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J9.01   Buddhism’s appeal in the western world - It is well known that the prevailing religion in Europe is Christianity...

J9.02   Vipassana Meditation; Key to Prevention of Crime - The imprisonment of criminals is said to serve many purposes according to...

J9.03   The Buddha and Pythagoras - Pythagoras is well known among the students specially to the mathematics...

J9.04   Scientific principles of death and rebirth in Buddhism - Acceptance of the rebirth principle of Buddhism throws a floodlight...

J9.05   Conversation about Buddhism - Extracts of the interview were published in the Spring Issue of the 'Cathedral Age'.

J9.06  Meditation: methods and benefits - The word meditation is a generic term for a very ancient practice…

J9.07  Is there 'life' after death? - All great saints and teachers of different faiths…

J9.08  Peace through cohabitation between Buddhism and Hinduism - When one examines the fundamental concepts...

J9.09  Buddhism and animal rights - In the wake of the alarming degradation of the environment…

J9.10  Bodhgaya to all humankind - The very word conjures up images of the sacred site…

J9.11  Tale of two cities from Buddhist Burma - There are thousands of stories in the countries of the world…

J9.12  Sri Lankan Buddhism: Mahindian Hybrid or survival of pre-Buddhist religion?

J9.13  Buddhism, bioethics and society: Cloning not new for Buddha - Had the Buddha been around when the news of the cloning…

J9.14  Full Moon Poya Day of Duruthu in the year 2552

J9.15  The great Tamil Buddhists - Buddhism came to South India during Emperor Asoka’s…

J9.16  Vesak, the day of enlightenment - All the past twenty four Buddhas have become…

J9.17  Mind, Matter and Nirvana in Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism - In Buddhism, the mind is central to the subjects…

J9.18  Conflict resolution: How Lord Buddha’s way offers an answer - According to Buddha Dhamma conflicts arise…

J9.19  Meditation - And what kind of meditation did the Blessed One commend?

J9.20  Vinaya – rules and the Sangha - We are living in an era of crisis. It is an age of transition…


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J9.01   Buddhism’s appeal in the western world

Ven. Nanadassana Thera

Dear Friends in the Dhamma. I must firstly thank the German Dharmaduta Society for inviting me to give this talk. It was several years ago that the Ambassador for Sri Lanka in Italy came once to Mitirigala Forest Hermitage, where I am staying and had a conversation with me. He used to travel in Europe and gave me a bit of information about Buddhism in those countries and the reasons why Europeans are turning to find solace in Buddhism.

Once he spoke particularly about Germany, which lies in the heart of Europe. He told me something, which can be, I think, a brief and comprehensive reply to what  people in Europe actually want and need from Buddhism. The German  Buddhists have a motto, he said, which is their guiding principle. The motto is: "We don’t want religion. We want peace and this is what Buddhism gives us".

It is well known that the prevailing religion in Europe is Christianity. It is  derived from Jesus Christ. His life and so forth as reported in the New  Testament by the Evangelists are the basis of the Christian message and  religion. In spite of the fact that Jesus Christ is depicted to have delivered the  message of love to each other or love your neighbour, yet there are several  passages in the New Testament contradicting this message of love and these  should not be overlooked by anyone who wants to understand this European  religion. One such passage is found in Mathew Book 10. Jesus Christ delivers  his speech thus: "Think not that I came to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace but a sword". Other passages are found in Luke Book 12 and 14.  Jesus Christ speaks thus: "I came to send fire on the earth", and again, "if any  man comes to me and hates not his father and mother, and wife and children,  brothers and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple". One  may wonder if the language here is figurative or literal.

However, if one looks back at the structure of Christianity, it’s history reveals that it is literally not a peaceful history at all. It is full of hostilities, persecutions, martyrdom, violence, bloodshed, slaughters, wars waged to propagate or defend the new faith, crusades, forced conversions and baptisms, inquisitions and even terrible wars between Christians with Christians. According to between them than through persecution by the Romans. The two world wars started in Europe. They are almost forgotten and today there are no political or religious wars, at least not in Central Europe. Yet the people today cry out "We do not want religion. We want peace, and this is what Buddhism gives us".

What is meant here is mental or spiritual peace. A peace which springs from a deep knowledge. A knowledge that comes from seeing directly the real nature of the inner and outer world. A knowledge that pacifies mental defilements and frees the mind from mental vexation. Thus what is required in Europe is a spiritual peace which gives a real knowledge of the world which Christianity cannot provide to its followers for it is unable to give them the guidance, advice, precepts, hints, answers and techniques which fulfil the deep demand of the human spirit and the spiritual dimension of man.

The first contact of any significance between Buddhists and Europe came about as a result of European colonialism. Although the Indian Emperor Asoka is known to have sent envoys to Greece in the third century BC, Buddhism could not take root there due to the prevailing unfavourable conditions. Later Islamic expansion throughout the near East erected a formidable barrier between Europe and India. By the beginning of the 19th Century, however, interest in Buddhist ideas was clearly beginning to emerge in Europe. Of course, a few independent thinkers had earlier recognised the rationality of Buddhist thought. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who lived in the 19th Century must be given pride of place.

To Schopenhauer, Buddhism was the best of all religions because it was preferable to Brahminism with its Caste system and even more preferable to Christianity with its fallacious ideas about God and its defective code of ethics, which has no moral consideration for animals, and sometimes not even for human beings. Schopenhauer’s knowledge of Buddhism was based on the rather incomplete and inaccurate source materials then available. Nevertheless, the affinity between his philosophy and Buddhism is in many ways striking and a close look at Schopenhauer’s teachings reveal it as a kind of incomplete Buddhism. Schopenhauer’s philosophy became popular during the later part of the 19th Century and his high regard for Buddhism has definitely contributed towards the interest in it not only as a subject of study but also as a way of thought and life with which one can identify. It was only during the later years of his life that systematic attempts were first made to arrange and translate the huge volumes of Buddhist scriptures.

Hermann Hesse, a German author and essayist, and Nobel Prize winner, once wrote about the pacifying essence of the Buddha’s discourses. He wrote "Whoever attentively reads a small number of the countless discourses of the Buddha is soon aware of harmony in them, a quietude of mind, a smiling transcendence, a totally unshakeable firmness, but also invariable kindness, endless patience. As ways and means to the attainment of this holy quietude and peace of mind, the Buddha’s discourses are full of advice, precepts, hints".

Thus, however dimly most people in all Buddhist countries may apprehend the doctrinal content of Buddhism, their conviction of its depth and wisdom is shared almost instinctively by intelligent men and women everywhere. No religion, other than Buddhism, has set a higher value on the states of spiritual insight and liberation, and none has set so methodically and with such a wealth of critical reflection the various paths and disciplines by which such wholesome states are reached as well as their ontological and psychological underpinnings that make those wholesome states so valuable and those paths so effective.

Strictly speaking, Buddhism aims at cleansing the mind of impurities, agitation and disturbances, such as lustful desires, hatred, hate, anger, ill-will, indolence, worries, restlessness and skeptical doubts, and at cultivating good qualities such as concentration, awareness, intelligence...

Strictly speaking, Buddhism aims at cleansing the mind of impurities, agitation and disturbances, such as lustful desires, hatred, hate, anger, ill-will, indolence, worries, restlessness and skeptical doubts, and at cultivating good qualities such as concentration, awareness, intelligence, will, energy, the analytical faculty, confidence, joy, friendliness, compassion, tranquillity and so forth, leading finally to the attainment of the highest wisdom that sees the nature of ‘mind and matter’ as they really came to be and realising the ultimate truth, peace, Nibbana. Thus peace can be found in one’s own purified mind.

Greed, hate, delusion and vulgar behaviour mainly caused by the mental defilements and passions, have existed in humanity before and during the Buddha’s time. All these exist also today in the same and even worse manner. For those who abhor any kind of base bodily, verbal and mental behaviour and wish to attain a state of moral and spiritual purity, the Buddha’s Teaching offers an excellent guidance. Moreover, it is a Teaching that is not restricted to any historical times, and the moment one puts it properly into practice one gets immediately good results. Therefore it is called ‘akalika’.

Educated Westerners can gradually acknowledge Buddhism to be not only a message of great sophistication but also one of exalted ideals. Perhaps the most striking evidence that Buddhism continues to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration is the fascination it now holds for the Western World.

To many in Europe and also America, Buddhism seems to be a spiritual movement well-suited to mankind’s future, being grounded in reason and therefore in harmony with the prevailing spirit of scientific empiricism. Offering  belief in the supra-natural. Those who encounter its refined morality and profound wisdom can only regard the Buddhist tradition as one of the greatest achievements of Man. It is, therefore a reassuring thought that despite recent reversals of fortune, Buddhism would not merely survive but may possibly be on the brink of a new age of appreciative revaluation.

Many remarkable men have worked to spread Buddhism in the world. Out of those great Buddhist workers who deserve to be honoured today is the late Sinhalese monk, Ven. Mitirigala Dhammanisanthi Thero, well known also by his lay name as Mr. Asoka Weeraratna. Seeing the necessity to propagate Buddhism, especially in Germany, he succeeded with his heroic efforts, sacrificial labours, devotion and energy in establishing the German Dharmaduta Society and a Centre for Buddhist Missions in Berlin for the benefit of the German people. In his missionary enthusiasm to spread the Buddha’s message in the world, he directed his efforts not only to spread Buddhism abroad but also in his own mother country, Sri Lanka.

At a time when Buddhism had lost its most supportive and protective structure, namely meditation, he established in 1967, a Forest Hermitage not very far from Colombo to enable Buddhist Yogi Monks to meditate and contemplate in a suitable and peaceful environment. The Forest Hermitage was named Nissarana Vanaya where thirty fully equipped independent dwellings for yogis were constructed for meditation. He brought there the most respectful meditation teacher, the late Venerable Matara Sri Nanarama Maha Thera, widely recognised as one of Sri Lanka’s outstanding meditation masters of recent times, to be the guide and instructor. Apart from Sinhala Buddhist monks and laymen, many foreign monks and laymen alike got the opportunity to pursue here the practice of meditation with full dedication, unhindered by other tasks and duties. Some of them came from USA, some from Canada, England, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Greece, India, Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. 

In August 1972, Mr. Asoka Weeraratna himself became a monk under the monastic name Ven. Dhammanisanthi. As a layman and afterwards as a monk he served the cause of Buddhism in these and many other ways abroad as well in his mother country, Sri Lanka. His name will be included in a historical book now in preparation by the Sri Kalyani Yogashrama Sansthawa, an association of forest monks in Sri Lanka. May he, by the vast accumulation of this merit attain Nibbana.

May also the noble objective of the German Dharmaduta Society to propagate Buddhism in Europe be achieved in increasing measure in the years to come, thus spreading peace and happiness in this life itself among the good people in Germany and also in other countries in Europe, and guiding them ultimately towards the attainment of the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

Ven. Nanadassana is a Buddhist monk from Greece who has lived in Sri Lanka for the last 20 years. He resided in the Mitirigala Forest Hermitage for over 19 years. He has studied and practised meditation under the guidance of the late Most Venerable Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera, the first Meditation Master at the Mitirigala Forest Hermitage. Ven. Nanadassana was well acquainted with Ven. Mitirigala Dhammanisanthi Thero (Asoka Weeraratna), the founder of the Mitirigala Forest Hermitage. He has studied the Tripitaka under Sinhala Theras and Mahatheras and has thus acquired a theoretical and practical knowledge of Buddhism. He is fluent in several languages (including Sinhala) and is the author of the book ‘Bhikkhu Patimoksha’ in German.

 

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J9.02   Vipassana Meditation; Key to Prevention of Crime

 It is generally known that most prisons throughout the world are fast becoming training grounds for first offenders of petty crimes to graduate into fully-fledged criminals under the guidance of seasoned criminals. This defeats the very purpose of rehabilitation, one of the main objectives of incarceration. In addition the sub-human living conditions under which inmates have to live in most jails and the easy access to drugs and other vices further deters the achievement of this desired objective.

Dr. Kingsley Wickremasuriya


The imprisonment of criminals is said to serve many purposes according to Zimring. Some of these may be to physically isolate offenders, to assist in the correction of inmates, to reform and rehabilitate the offenders, to let retribution visit the offending persons and to deter potential offenders from committing crimes. This article will examine as to how Vipassana has helped to achieve some of these objectives.

It is generally known that most prisons throughout the world are fast becoming training grounds for first offenders of petty crimes to graduate into fully-fledged criminals under the guidance of seasoned criminals. This defeats the very purpose of rehabilitation, one of the main objectives of incarceration. In addition the sub-human living conditions under which inmates have to live in most jails and the easy access to drugs and other vices further deters the achievement of this desired objective.

These negative effects of incarceration are well known the world over and it has resulted in a growing concern over such trends worldwide. Many sociologists have shown that reformation and rehabilitation should in a civilized society be the prime aim of imprisonment. It is even said, "the level of a society’s civilization can be judged by the state of its prisons". Various jails in the West, especially in the USA have now introduced a number of correctional programs like vocational training in different trades, interview therapy, counselling and behaviour modification techniques and academic studies. But Greenberg who has studied these programs held under different conditions has concluded that they may serve other purposes, but the prevention of return to a life of crime after release. So the assertion that could be made is that such methods do not bring very much by way of positive results. Thus evidence of this kind has many to consider that reform programs are ineffective. Other techniques such as chemical pacification are being hotly contested. Recidivism, however, should not be the sole criterion of evaluating the effectiveness of a correctional system. Greenberg’s study, nevertheless, points to the need for a fresh look at this important issue. Vipassana meditation should, therefore, be seriously examined as technique for corrections of prisoners, particularly in view of its well-established efficacy in purifying the mind of its deep-rooted defilements and bringing the mind under control.

Vipassana in jails

Vipassana or experiencing within one’s self has helped many thousands of prisoners suffering inside the prisons. Many prisons in India are now organising Vipassana courses for their inmates as a step in the direction of reformation. Prisons in other countries like UK and USA have also started introducing Vipassana in their own jails. Many prison officials in India on the other hand have started to realise that spreading Vipassana in the society will help prevent crime. Prevention is no doubt better than cure.

The first course in Vipassana conducted in a prison in India was held in 1975. S. N. Goenka conducted the course. It was in the central jail of Rajasthan. This course was said to have been an unqualified success. In 1976 a course was held at the Police Academy at Jaipur for the police officials. At this course officers of the rank of Deputy Inspector-General of Police to the ordinary Constable sat together in meditation. In 1977 a second course was conducted in the Jaipur Central Jail. These were very successful courses. In 1990 another course was arranged in the same jail. In 1991 a course was conducted in the Gujarat Jail. Then came the course in the Central Jail in Baroda. These were all difficult tasks. The most difficult of all was the course conducted in Tihar Jail in the capital city of India, New Delhi.

Vipassana came to Tihar in 1993. Bringing Vipassana to Tihar Jail was a difficult task. But this was possible due to the untiring efforts and the commitment of the Inspector-General of Prisons, Kiran Bedi. This was followed by four other courses in 1994. The crowning moment for Vipassana in Indian Jails came when a course was conducted in Tihar for 1004 male prisoners and 49 female prisoners simultaneously in one single course in April 1994. This was possibly the largest ever Vipassana course held anywhere in the world. The participants were from various categories of prisoners involved in major crimes, including terrorist activities. They were from different backgrounds, religious groups and even from foreign countries. At the end of this course a permanent Vipassana centre was inaugurated under the aegis of the prison authorities with the blessings of the government of India. These courses have now produced many jail officials who have learnt Vipassana. Following the success at Tihar the Ministry of Home Affairs of Government of India have now opted to introduce Vipassana as a reform measure in all prisons in India. This is a very significant move. Success of Vipassana at Tihar heralds a new era of reform and rehabilitation for those who follow a life of crime. It provides an effective way of emancipation not only from a life of crime but from all suffering and misery as well.

The outcomes

The immediate effect of the Vipassana camps in Baroda Central Jail was reduction of offences inside the jail. The inmates observed prison rules voluntarily. Discipline inside the jail improved and conflicts with prison staff minimised. This resulted in better co-operation between the inmates and the prison staff thus bringing about a peaceful atmosphere inside the jail free from tension. Law and order situation inside the jail consequently did no longer pose a problem.

The attitude of the prisoners towards work entrusted to them changed noticeably in that they now worked conscientiously. Another beneficial effect of Vipassana was that it helped them to get rid of their addiction to smoking, drugs and other intoxicants. It also taught how to control their emotions and feelings and also to develop an attitude of positive thinking. Communal harmony was strengthened helping the inmates of different castes and creeds to live together peacefully respecting each other’s rights. They also responded positively to various reform activities by giving expression to their feelings through art and other forms of literary activities. In short the inmates have developed a purpose in life. This is the spiritual reward of Vipassana meditation.

Research findings

A research study was conducted on the first Vipassana meditation camp in Tihar Jail. The main objective of the study was to assess the beneficial effects of Vipassana on the inmates quantitatively. The research was conducted by getting the inmates to answer a carefully prepared questionnaire before and after the camp. According to the study 42% had indicated that Vipassana had given them a new direction in their lives. About 90% said that they would practice Vipassana regularly. More than 90% felt it very inspiring to see prison staff and officials meditating along with them and that it increased their fraternal feelings. 48% of them conceded that they had committed a crime. This is significant since only 24% had admitted to committing a crime before the camp. It was also significant that many who had carried feelings of hatred and revenge had decided to give up their plans, which they had meticulously prepared before the camp to be carried out on their release. 78% of those who smoked or chewed tobacco had expressed that the feeling was extinct after the camp. Many others reported an improvement of their general health and release of tension. On the other hand, of the prison staff that participated, 66% felt that it would improve the environment in the jail. About 40% reported that they were able to overcome their urge for drinking and smoking.

It is, however, obvious that any scientific investigation will have the limitation that it tests only that which can be operationalised objectively and measured experimentally. It often ignores the unique characteristics of each individual, and the finer aspects of the change process. However, the initial results of this study have been found to be highly satisfactory and needs to be followed up with further research.

In another experiment carried out also in the Tihar Jail the study revealed that most of the prisoners who participated in the experiment said that they had better control of their anger. In others anger occurred less frequently. Most of them also felt that they had gained some mental peace and suffered less from stress. All of them said that their benevolence and compassion towards others - staff and co-inmates increased. Many prisoners gave up smoking and others cut down on the habit drastically. Most of them reported an improvement of health. The study reported fourteen major points of improvements in the prisoners.

Thus, Vipassana has been very useful in reforming the inmates in the prisons in India. It has helped the authorities to successfully transform some of them into good citizens. Further, it has been successful as a tool in the reform process as it helps to achieve the ultimate aims and objectives of imprisonment that have been set by the government. It has also given purposefulness to the lives of many prisoners and rendered the various steps and activities undertaken for the welfare of the inmates more effective and successful.

Part II

Vipassana practice makes one a good human being. It enables one to live peacefully and harmoniously with others and helps generate a peaceful and harmonious environment all round oneself for others. Because Vipassana goes beyond the barriers of caste, sect, communalism and narrow nationalism, it improves morality. Thus along with material be..nefit there can be real happiness for those practicing Vipassana. Further, it can be an effective instrument in national integration and international understanding and is thus a powerful tool for social integration. It is, therefore, of great relevance to the country at this moment of division and hatred.

Conclusions

Vipassana is an art of many things. It is first an art of living. It teaches you how to live happily and harmoniously. It also teaches you how to live with equanimity. Whereas we should be the master of our mind and remain equanimous, we become its slave by surrendering to our cravings and aversions. We should conquer our emotions and regain the balance of our mind. Vipassana makes this possible.

Vipassana practice makes one a good human being. It enables one to live peacefully and harmoniously with others and helps generate a peaceful and harmonious environment all round oneself for others. Because Vipassana goes beyond the barriers of caste, sect, communalism and narrow nationalism, it improves morality. Thus along with material benefit there can be real happiness for those practicing Vipassana. Further, it can be an effective instrument in national integration and international understanding and is thus a powerful tool for social integration. It is, therefore, of great relevance to the country at this moment of division and hatred.

Vipassana, is a very effective technique in any reform program for prisoners. The technique is scientific and non-sectarian. Therefore, all irrespective of caste, creed, race, sex, religion, and nationality could practice it.

Vipassana, therefore, is a very effective technique in any reform program for prisoners. The technique is scientific and non-sectarian. Therefore, all irrespective of caste, creed, race, sex, religion, and nationality could practice it. Through this technique, a major transformation of behaviour patterns of prisoners could be obtained. It thus helps the authorities in their efforts at reforming criminals.

Besides, there are many therapeutic ingredients relevant to prisons in the ideology and the value system fostered by Vipassana. One of the best approaches to mental health is the value-based approach to making the students follow the five precepts. It is obvious that mindfulness of respiration or practice of anapana for greater control over the mind is helpful in managing harmful impulses. Similarly, it will be a powerful antidote to the negative feelings of the mind such as anxiety, hostility, depression, and fear if one can understand that every experience is impermanent. The technique has been found to be an effective means for attitudinal change, management of stress and strain, and instilling such qualities as compassion, equanimity, integrity and efficiency in discharging one’s duties and responsibilities. It is thus an effective instrument for change and reform. It has been used as far back as 3rd Century B.C. by Asoka the Emperor in India as an instrument of reform in the governance of his vast Empire. In recent times the Government of Madhya Pradesh has decided to grant duty leave to those officers joining Vipassana courses held in the State Academy of Administration (similar to our own SLIDA). Now it is the official policy of the Government of Rajasthan to expose police personnel of all ranks to Vipassana meditation courses. In a major policy decision, the Government has granted special leave to all government officers to attend Vipassana meditation courses. It has also decided to organise regular meditation courses in the State Institute of Public Administration, Rajasthan Police Academy and other training institutes. The first ever Vipassana course within a police training academy for cadets was held at the sprawling campus of the Police Training College some 40 km from Delhi in January, 1999. College trains over 1000 cadets. Kiran Bedi the Inspector- General who was responsible for introducing Vipassana meditation to Tihar jail has been instrumental in organizing Vipassana courses amongst the police forces in India. She herself sat at this first course. The course was a success. Following up on this, in what was to be the largest Vipassana course in recent times a 10- day course was organized for 1200 police training cadets at this Police Training College in March 1999. This historic mega Vipassana course was the immediate outcome of the one held in January the same year. This course being a success now arrangements are being made by Commissioner Kiran Bedi to give a travelling allowance to every police cadet and one of his family members to take a Vipassana course in Dhamma Giri at Igatpuri. The leadership in training police officers in Vipassana has thus come from the very top.

Vipassana could be used for better management in business and government as well. Individuals who have practised Vipassana are bound to have an influence on others. The interaction among people, say between employees and employers, be it Government or Public Sector is bound to improve thereby by making the working environment more peaceful and harmonious. As more and more take to meditation the society will keep on improving these relationships. By transforming the attitudes the Vipassana meditation technique improves the lives of executives and business managers. It helps to replace prejudice with compassion, jealousy with joy at the success of others, greed and arrogance with generosity and humility. This transformation of attitude reduces stress and helps to build equanimity and balance. It induces dynamism and creativity in the workforce. Consequently it will help Human Resource Development. Therefore the benefits are many.17 Thus the lessons to be learnt from Vipassana in India are not only in prevention of crime. It also shows that it has potential for good governance as well. It can be used in schools, in Police, in the Armed Services and in fact the entire Public and Private Sectors for harmony, peace and better performance. Who will take the first genuine step in Sri Lanka to make use of this technique for the wellbeing of the society at large?

[Author is a retired Senior Deputy Inspector-General of Police and is presently one of the Commissioners of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption. He is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Sri Jayawardenapura]



 

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J9.03   The Buddha and Pythagoras

 S. A. P. Subasinghe

Pythagoras is well known among the students specially to the mathematics students at their lower levels because of the famous theorems in Geometry. But many of us rarely come across the fact that he is a contemporary of the Buddha. He was born in about 580 B.C.

Very interesting and valuable facts about Pythagoras are included in one of his publications written by late Sirisena Maitipe to commemorate his 50th birth anniversary.

In my childhood I knew Sirisena Maitipe as a popular poet. But it is only very recently that I had the opportunity of reading a collection of books written by him. I have heard that he is the author of several valuable books including a book on kamasutra. He was also an astrologer and was well versed in the English language than Sinhala.

 The latent and mysterious event of the meeting of Buddha and Pythagoras is revealed in his book namely "Ma Dutu Gandaraya" which is some sort of a research work about the life and times of the Buddha in ancient India. He has written this book after travelling all-over the sacred and ancient cities and examining the ruins of the places and his work is a collection of ideas gathered by reading literature from Nepal, Tibet, China and India and some of the western countries as well.

 In the ancient days there were no books and libraries as in the modern world for students even at the Taxila which was the only university available in India during that era. The philosophers or students or scholars who ever they were the only means by which study and exchange ideas and broaden knowledge by travelling long distances and meeting other similar scholars or students and discussing whatever problems they had. Many travelled from western as well as eastern countries to Taxila (and India) which was the centre of learning at that time. In fact Taxila existed eight or nine centuries prior to the birth of the Buddha.

According to the famous professor C. N. L. Brook who was also the chief in the Editorial board of the world Magazine "The Knowledge" (in about 1963) published in London, Pythagoras has travelled all the way from Greece to India in search of the Buddha. But however the professor neither exactly says that Pythagoras took refuge in the Buddha nor does he say that he did not take refuge on the Buddha.

But the question is who is the person who has not been converted to Buddhism after meeting the Lord Buddha. It is natural that he too should have taken refuge in the Buddha.

The author who has found these facts in conversation with professor Brook further adds that there are reasons to believe that Pythagoras after meeting the Buddha discussed about matters of the world and about the Universe, and mathematical problems, etc. and after questioning was convinced about the real status.

It seems Pythagoras who was earlier a believer in the transmigration of souls, after returning to Greece established a society or brotherhood accepting the truth of rebirth.

These incidents although were not immediately registered as there were no writing facilities at that stage, has gone into history in subsequent times. 

Pythagoras was a genius and was the famous Greek philosopher, astrologer or astronomer, mathematician and musician. Greeks recognize him as the most intelligent and bravest person of the Greeks. He was in fact one of the first people to hold that the earth and the universe are round.

The author Sirisena Maitipe in his book throws some new light on the weak points and makes clarifications on certain incidents in the Buddha’s life history by giving his own interpretations by references he has done in his studies of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist literature in the countries he visited.

 

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J9.04  Scientific principles of death and rebirth in Buddhism

Tilokasundari Kariyawasam

Acceptance of the rebirth principle of Buddhism throws a floodlight of illuminations of the unknown background. The process of birth and death is explained by the Buddha based on the theories of Patticca Samuppada (the conditioned genesis or dependent origination) soullessness (Anatta) and Kamma.

The formula of dependent origination runs as follows: Through ignorance are conditioned the Sankhara the rebirth-producing volitions (Cetana) or Kamma formations. Through Kamma formations in past life is conditioned consciousness (in the present life). Through consciousness are conditioned mental and physical phenomena (Nama-rupa) that which makes up our so-called individual existence.

Mind and matter are interdependent entities, subject to an unending flux of momentary arising and disappearing in a series of cause and effect. Mind and matter are simply a phenomena of an underlying unity. In this most thorough exposition on dependent origination, the Buddha comes very close to modern science and modern neuropsychology.

The fact that consciousness conditions the individual is now accepted by modern scientists. It also agrees with the reality, that solid matter is only a concentrated manifestation of an underlying unmanifested field of energy.

Quantum physics has demonstrated that there is more to the world than what we can see and touch. We now know that the physical body, once considered a solid form, is actually made up of billions of whirling atoms expressing themselves at particular frequencies. As it is whirling at a terrific rate it appears as a solid. (Ruppati ruppa). We also know that matter can neither be destroyed nor created, only transformed into energy and back once more to matter, again depending upon its rate of vibrations.

In Buddhism, the individual is called nama - rupa (mind and matter) or five aggregates (Khandas). The term mind is generally used as a collective name for the four mental groups viz feeling (Vedana), perception (Sannana) and consciousness (Vinnanas). Matter constitutes four elements: solidity, liquidity, heat and motion.

With regard to the impersonality and dependant nature of mind and matter, it is said in the Digha Nikaya mind and matter by means of their mutual working together, this mental and bodily combination may move about, stand up and appear full of life and activity. Thus there is a vastly complex consciousness, in which all operate governed by the law of Kamma. Consciousness arises and vanishes every moment of it, with matter as its base.

The appearance of the psycho physical phenomenon is conditioned by Kamma of the past births. It is necessarily Kamma of the immediate past birth that conditions birth.

The process of becoming is conditioned by craving of the previous births too. Both Kamma and rebirth are intimately interconnected in the fundamental doctrine of the Buddha.

Kamma is an individual force transmitted from one existence to another. Laws of science itself postulates that nothing can be destroyed - there is only transmutation of force or energy, and it is only that energy that can be transferred back to matter. It is all important to realise the cause and effect relationship in Buddhism. Life is a psycho-physical energy, which in conventional terms is the self or atta in Buddhism. It is only a process and not an identity that is thus termed. The Buddhist philosophic term for an individual is santati that is flux or continuity of psycho-physical phenomena conditioned by Kamma. This is the individual in the conventional term.

According to Buddhism there is no such person as I. The individual is only a psycho-physical energy. When a person dies there is no transfer of matter from one existence to another. There is no transfer of self, as it is only an illusion. There is only a transfer of energy, as psycho-physical energy.

After death the four qualities of matter will again manifest as another form, as matter cannot be destroyed, it will again form into matter. It is neither the person of the past birth, nor a different person (Naca so naca anno). It is Kamma, which decides the present birth.

Based on scientific research it is absolutely clear that the body does not separate itself from the mind at the time of death. This is a misconception arrived at by studies done on near death experience.

In Buddhism, we have a phenomenological approach to existence, and for that reason matter is only important in so far as it is an object for experience, in so far as it affects our psychological existence. So where as in certain systems we have radical and absolute dualism, a dichotomy between mind and body, in Buddhism, we simply have a subjective objective form of experience and mind is supreme.

The body is the product of past Kamma, past consciousness and is at the same time the basis of present consciousness. Human beings like all other forms of nature, experience, cycles of life, death and rebirth which are subject to Kamma. All of us are influenced both positively and negatively by our past-life relationships.

When death is near, the life continuum (Bhavanga) that arise after Vitti-citta, there arises death - consciousness (Enti-citta). Accordingly, when the present existence is over, immediately after death - consciousness, there arises the Patisandhi citta that links that present existence with the immediately succeeding existence.

Relinking of birth on the new plane of existence is the resultant volitional activities (Kamma) of a wholesome or unwholesome act done in this or a previous existence (Sankha rena janiya - mano). The Kamma that gave rise to the relinking (patisandhi) and which is now dormant is rooted in craving. The relinking conscious process (Patisandha - citta) does not arise alone, without its respective concomitant mental factors such as contact sensation perception and thinking.

The moment life ebbs on one side and consciousness of that existence comes to an end with cuti the new existence begins immediately (Bhavantaena patisandhana vasena). The re-linking and the new existence arise simultaneously.

The passing away of consciousness of the past birth is the occasion for the arising of the new consciousness in the subsequent birth. There is no breach in the stream of consciousness. Rebirth takes place instantaneously and leaves no room whatsoever for any intermediate state.

The Ghost Foundation in the UK based on their research has confirmed there can be physical forms, homeless restless beings with focused energy generating noises, unpleasant odours etc. There are individuals who have just died and wish to be with loved ones to reassure them. Research also highlights "that a tragic and sudden death means a faster return to earth plane, sometimes only hours or days later'. A couple of centuries is like only a few months.

This intermediate stage is not a gandabha state. This view is contrary to the teaching of Buddhism and science.

Gandabha state in Abhidhamma has to be understood from the context. "Where three are found in continuation, there a germ of life is planned.... If mother and father come together and it is the mothers period, and the being to be born is also present, then, by the combination of these three a germ of life is planted". No gandabha awaits for conception. It is triggered by Kamma.

There is a misconception among some that the subsequent birth is conditioned by the last death consciousness (Cutiatta). What actually conditions rebirth is that which is expensed during the javana process.

Javana process arise after a stimuli of an object impinges with the Bhavanaga chitta where with the moments entry, vibration and interruption have taken place. Then the stimulus of the object enters the mind door conscious sphere. It does this through the occurrence of the 4th moment which is the moment of the adverting consciousness (Mano Dvarajjana) arises and passes away.

Then comes the Javana process, which runs only for five thought moments. A thought moment occurs much in this manner that a bubble arises and then breaks up. It is said within the time taken by a flash of lightening many millions of such thought impulses may have passed away. Its main function is to regulate the new existence. The tadatantana consciousness may or may not follow. After this occurs the death consciousness, the last thought moment to be expended in this present life.

The mother's womb is not the only way of birth. We learn from the teaching that there can be birth in four different ways.

i. by way of the womb

ii. by way of eggs

iii. by way of moisture and

iv. by way of spontaneous birth

In the heavenly planes and in hell there is only spontaneous birth, human birth is not the only route of birth. Beings are infinite in number and so are world systems. There are innumerous forms of life, devas, demons, ghosts, prethas, animals and humans.

Rebirth takes place instantaneously and leaves no room whatsoever for any intermediate state. Buddhism does not state that the deceased individual takes time searching for a suitable plain for its birth. This aspect of instantaneous rebirth is expressed in this Milinda prasna.

King Milinda queries:

"Ven. Nagasena, if somebody dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma, and another dies here at the same time and is reborn in Kashmir, which of them would arrive first".

"They would arrive at the same time, O King"?

"In which town were you born, O King"?

"In a village called Kailasi, Venerable Sir".

"How far is Kailasi from here O King"?

"About two hundred miles, Ven. sir"

"And how far in Kashmir from here, o king"

"About twelve miles, Ven. sir"

"Now think of the village of Kailasi, o king"

"I have done so, Ven. Sir"

"And now think of Kashmir, o king"

"It is done, Ven. Sir"

"Which of these two, o king, did you think the more slowly and which the more quickly"

"Both equally quickly, Ven. sir"

"Just so, o king, he who dies here and is reborn in the world of Brahma is not reborn later then he, who dies here and is reborn in Kashmir"

"Give me one more simile, Ven. sir"

"That do you think, o king" "Suppose two birds were flying in the air and they should settle at the same time, one upon a high and the other upon a low tree, which bird's shade would first fall upon the earth, and which bird's later"

"Both shadows would appear at the same time, not one of them earlier and the other later"

In the case where there is a gap of time between the death of person and rebirth, this gap of time is considered as an intermediate state of existence.

Any gap may give the clue to the existence of some other forms of life. Buddhism does not leave any room for an intermediate state whatsoever; as consciousness does not perish, consciousness has to continue with matter as its base. It is absolutely not a gandabha state. This view is contrary to the teaching of Buddhism and science as well. Glen Williswarth and Judith Jhonson contend that some form of life exists in the sense that an unquiet energy is read as new forms of life. It is the focused energy of a person who has just died and wishes to be with loved ones.

There is clear documentation of many cases in which the NDE (Near Death Experience) accrued in the absence of any medicinal hallucinatory agent, thus making the drug induction hypothesis completely untenable in such situations.

Recently a new substance was discovered within the human brain, B - endorphin. This substance appears to possess many of the characteristics of morphine sulfate. B - endorphins have been proposed as a cause of the profound painlessness reported by persons during an NDE, as suggested by the following statements.

"All of a sudden the pain completely stopped and I could feel my being rising out of my body. It seemed like I got upto ceiling high and I could look back and see my body and I looked dead......... Then I started floating back down to my body".

Epileptogenic discharges originating in the parietal or temporal lobes of the brain may produce a complex set of phenomena known as psychical seizure.

According to Ludwig, individuals experiencing an altered state of consciousness report splitting of mind from body.

These manifestations are briefly summed by Dr. Ludwig as due to pharmacological causes as narcotics, endorphins etc.

An elevated levels of Carbon dioxide also produce a sense of bodily detachment "I felt as though I was looking down at myself, as though I was way out here in space. I felt myself being separated, my soul drawing apart from the physical being".

Fourteen patients were injected with B-endorphin. They experienced happiness, ecstasy and felt themselves floating in space. As soon as the feeling of floating vanished and the body floated back, they felt excruciating pain. A blood clot in the hypothalamus makes the individual to feel an out of body experience a body and mind split.

These do not prove that NDE as a possible out of body event, a mind - brain split. Recent investigations into the techniques of bio-feed back have shown that in a laboratory setting, an individual can modify certain bodily functions heretofore regarded as not under voluntary control. The body can be controlled through voluntary effort, suggests there is a source of volitional control.

Brain hypoxic is a common physiological consequence of a near - death crisis event. Normally an adequate supply of oxygen to the brain is ensured by its rich arterial blood supply.

Interference with cerebral blood flow for only a brief period of time will result in a marked alteration of mental function. Total cessation of blood flow to the brain, as seen in a cardiac arrest will produce unconsciousness in seconds and progressive brain damage in three to five minutes. This type of death is similar to death experienced by most individuals.

Physicians and scientists, say for sure that the Near Death experience is absolutely not the final bodily death. There is no one in the world who has experienced death.

Those reporting their experience, were not brought back from dead, but were rescued from a point very close to death. Thus in the strictest sense these experiences are not of death itself. Dr. Sabom concludes there is a life after death and not just death itself, that death does not occur by separating the individual's body and mind.

The view that human beings as energy sources rather than solid physical bodies, help us to understand life after death as scientific and leads us to understand the power of consciousness and emotions.

The potentialities for self-development are virtually limitless. The truth is that a great sense of freedom grows out of the awareness that we are not pawns of fate, but rather that we are free to create precisely the lives we wish.

For the individual who is born, death is certain and certain is birth for the one that has died. In twenty five centuries Buddhism has expanded into thirty six Asian countries and more than twenty two languages.

Astronomy, theology, metaphysics, medicine, psychology, physics and other disciplines are converging towards the theory, that the human beings are finely tuned organisms that are recognized as constellations of energy fields operating on various frequencies, which we denote as mind and body.

Every action we thought we entertain, and word we utter affect not only this lifetime, but all the others we have ever had or ever will have. We become aware of other aspects of ourselves through many channels, including visions, dreams voices, thought, forms, insights and intuitions.

One of the most important feature of the rebirth principle is its affirmation of free will.

These exist in man's mental make-up powers of a telepathic and clairvoyant nature. Swedenborge, the great Mathematician and scientist in later years possessed a supernormal gift.

It was attested by distinguished persons including Immanuel Kant. Scientists have discovered that many individuals can demonstrate extrasensory perceptions under laboratory conditions. Scientifically, there is a growing body of laboratory data that testifies, by repeatable experiments that man can experience beyond the normal range of the senses. Many of the hallucinogenic drugs apparently have broken down barriers at disclosed memories beyond the range of conscious perception.

Re-linking of one birth with another does not take place by chance or accident. It is the consequent resultant of volitional activities of wholesome or unwholesome act done in this or a previous existence. The re-linking and the new existence arise together simultaneously.

The non solid nature of matter, the interchangeability of matter and force and the reality of thought transference, through telepathic means explains the details of rebirth.

However the existence of infinite number of beings and the world systems, the fact that all forms of birth is not as human being, and the fact that the earth is not the only habitable planet and humans are not the only living beings, and the affirmation that rebirth takes place instantaneously does not conform to the view that there exists an intermediate stage as a gandabha.

29 10 03 - Daily News

 

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J9.05   Conversation about Buddhism

 Extracts of the interview were published in the Spring Issue of the 'Cathedral Age'. Here we reproduce extracts from their conversation.

Baxter: Westerners often wonder whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy, and often the answer hinges on whether Buddhism is theistic or has a theology. Does Buddhism have a belief in some kind of ultimate being or a presence higher than the individual?

Ven. Dhammasiri: Buddhism is neither theistic nor atheistic. It defines god and religion in a humanistic way. Religion, according to Buddhism is something that has grown up on earth to satisfy a human need and to solve a human problem. Buddhism does have a belief in an ultimate being and a presence higher than the normal human being, and that is the Buddha. Buddhists do not see the Buddha as an ordinary human being or philosopher such as Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle.

He represents the ‘ultimate state’ in the spiritual evolution of the human being. God for the Buddhist is the ideal of perfection conceived by human beings which they strive to realize through the practice of religion. Buddhism speaks of action (karma) and its consequences (vipaka).

Baxter: When one wills an action, is that person aware of whether the intention is good or bad, or is it something one discovers later? That is to say, if I decide to do something that might be in my interest but may be harmful to my brother's, is that a wilful karma or is it something else? I'm trying to find the moral principle.

Ven. Dhammasiri: Karma is not a moral law. The essence of karma is motive, which is emotional. If one acts angrily, it will have bad consequences. If one acts kindly, it will have good consequences. That is how karma works.

Baxter: That's much like Jesus' teaching about that which comes from our hearts. It's not what comes from our mouths but from our hearts that is at the root of our goodness.

Ven. Dhammasiri: We have the greatest respect for Jesus Christ. Many of his teachings are very Buddhistic. Take the Sermon on the Mount - pure Buddhist! And the concept of turning the other cheek, avoiding revenge, this is clearly Buddhist, too. Examples like this are common in the Gospels.

Baxter: Let's talk about the compatibility of Buddhism with Christianity. How would a Buddhist understand prayer and worship?
Ven. Dhammasiri: We do have worship, but not prayer as a Christian might understand it. To worship is to recognize the worth of some thing or some person (worth-ship). Worship is based on a sense of values. We do not pray to a supernatural power for things to happen or even for salvation.

The worship in our temples is before the statue of the Buddha, in admiration, respect, and gratitude of what he achieved and for teaching us the way to happy and peaceful living.

Baxter: Would a Buddhist worshipper have a sense that the Buddha would hear or be aware of their expression of gratitude or their gestures of honour and respect?
Ven. Dhammasiri: Not at all. We do not believe the Buddha can hear what we say, or know what we say in any subtle way. We do not even believe that a Buddha exists after attaining Pari-Nirvana.

It is interesting to note here that the essence of God for the theist is God's ‘existence’ but the essence of the Buddha to the Buddhist is a Buddha's ‘non-existence’, because he has ‘awakened’ from the ‘dream of existence’.
Baxter: Can one follow Buddhist practice and still be a Christian, or must one reject Christianity in order to embrace Buddhism?

Ven. Dhammasiri: Part of being a Buddhist is the practice of universal good will. Anyone can practise Buddhism even though he or she has Christian beliefs. But becoming a Buddhist is a different thing. This involves a change in beliefs.
We never ask anyone to become a Buddhist. We never ask because we don't believe in labels. Labels don't matter; your heart matters.

I always say to Christians who come to me asking this question, "Stay a Christian. Don't change your religion, but practise those things that can make you a better Christian." Anyone can practise meditation, loving kindness, and forgiveness and express gratitude to the people who help and teach you. You don't have to become a Buddhist to practise Buddhism.

Baxter: Where do you see opportunities for Christians and Buddhists to learn and grow together? How can we deepen our spiritual lives together?

Ven. Dhammasiri: The best way I can think of to deepen our spiritual lives is to drop all dogmatism and blind faith and to study about religion with an open mind. Buddhism is full of many beautiful teachings. Do not look for others' faults; look for the nice things and leave behind that which you find to be not so good.

If someone is looking for the bad things in a person or a religion, he will only find the sand and stones. But if he sifts them properly, all the unneeded things will go away. When you use this theory to look at others' religions, it can be a very helpful way to seek peace and harmony between each other.  

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J9.06   Meditation: methods and benefits

Ven. Madawala Upali

 Principal Meditation Instructor, International Centre for Training in Buddhist Meditation Kanduboda, Delgoda, Sri Lanka

Regardless of age, sex or status of profession meditation can benefit one's life even when one does not have 'problems' or anxieties. Professionals engaged in long hours of demanding work can meditate at work to relax the mind.

The word meditation is a generic term for a very ancient practice of mental and physical discipline begun very likely first in India, about 3000 years ago and now spread worldwide and adopted by almost all religions, faiths and some systems of medicine. It is now a well-researched and documented method of bio-feed back in western clinical therapy.

Meditation is a mental exercise that can help to relieve stress people experience in daily life and those resulting from events such as the death of a loved one or from unexpected misfortune. Our lives are full of minor frustrations, conflicts, indecision, and disappointments at home and in the work place. Urban and industrial environments tend to increase tension. Even when times are relatively 'quite' there can be anxiety, depression, loneliness or fear arising in the mind. Meditation can help to overcome these stressful circumstances and enable one, to face the ups and downs of life with tolerance and acceptance.

Regardless of age, sex or status of profession meditation can benefit one's life even when one does not have 'problems' or anxieties. Professionals engaged in long hours of demanding work can meditate at work to relax the mind.

Those working a steady, repetitive routine can get relief from boredom and restlessness. Discomfort and fear will not overtly trouble the elderly and the sick. Students will be able to improve their memory and do their studies better than before.

One's domestic and social relationships will be more harmonious. Because meditation 'strengthens' the mind, weak physical and mental conditions can improve. As the mind becomes more and more peaceful with practice of meditation, one will be able to have restful sleep.

In sum, meditation can help one to lead a more productive, satisfying, healthy and comfortable life. And the wisdom that can come from regular meditation can bring happiness to surpass everything else.

Imagine trying to read a book by candlelight in a room that has all its doors and windows open. If there is wind, the light will flicker making it difficult to read. But when the wind ceases and the light becomes steady, reading can be done in comfort In much the same way, the mind flickers, darting now here and now there. When it is steady, one-pointed, the mind can bring steady light and clarity to everything one does.

Why does our mind flicker? The mind receives sensory information all the time from the five sense doors - the eye, ear, nose, tongue and the body. When sleeping the sense doors are not so active admitting information. Why? Because the doors are not wide open to the mind as when one is awake. The pathways to the mind are temporarily wholly or partially shut.

For awareness to arise, three things should be present -an object, the sense door and the mind. When all three are present, there is awareness. For example, when a visible object, the eye and the mind meet, there is sight or seeing. Likewise, when sound, ear and mind are connected, there is hearing. While this explanation may seem self-evident, and simple, the root cause for all problems in life arise from feelings that generate when three elements such as eye, consciousness form or object make contact with the mind.

Flickering of the mind is reduced when one's, sense doors are closed or restrained or controlled. The Buddha has explained the way to do this. He has described several ways to restrain or close the mind. The exercises begin in a very simple way and he tells you how to develop them gradually into a state that lead to the profound investigation of the working of the mind. This is how Buddhist meditation is unique and specific. This is why meditation taught by the Buddha is different from all other forms of meditation taught in the world. Above everything, the objective of meditation as taught by the Buddha and relentlessly practised by his disciples, is unique. The objective is final liberation from all our problems.

Types of meditation

Two types of meditation are used to concentrate, discipline and develop the mind.

1. Samatha or tranquillity meditation trains the mind to concentrate or become one-pointed on only one object.

2. Vipassana or insight meditation trains the mind to observe the many objects that come into awareness through the five sense doors and the mind. That is to say, train awareness of information admitted to consciousness through the six doors. And the objective of vipassana is to develop wisdom (Panna) in order to eradicate defilements in the mind and be finally free from suffering (Dukkha).

As we mentioned earlier, three things should be present for awareness to arise - an object, the sense door and the mind. By concentrating for example on a single object repeatedly such as our (visible) breathing, the mind is focused on only one object - breathing.

Anapanasati or the contemplation of the in and out breathing is very popular because many have heard about it and appears easy to do. Breathing is an activity, that is continuous and done usually without actual awareness. But when you concentrate on in and out breathing, you begin to feel it. The way to concentrate is to just be aware of the sensation of the air as it passes in an out of the nostrils. Or, you can bring awareness to the rise and fall of the abdomen as you breath in and out. If you can now focus and continue to focus on the in and out flow of the breath or movement of the abdomen, the mind will begin to concentrate. Note that the most important attention here is not the object (in and out breath) but achievement of fixed or one-pointedness of the mind.

The mind can be trained in many other ways. You can look, and keep looking at a visible object such as a colour, clay, water, fire, or the wind shaking a leaf to make the mind one-pointed. This is known as Kasina meditation. For a person who has developed skill in concentrating the mind, imagine or real corpse or skeleton can be a good object for samatha meditation. This is known as Asubha meditation. Someone who is irritable, depressed or worried can benefit from concentrating or contemplating thoughts of loving-kindness by thinking "May all beings be well and happy". This is known as Metta meditation. [Contrary to popular belief, Metta meditation properly practised, is difficult. The objective, as taught by the Buddha, is the attainment of jhana].

There are people, not knowing or able to understand the above principle who think that the mind cannot be concentrated by focusing on the rise and fall of the abdomen during breathing. But concentrating on it actually works as well as on any other object. The Buddha once instructed his disciple Sariputta to begin developing his meditation by concentrating on a flower, and to Culapanthika. Because the Buddha knew their minds can easily concentrate on these objects. [Acharya Buddhagosa gives a more detail account in his treatise 'Visuddhimagga']. Remember that the principle of Samatha meditation, whatever object is used, is the same - to achieve one-pointedness of mind from concentrating on one object only, at any one time.

The essence of the teaching of the Buddha is development of wisdom to become free from suffering, dukkha. Things come and go, appear and disappear, arise and cease. Nothing is permanent. When we lose something we are sad. But if we can look at life and its vicissitudes with wisdom developed through bhavana, we shall see that things do not happen the way we want or like to happen according to some such thing as an impersonal law of nature.

The realization of subjective impermanence or anicca, of unsatisfactoriness or dukkha and of impersonality or anatta of every phenomenon in the world can come only through wisdom or panna. This is vipassana or panna meditation.

An important aspect of vipassana meditation is to be mindfully aware (Sati) of the four postures (Iriyapatha) we adopt in everyday living: sitting, standing, walking or lying down. When seated, we should be aware we are sitting. When standing, be aware of standing, - as also when walking or lying down. To some this may appear simple and others may consider it pointless. But the mind, when aware of our postures, becomes the condition and forerunner for progress in meditation.

Awareness of posture is not enough to advance in meditation. It is important to do our daily activities with awareness (Satisampajanna) by gradual and regular training until awareness becomes automatic.

Washing, eating, drinking, bathing dressing, going to the toilet etc. should be done mindfully and with awareness. When you drink a cup of tea which is on the table for example, be aware of stretching the arm... touching the cup... lifting it to your lips slanting the cup... drinking... keeping the cup back on the table... and finally removing your hand from the cup.

To practise vipassana meditation in the sitting posture bring the attention to the rising and falling movements of the abdomen. Make a mental note, "rising" for the upward movement and "falling" for the downward movement. When meditating in this way, if a thought arises, make a mental note "thinking, thinking".

After noting in this manner a few times, bring the mind back to the rise and fall of the abdominal movements. If there is pain, note, "pain, pain". Watch the pain until it disappears. Do not try to get rid of the pain or want it to go away. If you feel the pain too uncomfortable, note that thought and mindfully change posture, noting, "changing, changing". If you feel sleepy, lazy, happy or, have any other feeling, note them too, "sleepy, sleepy" or "lazy, lazy", or "happy, happy" etc. If you hear a sudden noise, note "hearing, hearing". Whenever you have finished and there is nothing to distract attention, return to the abdominal movements.

Yet another method of mindfulness is to be aware of the mental formations (Dhammanupassana) that come to the mind. When desire arises, be aware of it. If there is anger, be aware 'there is anger'. If lazy, be aware 'there is laziness'. If restlessness is present, know that you are restless. When meditating in this way if doubt arises in your mind, be aware that doubt has arisen. Conversely, if there is no desire or anger or laziness or doubt, be aware of it too. In other words, to put it succinctly and entirely, always be in the present.

Vipassana meditation is completely different to Samatha meditation. Though concentration to keep the mind one-pointed on the object is basic, fundamental or foundational, in vipassana meditation, anything or any number of 'things' (Dhamma) that come to awareness by the six doors can become the object of bhavana. You may think that vipassana meditation done in this way is unusual. You may even wonder if this is really meditation! This may be because the methods of samatha are well-known and popular.

The point to note is that samatha meditation using or choosing any develops only concentration while vipassana is practised to develop wisdom, to know, understand and see directly (Abhinna) how 'things really are' (Yatha Bhuta). Development of wisdom, through Vipassana, is a sine qua non for final liberation.

This is a revised edition of a lecture by Ven. Upali published for free distribution by the International Vipassana Centre, Kanduboda in January 2002 from the series on 'Physical and Mental Health - Mind Training Behaviour' organized by the Institute of Worker's Education of the University of Colombo for the benefit of undergraduates.

30 10 2002 - Daily News

 

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J9.07   Is there 'life' after death?

Dr. Gamini Karunanayake

MBBS (Cey) D.L.H. (Eng) D.L.H.R.C.P.(Lond) R.C.S. (Eng)

All great saints and teachers of different faiths have in their teaching referred to life beyond the present Rama Krishna, Gotama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, Sai Baba and many others including the great Rishis of Vedic India taught that, we should all live according to certain ethical standards that have been laid down, so that our present and future lives beyond would be happy, until we obtain final liberation and escape from the endless cycles of births and deaths (Samsara). In spite of revelations by great teachers of the continuance of life after death, there are still some people who believe the present life is the last and therefore 'one should make the best use of it while it lasts' in a manner that suits their thinking.

Near death experience

Theosophical researchers, scientists, doctors of medicine, yogis and other researchers, have published articles on the existence of life after death in this article, material has been published from their writings. Dr. Raymond Moody has researched on "death bed experiences" (i.e. people who were pronounced as 'clinically dead' were revived and they spoke of their experience while they were in a clinically 'dead' state). The majority of patients who 'died' said that, they left their bodies and hovered above their physical lifeless form, and observed the doctors trying to revive their body. Elizabeth Taylor, the beautiful and famous actress who nearly died of pneumonia had this particular experience.

Similarly, there were other patients who were pronounced clinically 'dead', but later they were able to identify the doctors and nurses who attended on them. Some patients were able to rise above their prostate bodies and "see" and identify patients who were occupying other rooms in the hospital. In Dr. Moody's study, the patients who were pronounced dead experienced going through a long dark tunnel at very high speed, and meeting a 'being bathed in light' at the end of the tunnel, who lovingly welcomed them and had a conversation with them regarding their life "performance" in this world. Various important aspects in their life were reviewed in flash backs like on a TV screen.

At the end of the meeting, the 'dead person' was made to understand that he or she had some more duties to attend to in this world and therefore it was best that life returned to his or her body. The 'being of light' at the end of the dark 'tunnel' was Jesus to Christians, and people of other faiths perceived the being of light as the leader of their faith. There are others who have ascended to heavenly planes, and seen the beauty of the inhabitants and the environment there. Some others have seen the misery and frustrations in other darker planes where beings were regretting their lapses in this world.

What happens after death

It has been revealed that when a person discards his physical body at death he gets onto his spirit body or the astral body which is very subtle (and is a look alike of the youthful physical body). Those who have performed charitable deeds and accumulated good Karma will ascent to the higher astral worlds where they will have a contented and happy life.

The ordinary decent man will wake up in the lower astral plane which is a subtler counter part of the physical world, but it is more beautiful. Those persons who have been brutal and whose desires are utterly depraved will wake up in the grosser still lower level of astral plane. Here the environment is grey coloured or dark, and living there is extremely unpleasant and miserable. The inhabitants will experience frustrations due to their inability to work out their physical passions through their astral bodies which are not equipped for such fulfilment. This harrowing experience may well be termed a purgatory, but it is temporary and lasts until his depraved desires are worn out. The term apaya (Niraya) used in Buddhist literature could correspond to this grosser astral plane.

In the ordinary lower astral plane the inhabitants are able to communicate with certain people, especially friends and relations through a 'medium'. It is known that, Sir D. Baron Jayatillake a former head of the Cabinet of Ministers was in regular communication, for over ten years with a well known diplomat and ambassador to an European country. Sir DBJ was living after his death in an astral plane and he gave advice to the diplomat on matters relating to Buddhism, philosophy, psychology etc and also on personal matters. The communications were in the form of automatic writing from the spirit of Sri DB who on a few occasions gave demonstrations of telekinesis, that is, the movement of physical objects through space after dematerialising (Reference Spiritual Inquiry for the youth by C. Shanmuganayagam). Later, the spirit of Sir DB informed the diplomat that he was moving into a higher plane of existence from where contact with the human world is not possible due to human society being so polluted.

In Buddhist literature, it is stated that persons who have reached the Devalokas would develop an aloofness from wordly attachments. However, liberated souls living in the higher heavens could come down to earth and communicate with spiritually advanced people. In the book 'Autobiography of a Yogi', Swami Yogananda's guru Sri Yukteswar after his death came back to his beloved devotee, in flesh and blood form to give a sermon on the after life in other planes of existence. Sri Sathya Sai Baba's mother Easwaramma, who died long years ago has been seen on several occasions in her physical form talking to Sai Baba in his Ashram.

Swami Yogananda while lecturing on a topic of a spiritual nature had seen some of his devotees who died earlier, seated in the lecture hall, in their astral bodies and listening to his lecture.

Life in the higher astral heavens

It has also been stated that, the astral cosmos is much larger than the physical cosmos, and infinitely more beautiful. It is teeming with astral beings who have arrived from the physical world. The environment there is extremely beautiful, and pleasant. There are beautiful flowers, streams, waterfalls etc. The fruit trees hear extremely delicious fruits. There are no snakes and insects but birds and butterflies are present. The climate is always a very comfortable spring time with no extremes of temperature.

The astral inhabitants are not born from the wombs of a woman, but they automatically arrive in the youthful form and are welcomed into household occupied by persons who have similar spiritual and mental tendencies. As such there are no differences of opinion of serious nature and therefore there is always peace and harmony in the household and the community. Friends of previous lives in the physical world recognise each other in the astral world. One can meet several fathers, mothers, brothers, wives, husbands and other relatives of previous lives. As such, it is difficult to decide whom to love in particular as all have been connected at sometime or other. That is why all religious teachers advise us to love everybody equally.

Communication among all astral world residents is by telepathy or thought transference astral persons can sometimes observe human activities, but certain human beings who are spiritually developed can view the astral world e.g. Swami Yogananda was able to see the spirit of the mother of one of his devotees after she died of breast cancer. She was being escorted by astral helpers to her new residence in the astral world. Her career was fully cured. There is extremely melodious heavenly music composed by famous musicians Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Kabirdas, Mirabhai who are now living in the astral heavens.

They are entertaining vast astral audiences. Most of us living in the physical world are able to contact our dead relatives living in the astral world. When we are in deep sleep astral body detaches from the physical body and goes to the astral planes. When we wake up, we are not able to recollect but the astral beings know this and therefore they do not miss us so much. During the Second World War, the great Indian Saint Sri Aurobindo who is now living in the highest of the astral heavens decided that he should stop Adolph Hitler from destroying the world. Hitler summoned a conference of his Military Generals to decide on whether he should first attack Russia or Britain.

He told the generals to decide on that issue and he himself retreated to another room to 'meditate'. It was at this stage that Sri Aurobindo intervened to influence Hitler mind that he should first attack Russia and not Britain. This decision taken by Hitler against the advice tendered by his Generals resulted in disastrous consequences for Hitler and Nazi Germany. Thus Sri Aurobindo saved the world from the Nazi dictator (Ref Howard Murphen "Where the road ends")

The causal or Brahma worlds

Astral inhabitants can reincarnate into the physical or causal worlds. Their life span is about 1,500 to 2,000 years. Our being is composed of three parts. (1)physical body (2) Astral body (3) causal body. These three bodies are joined together due to the force of unfulfilled desires. The Causal body is composed of mind and ideas and is represented by a spark of light. In Buddhism, the beings in the Brahma lokas are of two types. Those with a body (Rupa) and those with mind only (Nama). Beings of the physical world can go direct to the Brahma worlds, if they have developed their minds in meditation to a very high level. The beings in the causal world are only one step away from total liberation or Nirvana. They have only to apply themselves to get rid of the remaining traces of desires to achieve liberation.

People who accumulate good or wholesome Karma by performing Dana, Seela, Bhavana (charity, morality, meditation) need not unduly fear death, as they will be able to be happy in life beyond. Others who accumulate bad or unwholesome Karma will have to improve themselves sooner than later, to avoid the consequences in this very life, and in the life beyond.

22 09 2002 - Sunday Observer

 

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J9.08   Peace through cohabitation between Buddhism and Hinduism

When one examines the fundamental concepts like karma, maya, reincarnation, sacrifice, social order etc. one sees that Buddhism doss not strive to establish a new order to restore the old order that prevailed in India. Hinduism & Buddhism are not contradictory but the one is a development out of the same tree as it was so in India it remains so in Sri Lanka today.

Hinduism as a metaphysical discipline that has survived with an unbroken tradition & that has lived and understood by millions of people consisting of peasants and learned men in Jambudeepa. There is provision in Hinduism to deny the existence of anything unique peculiar to itself, apart from the local colouring and social adaptations where nothing can be known expect in the mode of the knower. The history of the religious literature begins with Rigveda (2000 B.C.) and ends with Upanisads often repeated daily from memory by persuasions as a compendium of Vedic doctrine and the basis of all subsequent religious developments can be focused to this industry.

Even in Hinduism human error is regarded as a failure to hit the mark in life or in the profession. Skill is virtue, whether doing or in making. Yoga is skill in works. By no mistake every man shall enable to become what he has to become. Sacrifice demands cooperation of all arts;. Visva Karma example, in music, architecture carpentry or war. The pattern of heavenly politics is revealed in Hindu scripture and reflected in the constitution of the autonomous state and that of the man who governs himself. In Hinduism, work is sacrifice and a priest in every vocation from that of the King to Scavenger. There builds up the "Professional Ethics."

The more one studies Buddhism, the more it seems to defer from Hinduism in which it originated & it is more difficult to distinguish Buddhism from Hinduism. Buddhism is really unorthodox. Buddha has fully penetrated the Eternal Law (akalika dharma) and verified all things in heaven or earth. No true Philosopher ever came to destroy, but only to fulfil the Law. These two closely related & concordant bodies of doctrine, both of "forest" origin are not definitely opposed to one another.

The scriptures in which the traditions of the Buddha’s life and teachings are preserved fall into two classes, those of the Narrow Way (Hinayana) and those of the Broad Way (Mahayana). It is with the former, and on the whole older texts that we are concerned. The books pertaining to the "Narrow Way" are composed in Pali, a literary dialect closely related to Sanskrit. The Pali literature ranges in date from about the third century B.C. to the sixth A.D., the Canon consists of what are called "Three Baskets", respectively of monastic regimen (Vinaya), Discourse (Sutra) and Abstract Doctrine (Adhidhamma). Buddhism in its purity ignored the existence of a God; it denied the existence of a soul; it was not so much a religion as a code of ethics.

We see two main forms of Buddhism to which have referred are often spoken of, rather loosely, as respectively Southern and Northern. It is the Southern school that now survives in Ceylon, Burma and Siam. Buddhism of the Northern school passed over into Tibet, China, and Japan, through the work of Indian teachers and native disciples who made translations from Sanskrit. Indian culture reached & profoundly influenced the Far East through Buddhism as shown by research.

In the Brahmanical doctrine, our immortal, impassible, beatific inner Self and Person, one and the same in all beings, is the immanent Brahma, God within you. He dose not come from anywhere nor became anyone. "That" is; but nothing else that is true can be said of it: "Thou canst not know the maker-to-know what is known, who is your Self in all things". Just as God himself does not know what he is, because he is not any what. The Buddhist doctrine proceeds in the same way, by elimination of the concept of God.

Two main forms of Buddhism to which have referred are often spoken of, rather loosely, as respectively Southern and Northern. It is the Southern school that now survives in Ceylon, Burma and Siam. Buddhism of the Northern school passed over into Tibet, China, and Japan.

Buddhist gospel is resumed in the often and triumphantly repeated words.

Of all things that spring from a cause,

The cause has been told by him "Thus-come";

And their suppression, too,

The Great Pilgrim has declared.

In this chain of causes, to understand which is to have come Awake, it is emphasised that nothing whatever happens by chance but only in a regular sequence - "That being present, this becomes; that not being present, this dose not become". To have verified this is to have found the Way. For in "all things that spring from a cause" are included "old age, sickness, and death"; when the cause is known it is possible to apply the cure as explained in the philosophy in a nutshell.

The word Nirvana, is "desperation", which plays so large a part in our conception of Buddhism, where it is one of the most important of the many terms that are the referents to "man’s last end", demands some further explanation. The verb nirva is literally, to "blow out". In the same way Buddhism stresses the going out of the fire or light of life for want of fuel.

It is timely that a reflection of these thoughts are highlighted at a time when his ideas are wanted to our motherland. These thoughts are firm in a background of the present circumstances where the whole fabric of peace is banished with selfishness, misdirection, misunderstanding ignorance and hartedness. It is only by proper understanding these deep sentiments that help to put the vast majority of our population enriched with wisdom and solace. The two largest segments of our population have been deeply rooted by these schools of thought that has kept them together and as much as they are parted for centuries. There cannot be true peace in Sri Lanka unless there is a genuine interaction of these thoughts between the Buddhists & Hindus who are natured by these philosophies.

28 10 2002 - The Island

 

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J9.09   Buddhism and animal rights

K.T.S. Sarao

In the wake of the alarming degradation of the environment and destruction of large number of species of animals it has become imperative for humankind to reevaluate its attitude towards environment and animals.

A civilization in which we must kill and exploit other forms of life in order to live is not a civilization of mentally healthy people. Social sciences are blatantly anthropocentric and it is taken as a matter of fact to pay little or no attention to the nonhuman domain of animalkind. Accordingly, animals are depicted as mechanical who far from being considered agents or subjects in their own right, are themselves virtually overlooked by social scientists.

They and their relationship with humans tends to be treated as unworthy of interest in social sciences. Accordingly, issues concerning animal welfare hardly ever appear in social sciences in which the animals are seen as an integrated part of human-centred ecosystem. We need to address ourselves to the main question as to whether or not various human practices with animals are morally or ecologically rational. Apart from animals that function as subsistence factors, there are animals that are made to serve non-subsistence human purposes, for instance as objects of prestige or sacrifice or as totems. Animals in this capacity have been vested with religious significance and with symbolic and metaphorical power. In addition, anthropologists have focused on the roles that animals play in human ceremonial and religious life.

Anthropological interest in animal totems or animal symbols is no guarantee against an anthropocentric approach. More often than not such interest serves as an excuse to stop at human constructs instead of paying attention to the animals themselves. At present, the anthropocentrism in social sciences goes virtually unchallenged. The reason for this is the commonly held view that animals in themselves have nothing to offer as according to them sociality and culture do not exist outside the human realm.

On the whole, animals figure in social sciences not only as objects for human subjects to act upon but also as antitheses of all that according to social sciences makes humans human. Another obstacle to the recognition of human - animal continuity is the fear among biologists of being accused of anthropomorphism, the attribution of exclusively human characteristics to animals. For their part, social scientists have been jealously guarding what they see as the human domain and so tend to applaud the biologists' fear of anthropomorphism. What is currently denounced as anthropomorphism are those characterizations which social scientists are keen to reserve for humans. In their critique of biological determinism social scientists point an accusing finger at anyone who credits animals with personhood. However, there are some courageous animal scientists who do say that animals are more human like and less object like than their own science will have us believe.

Animism and anthropomorphism was widely prevalent amongst the ancient Indian people. Animals were seen as an incarnation of human spirits, or the spirits of one's own ancestors. Of course, it is true that any agricultural people has a feeling for the force that works in nature, and comes to personalize each separate force. The human came to address the extrahuman in terms of human intercourse. In fact, some of the early Buddhist texts show that animals shared man's religious nature, that such observed phenomena were visible proofs of the communion of men, animals, and the gods.

The Buddhist view of the migration of samskaras across species lines reduces the psychic space between man and beast. In addition to the power of intentional perception, the Buddha's animals are capable of both passion and voluntary motion, and so are not simply driven about by impulses beyond their control. Modern research has shown that animals experience conscious thoughts and feelings and the picture of animal life as unconscious, sleepwalker existence is no more sustainable. It is becoming increasingly non-credible and antediluvian to regard subjective mental experiences as the exclusive province of one species or even as the exclusive province of a few species with large brains.

The Jatakas validate our deepest feelings and keep alive for us today knowledge of the wisdom inherent in all life forms. To lose respect for all other species, and the fundamental wisdom they too embody is, after all, to weaken the first and most fundamental of the precepts not to kill but to cherish all life. The most famous is the Sasa Jataka about the hair who lived in the woods with a monkey, a jackal, and an otter. The story concerns their decision to observe the holy days and the moral law by giving alms. Recognizing the full moon they decided to consider the next day as a fast day and feed any beggar.

While the monkey, the jackal and the otter collected food to be given to anyone in need of it, the hare was unable to collect any food and offered his own flesh. The hare was rewarded for having supernaturally imposed its form on the face of the moon. The animal hero here is considered as having been a Bodhisatta in a previous life. The story offers a very humane picture of its animal characters. The Nandimagga Jataka is the story of a deer who fearlessly faced a king who was hunting; by his steadfast gaze, he changed the mind of the king and saved the other animals. In the Dhammapada we find the story of Dhanapalaka, an elephant who suffered from homesickness after being separated from his mother.

The captive elephant refused food. In the Mahakapi Jataka, a monkey saves his tribe by using his body as part of a bridge for them to cross the Ganga. While some Jatakas depict superhuman qualities expressing the life of the Bodhisatta, they also reflect a capacity for affection, which is as important as the heroic qualities of courage and sacrifice. Although we may not find a structured moral code among animals, they seem to express certain deeply valued virtues. It has been observed that animals are devoted to their offspring, sympathetic to their kindred, affectionate to their mates, self-subordinating in their community, courageous beyond praise.

There are several reasons for the appearance of animals in Buddhist literature, sculptures and paintings. Firstly, this was so because of kamma where individuals are born again and again in different forms. Second reason is the tendency towards animism, the idea that animals and even plants which concern man have life in some similar way as men. This thought seems to have been very strong already at the time of the Buddha. The third reasons is the personification of animals which was greatly developed at the time. It was very easy to adapt these personifications for moral purposes and thus animals and men talk to each other on the same footing. This happens chiefly in stories and parables.

The use of animals which were familiar to everyone was a very good method of popularizing the teaching. Many examples of this method are found in the Jatakas. Some examples from the Jatakas are like, say the Ruru Jataka: A son of a rich merchants, who leads a profligate life tries to kill himself by throwing himself in the Ganga. A deer named Ruru saves the youth at by endangering his own life. Later, the youth betrays the deer by giving information about his whereabouts. But from the thus, the caught deer, the king comes to now about the relationship between the two. The kind lets the der go but wants to ill the youth. The deer, however, pleads with the king to let the youth go.

Abhaya-dana (the path of fearlessness) is a kind of giving meaning to take away one's fear and to give a sense of security. According to one tradition, the Abhaya-mudra is said to have originated from the gesture made by the Buddha when he was confronted by the drunken elephant Nalagiri who was set loose on the highway at the instigation of Devadatta. Abhaya-dana was given concrete expression by some kings of the Theravada countries, in their own ways. We have instances from the inscriptions of Asoka such as the 7th, 5th and 2nd Pillar Edicts, which are devoted to the same idea which, today, we know as Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Though the 5th Pillar Edict does not altogether prohibit the slaughter of animals and only takes a realistic view of the subject, yet, in effect, there is no question that it is a positive case of Abhaya-dana. So also is it evident from the contents of the same emperor's bilingual inscription (Greek-Aramaic) recently found in Afghanistan. The Mahavamsa mentions that some kings of Sri Lanka had forbidden the slaughter of animals, sometimes wholly and at other times in certain circumstances. Amandgamani Abhaya (1st century AD) and Kassapa V (10th century AD) may be cited as examples. In later times we have inscriptional records, like those of Nissanka Malla of the 12th century, who gave safety of life to animals such as fishes in tanks, birds and forest animals. It is to be noted that here, unlike in the inscriptions of Asoka, the actual word used is abhaya-dana.

In historic India, animal deities preceded anthropomorphic ones. Empty throne of the Buddha. During the Mauryan period, the statues purely belong to the animal world. In the following period, the images centre far more on animals than on human beings. Animals predominate as characters in the Jataka stories and the heroes are generally not people but animals. These are, in addition, the bearers of culture. Humanity receives water from a snake, fire from a frog and sleep from a lizard. Perhaps early people were overawed by the superior natural abilities of other creatures.

The animals featured, whether by frequency or by placement, in Buddhist literature and art are usually animals with impressive speed and strength - horses, bulls, deer, tigers, lions, bears, rhinoceroses. But animals may also have been preferred as Bodhisattvas simply because they are so unlike us, and therefore filled with mystery.

The Buddha fervently argued the importance of making ethical treatment of all sentient beings a theological priority. He opposed animal sacrifices and paid special attention to the important task of building up an ethical system in which justice for animals is regarded as the norm rather than the exception. The Buddha's frequent reference to the migration of samskaras and rebirth across species lines reduces the psychic space between humans and other beings. In this paper, an attempt is made to show on the basis of early Buddhist literature that animals in Buddhism are not simply driven about by impulses beyond their control and that they are capable of both passion and voluntary motion. As the Animal Rights/ Welfare Movement is growing stronger by the day, through this paper it is shown that Buddhism has many importance lessons to offer in this field.

Buddhism does not distinguish as sharply as the Judaic-Christian faiths between animals and human beings, and Buddhist deities are often depicted in animal form. The overwhelming number of animal Bodhisattas is a proof of this. Lion, bull, elephant remain associated with the Buddha directly. There are many Jataka tales which may have served to assimilate local animal cults into Buddhism. The old animal cults were still part of the folk lore at the time of the Buddha, and he appears to have mixed theriomorphic traits with human ones while including them in the Buddhist pantheon. As divine aspects of women and men need to be acknowledged, so do those in animals. We need inspiring figures which are not anthropomorphic to remind us that the world was not simply created for human beings, and that other figures also need to be respected. Furthermore, the recognition of divinities that are not anthropomorphic could diffuse and mediate the tension that comes of viewing divinity solely in terms of men and women.

The Buddha stood for an ethically based relationship between humans and animals. The idea of continuation of life between human and animal life is implicit in basic Buddhist concepts such as that of kamma and rebirth.

The Buddha stood for an ethically based relationship between humans and animals. The idea of continuation of life between human and animal life is implicit in basic Buddhist concepts such as that of kamma and rebirth.

The Buddha pointed out that beings are inferior, exalted, beautiful, ugly, well-faring, ill-faring, according to their kamma. Beings pass from existence to existence being reborn in accordance with the nature of their deeds.

A being's kamma leads it to pass from one existence to another depending whether it is wholesome or unwholesome. After death the body breaks up and an individual is reborn in a satisfactory state of existence (sugati) such as a human if its conduct has been comparatively good or a miserable state of existence (duggati) such as an animal or even worse if its conduct had been bad. Thus, individuals who creep or slink along in this life, be they bloody-handed hunters, or robbers, or whatever, are most likely to be reborn in the form of a sneaky or creeping creature as a - snake, a scorpion, a centipede, a mongoose, a cat, a mouse, an owl-ans so on. It is also true the other way round i.e. an animal can be reborn as a human.

Animals are also seen by Buddhism as subject to their kamma. A large number of the Jatakas revolve around the good and bad deeds done in the past by different kinds of animals. These are then linked up with the present, the good creatures being identified through the process of rebirth with the Buddha and his followers, and the wicked with Devadatta and the like. It is, therefore, possible for a human to be reborn as an animal or vice-versa depending upon the kamma. Animals have used liberally as examples of ideal behaviour on which monks are advised to pattern their lives.

Thus, Buddhism considers animals and humans as part of the same chain of becoming, the same universal flux in the Buddhist view constitutes phenomenal existence. This is clearly clinched in a statement of the Buddha when he says that it is not easy to find out any being who has not been mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter to us... (due to)... repetition of rebirths. However, animals as such are not treated to be capable of growth in the dhamma.

For this reason, the Parivara and the Mahavagga of the Vinaya Pitaka both declare the ordination of animals into the monastic order to be an invalid practice. Similarly, it is forbidden to ordain a man who had an animal as a preceptor and to recite the Patimokkha in the presence of an animal is reckoned an offence of the class of wrong-doing.

This indicates to low estimation by Buddhism of the spiritual qualifications of animals and it may be said that although animals on the whole are generally seen to be more violent, less wise, and their existence less satisfactory than that of humans. However, animals such as sheep, goats, oxen, buffaloes etc. are accepted as having the power of reasoning. But, it can still be said that within the samsaric scheme there is no permanent or ultimate distinction between beings within these two courses of existence. This being the case, it becomes incumbent upon humans to relate to animals on the basis of the same ethical principles that govern their relationship with other people. Thus, humans are advised not to direct harsh speech in human-animal relationship.

In the rules of the Vinaya Pitaka, the precept against taking life is broken down in a significant way. The taking of human life is listed here as a third of the parajikas, the most serious class of offences, leading to expulsion from the Samgha for its violation.

This is distinguished from the destruction of non-human sentient life, which is classified among the less serious pacittiya forbidding monks the use (paribhoga) of water containing living beings which might thereby be destroyed makes clear the intent to apply the rule against the destruction of life even to insects and the smallest of one-celled creatures. The Buddha was strongly critical of the practice of animal sacrifices as well as hunting enjoyed by the royalty. He discouraged war as a method of settling disputes and demonstrated its utter futility.

This sensitivity was extended to the minutest of the creatures. The rule for the monks that prohibits the cutting of trees. Destroying plants, digging the soil, and so forth may be interpreted as a warning that the minute forms of life may be destroyed by such actions. A certain form of life called one-faculties (ekindriya jiva) inhabits plants, trees and the soil, and even water may have creatures or breathers (sappanaka udaka) in it. An ideal king, as mentioned in the Cakkavattisihanada Sutta, should provide protection not only to human beings, but also to the beasts of the forests and the birds of the air (miga-pakkhisu).

The Buddha's concern about the value of life emerges from compassion, which is why he was critical of capital punishment, warfare, hunting, animal sacrifices, suicide and callousness of a physical or psychological nature toward living creatures. Agni, the Vedic god of fire, is perhaps the most contemptuously treated of the Vedic deities referred to in the Pali Buddhist literature of early times, and, unlike other gods like Indra (Sakka) and Brahma, who has not been admitted into the pantheon in any form. The early Buddhist writers make no mistake as to the identification or association of this deity by the brahmanas with the Vedic fire ritual, which, particularly with regard to animal sacrifice, the Buddhists have always totally condemned.

Their scorn for this ritual is perhaps associated with the fact that the Vedic Agni shared characteristics in common with the brahmanical priest, for whom the monastic writers of early Buddhism seem to have nothing but ridicule and contempt. In the Vedic pantheon Agni, being the sacrificial priest of the gods, was the divine representative or symbol of the brahmanical priest. An attitude of condemnation runs throughout all references to Agni in Pali Buddhist literature. The reason for this was that the ritual was associated in the Buddhist mind with the sacrifice of animal life. The orgies of the sacrifice are described with much emphasis and exaggeration in the Aggi Sutta.

The Buddha vehemently opposed animal sacrifices. The Buddha pointed out that sacrifices like the Asvamedha bring great calamities. Animal sacrifice was a prominent feature of the Brahmanical faith before and at the time of the Buddha. The Buddha outrightly rejected such an evil practice. Regarding his abhorrence of animal sacrifices, the Buddha once told a brahmana called Udayin:

In Buddhism, killing or injuring living beings is regarded as both unwholesome and fundamentally immoral; for, on the one hand, killing or injuring them is bad kamma entailing evil consequences for the perpetrator after his death, and on the other all living, sentient beings are afraid of death and recoil from pain just like oneself. Time and again, Buddhism declares spiritual attitudes like benevolence as well as actual abstention from killing or injuring animate beings to be the right attitude or behaviour for monks as well as lay people.

 

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J9.10   Bodhgaya to all humankind

Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Bodhgaya: The very word conjures up images of the sacred site where Buddha attained enlightenment, under the shade of a magnificent Bodhi tree. After more than 2,500 years, it remains the most supreme and inspirational place of Buddhist worship in the world.

The historic site, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in June this year, will evoke much religious fervour this December when Bodhgaya is dedicated to all humankind. Massive celebrations have been planned and the city of Gaya will be then renamed as Gautam Nagar, the cradle of Buddhism.

But a tussle between the Bihar administration and the Bodhgaya management is delaying the dedication ceremony, according to an official associated with the development planning. And the failure to reach a consensus is also making the ambitious development plans rot, while the people await renewed interest in their city's development.

As the Bihar administration continues to insist on clearing the structures within the buffer zone, as required by UNECO, the grand dedication ceremony has been postponed to December with no date being fixed.

Elaborate plans are afoot to unearth the Buddhist heritage that remains buried and to restore the past glory. Gautam Nagar will be developed under a new development model. " The dedication ceremony will be an extremely elaborate and evocative one that would draw all attention to Bodhgaya again, said Director, Indian Tourism Development Corporation, Ashwani Lohani.

Lohani who was the driving force behind the initial plan to win UNESCO heritage status for the site, told The Sunday Leader that Bodhgaya's dedication will inspire the entire Buddhist world "with participation from all Buddhist countries and state patronage from India."

Boghgaya is a magnificent temple complex found in the state of Bihar in Eastern India, within the administrative district of Gaya. Administered by the Indian Mahabodhi Society, Bodhgaya is the one destination that draws the highest number of tourists from Buddhist countries.

Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its outstanding universal value, Bodhgaya is the 23rd such site in India and the very first in the state of Bihar. At present, there are 730 such sites the world over.

While the tussle continues, Indian authorities have made ambitious plans for Bodhgaya. As the dedication ceremony draws near, the Bihar administration is busy attempting to clear the unauthorised structures within the area that is to be declared as the buffer zone.

Ambitious plan

The plans primarily include a special project to unearth a buried city in the area once known as Uruvela, a master plan to develop 12 acres and promote massive religious tourism, all of which are a part of one ambitious plan.

Proposed in March 2000, the UNESCO World Heritage Site status announcement made in Budapest, in June, led to massive celebrations in all parts of India, particularly in the state of Bihar as people exchanged sweetmeats, lit crackers and played traditional music in a spirit of celebration. They will soon have more cause for celebration, when Bodhgaya is ceremonially dedicated to all humanity.

As the Bihar government prepares to launch a massive development programme in the city of Gaya, the Mahabodhi management entrusted with the administrative responsibilities and the protection of the unique site since1953 has called for the support of Buddhists world over to restore Bodhgaya to its past glory.

The proposed city of Gautam Nagar needs the urgent developing of a buffer zone around the Mahabodhi temple complex, removal of all shops, business establishments, government and residential buildings within the demarcated area forthwith to meet UNESCO requirements.

The Bihar Urban Development Ministry and the Maghad Division are to jointly introduce a three-phased development programme in Gaya, which will cover a buffer zone of 12 acres , create a meditation park, Buddhist museum and information centers, at a cost of US $ 1,765,500.

Buried city

The master plan will also include the creation of a backdrop, with appropriately landscaped lawns, flower beds, a deer park and meditation areas for monks and laymen.

Meanwhile, the Maghad Archaeological Development Project has also planned extensive excavations and conservation to reveal the buried ancient city of the Mahabodhi Complex with its many sanctuaries built by various kings of different countries, during the course of many centuries.

" It is an inspiring project. I think an orphan finally able to trace his mother would feel this excited - looking for the past link" an official involved in the project said.

Besides all the development work concerning the site, the Indian authorities are concerned about promoting religious tourism to Bodhgaya. Come December, there will be direct flights from Delhi to Bodhgaya daily.

It would augur well for Bodhgaya and the Buddhist people the world over to ensure that immediate action is taken to settle the minor political dispute and make way for the necessary development to take place. The place where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment should inspire people to seek truth and reflect upon life, than be grounds to a dispute that prevents Bodhgaya from achieving its full potential.

In the philosophical and cultural context, the Mahabodhi Temple Complex is of great relevance to the most important events in the life of Gautama Buddha, and hence forms much of the tangible heritage.

The temple itself, a grand 50 metre high structure is regarded as a significant component of the site, which is also one of the most ancient temple structures existing in the Indian sub continent, dating back to 6th Century BC. It is also believed to be one of the very few representations of the architectural genius of the Indian people in constructing a fully developed brick temple.

Living testimony

The complex itself forms another significant part of the site, which is living testimony to India's developed architecture and artistic finesse. It contains several well-preserved temple structures and the famous grand structure.

The sculptured stone railings are held to be 'an outstanding example of the art and architecture of the period of emperor Ashoka (3rd Century BC).

Besides the main temple complex, there are six other sacred spots including the sacred Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment and the lotus pond where Buddha meditated afterwards.

Referring to the grand architectural style manifested in the complex, the proposal forwarded by the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) to UNESCO canvassing World Heritage Site status said: "As such, it bears an exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition and to the prevalent forms of architecture in the late Gupta Period, also known as the Golden Age of Indian Culture."

The Buddha is believed to have said to his closest disciple, Ananda Thero:

" There are four places Ananda, which the believing man should visit with feelings of reverence. The place Ananda, at which the believing man can say,

Here the Tathagata was born (Lumbini)

Here the Tathagata attained the supreme and perfect insight (Bodhgaya)

Here was the kingdom of righteousness set on foot by the Tathagata (Saranath)

Here is the Tathagata passed finally away in that utter passing away which leaves nothing whatsoever remain behind (Kusinagar)"

(Maha Parnibbana Sutta translated by T.W. Rhys Davis)

 20 10 2002 - Sunday Observer

 

 

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J9.11   Tale of two cities from Buddhist Burma

Padma Edirisinghe

The writer who recently visited major Buddhist shrines in Myanmar and Thailand recounts the tales for Poya cum general readers.

There are thousands of stories in the countries of the world handed down from one generation to the next. Some are fabricated, while some are made of authentic stuff while a third category oscillates between the two.

The writer came across two such stories that can be called authentic and historical. If one yearns for more labels they are a tale of two cities too. And they are both connected to the progress of Buddhism, the tale of Amarawathie in fact connected to the progress of Buddhism not only in Burma but in Sri Lanka too.

The cities are Amarapura also called Amarawathie and Mandalay both hugging the banks of the mighty 2000 km. Irrawady river that runs like a life giving artery from North to South of Myanmar. I wonder whether our tour guide was exaggerating or whether he was on the boundary of truth when he declared that Irrawady can be described as a water run that begins in China and India and embraces the ocean in the Andaman sea area. Rivers are insentient and do not know the fences that divide countries, hence maybe somewhere a small rivulet from these two countries get connected to the Irrawady at its Northern source. But my theme is a duo of cities and not the river Irrawady.

Amarapura means the Immortal city or the City that never dies. But the city provides a historical irony in that it was perhaps Myanmar's capital with the shortest life span. It was king Badowpaya who in 1782 shifted Burma's capital from Awa to another city naming the new capital Amarapura. (A popular travel book comments that the Burmese capitals played musical chairs and changed rapidly as if to substantiate a cardinal teaching of Buddhism i.e. impermanence of all worldly things.) But even Badowpaya would never have expected the tragedy that befell the city. Just 28 years later in 1810 a huge fire engulfed the city destroying most of it and in 1823 the capital shifted back to Awa. So Amarapura existed as Myanmar's capital only from 1802 to 1823. This was the dawn of our British period.

An ecclesiastical crisis was slowly brewing in the South of Lanka due to a royal decree made during king Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe's time that limited the Upasampada or Higher ordination only to the Govi caste. Many senior prelates ordained from the Govi kula seem to have been behind this decree that led to much dissatisfaction in the Southern littoral majorly peopled by castes other than Goigama. That the Buddha himself strongly condemned the caste system via the Vasala Sutta where he preached that a human becomes high or low purely due to his actions and not due to a caste he or she is incidentally born to, had been deliberately overlooked by this royal decree.

To maintain the sequence of this tale it must be mentioned that the political upheavals of the times had extinguished Upasampada bhikkhus in Lanka and hence fitting monks were brought over from Siam for the restoration of the higher ordination by a team of bhikkhus and laymen from Mahanuwara.

Now senior prelates in the South decided to follow this example and a team led by Ven. Welitara Ambagahapitiye Gnana Vimala Tissa thera set off to Siam. But on the way they heard that Theravada Buddhism was also flourishing in a more proximate country and they landed in a port by the Andaman sea and proceeded by boat along the Irrawady river and reached Amarapura that was then the Burmese capital.

At this time the king Bodawpaya being a fervent Buddhist, the city was almost a repository of Pali texts on Buddhism. A huge temple square had been built with temple towers at each corner. The king not only fulfilled the wish of the team from Sri Lanka that marked the genesis of the Amarapura nikaya in our island but also gifted a large number of Buddhist texts. The Amarapura Upasampada ordination brought over from Burma was performed on the banks of Balapitimodera. The connection between South Lanka and Myanmar did not stop with this. In the years 1810, 1811, 1812 and 1813 Ven. Kapugama Siri Dammakkanda, Ven. Bogahapitiya Dhammajothi, Ven. Attudawe Dhammarakkitha and Ven. Kataluwe Gunaratana theras visited Amarapura respectively, perpetuating the contacts.

Today, though Amarapura city's glory has waned and the temple square is in a sorry state, a huge monastery has come up with a scholastic institution for young monks who stroll even on the pavements carrying their books and papers.

Now we come to Mandalay. Like phoenix rising from the ashes, the city has come up from British destruction in 1857 and the havoc caused by the Japanese and British again during the Second World War when what was left of the city was blasted by bombs. People shrug and say, "Oh, Myanmar, it has a military government. but when overviewing the splendid metarmophosing of this last royal city to its original form by this military government," In a matter of few years then one begins to be pregnant with the question what is wrong with a military government if it focuses on culture and religion to this extent?

However, I better stop the subject at that for at the entry airport of Rangoon I had an unpleasant experience. Someone had alerted that I was a journalist and a uniformed officer came up to me and asked what sort of topics I write on. I got away by saying that I am just an old retired director of education who writes on very innocent matter that many find too boring to read.

He left me, smiling, he smiling, me smiling. (Earlier I had been shivering in my boots, sorry, in my humble sandals that I might be refused entry due to a remark made by only the Gods know whom).

But Mandalay has a unique history. Like our Mahanuwara it was the country's last citadel of independence and the great king who put up that magnificent capital was Mindon. The extreme care that has gone into its planning is indicative of his desire to make Myanmar an immortal country.

The Fifth Buddhist Council that purified the Tripitaka was held there under his patronage.

He had also added a spire to the remarkable Swedhegon chaitya that dazzles the vicinity of Rangoon. But his main feat was getting the whole voluminous Tripitaka inscribed on 729 marble slabs to last forever. and today they spread over a vast area like the Pindiya limestone caves of Shan state that exhibit about 8000 - 9000 gold plated Buddha statues in its natural cavities.

But luckily King Mindon did not live to see the tragic end to the city that just trailed into a mere outpost of the busybody Britishers who thought that they were destined to be masters of the whole world.

Thibaw, son of Mindon was the ruler then and his weak personality facilitated matters for the trespassers. Photography had filtered into Burma by this time and I saw a photograph of the last royal couple, the queen on the right and the king on the left. Normally it is the male who stands on the right but Thibaw had lived in fear of not only the British invaders but of his wife too and given her the place entitled to him!

History is not made only of wars, feuds and treaties but of queer human comedies like this and that ends my tale of the two cities of Buddhist Burma. To give some final information, actually Myanmar was the original name of this country but the British baptized it Burma, after the main tribe, the Burmans. Some of the other tribes denizening this country are the Mons, the Pyns and the Shans.

It is a very disciplined country, disciplined both by a military government and by Buddhism. Even on normal days temples are crowded with devotees.

Grandeur of Thai temples

Thailand's glittering Buddhist temples and the golden pointed silhouettes of stupas are a tribute to a gentle people's faith in a philosophy that has professed peaceful traditions for over two thousand years.

Architecturally unique Thai temples make landmarks of the country. Buddhist architecture and decorative arts of finest Thai craftsmanship is portrayed in every temple in Bangkok, known as "The city of Angels." It has no less than 400 temples and monasteries with a further 25,000 spread all over the country.

At the first glimpse, these magnificent temples certainly compel the visitor to take a closer look at their architectural splendour. Steeply gabled roofs painted and decorated in red and gold Buddha images, the scent of joss-sticks, tinkling temple bells, and saffron robed monks are some of the most colourful sights and elements in Bangkok.

Of all Bangkok's temples which are famous as 'Wat', Wat Benchamabopitr or the Marble Temple has a unique 'Uposatha hall' (ordination hall). These pictures featured here were captured during the visit to Thailand where peace and freedom blend with Buddhism.

 

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J9.12        Sri Lankan Buddhism: Mahindian Hybrid or survival of pre-Buddhist religion?

Prof. M. M. J. Marasinghe
(Former Professor and Head, Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies; Vice Chancellor, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka)

According to accepted historical records Buddhism was officially introduced into Sri Lanka during the reign of King Devanam Piyatissa, in the third century B.C. It was brought by the Buddhist mission headed by the Venerable Thera Mahinda. It may also be noted here that the Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka was one of several such missions sent to different parts of the then known world by the Emperor Asoka, after the conclusion of the third Buddhist Council held at Pataliputra under the guidance of the Venerable Thera Moggaliputta Tissa.

The Buddhism which was thus introduced to Sri Lanka was the Buddhism of the Pali canon which has been accepted as the most authentic of the records of the teachings of the Buddha. The Pali tradition of Buddhism which was brought down as an oral tradition like many other textual traditions of Indian religions was committed to writing in the first century B.C. at the Aloka Vihara in Matale during the reign of King Valagambahu and has been available in textual form ever since.

In spite of the fact that the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition has maintained that its tradition of Buddhism is that of the Pali canon, it is becoming increasingly difficult to accept this insistence because of the gross deviations from the canonical expectations in the Ritual religion. A clarification is needed here. It is clear from historical records that from the very first few days of the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, its teachings had received the attention of two sets of people. One, were those who had grasped the importance of the teachings of Buddhism and made a bold decision to attain the emancipation taught by it. According to historical records, there were large numbers of such followers and the political authorities of the period had made adequate provision to cater to their needs at the monastic centres. It is these followers of the path who kept the light burning on Buddhist spiritual training. The extent of the impact which this commitment had on the religious environment of the day can, I think be gauged from the devotion of the famous Buddhist commentator’s epoch making work, Visuddhimaggqa to a logical and systematic presentation of the canonical knowledge on spiritual training. It is pleasant to note that this spiritual tradition is being kept alive even today by the aranya senanas and the meditation centres which have been established throughout the Island, though to cater to small numbers.

The second are those who were followers of the pre-Buddhist tribal religions and were content with the type of ritual based religion to which they were used to. It is to cater to these that the Venerable Mahinda sought to bring a sapling of the Bodhi tree and also got down relics of the Buddha which were enshrined in the stupas erected for the purpose.

It is difficult to understand why the Venerable Thera Mahinda introduced ritual practices to Sri Lankan Buddhists when such practices did not form part of the Pali canonical texts the teachings of which his tradition claimed it adhered to. It is not difficult to find the answer to this question if we take a close look at the massive religio-ritualistic syncretism which was taking place in and around the border regions of the Mauryan Empire in India at the time. Such understanding becomes important and highly relevant because it was able to bring about a complete change in the traditional Brahmanic religion and in its claim of Aryanness.

With the stability of the central political machinery of the Mauryan Empire, there were no more powerful enough tribes who could be considered a threat to the central state. This, in other words meant that the thousands of smaller tribal groups who lived scattered in the border areas of the massive empire were under no threat from the central state either, unlike the smaller tribes of the Buddha’s day who were under threat from the Kosalan or the Magadhan Empires. Although the tribal lands across the border regions of the empire were not in demand for the further expansion of the central state, the peace and lack of suspicion which ensued assisted the peaceful integration of the tribal peoples with the major community living adjacent to their lands. But, though political power or force was not used, nor needed, the expansion of the borders of the central state continued unhindered through peaceful means, bringing with it massive transformations as we shall see.

It was pioneered by the Brahmin priest who by this time had considerably declined from his sixth century B.C. prestigious social position. According to Kosambi, "The Brahmins gradually penetrated whatever tribes and guild castes remained; a process that continues to this day. This meant the worship of new gods, including Krishna who had driven Indra out of the Panjab plains before Alexander’s invasion. But the exclusive nature of tribal ritual and tribal cults was modified, the tribal deities being equated to standard Brahmin gods, or new Brahmin scriptures written for making unassimilable gods respectable. With these new deities or fresh identifications came new ritual as well and special dates of the lunar calendar for particular observances. New places of pilgrimage were also introduced, with suitable myths to make them respectable, though they could only have been savage, pre-brahmin cult-spots. The Mahabharata, Ramayana, and especially the Puranas are full of such material. The mechanism of the assimilation is particularly interesting. Not only Krishna, but the Buddha himself and some totemic deities including the primeval Fish, Tortoise and the Boar were made into incarnations of Vishnu-Narayana. The monkey-faced Hanuman, so popular with the cultivators as to be a peculiar god of the peasantry with an independent cult of his own, becomes the faithful companion -servant of R(ma, another incarnation of Vishnu. Vishnu- Narayana uses the great earth-bearing Cobra as his canopied bed to sleep upon the waters; at the same time, the same cobra is Siva’s garland and a weapon of Ganesha. The elephant-headed Ganesha is son to Siva or rather of Siva’s wife. Siva himself is lord of the goblins and demons, of whom many like the cacodemon Vet(la are again independent and highly primitive gods, still in popular, village worship. Siva’s bull Nandi was worshipped in the south Indian Neolithic age without any human or divine master to ride him; he appears independently on innumerable seals of the Indus culture…."(D.D.Kosambi, Culture and Civilization of Ancient India,168f.).

One very important outcome of this religio-ritualistic syncretism was the emergence of Siva and Vishnu into Brahmin acceptance. It must be noted here that none of these two gods is found mentioned either in the Brahmanic or the Buddhist literature prior to the time of the Mauryan empire. Of these two, not only does Siva enter the Brahmanic pantheon, he becomes its chief god which is a remarkable promotion for a non-Aryan god under the hands of the Brahmins who were very proud of their Aryanness. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, commenting on Siva’s ascension to the position of chief god of the Aryan pantheon remarks," Indra had won the battle, but Siva won the war" (Wheeler, Five thousand years of Pakistan,33).

The Aryans were patriarchs and they had only male gods in their pantheon, while the non-Aryan indigenous Indians were matriarchs who worshipped female deities. Therefore, another important change which Brahmanism adopted during this phase of religious syncretism was the acceptance of the marriage of male and female deities. While the marriage of the male and female deities imply the recognition of marriage as a social institution in society, here these marriages imply the inter-mixing of two or more hitherto separate tribes while these at the same time gained membership of the main society. Thus, the marriage of Siva and Parvathi implied the coming together of the former worshippers of Siva with the worshippers of Parvathi while both groups at the same time became members of the Mauryan state but retaining their separate traditions in endogamy and commensality to a certain extent.

These new gods of the Mauryan religio-ritualistic syncretism though conceived of as having the shape and form of human beings, were given as many heads and hands as were required to bear or hold the totemic symbols of the tribes they represented. As a result, Siva is depicted as having several heads and as many hands as were required to represent the tribes which gathered round his leadership. Therefore, the increase in the number of the implements borne or held by Siva, Vishnu or by any other god or goddess indicated the number as well as the identities of the tribes which were thus mixed with the larger society.

It must be noted that the principal factor which was made use of by the Brahmin priesthood to bring together the people of the tribe and the people of the main society was the accommodation given to the ancestral worship of the tribe(s). This contributed in large measure to the peaceful integration of the tribal peoples with the people of the principal society who were themselves god worshippers. What was required was only a re-designing of the tribal worship to make it acceptable to the principal society or a re-designing of the worship of the principal society to make it acceptable to the tribal peoples. A perusal of what really happened shows that the process has worked both ways as the principal god who surfaced as the chief god after the integration was an un-Aryan indigenous god who came to be accepted by the principal society. At the same time he combined in himself the forms of worship of all the tribes which were brought together. The main point however is that the process did not cause any problems because both or all parties to the process were god worshippers or those who were recently elevated there to and as a result there was no conceptual conflict.

It seems that the religio-ritualistic syncretism which resulted in breaking down the isolation of the tribes of the forestlands adjacent to the borders of the empire did influence the entire social structure as it resulted in the adoption of new gods, new forms of worship and new rites to be performed for these gods. These gods could only have been those who were elevated into the rank of the gods recently, or were those who were the totems of the tribe, now transformed into divine rank like Siva’s bull Nandi. At the social level this swelling of the former Brahmanic pantheon meant the amalgamation of innumerable small as well as big tribal communities with the accounted population of the central political State.

It is relevant to ask how this sweeping wave of reforms affected the other religions in India, as Brahmanism was not the only religion which prevailed in India at the time. Let us take the case of Buddhism. Unfortunately, there are no written records of what really happened to Buddhism at the social and religious level, though we have some records of divisions among the members of the Order of disciples on matters of doctrine. The more important matters relating to how the Buddhists were affected by the reforms which swept over Hinduism have not been written upon or been taken up for discussion or debate in any Buddhist forum as the Councils of the period. But it can be gathered that by the time Emperor Asoka was converted to Buddhism, the Buddhists seem to have accepted rituals and rites as essential components of the practice of the religion, in spite of the fact that ritual and rites are totally absent from the texts of the Pali canon.

Here, a clarification has to be made regarding the use of the term ‘Pali Canon’. It refers to the texts of the four Pali Nikayas which belong to the earliest part of the Pali canon. The famous commentator Buddhaghosa too has accepted that the texts of the fifth Nikaya are post-canonical but his view seems to have been over-ruled apparently by the Mahavihara sector. the differences, it must be noted are ideological because the later texts support practices which are either absent from the early texts or more importantly go counter to the cardinal teachings of the Buddha.

Now going back to our discussion that the Buddhists at the time had accepted the worship of sacred places and pilgrimages to such places as part of the practice of their religion is confirmed by the fact that Emperor Asoka had thought his visit to Lumbini important enough to be marked by erecting a commemorative pillar.

It can also be deduced that the Buddhists had accepted by this time, the worship of the Bodhi tree as Asoka honoured Venerable Mahinda’s request for a sapling of the Bodhi tree at Buddhagaya. Asoka is reported to have erected stupas throughout his empire enshrining the relics he obtained by opening the stupa erected by the Koliyas of Ramagrama enshrining their share of the Buddha’s relics. This shows that relic worship too had been adopted by the Buddhists by this time.

There is an interesting legend regarding the relics of the Ramagrama stupa. When King Dutugemunu wanted relics of the Buddha to be enshrined in the Ruwanweliseya, the thera Sonuttara was sent to the Nagaloka which according to later Buddhist cosmology was under the ocean bed. The Sri Lankan legend further records a beautiful story to say how the relics reached the Nagaloka. The stupa in Ramagrama was washed away by a flood and the casket of relics was washed away by the flood waters to the sea whereupon it was recovered by the Naga King. On the ground facts which apparently were not available to the weavers of the legend show that in spite of the fact that a very heavy flood would have been needed to wash away the stupa as Ramagrama is located to be in the foothills, both Ajatasatthu and Asoka found it intact, (D.D.Kosambi, Myth and reality; M.M.J.Marasinghe, Gods in Buddhism,116).

While rites and rituals thus seem to have been adopted by the Buddhists or for the Buddhists, it is not clear whether such adoptions had been made only after ensuring that they do not go counter to the teachings of the Pali canonical texts. The total absence of any discussion or debate on the uses and relevance of rites and ritual to the practice of Buddhism goes to show that it has not attracted the attention of the authorities of the Sasana and this, with disastrous results for the important contribution that the proper presentation of Buddhism should have been capable of making to the present society.

According to the Theravada conception, the Buddha was the human teacher who attained the highest spiritual attainment capable only by man and devoted his entire life to the propagation of his teaching. Therefore, he is revered as the great human teacher. His disciples and other followers of his day did not worship him, but followed his teaching and won liberation or lived as contented members of their society. Today we worship him with all items of offering given to other gods and pray to him, thus making him an object of prayer and offering, thereby going against his very teaching that there are no gods or other beings who are capable of accepting sacrifice, offering or of responding to prayer or supplication. Thus, it is clear how the Buddha has been degraded to the level of a tribal or other god and is made capable of helping man upon request. The more serious matter for concern is how such practices have continued without hindrance to the present day.

Another form of ritual worship which draws our attention is the worship of the Bodhi tree. The Buddhists venerate the Bodhi as the tree under the shelter of which the Buddha attained Buddhahood. When the Bodhi was planted in the Mahameghavana park at Anuradhapura it came to be worshipped with great fervor by the people who were up to that time worshippers of trees like the Banyan and the Palmyra. What really happened was that they brought all their items of worship of the former tree and worshipped the new tree with perhaps the same ritual. While the Banyan and the Palmyra trees were worshipped because they were believed to be the habitats of certain spirits, the Bodhi tree is believed to this day to be the habitat of good spirits who are prayed to in addition to invoking the healing and other powers of the Bodhi. If you visit the Sri Mahabodhi at Anuradhapura, you cannot fail to brush against the large number of Kapuwas who are engaged in a lucrative sale of charms and make blessings for a fee.

Another important form of worship which existed at the time of the introduction of Buddhism was the worship of individual gods who possessed personal cults of their own. It is recorded that Venerable Mahinda spent a few months in Vedisagiri, the home town of his mother which was close to the border regions of the empire which were at the time witnessing the religio-ritualistic and cultural syncretism which we described above, after he was selected to lead the Buddhist mission to Sri Lanka. The knowledge he would have gained from this exposure seems to have been used to win over the tribal tree worshippers and god worshippers to Buddhism by providing them with convenient entry points to gain admission to the new religion. But what really happened was that the expected transformation never occurred. Not only has it become clear that the pre-Buddhist Sri Lankans stubbornly persisted practicing their pre-Buddhist tree and god worship under the protection of the new religion, they have desecrated the purity of the Theravada tradition by bringing in superstition and lenience on theism both of which were clearly and emphatically rejected by the Buddha. Instead of the conversion of ancestor and cultic deity worshippers into non-theistic Buddhism, ancestor and deity worship was made part of the new Sri Lankan version of Buddhism by giving these beliefs prominent placements in its ritual structure.

As these changes seem to have been effected during the very early days of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, it is quite likely that the Venerable Thera himself authored these adoptions. The very important question which this raises is whether in fact the Venerable Thera or any other(s) did possess the authority to do so. According to the Four Great Authorities (cattaro mahapadesa) promulgated by the Buddha in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya, it is quite clear that no individual Thera or a group of Theras whether small or big has the authority to introduce changes to the practices of the religion or to the interpretations of the teachings, without their being tested as to their conformity to the teachings of the Pali canonical texts - these meaning the texts of the four Nikayas. The fact that both ancestor worship and deity worship go directly against the teachings of the Pali canonical texts shows that the Four Guidelines have totally been disregarded by the Venerable Thera.

Despite the above very clear promulgations by the Buddha made during the last three months before his parinibbana, it seems that both the political authorities and the members of the Order have introduced rites and ritual practices into Buddhism with disastrous results to the purity of the tradition. We have already noted how the great human teacher had been degraded by the Sri Lankan Buddhists by making him sit surrounded by vast arrays of offerings usually made to the gods in primitive and other theistic religions. According to our historical records, it was King Sena III who introduced the offering of food and garments to statues of the Buddha (Geiger, Culavamsa, 175). Another instance of unauthorized introduction of ritual is the starting of the ritual called "Bodhipuja" by a monk called Ariyadeva which became a ritual of high popular demand.

There are those who argue that as most ritual, in the forms that they are used in religious practice today cater to the religious needs of the uneducated ordinary masses who call and believe themselves to be Buddhists but in actual make up and practice are still primitive ancestor and deity worshippers to keep them in the fold. It must emphatically be stated here that it is a crime to leave them at their level without any attempt to educate them and establish them on the correct path of progress to spiritual maturity. But, if the Buddha too did what our pundits did and are persisting in doing purely because they do not want to part with their superstitions, he would have left Culapanthaka to go back to lay life without finding for him the technology to mature him to his liberation. It is this technology that must be applied, not reveling in the quagmire of primitive superstition as these innocents have been left for long enough in their almost unredeemable state.

Thus, the need of the hour is not the indiscriminate promotion of the present day superstition and god worship infected tribal religion calling it Buddhism of the Pali canon, but at least establish a mechanism to bring back the purity of Buddhism if it is to face the multiple challenges of the new world as the strangle hold which the present day powers, both religious and political, have on it, will lead it to its demise fairly soon. The authority, according to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya, empowered to take decisions on what is in keeping with the teaching of the Buddha or not is the Dhamma itself as recorded in the Pali canonical texts, and not in the post-canonical texts. It is quite clearly stated that any new practice or interpretation of the teaching must be tested as to its validity against the teachings contained therein, before either acceptance or rejection. The hybrid version of the Sri Lankan Buddhism of today has to be thoroughly cleaned and purified if it is to be Buddhism, lest some country in the Western world will soon become the centre of pure Buddhism and we be labeled as holders on to a primitive form of the religion which it has become today.

06 07 2011 - The Island


 

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J9.13        Buddhism, bioethics and society: Cloning not new for Buddha

Prof. Suwanda. H. Sugunasiri

Had the Buddha been around when the news of the cloning of a sheep hit the wires, he might’ve simply said, with his usual smile, "What took you so long?" Not that he provided the technique or predicted the event. But he challenged the scientific community to come up with laboratory evidence for what he had come by in the laboratory of his mind, meditatively, some 2,500 years ago. What was that? That a human being had nothing that could be called a soul. His teaching was soullessness. And, to show it, he called you and me the "five aggregates."

Your hand touches a hot stove. You feel the sensation. You pull away. And the hand burn becomes part of your memory, and consciousness.

But what is touching? It is bodily contact, and involves many conditions. You have to have a hand; it has to be near the stove; it must not be numb. So, touch is an aggregate.

Touching also results in the aggregate of sensation – again, an aggregate because of its complex conditions. Pulling away is evidence you have perceived danger.

We know that the heat was felt at the fingertip or the skin, but it is also felt in the whole body. The Buddha sees an internal force – an energy force that physically pushes the sensation at the fingers to all over the body. This is the aggregate of force.

The end result is the final aggregate – consciousness, in this case, burn consciousness.

So whatever consciousness each of us has at any given time is the sum total of consciousness that we have built up from the time of conception.

And that’s really all that consciousness, the psychological part of our mindbody, is – a complex combination of aggregates and conditions.

In which of the five aggregates is the soul? If the soul is not in the mind, is it perhaps in the body?

Minor problem: each unit of matter that makes up the body, explains the Buddha, is born of consciousness. He calls it a "matter born of consciousness." And our body, again, is one gigantic collection of sense-turned-matter. The hand burn becomes hand-burning consciousness, which, in turn, changes into matter.

If matter that makes up our body is created by the mind in which we found no soul, there obviously cannot be a soul in the body either. So if we can explain both mind and body in terms of conditions, where is the need to look for an outside intervention – the hand of a God?

Dolly the sheep appeared in the universe just fine without the helping hand of God. What this successful cloning showed was that there was nothing in an animal that cannot be explained purely in terms of the process (mind) and structures (body) we call DNA.

If DNA can be replicated by humans working in a lab, where is the hand of God that is said to have created animals?

But, you object: we are human, not animal. True, except that the Buddha puts both animals and humans in the same class.

It would be only a matter of time before we get human cloning. When we have that, our last straw for hanging on to a soul will have vanished. Or will it? Isn’t it so comfy and reassuring to have a God around?

(Prof. Suwanda H J Sugunasiri, MA, MA, MEd, PhD is the Founder, Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies, Adjunct Professor, Trinity College, University of Toronto and a former US Fulbright Scholar. This essay appeared in his publication ‘Embryo As Person’)

13 03 2011 - The Sunday Island

 

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J9.14   Full Moon Poya Day of Duruthu in the year 2552

Walter Wijenayake

Today is the Full Moon Poya Day of Duruthu in the year 2552 as per the Buddhist calendar and it is the 10 the day of January in the year 2009 as per the Gregorian calendar. This day marks the epoch making event of the Buddha visiting Mahiyangana in the 8th month after attaining enlightenment, foreseeing dissension between two factions in this island.

The author of the Mahavamsa, Venerable Mahanama Thera describes this first visit of the Sakyamuni Siddartha Gauthama Buddha to Sri Lanka very vividly thus:

"The Master’ s great personality, dignified conduct, refined manners and soft courteous speech made the two opposing armies seem petrified with awe and admiration. Some were frightened and ran away whilst others for the time being, forgot for what purpose they had gathered and listened to the Master’s mature words of advice with great respect and veneration."

Rev. Mahanama Thera further describes the dramatic events that occurred on the Mahaveli plain at Mahiyangana on that epoch-making Duruthu Poya day as that vast surging crowd of humanity listened to the Master’s message of peace and goodwill. They lay down their weapons of war, stripped off their armour, renounced the evil and hatred in their minds and became followers of the tolerant, rational and scientific teaching of Gauthama the Buddha. That multitude comprising thousands underwent a complete volte-face and transformed themselves into followers of the Blessed One’s way of life.

The most remarkable event that took place at the visit of the Buddha was the presence of the god Sumana Saman, the guardian God of Sri-Pada who attained the State of Sothapanna after listening to the preachings of the Buddha.

In accordance with the ancient chronicles, the Buddha had handed over the God Sumana Saman a hair relic when he begged Thathagatha to give something to worship on His first visit to the island.

The Buddha’s second visit to this island was to Nagadipa in the fifth year of His Buddhahood, to resolve a dispute over a gem set throne between two Naga Kings, Mahodara and Chulodara.

Kelaniya is the third place visited by the Thathagatha on a Full Moon Poya Day of Vesak in the eighth year of his Buddhahood. On this visit, he also visited "Samantha Kuta’ (Sri Pada Kanda), ‘Dheegavapi’, ‘Mahamegavanarama’, the place where later the ‘Thuparama’ was built at Anuradhapura, the place where the stone-cetiya now ‘Selacaitya’ has been built in Anuradhapura from where he returned to Jethavanaramaya’.

The King Yatalatissa in the third century, as per the early history, built the city of Kelaniya along with the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya (Kelaniya temple). It was during the reign of the King Voharikatissa that the original paintings on the shrine walls were added. In accordance with the text of the Mahawamsa (ch. 85, 64-72) the King Panditha Parakramabahu II (1236-1271) carried out extensive renovations at this temple. These renovations were so effected as an invasion from South India in the year 1213 led by Kalinga-Magha resulted in the destruction of several shrines and temples in the country including the kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. King Vijayabahu III also renovated the viharaya as the invading Tamils destroyed it.

In the year 1505 the Portuguese after invading the Maritime Provinces destroyed this temple and several others under the influence of the church. The King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe who again rebuilt the Viharaya in the year 1767, after it had been abandoned for 200 years. The Dutch who followed the Portuguese persecuted Buddhists who came to worship there, sometime later after the mysterious death of King Bhuvanakabhahu VII, his grand-son Dharmapala ascended to the throne of Kotte in 1551. He was a very weak and treacherous King who after having embraced the Catholic faith baptised himself under the name of Don Juan Dharmapala and issued a proclamation in 1555 handing over the Kelaniya Temple revenue lavishly for the maintenance of Catholic Schools. Portuguese had demolished the temple statues and also done immense destruction to the Kelaniya Dageba.

In the year 1930, this Viharaya received the attention of Mrs. Helena Wijewardena who commissioned the famous temple artiste Solius Mendis to restore the interior of the Viharaya to its former glory, who devoted 20 long years to beautifying the place with fascinating paintings depicting the life of Buddha, history of Buddhism and the history of Kalaniya with its enriched culture the history of the existing paintings here.

First of all Mrs. Helena Wijewardena sent Solius Mendis to the Ajantha, Ellora and Bagh caves to study the paintings and gain inspiration. He came back inspired and fired by the masterpieces in these Buddhist caves. However there is nothing to witness them. There is not even a photograph of them.

Finally it is better to state here how Mahanama Thera in his work, the Mahavamsa describes the visit of the Buddha at Kelaniya "In the 8th year after he had attained the Buddhahood, when the Vanquisher was dwelling in Jethavana, the Master, set forth surrounded by five hundred Bhikkhus on the second day of the Beautiful month of Vishakha on the Full Moon and when the hour of meal was announced the Vanquisher, Prince of Wise, forthwith putting on his robe and taking his alms-bowl went to the Kelani country, the habitation of maniakkhika" (Chapter 1 Notes 72 - 77).

The first ever the Kelaniya Duruthu Perahera commenced in the year 1927. This year the Duruthu Poya dawns today at 12.37 PM and concludes at 08.56 a.m. tomorrow. the day set apart for the observance of sil is today.

Upan da sita karapu paw natha warak wandoth Kelaniye.

island.lk/2009/01/10

 

 

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J9.15   The Great Tamil Buddhists

The History of Buddhism in the Tamil Kingdoms of South India

T. N. RAMACHANDRAN

(Former Joint Director-General, Department of Archaeology, Government of India.)

BUDDHISM came to South India during Emperor Asoka’s reign. A party of Bhikkhus went to Sri Lanka in 250 B.C. under the leadership of Arahat Mahinda (Mahendra), after the third great Buddhist Conference under Moggaliputta Tissa Thera held in Asoka’s presence at Pataliputra. Mahendra Thera appears to have travelled by sea and to have passed through Kavirapattiman where, during his temporary stay, he raised seven Buddhist viharas which the later Tamil Sangam works, such as Silappadikaram and Manimekalai (2nd century A.D.), attribute to Indra. Indra is only a contraction of Mahendra. Mahendra was greatly helped in spreading Buddhism in South India by Arittaha, of Sri Lanka, the uncle-in-law of King Devanampiya Tissa. There is a village called Arittapatti in Madura District near where Arittha appears to have lived in caves, thereby lending his name to the village. Arittapatti which was originally a Buddhist place, lost gradually its Buddhist nature.

We hear from the Manimekalai that the early Cola king, Killivalavan (2nd century A.D.) converted a prison-house into a charity house at the request of the Buddhist nun Manimekalai, and gifted it to Buddhists who utilised the building for a palli and a charity house. The Pali work, Rasavahini, refers to a Cola king who, while engaged in constructing a Siva, temple at Kaveripattinam, met some Buddhist bhikkus who proved to him the superiority of Buddha Dharma and in return got form him the Siva temple which they converted into a shrine of the Buddhist. In the 5th century A.D. a great Buddhist divine called Buddhadatta Thera, who flourished in the reign of the Kalabhra chief, Accutavikkanta, resided in a vihara in Kaveripattinam built by one Visnudasa or Krsnadasa. This Thera is said to have written most of his works in Kaveripattinam at the instance of the Buddhist acaryas Sumati, Buddhasika and Sanghapala. Buddhadatta’s patron was the Cola king, Kalaber Accutavikkanta, and this divine exhibits in his works an unusual eloquence and patriotism in describing the Cola kingdom under him, of which he was a proud inhabitant.

A golden age of Buddhism, when the Triratna caught South India in its enchanting and soothing grasp and when monks and nuns (bhikkhus and bhikkhunis) like Manimekalai and upasakas and upasikas who were lay followers of the enchanting Faith, travelled throughout the land in utter renunciation and humanitarian zeal to render help even as the Buddha did, is the picture of south India that we visualize from the Tamil classical works of Buddhism the Silappadikaram, Manimekalai, Kundalakesi, Virasoliya, Bimbisarakathai, Valaiyapati, Tiruppadikam, the Jaina Tamil work, Nilakesi and the Hindu Tamil works, Devaram, Nalayiraprabadham and Periyapuranam.

The Buddhist sites in the northern districts of the Madras Presidency, particularly in the Andhra country, are vast as against almost a fraction in the southern districts. From Salihundam in the Srikakulam district in the north, to Chinna Ganjam in the Guntur district in the south, and from Gooty in the Anantapur district in the west, to Bhattiprolu in the east, the Andhra country witnessed in the three centuries preceding and following the present era a phenomenal growth of Buddhist culture and art. Ramatirtham, Sankaram, Salihundam, Kodavalli, Arugolanu, Guntupalli, Jaggayyapeta, Ramireddhipalli, Alluru, Bezwada, Gudivada, Ghantasala, Garikapadu, Goli, Nagarjunikonda, Amaravati, Peddamaddur, Chinna Ganja, Peddaganjam, Kanuparti and Bhattiprolu are a few places among the many that have yielded relics of a glorious Buddhist civilization that flourished in the Andhra country in the early centuries.

Stupas, Caityas or prayer halls, and Viharas were found in large numbers, particularly in the Guntur and Krsna districts along the banks of the river Krsna which was known to the Greeeks as Maisolos.

Nagarjunakonda or "the Hill of Nagarjuna" is one of the sites excavated by the Archaeological Survey(from 1926 to 1931 and again in 1938).The discoveries made here are of singular interest in that they include not only monasteries, stupas and caityas, but also a palace, a wharf and a large number of inscriptions relating to the Iksvaku dynasty that ruled the country in the 3rd centtury A.D. Most of the stupas here were richly carved with scenes drawn from the life of the Buddha, his past births and everyday life, besides decorative and ornamental designs.

The reign of the Andhra King, Pulumavi, witnessed the raising of the great Mahacaitya of Amaravati which became the centre of the Caityakas while under the Iksvakus great stupas arose at Jaggayyapeta and Nagarjunakonda on either side of the river Krsna. The Caityakas probably derived their name from Amaravati Mahacaitya. We also learn that there were other monasteries at Nagarjunakonda one of which was built for the residence of the Sinhalese monks.

Kancipura, Avanti and Arimaddana are according to the Gandhavamsa three great centres of Pali Buddhism. Buddhaghosa in the Nigamana to the Manorathapurani refers to Kanci as a centre of Pali study. Buddhaghosa says elsewhere (Papancasudani) that his own writing was at the instance of Buddhamitta when the two lived together at Madhurasutta-pattana (Madura). Again in his Manorathapurani Buddhaghosa says that his work was at the instance of Jotipala while the two were living together in Kancipuram and other places.

To reconstruct the history of South Indian Buddhism we have to depend mainly on the works of the Tamil poets and scholars who were great acaryas from time to time. The most helpful Tamil works are the Manimekalai, Kundalakesi, Siddhatattogai, Tiruppadikam, Bimbisarakathai, Valaiyapati and Virasoliyam. Some of the very early Tamil Buddhist luminaries are Ilam or the Young Bodhiyar, Aravana Adigal, Sittalai Sattanar, Sanghamitra, Nada-Kutanar, Thera Buddhadatta, Bodhi Dharma and Dinnaga.

Sanghamitra, a Tamil Bhikkhu of the Cola country, who lived in the early half of the 4th century A.D., went to Sri Lanka converted the king to Mahayana (Vaitulya) and being patronised by his second son Mahasena, destroyed the Mahavihara which was a seat of Hinayana and renewed and enlarged the Abhayagiri Vihara, which became thereafter the stronghold of Mahayana.

Buddhadatta Thera (5th century A.D.), a Tamil of the Cola country, held charge successively of Buddhist monasteries at Mahavihara in Anuradhapura, Kaveripattinam, Uragapura, Bhutamangalam and Kancipura. He has written about these monasteries. While at Kaveripattinam, he wrote the Buddhavamsatthakatha at the request of his sisya Buddha-Sikha; and at the request of another disciple, Sumati, he wrote Abhidhammavatara. At Bhutamangalam he stayed in a Buddhist palli built by a Vaisnava, Kannadasa alias Venu (Vinhu) das, and completed another work called Vinaya- viniscaya. His disciple, Buddha Sikha, followed him everywhere. Invited to Sri Lanka, he compiled other works there at the request of a Sinhala Pontiff Mahathera Sankhapala. They are Uttaravinicchaya, Ruparupa-vibhaga, Jinalankara and a commentary on Buddhavamsa called Madhuratha-Vilasini. He met the famous Buddhaghosa in Sri Lanka and the two had friendly discourse. While the Gupta king Kumara Gupta was a patron of Buddhaghosa Thera, Buddhadatta’s patron was the Kalabhra Accyutavikkanta (Acyuta Narayana) of the Colanadu.

The Gandhavamsa mentions ten South Indian Buddhist teachers who wrote works and speaks also of twenty other Buddhist teachers of South India who wrote books in Pali at Kancipuram.

The ten teachers are

(1) Buddhadatta (5th century A.D.).

(2) Ananda, the author of Mulatika on the Abhidhammattakatha.

(3) Dhammapala (5th-6th century A.D.) a native of Tambarattha (Tirumnelveli district) who became successively the head of the Buddhist monastery called Bhataraditta - Vihara at Kancipuram and the Mahavihara at Anuradhapura, wrote good commentaries on Buddhist basic texts, such as "Attakatha," "Paramartha Manjusa," "Nettipakaranatthakatha." He resided in the city of Tanjai in Tirunelveli district.

(4-5) Two unnamed former teachers (Purvacaryas) who wrote the Niruttimanjusa and Mahaniruttisankhepa.

(6) Mahavajirabuddhi, author of Vinayaganthi, a glossary of the five the Vinaya books.

(7) Cullavajirabuddhi. The name of his work is not traceable.

(8) Dipankara Thera 91100 A.D., alias Buddhapriya Thera and "Coliya Dipankara," was disciple in Sri Lanka of Ananda Vanaradana, and later on became the head at Kancipura of Baladicca- Vihara. He was the author of the Pali works, Vajjamadu and Rupa-Siddhi, the former on Buddhist art, and the latter on arithmetic. He wrote also a commentary on the Rupa-Siddhi. He wrote a tika on Sampapancasatti also.

(9) Culladhammapala who wrote the Saccasankhepa and

(10) Kassapa, who wrote the Mohaviccedani and Vimativicccedana.

From the Talaing records of Kalyani we get a list of Buddhist acaryas of South India, some of whom are Kaccayana, author of the first Pali grammar;

Buddhavira, author of the Sutta-sangaha; Nana or Nanagambhira,. the author of Tathagatotpatt. Anuruddha (l2th century) of the Pandya land who became popular in Sri Lanka and Burma by his works, :Abhidhammathasangaha, Paramattha-vinicchaya, and Nama-rupapariccheda."

South India continued to be the centre of Pali Buddhism as late as the 12th century A.D.

Dharmakirti (13th century A.D.) of the Pandya country was another celebrated Buddhist acarya who was invited and patronised by Parakrama Bahu II (1236-68 A.D.). He organised in Sri Lanka an international conference of Buddhists. The Datha-vamsa and Culavamsa (latter part of Mahavamsa recording history of Sri Lanka from Mahasena to Parakrama Bahu II) are works which are ascribed to this Dharmakirti.

The Buddhist monks formed a galaxy of stars that illumined the Buddhist firmament in South India for nearly 1,300 years.

Courtesy World of Buddhism

 

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J9.16  Vesak, the day of enlightenment

Ven. Dr. M. Dhammajothi

Senior Lecturer, Pali and Buddhist Studies Unit, University of Colombo

All the past twenty four Buddhas have become their full enlightenment on the Vesak full moon days. So, Vesak is the day of enlightenment. Buddhists celebrate this auspicious day specially to commemorate the three principal events of the Sakyamuni Buddha’s life such as birth, enlightenment and passing away or attained parinibbana. The Sakyamuni Buddha was a historic person who was born to queen Mahamaya and king Suddhodhana, lived in Kapilavastu, Nepal. His birth occurred on the day of Vesak at the park, Lumbini, and he was named as prince Siddhattha. In his sixteenth year of age prince Siddhattha got married to a princess Yasodhara and subsequently became the father of prince Rahula. As a son of a beloved father, whose name was Suddhodhana prince Siddhattha was fortunate to have a luxurious life with plenty of pleasures. But, by the influence of his perfections, (paramita) prince Siddhattha, who was in his twenty ninth year of age, understood these pleasures are the cause for the suffering in world, and renounced them like spit thrown out in the morning. He began to mortify his body, for it was the philosophy of the day that truth was obtainable through asceticism, and ascetic Siddhattha went through the severest forms of ascetic penances till he found that no more was possible for a human being to proceed and he understood that asceticism was no avail, then he started to follow the middle path which brought him illumination, and on the full moon day of Vesak, attained the supreme state of Buddha, the fully enlightened teacher of gods and men. Ever since, the Buddha propagated the dhamma with a incomparable benevolence for the sake of not only human being but also every living being. Like this other previous Buddhas the Sakyamuni Buddha too, determined not to die till his disciples were well established in the Dhamma with all skills such as true hearers, wise, well trained, ready and learned, carrying doctrinal books in their memory, and masters of the lesser corollaries that follow from the larger doctrine.

There is a view that Vesak ceremony dates back to the king Asoka’s period. In his fourteenth Rock Edict, he mentioned about a processions conducted by him, which was very illuminated and fascinating to the masses, because images of gods, in their celestial cars with heavenly sights were exhibited in it. After several centuries, in the fifth century, Chinese traveller, Fa hien, in his itinerary, described a procession of images conducted on the eight day of the second month in Pataliputra. It further recorded that this festival has been done in the second month of year. He describes that a five – tired bamboo structure erected on a four-wheeled car was used in the procession to carry images of gods in gold and silver and also images of the Buddha on the four sides of the structure were niches with seated images of the Buddha, each with a bodhisattva in attendance. There were about twenty such vehicles, all grand and imposing, but different from one another. So, the point is that the ceremony described by the Chinese traveller, Fa hien was a further continuation with modification and improvements of the procession conducted by the king Asoka. If we take this view as a true, we can say that Arahanth Mahinda must have introduced these festivals to Sri Lanka, in the third century B.C. when he brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

The records of the celebration of the Vesak festival, for the first time in the Sri Lankan history, can be clearly seen in the account of the religious activities of the king Dutthagamini in the Anuradhapura period ( B.C. 101-72). Twenty four Vesak festivals, which had been performed by the king Dutthagamini were mentioned in the record of his meritorious deeds. King Dutthagamini ruled the country for over twenty four years. So, may be he had celebrated this Vesak festival annually. King Bhatikabhaya also performed twenty eight Vesak festivals in grand scale during his twenty eight years of reign for the commemoration of the great enlightenment of the Sakyamuni Buddha. There is a record that king Vasabha too, by performing a large number of meritorious deeds, including forty four Vesak festivals in his forty four years of reign, increased his life span. King Voharikatissa and king Gothabhaya also named as king Meghavarna, not only celebrated Vesak festivals but also offered robes for the mahasangha. Many other kings such as Jetthatissa, Mugalam, Sena II, Parakramabhahu I, etc, continued this custom annually. It is said that king Sena II widened the Vesak festival and celebrated it with the poor, giving them foods, drinks and clothes as they wished.

The Vesak festivals celebrated in Sri Lanka from pre-Christian times by Buddhist kings, gradually went into abeyance with the entry of Catholic and Christian western rulers into the country. Dutch who established their ruling power in the maritime area of the country, abolished the Poya holiday in Sri Lanka on 1st November 1770. This was cause for the end of Poya holiday, Vesak full moon holiday, and traditional festivals. Declaration of Sunday as holiday, by the British ruler on 5th April 1817, in Kandyan period, also influenced the extinction of the Poya holiday and Vesak celebration. During the British period in Sri Lanka, Buddhist almost lost all their privileges. But, they strived to protect their religious freedom in every possible manner. The effort taken by the learned monks of this time to safeguard the rights of the Buddhists and revive Buddhist activities is well reflected in the well known Five Debates (Panca-maha-vada), among which the Debate at Panadura (Panaduravadaya) marks the real starting point of the modern Buddhist revival movement. This debate headed by Venerable Mohottivatte Gunananda drew the attention of Henry Steel Olcott and his arrival to Sri Lanka from America to helped the Buddhists to regain their lost rights. One of the achievements by the Sri Lankan Buddhists with the support of Henry Steel Olcott is the proclamation of Vesak day as a public holiday by the Colonial governor on twenty seventh march 1885. On April twenty eighth Sri Lankans celebrated Vesak on grand scale. The newly designed Buddhist flag was also hoisted for the first time on this Vesak day. On thirteenth of December 1999, the fifty forth General assembly of the United Nations Organization unanimously accepted Vesak day as a day of United Nations and gave international recognition to the Vesak day. In this remarkable achievement, the late Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Laksman Kadiragamara’s contribution is unforgettable.

In honor of the Buddha, Buddhists celebrate the Vesak not only in Sri Lanka but also in many other countries. Activities performed at the Vesak festivals can be categorized into two main streams such as paripattipuja, which means veneration by the practice of principles(dhamma) and amisapuja, means veneration by the offerings of material objects, such as food, drinks, clothes etc. Both these aspects are markedly seen when celebrating Vesak. Giving predominates the amisapuja aspect. This is undoubtedly prompted by the Buddhist teaching about the advantages that accrue one who engages in giving. On the Vesak day the people put this practice of ‘giving’ (dana) into good use by providing food and drinks to sight-seers who came from distant places to enjoy Vesak celebration. dana has become a salient feature of Vesak celebration in Sri Lanka. This indeed is a unique feature of Vesak festival as conducted in Sri Lanka. No matter rich, poor, high cast irrespective of nationality all are treated with food or drinks at alms-halls (dana ilas) which in Sinhala are called dansal

Regarding to the patipattipuja on Vesak full moon day, Buddhists, dress in white clothes and observe the eight moral precepts ( or ten moral precepts ( dasa sila) specially at the temples. They spent their time at the temples from morning to evening some of them even staying over the night, practicing meditation, listening to preachings, participating dhamma discussions etc. Perhaps Vesak Festival in the most colourful religious festival in the world. In Sri Lanka almost all Buddhist households hoist Buddhist flags and illuminate the premises by hanging beautifully designed lantern of different colours and shapes. Pandals depicting Jataka tales are a eye-catching sights on Vesak day. Devotional songs are sung in chores by white clad males and females. Often dramas on religious themes are staged to help the devotees to experience serene joy and enjoy righteously.

 

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J9.17   Mind, Matter and Nirvana in Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism

Prof. N. A. de S. Amaratunga

In Buddhism, the mind is central to the subjects of both matter and nirvana. By the word mind we mean ‘citt’ which according to Theravada Buddhism has four components namely ‘vedana’, ‘sangna’, ‘sankara and ‘vingnana’. These components participate in ‘paticca samuppada’ (dependent co-origination) and they are also four of the five ‘skandas’ (aggregates) which constitute the human being.

Regarding the physical world, the Buddha had spoken about the universe, the galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. He had spoken about the possibility of the presence of life in the universe outside earth. The question whether the cosmos is finite or infinite had been left unanswered. The Vibhanga sutra speaks about the atom (‘paramanu’), its structure and size which does not seem to be much different from what is being discovered by modern methods. What is more relevant to the present discussion however is the fact that the Buddha had said there is nothing permanent about the universe. But neither the Buddha nor the Theravada theorists have said that the universe does not exist. The Buddha had said the world and its phenomena arise, undergo change and disappear to to arise again. This means that the world exists even for a moment and therefore its existence cannot be totally denied. The Buddha had preached a middle path doctrine between the extremes of existence and non-existence. In the ‘Kachayana Sutra’ the Buddha is quoted to have said; "everything exists: this is one extreme. Nothing exists: this is the other extreme. Not approaching either extreme, the Tathagata teaches you a doctrine of the middle path….". Since the world is real in the original teachings, there is no question in early Buddhism of identifying the samsaric world of dependent co-origination (‘paticca-samuppadaya’ ) with the void (‘sunyata’) which would entail that it was somehow unreal. Thus, the Buddha had preached that the physical world exists independent of the mind .

The Theravadins had to a great extent gone along with the above original teachings and fathomed their theories on matter, Nirvana etc based on those original principles. The ‘Vinganavadins’ of the Mahayana school however took up a different position. They were of the opinion that the atom had no spatial dimensions. If it had it would be divisible and therefore cannot be an atom. If it has no dimensions it would follow that physical matter which has spatial dimensions cannot be composed of atoms. Therefore matter which is supposed to be composed of atoms has no existence and is only a construct of the mind. They said everything is mind only (vide: ‘Madhyantha-vibhaga’). In the very early Mahayana texts (vide: ‘Asta-sashrika-pranga-paramita’) it is mentioned that all dhammas are signless, wishless, unaffected, unproduced, unoriginated and non-existant. This is in total disagreement with the Buddha’s teaching of ‘paticca-samuppadaya’ and also the Dhamma theory of the ‘Abhidhamma’. Thus it was the Vinganavadins who were opposed to the Dhamma theory. The Dhamma theory is not just one of many theories of the ‘Abhidhamma’ but the foundation on which the entire ‘Abhidhamma’ system rests. It is not easy for Theravadins to refute the Dhamma theory without getting into philosophical difficulties. One cannot do that without totally giving up the basic tenets of Theravada and embracing those of Mahayana.

Then the question arises; if the world does not exist what is it that we experience? ‘Madyamikas’ which was the other major school of the Mahayana tradition (Ven. Nagarjuna was the main author of this school), answered this question by saying even the mind does not exist. They said the mind consists of ‘dhammas’ which too had no reality and therefore the mind does not exist. It can be seen that these theories are totally at variance with that of Theravada Buddhism and something that cannot be adopted into it without distorting original Buddhist preaching.

Now let us look at the Mahayana theory of Nirvana. Maahayanists believed that the ‘parinibbana’ of the Buddha did not result in the total extinction of His ‘samsara’ but that He entered what was called the ‘apratisthita-nirvana’in which He continued to work for the salvation of all beings who were suffering in ‘samsara’. This means the Buddha would have retained one or more of the ‘skandas’ after ‘parinibbana’. The assumption that the Buddha could continue to exist after ‘parinibbana’ in an existence that consists of the ‘skandas’ is a contradiction of the traditional teachings of the Buddha who said that suffering resides in ‘skandas’. There cannot be any suffering after attainment of Nirvana which envisages the total extinction of ‘samsaric skandas’.

This is why Theravada Buddhists cannot accept the Mahayana theory of Nirvana. This Mahayana theory of Nirvana is linked to their ‘Sunyatha’ (emptiness) theory which is not acceptable to Theravada Buddhists. The word ‘sunya’ is used in Theravada Buddhism with a different meaning to that of Mahayana particularly the viewpoint of the Madyamikas. The Chula-sunnata Suthra of the Majjima Nikaya deals with the significance of the term ‘sunya" and its connection with the notion of ‘Nirvana’. In this ‘suthra’, the Buddha teaches that the cessation of suffering depends on the cessation of being and becoming. There is a passage in this "suthra" which describes emptiness (‘sunnata’) in terms of the analogy of the forest. It is clear that what is meant is that the world is empty of self or what belongs to a self. For the Theravada Buddhists, this did not mean that the world itself was unreal or literally void, but that there is no self or soul in a person or sentient being. This is the ‘sunyatha’ theory in Theravada which is totally different from that of ‘Mahayana’.

The Mahayanists rejected this interpretation of emptiness (‘sunya’) or to be precise thought that it did not go far enough. According to their thinking, even the constituent elements known as ‘Dhammas’ are unreal and void. As mentioned above, this idea could be traced back to the very early Mahayana texts like ‘Asta-shasika-prajna-paramita’ which states that all Dhammas are unoriginated and non-existent.

This theory raises the question; if the world is unreal what is it that we experience? The two major schools of the Mahayana differed in their answers to this question. The ‘Vingnanavadins’ said the world is nothing but mind (‘vingnana-matra’). They said the mind is real but the world is unreal, a mere illusion (‘maya’) or apparition (‘abhasa’) of the mind (vide: ‘Madhyantha-vibhaga’ ).

The other school – ‘Madhyamikas’ was more radical. According to them even the mind is non-existent, empty and void (‘sunya’). Even experience is unreal. Their argument is that if the mind consists of ‘Dhammas’ and if ‘Dhammas’ are unreal it follows that the mind is also unreal (Mahayanists also has a Dhamma theory which is different from that of Theravada Buddhism).

This extremely radical point of view however does not make sense. It is not at all obvious how it could make any sense to say that both the world and the mind that seems to perceive it are non-existent.

The mistake the Mahayana schools committed was they tried to prove their point of view by pure reason. This contravenes the Buddhist methods of study. In the ‘Kalama Suthra’ the Buddha says that we cannot find out the nature of the world by pure reason. We must employ experience in combination with reason.

The Buddha and also Theravadins used the ‘Chathuskoti’ method of reasoning which involves four alternative possibilities. This method could be applied only to issues that conform to the middle path of Theravada Buddhism and not to extreme viewpoints such as the viewpoint of the Mahyanists which states that the world does not exist. According to Lord Buddha the world phenomena arise under conditions, undergo change and then disappear to arise again in a continuum of ‘samsara’. In this process the world does not exist as a permanent entity, neither does it non-exist as a permanent phenomenon. The Buddha had avoided both extreme points of view for that is the truth. Here the Buddha had clearly been able to apply the ‘Chathuskoti’ reasoning. What is suitable for analysis of extreme points of view such as that the world does not exist or it is a void or the mind does not exist is the Aristotelian logic.

From the above brief discussion, it could be seen that Theravada Buddhism categorically differs from Mahayana on several fundamental themes; Nirvana, reality of the physical world, and the mind. Anybody who tries to reconcile these theories or borrow bits and pieces to support dubious theories of their own fails. Xuan Zang attempted to reconcile Ven. Vasubandu’s (a Mahayanist) teachings with traditional Buddhist teachings and failed.

27 05 2010 - The Island

 

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J9.18   Conflict resolution: How Lord Buddha’s way offers an answer

"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed"

Sarath N. Silva, Former Chief Justice of Sri Lanka

According to Buddha Dhamma conflicts arise, within a person and amongst persons; at all levels; within a family, in society, in a country and internationally; due to two underlying common causes. The first is the failure to develop the cognitive faculties to the fullest and to see as it is the factors that cause the conflictual situation to arise. The second is the failure to comprehend its true nature.

From the point of conflict management, our attention should be focused on three stages in the unfolding of a conflict. On a time sequence, the final stage is that of transgression. This connotes the stage at which the ordinary behavioural pattern is disturbed and becomes evident or visible through words or actions engendered by the conflict. The next is the preceding stage in which defiled thoughts, through the impact of conflictual stimuli surge up in the form of unwholesome emotions and volitions. And, the earliest stage when defiled thoughts lie dormant without displaying any activity. In Buddhism the three stages are identified in relation to the activity of the mind as "Vitikkama" (the stage of transgression)' "Pariyutthama" (the stage of manifestation) and "Anusaya" the stage of latent latency.

Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva

Conflict Management is essentially a practical exercise and the purpose of this article would not be achieved by a mere analysis of the Dhamma. Hence, the relevant aspects of Dhamma would be presented in reference to a situation in which Lord Buddha personally intervened to resolve a conflict in a state of imminent war and, the ethnic conflict in our country which has had a wide impact on the people and has caused loss of life and damage to property.

The Commentaries of the Anguttara Nikaya and the Samyutta Nikaya recount an instance in which Lord Buddha transcended to an imminent battle field to settle a bitter dispute between people of the Sakya clan, being his paternal relatives and of the Koliya clan, being his maternal relatives. As a result of the peace that the Buddha brought about through his intervention and the resolution of the dispute according to Dhamma, a large number of young persons of the Sakya clan entered the Bhikku sasana. This led to a request by the spouses of those persons that they be ordained as nuns. The demand was spearheaded by Buddha's foster mother Maha Prajapathi Gothami who cared for him and brought him up after his mother's demise. The Buddha refused the persistent pleadings to establish a bhikkuni sasana and left Kapilavasthu to arrive at the City of Vishala.

Being flexible

Maha Prajapathi Gothami undaunted by this refusal, lopped off her hair and clad in coarse saffron coloured garments followed the Buddha on foot accompanied by the other females, a distance of 150 miles to the City of Vishala. Thereafter, Venerable Ananda, being the Buddha's attendant reiterated the request and finally the Buddha agreed to establish a Bhikkuni Sasana, subject to eight stringent conditions. This instance reveals that a situation of unrest could be adjusted by being flexible and devising a carefully structured solution. Although it marks an important event in the history of the Buddha Sasana, what is more important to the topic and the contemporary history of our country is the preceding incident of resolving a conflict at the stage of imminent war.

The territories of the Sakya and Koliya clans were defined by the river "Rohini". The respective clans cultivated land on the two banks of the river using its water. There was a severe drought which reduced the flow of water and clansmen suspected that the other would take more of the available water and deny to one sufficient water for cultivation. This suspicion gradually festered and one clan prepared for war. On seeing this, the other clan too assembled on the bank of the river armed for war. The Buddha arrived at the site of imminent and battle as stated before and questioned the warring clansmen as to who took the decision to wage war. It was then revealed that the decision was not made by any one in the ruling segments of the clans but that suspicions in the minds of the people as to the denial of their share of river water resulted in the people arming themselves and assembling for war.

I would pause at this stage and advert to the genesis of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka with reference to specific instances drawn from recent history in which communal suspicions erupted in outbreaks of violence. These incidents which took place over a period of nearly 50 years can be briefly stated in a time sequence as follows:

In 1959 -- with the enactment of the Official Languages Act and the action taken thereon such as the introduction of the Sinhala letter "shri" on the number plates of vehicles;

In 1977 - With the newly formed Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) winning all the seats in the North, in the Parliamentary Election that was held and a false rumour that the Sinhala students of the Jaffna University had been killed and their bodies were being brought in the Northern train "Yal Devi". The disturbances originated at different "Station Towns" along the rail track, commencing from Anuradhapura.

In 1983 - with the killing of 13 soldiers in Jaffna.; and

In 1987 - with the Indo-Lanka Accord which led to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

In all these instances and in certain minor instances of a similar nature, the disturbances arose at a lower level from small groups, escalating in spirals of violence which resulted in extensive loss of life and damage to property. In each of these situations those in control of Government like their counterparts of the Sakya and Koliya clans got engulfed in the ethnic waves that arose from the bottom and became inactive allowing each situation to aggravate. Be that as it may, one of the deep rooted causes of the ethnic dispute is the distribution of agricultural water and the establishment of Sinhala settlements, particularly in the Eastern Province. A decisive instance is the Weli Oya Project in the northern area of the Eastern Province and North Central Province beneath Mullaitivu being the final seat of battle. The river identified by the Sinhala people as "Weli Oya" is known as "Manal Aru" by the Tamil people. The meaning in both languages is the same.

The "Eelam IV War" commenced with a group of terrorists shutting down the Mavil Aru Anicut at Seruvila in the Trincomalee District and causing damage to the Verugal Aru Anicut and the 1000 meter spill. The anicut was shut down and other damage done, not by persons who had been in any way denied water resources or, by persons who had handled a mammoty or plough for cultivation. They were the acts of essentially young persons who had engaged in violent and armed activity, virtually throughout their lives. On the other hand , having inspected the area on several occasions, I am personally aware that the anicut, spill and the banks, were repaired and the supply of water was restored to thousands of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim agricultural families due to the dedicated action of Tamil engineers serving in the area.

Senseless violence

The language issue and the question of decentralization of power have been redressed adequately by amendments to the Constitution itself. These measures have not been fully implemented due to the continuance of war. The implementation of the Mahaweli "A" system and the improvement of the Yodha Wewa and Malwatu Oya irrigation systems will provide adequate agricultural water to the entire region. It is thus seen that the underlying causes which led to the dispute have receded to the background and the conflict erupted into senseless armed violence perpetrated by youth who have been misled and brainwashed with a ferocious ideology. They do not hesitate to commit suicide and in the process kill indiscriminately.

The method adopted by Lord Buddha on the banks of river Rohini to avert an imminent war and his teaching would be most appropriate in the management of the ethnic conflict in this country, which acquired immensely tragic dimensions.

The preceding account of the Rohini river dispute reveals that the decision to wage war did not emanate from the top but escalated from below due to suspicions of an unequal distribution of river water. Having ascertained this, the Buddha questioned both sides as to the consequences of war. In response they agreed with the Buddha that as a result of war there will be extensive loss of life on both sides. The Buddha then posed the question as to what was more valuable, the water they were fighting for or the blood that would be shed. When all agreed that blood that would be shed is more valuable, the Buddha eased the tension that had built up and brought about an amicable settlement. The important sermon the Buddha delivered at this stage was that, "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed". The very words of this noble sermon have been now incorporated in the Preamble to the Constitution of the UNESCO, denoting its timeless truth.

Deep-seated suspicion

The two facts stated at the beginning, as paving the way to any conflict viz; the failure to see its causal arising, as it is and, the failure to comprehend its true nature, are both mind based. The practical dimension of this proposition can be examined in relation to the incidents cited above. The cause of the conflict between the Sakya and Koliya clans was a fear that there would be an inequality in the distribution of the reduced supply of water. This was further fuelled at the stage of latency "Anusaya," by the deep seated suspicions between the two clans. At the stage of manifestation 'Pariyuttana" it acquired a violent dimension. The stage of transgression "Vitikkama" was averted by the timely intervention of the Buddha.

The metomorphosis of our ethnic conflict reveals a like progression. The enactment of the Official Language Act of 1956 led to a fear from amongst the Tamil people that they would be denied employment in the State sector and be deprived of administrative benefits, as a result of Sinhala being the Official Language.

Similarly, the establishment of irrigation schemes and the colonization projects resulted in a fear amongst Tamil people that there would be insufficient space for expansion of the Tamil community in those areas. Furthermore, the continued establishment of strong Sinhala political parties in Government-led to a fear that Tamil people would be left out from the political process.

Both sides failed to rationally see the specific causes that gave rise to suspicion and fear which fuelled the conflict and to understand their true nature. Instead of addressing specific issues and requesting that safeguards be put in place to prevent discriminatory treatment, the Tamil political leaders made demands for a Federal Constitution and a separate State, that went far beyond the causes referred to above. This in turn resulted in a vehement opposition to the demands based on a fear that the territorial integrity of the country would be jeopardized. The neighbouring state of Tamilnadu in India aggravated these fears.

The use of force to negate the demands for a Federal and later separate State led to the emergence of the fearsome "Tiger Terrorists" who had no appreciation of the true nature of the causes of the conflict. Tamil political leaders who made unreasonable demands as a solution to the conflict themselves became victims of the fearsome "Tigers". The use of military force to put down the violent activities of the terrorists do not form the part of the Buddhist perspectives of conflict management. If Lord Buddha took the view that the underlying dissatisfaction, suspicion and fear could be redressed entirely by war, he would not have brought about peace by visiting the battlefield and averting the imminent war.

Furthermore the fate of the Sakya clan which resulted from a later war also reveals that the Buddha took the view that war cannot be averted in every instance. On the contrary, he has intervened only upon a reasonable belief that such intervention would lead to a peaceful result. Thus a prerequisite of conflict management is that there should be proper understanding of the dispute and a practical flexibility in evolving a feasible solution.

Since, conflict begins in the mind, in management it is foremost that the particular state of mind which caused the conflict to arise be addressed adequately. Hence it is necessary to dwell on the working of the human mind as a prelude to conflict management. In this regard it can be stated without any fear of contradiction that Buddhism is the only religion, philosophy and science which addresses the working of the human mind. According to Buddha all living being, including humans are composed of five aggregates ("Panchaskanda"). One aggregate is the physical form "Rupa" which is visible. Although the physical form is different from one living being to another, whatever be the appearance, it is composed of four elements. They are (i) "Patavi" - the Element of hardness (ii) Apo" - the Element of cohesion (iii) "Thejo" - the Element of heat, (iv) "Vayo" - the Element of wind and pressure.

This painting at the Kelaniya temple depicts the scene where Lord Buddha intervened to bring peace between the two warring factions in Naagadeepa

These four Elements are also known as the "Mahabutha". The elements in combination form what are known as "Rupa Kalapa" (in relation to the body they would be the "Cells").

The Buddha Dhamma contains a detailed exposition of the manner in which these Elements and the "Rupa" of which it is composed, function, which would in turn explain the multiplicity of diseases that afflict the physical body, from a common cold to a cancer. Whatever be the extent to which medical science develops, it would to that extent confirm the Buddha Dhamma and not contradict it.

The other four Aggregates, Vedana (feeling), Sanna (Perception), Sankara (formations) and Vinnana (Consciousness) are not visible and constitute the working of the Mind. The function of each of these Aggregates is denoted by its name.

The mind-body (Nama Rupa), combine composed of these five Aggregates function through six organs. These organs are, (Eye - sight), Ear (hearing), Body (feeling), Nose (smell), Tongue (taste) and the Mind (consciousness).

Working of sense bases

Each organ is a distinct functional entity and is described as a "sense base". According to "Madhupindika Sutta" each sense base functions upon contact (phassa). According to Buddha Dhamma, contact (phassa) is made only upon a meeting of three factors. They are, (1) an external form (to which attention is focussed - "Nimittha" (2) the particular sense base which makes contact with such external form and (3) Consciousness of the particular sense base. The distinct working of each of the sense bases can be understood through a simple personal experience. A fruit that is identified by the eye as being good, may turn out to have a bad odour when taken to the nose. The same fruit may turn out to be tasty when eaten and cause an irritation when it touches the body. On the other hand, the entire fruit may be just rejected out of hand by the working of the Mind itself.

On the basis of extensive research that was carried out, an American scientist has written a book titled "Molecules of Emotion" in which the scientist identified the working of the five organs through an electro chemical process known as Neuro Peptides. It was found that there is a large concentration of Neuro Peptides associated with each of the organs and when contact is made it is transmitted by means of the molecular activity.

When contact is made with an external object in the manner stated above there is "feeling" being the 2nd Aggregate. The "feeling" is identified as being good, bad or indifferent, which is the 3rd Aggregate. Upto this point of the working of the Aggregates of all living beings including four footed animals, creeping and crawling creatures, is the same. At this stage there is a function which is special to humans described as "Vithakka", "Vichara", and "Prapancha". The function of "Vithakka" is to focus the mind on one aspect of the external object with which contact is made. The function of "Vichara" is to spread the mind's activity only on the selected aspect and the function of "Prapancha" (Proliferation), is to ponder over the matter in relation to the past, present and future. This is the aspect of the working of the Mind which is relevant to our subject of conflict management.

The 4th and the 5th Aggregates being "Formations" and "Consciousness" result in "Kamma" and the continuance of "sansara", from one existence to another. I would not advert to them since it is not referable directly to the subject of conflict management.

According to Buddha Dhamma, the reaction or response to contact with an external object (Nimiththa") which may be a living being, thing or event, varies from person to person not because of the physical form (Rupa) of such person but because of the working of the mind, in particular the process of "Vittakka". "Vichara" and "Prapancha" referred to above. This process is induced by a particular state of Mind described as the "Bhavanga Citta", which may be translated as "sub consciousness". It is to be noted that the function attributed in the Buddha Dhamma to this Mind state is different from that attributed to it in the western psychology. "Bhavanga" means the cause of the present existence.

The Buddha described this Mind state as being radiant which functions like a reflector that takes in an image transmitted to it. A contact made through a sense base is transmitted as an image to the Bhavanga Citta, where a process of identification is made which results in the formation of the particular consciousness upon such contact. This accounts for our varied responses to a single external object, as stated above. The "Bhavanga Citta" varies from person to person and from one living being to another and continues throughout one's existence.

The mind of the terrorist

It is to be noted that "Bhavanga Citta" is the result of a person's past "kamma". If in past existence, there had been less greed (craving), less hatred, and less ignorance, the Bhavanga Citta of that person has a higher degree of radiance and the power of assimilation would be refined and of depth. But, where kamma of past existence has had more defilements of greed (craving), hatred, and ignorance the "Bhavanga Citta" is less radiant with a lower level of assimilation and depth and in some with a higher propensity to irrational violence.

We can thus comprehend the Mind state of the Leader of the terrorists who identifies himself with the sign of a fierce animal. His propensity to senseless violence stems from his "Bhavanga Citta" which would not change. Persons of similar "Bhavanga Citta" attract to each other and the behavioural pattern of such persons cannot be comprehended in the same way as of others who have more refined Bhavanga Chitta.

Those who did not understand such distinctions in the working of the Mind, associated with and even attempted to please the terrorists and fell prey to senseless violence, whilst others who trusted them entered into Accords that seriously jeopardized the security of the State and imperiled peaceful citizens. Thus a succession of Peace Conferences and Accords aborted as a result of failure to understand the working of the human mind from a Buddhist perspective.

The process of conflict management should be based on a firm distinction drawn between those with a propensity to senseless violence and the others who form the vast majority. According to the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha when describing the "Bhavanga Citta" as being radiant also stated that it is defiled by external factors which cloud its radiance. A variety of such defilements are noted in different aspects of the Buddha Dhamma but in reference to the ethnic conflict we can identify in particular, "Jathi Vitakka" (racial feelings), "Janapada Vitakka" (national feelings) and "Avannati" (egotism or personal and national pride). These are preoccupations with thoughts concerning "our race" or "our state" that are harmful to the concept of a common humanity.

As stated above it is at the stage of Vittaka, Vichara, Prapancha, that one selected aspect of what is perceived on contact by a sense base becomes the focus of mental activity to the exclusion of other material aspects.

In view of the propensities stated above, the incidents referred to, the Official Language Act, Irrigation and Colonization Schemes and the like, have acquired a racial twist leading to thoughts of discrimination and of unequal treatment.

In truth, the Official Language Act of 1956 was intended to redress the grievances of the Sinhala people who were denied participation in the administration of the country of which the language was English. Similarly, irrigation and colonization schemes were designed to accommodate the growing Sinhala population in the South and Central Province who were denied agricultural land due to the plantations and the unavailability of irrigation facilities in the South.

However, the wrong perception engendered by a communal perspective aggravated due to the failure to address the same issues in respect of Tamil people who were equally denied participation in the administration and opportunities of expanding agricultural pursuits. The failure to view these matters from the perspective of different communities led to a situation of one being ignored and left out feeling victimized.

Therefore, conflict management should primarily address on the causes that have been identified above and the resultant effects from the perspective of each community separately and redressed in a manner that there is equality in the extent to which relief is granted. There can never be one solution encompassed as a Federal State or any other form of Constitution. Such a measure would fail to identify in sufficient detail the manner in which the particular community feels victimized. These perceptions are deeply rooted in practical considerations which should be redressed from the base of its occurrence.
No external intervention or mediation can succeed in the matter of management of the ethnic conflict, since such intervention would fail by focusing on a general solution to a matter which should be addressed in the minutest detail.

The peaceful resolution of conflict is firmly rooted in the Buddhist tradition and its evidence goes back to the beginning of our recorded history in the "Mahavamsa" which recounts two instances in which the Buddha visited Sri Lanka and resolved conflicts in Nagadhipa, an island proximate to the Jaffna peninsular and Kelaniya being the sacred site close to Colombo.

Finally, conflict resolution in relation to the ethnic and all other conflicts should be firmly based in the teaching of the Buddha stated as the "eternal law" -

"Nahi verena verani - sammanti'dha kudacancam
Averenacasammanti - esa dhammo sanantano"
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world;
it is appeased only by non-hatred This is an eternal law.

10 05 2009 – The Sunday Times

 

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J9.19   Meditation

Nan

"And what kind of meditation did the Blessed One commend? Here someone, quite secluded from sensual desires, secluded from unwholesome states, enters upon and abides in the first meditation, which is accompanied by thinking and exploring, with happiness and pleasure born of seclusion. And he enters upon and abides in the second, the third and the fourth meditations. The Blessed One commended such meditation."

Thus is it said in the Life of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Nanamoli, written with great originality and uniqueness entirely from the Pali Canon. I’ve meditated but never reached any jhana which jhanas are what is stated in the passage above. But one thing I’ve learned: never to give up, never to be disappointed and never to say "I cannot do it, I’ll never get anywhere." I will, some day, probably in another birth since in this I am too entrenched in life and living of the mundane sort.

This is the advice given by all teachers of meditation and those who guide meditators – never get discouraged nor get too obsessed with getting results. Just sitting perfectly still and relaxed and watching the breath or processes within is triumph enough, for the moment.

Vesak should mean meditation

The ambience or aura of Vesak is still around us. The white clad filling up temples and meditation centres from early dawn; the flickering light of the clay pahana and the muted radiance of the Vesak lantern; the piles of flowers whose fragrance is overpowered by that of joss sticks. And most significant of all – the emphasis now placed on meditation and not on mere worship, rites and rituals.

The mind and attention veer away from the garish pandals, the noisy dansalas, the loud music. Vesak is essentially a quiet, introspective time when one needs to sit quiet and, yes, meditate or at least try to.

Easier said than done; very much easier. One realizes how excitable, how intransigent, how utterly active the quicksilver mind is; how difficult to hold it down. It shoots this way and that with this thought and that. But of course it can be controlled. Truly happy are those who have succeeded in this.

My kalyana mithra with whom I first meditated under Ayya Khema’s instructions is able to sit for two hours at a stretch completely absorbed. This in spite of her arthritis. She gently asks me how I am progressing and is never disapproving. Maybe she hides her disappointment that I still do not always feel the breath entering me and never its exit. She is kind to me and appreciates what I have done for her – being ready to steady her with a helping hand if she decides to spend the poya day at the meditation centre. We’ve done a lot together.

Parappuduwa Nuns’ Island

When Ayya Kkema gave up the Nuns’ Island at Parappuduwa in Dodanduwa, we formed a committee and ran the island for the benefit of meditators. Ayya Khema left at the height of the JVP insurgency since she said she was not going to live once again fenced in by barbed wire. She had suffered during the Holocaust. So my kalyana mithuri and I would travel by bus to Dodanduwa, walk to the edge of the lake and get rowed across by the very dynamic head monk of the Island Hermitage, or his boatman. We had to go see to the resident domestic and later the Dutch nun who lived on the island. JVP Insurgents were suspected of using the meditation hall for a night’s sleep so when my friend and I walked to the hall early in the morning, we would shout to each other, hoping our voices would have any young intruders disappear in their boats. We arranged many retreats for women and even an all night pirit at Parappuduwa, the pirit because the Dutch nun said there definitely was a presence (read ghost) at the far end of the island where her kuti was.

It was difficult to have meditators or nuns living on the island once the head monk of the Island Hermitage died, so Nuns’ Island was transferred to the monks in the adjoining hermitage.

A nun so pure

It was on visits to Parappuduwa, invited over by Ayya Khema, that we first got to know Ayya Vayama from Australia. She was young, she was slender and tall, and very willing to lend a hand to any task. Whether strong or not, whether justified or not, she was delegated all the chopping of branches of overgrown trees and carrying of water from the well to the dormitory and nuns’ kutis when the water pump broke down.

She moved away from Parappuduwa but always kept in touch with two friends and me. She decided to spend some time in the London Vihara and as a gesture of thanks to us three women, she arranged a tour of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. I will never forget the feeling that enveloped me as we sat on the rock opposite the Gal Vihara and gazed for two hours at the statues, our admiration and piety enhanced by the wonder of the companionship we shared.

It was on this visit that early one morning we went to the Ruwanveliseya and sat in quiet reflection – me, while the others soon were absorbed in their meditation. I heard a discussion by a group of pilgrims. "Aney aluth rupayak. Langadi hadala" This was repeated by a man in a group that came later with all his nade` agreeing. Had I missed a new statue? I opened my eyes and looked around. Nothing new. I then realized they had mistaken Ayya Vayama for a statue, seated very straight in her brown robe, meditating with not a muscle moving, even when surrounded and gazed at by the curious. She gave such a guffaw when I related the incident to her. She had been totally unaware of the comments made. That was Ayya Vayama, so human and so ready to laugh and enjoy a joke but able to lose herself completely in absorbed meditation.

She was invited by Ven. Brahmavamso to start a nunnery in Perth and she did that and is now head of a well run, well populated nun’s resort in Gidgegannup She lived for months in a trailer all alone in the forest while the first building was put up. Ajahn Vayama as she is now known, is very occupied with teaching, conducting retreats and supervising Dhammasara Nuns’ Monastery.

An aside in the nature of a grouse, with annoyance strictly controlled, is that one cannot meditate either in the maha maluwa of the Sacred Bo Tree nor in the precincts of the Ruwanveliseya because of the chanting by a kapurala in the former place and the mike shouted thanks to donors of money near the Stupa. However much we grouse this will not stop - this disturbing of the peace in these most holy of places. Money collection is the root of the disturbance.

When my mother increased her sil taking from the full moon poya to the others, there still was no meditation as it is practiced now. Her meditation was moving her fingers from one bead to another on her naagunawela while repeating that stanza that starts with atti atti. Maybe she succeeded in concentrating on the asubhas of the body. Conscripted to observe sil with her when I was young, I never could master this verse. My thoughts would roam to a better-than-usual lunch and how to escape Mother’s sharp eye and go play a game or get bullied by my brother who escaped the sil sessions. My third sister went one better. All garbed in white and seated on a mat, she studied the Holy Bible because she had a scripture test the next day!

Gratitude

On this Sunday of the Vesak weekend, my most felt emotion is gratitude. You sit or kneel near the bo tree in the temple premises and it is total gratitude to Him who gave us this wonderful Dhamma – His so practical Teaching. He was patient and understood full well the frailty of humans.

Gratitude to parents and elders who gave us life and living so we now can fully appreciate what they did for us.

Gratitude to Ayya Khema for her almost evangelical exposition of the benefits of meditation and how to get about it; to Ayya Vayama for her humaneness and understanding. She is a living demonstration that a truly good person with much equanimity within radiates, actually radiates a sense of such calm wellbeing and joy that one feels it when in her presence. Gratitude to my friends too, particularly the one who reaches jhanas (I presume; she never tells).

Gratitude to the late Ven Ratwatte Siddhartha who in lay life almost single-handedly got built the wonderful meditation retreat in Hindagala right on top of a hill, and to those like his wife and other teachers who continue to run Dhamma Kuta excellently so we who wish to get away from ordinary life and live a couple of days in a better state, can do so.

Feeling gratitude is a lovely feeling – warm if you are cold, cool if you are hot and bothered. So it’s not to worry if you cannot forget all about you and lose yourself in meditation. One lives and improves!!

10 05 2009 - The Sunday Island

 

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J9.20   Vinaya – rules and the Sangha

 D. Amarasiri Weeraratne

We are living in an era of crisis. It is an age of transition. In this world of change nothing is permanent. Anitya is a fundamental tenet in Buddhism. In this state of transiency we must strive to change for the better and not for the worse.

The Sangha is an order of monastics (monks and nuns) established by the Buddha for the continuance and longevity of the Sasana. He has proclaimed 215 rules for monks and 311 for nuns. These are called the Pratimoksha and is contained in the Vinaya Pitaka.

The Buddha in his wisdom envisaged future times when social, political and economic conditions would change. His monks would move forward from the wondering - ascetic stage to the monastic stage and from then to the sectrian stage. Therefore, he gave permission in the Maha Parinirvana Sutra for the monks at a future time to change certain rules in keeping with the spirit and ideals of his Dhamma-Vinaya. Those changes are to be adopted not according to the whims and fancies of influential individuals or groups. The changes must be brought forward by way of a motion by the Sangha leaders of a country, debated and adopted by a Sangha Council. Then it becomes binding on all.

We have the records of three Sangha-Councils held at Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya and Kandy held under the patronage of Kings Parakramabahu I, Parakramabahu II and Kirti Sri Rajasingha. These delincate the Sangha organisation, administration and discipline-maintenance of the times when the Kings were the defenders of the faith and executors of the decisions of the Sangha Council.

There was the Maha-sami (Primate), his council of elders, the heads of the village dwelling monks and forest monk orders. There were Provincial Nayakas and superiors of monastries like in Siam and Burma today. The chief monks in a temple had to train and be responsible for the good conduct of his pupil-monks. He has to train them, educate them, correct their faults and report recalcitrant erratic monks to his superiors. They will prescribe penalties according to Vinaya-law. The incorrigible are disrobed and sacked according to the gravity of their violations.

Upto the time of the last Sinhalese King the Sanga organisation functioned well earning the respect and esteem of the people. Vinaya-violators were rare, recruitment, training and discipline were very well done. Fellow monks boycotted incorrigible vinaya-violators.

In 1815, the King was betrayed into the hands of the British. With the King removed the Sasana lost its defender, protector and patrons. The Sangha was incapable of functioning without the authority of the King to give legal force to Sangha-decisions. Decisions of the Sangadi-karana (Ecclesiastical Courts) were flouted by miscreant monks. Then the Sangha became a free for all.

Monks could flout the Vinaya as they wished. There was no superior or monk-superior who could control them. In this state of confusion some monks went to Burma, got ordained there and formed two rival sects called Amarapura and Ramanna. They had their own Primates and Ecclesiastical Courts. These were as powerless as those of the Siamese Sect as their decisions were not upheld by the Civil Courts.

Just as much as the Amarapura and Ramanna Sects were established ignoring the protests of the Primate of the Siamese Sect at Malwatte, the Bhikkuni Order has been established ignoring the objections of the Mahanayaka triumvirate.

Bhikkus started taking to politics in response to a call by Rev. Walpola Rahula in his "Heritage of the Bhilkku". Today we see monks doing politics, marching in political demonstrations, burning the flags of USA, Norway, etc. and bringing the Sangha to disrepute.

We see monks advertising their professional trades in newspapers as astrologers, black-magicians, tour-conductors to India, ayurvedical practitioners and a host of other trades.

The three primates of the Siamese, Amarapura and Ramanna are helpless. They have no control or discipline in the selection, ordination, education and discipline in the Sangha. It is a free-for all. The sasana is in disarray.

Now the latest craze is temporary ordination. This practice is not allowed, authorised or permitted in the Vinaya. It was never practised in Sri Lanka at any time.

We have our own apostasies of casteism and monopoly of Sangika property by Viharadhipati monks. These apostasies are unknown in other Therawada lands. In addition to our own apostasies we are now taking over a Thai-Burmese apostasy of temporary ordination.

The vows taken at ordination are life-long and not temporary. However of amendments to the Vinaya are desired to accommodate temporary ordinations the monks at a Sangha-Council could so amend the Vinaya. They could then revise the Vinaya to allow handling of cash, travelling in motor vehicles, use of umbrellas, talking more than five words to unescorted women, possessing luxury items motor cars, TV, radio, refrigerators, etc.

Vinaya can be revised according to a procedure called "Satara Vinaya Apadana" enunciated by the Buddha. The subject can be brought up at a Sangha Council, the pros and cons discussed and a decision taken on the novel deviations proposed. This is the only Buddha authorised Vinaya way in dealing with novel practices which deviate from the 2540 year old Pratimoksha Rules of the Buddha.

The present practice followed is most unsatisfactory. It is harmful to the Sangha and the religion. When the first motor cars arrived in Ceylon and Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala was invited to travel in a car, he hesitated very much and would not travel without consulting the Sangha elders. They took a local decision which has now come to stay. Their decision was right, but they did not amend the Vinaya rule. So we have many Vinaya rules out of date impracticable and violated by monks daily. At a Sangha Conference in Taiwan Ven. Walpola Rahula advocated a revision of the Vinaya. He put his case eloquently. He earnestly appealed for the abolition of caste-observance in his sect - the Siamese Sect. It was ignored and the Vinaya rules are violated by not only by temporary ordinations, but by Sangha politics and the resort to lay professions and trades.

Therefore, what is necessary is a Council of Mahatheras selected from the three Sects for their learning and piety. All novelty problems like temporary ordinations, revival of Bhikkuni Sasana, salaried employment of monks, Sangha-politics can be referred to them for study and a ruling to be given in terms of the Dhamma-Vinaya. That decision should be given legal validity by the government.

Without some such arrangement the Sinhalese Sangha will be a herd of stray cattle, without a leader, leadership and discipline. That leads to the disappearance of Buddhism.

"Anayaka vinassanti — Nassanti bahu nayaka". The leaderless perish, so will those with multiple leadership.

May Sasana reforms be undertaken early by a united Sangha leadership! May the Sasana endure long — ciram thittathu sasanam!

island.lk/2003/08/19/

 

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