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VESAK 2005

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J2.01   On the path of enlightenment - The two words, Buddha Jayanthi will...

J2.02   Why meditation is indispensable for Buddhists - To attain liberation from this mass of...

J2.03   Birth, offerings, death and after - Every day, every moment, there is said to be born on this great...

J2.04   The Buddha, our unique teacher - History has produced many great figures, but none in the present...

J2.05   What does it mean to be enlightened? - Very few people stop and turn around to consider the question...

J2.06   Karma, the law that no being can escape - "Deep, indeed, oh Ananda, is the law of Karma...

J2.07   The Buddha's conversation with a farmer - The Buddha conversed with a farmer called Kasibharadvaja...

J2.08   Peace in Buddhism - The word 'Peace' has become the buzzword...

J2.09   Gleanings from the Parayana - The parayana Vagga, constitutes the final chapter of the Sutta Nipata...

J2.10   Simile of the bee - The bee, is a social insect. Even the colour of the fly reminds us the complexion...

J2.11   Is wealth compatible with religious living? - It is sometimes felt that material possessions are an obstacle to...

J2.12   Looking through conventions - We are educated and used to looking into the world through...

J2.13   The concept of truth - Since the beginning of time, one of the greatest objectives of human endeavour...

J2.14   The life beyond - Teachers of different faiths have in their teachings referred to life beyond...

J2.15   Sinhala Buddhism - Sinhala Buddhism like other such entities has undergone change over the years...

J2.16   On the Way to Nibbana - Nibbana is the one and only goal of Buddhist spirituality...

J2.17   Kamma and Free Will - Does everything happen in our lives according to Kamma...

J2.18   The supreme sacrifice of Dana - Dana in Pali means generosity or giving...

J2.19   Dhamma, Dhamma everywhere but is it for mindful assimilation? - Dhamma Thought of Purest Serenity...

J2.20   Free thinking critique in Buddhism - This passage shows the Buddha's enlightened attitude towards...

 

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J2.01  On the path of enlightenment

Upali Salgado

The two words, Buddha Jayanthi will, from Vesak day (May 12, 2006) on, echo in the thoughts of billions of Buddhists all over the world. What then is a Buddha Jayanthi? Buddha means the "Enlightened One" or the "Exalted" or the "Perfect One". Sakyamuni Gauthama (or Gotama) Buddha, the last in a line of several Buddhas, was an extraordinary man who with His own efforts realised the truth concerning human suffering (i.e. Dukkha – suffering; Samudyaya – cause of suffering; Nirodha – the cessation of suffering, Marga – the Path). He practised several virtues or perfections before He attained Bodhi, the ideal state of intellectual and mental perfection.

After He attained Bodhi, He was the "Shower of the Way" for human liberation. His doctrine (or Dharma) showed how one could, with one’s own efforts, after several rounds in samsara (successive births) lead a happy life both in this world and in the next.

Jayanthi briefly means a victory or a celebration. It is a milestone to be remembered. The Buddha Jayanthi, to be celebrated during the next twelve months, marks 2550 years of Buddhism in the world, and its preservation. It is a celebration to offer homage to the Great Master and to recount in each country certain important events concerning Buddhism. On this historic day, in each temple at least one person will be ordained a Samanera Bhikkhu. It is hoped that 2550 Samanera Bhikkus will be ordained during this year in Sri Lanka.

Gotama Buddha and his Dharma

Dr. S. Radhakrishna, Ph.D. India, said, "When we read the Buddha’s discourses, we are impressed by his spirit of reason. His ethical path has right views and a rational outlook."

In the Buddhist religious treatise Anguttara Nikaya (Part 1) it is stated that "A unique Being, an extraordinary man arises in the world for the benefit of many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, for the benefit of Gods in heaven and men on earth. Who is this unique Being? It is the Tathagatha, the Exalted, fully enlightened one?"

The fragrance of this Buddha Jayanthi (2550 years) encompasses revered thoughts of the Buddha, His teachings and the spread and preservation of His noble doctrine. Prince Siddhartha of the Sakya clan was born at Lumbini, and later became known as Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha. At birth, on that historic full moon day in 453 BC (or is it 483 BC?) Prince Siddhartha’s body revealed several meaningful marks, which indicated that He would be a universal monarch. Only a Bodhisattva could have these "Purusa Lakshana" on His palms and soles of His feet.

He gave up His Royal Palace life, and lived as a mendicant. After several meditative Jhanas, while seated under a Bodhi Tree at Gaya, He found the answer for man to end suffering. Finally, He diffused to the world, the way to expel darkness. He was no creator God or Messiah of a God, and preached His noble Dharma with clairvoyance, to Kings, noblemen, peasants in a caste-ridden society of murderers and robbers. He identified that ignorance and craving (or attachment) are two great evils, which resulted in man to be born, age, suffer and die in samsara, until you gain perfection and vimukthi. The four noble truths and the eightfold noble path formed the bedrock of the Master’s teaching.

The texts say:

"By oneself alone is evil done,
By oneself alone is one defiled,
By oneself alone is evil avoided.
By oneself is one purified.
Purity and impurity depend on oneself,
None can purify another."

Ven. Piyadassi Nayake Thera said, "Buddhism, while not denying the world of matter and the great effect that the physical world has on mental life, emphasises the very great importance of the core of our existence. All our psychological experience such as pain, pleasure, sorrow, happiness, good and evil, and life and death are not attributed to any external agency. They are the results of our own thoughts, and resultant actions."

The Buddha Dharma does not subscribe to the view of vicarious salvation. In Buddhism there is no concept of sin as explained by other religions. The vicarious salvation from sin (as stated in certain theological religions) has not helped man to stop committing sin. According to Buddhism man will karmically reap what he sows. Karmic correlations are neither deterministic, nor fatalistic. The karmic process (Karmabhava) is the energy of the present life that conditions a future life in unending sequence.

The Samyatta Nikaya says:

According to the seed that is sown,
So its fruit, ye reap there from
Doers of good (will gather) good,
Doers of evil, evil reaps,
Sown is the seed, and planted well
Then shall enjoy the fruits therefrom.

The rationality of Buddhism

The rationality of Buddhim embraces Buddhist philosophy in an ethical manner. Unlike in certain other religions, unquestionable belief or faith, and acceptance of miracles do not arise. Buddhism is free from fanaticism. It is aimed to transform man, who at times is wicked to himself and to others, by self-culture and self-conquest. In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha made it very clear that no one should accept his Dharma, just because he says so.

His Dharma was open to questioning in public. He never coerced anyone to accept His teaching. He did not resort to performing miracles in public (although He did so once, to show His "greatness" to the Jain leader Alarma Rama-putra when He turned fire into water). He said, "Revere your own religion, revile no brother’s faith, the light you see is from Nirvana’s sun, whose rising splendours promise a perfect day. The feeble rays that light your brother’s path, are from the self same sun, by falsehood hid. The lingering shadows are the passing night." That was the manner in which He preached His Dharma, with a measure of tolerance.

Buddhism has always been a religion of non violence. Never have there been in its long history, wars of religion. Emperor Asoka who at first was a warrior king, gave up the use of the sword, and later ruled righteously in a Buddhist manner. He later sent out missionaries to Sri Lanka and Burma, carrying the message of the Buddha.
The history of Buddhism has been revealed from the Suttas (Buddha discourses) and from archaeological evidence. Buddhism spread from India to modern Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Bhutan, north Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma (modern Myanmar), Thailand, Java, Vietnam, Cambodia, China and Japan, within two centuries of the Master’s demise.

The great chronicle Mahavansa records that Buddhism was introduced to ancient Sri Lanka by Arahant Maha Mahinda, during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa. Another important landmark in the history of Sri Lanka’s Buddhism is Theri Sangamitta’s visit to Anuradhapura, when she brought a Bo-sapling from Buddha Gaya. Other important events remembered today are the translation of the Tripitaka, and Buddhaghosa’s visit.

Sri Lanka’s Buddhist Resurgence

Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thera, Ven. Weligama Sri Sumangala Maha Nayaka Thera, Ven. Waskaduve Sri Subhuthi Maha Nayaka Thera, Ven. Rathmalane Dhammarama Maha Thera, Ven. Soratha Maha Thera, Ven. Sri Vajiragnana Maha Nayaka Thera, Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitri Maha Nayake Thera, Ven. Heenatiyana Dhammaloka Tissa Maha Nayaka Thera, Ven. Renukane Chandavimala Maha Nayaka Thera.

During the Buddha Jayanthi celebrated in 1956 (2500 years Buddhism), the Buddhist world adopted the use of a five colour flag and quite recently the Government of Sri Lanka moved in the United Nations to declare Vesak poya a holiday.

In the field of Buddhist literature we have a Pali-Sinhala Dictionary, translation of the Dhammapada to Sinhala and English, the Vimikthi Magga and the Visuddhi Magga, several volumes of the Buddhist Encyclopedia, valuable Jathakas, Suttas in Pali and Sinhala. This has been possible due to the efforts of Buddhist monks and Buddhist lay scholars led by Prof. G. P. Malalasekara and others in universities. A Pali Buddhist University has been established as well. Buddhism is now also on the internet.

During this Jayanthi, Buddhists will have a golden opportunity to listen to a large number of sermons to enrich their lives. It will be a year of religious observances, including meditation on subjects such as impermanence. Bhakthi Geetha will be sung and lamps will be lit in honour of the Buddha. Bhikkhus will be cared for, the poor will be fed and clothed, and inmates in hospitals will be comforted and motivated by Karuna, Daham Schools will be further developed and animals will be looked after by societies.

Perhaps, the finest hour of Buddhism in recent years in Sri Lanka was the flood of spontaneous help given in numerous ways with great compassionate feeling, when the massive tsunami waves struck. On that Poya day, when thousands of Buddhist devotees were in their temples, people affected by the tragedy sought help from the temples. Buddhist monks and devotees acted with great sympathy to immediately provide shelter and food. A large number of Christians living in the Beruwela, Maggona areas were (without any hindrance) permitted by the temple monks to conduct their own religious activities. Buddhist tolerance of other religions shone like a bright star in those dark days. The Buddha Jayanthi will remind the masses of the Buddha’s teaching, the virtues of which are crystallised in the oft quoted exhortation of all Buddhas.


"The giving up of evil,
The cultivation of the good,
The cleansing of the mind
This is the Buddha’s teaching."

- Dhammapada
"Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatha"

07 05 2006 - Sunday Times

 

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J2.02  Why meditation is indispensable for Buddhists

S. Siriwardene


Meditation is indispensable for a Buddhist to attain liberation from this mass of suffering in life. Nibbana is the end of the life-cycle of birth. In order to attain this noble state of spiritual advancement, one has to eradicate craving.

Craving binds us to this life-cycle with fetters called The Five Hindrances (Pancha Nivarana). They are the belief of an everlasting self 'I" or 'mine' (Sakkaya Ditti), doubt (Vichikichcha), attachment to rites and rituals, (Silabbatha Paramase), hatred (Vyapada) and sensual desire (Kamaccanda).

Ending suffering
To overcome those five fetters the only way is enlightenment which brings an end to all suffering in life. To achieve this, one has got to learn and practise insight meditation, which will unveil the curtain covering the eyes of an ordinary individual from the truth. Then he would be able to penetrate the inner mind and with wisdom see life in its real forks. Then he will see the impermanence, suffering and no-soul. The mind of a yogi who has realised the truth is clear and shines like a crystal.

What is meditation?
Meditation is to be occupied in thought or absorption in thought. There are two types of meditation called Tranquility Meditation and Insight Meditation. Tranquility Mediation brings the mind to a state of deep tranquility. In this way the five hindrances are kept at bay or made to disappear temporarily.

The other type is Insight Meditation. It is the viewing of life with an analytical mind. This insight meditation was found by Lord Buddha when he attained supreme enlightenment at the foot of the Bodhi tree on Vesak Full Moon Day at Gaya.

Only in Insight Meditation can one put an end to suffering, disease, death, grief and lamentation. Samadhi Meditation can be a base for Insight Meditation.

Tranquility meditation existed in India and was practised by Hindu Yogis even before Lord Buddha. It helps one to attain supra-mundane state of mind and possess miraculous powers such as reading the thoughts of others, previous births and future. One can travel by air at the speed of one's thought. But it will not end the re-birth. You can be born in the Brahme world of the pure abodes, but one may be born again in a low realm of enormous suffering.

Only in Insight Meditation can one put an end to suffering, disease, death, grief and lamentation. Samadhi Meditation can be a base for Insight Meditation. But a yogi can start practising Insight Mediation in a direct way without attaining 'Samadhi' or a tranquil state. These noble beings are called (Sushka Vidassake). They do not possess supernormal powers, but they attain the noble state and end re-birth.

A trainee in meditation should contemplate on body and mind. Everyone of us does this every day and hour of our life. But we think of them always with evil thoughts. If we perceive body and mind as pleasant and happy we get thoughts of craving and desire and if they are painful and sad we get thoughts of ill-will and hatred. If we like them there is desire.

When engaged in insight meditation we should not take mind and matter as good or bad. We should perceive mind and matter as neither good nor bad. That is viewing with equanimity.

This is called the wisdom of mind and matter. You analyse mind and matter as two distinct entities. Then you realise the arising and falling of things. You see before you how things arise and fall. When you contemplate on this you see the true nature of things and how dissolution takes place.

Truth of life
All living and non-living beings are prone to dissolution. Rising and falling is a wisdom (Udayabbe Gnana) and dissolution is called (Bhanga Gnana). You see that this dissolution takes place at a terrific rate. Then we see them as transient and impermanent, and we get the wisdom of fear (Bhaya Gnana). We get disgusted with our life on earth (Nibbida Gnana). We get the wisdom of consequences (Adinana Gnana). At last these wisdoms lead to equanimity (Sankareepekka Gnana). We then reach, the supra mundane states of the mind when we attain the noble state of stream-winner (sota panna). Then the mind gets pure and clear as a crystal.

To achieve this state of liberation we should learn and practise some form of meditation. Lord Buddha has praised the 'Satara Sathipattana Meditation, the four foundations of mindfulness. The contemplation of body, feelings, mind and mind-objects. The body we know very well, because it is with us and we are in it.

We meditate on the parts of our body like hair, flesh, excreta and so on and in doing so we see the fertile state of our body and contemplate that this body is transient, painful and without an everlasting soul. As the knowledge of insight matures, you let go the three fetters of 'I' and mine, doubt, adhere to rites and rituals and cross the life stream and attain the noble state of a stream - winner (sota patti) who attains Nibbana after seven births.

22 05 2005 – Sunday Times

 

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J2.03  Birth, offerings, death and after

Upali Salgado


Every day, every moment, there is said to be born on this great good earth, many thousands of babies. At the same time, due to natural causes a number of people die of old age and sickness. Birth (Rebirth - (Jathi) in terms of Buddhist thought) occurs in samsara, i.e. - the cycle of births and deaths and is propelled with a load of Kusala and Akusala Kamma. (The Buddhist Law of Causation).

The operation of kamma and its fruit, the round of karma and the round of fruit, and the manner of their happening is predetermined at birth.

All children cry at the moment of birth, not with joy but in pain. The babe would not know the difference between pain and joy. The cries of the newborn bring tears of joy to the mother, but it is the infant with pain, who perhaps will, in later life, grasp the realities of life, and be a Bodhisattva in the making. There can be no birth and living thereafter without suffering on earth. Pain, sickness (some of a terminal nature), physical handicaps, hunger, despair, loss of wealth, loss of fame, loss of the means to acquire mundane comforts, loss of expectations and gains, grief are a few of the facets of suffering, humans face and undergo.

Root of all evil
The Buddha has pointed out the part played by sensuous feelings such as smell, hearing, taste and sight that would cause craving, which is the root of evil and of suffering. The recognition of the illusion of Self is another obstacle to one's progress and happiness. The conquest of self was Prince Siddhartha's great battle as a Bodhisattva, before gaining Enlightenment. As a Bodhisattva he conquered himself with great perseverance and courage and with numerous forms of dana (gifts and sacrifices of wealth for others’ benefit), Sila (morality) and Bhavana (meditation).

As dana is of prime importance, the subject needs elucidation, being a foreshadow to death. The Buddha gave importance to dana as it manifests kindness, love, compassion and similar human virtues. The virtue of Samvibhaga (sharing) the Buddha advocated to the wealthy.

The purpose of offering a dana (food or gifts) to the Bhikkhus (Buddhist monks) is to rid oneself gradually of attachment to wealth and greed, whilst helping the needy. This should be done ungrudgingly with great joy to oneself. It will at the same time, if made known bring Muditha i.e. joy to others as well. A dana of food should not be given to people selectively, and in competition as a show of wealth, in society. Sadhdha in the giver has to be present when offering a dana.

The Buddha has stated that there are eight major or important forms of dana that accrue merit to those who give. When offering a dana the source must not be ill-gotten wealth.

Forms of dhana
The eight great danas are (1) offering of a Buddha image with an image house (Budu Ge) for common worship, (2) Offer of a Sanghavasa (Residence for monks), (3) Offer of toilets for the Maha Sangha, (4) Offer of a Katina Cheevara, (5) Offer of a Atapirikara, (6) Offer of a Dharma-Dana (Writing of Buddhist scriptures, publishing them etc), and (7) a Sanghika dhana, to monks who have received Upasampada (Higher Ordination).

The Buddha has divided the giving of dana into two main groups. Gifts or dana given to individuals (Puggalika dana), and dhana given to the Maha Sangha (the Bhikkhu order). The merit gained by giving a dana to a Samma Buddha is very great as a Buddha appears in this world very rarely. Also, a dana given to an Arahant is considered to gain great merit. A Sangika dana brings much merit, as many people contribute towards the offerings, and also because it is the Maha Sangha who carry forward the teachings of the Buddha from generation to generation. There can be in the congregation, a monk who is not that virtuous (in his seela), but the giver of the alms should not be disturbed in mind, as it is a Sanghika dana, given not to any particular priest but to the Arya Puggala Maha Sangha, (the Bhikkhu Order).

Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha has stated that there are several kinds of dana. What are they? A dhana given to a guest monk (Aganthuka dana). Next, a dhana given to a monk who is about to leave on a journey (Gamika dana). The third is a dana given to a sick monk (Gilanu-paceya dana). The fourth is a dhana given at a time of a famine (A Dubbhika or Kala dana), a pindapatha dana and the last one is dana given at harvesting time. When giving a dhana, what is most important is the mind thought (chitta) that should be pure, and the giver should not hope for or expect a "return" (such as more wealth), but be happy that the gift or dhana was given, as it was necessary. The purity of the thoughts is what is most important.

Death the leveller
Buddhism emphasises that all component matter is impermanent (annichaya). Life is short. Death is common to all people and is a social leveller. The body that, was once beautiful with make-up and at times perfumed, lies when clinically dead with sweat, and discharges of smelly urine. This onetime walking showpiece, has within itself neatly concealed, bile, phlegm, a bag of urine and a tube of human discharge. From the Buddhist point of view, death is inevitable, and as Buddhists accept and believe in rebirth (or is it rebecoming?) they can prepare themselves, to live with the Master's teaching and face death with a courageous smile. One can think (or be reminded of) of past good and great meritorious deeds done and with calmness of mind, pass beyond the gates, knowing he will come back to serve mankind better.

Uncontrolled sorrow over the demise of a loved one shows lack of understanding of life as a Buddhist. What one can possibly do in such a situation is to offer dhana (food and clothing) in memory of the departed. Thoughts of bygone times when the family as a whole partook in a meritorious act will bring mental solace to the rest of the family.

Dhana

In Sri Lanka dhana is also offered to the Maha Sangha on the seventh day after the demise; again on the 90th day after the death, and finally, at the end of one year. Mahayana Buddhists offer dhana on the 45th day after death, as well. This is an age-old custom followed by Hindus and Jains too.

Theravada Buddhists believe that the dead will be reborn (1) in the deva kingdom, (2) in the human world, (3) in the animal kingdom, and (4) in purgatory or hell, (5) as Petas in the world of shades, haunting houses and cross roads and canals. In the Atanatiya Sutta the Petas are described as brigands, thieves, cheats and evils doers. Buddhists offer food and clothing to Petas who are in a woeful state. This practice is done by a kinsman to show gratitude and make the departed if born into the Peta world as comfortable as possible. Also to mentally satisfy a relative or householder that, had there been any shortcomings in their relationship with the dead, such faulty conduct could be erased.

Transference of merit to the dead

Transference of merit after a dana to commemorate the dead on a specific date, is an age-old Brahaminic custom, which had over the years crept into Buddhist behaviour. Whilst this practice gained ground in Sri Lanka, some Buddhist intellectuals have doubted the genuineness of this practice, and the idea behind it, as it appears to go against the grain of teachings of Kamma. Further in the Khuddaka Nipata there is a passage where the Buddha states that Punya (merit) is private and is non shareable with others. The Dhammapada states thus "By oneself evil is done, By oneself one becomes pure (in thought, word, deed); Purity (merit) and impurity (demerit) are acquired by oneself. No one can purify another. From that standpoint, the transference of merit to the dead after a Sanghika dana goes against the grain of the great Master's Teaching.

In the Tirokudda Sutta, it is clearly stated that the dead benefit from specific offerings made to the Maha Sangha (especially items of food that the dead relished to have) by relatives. An important point made by Prof. P.D. Premasiri MA (Cantab), Ph.D (Hawaii) is that Petas do benefit not by merit acquired by relatives being transferred to them, in which case it would contradict the doctrine of Kamma, but by rejoicing in the good deeds by others in remembering them. (P 158 "Buddhist Thought and Ritual").

Reading through this article one may conclude that, Buddhism is a pessimistic religion. The Buddha Dhama is pragmatic in outlook. Revelations and miracles play no part in shaping the life of a good Buddhist. He does not accept the position of a powerful creator God either. His concern is to follow the Great Master's teachings to end all suffering in samsara. Nibbana is his goal. Nibbana is the extinction of the fire of craving and lust that leads to suffering. When one looks everywhere there is suffering in its many faceted forms.

In such a scenario, accepting the truth that there is suffering is better than self-deception. Buddhism teaches that there is suffering because always there is cause for suffering. The Noble Gotama Buddha showed us a way to follow his dhamma and to end suffering. No Messiah or divine person is required for us to achieve human happiness. These then are the realities of life. To have a better life now and after, let us live in the Buddha's way. That is the only path to freedom.

22 05 2005 – Sunday Times

 

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J2.04  The Buddha, our unique teacher

Daya Sirisena

President, Board of Trustees, Sirisena Dharmamandiraya and Meditation Centre, Moratuwa

History has produced many great figures, but none in the present cycle of title, as impressive and memorable as Siddhartha Gotama, the Sakyan Prince, who became the World's Greatest Spiritual Guide.

There have been many Enlightened Ones before Him, but we have no actual historical knowledge of them.

2549 years have gone by but the historical knowledge of Gotama Buddha is so near, His life has been a source of wonder and inspiration for more than twenty five countries. It continues to be today.

The facts themselves are powerful enough to move us to awe and veneration. "Profound and difficult to understand is this Ariyan Doctrine O Bhikkhus; only to be understood by the wise; deep and unfathomable as the ocean. But like the vast ocean it has but one flavour throughout the flavour of libration".

We must remember the Great Teachings of Buddha with special significance today as they consider with the Birth, Enlightenment and Parinirvana of Gotama Buddha.

Many are the ways whereby a man may be brought to realise the Truth. The Supreme Buddha was Master of them all.

The Buddhist philosophy of Dependent Originator (Patiicca Samuppada), the chain or cycle of causality consists of twelve Nidanas (links) and in Buddhist philosophy it embraces the whole process of arising of a sentient being from life to life and from moment to moment of consciousness as shown in the illustration.

From - Avijja (ignorance) arises Sankara.

From - Sankara (here the sense of karmic volitions) arises Vinnana.

From - Vinnana (consciousness) arises Nama Rupa.

From - Nama Rupa (psychic aggregates and physical aggregates or roughly mind and form) arises Salayatana.

From - Salayatana (the field of sixfold sense perceptions) arises Phassa.

From - Phassa (contact between the organ of sense and the sense object) arises Vedana.

From - Vedana (sensation) arises Tanha.

From - Tanha (craving) arises Upadane.

From - Upadane (grasping attachment) arises Bhava.

From - Bhava (the process of becoming or life continum) arises Jati.

From - Jati (birth - or in another sense momentary coming into existence).

Jara, Marana, Soka, Pardeva, Dukka, Domnassa, Upayasa (old age and death grief sorrow, lamentation and despair) arise from the life cycle.

"All compounded things are impermanent".

Forty five years the exalted Buddha taught, the incomparable doctrine and His Sasana became established.

Then in His eightieth year, the time came for Him to give up His existence to the Arahat who has seen Nibbana in this very life. Death is of no account. He supports the continuation of His earthly existence only for the good of others knowing all the time, the process of arising and passing away, the continual agitation of the elements, which men call "life", to be the flux of energies, without stability and without permanence.

And when the sorrowing Ananda who had not yet attained Arahatship gave way to his grief, the Buddha reminded him of the doctrine: "Have I not told you Ananda that all compounded things must pass away? Then grieve not, but apply yourself with determination.

The Teacher pass away, but the teaching remains. I leave you the doctrine; when I am gone, let that be your guide and refuge".

Calm, tranquil and in full possession of His great faculties, the Buddha continued to advise and instruct and encourage His followers to the last. Just be you the end, He gave His final exhortation.

"Let the Dhamma be to you a lamp and refuge. Seek no external refuge.

Strive with earnestness!"

May the ignorance of human beings fade away following the teachings of the Buddha.

23 05 2005 - Daily News

 

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J2.05  What does it mean to be enlightened?

Venerable Bhikku Bodhi

Very few people stop and turn around to consider the question, "What is it that I call my self? What is it that I refer to as my self?" And yet if you reflect for just a moment, you will see that this is the most important question we can ask.

We follow the Dhamma to fully know what should be known; to abandon what should be abandoned; and to develop what should be developed.

In a conversation with an aged brahmin, the Buddha once explained concisely what is meant by a Buddha, an enlightened one:

"What has to be known that I have known;

What has to be abandoned that I have abandoned;

What has to be developed that I have developed;

Therefore O brahmin, I am a Buddha."

These are not only three characteristics of a Buddha; they are also the three objectives we aim at in following the Buddha's teaching.

We follow the Dhamma to fully know what should be known; to abandon what should be abandoned; and to develop what should be developed. These are the goals of the Buddhist path and the three accomplishments that mark the attainment of enlightenment.

What does it mean to say that our task is "to know that which should be known"? What we have to know what we have to understand is that which is closest to ourselves what we usually refer to as our self.

What we usually refer to as our self is this complex of body and mind. For most of us, from the time we are born right upto the time of our death, our minds are oriented outwardly, engaged in a tireless quest for pleasure and sensual gratification, for the enhancement of our self, for the confirmation of our sense of ego-identity. Very few people stop and turn around to consider the question, "What is it that I call my self? What is it that I refer to as my self?" And yet, if you reflect for just a moment, you will see that this is the most important question we can ask.

So our task in following the Buddha's teaching is to investigate, to examine, that which we refer to as "I," "my self," as "what I am."

We usually take these terms to refer to some kind of persisting entity, an ego, a substantial self possessing a real identity, but what the Buddha asks us to do is to see what we find when we look for the referents of the terms, "I," "me," and "my self." When we look, when we investigate, what we find are just components of bodily and mental experience, which the Buddha has classified into five aggregates: physical form, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness. These are called the "five aggregates of clinging" because they are the things that we ordinarily cling to as, "This is mine, this is what I am, this is my true self." Our task in following the Buddha's teaching is to understand the true nature of these five aggregates.

We thereby come to know that which constitutes our identity. From birth, through adulthood, through old age, to death this whole process of life is just a procession of the five aggregates.

The second project the Buddha's teaching sets for us is "to abandon that which should be abandoned". What should be abandoned are the defilements. The Buddha uses the word kilesas as an umbrella term that includes all the mental states that cause suffering and unhappiness in our lives.

The unwholesome mental states are called kilesas. The world can be translated affections because they bring suffering. It can also be translated defilements because they defile and corrupt the mind.

The Buddha has analyzed the nature of the defilements and has beautifully explained how they can all be traced to the three "root defilements" of greed, hatred, and delusion. Our task in following the Buddha's teaching, in practising the Dhamma, is to overcome, to eliminate, to abandon the defilements of greed and hatred that give rise to many other branch defilements.

But greed and hatred spring ultimately from delusion or ignorance. And thus to eliminate all the defilements, we have to eliminate ignorance.

Ignorance is what covers up the five aggregates, that which should be known. Thus the way to overcome ignorance is through the first task - "knowing that which should be known.

"When we know that which should be known, ignorance falls away - and then greed, hatred, and all the other defilements fall away."

It isn't possible, however, to accomplish this merely by having the desire to do so. We can't expect simply to think. "I want to know that which should be know," and immediately it is known.

That's why the whole practice of Buddhism is a process of walking a path. The great gift that the Buddha offers the world is not simply a profound philosophy, not simply a very penetrating psychology, but a practical, systematic, step-by-step path that we can cultivate in sequence.To cultivate the path means to "develop that which should be developed."

That is the third project the Buddha speaks of in his four-line verse: "That which should be developed, that I have developed." So what the Buddha has developed is what we have to develop.

The path is structured in such a way that it proceeds not suddenly, not abruptly, but in a gradual step-by-step manner to help us climb the ladder to the ultimate freedom of enlightenment.

One has to begin by keeping the coarser expression of the defilements under control. One does this by observing the precepts, the Five Precepts or the Eight Precepts.

These control the coarser expressions of the defilements, the way the defilements break out or erupt in the form of unwholesome actions.

We next have to cultivate concentration. When we try to collect the mind, we gain insight into the workings of our own minds.

By understanding the workings of our own minds, we're gradually changing the shape of the mind.

First, we are beginning to scrape away the soil in which the unwholesome roots have been lodged.

The process isn't a quick or easy one, but requires gradual, persistent, and dedicated effort. As one practices consistently, the mind will eventually settle into firm concentration. It acquires the skills needed to remain consistently settled upon an object, without wavering, and this provides the opportunity for wisdom to arise.

Wisdom is the third quality that needs to be developed. Wisdom comes through examination, through investigation. When one has developed a strongly concentrated mind, one uses that mind to investigate the five aggregates.

As one investigates, one directly sees into their real nature, into "the true characteristics of phenomena. "Generally, one first sees the arising and falling away of the five aggregates.

That is, one sees their impermanence. One sees that because they're impermanent, they're unsatisfactory.

There's nothing worth clinging to in them.

And because they're impermanent and unsatisfactory, one cannot identify with any of them as a truly existing self. This is the empty or self-less nature of the five aggregates. This marks the arising of true insight wisdom.

With insight-wisdom, one cuts deeper and deeper into the root of ignorance until one comes to fully understand the nature of the five aggregates. When one does so, one can then say that one has "known that which should be known."

And by fully knowing that which should be known, the defilements "that should be abandoned have been abandoned," and the path "that should be developed has been developed.

"One then realizes that which should be realized, the extinction of suffering right here and now.

And, in the Buddha's own words, that is the mark of an Enlightened One.

Courtesy: Bodhi Bulletin

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J2.06  Karma, the law that no being can escape


 
W.D. Wickramasinghe

"Deep, indeed, oh Ananda, is the law of Karma, no mortal being can comprehend it."

To an ordinary person the word Karma is merely another word, very often loosely used. Nevertheless, when anything untoward or dissatisfactory were to happen, quite unconsciously one attributes it one's karma, not knowing what it exactly means, how and when it forms. Its functions and diverse ways of manifestation.

Its highly complex and ramified nature, whether it is something static or dynamic, or a force unalterable and hence, inescapable from its frightful and disastrous consequences.

What then is Karma?

Karma is the Law of Cause and Effect operating in the mental plane - thoughts. Its meaning being action, it does not necessarily follow that only if one uses one's hands and legs constitutes action.

They are mere tools the thoughts make use of , and such, it is in the thoughts (mind) that action really takes place. However, if the limbs are used, the effect of the action naturally becomes more grave.

It is a Universal Law operating in every sphere and mode of existence (anything that has come to being), even in the minute atom though invisible to the mundane mind, as mind and matter have to co-exist at all times for the presence and survival of each.

Impulsion moment

A thought has three stages: the stage of Arising, Presence and Cessation, all of which together comprise seventeen thought-moments.

It is in the Presence Stage (comparable to ripples on a mass of water), which lasts for a duration of seven of the thought-moments, that karmic impulsion takes place: those that occur at the first of this stage of the cognitive series, their effects should bear fruit in one's present life itself, otherwise becoming void; those activated at the seventh thought moment, the effect of these should take place in the immediately subsequent birth, otherwise becoming similarly ineffectual; and those that occur from the second to the sixth, their effects could manifest anytime in one's journey in Samsara, even after attaining Arhantship.

Conditioning factors

Like other phenomena in the world, karmic impulsions too do not arise by themselves.

They all have thought as the matrix which is conditioned by several proceeding factors, such as, the six sense bases, external objects, conjunction of these and the consciousness that arises therewith, perception, mental formations and sensations, etc. similarly, do their effects take place. In the absence of any of these in either, neither will the impulsion arises nor, if it does, its effect find a footing to manifest.

Wholesome or unwholesome karma depends for their arising on the understanding of these factors according to reality. It is due to non-understanding and being unmindful of them suchwise that all get besmirched with Greed, Hatred, Delusion and Karmic volition eventually takes place.

Functions

The main function of karma is to serve one right for one's actions in accordance with the means employed in the execution of them. It holds the scales evenly, regardless of whether one is born rich, famous or infamous, or in high or low position in life, and dispenses justice equitable for all karmically charged actions at the opportune moment when the appropriate conditioning factors arise for their fruition.

Another of its functions is to make beings realise at some point of time in Sansara the woeful consequences of their unwholesome actions which would eventually direct them to the path of rectitude and purification: for no being will ever think of turning for the better unless and until a severe beating in life has been taken, either in the present or in the past. In short, it is unwholesome karma, which begets suffering, that purifies beings, makes the unvirtuous virtuous, a criminal a saint!

Modifiable

Karma is not a force or an energy which is altogether unsubduable. just as much as all karmic effects are due to one's actions, it is by way of one's wholesome actions only the effects of unwholesome actions can be made ineffective, suppressed, obstructed or mitigated, except the five grave (Pannanam Cariya) crimes for which one has to pay sometime or other, namely: matricide, patricide, shedding the blood of a Buddha, Arhanticide and causing a schism in the Order of the Sangha.

It is, therefore, wrong to believe, or even assume, that it is something unmodifiable; for if it were so, it would then fall into the theory of Destiny or Fatalism (Niyatavada) and there cannot be for that reason a way out from the conditionally born, created world of suffering to the unconditioned, unborn and uncreated Nibbana (Cessation of Suffering). On the contrary, it is an invisible, intangible energetic force that is forever kinetic, self-created but yet yielding to, and subjugated to a great extent by one's efforts only.

Manifestation of effects

There is no particular place or clime for the fruition of karmic effects.

They are operative in the highest heaven or in the lowest of realms, wherev'er or whenev'er they find favourable conditions to manifest.

They also manifest in diverse ways: sometimes through riches and poverty, going to the help of another in distress, living a cloistered spiritual life, whilst praying or meditating, preaching Ahimsa, etc; and also in stages in different births, as in the case of Maha Moggallana who first had to suffer agonising pain for a very long period in perdition for the murder of his mother and father committed in a previous birth at the instigation of his wife, and in his last birth after attaining Arhantship was pulverised to death, thus completing its effect in entirety in two stages as similarly as he did his parents!

Numerous as they are in diverse ways of manifesting, they also are highly complexed and ramified in mode, and therefore, an exact enumeration of their varied aspects is utterly impossible.

However, if one were to sit in a quiet corner and ponder earnestly over this aspect of karma only, one would be able to get a glimpse of the truth of the Buddha's saying quoted at the beginning: "Deep, indeed, oh Ananda....., no mortal being can comprehend it".

May all beings be well and happy.

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J2.07  The Buddah's conversation with a farmer

Dr. Susunga Weeraperuma

The Buddha conversed with a farmer called Kasibharadvaja in a friendly and informal way. This farmer was not a simple-minded peasant but a Brahmin with a thoughtful turn of mind. He did not hesitate to speak with the Buddha in a challenging manner, yet his attitude to the Master was one of deference as we shall see.

The Buddha was in residence at Dakkhinagiri (monastery) in the Brahmanic village of Ekanala in Magadha. As it was the sowing season Kasibharadvaja was putting to use as many as five hundred ploughs.

Such was the rural setting where in a memorable event happened. In the latter part of the morning the Buddha, having dressed himself, took his begging bowl and outer robe. Next He went to the area where Kasibharadvaja's work was taking place. It was the time when food was being distributed. After going there, the Buddha was standing at one side. Noticing the presence of the Buddha who was waiting for alms, Kasibharadvaja started speaking with Him. Kasiharadvaja said,

"O monk, I plough and sow, and after such ploughing and sowing, I eat. You also, O monk, must plough and sow, and after having done that, you should eat."

Some might say that the farmer's uncalled-for outburst shows nothing but disrespect for the Buddha. Others might add that it is best to ignore these rude remarks which imply that the Enlightened One was a social parasite who failed to earn an honest living.

Kasibharadvaja was indirectly indicating that only those who plough and sow have a right to eat.

"O Brahmin," replied the Buddha, "I also plough and sow, and after having ploughed and sown, I eat."

"We don't see," retorted the Brahmin, "the Venerable Gotama's yoke, plough, ploughshare, goad or oxen.

Yet the Venerable Gotama says "I also plough and sow, and after having ploughed and sown, I eat." You claim to be a ploughman," argued the Brahmin, "Yet we don't see your plough! Tell us about your ploughing so that we may know about it."

Thereupon the Buddha declared in verse:

"My seed is faith,

My rain is austerity,

My yoke and plough are wisdom,

My plough's pole is modesty,

My strap is the mind,

My ploughshare and goad are mindfulness.

Restrained in speech and conduct,

Self-controlled in food,

With truth I cut the weeds.

My liberation is compassion.

My beast of burden is exertion.

Without turning back, it carries me to Nirvana

Where one does not suffer.

Thus ploughed, the fruit of Immortality is produced

And one is free of pain of all kind."

Then Kasibharadvaja, after presenting the Buddha with a golden bowl filled with milk-rice, said, "May the Buddha eat this offering of milk-rice. The Venerable Buddha is a ploughman indeed whose ploughing results in the fruit of Immortality."

Refusing to accept the gift, the Buddha said:

"That which is gained by reciting verses I should not eat. This o Brahmin, is not the practice of those with clarity of mind." The Buddha rejects what is acquired by reciting verses.

"Such is the conduct of the Buddhas as long as the Dharma (i.e. the teaching) lasts."

What can we deduce from the foregoing statement of the Enlightened One? It is obviously not right to receive anything in exchange for the Dharma. The Dhamma should neither be regarded nor used as a marketable commodity. Never should the Dhamma be bought or sold. On the contrary, it is incumbent on all lovers of the Dhamma to make it available for one and all free of charge.

"You should serve other food and drink," said the Buddha, "to an accomplished great safe who is free of craving and misbehaviour, because this is the field of a person who is looking for good works."

"Venerable Gotama, to whom then shall I offer this milk-rice?" asked Kasibharadvaja.

"O Brahmin, in the world of men and gods and Maras and Brahmans, comprising of gods and men, and monks and Brahmins, there is none who can eat and digest this milk-rice, unless he were the Buddha or a disciple of his. Therefore, o Brahmin, you must throw away this milk-rice where there is little grass, or empty it into water without worms."

Accordingly the Brahmin threw the food away, casting it onto water devoid of worms. No sooner had he thrown it than the water splashed, hissed and steamed in volumes.

Frightened and worried, Kasibharadvaja threw himself down reverentially at the Buddha's feet and exclaimed, "It is wonderful, o Venerable Gotama! It is wonderful, O Venerable Gotama! As one lifts up what has fallen down, or reveals what has hitherto remained hidden, or shows the right road to one who has got lost, or being like a beacon by holding an oil lamp in the dark so that those with eyes may see, in the same manner and in many ways the Venerable Gotama has explained and made clear the Dharma. I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha; I wish to be ordained as a monk... the novice's ordination and the higher ordination". He then received both ordinations from the Buddha.

This sutta illustrates that it would be very dangerous to accept anything gained by expounding the Dhamma. In other words, those who teach the Dhamma must never make a profit from it.

The Venerable Kasibharadvaja not only led a reclusive and solitary life but also one that was strenuous, enthusiastic and energetic.

Before long by means of his own intelligence he attained Arhantship ... the highest spiritual perfection in search of which people leave their homes and become homeless wanderers. He realised that "the cycle of births and deaths has ceased, the religious life has been led, what needs doing has been done, there is nothing else left to be done".

Thus the Venerable Kasibharadvaja became one of the Arhants.

The extraordinary story of how this former farmer freed himself from all the fetters and found the final freedom known as Nirvana is an inspiration to us all who are unfortunately enmeshed in mundane misery.

He swam the stormy sea of suffering called Samsara and reached the serene safety of the sacred shores of Nirvana.

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J2.08  Peace in Buddhism

Jayatissa Pathirana

The word 'Peace' has become the buzzword in international gatherings, political discussions, among warring nations, regional meetings and so on. In this strife-torn world everybody wishes to live in peace and harmony. Peace has become so important in today's context even the Asia Africa summit held in the capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta, thought it fit to discuss the issues of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism which have been the scourge to all nations in the world. How does Buddhist teachings fit into the subject of Peace?

Leading principles in Buddhism

Peace, goodwill and harmony are the leading principles in Buddhism. The Buddha is known as "Santinayake" - a leader who is a promoter of peace. Buddhism teaches one how to live Peacefully in society. One does not repress the emotions; one controls them and does not give vent to one's harsher feelings. The follower of the Buddha Dhamma tries to live in a way which harms no one, so one finds, with practice, that what we know as 'self' is just a collection of mental states which arise, persist briefly, and then pass away as though they had never been.

This awareness is the pivot of the Buddha's teachings. Through it one finds peace and thus can live in harmony with others. Peace, happiness, security are all very relative terms and will never constitute true and lasting peace, if the individual seeks his own happiness at the cost of others. The search for security in peace is not peace but fear. Fear results self-isolation and opposition which lead to conflict and never to peace. Hence non-violence must grow within oneself through the understanding of mutual relationship.

The Buddha's second visit to this Island of ours was to settle a dispute between two clans, Yakkas and Nagas, over a jewelled throne. He said 'Hatred never ceases by hatred'. That was the antidote he gave the warring factions. Victory breeds ill-will, for the conquered are unhappy,' declared the Buddha. It was recorded in the Dhammapada.

It says:

'Hatred never ceases by hatred'. That was the antidote he gave the warring factions. Victory breeds ill-will, for the conquered are unhappy,' declared the Buddha.

"Na hi verena verani

Sammanthi dha kudachanam

Averena ca sammanti

Esa Dhammao Sanatano"

It was the late President J.R. Jayewardene who re-echoed this twin verses at the San Francisco conference of World Leaders pleading on behalf of Japan shattered by the World War two, to get a respite for that country from the powerful nations of the world. The Buddha's exhortations made over 25 centuries ago still holds good to change the mentality even of high powered people.The Buddha once intervened in a dispute between the Sakyahs and Koliyas over the waters of the Rohini river. Thatagata settled the issue by pointing out that blood is far more thicker than water and taught that mutual help is the best assistance one can give and obtain. Governments should realise this and bring an end to the arms race. The great king Asoka followed the Buddha's teachings and proved that it is quite possible to rule a country without engaging in military conquests. If we are well guarded, watching our reactions and our words, our emotions and feelings, then we are people of peace. This in turn helps us to help others, and in helping others to be peaceful, we are truly helping the society.

In the Buddhist scriptures, wherein boundless love and kindness are mentioned, and so much tolerance is preached, it is quite evident that there is no place for any hatred or illwill. Thus without fire and sword, Buddhism has found its way into the hearts of millions and millions of people. From historical manuscripts we know that since the time of the Buddha up to this day, not a single drop of blood has been shed in the name of the Buddha or for the propagation of his doctrine.

Since the earliest times, this all-embracing kindness or "Maithri", has had powerful influence on the Buddhist people in inducing them to build highways, free resting places (ambalamas) for weary wanderers, put up stands containing pots with fresh drinking water (pin thaliya) for the thirsty, provide food and drink for man and animal, build free hospitals and distribute free medicines (mainly herbal) to all.

Hence, self-respect, self-confidence, tolerance, all embracing kindness, seriousness of mind and independence of thought are some of the salient qualities created in people by the influence of Buddhism. In a country in which such qualities predominate, Peace and happiness will reign supreme. Such a country will a model to the whole world and truly will be a paradise on earth. If people are really interested to seek and work for peace and happiness for themselves as well as others, it is still not too late, for every cloud has a silver lining.

The Buddha's teachings which are worthy of practice and realised by oneself still exist.

A verse in the Sahassa Vagga of the Dhammpada emphasises this fact.

"Yo sahassam sahassena - sangame manuse jine

Ekan ca jeyya attanam - sa ve sangamajuttamo"

To conquer oneself is nobler than conquering thousands of men in a battlefield. Such a man who conquers himself, is the greatest of conquerors.

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J2.09  Gleanings from the Parayana

The way to the Beyond

The parayana Vagga, constitutes the final chapter of the Sutta Nipata, which is one of the Sections of the Khuddaka Nikaya. It comprises of a series of questions addressed to the Buddha by sixteen Brahamin students of a learned Brahmin named Bavari.

The Epilogue (Theri Gatha) goes on to state "Anyone whose life accords with what the Buddha taught in these answers goes across the ocean, from here to the beyond".

"From this shore to the other is crossing the ocean, this is travelling on the highest path. It is a path that leads to that other shore; that is why it is called Prayana. "The way to the Beyond".

The question posed by three of the Brahamins who themselves were learned men and teachers in their own right are set out for contemplation and reflection during this period of vesak.

The questions of Ajita

'I am old and decaying. My body is weak and my skin is pale. I can hardly see and I only hear with difficulty. Don't let me die while I am still in confusion but teach me about the Way Things Are so that I shall know how to leave birth and ageing behind me.'

"What is it', said Ajita, 'that smothers the world? What makes the world so hard to see? What would you say pollutes the world, and what threatens it most?'

"It is ignorance which smothers', said the Master," 'and it is carelessness and greed which make the world invisible.

"The hunger of desire pollutes the world, and the great source of fear is the pain of suffering'.

"In every direction', said Ajita, 'the rivers of desire are running. How can we dam them and what will hold them back? What can we use to close the flood-gates?'

'Any river can be stopped with the dam of mindfulness', said the Buddha, 'I call it the flood-stopper. And with wisdom you can close the flood-gates.''Sir, said Ajita, 'where there is wisdom and mindfulness there is also the hybrid of mind and matter (the generation of individuality).

"What brings it all to a half?'

"This is the answer to your question, Ajita', said the Master. 'Individuality can be brought to a total end by the cessation of consciousness.' 'Sir', said Ajita, 'there are people here who have mastered all the teachings, and there are students and apprentices, and ordinary people too. "Tell me how these people should live and work.' 'Let them be like a wanderer, a monk', said the Buddha. 'Mindful and skilful in every way, they should free themselves from pleasure hunger and make their minds (calm and) undisturbed'.

Mogharaja's question

'Man of Sakya', he said, 'I have asked about this twice before without receiving an answer from the Wisdom-Eye. But I have heard that if a wisdom-god is asked a third time, then, he will give an answer.

I do not know, famous Gotama, what attitude you take towards this world and towards the other world, the world of Brahma and the gods.

So, because of your insight into excellence, I have come to ask you about this. What is the best way for a person to regard the world so that the King of Death won't see him?

If you are always aware, Mogharaja, you will look at the world and see its emptiness. If you give up looking at yourself as a soul (as a fixed and special identity), then you will have given yourself a way to go beyond death. Look at the world like this and the King of Death will not see you'.

Finally Pingiya posed his questions.

Then the brahmin Pingiya spoke:

Pingiya's question

'I am old and decaying. My body is weak and my skin is pale. I can hardly see and I only hear with difficulty. Don't let me die while I am still in confusion but teach me about the Way Things Are so that I shall know how to leave birth and ageing behind me.'

'Look', replied the Buddha, 'look how many people are tormented by pain.

Look how careless they are, and how greatly they suffer, because of body and forms. If you do not want to go on and on becoming, Pingiya, you must let go of the body and forms'.

'In all the ten directions', said Pingiya, 'above, below, and in every quarter of the compass, there is not a thing that you have not heard, seen, known, or understood. '

'Can you see', replied the Buddha, 'how people are oppressed by desire? Can you see how they are racked and worn by ageing? If you do not want to go on and on becoming, Pingiya, you must let go of craving.'

(Translation of Ven. Hammellawa Saddhatissa)

May all beings be well and happy!

- J.C. Boange

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J2.10  Smile of the bee

A. M. Ruwan Bandara Adhikari

The bee, is a social insect. Even the colour of the fly reminds us the complexion of the South Asian peasant who toils exposing himself both to the tropical hot sun and the rain. People of our part of the globe work both for themselves and others like bees, i.e. to sustain their families. And they collectively work to nurture the society at large.

This article aims at showing some important points as to how the bee has become a simile and a metaphor in Buddha's discourses and in the post canonical Pali literature.

Buddhaghosa, the Pali commentator, compares the mentality 'vitakka' (applied thought) to the bee's diving towards a lotus to follow up the scent of the flower. And 'Vicara' (sustained thought) is compared by him to the bee's buzzing above the lotus after it has dived towards it.

Again Buddhaghosa shows us the way as to how the bee goes from one cell of the comb to the other seeking a pure one to store the pollen it has brought from afar. The bee never stores up the pollen inconsiderately in an impure cell. A bee that has gone into an unpurified hive (Vism. 152), having known that particular cell or the hive is not clean enough to store the pollen, immediately comes out of it like a king who returns from an unclean park without enjoying. In the same way, Buddhaghosa says; that Jhanic attainment cannot be achieved without purifying the mind. Let us see how Ven. Bhikkhu Nanamoli translates Buddhaghosa into English.

"When a bhikkhu enters upon a jhana without (first) completely suppressing lust by reviewing the dangers in sense desires etc. and without (first) completely tranquillising bodily irritability by tranquillising the body, and without (first) completely removing stiffness and torpor by bringing to mind the sign of serenity etc. and without (first) completely purifying his mind of other states that obstruct concentration, then that the bhikkhu soon comes out of that jhana again, like a bee that has gone into an unpurified hive, like a king who has gone into an unclean park." (The Path of Purification, p. 157-158).

However, when the bee enters a purified cell it stores the pollen in it. The bee travels through the forest far away and collects pollen as much as possible and stores it in the cell and makes a honey comb. This honey comb or the hive is useful not only to the bee or the bees who collected pollen, but for many. At first the bee consumes it, even while collecting it from the flowers whenever it feels hungry. Worker bees including the 'queen' and young ones feed on collected honey which is stored up clean and neat in the cells of the hive. Apart from the members of the colony many other living beings make use of bee-honey. Specially the man-kind, even at the beginning of the recorded history, collected bee-honey and used it.

Coming back to Ven. Buddhaghosa's simile, we are told that one cannot attain higher states in his mind without purifying it before hand. That is to say one has to clear up his mind or his way of thinking by brushing out thoughts harmful to both the individual and to the other members of the society he lives in. As human beings we cannot differentiate ourselves from our minds or our processes of thinking. In simple words from our ways of thinking. One great philosopher said that, "I am, because I think". Accordingly the criterion of the progress or the development of both the individual and that of the society becomes our mentality or what we think. Because all the actions performed by human beings are directed by their minds or what they think as shown by the very first verses of the Dhammapada.

As human beings we should try our best to avoid thoughts which are harmful to us. Let us compare ourselves to the cells of a honey comb, and the human society (or the whole globe at large) to a bee-colony. Without making our way of thinking free from contaminated thoughts such as hatred, ill-will and malice or whatever name we call them, which are harmful both to us and our society, we cannot have hope of better future for the mankind.

It is after purifying our inward thoughts first and then making our minds full of peaceful thoughts like 'metta and karuna' and acting accordingly. We can make the world a better place for us, like a sweet honey comb free from contaminated matter as a result of the defensive and collective efforts of each and every bee of a colony.

However, some poison or contaminated matter can accidentally get mixed up with pollen in a comb. For instance, a carcass of a mouse or a lizard can fall in a bee colony. Sometimes such an insect may try to 'steal' honey and as a result can be attacked by worker bees to death. The carcass can be so heavy that the worker bees cannot push it out of the colony. Still the bees have a solution. They will quarantine the carcass preventing the other parts of the colony being contaminated.

Thinking ways of the individuals in human society can be contaminated or polluted by thoughts harmful both to oneself and to the society due to innate reasons of the human nature and as a result the particular person can be corrupted. Accordingly such a person, directed by those evil thoughts, may act wrongly. However in a civilized world such culprits are 'quarantined' by getting them into custody or imprisonment by the maintaining authorities of law and order of that particular human society.

Ven. Buddhaghosa gives us other similes of three types of bees. They are:

1. The too clever bee (aticheko)

2. The bee not clever enough (acheko) and

3. The clever bee (cheko)

Like all other things in the phenomenal world, a flower blooms but for a limited period of time. A bee collecting honey should reach the flower on time.

A too clever bee having known that a flower is blooming in a particular direction sets out hurriedly, overshoots the aimed tree, turns back and arrives at the flower late, when the pollen is finished. The second bee who is not clever enough sets out with slow speed. Because of his laziness it arrives at the flower late and would not be able to collect pollen.

But the third one who is clever will first decide the speed appropriate for the flight from the colony to the blooming tree. Without any unnecessary haste and also without being late on the way it will arrive on time to the flower. Having enjoyed the pollen it will bring it to the colony as well, and a sweet honeycomb will be made.

In the same manner a meditating bhikkhu who will force his energy thinking of reaching the mental stage 'absorption' (namely appana), soon will fall into mental agitation because of his over exerted energy and will end up without reaching the desired mantel stage. Another bhikkhu, having seen the defect in over-exertion, slackens its pace. His mind lapses into idleness because of his mind too is lax. However the bhikkhu who frees his mind from idleness even when it is slightly, idle and from agitation when slightly agitated reaches the goal.Ven. Buddhaghosa uses these similes of the bee to illustrate some inward mental process of those who cultivate their mind under the guidelines given in his commentary.

Some of us today may see them as irrelevant topics to the general public. But some in-depth study will show us that what these similes give us is equally important to lay society as well.

Most peoples specially those nations known as under developed and developing countries including that of ours can be seen aiming at goals that expected to be achieved 'instantly', and most of us have 'accelerated development programs. We have ample evidence in the world today of the disasters due to such hasteful activities of man.

One of the most charming similes that speaks of the behaviour of the bee comes in the following Dhammapada (49) verse

'Yathapi bhamaro puppham

vannagandham ahethayam

paleti rasamadaya

evam game muni care'

(As the bee collects honey from the flower without harming its colour or fragrance so should the sage wander in the village)

According to the commentary to the Dhammapada this verse has been uttered by the Buddha in praise of Ven. Moggallana who successfully converted a merchant named Macchariya Kosiya who is well-known for his miserly nature.

The verse says that muni or sage wander in the village like a bee. Bhikkhus live on the food and other materials offered by the people of a particular area or a village. He lives without being a burden to the people, while sustaining himself from what he would humbly obtain from them.

Like a bee the bhikkhu nurtures the whole society.

The bee collects honey from the flower without harming its colour or fragrance. This is only what can be seen by the normal human eye. But when we watch the bees' behaviour deeply it is evident that the same bee helps the whole eco-system as well.

It is through the bee's going from flower to flower the process of pollination takes place. Without pollination the trees would not bear fruits.

Though the bee in the forest collects honey without harming the flower there are still other species of insects who completely eat out the whole flower. Such insects are more in number than those species of bees who help the spread and growth of the trees.

Such insects eat out not only the flower but also the leaves and barks of the tree. And they also leave out the tree, after laying their eggs in tiny holes on the trunk of the tree. It is a wonder of the nature that such insects, after doing all the harm eventually get wings to fly away as butterflies.

In the above given verse the conduct of the Bhikkhu was compared to the bee's behaviour but not to those of other insects who harm the plants. The message given is equally important to all who follow the Buddha's words.

23 05 2005 - Daily News

 

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J2.11  Is wealth compatible with religious living?

Most Ven. Dr. M. Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain and Head of the London Buddhist Vihara

Extracts from a talk given to an Interfaith gathering organised by Birkbeck College, University of London in conjunction with the World Congress of Faiths.

It is sometimes felt that material possessions are an obstacle to spiritual progress. For hundreds, even thousands, of years there have been examples of people from all religious faiths who have renounced the world in order to devote themselves to the spiritual life without the distractions of material possessions. This tension between material progress and spiritual progress is even more keenly felt today as many of us live in an age of unparalleled material prosperity. People living in an industrialised nation are enjoying a higher material standard than ever before, and their entire society is organised in order to maximise economic activity. Consumption is encouraged, regardless of the cost to the individual, society or the environment. The more affluent a society becomes, the greater is the attention paid to the satisfaction of sense desires.

Speaking as a Buddhist, however, I do not think it is a question of rejection of material things in order to pursue a spiritual goal; it is a matter of striking the right balance between the two - what Buddhists call the Middle Way. Certainly, spiritual progress is impossible without a certain level of material well-being. Poverty in Buddhism is not a virtue. The Buddha said, "For householders in this world, poverty is suffering." (A.III.350) and again, "Woeful in the world is poverty and debt." (A.III.352)

He also said that poverty (daliddiya) is the cause of immorality and crimes such as theft, falsehood, violence, hatred and cruelty (Cakkavattisihanada sutta). He explained that it is futile for a king to try to suppress crime by means of punishment. Instead the king should eradicate crime by improving the economic condition of his people. The Buddha said that grain and other facilities for agriculture should be provided for farmers and cultivators; capital should be provided for traders and those engaged in business, and adequate wages should be paid to those who are employed. When people are thus provided for with opportunities to earn a sufficient income, they will be contented, will have no fear or anxiety, and consequently the country will be peaceful and free of crime.

The purpose of wealth is to facilitate the development of the highest human potential. Wealth is only a means to an end, not an end itself; it creates the conditions under which spiritual progress may flourish. If the creation of wealth is regarded purely as a selfish occupation, then the results will often lead to unhappiness because this activity is self-centred, based only on ideas of "me" and "mine". We should, however, regard wealth as something to be shared with other people. If human beings could expand their love to all other people, irrespective of their class, colour or creed, rather than confining it to their own people, then they might be able to part with things without expecting anything in return, and experience more satisfaction in doing so. This satisfaction comes not from tanha, a desire to obtain things to make ourselves happy, but from chanda, a desire for the well-being of others. In decisions dealing with every sphere of economic activity, whether it is production, consumption, or the use of technology, we must learn how to distinguish between the two kinds of desire and make our choices wisely.

Bearing this in mind, there is nothing wrong with material wealth by itself and the Buddha never prescribed a ceiling on income. Even among Bhikkhus, Buddhist monks well-known for having the fewest of possessions, to be a frequent recipient of offerings was regarded as good kamma. The monk Sivali was praised by the Buddha as foremost among those "who are obtainers of offerings". Wealth as such is neither praised nor blamed, it is the way it is acquired and the way it is used which are important. Blameworthy qualities are greed, stinginess, grasping, attachment, hoarding. Acquisition is acceptable when it is used for good causes like furthering spiritual progress and helping other people. So the problem with wealth is our attitude towards it. If we devote ourselves entirely to amassing material things, neglecting moral, spiritual and intellectual well-being, then that is not skilful. Material progress should always be accompanied by moral and spiritual progress, otherwise it cannot be considered as true progress. A certain level of economic prosperity is vital for a happy, peaceful society, but this should not be an end in itself, rather it should be a base on which one should build spiritual development.

The ethical value of wealth is judged by the ways in which it is obtained, and the uses to which it is put, such as generosity or hoarding. Giving should always be done sympathetically, not exalting the giver above those who are receiving. Speaking to King Pasenadi, the Buddha said that wealth hoarded by a miser is like a forest pool, clear, cool and fresh with good approaches and a shady setting, but situated in a savage region. Because of fear of the people living there, no one can drink, bathe in or make use of the water. But a wise man uses his wealth for the benefit of his family, friends and for good works for society in general. This wealth is like a forest pool not far from a village or town, with cool, clear, fresh water, good approaches and a shady setting. People can freely drink of that water, carry it away, bathe in it, or use it as they please (S.I. 89-91). A wealthy person who uses his wealth generously is also likened to a fertile field in which rice grows abundantly for the benefit of all.

It is perfectly possible for a person to pursue a spiritual life whilst remaining involved in the material world, provided the material world is used skilfully. "Actions, knowledge, qualities, morality and an ideal life; these are the gauges of a being’s purity, not wealth or name." (M.III.262) The Buddha said that for the layman there are four kinds of happiness that will not interrupt his spiritual progress (A.II.69):-

The first is the bliss of ownership (atthi sukha) of wealth which has been justly and righteously acquired through honest labour and the sweat of one’s brow. It should also be accompanied by a sense of contentment with what one has. Unless one has this feeling of contentment, amassing wealth is like trying to fill a jar with no bottom. The second kind of happiness is bhoga sukha, the bliss of using or enjoying that wealth, which means spending it liberally on family, friends and charitable deeds. We should not hoard this wealth like a miser, nor should we live beyond our means and overspend extravagantly. The third kind of happiness is anana sukha, the bliss of debtlessness, being able to say "I have no debts" - which is not an easy thing to say in the modern world of credit cards, mortgages and hire purchase! This kind of happiness also means discharging fully all one’s social obligations to one’s family, friends, religion and society. The fourth kind of happiness is anavajja sukha, the bliss of blamelessness, leading a blameless life in body, speech & mind, which means we perform no actions that cause any hurt or harm to any living being. Of these four kinds of happiness, the Buddha said that the first three are not worth one sixteenth of the happiness given by the fourth, i.e. the blameless life. The Buddha was showing us here how wealth and spirituality can go hand in hand.

One of the most generous supporters of the Buddhist order was a merchant called Anathapindika. He was an immensely wealthy man, but this was not a barrier to his spiritual progress - having listened to the preaching of the Buddha, he attained what we call the first stage of sainthood (sotapanna). Anathapindika was a fine example of generosity. He did not hoard his wealth, but shared it gladly with his friends and relatives. On one occasion he visited the monastery of some Brahmin pilgrims, who recognised him as a follower of the Buddha and asked him about the Buddha’s teachings. Anathapindika became involved in a discussion concerning their different views of the world. He gave them such a brilliant discourse that later when the Buddha heard about it, he said that even a monk who had lived one hundred years in the Order would not have been able to speak better to the pilgrims than Anathapindika the householder had done (A.X.93). He is in fact an excellent example of how it is possible to follow the spiritual path while remaining very much in the world. There are many other examples from our tradition of lay people who have reach an enlightened state.

The Buddhist path is a gradual path, which allows different people to progress at different speeds according to their understanding and inclinations. One of the Buddha’s chief disciples, Sariputta, said that an aspirant might be living in a forest, but with his mind full of impure thoughts and defilements. Another might be living in a town, but with his mind free from defilements. Of these two aspirants, said Sariputta, the one living a pure life in the town is far greater than the one living in the forest. Certainly there is nothing against renouncing the world and living a life of voluntary poverty, but this is not an essential requirement.

For those who do wish to devote themselves more intensively to spiritual practice, there is the path of renunciation of the world. The Buddha taught that sense desire is one of the root causes of all human unhappiness. Desires which are satisfied cause attachment and grasping. Desires which are not satisfied cause frustration and further craving. In order to reduce sense desire to a minimum, the monastic life is designed to reduce material possessions to the essentials. A bhikkhu is allowed a minimum of possessions. The ideal is summarised by a psycho-physical discipline, involving acts of thought, word and deed, to lead a life of perfect purity and retirement from all worldly pursuits motivated by sense desire. The perfect pre-requisite for this is pabbajja, which means recluseship. For a monk the best qualities are contentment and few wishes, accompanied by effort and diligence in developing wholesome qualities, such as generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom, and in eradicating unwholesome qualities, such as greed, hatred and delusion, and also in working for the benefit and welfare of oneself and others. "Furthermore, monks, he is content with whatever necessities, be it robes, alms food, shelter or medicines, he obtains. Furthermore, monks, he is continually stirring up effort to eliminate bad qualities, make determined and vigorous progress in good things, and never throwing off his obligations." (D.III,226,296) Bhikkhus use the least possible amount of material goods. This is partly to avoid overtaxing the community which supports them, and partly to allow them to spend as much time as possible practising and teaching the Buddha’s doctrine.

I should like to end by giving you an extensive quotation from one of our scriptures: “Wealth is neither good nor bad, just as life within the world with its sensual joys is neither good nor bad. It depends on the way the wealth is obtained and what is done with it, and in what spirit it is given away. People may acquire wealth unlawfully and spend it selfishly. Either case will not make one truly happy.

"Instead one can acquire wealth by lawful means without harming others. One can be cheerful and use the wealth without greed and lust. One can be heedful of the dangers of the attachment to wealth and share the wealth with others to perform good deeds. One can be aware that it is not wealth, nor good deeds, but liberation from craving and selfish desire that is the goal. In this way, this wealth brings joy and happiness. One holds wealth not for oneself but for all beings." (Anguttara Nikaya)

There is ample opportunity here for the wealthy layman to pursue a spiritual path which can be of great benefit, both to himself and to society in general. However, for the renunciant, the Buddha said even greater happiness is possible. "There are, monks, these two forms of happiness. What are the two? The happiness of lay-life and the happiness of renunciation. The nobler of the two forms of happiness, monks, is that of renunciation." (A.I.80)

05 May 1997

 

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J2.12  Looking through conventions

Samanera Pajalo (Austria) 

"... and there might be the truth in what the beggar is saying, and none at all in what is said by the rich man or the man in authority."

- J. Krishnamurti

We are educated and used to looking into the world through the coloured lens of labels and conventions. We are getting lost in the world by inflating our egos beyond what they actually are and by losing ourselves in what we have and what we think we are.

For years I have been living as a monk, without family, property, a profession and all the extreme sweet and bitter fruits which ripen through the normal life of a common man. Yet I am happy that I had tasted enough of that. One gets tired of running after this mirage made up by us and emphasized by society.

There is an advantage in having experienced life beyond the common superficial ideas and opinions. The wealthy environment of my childhood shattered the ideal that money equals happiness and freedom. Having grown up in the sceneries around "Sound of Music", it was clear to me that even the most beautiful environment cannot beautify the heart. The fact that my father is a doctor and that mother grew up in an aristocratic family, 'taught' me that none of that is a guarantee for a fulfilling life. A closer look may even reveal the opposite. I got to know many people, who have passed through universities, but at the same time they seemed to have missed the essence of life. Having had the freedom to travel extensively throughout Europe and America I realized that feeling at home is a matter of the heart and not a particular place. Having experienced a love relationship it was clear to me, that certain movies and books, in which we love to get lost, are stories too rare to become true in our own lives.

It's only experience and wisdom that can shatter these concepts of this 'happy', but false world.

Let's leave aside 'my' life and look around at this Island. What do we think about the businessman who drives his Mercedes Benz to the A/C cooled office at the World Trade Center, where he is connected with the whole world. Compare him with the farmer riding his old bicycle to the paddy field, to work in the heat of the sun, far away from any world-news. Isn't there a chance that he has a deeper understanding of reality; that he is living a more balanced, happier life. That he is more humble and wise than his 'fellow being' who is labelled as a 'VIP'. Might this simple man with his uncomplicated life not be the one who is more satisfied with what he has without being afraid of losing anything, including life itself. Could not he be the one who realized the deeper meaning of the 'Art of Living', far beyond the 'important and big' man who is bounded by silver chains, kept in golden cages, and caught up in the city' rat race?

"Since we have been in prison we got to know life", inmates of Bogambara jail once told me during one of my visits. I have a feeling that some of these so called 'criminals' are able to face life in a more honest way than many of us outside who are hiding the ego behind all their wealth, degrees and family status.

At such a place where there is no difference between a millionaire and a beggar, where one has no attached titles, only a number for identification, where everybody is treated the same, no matter whether you are a scholar or illiterate, there is a chance to let go of all the conventions, labels and pride that are nurtured in our minds and considered important by society. Only then will we be able to see life again through the eyes of an innocent child, only then will we realize that watching a golden sunset can be more precious than having a golden coin, that a smile from the heart can be more important than a complicated degree from the university, and that the murmur of a clear spring can tell us more than empty words from an empty mind.

If we really want to learn about life and if we really want to grow up in this world, we have to be able to look straight down to the heart through all the conventions and complications in ourselves and in those around us.

The Island - 2 Jan 02

 

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J2.13  The concept of truth

Aryadasa Ratnasinghe

Since the beginning of time, one of the greatest objectives of human endeavour has been in the pursuit of truth, or the agreement with reality as the established fact. It was recognised that human existence had always been subject to a great deal of hazards and disappointments, unless based upon reliable information. The search for this phenomenon pertaining to human behaviour and conduct in life was woven into the fabric of truth.

The concept of revealed truth is as old as recorded history, and it implies that truth has to be seen through some sort of contact between man and a higher authority or divinity. Intuitive truth is much the same as revealed truth, except that the divine power, to have absolute knowledge, is assumed to rest with certain people rather than with an outside deity. However, truth is considered an established fact.

Empirical truth is that nothing should be considered or believed to be true, unless it has been borne by observation and experience. This concept has been modified to fit the needs of modern science and technology. According to Christianity, the Holy Bible says: "But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth" (Romans 2:2.)

As science progressed, it became increasingly evident that almost nothing in the world, as it seems to be, has come out of nothing. Buddha preached to the world the importance of truth as discovered by him, based on the Four Noble Truths, which is the crux of Buddhism.

He said "This is suffering, this is the origin of suffering, this is the cessation of suffering and this's the way leading to the cessation of suffering. These are the four truths I have discovered, which bring benefit, and advancement in the holy life, because they lead to dispassion, to fading, to ceasing, to stilling, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment and, finally, to Nibbana", (the summum bonum in Buddhism). - Samyutta Nikaya.

At the time of the Buddha, India was undergoing a great spiritual revolution the world had not been aware of, or not seen before. Many youngmen of noble families left their homes in quest of truth, having renounced the world to achieve their objectives.

The 'sramanas' (ascetics) went among the people, teaching and preaching their doctrines, in search of a panacea for the evils of suffering, which is part and parcel of human life. It was at this time that the Buddha entered into the arena of such religious combatants, expounding his doctrine which none had discovered before.

The Four Noble Truths are the very important aspect of the teachings of the Buddha. Their importance has been stated in no uncertain terms by the Buddha. He has said that it is because we fail to understand the four Truths that we run on so long in this cycle of birth and death, which is known as the 'samsara'. The Buddha's first discourse on Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, to the five brahmin ascetics at the Isipatanaramaya in Varanasi (modern Benares), was primarily about the Four Noble Truths, the last of which is the Middle Path.

What are the Four Noble Truths? (i) suffering, (ii) cause of suffering (iii) the destruction of suffering and (iv) the path leading to the destruction of suffering. The first is to be comprehended, the second (craving) is to be eradicated, the third (Nibbana) is to be realised, and the fourth (the Noble Eightfold Path) is to be developed. These four truths exist in the world so long as humanity exists.

"As long, O bhikkus, as the absolute, true, intuitive knowledge, regarding these Four Noble Truths, under their three aspects and twelve modes, was not perfectly clear to me, so long I did not acknowledge that I had gained the incomparable supreme enlightenment. When the Truths became perfectly clear to me, then only did I acknowledge that I had gained the incomparable supreme enlightenment"

Buddha said: "Etamhi tumhe patipanna dukkhassantam karissatha, akkhato ve maya maggo annaya sallasnthanam". "(Dhammapada 20:3:275). It means that one who enters the path (the Middle Path) he will make an end to pain. Having learnt the removal of thorns (lust), so has the Buddha taught the Path.

The Noble Eightfold Path, discovered by the Buddha for the realisation of Nibbana, is comprised of (1) I'Samma ditthi' (Right understanding), (2) 'Samma samkappa' (Right thoughts), (3) I'Samma vaca' (Right speech), (4) I'Samma kammanta' (Right action), (5) 'Samma ajiva' (Right livelihood), (6) 'Samma vayama' (Samma vayama' (Right effort), (7) 'Samma sati' (Right mindfulness) and (8) 'Samma samadhi' (Right concentration). From a philosophical point of view these eight factors are the eight mental states found in the supra-mundane consciousness which has Nibbana as its goal.

One of the structures that had been developed by medical science in ancient India, was the fourfold structure of disease, diagnosis, cure and treatment, which easily correspond closely to the four Noble Truths.

In other words, suffering corresponds to illness, the cause of suffering to diagnosis, the end of suffering to cure, and the means of suffering to treatment as the end. In the Rohitha Sutta, Buddha states "In this very one fathom long body, along with its perceptions and thoughts, I do proclaim to the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world and the way leading to the cessation of the world" The 'world' implies 'suffering'.

Expounding the Four Noble Truths in various ways, the Buddha concluded the discourse on Dhamma cakkappavattana Sutta, for the well-being of mankind, with the forcible words: "As long, O bhikkus, as the absolute, true, intuitive knowledge, regarding these Four Noble Truths, under their three aspects and twelve modes, was not perfectly clear to me, so long I did not acknowledge that I had gained the incomparable supreme enlightenment. When the Truths became perfectly clear to me, then only did I acknowledge that I had gained the incomparable supreme enlightenment" ('anuttara sammasambodhi')

Buddhism is a philosophy based on personal experience and, therefore, it is rational in outlook and not speculative. Buddha discarded all authority and evolved a golden mean which was purely his own, and it is a way (magga) for the cessation of rebirth which involves suffering. Rational understanding, not speculative thought, is the keynote of Buddhism, which rejects blind faith in any unseen authority or a God or gods.

According to Buddhism, mere beliefs and dogmas cannot emancipate a person.

The Buddha, highlighting on the Four Noble Truths, to the five brahmin ascetics, in his first discourse mainly intended for them, he cautioned them to avoid the two extremes, i.e, 'kamasukkhallikanuyoga' (extreme sensualism) and 'attakilamatanuyoga' (extreme asceticism), because they are vulgar, ignoble, profitless and unworthy, and lead to nowhere, and they should not be resorted to by a recluse (one who has renounced the world to lead a celibate life), i.e., a 'pabbajitena'.

 The Noble Eightfold Path has been traditionally divided into three groups, e.g., 'sila' (morality), 'samadhi' (meditation) and 'panna' (wisdom). Right speech, Right action and Right livelihood belong to morality; Right effort, Right understanding and Right concentration to mental development, and Right understanding and Right thought to wisdom.

When we look at the Four Noble Truths, we see that they are divided into two groups. The first two (suffering and cause of suffering) belong to the realm of birth and death. The second two (end of suffering and path to end suffering) can be symbolised in terms of a spiral directed upwards which have to be reached with endeavour. The Buddha has taught that craving or attachment to desire ('tanha' or 'raga') leads to suffering. Not only that we crave for pleasant experiences but also for material things which manifest in this world of sorrow.

Truth taught in Buddhism is par excellence.

The Island - 29 Dec 01

 

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J2.14  The life beyond

Dr. Gamini Karunanayake, MBBS (Cey) D.I.H. (Eng)

All great saints and teachers of different faiths have in their teachings referred to life beyond the present. Rama Krishna, Gotama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, Sai Baba and many others including the great Rishis of Vedic India taught that, we should all live according to certain ethical standards that have been laid down, so that our present and future lives beyond would be happy, until we obtain final liberation and escape from the endless cycles of births and deaths (Samsara). Inspite of revelations by great teachers of the continuance of life after death; there are still some people who believe the present life is the last and therefore 'one should make the best use of it while it lasts' in a manner that suits their thinking.

Near death experience

Theosophical researchers, Scientists, Doctors of medicine, Yogis and other researchers, have published articles on the existence of life after death. In this article, material has been published from their writings. Dr. Raymond Moody has researched on "death bed experiences", (i.e. people who were pronounced as 'clinically dead' were revived and they spoke of their experiences while they were in a clinically 'dead' state). The majority of patients who 'died' said that, they left their bodies and hovered above their physical lifeless form, and observed the doctors trying to revive their body. Elizabeth Taylor, the beautiful and famous actress who nearly died of pneumonia had this particular experience. Similarly, there were other patients who were pronounced clinically 'dead', but later they were able to identify the doctors and nurses who attended on them. Some patients were able to rise above their prostate bodies and "see" and identify patients who were occupying other rooms in the hospital. In Dr. Raymond Moody's study, the patients who pronounced dead experienced going through a long dark tunnel at very high speed and meeting a 'being bathed in light' at the end of the tunnel, who lovingly welcomed them and had a conversation with them regarding their life "performance" in this world. Various important aspects in their life were reviewed in flash backs like on a TV screen. At the end of the meeting, the 'dead person' was made to understand that he or she had some more duties to attend to in this world and therefore it was best that life returned to his or her body. The 'being of light' at the end of the dark 'tunnel' was Jesus to Christians, and people of other faiths perceived the being of light as the leader of their faith. There are others who have ascended to heavenly planes, and seen the beauty of the inhabitants and the environment there. Some others have seen the misery and frustrations in other darker planes where beings were regretting for their lapses in this world.

What happens after death

Books say that when a person discards his physical body at death he gets onto his Spirit body or the Astral body which is very subtle (and is a look alike of the youthful physical body). Those who have performed charitable deeds and accumulated good Karma will ascend to the Higher Astral worlds where they will have a contented and happy life. The ordinary decent man will wake up in the Lower Astral plane which is a subtler counter part of the physical world, but it is more beautiful. Those persons who have been brutal and whose desires are utterly depraved will wake up in the grosser still lower level of Astral plane. Here the environment is grey coloured or dark, and living there is extremely unpleasant and miserable. The inhabitants will experience frustrations due to their inability to work out their physical passions through their Astral bodies which are not equipped for such fulfilment. This harrowing experience may well be termed a purgatory, but it is temporary and lasts until his depraved desires are worn out. The term Apaya (Niraya) used in Buddhist literature could correspond to this Grosser Astral plane.

In the ordinary lower Astral plane the inhabitants are able to communicate with certain people, especially friends and relations through a 'medium'. It is known that, Sir D. Baron Jayatillake a former head of the cabinet of Ministers was in regular communication, for over ten years with a well known Diplomat and Ambassador to an European country. Sir DBJ was living after his death in an Astral plane and he gave advise to the diplomat on matters relating to Buddhism, Philosophy, Psychology etc. and also on personal matters.

The communications were in the form of automatic writing from the spirit of Sir DB who on a few occasions gave demonstrations of telekinesis, that is, the movement of physical objects through space after dematerialising. (Reference Spiritual Inquiry for the youth by C. Shanmuganayagam). Later, the spirit of Sir DB informed the diplomat that he was moving into a higher plane of existence from where contact with the human world is not possible due to human society being so polluted. In Buddhist Literature, it is stated that persons who have reached the Devalokas would develop an aloofness from worldly attachments. However, liberated souls living in the higher heavens could come down to earth and communicate with spiritually advanced people. In the book - 'Autobiography of a Yogi' Swami Yogananda's guru Sri Yukteswar after his death came back to his beloved devotee in flesh and blood form to give a sermon on the after life in other planes of existence. Sri Sathya Sai Baba's mother Easwaramma, who died long years ago has been seen on several occasions in her physical form talking to Sai Baba in his Ashram. Swami Yogananda while lecturing on a topic of a spiritual nature had seen some of his devotees who died earlier, seated in the lecture hall, in their Astral bodies and were listening to his lecture.

Life in the higher Astral heavens

Books also say that, the Astral Cosmos is much larger than the physical Cosmos, and infinitely more beautiful. It is teeming with Astral beings who have arrived from the physical world. The environment their is extremely beautiful, and pleasant. There are beautiful flowers, streams, waterfalls etc. The fruit trees bear extremely delicious fruits. There are no snakes and insects but birds and butterflies are present. The climate is always a very comfortable spring time, with no extremes of temperature. The Astral inhabitants are not born from the wombs of a woman, but they automatically arrive in the youthful form and are welcomed into household occupied by persons who have similar spiritual and mental tendencies. As such there are no difference of opinion of serious nature and therefore there is always peace and harmony in the household and the community. Friends of previous lives in the physical world recognise each other in the Astral world. One can meet several fathers, mothers, brothers, wives, husbands and other relatives of previous lives. As such, it is difficult to decide whom to love in particular as all have been connected at sometime or other. That is why all religious teachers advise us to love everybody equally. Communication among all Astral world residents is by telepathy or thought transference. Astral persons can sometimes observe human activities, but certain human beings who are spiritually developed can view the Astral world e.g. Swami Yogananda was able to see the spirit of the mother of one of his devotees after she died of breast cancer. She was being escorted by Astral helpers to her new residence in the Astral world. Her cancer was fully cured. There is extremely melodious 'heavenly music' composed by famous musicians Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Kabirdas, Mirabhai who are now living in the Astral heavens. They are entertaining vast Astral audiences. Most of us living in the physical world are able to contact our dead relatives living in the Astral world. When we are in deep sleep Astral body detaches from the physical body and goes to the Astral planes. When we wake up, we are not able to recollect but the Astral beings know this and therefore they do not miss us so much. During the Second World war, the great Indian Saint Sri Aurobindo who is now living in the Highest of the Astral Heavens decided that he should stop Adolph Hitler from destroying the world. Hitler summoned a conference of his Military Generals to decide on whether he should first attack Russia or Britain. He told the Generals to decide on that issue and he himself retreated to another room to 'meditate'. It was at this stage that Sri Aurobindo intervened to influence Hitler's mind that he should first attack Russia and not Britain. This decision taken by Hitler against the advise tendered by his Generals resulted it disastrous consequences for Hitler and Nasi Germany. Thus Sri Aurobindo saved the world from the Nazi dictator. (Ref. Howard Murphet "Where the road ends").

The Causal or Brahma worlds

Astral inhabitants can reincarnate into the Physical or Causal worlds. There life span is about 1500 to 2000 years. Our being is composed of three parts. 1) Physical body, 2) Astral body, 3) Causal body. These three bodies are joined together due to the force of unfulfilled desire. The Causal body is composed of mind and ideas and is represented by a spark of light. In Buddhism, the beings in the Brahma lokas are of two types. Those with a body (Rupa) and those with mind only (Nama). Beings of the Physical world can go direct to the Brahma worlds, if they have developed their minds in meditation to a very high level. The beings in the Causal world are only one step away from total liberation or Nirvana. They have only to apply themselves to get rid of the remaining traces of desires to achieve liberation.

People who accumulate good or wholesome Karma by performing Dana, Seela, Bhavana (Charity, Morality, Meditation) need not unduly fear death, as they will be able to be happy in life beyond. Others who accumulate bad or unwholesome Karma will have to improve themselves sooner than later, to avoid the consequences in this very life, and in the life beyond.

The Island - 8 Dec 01

 

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J2.15  Sinhala Buddhism

Nalin de Silva

Part I

Sinhala Buddhism like other such entities has undergone change over the years. When I say years with respect to Sinhala Buddhism it is much more than a few hundreds of years. Sinhala Buddhism has a history of more than two thousand three hundred years and fortunately we do not have to confine ourselves to the century after Anagarika Dharmapala. I have not gone through all the literature by

Anagarika Dharmapala and I do not believe in index reading and literature surveys in important topics such as these. I believe in understanding. In any event I am not worried if it was Anagarika Dharmapala who coined the word Sinhala Buddhism as coining a word to identify a phenomenon does not mean that the phenomenon came into existence with the coining of the word.  

Even if it was Anagarika Dharmapala who coined the words Sinhala Buddhism and Sinhala Buddhist, the concepts have been there for ages. It is not necessary to have a word or a set of words to describe a concept . The babies identify various objects without knowing the names given to them by the society. They must be having some concept in the form of an image (citta rupaya-details in "Mage Lokaya"). The babies and small children, contrary to what some post modernists say do not live in a space created by the language(s). Buddhists have no problem in grasping what is going on as they know as Paticcasamuppavadins that sanskaras are constructed due to ignorance (avidya) of anicca, dukka and anatta.

Babies like the others are ignorant of anicca, dukka and anatta and construct concepts such as "mother", "milk", "food", "hunger" though these concepts may not have the same meanings as given by the words. Recently Dr. Gananatha Obeysekera attempted to find out who used the words "dhamma deepa" first to describe this island. Though there are at least two meanings to the word deepa (words have meaning only in a context and in a particular culture. The word chair is not used to describe those objects in the busses and trains on which we sit. However a child may refer to them as chairs to be "corrected" by the elders who would insist that the word chair is not used to describe those objects in busses and trains.) it may be that it was Anagarika Dharmapala who pioneered the use of the words 'dhamma deepa" in the sense of land or island of dhamma.

If it is so then what has any "applied" sociologist or "applied" social anthropologist got to say about that. As a Sinhala Buddhist I would be very proud of Anagarika Dharmapala for being creative unlike the so called intellectuals who have no creative ability at all. Most of the "intellectuals" produced by our seats of learning (are they seats of learning or seats of leaning, where students are taught how to lean on western concepts and theories - these seats, unlike other seats have chairs very often attached to departments of studies, but that is a different matter altogether.) at Peradeniya and other places are only barren Newtonian "paradigmers" who know how to "apply" theories of westerners to local situations.

Let us assume that it was Anagarika Dharmapala who coined the concepts of Sinhala Buddhist and Sinhala Buddhism. Does it mean that the concept was not there prior to Anagarika Dharmapala? If that was the case what was there before that? Did our ancestors called themselves just Buddhists without the adjective Sinhala. I know that a person like my friend and "old" comrade Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne who cannot see beyond his Marxist -Trotskyite nose would say that nations are products of capitalism and as such there would not have been any Sinhala nation before the British introduced capitalism to this country in the nineteenth century and that the Sinhala nation itself was created by Anagarika Dharmapala.

Even if we accept that argument then the question arises as to what that tribe living in this country who became Sinhala after the British introduced capitalism, called themselves during the Dutch or the Portuguese period, not to mention the Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Gampola periods. On the otherhand how did the Portuguese and the Dutch refer to the inhabitants of the country?

Whether it was a tribe, a nation they would have had some name and however much some historians, anthropologists and sociologists may try to erase the word Sinhala or Sihala from history it has survived thousands of years of history. (One does not have to lean on the Marxist definition to identify a nation and we have argued on many occasions that the Sinhala nation came into existence at the time of king Pandukabhaya.)

Buddhism unlike the other "world religions" does not admit a creator God. Some go to the extent of saying that Buddhism is not a religion as a religion talks of a God who created the world. To them Buddhism is a way of life and they refer to it as Dahamma. However, these people go by (lean on) some definition of religion created in the west whose intellectuals at one time probably wanted to show that some of us did not have a religion. Some Indians have also fallen into this trap and claim that Hinduism is a way of life. All religions talk of death and what happens after death. For some, after death there is eternal life, for some others it is eternal life in heaven or hell after the final judgement. Some would argue that if there is life, eternal or otherwise, then it is rebirth or punabbava or some such thing.

Those who do not want to accept rebirth could claim that the soul does not die and it is only the body that "dies" and that the soul is eternal. The soul theorists of this form could get away from death by this definition but they cannot get away from birth and they are only theorising a semi eternity. This eternity has a beginning on one side but no end on the other side. It is not endless on both sides. It is like one form of the big bang universe which has a beginning but goes on expanding without an end, and not like the steady state universe that has no beginning, in the sense that it has existed for an infinite time and will exist for an infinite time. The western mind (the culture) has a problem with two way eternity and it is that mentality that admits big bang universe and not the steady state universe, more than the so-called agreements with observations. Needles to say that oscillating universes are not to the liking of the westerners.

The Buddhists, Hindus and Jains believe in rebirth, punabbava. I have a feeling that these punabbava theorists represent the other side of the coin of the eternal (one way) soul theorists. They do not want to claim that a person (sathva) is reborn as there is no soul. Hence they theorise about punabbhava without soul. I just cannot understand how these people talk of a sathva when there is no such sathva. They do not seem to understand that we cannot communicate or "know" without these "half baked" concepts and theories which are really the result of our ignorance (avidya) of anicca, dukka and anatta.

These concepts and theories are only "sammuthi sacca" and just as much we use the concept of sathva when there is no such sathva, it is not wrong to say of a rebirth of a sathva. There is a somewhat similar problem in Quantum Physics. There concepts in Newtonian Physics such as position and momentum are used to describe "particles" that are not perceptible to senses. But as Dr. Neils Bohr has said there is nothing that the western Physicists could do about it and will have to go on using those Newtonian concepts in Quantum Physics as well. We in South Asia could go further and say that the western Physicists will have to be satisfied with these Newtonian concepts until and unless they engage in yogic exercises or "bhavana" and develop their (mental) faculties to "experience" these "Quantum particles" directly.

Coming back to rebirth, sathva is reborn until he or she is liberated from the sansaric cycle. The Hindus are liberated when they unite with Brahman or rather when they "see" that they are united with Brahman (like Avidya for the Buddhists there is moha for the Hindus preventing them to "see" the unity with Brahaman. Once they are united with Brahman they do not die and live "eternally". (This eternity is not the same as the western eternity and is symmetric with respect to past and future though there appears to be some discontinuity). In any event all these religions think of non death as the ultimate objective. Whether eternal life in heaven or unity with Brahaman it is some sort of life, non death (or immortality say) that they are after, whereas in Theravada Buddhism the opposite is the case. The Sinhala Buddhists, for example, would not want to be reborn, either in the heaven or united with Brahman being conscious of it.

It is not death that has to be "defeated" but birth. The Buddha after attaining enlightenment (these phrases are not conceptually correct) said it was his last birth and he would not be born again. One might ask me what is Nibbana. Though there are people who claim that Nibbana could be expressed in words it is not within Theravada Buddhism to define Nibbana. If Nibbana could be defined or expressed in terms of other concepts then Nibbana itself becomes a concept. Only concepts are expressed in terms of other concepts and if Nibbana is another concept then Nibbana like all the other concepts should be a creation of the minds of the people. Moreover we should be able to know Nibbana the way we know the other concepts and there is no need for an eight fold path to attain Nibbana.

These people only claim that Nibbana could be expressed in words but never cite a Sutta where Buddha has either expressed Nibbana in terms of other concepts or said that it is possible to do so. These people are Olcott Buddhists and I will come to them later. The whole problem of rebirth could be explained in terms of "I" and "mine" and avidya. It is due to the recognition of a mind when there is no mind and I would say that Nibbana is attained when it is "realised" through the non mind (nethi manasa) that the non mind is a non mind.

This is not a definition of Nibbana but an attempt to create a theory (non theory) that is consistent within Sinhala Theravada Buddhism.(Please refer the preface to the third edition of "Mage Lokaya").

As far as I am concerned it is the beauty of the theory or the non theory of Theravada Buddhism that attracts me towards it though as a Theravada Buddhist I "know" that I should not be attracted to these theories (or non theories).

The Island 9 Nov 01

Sinhala Buddhism - Part II 

The Buddhists and Hindus are reborn because of avidya and maya respectively and even the Christians and the Catholics would have to admit that they are either reborn after death or if they are not prepared to admit rebirth, that their souls continue to live after the physical bodies die. In any event it could be said that in general, religions are concerned with (continuation of) life after death (of physical bodies) of sathva (men and women). They teach (continuation of) life after death and also there are various rituals associated with them and "preach" some form of liberation. So not only Islam and Christianity but Buddhism and Hinduism are religions. Those who claim that Buddhism and Hinduism are not religions and are only ways of life are to my mind being misled by some western definition of religion and taken the cultural aspects of a religion to be the most important.

The Buddhists differ from followers of other "world religions" in trying not to be reborn. Their liberation is from birth and not from death. Needles to say that when one is liberated from birth, one is liberated from death as well. (I do not know when ideas such as "mara parajaya" (defeat of death) entered mainstream Theravada Buddhism, but it could be due to the influence of Mahayana that created the concept of "immortal" Buddhas in the form of Dharmakayas and other "kayas" and of immortal Bodhisathvas in effect. The Buddhists also do not have a creator God. These two aspects make Theravada Buddhism a peculiar "world religion" without any common "object"that the followers could share. The creator God in any one of the other world religions is common to all people following that religion though the God may have been only a tribal god in the distant past. When a religion gets itself promoted from a local religion to a world religion the creator god, if any, is promoted from a tribal god to a universal God. In Islam and Christianity those who embrace these religions also transfer their allegiance from the local (or the tribal) god to the (new) universal God of those religions. (Buddhists who are converted get a God with their conversion.) As others have observed not many people are converted to Hinduism. Hinduism spreads now mainly through the migration of Hindus to various other countries. The "world religions" other than Buddhism have not only a common creator God but a common object like Heaven or Brahaman with whom they could unite. These objects and the creator Gods are objective "bodies" that exist independent of men (or sathva in general) and this "objectivity" of the God and the Heaven (they are united in Brahman in Hinduism) make these religions "world" or even universal religions with objective bodies, however subjective they may appear to a materialist. Some materialists would like to call it "objective idealism" of the world religions. What about the other "world religion" Buddhism? There is neither an "objective" creator God in Buddhism nor an "objective" Heaven. The gods such as Shakra are not immortal creator Gods and their abodes such as Thavthisa and Thusitha are not "places of liberation". Nibbana cannot be expressed in terms of other concepts or words (I challenge anybody to express Nibbana in words. For this purpose I am not interested in negative concepts and nirpravadas and Nibbana has to be expressed positively in terms of some other concepts.) The Theravada Buddhists have, in general, "negative theories" (nirpravada) of Nibbana and liberation. Nagarjunapada and the Madhyamikes tried to provide with a theory for Nibbana by making Nibbana relative to the Sansara. Nibbana not being a concept cannot be relative to a concept such as Sansara and in the long run all that Nagarjunapada achieved with respect to Bharat Buddhism both literary and literally was Sunyatha, which made it easier for Shankaracharya later on to formulate the positive concept of Nirgun Brahman and win over the Buddhists in Bharat. In any event it has to be emphasised that there is no "universal" concept, either in the form of a God, a Nirgun Brahman or a Heaven in Buddhism for Buddhists around the world to rally round. There is no "place" for the Buddhists even after liberation to "get together". Thus from the beginning there is nothing in Buddhism, especially in Theravada Buddhism that makes it a so called world religion. In Mahayana Buddhism, with the concepts of Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Bodhisathvas and their abodes the situation is somewhat different and Buddhism in the form of Mahayana may have some ingredients that could make it a "world religion" where its followers the world over could rally round some positive concept. It should not come as a surprise that most of the western Buddhists are attracted to Mahayana Buddhism. Any attempt to make Theravada Buddhism a world religion is bound to fail and the attempt by Colonel Olcott and others to create a world Buddhism with the introduction of six colour Buddhist flag and similar concepts has not succeeded. One cannot even make a theosophical Buddhism or an intellectual Buddhism from Theravada Buddhism with its nirpravadas. People like Colonel Olcott succeeded not in making a "world Buddhism" out of Theravada Buddhism but by eliminating to a certain extent the Sinhala or jathikathva of the Sinhala Buddhism and Sinhala Buddhist culture.

Buddhism, especially Theravada Buddhism, from the beginning has always being a "local" religion(s). In that sense there is no Buddhism or Theravada Buddhist civilisation as such and always there have been Sinhala Buddhism, Thai or Siam Buddhism, Myanmar or Ramanna Buddhism etc. People like Toynbee when they say that there is no Theravada Buddhist civilisation or that the Theravada Buddhist civilisation has been fossilised they may be subconsciously thinking of this aspect of Theravada Buddhism. A civilisation first of all gives a sense of belonging to a large set of people and Theravada Buddhism is unable to provide the people with symbols and concepts to come together with some kind of bondage. It is not that Theravada Buddhist civilisation is fossilised but Theravada Buddhism cannot create a civilisation to begin with. It can only produce "local" cultures such as Sinhala Buddhism 

The above should not be taken as a criticism of Theravada Buddhism(s). I like Theravada Buddhism for what it is and we should not try to make a world religion or an intellectual religion out of Theravada Buddhism. When Arhat Mahinda came to Sri Lanka more than two thousand three hundred years ago what was introduced officially to this country was a Sinhala Buddhism. Arhat Mahinda when asked by the king Devanam Piyathissa said that Buddhism would be established in the country only after a person born in this country enters the sasana as a Bhikku and preach Dhamma. Arhat Mahinda not only did not get rid of tree worshipping that was prevailing in this country at that time, but gave it a Buddhist touch by obtaining a branch of Sri Maha Bodhi for people to worship. The people on the other hand did not give up their pantheon of gods and instead made them Buddhist gods. Further they were able to accommodate any other god that came from India afterwards. What was established was a Sinhala Buddhism that would not have been found anywhere else in the world. I think the situation was no different in the other Theravada Buddhist countries.

However in the Sinhala Buddhism that was established in the time of Devanam Piyathissa the "war" was missing as most probably it was influenced by the Buddhism of the king Asoka of Bharat, the latter becoming a Buddhist after fighting a war and giving up war. In no time two horse traders who came from Bharat, probably from Sindh, captured Anuradhapura. Though king Asela was able to defeat the horse traders it was left to the king Dutugemunu to add "war" as a component of Sinhala Buddhism. In the process Sinhala Buddhism went through a kind of metamorphism. Post Dutugemunu Sinhala Buddhism was not the same as pre Dutugemunu Sinhala Buddhism and if not for the metamorphism that was introduced by the king Dutugemunu, most probably on the advice of Vihara Maha Devi, Sinhala Buddhism would have disappeared from this country long time ago. It has to be emphasised that only in Sri Lanka or Sinhale, the "missions" sent by the king Asoka was successful and it was due to two reasons. Firstly the Sinhala culture (with the Sinhala language) was compatible with Theravada Buddhism. This is shown by the answers given by king Devanam Piyathissa to Arhat Mahinda on trees that were mangoes and not mangoes and also on king's relatives and non relatives. I analysed these questions and answers about twelve years ago in an article (not a so-called research paper to collect points for promotions) published in "Divaina". I have now developed this analysis further taking into consideration the role of the observer within and outside a system (with connotations in Quantum Physics) and hope to publish it in my research journals "Divaina" and "The Island", in the near future, knowing very well that I would not get any points for my "promotions" from what are known as newspaper articles in the academic circles. Fortunately my wife and girlfriend, though an academic herself, continues to ignore these circulars on points and has no hesitation to promote me at home as well as at various fora. A culture that had produced a king who could think of somebody left when both the relatives and the non relatives were taken off from a set of human beings, unconsciously making use of the fourth case of "catuskoti" (four fold logic), that is very important to Theravada Buddhism, was ready for "anatma" of Theravada Buddhism that explained rebirth of sathva as that of neither the sathva nor of some other sathva. ("na ca so na ca anno" in the Pali of Ven. Buddhagosa Thero). What a contrast is it from the answers given by the present day rulers. The story is that when a politician was asked by a visitor from another country whether there were any jack trees other than that was before him he had answered that all the other trees have been fell and the last one before him was marked for the afternoon. When he was asked whether there were any people who were not his relatives he had said that the whole world is his relatives and so is the visitor who asked the question and as such the visitor could help him (the politician) with a foreign trip.  

Secondly Theravada Buddhism survived in this country for so long because of the metamorphism that it went through during the time of king Dutugemunu. The king (and Vihara Maha Devi) introduced "war" as a part of Sinhala Buddhism to defend the country from invasions. However unlike the present day bell bottom Vihara Maha Devis and cardboard Dutugemunus they did not make war a holy war in defense of the country, the nation , or the sasana (religion) as in some other cultures. Thus there is war in Sinhala Buddhism but no holy war. The irony is that those who preach holy war and who have practiced holy war for thousands of years and who are fighting wars against terrorism want Sinhala people not to launch operations against terrorists in Sri Lanka.

The Island - 14 Nov 01

Sinhala Buddhism - Part III

We argued in these columns that there is no Buddhism as such and that there are Buddhisms such as Sinhala Buddhism more precisely Sinhala Theravada Buddhism, Siam or Thai Buddhism, Myanmar or Amarapura Buddhism etc. Sinhala Buddhism introduced officially to this country went through a metamorphism during the time of king Dutugemunu and post Dutugemunu Sinhala (Theravada) Buddhism having undergone some modifications introduced by Buddhagosha Thero existed without much problem or challenge until Colonel Olcott and the Theosophists came to Sri Lanka in 1880. Though the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British had tried hard to suppress (post Dutugemunu) Sinhala Buddhism it was Colonel Olcott who managed to revise Sinhala Buddhism to such an extent that we may call the present day Sinhala Buddhism of most of the "Sinhala Buddhists", Olcott Buddhism. Today is a very important day for Olcott Buddhism in this country as its fate would be decided by the people at the general elections. We must realise that in less than four years we complete five hundred years of introduction of western Christian civilisation to this country and unless we are going to have annual elections that event would be remembered under the government elected today. Olcott Buddhism that has tried to erase the Sinhala part of Sinhala Buddhism and tried to establish some kind of an international Buddhism has survived with some form of assistance from the Anglican culture. What is being decided today is for how long this "sahavasa" (co-existence) could continue in this country.

Sinhala Buddhism from the very beginning has absorbed various concepts from other cultures. It is very probable that the religions of Nagas, Devas and especially Yakshas had number of gods either in the form of dead relatives (ne yakun) or some other "beings" and Sinhala Buddhism assimilated or absorbed all these gods into its culture. The Bodhi Vandana (worshiping of Bodhi) is nothing but assimilation of (Bharat) Buddhist concepts into Sinhala (Buddhist) culture. Not only the gods of the Nagas and the other tribes but even Vedic gods would have been absorbed to the Sinhala Buddhist culture. When these gods from other cultures, including those from Hindu culture later, (there was no Hinduism before Sankaracharya and Hinduism is seen by some as an amalgamation of Vedic religion, Buddhism and Jainism. Vedic religion with "yagas" and "homas" and animal sacrifices is different from Hinduism and some argue that the concept of Ahinsa was absorbed into Hinduism from Buddhism and Jainism.) were absorbed into the Sinhala Buddhist culture the Sinhala Buddhists wanted them to be (Sinhala) Buddhist gods. The gods thus absorbed were Buddhist gods after the assimilation and they (the gods)all worshiped Buddha. It was not a pantheon of Gods with Buddha at the head, as some western sociologists have pointed out, but a pantheon of gods that worshipped Buddha. It has to be emphasised contrary to what these western sociologists think, the Sinhala (Theravada) Buddhists, in general, did not consider the Buddha to be a god.

For the Sinhala Buddhists the Buddha was only an "uththareethara" "human being" who had "lived" and attained Nibbana.

The god Vishnu is a case in point, with respect to assimilation. Vishnu in Vedic religion and Hinduism is a form of Brahman and in that sense an immortal being. But in Sinhala Buddhism the god Vishnu is neither immortal nor a form of Brahman. The god Vishnu in Sinhala Buddhism is a Sinhala Buddhist god and a bodhisathva. He is not immortal as in Hinduism and Vedic religion and would attain Nibbana in the future. Though the same name Vishnu is used the Sinhala Buddhist god Vishnu is different from the god Vishnu in Vedic religion and Hinduism. Similarly Buddha has been assimilated into the Hindu culture in the form of an avatar of the god Vishnu.

Sinhala Theravada Buddhism has not only assimilated from Vedic and Hindu cultures but from Mahayana Buddhism as well. The Mahayana Bodhisathvas are quite different from Sinhala Buddhist Bodhisathvas. The Mahayana Bodhisathvas theoretically live indefinitely in Sukhavathi and other such abodes, and in a sense they are immortal. In fact certain Mahayana sects have made the Buddha also to be immortal. These concepts were most probably constructed as a response to an immortal Brahman but ultimately they had to give in to various forms of Hinduism that were developed later in Bharat. The above are examples for assimilations into one culture from a different culture and nobody could prevent these assimilations.

Post Dutugemunu Sinhala Buddhism was modified to some extent during the time of Buddhagosha Thero. During this period the Sinhala texts were translated into Pali and the former was displaced by the latter among the educated circles including the Bhikkus. Since then Sinhala Buddhist "academic" tradition has taken a back seat and as a result creation of knowledge within Sinhala Buddhism has been neglected. The Sinhala Buddhist academic tradition is yet to recover completely from this set back. However, the worst damage was done after the sixteenth century with the arrival of world colonialism. Towards the end of the nineteenth century a revival of Sinhala Buddhism began under the leadership of Bhikkus such as Mohottivatte Gunananda Thero and others like Anagarika Dharmapala. Sinhala Buddhism had been a living phenomenon from the time of the king Devanampiya Thissa and what Anagarika Dharmapala did was to give a name to this phenomenon, if that name had not been used at any time in the history prior to that. The five debates, the most prominent being the "Panadura Vadaya", were a turning point in the history of Sinhala Buddhism in this country. As a result of the Panadura Vadaya Colonel Olcott and the other theosophists came to this country.

It is clear that what is known as the Buddhist revival in the nineteenth century was not a homogeneous movement. There were two important trends in the movement. One was the trend led by Bhikkus such as Mohottivatte Gunananda Thero and Anagarika Dharmapala. The other was the trend of the theosophists. The former was a continuation of post Dutugemunu Sinhala Buddhism with necessary modifications and the resulting Buddhism could be called the Dutugemunu - Dharmapala Buddhism. The other trend resulted in the Olcott Buddhism. However, this does not mean that these two trends were independent of each other and that they were mutually exclusive. The Chinthana Parshadaya has undertaken an investigation into the differences in these two trends, studying articles written by Mohottivatte Gunananda Thero, Anagarika Dharmapala and others and the preliminary results establish that gradually Olcott Buddhism took the upper hand. It was not due to the arguments put forward by them but was a result of the social forces operating at that time.

Dutugemunu - Dharmapala Buddhism was a Sinhala Buddhism and it appealed to the Sinhala Buddhists. Anagarika Dharmapala and others considered themselves to be Sinhala Buddhists. On the other hand Olcott Buddhism was international in outlook and was more appealing to the westerners. In Olcott Buddhism there was no nationalism. Colonel Olcott himself considered himself to be a world citizen. They were theosophists first and Buddhists later. As far back as 1929 Mr. L.H. Mettananda who later became the principal of Ananda Vidyalaya, writing to "Swadesha Mithraya" from London has said that in the English Buddhist schools Theosophy was taught in the name of Buddhism. It is clear that the British preferred Olcott Buddhism to Dutugemunu - Dharmapala Buddhism and there was some kind of understanding between Olcott Buddhism and the British Anglican culture.

Colonel Olcott should be compared and contrasted with S. Mahinda Thero who came to Sri Lanka from Sikhim. Mahinda Thero was not an internationalist and very soon he became a Sinhala Buddhist. In otherwords he absorbed what was there in Dutugemunu - Dharmapala Buddhism and was to play a leading role in the independence movement. Even by the time of Mahinda Thero the Buddhists had lost most of the Jathikathva feeling and the Thero had to write poems to arouse the national feeling among the Sinhalas. I am not saying that this was entirely due to Olcott Buddhism but its non national character played a role in this unfortunate state of affairs.

What we have today is mainly an Olcott Buddhism. The politics is directed by Olcott Buddhism and not by Dutugemunu - Dharmapala Buddhism, except for brief periods of time, 1956 being one such moment. The Olcott Buddhists among the educated have turned out to be internationalists. International culture in this period is nothing but western culture and the educated Olcott Buddhists try to interpret Buddhism to the westerners. In the process they have created a so-called objective rational Buddhism that appeals to the west. This Buddhism is interpreted as the Buddhism when the so-called scholars talk of Buddhism betrayed. By Buddhism they mean this abstract imaginary Buddhism that exists in the minds of the educated Olcott Buddhists and probably the western Buddhists. They fail to understand that there is no Buddhism as such and that there are only Buddhisms.

We have a long way to go from Olcott Buddhism to Sinhala Buddhism. If not for the Olcott Buddhism no Sinhala person would have talked of injustices to the Tamils, when there is an aspiration of Tamil racism to deny the rightful place being given to Sinhala nation, Sinhala culture, Sinhala language and Sinhala history. Tamil racists and non national forces promote Olcott Buddhism to achieve their objectives.

The Island - 5 Dec 01

 

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 J2.16  On the Way to Nibbana

 Bhikkhu Professor Dhammavihari 

Nibbana is the one and only goal of Buddhist spirituality. This is the final end in which the Buddha ended his noble quest for the termination of all samsaric ills. This he achieved here and now, in this very existence, at the very young age of thirty five. And he enjoyed the bliss and benefit of it for full forty five years, with no more to add to it. At eighty he had only to disclaim his physical body and part with it. After his physical death, he declared, that neither gods nor men will ever see him. His bodily relics, from wherever they are claimed today, are no more than symbolic items of veneration. No more proof of his physical presence or continuance.

But even at thirty five, the attainment of Nibbana carried with it the full implications of no more birth hereafter. In his joy of attaining this goal, the Buddha summed up his victory as follows - Ayam antima jati. Natthi 'dani punabbhavo =' This is my last birth. There is no more being born again for me.' One single Pali word which is used to refer to Nibbana seem to adequately illustrates this. It is nibbuti or no more revolutions or turning on of the wheel of life. Once Nibbana is reached, there is no further rolling on of the wheel of life. That is why it is said of Nibbana yattha vattam na vttati = where there is no more turning of the wheel.

Perhaps when held in contrast with the trikaya doctrine of the Mahayana, of the Buddha existing at three different levels of Dharma-kaya at cosmic level, Sambhoga-kaya at heavenly level and Nimana-kaya at down-to-earth level, this discontinuance of the life of Buddha Gotama after his physical death might look less glamorous. But we are sorry we can do no more about this. For nobody's sake is Buddha Gotama going to be born again.

This Nibbana, as far as the Theravada Buddhism goes, is also personal and individual. Nibbana is not a place where we can go and meet Buddha Gotama. In the Thervada tradition, Nibbana is the opposite of Samsara. According to the earliest utterances of the Buddha, he has only two things to speak of [pnnapemi] to the world - dukkha and the cessation of dukkha: dukkan ca aham pannapemi dukkhassa ca nirodham. It does not need much Commentary writing to indicate that dukkha and therefore the cessation of dukkha or dukkha-nirodha which is equal to Nibbana is also personal and individual. Let no imagination of the poets, of Sri Lanka or anywhere, distort this.

Nibbana, as far as the Theravada Buddhism goes, is also personal and individual. Nibbana is not a place where we can go and meet Buddha Gotama.

Out of this original two fold presentation of dukkha and the cessation of dukkha [out of the Four Noble Truths], the way to the cessation of dukkha is an invariable derivative. One would naturally ask the question 'How does one get there'? The answer is the Truth of the Way or magga sacca. And this is no more than personal development of each and everyone. We would consider it a gross howler to say that the Eightfold Path or Anyo atthangiko maggo is for the monk. It is for everyone who wishes to get to Nibbana.

This Eightfold Path is undeniably the Buddhist way to Nibbana. A complete outsider, i.e. a non-Buddhist from anywhere at any time, gets his first admission to Buddhism through this. The way begins with the entry into or acceptance of Buddhism. It implies a specific Buddhistness of approach. That is why the very first item of the magga sacca or the Noble Eightfold Path begins with samma-ditti. We choose to translate this term as corrected vision, by which we mean corrected in the Buddhist way. Note phrases like ujugata assa ditthi [= his vision straightened out] and agato imam saddhammam [= he has had an entry into this good doctrine] which occur as definitions of samma-hi in the Samma-ditthi Sutta at MN. I. 42.

A correct understanding of this initial step of samma-ditthi of the Eightfold Path, both with regard to its origin and its function, and an equally correct assessment of its role is very vital. It would, in our opinion, convince one that the religious and spiritual development implied in the Path or magga is sequential and successive and not concurrent as is sometimes believed to be by a certain school of interpreters of Buddhism.

In the interpretation of the Noble Eightfold Path, we are of the opinion that there are two serious errors that have crept in which are both misleading and damaging. One is the theory of concurrent development where the interpreters present the Path, comparing it to a cable with eight different strands twisted together [ The Noble Eightfold Path - Bhikkhu Bodhi, BPS. p. 13]. The other is to present the Noble Eightfold Path as being equal in size and content to the threefold total spiritual culture of Buddhism which goes under the name of tisso sikkha.

Inspite of the convincing statements presented, in anticipation as it were, of these possible misunderstandings, these errors have found their way in course of time. The earliest of these corrective statements we find in the Culavedalla Sutta of the Majihima Nikaya where Bhikkhuni Dhammadinna tells her erstwhile husband Visakha that while the threefold culture of tisso sikkha can contain within it the Noble Eightfold Path, the Noble Eightfold Path cannot contain within it the tisso sikkha [MN. I. 301]. Let us first take up this error of taking the Noble Eightfold Path as being equal to the tisso sikkha.

The threefold culture of tisso sikkha takes the pursuer of the path through all three stages [i.e. the complete set] of religious development in Buddhism, namely sila, samadhi and panna, up to the door step of release or vimutti in Nibbana. But the Noble Eightfold Path, it must be clearly noted, ends at the eighth item of samadhi. The Path itself proceeds no more. The pursuer of the Path needs, beyond this, the wisdom of nana [= panna] as the ninth item and the consequent release or vimutti as the tenth before he comes to be called the arahant or the accomplished one [Iti kho bhikkhave atthangasamannagato sekho patipado. Dasangasamannagato araha hoti. MN. III. 76.]

Therefore to treat these two items, the Noble Eightfold Path and the tisso sikkha as being equal? cutting up the Noble Eightfold Path into three segments to fit into the three divisions of the tisso sikkha is both unwarranted and misleading. Theri Dhammadina, in the Culavedalla Sutta quoted above, has warned us against doing this when she tells us that the three khandhas [ = sikkha ] cannot be contained within the Noble Eighffold Path [Na kho avuso Visakha ariyena atthangikena maggena tayo rhandha samagahita. MN. I. 301].

Let us now take up the theory of concurrent development of the Noble Eightfold Path where the interpreters present the Way, comparing it to a cable with eight different strands twisted together [ The Noble Eightfold Path - Bhikkhu Bodhi, BPS. p. 13 1. We find this completely contrary to the presentation of the Noble Eightfold Path in the early Buddhist texts in Pali.

In talking of the Noble Eightfold Path, the suttas refer to its first item samma ditthi as heralding or introducing the Path - samma-ditthi pubbangama hoti. Samma-ditthi is the fore-runner. This means that it stands as the first item in the list. The rest therefore necessarily come after. It is samma-ditthi which enables one to correctly judge wrong patterns of thought [miccha-sankappa] as wrong and correct ones [samma-sankappa] as correct. Samma-sankappa is unmistakably the second item in the Noble Eightfold Path, generated through samma-ditthi' which heads the series. Note how the Sutta correctly allocates the right place to each item. [Kathan ca bhikkhave samma-ditthi pubbangama hoti? Miccha-sankappa michcha-sankappo 'ti pajanati samma-sankappam samma sankappo' ti pajanati. Sa 'ssa hoti samma-ditthi. Mahacattarisaka Sutta MN. III.72]

It is also to be noted that the four following items of the Path [ 2, 3, 4 and 5 ], i.e. samma- sankappo or correct thoughts, samma-vaca or correct speech, samma-kammanto or correct action and samma-ajivo or correct livelihood are the major components of day to day living. In the perfecting of these, in pursuit of the transcendental goal, the Mahacattarisaka Sutta points out that the continuous and concurrent assistance of samma-ditthi, samma-vayamo and samma-sati is invariably needed [Itissime tayo dhamma samma-sankappam... anuparidhavanti anuparivaffanti seyyathidam samma-di.ffhi samma-vayama, samma-sati. Ibid. 73-75]. But a closer scrutiny of their behaviour makes it quite clear that in this context they are not equal in stature to their counterparts on the Path. They play a very different and very limited role here as supportive associates. 

Another very important word which one must not miss in the study of the Noble Eightfold Path is the word pahoti [= is generated or produced] which is used with every second item in the list in relation to the preceding one, implying that the latter is produced by the former - Samma-ditthhissa bhikkhave samma-sankappo pahoti, samma-saankappassa samma-vaca pahoti... samma-satissa samma-samadhi pahoti. [loc.cit. 76.]. This definitely points in the direction of sequential development.

In a Digha Nikaya sutta called the Janavasabha [DN. II. 216 f.], Brahma Sanankumara is presented as addressing the devas of the Tavatimsa world and telling them of the seven contributory factors as 'well proclaimed by the Buddha' [yava supannatav' ime tena bhgavata janata passata...] which lead to the establishment of samma-samadhi. They are referred to as satta samadhi-parikkhara. Here too the sequential development of each succeeding factor from the preceding one is emphatically presented with the use of the same word pahoti as referred to above. Here too, as in the Mahacattarisaka Sutta, samma-samadhi is followed by the two additional items - samma-nana which is No. 9 and samma- vimutti which is No.10.

We are sorry Professor Rhys Davids has seriously misunderstood this portion of the sutta and incorrigibly blundered in its translation [Dialogues of the Buddha II. p. 250]. He has bungled in the translation of the word pahoti. He takes it to mean suffices to. This has compelled him to reverse the word order, putting the second noun as the first, making it the subject and taking the first as its object. This is his translation - Right intention suffices to maintain right views for Samma-ditthissa samma-samkappo pahoti. Maurice Walshe in his Thus Have I Heard [p. 299] gets it correct as "From right view arises right thought".

This sequential and successive development from stage to stage in the Noble Eightfold Path is evident from the sutta references given above. The quest for release in Nibbana, i.e. vimutti, does not terminate with samadhi as the last item of the Path. The development proceeds further as we have already indicated earlier from samadhi to nana as the ninth and from there to vimutti as the tenth, ending at the final goal of arahanthood. This is the termination in Nirvana of the samsaric process for all beings - the Buddha as well as all Buddhist followers.

Sun Island - 7 Oct 01

 

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J2.17  Kamma and Free Will

Deshabandu Alec Robertson

Former President of the Servants of the Buddha Society

Does everything happen in our lives according to Kamma is not a question that can be answered by a plain affirmation or denial, since it involves the whole question of free will against determinism, or, in familiar language Fatalism. The nearest simple answer that can be given is that most of the major circumstances and events of life are conditioned by Kamma but not all.

If everything, down to the minutest detail, were preconditioned either by Kamma or by the physical laws of the universe, there would be no room in the pattern of strict causality for the functioning of free will. It would therefore be impossible for us to free ourselves from the mechanism of cause and effect, it would indeed be impossible to attain nibbana. Refuting the erroneous view that whatever weal or woe or neutral feeling is all due to some previous action the Buddha states "So then, liars, slanderers, babblers, covetous, malicious and perverse in view. Thus for those who fall back on the former deed as the essential reason there is neither the desire to do nor the effort to do nor the necessity to do the deed or abstain from that deed". (Anguttara Nikaya 1,173). Life would therefore be merely mechanistic not much different from a machine.

In the sphere of everyday events and the incidents of life such as sickness, accidents and such common experience, every effect requires more than one cause to bring it about, and Kamma is in most cases the pre-disposing factor which enables the external influence to combine and produce a given result. In the case of situations that involve a moral choice the situation itself is the product of past Kamma, but the individual's reaction to it is a free play of will and intention. For example, a man, as the result of previous akusala Kamma either in the present life or some past birth, may find himself in a situation of desperate poverty in which he is tempted to steal, commit robbery or in some other way carry into the future the unwholesome actions of the past. This is a situation with a moral content because it involves the subject in a nexus or ethical potentials. Here, his own freedom of choice comes into play; he has the alternative of choosing further hardship rather than succumb to the temptation of crime.

That there are events that come about through causes other than Kamma is demonstrated by natural laws. If it were not so, to try to avoid or cure sickness would be useless. If there is a predisposition of a certain disease through past Kamma, and the physical conditions to produce the disease are also present, disease will arise. But it may also come about, that all the physical conditions are present, but through the absence of the Kamma - condition, the disease does not arise or that, with the presence of the physical causes the disease arises even in the absence of a Kamma-condition. A philosophical distinction is therefore to be made between those diseases which are the results of Kamma and those which are produced mainly by physical conditions; but since it is impossible to distinguish between them without a knowledge of past births, all diseases must be treated as though they are produced by merely physical causes. When the Buddha was attacked by Devadatta and was wounded in the foot by a stone, He was able to explain that the injury was the result of some violence committed in a previous life, plus the action of Devadatta which enabled the Kamma to take effect. Likewise, the violent death of Moggallana. There was the combined result of his Kamma and the murderous intention of the rival ascetics whose action provided the necessary external cause to bring it about.

If Kamma is a basic concept in the Buddha Dhamma yet there are many among Buddhists who harbour serious misconceptions about its place and function in the shaping of destinies of men. Thus the late Most Ven'ble Ledi Sayado, a profoundly learned and prolific writer of the later years of the last century and the beginning of the present, whose many works are looked upon as standard expositions of the Budda Dhamma states in his "Rupa Dipani" - Some people firmly hold the view that Kamma is the main factor in regulating the destinies of men. Thus they hold that the day and hour of death, the place and the manner of death of a person is preordained by past Kamma from the moment of his conception in his mother's womb. They hold that it is wrong, when people talk of death taking place through eating unsuitable food, or through going to uncongenial places, or through leading an unharmonious life. They hold that Gnana, knowledge or wisdom and Viriya, effort, follow the promptings of past Kamma.

These people ignore the part played by the other forces of nature such as bija niyama, the natural law relating to germination, utu niyama, the natural law relating to climatic conditions or changes of temperature; citta niyama, the natural law relating to thoughts and processes of thought; and Dhamma niyama, other natural laws. They ignore the very important role that present Kamma as distinguished from past Kamma, plays in the shaping of future destinies of human beings.

In the Milinda Panha, eight causes of vedana (feelings or sensations) are given. In the Samyutta Nikaya and the Anguttara Nikaya, these same eight causes are given as causes of death. They are:

1. Vaatasamuthanaam - hurt, ailment, or death caused by the upset of the wind element;

2. Pittasamuthanam - hurt, ailment, or death caused by the upset of the bile;  

3. Semhasamuthanam - hurt, ailment or death caused by the upset of the phlegm;

4. Sannipatikam - hurt, ailment or death caused by the combination of the three causes above;

5. Utuviparinamajam - hurt, ailment, or death caused by the upset of climatic conditions or conditions of temperature;

6. Visamapariharajam - hurt, ailment, or death caused by one's own disagreeable acts;

7. Opakkamam - hurt, ailment, or death; caused by the specifically directed acts of oneself or of others;

8. Kammavipakajam - hurt, ailment or death caused by upapilika (suppressive) and upacchedaka (destructive) Kamma.

Of these eight causes, opakkama may be due either to past or present Kamma. Thus the Milinda Panha says:

"Kammavipakaja is wholly due to past Kamma", the remaining causes are all due to present Kamma.

The observation made by the Ven'ble Nagasena with respect to these eight causes is:

"Kammavipakaja is few. The rest are many. But unwise persons attribute vedana to only Kammavipakaja. Thus they hold views that distort the truth."

Also in the Samyutta Nikaya, the Buddha said:

"In this world, vedanas arise from eight causes, viz. Vatasamuthana, pittasamuthana, etc. I have myself experienced them. Wise men also attribute vedanas to these eight causes. Even so, some people attribute the cause of vedanas only to past Kamma. These people distort my intellect. They also distort the truth as known in the world. I therefore say that their belief is wrong".

The learned Sayadow gives the simile of flies and bad smell. Flies do not cause bad smell. It is because bad smell exits that flies appear. In the same way it is only when favourable circumstance are created by present Kamma that past Kamma produces resultants. The creation of the unfavourable circumstances can be prevented by Gnana and Viriya (knowledge and effort). In this world cases of hurt and death caused by specifically directed acts of oneself or others prompted by present Kamma predominate. Cases of actual hurt and death caused purely by past Kamma (without present Kamma providing a contributory cause) are very rare.

In the Dhammapada Commentary the story is related of the son of Mahadhana, the millionaire. It is told by the Buddha that this young man had sufficient parami (perfection of past kusala kamma of great strength) to enable him to become an Arahat during his lifetime. He, however, spent his time in orgies of drinking, gambling and the company of women, with the result that he not only lost all his inherited riches before his death but was doomed to be cast to the Apaya regions when he died. He did not employ his Gnana (wisdom) and Viriya (effort) towards his welfare.

Now let us discuss the question whether one is bound to reap all that one has sown in just proportion. In the Anguttara Nikaya the Buddha says:

"If anyone says Oh Bhikkhus, that a man must reap according to his deeds, in that case, Oh Bhikkhus, there is no religious life nor is an opportunity afforded for the entire extinction of Suffering (Dukkhas). But if any one says, Oh Bhikkhus, that what a man reaps accords with his deeds, in that case, Oh Bhikkhus, there is a religious life and an opportunity is afforded for the entire extinction of suffering."

In Buddhism, therefore, there is every possibility to mould one's Kamma. Here one is not always compelled by an iron necessity.

Who thought that Angulimala - a highway robber and a murderer of more than thousand of his fellow brethren - would become a saint, judging him by his external deeds? But he did become an Arahat and erased, so to say, all his past misdeeds.

Who imagined the Alavaka, the fierce demon who feasted on the flesh of human beings, would ever become a Saint? Yet he did give up his carnivorous habits and attained the first stage of Sainthood.

Who believed that Asoka who was stigmatised Chanda (the wicked) - on account of the atrocities caused by him to expand his empire, would ever win the noble title - Dhammasoka - or Asoka the Righteous. But he did completely change, his career to such an extent that today, "Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines and shines almost alone, as a star".

These are a few instances to illustrate the fact that a complete reformation of character could be brought about by our own actions, by one's present deeds.

It may so happen that in some cases a lesser evil may produce its due effect, while the effect of a greater evil may be minimised.

The Buddha says:

"Here, Oh Bhikkhus, a certain person is not disciplined in body, is not disciplined in morality, is not disciplined in mind, is not disciplined in Wisdom, is with little good and less virtue, and lives painfully in consequences of trifles. Even a trivial evil act committed by such person will lead him to a state of misery."

"Here, Oh Bhikkhus, a certain person is disciplined in morality, is disciplined in mind, is disciplined in wisdom, is with much good, is high-soured, and lives without envy."

"A similar evil act committed by such a person ripens in this life itself and not even a small effect manifests itself (after-death), not so say of a great one."  

"It is as if, Oh Bhikkhus, a man were to put a lump of salt into small cup of water. What do you think, Oh Bhikkhus? Would now the small amount of water in this cup become saltish and undrinkable?

"Yes Lord" 

"Any why?"

"Because, Lord, there was very little water in the cup, and so it became saltish and undrinkable by this lump of salt."

"Suppose. Oh Bhikkhus, a man were to put a lump of salt into the river Ganges. What think you, Oh Bhikkhus? Would now the river Ganges become saltish and undrinkable by the lump of salt?"

"Nay, indeed, Lord."

"And why not?"

"Because, Lord, the mass of water in the river Ganges is great, and so it would not become saltish and undrinkable."

"In exactly the same way, Oh Bhikkhus, we may have the case of person who does some slight deed which brings him to a state of misery; or, again, Oh Bhikkhus, we may have the case of another person who does the same trivial misdeed, and expiates in the present life, not even a small effect manifests itself (after death), not to say of a great one".

In the working of Kamma it should be understood that there are malefficient and benefficient forces to counteract and support this self-operating law. Birth (Gati), time or conditions (Kala), beauty (Upadhi), and effort (Payoga) are such aids and hindrances to the fruition of Kamma.

If for instance, a person is born to a noble family or in a state of happiness, his fortunate birth will act sometimes as a hindrance to the fruition of his evil Kamma.

If, on the other hand he is born in a state of misery or in an unfortunate family, his unfavourable birth will provide an easy opportunity for his evil Kamma to operate.

This is technically known as Gati Sampatti (favourable birth) and Gati Vipatti (unfavourable birth).

An unintelligent person, who, by some good Kamma, is born in a royal family, will, on account of his noble parentage, be honoured by the people. If the same person were to have a less fortunate birth, he would not be similarly treated.

King Dutugamunu of Ceylon acquired both good and evil Kamma. Owing to good reproductive Kamma he was born in the Tusita Heaven. It is believed that he will have his last birth in the time of the future Buddha Metteyya. His evil Kamma cannot successfully operate owing to his favourable birth.  

King Ajatasattu who committed patricide became distinguished for his piety and devotion owing to his association with the Buddha. He now expiates in a state of misery as a result of his heinous crime. His unfavourable birth would not permit him to enjoy the benefits of his good deeds.

Beauty (Upadhi Sampatti) and ugliness (Upadhi Vipatti) are two other factors that act as aids and hindrances to the working of Kamma.

If by some good Kamma a person obtains a good birth, but is unfortunately deformed, he will not be able to enjoy the beneficial results of his good Kamma. Even a legitimate heir to the throne may not perhaps be raised to that exalted position, if he happens to be physically deformed.

Beauty on the other hand will be a valuable asset to the possessor. A good looking son of a poor parent will perhaps attract the attention of a kind person, and might be able to distinguish himself through his influence.

Asokamala, an ordinary girl, got married to Prince Saliya, the son of King Dutugamunu owing to her beauty.

Prince Kusa

Prince Kusa was subject to much humiliation owing to his ugly appearance.

Favourable and unfavourable time or occasion (Kala Sampatti and Kala Vipatti) are another two factors that aid or impede the working of Kamma.

In the case of famine all without exception will be compelled to suffer the same fate. Here the unfavourable conditions open up possibilities for evil Kamma to operate. The favourable conditions, on the other hand, will prevent operation of bad Kamma.

The fourth and the last is effort (Payoga). If a person makes no effort to cure himself of a disease or to save himself from his difficulties, his evil Kamma will find a suitable opportunity to produce its due effects. If, on the contrary, he endeavours on his part to surmount his difficulties, his good Kamma will come to his help.

When shipwrecked in deep sea, the Bodhisatta Maha Janaka made an effort to save himself, whilst the others prayed to the gods and left their fate in their hands. The result was that the Bodhisatta escaped whilst others got drowned. This is technically known as Payoga Sampatti and Payoga Vipatti.

It is evident from these supportive and counteractive factors that Kamma is sometimes influenced by external circumstances.

Buddhism urges the continual repetition of good actions, deeds of Metta and charity, and the continual dwelling of the mind on good and elevating subjects such as the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, in order to establish a strong habit-formation along good and beneficial lines. The development and cultivation of noble and sublime qualities in this life itself brings out wonderful and stupendous results.

It is certain, that predominantly good Kamma will save us from most of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or help us to rise above whatever obstacles are set on our path. The need for human endeavour is always present, for in the very enjoyment of the fruits of good Kamma we are also generating a new series of actions to bear their own results in the future. It cannot be too often or too emphatically repeated that the true understanding of the law of Kamma is the absolute opposite of fatalism. The man who is born to riches on account of his past deeds of charity cannot afford to rest on his laurels. He is like a man with a substantial bank balance; he may either live on his capital until he exhausts it, which is foolish, or he can use it as an investment and increases it. The only investment we can take with us out of this life into the next is good Kamma; it therefore behoves every man who is, in the common phrase, "blessed" with riches to use those riches wisely in doing good.

If everyone understood the law of Kamma there would be an end to the greed of the rich and the envy of the poor. Every man would strive to give away as much as he could in charity - or at least spend his money on projects beneficial to mankind, practice Sila (virtue) and cultivate Bhavana (meditation). Thus we see that the picture drawn for us by the Supreme Buddha is one of progressive existence where one develops from ignorance to knowledge, from selfishness to altruism, depending on inward strength, diligence, effort put forth from time to time. This is the Doctrine of human perfection and happiness won through Virtue (Sila), Concentration (Samadhi) and Wisdom (Panna).

Sunday Island - 3 Jun 01

 

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J2.18  The supreme sacrifice of Dana

 Ven. Meegahwature Dhammagaveshi Thero 

Dana in Pali means generosity or giving. It is on top of the list of ten Perfections (Parami), three kinds of meritorious deeds, ten qualities of a virtuous king, and four ways of hospitality. Generosity is an important quality to reduce craving and eventually eradicate it. Craving is one of the main roots of all forms of suffering, grief and fear. 

From craving arises grief

From craving arises fear

For him who is free from craving

There is no grief, there is no fear

The Buddha says: 

Tanhaya jayati soko

Tanhaya jayati bhayam

Tanhaya vippamuttassa

Natthi soko kuto bhayam

(From craving arises grief

From craving arises fear

For him who is free from craving

There is no grief, there is no fear)

That is why the Buddha practised generosity in different ways in his previous births, when he was a Bodhisatva - one who is making an effort to become a Buddha by fulfilling the perfections. At the beginning of his Bodhisatva life, he reflected on what would be the first virtue that would help him to become Buddha in the future. He realized it would be generosity. Then he started practising it. So many Jataka stories relate how the Bodhisatva practised Dana Parami. He donated precious material things, parts of the body and even his life for the welfare of others.

The Vyagra Jataka illustrates how the Bodhisatva sacrificed his body to a tigress. Thousands of years ago, there lived a king named Maharatta. He had three sons - Maha Prasada, Maha Deva and Maha Satta. One day, the king, accompanied by the three princes, went to the forest park on an excursion. Leaving the king alone, the three princes went into the thick forest to enjoy the beautiful environment. When they reached a mountain top, the eldest prince saw a tigress with five cubs down below. They seemed to be very hungry. The tigress had been without food for seven days since the delivery of the cubs and was about to eat her own cubs to satisfy her hunger. Realizing that tigers and lions thrive on blood and flesh, Maha Satta thought to himself: 'I must sacrifice my filthy body to the starving tigress. Here is an ideal opportunity for me to practise the Dana Parami by giving my body to the tigress. This body in any case does not last for ever. This is not a permanent and solid object. It is liable to old age, liable to decay, liable to disease and liable to death.'

The Bodhisatva asked the other two brothers to go away leaving him. Once they left, Maha Satta made up his mind, removed his garments and ornaments and leaving them on the branch of a tree, jumped from the top of the mountain towards the tigress with a pure thought in his mind: 'May the power of this great deed help me to achie ve my goal of becoming a Samma Sambuddha to save all beings from the ocean of Samsara.'

However, nothing happened to him because of the great power within him. Besides, the tigress was too weak to reach him. Again, Maha Satta with firm determination not to miss the opportunity went out looking for a weapon. He could only find a bamboo splinter. That was good enough for his purpose. He took it, cut off his neck and fell dead on the ground in front of the tigress. The hungry tigress drank the blood, devoured the flesh and left just the bones. At that particular moment, the waters of the ocean were disturbed, the earth trembled and the sun's rays dimmed. As they noticed the earth tremor, the two brothers guessed that their younger brother had done the supreme sacrifice. When they returned to the spot, they saw for themselves what had happened. They were very sad. When they went back and told their father, the king and his retinue, came to the spot where the incident occurred. They all felt sad and were speechless. Some fainted. The king ordered that a Cetiya be built and the prince's hair and bones be enshrined. It was named 'Om Nam Buddha'.

Such meritorious deeds helped the Bodhisatva to reach his goal of becoming the Buddha. Once he achieved Buddhahood, He expounded the Dhamma to human beings and to the deities on numerous topics taking into account the ability of the listeners to hear and comprehend.

Buddha explains in several places how to practise 'dana'. There are three forms of 'dana' - Amisa dana' (giving away material things), 'Abhaya dana' (grant of amnesty) and 'Dhamma dana' (helping people to realize the Truth). We should practise the 'Amisa dana' in our daily lives. When we look round, there are so many who lack basic necessities like food, clothing, medicine and shelter. Think how you can help the needy. Start filling a till with a coin or two and when it is full, spend that money on someone who needs things for his survival. Such an act is highly appreciated in the teachings of the Buddha.

Granting amnesty can be done by disciplining ourselves. For example, if one follows the first precept in 'Pansil', one can make others live without fear. Furthermore, there may be instances when you can help those who face danger. It could be a fire or a flood or any other disaster. Donating blood, eyes, kidneys or any other part of your body to save the life of another falls into 'Abhaya dana'.

The Dhamma dana is the best of all danas. One must have a clear understanding of what is good and bad thereby avoiding immoral behaviour. Listening to the Dhamma will help you achieve this. It is an essential ingredient to realize the eternal Truth or 'Nibbana'. One can practise Dhamma dana by teaching the Dhamma, giving sermons and organizing discussions. Publishing books on the Dhamma and supporting monks and laymen who teach the Dhamma also falls within Dhamma dana. It is important to remember that one should not donate anything expecting something in return. One should not expect praise, look for fame or respect, or for that matter, any materialistic gain either in this life or the next after doing a good deed. Just let go. That is the real way to practise generosity.

May the Triple Gem protect you!

The writer is resident monk of the Schofild Buddhist Temple in SydneyPlus

28 Oct 01

 

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J2.19  Dhamma, Dhamma everywhere but is it for mindful assimilation?

M. I. Piyasiri

This will enable you to understand how even Dhamma Thought of Purest Serenity, capable of generating unlimited power leading one to Enlightenment, which normmally steel chains or any power on earth could not bind, were thinly veiled from our gullible minds by a self imposed Pali Language barrier due to our own ignorance of the very essence of Lord Buddha's Teachings MINDLESSNESS.

It is very clearly evident that the Dhamma (Buddha's Doctrine of Deliverance) is powerful Trans-Sansaric Mind Upliftment Program evolved by the Samma Sambuddhas to Command & Control the Vinnana (Sansara Karma Nana) Complex through successive Rebirth until Nibbana is realized. Thus Being Mindful *every moment) of one's Thoughts, Actions & Speech takes pride of place among the essential qualities for anyone who seeks to understand the Dhamma.

It is a common practice, at Buddhist Temple Ceremonies,for the Bhikkhus to recite all religious observances such as Five precepts, Eight precepts, Offerings to Buddha, Transference of merits, Chanting of protective stanzas etc., in the Pali Language and get devotees to repeat them faithfully afterwards whether they understand them or not. To those who do not understand Pali this becomes a futile exercise as well as an un-mindfully done activity which the Buddhas would not condone. They always stressed "be mindful of what you say or do". Thus these lay persons will never be able to meet the requirements of the first two stages of the Noble Eightfold Path, namely Right Understanding (view) and Right Purpose (thoughts) which are undoubtedly pure Mental or Mind based activities, required to clarify, establish and keep uppermost in one's own mind, Buddha's teaching & Commentaries explaining the Dhamma which guides one to the Noble Eightfold/Tenfold Paths through constant adherence and daily practice. Therefore it is obvious that unless these daily religious activities at the temples and at home are practiced in the Mother tongue or in a Language with which one is fully conversant with none of Buddhists, who do not understand the Pali Language, will ever get started on the path to Nibbana. Because of the very simple fact that they are not Mindful of what they speak or utter at each instant, as they are confused into uttering words without knowing their exact meaning or even the correct pronunciation.

The following is an Extract from the book titled, The Anapanasati Sutta by Ven. U. Vimalaramsi of Malaysia, Chapter-Prelude to Tranquil Wisdom (Samadhi) Meditation:

'These precepts are absolutely necessary for any spiritual attainments. They provide the mind with general mindfulness and awareness which helps one to have a peaceful mind that is clear from any remorse due to wrong doing. A peaceful and calm mind, is a mind that is tension-fee and clear. Thus, it is a very good idea to take these precepts everyday, not as some form of rite or ritual, but as a reminder for one's practice. Taking the precepts everyday helps to keep one's mind, speech and actions uplifted. There are people who recite these precepts in the Pali language. However . It can turn into an empty exercise if the meditator doesn't completely understand Pali. For the earnest meditator it is best to recite these precepts daily in a language that the meaning are clear without a doubt.'………

To quote directly from the Digha Nikaya Sutta number 16, section 5.27 " In whatever Dhamma and Discipline the Noble Eightfold path is not found, no ascetic is found of the first grade (meaning an Sotapanna), second grade (Sakadagami), third grade (Anagami) , or fourth grade (meaning an Arahant). But such Ascetics can be found, of the first, second, third, and fourth grade in a Dhamma and Discipline where the Noble Eightfold Path is found, and in it there are to be found Ascetics of the first, second, third and fourth grades. Those other schools are devoid of true Ascetics: but if in this one the Bhikkus were to live to perfection. The world would not lack for Arahants……..

It is mentioned in the Parinibbana Sutta that during the lifetime of the Buddha many mote Laymen and Laywomen became path attainers that the Bhikkhus and Bhikkunis when they Mindfully practiced the Dhamma on a daily basis.. Thus the common belief that one must be a Bhikkhu or a "Nun" in order to attain the stages of Sainthood is not true. Therefore the only reason one could attribute for the dearth of Path attainers in present times is this impregnable 'Language Barrier'.

The awakening of the followers of Buddha Dhamma to this unwholesome situation will rest with the Buddhist Intelligensia as well as the Maha Sanga Sabha. Who should come up with a timely solution so that during the next millennium we should be able to have many Laypersons who will attain various stages of Sainthood.

I now quote some extracts taken from the Introduction to the Book - Path of Purification by Ven. Bhikkhu Nanamoli, (a translation into English of the Pali book '(a translation into English of the Pali book 'Visuddhi Magga' by Rev Buddhaghosa,) which was sponsored &first published under the patronage of Mr. Ananda Semage of Colombo in 1956. Subsequently reprinted and donated for free distribution by the Corporate Body of Buddha Educational Foundation, Taiwan in June 1997.

'Why did Bhadantacariy Buddhaghosa come to Ceylon? And why did his work become famous beyond the island's shores? The bare facts without some interpretation will hardly answer these questions…Up till the reign of King Vattagaimini Abhaya (Walagamba) in the first century B.C the Great Monastery, founded by Asoka's son, the Arahath Mahinda, and hitherto without a rival for the royal favour, had preserved a reputation for the saintliness of its bhikkhus. The violent upsets in his region followed by his founding of the Abhayagiri Monastery, its secession and schism, changed the whole situation at home. Sensing insecurity, the Great Monastery, took the precaution to commit the Tripitaka for the first time to writing, doing so in the provinces away from the king's presence….In the first century B>C> probably the influx of Sanskrit thought was still quite small so that the great Monastery could well maintain its name in Anuradhapura as the principal centre of learning by developing its ancient Tripitaka commentaries in Sinhalese…. Still it is plain enough that by 400 A.C. a movement had begun, not confined to Ceylon, and that the time was right for the crucial work for a Pali recession of the Sinhalese Commentaries with their unique tradition. Only the right personality, able to handle it completely, was yet lacking. That personality appeared in the first quarter of the 5th century'…..The Visuddhimagga and its author. Beyond the bare hint that he came to Ceylon from India his actual works tell nothing about his origins or background. In the prologue to each of the four Nikaya Commentaries it is conveniently summarized by Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa himself as follows: ("I shall now take)the commentary, whose object is to clarify the meaning of the subtle and most excellent Long Collection

(Digha Nikaya)…. Set forth in detail by the Buddha and by his like ie. The Elder Sariputta and other expounders of discourse in the Sutta Pitakaya)- the commentary that in the beginning was chanted at the First Council) and later rechante (at the Second & Third ……and was brought to the Sinhala Island (Ceylon) by the Arahant Mahinda the Great and rendered into the Sinhala tongue for the benefit of the Islanders, - and from that commentary I shall remove the Sinhala tongue. Replacing it by the graceful language that conforms with Scripture and is purified and free from flaws. Not diverging from the standpoint of the Elders residing in the great Monastery (in Anuradhapura), who illumine the Elders' Heritage and are all well versed in exposition, and rejecting subject matter needlessly repeated, I shall make the meaning clear for the purpose of bringing contentment to good people and contributing to the long endurance of the Dhamma.

He was given apartments in the Brazen Palace, of whose seven floors he occupied the lowest. He observed the Ascetic Practices and was expert in all the Scriptures….It was during his stay there that he translated the Buddha's Dispensation…… When the rainy season was over….. and he had completed the Pavarana Ceremony, he consigned the books to the Senior Elder, the Sangharaja. Then the elder Buddhaghosa had the books written by the Elder Mahinda piled up and burnt near the Great Shrine. The pile was as high as seven elephants. Now that his work was done. And wanting to see his parents, he took his leave before going back to India.. He went to his Preceptor and cleared himself of his penance…..He himself knowing that he would not live much longer paid homage to his Preceptor and went to the Great Enlightenment tree. Foreseeing his approaching death, he considered thus: "There are three kinds of death: death as cutting off, momentary death and conventional death. Death as cutting off belongs to those whose cankers are exhausted (and are Arahants)…….Momentary death is that of each consciousness, which arise each immediately on the cessation of the one preceding. Conventional death is that of all (so-called) living beings. Mine will be conventional death.

There are several accounts explaining the background & activities of Ven. Buddhaghosa, the above version, mentioned in the introduction, has been taken from one of them titled " Buddhaghosupatti" composed in Burma by an Elder called Mahamangala, here it is also mentioned that an Elder (an Arahant, who 'Tamed' heretic hermit 'Buddhaghosa' in public debate, This same Elder is names as 'Arahant Revata' in another version ), living near Bodi Tree at Gaya, 'used to wonder. When the Buddha's teaching was recited in Sinhalese and the Magadhan people did not therefore understand it. Who would be able to translate it into Magadhan (Pali). And that it was he who sent his pupit, Ghosa, Who was given the name Buddhaghosa after Ordination as a Bhikkhu, to Sri Lanka to translate the Sinhala Tripitaka back to Pali, as a fulfillment of a penance.

Thus it is very clear that the language of recitation of the Buddha word is very crucial to its ultimate Understanding and Mindful Assimilation of the Dhamma, without which no one could become a Path Attainer. Arahant Revata realized this fact and got the Scriptures translated back to Pali for the benefit of the Magadhan and other Pali Speaking people.

Another point worth considering is are there any records of laypersons, who did not understand Pali Language. Becoming Path Attainers after Ven. Buddhaghosa;s who rendering of the Sinhala Buddhist Text in to Pali?

As much as we, Buddhists, are dedicated to preserving Tripitake Pali Texts in their pure from and at the same time supporting the continued interest of schlars in the study and teaching of the Pali Language in our Institutions of higher learning, we would like to humbly appeal to the unfathomable benevolence of the Maha Sangha to present at all Temple & Religious Ceremonies. Involving the general public and children. The Fundamental Dhamma Stanzas in a Language they Understand.

The Dhamma Vivarana Movement would like to solicit the support of present day Pali Scholars with vision and command of their mother tongue (with singular determination as Rev. Buddhaghosa) to take appropriate steps to translate the Pali Stanzas & Commentaries back to Sinhalese and other national languages so that they could be meaningfully used by the lay devotees in their daily religious activities. It is understood that some of these stanzas are already available in their daily religious activities. It is understood that some of these stanzas are already available in Sinhala and other Texts but apparently not officially encouraged or made use of at temple ceremonies, although these are largely patronized by the Public who do not understand Pali.

The one and only was open for us to maintain ourselves on the path to Nibbana in Sansara is by developing a Powerful Dhamma Vinnana through Dhamma Vivarana in this life.

Let us, therefore, hope that 'Dhamma Vivarana' (Mindful Practice of Dhamma) for the non Pali Speaking peoples of this world will re-commence, after the elapse of nearly 1583 years, with the New Millennium, and that there will be many 'Path Attainers' among us. 

 

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J2.20  Free thinking critique in Buddhism

Sita Arunthavanathan

Radio talk on SLBC on 26.8.99

Every world religion firmly believes that its Holy Scriptures contain teachings or revelations which should not be questioned or doubted. The Vedas for example say 'Whatever in the Vedas is absolute, it is an established fact (idam vedapramanyat siddham). As such no doubting or argument is necessary.

On the contrary, Buddhism is unique in this respect. The Tripitaka evinces much evidence to prove that Buddhism considers free-thinking and a critical outlook salutary and not detrimental to its progress.

The Buddha was the Enlightened one, the awakened one, the Teacher, a Torch-bearer to mankind. (ukkhataro manussanam). The Buddha described himself as only a guide. "Tumheni kiccam atappam akkhataro tathagag' - you yourself must tread the path, the Buddha merely guides the way. The Buddha was not a divine incarnate or a prophet. He was not an agent of God either. He was only a man who had attained wondrous spiritual attainments by developing the mental faculties. Under these circumstances there was ample room in Buddhism to develop a critical attitude towards your own religion.

If we examine the Dhamma itself, it was a 'Come and See' doctrine (ehi passiko). There was no compulsion to follow it or demanding, for blind, unquestionable belief or forcible conversion. It was left for each individual to examine the veracity and the clarity of the teaching, analyse, investigate and then follow the Dhamma. In the Brahmajala Sutta of the digha Nikaya the Buddha says:

"If anyone were to speak ill of me, my Doctrine or my Order of Monks, do not bear any ill-will towards him, be upset or perturbed at heart; for if you were to be so it will only cause you harm. If on the other hand, if one were to speak well of me, my Doctrine and my Order of Monks, do not be overjoyed, thrilled or elated; for if so, it would only be an obstacle in your way of forming a correct judgement as to whether the qualities praised in us are real and actually found in us."

This passage shows the Buddha's enlightened attitude towards both constructive and destructive criticism and the equanimity with which it has to be treated. In so many instances the Buddha had proclaimed: "I do not declare that all other Sramanas and Brahmanas cannot attain Liberation. Anyone who gets rid of the three defilements of Raga (passion), Dosa (animosity), and Moha (delusion) can do so." Buddha does not monopolize the Truth (Sachcha), nor declare that he alone has discovered the truth. His was a Doctrine devoid of all mythological, mystical and mythical adornment. Dhamma is only a conceptual framework showing the way to reality. It is a means - an instrumental mean and not an end. Dharma has only a relative value with regard to the intrinsic worth of its realization. Dhamma itself has to be abandoned, leave alone what does not constitute the Dhamma, (dhammopi pahatabbo pag'eva adhammo). The Buddha has preached the Dhamma comparing it to a raft to get to the other shore and thereafter not cling on to it or carry on the shoulder (kullupamam bhikkave dhammam desessami taranattaya no gahanattaya).

At the time Buddhism arose in India, Brahmanism was the leading religion. The Brahmins followed the vedas which derived their authority from the assumption that they were not products of humans (purusha) but revelations of a divine origin (apaurusheyya).

In the last and tenth Mandala or Book of the Rgveda called Purusha sukta (Hymn 129) there is a concept of wonder and doubt evolving with reference to Creation (visrishti) which etymologically means emanation and not creation.

It says, "Whence this creation has arisen; whether it has been made or not, he who surveys this world in highest heaven, he may knoweth. Or it may be that he knoweth not." These philosophical ideas reached efflorescence in the Upanishads which were the culmination of vedic studies. "Was creation spontaneous? Was Creation not spontaneous?" This was a dilemma in the later strata of the Rgveda. In the time of the Upanishads which were a kind of reaction against the formalism of the Brahmins who claimed to be the gods on earth by virtue of the fact that they were the custodians of the incantation to the gods and they alone could propitiate them. 'Devadinam jagat sarvam' - the universe if subject to the gods.

'Manthradhinam tadarvatam'- gods are subject to sacrificial incantations; 'Tam manthra brahmanadhinam' - these incantations are in the custody of the Brahmins. Brahmana mama devata' - hence the Brahmins are the real gods (on earth). Again, we find in the Upanishads the search for the Truth or reality of creation, "What is the First Cause? Is it Brahma? From wherefore are we Born? By what power do we continue to live? (kim karanam brahma kutahsma jatah - jeevana kenakva cha sampratishtah). By the time Buddhism arose the intellectual stance was anti-sacrifice in the earnest and relentless quest for immortality.

'Asatho ma sad gamaya' - lead me from non-reality to reality. 'Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya' - lead me from darkness to light. 'Mrityor ma amirtam gamaya' - lead me from death to the state of immortality. Buddhism with its teaching of Causality (patichcha samuppada), non-violence, culture of the mind as against the culture of animal sacrifice for spiritual attainments and free - thinking appealed to the intellectual Brahmins. There are numerous suttas where Brahmins engaged in argument with the Buddha on the superiority of their caste, spiritual duties connected with it and the inability of the low castes to attain spiritual heights, being finally convinced that the Buddha and his Dhamma were more superior. Many Brahmins joined the Sangha and became celebrities of the day. The Buddha's two chief disciples, Ven. Sariputta and Ven. Moggallana, Ven. Maha Kassapa, Ven. Punna and a host of other great elders were all Brahmins, not to mention the first five disciples.

Buddhism eliminates all views - ditthi and draws a distinction between ditthi and vision (dassana). Ditti (Drishti) includes all forms of concepts, ideologies, knowledge, dogmas, theories etc. whereas dassana encapsulates insight and wisdom. In Karaniya Metta Sutta we come across, "Ditthingcha anupagamma seelava dassanena sampanno" which means that 'the virtuous gains insight without entering into views. Right vision (samma ditthi) is the sheet anchor as it were of Buddhist deliverance, and the Buddha placed it at the very beginning of the Noble Eightfold Path, Sammaditthi Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya as its name implies, analyses the Right vision which constitutes the right understanding of the Dhamma Dogmatic adherence to speculative views is an obstacle to wisdom and becomes an obstruction to understanding your own religion. This is called ditthiparamasa raga and is very much condemned in Buddhism. When one is obsessed with views of one's own religion or tenaciously and passionately attached to one's own ideologies then it gives rise to religious suicide and political fanaticism respectively. They tend to think, "What I believe alone is the truth; all the rest constitute that which is foolish" (idham'eva sachcham magham ajnana). This is self-elevation (attukkamsana); the condemnation of other religions is called paravimbhana. Both these views are non-acceptable to Buddhism.

About 300 years after the demise of the Buddha, the Edicts of Asoka the Great reflected this same idea. Rock Edict XII of Bulner's Translation says:- "One should not only honour one's own religion and condemn the religions of others but one should also honour the others' religions so doing one helps one's religion to grow and renders service to the religions of others too. In acting otherwise, one digs the grave of one's own religion and also does harm to others' religions."

The Kalama Sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya aptly called the Buddha's Charter for Free Inquiry, is a mirror that reflects the Buddhist attitude towards developing a stance for free-thinking. This Sutta illustrates a teaching which is totally devoid of fanaticism, bigotry, blind faith, intolerance and dogmatism. The Kalamas of the township Kesaputta once approached the Buddha and complained that some religions praise their own religions and condeman those of others and that a doubt has arisen as to whom they should believe. Since they were in a dilemma they requested the Buddha to help them to sift the truth from the false.

This was Buddha's reply:

"Now look you Kalamas, do not be led by reports, traditions or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts nor by mere logic or inference; nor by considering appearances; neither by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by the idea, 'this is our teacher'. But oh Kalamas! When you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome (kusala), right and good, then accept and follow them."

This reply reflects the lucidity and clarity of Buddha's teachings, lofty ideals and his greatness as a teacher. He admonished the Kalamas not to consider the teacher but the sanctity of his teaching.

In the Vachchagotta Sutta of the Majjihima Nikaya, Vachchagotta questioned the Buddha as to whether he had any theories. Buddha replied in the negative but stressed that though he was free from theories he knew the nature of materiality, how it arises and how it ceases.

In the Rohitassa Sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya the Buddha says, "In this fathom long body which is endowed with perception and consciousness I declare the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world and the path that leads to its cessation."

Buddhism accepts only sensory experience - empirical reality. Man form the central theme of study; it has more of psychology and less of metaphysics. In other words no theology but anthropology. Investigation of the Dhamma is a prime necessity for one who seeks the Truth. In developing Right Vision one should analyse the Dhamma carefully in its right perspective (yatha bhutha jnana dassana) in all the stages of the Path to Nibbana. To attain the goal in Buddhism, there is no blind following of theories, dogmas and adherence to the authority of religious texts etc:

All this clearly show that the free thinking critique in Buddhism was something novel and also highly advanced in comparison with the religions of the time. The advice given in the Kalama Sutta especially would have undoubtedly opened the eyes of the entire intelligentsia of the sixth century before the common era to broader vistas of free inquiry, intelligent assimilation of religious ideals and directed the way to truly enlightened thinking.

We are at the extreme end of the 20th century with its revolutionized but often confused thinking. Buddha's psychological analysis of how to accept or reject an idea, the stance to develop in constructive and destructive criticism, equanimity with which both should be faced and his advocacy of free thinking, remain profound and perennially relevant as an ideal standard for the over-changing, progressive universe of the next millennium, nay for all times far, far beyond.

The Island - 4 Oct 99

 

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