J13.01     Controversy at Panadura, Panadura Debate / Panadura Vaadaya - In 1873 , there was much ridiculing of Buddhism through books and...

J13.02     Galileo and method - Western science is believed to have begun with Galileo when he...

J13.03     The distorted heritage of Buddhist sites - One of the most baffling problems of the history of Indian culture and religion...

J13.04     Liberation of the individual in Buddhism - The Buddha whilst addressing the monks once said...

J13.05     Real happiness through Buddhist teachings - We sometimes hear of people of other faiths and even some Buddhists saying...

J13.06     Rebirth: can we discard as mere fantasy or fiction? - 'Rebirth' itself from a scientific point of view...

J13.07     Know the breath (Anapana Sati) - What is a breath? Is it just a to-and-fro movement of air elements...

J13.08     Learning and discipline must combine in university education - Convocation address delivered by Dr. E.W. Adikaram...

J13.09     Buddhist attitude to other religions - The Buddhism holds that truth is something that everyone...

J13.10     Lessons from ancient city of Anuradhapura - Buddhist perspective on roots of global environmental crisis

J13.11     The mind and consciousness - Buddhist views vs Western science...

J13.12     Your deeds mould your life - Buddhism teaches us to think rightly, speak rightly and act rightly.

J13.13     Pirith its purpose, value and usage - Of all Buddhist countries in the world Sri Lanka enjoys...

J13.14     Buddha highlights the value of tending the sick - According to an incident recorded in the Cheevarakkhandina of the Vinaya Pitaka...

J13.15     Restless society and restrained mind - Today, our society is restless and nowhere we fine peace.

J13.16     Zen Buddhism - There is a special tradition of Buddhism which emphasizes meditation than any other religious sect, ...

J13.17     Seeking the refuge of Tisarana in the footsteps of the Buddha - Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera on some deeper dimensions of the Dhamma.

J13.18     Poson Poya: Spiritual rebirth in Sri Lanka - With the dawn of the Poson full moon day, the Sinhala Buddhists commemorate...

J13.19     Discussion between King Devanampiyatissa and Arhant Mahinda

J13.20     Day of Lanka’s religious rebirth - The full moon of Poson, is the anniversary of the religious and cultural re-birth of Lanka







Aloka Home


J13.01    Controversy at Panadura, Panadura Debate / Panadura Vaadaya

Re-edited by Pranith Abhayasundara, Sri Lanka State Printing Company, 1990

In 1873 , there was much ridiculing of Buddhism through books and pamphlets written in the vernaculars which Christians distributed in propagating their faith. This was besides the mass proselytising of Buddhist children through the school system. These resulted in an open challenge being made by Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda to the Christians to defend their faith. It was accepted by the Christian clergy. This led to three public debates one at Uyanwita in 1866 CE, the second at Gampola, in 1871 CE and the last at Panadura in 1873 CE.

There was wide coverage in the Press for the Panadura Debate where rules were laid down for fair play. Reports of the debate and the efforts made by the Sinhala Buddhists to safeguard their rights reached America and inspired a. young American lawyer, Henry Steele Olcott to come to Sri 'Lanka in May 1880 CE and fight the Buddhist cause. The defeat of the Christians in debate, more than anything else, broke the myth of the infallibility of the Christian Church and was one of the major contributing factors to the Buddhist revival in the country.

It was listed under "Panadura Vadaya" in the UCB book catalog, making me worry that it would be in Sinhalese, but it was in English, with most of it apparently the reproduction of some original edition.

A sizable part of it contained discussions of Buddhist beliefs, including a part which claims that Buddhists believe in an impersonal, pantheist God. Which may seem like no God at all by Abrahamic standards.

The book had several pictures, drawings, and pictures of statues of the Buddhist side of these debates, the Venerable Migettuwatte/Mohottiwatte Sri Gunananda Thera. He was an orator and writer who spoke often in defense of Buddhism and Sinhalese literature; he helped revive Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

He was up against the Rev. David de Silva and the Rev. F. S. Sirimanne.

Now to the main event, with some commentary:

Rev. de Silva

He argued that Buddhists believe that there is no soul or irreducible "self", quoting various Buddhist scriptures to that effect, like:

(the original Pali) Rupam bhikkhave anattam, yadanattam n'etam mama n'eso 'hamismineso attati.

(English translation) Organized form, monks, is not self, that which is not self is not mind, I am not that, that is, not to me a soul.

He continued by claiming that this means that there is no fundamental difference between humanity and frogs, pigs, and the rest of the animal kingdom.

LP: there is no need to accept the existence of an irreducible soul or self to recognize an important difference between humanity and the rest of the animal kindgom: sentience vs. nonsentience. In fact, "animal" in common usage implies nonsentience, which may explain why "animal" is sometimes used as an insult, as de Silva was trying to do.

And also that there would be no rewards and punishments after death for what one has done in this life, meaning that one would have nothing to fear if one did something bad.

And quoted the Bible to the effect that we do have souls (no word on frogs, pigs, etc.).

Ven. Gunananda

He took a swipe at Rev. de Silva's command of the Pali language, suggesting that someone who makes elementary mistakes in it cannot be expected to have a good understanding of abstruse metaphysics described in it.

LP: this argument seems like a rather low blow, but it reminds me of when I once exposed someone's expertise in Hebrew as limited to Strong's Concordance.

He then proceeded to explain how reincarnation works in Buddhism in the absence of a "soul" -- there is some sort of continuity that extends beyond the death of the body.

He then accused Christian missionaries of being deceptive on account of their use of various local deities' names for the Christian God, like in Calcutta the Hindu god Ishwara and in Sri Lanka Dewiyanwahanse.

He continued in this vein by charging that some Bible translators have committed variious deceptions, like translating "jealous" into Sinhalese jwalita, which literally means "glittering" or "luminous". And also of omitting verses like Leviticus 17:7, saying that they should no longer make offerings to various devils that they have prostituted themselves to. He concluded by saying that he appreciates that Catholics have not rewritten their Bibles in the above-described fashion of some Protestants.

Turning to Genesis 6:6,
(KJV) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
(NASB) The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
(NIV) The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

Gunananda asked what kind of entity regrets something that he/she/it has done. Certainly not an omniscient one, as he pointed out.

He continued to ask why an allegedly omniscient being needed visible markers, as when he killed the firstborn of Egypt; the Israelites had to put some blood at the doors of the houses so that God would know who they were and not kill their firstborn.

LP: this oddity may have been invented to justify some ritual practice; that's the most reasonable thing I can think of.

In Exodus 4, God tells Moses to perform a miracle to impress the Egyptians, and if that fails to impress them, to perform more miracles until they are suitably impressed. Gunananda pointed out the implied lack of omniscience here also.

Later in that chapter, Zipporah circumcises Moses, offering Moses's foreskin to God, who had wanted to kill Moses. And God was apparently satisfied with that bloody offering. Gunananda wondered what kind of being the Biblical God must be like, a being like some devil who likes receiving blood offerings.

And turning to Judges 1:19, he wondered how omnipotent a being was who could not overcome iron chariots.

Rev. de Silva

He claimed that he was simply repeating some statements made elsewhere, and that any alleged errors were not his fault. And he bluntly denied that any Bible translators were trying to be dishonest.

He also claimed that the "translations" of the Christian God's name were not done to deceive would-be converts but to provide something that they could relate to.

About the regretting of Genesis 6:6, he claimed that the original Hebrew word (nokam) did not imply regretfulness. And the marking with blood in Exodus he claimed was a symbol of Christ's death.

LP: Checking in The Blue-Letter Bible, I find that the word is nahham, 05162 in Strong's Concordance, listed as meaning "to be sorry, console oneself, repent, regret, comfort, be comforted". So "regret" is a reasonable translation.

Also, that supposed Christ's-death symbolism seems to me to be a non sequitur.

He concluded with an effort to show that some Buddhist doctrines have some contradictions of the form that X is the source of Y and Y is the source of X.

LP: I could not follow that argument very well.

Ven. Gunananda

He started off by pointing that the Reverend had called him viruddhakaraya ("opponent" or "adversary"), even though there was no personal enmity between the two. And that he now had no choice but to do the same.

He continued by asking why de Silva had made no comment about the (mis)translation of "jealous" in the Sinhalese Bible, and why the Biblical God is referred to as "jealous". He continued in this vein, asking what de Silva's level of competence in Pali was when he repeats others' grammatical errors without bothering to correct them. And despite de Silva's praise of the honesty of Bible translators, the rearrangements of parts of it suggests something suspicious about Bible translators.

LP: there are worse translation issues, like Isaiah's "young woman" being translated as "virgin", and the "translation" of the "eunuchs" of Matthew 19:12 as "those who cannot marry".

He turned to the question of Iswara, noting that Hindus believe that he has a wife named Umayaganawa; does the Christian God also have a wife?

LP: Gunananda could have gone into more detail about the sexist absurdity of Christianity's pantheon (three male beings in one God), but Buddhism has also had a long history of sexism.

Continuing in this vein, he complained that de Silva never took on the question of the Biblical God's implied non-omniscience and taste for blood offerings.

He then explained further what gets reincarnated, discussing various views of the "soul", claiming that the Biblical view sort-of agrees with the Buddhist view of something that has an eternal existence before birth as well as after death.

LP: I found that difficult to follow.

He continued into the story of Jephthah sacrificing his daughter; he charged that Protestants had rewritten their Bibles to indicate that that sacrifice was not literal, and he praised Catholics for being honest about that sacrifice.

He next took on the question of how long Jesus Christ had stayed in his tomb, noting that "three days and three nights" does not exactly fit Friday afternoon to Sunday morning.

He then argued that Jesus Christ's birth had a bad omen associated with it -- King Herod's mass murder of baby boys. By comparison, the Buddha's birth had had nothing but good omens -- lots of cures and pain relief.

LP: I'm not sure if that's a "proper" omen -- that mass murder took place after JC was born. In fact, the only bad omen I can think of is there being no room in the inn for his parents (Luke 2).

Gunananda would have made a better argument if he had noted the lack of mention of this spectacular atrocity elsewhere in the New Testament, and its lack of mention by outside historians like Josephus, whose description of Herod would make it completely in character for him.

He could also have mentioned how common it is for someone to try to murder some legendary figure in his infancy:

But the story of the Buddha has something parallel -- his father tries to raise him to be his heir, not a religious teacher.

He concluded by claiming that he would renounce Buddhism if even so much as an ant died as a result of the Buddha's birth.

Rev. Sirimanne

He started by comparing Gunananda's rejection of Christianity to a fever patient's rejection of food, no matter how good the food might be for him/her.

LP: analogy time -- watch out for apologists wielding analogies, because they are likely to be specious.

He claimed that Gunananda had not really replied to the argument that Buddhism teaches that there is no such thing as the soul, and that Buddhism also teaches the existence of beings like the soul, beings that are immaterial and invisible and so forth.

He continued with the claim that the Biblical God being "jealous" did not really mean "envious", just not wanting his glory to be shared by others.

About the Ten Plagues of Egypt, he claimed that God knew how it would turn out, but that all those plagues were necessary because the king of Egypt was so haughty.

LP: then God could have told Moses about this: "That Pharaoh is a tough one. It will take ten plagues to soften him up, but hang in there; we'll beat him."

He continued with God being unable to defeat those iron chariots in Judges 1:19, claiming that Judah had not had sufficient faith in him. He claimed that the Bible is not only literally and historically true, but full of valuable spiritual lessons for future generations.

LP: that's not what the Bible itself says; theologians are fond of imposing externally-derived interpretations on their favorite sacred books.

He had a chortle at Gunananda's interpretation of the creation of Adam by God blowing on him, the monk claimed that that meant that Adam had received some of God's soul.

He turned to Jephthah's daughter, seemingly claiming that she was not really sacrificed. And also to JC's reamining in the tomb, claiming that this was some special Jewish way of counting days. He correctly points out that Herod's massacre would be hard to call an omen, though he continued by claiming that they were sent to Heaven, where they would be much happier than if they had been allowed to live out their lives.

LP: this reminds me of how Andrea Yates had killed her children in order to send them off to Heaven. This argument would make murder seem like a Good Thing.

About the Buddha's birth, Sirimanne noted that the Buddha's mother had died seven days afterward, and that the Buddha had not only walked and talked when he was born, he roared like a lion. And he noted that lion roars are widely believed to be deadly.

He followed that by claiming that Jesus Christ came to fight sin and establish righteousness, while the Buddha was a sinner who wanted to encourage vice. And that the Buddha's good omens are like drunkards welcoming a fellow drunkard with open arms, while spurning a teetotaler.

He continued by pointing out that the Buddhist scriptures were written down only 450 years after the Buddha's death, hinting that they could have been less-than-reliably transmitted in all that time.

LP: a good point, but one that also applies to the Bible, parts of which have internal evidence of after-the-fact composition.

This was followed by him claiming that the Buddha pursued enlightenment in previous reincarnations by offering his eyes, head, flesh, blood, wives and children; he commented on how cruel the Buddha must have been, to desert all those wives and children.

He also wondered if the Buddha was as omniscient as he was sometimes claimed to be, since the Buddha thought that some living people were dead, and vice versa, and since the Buddha was not initially sure that there would be anyone who could understand his message.

He interpreted Nirvana as be a state of nonexistence, and thus, since the Buddha had achieved that state, that the Buddha was now nonexistent. This meant that "taking refuge in the Buddha", as many Buddhists talk about, is taking refuge in someone now nonexistent.

And he concluded by claiming that many Buddhist monks are wicked, thus making them unfit for moral leadership.

Ven. Gunananda

He started by expressing disappointment in the quality of his opponents' arguments, and continued by noting that Ecclesiastes 3:19 (NIV: Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.) is what de Silva charges that Buddhism teaches. He challenged de Silva to find similar statements in the Buddhist scriptures.

LP: Gunananda was not making very clear the sentience-nonsentience distinction; he could point out that physically, we are essentially another animal species, and that the author of Ecclesiastes is right about that, while mentally we are very different.

After going into some arcane Buddhist doctrines, and explaining further what gets reincarnated if there is no soul, he pointed out a contradiction:

1 Corinthians 15:22-28 (NIV: For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. ...) -- implying that everybody who believes in Jesus Christ will go to Heaven.

Matthew 25:41-46 (NIV: Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ... [those who do wicked things] ... "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.") -- implying that one can believe in Jesus Christ yet be sent to Hell.

He then asked why take the Bible seriously when it contains gross contradictions like that. Which of these parts is right, if any at all? They can't both be right.

Turning to Sirimanne's speech, he commented that he had never heard anything so unscholarly or aimlessly meandering, and that he will skip over irrelevant parts like the curing of a fever patient. Many of his opponents responses he found beside the point, like how haughty the Pharaoh was. About Judah and the iron chariots, he asked that if Judah did not have enough faith in God, then why was God with him at all?

In connection with the baby-boy massacre, Sirimanne charged that Buddha's mother had died seven days after giving birth to him. Gunananda's response was that she had been fated to die on that date, implying that giving birth to the Buddha had had nothing to do with it.

LP: this is so laughable that I am almost at a loss for words. Does this mean that the Buddha's mother would have mysteriously dropped dead on the appropriate date if she had never given birth to her famous child? And given that many women have died of giving birth, one quickly suspects cause-and-effect here.

He reiterated that the baby-boy massacre was nevertheless a bad omen, and that sinful omens imply that one will be a friend of sin. And asked if there was any record of anyone having been injured by the "lion-like" roaring of the baby Buddha.

As to the transmission of the Buddhist scriptures, he claimed that they had been recorded in the Buddha's lifetime on gold-leaf pages.

LP: but whatever happened to those gold-leaf books? Have they, by any chance, gone the way of the gold-plate originals of the Book of Mormon?

And while the recorders of the Buddhist scriptures had supposedly reached a state of great enlightenment, the same cannot be said of the writers of the Bible; he pointed out that Moses had committed some murders. He even claimed that the Bible was once completely burnt and then written down again.

LP: I have no idea where he got that idea from. The closest thing I can think of is Moses breaking the tablets of the Law when he saw his people commit idolatry. God obligingly prepared some new tablets for him, and the Bible tells us the wording of both sets(!).

And as to Moses performing miracles in Egypt, his Egyptian-sorcerer opponents had performed similar miracles (turning sticks into snakes), he commented that either Moses was also a sorcerer or else God Almighty was helping his Egyptian sorcerers also.

LP: this seems rather weak.

He continued into discussing the abandonment of wives and children by those seeking Buddhahood; he pointed that it was necessary to conquer passions and attachments, like to one's wives and children.

LP: that is not very reassuring; why not find new husbands for his wives? Or not marry at all?

About Sirimanne's remarks about how long Jesus Christ spent in his tomb, Gunananda mainly commented novasanavan ("miserable"), and reiterated his view that "three days and three nights" is a miscount. He claimed that he'd be providing more demonstration of the falsehood of Christianity in his final statement.

Rev. de Silva

After claiming that "opponent" is not objectionable, he then took on Eccl. 3:19, claiming that Eccl. 3:21 implies that humanity has a soul, unlike animals.

LP: NIV: Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth? -- which implies that both have souls.

After commenting that human souls would be human souls in Heaven, though being glorious immortal beings there, he continued to the contradiction that Gunananda had pointed out between 1 Corinthans and Matthew, claiming that "being made alive" and "being saved" were two different things.

LP: however, when "eternal life" is used for salvation and "eternal death" is used for damnation, it is not clear that there is any real difference.

As to when the Buddhist scriptures were written down, he quoted those scriptures themselves as stating that they had been written down 450 years after the Buddha died.

As to Moses killing someone, he claimed that Moses had only killed some Egyptian who had been trying to kill some fellow Israelite.

LP: however, Exodus 2:11 says only that that Egyptian had "attacked" or "beat" that Israelite, with no hint on how deadly that attack was.

He continued into how some very enlightened people (Arahants/Arhats) had once been robbers and murderers.

LP: and these guys tend to be proud of their alleged sordid pasts; they make a hero out of Paul, who had been a persecutor of their sect before that famous side-changing on the road to Damascus.

After mentioning some more such scandals, like someone who gambled with a king and seduced and ran off with his wife, he turned to the subject of a legendary world-axis mountain, Mt. Meru (Mahameru), which according to Buddhist scriptures has a length, a width, a depth below the sea, and a height of 84000 yojanas (1 yojana ~ 16 mi / 26 km). Quoting some more Buddhist scriptures, he noted this sequence of world-destruction events:

* The rain would stop and all the plants would die.
* A second sun would appear and the small rivers and lakes would dry up.
* A third sun would appear and the large rivers would dry up.
* A fourth sun would appear and the large lakes would dry up.
* A fifth sun would appear and the oceans would dry up.
* A sixth sun would appear and Mt. Meru, everything else on Earth, and the Earth itself would be destroyed.

LP: Some Buddhist might claim that this is a prediction that the Sun will someday become a Red Giant, baking the Earth dry and then possibly destroying it.

De Silva then showed a globe and asked where was Mt. Meru. It is mentioned in several places in the Buddhist scriptures, and it would be difficult for it to escape explorers' attentions; where was it?

LP: this comment reminds me of Yuri Gagarin's comment "I don't see any god up here" during his spaceflight; likewise, no mountain climber has found any gods living on top of Mt. Olympus in Greece.

Also, this argument can be turned against the Bible, which clearly supports flat-earthism, as shown in The Flat-Earth Bible . A counterpart to Mt. Meru in it may be the mountain from which the Devil showed Jesus Christ "all the kingdoms of the world".

On top of Mt. Meru is a stack of heavenly worlds, on top of those is a stack of Brahma worlds, and on top of those is a stack of Arupa worlds. Without Mt. Meru, they would have no support, and thus could not exist. De Silva asked why act virtuously and perform good deeds if one has no chance of being reborn in one of these worlds?

He continued by noting that some Buddhist monks have interpreted their mandated celibacy in strange ways; one of them had sex with his mother, another with his sister, and another with a female monkey. And when some monks committed what de Silva described as "the foulest sin, the particulars of which cannot be given", the Buddha treated those acts as minor offenses.

LP: from what he was willing to list, I'm guessing that these were homosexual acts.

About the Buddha's death, he pointed out that the Buddha had died in an entirely normal fashion, of food poisoning from some pork and rice he had eaten, with none of the miracles or divine assistance of the rest of his career.

LP: the same could be said of Jesus Christ's crucifixion.

He ended by saying that believing in Jesus Christ was the only way to Heaven, and he claimed that all the objections to Christianity had been answered, while none of the objections to Buddhism had been.

Ven. Gunananda

He reiterated Eccl. 3:19 on how humanity is fundamentally like the (nonsentient) animals, and rebutted the Revs' claim that some Buddhist doctrine represents a mixed-up view of causality. He went on to explain that if there is any mixed-up causality, it's in the Christian Trinity with the Virgin Mary. Is God her father? Her sort-of husband? Her son?

LP: the Trinity was likely invented to tie up a lot of the theological loose ends of the New Testament; Gunananda is not alone in finding it confusing.

He continued by reiterating his claim that the Bible had once been burnt and re-recorded, and he asked if some of those alleged criminals who achieved enlightement had really been criminals, and claimed that if they had, then they had received appropriate punishments before achieving enlightenment. By comparison, Moses was an unrepentant murderer.

He then claimed that there was nothing in the Buddhist scriptures about the Buddha giving away his wife, and that sins in previous reincarnations should not be held against the Buddha.

About Mt. Meru, he claimed that de Silva was referring to Isaac Newton's theory that night is caused by the Sun being hidden behind the bulk of the Earth instead of behind Mt. Meru.

LP: this was understood long before Isaac Newton, at least as far back as Ptolemy and Aristotle.

He claimed that Newtonianism was not completely accepted, noting the work of a certain R.J. Morrison, and also noting that the Bible, like some Buddhist books, states that the Earth is stationary. (Eccl. 1:5, NIV: The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.)

LP: R.J. Morrison's theories were likely crackpottery, making that gentleman one of the numerous anti-Newton crackpots in the 19th century. However, Gunananda was correct about the Bible stating that the Earth is stationary in some cosmic sense.

He noted that compass needles point northward and not in any other direction, meaning that Mt. Meru must be at the North Pole, and that it must be magnetic. He also claimed that the exact size of a yojana was controversial, meaning that that mountain could be smaller than de Silva thought it is.

LP: it was subsequently discovered that there is no trace of such a mountain at the North Pole. In fact, the Earth's magnetic field is generated in its liquid outer core, whose convection generates electric currents, which in turn, generate those magnetic fields.

And by symmetry, this argument might also "demonstrate" that Mt. Meru is at the South Pole.

After arguing that the misbehavior of some Buddhist monks did not necessarily discredit Buddhism, he pointed out that some Christian clergymen have also been known to misbehave. He continued with mentioning that the Bible has numerous immoralities, like Lot and his daughters' incest and the incest committed by Adam and Eve's children.

He claimed that the pork and rice were not responsible for the Buddha's death, since he was fated to have dropped dead at the date and time he did.

LP: That hooey again? First the Buddha's mother and now the Buddha himself?

At any rate, he claimed, pork was no fundamentally worse than the grasshoppers eaten by John the Baptist.

LP: I think he was right about that.

As to the Buddha being dead, he claimed that part of the Buddha was still "alive" -- his relics -- and that 2500 years from now, they will be gathered at the Bo tree where he achieved enlightenment, where they will assume the form of a living Buddha, preach for a while, and then disappear. And that the Buddha will completely achieve Nirvana when that happens.

LP: I am at a loss for words.

About the Buddha's alleged omniscience, he claimed that it was not the sort of omniscience that the Christian God has, of knowing everything whether he wants to or not, but the ability to know whatever he wants to know. Which thus shields him from all the superabundance of pain and misery and sin and filth in the world.

He asked why Christians attach so much emphasis to the death of Jesus Christ, someone who advised his followers to acquire swords, and someone who had been charged with posing as the king of the Jews.

LP: the implication is that he had provoked his execution by trying to start an armed revolt.

As to the resurrection, the first witness, according to Mark 16:9, was Mary Magdalene, who had seven devils driven out of her. Could she be counted on to be completely sane and reliable?

He seemed to believe in a form of spontaneous generation, in which air, heat, and water produces living things -- whether they be called Brahma, Vishnu, and Iswara, or God, Son, or Holy Ghost. "The spirit of God moved across the waters" he cited as evidence that the Bible agrees with him.

Turning to the Adam and Eve story, and how women were sentenced to give birth painfully as a result of eating that forbidden fruit, he asked why is it that some animals sometimes give birth painfully. Had their ancestors eaten some forbidden fruit also?

LP: Some theologians would claim that that was also due to Adam and Eve eating that fruit; many theologians have claimed that there was no such thing as death before that event, with all animals being vegetarians.

In a final statement, he claimed that the most eminent in all ages had spoken in support of Buddhism, including eminent doctors, astrologers, and the like, and he stated that Buddhism "inculcated the purest morality and urged the necessity of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and charity. It encouraged peace. It tolerated all religions in its midst. It had nothing to fear. It pleaded of men to follow the example of Holy Buddha, and pointed the sick and the sorrowing to the blissful state of Nirvana." After stating that he had proved the truth of Buddhism and the falsehood of Christianity, he urged his listeners to take refuge in Holy Buddha.

His listeners shouted "Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!", but only stopped when he told them to.

The End






Personalities History

Articles Index

J13.02     Galileo and method

Nalin de Silva

Western science is believed to have begun with Galileo when he or his friend dropped two objects of unequal masses from the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy. It is said that in this so called experiment with which Galileo is credited with giving birth to the experimental method, it was shown to the world, at least to those who were present in Pisa on that fateful (or faithful?) day, that bodies of unequal masses dropped from the same height at the same time fall to the ground simultaneously. However, Galileo or his friend did not drop those objects in a vacuum, and he could not create a vacuum around the leaning tower. If a feather and a ball made of iron were dropped from the leaning tower it is quite clear that the ball would have beaten the feather by several minutes. A pundit would say that it is due to the air resistance that the feather takes a long time to reach the ground and if the experiment was done in a vacuum the ball and the feather would have reached the ground simultaneously.

However, what we have to remember is that no vacuum was created around the leaning tower and Galileo left it to the imagination of those who were present to assume that there was a vacuum surrounding the tower. Galileo did not use a feather and a ball as described above in his experiment since if he did so he would not have been able to convince the others. He "constructed" an "apparatus" to demonstrate what he wanted to show and that was the beginning of the experimental method as described by the western scientists and philosophers of western science. What the western scientists would not say is that the people in Pisa on the day of the "experiment" did not see objects falling in a vacuum though they were made to believe that there was a vacuum that has been created by Galileo or somebody else. What Galileo performed in Pisa could be described as a thought experiment as it happened in the imagination of the people.

Of course, the concept of force had not been formulated in the days of Galileo and very few would have imagined air resistance as some sort of a force acting on bodies such as feathers whose densities are low. In any event it cannot be said that the Aristotelian view that was the dominant "theory" before Galileo on falling bodies was mere speculation. The "theory" that if dropped at the same time from the same height, the heavier body falls to the ground before the lighter body is based on observations. It is known that bodies such as iron objects fall to the ground faster than bodies such as feathers. This feature had been observed from time immemorial and no one would have objected to it, and would have been taken as a matter of fact based on observation. In that sense observations had been there prior to Galileo even in Europe. The rest of the world, especially China and South Asia were much ahead of Europe at that time (even today) and in Bharath an experiment had been carried out to determine whether an Athma (soul) escaped from the body after the death of a person. The experiment was very cruel as the Brahmins had killed a person, probably a shudra, to find out whether there was an Athma. Naturally they could not come to any conclusion as they did not observe anything going out of the body after the person was dead.
If Galileo was to conduct this "experiment" he would have concluded that something escaped from the body and that there is an "Athma". He could have argued that we only observe what can be observed and that there are things that cannot be observed and since Athma is something that cannot be observed we could not observe anything escaping from the body of the dead person. If one finds this "argument" ridiculous then one does not know that Galileo showed that the Earth was moving using a similar argument. The essence of the argument is that one observes what can be observed and even if one does not observe something it could be present or is present as it is something that cannot be observed.

The "knowledge" that the Earth moved around the Sun was in Bharath long before Copernicus "discovered" this fact. They would have obtained (constructed) this knowledge through Bhavana and Yoga exercises closing the five sense organs (pancendriya). However as far as people in Bharath was concerned it was only a relative knowledge and not an absolute knowledge as in Astrology they continued to use the Earth centered frames of reference, if I may use a phrase introduced in Newtonian Mechanics. It should be stated that even today there are people in Sri Lanka who gain knowledge through Bhavana and I am of the view that it is the method that had been used by the Sinhala Buddhists to "acquire" knowledge though acquiring as such is not going to help one to attain Nibbana. When the knowledge that had been there in Bharath went to Eastern Europe Copernicus was convinced of it and took that knowledge to Italy when he went there to be trained as a Catholic priest.

Galileo took over from there and began to teach the so called Solar centered theory in Italy. The Pope naturally objected to it as nobody observed that the Earth went round the Sun. All that the people observed was the rising of the Sun and its setting and one could have said that to assume that the Earth moved round the Sun was against the experimental (observational) method. The Pope asked Galileo not to teach this nonsense of the Earth moving round the Sun unless he could prove it to the others. The Pope objected only to teaching but he allowed Galileo to believe it if it was his wish. I think the Pope had been very reasonable compared to some of our so called scientists in Sri Lanka, who are basically sample collectors following set procedures and technicians testing for various substances using known methods. None of these scientists have ever come out with a new theory or a concept but may have published hundreds of papers in so called internationally renowned prestigious journals having done the work of sample collectors and technicians. However these people whose experimental method is confined to mere observations hanging on to what are known as controlled experiments especially in the Biological Sciences object vehemently to knowledge gained through Bhavana. Most of these experimentalists would not have heard of the thought experiments of Galileo and especially of Einstein.

When Galileo was asked to prove his theory (it’s neither his theory nor that of Copernicus but Bharath Theory) he did not engage in either Bhavana or Yoga exercises (respectively Buddhist and Hindu methods of gaining knowledge) and had to resort to abstract thinking. Probably both Galileo and Copernicus and some others in Eastern and Southern Europe at that time had an intuitive feeling that the Earth went round the Sun rather than the other way around and had no difficulty in believing the new theory. However, for the rest of the people who depended on their pancendriya, like the good Pope, there was no reason why they should believe that the earth went round the sun. Besides, they had strong evidence to show that the earth did not move. Their argument was very simple. An object dropped from a certain height takes a non zero time to reach the ground. If the earth moved, during this time the point on the earth just below vertically the point from which the body was dropped would have moved away resulting the body dropped to fall at a distant point. For example a coconut would fall to the ground at a point away from the coconut tree probably in the neighbour’s garden if not on the roof of his home.

Now Galileo had a problem. He had to explain why the bodies fell vertically. After all the balls he or his friend dropped from the leaning tower fell vertically defying the theory that the earth moved. Galileo came with an ingenious argument. He introduced the so called concept of relative motion. According to him the dropped objects moved horizontally (parallel to the earth) with the earth, as they also had the same horizontal velocities being connected to the earth through the person who dropped them. Thus the horizontal velocities of the objects relative to the earth were zero. Galileo said we observe only non zero velocities relative to us. The only non zero relative velocities of the objects that were dropped were their vertical velocities and hence we observed only their vertical motion. We do not observe their horizontal relative velocities but that only means that they move with the same velocities as the earth. Therefore the earth moves or at least nobody could say that the earth does not move.

01 06 2011 - The Island





Personalities History

Articles Index

J13.03     The distorted heritage of Buddhist sites

Rohan L. Jayetilleke

One of the most baffling problems of the history of Indian culture and religion is the question, ‘Why and how did Buddhism decline in India?' After disseminating the Buddha’s teachings to all parts of India of the then known world in the sixth century BC, that it should be lost to the land of its birth and growth is a paradox and misfortune with profound implications. Various reasons have been adduced for the disappearance, of which all of them are partially true. It should be classified as; (i) Spiritual decline and factionalism among Buddhists: (ii) Strong sectarian Brahaminic and Hinduistic opposition within India; (iii) Systematic destruction of Buddhist institutions such as Nalanda and other universities and plunder of stupas and monasteries by alien Islamic invaders such as Magamud Ghor in the eleventh century and hostile indigenous forces.

Today even the history of the Buddhist sites is distorted and displayed in the signboards erected for the benefit of visitors and pilgrims. These histories are based on mythical epics such as Mahabharata or Ramayana, as the archaeologists both of the British time and of present India are not learned in the Sutta Pitaka (discourses) and Vinaya Pitaka (Discipline) wherein there are chronological details of the life and times of the Buddha and the places he trod during the forty-five year long mission on foot and of his disciples. These accounts have been well rehearsed at the first Buddhist Council held just three months after the Mahapariniravana of the Buddha by Arahants Ananda and Upali, who had mastered the Master’s doctrines enunciated in Suttas (discourses) and Vinaya rules (discipline) respectively, in the second Council held hundred years thereafter at Vesali and the third Council held in the third century BC during the reign of Emperor Asoka at Pataliputta (modern Patna). Finally the oral traditions of the Tripitaka were committed to writing in the first century BC, at Matale, Sri Lanka. These Councils were not conducted with all facilities for debate and arguments and a finality was reached not by a majority vote but by a consensus of all participants. Therefore, as India has no records of history like Sri Lanka’s chronicles, such as Mahavamsa, Culavamsa etc., the best source of recorded history first by the oral tradition and thereafter the written tradition is the Tripitaka and the history of India as such has to be assimilated and studied exclusively through the Tripitakas and not on Vedic traditions, which are just an avalanche of prayers and modes of sacrifices to god Brhama and other pantheon of Vedic gods.

In a nutshell the Indian history actually begins with the story of the Buddha Gotama’s life in the sixth century BC; or to put it more succinctly, that is the point where history as record replaces archaeology and legend; for the documents of Buddha’s life and teaching—the earliest Indian document to be accorded historical standing—reveal a civilisation already stable and highly developed which can only have matured after a very long period indeed.
The locus of most of the Buddha’s activities was in Maghadha, which was formed by the amalgamation of kingdoms of Anga and Maghadha with Rajagaha (modern Rajgri). The kingdoms of Kasi and Kosala became the kingdom of Kosala, with kings Bimbisara and Prasenajit, two Buddhist votaries.

The capital of Kosala was Savatthi (modern Saheth Mahet). Two other kingdoms were Vatsa and Avanthi. The capital of Vatsa was Kosambi under the rulership of Udena. Ujjaini was the capital of Avanthi, under the king Pajjotha. Monasteries were build by kings and merchants and chieftains in Maghada, Kosala and Vatsa. Veluvanaramaya of Rajagha in Maghadha, Jetavanaramaya of Savatthi in Kosala and Ghositaramaya of the city of Kosambi in Vatsa, were some of the main monasteries Buddha stayed in. Therefore, in recording the history of places of Buddhist worship in Indian signboards erected at these sites, the Archaeological Survey of India could obtain the assistance of the Maha Sangha of Sri Lanka, who are well versed in the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas and draft these legends correctly rather than pursue nondescriptive exercises.
Distorted place names

The Indian State governments have taken action to revise the city names of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay as Kolkata, Chennai, and Mumbai respectively. However no action has yet been taken by other State governments to revise the historic names as per the Buddhist history, which is Indian history proper of places connected with Buddhism.

The first and foremost is the capital of Emperor Asoka, presently called Patna. Before Asoka this city was called Pataligama and its name was changed to Pataliputta with the building of the new town Pataliputta, which became the famous capital of Asoka’s empire, which had grown out of the kingdom of Maghadha. Asoka after his conversion visited Lumbini, with the royal preceptor Maha Moggaliputta Tissa Thera and erected a pillar with the inscription to mark the place of birth of Prince Siddartha (later Buddha). "When King Devanampriya Priyadarshini had been anointed twenty years he came himself and worshipped (this spot) because the Buddha Sakyamuni was born here" (The Rummindei Pillar Edict of Asoka). Lumbini is now called Rummindei. It is a village in the Nepalese Terai. It is in the Bithri district of Nepal and not very far from the Basti district in Uttar Pradesh of India. The Asoka pillar still stands girdled by an iron fence and there is not even an altar for devotees to offer flowers, light incense and lamps and these have to be laid on the ground. A few feet away from the pillar a Japanese monastery is coming up and the birth place of Prince Siddartha is not given the due respect it deserves by the Nepalese government. There are only three sal trees now, at the main entry to the monastery built later and other have been cut down. These are not the sal trees of Sri Lanka which bear flowers on the trunk but fairly tall trees with a sweet scented small flower blooming at the far end of the branches in season.

Enlightenment path
Emperor Asoka with the assistance of his preceptor Maha Magalliputta Tissa Thera (otherwise known as Upagupta) traced the places Prince Siddartha on having renounced household life, set out in quest of Enlightenment, which took him six years. He finally reached the Maha Bodhi Tree at Buddha Gaya.

Prince Siddarth’s journey was from Kapilavatthu, through crossing river Anoma - Rampurva (Ramagrama - modern West Champaran district of Bihar State) - Lauriya Nandanager - Lauriya Araraj - Kesaputta - Vaisali - crossing Ganges river - Pataliputra - Nalanda - Rajagaha - Tapodarama - Gaysisa - Uruvela - crossing Neranjana river and finally Buddha Gaya Maha Bodhi Tree.

This entire route is around 675 miles and Prince Siddartha would have covered around 50 to 60 miles on horse back (Kanthaka) with the horse keeper Channa and covered the balance of over 600 miles on foot, studying under the ascetics Alara Kalama and Udaka Ramaputra and also engaging in self-mortification in the quest of Enlightenment.

River Anoma is now called Haraborah distorting the original name. About 40 miles away from Kapilavatthu, the birth place of the Buddha to the east is Ramagrama. According to the travel records of Hieun Tsing, a king of this place had obtained some relics of the Buddha from the funeral pyre at Kusinara and built a stupa 100 ft high and there was also a monastery with a few bhikkhus. He further says about 100 miles away is a large stupa built by Asoka identifying the place as the spot where Prince Siddartha changed his royal attire to that of an ascetic and directed his horse keeper to return to the palace with the horse.

This Chinese pilgrim monk further says a short distance away from this Asoka stupa was the place where the prince shaved his head. There too Asoka had built a stupa called Kesoropana cetiya. In the north east direction of this stupa about 190 miles away in a desert in a nuga grove was a 30 feet high stupa built by a brahamin who had been late to call over at the Kusinara pyre, and procured some ashes from the pyre and built the Angara cetiya. None of these places are identified by the Indian archaeologists and no excavations have been done so far.

Lauriya Araraj is the place where ascetic Alara Kalama’s ashram was. Here Asoka set up a pillar with inscriptions. At Lauriya Nandanagar too Asoka set up a pillar with ‘Dharma lipi’. Kessaputta was the place where ascetics of the Kalama race were residing. It was here Buddha expounded the famous Kalamasutta, wherein Kalamas were advised to be rational in thought and action and not to be blindly guided by traditions, scriptures, teachers etc. This place, Kessaputta, is now mysteriously called Kesiya, which name has no relation with the old village of Kesaputta.

Lama monastery
Senanigama where Sujatha offered thick ‘milk payasa’ to the prince who was seated under the Ajapala Tree (Goatherd’s cetiya) is now called ‘Bakaror’ which has no connection with the life and times of the Buddha. Uruvela hill where the prince was engaged in self-mortification is now called Lungeshvari, which too is a distortion, in order to connect the place with god Ishwara of the Hindu pantheon. During the time of Asoka it was called Pargbodhi parvatha (the Chief cetiya hill). Presently this hill has a monastery of Lamas from Tibet, who are experts in living on hill peaks, who do a wonderful reception to pilgrims giving them a herbal drink (ranavara) with sugar on one’s palm. From the bus stop one has to traverse about three miles to reach the foot of the hill and nearly a thousand under 15 beggar boys and girls pursue you begging not for food but money and if not given they snatch your bag or your umbrella or whatever you have. This is a most risky journey for even about two miles uphill these urchins pursue. If they are not given money they will stone your buses as you leave. This area needs police protection and it is high time Bihar police took some action to secure the life and limb and belongings of pilgrims. Rumour had it that a Korean monk who wanted to lay a carpet road to this place, was murdered to rob his money and belongings. This road project is now abandoned and it is now just an apology for a road, with human excreta all over the place left by the urchins and the villagers.

A Japala Nuga Tree was situated in the eastern section of Maha Bodhi across the river Neranjana. Presently the place is marked on the east point of entry to Maha Bodhi. Mucalinda cetiya is situated about two miles from the Neranjana river’s upper bank. Even now this village is called Muchalinda. The present Muchalinda pond had been built when the Maha Bodhi Vihara was built. The earlier site is now only a mound of earth. The present statue with the hooded cobra sheltering the Buddha and amidst the pond had been built by Burmese. 

Tapassu and Bhalluka
The seventh week after Enlightenment was spent by Buddha under Rajayatana Cetiya or Tree. The sign board erected by the Indian archaeological authorities calls Rajayatana a Forest Tree. This is completely incorrect. This tree was called Rajayatana because it was the place of worship of the Vedic warrior or Kshtriya clan (Kings). According to the Veda, the Sanskrit term ‘Rajayana’ is warrior clan. Buddha had bidded his time in such places of worship of followers of Brahaminism. It was while at this tree that the two merchants of Orissa, Tapassu and Bhalluka offered honey and ‘vilanda’ and who became the first lay disciples of the Buddha, having taken refuge in the Buddha and the Dhamma as the Sangha had not been formed at the time.

First stupa in Lanka
The two merchants having asked the Buddha for mementos were given hair relics and Mahawansa states that the Girihanduseya off Kuccaveli was built by them enshrining the relics, which could be the first Stupa in Sri Lanka. The port of entry to the Indian Ocean from eastern India then was the port of Tamrapti on the eastern coast of India with direct connections with the then trading centre Champa. It is possible that these sea-faring merchants were trading with Sri Lanka in spices and gems and their port of call in Sri Lanka was Gonagamaka (present Trincomalee). Burmese too claim that Shedagon Cetiya of Rangoon was built by these two merchants. It may be as they got eight hair relics, they built another cetiya in Burma at Rangoon, a port of call for their trade with Burma.

‘Sammukkha Cetiya’
Having attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree at Gaya, spending seven weeks at different places in the vicinity of Vajrasana (seat of Enlightenment) Buddha left the Rajayatana Tree and proceeded on foot to Migadaya (Deer Park) Isipatana, Varanasi (Banarasi) a distance of 120 miles and reached the destination to expound his first sermon ‘Turning the Wheel of Dhamma’ (Cakkapavattana Sutta) to his erstwhile five friends who associated with him at Uruvela in exercising acts of self-mortification, in quest of Enlightenment: Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji (incidentally Kondanna was the youngest brahamin who attended Prince Siddartha’s naming ceremony and foretold emphatically that the prince would certainly become a Buddha and who became the first Arahant having listened to the First Sermon of the Buddha).

On seeing the Buddha approaching them from a distance they decided not to welcome this. But as he approached they knew that there was a marked difference in him and welcomed him. The place where the five ascetics met the Buddha was consecrated by a king with a small stupa called ‘Sammukkha Cetiya’ the stupa where the meeting took place. Emperor Asoka enlarged it and this stupa was ransacked and decapitated by Muslim invaders in the eleventh century AD, and on top of it a mosque was erected and named ‘Chaukandhi’ and still bears this name although the mosque is not functional.
The site with destroyed stupas, only with the plinth and walls about five feet in height and mounds of earth, commemorated by kings and by Asoka with larger stupas and monasteries later, where the sacred bone relics distributed among eight royal claimants by Brahamin is called in the signboard in situ as ‘Sona Bhandar’. Nobody knows what or how this Sona Bhandar is and there is no such person mentioned in the Mahaparinirvana sutta.

The site in Sankassa where Buddha ascended to earth after having delivered his teachings on Abhidhamma to his mother in Tusita heaven is surprisingly now called Sankissa.

Many of the Buddhist sites have no signboards and even if they do they are complete distortions. Most of the Buddhist sites are in the present huge State of Bihar. Neither the Bihar State Government, Indian Department of Tourism nor the Archaeological Survey of India are interested in rectifying these visible distortions. The Maha Bodhi Society of India, The Maha Bodhi Society of Sri Lanka (two independent organisations with no mutual linkages) and the so-called Buddhist groups, societies and associations in Sri Lanka have never made any representations over these distortions to the Indian authorities. This was revealed to me when I met some Indian archaeologists at New Delhi recently.

Every three-wheeler and heavy duty lorry in India with the Tri-Colour legend ‘INDIA IS GREAT’ on the reverse, gives a vivid manifestation of the Indian psyche. It would be ‘GREATER’ if these Buddhist site names are revised as per the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas. In this task the Archaeological Survey of India and the Bihar State Government and the Department of Tourism of India should appoint a committee with Indian archaeologists and some erudite Sri Lankan Buddhist monks to examine the present names of sites and signboards and revise them according to the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas. On inquiry from Indian archaeologists I gathered that they are not learned in the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas and only follow the distorted Buddhist histories written by Westerners and fanatic Hindus, devaluing Buddhism and revaluing Hinduism.

‘Cart Wheels’
The height or zenith of hilarity and absurdity is commemorated at the site called ‘Cart Wheels’ now called the place where Krishna and his charioteer Arjuna had a fight. This is the place where during the lifetime of the Buddha the illegitimate son of king Prasenadi, Vidhudhaba born of a slave girl, when he sought the hand of a Sakyan princess in marriage, was insulted by the courtiers of Prasenadi, washing the chair on which he sat. Vidhudhaba struck with vengeance invaded Prasenadi’s kingdom twice and Buddha prevented these military pursuits. Finally he invaded a third time and put to the sword almost all the Sakyans of Kapilavattu and elsewhere, and some fled to Nepal and Sri Lanka. On his return after this murderous adventure Vidhudhaba’s cart got stuck. In the night there was a great flood and Vidhudhaba and his troops met with their death. This is narrated in the Sutta Pitaka.

25 01 2003 - The Island





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J13.04     Liberation of the individual in Buddhism

Ellawla Nandisvara Nayaka thera

The Buddha whilst addressing the monks once said, "O monks, within this fathom long body, are the world, the origin of the world, the ceasing of the world and the path leading to its cessation"

The world where the problem arises and the solution is discovered is in no other sphere than the every day world of ours with all its frivolities, corruption, delusions, superstitions and ostentation. This arena of the terrestrial sphere is the stage for man’s endeavours failures and perfection’s. It is humanity’s task to make or mar itself in this plane of material existence. Is the homosapiens essaying to evaluate his latent powers to eliminate future chaos or is he dilly dallying with his valuable life?

The Buddha says, "during your vital days having not observed celibacy nor even having accumulated wealth in your youth, are you now anxiously vituperating yourself like the crane that scrutinizes the dried bed of muddy pool freed of all aquatic life." Thousands of millions are faced with this problem at the even tide of life, alas! repentance comes too late and the injury is already wrought and redemption quite remote.

We are living in an era when spiritual values have become mere by words. The hurry and scurry of industrialization and consequent urbanization of life have to a great extent inculcated an intrepid ruffled mind in man and the patient tranquillity of the noble homosapiens has receded to the background. Is man eternally damned in this nuclear age to be a victim of the very product of his genius, and succumb to irrevocable fate of callous destruction? Couldn’t mankind be saved from this dire fate? The fatalist will conclude that the world will have its own solution to evils that spring in this tide of time but still mankind could be sculpted away to safety before the catastrophe occurs.

Though a prince and heir to the throne he shunned all claims to the kingdom. He was an analytical researcher. His aspiration was to discover truth in its stark naked form. At an early age he discovered that the luxurious dispensation of his father's palace nor the three palaces congenial for his lonely quest.
In his twenty ninth year being utterly bored with frivolity and indulgence in royal paraphernalia he fled into the dark night in his quest for truth and liberation from worldly cares.

He practised the severest of penance and observed austerity to a degree one could hardly imagine. Yet did he fail to solve the problem of life and death? He was disappointed that the erstwhile Gurus had failed to guide him to any successful degree in his quest and now he began scrutinizing within himself the answer to the question that mankind had ever been faced with.

He was earnest in his quest, dauntless in his efforts, despite occasional failure’ he possessed the highest possible sense of reality. The qualities of earnestness, sincerity and reality ushered him forth into the luminous path.

Having discovered the path of emancipation from suffering, the Buddha did not rest contented. He yearned to liberate mankind from its austere role of lethargic surrender to the way of the flesh and body. He had now been convinced that the path of deliverance for mankind lay in the midst of morality, discipline and wisdom. These were realizable by liberating the mind from worldly cares through physical and mental restrain. Discipline endowed one with knowledge and for discipline the moral background was vital.

The Buddha was motivated by his unique devotion for the uplifitment of mankind from the sensual lives that had ensnared him. His compassion for all living phenomena was limitless, but his endeavours to release humanity from woe were particular after his attainment of Buddhahood. For forty-five years he traversed through the length and breadth of India exhorting men and women preaching the message of deliverance and peace. His entire life is an unbroken record of service to humanity.

The Buddha did not feign the achievement as exclusive to himself. The aspiration for such enlightenment as Buddhahood was within the ken on any human being provided he had the strength, inclination and the background of morality befitting such a status. It is a result of endeavours in millions of lives in the antique past and may take aeons for perfection. Those who aim at such a lofty goal may right in earnest practice the tenfold endeavours for perfection and achieve the crowning joy of his endeavours in the future.

The Buddha brought into the sphere of daily life action and result. Man and animal were motivated in their behaviour by long habits. Habit is an inheritance from parents or associates but certain peculiarities in behaviour depend upon past conditioning. This mind is not a product of this life; it is a residue of recollections from past lives. The action of the past, influences the results in this life. It is this law of Karma and result that distributed mankind in various stations of life. It is Karma that shaped the millionaires and paupers; it is Karma that decided the noble and ignoble, the same Karma created wise and delinquent. The universal law of cause and effect played a paramount role in the destinies of mankind. Its cycle of result has inexorable and spontaneous impact upon the law of causation that Buddha built upon the chain of dependent origination (Paticca Samuppada).

All component matters (Sanskaras) are ephemeral in nature and being constituted or component is destructible. Corporeality of man is in Mind and Matter (Nama Rupa) the physical and mental elements. The mental elements are further sub divided into Vedana (Sensation), Sanna (Perception), Samkhara (complexes or mental activities or even mind and mental committances), Vinnana (conception or cognisance). These five aggregates - Rupa, Vedana Sanna, Samkhara and Vinnana constitute ‘ego’ or I.

Life is a flux a stream of energy flowing forth. Often it has been named a combustion that consumes itself not remaining the same any two seconds. No permanent self abides besides the stream of activity. The arising of the aggregate and their momentary changes are in accordance with the universal law of flux, therefore the sensations arise and are lost forever in a moment.

Man is an absolute product of his Karma and its influence pervades throughout his life. The Buddha’s teaching was phenomenalistic. Twenty centuries later David Hume expresses his imagination in these terms "I never can catch myself at any time without a perception and never can observe anything but the perception, what we call the mind is nothing but a heap or bundle of different perception united together by certain relationship". In the empirical sense the individual exists but Buddhism refuses to accept a permanent self unchanging whilst all around it is subjected to catacysanic changes. Man’s personality in existence is a fact but seeking a permanent residue besides the self is non-factual. Reality necessarily need not be eternity. It is the thirst for life that upholds existence repeating itself now here now there; the unsatiated desire for existence craves clinging. The five forms of clinging to body, sensation, perception, mental activities and consciousness reproduce the individual in corporeal form.

Every moment of the individual’s existence is the creation of a fresh form for the future. Every action accumulates a fresh stream of newer energy reflecting upon his future abode. This stream of energy links man and animal from birth to birth. In each cycle of birth it is not the same being that is born nor is he distinctively another as he inherits the same conditioned mind from the current sphere.

Individuals are divisible according to the inherent traits of character. The Buddha makes three main divisions namely, the Raga, Dosa, and Moha Charitas. The one filled with lust and is beguiled by luxury, music, art and entertainment, ever indulging in fragrance and beauty falls with the first category of ‘Raga’. The second type ‘Dosa’ has morose, unfriendly, selfish qualities. He avoids contact with the world, as he is unable to bear the comforts and happiness of others. The third is harmless; he is neither indulgent nor vindictive but being less intelligent is unable to take advantage of the opportunities that befall him.

In another category three individuals are displayed in accordance with their mental leanings. They are the Saddha (devotional), Buddhi (intelligent), Vitakka (dubious) characters. The first is highly sensitive and emotional and is rapidly convinced in the efficacy of a doctrine or dogma and accepts it without further question. The second type, the intelligent one scrutinizes probes and questions every matter before he accepts something and being convinced does not reject it. The third type, the dubious one is the most difficult to convince even after conviction still he doubts whether he is correct. He does not accept the words of teacher unless he has all his doubts dispelled.

The individual is born to a world of utter consternation. Those that had not fully comprehended the implications of his doctrine of liberation have often called the Buddha a pessimist.

The Buddha was always optimistic. he was not fatalistic. Even the worst of sinners like Angulimala the murderer or Ambapali the courtesan, or even Sunita the out caste? He endeavoured to liberate from their abject destiny. He made a saint of Angulimala, a liberated virtuous nun of Ambapali and a profoundly learned saint of Sunita the night soil cleaner. He scrutinized the latent powers of the individual, read his psychic yearning and then suggested the cure for his Sansaric malady. True pessimist would have abhorred the patronage of the patricide Ajasatta. He knew well that Bimbisara was done to death by his son but for his future benefit he urged him to be righteous and he became a great devotee of the Buddha. Even after the passing away of the Buddha Ajatasatta was responsible for the first council of Elders conducted at Rajagaha.

The truth of Dukkha cannot be sufficiently interpreted by rendering it as suffering. Dukkha means something profoundly deeper that the shallow idea of common suffering. It implies the state of utter conflict, frustration, incompleteness, non adoptability and withal the constant failure to beget what one aspires for. Among the individuals of this world is there one that could say that he has had a sweet bed of roses in life. The constant struggle for existence is the sum total of Dukkha.

The Buddha discovered pain disease, suffering and death in the world of individuals but he did not surrender himself to this woe, as a pessimist; he was optimistic that there was a path to curb suffering and through travail and tribulation he discovered this path. This path of emancipation from suffering, disease and death as he revealed to the world.

The root cause of Dukkha is the conditional craving or thirst for existence, worldly indulgence and final annihilation. This craving or Tanha is mundane, therefore he alone could impede its further growth. The Buddha does not accept that man is fore ordained a sinner or does he suffer from innate depravity. No atonement for sins committed could assuage their after effects. Acts once committed cannot be redeemed. Every action has its own result though it may not be immediate. 

You are your own deliverer, why look for external aid? By cleansing your own self you could reach the loftiest of goals. In the process of cleansing he emphasized, morality, discipline and wisdom. Meditation was the process for emancipation.

The Buddha prescribed a path of morality in the noble eightfold path; but he did not force his doctrine upon the throat of his listeners. He exhorted that doctrine or dogma should not be able to understand the spirit of the teaching beyond all doubt, then alone should it be accepted. The Buddha ushered a charter of free will and expressed that man should have the fundamental freedom to exercise his discretion in choosing his religion and worship. He also conceded man’s right to freedom of expression. Simultaneously he should be accorded complete liberty to follow his livelihood without hindrance.

The great charter of freedom of living, freedom of speech, freedom of religious pursuit and liberty to choose ones profession or vocation was propounded by the Buddha to the society of his era. Kings were encouraged to concede these fundamental liberties to their subjects, if the subjects were to be loyal to the kings.

The Buddha did not exhort the individual to be a pauper. He was permitted to amass wealth by moral methods of trade, agriculture, state service etc., wealth, he said, was like a venomous snake; it should always be under control or else it would turn back and sting the possessor. A wealthy master should possess or cultivate the friendship of faithful, intelligent, liberal and virtuous ones who would not abuse his benevolence.

Among trades he forbade the selling of arms for destructive ends, sale of poison or animals for slaughter, slavery and fraudulent practices in trade he frowned against. The sale of manufacture of liquor too he disapproved.

Among trades he forbade the selling of arms for destructive ends, sale of poison or animals for slaughter, slavery and fraudulent practices in trade he frowned against. The sale of manufacture of liquor too he disapproved.

Among trades he forbade the selling of arms for destructive ends, sale of poison or animals for slaughter, slavery and fraudulent practices in trade he frowned against. The sale of manufacture of liquor too he disapproved.

A layman who leads a family life must have four forms of happiness:
1. economic security (atthi sukha),
2. disposition to spend his wealth upon family (bhoga sukha),
3. freedom from debts and obligation ( anana sukha),
4. contentment, because he is free from all evil (anavjja sukha),

A house holder that does not possess these four securities pours tears upon his hearth.

Liberty, equanimity and fraternity are the echoes from the Buddha’s teaching. All men were born free, therefore they should not be impeded in any, way from enjoying the fundamental liberties. All beings in the world had the right to be equal with all others, therefore his freedom to move about in the society should not be restricted. Mankind was one fraternity therefore differentiation was immoral. It was the effort of Lord to weave humanity into one brotherhood.

The Buddha was a great democrat. The Sangha Council that the Buddha founded is the oldest democratic institution in the world. Each member possessed a vote and by common polling they choose their seniors in the event of un-unanimity. On the eve of his final demise the Buddha refused to appoint or name his successor. He allowed the monks themselves to choose their leader in accordance with seniority. Here again he upheld the individual liberty to choose his own path.

He extolled the position of women of his day. He refused to accept the idea of a slavish life to her husband. In family life the husband and wife are equal partners. One is not superior to the other. They should equally endeavour to maintain the integrity of the family and its economic balance. Woman that had no position whatsoever hitherto was given major responsibility by Lord Buddha’s acceptance of equality of opportunities to all irrespective of sex. Even in this modern era women in certain countries are struggling for their liberation. Women of India, the Buddha liberated two thousand five hundred years ago.

The Buddha also elaborated the principles upon which the individual should be placed in society. He has to be courteous, charitable, hospitable and compassionate towards all members of his company. He should consider their happiness as his own.

Nirvana or release of the Individual
Nirvana is the summum bonum of all mundane endeavours for the individual. The hitherto worldly being arise from the residue of his Karma into a state where he accumulates no further Karmic resources. This state is achievable by the focusing of the mundane mind upon the ultra mundane path. The worldly fetter of sensual attachment, ill will, slothfulness, torpor, concur and doubt are cleared by the stream-enterer. The state of Nirvana is a psychic experience. Its empiric implication cannot be expressed but is to be experienced. The psychic power ever sweeps the physical background and all craving for worldly attachment ceases. The thick curtain of ignorance that concealed reality from him is dispelled, he visualizes an ethereal world hitherto invisible to him. Divine power of perephin and audience he begets and in a cavalcade visualizes his past lives in the ocean of existence. Beings leaving the world and sweeping into fresh form he beholds; he reads the Karmic forces that guide them in their new abodes. He sees the reality of the celestials but has ceased to pine for such spheres. His mind flutter not for fresh grasping or fresh anchor upon life. Lives lures have been satiated permanently.

Does a permanent existence lie in Nirvana? Nirvana is the final attainment of a state of deliverance. Beyond this stage no individual exists. The being proper ceases to be. Nirvana is not a sphere of existence as erroneously connoted. It is non-existence but the saint that attains Nirvana lives until the final release of his form with the five aggregates. At the final release he is said to have attained the state of Pari-Nirvana - cessation of corporeality.

Then the argument arises that Nirvana is Nihilism but the Buddha had always rejected Nihilism as an extreme view not compatible with the via media path that he elaborated on the noble eight fold path. Our endeavours to visualize the experiences of the supra mundane sphere, living a materialist life in the sensual sphere will be totally inadequate. The Empiric State of Nirvana is for the exalted Arahant to experience, not for the worldly one to elaborate.

Vaccagotta, a Brahmin once requested the Buddha to explain the question regarding time and eternity and the Buddha’s reply to him was "The doctrine is indeed profound, scarce would you comprehend, the implication is beyond your power but it excellent, beyond the sphere of reasoning and so subtle that only the enlightened could approach it".

Khanti paramam tapo titikkha - nibbanam paramam vadanti buddha;
nahi pabbajito parupaghati, - samano hoti param vihenthayanto,

The Buddha specifies that Nibbana is the noblest of spiritual attainments.





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J13.05     Real happiness through Buddhist teachings

P. S. Mahawatte

We sometimes hear of people of other faiths and even some Buddhists saying that Buddhism is all about Dhukka - suffering, decay and death and does not allow us to "enjoy life". Some even describe it as morbid.

Buddha Dhamma on the contrary, teach us to live a life of real happiness in peace and tranquillity. What is this pleasure we are looking for? "Pleasure born of sensuality are proceeded and followed by troubles and pain. It is very nice while we are scratching a rash, but how do you feel when you stop! It is due to our non understanding of this profound Dhamma that we feel that Buddhism deny happiness. Let us listen to the Buddha in the Ariyapariyesana Sutta after attaining Enlightenment "I considered; This Dhamma that I have attained is profound, hard to see and hard to understand, peaceful and sublime, unattainable by mere reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in worldliness. It is hard for such a generation to see this truth, namely specific conditionality, dependent origination and stilling of all formations, the relinquishing of all attachements, the destruction of craving, dispassion, cessation nibbana." Yet, the Buddha out of Maha Karuna - deep compassion (Vijja Charana) preached this profound dhamma for 45 years and many desciples with little "dust" in their eyes benefitted by attaining Arahathhood and other levels of wisdom.

The Buddha is venerated as Samma Sambhuddo because the Buddha perfected by himself. He owes His enlightenment to none. It is not the work of a God granting it to Him nor an incarnation of some god." Buddha Dhamma as I understand is to show us the way to overcome dhukka and lead a peaceful satisfied life. The Buddha after explaining the PATTICCHASAMUPPADA says "So bhikkus you have been guided by me with this Dhamma which is:

Visible here and now - Sandhittika
Immediately effective - Akalika
Inviting inspection - Ehipassiko
Inward leading - Opanaiko

to be experienced by the wise for themselves. (Mahatanha Sankaya Sutta) The important thing to note from this is that the Dhamma explained by the Buddha is to guide His desciples and are not commandments. This Dhamma is Visible here and now. He is not asking people to just believe in Him. He is not claiming any divinity. But the Buddha wants His desciples to develop their own minds by developing Wisdom towards which the Buddha has shown the Way. You can achieve Mokshya or Nibbana in this very life. You don’t have to wait till you die to achieve mokshya. Buddha was not interested in finding us an abode in some heaven but to help us to get rid of this suffering which we have to go through every second of our present life. Patticchasamuppada (Dependent origination) is the Core Buddha Dhamma. When this dhamma was explained by the Buddha Ven. Ananda said "This Dhamma is easy to understand Ven Sir". The Buddha admonished Ven Ananada "Do not say so Ananda, it is profound" and repeated it. This Dhamma is so profound that different writers have interpreted differently. As I understand it’ this Dhamma of dependent origination is wholly applicable to this life and not to past and future lives. Let us consider the following Buddha word because we place so much importance to past kamma vipaka and ruin our peace of mind causing us Dhukka.

"Kammavipaka bhikkave acinteyyo na cintetabba, yam cintento ummadassa vighatassa bhagi assa. The ripening of action (kammavipaka) monks is unthinkable, should not be thought, for one thinking it would come to madness and distraction." Translation from late Bhikku Nanavira’s book Clearing the Path. This was also explained by George Grimm in his book "The Doctrine of the Buddha" as follows:— "The harvest of our karma is uncertain and because of its extreme complexity that the fruits of deeds is one of the Four Inscrutable things about which one ought not to brood because who broods about them will fall prey to delusion or to mental disturbance".

Today the use of Karma Vipaka gives the wrong impression that Buddhism is fatalism. Almost everything that happens to one is explained away as past karma. If we attribute every good or adverse occurrence in our lives to past karma, then we cannot be held responsible for our actions. Crafty politicians can use this to console poor people. On a personal note I was operated on by a well known doctor for a simple cataract. He damaged my cornea in the process and I am partially blind. I did not want at any stage to accept that this was due to some past bad kamma of mine that this happened to me. I was convinced that this was due to sheer carelessness and negligence on the part of this doctor towards whom I do not have any animosity. But if he accepts that it is so, he will undoubtedly be suffering in this life mental pain which is the Vipaka for his careless action - Kamma. The damage has been done and I am hoping to get this put right by a more competent doctor and when my sight is restored, I am vindicated.

Very often karma vipaka theory is inadvertently used to create more attachment which the Dhamma explain is the root cause of our suffering dhukka. After every alms giving, our bhikkus explain the virtue of giving of alms and sharing the merits with the dead relatives. But what creates further attachment is when we are told that as a result of the alms given, we could be born in one of the heavens after death and lead an extremely happy and joyous and pleasurable life! Thus greed is created. So most of us look forward to get to one of the heavens and enjoy the pleasures of the sense organs, more than attaining Nibbana! But none of us will give up one second of life in this earth to go to these pleasurable abodes because of our thirst for existence (Upadana pacchaya Bhavo).

Our parents in their wisdom used this kammavipaka concept to instill in us from our very young days Hiri Otappa -fear and shame to commit unwholesome acts such as destroying life, stealing and telling untruths. Even today in our old age, this hiri otappa is restraining us from unwholesome acts.
When asked how His desciples who lived a simple and quiet life with only one meal a day were so radiant, the Buddha replied" They do not repent the past, nor do they brood over the future. They live in the present. Therefore, they are radiant. By brooding over the future and repenting the past, fools dry up like green reeds cut down (in the sun)". We spend almost all our lives either thinking of the past or thinking of the future. Hardly a moment of the present; It is Bhavana that trains us to think of the present. Sathi Sampajano - Mindfully Aware.

The Buddha was asked "Visibly present Nibbana they say; how now dear Gotama is Nibbana visible and present, inviting to come and see, leading to the goal, intelligible to the wise, each for himself ? "Inflamed by desire, evil-disposed by hate, confused by delusion, we think of hurting ourselves, we think of hurting others, hurting both ourselves and others and feel Mental Pain and Grief. But if we have abandoned Desire, Abandoned Hate, Abandoned Delusion, then we do not think anymore of hurting ourselves or others and we do not feel Mental Pain and Grief. Thus O Brahamin,Nibbana is visible and present inviting to come and see, leading to the Goal, intelligible to the Wise, each for himself". (The Doctrine of the Buddha" by George Grimme) So it is quite clear that Nibbana could be achieved in this very life and Buddhism is the only religion that makes it possible to achieve Mokshya - Nibbana in this life. In all other religions, one cannot achieve Mokshya before death.

That is why the Buddha Dhamma is Sandhttika, Akaliko, Eheipassiko, Opanaiko to be realised by the wise by themselves. Nirvana cannot be achieved by prayer, or through Gods Love. Nirvana can only be achieved by ones own effort. The Buddha Dhamma is for the energetic and not for the lazy. The lazy person will try to find all manner of excuses such as the ones I mentioned at the beginning.






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J13.06     Rebirth: can we discard as mere fantasy or fiction?

Prof. Nimal Senanayake (Head of the Department of Medicine Peradeniya University) recently dealt on this subject, when he delivered Prof. Rajasuriya Memorial Oration at a meeting of the College of Physicians, in Colombo. We decided to publish some excerpts from his speech, which was on 'rebirth' itself from a scientific point of view, as the areas he dealt with appeals to the reader with an analytical mind, and the subject itself is widely popular with the average reader, and also the speaker being a medical professional we believe the subject matter is not out of place to this page.

Prof. Stevenson's book

Referring to Prof. Stevensons book - cases of the Reincarnation Type Vol. 2-Ten cases in Sri Lanka, and the case of Shamalini, born in Colombo in 1962 and had started speaking coherently at the age of 2 of a Galtudawe Amma said, Prof. Stevenson had investigated this case among others and concluded it was authentic.

Prof. Senanayake went on to say,

There are similar cases recorded by Prof. Stevenson himself and many other scientists including Prof. Haraldsson from Iceland, Prof. Satwant Pasricha, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences at Bangalore. In Sri Lanka Dr. HSS Nissanka and several others who had worked with Prof. Stevenson have some more cases. In all their cases, the basic features share certain commonalities irrespective of cultural differences.

Very young children, as they begin to talk claim that they were somewhere else before they came here, and give details of their previous lives - details found to be accurate on subsequent investigation. The mass of data (I am not talking about reports which appear every now and then in popular newspapers - a former president or a film star reborn in a far away village kind of thing!) - these are results of meticulously conducted scientific studies, too convincing to be discarded as mere fantasy or fiction.

Are the phenomena, the alleged previous-life memories, as Prof. Haraldsson put it, not real. Or else, can an explanation be found within the present paradigm of science? This is what I attempt to do in the rest of this oration.

Brain and the mind

We are talking about memories, then, obviously the brain and the mind must play the key role here. Of these two, what we know as medical scientists, at least we think that we know, is the brain. But, let me say, despite all the technological advances during the past few decades, our understanding of the brain and its functioning is perhaps infinitesimal. Even with this very limited knowledge, it is not difficult to appreciate that human brain is the most complex object and the most advanced device in the known universe.

The outstanding feature in the evolution of man from lower animals has been the progressive expansion of the brain relative to the size of the body. It seems to have taken several million years for man to achieve such a prodigious development of his brain. On the other hand, the fossil evidence indicates that the human brain has not appreciably changed its size for about 200,000 years. There seems to be no evidence that man's brain is undergoing any further evolutionary expansion - or that it is even likely to do so. But, it may be well argued that there are tremendous opportunities for man to make significant advances by learning how to make much fuller use of the brain with which he has already been equipped (Clark, 1950).
What then is the mind?

Sir Charles Sherrington, physiologist, Nobel Laureate, and pioneer in experimental analysis of the central nervous system, half a century ago, made the following remarks. "Mind, meaning thoughts, memories, feelings, reasoning, and so on, is difficult to bring into the class of physical things. Physiology, a natural science, tends to be silent about all outside the physical. And so, the study of the physical basis of mind suffers from falling between two stools." Aristotle, 2000 years ago, was asking how the mind is attached to the body. We are asking that question still."

A functional concept

The problem is that brain is primarily an anatomical concept, whereas mind is a functional concept. To complicate matters further, we have the term Consciousness. Is it another functional state of the brain or one functional aspect of the mind? What about Learning, Memory, Emotions, Identity of self, Ego, etc.? Are these also functional states of the brain or functional aspects of the mind? Without getting caught in terminology, I propose to take a pragmatic approach.

I would take the Sherrington's view that mind is a functional concept, and other functions, such as learning and memory, are different aspects of the mind. In order to elucidate these concepts, I would take the personal computer as an analogy. By this I do not mean that I consider the brain as a computer, but the analogy provides an intelligible parallel to what we are discussing today.

Personal computer

If your personal computer, with all its hardware, is compared to the brain, the programmes that operate the computer and operated by the computer would be the mind. The hardware and the programmes are interdependent and essential for proper functioning of the computer. A defect in the hardware can, obviously, lead to computer malfunction. Conversely, a problem arising in a programme, for instance, poor installation or a virus, can damage the computer.

The same is true of the brain-mind model. There are many physical diseases, varying from primary diseases affecting the brain (e.g. cerebrovascular accidents, head injury, Alzheimer's) to diseases of other organ systems (e.g. liver failure) and intoxications, which in turn result in malfunctioning of the mind. The converse situation, where the mind can affect the brain (body), again, has many examples: psychosomatic diseases (such as peptic ulcer, bronchial asthma, chest pain, migraine, skin disorders) and hysterical disorders to mention a few.

One of Nature's foremost forces survive at all cost

The mind, then, is the functional form or the programme, which operates utilising the hardware of this most advanced device. One of Nature's foremost (if not the foremost) forces is to survive-survive at all cost.

Then, it does not stand to reason that Nature would let its most sophisticated programme, which is so unique to the given individual, perish simply because of a hardware malfunction. Knowing well that the brain - a physical structure, is predestined to perish, Nature would be at fault if it had not built in a safety mechanism (an escape mechanism) to save the mind (or at least certain crucial components of it) when the brain comes to its end.

In our computer analogy, the precaution against such a disaster would be having a backup. With modern technology, this backing up can be done in a website. (When I first developed this concept 4 years ago this was only a theoretical possibility to me, but since then I understand that such websites have actually become available!) With an online connection to the internet and a highly developed hazard detecting system, this can be effected at a crucial point in time when the computer is threatened with extinction, for instance, by a deadly virus.

The programmes and the data thus saved can, at a later time, be reinstalled in a new computer via internet itself. This process can continue, preserving, forever, the programmes and data including those added during subsequent operations.

A parallel mechanism operates

The hypothesis I propose is that a parallel mechanism operates in the case of human brain. This, in fact, is the most logical thing to expect if you accept that Nature is programmed to survive-survive at all cost.

At a certain point in time, either as a result of ageing, or prematurely as a result of a fatal disease, the brain will perish. Will Nature accept defeat or would it save at least the essential programmes and information contained in the mind? My argument is that it will. As much as the computer transmits its programmes to a website, the brain, just before death, will transfer its vital information out of the physical body. Where? one may ask.

Anywhere in the universe, outside the physical body, the exact location is not crucial to my argument. In what form, is the next question. In some form of energy, a form of energy hitherto undiscovered. Too easy an answer, you might say; but that is the answer.


Can we declare that the modern science, as at present, has discovered all energy forms that exist in the universe? Telepathy, for instance, indicates that such an energy form exists. What is transmitted out? Essential information contained in the mind. This presumably includes memories, learned skills, and also karmic forces, which are outside the domain of modern science. What happens next? At a right moment, this energy form will influence (using computer jargon: reinstall the programmes and the data in) a new developing brain, and the cycle will continue.

In this hypothesis, it is not an athma that travels through physical space that enters another body, but an energy form that makes an imprint on a new developing brain (being).

The selection of the host brain is unlikely to be at random, but governed by certain laws and forces, which, I presume, includes karmic forces.

How much of the information transmitted from the previous personality would be incorporated in the development of the new personality (brain) would again depend on several factors, including karmic forces. As a result, the previous (mind) personality and the "new" (mind) personality would not be one and the same, at the same time, they would not be two different (minds) personalities either.





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J13.07     Know the breath (Anapana Sati)

Bhikku Bodhipala

What is a breath? Is it just a to-and-fro movement of air elements passing into the lungs and returning out of it. This is a very narrow and mere biological explanation. In true sense a breath has more qualifications than a biological character, because a breath reveals about your physical, mental and spiritual qualities.

Normally an average healthy human body breathes about 32 times per minute taking each factor i.e. inhale and exhale as separate breaths, otherwise if one complete breath is assessed by combining the both inhale and exhale, it would be 16 times per minute. Generally, some researchers have observed that there are three types of breathes as illustrated above. The arrow marks stand upward denote inhale and the downward ones stand for exhale.

While inhaling the natural breath begins to count mentally 1, 2, 3, 4 etc from its starting point, without making any thrust over the breathing process. If you are able to count 3 and more that means your inhalation is long, if you count 1 and 2, which means your inhalation is in medium length and finally if you count only for '1' it means your inhalation is very short. Likewise you can assess your exhalation also.

Certainly, every one has his/her own way and unique nature of breathing mechanism. Even among the twins, the breathing system is not identical to the other. So the Buddha indirectly insists to note this point in Satipatthana Sutta and in 'Anapansati Sutta'. He gives a good example "Like a turner knows, while he rotating a long turn he knows it and a short turn, he knows it."

As the Buddha explained, the practitioners of Anapana sati should observe their breathing mechanism keenly, as to whether it is a long inhalation, note it. Whether it is a short inhalation note it. If you have long exhalation, note it or short note it. Likewise, like a turner knowing the rotation of his tool, a practitioner of Anapanasati should watch the breaths.

Breathing pattern

If you watch your breaths carefully as explained above, at the end of each inhalation and exhalation there would be a 'pause' before reverting back to each system of breath. Some research reveals that most of the meditators observe a 'pause' after exhalation, some observe after inhalation, only few observe both sides i.e. before exhalation and before inhalation.

So in any one of the following patterns your breathing mechanism will be and it may change due to your physical and mental nature and due to various reasons such as movement of moon etc.

Breath loops

For the practical purpose the above patterns may be modified into 'breath loops' as follows:

Seven steps before the practice
(i) Watch your inhalation only for 2 minutes.
(ii) Watch your exhalation only for 2 minutes.
(iii) Watch both inhalation and exhalation for 5 minutes.
(iv) Observe the duration of each inhalation and exhalation, whether they are long, medium or short.
(v) If inhalation and exhalation are equal, assess them whether they are long or medium or short.
(vi) Some meditators would observe variable duration of the breaths if so, note it carefully.
(vii) In final stage, understand your breathing mechanism by observing the pause. Please do not deliberately make or extend the pause by thrust, either holding the breaths inside the lungs or out of the body i.e. out of the nostril doors preventing the air passing through it.

Anapanasati begins
After finalising your 'breathing mechanism' start the practice. There are two sets of 'breath cycles' given under for the practical purpose.

Clockwise breath cycle
Those who start the practice from exhalation for them clockwise cycle is suitable.

Anti clockwise breath cycle
Those who start the practice from inhalation, anti clockwise cycle is suitable.
The above breath cycles should be observed according to their unique pattern of breathing mechanism, noting the every moment of breaths as follows:
(i) from the beginning inhale, middle, and if there is pause observe it.
(ii) from the beginning, exhale, middle and end if there is pause observe it.
As explained above the breath cycle should be observed by this sequential:
(i) Inhale - middle of the inhalation - end of the inhalation.
(ii) Before reverting back to exhalation if there is pause, observe it.
(iii) Exhalation - middle of the exhalation - end of the exhalation.
(iv) Before reverting back to inhalation if there is pause, observe it.

Don't change the pattern of cycle from clockwise to anti-clockwise and vice-versa. By observing your natural 'hand free' breath cycle, the duration of pause would increase by its own accord without any thrust and effort, that means you are nearing to first Samadhi.





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J13.08     Learning and discipline must combine in university education

Convocation address delivered by Dr. E.W. Adikaram, MA, (London) Ph.D, (London) Chancellor, Sri Jayawardenapura University, Sri Lanka, at the convocation of the university held on 13.12.1979

Dr. E.W. Adikaram

Man, as we know, has made immense progress in one aspect of his life, while in another he has made no progress at all. Perhaps he has regressed. Education is the main cause for this progress as well as for this stagnation or regression.

As in all other activities of man, there is no perfection in the field of education also. In one aspect, education has progressed and mankind has progressed proportionately. In another aspect, education has failed and so has mankind. It is the duty and the responsibility of university education to investigate as impartially as possible both these aspects and remedy their defects.

It is not possible to divide man in into two different compartments as physical nd spiritual. The man who does not have sufficient food to eat or a suitable house to live in has no time to think of spiritual matters. So is the man who has all physical comforts but is tormented in mind with his problems. Both suffer, each with his own set of problems.

The aim of education should be to bring about a society of human beings who are happy physically as well as psychologically. The university is the institution that is capable of bringing into being such a happy society. But unfortunately no university in any country in the world today seems to be performing this task satisfactorily.

The university is the highest educational institution in a country. The cleverest students in a country are the students in a university. Moreover, those who will occupy all the responsible positions in a country in the near future are the present university students.

As such, it is essential that university education should not be fragmentary but should be aimed at developing all aspects of human life. It is because of the present incompleteness of university education that there are people of very high academic qualifications, who are deceitful, cruel or of unworthy character.

It is unfortunate that university education is limited to advancement of knowledge and has neglected the development of character. True education will simultaneously bring about both advancement of knowledge and advancement of character.

In Pali there is the word 'sikkha' (Sanskrit siksha). This word has two meanings. One is 'learning'; the other is 'discipline'. This is very similar to the English word 'discipline' which also means both learning and orderliness. Learning itself is discipline.

The disaster that unbalanced education has brought about in the world today. The other meaning, namely 'discipline' of the Pali word 'sikkha' is also often incorrectly understood.

To understand how this happens, one has to understand how learning takes place and how discipline comes into being.

The ordinary meaning of 'learning' is 'advancement of knowledge'. In this sense, the first step in learning is acceptance. In accepting, there is no understanding.

A child picks up words from his environment. The word is registered in his brain. Such words become the foundation for the future learning of an entire language. Later, he hears a new word or he reads a new word in a book. He learns the meaning of that new word by interpreting it in terms of words that he already knows and which he has stored-up in his memory.

What one means by saying that a person has learned fifty languages is that he can now say the same thing in fifty different ways. Earlier he could name a certain animal only by using the word 'cat'. Now he says the same thing in fifty different forms. He has acquired only words. In this process he has neither acquired any new understanding nor has it brought about in him any virtue.

This is true not only in learning a language. It is equally true in the learning of any art or science, What he actually does is to bring in and store in his memory by way of words or symbols various external things. With such learning one can become at verbal level an educated person or a well-read person or a specialist.

Not that such learning is useless. It has many essential uses in that aspect of life which is generally termed physical. Such learning may also bring about an external polish and an externally good demeanour but it will not bring about in a person human qualities such as kindness and compassion. Such an educated man, possessing no love or compassion, can employ his knowledge for the destruction of mankind.

This is the disaster that unbalanced education has brought about in the world today. The other meaning, namely 'discipline' of the Pali word 'sikkha', mentioned earlier, is also often incorrectly understood.

Discipline brought about by fear is not discipline. Similarly it is not discipline which is the result of incitement or expectation of a reward. That discipline which is the result of a belief or a practice is also not discipline. All such discipline is temporary and will fade away when the cause ceases to exist. True discipline is incorruptible. Such discipline comes into being when the ugliness, the harm, or the incorrectness of some behaviour or act is clearly understood.

As mentioned earlier, by education we generally mean the storing up in memory of what we hear, see or read and also the acquiring of the ability to reason out, to examine and to make decisions on what we have thus acquired. Such learning is only acquisition of facts. What is good as well as what is bad can be acquired. Further, as it is stored up in memory, such learning is always old. There is another kind of learning in which there is no motive of storing up facts.

That learning is to look at something afresh and understand it as it is. In that looking there is no pre-judgement. Pre-judgement is a hindrance to the understanding of what is. When a scientist investigates something with his microscope he has no pre-judgement of what he is going to see. Such pre-judgement is a hindrance to the scientist in discovering something totally new.

When we are taking a journey in the dark we do not see what is in front of us. Our journey in life, too, is such a journey. The road may be uneven, there may be thorns and stones, there may be poisonous snakes or there may be harmless creatures. None of that is seen by us who are travelling in the dark. We are aided only by a description given by others. In the description we get from our teachers and from our books we are told what is good and what is bad and what should be done or not done.

As we are travelling in the dark, we have no first-hand discernment of what is described. The ups and downs are not seen by us, nor do we know where the poisonous snakes lie hidden. As such, we have to face many a danger in our journey.

As we have no clear personal understanding of what is good and bad, the description can lead us astray. This is evident from what is happening in the world today. One often comes across even among the most educated people, those who lead immoral and degraded lives. In some countries one can see even cruel murderers among the high religious dignitaries. Such education is clearly of no help to mankind.

If, when we travel in the darkness, we have a light with us, this unfortunate situation would not arise.

The light we have in this connection is that learning which instantaneously brings about discipline. If we perceive even a very small thing as it actually is, it radically changes our attitude to that.

If one sees the word 'poison' on the label of a bottle, who will meddle with it? Who, other than the insane, will take dirt from the roadside and smear it on his body? He who has seen the cruelty of taking life, will never kill a sentient being. Similarly he who sees the ugliness of lying and deceiving will never tell a lie or deceive another.

The intense and earnest wish to perceive exactly as they are what we hear, see and do, bring about attention and with it inward clarity. In that attention there will be no comparing, doubting, accepting or rejecting. There is only attention and clarity. With that light he discerns what is true and what is false. In that light he conducts himself and that is true discipline. And such a life is orderly and innocent.

Peace in the world will come about through such educated and disciplined people. Education in the university should be that which is so beautifully expressed in that Pali word. 'sikkha' which produces both learning and discipline simultaneously. I earnestly hope and trust that the University of Sri Jayewardenapura will impart to the students that integrated education which is both learning and discipline.






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J13.09     Buddhist attitude to other religions

Professor Chandima Wijebandara

The Buddhism holds that truth – especially religious truth – is something that everyone has access to and of which no one has monopoly. It could be understood by everyone for himself. The Buddha did not believe in distributing ready-made transcendental wisdom for everyone. He wanted people to get at the Dhamma by themselves (paccattam veditabbo). When someone presented a theory the Buddha would naturally ask him “Do you know and see this yourself?”.

Buddhism admits that religio-philosophic truth is not a monopoly of one system. There are some good teachers who at least err in the right side. Referring to some sages (munayo) who had comprehended the nature of their desires and eliminated them, crossing over the waves of samsaric existence, the Buddha says, “I do not declare that all these religious men are sunk in repeated birth and decay.”

Buddhism admits that religio-philosophic truth is not a monopoly of one system. There are some good teachers who at least err in the right side.


Once the lord of Gods, Sakka, asked the Buddha the reason for the multiplicity of religions. The answer given by the Buddha was:

“Manifold is the world, Lord of gods. In this many-spherical world, whichever sphere the beings touch or find, that they stick to and use (as truth) saying ‘this only is true, the rest is false’. Thus there is no agreement among religious people on theories, morality, will and goal.”


This passage is very important as it reveals many things about the Buddhist attitude to the teachings of others. The Buddha’s recognition of the genuine nature of other teaches is fairly obvious here. He recognizes the multi-dimensional aspect of the world and the possibility of a Truth-seeker getting at one aspect only and forming a view on the basis of it. This is based on meditational-experiential ground and not on logical grounds. So there is no attempt here to belittle other religions but rather a call for further insight. It accepts, the other teachings, however imperfect they may be, recognizing that they are born out of real glimpses of reality and genuine attempts to get at the Truth. Jajime Nakamura writes: “Buddhism has attempted to arrive at the truth, not by excluding its opposites as falsehood, but by including them as another form of the same truth.” Even a layman who is highly interested in getting at some aspects of Truth might be able to obtain some glimpses of it depending on his capabilities and maturity.

In the Brahmajala Sutta this theme is developed to bring out the applications which are supposed to represent the entire thought-pattern of the religio-philosophers in the Buddha’s time. It establishes the points where various views could be formed in the Yogi’s ‘map’ of the universe. The spectrum of mystical experience is related to the cosmological concepts and yogic experience which give birth to religious systems. And these are synthesized into one uniform whole. However, the aim of the Sutta is to show that there are some views which do not correspond to salvation and explains their origin in appropriate terms.


While recognizing the above mentioned importance to be attached to various religions, the Buddha nevertheless calls for a deeper and more comprehensive search for Truth. The mistake of many folk, according to the Buddha, is that they see things in one dimension only. One has to see whether there are other aspects that have been overlooked before venturing on theory-construction. To illustrate the point the Buddha gives a story of some blind people. Once there was a king in Savatthi who called a group of blind men to the palace and gave them an elephant to feel. He presented to one blind man the head of the elephant, to another the ear, to another the tusk, the trunk, the foot, back, tail and tuft of the tail, saying to each one that that was the elephant. Then the king asked each of them to describe his impression of the elephant.

Then, the one who as presented with the head answered “your majesty, the elephant is just like a pot.” And the one who only handled the ear replied, “The elephant is like winnowing basket”. The one who had been presented with the tusk said it was ploughshare. The one who only knew the trunk said it was a plough. The one who handled the body, said it was a granary; the foot – a pillow; the back – a mortar; its tail – just a besom. Then they began to quarrel, shouting, “Yes it is, no it is not. An elephant is not that: yes it is like that” and so on. The Buddha compares religious sectarians to the blind men who argue among themselves about the true nature of the elephant.

Another characteristic of the Buddha’s attitude is its non-polemical nature. The Buddha was not interested in taking systems of thought one by one and pulling them to pieces. He named teacher and teaching only when he was forced to it by the situation.

There were even times when he was requested to comment on other teachers’ achievements but he hesitated to do so. Once two materialistic Brahmins asked him who was the honest one, in his claim to omniscience, between Purana Kassapa or Nigantha Nataputta. Buddha asked them to leave the question aside and listen to what he had to tell them.

As a matter of fact the Buddha did not believe that to win in argument meant one held a correct view. He was aware of the fact that one can argue for evil and win, making evil men happy who will then call the winner a pandit. This does not mean that the Buddha hesitated in having dialogue with those of different views.

When approached by such people he engage in dialogue with them and told them that their views were unsatisfactory and sometimes harmful. He agreed to discus religio-philosophical matters with anyone provided only that he would agree with (or approve) what is sensible, reject what is not, question what is not presented clearly by the Buddha, and query what is no convincing to him. If the other part agreed then the Buddha was available for dialogue.

Thus it seems that the Buddha welcomed serious discussions with people who were genuinely interested in such matters but was not keen to engage in polemical situations where one sought followers (with the consequent display of banners).

The Buddha when Upali the Jain expressed his loyalty to him asked him to reconsider his conversion and not rush into such an important decision, for ‘considering carefully is good for well known men’.

When Upali again requested the Buddha to accept his loyalty, the Buddha acceded to the request but asked also that he should continue to support and respect his old religious teachers as before. To Upali the Buddha’s attitude was a surprise. The Buddha showed the same attitude when General Siha declared his loyalty.

The Buddhist attitude consisted of seeing both the good and bad aspects of most theories. As Jayatilleke has pointed out, the only religions that were condemned as useless were the following.

1. Materialism (M.I.515)
2. Religions denying moral values (MI.515)
3. Religions denying moral responsibility (i.e. That there is no cause for moral degeneration, regeneration salvation) M.I.517),
4. Religions denying free will (Akiriya vada, M.I.517f).


While some religions were considered unsatisfactory (anassasika), yet were recognized to contain some element of truth or moral meaning. Buddhists in contrast to the materialist’s condemnation of Vedic seers as buffoons, knaves and demonsheld that the original seers merely lacked a special insight (abhinna) but that they neverthless praised virtue and rectitude (silanca ajjavan avannayeyyum). There is an instance where the Buddha agreed with the view of a young Brahmana who held that it is by virtue of one’s duties that one becomes a Brahmana.

In fact the Buddha was accommodating in his attitude to good teachings. Once a devaputta (a god) who was a religious teacher in his previous life came to the Buddha and uttered some stanzas. The Buddha found them to expound good morals; hence he recommended them to be learned and studied by the monks.

Divided and confused was the religio-philosophic scene in the days of the Buddha. The Udana describes it concisely: “they lived quarrelsome, noisy, disputatious, abusing each other with words that pierced like javelins”, maintaining ‘this is the truth, other is not the truth’. The Buddha wanted, therefore, to create an atmosphere where at least Buddhists could get involved in serious dialogue with others instead of meaningless disputation.

There is evidence to suggest that the Buddhists were welcomed at non-Buddhist gathering places because they were known as people who talked sense. When the Buddhist layman called Pancakangika Thapati was approaching Uggahamana Samanamandikaputta’s monastery, the monks there were reported to have thought “how nice if he visits us seeing that we are silent”. Cula Sakuludayi said to the Buddha, when the latter visited him, “When you visit us Sir, both me and my followers, wait anxiously thinking that if the Buddha says something we will listen (well) to him.” Paribbajaka Vacchagotta welcomed the Buddha to his Louts Monastery saying, “Come in Venerable Sir, Welcome Sir, It is a long time (now) since you have done the same kind gesture Sir, the seat is ready, please sit down Sir,”.

This broader and oepn attitude was further strengthened in the Buddha’s advice to the monks on listening to various doctrines. He says: “You should train yourself thus: whatever doctine I shall hear connected with what is good (kusala-wholesome), to this I shall listen attentively, investigate objectively, reflect upon deeply and upon this concentrate wholeheartedly”.

It is said that whoever, with ill-fashioned wit, condemns lust-free sages of other sects receives great demerit. The Buddha, as a token of respect for some moral systems, allowed concessions to them. For instance, when Aggika Jatilakas asked for membership in the Order they were exempted from the probation that a member of another system had to undergo (as a pre-requisite).

He was also tolerant of popular beliefs like tree worship, belief in protective deities etc, though he maintained that they had not relevance to one’s liberation. When, for example, people were incensed by monks who walked over young plants in the spring, the Buddha respected their innocent beliefs and asked monks to refrain from doing so. He showed respect for old places of veneration and once declared that the respect for the old places (shrines) was one of the facts that kept the Vajji solidarity.

Inspite of all this tolerance with respect to the views and beliefs of others, someone may ask, why has such a lot being said about ‘wrong’or ‘unwholesome’ views Why bother about a critique of other theories at all?

The answer is simple and uncompromising. Miccha ditthi or false view is evil, adhamma. People do a lot of bad things due to the false philosophy. When philosophy goes wrong everything goes wrong, every activity committed by one who holds miccha ditthi, through deed, thought and word becomes unwholesome, bad, unplesant and productive of suffering.


The Buddha has said when ditthi has gone wrong, thought, word, activities, livelihood, perseverance, mindfulness, concentration and liberation all go wrong. And it is only degeneration not regeneration which is the consequence of miccha ditthi. In the Anguttara Nikaya a list of miccha ditthi is given which consists of ten nihilistic views which deny moral causation, survival after death, the possibility of enlightenment or Liberation etc.

Here we have to note that the term iccha ditthi does not simply mean non-Buddhist teaching. It is a wider term which covers every harmful view, no matter whether it comes from within or without. Any distorted or lopsided view that might occur to a Buddhist monk at meditation is a miccha ditthi. This becomes clear from the Anguttara Nikkaya where the Buddha says that miccha ditthi is one of five factors that makes a monk unpleasant to and disliked by his fellow monks.

Thus it is clear that the Buddhist attitude to other religions is not at all hostile and polemic. It is an invitation to enjoy friendly dialogue and mutual understanding. It involves sincere sharing of what is good and genuine interest at reaching the goal of right knowledge and positive happiness through spiritual cultivation.

(The writer is the former Vice Chancellor of Sri Jayewardenepura University.)

18 05 2011 - Daily News





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J13.10     Lessons from ancient city of Anuradhapura

Buddhist perspective on roots of global environmental crisis

Prof. C.M. Madduma Bandara

The current environmental crisis, focused primarily on climate change, for which human activity is largely responsible, has attracted the attention of leaders and policy makers across the world. Viewed from a Buddhist perspective, the origin of the environmental crisis stems from roots lying far deeper than the immediate predicament which it creates. Without a proper understanding of the root causes, formulation of enduring solutions becomes difficult and often illusive.

Nature and environment in Buddhist literature

Numerous references to laws of nature and environment are found in what is generally considered as Buddhist literature. However, most of them were only peripheral to the main teachings of the Buddha Dhamma since the focus of attention in Buddhism was primarily on human mind and body. An attempt is made below to explain briefly a few key references to environment occurring in selected Buddhist literature. It provides only a very brief summary.

In the Theravada commentarial concept of Niyama Dhammas, fivefold laws of nature or Niyama (cosmic order) seem to appear. These Fivefold Niyama are as follows: Utu-niyama: the seasonal order; Bija-niyama: the germinal order; Kamma Niyama -law of Action; Citta Niyama - psychical order; and Dhamma Niyama - Law of Nature.

It may be noted that, the Citta or the mind and the act of thinking, is also treated as a cosmic order and a force of nature, and perhaps the supreme force of all. Similarly, Dhamma or the natural phenomenal sequence (dhamma-niyama) literally means 'that which bears (dhareti)' its own nature, including its universal characters, namely, growth, decay, dissolution, etc. The dhamma-niyama is best summarized in the formula (Sayadev, 2003) : 'When that exists, this comes to be. From the arising of that this arises. When that does not exist, this does not come to be. When that ceases, then this ceases' (Paticcasamuppada).

In this connection it may also be pertinent to consider the five 'great essentials' of matter, (or the five material Dhatu) namely Pathavi, Apo, Tejo, Vayo and Akasa or the space element. By the first essential quality 'pathavi' what is meant is the earth, soil, or rock. By the second essential quality 'apo' we understand the viscous matter, the moisture or the more obvious fluid apo manifested in this or that liquid. By the third essential quality 'tejo' we understand the element of heat, glowing heat, or flaming heat. By the fourth essential quality 'vayo' we understand atmosphere in motion.

The fifth is 'akasa' or simply the space in which all others exist. The five 'Great Elements' (Dhatu) incorporated the entire physical system of the earth and Universe. However, from a Buddhist perspective, the well known teaching of the Buddha, states that 'the whole world, its origins and decay and the entirety of universal processes are contained in the pa˝cakkhndha or the human body which is only less than two metres long'.

The Agga˝˝a Sutta is often used as a Buddhist explanation of the origins of life on earth while Sattasuriya Sutta is employed by some to explain the termination or the end of the world. These expositions are in fact open to challenge. For instance the agga˝˝a sutta was meant to explain the myth of differentiation of different races and species. It was found indeed in a sermon for two Brahmins who occupied high ranks of the caste hierarchy in ancient India.
The Sattasuriya sutta was similarly meant to explain the impermanence of life and the futility of greed, by using the metaphor of the seven rising suns, leading to desiccation and destruction of the entire earth system. The core concepts of Buddhism explained through such metaphorical suttas need not get clouded by them, and need not be taken as Buddhist analyses of natural phenomena. In particular, use of suttas to claim and justify Buddhism in the light of growing environmental crises is not only nonsensical but can also bring Buddhism into disrepute.

Thus the present trend of global warming as attempted by some need not be compared with the contents of the Sattasuriya Sutta, or the modern concept of 'biodiversity' need not be compared with the content of the aga˝˝a sutta. However, explanation of the niyama or the cosmic order, particularly in relation to the explanation of citta niyama as a force of nature, may have much meaning if subjected to deeper scrutiny.

One current example is the attempt to use Sattasuriya (or Sattasuriyaggamana) Sutta in controversial debates on predictions on the end of the world. The long calendar of Mayan civilization (dating back to the 5th century BCE) comes to an end in 2012 and it has been prophesied that, the world will come to an end next year! Some Buddhist writers too attempt to argue that this may happen with the rise of seven suns as allegedly prophesied in the Sattasuruya sutta. However, it may be noted that the Buddha refused to speak on the beginning or end of the world and the universe. In Buddhist teaching the entire world and the universe is visible and incorporated in the panchaskanda or the human body. It is therefore, needless to say that such attempts are meaningless and futile from a Buddhist perspective.

The Buddhist perspective

As noted above, the analysis of the natural world, its origins and termination is not in the hard core of Buddhist teaching. Such descriptions had to be used by the Buddha to explain certain central concepts such as, anicca (impermanence), craving and greed (lobha). It is our contention that, such descriptions have largely crept into Buddhist literature through the prevailing concepts of Hinduism -the base religion of India. To use some of the narrations of the world as gospel truths is not only diluting Buddhist teachings but may also find itself in conflict with the mainstream of modern science.

It has also been contended that, from a Buddhist perspective environmental pollution is nothing but the external manifestation of man's internal moral pollution, which has assumed alarming levels and reached a crisis proportion today. A number of suttas in the Pali Canon such as the Agga˝˝a, Cakkavattisihanada and some in the A´guttaranikaya gives expression to the belief that when moral degeneration becomes rampant in society, it causes adverse changes in the human body as well as in the environment . In essence, some Buddhists believe that moral consciousness/the human mind, the human body, the external world consisting of fauna and flora, and society are intricately interconnected through an all-embracing network of cause and effect, to make one whole psychologically sensitive and responsive system.

It is this fact that the Buddha succinctly summarizes in the stanza: "Cittena niyyati loko, cittena parikissati Cittassa ekadhammassa sabbeva vasam anvagňti". (The world is led by the mind, it is dragged hither and thither by the mind". Buddha's theory of paticcasamuppada too maintains a similar principle, that mind and matter, man and nature are interconnected and interdependent. Further, the same truth of inter-dependence of Man and Nature is reiterated in the commentaries through the theory of the five cosmic laws, pa˝ca niyama dhamma. Causal laws operate within the first four spheres as well as among them. Accordingly, when mankind comes under the grip of greed, hatred and delusion, its downfall is brought about by famine, fire/weapons, and disease respectively (Dighanikaya Atthakatha). The situation in the modern world is such that 'all three morally unwholesome motivational roots seem to be highly active and man is receiving retribution for his own immoral actions'.

The relation between mind and matter is still not adequately sorted out or explained by modern sciences. It is conceded that, as Lily de Silva (2002) contends, Buddhist texts sometimes connect up degenerated human moral behaviour with the deterioration of environment. For example, historically, most people in Sri Lanka believed that when there are tyrant kings, their actions affect rainfall patterns creating droughts as well as floods. As pointed out earlier, in Buddhism, human mind is a supreme force of nature and refining and sharpening of it may provide it with some supernatural powers that can affect the environment in various ways. However, any attempt towards proving it scientifically is obviously fraught with innumerable problems. It is my contention that such beliefs are largely from Hinduism, and they need not be used literally as miraculous truths, but as logical products of degenerated human behaviour guided by ignorance and greed.

Kuttam Pokuna: Outstanding example of a bathing place

As Erich Fromm aptly observed, man has to change his attitude from the 'having mode' to the 'being mode' of life. Man motivated by the 'having mode' tries to satisfy his greed extracting as much as possible from nature, thus leading to excessive exploitation bringing in its wake all the ills of pollution and depletion. Man inspired by the being mode on the other hand utilizes nature's resources to satisfy his needs and this attitude leads to conservation and sustainability of nature.

As de Silva (2002) demonstrated, Vipassana meditation teaches man to lead a simple life satisfying his basic needs. Appicchata, or the ability to be satisfied with little is methodically cultivated as a virtue of great value. If it is cultivated collectively by mankind, giving up the present trend of unabated consumerism, much of the sting of the eco-crisis can be mitigated. All the ills of large-scale deforestation such as soil erosion, landslides, changes in weather-pattern, drought, floods etc. are fundamentally related to consumerism. Without changing to a simple life style an effective solution to these life threatening problems cannot be easily sought. Vipassana meditation cleanses man of his psychological impurities.

Metta or the loving kindness, forms a part and parcel of the meditative life. If one practises metta one would refrain from over-exploitation and over consumption out of sympathy for future generations. In practising metta a man would also have sympathy for other species and forms of life which are increasingly threatened by extinction. The environmental crisis has to be treated as the result of a deep-seated moral crisis. Man has to cultivate a morally wholesome attitude and lifestyle for a change for the better and this has to be accepted as a survival imperative. The Dalai Lama summarized the Buddhist approach to this issue in the following words:

"Peace and the survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities that lack a commitment to humanitarian values. Destruction of nature and natural resources results from ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth's living things".

Anuradhapura -A case study of Sustainable Urban Planning

There are certain lessons that could be learnt from the ancient wisdom. In this regard, the case of Anuradhapura from Sri Lanka is briefly outlined. Anuradhapura was the ancient capital city of Sri Lanka for nearly 14 Centuries. It was King Pandukabhaya (4th Century BC) who upgraded Anuradhapura. It was a Brahmin Jothiya who did the town planning. There were hospitals with medicinal troughs, and toilet systems at meditation centres.

At the peak of its development, the city was of equal size as that of the Greater London area today. Anuradhapura was served by three main city tanks, namely Abhaya Wewa (or Basawakkulama), Nuwara Wewa and Tissawewa. They are used for both irrigation and domestic use. The Tissawewa was originally built for the exclusive use of Buddhist clergy by royal edict and only later used for irrigation with continuing priority for the use of Sangha.

The city had two large park areas of which Mahamevuna Uyana was the largest. The name Mahamevuna is derived from Maha Megha Vana meaning the 'great forest of rain clouds'. It is amazing to note that the modern concepts linking the 'clouds with forests' was recognized at such an early age. The other was the sprawling Nandana Uyana. These were largely assigned to the use of Buddhist clergy of Maha Vihara.

The protection and development of 'urban forests' was undoubtedly for multiple uses but primarily for meditation. The Buddha highly recommended forests, foot of trees and empty houses and buildings (arra˝˝agato va, rukkhamňlagato va, su˝˝agaragato va) as ideal places for the meditation practice.

In addition, ponds of different forms and sizes, such as Eth Pokuna and Kuttam Pokuna are outstanding examples as bathing places. The Gold Fish Park (Ran masu Uyana) below the tank bund of Tissawewa was an exquisite pleasure garden, utilizing seepage water from the tank.

At its zenith of development it was claimed that there had been some 60,000 Buddhist monks resident in and around this sacred city. Large stone canoes still found in ruin for medical treatment and to store porridge for alms, were there to cater to such a large population of monks as well as laymen. Also the lovamahapaya - a large multi-storied building that had over 1000 rooms to accommodate Buddhist monks was constructed. The ruins of it are still observable.

The stapas or the large globular Buddhist monuments that often took the form of 'bubbles of water' symbolized the impermanence of life. This inculcated in the minds of people the fact that life is only short lived and transitory. The people emulated the simple living styles of the Buddhist monks, that obviously demanded very little from nature.

There are many ruined sites of padhanaghara or meditation centres for pacifying and training the minds, all provided with flowing water and exquisitely sculptured toilet facilities. These meditation centres that are architecturally designed, were mistakenly originally thought to be palaces of kings by archaeologists. It took some time to re-identify them as places of meditation. They were often surrounded by flowing water, and perhaps to practise the technique of water focused meditation (tatastha), matching it with the dry environment in which they were found.

This ancient city brings forth the following messages, perhaps still valid for a rapidly urbanizing modern world.

(a) Establishment of urban forests not only to serve as 'urban lungs' and places for pleasure but also for meditation and achieving the tranquillity of mind. They can also perform the much appreciated function as 'carbon sinks'.

(b) Establishment of meditation centres in big cities for mental health and leisure.

(c) Landscaping the cities taking into account their natural settings and local resources. Anuradhapura was created as an amphibious urban landscape with three major reservoirs (nakharavapi) and river flowing through it, having due regard to the relatively dry climate of the area.


It appears that, most statements on the environment and natural world found in Buddhist literature may prove extraneous to the core teachings of Buddhism that need not be clouded by some metaphorical explanations. There are many systems belief embedded in Hinduism that have found their way to Buddhist literature after the parinibbana of the Buddha.

This is quite natural considering the religious environment to which Siddhartha Gautama was born in Ancient India. They may have their scientific validity but it would be unwise to deviate from the core teachings of the Buddha centred entirely on the development of human mind. Mind always takes precedence over nature, and the mind is supreme and all dhamma are mind -made (Manopubbangama dhamma, manosettha manomaya).

The roots of the current environmental crises can be ultimately traced back to craving and greed, and the lack of a deep understanding of the impermanence of life. Only a civilization that harbours and thrives on such universal truths can reverse the present trend of global environmental destruction and threats to the very survival of life on earth.

"Devo vassatu kalena, sassasampatti hetu ca, phito bhavatu loko ca, raja bhavatu dhammiko" (Let the rains arrive on time and let there be rich harvests,Let the world be rich and prosperous and may the King be just and righteous).





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J13.11     The mind and consciousness: Buddhist views vs Western science 

M.B. Werapitiya

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 fulfils 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. Here are some theories of notable scientists and philosophers on the subject.

Cleansing one’s mind through meditation

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 a 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 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 hypnotized for diagnostic purposes, spoke about their previous births, giving vivid details which when investigated 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 hypnotized 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. Rene Descartes 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 it 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 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 that 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. According to V.F. Gunaratne, a Buddhist philosopher, “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 psychic who in a hypnotic trance gave thousand 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 is given as - the force generated by a person’s 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 premise that 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 - "think the best evidence comes from rebirth cases”.

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 of 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 it, for-
“……… there spring the healing streams Quenching all thirst! There blooms immortal flowers Carpeting all the way with joy! There throng Swiftest and sweetest hours.”





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J13.12     Your deeds mould your life

Ven Kirama Wimalajothi Thera

Translated: Edmund Jayasooriya

Abbhittaretha kalyane - papa cittam nivaraye
Dandhamhim karoto punnam - papasmim ramati mano

Make haste in doing good; keep your mind away from evil. He who is slothful in doing good tends to lean towards evil.

Dhammapada - Papa Vagga, 116.1

Buddhism teaches us to think rightly, speak rightly and act rightly. It does not teach us to cause harm to ourselves or to others. The Buddha taught us to refrain from the five wrong deeds, namely, killing, stealing, etc and the ten wrong deeds (dasa akusal) because such acts always tend to cause harm to ourselves as well as to others. The above stanza in the Dhammapada teaches us never to be slothful in doing good.

What you do shapes your life. Picture by Lakshan Maduranga

Once when the Buddha was residing at Jetavana Vihara in the city of Savatthi a poor family lived in a village close by. The family consisted only of the husband and the wife. At the time, it was customary for a person to put a shawl across his shoulder when going out. The family who eked a living with difficulty had only one shawl. Whenever the husband went out, he put this shawl over his vest and whenever the wife went out, she put it over her jacket. So they never had the chance to go out together.

This couple got the news that the Buddha was preaching at the Jetavana Vihara day and night. Eager to listen to the sermons, they came to an agreement whereby the wife would go during the day and the husband during the night. When the wife returns having listened to the sermons the husband would go to Jetavana Vihara, sit among the crowd and listen to the sermons.

The brahmin noticed that not only wealthy chieftains but also King Kosala himself were among the crowd listening to the sermons. At the time the Buddha was preaching in the Samukkansika mode of preaching, namely, exalting, praising the Four Noble Truths. The preaching begins with explaining the value of generosity and virtue and then the evil of giving in to the five sensual pleasures, the advantage of renunciation and finally the teaching of the Four Noble Truths.

Overshadowed intentions
Pleased with the sermon the brahamin thinks of presenting the Buddha with something. But, except the shawl, there was nothing he could offer. He took the shawl into his hand, folded it neatly and thought of offering it to the Buddha.

Suddenly he is overcome by craving, and the wish to offer it to the Buddha vanishes. Again, he makes up his mind and tries to offer the shawl. But other thoughts come to his mind. "How could I go out if I offer this shawl?" His good intentions are overshadowed by craving. Accordingly, he is caught in a mental struggle between the offering and non-offering of the shawl. After battling for a long time with this quandary, the brahamin finally decides to offer it to the Buddha. Delighted by his act, he forgets himself and shouts, "I have won. I have won," and his voice reverberates around the preaching hall. Wondering how this brahamin could win when he himself was there, King Kosala asked a soldier to look into it. Brought before the king, the brahamin says, "I have eliminated the craving that was in my mind. And my intention of charity has won."

Satisfied with the brahamin's answer the king gifted him several kinds of shawl. The brahamin offered all those shawls to the Maha Sangha headed by the Buddha. Delighted with the brahamin's action the king sent him some ordinary shawls together with two valuable, golden hued ones. The brahamin thought, "A poor man like me does not need such valuable shawls. I must make a canopy for the Buddha with them". And making a canopy, he offered it to the Buddha. King Kosala who went to the Jetavana Vihara the following day to listen to the sermons saw the canopy and made inquiries about it.

Craving arisen
Having learnt that it was the work of the brahamin, the king from that day onwards made enactments for the brahamin's welfare. The Buddha explained the above stanza based on this brahamin known as Chula Ekasataka (younger one-shawl brahamin). We must understand the above stanza and the sermon well. What lesson does it teach? When one thinks of doing something good, there arise other thoughts opposing it. When you try to give, ideas of longing or craving arise. "If I give this I will have to face difficulties in the future. Or else, my family members will face hardship. Even if I don't give there wouldn't be a problem because someone else will give." You will argue along those lines.

When you think of going to the temple on a Poya Day to observe the precepts you will think of your home, that you have to take care of the children. You think of your paddy field and the plantation rich in its yield. So you postpone your visit to the temple for another day. When you meditate, you find that you are unable to keep your mind still. Likewise, when you try to do something good, thoughts opposing it always arise in your mind. Chula Ekasataka was overcome with such thoughts. When trying to do good there arise in your mind various polemics. But this does not happen in the case of bad deeds.

Let us assume that a centipede, a scorpion or a venomous snake had entered your home. You will not let it go thinking that it should not be killed today and that it should be given another day to live. Thieves do not postpone their acts for another day but grab the first opportunity.

The uncertainty we were discussing arises only if you are going to do a good deed. Mara visited Siddhartha Gautama at the time of his enlightenment, but Mara did not visit Devadatta when he was trying to destroy the Buddha.

What is the primary duty of us who are trying to follow the teaching of the Buddha? We must try to defeat all extraneous, evil thoughts from our mind when we try to do a good deed. We must always do good deeds and avoid bad deeds. We must refrain from all antisocial activities and do only good deeds that are valuable to us and to others.

Our mind
We must not be lethargic in doing good deeds. We must not let the opportunity to do good pass by. If we do so, our mind will tend towards evil. The word kalyane in the Dhammapada stanza means dana, sila and bhavana, namely, acts of merit consisting of munificence, good character and meditation.

Sin in a Buddhist context means bad deeds done with the mind, body and speech.

We must keep in mind that a person progresses in life according to the results of the good and bad deeds done by him. The pain and pleasure a person experiences in this life and the next will be determined by the deeds performed by him.

Some believe that the result of munificence, good character and meditation could be enjoyed only in the next world. This is not so. The result of a good deed can be experienced in this world itself.

A verse in the Loveda Sangarava gives expression to this phenomenon when it asks kumatada kusalata kammelivanne? (Why feel lazy to do good?). The human mind is constantly in a state of flux. Buddhism teaches us to restrain this constantly changing mind and develop it.

18 05 2011 - Daily News





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J13.13     Pirith its purpose, value and usage

Godwin Witane

Of all Buddhist countries in the world Sri Lanka enjoys the premier position of preserving the pristine doctrine of the Buddha ever since the introduction of Buddhism into this country by Arahat Mahinda and Theri Sangamitta. Besides the immaculate Dhamma preached by Buddha in His lifetime for the benefit and amelioration of gods in heavens and man on earth. He also promulgated or proclaimed incantations called pirith or paritta to relieve mankind from fear, hate, anger, suspicion and all other negative emotions and to bless and protect them. Pirith suffused with love and benevolence confers protection.

The chanting of pirith bestows goodwill and blessings towards all living beings. It ensures the truthfulness of what is spoken by the power of which protection and healing are brought about. In the sacred utterances of pirith no deities are involved. Buddhism denounces the performance of prayers and rituals to gods for one's success or salvation. Gods who are believed to be in the heavens are conveniently blamed for calamities that are essentially the work of man, for example the destruction of forest coverage causing a drought. People blame the weather gods for this crisis and appeal for divine intervention. The votive utterance "May the Triple Gem keep you protected or Thunuruwange pihitai" is an invocation on the lines of pirith.

In this instance the wonderful power and goodness of The Blessed One are made to kindle in the heart and mind of the one blessed thus driving out fear, and producing peace, happiness and protection. We have faith in the belief that good actions bring happiness and bad actions evil and unhappiness. Pirith produces a balmy effect in the mind of foes converting them powerless and harmless.

The Buddha in His lifetime made known to mankind several paritta dharma. The magic of Pirith bestows blessings protection on all living beings. the Lord Buddha with His healing touch and with wisdom made words tie mystic knots around us. Once when an epidemic of plague was raging in the city of Veesali the inhabitants of that town sought the help of the Buddha to save them from that scourge.

It is said that the Buddha arrived in the city accompanied by His disciple Ananda and taught him the Ratana Sustra and advised Ananda to visit all corners of the city reciting the holy words of the Sutra and sprinkling the holy water or pirith pan saturated with the powerful pirith. As a result rain began to fall on the drought stricken land that within a few days the disease disappeared restoring the health of the people.

In moments of vital danger one may receive conceivable help that may assist to overcome an awkward situation. The Buddhists in Sri Lanka have at all times depended on the merits of pirith which bring spontaneous feeling of peace in time of sickness as well as in other unfortunate circumstances.

The Ratana Sutraya written on ola leaf or on a sheet of gold and recited thousands of times and this sheet placed in a case is worn as a talisman to gain protection from all evil especially when astrological predictions on someone's horoscope foretell bad periods under malefic planets. In Buddhist Scriptures we learn of the bandit Angulimala who revelled in killing of humans as much as 999 to obtain their fingers for his necklace.

When his own mother was to be the next victim the Buddha in iridescent glory confronted him, brought him to his senses and made him a disciple of him obtained the Noble State of Arahathood. Once Arahat Angulimala on his rounds for alms heard the wails of a woman in labour and sought the Master's aid to relieve her of her suffocation.

The Buddha then taught him the paritta which is thereafter called Angulimala pirita and asked him to go to the woman's house and recite it there. No sooner he did so the woman was relieved. In the Angulimala Sutra there is the pronouncement of the truth that after Angulimala was ordained a bhikku he had never killed a living being.

The death of a bhikku from a snake bite was the occasion for the Buddha to teach the paritta called Khanda paritta. Its contents include kindness towards all kinds of snakes and also an appeal against injury and harm from wild beasts. Finally it expresses the wish that thereby every being will be able to wipe out all ill-effects through the immense power of love.

The tradition of paritta is so ennobling and full of spiritual satisfaction. It has power to uplift life above the daily chores and promote believers to the spiritual excellence helping to lift their minds to something lofty and noble. The recital of pirith in sonorous rhythm and unison by the saffron clad monks render deep emotion in the minds of the devotees engaged in collective concentration.





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J13.14     Buddha highlights the value of tending the sick


According to an incident recorded in the Cheevarakkhandina of the Vinaya Pitaka (I, 301-2: Bu.J. Mahavagga 2, 734) once, during the Buddha's day, a certain monk fell ill with an attack of dysentery and was lying fallen on his own excrements with none to attend on him.

In his tours of the lodgings with Ananda as attendant, the Buddha came across him and witnessing the helpless condition of the sick monk he inquired as to his illness. Being told that he was ill with dysentery the Buddha next asked him whether there was anyone attending on him.

The sick monk replied in the negative adding further that as he was of no use to the other monks they did not care to tend him. Thereupon the Buddha got Ananda to bring water and he himself sprinkled the water on the invalid while Ananda washed him over. Buddha holding him by the head and Ananda by the feet, they raised him and placed him on a bed.

Having done this the Buddha assembled all the in-dwelling monks and the following dialogue ensued:

Buddha: Monks, is there a sick monk in such and such a dwelling?
Monks: There is, sir.
B: Do you know that he is not well?
M: Yes sir, we know.
B: What is that monk's illness?
M: It is dysentery, sir.
B: Is there anyone tending him?
M: No, sir.
B: Why is that?
M: That monk is of no use to the other monks and therefore the other monks did not care to tend him.
B: Monks, here you have no mother, no father or anyone else who would tend you.

Therefore if you do not attend on one another when needed who else is going to do so? As such, hereby I lay it down as a rule that all monks, when living together, should attend on the sick irrespective of their positions as senior-junior, teacher-pupil etc. If you fail to do so it would be an offence of wrongdoing.

Next he made the celebrated statement highlighting the value of this service that "he who wishes to attend on me should do so on the sick" - yo mam upatthaheyya so gitaanam upatthaheyya.

In this oft-quoted statement it is clearly implied that attending on the sick is an meritorious as attending on the Buddha. The significant fact that emerges is the high premium placed by the Buddha on the ethical value of ministering to the sick. Knowing fully well that devotees are quite eager to wait upon him as a merit-acquiring exercise, the Buddha utilises it to emphasise the high value of tending the sick, of which fact people were generally ignorant.

He also wanted the people to get over this reluctance to tend the sick owing to such reasons as absence of any personal gain or loathsomeness involved in it etc. There was no better way of putting across this lesson to them in the context. He could not have done it better.

There is another interesting incident of the same type wherein the Buddha has set the same example to this disciples.

It is the case of the Poothigatta Tissa Thera's story as recorded in the Dhammapada Commentary (i, 319 ff), wherein this monk had been totally abandoned by the fellow-monks through loathsomeness because his body was covered with sores owing to a dermatital eruption. When the Buddha discovered this he boiled some water and washed him with his own hands and cleansed and dried his garments as well. When Tissa became comfortable he preached to him making him an Arahant.

These two incidents provide ample evidence to the Buddha's exhibition of precept and example in highlighting the value of tending the sick. This service is also recognised as one of the ten acts of merit-acquisition (dasa-punyakriya) under the term veyyaavacca.

The Buddha goes further in dealing with this subject by laying down some basic qualifications necessary for a professional medical man - be it doctor, nurse or attendant, for they all tend the sick (gilaanupatthaka). These are, he or she

i. should be competent in the preparation of medicaments as dispensers
ii. Should know what is wholesome and what is unwholesome to the patient
iii. Should be able to provide what is wholesome and remove what is unwholesome
iv. should perform the attendance work out of compassion for the patient without any hope of gain in return
v. should not become loathful in removing the patient's excrements, urine, vomit etc. and
vi. should be able to please and gladden the patient with suitable good conversation befitting the occasion, whenever such behaviour becomes necessary.

What an ideal nurse or attendant the Buddha had in his mind! Is there any possible improvement in these requirements in this 21st century from what he has said in the 6th century BC?

A combination of these five requirements would make a perfect nurse/attendant for all time - some of them impossible in today's world. Every requirement is equally important and they complement one another in a perfect equilibrium.

It may be noted here that the Buddha does not stop here in giving lessons on this subject. He next goes on enumerating the qualities that should be found in the patient as well if he were to really benefit from the treatment and recover from his or her illness. When we examine the Buddha's comprehensive account of diseases, their causes and remedies for them, the basic qualities that should be found in physicians, nurses, attendants and even in the patients it becomes amply evident that during his days in the 6th century BC Indian medical system, even in public health, could boast of a very high standard as also corroborated by the wonderful stories of surgery performed by royal physician Jeevaka.

Archaeological remains of hospitals found in India and Sri Lanka also support this. In this brief discussion on the values of nursing the sick it would be quite an injustice if we forget that wonderful personality in this field from the West, Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the Italian-born British woman who dedicated her whole life for this service, to the extent of a self-mortification. Generally regarded as the founder of modern nursing this "angel with the lamp" was born with a silver spoon in the mouth but felt herself frustrated and miserable in the idle luxury of her home.

Thus she was pushing herself towards a genuine renunciation of all mundane wealth and comforts for the sake of her chosen ideal of public nursing.

Very strong and even furious objections from her parents and relatives could not deter her when at the age of seven years she got a message from providence like Joan of Arc calling her for the service.

Starting with administering a small hospital in London she developed herself to be the ideal nursing lady in her extremely dedicated service in the Crimean war.

Her life story is a standing tribute to what the Buddha has defined as the ideal in this field. She has exemplified these requirements for all time thereby becoming immortalised as the respected founder of modern nursing.

Thus, whether in the orient or the occident, nursing the sick is recognised as a highly meritorious vocation. It has also a rich legacy behind it in both hemispheres.

This writer recently had the pleasant experience of participating in a programme of demonstrating this universal spirit when a Western type of private hospital in Colombo got down a 105-year-old more or less immobilised Buddhist monk from Kandy and gave him a comprehensive medical check-up completely free of charge to mark their first anniversary of service in Sri Lanka. All the doctors, nurses, attendants, labourers etc. who took part in it exemplified this noble tradition.

However, last but not least, it is quite sad to say that at times we have been forced to witness not only un-Buddhistic but the generally unethical habit of ridiculing one's enemies by referring to their illnesses or even physical deformities.
It is a misfortune.






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J13.15     Restless society and restrained mind

Ven. Dr. Beligalle Dhammajoti

Dept. of Pali & Buddhist Studies, University of Ruhuna.

Today, our society is restless and nowhere we fine peace. There are many people who spend even restless nights and they are showing signs of impatience in their daily life. The restless waves can be found in their minds, and those mind-waves would generate restless behaviour. They do not find enough time to pay attention to their spirituality. In this restless society, we, clearly find that many are running after money and material happiness. There are many who are greedy-natured and angry-natured. Why? No mental peace or inner tranquillity. Millions of humans talk of world peace but they never focus their attention on their own inner tranquillity.

Every society is full of socio-economic and political problems. If we scrutinize all these problems very honestly, then we can come to a conclusion that they arise because of wrong thinking and unethical behaviour of human beings. Millions of educated people are there who discuss these problems and try to avoid and solve them. Before we try to solve the problems of our outer world, it is our utmost responsibility to fully understand our own mind, its nature, its cankers, taints, intoxicants, corruptions and restless waves. It is these intoxicated and corrupt mind-waves that would generate a restless man and restless society.

Many are ready to fight and defeat others but are not ready to admit their faults and, tolerate. Attachment to the ego-belief is one of the impurity of restless-mind and guiding force behind many wars. One of the major causes for war-like situation is dogmatic views of certain groups. They think that their religion, their ways is the truth and everything else is false. This inhuman thinking would create restless situation in society and it would pave the way for complete destruction of other humans and their priceless monuments. Harmlessness or non-violence (avihimsa) has no place in this restless society.

The first disciplinary rule enjoined by the Buddha for our human society is abstaining from taking life. Why that? It is the basic precept for the survival of all humans and all other beings. We are entitled to check it whether it is good for the many or bad for the many.

When the majority of members in any society are no-manners one (muttacarins), then that society is not in the position of expecting progress. Even materials development in no way can be continued without morality. Therefore, the major problem is the failure of ethics (acara-vipatti).

Deforestation, water-pollution, land-pollution, sound-pollution, over-urbanization, war-targeted games, poverty, poverty-related crimes and all other socio-economic and political problems arise for the failure of ethics. In another words they arise because of uncultivated minds. Therefore, mind-training is very necessary and it must be given the priority. Here, as an atheistic religion and ethical system, Buddhism would recommend meditation for ethical progress in our society today. Through meditation that we can visualize the real nature of our inner mind, its impurities and outer world. Then only we would be capable of having a proper understanding of, "What we are?", "What we do?"

"Why we were born?" and "What is the meaning of our shorter life."





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J13.16     Zen Buddhism

There is a special tradition of Buddhism which emphasizes meditation than any other religious sect, that is, Zen (Chaan or Dyana). Zen Buddhism advocates us to cultivate our mind and to live like a flower and lead a very happy life. It shows us the way to safeguard our mind from outer impurities (kilesas).

Zen is a philosophy, and not a system founded upon logic and analysis. Zen is the whole mind. Zen has nothing to teach us. It has no any set teaching. There are no sacred books in Zen. Zen merely points the way. It has no God to worship. Zen has no any concept of soul. Zen tradition believes in man's inner purity and goodness. Mind is the fundamental object of Zen.

Zen emphasizes the attainment of freedom, that is, the freedom from all unnatural encumbrances. When this zen is understood absolute peace of mind is attained. Zen is always explained in very interesting words:

"Zen is the ocean, Zen is the air, Zen is the mountain,
Zen is thunder and lightening, Zen is the spring flower,
Zen is the summer heat, Zen is the winter snow,
Zen is the man..."

This means that, 'Zen is reality' and 'Zen is nature' and Zen can be understood by perceiving nature.

Zen teacher, Bhikkhu Bodhidharma says:
"Zen has nothing to do with letters, words, or sutras. It is like unlocking the door to a treasury. When the entrance is once gained, every object coming into your view is yours".

Once, one disciple came unto the Bhikkhu Bodhidharma and asked a question and for that Bhikkhu Bodhidharma gave a clear answer thus:

Disciple: 'I came here to seek the truth of Buddhism'
Bodhidharma: 'Why do you seek such a thing here?
Why do you wander about, neglecting
Your own precious treasure at home?'
'I have nothing to give you, and what
truth of Buddhism do you desire to
find in my monastery?'
'There is nothing, absolutely nothing.'

Here, Bodhidharma emphasizes the significance of mind by referring the word, 'precious treasure at home.'

A dialogue between a Zen teacher and a pupil on mindfulness runs as follows:

Teacher: 'Do you ever make any effort to get disciplined in the truth?'
Pupil: 'Yes, I do'
Teacher: 'How do you exercise yourself?'
Pupil: 'When I am hungry I eat; when tired I sleep'
Teacher: 'That is what everybody does. Can they be said to be exercising in the same way as you do?'
Pupil: 'No'
Teacher: 'Why not?'
Pupil: 'Because when they eat they do not eat but are thinking of various things, thereby allowing themselves to be disturbed, when they sleep they do not sleep, but dream of a thousand and one things. That is why, they are not like myself'.

In accordance with the sayings of Zen, human heart has two aspects, viz.,
(i) The pure heart
(ii) The impure heart

Heart is one, but there are two ways in accordance with its working. Pure-heart is somewhat similar to Buddha-heart. But the impure heart gives us no peace from morning till night, that is the passion-ridden heart. It disturbs us everyday. It leads men astray. It tries to destroy our spirituality. It advices us to do unethical things. It is the easiest way to woeful states. And the impure-hearted ones have to suffer before their death bed.

The pure-heart gives us peace from morning till night. It is the compassionate heart. It helps us to live like a flower. It tries to destroy evil tendencies and cankers. It helps us to cultivate good qualities. It advices us to do ethical things. It is the proper way to everlasting happiness. The pure-hearted ones do not gloomy over anything and they can even be happy before their death.

Mind is so difficult to guard and control. It is always agitated. It is very wonderful. It tries to seize whatever it desires. Therefore, it is so difficult to subdue. It is extremely subtle. It has no form. It wanders far and alone. But when there is no mind, then our body would be a useless log. If we can tame the mind, then it would bring happiness. A guarded mind gives no troubles.

The ill-directed mind would make injuries to our consciousness, and the well-directed mind would give us the everlasting happiness.

Average humans do both good things and bad things. Whatever we do whether it is bad or good, it spontaneously writes in our consciousness. The nature of our actions will deposit in a certain way in that place.

The name of the place is vinnanagabbha' or store-consciousness. One can destroy a life of a man. But he cannot destroy his store-consciousness.

Therefore, no one can escape from his own deeds. No one can purify others. We are not in the position of praying for our misdeeds and unwholesome actions. Dhammata (or sakti) or universal energies would punish us or would give results. It is the nature of the world. Many are there in the world who cannot understand this truth.

There is an another name for this sakti or dhammata. That is kamma. No one can avoid this universal kamma sakti or universal energies. We are the innocent victims of this universal phenomena.

What we can do is to understand this truth with the help of the teachings of the Buddha and try to control our mind and do meritorious and wholesome actions.

Restrained mind is the only way to experience happiness and the only consolation to suffering around the world.





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J13.17     Seeking the refuge of Tisarana in the footsteps of the Buddha

Freelance journalist Manjari Peiris in conversation with Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera on some deeper dimensions of the Dhamma.

'Namo thassa bhagawatho arahatho samma sammbuddassa' is the stanza of salutation of Lord Buddha by Buddhists and it is the assurance of them that they accept Lord Buddha as their Exalted One.

If one is to make this assurance, he should know well the reasons as to why he accepted the teachings of the Buddha. Most Buddhists are in the habit of uttering the salutation by following a ritual taken from their ancestors, and not doing so with respect. It is clear nowadays through the manner in which some Buddhists are accustomed to do so saying "Buddang saranang gachchami, dammang saranang gachchchami, sangang saranang gachchami" without knowing the reason to do so. This is a futile attempt.

It should be accepted with no argument that seeking the refuge of Tisarana should be done having understood the meaning and result of it. The purpose of reciting the Namaskara or Salutation thrice is to instill respect for the Exalted One. The "Bhagavatho" embodies the qualities of Lord Buddha deeming respect. In "Arahatho" the responsibility of the person who accepted to follow the teachings of Lord Buddha are embodied.

The "Bhagava", speaks of the eight types of extraordinary qualities of Lord Buddha. "Ithi pi so bhagva arahang" means "due to this reason Lord Buddha becomes 'arahang". Therefore, having some knowledge about the quality of "bhagava" is essential to be a good follower of Lord Buddha.

Bhaggarago bhaggadoso - baggamoho anasavo bhaggassa papaka dhamma - thasmma bhagavathi vuchchaththi.

Since Lord Buddha realised the Four Noble Truths by eradicating the fourfold defilement raga (lust), dosa (hatred) and moha (folly) the desire to be reborn, misconceptions and ignorance, He became qualified for the quality of Bagawa.

Why cannot we change the words of Lord Buddha?

"Yancha bhikkave raththi thathagatho abisambujathithi, yanchang thathagatho parinibbayathi. Ethasming anthare yang basathi lapathi niddisaththi, Sabbang thang thatheva hothi no anghghatha."

Lord Buddha uttered in this manner: "Monks, the Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment under the Bo Tree and what he had uttered since then until His Parinirvana, all that will definitely come through in the same manner and they cannot be changed in whatsoever manner."

Rituals for laymen

Lord Buddha had expounded in Dhammika Sutra two kinds of rituals for laymen and clergy separately beneficial for leading worldly and spiritual lives.

The ritual for laymen is explained in Sigalovada Sutra. Happiness, which is explained in Buddhism, is not what one gains by spending money. It is defined in Buddhism that the inner satisfaction which one derives by leading a corrective life is greater than the enjoyment gained by fulfilling the senses.

Chanda dosa Bhaya moha - yo dhammang athiwaththathi niheeyathi thassa yaso kalapakkecha chandima.

If one destroys the virtues by accepting chanda (avarice), dosa (hatred), Bhaya (fear) and moha (folly) he will be destroyed. Killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and lying retards wisdom and alcoholism, association of bad people, gambling, loitering, engagement in dance and songs and laziness make destruction of wealth.

Dhammachari sukang sethi asming loke paramheecha" It is explained in Sigalovada sutra that one who engages in virtuous acts will be benefited both in this world and other worlds. It is not difficult to understand that this ritual should be applied within the whole world irrespective of a person's religion and nationality. But this is not the ritual to follow to attain Nirvana.

The path to Nirvana is the Eightfold Path. It is a path shown by Lord Buddhas only. However practising of the five precepts need not be limited to Buddhists only. Even before the arrival of Lord Buddhas in this world practising of the five precepts had existed in this world. It is explained in Achchariyabutha sutra of the Majjima Nikaya.

To be virtuous

As practising of five precepts is included in the Eightfold Path, a Buddhist is compelled to develop virtues (sucharithiya). The word "arahatho" in the salutation denotes that a person is dedicated to go along the Eighfold path. This is the responsibility of a Buddhist who contemplates in the quality of Bhagava of Lord Buddha.

One who accepts the advice of Lord Buddha and sees the quality of Bhagavato of Lord Buddha, it is called Sraddha. Such a devoted person seeks the refuge of trirathana. Similarly he will follow the Dhamma and Sangha. It is explained in Dhammika Sutra that such a person will develop five kinds of virtues.

Developing the qualities of Lord Buddha is a kind of meditation through which one may gain both worldly pleasures and spiritual pleasures Lord Buddha has explained five kinds of meditation through which one gains pleasures both in this world and in other worlds. They are Buddhanussathi, Dhammanussathi, Sanghanussathi, Seelanussathi and Chaganussathi Bhavana.

Reminiscence in the qualities of Lord Buddha is Buddhanussathi. Virtues of Lord Buddha are innumerable. It is zipped into 9 kinds of virtues, as it does not embody in any other person in this world. Reminiscence of nine virtues is adequate for development of virtues and eradicating of defilement.

The result, which one may achieve through reminiscence in the virtues of Lord Buddha, is extravagant. It is explained in Dajagga Sutra that through contemplating on virtues of Lord Buddha one may eradicate fear.

When one contemplates the virtues of Lord Buddha knowing the meaning of them, it will bring one so much solace and pleasantness. One may see the Buddha in that manner. He will be respected by the world.

The mind, which inspires through contemplating in the virtues of Lord Buddha, purifies the blood of that person. The blood becomes strong through purified hormones resulting in a chemical activity in the brain. The pleasant activity along with the cells in the brain will establish physical health and mental health. Due to this reason mental development will increase.

The exercise to purify the mind is engagement in yoga activities. In Buddhism it is Samma Wayama (righteous attempt).

Physical health is to be devoid of sicknesses. Mental health is to be mindful. One who is mindful is a wise person. He who is wise detaches from those who are engaged in wrong doings. One who detaches from mis-conduct inspires his mind and body. Due to that reason he attains mental tranquilization. That inspiration brings in wisdom to realize things instantly. As a result the person who enjoys righteous worldly pleasures becomes suitable for enjoying spiritual pleasures as well.

Although the fivefold aspect for meditation brings in the aforesaid results, both the laymen and priests should always contemplate them. One who does not have homage for Lord Buddha cannot develop the other modes of meditation, which results in eradicating suffering. Therefore it is compulsory for each and every Buddhist to contemplate using the means prescribed in Buddhanusmurthi Meditation. Bodhi Pooja conducted along with contemplation in virtues of Lord Buddha brings in good results. Any kind of worship contemplating the virtues of Lord Buddha is Bodhi Pooja. Sri Lankan Buddhists are used to considering worship of Asathu tree which had given shade to Lord Buddha at enlightenment as Bodhi Pooja.

The main reason for this was that the advice of Lord Buddha to Ananda thera to plant a sapling of Sri Maha Bo tree at Devram Vehera to enable devotees who gather at Devram vehera to worship it in the absence of Lord Buddha.

The Highest Worship of Lord Buddha

"Monks, None of these offerings made to Lord Buddha is the correct kind of worship." Lord Buddha has explained in Parinibbana sutra that one may venerate Lord Buddha in the correct manner by living a righteous life.

Bodhi means enlightenment in Buddhahood. Pooja means veneration. Therefore, Bodhi Pooja means the veneration for the virtues of Lord Buddhas. One who does not realize the virtues of Lord Buddha cannot venerate the qualities of Him. To realise the virtues of Lord Buddha to the least, one should meditate on the virtues of Lord Buddha. By cultivating meditation on the virtues of Lord Buddha one may develop saddha in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

The values of Bodhi or Enlightenment can be realized only by understanding the preaching or the Doctrine made through that Wisdom. One cannot realize the Wisdom of Buddha by just looking at a statue or a picture of Buddha. It is just a figure to recollect the teacher who is called the Buddha. Lord Buddha has explained how to contemplate the virtues of Lord Buddha in the stanza saying " Ithi pi so bhagava."

One should not recite the stanzas saying Arahang sammasambuddho… just limiting it to words. One should have at least the understanding of the reason as to why we say "arahang" when contemplating on it.

All these qualities are a kind of mirror, which explains the might of the wisdom of Lord Buddha. All these 9 kinds of virtues of Lord Buddha as you look from 9 angles are seeing the quality of Bhagava. One who contemplates in these 9 kinds of virtues will glitter in the brightness of wisdom of Lord Buddha. It will be easy for the one who contemplates the virtues of Lord Buddha to understand Patichcha Samuppada (Dependent Arising), Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.





Personalities History

Articles Index

J13.18     Poson Poya: Spiritual rebirth in Sri Lanka

Narada Thera

With the dawn of the Poson full moon day, the Sinhala Buddhists commemorate their spiritual rebirth in Sri Lanka. For it was on such a full moon day as this that Arahat Mahinda, the son of the Emperor Dharmasoka, accompanied by four distinguished Bhikkhus, a Samanera who possessed psychic powers and a devout Upasaka, arrived on his historic mission to propagate the sublime Dhamma in this beautiful little isle.

These Indian Dharmadutas came out of compassion to us and rested on the Missaka Rock, now known as Mihintale.

Poson was a Festival Day for our ancient Sinhalas. Our sportive King Devanampiyatissa, the then ruler of Lanka, had gone hunting elk to this very place, with a large following.

The Arahat Mahinda, who in every respect was superior to the Sinhala king, saw the monarch running towards his direction chasing an elk. In order to arrest his attention Arahat Mahinda addressed him — "Tissa, Tissa, come this way."

The king was surprised at this unexpected curt form of address issuing from the lonely woods. He turned towards the direction of the voice and was astonished to see a dignified monk in yellow robes — a spectacle which he had never seen.

The king reverently inquired who he was.

Then the Arahat politely replied:—

Samana mayam maharaja dhammarajassa savaka Tam’eva anukampaya jambudipa idha gata.

"We are monks, O great king, the disciples of the King of Truth. Purely out of compassion for you, we have come here from India".

The king wished to know how they arrived on that solitary spot.

The Arahat Mahinda replied that they came neither by water nor by land.

The intelligent king inferred that they had come through the air.

The delighted king laid aside his weapons and sat composedly together with his retinue to hear the Dhamma. The venerable teacher, before expounding the profound teachings, tested the intelligence of the cultured king by putting some simple but subtle questions. The king answered them suitably. Thereupon the Arhat Mahinda delivered the Cula Hatthipadopama Sutta, ‘The Parable of the Elephant Footprint’, which deals with the fundamental tenets of Buddhism.

This important discourse describes the life of an ideal Bhikkhu and the different stages of mental development leading upto the ultimate goal, Nibbana.

Immediately the king embraced the new teaching and became a follower of the Buddha. His retinue followed suit. After the departure of the king and his followers, the lay disciple Bhanduka was granted the lesser (pabbajja) and the higher ordination (upasampada) by the Sangha. Soon after he attained Arahatship. Thus Bhanduka became the first Arahat in Lanka.

Later, as instructed by Arahat Mahinda, Sumana Samanera, standing on the summit of the present Aradhanagala, announced that it was the time to hear the Dhamma. By means of his psychic powers he made his voice heard throughout Lanka. Devas assembled in large numbers and the venerable Thera preached to them on spiritual calm.

These first penniless missioners who visited this island with the purest of motives, mainly to work for our moral welfare, gave us transcendental treasures.

On the day after their arrival they went to the city as invited by the king and the Arahat Mahinda expounded the simpler and the higher teachings of the Buddha of seven days to the interested Sinhala men and women who were so eager to hear the sublime Dhamma. Foremost amongst those who realized the Dhamma was Queen Anula who attained the first stage of Sainthood. Her spiritual attainment was not only a great honour to the Sinhala women folk but also proved a great blessing to the whole country.

With the introduction of Buddhism to Lanka the isle of the Sinhalas was converted to a Dharmadipa isle of truth. Buddhism was recognised as the state religion and it gloriously served as such until the advent of the foreign rulers.

Ahimsa or Harmlessness was one of the first lessons the Sinhalas learnt from Buddhism. Owing to the benign influence of Buddhism, Sinhalas became the gentlest race in the world.

To Buddhism Sinhalas are indebted for their alphabet and art of writing. The modern Sinhala characters are a gradual development of the ancient Brahmi letters in which were found the Asoka inscriptions. The enrichment of the Sinhala language was also due to Buddhism, as all the Pali commentaries were translated into the language of the land.

Indirectly, Buddhism was mainly responsible for the exceptionally high standard of Sinhala architecture and sculpture.

As Queen Anula expressed her desire to enter the order, the Arahat Mahinda sent envoys to his sister, Bhikkuni Sanghamitta, inviting her to Lanka. She readily responded to her brother’s invitation and arrived in Lanka with a branch of the sacred Bodhi tree, accompanied by a good number of scholars, politicians and artisans. This new venture led to the political, intellectual and economic development of the Sinhalas.

To Buddhism, the Sinhalas are deeply indebted for their moral, intellectual, cultural and spiritual development. In fact, the Sinhala race grew up in the cradle of Buddhism.

Inspired by the glorious past and fully confident of the bright future, Sinhala Buddhists should endeavour their best to make this sacred isle an ideal Buddhist state.

(This article first appeared in 1956 in ‘Bosat’)





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J13.19     Discussion between King Devanampiyatissa and Arhant Mahinda

Ariesen Ahubudu

King Tissa: Will the Dhamma that you intend to preach be beneficial to my country and to me, Ven. Sir. I shall listen to it only if it is so. If not I shall not listen even if it is the Dhamma.

If my land - the Hela Diva - becomes servile to Jambudvipa by reason of the Dhamma which comes from that land, I do not wish to embrace it. I am the king of this country.

Arhant Mahinda: This Dhamma destroys servility. It brings everlasting bliss.

The King: Is there any such thing as everlasting bliss in this world?

The Arhant: Oh, King, why do you say so?

The King: Ven. Sir, there is no bliss sans sorrow. There is also no sorrow sans bliss. Therefore, how can there be everlasting bliss in this world?

Warmth means less cold. Cold means less warmth. Those who do not know that say that warmth and cold are two different things.

Both are the same, if perceived through the eyes of wisdom.

Similarly there aren’t two things as bliss and sorrow.

Just as much as less cold gives warmth and less warmth gives cold, less sorrow gives bills whilst less bliss gives sorrow.

There is neither everlasting warmth nor everlasting cold. It is only a mental feeling caused by the change from one to another.

Therefore, I do not think there exists an everlasting bliss as you preach. It is only a change from bliss to sorrow and vice versa.

If there is a law which can be taken as "everlasting" it is none other than this change.

The Arahant: Oh King, your mental prowess would astonish the wise.

I am impressed by your viewpoint, as if lit up by a lamp.

The King: Ven. Sir, I too am no less impressed by you. But this position of being impressed would hinder our logic. Isn’t it so, Ven. Sir.

The Arahnt: Yes. Oh King.

The King: If so Ven. Sir, let us keep those feelings aside and resume our debate on "Everlasting Bliss".

Ven. Sir, let us for a moment think that everlasting bliss which I say is non-existent, does in fact exist. Alright. What is the use of acquiring such everlasting bliss?

The Arhant: Oh, King, why do you say so?

The King: Ven. Sir, it is the same even if you enjoy everlasting bliss or everlasting sorrow if viewed through the eyes of wisdom. If there is bliss sans sorrow, one would not feel that it is bliss. If there is sorrow sans bliss, one would not feel that, too, as sorrow. The worm resting on a heap of dirt will feel it is bliss, just as much as a God in heaven does.

The worm and the God take up similar mental states.

The wise who see the difference take that as sorrow and this as bliss.

If there are no huge trees in this forest even bushes will be seen as huge trees. They are differentiated as trees and bushes through identification of this disparity.

One would not feel that it is bliss if there wasn’t sorrow. Therefore, there is no bliss sans sorrow. If there is everlasting happiness anywhere, it will be the same in terms of enjoyment be it in any world or hell.

The Arhant: It is true Oh, King, that there is some truth in your vision. That is the worldly truth. You gauged sorrow and bliss from mundane things. But supra-mundane bliss is not the worldly sorrow and bliss you speak of.

There is neither worldly bliss nor sorrow in supra-mundane bliss. There occur changes as worldly bliss is not everlasting.

This change is a characteristic of worldly bliss and sorrow. I state that supra-mundane bliss is everlasting as there is no such changes thereon. Worldly bliss is uncertain due to this change therein.

Therefore, it is also impermanent, sorrowful and soulless.

Worldly bliss cannot be taken as bliss as it is not free of the three signs "Anithya, Dukkha, Anathma."

The King: Ven. Sir, now I have understood what you say. I offer my veneration to you.

I shall follow the path preached by the Buddha.

I shall make Sri Lanka a hall to preach the Dhamma.





Personalities History

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J13.20     Day of Lanka’s religious rebirth

Ven. Soma Thera

The full moon of Poson, the month of flowers, is the anniversary of the religious and cultural re-birth of Lanka, wrought through the compassionate teaching of the Blessed One.

On this day, 2,264 years ago, the Arahat Thera Maha Mahinda, son of Vedisa Devi and Asoka the Emperor established the gracious ruler of this island, Tissa, the Beloved of the Gods and his 40,000 followers, in the Law of the Buddha.

That act of the son of Asoka changed the destiny of this country. The majority of the people of Sihaladipa, the Island of the Lion Race, turned their attention away from the gloomy, dull path of worldliness and became interested in the resplendent, joyous path leading to the extinction of ill, the incomparable path of perfect beneficence, virtue, wisdom and peace.


The Doctrine brought to this country, by Maha Mahinda Thera after it was redated by Arahats at the Third Great Buddhist Council held under the aegis of Asoka and the Presidentship of the Arahat Thera Moggaliputta Tissa, continues to flourish here today.

The words of the Master brought by the son of Asoka are as clear now as when they were first heard in this land at Mihintale by Tissa and his retinue.
The credit for preserving the Doctrine untarnished and for its spreading throughout the world belongs to the people of this island.

It is not sufficiently appreciated that the culture based on the Dhamma is what the world needs today. This is the way of life based on right understanding, the way of amity, sympathy, compassion and equanimity, which can bring peace and happiness to humanity.

Golden Protest

If the people of this land are divided and are lacking right leadership, it is because a large number of those educated according to western standards have been swept off their feet by the glamour of ideas that are tinsel and paste in comparison with the gold and jewels of the Ariyan Way. The heritage comes down to us from the Anubuddha Maha Mahinda.

None can gainsay that in spite of all the laxities that have crept into our national life the outlook of the majority of the people of this country is opposed to violence, materialism and the exploitation of the weak by the strong and favours non-violence, virtue, and compassion.

It cannot be otherwise. The national emblem, the Sangha, who in the golden robes of the Arahats are a perennial protest against the pessimism of the world, are shining in every town and village of Buddhist Lanka.

The Pure Word of the Master, which Mahinda Thera brought to us, is being eagerly studied and diligently practiced by a considerable portion of the population. The great Dagobas and the mighty peak, which bears the footprint of the Master, the Footprint of the Great Bull Elephant amongst men, are ever beckoning us to the Noble Path.

The best songs of the Sinhalese which tell of the good life, of serenity, of renunciation, of amity and the calm and happiness of the passionless, still inspire many and with the quickening of our cultural consciousness, they are widening their sphere of influence.

The tanks, the embodiments of the corporate efforts of our ancestors under the impulse of the Sigala Sutta, are even today fertilizing our fields and are reminding us of the livingness of our link with our past.

The wonderful frescoes of our famous shrines, depicting the Perfections (Parami) of our Master, are exciting the interest of Buddhists and non-Buddhists.
The edicts of our noble kings, who served the religion of the Conqueror, Kinsman of the Sun, our Buddha and made this land prosper, are admonishing us and pointing to us the way to heaven.


In such an environment of excellence have we the fortune to live, blessed with peace and untroubled by many an ill that afflicts other countries, largely because - the Arahat son of Asoka, who came here renouncing an empire, lived here, taught our forefathers the right way to happiness and became a son of Lanka.

Ceylon is in area so small as to be almost insignificant in comparison with such countries as India, but this little island has one of he most significant histories in the world as the preserver and perpetuator of the true teaching of the Buddha and the tradition of a religious culture extending to twenty three centuries.

Poson, which means pushing forward, growing, (Samskrta, Prasuna) and refers to an abundance of flowers and fruits, is another name for Jettha (Samskrta, Jyaishta) a month in the rainy season.

During Poson takes place the festival of Anuradhapura and Mihintale, the two places in which Mahinda Thera accomplished his great work, labouring with love for the world, till he passed away into the peace that is beyond common understanding, the peace of Nibbana.


This architect of the culture of Lanka laid the foundations of the Dhamma in this country soundly and cooled the hearts and minds of our forbears with the water of compassion; because of him we have been able to withstand the most determined efforts of marauding nations living near and far to obliterate us and our culture.

It is healing and strengthening to remember, again and again, the words of the Buddha: "The doctrine truly protects him who practises it".
It is because our ancestors followed the Doctrine with devotion and diligence that we still have the freedom to live the Good Life, which leads to the highest happiness.

The people of this country are so conditioned by the Dhamma that without it they will cease to be a distinct cultured group of any great value in the world.
That is why men of vision have, from time to time, spoken of the necessity to nullify the influences that try to alienate the people of this country from the Buddhist Way of Life.

If, however, the people of this Buddhist land grow in accordance with the culture that is natural to them, phenomenal progress in their relation to other nations may be expected: then the children of the Sakyan Sage in Lanka would become outstanding patterns of the best way of life for all who trust in the supremacy of sobriety, sanity and non-violence.


It was from Vedisa Giri (Sanchi) that the Thera Maha Mahinda and his companions came to Ceylon by supernormal power and set in motion the wheel of righteous doctrine with the Buddha’s Instruction on the Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint in which the way to find the genuine teacher of salvation is shown.

At Vedisa a shrine to house the relics of the Theras, Sariputta and Moggallana, was built recently largely with donations received from Ceylon and through the efforts of the Ceylon Buddhists.

The new Vihara in Sanchi was intended not only as a memorial to the Two Mighty Leaders of the order of the Buddha, but also to Vedisa Devi’s son, the founder of Buddhist Lanka and its friendly culture, which springs from the mind of the Wisest of Beings, who is known thus because . -

He clearly sees the dying out of birth.
He wishes well to all and pities all;
And knows the single way by which men crossed,
Now cross and will in future cross the flood
— Samyutta Nikaya.

(First published in ‘Bosat’ 1956)


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