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If you develop love, truly great love, rid of the desire to hold and possess, that strong, clean love untarnished by lust, that love which does not expect to be repayed, that love which is firm but not grasping, enduring but not tied down, gentle and settled, diamond hard but unhurting, helpful but not interfering, cool and refreshing, giving more than taking, dignified but not proud, soft but not weak, that love which leads to enlightenment, then you will be washed of all ill will.

 Gurulugomi -12th Century Sri Lankan Poet



B1.01   Are we losing our humanity? - Vesak Lipi, Minuwangoda Potgul Vihara Publication.

B1.02   Path to mindfulness - Yet another issue of 'Vesak Lipi', the colourful bilingual Buddhist Digest...

B1.03   Vesak Lipi: Another collection of insightful essays

B1.04   A thought-provoking collection - A fine mix of articles for Vesak reading is once again found...

B1.05   Vesak Lipi Digest.Vol. 23 May/Vesak 2007 - Collection of views and commentaries on Buddhism

B1.06   Buddha Dhamma for global readership - Vesak Lipi Digest makes its 22nd appearance...

B1.07   One man's perspective on political monks - The Work of Kings; The new Buddhism in Sri Lanka...

B1.08   Ape Budhu Hamuduruwo - 'Ape Budhu Hamuduruwo' (Our Buddha) is a valuable Vesak gift for children...

B1.09   The Jewel of the Universe - An ideal Vesak gift: The English version of 'Ape Buduhamuduruwo'...

B1.10   Management lessons from Buddhist jataka stories - Training is to be considered an integral element...

B1.11   I go beyond - way beyond - The Healing Mind - 21st Century Buddhist Techniques

B1.12   A comparative study of the Pratimoksha - The Pratimoksha is the Buddhist code of monastic disciplinary rules...

B1.13   The Vesak Sirisara 2545/2001 - Buddhist Annual, sixty sixth issue...

B1.14   Bilingual Buddhist digest rich in content - In the month of Vesak (May) several publications of diversity come out...

B1.15   The flower of mankind - This is verse from Sir Edwin Arnold's famous poem...

B1.16   Promoting Buddhism in Europe - Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's 'The Necessity for Promoting Buddhism in Europe'

B1.17   Sumana-devi - The story of Sumanadevi or Samandevi appears in the ...

B1.18   A worthy endeavour - In 38 chapters, Dr. Ananda Guruge describes...

B1.19   Walking with the Buddha - Buddhist pilgrimages in India ...

B1.20   Fascinating tale of a monk - Record of Buddhist Kingdoms or 'The Travels of Fa-Hsien'...

B1.21   Karma and rebirth portrayed in English Novels - In this article I wish to survey the idea of rebirth...

B1.22   Women in the footsteps of the Buddha - In recent years the academic study...

B1.23   The Dhammapada - Gems of the Buddha's teachings...

B1.24   Ummagga Jatakaya for children - Jataka tales are extremely popular among ...

B1.25   Buddhist Psychotherapy - Insights gained by a large number of case studies of treatment of mental patients…

B1.26   Origin of species according to the Buddha - Professor Carlo Fonseka’s review of the above work...

B1.27   The Book of the Century - Nowadays we often find the Middle Way as expounded…

B1.28   Buddha's teachings and realities of modern life - The author of this little book or ' essay' is a god-fearing Anglican...

B1.29   Notes on Dhamma  - The ‘Notes’ was published as the first part of ‘Clearing the Path’…

B1.30   The Baby's Flesh - A young couple and their two-year-old child...

B1.31   Poems








Aloka Home

B1.01   Are we losing our humanity?

Vesak Lipi, Minuwangoda Potgul Vihara Publication.

"The Bodhisatva precepts state that if one kills and eats meat, this dries up the seeds of compassion of our self-nature. Our compassionate sensibilities wither. Then we become callous.

As we become callous, life becomes less and less dear to us. So it has been explained that the reason for much crime and war today is because the energy of killing and the karma of killing has reached horrendous proportions. We have then lost the all important compassionate awareness".

An article on 'Ahimsa' appearing in this year's 'Vesak Lipi', the bilingual Buddhist digest, reminds us not to hurt and not to kill. "Buddhism teaches love for all living beings.

This philosophy of Right Understanding and Right Living revolted against the low and debasing, inhuman and inhumane practice of animal sacrifice to gods which was prevalent in India during the time of Gotama Buddha. Wherever Buddhism spread, mercy and compassion followed, softening the hearts of mankind towards all beings and making them sensitive to pain.

"A noble king, Emperor Asoka of India had hospitals established for the care of sick animals. King Buddhadasa of Sri Lanka showed great mercy and love for animals. He was a skilful physician and was also a skilled veterinary surgeon."

Two pictures of the brutal slaughter of cattle accompanying the article make one sit up and think why such inhuman treatment should be meted out. Today such treatment is not limited to animals, it is also given to human beings.

Year in, year out 'Vesak Lipi' continues to provide valuable reading material during Vesak. Upali Salgado spends virtually the whole year planning, collecting, compiling and editing the articles. He ensures it's a worthwhile publication - a collector's item. This year is no exception.

The topics are timely and apt. The collection of English articles begins with an explanation of the Ten Perfections of the Bodhisatva quoting several Jataka stories to illustrate them. Discussing 'Buddha, the incomparable physician', Alec Robertson shows that "the Buddha is the peerless physician, the Supreme Dhamma is the medicine and the Sangha comprises those great and mighty beings who have completely uprooted the poisonous defilement of the mind and are the perfectly healed ones".

Well-known writers who are no more, get a place in 'Vesak Lipi'. Among them are Venerable Narada Maha Thera ( 'What is Kamma'), Piyadassi Nayaka Thera ('Buddhist Reflections on Death') and V. F. Gunaratne ('Four Noble Truths'). A host of other writers explain different aspects of Buddhism. Reba Lewis takes us on a conducted tour of 'a world wonder' — magnificent Borobudur.

The Sinhala section of 'Vesak Lipi' contains a good selection of topics. Medagama Dhammananda Thera has compiled sayings by Anagarika Dharmapala to illustrate the plight of the Sinhalese in the early part of the 20th century. So apt in the current context.

In a message to the youth in 1922, the Anagarika had said: "Two options are open to us. Either we should accept being slaves and allow our nation to be swept away. Or else we should launch a struggle to save the nation by protecting our values which are fast eroding.

"The Christians and Buddhists should unite and take steps to protect the Sinhala nation. Religion should not be a hindrance to patriotic deeds. What we need today is a band of dedicated men who can wake the Lankan people now in a slumber leading a half-dead life. We should regain the lost position in world history."

Photographs of some Buddhist patriots of the century remind us of the great service they have rendered for the upliftment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

The publication is well illustrated. The cover carries the Buddha image at the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

Putting together a publication of this nature, meant for free distribution, is indeed a meritorious deed. Many support the publication in numerous ways including small monetary contributions. - DCR

14 05 2000 - Sunday Times





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.02   Path to mindfulness

Yet another issue of 'Vesak Lipi', the colourful bilingual Buddhist Digest has come out well in time for this year's Vesak. It is one of the few Vesak annuals which has maintained an unbroken record of continuous publication. This year's is the 17th issue and editor/compiler Upali Salgado has once again given us plenty of reading matter with a fine collection of Sinhala and English articles.

The search for meaningful articles had made the editor browse through earlier published material by well known writers. Bhikkhu Kassapa, for instance, discusses 'What are we - and whither bound?', questions which have troubled thinkers of all ages. "Just as a chemist confronted with a crystal of sodium-chloride will say 'this is sodium-chloride," and will assume nothing more about that crystal beyond what he can test and demonstrate, the Buddha says -'this man, this animal, is matter ('rupa') and mind ('nama'). There is nothing more, nothing less to him than just that, mind and matter ('nama-rupa'). Mind is put first because it is all important," he explains.

Incidentally, many may not remember that it was Bhikkhu Kassapa (formerly Dr. Cassius A. Pereira) who founded 'The Servants of the Buddha' on April 16,1921.

Presenting the 'Importance of Mindfulness', Ven. Piyadassi explains how right mindfulness helps us sharpen powers of observation and assists right thinking and understanding. Orderly thinking and reflection is conditioned by man's right mindfulness or awareness. It is instrumental not only in bringing concentrative calm but in promoting right living. It is an essential factor in all our actions both worldly and spiritual.

Ven. Narada's 'What is it that is reborn?' is among several articles on 'Death and to the other side'. This series includes 'Reflection on death' by Ven. Weragoda Saradha, 'The only way to have a good death' by E. M. G. Edirisinghe, 'Those terrifying ghosts' by Egerton Baptist, 'Facing death with a smile' by Raja Kuruppu and short story titled 'The gallows' by Dr. R. L. Soni. A good editing job has been done to present what originally would have been long articles to concise ones.

Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda in an article titled 'The Noble Path to Follow', while explaining the four Noble Truths highlights the dangers of craving. The writer describes craving as "a fire which burns in all beings" and says that every activity is motivated by desire.

"They range from the simple physical desire of animals to the complex and often artificially stimulated desires of the civilized man. To satisfy desire, animals may prey upon one another, and human beings fight, kill, cheat, lie and perform various forms of unwholesome deeds.

Craving is a powerful mental force present in all forms of life and is the chief cause of the ills in life. It is craving that leads to repeated births in the cycle of existence".

With increasing interest in meditation, 'Vesak Lipi' carries a list of some better known meditation centres in Sri Lanka. A pictorial feature in colour introduces the reader to one such place - Kanduboda, 'where monks paddle their own canoe to freedom'. This is a feature that should be continued in each issue.

Working through the year, editor Salgado plans the publication well ahead of Vesak and keeps on improving both its contents and presentation every year. More colour pages, beautifully printed by Softwave Printing & Packaging adorn the current issue. The cover features the Buddha as seen at the Mulagandhikuta Vihare, Saranath, where the Buddha preached His first sermon.

As the book is opened, the reader is treated to a very artistic old Burmese painting, also in colour, depicting the birth of Prince Siddhartha in the Sal grove at Lumbini.

It is encouraging to see that donors continue to support 'Vesak Lipi' which has a readership in over 20 countries in the world. It is distributed free and is sent to nearly 400 school and public libraries throughout the country.


06 05 2001 - Sunday Times





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.03   Vesak Lipi: Another collection of insightful essays

Vesak Lipi', the 18th annual issue of the Buddhist Digest in English and Sinhala compiled and edited by Upali Salgado contains many articles on Buddhism and presents the philosophy of the Buddha to the layman.

The digest which contains photographs, religious stanzas, verses commending Lord Buddha's compassion and essays on the Dhamma by renowned priests is a publication of the Minuwangoda Potgul Vihara.

The book focuses on Abhidamma and various different aspects of Buddhism, a philosophy which has been 2546 years upon this earth. Funded entirely by meritorious offerings, the book has several colour photographs depicting Buddha statues, temples and chaityas of Sri Lanka.

The first essay in the collection is by the Most Venerable Agga Maha Panditha Madihe Pannaseeha Mahanayake Thera and is titled the 'Unequalled and Most Supreme Social Worker'.

Other essays are on the Pattica Sammupadaya and the Maithri Bhavana by Parama Pujya Heenatiyana Dhammaloka Tissa Mahanahimi and on pirith by the incumbent of the Mettaramaya Temple, Ven. Sirisumana Himi.

An essay titled "Buddhist View of Mind and Body" by Panduka Mahanama, a teacher of Abhidammma and an article explaining Buddhists' reliance on astrology has been written by D. Kulathilake, who has himself studied the science of astrology.

Songs of reverence have also been included in this Vesak issue, which contains poems regarding the thrice blessed day of Vesak and the Nava Guna Gatha extolling the nine great virtues of the Buddha.

One picture depicting the Bodhisatva's search for enlightenment is presented with a caption explaining the very meaning of this moment in the ultimate realisation.

Much of the contents are thought provoking. "The entire Dhamma rests on three foundations. Sila (purity of conduct) Samadhi (Tranquillity) and Panna (Insightful wisdom)," writes Asoka Devendra in his essay the Pancha Sila (Five Precepts).

"There are no bad people, only bad qualities" is a statement by the Most Ven. Nyanatiloka Maha Thera of the island hermitage Dodanduwa quoted in this book which sheds light on various aspects of Buddhist philosophy.

In a chapter titled 38 Blessings, the Mangala Sutta, it is stated, 'In the Buddhist sense a "blessing" is not something given by a divine being, rather a state of well-being or happiness that arises within oneself, when one leads a righteous life, maintaining human dignity in a pleasant environment.'

Photographs depicting 'jathi', 'jara', 'marana' - birth, decay and death, establish the inescapability of this cycle, except through the path to Nirvana, where 'dhana', 'seela' and 'bhavana' stand as landmarks on the correct path.

The Vesak Digest holds many hours of insightful reading including a debate on premature death, the Taliban onslaught on Buddha images, and an essay on the subject of "The Coming Buddha".

The book will be distributed free of charge to school libraries. Donations are welcome from persons who wish to contribute towards publishing and distributing this book. Only cheques should be sent in favour of the account "Vesak Lipi", address - Compiler/Editor "Vesak Lipi" 29 Deal Place (A), Colombo 3.

Those who make donations will receive a copy of the book.

26 05 2002 - Sunday Times





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.04   A thought-provoking collection

A fine mix of articles for Vesak reading is once again found in 'Vesak Lipi' published for the 19th successive year. The mix offers a choice to the reader from light articles to fairly heavy material.

The 'Eight Meritorious Acts', for example offers the reader a practical approach to "yield great and substantial merit which enables us to attain the cherished goal of Nirvana". Pannala Sumedha Thera identifies the eight acts and explains them in detail. The eight are offering Kathina Cheevara (robe offered after 'Vas') Astha Pariskara (Atapirikara - the eight objects used by a monk), Avasa Dana (offering a residence), Sanghika Dana (alms to monks), Dhamma dana (publication of the Dhamma), offering of land, Patima Karana (constructing a shrine room for purposes of veneration by devotees) and providing needs for sanitation like building toilets for the Sangha.

This year's 'Vesak Lipi' introduces the reader to Jataka tales - birth stories of the Buddha in His past lives related to the disciples, mostly while residing at Sravasthi (Jetavana monastery). Explaining their significance, the editor says that the noble thoughts chiselled in creating these wonderful stories have for generations been told and retold to inspire the world of man with high ethics, bringing out the Buddhist outlook of dana (giving), compassion and endurance. The Vessantara Jataka and the Kurunga Miga Jataka (about three clever friends) have been included.

Buddhist scholar Raja Kuruppu discusses how to overcome pain in the Buddhist way. He reminds how in Myanmar, a meditation master underwent a hernia operation without an anaesthetic and how meditating monks have their teeth extracted without painkillers. He says that one could have relief from physical pain by engaging in 'anapanasati' - the meditation on in and out breathing which calms the mind.

"Buddhism deals with 'dukkha', the unsatisfactory nature of life. Pain is included under 'dukkha' which is explained as old age, disease, decay, death, suffering, lamentation, pain, grief, not getting what one wants, parting from loved ones and being compelled to associate with the disliked. So pain is part of life. One cannot do away with pain but one could wisely understand pain, accept it as a part of life and fully or partially relieve the pain by wise attention and meditative concentration of the minds", he says.

Among other well thought out articles are 'Thoughts on Nibbana' by Professor P. D. Premasiri, (see box) 'Gods in the life of a Buddhist' by E.M.G. Edirisinghe, 'Hells and Heavens in Buddhism' by A.G.S. Kariyawasam and 'The Validity of the Buddhist approach to reality' by Professor Emeritus Carlo Fonseka.

Editor Upali Salgado profiles 'Admirable Buddhist Women (1910-1950) and includes Helena Wijewardene of Sedawatta, Mrs. Jeremias Dias of Panadura, Mallika Hewavitarana of Matara, Lady Sarah Soysa of Kandy, Lady Evadne de Silva, Mrs. H.M. Gunasekera and Constance Gunasekera of Colombo, and Catherine de Silva from Moratuwa in the list.

Touching on overseas Buddhist activities, Dr. Lorna Dewaraja writes on links between Sri Lanka and Myanmar. There is also mention of the services rendered by Asoka Weeraratne and the German Dharmaduta Society.

The story on the brutal slaughter of cattle with photographs taken on the spot will move the reader. So would Mallika Wanigasundera's 'story of great compassion' relating the efforts by Atambaskada Kalyanatissa Thera in Vavuniya looking after orphaned Tamil children. She also mentions the services rendered by the leading social welfare organization, 'Success' in helping this project.

This handy Buddhist digest has been a bilingual publication all these years. This year compiler/editor Upali Salgado has published two separate issues - one in English and the other in Sinhala.

Both are distributed free and will be enjoyed by anyone wanting to spend the Vesak season reading and contemplating.

11 05 2003 - Sunday Times





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.05   Collection of views and commentaries on Buddhism

Vesak Lipi Digest.Vol. 23 May/Vesak 2007.

A Minuwangoda Potgul Maha Vihara Publication. Compiled and edited By Upali Salgado. Reviewed by C.A. Gunawardhana.

Despite the advances in the technology of computer aided printing, the publishing of a Digest of this nature, we all agree, is a difficult task. One must be mindful of the fact that one has to gather material for publication; in this process, the respective contributors have to be invited to write, and such requests, more often than not, have to be followed up with gentle persuasion. The fact that Upali Salgado has succeeded in continuing this exercise for the 23rd year in succession during both good and bad times has to be admired.

The 23rd issue of Vesak Lipi has already been released and is an excellent digest that contains thought provoking articles on Buddhism. The contributions cover a wide range of subjects, in both prose and verse and for the most part are expressions made out of devotion. They indeed inspire the reader, and in simple and lucid language open out the intricacies in the doctrine.

To adorn the cover of the book Upali Salgado has chosen a photograph of a beautiful marble Buddha head image. It is described as one of the Gandhara period of the 1st century BC. It shows the Greek influence in Buddhist art of the period that was in present day Pakistan. This picture speaks of the lost Buddhist civilization which in the distant past covered the whole continent.

It is no exaggeration to say that this is one of the better compilations where some of the more difficult issues in the doctrine are discussed. Many of the contributors are well known exponents of the Dhamma. Valuable contributions made by Prof. Emeritus Y. Karunadasa Ph.D., Prof. P.D. Premasiri of the Peradeniya University, Ajaan Cha of Thailand, Ven. Dr. Pathegama Gnanarama Thera, Ph.D. of Singapore, by the Editor himself, and poems written by Irene Abeyesekera and Chandra Gunasekara enhance the value of this publication. Editor Salgado must be commended for putting together the compendium in a logical, easy-to-read, and illustration-rich text. The book covers some of the more pressing and important topics of Buddhism.

The publication of Buddhist literature in the two languages is an onerous task. The business aspects of it are well known. The costs incurred in typesetting, procuring of colour plates, printing and finally the distribution of the book, here in Sri Lanka as well as overseas can be quite expensive. However, Upali Salgado has a large number of devoted friends and well wishers who subscribe to and fund his mission. One of the more outstanding achievements of this publication is, that part of the subscriptions has been channelled for numerous charities. The maintenance of a 15 bed ward (No. 69) at the General Hospital, Kandy, is one such cause. The specialized ward for kidney transplants was set up by the readers of Vesak Lipi in 2004. The more recent donations, made this year, included furniture, and appliances such as refrigeration equipment for the storage of vaccines etc.

Overall, Vesak Lipi is an interesting Digest that should be read by all Buddhists and those interested in Buddhism, irrespective of their religious convictions.

(Copies of Vesak Lipi could be obtained by contacting the Editor at 29, Deal Place, Colombo 3)

29 04 2007 Sunday Times





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.06    Buddha Dhamma for global readership

Vesak Lipi Digest, May 2006

Review: Chamali Kariyawasam

The brainchild of Upali Salgado, Vesak Lipi makes its 22nd appearance this year coinciding with the 2550th year of Buddha Jayanthi.

A bilingual Buddhist Digest published annually in memory of the Most Venerable Heenatiyane Dhammaloka Tissa Mahanayaka Thera who passed away in 1982, it contains a pot-pourri of articles by both Bhikkhus and scholars.

Vesak Lipi is artfully edited to maintain the fine balance of discerning yet uncomplicated reading on Buddhism.

Both the Sinhalese and English sections are diligent in their aim of providing clarity into the deep philosophy and belief system of Buddhism and are equally thought provoking.

The Sinhalese section contains interesting reading on a relatively narrower scope than the English section, nonetheless dealing with diverse topics such as oblation in the Buddhist context, meditation as a curative and Buddhist perspectives on environmentalism.

The English section of the digest warrants special mention as to the erudite quality of articles. Writings of the late Professors W.S. Karunaratne, G.P. Malalasekera and K.N. Jayatillaka made superb contemporary reading.

These articles stood out in their simplicity and provided strong insights into perspectives of the Buddha Dhamma on impermanence and concept of self, Karuna and wisdom and attitude towards other religions.

I enjoyed reading the article by Upali Salgado titled "A web of stories around some Buddha images". The collection of short excerpts on a number of images found in India, modern Pakistan, Myanmar, Java and Sri Lanka are descriptive, observant and evocative.

The article also contains amongst others, striking photographs of a Gandhari Buddha-head and an elegant image of the Mulagandhikuta, Saranath. Rajitha Werakoon's "Controversy over Sigiri rekindled" is a must read given its unorthodox assessment.

Vesak Lipi is a bona fide publication funded solely by donations from the faithful to cover printing costs. The editor directs surplus funds to the Kidney Transplant Unit of the General Hospital in Kandy promoting the dual Buddhist vision of Dhamma and Saukhya Dane.

The magazine which currently boasts a 5,000 strong readership in eight countries is warmly received undoubtedly due to its persuasive yet temperate brilliance.

Upali Salgado's quest in providing the magazine's global readership with inspiring reading on the Buddha Dhamma is indeed commendable.

Donors may obtain copies of Vesak Lipi digest (No. 22) from the compiler/editor at 29 Deal Place (A), Colombo 03 after 1 p.m.

12 05 2006 - Daily News 





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.07    One man's perspective on political monks

H. L. Seneviratne

The Work of Kings; The new Buddhism in Sri Lanka

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, xiii+ 358 pp

This book deciphers the interventions of bhikkhus in the socio-political processes of Lanka over the last 70 years. In these activities the monks take on the work of kings, a role that the nationalist reformer Anagarika Dharmapala advocated during the colonial period as essential for national regeneration. Seneviratne identifies two streams of activity, the one typically associated with the monks of Vidyodaya (VYO) and the other with the monks of Vidyalankara (VL).

The VL line was governed by pragmatic economic activity at the grass- roots seeking village uplift and stressing a monkish lifestyle of minimal consumption and spiritual guidance to the laity.

In contrast the VYO position was 'ideological' and called for 'social service' in a way that catered to middle class desires and has eventually resulted in the secularisation of the monks. Both are said to have been inspired by the thinking of Dharmapala who was, in turn, influenced by the models provided by Christian organisations in the course of his sturdy opposition to Christian expansion. Such inspirations notwithstanding, the VYO and VL monks explicitly argued against each other in the 1940s.

Seneviratne maps an urban/rural distinction unto this divergence and his book suggests that the line of emphasis advocated by the VO monks has secured primacy from 1956 onwards, enabling many bhikkhus to indulge in personal aggrandisement and partisan political work under the cover of social service.

Above all, it has resulted in the degeneration of Buddhism towards an intolerant chauvinism that has shed the accommodative, pluralist forms of pre-colonial Lanka. As such, many monks are 'conquered by the ideologies of ethno-religious hegemony' (p. 347), namely that of Sinhala Buddhism.

This is both an intellectual and moral failure.

Seneviratne's book, then, can be applauded because it is a personal political intervention that directs sharp criticisms at the 'political monk' embodied in such a figure as Walpola Rahula *Thera*. This type of monk makes the world into a monastery (pp. 335-7).

Even though Seneviratne's approach is by no means Marxist, 'ideology' is used in the old-fashioned and narrow Marxist sense. In this usage 'ideology' is a weapon of disparagement, an accusation levelled at the VL-type of monk for straying from the exemplary role demanded of bhikkhus by lay Buddhists as well as orthodox texts.

Seneviratne's research is strengthened by the use of rich source material in the Sinhala language, including diaries, virtually all of it untapped before. His prose is lucid and unaffected by post-modernist pretensions, while his translations are exquisite.

The method of exposition is that of a detailed intellectual biography of the influential monks advocating these programmes. His heroes are the VYO monks exemplified by such individuals as Hendiyagala Silaratana and Kalukondayave Pannasekhara.

Clearly, then, there is a preference for the Gandhian pastoral and the exemplary Buddhist role model.

At one point, in detailing the programmatic statement of one of the pragmatic monks, Seneviratne describes it as 'not theory at all but a practical guide', one directed by the 'basic idea of self-help' and the picture of 'numerous, decentralised, self-contained and self-sufficient village communities' (pp. 126-7).

To those of us who have broader conceptions of ideology, there may be some difficulty in accepting this policy as non-ideological, but that does not make Seneviratne's data any less fascinating.

Seneviratne's work is also marked by parsimony. The theoretical engagement is mostly devoted to an engagement with Max Weber's misleading ideal typical characterisations of Buddhism. In this sense the book is an exploration of the relationship between religiosity and the mundane world.

In its broad ethnographic thrust it also elaborates Tambiah's contention that a fetishization of the Buddhist religion has occurred in Sri Lanka as a result of colonial and post-colonial processes.

Parsimony also characterises Seneviratne's engagement with the considerable literature on religion and politics in Lanka. In the absence of a bibliography, one has to rely on the citations to evaluate his interests.

These suggest that he found the works of such individuals as Phadnis, Kearney, Kapferer and K. M. de Silva, among others, to be of little value.

These leanings encourage lacunae, especially in the delineation of the historical backdrop of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

'Village uplift' had many advocates and agencies (often mushroom) and may not have been Dharmapala's brainchild (p.59).

There is a considerable literature that would call into question his passing dismissal of the constitutional reform movement of the late British period for 'its slavish acceptance of imperialism' (p.134).

Ironically, the latter aspersion was a conventional shibboleth popularised in the mid-twentieth century by individuals such as Rahula as a means of boosting the political aspirations of the Left parties.

11 06 2006 - Sunday Observer





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.08   The ideal Vesak gift – Ape Budhu Hamuduruwo

 Damayanthi Jayakody, Dayawansa Jayakody and Company, Colombo.

Soon it will be Vesak. Many will send Vesak greetings to their friends and relations. Bookshops and makeshift stalls on either side of the road in most towns will be full of Vesak cards. There will also be several Vesak publications - 'annuals' as they are called — ideal for reading this season.

'Ape Budhu Hamuduruwo' (Our Buddha) written by Damayanthi Jayakody is a valuable Vesak gift for children, as she presents the virtues of the Buddha in the most absorbing and arresting manner. She analyses the qualities of the Buddha as described in the Salutation to the Buddha - 'Iti pi so Bhagava Araham Samma a simple and readable way.

"When we believe in the great qualities of the Buddha, we develop a feeling of devotion in our minds. As we become more pious, we get used to doing more and more meritorious deeds. Just as we make beautiful garlands by gathering flowers, gathering merit is also a beautiful thing. Piety brings us wisdom. Our minds become clean and begin to glitter." The writer creates the initial interest in the mind of the child and proceeds to explain the Buddha's qualities one by one.

She uses short sentences, which help the little reader to grasp the facts with the least possible effort. Her style of writing is simple and clear.

The book is interesting because she cleverly mixes incidents and episodes from the Buddha's life and links them with her main task of discussing the qualities of the Buddha. Well-known tales from the past lives of the Buddha are related.

She convinces the reader of the need to follow the teachings of the Buddha and lead a happy life.

"It's bad to drink intoxicants. In this way, we respect the Buddha, we pay obeisance to Him. He is fit to be worshipped. The 'devas' worship Him. We humans worship him. Because of His quality 'Arahan'."

The book is well illustrated. Full-page colour photographs and drawings fit into the topic discussed. The print quality is excellent and the use of big letters and spacing of sentences are bound to make the young reader happy. It's easy to read.


14 05 2000 - Sunday Times





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.09   'The Jewel of the Universe' - An ideal Vesak gift

When we believe in the virtues of the Buddha, our minds develop confidence - Saddha. When confidence increases, the mind goes in search of merit. Collecting a lot of merit is as beautiful as colleting flowers to make a garland. Morality helps to develop wisdom. This is the essence of Veronica Damayanthi Jayakody's 'The Jewel of the Universe', the English version of 'Ape Buduhamuduruwo' which she wrote sometime back. Targeting mainly the younger generation, the book describes in simple language the nine great qualities of the Buddha.

"Buddhahood is not a painting. It is not a statue made out of rock and cement. It is also not Siddhartha Gautama's body with flesh and blood. The Buddha once told Vakkali Thero, 'It serves no purpose to look at my decaying body. The Buddha can be seen through His Dhamma'.

This statement has a deep meaning. The Dhamma is shapeless and colourless. The Buddhahood seen through His Dhamma too does not have a figure or colour. It can only be experienced by the mind, writes Venerable Bellana Gnanawimala Nayaka Thero in his preface to the book. Thus the book is an attempt to explain the Dhamma in a manner easily understood by the young mind.

The stanza explaining the nine great qualities of the Buddha beginning 'Itipiso Bhagawa' is one stanza recited by each and every Buddhist immediately after observing 'Pan Sil'. It serves as a constant reminder of the great personality of the Buddha. Every child learns the stanza by heart and recites it regularly. The book offers clear explanations of each quality enabling the young reader to get a lucid picture. The stanza now becomes more meaningful since he understands it. 'Budu Guna' - the great qualities of the Buddha thus get entrenched in the mind. It helps one to increase one's piety while getting to know the Dhamma.

The text ends with the often quoted stanza 'Sabba Papassa Akaranam.....'
The giving up of all evil
The cultivation of the good
The cleansing of one's mind
This is the Buddha's teaching.

26 05 2002 - Sunday Times





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.10   Management lessons from Buddhist jataka stories  

K. A. I. Kalyanaratne 

Training is to be considered an integral element of the all encompassing managerial component of human resources management. It is for this reason that when the monarch of the time sought the advice of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, as what more should be done for the populace, after having fed, provided shelter and clothing and education to them, he said to train them, and to train them more and more.

This short historical dialogue heightens the importance and efficacy of training in a nation's forward march to achieve its aspirations.

However, for seeds of training to germinate and to bring about healthy results, it is best that wherever and whenever the circumstances permit, to implant training activities on native soil. This approach brings about a strong sense of nativity and that the concepts that are being taught and deliberated are based on familiar climes.

From among the numerous training methods that are being employed by the trainers, the method that could be conveniently placed on a native footing is the case study method.

A case study is a record of a real or fictitious situation, including the surrounding facts, opinions and prejudices, given to trainees to analyse and discuss. It may deal with one event or with a situation involving several events.

It may be presented as a written oral narration and on film, filmstrip or slides. Case studies can be employed for the trainees to gain analytical skills and to provide an insight into the logical decision-making processes.

Another advantage of this method of training is that trainees can draw upon experience and exercise skills which are used in their work without incurring real risk.

In short, case studies are an effective training method for the trainees to gain 'experiential learning' in supervisory management training for dealing with such concepts as authority and responsibility.

Apart from the inspiration of the Bodhisatva ideal, the jataka stories have such an appeal that they have entered into the life of the people. In a society where there were no novels - romances or short stories, the jataka stories took their place. Even today the Jataka tales are very popular among the folk.

The jataka stories have an added virtue of depicting the vagaries of human behaviour, and it would thus provide a fertile base for any study relating to analysing human behaviour.

Understanding human nature is central to the management of organisational behaviour, as managements would not exist sans their human element. In defining organisations, it has now gained ground that 'staff is the organisation'.

Therefore, the impact of human behaviour on the corporate image of an organisation and vice versa, is inseparable/intertwined.

The jataka stories depicting human behaviour, in different environs, would thus provide a sound launching pad for gaining experiential learning especially with regard to understanding how people behave in different circumstances.Managements need to understand why people behave as they do. To get things done through other people, you have to know why they engage in certain characteristic behaviours.

The Guttila Kavyaya can be singled out from the rest of the classical Sinhala poems, due to the unlaboured and free flow of its poetry.

The musical contest will illustrate the poet's (Monk Wettewe) genius in the choice of natural imagery, and his skills in the use of words.

The base and basis of the Guttila Kavyaya is the Jathaka story highlighting the human ingratitude, and the most quoted lines are from the soliloquy of the Bodhisatva when he reflected on the action of Musila in challenging him to contest.

To narrate in a nutshell the Jathaka story, Guttila the royal musician was once requested by his parents to teach the art to Musila.

Although Guttila read Muslia's character by studying his body signs, he obliged by teaching the art of music, not withholding any knowledge, even if Guttila was to be surpassed by Musila, his pupil.

It is hereupon that the story rises to its ludicrous heights. Musila requests his teacher to introduce him to the king and seek his approval to serve as an additional musician at the King's Court.

The King, conveying his decision said that he would deploy Musila, but at half the salary that was paid to Guttila. When Guttila said this to Musila, he argued as to why he should be paid less, when he was an competent as the teacher.

When the King heard this, he said, "if he displayed his competence to the same degree, he would also be made a payment commensurate to his skills." This is how the musical contest between Guttila the teacher and Musila, his pupil, was brought about.

Guttila, knowing well Musila's prowess in music and thinking of the impending defeat at the hands of the pupil, entered the forest.

It was at this stage the Chief God, Sakra, came to Guttila's rescue by divine intervention.

The advice given was to break the strings of his lyre one by one and the throw up the three pills given by Sakra, to get nine hundred divine nymphs to descend and dance to the tune of Guttila's lure.

With the breaking of the strings, Guttila's lyre would continue to produce music full of melody even more agreeable to the ear. Musila, following suit, would only have a dumb, stringless lyre.

The ultimate results were as any one would guess; Musila, defeated at the contest, was ridiculed, stoned, assaulted and thrown out (of the city).

It we take the three characters: - the King, Guttila and Musila as the Leader, Supervisor (Manager) and Employee, respectively, it would definitely be thought provoking to analyze and assess the duties/responsibilities of the three characters vis-a-vis their attitudes and behaviour.

(a) Was it becoming of a teacher to harbour ill-conceived notions against his pupil?

(b) How proper was Musila's demand for equal pay, when he lacked maturity, service, experience and correct altitude (to serve in the King's Court?)

(c) is competency the only/sole criticism to be considered for any appointment or salary placement or promotion?

(d) Guttila's incompetence and failure, in not making Musila aware of the credentials necessary to serve in the King's Court.

(e) The King's motive of directly conducting a contest and indirectly holding a festivity for sheer merry-making of his-self and the township?

The above are only a few queries that could clearly be raised out of the given narration.

It is also extremely clear that none of the three characters were mindful of the consequences to their actions and reactions; and all were driven by selfish objectives.

The jathaka story, so narrated appears to be simple; it nevertheless contains a deep philosophy a well-accomplished Manager would analyze and interpret, as so many lessons could be accrued for experimental learning of budding managers; and for anyone interested in Management.

Such an episode would, for certain, raise issues on matters of vital importance to management; some of these being: - Counselling and Grievance Handling; Crisis Management; Conflict Management: Communication; Leadership; Negotiating; Problem Solving and decision Making and Valuing People.

Mishandling of the issues, at every turn, had brought about the misfortune of losing a valuable asset; viz. Musila, a clever and young musician, to the community.

Isn't the Guttila - Musila story, therefore, an apt case-study, for all those engaged in analytical deliberations, to gain Managerial Competence? It will also produce an enjoyable session, as these stories are much closer to our hearts and souls.

(The writer is Head-Human Resources and Administration, Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka)

The Island - 12 Jan 02





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Articles Index

B1.11   "I go beyond - way beyond"

Book - "The Healing Mind - 21st Century Buddhist Techniques"

Author- Ven. Dr. Kevin O' Neil

The above statement, originally from the Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra in the Buddhist canons, is one of the Mind-Training Principles that is from the brand new release of the book. 'The Healing Mind - 21st Century Buddhist Techniques' that is debuting here in its first special edition in Sri Lanka, and translated into contemporary English. The reason for that is because its co-author, Professor Jon Bono has been living for the past year at the Sri Raina Vihara monastery in Kelaniya, Sri Lanka while doing further research here and shaping the material for the book from his Grandmaster teacher, the Ven. Dr. Kevin O'Neil's vast master meditation files of the past decades, as part of completing his doctoral university thesis. This 'statement' of "I go beyond, way beyond" - is more than an 'affirmation' as are many such others labelled in the 'new age' of psychology and spirituality - but becomes in itself the 'goal' - to go 'beyond' - to surpass one's own current limitations and present concepts of usual thinking - to incorporate the vastness and wonders of the universe.

The central author of the book, 'The Healing Mind', the Ven. Dr. Kevin O'Neil, is a highly attained Buddhist and healing Chi Gong Master who is quite well-known in the New York area of the United States where he is also serving as the United Nations NGO representative for Buddhists in that city of all origins. 'The Healing Mind' is quite synchronous with our new millennium of '2001', and the healing mind concepts in science, psychologies, and of course Buddhist philosophies and practices which this book emphasizes with its ultimate 'self-help' Mind-Principles that are meant for meditating upon for one's own personal emancipation.  

Grandmaster O'Neil and Professor Bono have assimilated a modern format that is much more accessible to begin with and to use on a daily basis than many other forms of traditional meditation. One of their aims for the book, was also to begin to appeal to a younger audience in our societies that is wanting information on Buddhist and Eastern philosophies and viewpoints, without overwhelming them with too much of an academic approach and abstractness. Hence, along with the handy, 'Introduction to Classical Buddhist" Terms in the beginning of the book, the 'Mind-Training Principles' practice section then follow along with specific 'line-drawings' by local Keliniyan artist, Vincent Liyanage on every other page, that illustrate some of the major 'psyche-statements' that are in easily readable verse-form. (The cover-art by international artist Gunasiri Kolambage also symbolizes the books future-looking direction as well).  

The Foreword, by Professor Bono also explains some of the 'philosophy' behind this modern '21st Century Approach' to solving problems in our everyday lives with its practical method of meditations, and also hints at some of their originations from ancient India, which are also to be written about in later publications under this same series of "21st Century Buddhism".

Since this book, 'The Healing Mind' is also meant to be a meditation 'practice-booklet', in the 'Introduction' section and the 'How To, Practice the Mind-Training' page, we are also shown specific techniques on how to use these principles of training the mind. We are given advice and encouragement on how best to use the practices for attaining one's goals, and also an explanation of what the unique 'Buddha-Mind' state that one strives for, actually contains. We are also informed that although the 'Mind-training principles' may look like 'poetry', they are not, but are rather more like revolving mind-changing psyche-imprints that when repeated often enough and in certain ways, will definitely invoke mental, spiritual and eventual physical changes within one's being.

'The Healing Mind - 21st Century Buddhist Techniques' - makes for a convenient and useful information-filled self-help guide-book of the ultimate Buddhist view and means, which aim to deeply heal both our individual psyches and that of our societies.

Ven. Grandmaster O'Neil's vast background includes being a Holistic Pyschologist and a Grand Master of Martial Arts and Buddhist and Chi Gong Healing Arts, who is the main founder of the 'School of Enlightenment', and the 'American Buddhist Movement' with its headquarters in New York City/USA. He currently lives in that city with his wife and four children, where he serves as the Buddhist representative to the United Nations.

Professor Jon Bono is a senior student of Grandmaster O'Neil and has his B. A. and M. A. in Buddhist Comparative Studies/East-West psychologies, and the arts of cinema and English literature, and is also a screen writer within the Los Angeles film-industry where he is currently working on an adaptation of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's classic Sri Lankan-based novel, "The Fountains of Paradise" for film.

The following quotations about 'The Healing mind - 21st Century Buddhist Techniques' from several prominent professors, doctors, and monks of Sri Lanka (where the book was shaped into its final form, translated into contemporary English and originally printed by Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha Press) sums up it's a bit of its world-view, content, and purposeful aim:

"I have read 'The Healing Mind - 21st Century Buddhist Techniques' very carefully and I'm already practicing some exercises! I've often called myself a 'Crypto-Buddhist'. Maybe I should now strike out the 'Crypto'. Here's an additional copy for the book. 'You have time for everything."

Sir Arthur C. Clarke

The Island - 14 Jun 01 





Personalities History

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B1.12   A comparative study of the Pratimoksha

by Dr. P. Pachow - Published by Motilal Banarsidas Ltd. Delhi p. 240

D. Amarasiri Weeraratne

The Pratimoksha is the Buddhist code of monastic disciplinary rules governing the conduct of monks and nuns. It was promulgated by the Buddha on various occasions out of necessity. This book discusses the historical, cultural, religious and social issues in ancient India in relation to the rationale of formulating the various rules, depending on the special circumstances, some of the rules may be enforced or suspended. The Buddhist Sangha has the authority to impose punishment in offences. These range from expulsion to sanctions, probation, penance, forfeiture, confession and repentance. The Buddha effectively enforced the code of Pratimoksha discipline by directing the recitations at the fortnightly Vinaya ceremonies called uposatha vinaya karma. The sangha may attain parity of their seela, and spiritual liberation by following this practice.

This study has made an extensive comparison of the various Vinaya texts of the different sects in Buddhism, viz. Theravada, Sarvastivad, Dharmagupta, Mahisasaka etc. in Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese and Tibetan languages. It shows how in a period of several centuries this code has expanded from 215 rules in the Maha Sangika to 263 in the Sarvastivada. When we consider the texts from the historical point of view we can better understand the significance of the legal, social and religious life of the Buddhist Sangha.

The Bhikkuni Vibhanga was the Vinaya book pertaining to Nuns. It should have been left in the care of the Bhikkunis as it was their concern. However we find that even Arahant Bhikkunis proficient in the Vinaya were not admitted to the first council or the two subsequent councils that detracted and fixed the vinaya. Thus the monks had a free hand in concocting anti-feminist rules such as the Ashta Garu Dharma (Eight Strict Rules) and adapting them as Buddha decrees behind the back of the nuns. According to them the Buddha was reluctant to admit women to his order. He feared that would shorten its existence, and made some excuses in promulgating the Ashta Garu Dharma which entrench male chauvinism and anti feminism in the Sangha.

Nuns were subject to the legal authority of the monks. The monks framed laws for them, conducted the trial, admonished the guilty and declared the verdict. The nuns could only hold a preliminary inquiry and report to a joint assembly of monks and nuns. From then on, the monks sat in judgement. In the vinaya nuns were treated unfairly. The rationale was that women are physically weak, therefore they need protection. The "protection" was to enslave them in terms of the Eight Strict Rules. In addition to the 225 rules for monks, 86 additional rules were made for nuns thus making 311 rules for them. This was in addition to the abominable eight strict rules foisted on them at the first council after censuring Ven. Ananda for pleading on behalf of the nuns.

The Buddha permitted monks to change some rules by a majority decision of the Sangha after his demise. When the monk of the Vajji country presented 10 amendments it was hotly opposed by the hard-core, conservative Theravada Elders. The majority was in favour of the amendments. But a dogmatic hardcore Theravada leadership rejected the amendments. This led to the majority breaking away and forming the Mahasangika seat. This paved the way for Mahayanism with the lapse of time.

However with the lapse of time when social, economic and political conditions changed the Therawadins had to amend some vinaya rules in an underhand manner, under the lavish patronage of the Anuradhapura kings. Buddhaghosa wrote his Vinaya Vinischaya. Thereby, he permitted landlordism, and acceptance of coconut estates, paddy land, income from salterns, tanks as Sangika property. In China, Korea, Japan and Tibet monks have adopted practices not allowed in the original vinaya rules. Today in Sri Lanka the majority of monks handle money accept salaried jobs practise various professions and trades. Yet the Sangha leaders are not willing to amend the Vinaya to meet modern day requirements.

A suggestion to amend the Vinaya to meet modern day requirements was made by Ven Walpola Rahula at an International Sangha conference in Taiwan. It fell on deaf ears. So we have the ludicrous spectacle of Sangha leaders refusing to amend the Vinaya rules that were enacted 2500 years ago when monks were itinerant renunciates without permanent monastic institutions, they have to disregard obsolete and impracticable rules. Dr. Pachow has made an academic study of the vinaya rules enacted by the Buddha and preserved in the texts of the various Buddhist schools. He has left untouched the practical value and observance of the rules, by the modern Sangha of our day. He has not touched on the near or otherwise to revise and amend the rules to make them meaningful in modern day life when monks are no longer the original wandering ascetics, they were prior to the monastic stage in Buddhism.

Dr. Pachow is Professor emeritus of Asian religions at the university of Iowa, U.S.A. He has studied Buddhism in universities of China, India, and Sri Lanka. He has published six books on various aspects of the Buddhist doctrines. He has been a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Brittannica, Encyclopaedia of Buddhism of Sri Lanka and the dictionary of living religions and many learned journals in Asia and America. 





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B1.13   Vesak Sirisara 2545/2001

Nanda Pethiyagoda

The Vesak Sirisara: Buddhist Annual, sixty sixth issue, edited by Rajah Kuruppu and published by P. B. Weragoda in his capacity as Honorary Secretary of the Vesak Sirisara Publication Committee of the Government Services Buddhist Association is out, well in tune for the Vesak Poya day. As always, it is a most commendable publication of articles by erudite monks and lay persons. The innovative publication policy of having two editions, one with articles in Sinhala, Tamil and English, and the other subtitled Overseas Edition with articles only in English, has again been followed, very wisely.  

The annual is for free distribution, the title page bearing the inscription "Sabha Danam Dhamma Danam Jinati" which translated reads: the gift of Dhamma excels all other gifts. At the back of the editions are two lists of donors gifting amounts ranging from Rs. 50,000 to 50. Thus the ability of the Government Services Buddhist Association to publish such a fine annual. But mark my words, if there were no donors and no donations, the publication would still have been produced, the commitment and dedication of Rajah Kuruppu, P. B. Weragoda and his Committee being such that obstacles would not prevent their good work.

The cover has a picture of a king presenting the written Dharma to his people represented by two men and a woman. It is in basic colours, very bright and traditional with both Kandyan and Low country styles incorporated. Credit goes to Deepal Jayawardene. 

P. B. Weragoda outlines the history of the Government Services Buddhist Association - started in 1954 - and lists its activities: the annual 31st December all night pirith and dana; conducting meditation classes for several hundred participants at the Public Library Colombo on the first Wednesday of every month with distribution of printed matter to participants and others; facilitating sila bhavana on a quarterly basis; dana for monks at the Gunawardena Meditation Centre at Ambalangoda and of course the publication of the annual. The pirith at the Independence Hall to mark the new year has been held uninterrupted for 41 years, while the meditation and sil programmes have been conducted continuously for 17 years. A truly great achievement. 


29 writers ha ve their contributions included in the trilingual edition, while the overseas edition has 22, 6 of whom have contributed verses/poems. Of the poems the longest is a discourse from the Majjima Nikaya translated by U. Karunatilake 

Dwelling thus on what leads to wholesome states  

From what should be cultivated,/In conduct of body and mind  

Cognition of external objects/Mind objects and consciousness  

Leads to the welfare and happiness of the World 

as stated by the Buddha at Jeta's Grove and further expounded by Ven. Sariputta

I will not mention all the articles, except to say they are all excellent, thought provoking and teach further the Dhamma to us.

The late Dr. C. Ananda Grero deals with the doctrine of the Buddha, while Yen. Dr. M. Vajiragnana of UK poses and answers the question of what Buddhism offers the modern world. Asoka Devendra writes on craving, labelling it the universal scourge. 

Bhikkhu Bodhi titles his very clever and lucid explanation of meditation "Two Styles of Insight Meditation", which two styles are meditation practice as a purely naturalistic, non-religious discipline aiming at deeper calm, greater openness and equanimity; and meditation in its original Buddhist setting with the ultimate goal of Nibbana. He writes with respect to the latter type of meditation practice of the two pillars that support vipassana bhavana - saddha and samma ditthi: faith as the prerequisite to the later stages of the triad of virtue, concentration and wisdom and samma ditthi as the cognitive counterpart of faith, namely right view, meaning the initial acceptance of principles and doctrines out of confidence in the Buddha's Enlightenment and Teaching. 

Ven. Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera writes on the "Significance of Bodhi Pooja" which I felt very apt, specially for those whose temple visits are mostly to pour the seven kales of water to the Bo Tree, struggling to my way of thinking, to have its roots get some air in the water drenched soil, all because people have so much to ask from the devas to satisfy their extra large egos. The venerable monk stresses the fact that it is not tree worship or propitiation of gods that we do when we undertake a bodhi pooja. Rather is it an act of gratitude and a veneration of the tree as a symbol of the Buddha and his Enlightenment and Teaching. 

Deshabandu Alec Robertson deals with mind culture; so also Ariyadasa Ratnasinghe, while Rajah Kuruppu too touches on the topic, titling his article: "Right Concentration". Prof. Arjuna de Zoysa views Buddhism from a scientific angle and vice versa Penny Jayawardene deals with panati patina and proves convincingly that a vegetarian diet promotes human health while of course saving the lives of creatures great and small, and preserves ecosystems. T. B. Ratnayake too writes on health, referring to the Buddha as the "healer of Sansaric suffering". 

Olcott Gunasekera writes very aptly on the significance of Vesak and the universalisation of its observance tracing this from times long ago to the very recent recognition of the day by the UN. He connects development of man and nation and thus the world to "when this paradigm shift takes place" to living by the Noble Eightfold Path. 


I have mentioned only a few contributors and merely touched on what they have written. It seems to be that much thought has gone into making the Vesak Sirisara a balanced volume as per subjects covered. Meditation, mind culture, the Buddha's Dhamma, health and happiness, the right to life of all living beings, social values, are all included. Aesthetic finesse is imparted by the poems and sketches that dot the annual. Stories too are included: incidents involving people who came within the Buddha's notice and guidance - "From the Life of Buddha" by Prof. Nandasena Mudiyanse; and a delightful true story by V. M. Fernando on the upasaka amma, Savhami, who donated even her much used nutcracker. 


Both annuals are very pleasing aesthetically with the English edition having a back cover picture of the Kandy Lake and town and of course the Maligawa. Two plates are included - one of the Sacred Bo Tree and the other of the statue of Ven Mohottiwatte Gunananda Thera of Panadura. A special feature that was striking and pleasing was that tides were set in coloured bands, some very well delineated, some shaded. A couple of sketches adds to the total effect of the publication. 

Good editing 

In local publications in English one has to be extra particular at the proof reading stage. The type setters, whether in the old way or by computer, oft times dust set letters together, never mind if the word that emerges has absolutely no meaning and cannot even be pronounced. This inability of the proof setters to read, write and understand English and be able to distinguish English words from gibberish, makes the task of the proof reader and editor all the more difficult. So one needs must heartily congratulate Rajah Kuruppu for an excellent job of editing. Probably he was the proof reader too. A couple of punt mistakes have crept in but they are hardly noticeable and do not at all detract from the worth of the publication. 

Here is a truly precious dhamma gift that we could send friends and relatives abroad, while keeping one handy to read at moments when the mind needs peaceful nurturing but is not quite ready to dwell within itself in quiet reflection and meditation. 

We give merit to those who selflessly and devotionally spent time and energy on guiding the Vesak annual through publication and made it a true Dhamma dane.





Personalities History

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B1.14   Bilingual Buddhist digest rich in content

Jayalath P. Pathirana

"Vesak Lipi" - Editor: Upali Salgado, Publisher: Minuwangoda Potgul Vihara Publication

In the month of Vesak (May) several publications of diversity come out in the way of magazines, brochures, hand-outs, press supplements etc. to commemorate Vesak.

‘Vesak Lipi’ is one such annual magazine that comes out early than any other Vesak publication under the able guidance, foresight and dedication of Upali Salgado, who handles single-handed and this Buddhist Digest (2001) magazine this year, is pregnant and rich in content and attractively presented.

A pleasing picture depicting the image of Sakyamuni Gautama, the Buddha as seen at the Mulagandakuti Vihara, Saranath, India, adorns the cover-page in colour with similar illustrations in the inside pages. Forty seven pages of this Buddhist Digest is set apart for Sinhala contributions which are scholarly presented by emminent and lay/clergy distinguished writers of repute who are specialised in their own fields of study. Among the contributors are Ven. Aggamaha Panditha Pannasiha Nayake Thera, Ven. Diviture Samantha, Heenatiyana Dhamma-dassi, Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, Ven. Heenetiyana Nandatissa, Ven. Agalagoda Sirisumana and late Prof. Senaratne Paranavitarne.

The latter part of ‘Vesak Lipi’ is confined to the English section and bring in its trail, a garland of thoughts which is rich in content and scholarly in outlook and food for thought for the reader. A poem on Vesak by Bhikku Silacara opens the account with a opposite-page colour picture of Vesak lanterns swinging in the wind (photo by Upali Salgado). Prof. Vidhusekhara Bhatacharya of Calcutta introduces "Historicity of the Buddha & Buddha Pooja" stresses a debate between King Milinda and Ven. Nagasena. "The Noble Path to Follow" by Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda Sanghanayake of Malaysia and Singapore in his usual and lucid-style, elaborates the Four Noble Truths and expresses the fact "Buddhism is a logical and consistent teaching embracing every aspect of life and the Noble path as the first possible step and code for leading a happy life. Its practice brings benefits to oneself and others and it is not a path to be practised by those who call themselves Buddhists alone but by each and every understanding person, irrespective of his religious beliefs". Bhikkhu late Kassapa answers his own question "What are we and whither bound?". 

Ven. Dr. Walpola Rahula in a boxed-page ‘SOUL’ castigates that belief in soul is the cause of trouble.

How true this is, let the readers judge. ‘The Dhammapada’ &emdash; the way of righteous living is a two-page spread worthy of reflection. How mindful are you and Bhikkhu Piyadassi Nayake Thera answers in his analysis "The Importance of Mindfulness". Do you want to ‘Be curious about life’ and Ven Kirama Wimalajothi Maha Thera testifies in his remarks ‘When we understand ourselves, we will see the world reflected in us’. Bhikkhuni Kusuma (in laylife Kusuma Dewendra) analyses "Chulakamma Vibhanga Sutta &emdash; causes for inequalities" and stresses that the Buddha emphasises that people reap the results of their Kamma after death. "Reflections on Death (Marananusmuthi) is the subject matter by Ven. Weragoda Saradha of Singapore and concluding addendums on ‘Death’ by Visaddacara &emdash; a Malaysian Buddhist Monk, Ven. Nayanathiloka Maha Thera, P. Lakshmi Narasu, Francis Story and E. M. G. Edirisinghe are points to ponder.  

An article which has been abridged by the Editor, ‘Vesak Lipi’ as it appeared in the ‘Daily News’ Raja Kuruppu adds further on ‘Death’ under the caption ‘Facing Death with a Smile’. Ven. Narada Maha Thera says that there is merely a continuity of a particular dynamic life-flux, just that and nothing more and he explains graphically in his essay on "What is that is reborn?"  

Are you terrified of GHOSTS &emdash; a spine-chilling experience if you like to feel; read with interest a piece called and edited by the writings of late Egerton C. Baptist. A short story on ‘Gallows’ by Dr. R. L. Soni is interesting reading. What is "Buddhalogy" answers Ven. Dhammika Thera in a Q & A dialogue. Other contributions like Prof. Chandima Wijebandara’s "The Buddha did not answer. Why?", Olcott Gunasekera’s ‘The Buddha Image’,"The Spirit of Buddhism" by T. B. Ekanayake are worthy of note.  

Keeping true to the concept of ‘Poojacha Pooja Neeyanang’ (Honour and respect those whom honour and respect due) &emdash; a grateful profile written by Upali Salgado on the reflection of a Great adorable Missionary ‘Dhammananda of Brickfields’ on Ven. Kirinde Dhammananda Sanghanayake of Malaysia and Singapore is an apt ‘guru-pooja’ for a venerable missionary, Sri Lanka is proud of. That wraps up the literary contributions and between the pages intermingled are poems by Senehelatha Alles, Bhikkhu Vissudhakara, Chandra Gunasekera, Kamala Suriyarachchi, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, Marie Mozlin, J. P. Pathirana which add colour to the magazine.

The Editor of ‘VESAK LIPI’ earns a compliment from all the readers for undertaking this stupendous task single handed and in bringing out this magnificent Bilingual Buddhist digest for the reading pleasure of Buddhists and non-Buddhists as well and it is beyond comprehension to think how he compiled, edited and produced this magazine ‘VESAK LIPI’ for over 15 continued years and may he be blessed with the blessings of the Tripple Gem with this good and dedicated services.





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B1.15   The flower of mankind

Excerpts from 'Flower Of Mankind' by Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda

  This is that Blossom on our human tree 

Which opens once in many myriad years  

But opened, fills the world with Wisdom's scent 

And Love's dropped honey.

This is verse from Sir Edwin Arnold's famous poem on the life of the Buddha, Light of Asia. When it was first published more than a century ago, it took England and the United States by storm. It ran to sixty editions in England and eighty editions in the United States in the course of a few years. Few hundred thousand copies were sold at a time when there were neither best-seller lists, nor the Book-of-the-Month Club. Most Western readers of the older generation had their impression of the Buddha from this poem.

Sir Edwin used the image of a tree to represent mankind, and the Buddha was depicted as a flower on that tree. This flower blooms only once in a myriad years, which means that humanity would have to wait for an immense period of time for this special flower to blossom. But once it blooms, it fills the whole universe with its fragrance of wisdom. And the love and compassion contained in it is as sweet as honey.

The analogy of a flower is apt to describe the Buddha. A flower emerges from a tree complete in its own glory. Although it draws strength and sustenance from the tree, it does so of its own effort, without the help of any supernatural creator. A beautiful flower simply exists. It does not need to explain why it is beautiful. The Buddha, too, simply 'is' the Buddha, the fully self-Enlightened One, who depends on no god or follower for his existence.

A flower is appreciated and admired by both young and old. It exudes its fragrance without preference or discrimination. It does not say, 'I will bring joy to only those who follow me.' Similarly, the Buddha is an enlightened teacher who is appreciated by everyone, including non-Buddhists who study the master's message with open minds. The message of the Buddha is delivered out of compassion for the benefit of all living beings, and those who seek the Truth can benefit from it.

A flower in full bloom cannot keep the fragrance to itself. Similarly, soon after the Buddha had gained Enlightenment, he decided to preach his Dhamma and share the supreme knowledge he had gained with suffering humanity. He surveyed the world and saw that there are beings who were able to understand the Dhamma he discovered. Out of pity for the world, he said, 'Open to them are the Doors to Deathlessness. Let those who have ears hearken and place their confidence in the Dhamma.'

The Buddha's Message of Hope 

The Buddha's teaching holds out hope for mankind by offering a way out of suffering and bondage into spiritual liberation known as Nibbana. This is the ultimate fact of life and the highest attainment open to mankind. Nibbana transcends even the heavens or celestial worlds of the gods and Brahmas. Although these heavenly worlds are more beautiful and have a greater degree of 'happiness' than earthly existence, these realms of existence are very much part of Samsara, and are hence impermanent and still unsatisfactory.

Nibbana goes beyond these worlds of relative existence: it is the unconditioned state of ultimate peace. And in showing how man can attain it, the Buddha conferred upon human nature the highest honour ever paid by anyone.  

The Buddha concentrated deeply on pain and suffering endured by all beings. After gaining Enlightenment and with profound compassion for suffering beings, he dedicated the rest of his life to expounding the Four Noble Truths, a system which examines suffering, its causes, as well as its cure. Buddhism is more delicately aware of this universal aspect of human existence than any other ethico-religious system in the world. Throughout his mission, the Buddha carefully guided countless numbers of people in conquering their carving and selfishness so that they were able to gain final liberation. The voluminous Tripitaka, the collection of his teachings and instructions, contains an astounding amount of analysis and prescriptions given by the Master which could be applied to overcome and cure all universal problems. In applying the method he prescribed, it is possible for a person to find complete release from an unending existence of unsatisfactoriness.

Instead of placing man's destiny under the arbitrary control of an unknown external agency and making him subservient to such a supreme power, the Dhamma preached by this voice raised the status of mankind and accorded man the credit due to him for his intelligence. Alone among the many voices of other religious teachers this voice taught man how to cultivate the hitherto submerged human potential.

Thanks to this voice, ordinary people are able to develop their faith and confidence, educated people have food for thought, and intellectuals have enriched their vision. Those who were misguided had their views corrected. Those who relied on blind faith have received a clear vision of the Truth. Sceptics were persuaded and won over by the voice of reason. Devotees gained confidence, understanding and liberation from suffering.





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B1.16   The Necessity for Promoting Buddhism in Europe

R. Chandrasoma

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi's 'The Necessity for Promoting Buddhism in Europe'

As Sri Lankans we are fortunate, indeed, to have as the crowning glory of our cultural heritage, a great religion and a subtle philosophy that has inestimable value and relevance to those living beyond our shores. There are many in the West who pine for that spiritual and metaphysical wherewithal - rooted in Buddhist values - that gives completeness to lives spent in seeming ease and comfort. This is no smug declaration of moral superiority: it is the Buddhist Message that is proudly proffered, not the example of the unfortunate people who live in this ancient land. A people who, in this age of confusion and misfortune, are being sorely tested by a miscellany of dire challenges that threaten its very survival.

We must overcome our current afflictions and even in our darkest hour we must have the courage not to forget the Buddhist Dharmaduta role that our forebears carried out with such distinction in the centuries past. It is against this background that the paper presented on July 2, 2000 by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi (at a seminar held in Colombo to commemorate the first death anniversary of Ven. Mitirigala Dhammanisanthi Thera) on the 'constraints and parameters' of a Buddhist Missionary Effort rooted in the strengths and resources of our own country must be viewed. Although written within a brief compass, the learned analysis of the issues involved - and, the problems faced - in promoting Buddhism in the West is a didactic resource that all sincere Buddhists of this land will welcome. We need a Scholar-Monk of the calibre of Ven. Bhikku Bodhi to guide us in a venture of this kind - both on account of the vast erudition in Buddhist matters that is his distinctive privilege and his sympathetic grasp of the Western Mind-Set and its strengths and foibles that must be reckoned with in establishing a fruitful dialogue on the core values of our Buddhist faith.  

In this regard, there is a 'constraint' that must be foremost in our minds - that we, as 'purveyors' of spiritual goods and services must, perforce, deal with a 'clientele' of great sophistication - prepared to question and test our canonical faith at a level that will match the profundity of the truths that we try to put across. It cannot be denied that the cultural chasm that separates us from the West is a formidable barrier that the would-be Buddhist Dharmaduta worker will find quite daunting even if he has truly mastered the teachings of the Compassionate One. While it is not the intent of the writer to forestall or pre-empt what the Ven. Bhikku has said with such commendable lucidity in his essay, it would not be out of place to underscore certain salients and highlights in his thinking. Firstly, there is an evolutionary dynamism that has Western Society in its inexorable grip and it is clear that a certain degree of 'tailoring' of the Buddhist message to match the sociological ground-conditions of the recipient population is a well-advised strategy.

This must not be construed as a kind of 'religious machiavellianism' that detracts from the lofty spiritualism of the message: rather, it is a practical recognition of the cultural variegation of the human race. In this connection, the seemingly insatiable demand for 'quick-fix meditative therapies' for those in the West burdened with what the French call 'tracasserie' is a considerable challenge to the Theravada tradition of our country. Can meditative techniques and procedures be divorced from the sublime fundamentals of Buddhism that, to the orthodox, seem its irrefragable basis? More generally, is it possible to abridge or truncate the richly-varied practice of Buddhism as seen in lands such as ours to meet the needs of an 'establishment free' religion of the kind many Westerners find attractive? These are troubling problems that our best minds must resolve if we are to make headway in our Dharmaduta activities abroad.

The Ven. Bhikku Bodhi, with great perspicuity has singled out a difficulty that that must be urgently addressed if we are to make significant progress in the resolution of the larger issues adverted to above: the mismatch between the kind of monastic training that our Bhikkhus receive in the tradition-bound centres of learning and the intellectual sophistication required to be a useful 'messenger of the Dharma' in the West. At this point we must reiterate a truism already mentioned - there is a stratification of attitudes and attainments in Western Society that we ignore at our peril. The refined intellects of the West need a kind of Buddhism that the hoi polloi will find disturbingly difficult. But this important class must be engaged and our very best scholar monks must be up to the task. Do we have monks who are 'au fait' with such fields as cognitive psychology, logic and neurophysiology? The Buddhist interpretation of 'being' and 'becoming' has attracted the attention of leading scholars in the West - Francis Varela and Susan Blackmore are well-known names in this field. Clearly, we have slipped a lot in this regard. No longer do we have a K. N. Jayatilleka or a G. P. Malalasekera to speak authoritatively on the Theravada perspective in these matters that goes beyond what may be called 'formula Buddhism' - the mechanical matching of Pali Stanzas to any semantically significant propositional query. The meditative and esoteric have a following that is very distinct from the 'cerebral' constituency referred to above. Indeed, it is this segment of Western society that is 'spiritually destabilized' and yearns for inspirational strength from the East. The question again is whether we in Sri Lanka can convey the Buddha's message in the idiom that these Western folk can empathise with. The Mahayana scholars and Monks have a clear advantage over the Lankan Bhikkhus in this regard in that their monastic milieu is steeped in a centuries-old tradition of the arcane over the logico-ethical. These difficulties - or challenges- are mentioned not with the intention of dissuading the courageous but in the hope that a revolutionary restructuring of our institutes of religious training will result in a regaining of the pre-eminence that our nation once enjoyed throughout the Buddhist world. As our texts so luminously put it, the intellectual, the moral and the meditative must be harmoniously blended in those who follow the Path and compassionately seek to share their insight with others.  

It is with great sorrow that we, Sri Lankans, must confess deep pessimism on all issues raised. A house tragically in disarray cannot be a wellspring of inspiration to nations and peoples more fortunately circumstanced. Its representatives will have a hard time explaining why Buddhist lands in South and East Asia are such crucibles of misery. It is not for us to be judgmental about our Buddhist neighbours - but in our own country the aetiology of decline is plainly evident. Unlike the fast-spreading Saviour-Cults of one sort or another, Buddhism draws strength from Enlightened Leadership - the religious exemplars that, through compassion and concern move the ordinary people to heights of religious devotion. In this connection, there is a 'triadic symbiosis' that is the power-base of Buddhism - three groups that create a spiritual synergy that made the ancient religion of our land a living presence that gave strength and hope to all.  

Firstly, there is the Secular Buddhist Leadership - the Royal House in the old days and in these degenerate times, the elected political elite. Next, there is the Maha Sangha in the role of System-Guidance - not unlike the DNA of an eukaryotic cell guarding and guiding its metabolic destiny. Finally there is the Laity, that serves as a kind of nutritive pabulum for the sustenance of the first and second. This fanciful model serves a very limited purpose - that all three parts must be healthy for the 'florescence' of Buddhism. Alas, all three parts are in a very sick state in contemporary Sri Lanka.  

We have a political leadership that endeavours to deny the lead-role for Buddhism - indeed disdains it as an atavism that has no relevance in the brave new age of globalisation. The greater mass of the laity regards me Buddhist faith as a valetudinarian concern - an end-game strategy and a preparation for death. As for the Maha Sangha, it would be impious to pass strictures - suffice it to say that a reformed and re-invigorated Sangha is both our greatest need and greatest hope. Not the least of reasons why the illuminating article by the Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi should be read and digested by all who care for the future of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.  

The Island - 20 March 01





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B1.17   Sumana-devi

The story of Sumanadevi or Samandevi appears in the Saddharma Ratnavaliya written by Dhamasena Thera in Sinhala during the 13th century ACE. (After the Common Era.) The first fifteen stories are translated English by Ranjini Obeysekera who teaches at princeton University in the United States of America.

The stories are printed and published by Sri Satguru Publications Indological and Oriental Publishers a division of Indian Book Centre, Delhi, India with permission of state University of New York Press, USA.

The Sinhala text Saddharma Ratnavaliya in an expanded version of the fifth century Pali work the Dhammapadatonakatha. Stories in the Saddharma Ratnavaliya are lively and entertaining of interest to the general reader and the specialist as well.

The 15 stories are published titled "Jewels of the Doctrine".

Just as a man scorched by the sun is attracted to the shade, or as a sufferer in samsara seeks nirvana, so attract those afraid of the five sins, let me now tell you the story of Samandevi.

How does it go?

Each day two thousand monks were provided meals at the home of the nobleman Anepidu. Similarly, two thousand were regularly fed at the home of Visakha. If anyone else in the city of Savat, event the king, wished to give an offering of alms, they had to do so with the permission of these two people. And what was the reason for this? It was surely not because the occasions were lacking. It was because the monks would invariably ask, "Has the nobleman Anepidu or the noble woman Visakha' been consulted, regarding this offering of alms?" And, if they replied they had not, then even if the offering had cost hundreds of thousands, it was like a dish without salt, not good enough. Because you see Anepidu and Visakha knew well the specific requirements and tastes of the monks, so food that was prepared under their instructions was always happily consumed by the monks. The result was that anyone who gave a gift of food invariably invited them as advisors. Thus, the two of them had hardly anytime to attend to the monks who were hosted in their own homes.

Visakha, finding that she did not have enough time, delegated her granddaughter for the task, knowing she would be very good at it. From then on, it was the granddaughter who attended to the requirements of the two thousand monks.

Similarly, the nobleman Anepidu appointed his elder daughter Subadhra for the task. Subadhra made offerings to the monks, listened to their sermons, became a Stream-Enterer and set herself on the Path of Enlightenment. However, not yet completely free of sensual attachments, she married and left. At which point, the younger daughter, Little Subadhra was allotted the task. She, too, became a Stream-Enterer while performing her duties. But at the age when she was to about to partake of nirvana, she also decided to get married. Then the youngest daughter Sumana was given the task. In the course of performing her duties, she attained to the second stage of a Once-Returner. In doing so, she had rid herself of all sense desires and so did not get married.

Some time thereafter, she was smitten with an illness and could not eat. She sent for her father whom she wished to see. The nobleman happened to be in a certain household supervising an offering he got her message and came immediately.

"What is the matter my child, Sumanadevi?" he asked.

"I don't hear you, younger brother,' she replied.

"My child, what is wrong? Why do you babble like this?"

"Younger brother, I do not babble." She said, and died as she was speaking. She was reborn in the Tusi heaven with a life-span of fiftyseven million six hundred thousand years, and free of all sickness for as long as she lived.

The noblemen, who was a follower of the Buddha, had rid himself of doubts and false beliefs but he had not yet reached the stage of one who is beyond grief. Therefore, weeping and lamenting, he cremated his child and overwhelmed by sorrow went to seek the ungrieving Buddha.

The Buddha asked him, "Why do you weep, nobleman?"

He replied, "My little daughter Sumana is dead. I weep for her, master."

"Do you not know that all beings who are born must inevitably die just as surely as Bosat, who has been granted a 'prophetic revelation,' must necessarily become a Buddha? Why then do you cry?" the Buddha asked.

"Master I know it. But I weep because my daughter, at the point of death, was out of her mind. She died raving. That is what grieves me most, Master."

"What did she say, nobleman?" asked the Buddha.

"Master, when I talked to her and called her child, twice she addressed me as 'younger brother.' Does that not clearly show she was raving?"

"Nobleman, she was not raving. You may be older in years and in terms of kinship but you are junior to her in goodness. You are a Stream-Enterer, your daughter is a Once-Returner. She is further along the Path than you and therefore your senior. That is why she addressed you thus."

"Master, where is she now?" he asked and was told she was now in the Tusi heaven.

The Buddha continued, "Listen O nobleman, those who have done good are happy in this world thinking about the good they have done. In the next world, too, they are happy and enjoy the highest pleasures. Thus, god actions bring happiness in this world and the worlds beyond. Therefore, do not delay in doing good.'

At the end of this sermon, many were consoled and arrived at the city of nirvana. Wisemen, therefore, should rid themselves of all sins that bring no profit, do only good deeds that bring great rewards, and win the blessings of this world as well as Spiritual attainments.





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B1.18   A worthy endeavour

 In 38 chapters, Dr. Ananda Guruge describes in brief "What is Buddhism?"

The book includes a short anthology of Buddhist texts, a brief dictionary of Buddhist terms and a select bibliography.

Published by Mitram Books, a subsidiary of Dharma Healing Way Incorporated in California, in the United States of America and distributed in Sri Lanka by Samayawardhana Bookshop, Maradana. The book is priced at Rs. 250.

Dr. Guruge describes the reasons that led him to write this book in the following words:

This modest volume traces its origin to a question posed to me quite often: "What in Brief is Buddhism?"

I have been asked this question by many people. That, too, in various parts of the world. Innumerable are my speeches and articles which sought to answer it. I am hardly sure whether I had been always successful. A major difficulty remains insurmountable. At the current level of cultural literacy, every person with a modicum of general education has some idea of Buddhism. But Buddhism does not mean the same thing to everybody.

Some know the Buddhism of the books, whatever be the tradition. Others have picked up what they know directly from life. In some is ingrained the multiplicity of traditions- each with its own scriptures, favoured texts and specific rites and ritual. Others have known only what prevailed in their form of Buddhism as Indian. Sri Lankan, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or even European and American. Yes, Buddhism is many and yet it is one.

My approach to explaining the unity and the diversity of Buddhism is to treat Buddhism not as a unitary, unchanging and rigid religion but as an every-growing, ever-expanding and ever-renewing religious system. Its perfect freedom from dogma has been its greatest asset. The absence of any centralized organization like a church has been its greatest advantage. The richness of the philosophical elucidation which countless schools and sects attempted is its greatest claim to be a stimulator of intellectual activity.

The unity of what Buddhism has preserved as its core doctrines reveals the determination of Buddhists of all times and places to preserve the original teachings of the historical Buddha, the Sage of the Sakyas. At the same time, the diversity of its beliefs and rites and the glamour of its ritual and festivals evince a rare level of flexibility in a spontaneous response to human needs at different levels. Buddhism is a vibrant, living, pulsating organism.

To present it briefly is to say how it grew and how the growth continues unabated. We deal with the historical process of expansion, diffusion, separation, fusion and reconciliation of Buddhism. We use it as a flagrant example of how the human mind continues to blossom with ever-enriching adjustment of ancient wisdom to new experiences.

Succinctly thus, "What in Brief is Buddhism?" looks at this great religious system diachronically on a historical time-line and synchronically as a widespread heritage of humankind as it enters the new millennium.

The contents and coverage of this volume could be best judged from the titles proposed by colleagues and students in several brainstorming sessions:

- Buddhism 101

- Succinctly Buddhism

- A Comprehensive Introduction to Buddhism

- Buddhism: Past and Present

- A Simple Guide to Buddhism and its Growth

- Buddhism as it was and as it is

- Buddhism in Theory and Practice

- Buddhism, the Evolving Religion

- All One Wants to Know of Buddhism.

An increasing consensus developed toward the title "What in Brief is Buddhism?"

The explanation of Buddhism in its diverse forms is enriched by the addition of an anthology of Buddhist Texts, a brief dictionary of Buddhist terms, and a Select Bibliography.

The Author

Dr. Ananda W. P. Guruge BA (Hons); Ph.D, D. Litt. is the Dean of Academic Affairs and the Director of the International Academy of Buddhism of Hsi Lai University, Rosememead, Los Angeles Country, California, USA and Visiting Professor of Buddhist and Peace Studies at California State University, Fullerton and Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. Formerly the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to UNESCO, France and the United States of America, he is the Senior Special Adviser to the Director-General of UNESCO. Active in the international Buddhist leadership, he is a Vice-President of the World Fellowship of Buddhists and the Patron of the European Buddhist Union. His publications include 40 books in Sinhala and English and 130 research papers.





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B1.19   Walking with the Buddha

 Buddhist pilgrimages in India 

Editor Publisher: Swati Mitra An Eicher Goodearth Publication Supported by Ministry of Education, India

Recently the Indian government initiated Buddha Mahotsava - a pilgrimage to the places of Buddhist worship. Started by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, the first Buddha Mahotsava was launched by the then Tourism Minister Madan Lal Khurana two years ago.

Through the remains of monasteries and gardens, through the dusty plains to the Himalayan foothills, treading the sites sanctified long ago by the Buddha's footsteps, in an eternal quest to unravel the complex truths of life, lucidly and brilliantly enunciated by the Buddha twenty-five centuries ago.

The first genuine attempt to present the sacred sites as a traditional pilgrim circuit, following a time honoured trail with a hallowed history dating back two and a half millennia. An illustrated exploration of information ranging from ancient legends from the Buddha's life to practical information on the sacred sites. From the Wisdom of the Master's teachings to an exclusive interview with His Holiness the XIV the Dalai Lama.

The book with over 200 specially commissioned photographs, easy-to-follow sketch maps of the sacred sites and a map of the region, attempts to comprehensively illustrate every aspect of Buddhism, its architectural heritage, its literary wealth and above all, its human ephilosophy, with prime focus on the sacred sites associated with the Buddha during His life time.





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B1.20   Fascinating tale of a monk

Visidunu Publishers seem to be rather selective in their publications. Their latest publication is the Sinhala translation of 'A Record of Buddhist Kingdoms or 'The Travels of Fa-Hsien' ('Bauddha Rajadhani Pilibanda Thoraturu Nam Vu Fahsienge Deshatana Vartava') by Professor Wimal G. Balagalle.

The story of the Chinese monk, Fa-Hsien, is a fascinating one. He was born in 334 A D. He had three older brothers who died as little children. The father got scared and got him into robes when he was just three. The name Fa-Hsien means The sparkle of the Dhamma' or 'Spreading the Dhamma'. Being too small, Fa-Hsien was allowed to stay at home but when he fell seriously ill , his father sent him to the temple. He recovered fast. When he was asked to come back home he refused. "I got into robes not only because my father wanted me to but because I saw the futility of life and wanted to enter the Order," he said.

In a biographical sketch, Professor Balagalle relates an incident to illustrate the young monk's steadfastness and bravery. Once he was harvesting a field with about 30 other monks when a gang of thieves who wese looking for food suddenly turned up to rob the harvest. The novice monks fled but Fa-Hsien remained. He told the gang: "You can take even the whole lot of this harvest. But think of one thing. Why are you in this plight today? You are poor because you have not given any alms or done any merit in your previous birth. What you are trying to do today is to plunder someone else's belongings. The result will be that you will again be born poor and helpless. I pity you." He then left for the temple. The thieves returned without touching a single grain.

Fa-Hsien's lifelong ambition to go to India and see places of worship and study the Dhamma was achieved only when he was 65. He undertook the journey with four other friends. Five others joined them and by the time they returned to China after 15 years, Fa-Hsien was the sole survivor. History records that he spent six years in India, two years in Sri Lanka and the other seven years travelling, which was arduous then. His main objective on the trip was to copy the Vinaya Pitaka and the Sutta Pitaka which he did. After his return to China, he recorded the entire trip. He was 79 then. He lived till he was 87.

 Ranat - Sunday Times - 12 Dec 00





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B1.21   Karma and rebirth portrayed in English Novels

D. Amarasiri Weeraratne 

In this article I wish to survey the idea of rebirth as a theme in English prose literature. Let me therefore discuss briefly some of the English novels in modern times in which the idea of rebirth has found a prominent place.

A novel entitled "The Nazarene"! was published by Scholemasch in 1939. It was a widely read story which became popular. This is a serious lengthy and scholarly narrative woven round the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The first paragraph of the book touches on the subject of rebirth and memories of previous lives. Let me quote it.

"Not the power to remember but its very opposite, the power to forget is a necessary condition of our existence. If therefore the transmigration of the soul is a true one, then those between their exchange of bodies must pass through a sea of forgetfulness. According to Jewish view we make the transition under the overlordship of the angel of forgetfulness. But it sometimes happens that the- angel of forgetfulness sometimes forgets to remove from our memories the records of the former world; and then our senses are haunted by fragmentary recollections of another life.)’

The Jewish view that Asch refers to is not that of orthodox Judaism but the secret teaching of the Kabalists a splinter group of Jewish mystics.

Pan Viadomsky an old Polish scholar accepts a young Jew as his assistant in the translation of an ancient Hebrew document which he has discovered. The old man confides to his assistant one of the intimate secrets of his life - he remembers his previouslife in Jerusalem as a Roman official. As a result he is tormented by the role he played in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. While listening to this story the young man feels his own memories being revived for he too had lived in the-same period and environment. He too begins to write down the recollections of his former life that come flooding into his mind. He also helps Viadomsky to translate the document which turns out to be the Gospel written by Judas Iscariot. 

"The Razor’s Edge" was published by Somerset Maugham in 1943. It had a great influence on the English reading public. It reached a wider audience than "The Nazarene", because it was screened as a film in the cinemas. The crux of the story hinges on the fact that young Larry Darell, its hero found the answer to the quest of his life in the Vedanta philosophy of India, a fundamental tenet of which is Karma and Rebirth. At the end of the story he is asked the question "Do you believe in reincarnation?)’

Larry replies, "That is a very difficult question to answer. I don’t think it possible for us accidentals to believe in it as implicitly as the orientals do. It is in their brood and bone. With us it is only an opinion. I neither believe in it nor disbelieve it." But he confesses to having a strange experience one night while meditating on the flame of a candle. He had seen the vision of human figures one behind the other each of whom he had felt was his own self in a previous life.

Somerset Maugham in a work of nonfiction entitled "The Summing Up" admits his interest in the problem of suffering and says, "I think that the only explanation of evil that could make the many tragedies of life bearable is Reincarnation and Karma". 

The Theosophical Society published its books "Isis Unveiled" and ".The Secret Doctrine" in 1875 and 1877. They were the first books in English propounding the doctrines of Karma and Rebirth. The Irish literary revival with its harking back to the mythology and folk-lore of Ireland was a result of Theosophical influence. George Russell and William Butler Yeats were the leaders af that revival and were also members of the Theosophical Society; Dublin. Theosophical ideas have influenced contemporary literature to a large extent.

Max Muller published his translations from "The Sacred Books of the East" between 1881 and 1910. There have been a few dramas which spotlight the reincarnation theme. "The Retum of Peter Grimm" by David Belso and published in 1911 is a noteworthy work. "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud" was a film shown in the Sri Lanka cinemas for nearly a month some years ago. It depicted the story given in a novel by that name. The entire picture depicted - the reincarnation theme and its verification by means of painstaking research.

The idea of portraying a series of lives of an individual has been used by several novelists e.g. A. E. D. Mason who in his "The Three Gentlemen" depicted three successive lives of a person. In a novel by Warwick Deeping entitled "I Live Again" he depicted a series of four lives of a person. In a novel by Jack London entitled "The Star Rover" we get the portrayal of a person who remembers three or four previous lives.

Rider Haggard in a novel entitled "She" writes of a woman who gained memories of her previous life after bathing periodically ina supernatural flame of life deep in an underground African cave. 

"Flight from Youth" by Wilson E. Barret is a romance connected with a previous life. In this charming story a young man who has never studied flying feels a strange urge to walk into an aerodrome, enter a plane and fly it. He knows instinctively what to do in the air. Suddenly in this setting he gets recollections of his previous life where he was an airman flying over France during the course-of which his aeroplane was shot down..

J. D. Salinger published a story in 1948 called "Teddy". Teddy is a ten year old American boy who spends part of his time daily in meditation. He has some unusual E. S. P. Powers, and clearly remembers his past life as a Hindu yogi. This portrayal is not a strange thing in view of the fact that Salinger was known to be a student of Yoga and Zen Buddhism.

Talbot Mundy was a writer who was firmly committed to the belief in Karma and Rebirth. "A Journey from this World to the Next" was written by Henry Fielding (1907-54). It narrates the story of one- who has just died and is on his way to heaven. He meets numerous souls returning to earth life. In 1874 Mortirner Collier published his three volume novel "Transmigration. "  

Allusions to rebirth are found in passages of many more authors. Joan Grant’s novels have caused considerable comment and wonder. Her novel "Winged Pharoah" was written without scholarly studies. Therein she disclosed an unusually accurate knowledge of life in Egypt during the Pharoahs. In a prefatory note to her autobiography "Far Memory" she said that the details are based on memories of her former life in Egypt during the times concerned.

Allusions to memories of previous lives can be seen in the works of the following authors:  

Sir Walter Scott "Guy Mannering", Charles Dickens "David Copperfield", George Elliot "The Spanish Gypsy", G. B. Shaw "Back to Methuselah", H. G. Wells "The Dream", Walter de La Mare "The Return", Hugh Walpole "The Adventures of the Imaginative Child",J. B. Priestly’, "I have Been Here Before."

For further details on Western thinkers on reinicarnation I would like to refer readers to "Reincarnation - An East West. Anthology" compiled and edited by Joseph Head and S. L. Granston. (Theosophical Publishing House London 1962). This is an encyclopaedic compilation of quotations from eminent philosophers, theologians, poets, scientists and other thinkers of every period of Western culture.

The Island - 17 May 00





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B1.22   Women in the footsteps of the Buddha

D. Amarasiri Weeraratne

 by Kathryn R. Blackstone, Published by Motilal Banarsidas Ltd, Delhi

In recent years the academic study of Buddhism has gained ground in the West. Scholars are continually opening up new areas for study and dialogue. As a result many of the Pali texts of the Buddhist Canon have received attention by way of scholarly studies.

The Therigatha (Psalms of the Sisters) is one such text which has interested western women scholars. Mrs. Caroline Rhys Davids translated the Therigatha into English under the title Psalms of the Sisters in 1909. Since then this Buddhist classic came to be studied by western Buddhist scholars with increasing interest and admiration. Susan Marcott published her work "The First Buddhist Women" in 1991. It contained a translation of the text and the Commentary to the Therigatha. In 1975 Miss I. B. Morner wrote her "Women under Primitive Buddhism."

"In 1991 Tessa Bartholomuez published her PhD dissertation "Women under the Bo-Tree." Works such as these indicate the growing interest taken by western women scholars in the role of women in early Buddhism. 

In the book under review Kathryn Blackstone gives a detailed exploration of the quest for liberation on the part of the early Buddhist nuns. She delves into the subject with the object of ascertaining the feminine perspective of the Bhikkhuni Sangha. Her careful analysis of the texts enable her to arrive at some new conclusions about the contents. This is the only Canonical test in the history of religion where the authors are women dedicated to the religious life. The work gives an insight into the Bhikkuni disciples of the Buddha and their struggle for liberation.

This book is a revised edition of her M.A. thesis written at the McMaster University, U.S.A. The author is at present a lecturer in Religious Studies at Victoria University, Wellington.

The Therigatha is a collection of 552 verses implied into 73 poems by Bhikkhuni disciples of the Buddha. Some of the poems are very beautiful and dramatic compositions, e.g. Subha of the Jivaka Mango Grove, is a good example of lyric poetry resembling but ante-dating classical Sanskrit drama. The entertainment value of some of the longer poems is very high even in translation and they continue to evoke human sadness and joy. The poems are not only entertaining, they are educative and spiritually uplifting. The major emphasis is on the quest for liberation-viz. attainment of Arahantship culminating in Nirvana.

This work consists of 5 chapters running into 185 pages. They deal with 1. Introduction to the Therigatha. 2. The language of liberation 3. Looking Backwards: attitude towards renunciation. 4. Looking Inwards attitude towards the body. 5. Looking Outwards-Attitude towards the environment. 6. Struggle for Liberation. The book contains 4 pages of appendices, and notes bibliography, a glossery and an index.

Blackstone has made a valuable contribution to Buddhist studies in the Therigatha. She has compared its text with that of its counterpart the Therigatha (Psalms of the Elders.) Her analysis show that while the two texts employ identical form, the structure, style, their use of terms, phrases, and stylistic devices show important differences.

This book is a valuable contribution to the study of the Therigatha and its Commentary. The Therigatha vindicates the claims of feminist scholars that women have a history of independent through and action. It relates the experiences and perceptions of a group of Buddhist nuns who resorted to a life-style that liberated them from the shackles imposed on them from the gynephobia advocated in the laws of Manu emaciated in his work called Manusmriti. It is true that many lived after the Buddha. Anti-feminism existed in Brahmanism from the earliest times as a social theory. Manu codified them into the laws of the state, under Hindu rulers.

As pointed out by the author the Therigatha has a powerful message for us today. The very existence of a religious text incorporated into Buddhist Canon (Tripitaka) is an asset to the place women should have in Buddhist society. It shows that women’s struggle for liberation has been going on from the days of the Buddha.

The Buddha is considered the great emancipator among India’s religious teachers. He strove to liberate men from the yoke of casteism, and women from the misorgyny inherent in Manu’s laws. It is a matter for regret that the Sinhalese Sangha in Sri Lanka did not carry forward the Buddha’s humanism and liberating policies. Since the Polonnaruwa days they have compromised with the laws of Manu in Hinduism and introduced casteism and anti feminism into Sinhalese Buddhism.

This they did by cover observance of caste in admissions to the Sangha and opposing the revival of the Bhikkuni order which became defunct after the fall of Anuradhapura to the Cholians in AD 1077. They did this on obscurantist and misogynist grounds. But in the Mahayana Buddhist countries such as China, Korea, and Taiwan the Bhikkuni Order founded by the Buddha flourishes in unbroken pupillary succession and purity of Vinaya observance. It is heartening to note that some progressive Sangha leaders have in very recent times revived the Bhikkhuni Order in Sri Lanka with the assistance of Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese nuns, disregarding objections and pressure from the Mahanayaka triumvirate.





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B1.23   The Dhammapada – gems of the Buddha's teachings 

Upali Salgado 

The Dhammapada is to Buddhists what the Holy Bible is to Christians, the Bhagavath-Gita to Hindus and the Holy Quran to Muslims. The Dhammapada is associated with Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha, the Great Teacher who showed the path to happiness for all mankind. His pragmatic thinking on the ills of man, gave way to a glorious dharma which concerns righteous living.

The collection of Gotama Buddha's discourses is called the Tripitaka (the Three canons which have 31 volumes). Amongst them, the Dhammapada belongs to the Khuddaka Nikaya. The word Dhammapada means "the location of the Doctrine".

This valuable document contains 423 verses preached by Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha on over 300 occasions, all of moral and spiritual value. In the commentary written in Pali by Buddhaghosa Thera, (who came from North India to Sri Lanka in the 5th century and resided at the Brazen Palace, Anuradhapura) there are anecdotes which describe the incidents referred to in verse preached by the Great Teacher. They are all considered "gems" of the Buddha's teaching.

The verses of the Dhammapada have been compiled into 26 Vaggas (or groups) and refer to the ethical life of ordinary men and also to the spiritual life of Arahants. The Buddha is known to have used numerous methods to put across His teaching; often differing in method of delivery, according to His audience. He did not generally, rely on the performing of miracles to convince those of other faiths, but performed miracles only on two occasions, when challenged by Mahavira, the Jain Leader.

One method used by Him to propagate His Dharma was the use of similes. For example, verse No.13 of the Dhammapada (English translation) says, "Even as rain penetrates on ill-thatched roof, so does lust penetrate on undeveloped mind."

Of the 26 vaggas (or chapters) of the Dhammapada seven chapters 2,9,15,16,17,18 and 24 refer to the qualities of heedfulness (Appamada), evil (Papa), happiness (Sukha), affection (Piya), Anger (Krodha), impurities (Mala) and Craving (Tanha).

In the context that, there has been no peace in our land with the ongoing war in the North and East, verse (1) of Jana Vagga appears meaningful.

"What is laughter (hasa) what is joy (anando)

When the world is even burning

Shrouded by darkness, would you not seek a light?"

The Dhammapada gives us an insight into the mysteries and true nature of life, and emphasises how one becomes bogged down in the morass of attachment, craving and desire, the foremost ills which all Buddhists strive to be rid of.





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B1.24   Ummagga Jatakaya for children







Articles Index





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B1.26   Origin of species according to the Buddha

Mahinda Weerasinghe

Published by Stamford Lake,

Professor Carlo Fonseka’s review of the above work (Sunday Island — 3rd Nov 02) is misleading and inapt in numerous aspects. He accuses me of polemical verbosity and quotes from pages 49,57,82,84 and elsewhere without elaborating the subtle associated concepts. These were not polemics to inveigh against Science or any religious denomination. What I did was to table Buddha’s unshakable and unsurpassable concept of evolution before the global society. During that process, expressions of the aforementioned inadvertent assertions became a sine qua non.

Carried away by enthusiasm for the man, he has elevated Darwin to sainthood, and even adorned him with a halo. So that Darwin seems infallible. Accordingly, natural selection has turned into a holy writ. But if one were to peruse any standard work of Darwin’s biography we are confronted with the following hard facts.

In late Oct. 1825 Charles arrived in Edinburgh to study medicine. He was not yet 17. He did not appreciate much of his official studies at this institution, with the exception of Dr. Hope’s chemistry lectures. In fact he hated the courses he was required to follow. Before long Darwin was becoming convinced that he was not cut out for a medical career. The fact that he need not work for a living must have encouraged him to look for an alternate form of education. At this stage, his father suggested that he take holy orders in the Church of England. He wrote later, "As I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our creed must be fully accepted".

Recent research indicates Darwin did not recognize the significance of the Galapagos finches until after the Beagle has departed. He has taken the other peoples’ collections in order to investigate the problems of speciation in this unique environment. Historians are now of the view that his conversion to evolutionism occurred only after he returned to England. Only then was Darwin fully converted to his own theory. In fact some biographers suspect he was an agnostic, insecure and irresolute of his own hypothesis, that he avoided all debates dealing with natural selection. The are we to assume that the good professor is more Darwinistic than Darwin himself?

The world in fact recognizes the following theories of "the history of life":

a.) Genesis b.) Separate creation c.) Transformism and d.) Evolution

There is of course an e.) - theory, which was over their heads, though millenniums old. I would return to expound it in due course.

a.) Genesis - These are the believers who postulate that God has created man as man pig as pig, and the whole process has taken place about 6000 years ago notwithstanding the fact that, according to geological evidence that the earth has existed 3,5 million years.

b.) Separate creation - Charles Lyell held this theory. Separate creation is different from the Biblical alternative to evolution. This states that species do not change and there are as many origins of species as there are species. The main arguments against Genesis holds true for this one too.

The above two premises were categorized by me as Fatalistic Deterministic theories.

Why so! Take Mr. X the individual. Mr. X’s mind and body has been preordained by an external power at the hour of his creation. Mr. X was not

consulted when his mind and body were fashioned. Be he a lunatic, a pervert a Hitler or a Fonseka, his mind and body being things predetermined, he was bound to think and act according to his inherited body and mind mechanism. As he utilized what was fashioned for him by the universal clockmaker, how could he then be held accountable for his actions? Which logically follows that all the blame for the individual’s misdemeanor should be attributed to his architect; which would mean his destiny is fatalistically ‘locked-in’.

c.) Transformism - This assumes several origins of life but species do mutate. The scientific establishment does not take this theory seriously.

d.) Evolution - This of course is the theory Darwin advanced, to explain evolution in 1859. This through his work "THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES".

According to which, species change and mutate into new species and the present day species are descendants of a single ancestor. And in order to explain the phenomena, he proposed natural selection.

Cardinal factors

The last theory is the only one accepted by science due to the three following cardinal factors. The problem of the mechanism of evolution is to find a theory that can explain evolution, that can explain adaptation, and that fits the facts of heredity.

The one, which passes all these three tests, they proclaim, is natural selection by Charles Darwin.

In other words they latched on to a theory, as they found none other, viable enough to meet the given criteria. Scientists insist, as does Carlo Fonseka, that scientific method is exact and science arrives at any theory after doing a great deal of testing and experimentation.

But natural selection is only a working hypothesis; it cannot be measured like electricity or a pound of butter. We can explicitly state that the strength of a column can be measured, by the amount of pressure it can withstand by loading it, till it collapses. This is not the case with natural selection. It is but a working hypothesis; hence only a theory. If something more realistic emerges, these scientists will drop Darwin’s theory like a hot potato.

Natural selection

In time natural selection become the explain all of the biologist. It is as if a piece of fabric to a tailor, for it can be "tailored to fit the man". In other words "natural selection" is so pliable, it can be manipulated to suit most of their sub theories.

So what is the verdict on c.) and d.)? Indeed they are positively mechanistic deterministic theories.

Why so? For here too whether Mr. X is born an Einstein or a Darwin, an imbecile, a pervert or even a Fonseka, it was attributed to a whole series of lucky chances. The individual’s presence here was by pure potluck. Indeed it was not "survival of the fittest" but "survival of the luckiest." Right time at the right place sort of luck. Hence his presence here is due chance aimless genetical lotto, and ergo, mechanistically determined.

I must admit I have a strong suspicion why Darwin did not appear at any debate to defend his theory. He clearly tried to avoid that vital question.

Indeed if we have evolved from amoeba upward and descended from apes, then are we similar to other creatures, hence devoid of a ‘soul’? Strange to say both of the above deterministic camps studiously avoided raising this cardinal issue.

Indeed the denial of a purpose is Darwin’s distinctive contention. By an automatic or "natural selection", variations favoring survival will be preserved. Thus sum total of the accidents of life acting upon the sum total accidents of variation provided a completely mechanical and material system by which the changes of living forms are to be accounted for. There were no causes, neither their effects in his hypothesis. He eliminated, from existence, love, hatred, jealousy, envy, lust, self-indulgence, greed, hedonism, self-pity, indeed pleasure and pain, and a myriad of real creature qualities owned by animate entities.

And naturally so, as that being the scientific method. You speak of observations professor, haven’t scientist observed these qualities when they

formulated their ‘hair brained’ theories? Obviously such qualities were not ‘material absolutes’ and were not needed when explaining the mutation of ‘automats’. These couldn’t be measured, weighed, tested or peeped into using a microscope, which as you inform, ‘constitute the scientific explanation’.

Sad to say professor, Darwinism is nothing but another religion. Similar to the Judeo-Christian ones it too exhorts its followers to have faith, without offering a realistic clarification as to the reasons why species mutate and evolve.


Without the sensory lust, people will find existence purposeless, senseless, and bare. I did not deny that creatures were machines, Professor and it’s dishearting how you misinform the readers so blatantly. Indeed I specified creatures as sensory machines, indeed ultra sophisticated super sensory mechanisms that react to pleasure and pain, the paramount qualities driving existence, so studiously disregarded in ‘natural selection’.

I would not attempt to expound Darwinism, since any library would offer the reader ample reading matter. But I cannot take leave of the subject without posing that vital question; why this necessity to mutate and survive at all? Scientist will respond, that it is in order to assure the continuation of its types. Then if we posed the next query, what was so imperative with this continuation of its proto-types, we would receive a deafening silence from scientists.

With the publication of ‘ORIGIN OF SPECIES ACCORDING TO THE BUDDHA’ I am presenting the aforementioned e) theory. This is 2550 years old and is the original theory of evolution, proposed millenniums ahead of what was to follow.

Indeed SENSORY BECOMING THEORY can effortlessly explain evolution; can show mechanisms of adaptation, and smoothly fits the facts of heredity.

In fact it does much, much more. It shows there are causes and effects to sensory becoming. It shows the pleasure and pain principal directing the sensory becoming, it shows effects of conditioning on individuals and species, among other things.

Using Pali texts I am able to document beyond any doubt that Buddha outlined a concise evolutionary theory, though he did not use that term. As he found the word ‘evolution’ lacking the global sweep of his findings, he used the term ‘Becoming’. Why ‘becoming’! Because the direction of this new renovation (unlike Darwin’s postulation) can be in the positive or negative direction, hence pregnant with meaning than any other relevant theory. Indeed sensory becoming theory surpasses the mechanistic theory of Darwin’s, overwhelmingly.


According to the SENSORY BECOMING THEORY, existence is not an objective in itself. Rather, what lies beyond! Existence becomes merely a preamble to a more vital goal. Biological evolution is subservient to a pleasure principle. The net result of evolution is creatures with progressively developed sensory potential. Evolution we notice heightens the sensory experience, including the pleasures of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. A closer investigation yields the validation of this extraordinary principle. Sensory additions to the original single celled amoeba, did not necessarily contributed to its ability to survive, though such additions certainly contributed to his ability to enjoy!

Equipped with this knowledge, if we were to scrutinize the broad evolutionary ladder, we would be in for a shock: Species with ascending orders of sensory complexity in body and mind were extending their possibilities of sensory stimulation, and thereby enjoying gratification! Human species the ultimate product of this sensory struggle provides ample evidence of this phenomenon. If we were to compare him with the lower orders of species, it is not hard to spot his ultra sophisticated and balanced sensory apparatus, which would help him, reap myriads of sensory pleasures.

But in order cater to this gratification one need to act; hence an action theory is affiliated to the sensory becoming theory. Indeed with a concern to direct beings towards an advantageous path of sensory becoming, Buddha incorporated an ethical theory, which is corollary to his basic sensory becoming theory.

Where you really got confused is your inability to grasp what’s stated on page 84 professor, and I quote ‘they (scientist and not I) took it for granted that species were atomistic i.e. sharply discontinuous.’ Which means according to scientist species were categorized by name as X or had mutated into a new species called Y. Mutability of species is well and true Professor but my question was, where does one species end and a new daughter species arise. This mutation has occurred according to modern genetist, through a copying error of the cell. Hence one species has mutated into new species through a blundering error of the cell. Eventually what we specifically have is X species and Y Species, hence for scientist they are sharply discontinuous.

Sensory becoming theory is not so ambiguous but is explicit. Species were defined by their sensory disposition. The sensory mechanisms were shown to be momentarily becoming, hence not sharply discontinuous (This should be obvious going by the basic law of impermanence as declared by the Buddha and as currently accepted by science). On the contrary Professor, judging by your inability to grasp the basic essentials of the above theory, elegantly outlined by me, and being critical of things, which were not promoted in my work, you depicts glaringly your inadequacies and prejudices.

Just to illustrate comparatively the ‘Sensory Becoming Theory’ against ‘natural selection’ I will take a simple riddle! Why did we shed our bodily hair when we left the trees and stood up erect, to become the so-called naked apes? Darwinistic explanations are abound to clear up this matter. The constant sleeping places created a rich breeding ground for a variety of ticks, mites, fleas, bugs and the like, they inform. By dropping their hair they were able to cope with this problem better. Then why keep back hair on the head and the private parts. Or why didn’t the monkeys and apes follow suit. Another explanation is hunting ape had to cool off, this he did by dropping his hairy coat. So why did not the tropical hunters such as the leopard ape us.

The sensory becoming theory has a precise answer to this puzzle. Man by dropping his hairy coat has extended his sensory horizon and advanced further his visual and tactile gratification opportunities. Indeed he can now touch, feel and see the naked body, which will offer him myriads of sensory pleasures.

The playboy and such magazines are obviously exploiting this sensory extension. Indeed modern females actively strive to get rid of their few remaining bodily hairs in order to tempt their partners, though none of such parasites bother them.

I am fervently confident that this theory will stand the test of time. What will be fossilized Professor, I surmise, is your unqualified and mediocre ravings.

10 11 2002  - Sunday Island





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B1.27   The Book of the Century

Dr. John Stella MA (Oxford) PhD (UWA)

Nowadays we often find the Middle Way as expounded by the Buddha confused with ‘moderation’. Consequently, the Middle Way — all too often degenerates into the Easy Way; and many books on "Buddhism" — a term our present author disliked — are dedicated to making the Dhamma as easy as possible to understand and thus practicable by the largest possible number.

Opposed to this popular literature, which will surely not satisfy the truly religious mind, we are fortunate to have the writings of Venerable Gnanavira Thera, who vehemently criticized all attempts to simplify the Buddha’s Teaching, whether in theory or practice. His Notes on Dhamma has been acclaimed as ‘the most important book of the century’ for its revolutionary and uncompromising existential interpretation of the Suttas, in which the author constantly reminds us, as the Buddha warned Ananda, that the Dhamma is ‘deep, profound and difficult to see’ — an Aryan discipline, not for the many but for the few.

Many of us, before encountering this present volume, thought we had understood ‘dependent origination’, kamma and rebirth, having been taught the spurious simile of the flame or absurd notions such as ‘neither he nor another is reborn’. Awed by centuries of tradition, both clergy and laity have recited these elementary formulae and allowed unresolved contradictions to pass under the guise of "mysticism". Conversely, our author debunks these convenient and long-held fallacies, and insists that if we are at all serious we must study the Suttas and adhere rigorously to the Laws of Thought. Moreover, he is adamant that we puthujjanas admit both our ignorance and inauthenticity. Ven. navra’s demands may make readers squirm in their easy chairs, but as he once wrote to his physician, quoting Kierkegaard, ‘The very maximum of what one human being can do for another... is to inspire him with concern and unrest’.

For this reason the Notes will undermine the comfortable position of many contemporary Buddhists who, having never studied the Suttas, blithely remark, ‘I just practise’. As if one could practise the Dhamma without comprehending it; or worse, as if the Dhamma were shallow, superficial and obvious instead of deep, profound and difficult to see. And if we are to take the Buddha at his word, the Dhamma must be our chief, nay, our only concern. Any other concern is meaningless, for the only worthwhile goal for the puthujjana is to cease being a puthujjana. And that, as he was wont to say, needs hard work.

Those few who are prepared to study and practise the Dhamma afresh, putting aside both the encrustation of centuries and jejune New Age "dharma", will experience a revolution as they read this book. Herein they will find the essentials of the Buddha’s Teaching as they have never heretofore been explained. Not, of course that our author’s philosophical commentary on the Suttas sets out to render them any easier; rather, they are rendered more rewarding via the scrutiny of a powerful intellect ‘attained to view’ and fully percipient of the truth of anicca.

Ven. Gnanavira boldly asserts that one must take a ‘vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence’ in order to progress in the Dhamma. He relentlessly asserts that meaning of the Canon relates to me, to my problems, my frustrations, my sorrows, and their resolution-and nothing else. He regarded the ‘horizontal’ or impartial view, so often taken by post-canonical texts, as a kanha dhamma: a ‘dark teaching’, not leading to awakening, or to borrow an existentialist idiom, yet another act of ‘bad faith’. Hence the author’s motive for reducing the traditional three baskets to two.

So at last, we have an original work on the Dhamma, not just a rehash of the Visuddhimagga or the Abhidhamma; one which does not catalogue 52 types of consciousness, nor speculate on how many thought-moments occur per second. At last, we have an author who instead discards all such ‘dead matter’ extraneous to the luminous teaching of the Suttas, which reveals the Exit from anguish and discontent. Hence, as one follows each Note, the argument hinges on these questions: Is the Dhamma objective, a treatise on cause-and-effect, as many would have it? Or is it essentially subjective, concerning a present, personal and vital problem, i.e. the Care and Anxiety experienced right at this moment, for which I alone am responsible?

If the Dhamma is objective, the tilakkana (anicca, dukkha, anattma) can be observed as external phenomena by any puthujjana. He is told, for example, that hair eventually turns grey and that a chariot or a car is merely a collection of components. By this nifty logic, the car standing before him disappears, and our pupil may now relinquish his misguided attachment to it. Summarily cured of avijja, he perceives anicca and anattma, core elements of the Buddha’s Teaching.

Notice, however, the conspicuous absence of dukkha in the equation, and as our author demurs, ‘the problem has been solved by leaving it out’. That any car whatsoever is a collection of parts is of no consequence; but when this one belongs to me it becomes an immediate concern, because at any moment one or more of its components may wear out. Similarly, those grey hairs are not mere strands of protein, but harbingers of my body’s decline; now women will no longer find me attractive and I shall be deprived of sensual pleasure. And even if the car is in perfect condition today, there remains the possibility of a break down tomorrow, and although my hair at present may be coal-black, there is certainty that to my dismay it will turn grey or fall out. This too, as the Suttas say, is dukkha.

These brief observations should demonstrate that for a puthujjana Care and Anxiety lurk in each moment; and impermanence, with its ever-present menace to "my self" necessarily implies suffering as a structural principle of my existence. Consequently, as Ven. Nanavira contends, only subjective aniccata, inseparable from dukkha, is relevant to the Buddha’s Teaching; hence, the tilakkana triad ‘has no intelligible application if applied objectively to things’.

So, as we go through the Notes, we shall see that the author’s ‘subjective’ viewpoint in no way intends an abrogation of hard thinking or hard work, and that an objective analysis of the Dhamma, no matter how "logical", fails to rise above the mundane. If anicca concerns things, we should be better equipped with a microscope than with wisdom to observe it; if paticcasamuppada deals with cause-and-effect, explains kamma and vipaka, and may be ‘portrayed diagrammatically on one very large sheet of paper’ as it is so often done, then it should not take an arahant to comprehend it.

As outlined above, the subjective or existential approach of Notes on Dhamma may appear to render the Buddha’s Teaching more obscure and more difficult to practise. Yet upon reflection it will become clear that other books have hoodwinked us by making the Dhamma look too simple. If phassa can be compared, as in the Milindapanha, to the contact between two cymbals, and a key concept as namarupa defined as ‘mind-and-matter’ or as George Grimm’s ‘mind-body machine’, then we hardly need the wisdom of a Buddha to enlighten us.

Of course, the Teaching is atakkavacara, beyond reason and logic, and no matter how learned a puthujjana may be, only by developing sila, samadhi and panna can he become an Aryan. Indeed, as our author argues, avijja is not ‘a purely verbal misunderstanding’, and Right View is not achieved through an informed choice. Yet he also argues that one cannot truly develop them if he ‘just practises’ while misinformed of what the practice is all about; or while under the spell of modern mysticism, which tells him the chair upon which he sits does not exist; or while seduced by "Buddhism without beliefs", whereby he may comfortably ‘seek refuge in distractions’ and in the Dhamma at the same time.

Fortunately, Gnanavira Thera has ‘cleared the path’ of superficial notions of paticca samuppada and its constituent terms, as well as other fatuous misconceptions. We may now proceed along the Way unimpeded by the ‘dead matter’ which has littered it for so long.

[The writer has written extensively on Dhamma contributing articles the Washington Buddhist, Forum Italicum, Rivista di Studi Italiani and the Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities etc. His essay, "One, no one and One Hundred Thousand" is published as the final chapter of ‘Reflections of the Dharma’, edited by Dr. Sunthorn Plamitr (Chicago, 1990). His recent book ‘Self and Self-Compromise in the Narratives of Pirandello and Moravia’ (New York: Peter Lang, 2000), incorporates Ven. Gnanavira’s approach to the Suttas to offer, additionally, a revolutionary interpretation of Pirandello and Moravia, two of the most prolific Italian writers of the Twentieth Century].

13 10 2002 - Sunday Island





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B1.28   Buddha's teachings and realities of modern life

Findings of Gautama Buddha on the Fundamental Realities of Existence

Dr. Earnest Abeyaratna

Reviewed by Prof. M.H.F. Jayasuriya

The author of this little book or ' essay' as he himself calls it was at one time the Director of Agriculture. As such, he was essentially a man of science, but unlike the usual scientist, he appears to have had a receptive and discerning mind, not only in his scientific pursuits but also in his outlook on the meaning of life in general.

Though he was born and brought up in a god-fearing Anglican family, he appears to have become disillusioned early in his life with the faith of his ancestors and drawn towards a critical study of the Buddha Dhamma.

Here he soon found the answers to the questions which had been vexing him all along. This little book of 54 pages which was written by Dr. Abeyaratna in the evening of his life, bears testimony to his firm belief and conviction in the validity of the Dhamma as a healing balm for the ills of the modern world.

The book consists of two parts. Part I is a general survey of the familiar, yet core concepts of the Dhamma - the four noble Truths, the three singnata (anicca, dukkha and anatta), kamma (the Law of moral causation & rebirth), paticca samutpada (Dependent Origination, which is the 'piece de resistance' of Buddhist Thought), all these and many more are explained from the point of view of a trained scientist.

From here, he goes on to describe the Noble Eightfold Path, following its traditional threefold division into sila (moral practice) samadhi (mind culture), culminating in panna (the liberating knowledge of things as they really are).

The truth of anatta, the Buddha's unique teaching that, in reality, all compounded things, man included are lacking in a self or abiding substance (atta) is discussed in depth.

The practice of meditation which results in the purification of mind, morality and right view (sammaditthi), has rightly been emphasised as the pivotal factor in the whole process of liberation.

Part II of this book discusses the implications of the Buddha's findings for modern life.

The Dhamma and its relation to other religions is examined with an open mind. The scientific and empirical nature of the Buddha's discoveries being such as to ensure the universal validity of the Dhamma for as long as life exists.

For readers, both young and old, especially those who like the author are looking beyond their traditional and ancestral beliefs for a more reasoned and rational explanation of life's realities and complexities, this little book should serve as a stepping-stone for further serious study of the Buddha Dhamma.

4 7 2002 - Sunday Times





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B1.29   Notes on Dhamma

Dr. Kingsley Heendeniya

I am publishing this article to inform readers about the book ‘Writings of Nanavira Thera Vol. I, Notes on Dhamma’ which I have arranged to be re-printed by the Buddhist Cultural Centre, Nedimale, Dehiwela, Sri Lanka [BCC]. It is for sale now at the BCC and bookshops in a hardcover handsomely bound presentation, at an affordable price.

The ‘Notes’ was published as the first part of ‘Clearing the Path’ edited by Ven. Bodhesako (Colombo: Path Press, 1987), now out of print. Ven. Kirinde Wimalajoti, Director BCC acquired the last stocks of this rare book from Wisdom Books, London. They were quickly sold out. The second part will be published shortly as ‘Writings of Nanavia Thera Vol. II, Letters’.

At the outset, I should advise readers that ‘Notes on Dhamma’ is a difficult book, meant - as are all our author’s writings - for those intelligent few who are: (a) willing to read it alongside the Suttas and the Vinaya-pitaka and Pali texts Ven. „ˆnav"ra regarded as authentic (b) not mere academics and so have a personal reason to practice the Dhamma (c) not Abhidhamma students, purveyors of paticcasamupˆda in diagrams or writers and readers of ‘Buddhism and Science’ fiction, and are (d) able to understand writers such as Russell, Sartre, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Kafka and others of that genre.

Both volumes include extensive introductory remarks by Dr. John Stella (a former lecturer in Modern Languages and Literature from Oxford, presently residing in the United States awaiting ordination). He wrote them at my invitation.

Dr. Stella writes, "The Middle Way all too often degenerates into the Easy Way; and many books on Buddhism are dedicated to making the Dhamma as easy as possible to understand and thus practicable by the largest possible number. Opposed to this popular literature, we are fortunate to have the writings of Venerable Nanavira Thera who vehemently criticized all attempts to simplify the Buddha’s Teaching, whether in theory or practice.

His ‘Notes on Dhamma’ has been acclaimed as ‘the most important book of the century’ for its revolutionary and uncompromising existential interpretation of the Suttas, in which the author constantly reminds us, as the Buddha warned Ananda, that the Dhamma is ‘deep, profound and difficult to see’ - an Aryan discipline, not for the many but for the few.

In departure from popular custom the puthajjana will find himself directly and personally challenged to adopt the viewpoint of the author, a sotˆpanna, one who has attained sammaditthi, or Right View.

Heavily reliant on twentieth-century Western philosophy and literature, it boldly introduces existentialist ideas into the Canon, and the meaning to be deduced from it becomes readily apparent. Ven. „ˆnav"ra quickly cautions us that the Existentialists are no wise a substitute for the Buddha... [for] they remained puthajjanas. Nevertheless, he learned from them that one must take a ‘vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his personal existence’ in order to progress in the Dhamma. He relentlessly asserts that meaning of the Canon relates to me, to my problems, my frustrations, my sorrows, and their resolution-and nothing else. [Hence] the Notes will undermine the comfortable position of many contemporary Buddhists who, having never studied the Suttas, blithely remark ‘I just practise’. As if one could practise Dhamma without comprehending it."

Readers of Volume 1 can better understand it if studied alongside Venerable Nanavira’s correspondence [Vol. 2] which, as he put it, serves as ‘something of a commentary on the ‘Notes’. All of this material can be download free of charge from the Nanavira web site maintained by four foreign devotees of Dhamma. On the Internet go to the following URL Internet address:

28 7 2002 - Sunday Island





Personalities History

Articles Index

B1.30   The Baby's Flesh

(as told by Master Thich Nhat Hanh)

A young couple and their two-year-old child were trying to cross the desert, and they ran out of food. After deep relection, they realized that in order to survive they had to kill their son and eat his flesh. They calculated that if they ate such and such a proportion of their baby's flesh and carried the rest on their shoulder to dry, it would last the rest of their journey. But with every morsel of their baby's flesh they ate, the young couple cried and cried.

After he told this story, the Buddha asked, "Dear friends, do you think the young couple enjoyed eating their son's flesh?"

"No, Lord, it would not be possible for them to enjoy eating their son's flesh."

The Buddha said, "Yet many people eat the flesh of their parents, their children, and their grandchildren and do not know it."





Personalities History

Articles Index

The last walk of the Samma Sambuddha

"Ananda! Thathagatha is on his final walk.
Much to be talked of the Dhamma, few hours to talk
To envisage the man the whole of the Rajagaha and Kusinara I have tread
This walk is the last, you will remember as I have said.
I am tired, Ananda I need some water to sip
Can you find a stream for my begging bowl to dip"
Ananda, the Buddha's disciple, saw water in a muddy stream
He fetched the water, reflecting the sunset beam
"Bagavath Samma Sambuddha, you need a while to rest"
Ananda found a place for the Buddha recline at his best
The Buddha's disciple Ananda was very much disturbed
To find the Buddha uneasy, a gripe he had suffered
The Buddha was weary he needed to rest
Mara was delighted, as he could get his choice, the best
Resting beneath two Sal trees, with fragrance around
Ananda thero was vigilant, in deep thought, not a sound
Ananda thero, felt the end could not be averted
Thathagatha spoke for the last time, "Ananda karma cannot be diverted"
"All beings, has to face the disaster of pain and sorrow
Waste not the time, count not of a tomorrow"
The devas smelt the parinirvana, and gathered around
The Buddha is no more, soon they found
Ananda was a normal bikku, he beat his chest, and wailing Buddha is no more
He could not control his emotions, that was all the while in store
The Sakra and Devas of all abodes, in sorrow they sank
Together with the earthly distinguished Royals in rank
The Buddha's parinirvana, touched the hearts of everyone crying aloud
Sacra who was also in grief, chanted "Anichchawatte Sankara as he bowled"
Everything mortal - ends up in Decay
The true philosophy of life as it is today

- Vinitha Karunaratne

12 05 2006 - Daily News


The pilgrimage

I flew by plane to Lumbini,
Where prince Siddhartha was born
Chanted 'pirith' with all devotees,
Until it was dawn.
Then we travelled in a bus to Buddhagaya,
Where the Lord attained His 'Buddhahood'.
Offered milk rice and flowers to the seated Buddha
And we all slept the night there.
Next we reached the Isipathanaramaya,
Where HE preached the 'Dhammachakka Suthra'
We all worshipped the Buddha with jasmine flowers,
And left the place to the pilgrims rest.
Finally we proceeded to Kusi Nagar,
Where the Enlightened One passed away,
Worshipped with lotuses, lit oil lamps and jossticks,
Meditating for half an hour.
I fell at His feet and sobbed,
With high emotion and tears in eyes,
When I woke up with great sorrow;
Surely, a dream it was to realize.

- K. Tylin de Silva

12 05 2006 - Daily News


Wipe away the dark stains from the heart of this earth

Rabindranath Tagore

The world today is wild with the delirium of hatred.
The conflicts are cruel and unceasing,
Crooked are its paths, tangled its meshes of greed.
All creatures are crying in anguish for a manifestation of thine.
Oh thou of boundless life, save them, raise thine eternal voice of hope.
Let love's lotus with its inexhaustible treasure of honey
Open its petals in thy light,
O Serene, O Free, in thine immeasurable mercy and goodness
Wipe away all dark stains from the heart of this earth.
Thou giver of immortal gifts, give us the power of dedication,
Claim from us our greed
And pride of self.
In the splendour of a new sun-rise of wisdom
Let the blind gain their sight, let life come to the souls that are dead.
O Serene, O Free, in thine immeasurable mercy and goodness
Wipe away all dark stains from the heart of this Earth.

(The above poem, was translated by the author from his Bengali song specially for the Ceylon Daily News when he was in the island in 1934 Ed.)

(From Ceylon Daily News Vesak Number, May 1935)

12 05 2006 - Daily News


Seeing the World

                   Stay your mind,

                    At seeing,

                   With what is seen.

                   At hearing,

                   With what is heard.

                   So too with all that is sensed,

                   With what is sensed.

                   * * *

                   And with what is thought,

                   Only with what is thought.

                   For you then,

                   There is no there,

                   Where there is no there,

                   There will be no here,

                   Where there is no here,

                   And because there is neither

                   There nor here,

                   This verily, is the end of Dukkha.

                   (from Udana 8)

- U.Karunatilake.


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