JOURNAL - PAGE 11.
INDEX - PAGE 11
J11.01 Two Truths in Buddhism - Theravada Buddhism had described two Truths; Absolute Truth and Conventional Truth.
J11.02 Am I smarter than you ? Yes, if you are a meat eater - The British Medical Journal has reported a study...
J11.03 Living stress free - The other day I met a friend of mine. He said...
J11.04 The actual meaning of refuge in the Triple Gems and the Precepts - For the lay person...
J11.05 Vesak Reflection on the Medical Profession - ‘Physicians’ as the very term implies deal with the body...
J11.06 Full moon Poya day of Vesak 2552 - A noble prince who was destined to be the greatest ...
J11.07 Insight (Vipassana) Meditation in Sri Lanka - Progress made during the last Fifty years
J11.08 Buddhism and Science -
J11.09 Hypnosis, Re-birth and Kamma - In recent time, hypnosis has become an absorbing study...
J11.10 Stressed Americans turn to meditation - Tension and stress in their lives have led some Americans...
J11.12 Sublime virtues to happiness and peace - The first event in the life of the Buddha commemorated by Vesak...
J11.13 Fundamentals of Buddhism - Buddhism (the Dhamma) as enshrined in the Tripitaka runs into...
J11.14 Buddha Charitha or life of the Buddha - Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born as the son of King Suddhodana...
J11.15 Samana Gotama to Buddha: A canonical based reconstruction - Leaving the palace in search of the spiritual life
J11.16 The seat of enlightenment - As the Ganges flows through Varanasi (Benares), one sees the spirit of ...
J11.17 Truth is unpleasant - While browsing through the Pali text of the Samyutta Nikaya…
J11.01 Two Truths in Buddhism
Professor N. A. de S. Amaratunga
Theravada Buddhism had described two Truths; Absolute Truth (Paramatha Sathya) and Conventional Truth (Sammuti Sathya). Nagarjuna Thera of the Mahayana Tradition also identified two truths, but his theory was different from that of Theravada Buddhism.
Are there, in fact, two types of Truth in Theravada Buddhism? Do these two Truths vary in degree? Is Absolute Truth superior in anyway to the Conventional Truth? Some Buddhists commit the mistake that Absolute Truth is superior to the Conventional Truth and some go to the extent of saying that Nirvana is the Absolute Truth.
On the basis of this premise, they arrive at new interpretations of Nirvana, which could be misleading. In fact, there is only one Truth in Buddhism, but there are two ways of presenting it. This will be explained briefly.
Buddha and also the Abhidhamic theorists who based their discussions on the Buddha’s preaching have categorically said that the Absolute Truth is not superior to the Conventional Truth and that there is no difference in degree between the two. More importantly, either of these two Truths could be made use of to gain insight and follow the path to Enlightenment. Buddha had used both in his preaching depending on the intellectual ability of the listener.
What then was the reason for identifying two Truths? In early Buddhist preaching, all phenomena of human existence, both mental and physical, had been analyzed according to five methods.
In the first method, they were analyzed into "nama" and "rupa", in the second into five aggregates (rupa, vedana, sangna, sankara and vingnana), in the third into six elements (earth, water, temperature, air, space, and consciousness), in the fourth into twelve avenues of sense perception and mental formation and in the fifth into eighteen "dhatus".
These derivatives were considered as the elements of all phenomena of human existence. When a particular phenomenon was explained in terms of these elements, the explanation was considered as the Absolute Truth. When the same phenomenon was explained in terms of general agreement it was considered as the Conventional Truth.
Later Abhidhamic theorists had recognized the need to analyze further the above mentioned elements and they arrived at irreducible ultimate factors, which were called Dhammas, a comprehensive list of which appears in the Abhidhamma Pitakaya. These Dhammas it is said, participate in the process of dependent co-origination. Though they are recognized as ultimate elements for purposes of understanding, they are not separate entities and each occurs in conjunction with several other Dhammas. Their occurrence is dependent on conditions and once created they too can act as conditions for the occurrence of others. All mental experiences and physical phenomena occur in this manner. An explanation of a phenomenon, mental or material, in terms of these Dhammas is said to be the Absolute Truth. When the same phenomenon is explained in terms of general agreement, that explanation is said to be the Conventional Truth. If for example, a human being is explained in terms of the five "skandhas", it is considered an Absolute Truth. On the other hand, if a human being is explained as a person who will goes through life and suffer and finally die in a process of endless "samsara", then it will be a Conventional Truth.
These definitions, however, do not mean there are two types of Truth in Theravada Buddhism, but rather two ways of presenting the Truth.
As mentioned earlier either could be made use of, as two ways of arriving at the path to Enlightenment. Thus there is only one Truth in Theravada Buddhism.
08 09 2008 - The Island
J11.02 Am I smarter than you ? Yes, if you are a meat eater
The British Medical Journal has reported a study done by Southampton University of 8,179 people. Researchers found that people who had become vegetarian by the age of 30 had a higher IQ – more than 5 points higher – than meat eaters. Men who were vegetarian had an IQ score of 106, compared with 101 for non-vegetarians; while female vegetarians averaged 104, compared with 99 for non-vegetarians.
The researchers found linkages of intelligence to health as well but the jury was still out on whether people who are more intelligent become vegetarian or people who were vegetarian had so much better health , specially in terms of heart disease and obesity – that their brains could develop more. I agree with the second theory – after all someone who is born into a vegetarian household does not use his brains to make a choice. The fact that he/she turns out more intelligent could be a result of the body having more time to devote to brain development rather than combat the food shoved into it. What else would explain the mental abilities of the Jain and Marwari communities for instance ? Or the Brahmins ? The researchers in the British Medical Journal, say it isn’t clear why veggies are brainier - but admit the fruit and vegetable diet could somehow boost brain power. The study said that vegetarians were also more likely to have gained degrees and hold down high-powered jobs.Dr Gale said: ‘ it does not rule out the possibility that such a diet might have some beneficial effect on subsequent cognitive performance.’Might the nature of the vegetarians’ diet have enhanced their apparently superior brain power? Was this the mechanism that helped them achieve the disproportionate nature of degrees?’
I am not surprised at this finding. In India , seventy five percent of the true achievers are vegetarian. The top businessmen , the top business classes , most of the top politicians and filmstars, models, athletes… Having grown up in a meat- eating environment ( the army) I am happy that my husband Sanjay made me vegetarian at the age of 18. My favourite vegetarian , my son, Varun , has been vegetarian since he was born and has an IQ of 161 ( proving this theory). All the vegetarian people whom I know are all significantly more intelligent than the average. I have a list of my favourite vegetarians and , thank God for India, I have a huge long list to choose from. I am only choosing the most intelligent in this list – the handsomest, most beautiful,sexiest etc – we will leave for another day.
Let me start with the Great Khali – the WWF wrestler who is the largest man I have ever seen on television. He is not just a vegetarian but is a gentle giant who feeds homeless people wherever he is. One of my firmest beliefs is that it takes intelligence to have compassion.
Pritish Nandy, poet, writer, filmmaker, painter, designer, thinker, the editor of the ‘Illustrated Weekly of India’, when it was the single largest magazine in India and Member of Parliament much before it became mandatory to reward loyalty in journalists and industrialists with Rajya sabha memberships.
The Ambani brothers, their wives and their father and mother. Imagine creating and managing so much wealth that it becomes inspirational. Group them with Aditya Birla and his family and Narayanamurthy , the founder of Infosys and the IT movement in India which has given jobs to lakhs of people . The list of vegetarian creators of wealth runs into thousands of pages. Is a vegetarian diet the key to success as well as well-being?
Dr Abdul Kalam has been the finest President we have ever had and certainly a role model for many people – including my son. He is not just very bright , he is humane , graceful and disciplined. I wish he had had a second term – especially when I look at his successor who will come and go unnoticed – even though she is also a vegetarian.
LK Advani , the skilful and undisputed head of the largest party in India and a proud vegetarian.
Hema Malini , actress and dancer is not just beautiful and generous but a smart and hardworking politician. Her daughters Esha and Ahana are equally bright and motivated.
Amitabh Bachchan , who at his age and with his health , manages his and his family members’ careers with such intelligence and sophistication.
Mandira Bedi, who became the first woman commentator in the male preserve of cricket and with a joyful combination of intelligence and charm managed to make millions of new cricket fans.
Milind Soman who has made his career as a model last forever, remaining numero uno in his forties and now branching out into rejuvenating Indian textiles.
Chinny and Nanditha Krishna: Chinny heads a company that specialises in solving machinery problems for companies internationally. He also runs India’s first animal shelter. Nanditha is one of the country’s leading experts on mythology and culture. She heads a major educational foundation and is one of Penguin’s most prolific and best selling authors.
While I am conscious that all Indian spiritual teachers and Gurus are vegetarian , Sri Sri Ravi Shankar stands out because he has created an empire of intelligent people who embrace the modern while attempting to follow the refinement of a gentler India.
Dr Bindeshwar Pathak who runs the largest NGO in India and has devoted his life to provide sanitation and who has discovered the most ecological way to get rural energy.
Dr Mukesh Batra, who has made homoeopathy a mainstream medicine and runs an empire as large as Ranbaxy’s.
This is about 1% of my favourite veggies- I am giving you the names of people you may have heard about. There are thousands of people who are as bright but I will have to put them into another grouping. My mother for one – her keen intelligence, warmth and zest for life has taken all of us through crises that would have destroyed most mortals. Ozair Husain , my co author in several books and the Nawab of Lorpur, who has given up a kingdom to make People for Animals into the power it is today.
Noting famous vegetarian intellectuals proves nothing, but is food for thought nonetheless: thousands of the greatest thinkers in recorded history were vegetarians and advocated vegetarianism, including Pythagoras, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Leo Tolstoy, Plato, Voltaire, Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Darwin, Albert Schweitzer, Dr Benjamin Spock. Franz Kafka, H.G.Wells,Henry David Thoreau, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Jeremy Bentham, Leonardo da Vinci, Milton, NikolaTesla, Percy Shelley, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Socrates, William Wordsworth, William Blake, Dr C.V.Raman, Annie Besant, the Bronte sisters, Rupert Brooke, Isaac Pitman, Ovid, Henry Salt, Schopenhauer , Seneca , Henry David Thoreau ….. If meat eating were required for a person to be intelligent, then we would expect to see few intelligent people supporting vegetarianism. George Bernard Shaw said, ‘A mind of the calibre of mine cannot derive its nutriment from cows’, while Benjamin Franklin stated that a vegetarian diet resulted in ‘greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension’.
BBC One has a hugely popular show every Saturday called the National IQ Contest. 80,000 people took part. The winners ,the brainiest Brits of the UK, were a 40 strong team of vegetarians with an average IQ score of 113 . The individual contestant with the highest IQ was a vegetarian too.Winner Marie Bidmead, 68, a mother-of-five from Gloucester said: " I was in absolute shock when I got the top score! I’ve never considered myself to be a brain-box. I think it shows that we veggies are good ‘thinkers’ – we think about what we eat with intelligence for a start!"
If there is anything that proves that humans are meant to be vegetarian , it is this study. In today’s world , you need all the intelligence you can to survive. Parents – give your children the extra leg up , make them vegetarian today.
To join the animal welfare movement contact email@example.com
19 06 2008 - The Island
J11.03 Living stress free
Dr. Wasantha Gunathunga
Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo
The other day I met a friend of mine. He said "I decided to migrate to a better country." I asked why he wanted to migrate. "There are lots of problems in the country. I want to give the best education to my children. I asked "what do you want them to be in the future"? He was not sure. "After all I want to live in peace" was his answer. My friend is not the only person who decided to migrate for peace of mind. There were so many, there will be too.
This conversation provided me some insight as to how some people take serious decisions in their lives in search of peace and 'contentment.
People migrate to greener pastures citing various aim to do so. Some people within the country mostly towards cities. Those who live in cities go to villages to get away from the busy life. People seem to run here and there in search of comfort and happiness. Where is this comfort and happiness they are restlessly looking for? Has migration solved their problems? Is everybody who migrates happy? In which country or place can one live in absolute peace? Is there a country that can give someone complete, contentment? What should you give your children as education? These are unsolved problem to many.
This article describes how one can transform several important problematic life issues into comfortable healthy and stress free ones. Children's education, driving in busy unruly streets are the issues addressed. One method to bring about this transformation is also presented.
Body mind and memories
People dope themselves with various substances, enjoy spa's saunas and a dip in the pool, and spend money on picnics, dances, parties, etcetera to get happiness. They fantasize, keep sweet memories in photographs, some times computers full of such photos of picnics weddings and birthday parties and so on. The attachment to this bank of good memories may make them temporarily happy. They have something in these to talk about They are in search of happiness and comfort revisiting these memories However, all these cause stress and sense of loss after that moment of enjoyment This attachment to physical body and finding happiness in it make them unhappy after each effort. This is not a viable method of being happy.
"We going abroad to educate our children better" is the frequent answer given by many to migrate.
What should really be given to children as education?
Children show wide variation in their Preference to different subjects in schools.
They show talents of varying nature and magnitude. If given appropriate opportunity they excel in thew areas and become economically productive adults. However, what ever the position they hold as adults ultimate purpose of many of them is to enjoy life through five sense organs eye, ear, nose, tongue and body. This enjoyment is sought in money, big houses, vehicles are being members of clubs and associations etcetera. Attachment to pleasures of five sense does makes them stressed, dissatisfied and unhappy when they cannot continue the as long as they want.
This degree of attachment to sense pleasure and resultant consequences are not influenced significantly by modern education. They are rather influenced by the conditioning in the consciousness due to previously collected information from five sense doors. Its conditioning is what determines the difference between individuals and is not identical. Some educated professionals such as doctors, engineers, accountants and scientists need more and more qualifications, recognition, new cars and better positions and the politicians power, wealth and supporters etc. Who ever accrue these things is destined to be troubled in protecting and perpetuating these, things and finally becomes worried when they lose those.
Hence educated or not they we were vulnerable to attachment and associated suffering.
Where, ever one is educated and where ever the life is spent these people show signs of stress, dissatisfaction and
The answer is not changing the country of education or residence. It's how much they are able to detach themselves from sensual pleasures. Degree of detachment determines how much health and happiness is generated. So is conflict (or aversion). If one is in mental conflict with some one or some thing, that person is suffering because of it. One has to avoid conflict or get out of it as soon as possible to avoid mental discomfort Freedom form attachment and conflict can create permanent happiness and contentment within oneself.
This paradise within has to be achieved through diligent training. The method of training has been described by Lord Buddha 2500 years ago.. It is called The Noble Eight-Fold. One has to follow the conventional education to earn a living. But one has to get the skill of living with confidence, happiness and health with minimal stress and dissatisfaction. Such skills of permanent health can only be achieved in this method of training. The Noble Eightfold Path is unique in that it de-conditions a person from attachments and conflicts resulting in relief from stress and discontentment gradually. Amount of relief depends on the consistency and the accuracy of the practice. In this Path one should have courage and determination (Suseema sum, Samyutta Nikaya). This method does not involve praying or worshipping. Praying or worshipping is based on a superstition or belief that some one is there to give relief from pain, dissatisfaction and stress.
Hence education should be in line with, what the child is talented in. Accordingly, various children may receive different educations. However, all of them deserve a training to be at peace and healthy by giving them the opportunity of practising the Eight Fold Path, Once on the Path no other person can reverse the skills by the practitioner and hence attains a, secure and permanent (Dhamsak pavathum sutta). This method of practice is not confined to a religion. It can be practiced by people from any religion without losing identity. This is the most transferable method of mind ever to have been discovered.
Life on the road
Driving in unruly highways needs specialist skills. Very often, drivers get angry and disturbed when another vehicle robs them of their lane, when someone crosses the road unexpectedly and in short range, and when another vehicle knocks theirs from behind. These incidents often spoil the day, at least few hours of the day. Whose fault is that when you are disturbed by such an incident?
These things are day to day incidents. Even if we are not there these things happen. Fault is we have a feeling that, as we are obeying road rules, these should not happen to us. This thinking is fair though not realistic. We should develop ourselves so that we are not disturbed by these occurrences, we can take action with emotional disturbances. We are often angered or disturbed as we are attached to a set of values attitudes and expectations, we are conditioned by these superstitions and this conditioning is registered in the consciousness. If we really count, such disturbing incidents are actually few. If we take them in the light that these things are the regular happening out there we can negotiate with them with out much conflict. If one is able to allow lane to an indecent fellow driver, and avoid a mental conflict with unruly pedestrians he is at peace while driving on busy roads. Such a mental condition will not come automatically. This is just one benefit in the Eight Fold Path in modern times.
Stress at work
High level of stress at work is a frequent problem encountered by people. This is partly through fear of losing position or promotion. It can also be as a result of a failure to complete the planned work within the stipulated time. This causes unhappiness, fear -A dissatisfaction as psychological problems. As physical problems of long term stress one can suffer from gastritis, gastric ulcers, diabetes mellitus, heart disease and paralysis to name a few.
If all these problems can be prevented and exceptional amount of work can be accomplished within a unit time without stress, that skill will be very comforting.
Theory in Happiness
However, there is no one who could keep their happy moments as long as they want. Some people change the country, car for a new car, spouse, and job. But there are very, few who could keep this happiness for as long as they wanted.
Happiness and contentment is strongly linked to ones purpose of life. Some people have never thought of what to accomplish in their lives. Best treasures they have are in their body, material possessions, enjoying, seeing, listening, smelling, tasting, and touching. They treasure the memories of the happy moments of these sense pleasures.
They strive to acquire similar things perpetuate this happiness. Everything-they do is for this purpose. Is enjoying sense pleasures and revisiting these memories are the only purpose of life? The wise should have an answer to this. Others will not bother.
However, there is no one who could keep their happy moments as long as they want. Some people change the country, car for a new car, spouse, and job. But there are very, few who could keep this happiness for as long as they wanted.
These sense Pleasures may give temporary comfort with regretful consequences particularly when the pleasure ends. In this never ending search of the sense pleasure people get angry, get in to competitions, bother themselves and subsequently become stressed, tired and fed up still refusing to stop the search. This situation is not largely dependant on the place they live. But it depends on how much one is attached to the sense pleasures and how much effort is put into acquire and Happiness, contentment or mental health does not depend on where one lives physically. In the third stanza of Maha Mangala Sutta Lord Budda described where one should live. The true ,"of the stanza "Pathirupa desa vasocha" is living in a world in which an individual is not attached to the physical body inputs from the five sense doors and the consciousness (desa without rupa). This describes the state of Nirodha where one is in complete mental health.
In this, the word desa (meaning land) is a state without attachment, One enjoys this in the practical Eight- fold path, the way of life discovered by the Lord Buddha in 500 BC. One who practices this Path is able to get into a state of total detachment from body, sense pleasures and consciousness. One who achieves this final goal is called an Arahant and he has his mind in Nibbana a state of unconditioned happiness, contentment and permanence. This non attachment is the permanent answer to many social problems faced by people. However to achieve this status one does not need to change the country or the area of residence. Hence "right land to live" is not really in geographical sense, But it is a state of mind.
This happiness is independent of sense pleasures and, when acquired stops a person bothering to search for sense pleasures. This situation is called Nibbana or Nirobha. A person gets in to this situation is called Arahant. He doesn't get angry, he is not bothered to find external happiness, and he won't die (Dying is minds transfer from the previous body to a new one. Mind of an Arahant will not grasp a new body at the end of present life, but remains in Nirodha, hence, is not a death.) He will not get a physical body at parinibbana (passing away of an arahant) hence, he will not be decayed, aged or sick.
This person has no particular place to live; everywhere is the same for him. This is a living reality. It is a realistic target that any one can try to achieve. One who enters the Noble Eight-fold path gradually develops these skills.
The practice described below is not the conventional descriptions in the texts but a true practice that leads to a unique realization. Without sitting down to practice, reading and discussions have no meaning.
The eight components in The Path should be practiced together, the Middle Path. First component is the vision that I should attain the perfection, complete health or the ultimate happiness. This is called the Right Vision, also meaning vision for detachment from defilements. This should become the attitude, driven in to the person and remaining with him or her. This is called Right Attitude or attitude of detachment.
With this vision and attitude the practitioner sits on the ground preferably in the lotus position or semi lotus position. He has to sit for a predetermined time period. He practices the third component of the Eight-Fold path by not using any language 1 primarily I by closing mouth with the two lips. This completes right speech or language of non attachment (Aryathushnimbutha).
The Practitioner does not move his body or part of it, thereby not doing any action, stopping any wrong doing by the physical body, Right Action or action of non attachment Right Speech and right action will automatically lead to Right Livelihood or livelihood of non-attachment
Sitting down in this manner with mouth shut and body still with the Right Vision and attitude will complete five components of the Eight-Fold Path. To sit and to stay in this position it needs an enormous amount of courage and effort without which the completion of journey in the Path is not possible. This effort of non attachment is called Right- Effort. With this the practitioner starts contemplation of the body (kayanupassana), pain (vedananupassana), the behaviour of mind (Cittanupassana) and practices for a state of non-attachment (Dhammanupassana) through wisdom. When contemplation of body and pain is done the other two will follow.
Contemplation of the body (kayanupassana): The practitioner is asked to consider 25 parts of the body, head, forehead, right eye, nose, left eye, right check, left cheek, mouth, chin, neck, upper chest, lower chest, upper abdomen, middle abdomen, lower abdomen, right thigh, right knee, right lower leg, right foot, right toes, left thigh, left knee, left lower leg, left foot and left toes. The practitioner takes his mind to one part at a time and contemplates "may all be well, happy and peaceful" and goes on to the next part and contemplates the same thing. He does this for all twenty five parts from head to the toes of the left leg, and restarts from head. This method trains the mind to give up those body parts with loving kindness.
Contemplation of pain (vedananupassana): When the parts of the body are given up like this with loving kindness without changing the posture, the practitioner starts feeling pain in various parts of the body. To the maximum point of pain the practitioner contemplates "may all be well, happy and peaceful" three times. If he feels pain elsewhere he wishes the same to that pan. The Practitioner goes on like this. Whether the pain subsides, or not he gets back to the contemplation of the body. When this is being practiced, sounds from the environment are heard. They are recognised as sounds and refrained from tying to identify these further (stopping at Vedana Sanna and not going to Sankara).
Thoughts that are generated from the consciousness are also identified only as thoughts and not tried to identify these further thereby preventing a thought process being generated.
The practice of non-attachment is called in Magadha language "Samatha". This is mistakenly by many as tranquilly achieved by fixing mind to a focus of meditation conventional understanding of Buddhism The practice of non-attachment is"Samatha" and the swing the detachment is "Vidharshana" as taught by the Lord Buddha. One who practices this regularly and with vigour will attain the fruitions of the Path and finally the permanent detachment from all defilements, which is Nibbana, Perfection, the complete mental health. During this exercise, the practitioner realizes the four Noble Truths (ill health and dissatisfaction Dukkha, reason for ill health and dim dissatisfaction Samudaya, state of complete health Nirodha and the path to achieve it, Margo). A person who has achieved complete mental health will subsequently achieve complete physical health too once the mind gives up the body That is when he goes into Parinibbana where only the mind remains in a state of happiness associated with non attachment.
Purpose of the life of all, expressed overtly or correctly, is to be happy, stress free and make others near and dear also be so. However, where they -look for this comfort is almost invariably is with the outside rather within. The day they realize that this paradise is within they will look for it there. The day they find Noble Eight Fold Path they discover the most precious thing in their lives. The day they enter the Path will make the beginning of the no- return Journey to permanent health happiness and contentment: The Nibbana - the Paradise within.
19 05 2008 - The Island
J11.04 The actual meaning of refuge in the Triple Gems and the Precepts
For the lay person
R. L. Ihalamulla
Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, Kynsey Rd, Colombo 8
The Lord Buddha showed us the Eightfold Path as the only way for the eternal ending of suffering - the attainment of Nirvana. This is something that the Buddha realized by himself and preached to the world. Eventhough he was knowledgeable in everything in the whole universe in and out, the Great Teacher taught primarily as to how to end suffering. Therefore, the teachings mainly revolve round and incorporate the essence of His Declaration that 'the cause of suffering is attachment and the only way to end suffering 'is non-attachment'. As such, the recitals -in Pali - the language in which the Buddha preached - for daily chanting for the lay person pertaining to 'taking in refuge' and the Precepts also were meant to go along with this concept.
These teachings of the Buddha can be correctly interpreted only by a person who is enlightened upon them i.e. by an Arahant. But down the years many of those who had translated the Teachings from Pali to other languages, had not been Arhants and had not even being the achievers of the lower ranking Super Mental Status and as such they had mis-interpreted the right meaning. Some of these authors were Indian and they have even incorporated ritualistic aspects of Hinduism into Buddhist teachings. Because of this what Buddha really meant in His Teachings has become clouded, buried under, with the result that an intelligent learner often gets confused and the follower misled. Thus it is understood that there are a number of misinterpretations to Buddha's Teachings but only one actual meaning. This actual meaning is the one which is in relevance to the Eightfold Path and the one which the Buddha really meant. Therefore, it fits right into the Eightfold Path. The actual meaning is quite intriguing. and interesting to the learner. It is useful to know the actual meaning of the verses so that the chanting becomes understandable and meaningful. This however does not mean that the conventional meaning of these disciplines is not significant because a careful study of the actual meaning of these shows that the former is already incorporated in the latter. The actual and conventional meanings of the reverence, the refuge and the precepts are shown in comparison here for the reader to have a right understanding of these.
19 05 2008 - The Island
J11.05 Vesak Reflection on the Medical Profession
‘Physicians’ as the very term implies deal with the body, which is subject to sickness, decay and death. As such physicians seem to be engaged in a Sisyphean task – an absurd, but for many lucrative, preoccupation devoted to propping up what Shakespeare called "this muddy vesture of decay". But if we shed the devaluation of the body on the basis of an assumed dichotomy of body and soul or the body and a rebirthing identity consciousness in mainstream Buddhism, we will have an exhilarating perspective on human existence. It helps us to cultivate a holistic view of the human person as a totality of vital processes or synergies. Whatever our religion, ethnicity or social status all human beings are subjected to the paradoxical character of the human condition. We must all die. What ethics has the science of medicine to teach us?
In Genealogy of Morals German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche inquired into the historical origins of our moral concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Nietzsche’ writings are remarkable for the absence of footnotes. But there is one rare footnote in Genealogy of Morals..In it he questions the value of rational or intellectual philosophical constructs of ethical imperatives and speaks of the need "to reconfigure the relationship between philosophy and physiology and medicine". All our moral tablets of "dont’s", he adds, "wait upon a critique on the part of medicine". His meaning is clear; the critique on the part of medicine will make us ‘physio-logical’.
This means that every physician critically reflecting on the object of his profession could become the noblest of moral philosophers. This is because a physician in his surgery must keep his mind well earthed to tangible facts not fancies.
Physicians and health-carers are situated at the cutting edge of life and death and are everyday and night experiencing anicca and anatta. Therefore they, more than any other professional, including religious professionals, are in a privileged position to grasp the finiteness, the fragility and the perishability of human life. This is what makes life precious and sacred, not because it is an earnest of another more sublime life but because it is ephemeral and fraught with fragility. To live for another life, as Nietzsche pointed out, is to devalue this life on behalf of another. Physicians should be in the forefront of those who stand up for this life and speak up on issues which diminish and destroy life through war, reckless road use, unhygienic social conditions and medical malpractices because they are confronted with the tragic victims of these atrocities day in and day out.
Physicians follow the life process from the moment of conception to death. From the womb to the tomb; they follow the process of growth, the occurrence of illnesses, onset of the process of decay and physical infirmity and the final breakdown we call death. The physician perhaps more than any other professional is an intimate and daily witness of the ravages of disease and decay. They smell the stench of putrefying flesh while life still lingers, they see the way beauty withers, strength fades and how life ceases. This is also really his/her condition. The physician more than any other can see the relativity of things we cling to, pride of caste, family or class, social status and wealth. The physician has by his/her very profession the possibility of becoming a sage and a saint. In fact one of the pledges undertaken by the Hippocratic Oath is, "With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art". If life is sacred, a physician treating a sick person is standing on holy ground.
It is customary to refer to people who come to be ministered by physicians as ‘patients’ A ‘patient’ is one who suffers illness and is a passive object subjected to the supervision and judgement of physicians – who are regarded as the competent speakers on the condition of the suffering ’other’. This perception of the doctor ‘patient’ relationship is reinforced by the ideological paradigm of Western medicine, which is the dominant form of medical practice in Sri Lanka. Western medicine is very strongly influenced by Cartesian and Newtonian asumptions of the mind as the sovereign subject (res cogitans – thinking substance) of thought and external reality as the object of thought and action (res extensa – material substance)
The body of the ‘patient’ is seen as ‘the other’ – the passive object of a physician’s invasive intervention. Physicians tend to forget that the seriously ill ‘object’ is a human person of flesh and blood in an acute state of distress – or dukkha – that he/she has equally distressed loved one’s like the physician and his/her similarly afflicted loved ones.
The Newtonian- Cartesian model of the world on which Western medicine developed has been superseded at the sub atomic level by quantum physics. Professor Carl von Weizsacker, German atomic physicist and philosopher, was interviewed in a Dutch TV programme on the challenge posed by the New Physics to religion and philosophy. The New Physics, the professor commented, calls for a new understanding of our world and a new ethical attitude to life and the world we live in. I quote from the transcript:
Consider the implications of quantum theory. In quantum theory we are describing the behaviour of stars and atoms and produce tables and figures as if we are spectators. But at the same time we realize, and we are reminded so profoundly of that old truth already understood by the Buddha that we are in fact telling our own story. Our own bodies consist of atoms; our own lives are part of that nature we are analyzing. We cannot separate it. We cannot speak of nature as if we did not belong to it. That is more or less the message of quantum theory. Now look at all the immense number of beings who are born, who live and die, who suffer because all life is suffering according to Buddha. But you cannot speak of this truth as something outside yourself, you yourself are born and you will die and you are going through a life of suffering because you build your life on false expectations which are frustrated, And in this situation you cannot distinguish between the onlooker - the one who looks and the one who is looked. You are one and the same you are in both roles at the same time.
It must become evident to mindful physicians that they are in the patient-healer roles at the same time. The microbes, the viruses, the bacteria in the patient, may be in the doctor himself. The blood pressure, the blood and urine samples studied are no different to what are measured in physician’s own body. The carcinoma, the weakened heart muscle or affected kidney or liver is no different to potential ailments in the organisms of physicians..Physicians heal bodies but do not have extra corporeal immunity.
Instead of the ‘object-other’, suffering patients who passively ‘suffer’ the all powerful gaze and determinations of physicians should evoke anukampa and karuna because the patient’s story of his-her ailment is also the physicians story. The patient is morphologically and physiologically no different to the physician. The form is the same, the heart is the same, the lungs ,the digestive processes, the genitals, the reproductive act, – conception and the birth processes are the same as that of the physician and his/her spouse, their children and parents. The orifices of the body and what ‘enters’ and ‘exits’ are similar. The difference of para /apara – ‘other’ and ‘not other’ should dissolve and with it the Buddha’s norm should come to mind "In protecting myself I protect others. In protecting others I protect myself".
Physicans and physiologists can come to a realisation of the fundamental equality of all humans beings, better than any bookish professor of law. The birth process is the same even if it takes place in the luxury of an air-conditioned delivery room with the best of gynecologists in attendance or in a wretched refugee camp. The little new born baby of affluent parents is as much a human as the child of impoverished parents. A virus can afflict the rich as well as the poor, even though the poor are more prone to sickness because of their weak physical condition as well as unhygienic environments.
It must become evident to mindful physicians that they are in the patient-healer roles at the same time.
We need body wisdom. It is the head which attaches ethnic labels and speaks of Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim. The profane stomach is innocent of such discrimination. The concepts of the womb are far less discriminating than the ‘concepts’ of the head. The womb can take the seed of a man of any race, caste or ethnicity and deliver a human child. What divides us is not our physiology but the conceits in our heads. If the doctor is not an ethnocentric or a class conscious prig, he must know that there is no such thing as a distinctive Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim features on the human body. "Not in the head the mouth, the eyes, the ears, the breast, etc., and not even in the genitals, which could divide humans into different species", as the Buddha pointed out in the Vasettha Sutra. If there were, there could be no universally effective medicine or surgery. The same course of medicine prescribed will heal irrespective of whether a physician is a Sinhala Tamil or Muslim and the patient Sinhala, Tamil, or Muslim. This is not some abstruse theory. It is happening everyday in real life in every clinic in every hospital. When a blood transfusion is needed only a bigot will ask who whether the patient and donor is Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim, There are no such blood types. We strip to be examined or are stripped for a major operation. The white cassock or the saffron robe, the skull cap and the pottu and burkah are of no consequence. We ‘dress ourselves up’ to demarcate differences. Naked and under the skin we are the same. Every doctor knows this.
Perhaps the best place to start a movement for radical democracy is not the temple or the parliament, but the hospital ward and the clinic. But this is where doctors and health workers hold poor patients to ransom by going on strike at the drop of a medical cap. Sickness does not discriminate. Therapists often do, though their very profession should compel democracy – the democracy of the body – not the proud sectarian ‘spirit’. Physicians must be in the forefront of those who are struggling to defend the sanctity of life and the right to the fullness of life.
Given this inexorable subjection to a common condition, the attitude of haughty and uncaring physicians and of uncaring health workers is incomprehensible. Doctors infected by the curse of commercialism seem to think that a ‘bill of health’ depends on the size of a purse. It is this cupidity and callousness which is paradoxical because: Each day doctors see fellow humans die, yet, many live and behave like immortal gods!
All life is passing passage. What nobler vocation can there be than to be called to ease the suffering of one's fellow human beings and help them live in good health and in wholesome and secure conditions? What greater joy can there be than this? The lure of pecuniary benefits and the luxuries they bring can hardly compare with the satisfaction that comes from serving one's suffering fellows - especially the poor and the powerless. Physicians have the potential to become noble men and women whose outlook on life is inspired by the compassionate prayer: sakale sathveyan niduk vethwa; sakala sathavyan nirogi vethw;, sakala sathavyan suvapath vethwa – May all beings be free of sorrow, may all beings be free of disease, may all being be well..
(This is the text of a lecture on Buddhism and Medical Ethics delivered at the SLMA auditorium in 2003. A summary was published in the February 2008 Bulletin of the College of General Practitioners of Sri Lanka.)
19 05 2008 - The Island
J11.06 Full moon Poya day of Vesak – 2552
Today is the full moon Poya day of Vesak in the Buddhist year 2552, as well as the 19th day of May 2008 as per the Gregorian calendar – the day on which the birth, the englightenment and the final passing away of the Buddha occurred within a span of 80 years over two and half millennia ago, exactly 2632 years ago today.
A noble prince who was destined to be the greatest religious teacher of the world was born on the full moon Poya day of Vesak in the year 623 BC at Lumbini Park at Kapilavattu on the Indian borders, to the King Suddhodana of the aristocratic Sakya clan, the ruler of the sakyas (in the modern Nepal) and the queen Maha Maya of the Koliya clan.
On the fifth day after the birth of the prince he was named Siddhartha which means ‘wish fulfilled’. On the seventh day Queen Maha Maya breathed her last. Then the Queen Maha Prajapathi Gothami, the other consort of the King as well as the younger sister of the queen Maha Maya gave her own son Nanda to a nurse and brought up Prince Siddhartha as her own son.
He was given a very good education. His teacher was Sarva Mitra. As a scion of the warrior class he received special training in the art of warfare too.
According to the customs of the time, he married at the young age of 16, Princess Yasodara. She was his cousin of the same age. They spent a very luxurious life. But all of a sudden, confronted with the reality of life and the suffering of mankind he murmered to himself: "Why do I, being subject to birth, decay, death, sorrow and impurities, thus search after things of like nature?"
So he decided to find the solution – the way out of this universal suffering.
Soon after the birth of his only son Rahula, he left his Kingdom and became an ascetic in search of this solution at the age of 29.
He wandered about the valley of Ganges for six years meeting famous religious teachers such as Alara Kalam and Uddaka Ramaputta, studying and following their systems and methods and submitting himself to rigorous ascetic practices. Any of them did not satisfy him. He abandoned all those traditional religious practices and methods and went his own way.
He felt that his quest for highest truth was not achieved. He had gained complete mastery of his mind, but his ultimate goal was not far ahead. He was seeking for the highest, the Nibbana, the complete cessation of suffering, the total eradication of all forms of craving.
He understood that his spiritual aspirations were far higher than those under whom he was studying. Further he understood that there was none capable enough to teach him what he yearned for – the highest truth. Ultimately he realized that the highest truth is to be found within oneself and ceased to seek external aid.
He, the ascetic Gothama, wandered through the district of Magadha and arrived at Uruwela, the market town of Senani. There he resolved to settle down to achieve his desired object.
The five ascetics – Kondanna, Baddiya, vappa, Mahanama, and Assaji – having heard the renunciation of the Prince Siddhartha, renounced the world and joined his company. Ascetic Siddhartha Gothama made a superhuman struggle practising all forms of severest austerity. His delicate body was reduced to almost a skeleton.
The more he tormented his body the farther his goal receded from him. The colour of his skin impaired owing to lack of food.
After all that he understood that prolonged painful austerities proved utterly futile. One day he fainted. Then a shepherd came and gave him some milk and that made him better. Then he realied that enlightenment could not be gained with such an utterly exhausted body. Physical fitness was essential for spiritual progress. So he decided to nourish the body sparingly and began to take more milk and food both hard and soft.
At this juncture his favourite five ascetic friends who were attending on him with great hopes thinking that whatever truth the ascetic Gothama would comprehend, that would he impart to them, felt disappointed at this unexpected change of method and leaving him and place too, went to Isipathana, saying that the ascetic Gothama had become luxurious, had ceased from striving, and had returned to a life of comfort. The ascetic Gothama was not discouraged when his companions deserted him at a time their assistance was most welcome.
After giving up austerities, eating moderately to maintain his body strength, he sat under an "Asatu" tree, later which came to be known as "Bodhi" tree, with the firm resolution "let my skin and sinews become dry, let all the flesh and blood dry up, but never will I stir from this seat until I attain the supreme status of Buddhahood."
At the age of 35, after a stupendous struggle of six strenuous years he, unaided and unguided by any supernatural agency and solely relying on his own efforts and wisdom, eradicated all defilements, ended the process of grasping and realising things as they truly are, by his own intuitive knowledge, became a Buddha – an enlightened or awakened one under the Bodhi tree at Buddha Gaya, exactly 2597 years ago, today. Thereafter he was known as Gauthama Buddha, one of a long series of Buddhas who appeared in the past and will appear in the future. He was not born a Buddha, but became a Buddha by his own efforts. Prior to his enlightenment, he was known as Bodhisatta which means one who is aspiring to attain Buddhahood.
The Buddha had no teacher for his enlightenment. "Na me achariyo atthi" – A teacher have I not – are his own words. He did receive his mundane knowledge from his lay teachers, but teachers he had none for his supramundane knowledge which he himself realised by his own intuitive wisdom.
The Buddha was neither a god, nor a son of a god, not an incarnation of a god, not a prophet sent by such an agency. He was a human being, a Prince of Skaya clan.
He spent seven weeks under the Bodhi tree and its neighbourhood after his enlightenment. Thereafter he proceeded to deer park in Benares where he met the five ascetics who were his former companions during the period he was struggling to attain Buddhahood. There the Buddha preached them the Dhammackkappawattana sutta which deals with the Four Noble Truths. It was the first discourse he delivered. Hearing it Kondanna, the eldest ascetic attained the first stage of sainthood. On hearing the Anattalakkana sutta which deals with soullessness all the five ascetics attained arahatship, the final stage of sainthood. The five monks who thus attained Arahanttship and became Buddha’s five disciples were Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji. Of the Brahmana clan they were also known as Pasvaga Mahanun. This noble order of Bhikkus, which stands to this day is the oldest historic body of celibates in the world.
The number of Bhikkus became 60 when Yasa and his 54 friends came to Isipathana and became the disciples and attained Arahantship after hearing the Dhamma of the englightened one.
The Buddha after spending three months of training at Isipathana deicded to propagate his sublime Dhamma to those who wish to hear.
The Buddha decided to send his 60 monks as messengers of truth to teach his Dhamma to all without any distinction. Before sending them to preach the Dhamma he exhorted them as follows; "Free am I, O Bhikkus, from all bonds, whether divine or human.
'Go forth, O Bhikkus, for the good of the many, for the happiness of many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, benefit, and happiness of gods and men. Let not two go by one way. Preach, O Bhikkus the Dhamma, excellent in the beginning, excellent in the middle, excellent in the end, both in the spirit and in the letter. Proclaim the holy life, altogether perfect and pure."
After sending them as messengers of truth he too proceeded to Uruwela in Senanigama, in order to preach Dhamma.
Thus the Budhha was the first religious teacher to send his disciples to propagate the Dhamma, out of compassion for others.
On the way to Uruwela, the Buddha met 30 young men with their wives who were there to amuse themselves. When they saw the Buddha, they all forgot their objective and answered the questions posed by him and attentively listened to the Dhamma and entered the Sangha.
At Uruwela three Jatila ascetics known as Uruwela Kassapa, Nadi Kassapa and Gaya Kassapa, all brothers living separately with 500, 300 and 200 disciples respectively, came across the Budhha who preached them the Aditttapriaya sutta. There all the Jatilas attained Arahantship,eradicating all defilements.
It was at that time that Upatissa and Kolitha entered the Sangha. They were Reverent Sariuth and Mugallan respectively who rose to positions of the first and the second disciples in the Sangha.
The Buddha’s ministry lasted 45 years from his age of 35, the year of his enlightenment till his final passing away in Kusinara in 543 BC on the full moon Poya daya of Vesak. Exactly 2552 years ago today.
19 05 2008 - The Island
J11.07 Insight (Vipassana) Meditation in Sri Lanka
Progress made during the last Fifty years
Period Before the Buddha Jayanthi in 1956
The practice of meditation is considered by followers of several religions as a meritorious activity. Even among such religious activities it is generally considered that meditation is more virtuous than other practices such as donations, alms- givings, adherence to moral precepts and rituals. However the practice of meditation in Sri Lanka until the mid-twentieth century was generally based on traditions followed mainly within the country and the practitioners did not consider it necessary to look for developments outside the country or internationally recognized practices.
It is noteworthy that religious practices in Sri Lanka had been affected by social upheavals during 16th-19th centuries particularly after changes in Kandy, Kotte and Seetawaka kingdoms. But a period of resurgence commenced in 1753 when Upasampada was established from Thailand or Siam Deshaya. Several periods of uncertain developments reached a point in mid 20th century when along with the dawn of Buddha Jayanthi, senior monks residing in forest hermitages considered it necessary to create an atmosphere for a revival of meditation. In his book ‘Vidhashana Parapura’ the former Chief Kammatthanacharya of Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya, Most Ven Matara Sri Nyanarama Thero states that along with the dawn of Buddha Jayanthi selfless services and sacrifices made by a group of monks from forest hermitages helped in creating an atmosphere for a revival of meditation.
Change After Buddha Jayanthi
In the year 1956, there was a universally acclaimed event which was the 2500th anniversary of the passing away of Buddha. Many different forms of celebrations were held in Sri Lanka as well as other countries. The state sponsored activities included large scale Ata-sil and Dasa-sil programs, ordaining of monks, meditation programs, publication of books and Dharma Sangayanas, meetings, seminars and so on. It was noteworthy that in Sri Lanka significant publicity was received for the systems of meditation in countries such as Myanmar (Burma). In most temples, Dhamma schools, and religious organizations different forms of meditation were given publicity. Interactions with countries such as Myanmar was becoming a regular feature. Gradually increasing numbers of Sri Lankan monks visited Myanmar for training in the Vipassana or Insight form of meditation while Burmese Masters visited Sri Lanka.
The senior meditation masters in countries such as Myanmar and Thailand conducted training sessions in their temples and were considered highly competent in different types of practices. In Sri Lanka the value of Insight form of meditation became a subject of interest and even the Buddhist laymen visited Myanmar to get familiarized with the Insight form of meditation.
A resurgence of religious practices particularly in meditation was visible. One could see that up to the period of Buddha Jayanthi, groups of meditators including monks who lived in temples in non –urban areas, forest hermitages referred to as Aranyas as well as laymen who developed the techniques of meditation, limited the practices mainly to ‘Tranquility’ meditation also referred to as ‘Samatha’ or ‘one-pointed–ness’. Even though there were several hermitages located in the outer regions of the country, important practices of meditation, for a long period, generally did not progress beyond Tranquility meditation. However it is seen that the dawn of Buddha Jayanthi made the members of Sri Lankan society, both the clergy and laity, seriously open their eyes to see where progress was lacking and where developments could be achieved.
Influence of Myanmar and Siamese Traditions
The interactions with Myanmar and Siamese traditions, particularly from Ramanna Desa and Amarapura, became more pronounced and frequent. It was inevitable that meditation guide lines had to be linked to the practices of such regions particularly in Myanmar. After the interactions with Masters - Maha Theras or Sayadows of Myanmar a gradual spread of ‘Vipassana’ or ‘insight meditation’ became a reality. By this process a considerable number of monks and yogis received training in meditation of which the Vipassana form or Insight meditation was considered the more progressive by both the clergy and laity. Several important meditation centers in Sri Lanka such as Kanduboda Vipassana Meditation Center, International Vipassana Center at Wijerama Mawatha followed by Mithirigala Nissarana Vanaya and several others were gradually established.
Developments in the Rest of the World
During the last fifty years the subject of meditation has undergone significant developments in the rest of the world too. With global interactions, the interest shown by several other religious groups in the world including many lay practitioners has resulted in a positive influence on day to day activities.
In his book ‘Tranquility and Insight’, Armando Sole Leris says that during the 20th century the progress of meditation has taken place internationally in two aspects (1) Insight meditation has progressed on its own without combining with tranquility (2) there has been greater involvement of lay persons in Insight not only as yogis and students but also as meditation masters. There has been a need for adaptation to the conditions prevailing in the modern world. There has also been a growing demand for effective methods of mental culture. International acceptance of a mental culture in the form of Insight meditation has even crossed religious barriers in that many religious groups both in the East and West have seriously taken to Insight meditation as stated by Sole Leris.
The development of Insight meditation has special social significance and the subject has been discussed in several important international forums in the recent past. A number of international meditation masters such as Ven.Mahasi Sayadaw, Ven Sayadaw U Pandithabhiwansa, U Ba Khin, S N Goenka and Munindraji have made great contributions and the followers are benefiting from this positive phenomenon.
Spread of Vipassana among European Monks
The German monks Ven. Nyanathiloka and Ven Nyanaponika made significant contributions in Sri Lanka to the monastic practices by their devotion, very high degree of scholarship and attachment to the doctrine. They were followed by many other monks from the western countries who later took part in Insight meditation in Sri Lankan Forest Hermitages. The influx of monks and lay meditators to the Aranyas in Sri Lanka during the period after 1956 was due partly to the teaching of Vipassana system by meditation masters in both East and West. The neighboring countries like India , Myanmar, Thailand too had their meditation activities progress in the direction of Vipassana with several monasteries coming up with the name of the institution shown as a Vipassana center, indicating clearly the progress of Insight meditation. The improvement in communication systems during the last 50 years resulted in travel, particularly air travel as a main form movement making the foreign monks and lay yogis visiting Sri Lanka seeking guidance in meditation. It is not incorrect to state that Sri Lanka became an important center for meditators even though the subject of meditation was developed in Sri Lanka with assistance received from other Buddhist countries. The special position enjoyed by Sri Lanka among the Theravada countries may have helped in this regard.
New Meditation centers and Publications
The present data collected of all forest hermitages, Aranyas and meditation centers throughout Sri Lanka show that there has been a clear trend towards Vipassana and the number of meditation centers kept increasing throughout the country. Publication centres and distribution points for books on Meditation gradually increased in Colombo as well in towns like Kandy and Dehiwala. The authors and publishers too have made a major impact on publicity for important material on Vipassana as a new development.
Tranquility ( Samatha) Meditation and Insight ( Vipassana) Meditation
According to broad divisions the two forms of meditation are ‘Insight’ and ‘Tranquility’. There are several possible ways of seeing the distinction between the two forms of meditation. English Dictionary gives the meaning of ‘insight’ as ‘power of seeing into and understanding things’ or ’imaginative penetration’ whereas tranquility is ‘calmness or peace’. The term Vipassana in Pali or Vidarshana in Sanskrit has the same meaning as ‘Visesha Dharshana' in Sinhala. The special nature of the form of meditation is seen from the meaning conveyed above.
Every event related to human activity can be seen as composed of three factors
(1)Action of a Sense Organ - one out of six organs
eg. the eye ( Base element )
(2)An Object which is to interact with the organ
eg. a picture (Striker element)
(3)The resulting interaction eg. seeing. (Ignition element)
Whatever work we do and whatever situation we are faced with can be interpreted to be composed of a series of events of which each event consists of above three factors. The fixing of mind on the three factors referred to above can be made a common situation in daily life where one sense organ gets linked with an object resulting in an activity. If one is to meditate and concentrate only on an external object, as in the above case then that form of meditation after a certain amount of concentration becomes ‘tranquility’, whereas if the contemplation is spread equally over all three factors, then the form of meditation becomes ‘insight’. As an example if a yogi practices meditation on breathing which is also called ‘Anapana Sati’ the yogi has the choice of either concentrating only on the breath (in and out air draft), which is tranquility meditation or on all three factors - the breath, the place near the tip of the nose which strikes the breath and the feeling that is observed.- which is insight meditation.
Hence it is seen that both forms are practiced in Sri Lanka whereas it is the Insight or Vipassana form that is considered more fruitful or beneficial for one’s progress in the path to mental development, both mundane and supra mundane. It has also got to be appreciated that Insight is not the result of a mere intellectual or theoretical understanding but is won through direct meditative observation in very close proximity to one’s own bodily and mental processes.
It is also possible to arrive at a similar distinction between Samatha and Vipassana from theoretical aspects in terms of eradication of Anusaya Keles or latent tendencies in Vipassana as against eradication of Parivutthana Keles or obsession type defilements in Samatha. The Vidarashana Parapura written by Most Ven. Matara Nyanarama Thero states on p.36 that the form of meditation which removes the five hindrances or ‘nivarana’ such as anger or desire which affect a yogi in his mental development is the Samatha meditation. It is also seen that both forms of meditation can be generally adopted in combination - to maintain tranquility and then to achieve development through insight i.e. control and development of the mind. It is also seen that Tranquility meditation could be used as a preparation for Insight meditation and vice versa.
Mindfulness as a Key to Insight
According to Buddhism, mindfulness which contributes to the effective and efficient performance of any activity is a prime ‘factor of enlightenment’ – ‘Bojjanga’ . It is also one of the eight factors in the ‘Noble Eightfold Path’. Therefore it is not surprising that the yogis who are following the path to enlightenment have given great emphasis to mindfulness. In the Sutta Pitaka which is one of the three main cannons of Buddha’s doctrine, the Maha Sati patthana Sutta enunciates the basis of right mindfulness. The Insight or Vipassana form of meditation is based on the four forms of mindfulness enunciated in this Sutta. It is through the development of mindfulness that a yogi is able to practise Insight meditation. The complete liberation of the yogi is to be achieved through development of mindfulness mentioned in Maha Sathipatthana Sutta by practicing Insight meditation.
The atmosphere needed for Tranquility meditation- a calm and collected setting- is generally not available to a yogi who is a layman living in an urban area. But such laymen who live an active life with regular distractions and facing complex situations live in an atmosphere which is better suited to Insight meditation. This is also one of the main reasons for a remarkable growth of pure Insight meditation internationally.
In his recent publication ‘In This Life Itself’ Ven. Uda Eriyagama Dhammajiva, the Kammatthanacharya of Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya has clearly presented the methodology of performing Insight meditation under three possible situations, namely
(a) sitting meditation
(b) walking meditation
(c) establishing mindfulness in daily affairs.
It is stated that ‘Mindfulness cultivated during sitting meditation can diminish off after you get up. But mindfulness established in day to day activities is durable’ A meditator can hence develop a continuous application of Insight in day to day activities or walking meditation and achieve very significant results.
A Non- sectarian Image for Religious Practices
From the above it is seen that there has been a major progress in the wider interpretation and perception of ‘Insight mediation’ which can even be utilized for the well being of all members of a non-sectarian society. Promotion of physical and mental health has been one of the unique contributions in the field of medicine.
While it is noteworthy that Insight Meditation is essentially non-sectarian in character it has universal application. In fact it is stated that one need not get converted to Buddhism to start practising Insight meditation. It is also stated that Insight meditation can be referred to as a non-sectarian form of Buddhism. One may even venture into a spiritual path and find that a Buddhist can always remain a non-sectarian path finder who rises above sectarianism and be a member of a common brotherhood of mankind.
Has Buddha Jayanthi of 1956 contributed to the Well being of Society?
There were many fields in which progress for the well being of man was witnessed in 1956 in Sri Lanka. In addition to religion, several other fields such as agriculture, industry, drama, cinema, education and professionalism are some of the important sectors which showed major strides of development. But none of the strides can be compared with the most remarkable development in Insight Meditation which has brought a message of unity to a sectarian society with immense benefit to all its members.
May all living beings be happy !
(Das Miriyagalla is a former Jt. Secy of the Royal Asiatic Society and Vice- President of the Mithirigala Nissarana Vanaya Sanrakshana Sabha. He has also served as the first President of the Buddhist Association of Zambia which pioneered the spread of Buddhism in Africa.)
J11.08 Buddhism and Science
J11.09 Hypnosis, Re-birth and Kamma
In recent time, hypnosis has become an absorbing study and practice. Notwithstanding hilarious exposure of tricksters, as on local television, there are experts claiming professional qualifications from putative universities courses in London. The avowed objective is to ‘prove’ re-birth - like proving the Pythagoras Theorem.`A0 My intention is not to ridicule it but that it is a waste of time.
There are many things we do not know and understand. We cannot hear and smell like dogs, taste like vipers, travel where there is no track like birds, wiggle like bees to communicate, and so on. But we can do things animals cannot. Scientists have not written the final textbook, called off their search and gone home to sleep while there is nothing to add or take away from the teaching of the Buddha.`A0 Yet, among others, hypnotists have a field day. The latest technique is indefinite regression of memory beyond conception. Persons undergoing this experience narrate things happened to them in previous lives. And it is assumed to be true. What is true is that the findings of hypnosis, as in science, are necessarily speculative. If there is one thing that can be said about the Buddha, it is that he put away all speculation and spoke from direct experience, of things not pointing to a person.
There are hundreds of anecdotal accounts of re-birth, many published by researchers in the West. Some are not Buddhists. My close relative has a son when about three years old suddenly spoke of having been run over by a train. The boy never saw a train nor was he told about it. The father got frightened and did not encourage the memory. All this is very interesting. So what?
There is an ancient book, The Questions of King Milinda, the Milindapanha, with an oft quoted dictum - ‘Na ca so na anno’ meaning ‘Neither he nor another’ sometimes falsely attributed to the Buddha. It is the answer to the question ‘When a man dies, who is reborn - he or another?’ When discussing it, the crucial point is missed - that the question cannot be asked. To answer in any way assumes it can be asked.
The question takes the validity of the ‘self’ for granted and the answer merely denies it since the question can only be asked about a ‘self’. When asking who is reborn, it falls into sakkayaditthi or belief in a self. The proper way is to reject the question. The Anguttara refers to the ditthisammpanna who cannot hold that pleasure and pain belongs to someone but also hold that they do not belong to someone. The ditthisammpanna has seen that the present person has arisen dependent on present conditions and as ceasing with the cessation of present conditions. Seeing this, he does not regard the present person as present ‘self’. Consequently he does not ask the question Who? about the present. Having induced the principle to past and future [atitanagate nayam netva] he does not regard the past or future person as past or future ‘self’ and does not ask the question Who? about the past or the future. The Milindapanha is a misleading book. Strictly speaking, the word rebirth is a misnomer. It assumes the birth again of the same self. The word used in Dhamma is punnabbhava meaning re-becoming. The words ‘birth’ and ‘death’ are accordingly not used when describing the arahat.
The concept of action [kamma] and its reaction [vipaka] is often grievously misunderstood. The Buddha has spoken relatively little about it, in fact stating that since vipaka takes time, and no one can know at the present time what precisely lies in store, to ponder about the ripening of action would make a person go mad. The permutations are too many and memory can be faulty. The Buddha teaches about certainty.
The question what should I do? is the ethical question. All actions done by ME is either kusala or akusala [skilful or not skilful]. Akusala is rooted in lobha, dosa and moha, resulting in arising of action. Kusala action does not result in arising of action. The puthujjana does not understand this because he neither sees arising nor cessation of action. He may adopt a set of moral values for any number of reasons - faith in a teacher, fear of evil doing, a philosophical stance etc. But the need for moral necessity is not self-evident. We are always confronted with choices - chase the beggar at the gate, give him some food, invite him for a meal etc. Jean Grenier, quoted by Venerable Nanavira Thera writes, ‘A choice, in the full sense of the word, a "real" choice is possible only if man has access to the truth; if not they are only compromises of all kinds: the noblest are also the most modest.’ Sartre concludes that man is bound by his nature to adopt values of one sort or another. He cannot escape from choosing. He is totally responsible for his choice. There is nothing in his nature to justify choosing a particular set of values. The puthujjana does not see a task to be performed to justify his existence. The aryasavaka on the other hand sees that to bring his existence to an end is the very task that justifies his existence.
10 10 2004 - Sunday Island
J11.10 Stressed Americans turn to meditation
D. C. Ranatunga
Tension and stress in their lives have led some Americans to look towards Buddhist meditation as a form of relaxation. Meditation classes at the Washington Buddhist Vihara are very popular according to Ven. Aharagama Dhammasiri Nayaka Thera, President of the vihara, which is the first Theravada Buddhist temple in the United States. It was founded by the late Ven. Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayaka Thera in the mid-1960s."With only a few holidays, the life of the Americans revolves round work. Their stress levels are high. So they try to get away for an hour or two on Sundays to follow our meditation classes," says Ven. Dhammasiri. The most senior pupil monk of Madihe Maha Nayaka Thera, Ven. hammasiri has been managing the Washington Vihara for the past 16 years. In recognition of his services, the Dharmarakshita sect of the Amarapura Nikaya appointed him as the chief high priest in North America recently.
Ven. Dhammasiri points out that unlike a few years back when foreigners were more interested in Buddhist philosophy, now the accent is on meditation. A meditation class is held on Sundays from 7 p.m. onwards at the vihara. In addition, classes are also held on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7p.m. to 8.30 p.m. "The attendance is encouraging," Ven. Dhammasiri says.
The vihara also conducts a dhamma class every other Friday for two hours in the evening while a daham pasala is held every other Sunday morning. Monday evenings are devoted to a group discussion on the ill effects of alcohol and drugs.
With a growing interest in comparative religions in the university curriculum, many students select Buddhism. Groups of students come to the vihara looking for material. Ven. Dhammasiri discusses the dhamma with them.
"I also get invited for lectures and seminars at universities, colleges and churches. There is always a lot of interest when a Buddhist monk attends these. So many questions are asked - about the robe, its colour, why the head is shaven and so on."
Following one of his presentations, Rev. Nathan D. Baxter, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral interviewed Venerable Dhammasiri about Buddhism.
Extracts of the interview were published in the Spring Issue of the 'Cathedral Age'. Here we reproduce extracts from their conversation.
Conversation about Buddhism
Baxter: Westerners often wonder whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy, and often the answer hinges on whether Buddhism is theistic or has a theology. Does Buddhism have a belief in some kind of ultimate being or a presence higher than the individual?
Ven. Dhammasiri: Buddhism is neither theistic nor atheistic. It defines god and religion in a humanistic way. Religion, according to Buddhism is something that has grown up on earth to satisfy a human need and to solve a human problem. Buddhism does have a belief in an ultimate being and a presence higher than the normal human being, and that is the Buddha. Buddhists do not see the Buddha as an ordinary human being or philosopher such as Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle.
He represents the ‘ultimate state’ in the spiritual evolution of the human being. God for the Buddhist is the ideal of perfection conceived by human beings which they strive to realize through the practice of religion. Buddhism speaks of action (karma) and its consequences (vipaka).
Baxter: When one wills an action, is that person aware of whether the intention is good or bad, or is it something one discovers later? That is to say, if I decide to do something that might be in my interest but may be harmful to my brother's, is that a wilful karma or is it something else? I'm trying to find the moral principle.
Ven. Dhammasiri: Karma is not a moral law. The essence of karma is motive, which is emotional. If one acts angrily, it will have bad consequences. If one acts kindly, it will have good consequences. That is how karma works.
Baxter: That's much like Jesus' teaching about that which comes from our hearts. It's not what comes from our mouths but from our hearts that is at the root of our goodness.
Ven. Dhammasiri: We have the greatest respect for Jesus Christ. Many of his teachings are very Buddhistic. Take the Sermon on the Mount - pure Buddhist! And the concept of turning the other cheek, avoiding revenge, this is clearly Buddhist, too. Examples like this are common in the Gospels.
Baxter: Let's talk about the compatibility of Buddhism with Christianity. How would a Buddhist understand prayer and worship?
Ven. Dhammasiri: We do have worship, but not prayer as a Christian might understand it. To worship is to recognize the worth of some thing or some person (worth-ship). Worship is based on a sense of values. We do not pray to a supernatural power for things to happen or even for salvation. The worship in our temples is before the statue of the Buddha, in admiration, respect, and gratitude of what he achieved and for teaching us the way to happy and peaceful living.
Baxter: Would a Buddhist worshipper have a sense that the Buddha would hear or be aware of their expression of gratitude or their gestures of honour and respect?
Ven. Dhammasiri: Not at all. We do not believe the Buddha can hear what we say, or know what we say in any subtle way. We do not even believe that a Buddha exists after attaining Pari-Nirvana. It is interesting to note here that the essence of God for the theist is God's ‘existence’ but the essence of the Buddha to the Buddhist is a Buddha's ‘non-existence’, because he has ‘awakened’ from the ‘dream of existence’.
Baxter: Can one follow Buddhist practice and still be a Christian, or must one reject Christianity in order to embrace Buddhism?
Ven. Dhammasiri: Part of being a Buddhist is the practice of universal good will. Anyone can practise Buddhism even though he or she has Christian beliefs. But becoming a Buddhist is a different thing. This involves a change in beliefs. We never ask anyone to become a Buddhist. We never ask because we don't believe in labels. Labels don't matter; your heart matters. I always say to Christians who come to me asking this question, "Stay a Christian. Don't change your religion, but practise those things that can make you a better Christian." Anyone can practise meditation, loving kindness, and forgiveness and express gratitude to the people who help and teach you. You don't have to become a Buddhist to practise Buddhism.
Baxter: Where do you see opportunities for Christians and Buddhists to learn and grow together? How can we deepen our spiritual lives together?
Ven. Dhammasiri: The best way I can think of to deepen our spiritual lives is to drop all dogmatism and blind faith and to study about religion with an open mind. Buddhism is full of many beautiful teachings. Do not look for others' faults; look for the nice things and leave behind that which you find to be not so good. If someone is looking for the bad things in a person or a religion, he will only find the sand and stones. But if he sifts them properly, all the unneeded things will go away. When you use this theory to look at others' religions, it can be a very helpful way to seek peace and harmony between each other.
J11.16The seat of enlightenment
As the Ganges flows through Varanasi (Benares), one sees the spirit of Hinduism present in the people who gather in the thousands to bathe and pray, offering incense and flowers in traditional pooja near the ghats. Likewise, about two hundred kilometres away at Buddhagaya, the home of twenty-eight Buddhas, there is the majestic looking, very ancient temple and the venerated Bodhi tree, with the diamond-studded seat of Vajirasana Buddha. There, thousands of Buddhist devotees gather daily to observe Atasil and meditate on the impermanence of life and attempt to rid themselves of the suffering that is manifested in various forms.
The beautiful vihare of striking Gupta architecture has been referred to in monastic records of monks, dating back to the 4th Century AC.
Archaeologist Ale-xander Cunningham visited this site around 1880. Francis Buchanan-Hamilton, an explorer, has recorded visiting the place of worship in 1811. Later, our own Anagarika Dharmapala, who dedicated his life to the struggle to take control of the hallowed site from the Hindu Mahanta (Overlord), was in tears when he first saw the neglected vihare. Long after Dharmapala's demise, in 1949, after India gained Independence from the British, the
Buddha Act was passed by the Bihar State Assembly, to give control of the temple to a Management Committee comprising of Buddhists and Hindus.
The historic Buddhist Vihare is 170 feet tall and 48 ft wide at plinth level. Straight sides form a square truncated pyramid. The Asokavadana (Chronicle) and related records recounted by Chinese pilgrims, describe Emperor Asoka's conversion to Buddhism in the eighth year of his reign. The Emperor followed the teachings of the Great Master and became known as Dharma Asoka (The righteous Asoka) and not as Chanda Asoka (The wicked Asoka). He visited the Buddhagaya temple to pay homage everyday, and spent hours there. His Queen, who sought to have the Bo tree partly destroyed, did not find this behaviour acceptable. But with Sardha, the Emperor poured cows' milk to moisten the roots. The tree revived to reach a height of thirty-seven metres. The Bo tree we see today though is not the very same tree. Our sacred Bo tree at Anuradhapura is historically older.
According to Cunningham, the Bodhi tree in 1890 looked very much decayed. It is known that in about 1015 AC, devout Burmese pilgrims had haphazardly renovated the dilapidated structure of the Temple. Archaeologists say that this Vihare was built with red sandstone and lime. Relics and coins of a Kushan King, Huvshaka have been found. The important ‘Diamond Throne’ according to Cunningham had been located inside the Temple (it is now outside, by the Bo tree), at the spot where the main altar stands. This position has now been occupied by a beautiful image of the Buddha, in the Bhumis-parsha mudra (posture). The Vajirasanaya or Diamond Throne is beneath this Buddha image.
Sir Edwin Arnold, author of The Light Of Asia visited Buddhagaya around 1870, at a time when the whole place was under the control of the Hindu Saivite Mahanta. Having seen the shabby and neglected state of the Vihare, Sir Edwin with his incomparable epic, focused the world's attention on the situation, which prompted Anagarika Dharmapala (later ordained Bhikkhu and named Devamitta Dharmapala) to visit the holy place. He then resolved that the Buddhists should take control of the Vihare and the images. Dharmapala founded the Maha Bodhi Society of India. He moved from country to country, addressing gatherings about his noble mission, and received strong support from Japan.
The Buddha's enlightenment
No story of Buddhagaya Vihare and of the historic Bo tree would be complete without a reference to Sakyamuni Gauthama Buddha, and his Enlightenment. Ancient records say that Prince Siddhartha as the mendicant Bodhisattva in search of the truth about suffering and the way to end it, had after consuming milk rice, offered with great piety by a villager named Sujatha, regained strength and headed towards Gaya. Then a grass cutter named Sottiya had offered him eight handfuls of 'Kusa Grass' (a long leafed heavy grass of a bushy type) which the Bodhisattva accepted. On reaching the time-hallowed spot where all previous Buddhas sat (they were: Tanahnakara, Nedhankara, Sarananakara, Deepankara, Konnadanga, Mangala, Sumana, Revatha, Sobitha, Anomadassi, Paduma, Naradha, Padumuttara, Sumedha, Sujatha, Piyadassi, Attadassi, Dhammadassi, Siddhartha, Tissa, Phussa, Vipassi, Sukhi and Kassyapa), the Great Being who by then was free of all worldly and sensuous desires said to Himself, “this is the immovable spot on which all previous Buddhas planted themselves. This is the place for destroying passion's net.”
He then attempted to sit on the Kussa grass. The gods in heaven deemed it unsuitable for a future Buddha, so close to His goal, to sit on grass. For that reason, they offered Him the ‘Diamond throne’, which was indestructible and unshakable, on which the future Buddha sat motionless for weeks in order to meditate. The Bodisattva sat cross-legged in a dyana mudra (posture) and made a mighty resolution: “Let my skin and bones become dry and welcome...! And let all flesh and blood dry up..., but never from this seat will I stir, until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom.”
He sat there in deep meditation, reaching jhana after jhana. Mara (the evil one), sovereign of all passions and the personification of death, did everything possible to disturb the Bodhisattva from His mission, but failed. Mara caused showers of red coals, sand and mud to fall on the Bodhisattva, but failed to disturb Him. He finally caused his beautiful daughters Thirst (desire), Joy (tenderness) and Delight (raga) to sing and dance before the Bodhisattva hoping to seduce Him and break His jhana (concentration) but again failed.
Then Mara commanded; “Siddhartha arise from your seat. It does not belong to you, but to me.” When the mendicant heard this, He said to Mara: “You have not fulfilled the ten perfections (of endurance, courage, patience, love, dhana, gift of wife, children, flesh, eyes and royal rule etc.), therefore this seat belongs to me”. At that point Mara questioned, “Who bears witness to your having given these perfections?” The Bodhisattva then drew forth His right hand and touched the earth in the Bhumis-sparsha mudra, and said, “Are you a witness or not to my having given a great seven hundred fold donation in my Vessantara existence? Then the earth quaked and the sky thundered: “I bear witness to you.”
Mara knew he was defeated and fled in the presence of the Devas. The devas cried joyously;
“The victory now hath this illustrious Buddha won
The wicked one, the slayer hath defeated been
Thus round the throne of wisdom, birds and Devas, shout joyously...”
When He thus attained omniscience many prodigies took place. The Compassionate One then breathed forth a solemn utterance, which never has been omitted by any of the previous Buddhas.
“Through birth and rebirth endless rounds,
Seeking in vain, I hastened one,
To find who framed this edifice.
What misery, birth incessantly,
O, builder I have discovered thee
This fabric (craving) thou shall never rebuild,
The rafters (passions) are all broken now,
Your ridgepole (ignorance) is demolished,
My mind has now attained unformed nibbana
And reached the end of craving (desire)”
(Translated by Lord Chamers)