VESAK 2017

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J18.01    Belittling Gautama Buddha’s achievements

J18.02    Buddha’s Dhamma Discourses and Present Practices - Part 1

J18.03    Buddha’s Dhamma Discourses and Present Practices - Part 2

J18.04    From Views to Vision - The Buddha's teaching repeatedly cautions us

J18.05    A cry for clarification on 'From Views to Vision'

J18.06    The Buddha you never knew - According to the most ancient sources

J18.07    Buddha you never knew: Continue discussion

J18.08    Death: What next? - Death is the only guarantee in life and...








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J18.01    Belittling Gautama Buddha’s achievements

Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

If not for the conversion of Emperor Ashoka around 260 BCE, when the euphoria of the victory over the Kalingas was getting marred by regret over nearly 200,000 lives lost in the bitter war made him seek solace in Buddhism, Gautama Buddha would have been consigned to history over two millennia ago and His teachings lost for ever. Brahmins did their utmost to banish the Buddha, most likely because He rebelled against the caste system that gave the pride of place to them, even above the ruling classes. The other reason is Buddha’s rejection of a creator God and according to Sudhansu Bimal Barua (Bodhi Leaf 10, BPS; 2011) in one of the chapters of Ramayaoa it is stated:

"YathahicorasatathāniBuddhas, tathāgatamnāstikamatrabiddhi"

Which on translation is:

"Buddha is like a thief.Know Tathāgata [Buddha] to be an atheist."

As they could not banish, by masterful trickery they submerged the Buddha as the ninth avatar of Vishnu and would have remained so, if not for Emperor Ashoka who made Buddhism the ‘religion’ of the future. It is our bounden duty to make it fit for the 21st century.

Any claim to fame regarding Buddhism by Sri Lanka is, again, entirely due to Emperor Ashoka who sent not only his eldest son Arahant Mahinda to establish Buddhism but also his daughter Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta who brought a sapling of the Bo tree and established Bhikkuni Sasana which died out in the eleventh century only to be re-established in 1996.

During a live telecast from Buddha-Gaya broadcast on Rupavahini on Vesak morning, Prof. J B Dissanayaka made the interesting observation that, for whatever reason, Emperor Ashoka sent his own children to Sri Lanka whereas he sent other Arahants to bigger countries like Burma and Thailand. Though both Mahawansa and Dipawansa confirm this, some Indologists like Prof. Hermann Oldenbergh and V. A. Smith doubt this on the basis that it is not mentioned in Ashoka’s Rock Edicts. I am inclined to depend on the scholarship of Prof. Dissanayaka than on Western Indologists. If not for the untiring efforts of Anagarika Dharmapala who, unfortunately, died a few months before his dream was realized, Buddhists would not have had access to Buddha-Gaya and many other places that played a pivotal role in the life of Gautama Buddha.

What made me ponder is a statement made by the NayakaThero, whose name I could not catch, who appeared on the same programme. He stated that all Buddhas were born in India and all of them attained enlightenment in Buddha-Gaya and all of them died at Kusinara. Further, he predicted that Maithri Buddha will also do the same. Is that not pre-determination? Though I do not subscribe to such beliefs, many Sri Lankan Buddhists believe it will be King Dutugemunu who will be Maithri Buddha. How will Indians treat a Sri Lankan king who defeated an Indian invader? Perhaps, he should expect harsher treatment than his predecessor. Even if Sri Lanka gets virtuous by the day through aeons, will it not be able to produce an Enlightened one as Buddhahood is apparently the preserve of our big brother?

Empress Wu of China (624 – 705 CE), the only empress who was ‘the Emperor of China’ thanks to ‘liberation’ by Buddhism, was responsible for one of the largest statues in the Longmen grottoes where more than 100,000 statues of the Buddha and his disciples are in 2345 caves. She called it Maitriya Buddha but the face is hers; fair enough, having got ‘liberation’ from Gautama Buddha to aspire to be the next Buddha, if there is one, but she has overlooked the male dominated Indo-centric predictors. It will be an interesting religious-academic exercise to make nominations for Maithri Buddha; I have a few suggestions of my own.

Forget the future; what about the past? If we accept that there were many Buddhas in the past, all of whom were born, enlightened, preached and died in India then we are accepting that it is cyclic and, more importantly, fixed. This reduces the position of Gautama Buddha to one who reinvents the wheel, of Dharma of course. To me, sticking to unproven and unprovable beliefs at the expense of what has been established, is an attempt, though unintended, to belittle the unparalleled achievements of Gautama Buddha. I am subject to challenge but my view is that stories created by the well-meaning to illustrate the difficulty of attaining enlightenment inadvertently diminish the achievements of Gautama Buddha. I am in total agreement with Nan (The Deeper Meaning of Vesak, Gathered Over the Years: Sunday Island, 22 May) that it was refreshing to watch NavinGooneratna’s film ‘Siddhartha Gautama’ where he gave a deep meaning to renunciation, the widely believed version being used by some, in attempts at conversion, to portray Siddhartha as an uncaring father and irresponsible husband.

Is it not the time to shed stories told to evoke ‘shradda’ in the uneducated? I started studying medicine in 1959 and am yet to see a human new-born walk. Adding seven lotuses to it, makes it mystical but what Gautama Buddha expounded was not mysticism but realism; to live in the present mindfully. When there is so much of truth, science, in Buddhism why are some obsessed with stories, more fiction than fact? When I raised this issue during the Dhamma discussion at the Vesak celebrations of a British Vihara, the guest lecturer, a local professor, responded that it is ‘Folk Buddhism’ which he appreciates. I had to point out to him that I was born to ‘Folk Buddhism’ but have graduated to ‘Scientific Buddhism’. This was about twenty years ago and the committee of the temple have never invited me for a lecture or discussion since. Obviously, they prefer ‘Traditional Buddhism’ It was Rabindranath Tagore, the brightest star-ever of Indian culture, who said that the Buddha is the greatest human being ever born, a sentiment endorsed by many. The person I respect most is Gautama Buddha and in my retirement, while learning the core of his teachings, I am making an attempt to reconcile Dhamma with science. I am very pleased that my attempts as well as that of my friend Carlo Fonseka has evoked interesting responses; exactly what the Buddha wanted us to do, to indulge in intelligent discussion and analysis. Professor Shelton Gunaratne (The Island 29 May), who refers to me as "the boy from Matara who made good in the UK" which I consider a brotherly banter from a fellow Southerner, while stating that he disagrees with me has agreed with a lot I have stated in the past. I am very thankful to Bodhi Dhanapala for writing on our behalf (The Island 31 May) and to both of them for the excellent discussion from which I learned a lot. This is Buddhist discussion at its best and far removed from what I call ‘story telling of Folk Buddhism’

Gautama Buddha, the greatest original thinker, has earned my respect by empowering me too, to think. He had not constrained me with threats of eternal damnation neither bribed me to be ‘a good boy’; tactics oft adopted by religions of various hues. By turning the searchlight inwards, by His insightful analysis of mind, thoughts and consciousness, he had shown the path for contentment and detachment while extending compassion to all, a path to tread with conviction.

Long before scientists discovered dynamic flux, He taught us impermanence; the ever changing nature of things. He taught us the middle path, a path worth trading in all mundane matters too. I have used the stepwise approach of the Four Noble Truths in my profession with great success. He taught us cause and effect as well as dependent origination, long before scientists stated the concept of action and reaction. More than anything else, analysis of thoughts in Abhidhamma surpasses all the scientific knowledge gathered so far.

Insight Meditation, introduced by Gautama Buddha, has been transformed into multiple variations benefitting vast masses of humanity; treatment of mental illnesses to improving learning skills of children, even to changing the attitudes of criminals.

I can go on but it is not necessary. What I cannot comprehend is why we, Buddhists, belittle his achievements by being hooked on stories which deny his originality. Why discard substance and cling to rituals and stories? When anyone tells me that by not believing in these superficialities I am no longer a Buddhist, my reply is "I am a Gautamist". When I said this recently a very learned Buddhist told me that I will go to hell for my erroneous beliefs. Well, that is the price I am willing to pay for Gautama Buddha, if needed. As He taught, I should be able go through the torture of hell realizing that it is there but ‘I’ am not there to suffer.

03 06 2016 - The Island





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J18.02    Buddha’s Dhamma Discourses and Present Practices - Part 1

Nihal Kiriella

Change is an immutable phenomena that encompasses all substances animate, inanimate physical and mental. According to historical records Buddha, Dhamma was brought to Sri Lanka by Arahat Mahinda at the initiation of his father Emperor Ashoka.

Dhamma discourses were then conducted by the Arahats or the enlightened priests. The sermons were based on personal experience of liberation, thus through absolute knowledge. Hence created an empathy among the audiences. Some of whom walked away as stream winners. In the latter period to this date most sermons are delivered by the unenlightened ones with no personal proficiency endowed to the Arahats. Thus the Dhamma disseminated was through speculative knowledge. The interpretation perhaps inadvertently overshadowed by the dispensers inter alia cultural and religious exposures. The purity of Dhamma was impaired. A significant impact may have come through the Buddhist clergy who had earlier been immersed in their respective religious traditions. To illustrate the bharmin bhikku who had acquired skill and knowledge of Vedic tradition may have found difficult to communicate the Buddha’s message. A message unheard before. (Annunusuthesu dhammesu) without perfecting the aimed liberation. Hence not void of the disseminator’s background. Thus impairment of Dhamma lead to rarity of enlightened one’s. Nirvana has now been limited to prayer and to the obituary material.

Dhamm as buddha delivered in Kalama Sutta explains that it is not mystical, mythical or supernatural orientation. On the contrary encouraged deliberation an discussion unambiguously. Discouraged accepting anything through faith. "Buddha was emphatic not to trust or believe anything simply because you have heard about it or it had come down from generation to generation. Do not believe because it is in your spiritual book or guide. Do not believe cause your teachers and elders have expressed it, observe, analyze, check whether it is logical and conforms to a proven theory. Further ensure that it is good and for the welfare of all. If you are so convinced accept and model your behaviour accordingly.

Lord Buddha – Kalama Sutta – Anguththara Nikaya

Buddhism frowns upon blind faith, it is a doctrine of cause and effect. Later on we will have a cursory discussion on Pattichcha Samuppadaya as it is the apex of Buddha Dhamma.

    Yo pathichcha samuppadanam passathi - So Dhammang passathi
    Yo Dhammang passathi - So mang passathi

    Should you perceive pattichcha samuppadadaya - You perceive Dhamma
    Should you perceive Dhamma you perceive me

In pristine Dhamma, one attains enlightenment or liberated wisdom through the practise of the Noble eightfold path. To overcome suffering in the sansaric journey. "Sandeshana" or discourses on accumulation must be listened to, to achieve "sung dittiko." This is critical to liberation. The general emphasis and focus now is for aspiring worldly pampering in the heavens and this world and at the end of the sermon Nirvana is reduced to all but a prayer.

Buddha having attained "Buddhahood" in the "expression of exultation" refered to as "Udana Vakkya" express as follows."Aneka jathi sansaran-saddha vissang anibissang – Gahakaraka Gavesanthi Dukkang Jathi punnang punnang – Gahakaraka dittosi punagehang nakahasing – Sabbha theva sukha bagga – gahakutang visankuthang visankarang gathan chittang thannahang kaya majjaga.

The meaning – Many lives I have spent accumulating Sung delighting in transient pleasures. Eventually realised that accumulation (sung) of (Raga, Dvesha, Moha) leads to thannha or intense acquisition which causes suffering over and over again. Hence all possessive accumulation (thanha) was irrevocably destroyed (and liberated).

The above was the (Vimukthi Magga) path to liberation expounded by Lord Buddha and delivery through overcoming accumulation is rarely explained in the Dhamma discourses. (Save by a few selected priest) thus liberation is denied to many.

Our intellectual capacity has not decimated but the course of Dhamma Sermons have changed.

It is surmised by some profound eminent scholar priests that the cause of denial of liberation is because of the corruption of Dhamma in Pali commentaries authored by Vedic proficient unenlightened (Puttagjana – Lay) Bhikkus though in appearance aspirant Buddhist clergy, in effect have failed to empty the Vessels of abuddhistic psyche. Subsequently the corrupt message was revered and adopted by their unenlightened local counterparts who had no exposure to pristine buddhism.

Notwithstanding the religious boundaries, cast, creed colour, all are exposed to the realities of nature, sickness old age death and perpetual fundamental transitoriness of all manifested tangibles, intangibles inclusive of our thought process. This was so before Buddha appeared on earth.

Buddhist doctrine plays no part in mystical or mythical traditions. These terms are ascribed to phenomena beyond our perception. Though Buddha did not deal on exploratory sciences upon enquiry, the Buddha dealt on some areas though his mission was exclusively to redeem us from suffering born of ignorance. Do we really understand Dukkha or suffering? We experience Dukkha when something sad or unacceptable happens, we are broken - down. It is caused by our ignorance of egotistic attachment. The depth of sadness is directly proportionate to the intensity of attachment. Notwithstanding the said fact if one continues to survive as in most instances the sadness is gradually healed. Generally the transitoriness applies if one has youth and strength may return to a normal life. Impermanence is embedded in the entire fabric of nature very few realized the futility of life and enter the path of renunciation. Often we return to (Sung) accumulation of attachment, aversion and delusion. The intensity however depends on the characteristics or sangathi of the person.

When Dukkha gradually erodes we return to our habit of attachment, aversion and delusion and pursuit of happiness. The happiness though seldom realized is an interlude between suffering. We find alternating modes of indulgence in multifarious activity. In the persistence of pursuit of happiness we accrue sangkara or egotistic accumulation suffering is looming while we engaged in physical thrills but are unmindful, cos’ of the prospect of enjoyment and oblivious to the experience of suffering.

Engaging in reading and listening to Dhamma without perception either through lack of motivation or solely for acquisition of knowledge bears no benefit. Further improper translation of Pali commentaries by Bhikkus from non buddhistic background led to misinterpretations of the original doctrine. Pali words have multiple meanings and the failure to select the right meaning led to a form of corruption of the original concept. For a considerable span of time local audiences were denied of the pristine Buddhism. This caused Buddha Sasana with few enlightened monks and devotees. Some profound monks are of opinion that Brahmin Buddhist clergy who were exposed and nurtured in Vedic traditions and scriptures made some inroads incorporating Vedic thoughts corrupting the Buddhist doctrine. Some learned eminent analytical monks with research background have collected factual data of corruption. Hence our inheritance is fraught with practices endowed with prayer, moving away from life changing strategies based on the doctrine of cause and effect. According studies made by eminent priest, revealed that there were several religious traditions which deals with path of liberation by suppressing attachment and aversion but devoid of dealing with (Moha) delusion. Hence their path to liberation is of Worldly nature leading to ecstasy of liberation which is of temporary phenomena and upon excusing accrued merit one retraces the steps to the lesser worlds. Buddha mastered all religious models then available in India and concluded that permanent redemption from suffering is not available in the said practices. The Buddha’s was to expunge Sung fully by completely eradicating attachment, aversion and delusion which is termed as samucheda prahanaya leading to unwavering libeation of Akkupa Chetho Vimukthiya or Nirvana. All defilements are completely eradicated including "Asava" brought forward from the past births. Asawa the defilements fermenting over many lives were put to a complete estoppel along with all residual defilements upon attaining Arahathhood.

It is noteworthy all pristine discourses were exclusively in Pali language however upon Vedic influence some Sanskrit words had found it’s way to the Buddhist lexicography and into the key aspect of the doctrine as thilakhana. The modern explanation of thilakhana uses the words " Anithya" or impermanence. In the original Pali texts the word used is "Anichcha" leading to dukka and to Anaththa .The etymological roots of Anichcha is derivation from the prefix ‘un’ + Ichcha. Ichcha means desire when prefixed by an means not as desired which leads to Dukkah or suffering. It is amply evident when one is faced with the undesired it leads to sadness or suffering and that is perfectly logical. Replacement of Anichcha with Anithya the Sanskrit word confuses the concept of Thilakhana. The meaning of Anithya is impermanence i.e. change / transitoriness. A change does not necessarily lead to suffering. Many an illustration could be given where change or impermanence leads to better circumstance. Assume a patient who suffers from a terminal illness gets healed, it denotes Anithya or change but it does not leads not suffering (Dukkha). Thus Anychcha is the appropriate term. The Anychcha also connotes another meaning as the opposite of Nichcha or permanence. Impermanence or transiency is a core aspect of the doctrine. Transiency is also used to explain "Sakkaya ditti" which denies the existence of "me and mine" syndrome. Everything is in a state of flux thus it is not the same person at the next moment. Universally all animate an inanimate conditioned realities are composed of "Rupa kalapa" which are atoms and the atoms are made on sub atomic particles and all are subject to Uthpada, Thithi, Banga to arise ? sustain ? destroy. Some subatomic particles destroy in nanoseconds. Hence, except for the purpose of convenience , nothing cannot be labeled as animate or otherwise. The only reason we cannot accept the rapid changing proposition owing to lack of visibility to the human eyes. A change how ever could be observed overtime as that of a child growth into adulthood. It is even more complex to understand a relationship when two or more connected subjects are on a continuous transformation. An excellent example was given by a priest where upon actual destruction of a star is not visible to the naked eye. eg. A star which is one light year away gets destroyed but appears to us on the earth as present. And our eyes could view the star. It is caused by the distance and time light takes to travel for our view. In fact when star is destroyed we yet see but we are seeing the history. So seeing should not lead to believing but even with the knowledge of it yet we believe otherwise. Thus we are beholden to the sense institutions and fail to see the reality. (Yathabutha Gnana Darshana) Buddhas first spoken words relates to accumulation (i.e. attachment, aversion and delusion) which he indulged in many a births resulted in continuity of suffering after brief spells of happiness alternated between joy and suffering. Having realized the cause he destroyed the recurrence by destroying the cause. The three fold defilements or thesung were completely eradicated. In response to a query by Upatissa Paribrajaka as to the teaching of his guru. Assaji Thera delivered the following stanza.

    "Ye dhamma hethupabawa - Thesung hetu thathagatho aha
    Thesung chayo nirodo - Evang vadi maha samano"

Continued below...

19 06 2016 - The Island





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J18.03    Buddha’s Dhamma Discourses and Present Practices - Part 2

Nihal Kiriella

Upon comprehending the stanza Upatissa Paribrajaka attained sotha paththi the first step of the stream. The brief meaning of the stanza – it is a doctrine of cause an effect based on method of overcoming accumulation of thesung or attachment aversion and delusion.

Sangkara is the act of accumulation and perpetuation. Trapping occurs cos’ of the addictive properties accumulation propels, liquor, drugs all are known addictives so is the physical intimacy love of your children and in some instances properties etc. The delusion hides the imminence of suffering. Death spares non, everyone departs sooner or later leaving all treasured conditional realities. Including panchaskanda. One has to leave the body caringly looked after beautified by the beautician and dressed on branded product or even otherwise one has to make the exit.

We also have to leave all our loved ones indifferent one’s an the hated one’s to a another abode taking with us the Prathisandi Vignana along with acquired characteristics or sangathi which determined our next abode. Are you ready to leave? Buddha says you may not take the next breath. When we are physically strong and young death is a distance reality despite the caution issued by Buddha.

We are in a hunt for pleasures in various modes, the most potent attraction normally is the opposite sex. One enjoys even seeing an attractive man / woman whether the circumstances permit or not the inner tendency is to relish what it offers. The mind become possessed with creative imagination and penetrative eyes, ears etc. If one becomes intoxicated with the object of desire the defiled mined become busy accumulating in the midst one feels so ecstatic as of a floating experience. The intensity depends on habits (sangathi) and characteristics in sojourn of sungsara .The Buddha prescribed Abrahmachariya or abstinence if one is an aspirant.

Attachments are multifaceted if you see your child suddenly their arise a sense of possession. If they do not conform to our expectations, the lobha may turn to dvesha or aversion. This is caused by our failure to cultivate anichcha that nothing would remain as desired.

Practicing sila is to discipline oneself in reacting to defilements that flows through your sense institution (ayathana) constantly thoughts/ chaithasika must be monitored and differentiated. Ideally before the thought occurs, be cautious to refrain from entertaining defiled thoughts. Thought is not an independent entity. It is your sense institution that activates it. Sangwara is to censor the arising of sung or attachment, aversion and delusion. To execute sung dittico is to be mindful of your thought process to arrest manifestation. Traditional sila or resolution to observe certain precepts for a day or more would not guarantee non intrusion of thoughts that may breach the precepts, to abide by the precepts without default one needs to be watchful of the mental process. There could be a tendency to react to external form or rupa, sounds (shabda), smell (ghanda), taste (rasa), could yield to touch(passa). The defiled mind may continuously be confused by the touch followed by feeling arising from the touch or sampassaja vedana . Consequently defiled vingnana stimulate attachment. Thought is a voluntary process our acquired habits or sangathi from the past birth or fermented defilements (asava), awaits to support such stimulation and we are trapped hook line and sinker. The importance of being mindful is a critical premiss. Nevertheless since it, set forth by our sense institutions, we cannot be absolve our responsibility for it, as at this moment, we are aspirants. It is the thrill that is derived from yielding must be over powered. You may fail time and again but the persistence, is critical it could even extend to our old age. When frailty sets in we loose the opportunity of controlling it. The consequences could be dire. The process liberation is in you. Nirvana, or liberation is now limited to a prayer and that too upon seeing Maithree Buddha after eons of time. Chunda Sukara who ran a piggery in the environs of Jethavana must have seen Buddha on a daily basis but he ended up in hell. Even when we observed (sil) precepts the intention should be to overcome accumulations forever. More over to discipline yourself to censor sung beyond the intended period, of sila hence we should attempt be devoid of sungkara. The persistent practice would bring us to the goal. The path is through listening to Dhamma (Suthamaya Gnana) from a Kalyana mitta i.e. a person who helps us to eliminate sung and help us in our upward journey. Lord Buddha is the greatest Kalyana mitta to us all. Consistence of monitoring the thought process is compelling to prevent the mind from being defiled. Such is the precursor Sung dittiko.

The Buddha showed us the path and taught us the sign posts of obstacles. The path is the Dhamma. The path is clear but even the Buddha cannot hold our hands and walk the path. The aspirant has to do the walking all by himself we have been provided with the Dhamma superhighway by the Buddha himself. The obstacles to the highway are our own deliberate creation. The way is clear. We instead walking the highway and sit on the edge on a comfortable cushion and light lamps, hold incense light scented sticks, lie prostrate and pray and the defilements lie in ambush and prey on us.

Misguidance is given by a large number of priests too as they too are engaged in the same activity. This predicament was brought about by other religious intrusions. There are no prayers in Buddhism, we are the masters and the makers of our destiny. Follow the right guidance and you will be on the path to the liberation.

Buddha attained Nibbana under the Esathu Bo tree. He let go of all the accumulation (sung) and that was his offering to wisdom or Bodhi pooja. Our Bodhi pooja are with flowers, lamps, incense etc. to ward off negative planetary configuration. To overcome, personal problems though Buddha is no more under the tree. He finished his mission but empowered us but we have blind folded ourselves. Prayer is abuddhistic. We shall not opt to debate on the efficacy but one cannot obtain nirvana by prayer. That is not the Buddha’s path to liberation. Notwithstanding benefits, if any the prayer is accumulation and (sung) that will only delay our liberation.

As of now what is happening in the temple church or the kovil is the same. Even the Buddhist priests are engaged in such invocation and prayer. The dayakas or devotees as more appropriate, throng to the temple with large number of devalas. And that has becomes a good business model to generate income. Buddha taught us to let go, from Jethavana, Veluvana and Purvarama temples etc. We now go to the temple to grab or accumulate. It is a contrast and a contradiction to pristine Buddhism. The stream winners are a rarity. On examining the ground operations distortions are crystal clear. The reader can conclude whether we are on the path to liberation as propounded by Buddha.

The defined mind is stimulated through attachment and is in conflict at different levels. The Buddha has shown us clearly the negative activity of the sense institutions (ayathana) but we are succumbing through perverse un Buddhistic practices and rituals.

he purpose of an institution is to produce goods and services. The same happens when sense institutions (ayathana) are at work. Sense institutions team to produce numerous activities. If we decide we could identify the production process and stall it. May be our old habits (sangathi) are lurking in the background but we are in default with identification and elimination.

The Buddha taught us the way the defilements occur through Aviddya mula Pattichcha samuppadaya and the way to overcome the ongoing defilements process through Pattichcha samuppada. The doctrine is exhaustive and complex requires persistent solid effort to comprehend.

Initially some element of perception of Avidya mula Pattichcha samuppadaya is critical.

Let us examine the etymology of Pattichcha, Pati means binding and Ichcha means desire the Pattichcha means bound by desire Samuppadaya. Sung uppada or creation of accumulation of attachment, aversion and delusion thus Uppadaya is production of raga, dvesha, moha bounded by the desire. Even dvesha is created as one’s subconscious defiled mind is desirous of in being angry with a person or some act. It is the obverse side of the same coin. Both arise out of delusion. The ignorance lead us to be elated by transient worldly pleasure. Perhaps latching on to the memory of thrills experienced and still may grab should opportunity present itself.

Buddha has shown us the way to redeem by detailing the manner in which the sense institution activate.

When eyes desirously bind itself with an external form (rupa) it creates eye sense of the mind. (Vignana) When the three conjoins producing the touch (passa) thus the touch creates an empathetic feeling (sampassaja vedana). This occurs in all sense organs. When eyes bind with an external form (Rupa) in Magadi it expresses thus. "Chakkuncha Pattichcha Rupecha Uppajjathi chakku vingangan, thinan sangathi passo passa pachchaya vedana – vedana pachchaya thanha –thanha pachchaya upadana – upadana pachchaya bava" when eye sense contact a form (rupa) it begets eye mind sense, (chakku vingnana) the three causes the touch sense (passa) thus begets eye feelings, feelings begets attachments, attachments begets clinging, clinging begets karmic content. (karmabhava) The process is repeated in all sense institution. They also team up with each other. The process is initiated by binding with object of desire.

The Buddha prescribed the manner in which to comprehend the process through mental observation. Firstly observe the arising of the desire. (paringeiyya) then make a decision to overcome the defilement (parikkeiyya) shed the desire altogether (prahanaya) even if we observe a desire (Kamachchanda) could arise we must observe and negate it. Aversion to could arise should we meet undesirable people. The observation and decision to rectify is the prime mover of the process. Arising of sexual excitement is probably is the natures process for perpetuation and the need to feel loved and protected. Mind is normally in a vacuum, The input is made through sense institutions as we are inattentive. The defiled mind (vignana) crafts the defilements. Aversion too adopt the same method. Why does this happen? Because it is written in to our mental software says that it will give us pleasure thus the prerecorded instruction activate. A decision must be taken for selective deletion.

With repetitive attention (bhavitha bahulikatha) the programme could be restituted from dormancy and be deleted. Older the habit complex could be the deletion as the programme face intricacies as the source code had been deleted. That is when we realize it is a fermented defilements (asava) such defilements keep resurfacing and we may not be able to shed them completely for a long period. Persistent attention to overcome should continue, on brief meditative practices under a teacher. If we have unbridled sexuality an eminent priest recommends Viraganau passana meditation. Intense desire gives rise to sung and Viraganu passana will disengage empathy to the cause of suffering. There are a series of Vipassana meditation for each situation and a competent master exposed to pristine Buddhism will give us the right prescription. Until you go to a teacher you can resort some simpler techniques recommended in Dhamma. Such as employing gradual reduction of defilements through Kyaya’ Altenatively a further method is Viyaya that is to expend the defilements overtime. Assume if the person is dvesha type practice Metta to negate. Loba type could move into alobha before practicing chagaya or letting go without any expectation. The processes include viragaya nirodhaya. The constant watchfulness is required to observe the intrusion of defilements time and again to forestall forth with prior to empathetic accommodation. The last stage is patinissaggaya breaking all bonds and liberate. (muththi)

If we have mental capacity to understand the meanings of Dhamma and deeper interpretation (nirukthi) beyond being verbatim and commit unrelenting effort, the path will open with the prospect of becoming a stream winner in this life itself overcoming all setbacks.

The Buddha’s first words were "Aneka jathi sung (sung) sarang and the last, at the time of parinirvana was again on sung.

Vaya dhamma sankara Appamadena sung pahadetha "

The meaning is that all accumulation would be spent.

Do not delay to comprehend sung

We are now devoid of pristine message of Buddha on key aspects hence the Sung Pahadetha has been indicated as Sampadetha and interpreted as to accrue without delay. Buddha has never encourage us to accrue or produce.

For more meaningful discussion on sung the Doctrine of Pattichcha Samuppadaya must be discussed in detail. It is too exhaustive and suggest be discussed with a competent Buddhist priest. Largely the content of this article was acquired through the publications by eminenent priest and listening to Dhamma discussion.

The exposition of the Doctrine of Sung is a rarity in most Buddhist sermons. We must revert to pristine Buddhism if we are aspiring to attain higher levels.

May your efforts for the perception of Sila Samadi and Panga be fruitful. May the learned priest re-emerging the pristine Dhamma be protected.

May all beings be well and happy.  Theruwan saranai!

23 06 2016 - The Island





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J18.04    From Views to Vision

Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Buddha's teaching repeatedly cautions us about the dangers in clinging -- in clinging to possessions, clinging to pleasures, clinging to people, clinging to views. The Buddha sounds such words of warning because he discerns in clinging a potent cause of suffering, and he thus advises us that the price we must pay to arrive at the "far shore" of liberation is the relinquishment of every type of clinging. In a move that at first glance may even seem self-destructive on the part of a religious founder, the Buddha says that we should not cling even to his teachings, that even the wholesome principles of the Dhamma have to be treated like the makeshift raft used to carry us across the stream.

Such astringent words of advice can easily be misconstrued, and if misconstrued the consequences may be even bitterer than if we simply disregard them. One particular misinterpretation into which newcomers to the Dhamma (and some veterans too!) are especially prone to fall is to hold that the Buddha's counsel to transcend all views means that even the doctrines of Buddhism are ultimately of no vital importance. For these doctrines too, it is said, are merely views, intellectual constructs, filaments of thought, which may have been meaningful in the context of ancient Indian cosmology but have no binding claims on us today. After all, aren't the words and phrases of the Buddhist texts simply that -- words and phrases -- and aren't we admonished to get beyond words and phrases in order to arrive at direct experience, the only thing that really counts? And doesn't the Buddha enjoin us in the Kalama Sutta to judge things for ourselves and to let our own experience be the criterion for deciding what we will accept?

Such an approach to the Dhamma may be sweet to chew upon and easy to digest, but we also need to beware of its effect upon our total spiritual organism. Too often this kind of slippery reasoning provides simply a convenient excuse for adhering, at a subtle level of the mind, to ideas which are fundamentally antithetical to the Dhamma. We hang on to such ideas, not because they are truly edifying, but in order to protect ourselves from the radical challenge with which the Buddha's message confronts us. In effect, such claims, though apparently aimed at safeguarding living experience from the encroachment of stodgy intellectualism, may be in reality a clever intellectual ploy for refusing to examine cherished assumptions -- assumptions we cherish primarily because they shield deep-rooted desires we do not want to expose to the tonic influence of the Dhamma.

When we approach the Buddha's teachings, we should bear in mind that its vast array of doctrines has not been devised as elaborate exercises in philosophical sleight of hand. They are propounded because they constitute right view, and right view stands at the head of the Noble Eightfold Path, the chisel to be used to cut away the dross of wrong views and confused thoughts that impede the light of wisdom from illumining our minds. In the present-day world, far more than in the ancient Ganges Valley, wrong views have gained widespread currency and assumed more baneful forms than earlier epochs ever could have imagined. Today they are no longer the province of a few eccentric philosophers and their cliques. They have become, rather, a major determinant of cultural and social attitudes, a molder of the moral spirit of the age, a driving force behind economic empires and international relations. Under such circumstances, right view is our candle against the dark, our compass in the desert, our isle above the flood. Without a clear understanding of the truths enunciated by right view, and without a keen awareness of the areas where these truths collide with popular opinion, it is only too easy to stumble in the dark, to get stranded among the sand dunes, to be swept away from one's position above the deluge.

Both right view and wrong view, though cognitive in character, do not remain locked up in a purely cognitive space of their own. Our views exercise an enormously potent influence upon all areas of our lives, and the Buddha, in his genius, recognized this when he placed right view and wrong view respectively at the beginning of the good and evil pathways of life. Views flow out and interlock with the practical dimension of our lives at many levels: they determine our values; they give birth to our goals and aspirations and they guide our choices in morally difficult dilemmas. Wrong view promotes wrong intentions, wrong modes of conduct, leads us in pursuit of a deceptive type of freedom. It draws us towards the freedom of license, by which we feel justified in casting off moral restraint for the sake of satisfying transient but harmful impulses. Though we may then pride ourselves on our spontaneity and creativity, may convince ourselves that we have discovered our true individuality, one with clear sight will see that this freedom is only a more subtle bondage to the chains of craving and delusion.

Right view, even in its elementary form, as a recognition of the moral law of kamma, the capacity of our deeds to bring results, becomes our gentle guide towards true freedom. And when it matures into an accurate grasp of the three signs of existence, of dependent arising, of the Four Noble Truths, it then becomes our navigator up the mountain slope of final deliverance. It will lead us to right intentions, to virtuous conduct, to mental purification, and to the cloudless peak of unobstructed vision. Although we must eventually learn to let go of this guide in order to stand confidently on our own feet, without its astute eye and willing hand we would only meander in the foothills oblivious to the peak.

The attainment of right view is not simply a matter of assenting to a particular roster of doctrinal formulas or of skill in juggling an impressive array of cryptic Pali terms. The attainment of right view is at its core essentially a matter of understanding -- of understanding in a deeply personal way the vital truths of existence upon which our lives devolve. Right view aims at the big picture. It seeks to comprehend our place in the total scheme of things and to discern the laws that govern the unfolding of our lives for better or for worse. The ground of right view is the Perfect Enlightenment of the Buddha, and by striving to rectify our view we seek nothing less than to align our own understanding of the nature of existence with that of the Buddha's Enlightenment. Right view may begin with concepts and propositional knowledge but it does not end with them. Through study, deep reflection and meditative development it gradually becomes transmuted into wisdom, the wisdom of insight that can cut asunder the beginningless fetters of the mind.

(Courtesy: Buddhist Publication Society)

10 04 2017 - The Island





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J18.05    A cry for clarification

As always, it is with a profound sense of respectful interest that I read and re-read Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi’s article titled ‘From Views to Vision’ in The Island of 10th April. He is the most authoritative and lucid exponent of Early Buddhist Teachings I am privileged to know personally. I write this to seek clarification of a particular confusion which arose in my mind consequent to reading his article.

At one point in the article, with a clarity that leaves nothing to be desired, Ven BB asks: "…doesn’t the Buddha enjoin us in the Kalama Sutta to judge things for ourselves and let our own experience be the criterion for deciding what we will accept?" Even as I found myself answering that seemingly innocent question with a resounding "yes", Ven BB hastened to warn with reference to the question that this "kind of slippery reasoning provides… a convenient excuse for adhering … to ideas which are fundamentally antithetical to the Dhamma…"

Earlier in the article, concerning the dangers inherent in clinging to possessions, pleasures, people and even views, Ven BB avers that the Buddha went so far as to declare that "we should not cling even to his teachings". Ven BB fears that such limitless freedom of thought granted to his followers may be "self-destructive" to the founder of Buddhism himself. The staggering truth, however, is that the Buddha did grant such freedom, and for me, that is precisely the compelling intellectual appeal of this unique Teacher. The enjoyment of such freedom does not inhibit me at all from accepting wholeheartedly his teaching that the three roots of suffering are greed, hatred and delusions, and that eliminating them will liberate me from suffering.

In that context, I should indeed be much obliged to any knowledgeable reader who would tell me what sort of "cherished assumptions" on the part of a follower of the Buddha might possibly interfere with the acceptance of the essentials of the Dhamma such as the Four Noble Truths, and the anathema (no soul) doctrine.

21 04 2017 - The Island





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J18.06    The Buddha you never knew

Bhante Dhammika of Australia


An ancient sculpture depicting Maha Maya dreaming of a white elephant

According to the most ancient sources, several months after the Buddha passed away, 500 monks, all of them arahats, met together in Rajagaha and held what is usually called the First Council. The purpose of convening this council was to make sure that what the Buddha had taught during the previous 45 years would not be forgotten. The arahats and probably many others too, believed that the Buddha’s Dhamma was too precious, too important to be confused or forgotten. It had done so much for them, leading them to awakening (Bodhi), that they wanted to make sure that others, at that time and forever after, would have the chance of attaining the freedom and peace of Nirvana too. It is likely that the arahats did not preserve everything the Buddha had said, because he had said the same thing many times, but they did preserve what they believed to be the essentials. Although there is no specific record of it, it is clear that some information was added to the Tipitaka later. For example the Mathura Sutta, a discourse by Anarudha specifically says that it was delivered sometime after the Buddha’s passing. Some of the poems in the Theragatha and Therigatha were composed by monks and nuns at least two or three generations after the Buddha. The Vinaya includes an account of the Second Council which took place about a hundred years after the Buddha. But more than that, the language, style and contents of some books in the Kuddhaka Nikaya indicate that they may date from several hundred years after the Buddha. Although they are not attributed to the Buddha or his direct disciples these books are considered authoritative. However, we can say with a high degree of confidence that the core material in the Digha, Majjhima, Samyutta, and Anguttara Nikayas, and in books such as the Sutta Nipata, Dhammapada, UdanaItivuttaka, etc. accurately reflects what the Buddha taught. It is the earliest and most authentic record we have of the life and teaching of the Buddha. The arahats who participated in the First Council preserved what they thought was the essentials of the Buddha’s Dhamma.

Thus the Tipitaka is important for what it has in it, but it is also important for what it does not have in it. And what the Tipitaka does not have in it will probably surprise most Buddhists. In fact, it might shock them. In this article I will discuss, not what it says about the Buddha but on what it does not say about him.

Many Buddhists have only a rudimentary knowledge of the Dhamma. But even they probably know the main points of the Buddha’s life. Even many non-Buddhists know it. It is sketched in text books and encyclopaedias, it is celebrated in song and film, it is taught in thousands of dhampasalas, and incidents in it are depicted on temple walls and in Vesak cards. But what very few people know and what may astonish them is that almost none of the well-known and beloved incidents in the Buddha’s biography are not found in the Tipitaka. Here are some examples of this.

His Father

The Buddha’s father was Suddhodana, a name meaning "pure rice". It is always said that Suddhodanawas a king of the Sakyansand depictions of him always show him in regal attire, sometimes sitting on a throne or residing in a palace. Despite this, nowhere in the Tipitaka is the Buddha called a prince (raja kumara), is he or his father said to live in a palace, and only once in the whole of the Tipitaka is his father called raja, a word usually translated as king. In reality, in the 5th century BC the word raja almost certainly did not mean king in the sense the word is understood today, but a ruler. Even in the very places where one would expect the Buddha to refer to his father as a king he did not do so. For example, when asked by King Bimbisara about his family and his birth the Buddha simply replied that he was from a Sakyan family (SuttaNipata322-4).

It is know that the Sakyans had a body of men called "raja makers" (raja kattaro). It seems almost certain that this body elected someone to be their leader either for a set period or for as long as he had the confidence of the body. Therefore, it would be more correct to refer to Suddhodana as a chief rather than a king. Thus we can say that while the Buddha was almost certainly from a patrician or ruling class family he was not royalty. It is also worth noting that Suddhodana is only referred to twice in the whole of the Tipitaka, once in the Digha Nikaya and once in the Vinaya.

Maha Maya’s Dream

Just as everyone believes that the Buddha’s father was a king and he was a prince, they also believe that his mother dreamed of a white elephant around the time he was conceived. This may have happened, but if it did the arahats of the First Council did not mention it because it occurs nowhere in the Tipitaka.


Throughout the Tipitaka the Buddha is referred to or addressed as Gotama, good Gotama or ascetic Gotama, asTathagata, occasionally as Kinsman on the Sun (Adiccabhandu), a reference to the SakyanAdicca linage, and once as the Sakyan Sage (Sakyamuni). Gotama is a clan name meaning ‘best cow’ and reflects an earlier time in India when having many cattle was a measure of wealth and a source of pride. But interestingly, never once is the Buddha ever called Siddhattha Gotama. In fact, the name Siddhattha occurs nowhere in the Tipitaka. It may well have been his given name but it gets no mention in the earliest records.

Asita’s Prediction

According to the Sutta Nipata, when the devas told the hermit Asita that a special child had been born in Kalilavatthu he went there to see it. Suddhodana welcomed him and gave him the baby to hold. Being accomplished in the art of "signs and mantras" he examined the boy and proclaimed that he would attain complete awakening, reach "the ultimate purified vision" and proclaim the Truth "out of compassion of the many" (bahujamhitanukampa). Then tears welled up in Asita’s eyes. Noticing this and alarmed by it, Suddhodana asked him if he had foreseen some misfortune in the boy’s future. The sage replied that he was sad because he knew that he would pass away before this all happened and he would never witness it.

The later elaborations of this Asita story, and there are several of them, each more detailed than the earlier ones, often say that Asita predicted that the baby would become either a universal monarch (cakkavattin) or a fully enlightened sage (Buddha). This ‘either’‘or’prediction is not mentioned in the Tipitaka account.

Youth and Marriage

We are told that the young Gotama grew up into a virile and handsome young man. When the time came for him to be married he participated in a competition in the manly arts and won the hand of a charming young maiden named Yasodhara and the two were married. Of course there is nothing unbelievable about this story, it is exactly what would have been usual for a young man at that time, but it gets no mention in the Tipitaka. We know that Gotama was married because there is several references to his son Rahula. But the name Yasodhara does not occur even once in the Tipitaka. Gotama’s wife, whatever her name was, is only ever referred to as "Rahula’s mother" (Rahulamata).

Young Gotama and the Goose

Surely the loveliest story told about the young Gotama, indeed one of the loveliest from any religious tradition, is the one about him, Devadatta and the goose. Once, while walking through a garden, young Gotama saw a goose fall from the sky with an arrow lodged in its wing. He gently nestled the bird in his lap, extracted the arrow and anointed the wound with oil and honey. Soon afterwards, his cousin Devadatta sent a message saying he had shot the bird and demanded its return to him. Gotama sent a reply saying: "If the goose was dead, I would return it forthwith but as it is still alive, you have no right to it." Devadatta sent a second message arguing that it was his skill that had downed the goose and as such, it belonged to him. Again, Gotama refused to give him the bird and asked that an assembly of wise men be called to settle the dispute. This was done and after discussing the matter for some time, the most senior of the wise men gave his opinion, saying: "The living belongs to he who cherishes and preserves life, not to he who tries to destroy life." The assembly agreed with this and Gotama was allowed to keep the goose. It is a great story! But where does it come from? It’s not in the Tipitaka, it’s not in the commentaries; it’s not in the sub-commentaries. In fact, it is not to be found in any Pali literature. It comes from a Mahayana text called the Abhinikramaa Sutra composed in around the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD, seven or eight hundred years after the Buddha. This work was translated into English and published in 1876. Some English-educated Sinhalese Buddhists must have read it, gradually it got incorporated into the popular understanding of the Buddha’s life. This is a good example of how legends grow and get absorbed into existing traditions, even in modern times.

Under the Jambu Tree

At some point during his youth the Buddha said that as he sat in the shade of a jambu tree (not the Sri Lankan jambu, but the Indian tree Syzygiumcumini) he spontaneously fell into the jhanic states. Years later, after giving up the practice of self-mortification, as he sat under the Bodhi tree he remembered this incident, he cultivated the jhanas again, and this helped him attain awakening. If you ask any child who attends a dhamapasala what the young Gotama was watching as he sat under the jambu tree they will tell you – he was watching his father doing the first ceremonial ploughing of the year, what in Sri Lanka used to be called the vapmangala. But the Buddha does not mention this at all, he merely says he was watching his "Sakyan father work". His father might have been weeding the fields, supervising the harvest or the chopping down trees, or a range of other tasks. So why did "work" get transformed into "ceremonial ploughing"? Because later tradition came to believe that Gotama’s father was a king and kings do not milk cows or supervise agricultural work. They do regal and ritually important things such as the first ceremonial ploughing of the year. This is a fascinating example where one legend (Suddhodana) was a king) has required the creation of another (he was doing the ceremonial ploughing).

The Four Sights

Probably the most iconic story told about the Buddha’s life is the so-called Four Sights (cattunimitta). Supposedly as Gotama was driven through the streets of Kapilavatthu by his faithful charioteer Channa he encountered a man decrepit with age, a sick person, a dead body being taken for cremation and lastly a wandering ascetic, a monk. Having been sheltered from the ugly realities of life and never having seen such things before, he was profoundly shocked by them. It was this, so the story goes, that triggered Gotama’s determination to renounce his life of privilege and go in search of the state beyond aging, sickness and death. The Four Sights is a dramatic, powerful and poignant story and it is justly famous. It lends itself wonderfully to depiction in art. But sadly it does not come from the Tipitaka. There the Buddha merely says that it was contemplating the fact that he would be subject to old age, sickness and eventually death that motivated him to renounce the world.

Stealing away at Night

It is said that Gotama’s father confined him to a luxurious palace provided with every imaginable pleasure in order to pre-empt him of ever renouncing the world. But after Gotama decided that he would do exactly that he stole out of the palace in the dead of night so that no one would know, having one last look at his wife and new-born son as he went. Again, none of this appears in the Tipitaka. In fact, the Buddha distinctly says that he left his home "despite the weeping and wailing of my parents". This suggests that there was some sort of argument with his parents, and certainly that his leaving took place with their full knowledge, and probably during the daytime. We will look at one last detail thought to come from the Tipitaka but which actually does not.

The Bodhi Tree

All over the Buddhist world Bodhi trees are revered as being special because one of them, growing in Bodh Gaya, then known as Uruvela, sheltered the Buddha under its spreading boughs on the night he attained awakening. There are numerous stories about the Bodhi Tree and of course a branch of it was brought to Sri Lanka by Sanghamitta where it has been revered ever since. Considering the attention given to this tree one would expect it to find a special place in the Tipitaka. But it does not. Astonishingly, the Bodhi Tree only gets two brief mentions in the Tipitaka, once in the Digha Nikaya and once in the Udana (repeated in the Vinaya). Even the famous story about the Buddha sitting staring at the Bodhi Tree for a week without blinking is only to be found in the commentaries.

These examples, of which quite a few others could be added, leave the Buddha’s biography stripped of much that the average Buddhist is familiar with, and which is iconic. This does not mean that these events never happened or are not true. But if they did happen and were true, clearly the arahats of the First Council did not consider them significant enough to be remembered and included in the canon of sacred scriptures. But why? Why discard stories that are so meaningful and memorable, and illustrate aspects of the Dhamma in ways that make them understandable? One possible explanation is that these details were known but ignored. A much more likely explanation is that they are legends that grew up in the centuries after the Buddha’s passing and after the First Council. It seems that the arahats and other monks and nuns were deeply concerned with what the Buddha had to say about how to achieve awakening, but had little or no interest in his life before he became a monk.

This does not mean that these and the other wonderful stories about the Buddha’s life need to be dismissed as "just legends" and dismissed. They have added colour and drama to millions of sermons, they are a testament to the creative imagination of the ancient Buddhists, and they almost certainly came into being due to a devotional desire to know more about one of the most significant individual in history. But as Buddhism has to contend with modernity and alternative religions which seek to displace it, it is crucial that Buddhists know their religion better – know what is fact and what is tradition, what is reality and what is legend, and particularly what the Tipitaka actually says.

21 04 2017 - The Island





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J18.07    Buddha you never knew: Continue discussion

Bandu de Silva


Ven. Dhammika of Australia who initiated this discussion and Dr. Chandre Dharmawardene, are two well known personalities for whom I have the highest regard for their scholarly writing. I met Ven. Dhammika in Sri Lanka at the Royal Asiatic Society several times when he was doing research there. Dr. Chandre and I have interacted quite a few times over matters of common interest.

In this case, Ven. Dhammika has surfaced several aspects relating to the Buddha’s life, which do not represent the commonly held tradition and portray a lesser elaborate presentation of the biography of the great personality of the Buddha, than found in the legendary tradition. What comes out is a presentation of the life of Buddha with the least elaboration.

Ven. Dhammika’s observations touch very important points as the Buddha’s life story is concerned. His argument is that the points he has raised have no support from the Tripitaka. In other words, though he does not specifically reject those aspects relating to the Buddha’s life, which are based on texts or tradition other than the Tripitaka, it leaves one wondering if these other aspects are additions made later. The Tripitaka meant here is the Pali Tripitaka of the Southern School and not other versions. For instance, the Duva, which is the Vinaya Pitaka of Tibet, contains other matters like Jatakas, Nidanas, and Avdanas.

To be more specific, Ven. Dhammika finds in the Tripitaka no support for the other claim that the Buddha was of royal origin. "Rajaputtako" (Prince) mentioned in the Tripitaka as an appellation, he interprets as "son of a chieftain". The idea of ‘Raja’ meaning a ‘King’ in the modern sense is a later development according to him. Today, in Nepal, people who bear the name Shakya belong to the clan of gold - smiths. This is to be verified, though I found it so. However, in a general comparative sense, along with Lichchavis and Malalas, Sakyas were a people who organized themselves into confederations as a system of governance, which, with its special characteristic, evenly matched the growing autocratic royal ascendancy in the Magadha valley. Buddha’s advice to the King of Magadha points to them being stronger than the others because of their organizational strength, such as frequent assembly, consultations and consensus upon which decisions were taken.

As for royal power enjoyed by Sakyas, the learned Bhikku seems to have been carried a step further.

Likewise, the father of the Buddha in the common tradition is also not found in the Tripitaka. Buddha’s own name as Bodisattva Siddhartha is also nowhere mentioned in the Tripitaka. The latter refers to him as "Gotama". Mahamaya Devi too does not find mention in the Tripitaka. [In Mahayana tradition, the ruler had two wives, Maya and Mahamaya. As the former bore no children he married Mahamaya who gave birth to the "Gotama"]. Mahamaya’s dream is not found in the Tripitaka. Nor is "Yasodhara" mentioned in Tripitaka. She is referred to there as "Rahula-mate".

Other important sections in the Buddha’s life story which are not found in the Tripitaka are, the reference to "Vap" Magula, Gotama taking up a Dhyana posture, the seven weeks at the Bodhi tree, the story of the Goose and the four sights. There may be others which Ven. Dhammika has not discussed. In short, the tradition has built up a fuller biography to fill the account from conception to death.

Ven. Dhammika concludes: "These examples, of which quite a few others could be added, leave the Buddha’s biography stripped of much that the average Buddhist is familiar with, and which is iconic. This does not mean that these events never happened or are not true. But if they did happen and were true, clearly the arahats of the First Council did not consider them significant enough to be remembered and included in the canon of sacred scriptures. But why? Why discard stories that are so meaningful and memorable, and illustrate aspects of the Dhamma in ways that make them understandable? One possible explanation is that these details were known but ignored. A much more likely explanation is that they are legends that grew up in the centuries after the Buddha’s passing and after the First Council. It seems that the arahats, and other monks and nuns, were deeply concerned with what the Buddha had to say about how to achieve awakening, but had little or no interest in his life before he became a monk."

As such, one could see that Ven. Dhammika does not totally reject these other stories because they do not appear in the Tripitaka but leaves room for speculation as to whether they formed part of the original story of the life of the Buddha. His overall inclination, however, seems not to accept them.

Chandre -Dharmawardhane’s critique

With my appreciation of the valuable information Chandre has furnished, I am constrained to say that I am not altogether happy about it as a "response". It is not really a response to the arguments submitted by Ven. Dhammika. A better strategy would have been to meet the argument that a mere mention in the Tripitaka alone would not justify trustworthiness. If he has tried to do so, it has not been done adequately. He says: "Clearly, when Bhante Dhammika finds many stories and anecdotes missing from the Tripitaka, it may be that they were simply not recorded at Alu Vihara because the monks who knew those parts by memory had already perished, or regarded those anecdotes as being less important than the main teaching. This is close to what Ven. Dhammika thought when he said "One possible explanation is that these details were known but ignored."

The trustworthiness of other traditions then rests on the acceptability of these other traditions. Though compiled many centuries later, the commentaries and other textual traditions could be based on some foundation and not mere traditions grown round the great personality. There is reason for that. Even in the Buddha’s time, divergence arose on points of Vinaya rules, as seen from the five objections raised by Venerable Devadatta. His original rules may not have been without reason, but Devadatta later came to be portrayed as an enemy of Buddha, as it led to the growth of a schism. One can also see how the tradition about the prince Gautama attaining Dhyana mentioned in the Tripitaka is elaborated in the tradition.

Ven. Dhammika has raised an interesting issue, solving which can help distinguish between the original Buddha legend and what has been added to it in due course. Let there be more discussion on it.

26 04 2017 – The Island





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J18.08    Death: What next?

Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

Death is the only guarantee in life and, in fact, is the inevitable consequence. Birth is coupled with death but how apart they will be, depends on many factors includingwhen and where you are born, more than anything else, as shown by life-expectancy tables. However, some die in the womb, some just after birth whereas, in the other extreme,some may survive more than a century. As to why, even those born in the same place at the same time, have differing life-spans is a difficult question to answer. We give explanations based on belief systems; for scientists it is a matter of chance, for believers in a creator it is the God’s will and for those who believe in Karmic forces it is the result of your past actions. Whatever it may be, the most difficult concept for us to grasp is our own immortality, perhaps, due to illusions created by attachment.

Some fear death, others face it bravely, yet others crave for it, sometimes ending life prematurely by volition. The one who jumps before a train does not realize, though it may be the end of agony for them, the misery it imparts on many others; the train driver as well as the paramedics, who have the painful task of gathering the pieces, will often have recurring nightmares; all the passengers will be delayed for hours, not only in that train but in many other trains that ply the route.

Sometime ago, there were frequent exchanges about the death penalty, even some ‘pious’ Buddhists advocating this extreme and inhumane punishment. Recent history shows that some executed ‘criminals’ have been pardoned posthumously: of what use is it to them? To me, the most convincing argument against capital punishment is that the wrongful execution of even one is not worth the price paid in the name of justice. There was a recent report that the State of Arkansas in USA has lined up eight executions in a row; the reason, the lethal injections were going out of date. Even worse was watching a programme on children who commit murder in USA which included a twelve-year old who shot a rough-sleeper, after kicking him, between his eyes.

The raging controversy in UK at the moment is ‘Assisted Suicide’. A sufferer from Motor Neurone Disease (MND, a progressive degenerative disease that leaves the patient paralysed and for which there is no treatment available yet)applied to court to obtain the right for his relatives to give him a lethal mixture of tablets at the time of his choosing, without the fear of prosecution, because he cannot do it himself. Though experts confirmed that he has less than six months to live, the courts refused his request; rightly so, because the British Parliament overwhelmingly defeated, only a few months ago, legislation to grant this right. If rich, he could have gone to Switzerland to end his life at the Dignitas Clinic but, unfortunately,he has to suffer till death gives him mercy. Those who support this decision will readily point out that Stephen Hawking has the same disease but not everyone with MND has the same stoic attitude and the brilliant mind of Stephen Hawking. The other concern expressed is that some may coax their elderly parents to do so for the sake of expedited inheritance.

Whatever the end is, we like to know ‘What happens next?’

As far as I can fathom, there are four possibilities:

    1. Nothing happens; death is the end.
    2. Afterlife in Eternity.
    3. Resurrection
    4. Rebirth or Reincarnation

The views about the possibilities are based on a mixture of science, religion, metaphysics and esotericism, some defining Western esotericism as "rejected knowledge" that is accepted neither by the scientific establishment nor by orthodox religious authorities.


This is the view of most scientists as there is no convincing evidence to the contrary, most other explanations being based on faith. From two cells, one contributed by each parent, a body develops with differentiating organs, each specialising in its own vital function but the function of one, the brain, is not fully understood yet. The mind is an emergent function of the brain but what is the relationship of consciousness and brain, we do not know for sure. Is consciousness another dimension of mind or is it something universal that resides temporarily as long as the brain is alive?

Does the consciousness, modified over years by ones thoughts, escape at the time of death to reside in another body? Or, does it die with the death of the brain?

Is there a soul that escapes at the time of death? In fact, in 1901 Duncan MacDougall, a Pysician, tried to establish this by carefully weighing his dying patients. Though his results varied a lot, he estimated the soul to weigh around three quarters of an ounce (21grams) but no one has been able to replicate this, though a film titled ‘21 Grams’, referring to this, was made in 2003.


Most who believe in a creator God believe in eternity. In the Abrahamic tradition, the dead go to a specific plane of existence after death, as determined by God, or other divine judgment, based on their actions or beliefs during life.

Some believe in a ‘Purgatory’ where the sins are washed off. Those who die in God’s grace though imperfect can have purification so that they too can go to heaven. This is more appealing as it gives everybody a chance.

There is another escape route: ‘Limbo’. Limbo is what happens to unbaptized but innocent souls, such as those of infants, virtuous individuals who lived before Jesus Christ was born on earth or those that die before baptism. They exist in neither Heaven nor Hell proper. Though they are not guilty of any personal sin they still bear the original sin. Therefore, they exist in a state of natural, but not supernatural, happiness, until the end of time.


Some believe in being resurrected just as one was just like what Jesus Christ did: Rising from the Dead. Whatever that may be, there is a widespread belief that there will be a resurrection, so much so that some do not want to be cremated and some do not consent for organ removal. Interestingly, even those who do not wish to donate organs on religious grounds do not mind receiving organs; that paradox is nothing but extreme selfishness.


Reincarnation implies transmigration of a soul from body to body which is different from rebirth though often these terms are, incorrectly, interchanged. Rebirth is the continuation of the mind/body interaction, which happens throughout life. A thought at the time of death (Chuthi Chitta) finds a new mind/body interaction with a new thought (Pratisandhi Chitta). While the rest of the five aggregates: form, sensations, perceptions and mental formations dissipate, consciousness persists. The stream of consciousness is thought to be the life force that continues.

There is some scientific data to suggest that rebirth may be a possibility. Prof Ian Stevenson, who worked for the University of Virginia, School of Medicine for fifty years and founded the Division on Perceptual Studies, doing extensive research on rebirth and near death experiences, was convinced that rebirth is a possibility. His successor, Bruce Greyson has contributed much to the field and his lecture ‘Consciousness Independent of the Brain’ is one I never get tired of watching as it is so intellectually stimulating.


It has to be nothing or rebirth, as there is some data to suggest that it is a possibility. I am still open-minded about this question but am convinced that the other two options are only for the faithful believers. However, at times I wonder whether the teachings of the Buddha support the concept of nothing beyond. The Buddha lived in an era when rituals to ensure a good reincarnation would have been practised widely. Therefore, just as he went against the prevailing attitudes like inequalities based on cast, he could well have gone against prevailing beliefs and meant Nirvana to be nothing beyond. If so, rebirth meant the continuous refreshing of mind/body interactions and mindfulness was the means for appreciating this. The fear of death, common to all living beings, cannot be overcome till complete detachment is achieved.

I am sure not many will agree with me on this and my apologies to those who disagree and are liable to think that I am arrogantly trying to reinterpret the Teachings of Gautama Buddha. Well, I am a simpleton with simple thoughts who likes simple explanations.

08 04 2017 - The Island



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