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 JOURNAL - PAGE 3.

VESAK 2006

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  ARTICLES INDEX - PAGE 3 

  

J3.01   The Buddha: The greatest humanist among world's religious teachers - The year 2006 marks the 2550th...

J3.02   Harmonious totality as against divisive dominance - At the launch of 'Buddha Pradeepa' the Daily News Vesak Annual.

J3.03   Buddhism's global appeal - Gautama Buddha was born and bred as an Indian and achieved...

J3.04   The Buddha, our unique Teacher - "Mind is the forerunner of all phenomena. Mind is chief, they are all mind created"

J3.05   Pancha Seela misunderstood by Buddhists as Dhamma Seela - During this 2550th Buddha Jayanthi year...

J3.06   The Mangala Sutta neglected and little understood - In every recital of pirith be it a "seth piritha"...

J3.07   Religions and the Dhamma - Whatever religious belief religion creates, it is a desire...

J3.08   The Buddha's teachings and apocryphal scriptures - The Buddha did not write books nor dictate his teachings...

J3.09   Buddhist response to global terrorism - British Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1974 states…

J3.10   God and Nirvana - Religious faith, a very hypersensitive subject, is a field which one has to tread warily...

J3.11   Has Buddhism an answer to our problems - We are in a whirlpool of problems…

J3.12   Look around you during this Vesak - Nature puts on a glorious show in…

J3.13   Karma and its wrong interpretations - It is the fashion here to say of those involved in...

J3.14   Concept of love as basis of spiritual growth - The Pali term Metta, from the Vedic maitra…

J3.15   Christian Buddhists in the western world - In Europe too where the same situation is prevailing…

J3.16   Facing pain according to the Buddhist way - Pain is considered as bodily and mental suffering…

J3.17   The Elegance of The Buddha - The remarkable, unparalleled unique quality of the teaching…

J3.18   Special significance of Binara poya - Poya day has a special significance for Buddhists…

J3.19   The essentials of a Buddhist social philosophy - The spirited revival of interest in Buddhism…

J3.20   The doctrine of abandonment - One day, when the Buddha went into Savatti…

 

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J3.01  The Buddha: The greatest humanist among world's religious teachers

W.J.M. Lokubandara

DIVINE BEING: The year 2006 marks the 2550th anniversary of the Buddha-Jayanthi or Birth of Gotama the Buddha.

In the history of the religions of the world, Gotama the Buddha, a religious teacher, did not make any claim to the fact that he is an incarnate, or a messenger or a descendent of any divine being.

The Buddha maintained that he is a human being, who has realized the nature of life through his own knowledge and virtue, and made an end to suffering, which is a universal phenomenon.

It is in this sense that He is considered to be an uttara manussa or a super human being. It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege for me to have got this valuable opportunity to write about Gotama the Buddha.

Today, we live in a world where the human being face challenges to discover his own path for the survival of not only his own species but also for the survival of all the other species, and the very world he has to share with many others.

Remembering a great religious teacher, like the Buddha, in this context, becomes meaningful only in so far as we can draw insights, lessons and inspiration for this crucial task.

Therefore, let me elaborate a little on how the life of the Buddha and His teachings are going to be helpful in discovering our own potentiality in finding lasting solutions for the problems we are faced with.

We know that Gotama the Buddha was born in the 6th century B.C. in Madhaya-Pradesha of Bharata where the religious atmosphere was complex and the social atmosphere was tense. Gotama the Buddha, as Prince Siddhartha, saw that human life was sorrowful and wished to find a lasting solution.

With His own experience as a Prince, with all the luxuries, He knew that gratification of senses was not the answer. With rigorous self-torturing practices, He knew that the opposite end too was not the answer.

Finally, He discovered the solution, the termination of suffering by following what is today known as the Majjhima Patipada or the Middle Path. With this realisation He came to be known as the Buddha or the Enlightened One, who realised the Four Noble Truths, namely, suffering, its origin, its cessation and the path leading to its cessation.

After this great realisation, the Buddha wanted to give this message to as many people as possible. He wished to make the people realise that, His message could be understood by anyone who has intelligence to follow the Path. It was very difficult for the Buddha to convince His listeners that they could practice this message by themselves.

On the one hand, a strong religious belief advocated that it is through the grace of a Divine Being that liberation from Samsara is possible.

On the other hand, there were those who denied the moral efficacy of good and bad actions, others that denied human capacity to achieve any spiritual status but believed in a determinism of some form or other, still others who were sceptical of believed in a determinism of some form or other, still others who were sceptical of any moral knowledge, and holders of many other views, detrimental to human liberation. It is on this mental and ideological environment that the Buddha had to spread His message.

It was of fundamental importance for Gotama the Buddha to show that He was only a guide who could lead His followers to the goal. He had to struggle to liberate people from their ideological bonds and slaveries.

In the well known Kalama Sutta (of the Anguttara-nikaya of the basket of Discourses) the Buddha, addressing a group called Kalamas, said that they should not accept assertions made by anyone for anyone of the following ten reasons: one must not accept any statement for it is presented as the revealed truth, for it is the traditional belief, for it is hearsay, for it is the scripture; for it is logical, for it is methodical, by reflecting on its structure, for it agrees with one's view, for it seems agreeable or for that the speaker is one's teacher.

Having given this advice He further said, to reject any assertion on good and bad and what is desirable and what is not desirable only when they see for themselves that a particular assertion leads to what is not skillful-akusala-, namely, craving, hatred and delusion; and accept only if it leads to the absence of those three roots of un-skillfulness.

In this statement, the Buddha allows freedom for knowledgeable human beings to make their own decisions on sound grounds. We must remember that the Buddha rejected all what He referred to above. What He said is that they could be either true or false.

Since they are not guaranteed for what is morally right always, the Buddha said that one must know it for oneself in order to decide one way or another. In the teaching of Gotama the Buddha, the human being has been given a very high place due to his or her potentiality.

We must, of course, understand this Buddhist position correctly. Bestowing a very high position to the human being, does not mean that he is supreme and the highest and that he has the liberty to make use of all other forms of life to satisfy his wants, guided by his insatiable greed.

Buddhism rightly admits that human beings are endowed with vast intellectual potentiality. But that does not mean that he can use his powers to cause destruction to his own species or other beings.

Human beings can be superior; but they are not supreme. Any human being without spiritual development is not superior.

Only true human beings are superior. Going through samsara existence all beings are equal.

However, due to their potentiality human beings are in a more favourable situation than most of the other beings.

In the teaching of the Buddha, this high position given to human beings has two meanings. One is to underscore the potentiality of human beings to achieve the ultimate freedom from samsaric suffering.

If one has intelligence and will, anyone will be able to achieve what the Buddha achieved on His own. In this potentiality, Buddhism does not see any distinction between men and women or among various divisions among human beings.

Buddhists are categorised in four groups, namely, bhikku, bhikkuni, upasaka and upasika (both male and female monastic members and both male and female lay followers).

As the followers of the Path, monastic members are considered to be in a more favourable condition where the final goal is concerned, than the lay followers. Still there is no real difference among these groups if anyone of them wish to attain the final goal.

The Buddha's role in the Sasana, His religious organisation, He was not a saviour but a guide. The Buddha is described, in a formula the Buddhists use everyday to honour him, as 'the guide to gods and human beings' (sattha devamanussanam).

This clearly shows how the Buddhist tradition perceived the role of the Buddha. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha makes the following statement; 'tumhehi kiccam atappam - akkhataro tathagata' - You must strive for yourself; the Buddhas are there only to show the path.

'In other words, the Buddha shows the Path; but to follow, it is the responsibility of the follower. The Buddha or anyone else, for that matter, cannot do it on behalf of another.

Now, what does this message say to us, who live in the beginning of the 21st century? The message of the Buddha is ultimately to create a society where people behave towards others with wholesome motives guided by a sense of generosity, friendliness, and right understanding.

In Buddhist terms, it is to live without lobha, dosa or moha. The ethical path taught by the Buddha is open for anyone and everyone, irrespective of any gender distinction or any other social or ethnic distinction.

In this sense, the teaching of the Buddha is a form of universalism and the Buddha is a universalist. The teaching taught by the Buddha is for human beings to follow with his own intelligence and the final goal advocated is achieved by any human being who has will and intelligence.

In this sense, what the Buddha taught is a form of humanism and the Buddha is a humanist, humanist par excellence, for He achieved the total purity by eradicating all the defiling factors in the mind.

The Path taught by the Buddha is an ethical path which ultimately leads human beings to cleanse their own inner being and achieve thereby inner peace and harmony, which ultimately should serve as the basis for the peace in the world at large.

The Buddha once said that suffering, the origin of suffering, cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. lies in this fathom-long human being himself. This is nothing other than a reminder to us about our great potentiality, This is perhaps the greatest inspiration we can draw from this sublime teaching.

May the blessings of the noble Triple Gem guide all of us.

12 05 2006 - Daily News

 

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J3.02  Harmonious totality as against divisive dominance

Note from the Buddhist angle

Ven. Professor Dhammavihari Thera

THE keynote address made at the launch of 'Buddha Pradeepa' the Daily News Vesak Annual.

As an unquestioned pioneer among world religions of today, Buddhism has a historically accepted vast literature dating back to more than two and a half millennia.

The modus operandi of its traditional handing down is incredibly bewildering. The believed to be most ancient version of it is preserved to us in the Pali language and is preferred to as the Tri-pitaka.

It should be known by every serious student of Buddhism that an equally extensive derivative literature, also in the Pali language, which necessarily spreads through time is appended to this. Both relate to Buddhism, but the historical stratification of the two layers through time is not to be missed.

One should not be surprised, we warn you, if one does find in the latter, the time-wise later tradition, statements relating to Buddhist religious thinking which, at times, are incompatibly unacceptable. We do discover them all the time.

Now let us take a look at what we consider to be the Buddha's original teaching. It is to the credit of the Buddha that he had a two-dimensional vision of the human in the world.

While he saw the human directly in front of him, with a local parental origin which is specifically referred to as mata-pettika-sambhavo or in Sinhala mav-piyangen bihivana, he also saw man's trans-samsaric extension through time and space.

With further confirmation from his immediate Indian background, he saw on the one hand, the life of the human linked up with the past. On the other, he saw it extending in the direction of the future to an unimaginable infinity.

This track of life through time and space is referred to in Buddhism as Samsara. In the Upanisads, the Indians refer to it as 'man's moving on from death to death, on account of his ignorance of the unity of Brahman and Atman.

This track of life through time and space is referred to in Buddhism as Samsara. In the Upanisads, the Indians refer to it as 'man's moving on from death to death, on account of his ignorance of the unity of Brahman and Atman.

Here I quote to you from the Upanisadic text: mrtyoh sa mrtyum apnoti ya iha nan' eva pasyati.

In this, the Buddha saw, on the one hand, the big role which the life of man in this existence plays towards his liberation from the disastrous mess in which life in the world has trapped him.

And on the other, the possible further damnation into which he, in his recklessness in life, can calamitously fall. These two aspects of life, Buddhism persistently maintains, are entirely in the hands of the human, never to be passed over to any other believed-to-be greater power, human or divine.

Our delightful handy manual, the Dhammapada presents it precisely as follows. I quote:

Attana va katam papam attana sankilissati attana akatam papam attana va visujjhati suddhi asuddi paccattam na' nno mannam visodhaye. - Dhp.v.165

It is this most realistic vision of human life which he came to possess as the Buddha which made the teachings he gave to the world one of the most productive and benevolent ever delivered on earth. It shall benefit mankind here and now-sanditthiko, and hold good to eternity-akaliko.

It is this vision of the world as a totality, evolved into its present pattern of existence, and not created by anyone, in any single area for a selected group of favoured people who shall fight to death the other all the time, which encompasses all life on earth as deserving our utmost care and concern as humans: sukhino va khemino hontu sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta in the Metta Sutta (at Suttanipata v. 145) = May all beings on earth enjoy happiness and comfort and be able to claim security of life.) The entire theme of the Metta Sutta in the Suttanipata (Loc. cit.). centres on this, looking upon life, with infinite love and care, wherever it be located, heedless of size an shape, distance and nearness to where one lives.

This injunction of the Buddha is perhaps the earliest the world has known for peace on earth and goodwill among men.

But what have we Buddhists made out of this ennobling admonition?

Admittedly slipped off the rails. We have made it a protective chant for protection of ourselves against manipulated evil directed towards us by non-humans, both divine and demonic.

Perhaps you know this interpretation better than I do. Think of it once again, yourself. In some of these Buddhist ritualistic practices as they are indulged in today, I tell you, you are helplessly lying on your back like a boxer or wrestler who has been knocked down on the floor.

It is time for you today, not a day too early, to get up and regain your feet. Do not linger till you are declared the loser of the day.

Nor is the Metta Sutta's developing loving kindness by humans towards all life in the world a process of invoking happiness on others, through the power of any other, like the enumerated virtues of the Buddha such as Araham, Samma, Sambuddho, Vijjacarana Sampanno etc.

To us Buddhists, it is well and truly our attitudinal changes within us with regard to our relationships with the entire cosmic set up that shall bring happiness and well-being to the world.

Neither monks nor laymen shall be conveyor belts carrying benefits like good health, affluence and joys of life to world-lings from a primary source like Buddha.

It is the well-adjusted attitudes of humans towards humans as instructed by the Buddha that shall bring happiness to the world of humans and eliminate friction therein. This is undoubtedly the philanthropic aspect of Bhavana.

Bhavana is self-culture or self-development, with whatever word one renders it in English or Sinhala. Its benefits appear to flow out in two directions. It benefits oneself and it benefits others.

The Buddhist process of bhavana, we view as being mutually inter-active. It benefits the one who undertakes it, because it is no more and no less than grooming oneself for the take off from the down to earth mundane here to the transcendental beyond this, in the supreme unquestionable Bliss of Nirvana. Forget not that line which reads "Nibbanam paramam sukham".

The world has to be wise enough today to know what peace on earth means. The world has also to be decently honest enough to work in such a way collectively for the attainment of this goal. World peace is never to be achieved via an emporium in emperio, i.e. an empire within an empire, with auto-sealed secret compartments within itself.

There cannot be super powers in the heavens above who severally claim to confer peace on earth, each according his own choice. People on earth down below, it must be globally remembered, has to form a total unity.

To think otherwise, is to invoke wars to destroy those on the other side. This alone makes sense in the world today. We pray, let us not be fooled with this any more, to seek peace severally via each one's God.

Globally we witness today a great deal too much of mutual back-scratching. We apologise for using, with the permission of the Oxford Dictionary, such a not-too-elegant word, particularly in the world of international politics.

More than 2300 years ago, when King Devanampiyatissa received the gift of Buddhism from the hands of Thera Mahinda, sent here by his friend Emperor Asoka of India, the King of our land pledged to live and work under the jurisdiction of the Buddhist teachings.

He initially comprehended the wealth of wisdom Buddhism contained for the successful rule of the land and guidance of the life of man.

Therefore he pleaded with the Thera to include his residence within the ecclesiastical boundaries of the Buddhist Sangha: Sambuddhanaya anto'ham vasissami jutindhara.

It was rightly felt that that sober religious thinking which is neither domineering nor expansionist in character, had to be the core of human life on earth. This is what brings out new books of the world like Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft, published by the Oxford University press in 1994.

In the human world off sanity and sobriety, humans seem to be now regaining this wisdom of peaceful co-existence.

Let not the power or strength of any particular group, religious or secular, coupled from time to time under different guises of friendship and goodwill, threaten the peace of mankind, as it does happen round the clock, everywhere.

When humanity, either elite or less elite, has to answer for the evil it generates, we shall call it the inescapable Dooms Day.

The Buddhist concept of good governance, globally or provincially, does not require the toppling of any existing pattern of rulership. Wellness of mankind, both in the world we live here, and from here to a state far superior, has to be the basis of any system of thinking which calls itself a religion.

Let not the word religion, in any part of the world, drive one crazily into the battlefield to eliminate the infidel or the disbeliever. The sooner we get such murderous thinking and their generators out, the world would be a happier place.

12 05 2006 - Daily News

 

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J3.03  Buddhism's global appeal

A.G.S. Kariyawasam

GLOBAL APPEAL: Gautama Buddha was born and bred as an Indian and achieved the extremely rare distinction of becoming a Buddha also as an Indian.

Yet, with the attainment of Buddhahood, He emerged as a citizen of the world in the sense that the teaching He promulgated as his discovery by touring on foot the length and breadth of India became prominent as quite a novel body of tenets cutting through the entirety of religious and philosophical systems prevalent at the time.

In promulgating this teaching, He exemplified Himself as a person of indefatigable strength of character with incisive wisdom and extensive compassion.

With a highly fruitful career spanning four-and-a-half decades of public ministry, He ended Himself as one of the most successful founders of religions in the world.

His teaching with its unique non-theistic approach, became the common property of all humanity as it possessed a universal appeal as it dealt comprehensively with the problem of man in the universe and His fate therein.

His service to humanity has two main aspects, firstly as his clear understanding of the causes as well as the cures for the innumerable forms of human suffering.

Secondly, He also knew quite well how to put it across to the people with great success and also to motivate them to practise it in the routine of their lives.

These rare and valuable qualities He achieved through His realisation of some deep-lying truths highlighting a transformation in His attitude towards the world at large.

This realisation became a unique tool in this hands as a means to achieve freedom from all personalised relationships that lead man to endless social engagements.

This represented an ideal state of living in the world without being of the world which, as a philosophical commanded a tremendous appeal to man when it was first introduced into the sixth century BC Indian society.

About three centuries later, Emperor Asoka made it truly and correctly a world religion with great success through his missionary activities, which made the travels of Buddhism in the Asian regions quite a success story.

In all the Asian countries it founds its way into such as Mynamar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia etc., are still great bastions of Therawada Buddhism with Sri Lanka claiming to be its 'real home'.

Of the erstwhile Buddhist countries which have currently gone Islamic, Indonesia has a great claim to Buddhism with its celebrated Borobudur, Chandi Mendut and such other great centres of Buddhist activity.

To the west of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan stand as vociferously silent monuments to their early glories in the past annals of Buddhism.

It has been a special characteristic of Buddhism that through these historical journeys it has successfully adjusted itself to the indigenous culture of the region it visited, without prejudice to its basic norms or essential insights.

This particular trait of Buddhism in its adaptability without injury to its essential part in the great strength that enabled it to survive the challenges and onslaughts it had and has to face in its survival, specially in new times and times. There lies its universal appeal as well.

It is an undeniable fact that when man's inner needs become prominent He would find Himself in a position where he not only 'does not but cannot live by bread alone.'

In today's highly competitive world where people have been helplessly forced to become 'workaholics,' like incessantly working parts of mighty machines they inevitably begin to feel the need of some spiritual calling issuing from their inner souls.

When the prevalent theistic teachings fail to respond, Buddhism steps in with its rich resources for filling such vacuums. It is armed with the required missing link to the thirsty call. Here lines, the strength of the Dhamma.

It is its spiritual might and appeal that enable it to survive beyond with success all manner of technological innovations that keep on mercilessly flooding the life of man in the modern world.

When human suffering in its myriads of manifestations remains a universal phenomenon, it naturally becomes the biggest challenge to man in his inevitable fight with his own fate he had inherited.

After accepting this status quo as an unavoidable trait characterising life in this world, the Buddha takes the appropriate step by investigating the nature of this unsatisfactoriness, which all of us are forced to experience, very much against our will.

Here, he sees that birth as a living being on this earth itself is involved with much suffering and amidst the so-called ephemeral sensual pleasures our lives are basically characterised by much suffering or painfulness.

Numerous problems involving poverty, ignorance, sickness, death, wars, crimes and underworld, natural calamities etc. are threatening us at every turn.

Yet, how many of us ever look at these unpleasant aspects realistically? The majority continue marching along blindly and nonchalantly, insensitive to all these calamities and as a result becoming passive victims to them on the way.

The Buddha once cited a graphic illustration to convince His hearers as per the human conditioning relation to their intellectual capacities.

Here, He categorises human beings into several classes by the allegory of the lotus pond where certain lotuses are just emerging from the mud at the bottom of the pond while some are in various stages of growth under the water.

While some have come upto the water level still others have risen above the water and come into contact with the sun's ray at the end of a long journey from the muddy bottom.

This categorisation of the Buddha refers to the world of humans in its entirety in relation to their intellectual levels.

It also highlights the fact that only a comparatively small number who can achieve human freedom by following the path shown by the Buddha with the lotuses above the water representing that handful.

It is only the Buddha's enlightenment that has revealed this great truth, if not for which we would be groping in the dark as per the ultimate meaning of human existence.

The spra-mundane dimension represented by the Four Paths of Sotapatti etc. has been discovered for us by the Buddha so that at least those who like the lotuses above the water, can tread the path shown by Him and realise the ultimate freedom in the State of Nirvana.

This is the global message Buddhism has to offer to the vast humanity bewildered and enthraled in the jungle of Samsaric existence and continue to suffer for want of destroying their cankers (Aasava) that keep them bonded to the phenomenal world.

The extinction of these defining tendencies inherent in mundane life has to be achieved through insight, sensual discipline of every high order, the wise use of the necessities of life and such other disciplinary and wisdom - growing measures.

For this, the best discourse the readers should master is the Sabbasava Sutta, the second discourse of the Majjhima Nikaya, which is essentially a practical application of the Noble Eightfold Path that would enable the practise to outgrow their defilements.

This is the global message Buddhism can offer to the bewildered human race.

12 05 2006 - Daily News

 

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J3.04  The Buddha, our unique Teacher

Daya Sirisena

"Mind is the forerunner of all phenomena. Mind is chief, they are all mind created". Mano - Pubbangama Dhamma Manosettha Manomaya.

"Guard therefore the mind, purity the mind, for out of the intention all things come to be neither do you look to any external aid for self is the Master of Self; What other Master could there be?"

The long night was ended and new light flooded the world when All Enlightened One began his ministry of teaching, which he was to continue for forty five years.

Great were his supernormal powers gained that night under the Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya when he attained Omniscience; but first and greatest of all he placed the power of teaching. He rarely performed miracles, but when He did they were of such kind as to stagger the mind and confound His opponents.

Most of all He desired to convince people by the power of truth alone.

So that of their own free will they would accept what He had to tell them and act upon it.

His Dhamma is "Ehipassiko" that which bids us "Come and see for yourself". When people are in distress they tend to look for special favours from religion. Most of men trusted religion on faith.

The Buddha saw this weakness of the human mind to understand the true nature of things, because of craving and ignorance.

If a person looks at phenomena in unimaginative eyes without proper understanding only on faith mind can travel beyond and out of our own boundaries, the Buddha is the only human being who understood the true nature of the mind.

He went on to say, "Mind is the forerunner of all Phenomena" understanding true Nature of Mind. The Buddha never demanded, never commanded, never a authority, He gave the freedom to the mind to grasp the true nature of things.

Understanding the true Nature of the Mind, the Buddha as a peerless teacher of Gods and men went on to say there are "Four kinds of people in this world" He said, there are people who go from light to darkness, there are people who go from darkness to light, there are people who go from darkness to darkness, and there are people who go from light to light".

The Buddha never converted people. He only convinced them explaining the profound truth what He has so strenuously discovered.

The Buddha did not give any specific teaching regarding the origin of the universe or of life. The question was said to be unanswerable from the level of ordinary intelligence. "The origin of beings revolving in Samsara being cloaked by Avijja (ignorance) is undiscoverable.

At the same time it is laid down as a natural consequence of the law of dependent origination (patticca-samuppada) that in the ceaseless cycle of cause and effect those cannot be any link in the sequence that can be designated a first cause.

Each effect in its turn becomes a cause and the beginning is nowhere apparent, it is called circle of related conditions, each factor being dependent on the preceding ones.

When it is said the world cycles or world periods known in Buddhism as kappas are of immeasurable duration, it must be remembered that all these concepts are relative.

We measure them from our own stand point. In an immeasurably vast space context, the time context is correspondingly enlarged. So that events covering millions of years by our calculations can be measurable in terms of seconds.

The brain may reel at the concept of an infinity of space time constructions fitting into impregnating one another, endlessly in all directions, but it is not entirely outside the scope of human imagination.

It figures quite largely in Buddhist thought. There are infinite world systems and thirty one planes of existence, having vast differences in time measurement. What is unthinkable is a state of non causality where neither space, time nor events have any existence.

This has to be understood by direct perception, which means bursting the bonds of relativity and its concept and process.

"There is no God or Brahma who is the creator of this world Empty phenomena roll on. All subject to causality."

When we understand the truth that these could never have been a beginning - an origin out of nothingness of the universe or the life process.

It is true that the universe as we know it evolved out of the dispersed matter of previous universe, and when it passes away it remains in the form of active forces, will in time give rise to another universe in exactly the same way. The process is cyclic and continuous.

In the same way that one universe gives rise to another through residual energy, which is continually renewing itself that is through the principle of changing process of matter - so the life as being gives rise to another being which is not the same in identity, and without involving an unchanging permanent self that which links them called in Buddhism "Kamma" or volitional is called "Samsara" or the cycles of rebirth, the actuality of rebirth and existence without any unchanging principle of identity or self is called "Anatta".

Though the 2550 years have gone by and the utterances from the sermon to the five ascetics at Baranesa Migadaya to the last exoration before the Parinirwana. It is one theme, the theme of liberation for mankind.

"My teaching is like the vast ocean. It is unfathomable and deep like the vast ocean but it has one flavour like the ocean the flavour of liberation."

May the ignorance of human beings fade away following the teachings of Gauthama Sammasambuddha.

(The writer is President, Board of Trustees, Sirisena Dharma Mandiraya Meditation Centre, Moratuwa.)

12 05 2006 - Daily News

 

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J3.05  Pancha Seela misunderstood by Buddhists as Dhamma Seela

Piyasiri Mahinda L. Hettige

PANCHA SEELA: During this 2550th Buddha Jayanthi year, it is of immense importance to remove the ultimate barrier obstructing path attainment by a Bauddhaya and resolve the misunderstanding that has confused their mental process, impeding their progress to proceed on the Noble Eightfold Path outlined by the Buddha.

It should be highlighted here that there is a world of difference between the meaning of the terminology Seela in the Anathama (No Soul) concept outlined in the Noble Eightfold Paths and that of Seela reflected in the Arthma (Soul) concept within the context of the pre Buddha codes of moral conduct outlined below as:-

Dana (Donation) - Seela (Five Precepts) - Bhavana (Meditation), (which promotes births in Deva, Brahma or Human worlds without ending the Sansaric Manifestations)

This process leading one to temporary emancipation and attainment of Dyanas or mystical powers existed in almost all civilized societies even before the advent of the Buddha to preach the Dhamma.

Thus the confusion of terminology between Dhamma Seela and the above mentioned Five Precept Seela may have been created with sinister motives by those who used the same word Seela in both Paths which facilitated the questionable and incorrect categorization of the Dhamma Eightfold Pathways in the three, as:-

Seela - Samadhi - Panna

Here two gross mistakes have been made, probably intentionally, first by placing Panna (Dhamma Wisdom) last and putting the term Seela (Right Action, Speech and Livelihood) first in the above sequence without properly qualifying the Seela potion and secondly deviating from the Buddha's own categorization of the Path in the order of respective precedence and importance which have been outlined and listed below as actually appearing in the Dhammacakkapawattana Sutta, the Buddha's first sermon preached to the five Ascetics.

Dhamma Path Category

It is of immense importance to remove the ultimate barrier obstructing path attainment by a Bauddhaya and resolve the misunderstanding that has confused their mental process, impeding their progress to proceed on the Noble Eightfold Path outlined by the Buddha.

1. Right understanding of Dhamma Panna

2. Right thoughts based on Dhamma Panna

3. Right speech based on Dhamma Dhamma seela

4. Right action based on Dhamma Dhamma seela

5. Right livelihood based on Dhamma Dhamma seela

6. Right effort based on Dhamma Samadhi

7. Right mindfulness based on Dhamma Samadhi

8. Right concentration/Dhamma Insight Samadhi

Hence the correct order of classification or categorization of the Noble Path according to the Dhammacakkapawattana Sutta should be as follows:-

Panna - Seela - Samadhi (Dhamma Wisdom) (Dhamma Morality) (Progressive Mental Development)

(Following these pathways promotes birth in any chosen elite Sansara and leads one to path attainment and finally, on following two extra paths of Samma Gnana and Samma Vimutti, to Nibbana of one's choice).

Whereas in the pre-Buddha Path illustrated below containing the Pancha Seela or Five Precepts with its belief in a permanent Trans-Migratory Soul, still being practised by those ignorant of the Dhamma to attain solace for their souls as well as mystical powers or a safe heaven of their choice, not knowing that it is only a temporary respite, have been classified as:-

Dhana - Seela - Bhavana (Donation) (Observance of Five Precepts) (Meditation)

The observance of five precepts of the above process were the bare requisites or norms acceptable to God or Creator fearing humans in any civilized society even before the advent of the Buddha and are listed as:- Abstinence form (1) Killing, (2) Stealing, (3) Illegal sexual conduct, (4) Lying, (5) Use of Intoxicants.

These were considered as the prerequisites for person to lead a trouble free meritorious life and ensure a better life for that person alter death by taking the person's soul to heaven or the arms of a God or Creator, whilst for those who do not abstain from the above Five Precepts (Pancha Seela) there was no such salvation for their souls and were condemned to hell and damnation for ever.

The Buddha in his choice of followers did not show any partiality to those who had not previously strictly adhered to the above five precepts (Pancha Seela).

Since among his Sangha Order there were previous, Criminals, Prostitutes, Serial Killers, Robbers, Persons from the Lowest Castes, Poorest of the poor as well as Nobles and Royalty, who had equal access to the Sangha Order on giving up their past bad activities.

Thus resulting from the above clarifications it is clearly evident that the present day lay Bauddhaya have been cleverly outwitted and led astray by this presently accepted, unjust and unnecessary, categorization of the Noble Eightfold paths outlined in the Dhamma erroneously into three as Seela - Samadhi - Panna.

Whereas it is a Trans-Sansaric Dhamma Magga formulated by the Buddha starting with Dhamma Wisdom of Panna - Seela - Samadhi - ... leading one to Path Attainment en route to Nibbana during this or a subsequent birth.

The Dhamma Vivarana Movement (Movement for mindful understanding of Dhamma using one's own Wisdom) is hopeful that there will be many Path Attainers among the lay persons after these mental impediments are removed and this important issue is resolved by the Member of the Maha Sangha, who are most graciously, requested to unravel the mystery surrounding the correct order of precedence of the Dhamma Pathways as outlined by Gotama Buddha.

12 05 2006 - Daily News

 

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J3.06  The Mangala Sutta neglected and little understood

Sumana Saparamadu

In every recital of pirith be it a "seth piritha", a "vel or varu piritha" or a "sati piritha" the Mangala Sutta is always included. One of the commonest of the paritta, it is one of the 'tun sutra," three suttas, the other two being Ratana and Karaniya Metta. It is the first in the Chatu Bhanavara Pali" or the "Pirivana Potha" or "Pirith Potha", the collection of 29 suttas. It has been given the prefix Maha, which only one other sutta in this collection has, viz. Maha Samaya Sutta.

Pirith is from the Pali "paritta", meaning protection or safeguard. (Pali Text Society's Pali English Dictionary), and "paritta' are "suttanta" or minor suttas delivered by the Buddha on special occasions to ward off evil, dispel dangers, allay fears and help overcome illness.

Is the Mangala Sutta a paritta? How does it fit into the collection known as the "Pirith Potha", for it was not delivered to achieve any of the afore-mentioned objectives. This has puzzled me for as long as I have been questioning the why and the wherefore of our rites and practices.

Very recently I read Prof. Lily de Silva's explanation given in the course of the Sir Baron Jayatilaka Memorial Lecture 1998, "From Dvesha to Maitri". Says Prof. de Silva: "In the 5th century accounts of the paritta ceremony, all features present in the paritta ceremony of today are observable with a striking difference in the Maha Paritta. In the 5th century account the most important paritta suttas consisted of the Ratana Sutta, Metta Sutta, and Dhajagga Sutta, while the "Maha Piritha" of today substitutes the Maha Mangala Sutta for the Dhajagga Sutta, as if to emphasise that social ethics enumerated in the Maha Mangala Sutta should be cultivated to contend with contemporary problems, rather than look at banners of leaders for inspiration, as they themselves are not above immorality." (The Buddhist Vol, LXIX Nos. 2 & 3).

It is difficult to accept Prof. de Silva's surmise which seems to be an interpretation to suit the thesis of her lecture.

A. G. S. Kariyawasam writing on the Pirit Ceremony says, "As the Parittas generally embody statements of truth as taught in Buddhism their recitation is regarded as an "asserveration of truth" (saccakiriya) whereby evil can be averted. The Ratana Sutta is a good example of this kind of paritta..... The power of virtue (sila) contained in the Mangala Sutta and the power of loving kindness (metta) in the Metta Sutta are two other aspects that make pirit effective." (The Wheel Publication No. 402. Buddhist Ceremonies and Rituals of Sri Lanka)

This too is not a satisfactory explanation. Where is the "asseveration of truth" in the Mangala Sutta, as we find in the Ratana Sutta? "etena saccena suvatthi hotu," after each enumeration of the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The Dhajagga Sutta ends with a similar benediction:

evam Buddham sarantanam

Dhammam Sanghan ca bhikkave

Bhayam va chambitattam va

lomahanso na hessati

The Metta Sutta, or the Karaniya Metta Sutta as it is more popularly known has no such solemn declaration of a truth or the enumeration of the virtues of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha; but it was especially taught by the Buddha to some monks to insulate themselves from danger and fear. These monks meditating in the forest were being harassed by some non-humans to frighten them away. When the monks sought the Buddha and complained he preached this sutta which emphasises the practice of metta-good will - to free themselves from fear.

The Mangala Sutta was not delivered for any of these purposes or as with the Bhojjanga Sutta, to alleviate physical pain and suffering. This sutta contains the Buddha's reply to a certain deva who asked him to explain what the greatest blessings in life were. He gave 37 factors which he considered were conducive to a happy life. The Sutta is, as S. R. Wijayatilake said, "a recipe for a clean and noble life" (The Buddhist Vesak Annual 1970).

 Quoting F. L. Woodwards translation of the Mangala Sutta (from Some Sayings of the Buddha) Wijayatilake says: "These lines of such beauty have been my constant guide and they have had such a soothing influence on my life for several decades. They deal with most aspects of life in this world. If only parents, teachers, legislators and leaders of thought have these sentiments in mind, most of the confusion and violence will disappear. It would be well if we can have these thoughts framed and kept in some quiet corner in our homes, where we can read them before we leave for work."

Some of the edicts of Emperor Asoka emphasise the ethics of the Mangala Sutta, like respect for parents, for teachers and for the educated. 

Why then does the Mangala Sutta, which was such a bearing on our daily lives, not get the attention it deserves/ Do we listen to or repeat it, as it should be, concentrating on the content? Do we contemplate on the content, and ask ourselves how close or how far we are from enjoying these blessings?

Those who regularly recite pirith every morning or the last thing at night, rattle off the stanzas with scarce a thought to the content, sometimes reciting them so fast that words are mispronounced or slurred.

When I was at school, the Mangala Sutta was recited every morning at assembly, and I remember that by the time I was in standard 3, I knew it by-heart. Most of us knew the meaning of most stanzas as the words were so close to Sinhala - mata pitu upatthana, danam subhasita vaca, panditanam ca sevana etc. I cannot remember ever studying the contents in detail, even in the upper forms. 

How is the Sutta studied now, in the "Buddhism period" at school or in the Dhamma Schools? The stanzas are memorized to be recited by rote before the class and each verse or line paraphrased in Sinhala. This done both teacher and student are satisfied. The students will know nothing more, because they have not been trained to look beyond. Is there ever a discussion in the class, relating each mangala factor to everyday life?

Let us look at some of the mangala factors?

Environment is the buzz word today. Concern for the environment is rammed down the throats of students - pollution, depletion of natural resources, degradation of the land through over exploitation making life harsh for both man and beast. How many teachers of Buddhism and social studies are aware that the Buddha stressed the importance of the environment - patiroopa desa - 2500 and more years before the world became so acutely aware of the environment and how it affects life. Do teachers discussing environmental problems, direct the attention of students to this one line in the Mangala Sutta. Environment is more than the physical surroundings.

The people, the community are part and parcel of the environment. Fools, swindlers, drifters, ruffians, drug pedlars, do not contribute to a patiroopa desa. Hence the Buddha said keeping away from fools and the ignorant, associating with the wise, engaging in trades not harmful to society (anavajjani kammani) contribute to a happy life - they were mangala factors. This one line can be made the theme of a lesson and the class can discuss how a patiroopa desa can be made appatiroopa by polluting and degrading it and allowing undesirables to take over and create social problems.

This being the Year of the Elders, much is being written and talked about the problems of elders, the problems of ageing and the burden on the State as the "over sixty" population increases. A recent news item that the Social Services Department was looking out for foster sons and daughters, is an indication that the State is finding it difficult to discharge this responsibility.

Instead of blaming sons and daughters as many are wont to do, the class should probe into the practical difficulties of mata pitu upatthana and the need to pass on this responsibility to the State and NGOs.

Caring for children and wife puttu darassa sangaho - is as much a blessing as caring for elderly parents. Who cares for all the children living out their lives on the streets? What happens to children left behind by mothers rushing to the Middle-East in search of the pot of gold. And what of mothers concentrating on their careers or devoting time to so called social work while children languish at home alone or with a domestic help.

Today when many have forgotten to care and share, it is well to remind ourselves of another mangala factor-natakanam ca sangaha, caring for kith and kin. If cared for, their needs seen to and helped when help is needed, the less fortunate, or the "poor relation" can become an asset and not a drag or a nuisance, and family rivalries and jealousies which ultimately end in tragedies can be reduced or eliminated.

Dana is not only the formal alms-givings in Buddhist homes on special occasions. Dana is giving with the fullness of the heart without any strings attached. It is generosity in the true sense of the word.

One had only to look around to see the plight of those who lack learning (bahu sacca) or training in some trade or craft (sippam) to realize that bahusacca and sippa are blessings. The uneducated and the unskilled are sweating for their living or living by their wits. Attha samma panidi - setting oneself a goal is a blessing said the Buddha. How true this is, is proved by its absence - in the drifters, the directionless young people indifferent to most aspects of life. Garavo ca nivato ca - respect and humility and subhasita vaca - pleasant speech, are what constitute good manners.

Each line in each verse of the Mangala Sutta can be the subject of a discussion in class or at a group meeting of adults, a dhamma sakaccha which in itself is a mangala.

Religion should not be an academic subject as it is today, divorced from real life. The Mangala Sutta, and likewise the Parabhava and Wasala Suttas should be studied against the background of the society we live in. The study of Buddhism when linked with other subjects in the curriculum like social studies, environment, health and hygiene will become more meaningful, to students showing a way of life that can be followed despite the breakdown of the traditional society.

If the several factors mentioned in the Mangala Sutta are taken note of, understood, absorbed and practised by each one of us, it will be of far greater benefit to oneself, one's family and to the community, than reciting it parrot-wise morning and evening or listening with hands clasped in reverence when recited by a congregation of bhikkhus. But first we have to learn to look at the Mangala Sutta differently, not as a paritta, but as a guide to a good and contented life. (From the Buddhist Vesak Annual 1999)

Daily News - 23 Oct 1999

 

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J3.07  Religions and the Dhamma

Bhikkhu Seelananda

Where there is a religion there is a creator. Then, there are messengers, priests, organized institutions such as temples and churches and many types of prayers, processions and pujas etc. Religion, according to the Oxford Dictionary, means "belief in the existence of a supernatural ruling power, the creator and controller of the Universe, who has given to man a spiritual nature which continues to exist after the death of the body."

Whatever religious belief religion creates, it is a desire for happiness. Once we attach ourselves to happiness, there is fear, namely that it can cease. So people bow down to God, or many gods, and people have fear of sin and punishment for sin. Thus religion arises. Fear is an emotion and it springs from desire or affection (pemato jayati bhayam). As far as people have fear of God, fear of punishment, fear of sin, there is religion. Once the Buddha said "Driven only by fear, do men go for refuge to many places&emdash; to hills, woods, groves, trees and shrines. Such indeed is no safe refuge; such is not the refuge supreme. Not by resorting to such a refuge is one released from suffering."

The Buddha’s instruction for this was very clear. He said that those who penetrate with transcendental wisdom, the Four Noble Truths namely &emdash; suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the Noble Eight-fold Path leading to the cessation of suffering have indeed a safe refuge, a refuge supreme. Having gone to such a refuge, one is released from all bondage. The only safe refuge is such transcendental wisdom, intuitive wisdom.

Religion in the garb of mere faith makes man blind and curbs his spiritual progress to enlightenment and intuitive wisdom.The mere pursuit of devotion (Bhakti Marg) does not provide liberation from bondage. It is the way of knowledge (Nyana Marg) that provides liberation from all bondage, through intuitive wisdom.

In the 6th Century B.C. in India there were a lot of religious cults based on faith. And also many kinds of "isms" such as eternalism, monism, pluralism, materialism and individualism.But the Buddha discovered that whatever those "isms" and "views" were they all lead to error and mental confusion. With clear comprehension of the meaninglessness of Bhakti Marg, the Buddha taught the way of knowledge (Nyana Marg) which leads to the realization of the truth, namely the cessation of suffering.

Religion with many types of pujas does not pave the way to liberation from suffering. Such religions can blind man easily and drag him to Samsara, namely the cycle of birth and death. The cycle of birth is compared to the ocean or to the desert because of its endlessness and unending hardships. Therefore religion without wisdom, without a clear path of deliverance to man, is dangerous.The word "clear" is very significant in this context. The path on which we have to move forth should be clear to ourselves. It should not be mere belief or myths. On the other hand it should not be pure intellectuality either. It must be necessarily an experience that one has. That experience is the experience of the Dhamma.

For this purpose we ourselves, and by ourselves, should tread the Path. The Buddhas are there to show the path (akkhataro tathagata). If we do not understand what is the path and what is not the path, religion really becomes a blind to man. That covers the reality. In that sense, what Karl Marx said about religion being an opium for man may be true. His statement would be more correct it is said that "religion without wisdom is opium to man". Even today in many countries, in the name of religion, many irreligious activities are taking place. In our countries, in the name of religion, today, people believe in pujas, rites and rituals to obtain worldly gains and worldly pleasures.

Temples and Churches are built, sometimes, against each other in places even which are environmentally unsuitable. The statues of religious leaders are erected on either side of roads to show religious devotion. They perhaps are a dishonour to the religious leaders themselves. Poor people are converted to religion through material gifts for their daily economic satisfaction. In short, unfortunately, religions have become a means of dividing human beings. As I see, today there are three ways of dividing people. They are religion politics and ethnicity.

Originally these three served as corner stones for the wellbeing of human beings. We know very well that in its pure form these three ways were extremely important for the progress of mankind though now these three have shown their limitations. These have been corrupted by the people themselves. But the Dhamma is above all. The Dhamma belongs to none. It belongs to nature. It is the Universal law. It is the teaching of the Buddha.

The term often used to denote the teaching of the Buddha is "Buddhism". This term "Buddhism" is a western coinage. The word of the Buddha is not an "ism" and it is not mere a religion either. The Buddha never wanted to introduce another "ism" or a religion. He taught the Dhamma to eradicate all kinds of isms (sarvadrustih prahanaya). This Dhamma is the Universal law. It does not belong to anyone. It is for all, for all human beings. It has six characteristics namely; it is well proclaimed (Svakkhato), visible here and now (sanditthiko), bears immediate fruit (akaliko), invites investigation (ehipassiko), is onward leading (opanayiko) and is directly experienceable by the wise (paccattam veditabbo vinnuhi).

The Dhamma cannot be defined as just a religion. It is more than a conventional religion which offers happiness in the terms of what we enjoy on the earth, namely enjoyments in terms of happiness which we can comprehend on earth. The Dhamma is something more than that. Its ethical system can give the offerings of pleasure that the " heaven-religions" can give. But the summum bonum of the Dhamma is not to offer just so called ‘eternal life’ in the heavens with all its attractions. It takes you above all that, above all conditioning and dependence.

As it does not belong to Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims or any other religious group it can be experienced by anyone who is wise enough to realize it as it is. The Dhamma is the Dhamma. That is none other than the nature of arising and passing away of phenomena. The main characteristic of the whole system of the world is that. It is ever changing. Whatever is in the nature of arising, it is necessarily in the nature of passing away. This truth is to be penetrated by the wise and realized not as it appears to be or as it seems to be, but as it is. This, according to the teachings of the Buddha, can be realized only through insight meditation.

Indeed, as many of you know, Buddhism deals with ethical, social, economic religious, and political aspects. According to the stanza in the Dhammapada number 183 the teaching of the Buddhas is in three category. To avoid all evil (sabbapapassa akaranam, to cultivate good(Kusalassa upasampada), to cleanse one’s mind.(sacitta pariyodapanam).

So the first two of the above, go with other religions but the last one which is to be cultivated with one’s mind is the unique feature in the teaching of the Buddha. That is the Dhamma. This Dhamma is something to do rather than talk about for hours and hours. The Dhamma is not a religion according to its dictionary meaning because it has no centre in God as is the case in all other religions. It is a path to liberation. It is a system of philosophy coordinated with a code of morality, physical and mental. Extinction of suffering and death is the goal of the Dhamma. The inner peace and purity of mind is the result of the Dhamma which can be secured by one and all irrespective of their religion or creed provided they practice it sincerely. When it is practiced, the most significant factors are mindfulness and equanimity. These two are just like the two wings of a bird, two wheels of the cart.

This practice is nothing but meditation. As most of us know, that meditation is mainly twofold, namely, concentration (samatha) and insight (Vipassana). The purpose of concentration meditation is the achievement of heightened consciousness characterized by a high degree of tranquility and mental peace.The highest consequences of concentration meditation can cause to arise refined states of awareness such as the four fine material absorptions (rupavacarajhana) and the four formless absorptions (arupavacarajhana). According to the Ariyapariyesana Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya, it is very clear that the recluse Siddhartha Gautama attained these eight types of absorptions. But all these absorptions were incapable of producing the definitive enlightenment which he sought. That was why he abandoned the two teachers, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, with whom he had been practicing, and struck out on his own. The result of his tireless endeavour was Vipasssana, the insight, the ability to see things as they really are, that is the Dhamma realised by the Buddha.

The Buddha said "This Dhamma that I have attained is profound, hard to see and hard to understand, peaceful and sublime, unattainable by mere reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise" This Dhamma could be realised only through Vipassana meditation which is something unique to the teaching of the Buddha. 

When we talk of meditation, it is obvious that there is meditation in other religions too. But the difference, is that we do not come across "Insight meditation" through which one can attain one’s enlightenment as a result of one’s own progress in practice The Buddha’s teaching is the practice of insight meditation. There is nothing to do with rites and rituals in his teaching. It is not an exercise in metaphysical speculation or theological construction. We all have to practice the Dhamma in daily life. That is a Way of Life. The Buddha’s kind admonition for us is to meditate.

In the Sallekha Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya 4,addressing the Ven.Cunda he said. "What should be done for his disciples out of compassion by a teacher who seeks their welfare and has compassion for them, that I have done for you Cunda. There are these roots of trees, these empty huts. Meditate, Cunda, do not delay or else you will regret it later. This is our instruction to you,". On another occasion, this above exhortation was given in different manner, in the Dhammapada, but insistently and severely." Meditate, O monk! Do not be heedless. Let not your mind whirl on sensual pleasures. Heedless, do not swallow a red hot iron ball, lest you cry when burning "O this is painful!"

Therefore meditation is a must in the teaching of the Buddha. Whatever other religious activities are performed, they all are to be put into second or third place. There is nothing beneficial without practicing. The Dhamma is to be practiced in daily life. It is not for the world beyond. When one practices the Dhamma,one can get experience and that experience is more important than only listening to, or talking on the Dhamma. A person who recites the sacred texts without putting them into practice, is just like the cowherd who only counts the cows of others.

Though he counts them he never gets ghee, milk or curd. On the contrary, practicing the Dhamma one should not insult those who do not practice it. There are people who can practice and there are those who cannot do so because their level of understanding never allows them to do so.

We know there are some people who though do not meditate, study, scrutinize and discern the Dhamma. They teach the Dhamma. So that is also a great help for those who want to understand the significance of the Dhamma. one should not look down on them.

According to the discourse on Scholars and Meditators in the Anguttara Nikaya, the Ven. Maha Cunda, addressing the monks said, "Bretheren you should train yourselves thus: Though we ourselves are Dhamma-experts, we shall give praise also to those monks who meditate. And why? Such outstanding men are rare in the world who have personal experience of the Deathless Element (Nibbana). And the other monks too, should train themselves thus: Though we ourselves are meditators we shall give praise also to those monks who are Dhamma-experts. And why? Such outstanding men are rare in the world who can by their wisdom clearly understand a difficult subject" The Dhamma exists only where there is equanimity and wisdom.

Once the Buddha said "The monk who abides in the Dhamma, delights in the Dhamma, meditates on the Dhamma and bears the Dhamma well in mind, does not fall away from the sublime Dhamma".

Thus practising the Dhamma one has to practice meditation. The meditation introduced by the Buddha is insight meditation which eradicates all defilements. This insight meditation is unique to the teaching of the Buddha. It is nothing but the very Dhamma that the exalted one taught. Once the Ven. Anuruddha, one of the chief disciples of the Buddha, reflecting upon the Dhamma said:

When one meditates one has to meditate on one’s aggregates because the nature of the whole world could be realized through one’s five aggregates.

This Dhamma is for one of few wants; it is not for one who wants much.

This Dhamma is for the contented; it is not for the discontented.

This Dhamma is for the secluded; it is not for one who loves company.

This Dhamma is for the energetic; it is not for the indolent.

This Dhamma is for one of vigilant mindfulness; it is not for one of lax mindfulness.

This Dhamma is for one of concentrated mind; it is not for one who is unconcentrated. This Dhamma is for the wise; it is not for one without wisdom."

Then the Buddha approved these statements, saying "Well done, Anuruddha, well done!, well have you reflected on the seven thoughts of a great man".

As we mentioned earlier, there are two kinds of meditation. Tranquility (concentration) and insight. These both are equally important in the process of meditation. When one meditates one has to meditate on one’s aggregates because the nature of the whole world could be realized through one’s five aggregates.

Although insight meditation is peculiar to the teaching of the Buddha, it begins with concentration or tranquillity exercises (samatha). The difference in insight meditation is that one does not go on to higher degrees of concentration and absorption. The three characteristics of existence, namely, impermanence (anichcha), soullessness (anatta), and suffering (dukkha) could be comprehended, only through insight meditation. That is why in the teaching of the Buddha these three characteristics of existence are elaborated". The purpose here is to achieve complete, direct and immediate awareness of all phenomena which reveal their basic impermanence impersonality or the absence of any lasting essence or self-entity (atman) in them.

Insight meditation is a gradual process towards the development of mind. It should be practiced with perfect equanimity and perfect awareness, intelligently, diligently, patiently and persistently. When one meditates with full dedication attentively and vigilantly, one can understand,and realize things as they are, the nature of arising and passing away. That is the ever-changing nature of phenomena. The Buddha said "There is no meditative concentration for him who lacks insight, and no insight for him who lacks meditative concentration. He in whom are found both meditative concentration and insight, indeed is close to Nibbana. "The monk who has retired to a solitary abode and calmed his mind, who comprehends the Dhamma with insight, in him there arises a delight that transcends all human delights. Whenever he sees with insight the rise and fall of the aggregates, he is full of joy and happiness. To the discerning one this reflects the deathless".

When the Dhamma is practiced by oneself little by little, moment by moment, and day by day in one’s daily life, in this manner, one can remove one’s impurities as a smith removes the dross from silver.

Further he can control his senses, enjoy contentment, and practice restraint according to the code of discipline. Then he associates with good friends (kalyanamitta). As a result he is contented, energetic, wise, and pure in life, cordial and refined in conduct. When he develops his Vipassana meditation, he is full of joy and makes an end of suffering. Just as the jasmine creeper sheds its withered flowers, even so he sheds lust and hatred totally. Having traversed this miry perilous and delusive round of existence, he crosses over and reaches the shore; meditative, calm, free from doubt, and clinging to nothing, he attains to Nibbana.

May all beings attain enlightenment!

The Island - 5 Oct 99 

 

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J3.08  The Buddha's Teachings & Apocryphal Scriptures

D. Amarasiri Weeraratne

The Buddha's ministry lasted for 45 years. During this period he went about the countryside and the chief towns of his day preaching and teaching the people his Dharma for the temporal and spiritual welfare of all beings. His first sermon at the Deer Park at Isipatana, near Benares encapsulates his message to mankind. In it we find the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path as the Middle Way that liberates one from suffering to attain the highest bliss of Nirvana. Other important teachings such as the doctrine of Dependent Origination, the Three Characteristics of Existence, 37 Factors of Enlightement, and Karma and Rebirth were taught as ancilliary doctrines to widen and clarify his message delivered in his first sermon.

The Buddha spoke to Indian people. Therefore the background to his thinking and religious ideas were those of the Indian religieux. The terms he used were those familiar to his audiences. Teachings about Sansara, Karma, Antarbhava, and Nirvana were in vogue in the religious parlance of his day. Often he gave a different or a corrected version of those concepts. All discoverers and innovators have to improve upon what is available, and this is what he did. In fact Buddha himself admitted that he was discoverer of an ancient and forgotten path overgrown with jungle vegetation.

As Karma and Rebirth were known and accepted by his contemporary teachers there was no need for him to teach this from scratch. He only improved and corrected its deficiencies of his day.

The Buddha did not write books nor dictate his teachings to secretaries or scribes. His teachings were handed down orally by his pupillary descendants until they were recorded in Sri Lanka some 500 years later. Three months after the Buddha's demise his disciples held First council to determine and lay down his teachings. They adopted the discourse of the Buddha [Suttra] and the Disciplinary Code of Conduct for monks and nuns [Vinaya] laid down by him. Thus they adopted what is called the Dharma Vinaya. Here it is important to note that they adopted only two Pitakas name the Suttra and Vinaya. Abhidharma Pitaka was unknown to them and there was no Third Pitaka at the time. The seven books of Abhidharma are works of pedant monks drawn up between second and the third council, by Theravada Elders who took part in it. This Third Council is not recognised by the Mahayana Buddhists. The Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa acknowledge that the seven books of the Abhidharma Pitaka were not recognised by the Mahasangikas who broke off from the Theravada at the Third Council.

Therefore the Abhidharma Pitaka consisting of seven books adopted at the Third Council as teaching of the Buddha are apocryphal scriptures written and adopted by the Theravada Elders at the Third Council. Impartial and objective Buddhist scholars accept this fact. A perusal of the article under Abhidharma in the Enclopaedia of Buddhism should elucidate this matter and give the findings of accredited Buddhist scholars on this subject. However the Theravada Elders adopted the apocryphal scriptures of the Abhidharma Pitaka at the Third Council. Therefore the Buddhist Canon consists of three sections (Tripitaka- Sutra, Vinaya and Abhidharma). Hence one third of Theravada Buddhism consists of apocryphal scriptures accepted and adopted as the teachings of the Buddha. This has been done disregarding the warning given by the Buddha in the Anagata Bhaya Sutra of Anguttara Nikaya. Therein the Master said "in future there will arise monks degenerate in virtue (sila), degene rate in meditation, and poor in wisdom. They will resort to Abhidharma teachings and set up black doctrines (kanha dhamma)".

The Theravada tradition is abhidharma oriented. It is Buddha-dharma adopted and tailored to fit and come in line with the Abhidharma. Hence that the Buddha taught is adulated and mixed up with an exegesis, which did not come from Buddha, but his pedantic disciples who came between the first and second century of the Buddha era. Abhidharma teachings are mere expansions, interpretations, classifications and enumerations of basic texts and terms found in the Sutras of Buddha. Taken as commentarial and explanatory Buddhist literature based on crucial texts called 'matikas' they are acceptable as a teaching of the Theravada tradition. But as genuine teaching coming from the Buddha they are unacceptable. In fact the Nikaya Sangrahaya, a Theravada work on the history of the Buddhist sects mentions that the Mahasangikas who broke off from the Theravada at the Second Council did not accept the Abhidharma Pitaka as genuine teachings of the Buddha. The Sammitiyas, Puggalavadins and Sautrantikas rejected the Abhidharma Pitaka as teachings of the Buddha.

Thus when we discuss the doctrines the Buddha did not teach, but we are not accepted and palmed off as Buddha's teachings, the first apostasy we have to take into account are the Abhidharma teachings to which primacy is given by Abhidharma scholars as Paramatha Dharma - 'the highest' truths in Buddhism.

Having concocted and adopted seven books of the Abhidharma as genuine teachings of the Buddha, Theravada pedants did not stop at that. They added numerous bogus Sutras to Sutra Pitaka and attributed them to the Buddha. As instances we ca cite the Lakkhana Sutra which gives 32 physical features of a great man in the Buddha, and the karmas which brought about these results. The Devadutta Sutra, which depicts Yama, king of hell judging sinners and dispensing punishments, is another concoction. The Books of Protection (Pirith Potha) contains a collection of several bogus sutras cooked up in the name of Buddha for the purposes of demonology, exorcism and curing illness and giving protection for epidemics, famines and evil spirits. Maha Samaya Sutra and Atanatiya Sutra are pre-eminent among these. Then there are the Chanda and Suriya sutras. These depict and eclipse of the sun and moon as being caused by the dragon Rahu trying to swallow the sun and the moon. The sun and the moon appeal to the Buddha for protection and it is given. The dragon Rahu flees in terror. Many such bogus Sutras fabricated in the name of the Buddha are incorporated in the Sutra Pitaka. These can easily be identified as monkish concoctions added to the Sutra Pitaka between the First Council and the time it was put into writing some 500 years later. The Khuddaka Nikaya consisting of 16 books is a latter addition to the Sutra Pitaka. It contains many Sutras cooked up in the name of the Buddha and goes to form many of the popular beliefs in Theravada Buddhism. The omniscience of the Buddha, the efficacy of transferring merit to the dead, and the Bodhisatva ideal with its perfection of paramitas are a part of these additions.

The performances of meritorious deeds for happy and long stay in Sansara, the worship of relics are among other innovations. The versus in the Dhammapada that come after the Pakkinnaka Vagga (Misc. Section) are subsequent additions done in the name of the Buddha and included in the Dhammapada.

The Buddha taught Karma and Rebirth. The entire teaching of the Buddha is based on the Sansara concept. Continued existence in the cycle of births and deaths entails suffering. Therefore the Buddha Dhamma cannot be taught without Karma and Rebirth based on the one-life theory. Karma and Rebirth becomes meaningless if there is no order of Karma and reaper of rewards and penalties. There must be a person to think, understand and practise the Dharma. The Abhidharma teaching of no person, no actor, and that nothing goes from one life to another makes a travesty of the Buddha's teachings. The idea of actions without a doer, retribution without a receiver is nonsense cooked up in the name of the Buddha, by Abhidharma pedants. The Buddha did not teach two truths called Paramartha (ultimate), and Summuti (convention). The whole idea is borrowed from Nagarjuna's Mula Madhyamika Karika and incorporated into the Theravada by the Commentator Buddhaghosha. He also plagarised Nagarjuna when he took over his dictum "Na ca so na ca so anno" (Neither he nor another), with regard to the person who passes from one life and is born in another.

The Buddha did not teach Vipassana meditation for laymen leading the household life. Neither did he teach the belly-meditation introduced here from Burma during the Buddha Jayanthi year, and practised widely in many Meditation Centres. The Buddha taught the meditational practises prescribed in the Satipattana Sutta for monks who renounce the worldly life and dedicate their lives for the realisation of Nirvana. The Buddha had never given Kamattana (objects of meditation such as Kasinas) to lay people for the practise of Vipassana meditation. Laymen encumbered with worldly activities will not make a success of Vipassana meditation, and whatever gains obtained in meditation will be adversely effected in their day to day activities of gains, protection of possessions and assets etc. A layman can be a strean-enterer (Sotapanna), but any spiritual gains beyond that make him unfit for the lay life. Such instances are rare as that of the appearance of a white crow. Only King Suddhodana and Chitta the householder are mentioned by name as laymen are advanced beyond the Sotapatti state.

Laymen can and should practise the preliminary stages of meditation - the Samatha meditations. This is a most desirable and healthy exercise for them. A training in Samatha is as desirable for laymen, as to be a practising Buddhist one has to cultivate Dana, Sila and Bhavana.

The Buddha has never taught that monks can accept property, lands and paddy fields, coconut estates, income from tanks and irrigation channels, and taxes for fishing in tanks and lakes. All these were accepted as permissable by the monks of the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods. They amended the Vinaya by a method called "Pali Muttaka Vinischaya" - decision outside the Pali texts. By this method they came to accept slaves as well as temporalities with large incomes. To keep these incomes from temporalities within their cast the kinsmen they confined admission to the Sangha to men of the highest cast in Sinhalese society. All others were debarred. There is no scriptural support for this apostasy. But it helped to keep the Sangha along with the aristocratic caste as the two elite sections of ancient Sinhalese society. The tanks and the dagaba in ancient Sinhalese society meant that the monks were the landlords and the villagers were their feudal tenants, who paid harvest shares, taxes and services to the temples.

The Buddha did not condone the break up of the Sangha in to sects on doctrinal or caste grounds. His exhorations to the monks to be united and live in harmony are well known. He said "Do not break up into sects and perform Vinayakarma" (Vagga kammam akammam, na ca Karaniyam). But in Sri Lanka we have a Sangha fragmented on caste grounds. Now could their Vinaya karma be pure and valid? Yet it is their idle boast that they observe the Vinaya pure and intact. They object to the restoration of the Bhikkhuni Order in Sri Lanka on the ground that it is against the Vinaya, but are unable to show the specific Vinaya rule or rules, which debar the restoration. They go by mere apostate traditions, which are meant to upkeep their monopolies in the Sasana.

The Buddha did not teach that his dispensation would last only for 5000 years. Buddhaghosha the Commentator has cooked up this theory and enunciated it in one of his commentaries. According to him the attainments to the paths and fruits are confined to certain allocated periods. The Buddha said in the Maha Parinirvana Sutra, "As long as my disciples practise properly the Dhamma taught by me the world will not be devoid of Arahants". The Buddha Dharma is 'akalika' - not confined to any age and therefore practicable in all times and ages. The Buddha never said that the Bhikkhuni Order cannot be revived or inaugurated in countries or periods where Bhikkhunis are not available. Bhikkhus are free to take the example of the Buddha and his disciples inaugurating the Bhikkhuni Order and revive or inaugurate the Bhikkhuni Order out of compassion for those who wish to lead the holy life as nuns and work their way to Nirvana. The sufferings in Samsara exist in all ages and times. Therefore the need to renounce the world and practise the Noble Eightfold Path as monks and nuns is present in all ages. To stick to Vinaya ritualism applicable when both orders were functioning and bar the entry to the Holy Order of the Bhikkhuni Nuns is against the spirit and letter of both the Dhamma and the Vinaya.

The worship of Hindu gods in Buddhist temples, the offering of food and drinks, and even betel leaves with chunam and arecanut at the Buddha pujas, and beating of drums immediately after is an immitation of Hindu pujas to their gods. When the Ramanna Nikaya was found in the 1860's its monks refused to allow Hindu gods in their temples. But with the lapse of the time they caved in and gave way to the practise of popular Sinhalese worship of Hindu gods in view of the monetary advantages that it brings. The Buddha said that Bhikkhus should not clash with kings, ministers and those who run the state. But monks who take to politics disobey this admonition when they take to politics and condemn calnmniate and revile the rulers and their political opponents, at public meetings, and at the hustings, etc.

The Buddha did not ask us to accept Sutras of doubtful origins attributed to him by the monks. He gave us a method, which he called "mirror of the Dhamma" (Dhammadasa) to test apocryphal scriptures and find out the genuine ones. He recommended that we examine the bogus Sutras or apocryphal teachings comparing it with the letter and spirit with his main teachings in the Dhamma and the Vinaya. If the doubtful proposition is consistent and in harmony we are asked to accept it. Otherwise he has given us perfect freedom to reject doubtful Sutras even though it has been accepted at certain Sangha Councils either of the Theravada or Mahayana Traditions.

The Island - 4 May 99 

 

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  J3.09  Buddhist response to global terrorism

Prof. Chandra Wikramagamage

British Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1974 states that, for the purpose of legislation, terrorism is the 'use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear,' (H. B. Mishra, Terrorism, Threat to Peace and Harmony, Delhi, 1999, p.17). Mishra, while commenting on this statement says 'One cannot find fault with a statement of this kind but at the same time, it also applies to a great many other manifestations of violence for instance, mass violence in the form of riots, violent demonstrations, street battles or civil war'. Act of terror may be carried out by individuals, groups or states.

All mamnifestations of terrorism seem to be now a global phenomenon. Whether it is at national or global level, an act of terrorism is an act of crime. so these evil acts bring destruction to individuals, society and to the world in its entirety and have the tendency to destroy peace and harmony in addition to law and order. Therefore it becomes necessary for us to seek effective ways and means of controling and curbing all terrorist activities in whichever form it appears.

Buddhism can respond to individual, national or global terrorism at two levels, namely Buddha and Bodhisattva. The level of Buddha is applicable to people of interlectual advancement and the level of Bodhisattva is applicable to the general public.

Initially, we must ascertain the nature of terrorism, its course and effect and then we must think of ways and strategies of controling and curbing it finally. Ethics of non-violence is a concept expounded and practised by Sakyamuny the Buddha, and his contemporary disciples in the 6th century BC and it was handed down from generation to generation of bhikkhus to be practised by the rulers such as Emperor Asoka of the 3rd century BC.

Theory of non-violent ethics of the Buddha

The first group of sixty disciples of Buddha, was instructed by the master to walk individually and to preach both to gods and humans to achieve development, well-being and happiness (atthaya hitaya sukhaya devamanussanam). This statement of the Buddha has global application. The number of disciples was eventually increased and with them the Buddha taught his doctrine of non-violence as a strategy and as a way of life in India for a period of forty-five years. After the passing away of the Buddha and his contemporary disciples, generations of bhikkhus spread this ethics of non-violence to various parts of the world with royal patronage.

Buddhist non-violent ethics never remained merely as a concept but it was put into practice by wisemen and women in order to achieve permanent peace for themselves. They also directed otherwise people to achieve the same goal.

Those unwise, always had to live with violence and they are the people who need to be well educated in ethics of non-violance and be controlled by righteous rulers following the teachings of the Buddha.

In Buddhist politics the ideal ruler, called Cakkavatti or universal monarch, is instructed to learn about the norm (dhamma the law of truth and righteousness) honour, respect and revere it, to do homage to it, hallow it, to be a Norm-banner (dhammadhaio), Norm-signal himself, having the norm as his master. He should provide the right watch, ward and protection for his own folk, army, nobles, vassals, brahmins, househoders, town and country dwellers, for the religious world, and for beasts and birds. Throughout his kingdom he should not let any wrong-doing prevail. And he should let wealth be given to poor in his kingdom because poverty is one major cause of terrorism.

When men of religious life of very calm bearing approach the king from time to time, and question him concerning what is good and what is bad, what is criminal and what is not, what is to be done and what is left undone, what line of action will in the long run work for weal or for woe, the monarch should hear what they have to say, should deter them from evil, and bid them take up what is good. This is the Aryan duty of a universal monarch. It is noteworthy that the Buddha encouraged the universal monarch to follow and implement any non-violent ethics preached by all the religious leaders.

The universal monarch shall slay no living beings, shall not take which has not been given, shall not act wrongly touching bodily desires, shall not speak a lie, shall drink no maddening drink. As a result of observing these five moral laws, kings in the regions would become vassals to the universal monarch. (Dialogue of Buddha, III, pp.62-64) Buddhist way of life is the eight-fold path, which includes wise attention, wise concept, wise speech, wise earning, wise lively-hood, wise exercise, wise mindfulness and wise contemplation. This path covers both wordly as well as spiritual life.

In a discourse on all the influxes, the Buddha explains the means of controling influxes. I think it is very useful to understand what the Buddha ment by influxes. The Pali terms for influxes is asava and it has been rendered into English giving different terms such as 'cankers', 'influxes', and 'corruption'. I prefer to use influxes as the appropriate term. There are four influxes, namely, attachment to the five-fold sensual realm (kamasava), attachement to the planes of form and formlessenss (bhavasava), attachment to teh false views (ditthasava) and attachement to teh ignorance (avijjasava).

The Buddha realised and saw these as harmful influxes. And taught us to destroy them. Those who have destroyed them or controlled them can live a peaceful life. In this case the emphasis is attached to the wise attention (yoniso manasikara) and unwise attention (ayoniso manasikara). From unwise attention influxes arise that had not arisen, and also influxes that have arisen increase. But from wise attention influxes that had not arisen do not arise and also influxes that have arisen decline.

There are influxes that should be got rid of by vision. The vision refers to the first stage of prefection or arhatship at which stage the first vision of nirvana is perceived.

There are influxes that should be got rid of by control, there are influxes that should be got rid of by use, thee are influxes that should be got rid of by endurance, there are influxes that should be got rid of by avoidance, there are influxes that should be got rid of by elimination and there are influxes that should be got rid of by training of mind (bhavana). It becomes important in this context that one should know and see the influxes within him. Those who have eliminated influxes have destroyed all causes of violence.

Those who can control their influxes can prevent themselves from being violent. These are the higher ethics that individuals should follow to achieve permanent peace and tranquillity (Middle Length Sayings (PTS) London, 1976, pp.-9-10).

Application of Buddhist

Application of Buddhist ethics of non-violence to the society is given at different levels. As far as less educated or uneducated ordinary people are concerned, the strategy is moral education and Buddhist philosophy and training in conduct. I can give you one practical example: in 1971 we had a terrorist problem in the south of Sri Lanka staged by then JVP under the leadership of Rohana Wijeweera.

Nearly fifteen thousand young boys and girls, who actively got involved in terrorist activities against the legitimately elected government, lost their lives. Some others were put behind bars or sent to rehabilitation camps. Except very few all others were Sinhala Buddhists by birth, who were not well educated in Buddhism and trained in Buddhist ethics of non-violence in Sunday Dhamma Schools.

I agree with you that there were some young monks who joined the terrorist group because they were under the spell of the reactionary elements of JVP mainly in universities. I am very deeply convinced that we must make the young generation well informed in Buddhism and give them good training in Buddhist ethics of non-violence in Sunday Dhamma Schools to refrain them from terrorist activities. Those who observe and practice the five precepts respect the others right to live, private ownership, consumption of consumable items, not to be cheated and not to be harassed by after-effects of alcohol.

These ethics if followed, I can guarantee you, that peace and harmony of society will be restored.

I wish to cite an example from Buddhist scriptures about a man who took to extreme violence at one stage of his life but was successfully converted into a man of peace by the Buddha. This is the story of Angulimala. His first name was Ahinsaka and as a result of his violence he was known as Angulimala. He was born under the thieves constellation.

At Taxila (Pali Takkasila) he became a favourite at the teacher's house, but his jealous fellow students poisoned the teacher's mind, and the latter, went on his destruction, asked as his honorarium a thousand human right hand fingers. Thereupon Angulimala waylaid travellers in the Jalini forest in Kosala, India, and killed them in order to take a finger from each.

The finger bones thus obtained were made into a hang round his neck like a garland, hence he came to be known as Angulimala. As a result of his deed, whole villages were deserted, and the king ordered a detachment of men to seize the bandit, who's name nobody knew. But Angulimala's mother guessing the truth, started off to warn him about the royal decree.

By now he was short of one finger to complete his thousand, and having seen his mother approaching, he was determined to slay her in order to get the required finger.

The Buddha having seen his potential for arhathood went himself travelling about hundred and twenty miles and intercepted Angulimala on his way to slay his mother.

Angulimala was subjugated and taken to Buddha's fold with loving kindness and made to realise the futility and essences of non-violence. When Angulimala came to Jetavana, king Pasenadi filled with wonder offered to provide the monk with all requisites. (Malalasekara, DPPN, I, pp.22-23).

Human Happiness

The next example is the emperor Asoka (272-232 BC.). Asoka was a ruler and a propagator of Buddhism and was regarded as the greatest of all rulers in the human history by various historians. James M. McPhail says that 'Asoka, in fact, is not likely to suffer from comparison with any of his fellow monarchs of the ancient world.

As a ruler of men his grasp may have come short of his ambition, but the ambition was the noble one, and the grasp was a great and earnest effort to fulfil the high duties of his office. He strove manfully to lessen the sum of human suffering, to increase the sum of human happiness, 'to do all the good he could, in all the ways he could, to all the people he could. 'To us it seems almost inconceivable that one man can have borne upon his own shoulders the burden of the personal and highly centralised government of so extensive an empire under a system that sought to regulate the religion and the domestic life of his subjects as well as all the affairs of State.

He did so however of forty years and there is nothing to show that he ever felt the task to be beyond his powers'. (Ananda W.P. Guruge Asoka Colombo 1993 p.486.) McPhail's impression is that Asoka holds a place important, second only to that of the Buddha Himself.

H. G. Wells remarks that 'Amidst the tens and thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousness and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines, and shines alone, a star'. (Guruge p.486).

What was the strategy followed by Asoka to win the hearts of the world historians? In the early days of Asoka before he embraced Buddhism and had close association with Buddhist sangha he was first an individual terrorist, later State terrorist and known as Chandasoka or 'Asoka the Wicked'. First he ousted his elder brother, the heir apparent and he had waged war for four years with his other brothers and ministers and finally became the king of Maurya empire. Later he extended his state terrorist activities in the form of war against Kalinga.

Asoka won the war but thousands of people died as the result. With this experience and the study of Buddhism he was inspired to give up his terrorist activities and to put into practice Buddhist ethics of non-violence while following the Buddhist political theory of dammadhipateyya the supremacy of the moral law taught by the Buddha as a universal doctrine of political philosophy.

So Asoka as a strategy to establish peace and happiness of his subject who, according to Asoka, were regarded as his sons and daughters, he appointed officials called Dharmamahamatras, whose duty was to make people aware of non-violent ethics and to make sure that they upheld the same implementation of non-violant ethics. Achievement of peace through this effort must have been a very difficult task in such a plural society of a vast empire. Asoka's administration included administration, regulations, causing happiness, and protection by moral law while having respect and close connection with other contemporary religious leaders, in addition to his own Buddhist teachers. Asoka spread non-violence everywhere in his empire by other means such as Dharmalipi or the inscription containing non-violant ethics. Also he spread it through Buddhist missionaries to nine countries in and out of his empire.

According to Buddhism, war is an immoral act and therefore those who kill people in a war will face the consequences in any time in their worldly existence. But when the rulers had to protect their subjects and the state they had to use even military power.

In such a context Buddhist rulers had no support from the Buddha, but they had to look for the support from Bodhisattva doctrine as evident in the Ummagga jataka to face the enemies with skilful means while minimising the killing of enemies and destroying their properties.

It may be concluded that intelligent individuals can study and practice ethics of non-violence. A society with such people can be the ideal society, where the peace would reign. But the unintelligent people, who have no proper understanding and respect for non-violence ethics can, get involved in terrorist activities as they have no moral system of controlling their influxes. Rulers must be able to control their immoral activities by skilful means with minimum harm to them and they must be given knowledge of non-violence and training to practise it in order to control their influxes.

Rulers must strictly follow the non-violence ethics with close connections to the various religious leaders. So I strongly feel that leaders like Emperor Asoka, could control terrorist activities.

 

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J3.10  God and Nirvana

I. A. Sangadasa

Religious faith, a very hypersensitive subject, is a field which one has to tread warily, for history of mankind reveals that blood had drenched the lands where man had slaughtered man in the name of religion.

Religious faith, a very hypersensitive subject, is a field which one has to tread warily, for history of mankind reveals that blood had drenched the lands where man had slaughtered man in the name of religion.

With this background in mind, I venture to explain the existence of god as either the anthropic or nonform divinity and the nature of Nirvana which ascribes a vacuity as the ultimate bliss completely devoid of the painful, changing material phenomena.

From primordial times, the belief in a powerful force prevailed among primitive people who inhabited various parts of the Earth. As civilisation dawned, this belief crystallized, as it were, into a definite god who was held as the creator of the Universe and everything it contains.

Brahama of Hinduism, the oldest established religion in the world reigns supreme as the creator-god and who has two other facets of himself - Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer - forming a holy trinity that governs the Cosmos. There are others in the Hindu pantheon of gods, readiating from the main god-head, Brahama.

Christianity professed one god as the creator who sent down to Earth Jesus to save mankind. Thus, Jesus who was born in Bethlehem was the anthropic as he was both man and god.

Islamic faith was built on Prophet Mohammed’s revelation that Allah was the only god, immanent and merciful, and all humanity owes its existence to Allah.

Nature and God

Among some learned people and scientists, it is the control belief that nature is the only god human beings will ever see and thus hylothiesm becomes another form of divinity - nature and god - to add to the variety of divine expressions. If one accepts god either as the anthropic or hylothiestic, god is a living force, in the former as man, and in the latter as natural phenomena.

In the context of god being identified with nature, and nature being a variable phenomena throughout the Universe, the concept of Nirvana becomes predominant. Human beings evolved from nature’s changing and combining energy and for this reason, evolution takes millions of years to produce some species of life.

Nirvana

As against all these variations of divine forms, Nirvana, as discovered by the Buddha, stands supremely isolated from divinity, but more in harmony with reality.

In the vaccum of space, absolute silence, frigidity and inky blackness pervade and everything floats in the absence of gravity, as anyone familiar with astronomy should know, and this state would baffle and be incomprehensible to an ordinary person unfamiliar with outer space, apart from many other oddities in space that would render a layman senseless as to their nature and existence in the Cosmos.

All the technology at our command today cannot produce a rocket or spaceship to take us to distant stars containing planetary systems such as our own, supporting intelligent life or, for that matter, galaxies which are millions and billions of light-years away from Earth. So it is with Nirvana, incomprehensible and inaccessible to persons of undeveloped minds who are involved, so it seems, inextricably in the fantasy of sensual perceptions.

Other world system

The belief that god rules everything is questionable, for anything under the control and guidance of a divine power must behave in harmony with the benevolence of god, the highest ethical perfectionist, if I may use such a word. Since all things occur under conditions that are found naturally in the Universe, then it has to be accepted they occur without the intervention of god, but under the power of changing matter itself. On this assumption, god is distinct from natural phenomena governing the Universe but acts postulate, as a supernormal power bringing this benign influence to bear on humanity at various times I venture to say that a divine power thus exists, not as a creator-god, but as a god or gods, exerting subtle influence as befits the occasion, person or necessity on terrestrial life. As for its physical form, there is none. The physical form of a human being was fashioned by conditions prevailing on Earth in primordial times when man evolved from primates and subsequently improved through civilisations that followed. A similar, if not the same, physical form may exist in other worlds under conditions that govern those worlds. But we will never have the opportunity of seeing any beings from another world as they are so immeasurably far away in light years from Earth as to render visits or communications impossible. Assuming that intelligent life exists in the remote depths of space, their technology must be as impotent as our own technology to devise means of visitation or communications with us. 

Reverting to the subject of god, many believers claim that god is omnipresent and manifests himself incognisably over the entire Universe, and they attribute to him the finality of all their spiritual endeavours, playing to their Maker. Faith is a very strong point in the religion of god and devotees explicitly believe that everything happens under the power of god and it leads to the belief that god rules everything.

Three Major religions

It will thus be seen that in the three major religions, there are three creator-gods with each religion claiming its own god as the supreme divine power. But in appeasement of the claim of three all-powerful gods in the major religions, sages, particular of India, say that in the ultimate state, the trinity of creator-gods will become the unity of one god just as all rivers flow into the sea and become one body of water.

Nirvanic bliss is in a ‘state’ of nonentity. There is no existence in any material form or in spiritual, either. As it is a complete vacuity, one would question the bliss in such a ‘state’ in the absence of a corporeal body’? The answer to this question is that a material body, subject to deterioration, death and decay, can never produce ‘bliss’ and the absence of such a body creates the condition of ‘bliss’ as all sufferings do not arise without a material form. By complete detachment from material forms, one can experience a sensation of near bliss in the depths of meditation.

A blissful void

In other faiths, fulfilment is sought by complete surrender to or absorption in the creator-god as the culmination of their acts of devotion and spiritual progress. But in Buddhism one has to dissolve the causes which create the sansaric life until there is nothing to dissolve and one becomes none. Since Nirvana is not the name of a creator-god, it is diametrically different from religions which uphold such a god as the supreme divinity to whom supplications and prayers are made for their redemption. Hence, the Buddha is unique as a path-finder who discovered and traversed a new path to complete liberation from the shackles of terrestial lilt which is replete with innumerable sufferings.

In spite of master plans of creation, humanity hangs on a delicate balance, and in this situation a little more or less solar rays can seal the fate of human beings and other creatures on Earth Sun, the giver of life, then becomes the killer of life. This is the stark reality that faces mankind.

In the final analysis, divinity in any form appears to be a phenomenon with material connotations as various manifestations reveal. Nirvana, in my comprehension, is a blissful void completely free from the painful phantasmagoria of material life.

Nirvana then is the ‘Ultima Thule’ of people who seek; complete release from all worldly sufferings, where there is no good or bad, birth or death.

This is eternal bliss!

Courtesy: World of Buddhism

 

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J3.11  Has Buddhism an answer to our problems

J. P. Pathirana

We are in a whirlpool of problems — problems within you, family problems, social problems, problems with children, parents, in-laws, environmental problems, problems at workplaces, problems within problems and this vicious circle goes on and on engulffed in problems wide and varied and in diversity. Has Buddhism an answer to these problems? Ofcourse it has; if one only studies and follows the Dhamma and apply to each and everyone of these problems as advised by the All Enlightened Buddha them all these problems will melt away from this troubled-world of ours.

The question has been asked, how behaviourism can be made compatible with the facts of hallucination or delusion of self as an entity or soul is the very behaviour; be it in lust, hate or ignorance. For, all behaviour, which is self-expression, self-expansion and hence self-delusion is entirely shaped by that basic conception of a separate, isolated, independent entity, which in its isolation creates opposition, struggle and conflict. Thus, a behaviour which is not based on this self-hallucination would not be an attempt at self-expansion, but would be a direct answer to an immediate change to action, a response based on the understanding of the necessity of action, without projection into a possible, future result. In sleep, this self-consciousness which controls behaviour while awake is mostly absent, except perhaps for strong habit-formations which tend to conform even unconsciously. It is in sleep, therefore, that dreams to a great extent free from social restrictions and inhibitions. And so it is to dreams that psychiarists turn for revelation of the unconscious, that is true process of the individual, the reality hidden under the actuality. That is also the essence of Buddhist philosophy, which even in its ethical doctrines is more psychology, than a religion. Now, these biological facts may be quite normal in the sense of conforming to accepted standards. Thus, the physical pain of an expectant mother in childbirth is considered normal although it is not improbable that most of such pains are caused by abnormal deviation from natural living by the human species in the animal kingdom.

Examine the causes

Buddhism, does not advocate a reversion to the ancestral type, which at any rate would take millions of years of involution as it has taken to evolve in time. And, thus, many facts of existence may be taken as normal in the sense standardisation. But this rule of standardisation should not be carried too far, to the point of abnormality becoming the standard of normal life, especially when the acceptance of those standards would involve such serious conflicts which would threaten to disorganise the natural flow of existence. The mere sight of a policeman on the Campus may result in a riot among the students. There is no provocation, there is nothing personal in their outburst, but there is reaction against authority, because authority stands for domination.

Domination in an excessive degree, such as Hitler’s domineering influence over his youth movement, may find its source in a very small way in a domineering parent. To escape get together in gangs. But they must have their leader too, one with strength of character, perhaps, and with real qualities of leadership. We should not stop at this explanation, but examine their causes. Why do some try to break with convention and why do others cling to tradition? This is the type of psycho-analysis which was formulated in the teachings of the Buddha more than twenty five centuries ago before Freud began to formulate theories — have been followed up, enlarged, deepened, contradicted, reversed, and still they are based upon on sources or evidence which frequently do not go beyond clinical data. Experimental methods are always difficult and sometimes impossible. For, it would not be ethically correct to test one’s hypothesis regarding the cause of mental aberration by inducing similar cause in a normal being, in the expectation of learning whether a similar abnormal mental state would arise as a result of that inducement. But certain observations are so general in their recurrence that a working hypothesis could be established. And then, if on the basis of such working hypothesis are analysed and found to be in agreement, the case may be converted to law. For instance, one may wish to enquire into the reason of a certian behaviour, or why a certain person reacts in a peculiar way.

Behaviour, which is a reaction to environment, may then explain much of the background of such reaction, if generalisations are found to be constant. Or one may approach the problem from the other side: what would the natural or rational or logical reaction be under definite conditions or influence? If then the facts corroborates the predicted results of the analysis, it would have greater scientific significance, it being a case of deduction rather than induction. Let us take an example: Greed reflects a psychological need. This conclusion is based on the following findings which we need to develop into greater details, as they are quite obvious even to an untrained mind.

(i) There would be no greed, if there were no need, as both belong to the same category of want, which is essentially absence of something.

(ii) Sometimes greed persists after physical needs have been satisfied. A person is thirsty and drinks till satisfied, but there remains a desire to drink, which is now more a physical necessity, and which, therefore represents a psychological need.

(iii) Therefore, greed is a desire for satisfaction of a psychological need.

The analysis of greed, however would not teach us very much, unless we can learn the reasons of this search for the satisfaction of a psychological need. What need can there be for the mind to wish for satisfaction, once the physical need has been satisfied? Now we are not concerned any more about any particular desire for satisfaction which is only in the mind, but with the psychological question: Why should a desire in the mind persist after that desire in the body has been satisfied?

It is obvious to satisfy some other kind of desire which is essentially mental and which therefore cannot be drinking, or smoking or other sense-satisfaction. Still, it is a desire to continue that action. The satisfaction, therefore, is not derived from the actual performance of that action, but from its continuance. And, thus the psychological motive of greed is the satisfaction derived from the experience of continuation. Whereas the bodily senses are satisfied with the fulfilment of their physical needs, the mind will not be satisfied with anything less than continuation. Why should that be? And has Buddhism an answer?

Dependent origination

We have observed earlier that there would be no greed, if there were no need. Then we saw that the physical need formed the basis for the arising of greed, as it is said in the Paticca-samuppada, the doctrine of independent origination. All this can be found in this teaching of the Buddha, which is perfect in its origin, perfect in its development and perfect in its application to all problems faced by mankind. In psychoanalysis the mental process is shown to be a reception of senses (vedana), a perception of reaction (sanna), a conception of ideas (sankhara), all of them forms of capturing the object needed for the continuation of "I", which is born in self-consciousness (vinnana). It is understanding that this process of grasping is nothing but a process (which has therefore no essence, no reality) that the process may continue without grasping. But, the experience to live without self is never attempted: for fear, fear presents a total release of habitual inhibition.

To be without a background of the past, without a security for the future, means for most of us fear in the present, which prevents us to analyse the situation to find out whether there is any cause for fear at all. It is fear which prevents us to abandon the values of the past, even when they seem useless. It is fear that preventsin to step out into the unknown future, because we prefer the known strife to the insecurity of the unknown. And so, with full understanding, which is comprehension, that this ego is but a camouflage to protect that senseless desire for continuation of the impermanent, a shield, not more than a shadow, to protect that insane projection of an individual process of action and reaction, a desguise and a covering-up of the void of an empty process — with this complete comprehension and realisation it becomes impossible to build up resistence, to form an opposition and to live in isolation.

Thus, the Teaching of the Buddha that all is void of self, demloishes the foundation of the entire stronghold of self-delusion, and then in the absence of self, there is no more conflict, but the ending of strife, the cessation of becoming, which is the ultimate goal and the teaching of the Dhamma heralds the all embracing solution to any problem that is faced by mankind and if one truly applies as a solution to the problems faced; it will accrue marvellous results and this viclious circle of problems within problems will be totally terminated.

 

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J3.12  Look around you during this Vesak

by Nan

Nature puts on a glorious show in the month of May in this Island of ours, very appropriately, as if to celebrate the life of the Buddha which life celebrated the open air. Look around you and above you and you will see the truth of what I say. These directions may be interpreted as presumptuous and uncalled for. After all, don’t we look around, some will grouse. But have you, in your busy, rushed life really looked around and above at the trees covered in their flaming reds and oranges, the sharp white of araliya, the mauve and dark purple of the jacaranda and the faint pink of the dying stages of the tababeubia. The most striking of course are the cascades of yellow, nodding and fluttering in the breeze and sending soft showers of yellow dust and petals. Yes, they proclaim a later festival: Esala, but they too blossom forth in celebration of the thrice blessed occasion of Vesak.

A feature of the Buddha’s life, from his birth as Siddhartha Gotama to his death or parinibbana as the Fully Enlightened, was the fact that the most important events in his life occurred in the out-of-doors, in close commune with nature.

Life of Prince Siddhartha Gotama

He was born in the 6th century BC to King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya of the Sakyan Clan, in southern Nepal, in a province known as Kapilavastu. The custom then, as it prevailed in traditional Sri Lanka, was that the first confinement be in the wife’s parental home. Thus Mahamaya, when she was progressed in her pregnancy, set off to her parental palace. On the way she felt fatigued and requested a rest. Her entourage stopped by in a garden in Lumbini. Queen Mahamaya delivered her baby in the open, under a large sal tree. Thus the birth of Prince Siddhartha in a beautiful garden in the month of May on the day the full moon would shine at night.

The first manifestation that this was no ordinary mischievous, unmindful child was that during a harvest festival, the seven year old child was found seated cross legged in the vicinity of the fields, deep in contemplation. Again a significant occurrence, out in the open.

Prince Siddhartha was given every luxury, including three palaces for the seasons — hot, cold and wet, but he was inclined to introspection. A sage when presented with the baby forecast that he would either become a great king or take to mendicancy. The King, naturally fearing the latter, kept away from the Prince the slightest sign of suffering or manifestation of the sorrows of life. But Siddhartha had a questioning mind and by instinct perhaps, knew there was a different world outside. Cajoling his charioteer Channa, he escaped the confines of the palace for just a peek outside. Thus he came face to face with stark reality in the open, seeing on his first visit a sick man, on his second an old crone, on his third a corpse and on his fourth a peacefully serene hermit. He then realized that life had its vicissitudes and was full of suffering, quite different to his cocooned life. The dawning of the truth of life was in the open.

At sixteen he was betrothed to Yashodara, princess of an adjoining kingdom. When he was 29, she presented him with their first born, a son whom the father named Rahula, which translates itself to fetter. Fearing the love and attachment he would feel for this child of his, he decided to leave the lay life that very night. Channa insisted on accompanying him. Some distance way from Kapilavastu, in a deserted open space near the Neranjana River, he cut his hair, discarded his princely clothes and garbed himself in rough brown robes.

He wandered from hermit to hermit, sage to sage, seeking wisdom and advice, direction on how the suffering of Samsaric existence could be staunched, incised into. But they all failed as Siddhartha did, though he mortified his body such that he became skin and bone, with sinews and ribs starkly exposed.

Faint with weakness he fell by the roadside and was revived by a wandering cowherd. He realized the body needs sustenance and good health if the mind is to work. Thus his praise of the middle path, avoiding both over-indulgence and torturing deprivation. The five ascetics he was with jeered him as a giver into the gross demands of the flesh.

Enlightenment

Siddhartha moved to Gaya, and partaking of a meal of milkrice offered him by a good woman, Sujatha, he crossed the Ganges and sat down against a pipul tree, later named ficus religiosa, the Bo tree. He vowed he would not rise until he realized the truth of existence, the reason for the cycle of rebirths.

This was again in the month of May when the full moon was due to silver the world. He went into meditative absorption and realized the Truth of Life, the Four Noble Truths as we call them, in the very early dawn of the poya day.

An earth shattering achievement, gained through great diligence and determination of a human being, unaided by god or man. Again in the open.

He realized that unsatisfactoriness, termed suffering in many texts, is inevitable. Its cause is greed and clinging. It could be overcome and erased. He also expounded the path to deliverance.

Stated thus it seems so simple, but it is absolutely profound. Thus the doctrine of Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), Samudaya (immediate cause of dukkha: craving – tanna for life, for death, for material goods, for fame and so on), Nirodha (the cessation of all dukkha which is Nibbana), and Magga (the way to eliminate all suffering which is the Noble Eightfold Path).

He spent six weeks at Buddha Gaya; one in gratitude to the tree that gave him shelter while he strove at his own deliverance from births and rebirths; two in contemplation of what he had found and then debating whether he should preach his doctrine to the people who might not comprehend him. He surmised there were people with little dust (of delusion) in their eyes and so he decided to go forth and teach his doctrine of life, his way of living, so the present life is happy because of an equanimous mind, and thus also the hereafter, until finally all ignorance and craving are eliminated resulting in the end of rebirths — Nibbana. He selected the five ascetics he had last been with, and so journeyed to Sarnath to the deer park where they were and expounded the essence of the truth he had realized — the cycle of dependent origination.

The Buddha went about northern India on foot, accompanied by members of the Sangha, (the order of the monks) preaching the Dhamma, for forty five years. He spent most of his life out of doors, preaching in parks, resting under trees, probably partaking of the one meal of the day in the shade of a tree in hot Bihar. Evidence of this is most clearly seen in Sravasti where the Buddha spent most of his Buddha life — 29 vas seasons. Here even the kutis are underground thus giving an impression of one large, undulating space with scattered trees, dwarfed by the Ananda Bodiya, planted there when Ananda questioned the Buddha as to what his disciples, both in the clergy and outside it, could venerate in His absence.

The aura of sanctity that would have pervaded the place in the time of the Teacher and even after, still persists. It is felt and savoured in the unspoilt, un-encroached-upon place.

Parinibbana

In his 80th year, old and succumbed to the ravages of age, he struggled to Kusinara, suffering a diarrhoea, accompanied by his faithful cousin and friend, Ananda Thero. He came to the sal grove of the Lichavi peoples and lay down on a bed prepared for him, at his request, in the open. As the full moon of May bathed the world in its mellow light, the fully Enlightened One, the Samma Sambuddha, the teacher of gods and men, passed away.

Thus do we treat the poya of the month of May as of special significance. Buddhists all over the world, commemorate Vesak. It is not a day of celebration even though the prince who became the Buddha, was born on a Vesak day. It is rather a day of religiousness, a day of gratitude to this human being who taught this all encompassing Dhamma, and showed us by example and precept how each of us could work out our own salvation from the dhukka of the Samsaric cycle of births, suffering and deaths.

Vesak is a day when the most significant event of the Buddha’s life — his Enlightenment — is remembered and rejoiced over, not with merrymaking but with a renewed dedication of one’s life to sila, samadhi and panna: to leading a pure life of serenity through meditation, finally earning equanimity and wisdom. It is a day of light — the clay pahana with its flickering light, the white papered kudu or lantern, and the brash electric jet. It is the day of observing sil, eight or ten precepts instead of the usual five. It is the remembrance with gratitude of the wonderful life of the Teacher.

26 5 2002 Vesak - The Sunday Island

 

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J3.13  Karma and its wrong interpretations

Prema Ranawaka – Das

It is the fashion here to say of those involved in any distressful situation, "It is their karma!" This immediately makes the victim answerable for the misery piling up over his head. Karma, kismet, fate, destiny normally means reaping of the bitter fruit of black seeds, sown by oneself in the past, and is hailed by most religions as the cause of the catastrophes that come hurtling down to break or eliminate altogether whatever was hoped for.

Buddhism is the only religion that teaches that karma is not to be accepted, if bad, but to be overcome and that every karma – except those named as truly heinous – can be circumvented, changed or moulded. But after a daily dose of Sinhala teledramas where women unsound and ravaged, and men, drunk and disorderly, stagger from the first to the last episode, moaning, "Aney, mage karume", Buddhists here are fast losing touch with their religion and trapped into believing the opposite of what it teaches.

What Buddhism teaches is that volition is karma and feeling, the result of that volition, is vipaka. Karma (the order of act and result) is only one of five laws, the other four being utu (physical, inorganic order - seasonal phenomena of winds, rains, heat, etc.); bija (physical organic order – germs, seeds, cells, genes, etc.); chitta (order of mind); dhamma (order of the norm). When the opportunity arises, karma produces its inevitable result – as an innate sequence. Karma, in Buddhism, is best described as – what one reaps accords with what one sows. As the Buddha pointed out - if one has to reap all what one sows, whenever will it (suffering) cease?

When the Buddha remarked that human beings enjoy suffering, no doubt the spotlight was on our teledramas that keep egging their disorganized characters to grab and hang on to every bit of bad karma going. The worst outcome of this harping on bad karma (both in drama and real life) is the mental blockade against knowing the joy and freedom taught in their religion that salvation from suffering is attainable by realizing Nibbana, here and now.

Also the equally effective good karma that can shower one’s life with the choicest blessings is totally ignored. The texts describe your good deeds as if they were loving relations waiting to welcome you into happiness, here and hereafter. This reinforces the doctrine that you are not only your master, but also your judge, executioner and saviour.

Buddhists should be aware of the attempts now being made to mix their unique religion with other dogmas on account of bribery or for popularity. Especially those who preach should be made to stick to the Buddha-word, without dragging in alien beliefs to make it seem one. What is unique cannot be mixed.

13-5-2007 - The Sunday Times

 

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J3.14  Concept of love as basis of spiritual growth

Ven. M. Pannaloka

Mahachulalonkornra Javidyalaya University, Bangkok, Thailand

The Pali term Metta, from the Vedic maitra "belonging to mitra", is often referred to as universal loving kindness. It is, in other words, the spirit of friendliness or goodwill expressed, without any reservations, towards all living beings.

Eventhough 'metta' has been often translated as "love or loving-kindness" there is no single word in English covering the same ground as this graceful pali term, because the vocabulary of modern English is too specialized, too limited and usually too strong. For example the word 'love', as defined in the Oxford dictionary is 'warm affection, attachment, affectionate devotion'.

However, Metta is not the passionate love, personal affection, universal brotherhood, political brotherhood or religious brotherhood. It transcends all these kinds of narrow mundane affections, which limited to certain fields while enabling one to regard the whole universe as one's motherland and all as fellow beings as one's family at the same time it may be practised to eliminate ill-will. It is clear that the word Metta derived from 'mitta' has been used to give clear meaning for the spirit of friendliness. Thus we see in the Majjhima Nikaya passage, "Rahula, when you develop meditation on Metta, ill-will be abandoned." We see here the Buddha teaching his son Rahula to develop meditation on Metta for the abandonment of ill-will.

The Metta Sutta concludes with a very interesting verse, which has been discussed among the scholars of both East and West. Doctrinally, Metta is a state of mind.

Practice of Metta

The Anguttara Nikaya shows the Buddha explains that if a monk cultivates universal, non-conditional friendliness for as long a finger snap, he is called a Bhikkhu; we can therefore see the emphasis which the Buddha accorded to the practice of Metta.

The text lists a string of virtues (sila), which guides the practitioner through a thorough and systematic application of Metta in his day-to-day conduct including prohibitions on socially censured behaviour.

In interaction with others, frankness and honesty are important but he or she should avoid rudeness and tendencies towards pride therefore not proud. In meekness and prudentness, they would not favour one family over another, while remaining gentle in speech.

The major part of the text teaches the distinct Metta meditation technique of spreading universal, non-conditional friendliness to all living beings no matter how large or small, seen or unseen, near or far. Just as a mother loves her only child so also should one, towards the whole world, develop boundless loving thoughts: upward, downward, sideways, without restrictions of, enmity or rivalry. While standing, walking sitting or lying one should be fully alert, keeping the mind on these parameters of universal, non-conditional friendliness. The Sutta emphasizes that this is the highest conduct for living in the world. It is not an easy matter to practise such universal non-conditional friendliness, as the defilements in the mind are sometimes not easily distinguishable, for example greed, lust, wordly affection, sensuality are all considered normal human emotions and the differences between these are subtle and overlapping.

Therefore the practitioner has to be wary of these near enemies because they support ongoing self-deception, which is the worst thing that can happen to an individual.

However considering ill will, anger and hatred these are at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum and are, in general, censured by society and so not so difficult to identify. Regardless, all defilements within the emotional spectrum can be, with correct training and practice in Metta meditation, identified and eradicated.

Concerning the debilitating emotions of anger and sexual passion, we see some important suttas where remedies are available to overcome them. For example the Anguttara Nikaya explains five ways by which annoyance can be entirely removed: developing Metta, Karuna (compassion) and (Upekkha) equanimity towards the person with whom you are annoyed, forgetting and ignoring that person, contemplation of on ownership of deeds (kamma) of that person.

Some differences between the exposition of Metta in the Metta Sutta and the Visuddhi magga can be observed. For example the Visuddhimagga recommends to practise the Metta by going to a quiet place, where one can sit in a comfortable position, while the Metta Sutta prescribes cultivating it while standing, walking, sitting or lying, as long as awake without laziness.

Blessings of Metta

The Metta Sutta concludes with a very interesting verse, which has been discussed among the scholars of both East and West. Doctrinally, Metta is a state of mind. There is a set of four closely related states of mind, which are emphasized in the suttapitaka as either the Divine abodes (Brahma vihara) or the boundless states (appamanna). The Metta stands in the first position while compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha) follow it sequentially. The Brahma vihara is normally interpreted as staying with Brahma. The Visuddhimagga explains it as "just as Brahma God abide with immaculate minds, so the meditators who associate with these abidings abide on an equal footing with the Brahma God."

The four Brahma viharas appear in several discourses in the Pali canon. In the Tevijja Sutta Buddha explains that those who develop universal non-conditional friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity in all the quarters of their hearts are on the path for union with Brahma.

Returning to the discussion of Metta, We see in the Mahasihanada Sutta the Buddha explains that it is very hard to be a real ascetic unless a monk develops non enmity, non-illwill and the heart full of Metta; the Buddha appears to have introduced universal, non-conditional friendliness into Indian religious thought and he wanted his disciples to practise it zealously.

Those who practise Metta meditation in formal stages recite these eleven benefits regularly to remind the fruit of their efforts as it can develop the faith on what they practise. When considering each of these benefits, we can see their revolutionary claims.

When one sleeps and one's heart is in Metta, sleep comes easily, to awaken comes easily and bad dreams become negligible. One's lack of Metta corresponds to lack of deep rest and peacefulness. People are always fighting against themselves; the feeling one creates by mistreating another is painful both for others and him. Thus harming leads to complexness of guilt and tension.

The Sutta proceeds to mention that the practice of Metta causes one's face to become radiant. This concept indicates that an unfeigned inner beauty shines forth on one's face, just as anger or rage shows on the face.

The practice of Metta also generates peace and serenity, supporting the kind of happiness that conditions the ability to concentrate. Serenity is an important factor having 'presence of mind' i.e., being able to concentrate the mind. Concentration is an act of focusing on a chosen object; without the stability of serenity, the mind tends to be scattered and its energy lost to distraction. Retaining the factors of concentration the mind's energy is not dissipated and thus, this potency leads to the healing inherent in the Buddhist path. This of course is connected with the doctrinal goal of dying unconfused.

 

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J3.15  Christian Buddhists in the western world

Nemsiri Mutukumara

Ven. Kondanna returned last month after over eight months tour of three Latin American countries - Equador, Brazil and the Dominican Republic and Miami and California in the United States.

In Europe too where the same situation is prevailing, Ven. Kondanna has become the most sought after Bhavana instructor and pathfinder of a new way of life and is conducting meditation training programs in Switzerland, France, Holland and Germany.

A pupil of the world renowned Meditation Master Ajahn Chah of Thailand he leads a disciplined life that has attracted the European and American people who are yearning to lead a simple way of life which would give some solace and a tranquil mind.

In these countries - American and Latin American societies their development philosophy is exclusively focussed on material development.

The people are foreign to Buddhist ethics like filial piety, looking after parents, in-laws and respect towards elder brothers and sisters and the children have to find their future after their teens and the parents will lead lonely lives completely left out by the children.

In Continental Europe, one parent families - quite often husbands and wives live separately - the mothers are forced to live alone cloistered in apartments while the teenage daughter chums up with another girl in similar predicament.

Although living alone is more or less the way of life in societies that follow or addicted to the so-called western culture, practically everybody is rich in their material requirements, quite often possessing things over and above their needs.

The time table of their life is to work five or six days a week from day break for an eight hour working day, eating their breakfast while driving, lunching in the office cafeteria and partaking of a ready-made dinner. A television show followed by a coffee make their day ends. Naturally, frustration sets in when they read and see the advanced cultural, religious and spiritual developments are brought to their drawing rooms through the web-sites, internet and home pages of the electronic media.

Ven. Kondanna who has been in the Latin American countries several years ago, felt the reaction of the Latin Americans at the sight of a shaven headed, saffron robed Buddhist monk.

The Buddha's disciple showed the world what the Buddha taught to everybody without any discrimination.

In Brazil where Mahayana school of Buddhism is well-known bhavana conducted by a Theravada bhikkhu from Sri Lanka has attracted people to full houses in Beilo Horizonte, Sao Palo and Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilians ask they be called and identified as official or formal Buddhists, since they are steadfast believers of the Panca-sila way of life.

A society which takes alcoholic drinks like beer instead of water, has given up alcohol totally.

In the Scandinavian countries of Europe, the people are extremely affluent with money and material resources.

A building called Haus de Bessingu belongs to a rich Buddhist family. The place is fully equipped with a meditation hall, workshops for Buddhist discussions and seminars. This is the centre for regular discussions on Buddha Dhamma and meditation.

Mr. Marc Stucki, who as a Swiss resided at the Sirisena Dharma Mandiraya as a bhikkhu, by name Ven. Visuddha is now managing and developing the centre as a layman.

He was a familiar figure going round pindapata everyday along many high roads and by-roads in Moratuva.

Bhikkhu Sangha belonging to Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana fraternities are found in large number.

The Bhikkhu sangha not only provide for the spiritual needs of the western people, they also cater to the interests of their expatriate communities in their ritualistic practices like the chanting of paritta, blessings at weddings, reading of the alphabet to the infants, conducting funeral religious ceremonies and taking part in Sanghika dana.

The expatriates also team up with the Buddhists in western countries to extend a hand of help to the less fortunate people back home in their motherlands.

Ven. Kondanna finds Holland, a large mass of land, Buddha Dhamma is gradually and increasingly growing.

The Ven. Dhammavirantha, a national of Netherlands performs a remarkable service visiting far fetched places in the sprawling landmass.

Ven. Kondanna says, although most of his dayakas or disciples come as non-Buddhists - mainly Roman Catholics at their first visit in Latin America, everyone of them take the five precepts knowing fully well the meaning of the Pancasila and continue to adhere strictly to the code.

Sometimes they say, they are Roman Catholic Buddhists or Christian Buddhists.

 

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J3.16  Facing pain according to the Buddhist way

Rajah Kuruppu

Pain is considered as bodily and mental suffering from a Buddhist stand point. Mental and physical pain influence each other. Physical pain leads to mental pain and vice versa.Mental pains, which include anxiety and worry, lead to physical ailments called psychosomatic diseases. On the other hand, physical pain leads to mental distress. In Buddhism greater emphasis is placed on mental pain over which one has greater control than physical pain. Pain like death is common to all. While one faces death only once, pain is experienced throughout life from birth to death or even from womb to death. It is a daily occurrence and there is no day when pain, mental and physical, is totally absent, both in good times and bad times.

Although the cause for physical pain is in the body, the pain is experienced in the mind. When there is a physical injury, the nervous system ensures that the mind is made aware of it leading to mental pain.

Similarly, pangs of hunger originating in the stomach are felt in the mind. The use of pain killers such as anaesthesia make it possible to break the link between the physical wound and the mind leading to substantial or total freedom from the pain. In Buddhism, the concentrated and developed mind could also overcome the pain to a significant extent by giving total attention to another object.

In Burma a meditation master underwent an operation for hernia without an anaesthetic. similarly, there are meditating monks who have their teeth extracted without pain killers. It is also said that one could have relief from physical pain by engaging in anapanasati, the meditation on in and out breathing, which calms the mind.

Overcoming pain

Buddhism deals with dukkha, the unsatisfactory nature of life. Pain is included under dukkha which is explained as old age, disease, decay, death, suffering, lamentation, pain, grief, not getting what one wants, parting from loved ones and being compelled to associate with the disliked. So pain is a part of life. One cannot do away with pain but one could wisely understand pain, accept it as a part of life and fully or partially relieve the pain by wise attention and meditative concentration of the mind. It is said that the Arahats, who realised the Buddhist goal of Nibbana, are totally free from mental pain as they have overcome anxieties and worries by the eradication of all the defilements of the mind.

Pain includes defilements of the mind such as hatred, anger, and jealousy. These evil emotions lead to agitation and cause pain of mind. The Buddhist counter for hatred is the development of metta or loving kindness, the sincere wish for the happiness and welfare of all living beings; for anger, mindfulness and being alive to the liabilities of anger; and for jealousy, the development of the noble quality of mudita, which is sympathetic joy or joy in the happiness and welfare of others.

In accepting and understanding pain a Buddhist should be constantly aware of the eight vicissititudes of life - atta-locka dhamma. They come in pairs, namely, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, repute and ill-repute, and gain and loss. Life is a package of pleasant, painful and neutral experiences. One cannot experience only a part of the package.

Positive aspects

Pain is also helpful for the development of patience, a noble quality of the mind advocated in Buddhism. It provides an opportunity to understand and learn from the normal reactions to pain which includes repulsion, impatience, frustration, anger, restlessness, disappointment and confusion.

While no one is happy with pain, the positive aspects of pain should not be overlooked. Physical pain is often a warning that there is something wrong with the physical system. Thus, chest pain called angina is a warning of cardiovascular disease. This warning is helpful to take early remedial action to cure the main ailment.

Pain is also helpful for the development of patience, a noble quality of the mind advocated in Buddhism. It provides an opportunity to understand and learn from the normal reactions to pain which includes repulsion, impatience, frustration, anger, restlessness, disappointment and confusion. None of these reactions are helpful to face pain but would only aggravate the unpleasant experience. Patience and impatience are two mental factors that exclude each other. Mindfulness of impatience lead to a knowledge of impatience which is helpful to uproot it.

Another positive aspect of pain from a Buddhist standpoint is that it is an opportunity to think of dukkha, the unsatisfactory nature of life. Buddhism deals with dukkha, the fundamental problem of life, and its cessation. Happiness is also included in dukkha since it is temporary and effemerel and therefore unsatisfactory. Yet, when one is happy there is no inclination to think of dukkha. It is when experiencing the unpleasant, including pain, that one is more inclined to think and reflect on dukkha.

Pain is also a subject for meditation or bhavana. When one is in the meditation posture with the least possible movement of the body and the mind deeply concentrated, pain could arise. When one is engaged in anapanasati meditation, observing the in and out breathing and pain arises perhaps due to being in the same posture for a considerable period, then one should observe the pain three to four times and then direct the mind back to the meditation subject of in and out breathing. If the pain increases, observe the pain again three or four times and back again to the subject of meditation. The idea is to observe the pain objectively and it would be good if one could stand the pain, work through it and maintain one's stability, calm, peace and reason.

If the pain continues to increase, one should observe the pain again for the third time and remain longer with the pain, watch the pain directing attention to the particular area of the pain. If the pain decreases come back to the subject of meditation, the breathing. On the other hand, if the pain increases, observe it with great effort and if it becomes unbearable change position to relieve the pain.

When pain arise and without accepting the pain as a part of life we identify the pain with ourselves then the pain increases. One must train not to personalise the pain as my pain but just observe that there is pain.

Why pain ?

A Buddhist should never raise the question in one's mind as to why one has to experience substantial pain while others are comparatively free from such pain. No one is completely free from pain for any reasonable length of time. The reason for experiencing more pain than others is the law of kamma, the law of cause and effect. One's own unwholesome actions, both in this life and previous lives, would be the main cause of exceptional pain.

The remedy is to engage in wholesome actions. Even when confined to bed one could perform wholesome acts by thoughts of loving kindness, compassion and joy in the happiness of others, which are meritorious actions. Such thoughts would purify the mind and have a direct positive bearing on relieving the pain. Blaming others for one's pains and repulsion towards pain is not a Buddhist approach to pain and it would aggravate the pain. Thoughts of ill-will towards those considered responsible for the pain would defile the mind and add to the pain.

Measures to reduce pain

Pain, mental and physical, like all other aspects of dukkha are not only due to kammic actions of the past. By taking positive action to take care of one's constitution, bodily pains could be substantially reduced. Buddhist literature indicate measures that could be adopted for this purpose. One is moderate eating habits.

The Buddha said that eating too much was bad for health. The Buddha advised that one should end a meal when able to consume comfortably 5 to 6 additional mouthfuls of food. Another measure for good physical health advocated in Buddhism is exercise and to be active and not lazy. Monks are advised to physically exert themselves and maintain the temple and its premises clean and in good condition. The Buddha Himself walked great distances to deliver the message of the Dhamma to as many people as possible.

The purification of the mind is another factor for healthy living which would prevent the arising of psychosomatic diseases. Related to the purification of the mind is the development of the great quality of equanimity or balance of mind which would enable one not to be too happy with the pleasant and not too depressed with the unpleasant, to control anxieties and worries that are adverse to good health. To the extent that equanimity is developed energies dissipated by mental disturbances would be saved and could be utilized for the effort to proceed on the path to liberation.

 2 10 2002 - Daily News

 

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J3.17  The Elegance of The Buddha

Kingsley Heendeniya

The remarkable, unparalleled unique quality of the teaching of the Buddha is evident in the precision, felicity and genius with which he speaks extempore, without prior preparation. His sentences are strung spontaneously with an arrangement of words selected to bring out his recondite, complete, composite, profound, intended meaning in such a way that they cannot be improved. Everything is well said and no one has said them better. Yet he commented, ‘phrasing is a mere trifle’. It is the meaning one must understand, he insisted.

The polish and finish of his teaching is somewhat lost in translation, as for example in: Anicca vata sankhara uppadavayadhammino. [Impermanent indeed are determinations: to appear and disappear is their nature]. Though I regret my ignorance of Pali, I want to share with readers a selection of the elegance of the Buddha in English translation I cherish.

Kamma [Action]:    Student, Beings are owners of their actions, heirs of their actions, they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as their refuge. It is action that distinguishes beings as inferior and superior. (Culakammavibhanga Sutta)

Sarana [Refuge]:    Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far-gone in years. This is my eightieth year, and my life is spent. Even as an old cart, Ananda, is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the Tathagatha is kept going only with supportsÉ Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge. (Mahaparinibbana Sutta)

Bhavana [Meditation]:    Rahula, develop meditation on loving-kindness (metta)...to abandon ill-will (byapada)...develop meditation on compassion (karuna)...to abandon cruelty (vihimsa)... develop meditation on appreciative joy (muditha)...to abandon discontent (arati)...develop meditation on equanimity (upekkha)...to abandon aversion (dosa)...develop meditation on foulness (jara)...to abandon lust (raga)...develop meditation on perception of impermanence (aniccata)...to abandon conceit (mana). Develop meditation on mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati)...it is of great fruit and benefit. (Condensed from the Maharahulavada Sutta).

Yatha bhuta nana [Seeing things as they are]:    Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized. In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya. When, Bahiya for you in the seen is merely what is seen...in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘with that’. When, Bahiya, you are not ‘with that’, then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘in that’. When, Bahiya, you are not be ‘in that’, then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering. (Condensed from Udana).

Sati [Mindfulness]:    To protect oneself, bhikkhus, the foundation of mindfulness should be cultivated. To protect another the foundation of mindfulness should be cultivated. One who protects himself protects another; one who protects another protects himself. And how, bhikkhus, does one who protects himself protect another? By cultivation, development and repeated practice. And how, bhikkhus, does one who protects another protect himself? By patience, harmlessness, kindness and forbearance. (Samyutta Nikaya)

Rupa [Material form]:    I do not see even a single kind of form, Ananda, from the change and alteration of which there would not arise sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair in one who lusts for it and takes delight in it. (Mahasunatta Sutta)

Sammaditthi [Right view]:    This world for the most part, Kaccayana, is bound by engaging, holding and adherances; and this one does not engage or hold or resolve that engaging or holding, that mental resolving adherance and tendency: "My self". ‘It is just suffering that arises, suffering that ceases’ - about this he does not hesitate or doubt, his knowledge herein is independent of others. So far, Kaccayana, is there right view. (Nidana/Abhisamaya Sanyutta Nikaya)

Pahana [Abandonment]:    Comprehending the parable of the raft, monks, you have to eliminate ethical things too, let alone unethical things. (Alagaddaupama Sutta)

Vipassana [Insight]:    Just as the great ocean gradually shelves, slopes, and inclines and there is no sudden precipice, so also in this Dhamma and Discipline there is a gradual training, a gradual course, a gradual progression, and there is no sudden penetration to final knowledge (sammasambodhi). (Udana)

Vimukti [Liberation]:    Just as the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, so also this Dhamma and Discipline has one taste, the taste of liberation (vimukti). (Udana)

[I suggest you study the above in their textual context, try to understand and use in your daily mediations].

29 9 2002 Sunday Island

 

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J3.18  Special significance of Binara poya

D.B. Kappagoda

Poya day has a special significance for Buddhists in Sri Lanka. The four Poyas of the month are: Amavaka, Pura Atavaka, Ava Atavaka and Pasalosvaka. On these poya days the devotees visit viharayas either to observe sil or worship. It is interesting to note that it was mentioned in Anguthara Nikaya how devas keenly watch the laity spend their time on Poya days.

Poya day is considered as a special day for the Buddhists in our country. Even before the birth of the Buddha, ancients devoted a day of the week a day to religious observances. At that time, they did not possess an almanac or a calendar to determine this day meant for religious rites. The way they decided on the day was by observing the rising and the setting of the moon.

However, at the time of the Buddha it was generally accepted that Poya day should be devoted to religious observances. The name used to refer to this day- Uposatha- meant living close to god.

It was the time of the Vedic Aryans when people whose religion was Brahaminism worshipped Brahma.

The people spent this day in religious practices and devoted their entire time to religious observances. On Uposatha day, people practised yoga and made offerings to Mahavira. Jains who followed Mahavira on this day assembled and listened to discourses made by their religious leaders.

Buddhists did not adopt this practice till king Bimbisara asked the Buddha to declare Poya day a day of religious obervance with the idea of making the laymen to assemble at aramayas.

Thus, began the practice of visiting viharayas on Poya day.

For sometime there were no discourses at the viharayas. The Buddha observed this and said it was proper to make discourses on his doctrine and for laymen to listen and follow what were said in the discourses that wore delivered. The Buddha saw the devotees observe sil and the first who practiced eight precepts on Poya day was Visakha, the leading lady who became an Upasika under the guidence of the Buddha.

It was then that others began to practise Ata sil on Poya day.

Binara Poya in the month of September falls within the period of Vas. It is the month of Binara flowers that add colour to the greenery.

However, there are no special events about Binara Poya associated with the history of Buddhism.

Since it is the time of rain, bhikkhus are expected to stay in viharayas and begin their religious rites.

The layman too should observe sil and refrain from committing wrong acts that are considered violations of Buddha Dharma.

Since Binara Poya falls within the period of Vassana or vas, it is important to observe virtues and practices laid down by the doctrine of the Buddha which highlights the importance of this day.

The month of Binara is generally accepted as the month of rain. The Buddha preached his first sermon to his first five disciples when he spent his Vassana period raimy season at Isipathana in Baranasa.

Thus, began the order of his disciples, Sangha, who began the task of the spread of Buddhism.

It was on Binara Poya that Seruwavila dagaba containing the relics of the Buddha, was enshrined amidst a great religious ceremony. There is also another event when the hair of the Buddha was obtained from two brothers Thapassu -Bhalluka and enshrined at Girihadu dagaba at Thiriyaya.

The visit of Arahat Mahinda and the introduction of Buddhism launched Poya day as a day that should be devoted to religious practices.

According to the Buddhist almanac, there are 12 Poya days in the year. This almanac begins with Vesak poya and the rest of the Poya days are: Poson, Esala, Nikini, Binara, Vap, Il Unduvap, Duruthu, Navam, Medin, Bak. Most of these Full Moon Poya days are observed because of their importance to events connected with the life of the Buddha and historical events that are linked to the history of Sri Lanka.

20 9 2002 - Daily Mirror

 

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J3.19  The essentials of a Buddhist social philosophy

Prof. Laksiri Jayasuriya

The spirited revival of interest in Buddhism in the West is due to a variety of reasons, (Toms et al. 1998; Coleman 2000; Mackenzie 2001). Foremost among these being -a) the contradictions in the juxtaposition of present day scientific achievements (e.g., the genome project or the new science of cosmology), and the conventional religious systems, fractured with cults, sects, and fundamentalism; and the profound disenchantment with the new cultural ethos of unfettered greed and selfishness in post industrial societies. As regards the latter, there is no doubt that 'Buddhism is a profoundly subversive force in post modern consumer society'. Coleman (2000).

One response to the cultural and social unease in the west has been a rekindling of interest of the long standing 'cold war' between science and religion. Indeed, as H. G. Wells (1921) observed many decades ago, Buddhism stands unique among the mainstream religions of the world in that there is no qualitative difference between the rational empiricism of the western scientific tradition and the Buddhist metaphysic.

The Buddhist emphasis on man's ability through reasoned and critical inquiry to discover the Truth testifies to the congruence between the Buddhist approach to knowledge and understanding of the material and non-material world.

The Buddhist emphasis on man's ability through reasoned and critical inquiry to discover the Truth testifies to the congruence between the Buddhist approach to knowledge and understanding of the material and non-material world (Jayasuriya 1990). Put simply, 'Buddhism is more congenial to western religious beliefs' (From 1953).

At the same time, the scientific humanism inherent in Buddhism is able to confront meaningfully the challenge presented by the contemporary culture of selfishness and greed characteristic of postmodern societies.

This derives from the causal mode of analysis in depicting the human condition and formula for overcoming the strains and stresses of modern living. The new, social ethic of post-modern societies represents an attitude of mind born out of perverse forms of selfishness, ruthless competition and an excessive and unmitigated ideology of individualism, all defining characteristics of many western societies governed by market dominated neo-liberal economic paradigms.

Not surprisingly, many western intellectuals who may have turned to Buddhism, because of its congeniality with the western intellectual tradition, have also been attracted by the deep and abiding interest of Buddhism in human welfare and well-being.

Historically, as Walpola Rahula (1978) reminds us, Buddhism was a powerful 'spiritual force against social injustices, degrading superstitious rites to the tyranny of the caste system (advocating) the equality of all men (and emancipating) women' .This important and often ignored aspect of Buddhist thought has recently been highlighted in the path finding study of Kancha llaih (2000). This book, among other things, according to its reviewer, Omvedt (2001), makes the pointed observation that the Buddha, 'far from being a 'religious' thinker, was pre-eminently a social thinker.

It is this perennial tradition of social thinking, evident in the edicts of Emperor Asoka (Thurman 1998), that is reflected in the dominant focus on what recently has become known as 'engaged Buddhism' (a term coined in 1963 by the well known Vietnamese Buddhist Teacher in the west, Thich Nhat Hanh). Western Buddhists, to a greater extent than the traditional adherents in predominantly Buddhist countries (e.g., Sri Lanka, Thailand or Burma) have, for a variety of reasons (e.g., the rise of what has been labelled 'Protestant Buddhsim') made a special effort to show how Buddhism deals with questions of social morality and ethics in an age of selfishness (Eppsteiner 1988; Harvey 2000).

Morality, after all, provides us with 'action guides' for dealing with the 'problems of living', usually focussed on how we deal with human interactions (Kraft 1988). Our moral statements or actions, and the rationale that justifies and validates these blueprints are concerned mostly with how we relate to one another, and in general, guides us to how we can live together with others in peace and harmony-be it in the family, the workplace, or the wider community. It is simply a prescriptive guide, not just for one's individual betterment or perfection, but for the good of others.

What is significant for the conceptualisation of a Buddhist morality and Eventually a Buddhist social philosophy lies in its ability to show that the Buddhist code of conduct, the path for individual betterment and salvation, is not narrowly confined to one's narrow self interest. In other words, 'engaged Buddhism' as expounded in a Buddhist social philosophy, has to demonstrate that the analytical mode of reasoning crystallized in the Four Noble Truths and Eight-fold path is equally concerned with one's self as well as a sense of social awareness, a concern for others (Jayatilleke 1955,1961,1967).

This, of course, bears directly on the oft-made criticism that the Buddhist code of morality or ethical conduct is selfish or egocentric (Toynbee 1956). Many have seen Buddhism as passive, otherworldly, and even escapist.

The charge is that Buddhism at least in some traditions (e.g., the Theravada by contrast with the Mahayana), is highly individualistic and concerned predorninately, if not exclusively, with personal salvation at the expense or neglect of others. Stated differently, this refers to the reclusive Buddhism practiced by some monks or the self -awareness training (e.g., through retreats and meditation centres) of the laity.

While there may be differences of emphasis in practice between the main traditions of Buddhism (East Asian, South East Asian and Tibetan), there is, however, a common heritage shared by the different traditions and several schools of Buddhism (Jayatilleke 1967; Gethin 2000).

A key, though sometimes neglected aspect of these different traditions, is the shared foundations of the Buddhist ethic (Harvey 2000). As Kraft (1998) rightly observes, 'the principles and even some of the techniques of an engaged Buddhism have been latent in all traditions despite the fact that these were evident in the earliest teachings.

The reference to a mode of thinking, characteristic of 'engaged Buddhism', obviously suggests a shift from self to' other regarding, sentiments, This immediately introduces questions relating to alleged selfishness in Buddhism or that Buddhism is selfish, and/or other worldly.

This is applied especially to the Theravada tradition which is regarded as being highly individualistic and concerned predominantly, if not exclusively, with personal salvation even at the expense of concern with others, But, as the distinguished Buddhist scholar Kalupahana (1995) observes, referring to early Buddhist thought: 'The individual is neither a totally independent entity with absolute inalienable rights nor one that is totally determined by the society with no claims to rights, society is neither a mere conglomeration of individuals without any relations nor an absolute reality imposing its authority on the individual without restrictions.'(p. 58).

There is no doubt, as Wijesekera (1960) has observed in a different context, the social philosophy of Buddhism and other Indian religions places its 'primary emphasis on the individual and social consequences follow from the centre of the individual's own psychology'.

By asserting that the centrality of the individual, one's freedom and autonomy is not an absolute independence, Buddhism recognises the complex and interdependent relation ship that exists between individuals and society, or the self and the other.

The notion of individual identity is a complex and difficult question bearing on how we understand the Buddhist concept of the Self and No-Self (the Anatta doctrine). Without embarking on an exposition of the philosophical basis of the Anatta doctrine it will suffice to recognise that what is denied is the ultimate reality of a permanent immutable self (e.g., as in atman), not existential reality of the conventional concept of self, nor the operation of 'self-interest' or the perceived sense of individuality (Gethin 1998).

Buddhism, however, does not commit the error of reifying the self and celebrating the self as an independent entity. Similarly in humanistic psychology (Brewster Smith 1974) self understanding is not loaded with a ghost in the machine such as a reified self as agent; rather it is concerned with dispositions such as wishes, intentions and feelings. This is exactly how the self-interest functions in Buddhist psychology ,i.e., through a stream of conscious acts, motives and volitions (citta and cetasikas).

Jayatilleke (1967) has perhaps given the definitive Buddhist answer to the damaging charge that Buddhist individualism amounts to sefishness and indifference to human welfare and the improvability of society by arguing that this dilemma of the self is not simply a question of self or the other (egoism vs altruism).

The either/or fallacy inherent in this point of view is decried by Jayatilleke who rightly observes that there is ample evidence in the Buddhist teaching to demonstrate that the life of a Buddhist -be he a lay person or an ascetic has to be lived partly in a social as well as a personal dimension.

A Buddhist desires happiness in this world and the next, and the moral path to this happiness is founded partly on the notion of the perfectibility of the individual and partly on the notion of social concern. This follows from the basic character of the moral path that leads to salvation eventually.

The path specifies a gradual progression of practice extending from the cultivation of virtue (sila) through the practice of the virtue (samadhi) and understanding the truth of existence (panna). This could also be expressed as a movement through generosity (dana), good conduct (sila) to meditation/ concentration (bhavana).

It should be noted, however, that these aspects of the Path are not linear but operate 'in a reciprocal relationship, mutually dependent' (Gethin 1998).

Importantly, the practice of this path is not concerned with oneself (e.g., refraining from deeds harmful to one), but is also oriented to others. This is because the virtues depicted by the path are governed by four mental states , attitudes or states of mind -all of which denote a concern for the other: Loving kindness or friendliness (metta); Compassion (karuna); Sympathetic joy or altruism (mudita); and, Equanimity (upekkha).

Thus, in the practice of good conduct, one begins with the wish for one's well-being as well as that of others (loving-kindness) and this is extended to others through compassion. It is compassion which opens oneself to others so that when one practices mindfulness we acknowledge that 'we notice another person suffers' (Thich Naht Hanh quoted in Toms 1998).

The cultivation of moral virtue and the striving for good conduct is an integral element in the foundation of meditative contemplation -be it meditation of calm or insight. In traversing the path, it is apparent that in this regard, one acts, not in isolation but in association with others.

While this way of thinking about Buddhist practice is more true of the laity than of the monastic order, the latter too did not live idly in isolation. The stories of the monks and nuns during the days of the Buddha as recorded in the Thera -and Theri-Gathas bear witness to the social character of the moral path for monks and nuns (Oldenbrg and Pischel 1993).

Clearly, there is no conflict in pursuing both the reform of society and the salvation of the individual. This interdependence is well understood in the Buddhist texts which state that no one can help or save another unless he has 'saved himself', i.e., free from mental burdens and stresses. This is made explicit in the Buddha's exposition of a moral charactereology of four types of people, namely, the amoralist, the altrusit; the egoist, and the enlightened egoist (see Kalupahana 1995, Chapter 7). According to this valuation, the highest and best person is the 'enlightened egoist', i.e., the one who works for his own good as well as the good of others.

In such persons, there is no necessary conflict between the individual and social welfare, particularly when the good happens to be moral and spiritual. Stated differently. 'Buddhism is concerned with the reformation of society as well as the salvation of the individual' (Slater 1950).

The Buddhist prescription for living built around loving -kindness, compassion and generosity pertain to individual as well as social conduct and are well documented in the text (Mendis 1993; Kalupahana 1995).

For example, the 'Discourse on the Admonition to Sigala' , the Sigalovada Sutta (Discourse No.3, Walshe 1987), contains a broad spectrum of social relations governing relations between different categories of persons, e.g., parent and children, teachers and pupils, marital relations of husband and wife, friendships relations and the laity and clergy.

All of these recognise mutual responsibilities -e.g., parents and children, and recognises above all that pursuit of individual happiness and welfare is inextricably linked with the welfare of others.

The Buddhist notion of welfare is also fully explained in the comprehensive description of the moral virtues provided in the 'Discourse on Brahma's Net', the Brahmajala (Discourse No.1, Walshe 1987). This important discourse makes a reference to the practice of the seven virtues by ordinary laymen, that is, refraining from taking life, stealing, confusion, malicious, harsh speech, frivolous talk and being detached from vulgar sensibility. In other words, the ultimate good is one which includes one's own welfare as well that of others.

A concrete example of the social relevance of the Buddhist ethic is also found in the famous 'Discourse on the Lions Roar on the Turning of the Wheel', the Cakkavattisiha Sutta (Discourse No.26, Walshe 1987) which extols, among other things, the Buddhist conception of the economic life of human beings (Schumacher 1973; Gnanarama 1996; Mendis 1993; Rahula 1988).

For example, it is observed that when there is an economic downturn. Adverse economic conditions are likely to lead to a lack of opportunities, and poverty becomes rampant. Consequently, those distressed by poverty, it is observed, resort to crimes such as lying and stealing and even commit acts of violence. Interestingly, the blame for this is not placed on the individual but on a society as whole.

The economic prescriptions in this discourse for alleviating poverty are also of interest , e.g., they point to the need for better economic opportunities such as increased capital and also a more equitable distribution of wealth.

These Discourses show the extent to which the social and political philosophy inherent in the Buddhist teachings emphasise the moral values of frugality, resourcefulness, control over excessive craving and conspicuous consumption (Mendis 1993). In fact, there are many instances in the Buddhist texts testifying to the need for a balanced and moderate approach to living so that economic and material happiness is seen as a means to an end which is none other than moral progress and spiritual happiness in the striving for salvation.

The manner in which economic or material well-being and moral progress or spiritual well being go together is neatly explained in a discourse where the Buddha addresses one of his wealthy disciples from the merchant class(anathapindika) on what he describes as four kinds of happiness (atti-sukha, bhoga sukha, annana sukha, anavajja sukha) a lay person can enjoy (Kalupahana 1995). These four forms of happiness refer to happiness of both oneself and the happiness of others, which also importantly includes animals.

The ethical teachings of Buddhism derive from a conception of reality, a cosmic view of man in society, which is validated by a theory of knowledge: As a philosophy of religion -despite its varied presentations in different traditions , Buddhism attests to the value of an alternative path to individual salvation (Jayatilleke 1967).

In this sense, Buddhism epitomises the essence of scientific humanism, that is, that 'the good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge' (Russell )958).

The morality of Buddhism in Buddhist social philosophy is both pragmatic and utilitarian. In other words, good is that which produce good effects and relieves one's sorrows and stresses; evil generates ill effects and prolongs the agony of suffering and stress.

The prescriptions for moral conduct are carefully laid out not as laws or injunctions to be obeyed as a matter of duty or obligation, but as rules or principles of conduct which flow from a theory of. reality capable of validation and verification.

Given that the key tenets and principles of Buddhism extol the virtues of reason, human freedom and moral responsibility, man in contemporary society, especially in a highly scientific and technological age, can profitably engage in a meaningful dialogue with Buddhist thought and practice to determine its relevance to one's individual and social needs. The crux of a Buddhist social philosophy lies on how one conceptualises the concepts of the individual and society, or the self and the other. Following Kalupahana (1999), this may be through the concepts of 'self-interest' and 'mutual self-interest' to provide a conceptual bridge between individual and society or self and other.

The basis of an 'engaged Buddhism' is firmly entrenched in a social ethic and a morality which integrates individual betterment or perfection with the good of others. (The Buddhist)

 

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J3.20  The doctrine of abandonment

Kingsley Heendeniya

One day, when the Buddha went into Savatti for alms, his son Rahula followed behind with other monks. Rahula saw the handsome figure of his father walking sedately in front.It occurred to him that he too had a beautiful form like the father.

The Buddha immediately read his mind, stopped, turned back and spoke to the venerable Rahula thus: "Rahula, any kind of material form whatever, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near, all material form should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not myself". He continued, "Material form, Rahula, and feeling, perception, determinations and consciousness". Rahula felt ashamed to be admonished and he sat under a tree then and there and began to meditate. His tutor, Sariputta, arriving later, not knowing what had happened, was pleased to see him meditating without going for alms with his father, and advised him" ....mindfulness of breathing is of great fruit and great benefit".

The above incident is a charming, profound insight into the crucial advice of the Buddha to all of us. The picturesque message is about abandonment .

It succinctly states the one and only rationale for abstaining from, for non-attachment to, for relinquishment of, everything. To sum it up, here is an incident from the Latukikopma Sutta. Venerable Udayin was an energetic, devoted pupil of the Buddha.

Unlike a few, he had followed the advice - given perhaps in the middle period of his ministry - "Bhikkhus, I eat at a single session. By so doing, I am free from illness and affliction, and I enjoy health, strength, and a comfortable abiding. Come, Bhikkhus, eat at a single session". So, Udayin told the Buddha, "Here, Venerable Sir, while I was alone in meditation....I was upset and sad, thinking: Faithful householders give us good food of various kinds during the day outside the proper time, yet the Blessed One tells us to abandon it, the Sublime One tells us to relinquish it.

Out of love and respect for the Blessed One, and out of shame and fear of wrongdoing, we abandoned that daytime meal outside the proper time...How many wholesome states has the Blessed One brought us! "The Buddha then gave a long discourse on attachment, of the poor and the rich, of kings and noble disciples, for hovels, grain, seed, a hag of a wife, many wives, land, sales, gold, meditation,jhana - from the mundane to the transcendental. He described the attainment of each jhana and the immaterial absorptions saying, "Abandon it, Surmount it." and finished the discourse with finality, "... Thus I speak of the abandoning even of the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception (the highest prior to cessation of feeling and perceptions). Do you see Udayin, any fetter, small or great, of whose abandoning I do not speak?"

For most of us, the urge to abandon at this deep end is an unlikely experience. We can regard it from the need develop the three main qualifications required to enter the path to liberation - discipline (sila), concentration (samadhi) and wisdom (panna).

In other words, we can try to attenuate underlying tendencies of beings, namely greed (lobha), aversion (dosa), and delusion (moha) or sensual desire, desire for being, desire for non-being.

Thus, the Buddha, in discourse after discourse tells us to abandon mundane things such as: killing living beings, taking what is not given, falsehood, harsh speech,malicious speech, gossip, covetousness, grief for the world, ill will, wrong view, wrong livelihood, sloth and torpor, restlessness, anger, revenge, contempt, envy, fraud, arrogance, bad friends, shamelessness, wrongdoing. In one Sutta alone, the Buddha enumerates 44 things to be abandoned.

"The question of what makes for a human life that is good for the person living it has been at the heart of ethics since the Greek philosophers enquired into eudaemonia ("happiness"). Once again, a philosopher's theory of the good will almost always be closely bound up with their views on other central matters". So when the Buddha says abandon X he does not ask you to replace it with Y. The Buddha puts things in the negative: Do not do this or what if it is not the case? Why? Because thinking is essentially negative and the central fact is anatta or no self.

What is the fundamental structure of phenomena? Is arising of B conditioned by A? Are such phenomena impermanent? Is it proper to regard impermanence as mine? Since the answer to the last is "No", the Buddha says, "Abandon them". That is the teaching of the Buddha.

 

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