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 JOURNAL - PAGE 12..

Vesak 2011 - 2600th Anniversary of the Enlightenment News Ticker


 

2600    ARTICLES INDEX - PAGE 12    2600

J12.01   Some thoughts on the Buddha and his teaching - As we all know, the Buddha was the founder of the religion...

J12.02   Righteous authority of governance as a democratic meritocracy - The perennial truth of good governance is that the administrator...

J12.03   Why Buddhism is a religion - A word of explanation is, perhaps, necessary as to the sense...

J12.04    Buddha’s message to humanity - In our Sansaric journey, which runs for many aeons or kalpas...

J12.05    Ways of Gotama Buddha, The Perfect One - The personality and the manner Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha dispensed his sublime dhamma...

J12.06    2600 Sri Samma Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi - Today, the Full Moon Poya Day of Vesak in 2555 BE (Buddhist Era)...

J12.07    The uniqueness of Buddhism - A popular debate regarding the relevance of the Dhamma has surfaced...

J12.08    Buddha, the greatest communicator - The Blessed one, Thatagata Gautama Buddha, was a great communicator par excellence...

J12.09    Consciousness, your inheritance - Buddhism teaches the cleansing of one’s mind of its defilements arising from craving, anger...

J12.10    Be peaceful and useful - The concept of "Dhammic Socialism" was introduced by Ajahn Buddhadasa.

J12.11    Bliss of detachment - Happiness has been defined as an inward state of perfect satisfaction which...

J12.12    Reciting Parithrana for Sri Sambuddathwa Jayanthi - Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, the fountain of compassion...

J12.13    Buddhism in everyday life - Buddhism, the message of the Buddha, delivered over 2,500 years ago...

J12.14    History of Sambudhattva Jayanthi - We are at the end of Kali-yuga in this Maha Badra Kalpa. Kaliyuga consists of four lakhs...

J12.15    Shuttling diplomacy and strategic moves before Buddhism took root here - Had the Mahavamsa author recorded the carefully-studied...

J12.16     It all happened 2600 years ago - The Bodhisattva as Prince Siddhartha, after many years of preparation...

J12.17    Celebrating 2600 years since the Enlightenment of the Buddha - For countless eons the Boddhisatva practised to achieve...

J12.18    Commemorating 2600th Sambuddhathva Jayanthi Dhamma - On this eve of May, 2011, over one billion Buddhists all over the world...

J12.19    Dual significance of Sambuddhatva Jayanthi - This is the sacred moment at which we celebrate the Attainment of Supreme...

J12.20    Celebrating Enlightenment - The day when He attained Enlightenment...

 

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J12.01    Some thoughts on the Buddha and his teaching

Professor Emeritus Y. Karunadasa PhD

As we all know, the Buddha was the founder of the religion that has come to be known today as Buddhism. The word Buddha is a title, and not a personal name. The personal name of the Buddha is Siddhartha Gotama. But what exactly is the meaning of the title Buddha? Both in Pali and Sanskrit the term Buddha means "one who is awakened." We should understand the term "awakened", not in a literal sense, but in an idiomatic sense. It means the one who is awakened from the slumber of ignorance, one who is awakened from the slumber of delusion. The term Buddha also means the one who is enlightened, the one who is enlightened to the nature of actuality. This means that the Buddha had gained an immediate vision, an immediate insight into the nature of things as they actually are. This is the highest wisdom that leads to complete emancipation from all forms of conditioned experience. If the Buddha is the Enlightened One, the religion he has founded can rightly be described as the Religion of Enlightenment.

What is unique about the Buddha as a religious teacher is that he did not claim divinity.

He did not attribute his knowledge to a divine source, or to some kind of transcendental reality. What the Buddha discovered through Supreme human effort, he did not want to attribute to an external source. This means that the Buddha took full responsibility for what he taught.

As a religious teacher, the Buddha never claimed to be a saviour, either. The role of the Buddha as a religious teacher is not to save, but to lead, to lead us from darkness to light, from ignorance to wisdom, from bondage to freedom, from the conditioned existence to the Unconditioned Reality of Nibbana. As the founder of a religion, the Buddha himself defines his position in this way: "You yourselves ought to do what ought to be done. The Buddhas only show the way." What this really means is that the Buddha is a Guide, a Teacher, One who shows the way. It is up to us to work out our emancipation. This is precisely why in the early Buddhist discourses the Buddha is often referred to as Sattha. The Pali word Sattha means Teacher.

There is another important aspect of the Buddha as a religious teacher, to which I must draw the reader’s attention. It is that as a religious teacher the Buddha did not endorse the exhibition of Miracles to propagate his teachings. One day, when the Buddha came to the city of Nalanda, the people of the city told the Buddha: "Venerable Sir, this city of Nalanda is very affluent and prosperous and it is teeming with people. It would be a good thing if the Buddha could perform some miracles, so that the Buddha would be able to convert many people to his religion.

On this occasion the Buddha said: There are three kinds of miracle. The first is the miracle called iddhi-patihariya. It means the ability to perform such supernatural acts as levitating, that is, going in the air like a bird, or walking on water like a fish, or going through walls and parapets, or appearing in many different places at one and the same time. The second kind of miracle is called adesana-patihariya. It is some kind of hypnotism or mesmerism. It is the ability to hypnotize or mesmerize someone and reveal the kind of thoughts that the person is having. Then the Buddha goes on to say that he does not endorse these two kinds of miracle and that he rejects them totally and categorically. The third kind of miracle is called anusasani-patihariya. It means the miracle of instruction. It has nothing to do with exhibiting supernatural acts. It is nothing but communicating the Dhamma through rational persuasion. Thus we see that the Buddha has elevated what we call teaching through rational persuasion to the level of a miracle. And this is the one and only miracle recognized by the Buddha.

If the Buddha is called the Buddha it is also because he attained the highest level of moral perfection, and the highest level of wisdom. Therefore, the Buddha is considered and venerated as the Highest among all living beings, whether they are human or whether they are divine. Although Buddhism does not believe in a Creator God, according to Buddhist cosmology, there are gods or divine beings. Most of these divine beings are pre-Buddhist gods. They have been adopted and assimilated by Buddhism, under certain conditions, in such a way, that their recognition in no way goes against the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. According to pre-Buddhist Indian teachings, these gods are eternal, all-powerful; some are omniscient. By performing petitional prayers people could get favours from them. But according to Buddhism, they are no more eternal; they are no more all-powerful; they are no more omniscient; they are no more the objects of petitional prayers. Like us humans, they are all wayfarers in samsara. What is more, all these gods are inferior to the Buddha, because they are not free from passion (raga), aversion (dosa), and delusion (moha).

The early Buddhist discourses, in fact, refer to Brahma. However, according to Buddhism he is no more the creator of the world, nor is he omniscient. There is this interesting story in one of the early Buddhist discourses to show that the Buddha is superior to the Great Brahma. According to this account during the time of the Buddha there was a monk who was very much prone to metaphysical speculations. One day he came to be much disturbed and agitated by a serious metaphysical problem. The problem was this: where do the four primary elements of matter come to cessation without any residue. In modern terms, this means, where does matter come to end. So this monk thought that no one in this human world will be able to solve this problem. Therefore, he thought of referring, this problem to the denizens of the heavenly worlds. Since he had acquired powers of levitation he first went to the lowest heaven and put this question to the gods living there. They said, that they themselves do not know the answer to this question, and that the goods in the next heaven might know the answer. In the next heaven too he got the same answer. So he went from heaven to heaven until he came to the topmost heaven where the Great Brahma lives.

He approached the retinue of the Great Brahma and asked them: "Where then is that Great Brahma now?" They said: "When the signs of his coming appear, when the light arises, and the glory shines, then will he be manifest". And it was not long before the Great Brahma became manifest. Then that monk drew near to him and said: "Where, my friend, do the four great elements cease leaving no trace behind?" Then the Great Brahma said: "I, brother, am the Great Brahma, the Supreme, the Mighty, the All-seeing, the Ruler, the Lord of all, the Controller, the Creator, the Chief of all, appointing to each his place, the Ancient of days, the Father of all that are and are to be".

Then the monk said that it was precisely why he thought of putting this question to the Great Brahma. Thereupon the Great Brahma took that monk by the arm and led him to a corner and said: "To tell you the truth, I myself do not know the answer to this question. You did me bad by raising this question in the presence of my retinue. They all think that I am omniscient; whereas I am not. It is wrong on your part to have by-passed the Buddha. Please return to the Exalted One and ask him what the answer to the question is. Thereupon that monk came to the Buddha, bowed in salutation, and asked: "Where is it, Venerable Sir, that these four great elements cease leaving no trace behind". The Buddha said: "Instead of asking where the four great elements cease, leaving no trace behind, you should have asked:

Where do earth, water, fire, and wind,

And long and short, and fine and coarse,

Pure and impure, no footing find?

Where is it that both name and form

Die out, leaving no trace behind?

(Rhys Davids, Dialogues of the Buddha)

To this, the Buddha himself provides the answer: "it is the consciousness of the Arahant, the invisible, the endless, accessible from every side."

Whether one believes this story or not, one cannot overlook the profound message that is sought to be conveyed through it. The message is that exalted humanity is higher than divinity, or that if there is anything called divinity, it is exalted humanity. A human being who is free from passion, aversion, and delusion is superior to all other living beings including gods.

We hear some people say, that since the Buddha is not living now, how can the Buddha help us? Our answer to this question is this: It is true that the Buddha is not living now, but the Dhamma he has taught is very much with us. We can make use of the Dhamma although the Buddha is not living now. Surely, some of the great scientists who had discovered many kinds of potent medicine are not living now. However, that does not mean that we cannot make use of these curative medicines even though those who had discovered them are not with us now.

When we use the term Buddha, we sometimes use it in the plural to mean many Buddhas. According to Buddhism, besides the historical Buddha who was known as Sakya Muni, there had been an innumerable number of Buddhas in the remote past, and there will be an innumerable number of Buddhas in the distant future. This idea of a number of Buddhas has many important implications. One is that, truth is not the monopoly of one individual being, of one particular Buddha. Buddha-hood or Enlightenment is accessible to all. The idea of a plurality of Buddhas assure us that there is unbroken continuity in the discovery of Truth. It also provides us with a rational explanation that living beings in the remote past as well the living beings in the distant future are not deprived of the opportunities of realizing emancipation. When we consider the vastness of space and the immensity of time and when we consider the almost infinite universe with its billions of world systems, to speak of only one Buddha appears rather parochial. The Buddhist idea of a number of Buddhas provides a cosmic dimension to the concept of the Buddha.

When we reflect on the spiritual qualities of the Buddha, it is also important for us to reflect on the nature of the Dhamma. The Dhamma, as we all know, is the corpus of teachings taught by the Buddha. This is what we call Buddhism today. Although Buddhism is called a religion in several aspects, it is different from many other religions. In point of fact, most of the ingredients that go to make the definition of religion are conspicuously missing in Buddhism. Many religions believe in a Higher Reality in the form of a God or Godhead as the ultimate ground of existence. In Buddhism, we do not get its counterpart. It is only the world of experience, the world that we experience through our six sense-faculties that Buddhism recognizes. And it is precisely this world that Buddhism analyzes by way of the five aggregates, the twelve sense-bases, and the eighteen elements of cognition.

Again, the theory and practice of Buddhist morality does not recognize a moral authority in the form of a higher reality which imposes moral injunctions or commandments on us. However, Buddhism recognizes a moral order which operates according to the principles of causality. This is what is called kammaniyama. The Buddhist morality is therefore not based on a theory of reward and punishment. If we do good things we will not be rewarded. If we do bad things we will not be punished. What Buddhism says is, that unwholesome acts bring about evil consequences, wholesome acts bring about good consequences. Therefore, it is up to us to do what ought to be done, and refrain from doing what ought not to be done.

According to Buddhism, it is through wisdom and insight, fortified by rational faith (akaravati saddha) that the final goal can be realized. Here the accent is more on self-understanding, self-verification, and self-realization. This should explain why Buddhism gives its followers full freedom to inquire, to investigate and, to examine. The Dhamma itself is described as that which invites investigation (ehipassika). This attitude of free inquiry is very well brought into focus in the Kalama Discourse. It is a discourse addressed to people who are confused when they are exposed to a number of contradictory views. In this discourse the Buddha says, that one must not accept anything just because it is laid down in religious texts, just because it is handed down from generation to generation, just because it is based on logic and reasoning. just because it conforms to our likings and inclinations, or simply out of respect to the teacher. It is only when one is convinced that certain things are wholesome and that certain things are unwholesome that one must decide to accept what is wholesome and reject what is unwholesome. What is sought to be established through the Kalama Discourse is the authority of self-experience.

There is a general belief among some, that a critical attitude and a spirit of inquiry are not consonant with spiritual life. What is necessary, it is contended, is faith and devotion. But the Buddhist position is otherwise. From the Buddhist perspective, a critical attitude and a spirit of inquiry, rather than being detrimental, is very much salutary to the practice of spiritual life.

Emeritus Professor Y. Karunadasa graduated from the University of Peradeniya Sri Lanka and was Awarded a Henry Woodward prize for Pali. He was Prof. of Pali and Buddhist studies at the University of Peradeniya, and obtained a PhD from the London School of African and Asian studies.

Courtesy: Vesak Lipi, A Buddhist Diges

17 05 2011 - The Island


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J12.02    Righteous authority of governance as a democratic meritocracy
For economic prosperity

Shyam Nuwan Ganawatte; translated by Nimal Shantha

The perennial truth of good governance is that the administrator or the ruler ought to be righteous. From ancient times, right up to the present day, there was an enduring passion and desire of mankind to be governed by a righteous leader, who formulates potential ideologies to promote and satisfy human needs and maintain a realm of good governance; this is the sole desire and the consciousness of the people of a country. It is the ultimate aspiration of all. Buddhism endeavours to establish such a righteous and prosperous society, embracing harmony and happiness.

After a prolonged incantation Buddhist monks culminate the all night Pirith chanting with the following prayer…

The statue of Theri Maha Pajapati Gotami

Let rain fall on time!

Let there be abundance in harvest!

Let the world be prosperous!

Let the king be righteous!

Economic values…

These very verse carries a perpetual ideology encompassing prudent economic values. Timely rainfall would definitely augment the food production thus making everybody happy as their living conditions improve at an unprecedented pace by gaining sufficient income. Prerequisite of socio-economic development is the enhancement of the overall economic factors. Continued development would contribute to unprecedented living conditions of the masses. Therefore the foregoing verse ironically represent the concept of economic development per se. Development emanates basically from democratic meritocracy of the governing body.

How could a democratic meritocracy be defined? What are the codes of ethics of a democratic meritocracy?

As lucidly disseminated in the Buddhist doctrine, the success of a ruling monarch would be judged by several conceptual parameters detailing a political philosophy which could be gleaned from various parts of Pali Cannon.

Good, righteous governance…

It is the duty of all, involved in the management of state affairs and administration, to be sensitive to human aspirations and ambitions as enumerated below.

1. Concept of Cakavatti kingship or democratic meritocracy or a philosophical king (CakavattiRajyaSankalpaya)

2. Ten Moral and Spiritual Powers of a democratic ruling monarch(Dasa Raja Darma)

3. Four Noble Benevolence(SataraSangrahaVastu)

4. Four Forms of Injustice(SataraAgatiya)

5. Seven Progressive Rules(SaptaAparahaniyaDarma)

Buddha has proposed a concept of democratic meritocracy based on Buddhist political philosophy. The central character of this concept is the Ca?kavatti or monarch or the Lord of the Universe. He is the apex body of the entire management system based on righteous government, exuding economic prosperity, absolute security for the people to live in peace, strict maintenance of law and order and the ability to enjoy ultimate happiness.

CakavattiSihanadaSutta elucidates four noble qualities to be accomplished by the meritocracy known as Sakvitivat.

1. Statesmanship and state management in a friendly and non-exploitative manner

2. Safeguarding the life of all beings

3. Ensuring economic prosperity for all

4. Frequent consultation of dignitaries and men of eminence

The righteous monarch himself should embrace the Ten Moral and Spiritual Powers as proposed by Buddha. (Dasa Raja Damma)

1. Dána- Generosity

2. Síla- Self discipline

3. Parithyágaya- Sacrifice one’s leisure and pleasure

4. Ajjava- Maintain a human balance (gentle balance between authority and benevolence)

5. Majjava-Gentle Manner

6. Tapô- Austerity-to achieve desired goals

7. Akrôdaya- Non harbouring of grudges

8. Avihimsá- Non violence

9. Ivasíma- Patience

10. Aviro-aya- Detached from criticism

The righteous ruler endeavours to maintain these leadership endowments in a precisely controlled, balanced manner or maintain some of these qualities to a substantiated extent to exercise a protracted quality statesmanship.

Four Bases of Benevolence (SataraSangrahaVastu) are designated to the ruling administration for an even higher state of righteousness.

1. Dana –Charity, Altruism, Generosity

2. Priyavachana- Pleasant speech

3. ArtaCharyava – Service

4. Samanatmatava – Equal treatment, equalitarianism

In addition to the ‘Ten Moral and Spiritual Powers’ and ‘Four Bases of Benevolence’ the righteous monarch shall bereft of ‘Four Forms of Injustice’ (SataraAgatiya)

1. Chanda – Acting unjustly through selfish desire or favouritism

2. Dvesha – Hate of Prejudice

3. Bhaya– Fear , Terror or Cause of Terror

4. Moha- Ignorance

Lord Buddha endorsed that the monarchy of Vajji states are devoid of any foreign intrusion or internal conflicts and recognized as a highly developed régime as the ruling parties have steadfastly adhered to a governing model known as Seven Progressive Rules. (SaptaAparihaniyaDamma)-

1. Frequent gathering where the rulers discuss state affairs in unity

2. Disperse in unity

3. Non-commitment at inconclusive issues and strict implementation of approved policy decisions

4. Maintain a honoured confidence in the judgments of elders and lifelong traditions

5. Esteemed respect for women folk

6. Revered and maintain the religious institutions

7. Enthusiastically maintain the wellbeing of the clergy

The foregoing account summarily detailed the qualities attributed to a righteous political institution. Governing bodies shall endeavour to further these qualities to maintain righteous governance or shall endeavour to further these qualities to a plausible extent.

The success of righteous ruling party would be judged by the prevailing conditions of the country.

May the Ruling Party be righteous!

Raja Bhavatu Dammico (Let the king be righteous!)

 

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J12.03    Why Buddhism is a religion


Prof. K. N. Jayatilaka PhD, MA (Cantab)

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A word of explanation is, perhaps, necessary as to the sense in which Buddhism is a religion. Otherwise, the statements of Buddhism are likely to be misunderstood as those of a theological tradition or a revelation of a divinely inspired prophet or teacher mediating between God and man. The sense of the English word ‘religion’ is so bound up with faith, worship and humility before a Personal God regarded as the author of our being, that some scholars who have not found these elements in Early Buddhism have questioned the propriety of calling Buddhism a religion.

The word used for religion in Buddhism is brahma-cariya which may be translated as ‘the ideal life’, but it is a word used with a very wide connotation to cover any way of life which anyone may consider to be the ideal as a consequence of his holding a certain set of beliefs about the nature and destiny of man in the universe. Using the term religion, (brahma-cariya) in this sense in one of the suttas. Ananda, one of the immediate disciples of the Buddha, distinguishes the sense in which Buddhism is a religion by showing how it differs from other religions. A very brief resume of the substance of this sutta may clarify the sense in which Buddhism is a religion.

In it Ananda distinguishes Buddhism from four false and four unsatisfactory types of religion, and goes on to define the distinctive character of Buddhism. The first of the four false types is any religion which denies survival and holds that man is composed entirely of material elements which disintegrate at death. The second is any religion which denies moral values. The third is any religion which denies causation and holds that ‘people are miraculously saved or doomed’. The fourth type of false religion is any religion which denies free will and teaches that everything including salvation is strictly determined.

It is worth noting that the Buddhist theory of causation steers clear on the one hand from Indeterminism (adhiccasamuppanna-vada), which holds that events arise unrelated to the past, and on the other hand from Strict Determinism. Such causation is said to be compatible with free will, defined as the capacity of the individual or the factor of human effort, which can within limits control or direct the operative forces of the past and present in order to make the future different from what it would otherwise have been. Strict Determinism is of two kinds. One is Natural Determinism (sabhavavada) which holds that the present and future is a working out of the past and is therefore unalterable. The other is Theistic Determinism (issara-nimmana-vada) which holds that everything that takes place is predetermined by the will or fiat of a Personal God. In combating both these forms of determinism, Buddhism holds that man is master of his fate and can by the exercise of his efforts alter the face of nature, as well as his own inner nature by understanding and controlling the forces at play or the causal sequences at work. In combating the second, namely that everything happens under the guidance or the will of God, Buddhism is under no compunction to justify all that has happened merely because it has happened or to hold that all the evil perpetrated in the past was necessary in the best of all possible worlds.

The moral is clear. The problems of race and racism are neither inevitable nor imposed on us by the hand of God. Given the will, they can and must be solved by humans if they wish to survive as a peaceful and progressive human community.

The four types of unsatisfactory but not necessarily false religions are, first, any religion which ascribes omniscience to its teacher in the sense that he knows everything all the time. Omniscience in this sense was denied by the Buddha. The second type is any religion based on a revelational tradition, the reason being that a revelational claim may be either true or false, since the validity of a claim to revelation can only be ascertained by criteria other than that of the claim to revelation. For this reason it is very necessary that Buddhism should not be understood as a revelational religion and the sayings of the Buddha should not be considered as special revelations given to him and denied to others. As this sulk’ goes on to say, the truths of Buddhism are considered to have been verified by the Buddha and hundreds of his disciples and it is as a verifiable theory the truth or falsity of which each person can test for himself or herself that Buddhism invites others to practise this religion. Of course, verification is not merely in the light of sense experience but includes the experience of the special insights which are considered to be within the power of man to develop. In this sense the statements of Buddhism are not dogmatic utterances to be accepted on faith or faith alone. The doctrine of rebirth for instance, which to most moderns may appear to be a dogma, is considered to be verifiable by developing in us the faculty of retro-cognition. Even the textual statements are not to be taken dogmatically as the word of the Buddha, as the texts themselves state that a comparison of texts should be made to determine their authenticity.

The third type of unsatisfactory religion is one based purely on ‘logical reasoning and metaphysical speculation’, for here again, the reasoning may be either true or false. As Buddhism is distinguished from this kind of religion, it is incorrect, as is sometimes done, to call it a Pure Rationalism, or an attempt on the part of the human mind to unravel the mysteries of the universe by a process of pure reasoning. Logic can help us to evolve self-consistent systems of thought, but they need not be true of reality and there could be many such systems which are self-consistent within themselves but mutually contradict each other. The last type of unsatisfactory religion, is any religion which is inconsistent, but consistency alone, as we see from the above, is no guarantee of truth. The consistency that Buddhism urges is the consistency of objective fact and not of c a subjective system which may also be self-consistent.

Buddhism is thus, a religion in the sense, that it is a way of life following from the acceptance of a certain set of propositions which are considered to represent the facts of existence pertaining to the life and destiny of man in the universe. These propositions are also held to be true in the sense, that they can be verified and discovered to be true by people who wish to do so, though verification is not merely in the light of sense experience but includes valid experiences which, it is considered, are within the capacity of the human mind- to develop. The Buddha merely discovered and proclaimed these truths and since it is within the power of each one of us to re-discover them ourselves under the guidance that he has given, his was not a special revelation denied to others. On the other hand his doctrines are not the product of the mere reasoning of the human intellect, since the awakening within the mind of the faculties of extra-sensory perception makes the mind ‘more than human’ (uttari-manussa-dhamma).

Courtesy, UNESCO Publication (1958)

Prof. K. N. Jayatilaka PhD. M.N. (Cantab) born 1 November 1920 was Professor of Philosophy, University of Ceylon, Peradeniya Read Papers on Buddhist philosophy at Universities of Oxford, Harvard (USA), Princeton (USA), Hawaii. Publications to his credit (a) Early Buddhist theory of knowledge (b) Buddhism and the Race question (c) Principles of law in the Buddhist doctrine. He passed away on 23rd July 1970.

Courtesy:Vesak Lipi, A Buddhist Digest

17 05 2011 - The Island

 

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J12.04    Buddha’s message to humanity

Premasara Epasinghe

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In our Sansaric journey, which runs for many aeons or kalpas, we are absolutely fortunate that we, presently, live in an era, or celebrating the 2600th year of Sambuddha Jayanti. There may be millions and millions of creatives, who are not fortunate enough to wishes this landmark, in the history of Buddhism. The 2600th Vesak Purapasalosvaka Poya Day which falls of Tuesday, 17 May 2011, is a very important day for about 600 million Buddhists all over the World, Majority of them are in Asia.

The Birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, the enlightenment or attainment of the bless of nibbana by extinction of desire and suffering, (Sammasambodhi) and the Buddhas’ demise took place on a Vesak Full Moon Poya Day. Therefore, Buddhist pay their homage, reverence to the awakened one, on Vesak full Moon Poya Day. There will be Sil campaign, sermons, Dhamma discussion, and venous colourful ceremonies.

The life story of Buddha is like a wonderful poem and it is artistic. The blessed one way the embodiment of all virtues he preached. His moral conduct is the most perfect, the world has ever known. During his successful and eventful forty-five years as a supremely awakened one, the blessed one gave a message to mankind.

On this important day of Vesak, we pay our respect to Buddha as the greatest conqueror of the world. He conquered the world with his infallible weapons of compassion and wisdom. His teaching illuminates the way for mankind to cross from a world of darkness, hatred and suffering to a new world of light, love, happiness and serenity.

One of the cardinal principles of Buddhism, is to shower the blessings of Metta or compassion, to all beings. Violence in any form under any pretext, whatever is absolutely against the teachings of the Buddha.

The Teaching of the Buddha is contained in the four Noble Truths Dukkha - suffering; Samudaya – Arising of Dukkha; Nirodha – cessation of Dukkha, and Magga – way leading to the cessation of Dukkha. Bodhi is a vital word in the Buddhist Philosophy, which means the Spiritual Condition of Buddha – Awakening or Enlightenment. The cause of Bodhi is Prajna or wisdom and Karuna or compassion. Bodhi is the name given to the highest state of Samadhi, in which the mind is awakened and illuminated. Buddhists called Nirvana – as state of extinguished passions.

Buddha made it very clear, within the human realm, women and men, have equal capacity for Enlightenment. In Theravada countries, such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Enlightenment mean liberation from samsara – the cycle of birth and re-birth.

In Mahayana countries, enlightenment means achieving Buddhahood. One has to practice for many life tones, to become a Buddha, but, all living beings can and will.

Buddhism is a religion of wisdom. In the world of storm and strife, hatred and violence, on a Vesak Purapasalosvaka Poya Day, shines like a radiant sun. The immortal message helped us immensely to fashion our thoughts and actions according to the Buddhist way of life.

If we go into an in depth study, basic teaching of Buddhist Philosophy is known as Paticcasamuppada – Dependent Rising. The Buddha discovered the eternal truth, solved the riddle of life, unraveled the mystery of being by comprehending, in all its fullness – the Paticcasamuppada, with its 12 factors. They are as follows:-

(1) Ignorance (Avijja), (2) Volitional Formation (Sankhara), (3) Consciousness (Vinnana), (4) Mentality/Materiality (Nama-Rupa), (5) Six fold Base (Salayatana), (6) Contact (Phassa), (7) Feeling (Vedana), (8) Craving (Tanha), (9) clinging (Upadana), (10) Becoming (Bhava), (11) Birth (Jati), (12) Aging and Death (Jaramarana) and attained the Sammasambodhi 2600 years ago on this Vesak Poya Day. Arising of the wheel of existence and it followed the cessation of the wheel of existence through the cessation of Birth, ageing and death cease, and sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. Thus, there is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

After the attainment of Buddhahood, the Buddha announced the Eight fold Path as a solution for the problem of Dukkha. The path could be described in three (3) groups, (a) Virtue, (b) concentration, and (c) Wisdom (Sila, Samadhi and Panna)

In Wisdom Group (Panna) are right Understanding (Samma-ditthi) right Thought (Samma Sankappa)

In Virtue (Sila) Group are right speech (Samma Vacha), Right Action (Samma Kammanta) Right Livelihood (Samma-Ajiva)

In concentration Group (Samadhi) are Right Effort (Samma Vayama), Right Mindfulness (Samma Sati), and Right Concentration (Samma Samadhi)

Buddha was the first religious universalist. "Go forth for the good of the many for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, good, happiness of many. Let no two of you, go in the same direction".

He commenced spreading his Dhamma with five disciples. Today there are six billion who has embraced, the noble Philosophy Buddhism in the world. Buddha never converted men or women by force. He always advised them to think before they take their decisions.

The Great Teacher, Samma Sambuddha the Awakened one, was a great social reformer and influenced the entire society.

On this historic 2600th Sambuddha Jayanti Day, let us study the vision and knowledge and follow this great philosophy Buddhism to the letter which will lead us to calm insight and enlightenment. Buddhist philosophy mould our character, in an inner transformation with an in depth study of the Middle Path.

Sabbapapassa Akaranam

Kusalassa Upasampada

Sachittapariyodapanam

Etam Buddhanu Sasanam

(To refrain from doing evil – to indulge in doing good – to cleanse one’s mind this is the teaching of the Buddha.)

May the Triple Gem Bless you!

17 05 2011 - The Island

 

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J12.05    Ways of Gotama Buddha The Perfect One

Upali Salgado

The personality and the manner Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha dispensed his sublime dhamma (Philosophy) which is today followed by about a quarter of the world’s population has been researched and published by scholars. He was born to a royal family and named Siddhartha. He was of the Hindu Kshatriya warrior caste, and belonged to the Sakya clan of north India. Writers say, "He was a full stature of growth and manhood, which was tall and well proportioned commanding an athletic figure. In his youth, He was a skilled horseman and also excelled in archery. His skin had a gradation of gold colour pleasing to the eye, and a clear voice, deep and reverberating like a lion’s roar. Non harming and non hurting was his mental attitude towards all living beings. His heart was filled with unbounded love, sympathy and compassion.

A question often asked is whether the Buddha was ever heard to laugh. It is known that he never laughed to make a guffawing noise, but He did have a serene smile, without openly displaying all his pure white teeth. This fact has been demonstrated in the Ajantha Caves in North India, where in just one cave, the sculptor has shown that He did smile. In several paintings the Buddha is represented with a happy and serene compassion look. In Myanmar too, not for away from Mandalay are the Pindaya Caves where there are over fifty Buddha images having a serene smile. Most other mudras of the Buddha in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand show him to be in a meditative poise.

It is a Vinaya Pitaka rule that Bhikkhus should not laugh, but they may have a fleeting smile showing the tips of teeth, to signify approval.

Having introduced the Buddha, let’s now briefly refer to his glorious Dharma. Buddhism is a philosophy (a Dharma), a code of ethics for righteous living and helps one to free himself from all facets of suffering. Buddhism is not a theistic religion like Christianity or Hinduism (Saiva worship), and does not recognize a Creator God to solve human problems. His Dharma is centered around the Noble Eightfold Path, the doctrine of Dependent origin, Kamma and rebirth. Buddhists do not believe in divine powers; the acknowledgement of vicarious sin, the need to offer sacrifices and make vows in the name of Saints. The Buddha established in India, a New Social Order ignoring the age old Hindu caste system of society. He gave all women of India, a place in the society.

He discouraged the performing of miracles to propagate religion but did on just one occasion demonstrate His super natural ability by performing a miracle before the Jain leader, Ramaputra at Jetawana (Sravasthi) Vihara. On that occasion, He produced fire out of water to the amazement of a large gathering of Sahet and Mahet citizens, who resided near the Vihara.

The Buddha discoursed on three kind of miracles. The Miracle of Mysteries which gives the ability to pass through solid walls or ever walk on water; the Miracle of secrets which enables one to read another’s mind and the Miracle of Education whereby one gets Awakened after hearing a discourse of the Buddha. Such people can attain the bliss of Nibbana.

To test his spiritual greatness and his mind-state (wisdom), Gotama Buddha was given by religious leaders of his time, ten questions, which the Master refused to answer, thus remaining calm and quiet. What then are these ten questions?

1) Is the world eternal (in terms of time)?

2) Is the world not eternal (not endless, nor everlasting)?

3) Is the world finite (limited or bounded)?

4) Is the world infinite (not limited)?

5) Is the soul identical with the body (self is the same as the physical body & comes to complete annihilation at the time of death)?

6) Is the soul different from the body (whether the soul is eternal whilst the physical body is perishable)?

7) Does the Enlightened One exist after death?

8) Doesn’t the Enlightened One exist after death?

9) Does the Enlightened One exist and not exist after death?

10) Does the Enlightened One neither exist nor not exist after death?

Some scholars maintained that, Gotama Buddha’s silence was because He did not know the answers. Other scholars held the view that the Enlightened One knew the answers, but remained silent due to pragmatic reasons. Still another group of religious leaders thought, the ten questions belonged to a category of profound metaphysics bordering on mysticism.

If the Enlightened One answered the questions, it would not stop the world form speculating further, because humans did not have tools or methods to verify and be absolutely certain of His answers. Many scientists, philosophers and religious leaders have put forward their theories from time to time, but the world has not been convinced (beyond doubt). We, therefore have to appreciate that the Buddha did not add to the confusion there was in the people’s minds.

Scholars are of opinion that the Buddha remained silent, because to Him they were all meaningless questions, not relevant to His mission in life based on the illusionary self, the view that there is a self entity with a constantly changing psycho physical organism. The Buddha’s specific mission in life was to first attain Buddhahood (attain Enlightenment) and thereafter "Show the Path" to end all sufferings of life in samsara, where Nibbana is the goal. It is to be noted that, whenever He refused (before) to explain or discuss a subject, He would say:

"And why monks, have I not declared it? Because, it is not profitable; it does not belong to the beginning of (fundamentals) a religious life, and does not tend to revulsion, absence of passion cessation, calm, higher knowledge (wisdom), enlightenment, Nibbana. Therefore, I have not declared it"

Samyutta Nikaya

What the Buddha did explain is the origin of misery, the cessation of misery and the path leading to the cessation of misery. These explanations profit man, it abandons passion and opens the door to wisdom and the reach of Nibbana. It is known that the Buddha traversed on foot in North India, in the regions of modern Bihar State and Uttara Pradesh, preaching His sublime dharma (philosophy) to heads of Principalities, farmers, artisans and the poor, some of whom were shun by society, due to them being of low caste by birth. Some of his disciples were barbers, scavengers, and one was a well known murderer. They later became Arahants. His method of preaching the doctrine suited the situation and intellect of the gathering. His discussions were learned, formal and often logical. But when conversing with the ordinary folk, He resorted to the use of similes and parables as they were better understood. In a well known conversation He had with a wealthy Brahmin farmer named Kasi Bhadradvaja, the Buddha entwined His explanations to agricultural implements because the conversation took place during a harvesting festival. He referred to faith as the seeds he sows, devotion to rain that fertilize it, and modesty He said, was the plough shaft and the farmers mind is the tie of the yoke. He also said mindfulness in what they did was the plough share and goad.

Meeting Wangisa and Pingiya

An interesting incident took place when He accidentally met a Brahmin named Vangisa. Vangisa made a living by tapping human skulls, to discover rebirth of their owners. When Vangisa met the Buddha for the first time, knowing his reputation to tap skulls, the Buddha tested him by presenting him a few human skulls, including one of an Arahant. Vangisa was successful with the first few skulls, but when he tapped the Arahants skull, the books say, it looked mysterious and unfathomable (because an Arahant is not reborn anywhere). Vangisa later became a disciple and attained Arahantship. In life, he excelled in composing beautiful verses in praise of the Buddha. They have been recorded in Theragatha.

Yet, in another instance, an aged monk of Brahmin origin named Pingiya, said to have been 120 years old had joined the bhikkhu (monk) fraternity late in his life. When he met the Buddha he had revealed his inadequacy of spiritual attainments. He had said that, his vision was poor, his hearing was weak, and could not adequately comprehend the Buddha’s teaching. He asked, "please tell me how I could transcend birth and decay (illness -and old age) in this life". The Buddha’s message to him was to reject from i.e. The physical body if you chose to eliminate birth; then give up Tanha or craving, where it is associated with greed, attachment and jealousy. To achieve this goal, a concerted effort of self adjustment is needed i.e. an adjustment of values, attitudes, and a voluntary surrender of customary ways of living, where there is attachment.

The compassionate ways of the Buddha were seen when He attended on an aged sick monk named Puttigatha Tissa who was laid in bed for a long time, without proper medical attention. The sick bhikkhu had large festering ulcers all over his body and also bed sores. The foul smell which was unpleasant emanated from the pus of his wounds. This situation discouraged other monks of the temple to nurse him. The Buddha who learnt of his unfortunate situation, with the help of Ven. Ananda, his faithful pupil, washed and medicated, the sores of the sick monk himself, for several weeks. He also bathed him frequently, until the patient was cured. Then addressing the bhikkhu fraternity, the Buddha declared should anyone attend on the sick in all circumstances, we will gain much Kusala Kamma (merit) as if he had attended on, or nursed a Buddha.

When communicating his Dhamma to the disciples, the Master made no distinction whatsoever amongst them. He had no favourite disciples. Before He passed away at Kushinara (modern Kashinagar), the Buddha did not appoint a disciple as his successor. Addressing several hundred of monks who were present before passing away, the Master said, "The doctrine and his discipline (Dharma Vinaya) which I have set forth and laid down for you, let them after I am gone, be your teacher and guide (Samyutta Nikaya).His last words were, Decay is inherent in all component things. Workout your salvation with diligence."

The wise old Sakyan Sage of India, who gave the world a new line of thought to end one’s suffering journey in samsara, passed away peacefully like an oil lit lamp that failed to give light to the world anymore.

Upali Salgado has compiled and edited this internationally known Buddhist Digest during the past 26 years. Educated at St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia and the University of Peradeniya, he has authored Budu Sesun Lediyo (2nd edition), published by B. P. S. Kandy. Out of finances generated by this publication, He established in 2004, at the General Hospital, Kandy, Ward 69, which is fully furnished and equipped with fifteen beds for non paying patients having Kidney related illness. This ward is now being maintained by readers of Vesak Lipi Buddhist Digest.

17 05 2011 - The Island

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J12.06    2600 Sri Samma Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi

Walter Wijenayake

Today, the Full Moon Poya Day of Vesak in 2555 BE(Buddhist Era) is a day of special significance to the Buddhists all over the world, as the day records the 2600 Sri Samma Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi year since the Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment, as well as the 2555th year, since his passing away. It also counts 2635 years since his birth as the Prince Siddhartha Gautama.

Prince Siddhartha who was destined to be the greatest religious teacher – The Buddha – was born in the Lumbini Park at Kapilavasthu on the Indian border of present Nepal, on the full moon Poya Day of Vesak in the year 623 BC.

Siddhartha/Siddhattha was the personal name of the Buddha. Gothama/Gautama was his family name and he lived in North India in the sixth century BC. His father King Suddhodhana was the King of Sakyans and his mother Queen Maha Maya who passed away on the seventh day of his birth. Maha Prajapathi Gothami, her younger sister adopted the child, entrusting her own child, Nanda to the care of the nurses.

In accordance with the customs of the day, the Prince Siddhartha married Yasodara also known as Bhaddhakachchana, the daughter of the daughter of the King Suppabuddha, both at the same age of 16.

The couple spent amidst great luxury and immense splendour living in three palaces – Ramya, Suramya and Subha for three seasons – the summer, the spring and the rainy. However, all of a sudden, the Prince confronted with the reality of life and the suffering of mankind, decided to find the solution – the way out of this universal suffering.

At the age of 29 years, immediately after the birth of his only son – Rahula – he left the worldly life and became an ascetic in search of this solution. He wondered about the valley of the Ganges for six years. He came across his first teacher Alara Kalama who did not lead him to enlightenment. Subsequently the ascetic Gothama reached another teacher Uddaka Ramaputta. He joined his order, listened to his doctrine and before long mastered it. Then he thought of that the doctrine of Uddaka Ramaputta did not lead him to detachment, cessation, tranquillity and enlightenment. Then he abandoned him too. After all he felt chat his quest of the highest truth was not achieved. He had gained complete mastery of his mind. But his ultimate goal was far ahead, he was seeking for the highest, the Nibbana, the complete cessation of suffering, the total eradication of all forms of craving.

Meeting with the disappointment, but not discouraged, we seeking for the incomparable peace, arrived in due course at Uruvela a lovely place in Senani. Hearing of his renunciation, another five ascetics, Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji also renounced the world and joined his company and acknowledged him as their leader in quest of the truth.

Ascetic Gothama made a superhuman struggle practicing all forms of severest austerity. In this exercise his delicate body was reduced to almost a skeleton. The more he tormented His body the father his goal receded from Him.

One day he fainted in a place at Uruwela. Then a shepherd passing the place came and gave Him some milk and that made Him better. Soon He began to take more milk and food to build up His body.

He realised that Enlightenment could not be gained with such an 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 friends who were attending on Him with great hopes thinking that whatever the truth the ascetic Gothama would comprehend, that would be important to them, felt disappointed at this unexpected change of method, and leaving Him and place too, went back to Isipathana, saying that the ascetic Gothama had become luxurious, had ceased from striving, and had returned to a life of comfort.

Ascetic Gothama was not discouraged when His companions deserted Him at a time their assistance was most welcome. He moved to Gaya and partaking of meal of milk rice offered by a young woman, Sujatha. He crossed the Ganges and sat down under papal tree, later known as Bo tree. There He vowed He would not rise from the place until He realised the truth of existence, the reason for the cycle of rebirths.

The ascetic Gothama, the Bodhisathwa then gave up Himself up to meditation. Seated along cross-legged under the Bo tree, His mind rose to heights of ecstasy.

His thoughts were purified and free from lust and with the passing of every successive watch of the night, fold after fold of the garment of Truth was unveiled till the dawn found the Truth completely revealed. With the dawn of the Full Moon Poya Day of Vesak He became the Buddha, the Enlightened One, the Perfect One and the Blessed One, at the age of 35, unaided and unguided by any Super-natural 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.

He was not a born Buddha, but became a Buddha by His own efforts.

Immediately after the Enlightenment, the Buddha continued to spend seven weeks in the vicinity of the Bodhi tree. Where he attained Enlightenment on the bank of the river Neranjana.

Seven weeks:

First week: Throughout the first week the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree in one posture, experiencing the bliss of emancipation (Vimukthi Suwaya).

Second week:

As a mark of profound gratitude to the Bodhi tree that sheltered Him during His struggle for the Enlightenment. He stood at a certain distance gazing at the tree with motionless eyes for one whole week.

Third week:

As the Buddha had not given up His residence at the Bodhi tree the Devas doubted His attainment to Buddhahood. The Buddha read their thoughts and in order to clear their doubts He created by His psychic powers a jewelled ambulatory and paced up and down for a whole week.

Fourth week:

The fourth week He spent in a jewelled chamber contemplating the intricacies of the Abhidhamma (higher teaching). His mind and body were so purified that rays of six colours came out of His body.

Fifth week:

During the fifth week too the Buddha enjoyed the bliss emancipation, seated in one posture in the vicinity of the Bodhi tree. At this juncture a conceited Brahmin approached Him and after the customary salutation questioned Him thus ‘what makes a Brahmin?’ The Buddha replied: ‘That Brahmin who has discarded evil, without conceit, free from defilements, self-controlled, versed in knowledge and who has led the holy life rightly, would call himself a Brahmin. For him there is no elation anywhere in the world.’

According to the Jataka commentary it was during this week that the daughters of Mara, Tanha-Rati and Raga – made a vain attempt to tempt the Buddha by their charms.

Sixth week – under the hood of serpent-king Muchalinda

From the Ajapala banyan tree the Buddha proceeded to the Muchalinda tree, where he spent sixth week, again enjoying the bliss of emancipation. At that time there arose an unexpected great shower. Thereupon Muchalinda – the serpent-king came out of his abode, and coiling round the body of the Buddha seven times, remained keeping his large hood over the head of the Buddha so that He may not be affected by the elements.

Seventh week – at the Rajayatana Tree

The seventh week the Buddha peacefully passed at the Rajayatana tree, experiencing the bliss of emancipation.

First discourse of the Buddha

Exactly two months since the Enlightenment, the Buddha on the following Full Moon Poya Day of Esala in the Deer park at Isipathana (Modern Saranath) near Benares, delivered His first sermon the Dhamma Chakkapavattana Sutta to the five ascetics, His old colleagues.

From that day, for 45 years, he taught all classes of men and women – kings and peasants, Brahmins and outcasts, bankers and beggars, holy men and robbers – without making the slightest distinction between them.

He recognized no difference of caste or social groupings. At the age of 80 years the Buddha attained the final passing away to Nibbana at Kusinara (in modern Uttar Pradesh in India) on the Full Moon Poya Day of Vesak, exactly 2635 ago today.

As such, as we are real Buddhists, let us celebrate this Sri Samma Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi, in keeping with Buddhist observances, undertaking to observe the five precepts (Pancha Seela).

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J12.07    The uniqueness of Buddhism

Aravinda Hettiarachchi

A popular debate regarding the relevance of the Dhamma has surfaced among Buddhists today, with the launching of the 2600th Sri Sambuddhathva Jayanthi year. We spoke to Ven. Professor Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera, Chancellor of Sri Jayewardenepura University, who disclosed and shared his perspective on this spiritual event with us.



Ven. Professor Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera.
Picture by Sumanachandra Ariyawansa

We are in the 2600th year after the Enlightenment of the Buddha. Yet Sri Lanka has a 2300 year history of Buddhism. Buddhism thus came to Sri Lanka after 300 years of his Enlightenment. There is a saying that the Buddha has visited Sri Lanka three times in his life time after his Enlightenment. Yet, you don’t have any facts to prove that he has established Buddhism or converted anybody to Buddhism on these occasions.

Different ideologies

Just three months after the Parinirvana (the Passing Away of the Buddha), the first ‘Dharma Sangayana’, a great rereading of the Buddhist doctrine among Sangha, took place. The Enlightened Maha Kashayapa Thera, the great student of the Buddha had conducted this event. The objective of this Buddhist Sangayana was to compile the Buddhist doctrine into a whole.

Maha Sangha (the disciples of Dhamma), from generation to generation, took the responsibility of protecting this total doctrine with ‘from teacher to disciple system’ of education.

Yet, 100 years later, this great collective of the Sangha had been divided into 16 Nikayas or Gurukula on the traditions such as, ‘Sarwasthivada’ and ‘Suthranthika’. These divisions were based the different ideologies of the Sangha mainly in relation to discipline (the Sheela), Enlightenment (the Nirvana) etc.

Again 300 years later, during the period of king Dharmashoka, another Sangayana took place under the Enlightened Maha Moggalee Puththa Thissa Thera. Thus, in this Sangayana, the ideological interpretations of various Nikaya traditions had been excluded from the doctrine. And a new tradition among the Sangha who accepted the Buddhist doctrine in its original form and content named ‘Theravada’ came into being. The Thripitaka, the main three-fold doctrine of Buddhism has thereafter been re-established as Theravada Thripitaka. This very same Thripitaka, through the Enlightened Mihindu Thera, came to Sri Lanka. And through Sri Lanka, it has spread to Thailand, Burma and Cambodia.

Subsequently another tradition, named Mahayana, a doctrine different to Theravada was raised and spread in other countries, such as, China and Tibet.

The Buddha was Enlightened at Madya Pradesh in India, a territory where 62 established religious ideologies were in existence. And there were almost six refined teachers of ideology (Shastra) with their own clans of disciples. They said they had found the truth of life. The Buddha, therefore, was Enlightened against the background of a religious and ideological renaissance. Young people of those days were searching for the truth of life.

Brahmin caste

There were a lot of teachers of Shastras (doctrines). The most powerful of these teachers were the teachers of the Brahmin caste (the highest) among other castes named Kshathreeya (the rulers), Vaishya (the merchants) and Kshudra (the labourers). The ‘Kula’ or the castes and their contradictions were overdetermined in that society. Thus there was no religious or social freedom for the people or Kshudras and especially for women. Yet, after the advent of Buddhism oppressed people had an opportunity to get involved in religion and in doctrines.

Consequently, a lot of young people who were searching for the truth through the then Indian teachers of ideology came into contact of Buddha and became monks.

A great capitalist’s son, named Rattapala, rejected his luxurious life and entered the Sangha of the Buddha and became Enlightened while his parents were thoroughly against it. Fifty young princes named Baddavaggiya came to influenced by the Buddha as well.

The Brahmins’ doctrine had recommended religious practices only in old age. It, therefore encouraged people to have fun and celebrate a secular life in their younger ages. The Buddha did not declare a particular age to enter the Dhamma and Enlightenment.

He had categorized all the other religious teachers into two ideological tendencies; the Shastratavada and the Uchchedavada.

The doctrine of Shastratavada (soulism) believed that there is an eternal soul of utmost satisfaction while the doctrine of Uchchedavada (nihilism) believed that the life can be spent in whatever way you like, for, nothing happens after the death.

Cause and effect

The Buddha the Enlightened One, revealed life through cause and effect and uncovered that there isn’t any permanent soul in the world. Everything originates out of cause and effect. Everything exists for a time and then dies or is destroyed. And again it arises with another cause and effect. Thus the same chain process of a generation of causes and effects keeps moving all the time. Without a cause there is no effect. This phenomenon is the main element that differentiates Buddhism from other ideologies.

The truth of cause and effect attracted then youngsters to the way of Buddhist living, for, they found that the other ideologies were mere illusion. Any religion or doctrine, from time to time and generation to generation, changes its original form for the reason of interference of new interpretations into it. If a word of the Buddha is ambiguous to the people of a later era, then eventually, a condition of interpretation takes place. And this has accommodated new ideological trends in the original scriptures of Buddhism.

The Buddha, in his last days, allowed the Sangha to change some of his disciplines (Sheela) if they are irrelevant to contemporary reality. Yet, after the Parinirvana, this tolerance of his had been taken for granted and it caused ideological divisions among the Sangha.

The majority of Sangha thought that changes should not be brought forth, for it will harm the doctrine. Yet some among the Sangha thought that it should be changed according to the era or the social realities. And they changed not only the disciplines but some of the doctrinal elements as well. Consequently, different ideologies were raised in regard to ‘Anithya’, the theory of impermanence. This gave birth to another trend named Sarwasthivada Nikaya.

Mahayana Buddhism

Ultimately, all these trends piled up into two mainstream Nikayas; Theravada and Mahayana. This split started in India and caused Buddhism to spread even more into other regions, such as, China, Korea and Japan. Mahayana Buddhism had thereafter branched into more traditions, such as, Thantrayana of Tibet that believed that the continuous uttering of ‘Buddha Mantra’ will bring well-being. The basic teachings, such as Chaturarya Sathya and Aryashtangika Marga are not different among these traditions. Mahayana tradition developed a lot of philosophical concepts in Buddhism. Yet we as Theravada followers, believe in the original doctrine of the Buddha’s Thripitaka.

We cannot exactly say how long this doctrine will exist, though some ancient books says that the Buddha Sasana has only 5,000 years of life. Buddhism is not a doctrine of assumption. It only reveals the true reality of the universe; the Anithya (impermanence), Dukka (suffering), Anathma (the non-being).

The Buddha only disclosed this truth but never created a truth of interpretation. The Buddha said, “My doctrine is the world’s reality in any period of time, though there be a living Buddha or not.” Even the modern sciences accepted his truth that the world is a process of continuous being of derivation and destruction. This doctrine thus will not be destroyed and the people who neglect it will only get into trouble. We, as a Buddhist collective, should keep the policies of Buddhism rather than the customary fascinations of Buddhists.

And there is no age limit of following the way to Nirvana. For Nirvana, you need Vidarshana; a deep introspection through Anithya, Dukka and Anathma. You, to reach this introspection, have to go through the policies of Sheela (disciplines to drop the wrong acts in body, mind and word), Samadhi (overlooking the mind) and Prakgna (the wisdom). Nirvana is not an intellectual practice. It is a life practice of science, wisdom and light.

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J12.08    Buddha, the greatest communicator

 Premasara Epasinghe


Buddha Dhamma is pure and clear like the waters.
Picture by Lakshan Maduranga

The Blessed one, Thatagata Gautama Buddha, was a great communicator par excellence. During the 40 years of his ministry, He met many Devas, Asuras, Suras as well as kings, ministers, Setthis, as well as men and women from all walks of life. The Enlightened One, always followed the basic principles of fruitful, successful communication.

His expertise was he understood his audience and preached his sermons and discussions accordingly. Sometimes, the themes of the Buddha’s discourses were always selected on the basis of on-going discussions. In Pali, Buddha’s discourses were known as Suttas. There assumed the form of dual or two way communication. They are many examples, I can quote. One is Samannaphala Sutta. This was an exchange of ideas between the enlightened one and the king of Magadha Ajasattha.

What are the qualities of a good communicator?

(a) Ability to listen

(b) To bear in mind

For the benefit of our readers, I draw their kind attention to Anguttara Nikaya, Panchamabhagaya Attaka Nipatha - Paharada Sutta, which clearly shows that Buddha was a great communicator.

The Blessed One followed the system of answering questions in a threefold manner.

Firstly, of the question posed to the Blessed One helps an individual or individuals to attain the Bliss of Nirvana, he will answer it straight away.

The second method was, He usually divide the question into different segment and answers them one by one.

The third was known as Patipucchi, where the enlightened one obtains the answers through the discussion from the questioneer.

Once, an Asura, from the heavenly abode, raised a question from Buddha relative to the ocean or sea (which is in Paharada Sutta) others was his the question number one. These Asuras are very fond of the seas and oceans.

Oh! Great Blessed One, what is the secret, that so many people follow your Teachings or philosophy. What is the reason that Buddhism became so popular among the Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, lay devotees - men, women of all age groups. (Today, Buddhism is major religion in the world. It’s followed by six hundred million devotees, many of them Asia continent.

According to Paharada Sutta, Buddha asked Asura to explain why they are so interested. So fond and love the ocean. The Asura replied: Oh! Buddha, at the sea water, the water is shallow and when you proceed forward you so deeper step by step. That’s one reason we like the ocean.”

Buddha replied, Asura just like you said, even in my Sasana, you cannot achieve Nibbana at once. It’s a process that you have to follow step by step, like someone proceeding to the sea, first you have to pass the shallow water and proceed to the deep-end. It’s very scientific and practical. That is one reason, my philosophy is popular among many. To attain Arhantship they do not rush. They march on step by step, to achieve the Bliss of Nibbana. The Asura stated that another reason, that they like the ocean or the sea was that its water is pure. Even if a person drowns in the sea, his body will not remain in the water it will be washed away to the shores in a day or two. This was the question number two.

The Blessed One stated, that, a reason for the popularity of Buddhism was that there was no room for sinners, Parajika Bhikkus in His order. Like the ocean you mentioned, Asura, Buddha Dhamma is also pure and clear like the waters of ocean. That is the reason that Buddhist philosophy is so popular. In one instance when Buddha was to perform “Poya Karma” with the congregation of Monks the Blessed One remain silent. When Ananda questioned from Buddha, why He did not perform Poya Karma, the Blessed One replied “Ananda in this congregation there is a Parajika Sremana (Defaulted Bhikku). Then Sariputta to the most knowledgable out of all Sravakas with his Divine Eye saw that there was a “Parajika Bhikkhu” and later he was sent out of the congregation and Buddha performed the ‘Poya Karma’.

The Asura then mentioned that they like the ocean because there it is. Confined to a restricted area.

Buddha replied “Asura, even in my Dhamma, we have to cross the land to proceed to the ocean. I consider this land as “Seela”. Without the “Seela”, we are unable to proceed to the sea.

The Asura mentioned Ven, Sir, another reason why we like the sea is that although all the waters from the rivers - Ganga, Yamuna, Achiravathi, Mahi, Sarabhu flows to the ocean, once these waters reach the ocean or sea, they do not identify the waters in the name of those respective rivers, but as en masse waters of the ocean.

Buddha in reply stated, my Dhamma is like the waters in the ocean. It is not identified with the names of the respective waters from the rivers you mentioned. There are no caste, creed, colour barrier in my religion. It is open to all. We treat all equal, with compassion and kindness.

“Ven Sir, we like the ocean, as it does not overflow although many rivers flow to it. There is no rise in the waters, however much water flows to the sea, stated Asura.

In reply, Buddha mentioned, “Dear Asura, even in my Dhamma, there are no restrictions in becoming a follower. That’s another reason that my religion (Dhamma) is popular.”

“Oh! Blessed One, as you are aware in all oceans and seas, the taste of the water is the same Salty. This is also one reason, we like and love the ocean.”

“Dear Asura, even my philosophy has only one taste. We call it the taste of Emancipation or Vimukthi Rasaya. The taste of ultimate Bliss of Nibbana or Nirvana - total extinction of desire and suffering.”

Buddhism is a universal religion followed by more than 600 million people. It should be noted that never in the history of Buddhism we any iniquitous, unjust methods in spreading the Dhamma or the Buddhist philosophy. The only weapon they wielded was that of universal love and compassion. No decrying of other religious creeds ever existed in Buddhist.

Another cardinal principle is that there is no Blind faith. It is a religion for the wise and it is a “Thinking Religion”.


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J12.09    Consciousness, your inheritance

“How can the brain a material substance produce something as radically different from it as consciousness is? How can the brain create out of its own material substance a reality that has no mass, no shape, no size and is not seen in space?”

Buddhism teaches the cleansing of one’s mind of its defilements arising from craving, anger and ignorance in order to see and comprehend things in their authentic form. The cleansing is done with systematic forms of meditation whereby engaging awareness as a vital force a strong foundation of concentration is built to progress into knowledge, wisdom and insight. With the cleansing of the mind the kammic energy that flows for one runs its course to a finish. With the cessation of kammic energy rebirth comes to an end. Rebirth it is that brings disease, decay, death and the whole of man’s travail. Thus, cleansing one’s mind one fulfills the purpose of one’s earthly existence.

In Buddhism there is no difference between mind and consciousness. Consciousness meeting with sense faculties triggers off thoughts which lead to mental and bodily activities giving rise to feelings, sensations, perceptions and mental formations. Consciousness being foremost in the life of man getting to know it becomes essential. Hence, I present to you the following theories of notable scientists and philosophers so that you may come to your conclusion.

According to western medical science, consciousness is an attribute of living organisms – an attribute of life at a certain level of development.

The concept of consciousness as a state of awareness is primary. It cannot be broken down any further or defined by reference to other concepts to which it can be reduced. Hence it is an irreducible primary. It means that at birth man’s brain produces consciousness due to chemical reactions. On this basis it necessarily follows that consciousness must cease with death.

The facts of neurology completely demonstrate that everything about the mind from the memory motor periphery to the inner sense of self is minutely controlled by the brain. If your brain lacks certain chemicals or locally gets damaged, your mind is apt to fall apart at the seams. If parts of the mind depend for their existence upon parts of the brain, then the whole of the mind must depend too. Hence the soul dies with the brain which is to say, it is mortal.

These theories, however, are in conflict with what hypnosis reveals. Some patients hypnotised for diagnostic purposes, spoke about their previous births, giving vivid details which when investigated into were found to be unbelievably accurate. That was proof that consciousness did not cease with death but continued to manifest itself.

Freud’s discovery of the unconscious mind was due to his investigation into hypnosis. It was because hypnotised subjects would recall incidents from their childhood that were completely forgotten in their conscious state that Freud was forced to postulate an unconscious mind to account for the preservation of the otherwise irretrievable material.

According to Rene Descartes, he declared that the mind (the thinking thing) was separate and distinct from the brain. The physical matter of the brain constrained by the law of physics and forced to act like a machine was incapable of producing the wide range of activity encompassed by thought which is believed was generated by a non-physical phenomenon.

The science of matter and energy and how they behave is called physics. The law of conservation of energy is a natural law, a rule of nature. It describes the way things are, not the way we want them to be. According to this law energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

American philosopher David H Lund has stated, “How can the brain a material substance produce something as radically different from it as consciousness is? How can the brain create out of its own material substance a reality that has no mass, no shape, no size and is not seen in space?”

According to the formulation of E D Walker – nothing is either lost or added. There is no creation or destruction. The Law of conservation of energy holds in the spiritual realm as in physics. This uniform stock of energy in the universe neither declines nor increases but necessarily changes.

J A Storey has stated – What we call life is a combination of physical and mental energies. When the physical body is no more capable of functioning, energies will not die with it but continue to take some other shape which we call another life.

V F Gunaratne, a Buddhist philosopher has stated – Thought like matter is energy and energy cannot be destroyed or annihilated. It goes on producing its results and they in turn produce theirs though not necessarily in the same plane or sphere.

Edgar Cayce, the great American physicist who in a hypnotic trance gave thousands of readings to those who appeared before him or sent their names and addresses said to Lammers in November 1923, that he was a Spanish monk in a previous birth. In a second reading, Lammers got a past birth again and for the first time, Cayce mentioned Karma a debit and credit ledger of life that carries over from one life to the next and must be dealt with if the individual is to develop.

Cayce was confused by the thought that reincarnation was a sin against the scriptures. Looking up the dictionary the meaning of Karma read - The force genrated by a persons actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to be the motive power for the round of deaths and births endured by him until he has achieved spiritual liberation and freed himself from the effects of that force. Consciousness and karma combine with energies to form the life force.

In a B B C programme, Professor Ian Stevenson, the best authority on rebirth was asked the question that since memories are tied to a particular brain tissue, in the event of the brain being taken away, does it not follow that there would be no memory? This question you will observe is based on the premiss the brain and mind are linked together? Stevenson’s answer was - “I think that it is an assumption. Memories can exist elsewhere too.” When Stevenson was asked what evidence he relied upon, he replied - “I think the best evidence comes from rebirth cases.”

For your information, there is evidence that memories can exist outside a dead brain. It is reported that some transplant patients report uncanny experiences after receiving a donated kidney, liver or heart without knowing who the organ donor was, they began to participate in his memories. Associations that belonged to another person start being released when that person’s tissues are placed inside a stranger. In one instance, a woman woke up after a heart transplant craving for beer and chicken McNuggets. She was very surprised because she had never before wanted either. After she began to have mysterious dreams in which a young man named Timmy came to her, she tracked down the owner of her new heart which had come from the victim of a fatal traffic accident. When she contacted his family it turned out that the victim was a young man named Timmy. The woman was stunned to know that he had a particular fondness for drinking beer and had been killed on his way home from McDonalds. Timmy died and so did his brain. His tissues lived to tell the truth.

Making use of meditation to understand the working of the mind, the Dalai Lama has said - “According to Buddhism, we cannot posit a beginning to consciousness. If we do so, then we would have to accept a first instance of consciousness that is uncaused and has come from nowhere. This would contradict one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism, which is the law of cause and effect. Buddhism accepts the dependent nature or reality according to which everything arises because of the coming together of causes and conditions. So if consciousness comes into being from no cause, this would go against the fundamental principles. Buddhists therefore consider that every instance of consciousness must be produced by causes and conditions of some kind. Of the many causes and conditions, the main or substantial cause of consciousness must be some form of experience since matter alone cannot produce consciousness. Consciousness must come from a previous instance of consciousness, which is experience.”

Know then that consciousness is your inheritance awaiting your attention to make a wonder of it, for -

” ............... there spring the healing streams
Quenching all thirst! there bloomth immortal flowers
Carpetting all the way with joy! There throng
Swiftest and sweetest hours.”


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J12.10    Be peaceful and useful

The concept of "Dhammic Socialism" was introduced by Ajahn Buddhadasa. He defined Dhammic as being "Peaceful" and "Useful" and Socialism as serving our society selflessly.


Five precepts have become an empty ritual recitation.
Picture by Saman Sri Wedage

Anyone who can be at peace with the universe, and be useful is a true follower of the Dhamma. Dhamma is the universal truth, which was realized by the Buddha, and He showed us the way to realize it by ourselves. The path to that realization is the Dhamma.

We have to respect the Buddha and be grateful for showing us this path. The best way to show our respect and gratitude is by trying to follow the path. That is all he would have expected of mankind, on this day when it is 2600 years since the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Today we are so confused with so much information, which has no direct concern with the Buddha's teachings, that there are many among us who have not realized what this anniversary is. We find some Buddhists calling it the Buddha's birthday, others calling it the day of Parinibbana because the Buddhist Era begins on that day. According to the Buddhist calendar this year is 2554 B.E. We have already celebrated 2500 B.E. and 2550 B.E.

What we need to contemplate on the Sambuddhatva Jayanti is about the teachings we received 2600 years ago and also about the teacher. Birthdays and anniversaries and celebrations are a part of our materialistic life, part of our social customs and habits. Celebrations, with decorations, lights, and sounds and processions will only distract us and let Mara lead us astray. This distraction is made worse by the labels we attach to ourselves and use of symbols and elaborate descriptions. We forget the significance of this day, by making it a religious occasion.

To be peaceful and useful we do not need to resort to traditional forms of religious worship. Dhamma is beyond religion. We cannot seek release from Dukka by religious observances, because today these practices only bring more dukka. Our attention is drawn to the ritualistic rules and our concern to follow the correct procedures. Our greed is enhanced when we strive to perform such rituals better than others, and our envy is aroused when someone else does better, offers more flowers, lights more lamps, donates more money and material. When someone builds a taller or bigger temple or statue, it only creates a senseless competition, which does not benefit man or beast or Mother Earth, it would only deplete more of our natural resources. It takes away our happiness and it leads us down dead-ends, and leads us away from the Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path is open to any sentient creature, irrespective of his race, creed or caste. The realization of the Four Noble Truths will lead us to ultimate happiness.

Till such time we can still be happy, to some extent. We are happy when we are satisfied with what we have. To be satisfied we need to know when to say enough. If we do not form attachments to material wealth or impermanent life forms, they cannot deprive us of our happiness when the attachment is broken. Our happiness goes away when we are disappointed. If we can accept a failure or a loss, when we realize nothing is permanent. Then we can retain our happiness.

We believe a Buddhist is a person who seeks the refuge of the Triple Gem who observes the Five Precepts. The refuge of the Triple Gem has today become a meaningless greeting as an attempt to ape the Western concept of 'May God Bless You', which has a meaning only for a person who believes and has faith in God.

The Five Precepts have become an empty ritual recitation, preceded by the seeking of refuge with the Triple Gem. Observation of the Five Precepts is hardly seen today, among many of those who claim to be Buddhists. All Five Precepts are broken every day, by most people who recite it, and they break them without any feeling of guilt or remorse, and hardly any thought at all. Consumption of alcohol and flesh of dead creatures is going up day by day. Taking what is not given, or what does not belong to us is also increasing. We take what is not given to us, by fraud or by force. Family values are deteriorating and sexual misconduct is seen openly and with no regard to social norms or existing laws. In order to cover up all these inhuman and anti-social activities, we have to resort to falsehoods and suppression of the truth.

To follow the Path shown us by the Buddha, and to be "Useful" and "Peaceful", we really do not need the Five Precepts or any such guidelines. We do not need rules and regulations to be laid down by a religion, by the society or by the State. True discipline is what comes from within ourselves.

Unfortunately, even during the time of the Buddha, there were a few Bhikkhus who strayed from the path and Vinaya rules had to be laid down. We claim to be the most advanced intelligent animal form on Mother Earth, if such a claim is true, then we should be able to realize what is right and wrong, what is beneficial and what is harmful to ourselves and to others and live accordingly.

All this has been discussed over and over, for the past 2600 years. Man is aware of the problem, but he does not want to accept it. He does not want to give up his tanha (craving), even though he knows tanha leads to dukka.

Man is aware that craving for more wealth, more power, more sensual pleasure only leads to more grief. But he clings on, while pretending that he wants to find an end to his dukka. Man knows attachment brings only grief, but he is forever looking for more attachments. He knows that life is dukka, that life only brings more suffering. He knows that in today's world, in today's society there is more and more suffering. Yet knowing this he brings forth more children, knowing that they will probably suffer more. We have to think again if the need for children is more a selfish desire and peer pressure.

Man studies the Tripitaka. Listens to the Sutra and to sermons, day in and day out. He listens to the explanations, and to examples from the Jataka stories, but all that ends up like water over an upturned vessel, or a vessel full of sewage. When man offers flowers at the feet of the Buddha statue and recites the gatha of offering the flower, he does not contemplate on the meaning and purpose of the offering. If he did, he would not try to offer a million flowers. Man is taking a greater interest in meditation than ever before, yet meditation does not help most of the people who seek it, because they cannot and do not want to let go of all the confusion in their minds. They want to continue their labours to fulfill their cravings and still seek temporary solace from meditation, believing it would strengthen their mind and body, in the same manner an athlete would take a performance enhancing drug. The purpose of meditation should be to rid ourselves of avijja (ignorance) and tanha. On this great occasion, let us stop deceiving ourselves and everyone else. Let us contemplate on the teaching of the Buddha, instead of reciting it mechanically. Let us try to be Peaceful and Useful.

daya@saadhu.com


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J12.11    Bliss of detachment

Happiness has been defined as an inward state of perfect satisfaction which is joy and peace, and from which all desire is eliminated (Allen 1971). In the Dhammapada there are twelve stanzas dealing with the theme of happiness (Sukha Vagga). In one, it is stated that health is supreme profit, happiness is supreme wealth, faith is the supreme relative and Nibbana is the supreme bliss. This stanza was uttered by the Buddha to make king Kosol healthy an happy by reducing his craving for eating excessive amounts of tasty food. (Siri Seevali,)

Faith is the supreme relative.
Picture by Lakshan Maduranga

The Buddha has declared that there are two kinds of happiness; the happiness of home life and the happiness of monkhood, of which the latter is higher of the two. There is also the happiness of the senses and the happiness of renunciation of which the later is the higher form of the two. Again, the Buddha has observed that tainted happiness is inferior to taintless happiness. Yet another form of distinction is that between not-carnal happiness and carnal happiness and non carnal is higher of the two. Out of noble and ignoble happiness the noble is higher. Bodily happiness is inferior to mental happiness.

Once when Venerable Sariputta was dwelling in Magadha in village Nalaka, a wondering ascetic called Saamandakaani approached and asked him about happiness and suffering. Venerable Sariputta very categorically declared that to be reborn is suffering and not to be reborn is happiness.

Once the Blessed One was dwelling in the Kosala country in woodland near a Brahmin village Icchaangala with a company of monks. Venerable Naagita was the Blessed One’s personal assistant. The Brahmin householders of the village having received the news of the Blessed One’s presence as an Arahat, went to the woodland taking with them hard and soft food. After arriving there these Brahmin householders began to make uproar and a racket. The Buddha asked Reverent Naagita about the noise makers...Reveren Naagita said that the Brahmin householders have come to offer food for the Blessed One and the Sangha of monks. But the Blessed one declared “May I have noting to do with fame, Naagita, nor may fame come upon me whosoever cannot obtain at will easily and without difficulty. This happiness of renunciation, this happiness of seclusion, this happiness of peace, this happiness of enlightenment as I obtain it, let him enjoy this filthy an slothful happiness, this happiness gotten of gains, homage an publicity.” Bodhi (2007)

The Blessed One has explained to the millionaire Anathapindika that there are four ways that promote a layman’s happiness. These are Attha Sukha (a sufficient income) where the layman has saved some money, accumulated some wealth and property in a righteous way without indulging in the forbidden trades or professions. Secondly, there is Bhoga Sukha (Enjoyment of Wealth) Where a layman could spend his money in profitable ways in looking after ones parents, wife and children and doing meritorious deeds. A miser cant’t be happy. Third, is Anana Sukha (Freedom from debts) where one is not indebted to another, if one has borrowed money or articles from another, the former will not be happy. The fourth, is Anavajja Sukha (Harmless life) Without doing any harm, danger or damage to another one can live a life of happiness. The Buddha was very concerned with the material welfare and happiness of the householders. The Sigalovada Sutta is known as ‘Gihi Vinaya’ (The code of Discipline for Laymen) where the practice of self control, proper conduct, good manners, and a sense of modesty have been identified and emphasized as indicators of a layman’s happy, peaceful and progressive household life (Sigalovada Sutta).

”It is good to restrain the mind which is difficult to subdue and is swift moving and which seizes whatever it desires. A mind thus tamed brings happiness” (The Dhammapada).

Some of the most wretched unhappy people are surrounded with riches and luxury. Some of the brightest and happiest people are possessed of the barest necessities of life (Allen 1971). In a world flooded with impermanence, suffering and soullessness as shown by the Blessed One, can one think of an everlasting sense of physical and mental happiness? However, everybody the world over, is chasing after the mirage of happiness seizing every possible resource, opportunity and technology. Only a selected very few have chosen the path of detachment in place of avarice.

For a state of detachment one needs to give up the three roots of evil namely: craving (Lobha), hatred or aversion (Dosa) and delusion or ignorance (Moha). These three roots manifest in the form of ten evil forces of the mind (Dasa Sanyojana). These are the deluded conception of “I am” (Sakkaayatitti), skeptical doubt (Vicikiccha) thE infatuation of ritualistic forms in believing these would bring salvation (Silabbata Paraamasa), craving for lustful indulgence of the five senses (Kama raga), anger, hatred, aversion, resentment etc (Vyaapada), craving for existence in fine – materialistic heavenly worlds (Ruparaga), craving for existence in non-materialistic heavenly worlds (Aruuparaga), conceit (Maana), restlessness (Uddaccha) and ignorance (Avija). These ten fetters are completely eradicated when Arahat-ship is reached. There is no other way other than strictly following the Noble Eightfold Path’ to become an Arahat. The mind at this level of attainment is fully tamed, controlled, guarded and restrained. Such a mind brings great bliss (Agguttara Nikaya)

References

1. Nanaponika Thera and Bike Bodhi (2007) Angostura Nikaya Anthology, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka.

2. Sigalovada Sutta (1981) Buddhist Cultural Centre Dehiwela, Sri Lanka.

3. Taming The Mind, The Wheel Publication, No 51, Buddhist Publication

4. Aallen Jammes (1971) the Secret of Success, Successful Achievement Inc.Lexington, Kentucky.

5. Siri Seevali, Sinhala Dhamapada, M D Gunasena and co, Colombo. Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka.


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J12.12    Reciting Parithrana for Sri Sambuddathwa Jayanthi

Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, the fountain of compassion with his intense love and kindness for all beings, set out on his quest to find the gem of truth which was fulfilled for the sake of the humanity. The noble idea of service to suffering humanity motivated Buddha to convey his message of Dhamma with great delight. Ever since his enlightenment he was engaged in his mission for human welfare. With his universal gift of the absolute truth, he blessed the human being with moral, cultural and spiritual uplift worthy of their existence.


Monks play a special role in reciting pirith

These are all included in his code of ethics offered to man in his attempt to find a solution for liberation of evil and sorrow embedded in life. Buddhism therefore symbolises a chain of supreme knowledge on the fundamentals of life. Hence Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi to be celebrated will bring joy peace, harmony tranquility and unity to humanity, regardless of race, cast, creed etc.

The epoch making events

The 2600 anniversary since the enlightenment of Sakyamuni Gauthama Buddha is being celebrated worldwide. It is a great landmark in the history of Sri Lanka which will go down memory lane till the world lasts. It is to the great delight of the Buddhists in particular, that the Sambuddhathwa Jayanthi is going to be marked by a series of events and a vast array of activities to herald the most sacred occasion. It was inaugurated on May 14 at the most venerated sacred historic Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura in all its glory and magnanimity unequalled among all celebrations held so far. Indeed the picture unfolded and the vast programme of events to be held is so vivid beyond imagination. Among the many religious observances, Parithrana Desana to be held will be of great significance to our Dharmadweepa.

Jaya Piritha

The Buddha after reaching the summit of perfection, His main aim was to bless the people with the outcome of His intellect the noble teachings in which Parithrana is accorded a very high position and undoubtedly it plays a vital role in the lives of Buddhists. The Jaya Pirith recital to be held at the BMICH on May 10, is the most welcome and blissful news that occupies a prominent place in SJ celebrations, organised by the Defence Ministry.

The importance of Buddhist teachings is highlighted on this special occasion, while the idea is to invoke blessings on the country and the people. Dhamma fragrance emerging out of Parithrana and the severity and sanctity that follows will definitely create a soothing environment to stressful minds, pushing our own lives more towards the noble teachings.

Glittering occasion

Buddha the spiritual Master, Dhamma his message Sangha the holy order are that three gems that guide one’s life. The honour of preserving the essence of Buddhism by the spiritual Master for the benefit of the mankind for 2600 years goes to Maha Sangha. Bhikkus always focus their dedicated attention to the religious welfare of the people. This is very well reflected in pirith chanting for, it is their superior performance that gives perfection to the sacred recital.

The most remarkable and amazing event in relevance to the Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi is the arrangements made by the organisers for the participation of 2600 bhikkus representing the Tri Nikaya from all parts of the country. Above all the most noteworthy is the invitation extended to the Maha Nayaka Theras of the Malwatta Asgiriya chapters to grace the occasion. This will definitely be one of the marvellous events (the above mentioned pirith pinkama) that will offer true meaning to Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi celebrations.

It will also be a notable sight to witness thousands of Buddhist monks clad in sffron robes, carrying vatapatha, moving slowly providing a serene and inspiring scene. This is something that has never happened before not to our knowledge. Further the place will be lit up with spiritual illuminations.

With pirith chanting spirituality will be radiating everywhere giving the impression, that the country is being led along the correct spiritual path. When the chant is conducted with pure love and compassion, it gives expression to religious emotions and its soothing effect creates inner peace, serene joy devoid of hatred, evil and ill will, exactly what is currently needed in this Dharmadweepa after years of terrorism.

Contents of the blissful message

Now going back to Jaya Piritha, the topic dealing with, is of great significance to the entire event. As the name suggests it is the attainment of victory and success in life. Victory is not from a war or a fighting process in the literal sense. But as Buddha saw through his pure intellect, it is a war or in simple terms a struggle against suffering.

He sheds light on the truth of life, the war that one has to wage to obtain protection, security and victory, reflecting on the principles, values, virtues as well as the qualities of the perfect one. The Thathagatha the enlightened one. Since He has identified the issues of life such as illness, sorrow, danger and disaster, misery, hatred and agony, His ultimate wish is that “May all beings be happy, safe and relieved from evils of life and attain Nibbana”.

In Jaya Piritha all the qualities that the Buddha is in proud possession of is well revealed. His glory, strength, wisdom, great psychic powers, victory and success, great virtues like boundless compassion and the ability of repelling all kinds of perils and relieve man for the ultimate goal to be achieved – Nibbana. He says may you live long happily blessed with the following:

The majesty of the thirty two signs
Eighty secondary signs
One hundred and eight auspicious signs
Six coloured rays
The ten higher virtues (paramita)
The Dhamma, the doctrine
The Sangha, the desciples
Eighty four thousand sections of the Dhamma
Eightfold path and eightfold meditation
Triple Gem and the Tripitaka

In addition to the above may guardian dieties of the universe defend you. Hence Jaya pirith is one of the best chants for the present day society. Any small attempt by any organisation, in whatever way, to reform society as Jaya Piritha denotes, will be a great victory, in keeping with SJ celebrations. The credit goes to the Defence Ministry.

Pirith at Agrarian Service centres

All night Pirith chanting ceremony at all agrarian service centres (556) in the country commencing at the same time, under the guidance of the wild life Ministry is another measure to be appreciated. These are being held to bless the country and the soldiers in particular who sacrificed their lives for the Motherland. All these should be well performed to ensure the success of this glittering occasion – the Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi. If everyone makes his or her selfless sacrifice to this precious task they will be making Sri Lanka a proud Dharmadweepa in the eyes of the Buddhist world. May the message of the Buddha upheld by the SJ celebrations lasts for ever, till the universe lasts. Parithrana chanting is one of the most fitting tributes to this sacred event.

 

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J12.13   Buddhism in everyday life

Buddhism, the message of the Buddha, delivered over 2,500 years ago, has now penetrated into even the remotest corners of the world and the modern world views it with deeper understanding, attaching a great meaning to it. Some call it a religion. Others call it a philosophy. Some others think of it as both a religion and a philosophy. However, the most appropriate meaning to attach to it, is that Buddhism is a way of life where the Buddha always emphasized the practical aspect of his noble teaching.


Teachings should be practised in everyday life
Picture by Saman Sri Wedage

We are fortunate to be Buddhists as the Buddhist way of life is the most simple and the easiest to follow. But it is saddening that many are unaware of how they could lead a true Buddhist way of life and sometimes even devout Buddhists tend to forget the correct Buddhist way of life.

For one to lead a correct Buddhist way of life he should follow accepted Buddhist cultural practices which is a unique feature in the philosophy of this religion with depth and understanding. An important feature in Buddhism is that Buddhist culture has penetrated into every aspect of our life and we need the guidance of our religion for our everyday living. As practicing Buddhists we should keep in mind the day to day accepted religious observances and practices which will bring peace, happiness and ultimate salvation.

There is no doubt that the Buddha, Dhamma occupies and exalted place in a true Buddhist life and it forms an important phase in our daily lives. For a Buddhist it is a very admirable habit to awake early in the morning so that he could attend to his toilet quietly and still have a few minutes left to be spent in one’s shrine-room and to contemplate before a Buddha statue or even a Buddha picture. If one recites the five precepts and determines to live up to them each day there is no doubt that he has begun the day well. There are some Buddhists who are particular to read a passage of a Dhamma book before starting the day’s work and this is a very good way to begin one’s day.

Today, specially in the mornings, most of us have to rush through our activities and it seems that one cannot spend very much time for religious observances in the morning. But even in this situation anyone can start the day contemplating on some Buddhist thoughts and one can mentally recollect the words of homage, refuge, precepts and worship. It is in this fashion that a true Buddhist should mindfully start his day filled with noble thoughts of the Dhamma and determined to spend the day in the true Buddhist tradition.

Thus, following the practical way of the Buddha, Dhamma we must try to free ourselves of all thoughts of worry, hurry, irritation and impatience and Buddhists must always try to radiate metta or goodwill towards all around them. It must be realized that a day spent in this manner will not have a tiring effect and even at the end of the day one would feel fresh, calm and serene to successfully handle more and more work.

Today many of us, both Buddhists and no-Buddhists, are used to spending a greater part of our leisure time in idle gossip and engaging in other anti-social activities such as consuming liquor, going to clubs and wasting time in unwholesome pursuits. This is harmful to both the progress of the individual as well as the progress of th immeediate society in which he lives. Everyone living according to the Buddha, Dhamma should shun unprofitable gossip and instead should engage themselves in thoughts of good-will and joy and should take special care to bestow a calming effect on the environment in which they live.

After a day’s hard work one should relax. But even in relaxation one could think of the Buddha, Dhamma and its serene effects on humanity. For instance, when we observe the beautiful colours and the many shapes of clouds in the evening sky and then when we see, in a few minutes, the magnificent colours change, the shapes disfiguring and disappearing, we can apply the thoughts of Annicca, Dukkha and Anatta. The same principle can be applied to every change in life.

To a Buddhist meditation provides an effective antidote to the stress and strain of the modern world beset with numerous economic, social and cultural problems. At least a few minutes from one’s day should be set apart for meditation which bears a tremendous influence on those who practise it regularly. Even when tired of some activities such as walking, reading or writing one can turn to meditation to regain mental calmness, peace and joy.

from their young age even children should be nurtured in the noble traditions of the Buddha, Dhamma. Children brought up in such a religious atmosphere will grow up with a deep veneration for the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha. A home where the parents and the elders are truly religious sets a noble example for the children and such a home built up on a solid religious foundation will be a happy and serene home.

If all Buddhists apply the Dhamma to our everyday life we can create an integrated society which will be a solace to the entire world. It is a pity that some Buddhists think of the Buddha, Dhamma only when having a religious ceremony or an alms-giving or when confronted with some difficulty such as the death of a dear one or when a serious misfortune befalls.

A true Buddhist will be serene at all times and will not be disturbed by petty worldly things. Buddhists who frequently meditate on the transitory nature of all things around us will always bear lightly the misfortunes and frustrations that visit us at some time or the other in the lives of everyone.

Let us think about some other simple ways of practicing Buddhism in our daily lives. It is appropriate for all Buddhists to have a Buddha image or a picture of the Buddha in their homes, of course not as a showpiece, but as an object of inspiration and veneration. The serene figure of the Buddha, an emblem of living kindness, purity and perfection will serve as a great source of inspiration and will help us to surmount all difficulties and worries.

Another important Buddhist practice should be to send young children to systematically organized religious classes conducted in the temples. From the young days all should be trained to actively participate in the temple ceremonies, specially on Full Moon Poya days. A most desirable and meritorious act is to observe the Eight Precepts during the Poya days. The entire Poya day should be devoted to religious matters such as meditation, religious discussions, reading of religious books and helping the needy.

In celebrating family and social functions too, Buddhists should remember to conduct themselves according to Buddhist principles. They should make it a point to conduct these activities in a dignified manner in keeping with the principles of cultured Buddhists and even on such occasions Buddhists should refrain from all intoxicants and any form of vile amusement. It is good to remember that in organizing any function Buddhists should take care not to cause any nuisance to others.

In life we are always amidst death, a sad and solemn occasion. The elaborate and expensive funeral rites which are carried out at certain Buddhist funerals are not Buddhist practices at all. According to Buddhist practices funeral rights should be solemn and simple.

Thus, even in death, unbuddhistic rites should never be adhered to and instead Buddhist practices should be perpetuated. According to Buddhist practices Buddhist monks are invited to the house of the deceased or to the cemetery to carry out a simple religious ceremony. Many have posed the question whether according to Buddhist rites, a deceased person should be buried or cremated. Buddhism is flexible on this issue and the choice of whatever method is left entirely to the last wish of the deceased or, more frequently, is carried out at the direction of the next of kin. However, cremation seems to be a more hygienic way of disposing the body.

It is a good Buddhist practice to refrain from erecting expensive pandals during various religious festivals such as Vesak and from spending much on decorations. Instead, this money could be put to better use by donating it to some religious or charitable organization which could utilize that money intelligently.

All are aware that giving Dana or alms is the foundation of Buddhism and Dhamma Dana is pre-eminent among them In passing I with to mention briefly about the Dhammapada, an inseparable companion of all Buddhists. In the entire literature of the world there is no other anthology so rich with beauty of expression harmoniously blending with beauty of thought.

It is the oldest anthology of the world and its Pali stanzas are so fascinating and instructive that scholars throughout the world have translated it into several languages, including Latin and German. Thus and Dhammapada is held in great esteem by both Eastern and Western scholars. Prof Radhakrisnan, in his preface to Dhammapada states: “The Dhammapada has an appeal to the modern world because its central theme is that human conduct righteous behavior, reflection and meditation are more important than vain speculation about the transcendent.”

Today in Sri Lanka as well as throughout the world the value of the Dhammapada is being increasingly appreciated and sermons on its various stanzas are often arranged.

 

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J12.14    History of Sambudhattva Jayanthi


Buddhism influenced ancient arts

We are at the end of Kali-yuga in this Maha Badra Kalpa. Kaliyuga consists of four lakhs and thirty two thousand years according to the historian Bharatakula Pandiyar. In this yuga there were four Buddhas-Kakusanda, Konagama, Kasyapa and Gautama the last. On this Vesak poya day the Buddhists commemorate the two thousand six hundredth year of the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha. In other words it was the day on which the Buddha found the noble eight fold path that leads to the cessation of all sufferings and attain Nirvana or Supreme bliss.

This day marks two thousand five hundred and fifty fifth Buddhist eras according to the almanac of the Sri Dalada Maligawa. Buddhist eras commence from the date Lord Buddha attained the supreme enlightenment.

Earlier in the year 1956 we celebrated the two thousand five hundredth year as a state festival called Buddha Jayanthi. Prince Siddhartha was born as son of King Suddhodana and Mahamaya in the Lumbini Sal grove in Kapilawastu in the present Nepal on a Vesak Full Moon day as today.

The Maha Sammatha Vansa to which he was born had 3345911 kings enthroned up to Suddhodana. Hence Prince Siddhartha was heir apparent to the kingdom. The astrologers predicted that he will be Chakaravarthi king should be succeed to his fathers throne. King Suddhodana had made every effort to make the prince's life happy and comfortable with all worldly pleasures and comforts.  

Three places were built to spend the spring, winter and hot seasons. The ruins of these palaces could be seen even today by the pilgrims who visit the area.

Buduguna Alankaraya mentions thus;

Hima gim wasath kal
Visumata sudusu suvisal
Thun pas sath mahal
A tun paha Kusehi weda manakal

The prince who had all the worldly pleasures had a harum of forty thousand women according to this poem.

Sesu kulaganan hera
Raja kula upan mana hara
Surangana yuru pawara
Liyan hathalis dahas piriwara

Yasodara was the chief queen or Agra Mahesika among them.

Pili ruva men kasun
Gamanin hasun mathsun
Viyowagata sudasun
Yasodara nam kathak mehesun

Vidagama Maha Thera queries how can Siddhartha escape from these women.

Surangana piri sirin
Babalana movun sirurin
Bendunavu pem basin
Kese galavee yadda sasarin

It is amidst these pleasures and comforts that Rahula was born. After the last look at Rahula, Prince Siddhartha with his chauffer Channa got onto Kanthaka the horse, cut his hair and crossed river Neranjana and set his journey to find a way to end the sufferings of this mundane world.

This journey ends with the findings of a path to end all sufferings and attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana. This journey from the lay life and renunciation is known by the Buddhists as Maha Abhiniskramana. Siddhartha led a life of six years following various paths.

He learnt under other religious leaders, philosophers, thinkers and rishis to achieve his ambitions. At this time there were various religions, beliefs, observances, rituals of worships and vedas, etc. in Maha Bharatha. Puranakasuba, Kakuda Kachayana, Ajitha Kesakambala, Nigantanata-putra, Sanjayabellatti puthra, Makkali Gosala, Mahaweera and Rishi Vyasa were some of them. The people were bent on sun god worship, tree worship, performing various rites and rituals, torturing the body, giving all sensual pleasures to the body, meditation, recital of veda mantras, etc.

Even today we can see in Buddha gaya some of these followers stark naked without even a thread in their body. Philosophers, thinkers, scientists such as Galileo, Aristotle, Socratese preached or researched to find ways and means to appease the mundane life. Prince Siddhartha in six years of arduous struggle and hard life with his own vision and realization found the way to end all worldly sufferings in the noble eight fold path to attain Nirvana - the summum bonum of Buddhism.

This happened on a Vesak day like today and the Buddhists call it the Supreme Enlightenment. Only a Buddha could find a way to end re-birth and sufferings of all living beings. Siddhartha made this realization and attained Buddhahood as Gautama in his thirty fifth year. Our Buddhist era commerce from this day. Lord Buddha preached the Dhamma - the four noble truths and the eight noble path to reach the state of Nirvana and end of all cravings and desires.

For a further period of forty five years he preached the doctrine roaming all over Maha Bharath and attained Nirvana in his eightieth year. Buddhists describe this state as Mahaparinirvana. This incident too occurred on a Vesak Full Moon day. Singapore commemorate this day as the flower festival day. Butan commemorate this day as Sagadawa in their language and Vaishak in Sanskrit. In Nepal it is celebrated as Lumbini day while Bangladesh name the day as Buddha Poornima.

These three incidents in His life which occurred on the Vesak poya day - Birth, Enlightenment and Demise is known as "Waishaka Poornima' in the Buddha's land - India. Buddhism which spread in South Asian countries later spread to the South East Asia, East Asia and finally to countries all over the globe. Today Buddhism is a religion followed by over one hundred and fifty millions all over the world. At the 54th sessions of the United Nations organization consequent to a move by the late Hon.

Lakshman Kadirgamar our Foreign Minister, Mr. De Seram of Sri Lanka moved a resolution at the UN Session to declare Vesak Poya a global holiday in all the UN offices located throughout the world and th headquarters in New York which was accepted by the UNO.

The countries that supported the resolution are as follows. Bangladesh, Butan, Cambodia, India, Chilie, Syprus, Grenada, Iceland, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Miyanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Korea, Russia, Seychells, Slovakia, Spain, Surinam, Ukraine. The delegations from Greece, Mauritius, Norway, Lesotho, United States and Turkey too supported the resolution later. It is now the duty and obligation of all leaders lay ad clergy to work towards the dissemination of the message of Lord Buddha throughout the globe to create a peaceful environment for human survival.

Birth of Buddha

It was a rarest occasion in the world and many miracles occurred on this day as described below.

Sura asura bambu hema
Thutukota naran noherama
Dakva lova mahima
Ehima sanda thama upan dinayema

Mihipita sita thosin
Digatha naramba siyesin
Sakvithi raja vesin
Gosin sath piyawarak vesesin

Even on the day of Enlightenment such miracles have occurred according to Buddhist history/literature.

Uragun setapu mugatin arane
Mediyan nidi genvooun derane
Sivalun kelimin siti ruk sevane
Savun pem keli kelavu ekane

Goluvan kee murasa gee lesata
Bihiran dena ath thala thalamata
Deya dun asadun, rasadun lesata
Pilunan dana rangakaravoo ruvata

Buduguna Alankaraya in the following melodies describe the rare qualities of the Buddha.

Rahasath pav nokota
Kelasarayanuth duru kota
Nisi vooyen pudata
Araha yeyi nama kiyathi muniduta

Thun kalhima pevathi
Padaruth siyal lo ethi
Athambula se denagathi
Eiyin samma sam budunevethi

Vidda nena atada
Pasalos sarana gunayada
Athiyen emuni sanda
Pirunu vijja sarana nam lada

Yahapath kota ethei
Sundara thenata sepathai
Sonduru bas kiyathai
Kiyatha e muni sanduta sugathai

Thun lova thathu lesata
Dena guna nodath melovata
Desuyen niyama kota
Lokavidu yayi kiyatha muniduta

Sama gunayen nada
Sama vadi satheku hamada
Diyathehi neti sanda
Anuththara yayi kiyathi munida

Bamba sura yakun thada
Damanaya kara thaman lada
Seth dee munidu sanda
Purisa dam saarathi nam lada
Bava katarin etera
Lanuyen sathan hema vara
Thiloguru munivara
Veeya sattha namin puvathara

Beduyen daham kanda
Bajanaya kalen guna kanda
Baga dahamin sasanda
Bevin bagavath weeya munisanda

Buddhas body has thirty two unique features known as "Dethis Maha Purisa lakshana".

Neka neka piyakaruwa
Thirasara gunen viduruwa
Lesin maha bambaruwa
Muduva iruduva sitee buduruva

De ath pita paa pita
de vurehi kandehi naharata
nopenena lesa usata
pirunu mas aththeya niriduta

Katiyehi patan kota
Kandata dakva sama kota
Ran palasak lesata
Pihiti mas eththeya muniduta

Pihiti dath denikata
Dethisak veya dana hata
Us miti nova ruvata
Pihiti dath sathaliseki muniduta

Nonethiva upan jana
Karavana mano ranjana
Muniduge niranjana
Asooveki angehi anu venjana

The Buddha who preached the impermanency of all living things breath his last at the age of eighty on a Vesak full moon day as today. The Buddhist call it the Maha Parinibbana.

His last advice was 'Vaya Dhamma Sankara - Appamadena sampadetha.'


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J12.15    Shuttling diplomacy and strategic moves before Buddhism took root here

In this second part of an article commemorating the 2600th Sambuddhathva Jayanthi Rajitha Weerakoon examines how the introduction of Buddhism was made possible


Had the Mahavamsa author recorded the carefully-studied plans made towards the establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, the strategic moves and the shuttling diplomacy that followed for Buddhism to take firm root, King Devanampiyatissa would have stood taller in history.
Besides the introduction of Buddhism, the Devanampiyatissa-reign also marked the golden period of Indo-Lanka relations. The Mahavamsa author’s tendency to dramatize events instead of recording them with accuracy, contributed considerably to dim King Devanampiyatissa’s portrayal.

It should be mentioned however that Mahavamsa author Venerable Mahanama’s priority in writing the Chronicle was not to record history but to propagate Buddhism. He recorded politics in relevance to Buddhism.

The famous first meeting between Mahinda Thera and King Devanampiyatissa as recorded in the Mahavamsa, was no mere accident. The representation of this encounter as a chance meeting after which Mahinda Thera delivered his sermon following a test of the King’s intellect, is an underestimation of one of Sri Lanka’s turning-points in history.

Many unanswered questions arise from the Mahavamsa records. Did Emperor Dharmasoka, who had committed himself to propagate Buddhism, simply send his son and the rest of the missionaries to unknown territory trusting providence to take care of the rest? Could it have been possible for Mahinda Thera and the rest to travel to Sri Lanka by means of supernatural powers? If Mahinda Thera arrived here without having made prior contacts, in which language did they hold the famous conversation?

Today, historians such as Professors Mendis Rohanadheera, Indrakirthi Suraweera and Ven. Medhananda Ellawela Thera who declare that the introduction of Buddhism was the culmination of excellent diplomatic relations and statesmanship of the highest order of both rulers in Sri Lanka and India, have delved into the related events and have placed them before us rationally and chronologically.

An artist’s impression of the famous first meeting between Mahinda Thera and King Devanampiyatissa

According to the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa, the resolution to send out Dharmadutha Missions to states outside the Maurya Empire was adopted during the third mammoth Dharmasangayanaya (the Buddhist Council) held after the Parinirvana of the Buddha. It was conducted by Emperor Dharmasoka at Ashokaramaya in the kingdom of Magadha and was headed by Moggali Puththatissa Thera.

Mahinda Thera - the only son of King Dharmasoka who was twelve years a bhikkhu at the time, along with Ishtiya, Uththiya, Sambala and Bhaddhasala Theras were assigned to carry out the 9th Dharmadutha mission to Sri Lanka. But, unlike the rest of the missionaries, they did not leave immediately.

Why was this? The goal of the Dharmadutha mission was not to spread the word of the dhamma alone but also to establish the Buddha Sasana. To achieve this, the mission needed the patronage of an active and energetic king, younger in age. Emperor Dharmasoka through his information network found that King Mutaseeva who ruled at the time, was too advanced in years. Therefore the missionaries delayed the departure until a younger king ascended the throne.

Tissa on the other hand, when he took over as ruler (307-260 BC) was well aware of the many conquests made by Emperor Dharmasoka and the rapid expansion that was taking place in the Maurya kingdom. Sri Lanka could not match its military strength. His strategy therefore was to establish friendly relations through diplomacy with his formidable neighbour. Displaying ingenious statecraft he dispatched a high-powered embassy headed by Prime Minister - Mahaaritta, who was his sister’s son with gifts consisting of the most valuable gems and pearls to the Mauryan Emperor. Malla, Minister without portfolio, Talipabbatha, a Brahmin and Tissa, an accountant from the Ministry of Finance were included in this delegation. This was the first batch of diplomats in history to leave Sri Lanka on a goodwill mission!

The delegates reached Pataliputhra - the capital city of the Maurya kingdom on the first of the month of Il (November) in 235 Buddha year. Needless to say that Emperor Dharmasoka was overjoyed by the opportune visit of the Lankan delegation.

According to the Chronicles, the Lankan delegation remained as visitors of the Royalty in the Courts of Emperor Dharmasoka perhaps on his insistence until Amavaka in the month of Bak (April) - which worked up to 5-6 months. The Dipavamsa however has recorded that the Lankan delegation left Pataliputhra on the day of Vesak, a month later. “They got into a boat on the Gangese river from Palalup and at Thamralipti port boarded a ship and reached Dambakolapatuna on the same day - 12th of the Vesak month and met King Tissa.”

However, while the delegation remained in the Indian Royal Court, they may have been frequent visitors of Mahinda Thera since Asokaramaya had been located close to the Emperor’s Palace which may have enabled him to acquaint himself with the country where he was planning to propagate the dhamma.

But what was the language spoken for this exchanges of information? In the 3rd century BC, the language in use in Sri Lanka may have been a mixture of the indigenous Hela and a development of the language brought by the Aryans when they came and settled down in Sri Lanka about 200 years earlier. The Aryan settlers came here from Northern India and some believe that their origin was in the kingdom of Magadha - the area visited by the Sri Lankan embassy. The two parties therefore, may not have found it too difficult to comprehend each other.

However, Mahinda Thera may have certainly used the opportunity to acquaint himself with the new language. Chronicles mention that Mahinda Thera delivered his sermons in the Hela language which were recorded by the Buddhist monks in the Tripitaka and other Buddhist Commentaries.

On the same day of the Lankans’ departure, Mahinda Thera according to documentations, had left Palalup city. He had reached Vedisigiri where he had stayed with his mother before leaving his motherland for good.

Did the delegates arrive at Mihintale by miraculous means? According to historians, they had reached Sri Lanka one month and three days after the return of the Lankan delegates. In the ancient South Indian Sangam literature it is stated that in 258 BC, the Buddhist mission travelling to Sri Lanka, passed through South India. Sri Lankan scholars are of the opinion that Mahinda Thera stayed in a monastery constructed by Emperor Asoka on his way to Sri Lanka, propagated the doctrine and set off by sea from Kaveripattnam.

Venerable Mahanama wrote Mahavamsa at a time when several South Indian invasions had devastated the country. Therefore, to avoid recording that Mahinda Thera travelled through South India Mahavamsa may have resorted to the aerial route and indicated that the missionaries used supernatural powers for travel, a clear instance where Venerable Mahanama’s prejudices surfaced.

However, in spite of inaccuracies and lack of credibility in some of the records, Mahavamsa remains the backbone of Sri Lanka’s early history. He provided us continued reporting of events from the 5th century BC – a privilege no other nation enjoys and it is now the responsibility of the present generation to do the checking and cross-checking.

How did Mahinda Thera carry out his tasks? The Mauryan delegation, besides the missionaries, included two of Mahinda Thera’s relatives, his nephew - Sumana samanera who was his sister Theri Sanghamitta’s son and his mother’s sister’s grandson - Bhanduka. Bhanduka became the first to be ordained in Sri Lanka by Mahinda Thera, probably an act carried out as an incentive to draw Lankans to the Bhikkhu Sasana.

The Sri Lankans not only accepted Buddhism but entered the Bhikkhu Sasana in great numbers when Queen Anula, the King’s sister-in-law requested that she too be ordained. Mahinda Thera responding to the request asked the King to send Prime Minister Mahaaritta to the Indian capital once again when Emperor Dharmasoka sent his only daughter Theri Sanghamitta to Sri Lanka to commence the Bhikkhuni Sasana. As it had by this time, proved beyond doubt that Sri Lanka was fertile soil for the establishment of the Buddha Sasana, the Emperor sent with Theri Sanghamitta a sapling from the Southern Branch of the Sacred Sri Maha Bodhi. Accompanying her were eight royal princes, Prime Minister Mahaaritta and 200 from 18 clans of industries, arts and culture in order that they perform customs, traditions and rituals connected with the worship of the Sri Maha Bodhi.

The contribution made by these clans towards building a unique Lankan Buddhist culture, is beyond estimation. However, Mahinda Thera realizing that the establishment of the Buddha Sasana alone was not sufficient said that he needed a Living Buddha for worship which prompted King Devanampiyatissa to query as to how that could be done. Sumana Samanera sent as a result to Pataliputhra returned to Sri Lanka with Buddha’s Right Collar Bone - akkha-dhathu in Buddha’s alms bowl along with other relics. The King thereupon, with the guidance of Mahinda Thera, built Sri Lanka’s first Chaitya - Thuparama in Anuradhapura enshrining these relics, thus launching a magnificent tradition of sthupa-construction.

Devanampiyatissa was pleased that he had played his role towards the establishment of Buddhism. But Mahinda Thera believed that Buddhism is established in the real sense only once a son of Lankan parents could recite the Buddhist doctrine by heart.

Prime Minister Mahaaritta who himself by this time had entered Bhikkhu Sasanaya and had learnt the doctrine had sat by the side of Mahinda Thera at a public Bhikkhu conference at Thuparama when he had recited the entire Buddhist doctrine. It is recorded that it was only after this display that it was accepted that the island could now be called a Buddhist kingdom.
 

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12.16    It all happened 2600 years ago, under a Bo tree

Sri Sambuddhathva Jayanthi: A milestone in Buddhism

Upali K. Salgado, Pic by Mangala Weerasekera

The Bodhisattva as Prince Siddhartha, after many years of preparation in samsara to gain enlightenment, sat in deep meditation in a dyana mudara, on a Vajirasana in the month of May at Gaya, under a Pipal (Bo) tree. He had gained perfection and the stage was set for His enlightenment. That was exactly 2600 years ago today.

Shortly before the Buddha's enlightenment, seated in a dyana mudra facing east He made a mighty resolution, "Let my skin and bones become dry and welcome! ..and let all flesh and blood in my body dry up!.. But never from this seat will I stir, until I have attained the supreme and absolute wisdom!"

The Bodhisattva sat cross-legged, in an unconquerable position, from which not even the descent of a thousand thunderbolts at once could have dislodged Him. Then Mara (The Evil One), sovereign of passions and personification of death, also a tempting demon exclaimed, "Prince Siddhartha is desirous of passing beyond my control, but I will not allow it!"

The Enlightenment as depicted at the Subadhraramaya in Nugegoda.

The great fight with Mara then took place, when there were caused storms of wind, showers of sand, showers of weapons in which spears, swords and arrows flew through the sky. Mara also caused showers of coals, red hot, hot ashes and mud to drive away the Buddha.

He finally brought his beautiful daughters, Thirst (Desire), Joy (Tenderness) and Delight (Raga) to sing and dance before the Buddha, hoping to seduce Him and break His Jhana,... but failed. He, without even turning His head to see them, dismissed them, and instantly they turned into old women! Mara then commanded, "Siddhartha, arise from your seat. It does not belong to you, but to me."

When the Great Being heard this, He said to Mara, "you have not fulfilled the Ten Perfections, Nor Have You Made Five Great Donations, (i.e. gift of treasure, gift of child, gift of wife (Vessantara Jataka), gift of royal rule, an gift of life (Sasa Jataka) and of limb, nor have you striven for knowledge, nor for welfare of the world, nor for Enlightenment. This seat does not belong to you, but to me."

The conversation with Mara continued, whence Mara questioned, "Siddhartha, who is witness to your having given these donations"?

"Your witnesses,” replied the Bodhisattva, "are animate beings, and I have no animate witnesses present. However, not to mention the donations which I gave in other existences, the great seven hundred fold donation which I gave in my Vessantara existence, shall now be testified by the solid earth inanimate though she be." And drawing forth His right hand from beneath His priestly garb, He stretched it towards the mighty earth until the tips of His fingers touched the earth in (Bhumishparsha mudra) and said, "Are you witness, or are you not to my having given a great seven-hundred fold donation in my Vessantara existence"? And then, the mighty earth thundered, "I bear witness to you!” The earth then quaked and Mara ran away in fear.

The story continues, "Then the hosts of gods, when they saw the array of Mara flee, cried out, "Mara is defeated, Prince Siddhartha has conquered; let us go and celebrate the victory!” On that happy occasion, the enlightened Buddha uttered in Magadhi (Pali) - as translated by English scholar Lord Chalmers:

"Through birth and rebirth endless rounds
Seeking in vain I hastened on
To find who framed this edifice
What misery, birth incessantly
O builder, I have discovered thee
This fabric thou shall never build
The rafters are broken now
The ridge pole lies demolished
This mind has demolition reached
And seen the last of all desire."
* The human personality

Theistic religions speak of God the creator who was responsible for happiness and the good in mankind; also for sufferings of man and animals in many faceted ways. Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha was not a creator God. As a Bodhisattva His mission in life was to "show the way", how to end all forms of suffering on earth. Addressing the five ascetics (at Saranath) who were his first disciples he said :-

"This O monks is the noble truth of suffering.
Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, pain of mind is suffering, death is suffering, loss of wealth is suffering, association with the unpleasant (people) is suffering, disassociation from the beloved is suffering, (when) one does not receive what is desired and / or is due (that) is suffering, in short the five fold clinging to craving / attachment is suffering."

On that day, He propounded the Eightfold Noble Path that leads to the complete cessation of craving; the law of Dependent Origination, the extinction of ignorance (avijja), the extinction of Kamma formations, the extinction of consciousness (after physical death) the extinction of craving that leads to rebirth etc. and the path to Nibbana.

The Buddha Dharma does not rely on miracles. It is rational in outlook. The religion was preached for over 40 years and the Kalama Sutta was the cornerstone of Buddhist philosophy, that has withstood several attempts by rulers of ancient India (Shivaji and Akbar the Great) to wipe out the religion from India
 


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12.17    Celebrating 2600 years since the Enlightenment of the Buddha 
Essential understanding required to practice the Dhamma

Col. Sudath Madugalle
Joint Secretary, All Ceylon Buddhist Congress


 

For countless eons the Boddhisatva practised to achieve the 10 perfections of dana (generosity), sila (virtue), nekkhamma (renunciation), pangnga (wisdom) viriya (effort), kshanthi (tolerance), satya (truthfulness), adittana (determination), metta (compassion) and upekkha (imperturbability). It was these perfections that provided support in his realization of the four Noble Truths. When Mara, the Lord of Death appeared to distract the meditating ascetic under the Bodhi tree, determined to realize the Truth that led to the cessation of all suffering, it was the perfections that supported the bodhisattva to vanquish Mara. As this realization of the truth was achieved without outside help the Buddha is known as Samma Sambuddha- the supreme being who realized the truth through his own effort. The Buddha was no messenger of another’s knowledge or realization. He was the knower of all things that needed to be known in the entire world. His teachings were based on the authentic experience he had of the path to realization. The process of the Bodhisatva’s realization of the truth highlights one key ingredient in the path to cessation of all suffering. The determination, commitment and effort to cease all suffering must be personal. The enthusiasm, effort and commitment of others do not lead to personal liberation. However, the significant advantage and support available to us is the living teachings- the Dhamma the Buddha expounded.

Undoubtedly the Buddha is the most influential teacher of this world. His intention was to enable all beings to realize the truth that he himself had realized. He emphasized on the importance of practising the Dhamma so that it became a personal experience. As such the Buddha never imposed restrictions on the faculty of thinking of those who wished to understand the Dhamma. He only offered guidance reminding that the Buddha was only a guide and only offered guidance, that treading the path, making effort was the responsibility of the individual.

Contemporary India boasted of many eminent teachers beside the Buddha. Some even claimed to be the Buddha themselves. However as they had not realized the Four Noble Truths, in explaining their teachings they had to impose restrictions and prevent followers from asking questions. If followers had been granted full freedom of questioning, they would not have been able to maintain their position in the society enjoying the worldly comforts offered by their followers.

In complete contrast to these teachers, the Buddha always maintained a policy of open inquiry with everyone who wished to speak with him. The Buddha said one must follow only the teachings that he had tested by practising and understood to be wholesome. To the Kalamas of Kesaputta who questioned the Buddha as to how they may know the truth as all teachers maintained that each one of them expounded the truth, the Buddha responded, "Kalamas under no circumstance should one believe something because it was said to one by an eminent teacher or it was traditional knowledge or commonsense. Nor should one believe something because it was found in a holy book or it seemed like the truth and it suited one’s own theories. Should one realize an action to be wholesome through one’s own experience, then only should one believe such to be the truth. How could one know an action to be wholesome and skillful? Should one realize an action to be beneficial to self and others, non harmful to self and others, only such actions are wholesome and skilful. Only in such actions should one engage".

The Buddha said that the Dhamma had the quality of being able to be held under scrutiny and be proven as the truth. This ehi passiko quality of the dhamma invited inquiry, examination and scrutiny. The truth and the purity of the teachings can be known only through experience. Experience is possible only through practice. That which is heard and told and seen must be tested through practice to be experienced as wholesome and skilful.

The teaching of the Buddha, the Dhamma, does not encourage blind faith or belief. The truth of the teaching is realized only through experience. Leadership for one’s life lies with each individual being. It is not a power or responsibility that can be vested on an outside source. As such the Buddha’s teaching encourages beings to exercise wisdom and experience in leading daily life.

The Buddha allowed unsurpassable freedom to question, debate and discuss the teachings. Upali Sutta is a a fine example of this freedom granted to beings to question and interact with the dhamma. Upali was a staunch lay follower and supporter of Mahaweera, the Jain teacher of eminence. Once he approached the Buddha claiming to the world that he would vanquish the Buddha through argumentation. However, being a very intelligent man, upon discussion with the Buddha, he realized the futility of the Jain practice of extreme asceticism and begged to be allowed to be a robed disciple of the Buddha. The Buddha however discouraged Upali of becoming a monk, reminding him of his position within the Jain community and the impact of his decision on the Jain religion and his teacher Mahaweera.

In Chullahattipadopama Sutta, the Buddha used the simile of the footprint of the elephant to encourage inquiry and further inquiry before accepting something as the truth. The Buddha said just by seeing the footprint of an elephant one must not decide on its size and power, that one must see the elephant before one decided on the size and nature of the elephant. Similarly with the teachings too, the Buddha said only inquiry and direct experience would enable the realization, the seeing which ultimately led to liberation.

The Buddha allowed inquiry and scrutiny of the teachings as a means of eradicating doubt. Even on his death bed on the occasion of the parinibbana, the Buddha invited the monks to come forward should there be one with any doubts in the Dhamma. He advised the monks that should any doubt or confusion occur regarding the Dhamma, that such doubts should be eradicated through discussion with Noble ones who had experienced the truth.

In the Maha parinibbana Sutta in the digha nikaya, the Buddha specified 4 ways in which doubt in the teaching should be eradicated. "Should a monk claim that this is the truth I heard from the Buddha himself, that I clarified with Noble monks living in such and such monastery, that I clarified with virtuous, erudite monks of such and such a monastery or that I clarified with a virtuous, erudite monk of such and such a monastery, do not believe him. Practise the teachings yourself, test the teachings against your own experience. If you realize it as beneficial to self and others, non harmful to self and others, accept and further practise until it leads you to the ultimate realization and cessation of all suffering".

It is clear from this advice given by the Buddha on his dead bed, that realization of the truth can be achieved only through practising the teaching. Wholesome inquiry leads to the eradication of doubt allowing wholesome practice. Logic, argumentation, analysis and preconceived notions are not the means by which the truth can be realized. It is only by experiencing the teaching through one’s practice that the realization of the truth that leads to ultimate liberation can be achieved.

In this year of sambuddhathwa jayanthi, celebrating the 2600th year of Enlightenment of the Buddha, practice that leads to the cessation of suffering should be a priority for all Buddhists.

18 05 2011 The Island


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J12.18    Commemorating 2600th Sambuddhathva Jayanthi Dhamma

The way to peace

On this eve of May, 2011, over one billion Buddhists all over the world will celebrate the 2600th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment. I, too, would like to honour this occasion by pointing out the profound positive impact that this singular event has had on our planet and its subsequent history.


Dhamma points way to peace. Picture by Lakshan Maduranga

The Buddha realized his Dhamma during his moment of enlightenment, and the Dhamma has pointed the way to peace - both inner and outer - for individuals as well as countries, for exactly 26 centuries.

I have no doubt that it will continue to guide us for many more. I was recently given a copy of the new book by Ven. Walpola Piyananda and Dr. Stephen Long entitled, “Thus We Heard: Recollections of the Life of the Buddha.”

The publication of this amazing book coincides with the Buddha’s Jayanthi, and it states on the first page that it was written to celebrate this event. I must commend the authors for sharing with the world the life story of the Buddha and his teachings in such an accessible, comprehensive, and engaging way.

As a life-long student of world spiritual pathways, I must say that I have never read another book like it, and can recommend it wholeheartedly for readers everywhere.

Its message, which is the message of the Buddha and all he represents, could not come at a better time for all of us who share space on this tiny troubled planet.

Since 1993 our Foundation has been actively participating in a variety of projects around the world in congruence with our Mission, which is viewable on our website (www.healingamongnations.org). Our involvement with world leaders in a variety of international forums has been on two levels, which I will call the “outer,” and the “inner.”

The “outer” level is basically our participatory track record of successful projects; the “inner” level is the energetic spiritual support we have been generating for these projects, utilizing our unique gifts and vision. To recap some of the “outer” level, our projects have included (view complete list and details on our website):

* Working with the Dalai Lama on the “Tibetan National Commemoration and Documentation Centre,” a program that recorded the testimony of 500 witnesses to the Chinese invasion

* “Women’s Tour for Global Understanding”
* “Day of Prayer” in Assisi, Italy, with Pope John Paul II
* “Global Prayer Summit”
* “Circle of Nations” (for Native Americans)
* “A Season for Nonviolence” in collaboration with The Gandhi Foundation, and other humanitarian organizations

* From 1995-1998 with Steven Spielberg’s “Survivors of the Shoah Foundation,” an oral history testimony project for victims of the Holocaust, which was later expanded to include others of diverse cultures.

* Women of the Tsunami, a program in Matara, Sri Lanka, to help develop micro-businesses for tsunami survivors.

We see when reviewing all of our involvements that a complete cycle is now behind us, and the future cycle lies directly ahead. We are all living and coping with the ever-increasing velocity of constant change, which affects each and every one of us by creating uncertainty and turmoil in our nations and personal experience. Emphasis in the Foundation’s next cycle, therefore, will be placed on the “inner” level, where we feel we can potentially have the most positive impact. We feel that very few organizations are focusing on gathering the spiritual energy that can promote the arising of planetary conditions that will facilitate the emergence of the “potential” into the “actual,” and we are stepping in to fill this void. We feel that we should now openly proclaim our specific “calling,” if you will, which is to participate in the dramatic global changes currently taking place by seeking to activate the required love, light, and power to build a new civilization based on love, forgiveness, compassion, humility, and the perennial wisdom and teachings of the Buddha.

The example of the life of the Buddha reveals that he, too, helped heal individuals and countries by using both “outer” and “inner” means. I learned from reading “Thus We Heard” that on the “outer” level he prevented war between the Sakyans and Kolyans over the water in the River Rohini; he gave sage advice to several kings about managing their kingdoms; and he taught Anathapindika and Visakha how to use their wealth wisely and practise generosity. On the “inner” level, when he “surveyed the world” every day he used his paranormal powers to reach out to those who needed his healing, support, and blessing; his physical presence provided the strong energy field that contained the spiritual spark that ignited realization in his “ripe” disciples; and through the power of his spiritual intention he rid Vesali of the triple plague, and saved the Licchavis from certain destruction.

I have personally travelled to most of the countries of the world, including Sri Lanka, India, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and throughout Asia on behalf of our Foundation. I only went where I was invited, and I brought world leaders and disparate groups together on projects that oftentimes involved the tradition of oral history. What we have learned of the life of the Buddha - including his Dhamma - was all preserved for us through this tradition. In fact, we would know very little of him or his teaching if the monks hadn’t passed his words from generation to generation for three hundred years before it was finally written down in Sri Lanka.

Our Foundation is currently embarking on a new course that includes projects involving the preservation of knowledge through personal testimony in Korea, the United States, and other countries. We will use the tools of documentary film, other forms of media, public relations, and international gatherings to bring about the healing of nations and the healing of individuals - both of whom have suffered from trauma of all kinds.

All of our projects will be inspired by the dedication of the Buddha to pursue the truth over all else, and that of his followers over the centuries who kept that truth alive for us today. Our Foundation will align ourselves with his “inner” healing energies, and move forward following his example.

Thank you “Thus We Heard” for helping me to clarify this new intention and direction for our Foundation, and for illuminating the way for our next, most crucial, cycle of participation in world events.

18 05 2011 - Daily News

 

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J12.19    Dual significance of Sambuddhatva Jayanthi

The Buddha's First Discourse

to the five ascetics at Isipathana Migadaya

"Oh Supreme! Let thy great law be uttered!"

Whereupon the Master cast his vision forth on flesh,

Saw who should hear and who must wait to hear,

As the keen sun gliding the lotus lakes

Seeth which buds will open to his beams,

And which are not yet risen from the roots.

Then spake divinely smiling, "Yea, I preach!

Who so listen let him learn the Law!"

-Light of Asia,

Sir Edwin Arnold

This is the sacred moment at which we celebrate the Attainment of Supreme Enlightenment by Ascetic Siddhartha, 2,600 years ago.

While we are totally focused on the 2,600th anniversary of the Attainment of Enlightenment, we are quite likely to overlook that 2011 marks the 2,600th anniversary of the birth of Buddhism as well.

When Ascetic Siddhartha achieved Supreme Enlightenment, it was, in the first instance, a personal transcendental triumph. The birth of Buddhism had to await some more time.

Inner joy

Experiencing the inner joy of Enlightenment, the Buddha was hesitant about declaring to the world his profound spiritual discovery. It was at this stage that Maha Brahma entreated the Buddha to enlighten the world about the Great Law He has realised.

The Supremely Enlightened Buddha decided that the first beneficiaries of the Law He realised should be His co-seekers, the five ascetics - Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji.

The Buddha travelled about 200 miles to meet the five. They were pursuing their religious practices at Isipathana Migadaya, in the vicinity of the city of Benares.

The pillar of Asoka

This sacred venue, currently known as Saranath, had been a haven for men of religion, even before the Buddha's day. 'Isipathana' implies 'the assembly place of seers and sages'.

'Migadaya' is the term given to an animal sanctuary. But, in recent times there has been an interesting development relating to the name 'Migadaya'. Today the place is known by the expression 'Deer Park'. This is clearly and starkly a misnomer.

The word 'Miga' in the original name does not refer only to the deer. In Pali, 'Miga' is applicable to all beasts and animals. In Sanskrit the word is 'Mrga'. It is interesting to note in this context that a monkey is described in Sanskrit as 'Shaka Mrga' (the animal of the tree-branch).

Animal sanctuary

In the early days this was an animal sanctuary - a place set aside for the animals to live and roam about freely. It stands to reason to assume that no ruler would have a sanctuary only for the deer. No hunter would seek out other animals, avoiding the hunting of the deer. Someone would have translated the word Miga into English as 'deer' and the place was promptly named 'Deer Park'.

To mark the 2,600th anniversary of the Buddha's Attainment of Enlightenment, we could request the authorities to take steps to change the name to read as 'Animal Sanctuary,' setting aside the current misnomer 'Deer Park'.

The specific location had been referred to as the 'Kalandaka Nivape' - the place where the squirrels were fed.

All these cumulatively established, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the significance of the original term 'Miga Daya', was 'Animal Sanctuary'.

When the Buddha was seen approaching, the five ascetics felt convinced that he was coming back to them as his quest has failed. They decided that they will not accord to him the customary honours endowed upon a visiting monk. But, as the Buddha approached closer, the resolve of the five ascetics flagged. The five fellow-seekers could not help but note that an extraordinary appeal had enriched the Buddha's total personality. The Buddha's mien gleamed with an ethereal glow. The five ascetics realised that a vast spiritual transformation had occurred within their revered guest.

Monument

This initial meeting between the Buddha and the five ascetics took place at Chankandi, where a monument had been constructed in quite an early era. Today segments of the original building can be seen at this site.

A monument in Vietnam depicting the Buddha’s First Discourse

Although the five ascetics accorded Him a deference, they continued to assume that the Buddha's spiritual attainment may not be as lofty as theirs. They insisted on addressing Him as 'avuso' (Friend) an expression fit for a junior or an equal.

The Buddha put matters right by mildly reminding them that they should now address Him as Samma Sambuddha, The Supremely Enlightened Being - indicating that He has fully completed His spiritual effort and that His quest for truth has now been successfully culminated.

All the qualms and doubts that troubled the five ascetics were now totally swept away. They were fully prepared to listen to the Supremely Enlightened Buddha.

To these eager spiritual truth-seekers, the Buddha expounded the profound Law He had so strenuously realised.

In other words, the Buddha presented to the five ascetics the immortal report of His spiritual odyssey.

The first sermon of the Buddha, setting down the essence of His spiritual realisation, is well-known as the Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta - The Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel.

With this Supreme Manifesto, Buddhism was born 2,600 years ago.

It is only with this declaration in the Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel that the spiritual system known as Buddhism appeared before mankind, to lead men and women to liberation (Moksha) from the cycle of recurrent births.

Birth of Buddhism

The salutary outcome of all this is that in 2011 we celebrate not only the Attainment of Supreme Enlightenment, but also the historical Birth of Buddhism.

Before we take a look at this First Discourse, we must focus on the eternally hallowed spot where this sermon was first proclaimed.

Dhammasoka, the Emperor of Righteousness, visited Isipathana as an ardent pilgrim. The imperial pilgrim had several edifices set up at this spot.

A prominent structure the Emperor built at this spot is a solid block known as "Damek". It is quite clear that this is not a conventional stupa. We have to surmise that this intriguing architectural enigma is nothing but a monument.

Saranath, the venue of the Buddha's First Discourse

It stands to reason to conclude that the only event that deserves a monument at this location is the exact spot where the Buddha proclaimed His Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta.

The monument is described as "Damek", an expression for Dhammacakka. It is quite surprising to note that Damek has a very close affinity to the Sinhala word Damsak, which means Dhammacakka.

Asoka pillar

Emperor Asoka set up a pillar at this site. This was originally 50 feet high. At present it has about seven or eight feet left in the ground. The pillar was surmounted by a capital, with four lions standing back to back.

These lion figures are preserved at the Saranath Museum. It is indeed remarkable that they still retain their original polish, lustre and expression.

Originally, the four lions held a 32-spoked Dhammacakka (Wheel of Dhamma). A fragment of this wheel is now at the Saranath Museum.

The Asokan Lion is the National Emblem of India and the Dhammacakka adorns the Indian National Flag as its central motif. The original Dhammarajika Vihara was also built at this site by Emperor Asoka.

Since that day the site has weathered many vicissitudes. But this sacred venue still continues to engender a deeply transforming sense of tranquillity. When devoted pilgrims intone Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta in sonorous rhythms, one cannot help but feel that the environment itself is listening in hushed silence.

In the calm and serene atmosphere of Isipathana - The Haven of Sages, one tends to assume that in the forests surrounding this holy site, there could very well be birds and animals descending from those who had the good fortune to listen to the Supremely Enlightened Buddha's cadenced voice delivering the Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta, about 40 generations ago (2,600 years ago to be precise).

The Buddha's Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta brought about the formal Birth of Buddhism. It is a remarkable spiritual statement in the whole of human history.

The structure of this discourse possesses some unusual characteristics. Its introductory phrases are conventional.

Ven. Ananda Maha Thera presents the discourse with the conventional introduction "Thus have I heard," (Evam me sutam). And, as usual Ven. Ananda Maha Thera gives a brief background about the venue, and the circumstances of the presentation of the discourse.

"On one occasion, the Blessed One was living in Migadaya at Isipathana. Then He addressed the group of five bhikkhus".

As quoted by Ven. Ananda Maha Thera, the Buddha expounds His realisation to the group of five bhikkhus and concludes His discourse with these words: "And, a vision of insight arose in me thus: Unshakable is the deliverance of my heart. This is the last birth. Now, there is no more re-becoming (rebirth)."

After this concluding statement of the Buddha, the structure of this discourse takes on a new aspect.

The discourse goes on to record what happened after the Buddha concluded His statement.

Who provides this report? Is it Ven. Ananda Maha Thera or is it a later commentator?

In the concluding section of this discourse, there is a highly impressive report of the manner in which the word of the Buddha spread, from stage to stage, until it reached the Akanittha abode of the Brahmas.

The process through which the Buddha's timeless word travelled to infinity is a miraculous communications phenomenon.

This is how the process is recorded in the Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta.

The Buddha's words were heard by terrestrial deities. They echoed the Buddha's words, so that deities in the closest heavenly abode could hear them.

Those in the closest heavenly abode echoed the Buddha's word for the gods in higher realms. This way, the Buddha's word travelled in a long series of relays from earth to the highest heavens.

This is an advanced system of communication.

This system is described in the latter section of this discourse, in an interesting phrase - Saddam anussa vesum (The sound was re-echoed).

In the formal chanting, this discourse, when the phrase Saddam anussa vesum occurs, a loud drum is sounded.

This sublime process of communication through a whole series of sound-relays should be studied in-depth. This communication process can be even diagrammatically portrayed.

For us, what is of high significance is the fact, that the person or persons who added this note to this discourse would have been aware that the news of the Birth of Buddhism reached far worlds.

Ascetic Siddhartha attained Supreme Enlightenment 2,600 years ago.And, with the presentation of the Discourse of the Turning of the Wheel, Buddhism was born.

That too, 2,600 years ago.

15 05 2011 - Sunday Observer


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J12.20    Celebrating Enlightenment

The day when He attained Enlightenment
The day when He spread the light throughout the universe

That day we have remembered
That day which shall be celebrated
That day which shall be there
For another 2600 years

The day when He attained Enlightenment
The day when He spread the light throughout the universe

We lie down at his feet
The sacred feet of the one
Who spread that soothing word
Unknown at the time

The day when He attained Enlightenment
The day when He spread the light throughout the universe

Let's stand in line
To heal minds
To obey the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha
To uphold Buddhism
Let's live piously
Let us be good people

The day when He attained Enlightenment
The day when He spread the light throughout the universe

Let's give our heartfelt offerings
To the one who
Led all beings to the
Noble middle path
Making the world
A better place to live in
Let's follow the eight fold path

The day when he attained enlightenment
The day when He spread the light Throughout the universe

Written by Kalakirthi Panditha Wimal Abhayasundara, His last song 11th May 2008.

This song is now available on a CD with the vocals of singers such as Sunil Edirisinghe and Victor Ratnayaka on Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.

 

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Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little,

at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful. 

 

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