambuddha in the potter’s shed then delivered the fascinating, awe- inspiring sermon ‘Dhatuvibhanga Sutta’ an analysis of the ultimate constituents of the entity called ‘person’ in worldly parlance, a subject entirely in the domain of a Samma Sambuddha. He did not touch upon the requisite seven-fold antecedent regime of blameless conduct, control of the senses, moderate food intake, ability to break rest and establishment of the four jhanas since Venerable Pukkusathi had already mastered them. He delved directly into the profound theory of voidness liberation (sunnata vimokkha) hallmark of the doctrine, substratum of Nibbana. The Supremely Enlightened One began, "Bhikkhu, this person consists of six elements, six bases of contact, eighteen types of mental exploration and four foundations. Tides of conceiving do not sweep over one who stands upon these foundations, and when tides of conceiving no longer sweep over him he is called a sage at peace. One should not neglect wisdom, should uphold truth, should cultivate relinquishment and train himself in the elimination of defilements. This is the summary of the exposition of the elements.

"Bhikkhu, why was it said that the person consists of six elements? There is the earth element, the water element, fire element, air element, space element and the consciousness element". At times, Buddha expounds the real through imagery at others imagery through the real. Here he chose the latter -there is no person here, only a concept.

"Bhikkhu, it was said that this person consists of six bases of contact. There are the base of eye contact, the base of ear contact, the base of nose contact, the base of tongue contact, the base of body contact and the base of mind contact".

"Bhikkhu, this person consists of eighteen kinds of mental exploration. So it was said. And with reference to what was this said? On seeing a form with the eye he explores a form productive of joy, or of grief or of equanimity. On hearing a sound with the ear, he explores …, On smelling an odour with the nose, he explores … On tasting a flavour with the tongue, he explores … On touching a tangible object with the body, he explores… On cognizing a mind object with the mind, he explores… So it was said that, ‘Bhikkhu, this person consists of eighteen forms of mental exploration’ ".

"Bhikkhu, this person has four foundations, it was said, It was said with reference to foundation of wisdom, foundation of truth, foundation of relinquishment and foundation of peace. So it was with reference to this that it was said, ‘Bhikkhu, this person has four foundations’. "One should not neglect wisdom, should preserve truth, should cultivate relinquishment and should train for peace, so it was said."

The Fully Enlightened One then proceeded on a lucid elaboration of each of these topics elucidating the intricate mode of treating each of them in their proper perspective of non-entity, of non-self, leading up to total disenchantment where only equanimity remains, purified, bright, malleable, wieldy and radiant. Buddha initially praised the fine material sphere (rupavachara loka) of the fourth jhana so the clansman wouldn’t be suddenly thrown into a state of confusion that the immensely pacifying attainment he had already gained was after all meaningless and totally in vain; or could the preacher be making a mistake? Buddha then gradually leads him to the higher jhanas of the immaterial planes embracing infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness and the sphere of neither perception nor non- perception entailing enormous, almost incomprehensible lifespans of 20,000, 40,000, 60,000 and 84,000 aeons. The preachment of the Enlightened One was an unending cascade flowing from the sky, as was said. The clansman at times fumbled in digesting it.

Even though the lifespan there is 20,000 aeons, that too in conditioned, fashioned, built-up. It is thus impermanent, unstable, not lasting, transient, subject to perishing, breaking up and dissolution. It is not a shelter, a place of safety, a refuge. Having passed away from there as a worldling, he can still be born in the four states of deprivation. Finally Buddha masterfully directs the clansman to the total destruction of craving for eternal existence and belief in annihilation (bhava thanha, vibhava thanha ) culminating in the attainment of sublime arahantship.

He does not cling to anything in the world. When he does not cling, he is not agitated. When he is not agitated he attains Nibbana. It is called the pacification of lust, hate and delusion. The sage at peace is not born, does not age, does not die; he is not shaken and does not yearn. Not being born, how could he age? Not aging, how could he die? Not dying, how could he be shaken? Not being shaken, why should be yearn? He understands, on the dissolution of the body, with the ending of life, all that is felt, not being delighted in, will disappear right there, never to arise again.

"So it was with reference to this that it was said the tides of conceiving do not sweep over one who stands upon these foundations, and when tides of conceiving no longer sweep over him, he is called a sage at peace," ‘muni santo’, ‘Bhikkhu, bear in mind this brief exposition of the six elements". The Great Sage delivered the sermon from the loftiest pedestal of arahantship, Buddhahood. The clansman grasped it in consonance with his accumulated merit and reached the third stage of deliverance in the manner of a ‘vipachithanghu’, one who comprehends upon elaboration. Whatever doubts that existed vanished, prostrated himself at the Blessed One’s feet and sought forgiveness for the transgression of addressing Him as ‘friend’, ‘like a confused, blundering fool’. The Blessed One said "since you see your transgression as such and make amends in accordance with Dhamma, we forgive you, for it is growth in the Noble One’s discipline when one makes amends in accordance with Dhamma and undertakes restraint in the future".

The clansman pleaded full admission under the Blessed One.

"But are your bowl and robes complete, Bhikkhu?" said the Buddha.

"Venerable Sir, my bowl and robes are not complete"

"Bhikkhu, Thathagathas do not give full admission when one’s bowl and robes are not complete."

Bowl and robes did not materialize by divine means on this occasion. Has he not donated them to another before? He has. But they appear for those who live their last lives – ‘paschima bhavika’. The clansman was not. Could not then the Noble Being provide them Himself and give full admission? There was no possibility. The clansman’s life had come to an end. It was as though the Anagami Maha Brahma from the pure abode had descended upon the potter’s workshop.

The clansman paid homage to the Blessed One and keeping Him on his right side, departed in search of robes. Appearance of first streaks of the morning sun, ending of the sermon and arising of the six coloured resplendent rays of the Blessed One all took place at once.

The entire workshop was aglow in splendorous radiance. Golden flares of the Blessed One ran in all directions forming circles. He determined that townspeople shall see him. They converged on the workshop in numbers and hurried to inform King Bimbisara who rushed there to worship Him.

"Lord, when did you arrive here?"

"Great King, yesterday at sunset"

"Lord, for what reason?"

"Your friend King Pukkusathi, having read your letter, ordained himself. Coming in search of me, he passed Savaththi by forty five yojuns, arrived at this workshop.

Reciprocating his difficult task, I came here and preached Dhamma to him. He realized the third fruit of the path."

"Lord, where is he now?"

"Since his robes were incomplete for higher ordination, he went in search of them."

King Bimbisara left in the direction his friend went. Buddha came through the sky and appeared in the magnificent chamber at Jetawanaramaya.

Clansman looking for bowl and robes did not go to his royal friend of Rajagaha, neither to the tradesmen from Taxilla. A thought occurred, I should not be going from place to place like a fowl in the great city, surely I ought to find them on a charnel ground, a river bank or in a rubbish heap somewhere. While rummaging through a rubbish heap the cow that killed three of his accomplices for murdering a woman of easy virtue many births before, gored him, taking him completely by surprise.

The frightened, angry woman who died with a curse on her lips had turned demon in the form of a cow. The clansman flew up, fell dead face downwards. Was like a golden statue on the mound of rubbish. No sooner he died he was born in Aviha Brahmawasa and attained arahanthood immediately like the five others Upaka, Palagandiya, Bhaddiya, Kundadeva and Pingiya. When King Bimbisara’s men found him, the king went there and wept for his noble friend who died a lonely death, who could not be given a befitting regal reception. In a final act of endearment he dressed him in white clothes decorated with royal insignia, kept him on a golden bier and had him cremated on a pyre made of fragrant firewood.

He also built a stupa enshrining his relics. King Pukkusathi epitomized the disciple of ultimate faith known to Buddhism.

Reference:

* Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha by Bhikkhu N?namoli and Bhikkuhu Bodhi.

* Majjima Nikaya Atthakatha translation by Ven Balapitiye Siri Seevali

27 12 2015 - Sunday Island

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J17.15    Are we becoming ‘Nominal Buddhists’?

Dr. Upul Wijayawardhana

The greatest revolutionary to grace this world of ours, the Buddha, continues to influence us but, unfortunately, the designated ‘successor’, "The Dhamma", seems to be losing out gradually, at least in Sri Lanka, to the religion that is built around Him. I can well understand why many Buddhists, and even non-Buddhists, may question this statement on many counts but let me explain what exactly I mean, before proceeding further. Revolutionary may be a tainted word to some, as it is often associated, incorrectly with a narrow definition, with politics. According to O E D, a revolutionary is someone who brings about dramatic change or innovation. In human history,the person who brought about the most dramatic change in thought, attitude and behaviour is the Buddha; changing the dependence on an external force, by whatever name, to one of self-determination. He was the ‘Father of Science’ encouraging questioning before acceptance. His greatest innovation ‘Mindfulness’, in many guises, is spreading fast around the world (which I plan to discuss in a future article). When the Buddha was asked, shortly before his ‘Parinibbana’, who his successor would be, He is said to have stated that it will be the Dhamma; translated as the truth which is universal. Instead of blind reverence, the Buddha wanted us to tread the path He showed. Religion, the institution that was built, over the years, around the Buddha’s teachings, with borrowed rituals and embellished with tales, some unbelievable, seems to be more important to many.

Having the great luxury of time at disposal, thanks to retirement, is a gift in an era where means are readily available to spend that time fruitfully exercising the brain. Watching YouTube, we suddenly came across a ‘Bana’ preaching by a Buddhist priest whose name included the title ‘Arahant’. Not being aware of the existence of any Arahantsin our time, naturally, curiosity was aroused and we decided to watch the programme. To say the least, it was a great disappointment which led me to ask the question "Are we becoming ‘Nominal Buddhists’?"

The venerable Monk, dressed in a shiny robe and seated on a highly decorated ‘throne’, rather than expounding the Dhamma, continued with an onslaught of attacks on many including institutions and fellow Monks interspersed, every four or five minutes, with an enthralling statement to his audience ‘You understand what I am stating’, reciprocated with grateful nods from the audience. We simply could not understand what he meant other than unwarranted abuse, unbecoming of any Buddhist Priest leave alone an Arahant. Having not been able to stomach it any longer, I left to do something else after about half an hour but my wife continued to watch it till the end, for interest’s sake. When I inquired later how it was, she said "It was more of the same, nothing gained" but added that there was an interesting episode during questions; one young lady has said something to the effect that her three year old child behaves just like the ‘Sadhu’. I burst out laughing at the devoted but misguided comment made without realizing the implications, all due to blind faith in a self-proclaimed Arahant.

I wondered whether Arahant’s declared their attainment and suddenly remembered ‘Thera Ghatha’ and ‘Theri Ghatha’.A search in ‘buddhnet.net’ confirmed that it is in ‘Khuddaka Nikaya’ and described as follows:

"These two treatises form a compilation of delightful verses uttered by some two hundred and sixty-four theras and seventy-three theras through sheer exultation and joy that arise out of their religious devotion and inspiration These inspiring verses gush forth from the hearts of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis after their attainment of Arahatship as an announcement of their achievement and also as statement of their effort which has led to their final enlightenment."

However, it is not meant to be self-aggrandizement and the concluding paragraph sums up Arahanthood:

"The bhikkhu has now his ‘abode’ of the five khand has well protected by ‘the roofing and walls’ of sense restraints and pa. He lives thus comfortably, well shielded from the rain and storm of lust, craving and attachments. Undisturbed by the pouring rain, and whirling wind of conceit, ignorance, hatred, he remains calm and composed, unpolluted. Although he lives thus in security and comfort of liberation and calm, he keeps alert and mindful, ever ready to cope with any emergency that may arise through lack of mindfulness."

It seems incomprehensible that an Arahant could be so critical but may be that Arhants of modern day are different from the Arahants of Buddha’s time!

We pride ourselves for having produced the first woman Prime Minister in the world but when interested ladies wished to establish a ‘Meheni Sasana’ in Sri Lanka, our noble Prelates hindered rather than supported in spite of the Buddha having shown the way. When I wrote about ‘Buddha, Confucius and Socrates’ (The Island, 29 August 2015), one aspect I did not elaborate on was the treatment of women. In Socrates’ Athens democracy was only for men and in Confucius’ China too, women had no place. Of the ‘Geniuses of the Ancient World’ it was only the Buddha that recognised the equal status of women and Buddhism had been a liberating influence for many women. Two very significant examples come to mind:

In 7th century, Empress Wu of the Tang dynasty used Buddhism to overcome the Confucian prejudice against women to rule (It is as unnatural as having a hen crow like a rooster at daybreak) and is considered one of the great rulers of that dynasty. The great Buddha statue, she built, purported to be that of Maitriya Buddha with a feminine face, supposed to depict her own, is among 100,000 Buddhist statues in Luoyang caves in Hunan province of China.

The Tale of Genji, written in Japanese in the 11th century, is considered the first great novel in world literature or the first novel still considered to be a classic. The author, Murasaki Shibuku, was a noblewoman and lady-in-waiting who later became a Buddhist nun and it is believed that Murasaki is an assumed name, the name of the second wife of Genji who was the son of a Japanese Emperor and a concubine. It is interesting that in the novel, Murasaki finds solace in Buddhism, when her husband marries again, by becoming a Bhikkuni.

While Buddhism has been a liberating influence on women throughout the world and throughout history, reluctance on the part of our Prelates to support the establishment of ‘Meheni Sassna’ has nothing to do with Dhamma but simply is yet another example of a protective religious practice.

Whereas the Buddha empowered us to seek our own liberation, most Buddhists, especially politicians, go behind gods to seek salvation. It was recently reported that the Opposition politicians went round breaking thousands and thousands of coconuts in Temples to oust the Government! What primitive thinking!! During the Polonnaruwa era, our Ancient Kings, out of consideration, allowed ‘Devales’ to be built in Buddhist Temples to accommodate the religious needs of some of their wives who were Hindus. Now the Kovils are the money spinners in the temple and the place to go for ‘Seth-Kavi’ or ‘Vas-Kavi’.

I saw first-hand what happens at a famous Devale as the Festival Medical Officer in 1965 and I have never visited those places since. I will, no doubt, upset a lot of my friends and relations who continue to make regular pilgrimages to redeem vows for their successes but I take personal credit for my achievements for, as a Buddhist, I have empowered myself and do not pray for favours. However, whenever I do a meritorious deed, I convey merits to all other beings including gods, if there are any, but not expecting anything in return.

The latest fashion seems to be the lavish ‘Dana’ ceremonies held to celebrate birthdays of Buddhist priests which flies against the ideals of Buddhism. Is this simple living? Is this the moderation expected? Why cannot the Venerable Monks persuade their rich but misguided ‘Dayakayas’ to give them a modest meal and spend the balance to help the needy? Perhaps, it is not in their interest to point out that giving is to get rid of greed but not to be richer in the next birth!

Buddha was a revolutionary in yet another important aspect. In caste-ridden Hindu society of India, he was bold enough to preach equality of all and state that it is actions, not birth, that makes one a Brahmin or an untouchable. When caste barriers are coming down even in marriages, politicians try to continue for votes and priests for the ‘Nikayas’ Is this not a sign of continuing ‘Nominal Buddhism’?

May I offer my humble apologies, if I caused offence, to many Sri Lankan Buddhists who follow the path laid down by the Buddha properly; my words are meant to stimulate thinking and, hopefully, swell your ranks!

05 03 2016 - The Island

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J17.16    Gautama Buddha visits His Relatives in Kapilawasthupura

Significance of Medin Full Moon Poya day

On the first Medin Full Moon Poya day after the Enlightenment and seven years after the “Abhiniskramanaya” or leaving the royal palace seeking Emancipation Gautama Buddha visited His relatives in Kapilawastupura, the capital of the Sakyan kingdom. The city of Kapilawasthu was also known as Kimbulwathpura.
 
Endeavour in search of the Truth

From the time of Abhiniskramanaya  or the day when prince Siddhartha left the royal palace and went in search of the truth, Mokshaya, total liberation or the freedom from transmigration the state of Nirvana, His father, King Suddhodhana kept himself informed of the developments of his son.
During a period of six long years he received various items of news and some of them were heartbreaking. On a number of occasions news was brought to him that prince Siddhartha had died.  According to legends some parties had brought human bones to substantiate their statements. However, the king rejected their news on the contention that Sakyans did not die before their maximum span of life.

"Contrary to the king’s expectations all the nine envoys joined the Order with their followers and attained Arahantship."

News for the consolation of the king

After six long years, the happy news that his son had attained Buddhahood was brought to the king for his consolation. King Suddhodhana rejoiced at the news that his son had attained Enlightenment and was preaching His doctrine at Rajagaha Nuwara Veluwanaramaya. The king who was longing to hear about his son was overcome with joy and happiness.  Enraptured by the latest news about his son, the king immediately sent one of his ministers to invite the Enlightened One to Kimbulwathpura.
The envoy was accompanied by more than one thousand followers. Relatives too were anxious to see the Buddha. The king got his men to construct Nigrodharamaya for the Buddha and His disciples. However, to the disappointment of the king and the relatives the envoy did not come back.  He and his followers had entered the priesthood having heard the Dharma from the Buddha and had not conveyed the message.On nine successive occasions the king sent envoys to invite the Buddha to Kimbulwathpura.  Contrary to the king’s expectations all the nine envoys joined the Order with their followers and attained Arahantship. Since Arahants were indifferent to worldly affairs they did not convey the king’s message to the Buddha. The disappointed king ultimately sent Kaludai, who was a playmate of prince Siddhartha as an envoy. Kaludai agreed to go on condition that he would be allowed to enter the Order.
Kaludai too entered the Oder in the like manner and attained Arahantship but unlike the previous envoys he told the Enlightened One that the rainy season was over and the time was quite good to visit Kimbulwathpura. The Blessed One accepted the invitation and attended by a large retinue of disciples journeyed the whole distance preaching Dharma on the way and arrived at Kimbulwathpura in two months.

Absence of Princess Yasodhara

When the Exalted One preached Anumeveni Bana all but princess Yasodhara came to pay their reverence to the Enlightened One. Princes Yasodhara remained in her apartment assuming that Buddha would pay her a visit if she was sincere and virtuous enough.
Buddha handed over His bowl to the king and accompanied by His two chief disciples entered the apartment of princess Yasodhara and sat on the seat prepared for Him.  “Let the king’s daughter pay reverence as she likes” the Blessed One said and she came swiftly, clasped His ankles and placing her head on His feet worshipped Him. 

King Suddhodhana’s commendations

King Suddhodhana commended her saying that she had given up garlands, comfortable seats and beddings and wore yellow robes hearing that Buddha was doing so. He also said that she resorted to one meal a day and rejected the offers made by her relatives to maintain her. 

Prince Rahula and Prince Nanda

A large number of Sakyan princes and princesses entered the Order notably Prince Rahula, son of prince Siddhartha and princes Yasodhara, His step Brother, Prince Nanda,  prince Ananda, His cousin, who ministered to all the needs of the Buddha until His parinibbana, and Sakkya Nobles, Anuruddha, Bhaddiya, Bhagu, Kimbila and Devadatta.

22 03 2016 - The Daily Mirror

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J17.17    Free from bonds; the Dhamma; Buddhism and relatives; visit to Kapilawastu

K. K. S. Perera

 

 

The message that the Buddha had arrived spread in a few minutes all over in Kapilawattu like a whirl-wind, creating an  environment in and around King Suddodana’s  palace to assume a pleasing atmosphere as to welcome the Buddha.

Kaludai,  Buddha’s lay-life friend was successful in convincing the Buddha to set out from Rajagahanuwara to Kapilavasthupura with a large retinue of Bhikkhus, which led to four most significant events that happened on Medin Full moon day.  Buddha had to perform ‘Yama Maha Pelahera’, the twin miracle to counter the pride of senior relatives who were reluctant to pay respect.
It was on this occasion that– the father of the Buddha - King Suddhodana worshipped the Buddha for the third time, followed by all the Sakyans.  The following morning  the Buddha went on an alms round from house- to- house. When the king protested saying it was an insult to the Sakya clan Buddha said,  “Yours is Sakya clan. Mine is the Buddha clan.” The Buddha along with Arhant Sariyuth and Mugalan went to see his former wife Princess Yasodhara at her chambers as she refused to oblige to a message sent by King Suddodana to come and meet her former husband— she fell prostrate by his feet and wept bitterly, for Buddha to warn others not to disrupt her emotional gesture. The Buddha responded by explaining to her, how she assisted him through eons in the Sansara until he became the Buddha.  


Buddha the  Psychotherapist Meets Yasodharavo, Rahula and Nanda

On the third day at Kapilawasthu,  Rahula, who asked for his inheritance from the Buddha was accompanied to the temple where the little one [Prince Rahula] expressed his interest to enter the sasana. The next day the Buddha handed over his bowl to Prince Nanda the step- brother as he was returning to the temple; Nanda, who was to marry Janpada-kalyani the next day was ordained too.  King Suddhodana and Queen Maha Prajapathi Gothami attained Sothapanna during Buddha’s stay, while Princess Yasodhara took refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Freed himself of all bonds, the enlightened one sees the father, step mother, wife, son and cousin as just another being with no special attachment. The above incidents confirm the western psycho-analyst’s view as Buddha the most rational psychotherapist ever lived.  

Freedom from Bonds


How to free ourselves from bonds of life? We have to investigate ourselves – not someone explaining while we listen, agreeing or disagreeing, but taking a journey of discovery into the most deep corners of our minds. And to take such a journey we cannot be burdened with prejudices, opinions, and conclusions - all that we have collected for thousands of years and more.  Give up all you have ever thought about yourself; start as if you knew nothing, and begin to understand ourselves for the first time.

How can we be free to look and learn when from the moment we are born to the moment we die, our minds are shaped by a particular culture in the narrow pattern of the ‘I’`me’ and ‘mine’?  We have been conditioned for centuries by nationality,  religion, caste, language, class, custom, tradition, education, literature, art, convention and  propaganda of all kinds, the pressures, the climate we live in, the food we eat, our friends, our family,  our experiences -and therefore our reactions and responses to every problem are conditioned. You will never be free of it, and if you think, `I must be free of it’, you will fall into another form of conditioning. Even when you look at a tree and say, `That is a jak tree’, or `that is a mango tree’, the naming of the tree, which is general knowledge, it has so conditioned you that the word comes between you and actually observing the tree.
So it is for us to decide whether or not we wish for complete freedom. If we say we do, then we have to understand the character and structure of freedom. Is it freedom when you are free from pain, free from anxiety? Or is freedom itself something completely different? You can be free from envy, resentment say, but isn’t that freedom a response and therefore not freedom at all? You can be free from doctrine very easily, by scrutinizing it, but the purpose for that freedom from dogma has its individual reaction since the desire to be free from a doctrine may be that it is no longer fashionable or opportune.
 

Silly Nationalistic Belief 


You can be free from patriotism because you believe in internationalism or because you sense it is no longer reasonably necessary to adhere to this silly nationalistic belief. You can effortlessly put that away. Or you may counter against some religious or political leader who has guaranteed you freedom as a result of restraint or revolt. But has such rationalism, such commonsense conclusion anything to do with liberty? If you say you are free from something, it is a rejoinder which will then become another reaction which will bring about another conventionality, another form of authority. In this way you can have a chain of responses and accept each reaction as independence. But it is not freedom; it is merely a link of a modified history which the mind adheres to.  All youth, are in revolt against the world, and that is a good thing in itself, but revolt is not freedom because when you revolt it is a reaction and that response sets up its own pattern and you get trapped in that pattern. You think it is something novel, but it is the old in a different mould. Any societal or political rebellion will inevitably slip back to the good old bourgeois frame of mind. 
 
There are no guides, no teachers. There is only your relationship with the world - nothing else. When you understand this, what you feel, what you think, how you work, all self-pity goes. We will not thrive on blaming others, which is a type of self-pity.
What is imperative is not a philosophy but to observe what is in fact taking place in our daily existence, inwardly and outwardly. If you examine very closely what is taking place and observe it, you will see that it stands on a rational conception.  And when we look at what is happening in the world we commence to understand that there is no external and internal process; there is only one unitary process, it is a whole movement. To be able to stare at this seems to me all that is required, because if we make out how to look, then the whole thing turns out to be very clear, and to look desires no viewpoint, no teacher. Nobody need tell you how you should look. You just look.

22 03 2016 - The Daily Mirror

 

 

 

 

   End of Aloka Journal Page 17  

 

 

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One of his students asked Buddha, "Are you the messiah?"
"No", answered Buddha.
"Then are you a healer?"
"No", Buddha replied.
"Then are you a teacher?" the student persisted.
"No, I am not a teacher."
"Then what are you?" asked the student, exasperated.
"I am awake", Buddha replied.

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