VESAK 2007

News Ticker




J4.01   A stepping stone to end suffering - Pali scholar and Principal of Mahinda College Galle...

J4.02   Creating more space and love in our lives - The Four Heavenly Abodes – loving-kindness, compassion...

J4.03   Realising the right to life of all beings - The Buddha's advice on killing and consumption of meat...

J4.04   Attach without fear to your precepts, meditation - Probably the most misunderstood term in Western...

J4.05   How to be reborn as Sakka, king of gods - Deva sutta: How to be the king of gods, is found in...

J4.06   Significance of Vesak Full Moon Poya day - The birth of prince Siddhartha, his enlightenment and the Parinibbana...

J4.07   The four noble truths and the eight fold path, way to eternal emancipation - According to the teachings...

J4.08   The Buddha’s path to Nibbana - Readings from the Pali Canon; He finds the Middle Way...

J4.09   The Buddha who guided us to inner peace - VESAK: All over the world people talk about peace.

J4.10   Daana, principal virtue of a Bodhisatva - Daana-giving, charity, Seela-self control and Bhavana...

J4.11   The Buddha: Who He was, and what He taught - To practise Buddhism is to know oneself...

J4.12   Extinguish the fires of greed; globe will be less warm - "Everything is burning," said the Buddha...

J4.13   The Buddha's teaching and the origin of life - The Gautama Buddha did not give any specific teaching...

J4.14   Buddha's analysis of King Kosala's dreams - King Kosala who had sixteen unusual dreams sought an explanation...

J4.15   The Buddhist Way of Life - Report of the Sinhala Commission (Part - II) Chapter 8

J4.16   The Real Buddhism - If we open any recent book on the origins of religion, we find that there is one point on...

J4.17   Buddhism and Marriage - Marriage seems to be written about now more frequently and honestly...

J4.18   How rebirth takes place - How is rebirth possible without something to be reborn, without an ego, or a soul?...

J4.19   A real Buddhist is a Citizen of the World - Buddhism, the Dhamma, breaks all the barriers which separate one another...

J4.20   Trinity of Buddhism - The main theories of Buddhism are four noble truths, eight fold path...








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J4.01  A stepping stone to end suffering

Upali Salgado

Pali scholar and Principal of Mahinda College Galle, F.L. Woodward, M.B.E, in 1903 likened the many lives of the Blessed One, Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha to a necklace of pearls, with a golden thread that runs through all the pearls, each pearl representing just one sansaric life of the Bodhisattva.

Woodward says, "It is he who passed through the path of evolution and involution, it is the symbol of man's life, progressing or falling back again, gathering devious experience, until he needs no further births. And what is the unknown force this symbolised? In the mineral it sleeps and stirs not; in the plant it dreams and feebly moves, and in the animal it wakes and gains the senses, one by one till a man in a spark becomes (karmically) the flame and at last it's more than man. Beings arise, said the Buddha, from previous happenings. Tanha (craving) is the cause. Rise and fall is the natural law. But this round of birth and death may end. Cut off desire of life, and be born again no more!"

When the great noble master was a Bodhisattva he went through ten Perfections to end all suffering on earth. In Pali language they are the Paramitas. The Pali word "Paramita" means to go beyond conditioned existence (Sankhata) with its inherent suffering to the conditioned, the unborn (Asankata) where there is neither birth nor death. Hence there will be no suffering at all. A Bodhisattva is required to practise the Paramitas to gain enlightenment - the stepping stone to Nibbana.

The ten Paramitas:

1) Giving or generosity with fullness of heart, is called Dane in the highest degree. Generosity is associated with a wholesome mind. The Buddha praised almsgiving especially to the worthy ones. When he was born to be king Sivi, he donated his eyes. In the Vessantara Jataka he donated his children.
"There came a beggar, he asked for food
Myself I gave that he might eat,
In alms there's to equal means
In alms I have perfection reached"

2) Perfection in morality (Sila). This is the abstinent thought that averts the mind from anything involving harm or pain to another. Generally in Buddhism the abstinent thought refers to ten evil acts - three of the body, four of speech and three of the mind.

In the Suttas it is explained there are four kinds of moral purity. They are; morality in restraint with regard to the moral code of the Order; morality consisting in restraint of senses; morality consisting of purity of livelihood and morality regarding the four requisites.

In the Lomahamsa Jataka story, whilst village children spat on him and others showered him with fragrant flowers, he remained indifferent alike to pain and pleasure and showed equanimity (Sympathetic joy) as a perfection. The text says:
"I laid me down amongst the dead
A pillow of bones I made
While from the village around
Some came to mock and some to praise"

3) The Bodhisattva as a Prince (Prince Hattipala and Prince Somanassa) renounced his kingdom according to the Jatakas, to be free from attachment.
The text says:
"A kingdom dropped in to my hands
Like spittle vile I let it fall
Nor for it felt the smallest wish
And thus renunciation gained"

4) Another perfection which the Bodhisattva fulfilled is that of Knowledge (Panna). As the wandering ascetic Bodhi and Pandith Govinda he gained perfection.
The text says:
"With wisdom gifted I the case
And freed the Brahmin from his woe
In wisdom none can equal me
In wisdom I've perfection reached"

5) Courage is another perfection reached by the Bodhisattva. In the Janaka birth story when crossing the ocean he said:
"Far out of sight of land we were
The crew were all as dead of fright
Yet, still unruffled was my mind,
In courage I have perfection reached"

6) Patience (Khanti) is yet another virtue the Bodhisattva mastered.
The text says:
"Like one insensible I lay
While with his hatchet, keen he hacked
Not raged, I against Benares king
In patience, I've patience reached"

7) The Perfection of Truth (Sacca): A Bodhisattva reached as stated in the Jataka Greater Satasoma birth story.
The text says:
"I kept the promise I had made
And gave my life in sacrifice
A hundred warriors set I free
In truth have I perfection reached"

8) In the Mugapakha Jataka birth story, with great Resolution (Determination) he reached perfection at the cost of his dear life, with admirable conduct.
The text says:
"It is not that I my parents hate
It's not that glory that I detest,
But since omniscience I hold dear,
Therefore I kept my firm resolve"

9) The Perfection of Metta (loving kindness) in his highest degree he acquired as stated in a Jataka Ekaraja birth story.
The text says:
"No fear has anyone of me
No have I fear of anyone
In my goodwill to all trust,
And love to dwell in lonely woods"

A step further from the Bodhisattva practice of developing the Paramitas is the goal of being an Arahath, where one's mind becomes spiritually developed. Bhikkhu Khantipalo who was associated with the Buddhist Publications Society, Kandy sometime ago has stated in a publication that, an Arahath is free from pollution and defilements and has penetrated the four noble truths. The word Arahath literally means "one who is worthy".

Buddhists know that no unseen higher power or force have any control of their destinies. Therefore Budhists do not subjugate themselves with obedience, reverence and worship. In short, Buddhists do not follow a theistic religion. The Buddha dharma (philosophy) is primarily concerned with the problem of suffering in its many faceted forms and how to end it. To the Buddha suffering meant the endless process of being born, ageing and dying motivated by selfish craving and ignorance (Avijja). The Buddha dharma is a way of life for free men to act freely, independent of a supreme being. Buddhists do not consider man to be a sinner as alleged elsewhere, nor does the Buddha dharma consider man unable to free himself from the theistic concept of vicarious sin.

The Buddha has shown the "Path to human liberation" from suffering, by being conscious (sati) of the Noble Eightfold Path and the Middle Way of life to guide all.

"By oneself alone is evil done,
By oneself alone is one defiled,
Purity and impurity depend on oneself,
No one can purify another
(Dhammapada – V: 165)

29 05 2007 - Sunday Times






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J4.02  Creating more space and love in our lives

The Four Heavenly Abodes – loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity are practices taught by the Buddha in the Pali canon. As one repeats three sentences connected to each quality, one develops concentration and thus tranquility. By visualising oneself and other people in the light of the different qualities, one begins to open one's heart and to feel more acceptance and love for all of life.

Compassion means having empathy with our own suffering and the suffering of others. We acknowledge that suffering exists, is painful, and can lead to great isolation.

A basic formula to repeat is as follows:
May I/You be happy
May I/You be at peace
May I/You be free from suffering

Loving-kindness is benevolence, wishing happiness for self and others. It requires us to connect with ourselves and others. Love is the outward movement from the heart that impels us to break out of narrow self-centredness and open up to the whole world. When we repeat the sentences, we are redirecting our intention, thoughts and feelings toward openness and kindness.

Compassion means having empathy with our own suffering and the suffering of others. We acknowledge that suffering exists, is painful, and can lead to great isolation. Nobody can truly feel the pain of somebody else, but we can try to empathise - to stop and listen to other people's problems, be with their suffering, break through their isolation.

Sympathetic joy is the ability to rejoice at the happiness of others. Instead of assuming that happiness is limited and that another's share of it will take away from our own, we realise that rejoicing with other people adds to our happiness. There is no limit to love, to happiness. Rejoicing with others liberates us from small-mindedness and resentment. Also, by rejoicing in our own happiness, we acknowledge the good things in our life and develop gratitude.

Equanimity is essential to balance the first three qualities so that we are not overwhelmed by love, compassion, or joy. We experience these feelings, but we do not grasp at them, we do not overreact. Like a mirror, we reflect what is present, but when that is gone, we also let go. We realise that we cannot live people's lives for them. We want to help, we feel for them, but we cannot change them – only they can do that. But we can still love them, feel for them and rejoice with them with a calm and clear mind, with equanimity.

When we are practising the Four Heavenly Abodes, we are not trying to become perfect; rather, we are trying to create more space and love in our life. When the meditation ends, a taste will remain that flavours our life with a calm and deeply felt joy.

By Martine Batchelor, Author of Meditation for Life and the Path of Compassion

29 05 2007 - Sunday Times






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J4.03  Realising the right to life of all beings

The Buddha's advice on killing and consumption of meat

Some are, some aren't. From the Theravada perspective, the choice of whether or not to eat meat is purely a matter of personal preference. Many Buddhists (and, of course, non-Buddhists) do eventually lose their appetite for meat out of compassion for the welfare of other living creatures.

Although the first of the five precepts, the basic code of ethical conduct for all practising Buddhists, calls upon followers to refrain from intentional acts of killing, it does not address the consumption of flesh from animals that are already dead. Theravada monks, however, are clearly forbidden to eat meat from a few specific kinds of animals (flesh of humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas and panthers), but for reasons not directly related to the ethics of killing. Monks are to pursue vegetarianism by leaving uneaten any meat that may have been placed in the alms bowl, but because they depend on the open-handed generosity of lay supporters (who may or may not themselves be vegetarian) it is considered unseemly for them to make special food requests. In those parts of the world (including wide areas of South Asia) where vegetarianism is uncommon and many dishes are prepared in a meat or fish broth, vegetarian monks would soon face a simple choice: eat meat or starve. Taking part in killing for food is definitely incompatible with the first precept, and should be avoided. This includes hunting, fishing, trapping, butchering, steaming live clams, eating live raw oysters, etc.

But what if I eat or just purchase meat: aren't I simply encouraging someone else to do the killing for me? How can letting someone else do the "dirty work" possibly be consistent with the Buddhist principles of compassion and non-harming, a cornerstone of right resolve?

Clearly we should not intentionally ask someone to kill for us as when, for example, we order fresh boiled lobster from the restaurant menu.

The Dhammapada expresses this sentiment succinctly:
All tremble at the rod,
All hold their life dear.
Drawing the parallel to yourself,
Neither kill nor get others to kill.

(Dhammapada V 130)

Clearly we should not intentionally ask someone to kill for us as when, for example, we order fresh boiled lobster from the restaurant menu. But purchasing a piece of meat from an animal that was previously killed is another matter. Although my purchase may indeed help keep the butcher or restaurateur in business, I am not asking him to kill on my behalf. Whether he kills another cow tomorrow is his choice, not mine. This is a difficult but important point, one that reveals the fundamental distinction between personal choices (choices aimed at altering my own behaviour) and economic political ones (those aimed at altering other's behaviour). Each of us must discover for ourselves where lies the boundary between the two. It is crucial to remember that the Buddha's teachings are, first and foremost, tools to help us learn to make good personal choices (kamma); they are not prescriptions for commanding action.

We are all guilty of complicity, in one way or another and to varying degrees, in the harming and death of other creatures. Whether we are carnivore, vegan or something in between, no matter how carefully we choose our food, somewhere back along the chain of food production and preparation, killing took place. No matter how carefully we trod, with every step countless insects, mites, and other creatures inadvertently perish under our feet. This is just the nature of our world. It is only when we escape altogether from the round of birth and death, when we enter into the final liberation of Nibbana the Deathless, can we wash our hearts clean, once and for all, of killing and death.

To steer us towards that lofty goal, the Buddha gave us very realistic advice: he didn't ask us to become vegetarian; He asked us to observe the precepts. For many of us, this is challenge enough. This is where we begin.

Courtesy: Noble Living, (A collection of Dhamma Essays) (Reproduced from Vesak Lipi)

29 05 2007 - Sunday Times






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J4.04  Attach without fear to your precepts, meditation

Ajahn Brahmavamso

Probably the most misunderstood term in Western Buddhist circles is what is usually translated as 'attachment'. Too many have got it into their heads that they shouldn't be attached to anything. Thus jokes abound such as the one on why the houses of Buddhists have dirt in the corners - because they don't allow even their vacuum cleaner to have any attachments.

Some misguided pseudo-Buddhists criticise those living a moral life as being attached to their precepts and thus praise immoral action as a sign of deep wisdom. Others in traditional Buddhist circles create fear of deep meditation by incorrectly stating that you will only get attached to the Jhanas. It all goes too far. Perhaps the pinnacle of mischievous misinformation was by Rajneesh who claimed, "I am so detached, I am not even attached to detachment" and thus conveniently excused all his excesses.

The Pali word in question is upadana, literally meaning 'a taking up'. It is commonly used indicating a 'fuel', which sustains a process, such as the oil in a lamp being the fuel/upadana for the flame. It is related to craving (tanha). For example, craving is reaching out for the delicious cup of coffee, upadana is picking it up. Even though you think that you can easily put the cup of coffee down again, though your hand is not superglued to the cup, it is still upadana. You have picked it up. You have grasped it.

Fortunately not all upadana is un-Buddhist. Lord Buddha only specified four groups of upadana: 'taking up' the five senses, 'taking up' wrong views, 'taking up' the idea that liberation may be attained simply through rites and initiations, and 'taking up' the view of self. There are many other things that one may 'take up' or grasp, but the point is that only these four groups lead to rebirth, only these four are fuel for future existence and further suffering, only these four are to be avoided.

Thus taking up the practice of compassion, taking up the practice of the Five Precepts or the greater precepts of a monk or nun, and taking up the practice of meditation - these are not un-Buddhist and it is mischievous to discourage them by calling them 'attachments'. Keeping the Five Precepts is, in fact, a letting go of coarse desires like lust, greed and violence. Practising compassion is a letting go of self-centredness and practising meditation is letting go of past, future, thinking and much else. The achievement of jhana is no more than the letting go of the world of the five senses to gain access to the mind. Nibbana is the letting go once and for all of greed, hatred and delusion, the seeds of rebirth. Parinibbana is the final letting go of body and mind (the Five khandhas). It is wrong to suggest that any of these stages of letting go are the same as attachment.

The path is like a ladder. One grasps the rung above and lets go of the rung below to pull oneself up. Soon, the rung just grasped is the rung one is now standing on. Now is the time to let go of that rung as one grasps an even higher rung to raise oneself further. If one never grasped anything, one would remain spiritually stupid.

To those without wisdom, letting go may often appear as attachment. For example a bird on the branch of a tree at night appears to be attaching itself firmly to the branch, but it has actually let go and is fully asleep. When a bird lets go and the muscles around its claws begin to relax they close on the branch. The more it relaxes, the more the claws tighten. That's why you never see a bird fall off a perch even when they are asleep. It may look like attachment but, in fact, it is letting go. Letting go often leads to stillness, not moving from where you are, which is why it is sometimes mistaken as attachment.

So don't be put off by well-meaning but misinformed L-plate Buddhists who have completely misunderstood upadana and attachment. Attach without fear to your precepts, your meditation object and to the path, for it will lead to Nibbana. And don't forget to purchase the attachments for your vacuum cleaner too!

29 05 2007 - Sunday Times






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J4.05  How to be reborn as Sakka, king of gods

Chandrani Fernando

Deva sutta: How to be the king of gods, is found in the Sanyutta Nikaya. It is a sutta that was told by the Buddha for the benefit of those who wanted to be reborn as gods. Although the ultimate goal of Buddhists is to attain Nibbana, people are reborn as Brahmas, gods, asuras, yakkas, perethayas, humans, animals etc. Of these rebirths, people prefer to be reborn as gods as those realms are only meant for pleasure. One does not find unhappiness or sickness in these realms.

Sakka being the king of the gods, people were interested in knowing the factors that would lead to the birth of Sakka. Hence Buddha explained how one could do meritorious deeds and attain such a status. Deva suttas 1, 2 and 3 give you an idea of how to be a meritful god. Below are the Deva suttas as they appear in the Sanyutta Nikaya.

Once Gauthama Buddha was residing at Jethavanaramaya in the city of Savaththi which was built by the Royal Treasurer Anatha Pindika.

The Buddha addressed the monks and described how Sakka, the king of the gods attained that position. Sakka in a previous birth observed seven commitments when he was a human being.

What were these seven commitments observed by him?

"Matha Peththibharan Janthun
Kule Jetta Pachainan,
Sanhan Sakhila Sambhasan,
Machchera Vinaye Yuththan,
Sachchan Kodhabhibhun Naran
Than che deva Thavathinse
Ahu Sappuriso Iththeethi"

Gods living in the realm of Thavathinsa observed that these great qualities were found in their king’s personality.
These great qualities were practised by King Sakka when he was a human being.

  1. During his life, he looked after his parents well.

  2. Throughout his life, he respected and paid due reverence to the elderly persons of his clan.

  3. Throughout his life, he never used harsh words. He only spoke kind words that a person would like to hear.

  4. Throughout his life, he never carried tales.

  5. He was not a miser, but always ready to give.

  6. He never told lies.

  7. Throughout his life, he never lost his temper. Even if he got angry it was only for a limited minute or two.

Hence according to Deva Sutta (No.1) as the Sakka observed these seven good qualities in a previous birth he became the Sakka, the king of gods.

Gauthama Buddha said that as Sakka observed these great commitments he obtained Sakkahood. Gauthama Buddha further described this in the 2nd Deva Sutta too.

2nd Deva Sutta

Once Gauthama Buddha was residing at Jethavanaramaya in the city of Savatti built by the Royal Treasurer known as Anatha Pindika. He told the Bhikkus that Sakka the king of gods was once a youth called ‘Magha"when he was a human being in a previous birth. Hence he was also called Maghawa.

Gauthama Buddha said Sakka gave alms in each and every city when he was a human being. Hence he was called "Purindada". When this Sakka gave alms in his previous birth as a human being he gave alms methodically. Therefore he was called Sakka, as his alms givings were orderly.

Gauthama Buddha further told the Bhikkus that this Sakka when he was a human being donated a lot of houses and was therefore called "Vasava". Gauthama Buddha further explained another name given to Sakka which was Sahassaka as he could think of thousand factors in one thought. Sakka’s wife was an Asura maiden called Suja. Thus he was called Sujampathi (Asura beings are the enemies of the gods).

Gauthama Buddha said as Sakka ruled the Thavathinsa gods’ realm in a prosperous manner, so he was called "Devanaminda". Gauthama Buddha said Sakka completed his commitments properly when he was a human being thus he became Sakka. As in Deva Sutta No.1, Gauthama Buddha described the seven factors starting from looking after parents upto not becoming cross. Therefore, the gods of Thavathinsa complimented Sakka as he had the qualities of a pious person.

3rd Deva Sutt

Once Gauthama Buddha was residing at Kootagara hall of the great forest of Visala city. Mahalee, the Lichchavi king visited Gauthama Buddha and asked him whether he had seen Sakka, the king of gods.

Gauthama Buddha replied that he had. Then the king Mahalee said that it could be a fake Sakka and not the real one as it was difficult to see Sakka. Then Gauthama Buddha told Mahalee that he not only knew Sakka but also knew the factors that would make a Sakka. He said that the Dhamma precepts that made Sakka become the king of gods were also known to him. Then Gauthama Buddha explained to Mahalee how Magha the youth was reborn as Sakka after doing a lot of social work etc; Then he further explained other names that are given to him as in Deva Sutta No. 2. Saptha Vrutha observation made Magha the human being become Sakka the god king. Then Gauthama Buddha explained the factors starting from parental care to patience.

Mahalee, the Lichchavi king was educated at the university of Thaksila. After his studies he returned to the city of Visala and became the teacher of the Lichchavi princes. As a result of too much work he became blind. But his teaching post was not lost. The Lichchavi clan provided him with residential premises by the gate leading from Visala city to Savaththi city.

The taxes at the city entrance were given to him as his salary. His wife was Suppavasa and according to Apadana, he was the father of Arhath Seevali.

May all beings be happy and be virtuous to attain the bliss of Nibbana soon.

29 05 2007 - Sunday Times






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J4.06  Significance of Vesak Full Moon Poya day

Gamini Jayasinghe

The birth of prince Siddhartha, his enlightenment and the Parinibbana of Gauthama Buddha are the most important and well known events taken place to make the Vesak Full Moon day the most significant day in the year not only for Buddhists in Sri Lanka but also for those living in Asian countries including Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Mynamar (Burma), Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, Pakistan and in many countries in the Western world.

At the instigation of the late foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, this Poya day had recently been declared as an international religious holy day.

It was also on a Vesak Full moon day that Sakyamuni Gauthama Buddha visited His relatives at Kimbulwathpura, and performed the Yama Maha Perahera the twin miracles – to dispel the arrogance of his relatives – the Sakyans. Apart from these events Vesak is of utmost importance for Sri Lankans because of Buddha’s third visit to Lanka at the invitation of Naga King "Maniakkhitha". Naga King extended this invitation when the Buddha visited Sri Lanka for the second occasion. Buddha also placed his foot print on Samanthakuita, Samanala Kanda or Adams Peak at the invitation of Deity Sumana Saman.

According to Chronicle Mahawansa, Buddha had proceeded to Samantha Kuta from Kelaniya with supernatural power to pass through air and placed his footprint on Samanmthakuta. On this occasion, Deity Sumana Saman had undertaken to protect Buddhism and the people of Sri Lanka. Today Samanthkuta is a place of worship not only for Buddhists but also for those belonging to other religions.

Further more, Vesak full moon day is the day of origin of the Sinhala Community. The eldest son of Sinhabahu and Sinha Seewali, from Lata rata in India "Vijaya" and his followers disembarked at Thambapanni in Sri Lanka on a Vesak Full Moon day. Vijaya was enthroned, as the first king of Lanka and Sinhalese are the descendants of Vijaya and his followers according to the legendary evidence available.

Emperor Dharmasoka anointed and installed Devanampiyatissa as the king of Sri Lanka on a Vesak Full moon day. King Duttagamini initiated the construction work of Ruwanweli Maha Saya, which is one of the Solosmastana – sixteen most important places of worship. It is to be noted that king Dutugemunu had made a Buddhist Statue of pure gold and had enshrined in the Maha Saya with four Kuranis or gallon measures of relics.

Although now it is more than 2500 years after the Parinibbana of the Buddha the instances of Amisa Poojas (Alms giving, offering of flowers, light, incense etc) and Prathipaththi pooja (observances) have been and are being increased.

Food and drink are offered not only to the clergy but also to paupers, travelers, elders, sick persons and pilgrims by devotees both rich and poor.

On a Vesak Full Moon Day about two thousand five hundred and twenty years ago, queen Maha Maya was on her way to her parental palace in Dewdaha Nuwara and while resting for some time under a Sal tree which was in blossom prince Siddhartha was born. It is said that seven Lotus flowers sprang up as soon as he was born and that he walked on them. The queen had proceeded back to Kimbulwathpura with prince Siddhartha. Where attendants and king Suddhodana was happy to see his fortunate and blessed son.

King Suddhodana’s teacher ascetic Asitha of Kaladewala went to the royal palace on the same day and being a saint who had gained the eight attainments or the four meditations and the four endeavours envisaged the Bodhisatva’s future and said that the blessed prince was to be the saviour of the universe and the teacher of every one in all three worlds. He said that the Bodhisatwa was to attain Buddha hood enabling him to direct the universe to the path of emancipation.

He worshiped the Bodhisatva and King Suddhodana who was astonished followed suit. The saint felt sorry that he was not able to live until the attainment of Buddha hood by prince Siddhartha. He ordained his nephew, Nalaka as an ascetic in the name of Bodhisatva who was sure to attain Buddha hood during the later years of his life.

On the fifth day after the birth of Bodhisatva one hundred and eight learned Brahamin pandits were summoned for the naming ceremony.

Eight brahamins Rama, Dhaja, Lakkhana, Manthra, Bhoja, Suyama and Sudatta who examined the marks in the body and the characteristics said that the prince was to be the universal sovereign or Buddha. The youngest Brahamin Kondanna who was more intelligent than the others observed the "Urna Roma" or the hair between the eye brows revolving to the right said that prince Siddhartha was to attain Buddha hood invariably. On the same day, he went to dwell in the forest with the sons of four other brahamins to live as ascetics. They were later known as "Paswaga Mahanas".

Seven days after the birth of Bodhisatva queen Maha Maya died and was born in "Thauthisa" as a mighty god. King Suddhodana provided all worldly comforts to his son and he was brought up as his successor to the throne. Bodhisatva was educated under the great teacher "Vishvamitra" or "Sarvamitra". He mastered all arts and crafts as an obedient, faithful and efficient student and in his youth he got married to princess Yosodara.

However, he could not achieve the total emancipation, which was his target and on the day when his son Rahula was born the Bodhisatva renounced the worldly life and proceeded to Buddhagaya where he strived on to find the way to be free from suffering. After striving on for seven long years he realized that the road to emancipation or Nirvana is neither "Kama Sukalikanuyogaya" clinging to the enjoyment of the senses nor the "Attakilamathanu yogaya" giving extreme suffering to the body, but the "Madyama Prathipadawa" the middle path.

On a Vesak full moon day more than two thousand five hundred years ago he defeated the "Mara" and attained Buddha hood at the foot of the Asathu Bo Tree. He was all alone to defeat "Panchanevarana" the five closings or barriers that close the way to Nirvana-"Kamachanda" carnal desire, "Vyapada" – malice "Tinamiddha" apathy and sloth "Uddhachcha Kukukukcha" fickleness or instability and "Vichikichcha" doubtful about Buddha his doctrines, priests, precepts, past birth, future births and dependant causation. Presumably this was what he saw as "Mara"

He realized the "Patichcha Samupadaya". He became the all knowing one, the omnificent one, During the first watch of the night that day he attained the "Pubbenivasanussati Gnana" Wisdom of recollecting the past birth or lives. At mid night or the second watch of the night he attained "Cuthupapatha Gnana" the wisdom to foresee the future and at the third watch of the night or at dawn he gained "Asavakya Gnana" or the wisdom to give up all evil desires.

Buddha was in Bhumissara Mudra gesture of touching the earth associated with his Victory over "Mara" and his enlightenment under the Asathu Bo tree in Buddhagaya.

He apprehended the truth by himself without the assistance of any one and therefore He is called "Sammasam Buddha".

After achieving the goal the sarvangnatha gnanaya the omniscience - he was happy and contended. "Aneka Jathi Sansaran , Sandhavissan Anibbisan.. Re birth is the cause of suffering. I was in search of the Carpenter called "thanha" craving, who builds the house called "Panchaskanda" the five constituents of man. Rupaskanda – the body "Vedanaskanda" perception, Sangaskanda, apprehension Sanskaraskanda mental state and Vingnaskanda consciousness. I have identified you. Never again, build this house. There is no craving left in my mind," the Buddha said.

After the enlightenment Buddha spent seven weeks around Sri Maha Bodhi under which he defeated Mara and attained Buddha hood.

During the first week, He meditated on Patichcha Samupadaya Chaturarya Satya – Four Noble Truths and Arya Astangika Marga. Eight fold path. In order to dispel the doubts of deities about the enlightenment, He performed the "Yamaka Maha Prathiharaya" – twin or double miracle - a power to cause a stream of fire to issue from one pore of his body and a stream of water from another one at the same time.

During the second week he performed "Ani Misa Lochana Puja" to express his gratitude to the Bo tree which provided him shelter. He treated His Dharma as the teacher and during the seventh week Naga King, Muchalinda provided the enlightened one shelter under his hood, as there was heavy rain. Naga king Muchalinda inquired from the Buddha whether he was comfortable under his hood and the Omniscient One said that "Upadi Vivekaya" or Nirvana is the eternal bliss and added that in order to come closer to Nirvana one should refrain from cheating, fraud, evil, passion, causing physical and mental harm or injury to others. "Asmi Mana" or egoism and "Pancha Kama" or the enjoyment of the five senses viz. from sound, scent, flavour, and substance or touch should be avoided in the effort to attain Nibbana.

Gauthama Buddha attained parinibbana at Kusinara on a Vesak Full Moon day after directing the universe to the eternal bliss. Although the omniscient one had attained parinibbana more than two thousand five hundred years ago his teachings – Dharmma maintained and propagated by Maha Sangha paves way for the universe to enternal bliss even today.






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J4.07  The four noble truths and the eight fold path

Way to eternal emancipation

According to the teachings of Buddha, the realization and appreciation of the truth should be the aim and objective of any one who anticipates eternal bliss. There are many ideals concepts, notions and opinions accepted by the universe as truths. Sakyamuni Gauthama Buddha has identified four of such truths as noble truths viz. Dukka Ariya Sacca-noble truth that the existence involves suffering, Dukka Samudaya Ariya Sacca – noble truth of the cause of suffering; Dukka Nirodha Ariya Sacca – nirvana-the extermination of suffering. Dukka Nirodha Gamini Patipada Ariya Sacca – the way to the extinction of suffering.

These teachings of Buddha first taught during his first sermon at Isipathana Migadaya (Deer Park) in Isipathana after he attained enlightenment are based upon the solid foundation of truths in the four noble truths, which can be understood by anyone in the universe. They are not beliefs or conceptions, which are to be accepted on mere faith and without reason. These truths emerge from experiences in the human life.

These truths are identified as noble truths because of their special qualities and characteristics. i.e. "Tata" – the true nature "Avitata" – the unchanging nature; and Anangnatha – Non appearance in another form.

This can be explained with an example. It is an accepted fact that the dress worn by an Upasaka on the Poya Day is white in colour. Any one will say that the dress is white. However, this colour is likely to be changed with a stain of mud, blood or dirt. The four noble truths however, remain unchanged under any circumstances. Only the noble truths possess the above qualities. The Buddha was only interested in showing us a clear and direct path to true happiness – Nirvana. The four noble truths form the heart of the Buddha’s teachings. They are called noble truths because they are taught by the noble one, those who have direct perception of reality.

Buddhas, Pacceka Buddhas and Arahats are exalted ones who have understood and perceived the noble truths. Similarly those who have attained Sowan, Sakurudagami and Anagami by entering respectively the first, second and third stages in the path leading to nirvana are also exalted ones who have realized the four noble truths.

Buddha has perceived each of these noble truths with Satya gnaya, Kruthya gnana and Krutha gnaya, Satya gnana is the wisdom to identify the truth – Kruthya gnana is the wisdom to realize what need be done relating to the truth and thirdly Krutha gnana is the wisdom to realize that what is needed to be done had been done. Thus the Buddha had explained the four Noble Truths under three criteria.

"Thipariwattan" – Satya kruthya and krutha and in twelve ways "Dwadasakaran", Dukka satya – is the noble truth of suffering is self-evident. We undergo various sufferings which should be identified as Jathi (birth) Jara (aging) Wyadhi (sickness) Marana (death) Piyohi Vippayogo Departure from who/what we like, being with whom/what we dislike and failure to achieve what we want, bring us dukka or suffering. We undergo all these sufferings because we are born. The sufferings are felt by the Panchaskanda the five constituents of man, Rupa – body, Vedana – Feeling, Sangna – bare recognition, Sanskara – mental state; and Vingnana – consciousness.

The second noble truth Dukka Samudaya Arya Satya is the cause of suffering. Craving – Thanha leading to rebirth. Thanha or craving is explained as Kama Thanha (sexual desire) Bhawa Thanha (desire for existence) and Vibhawa Thanha (desire for total extinction at death).Craving or greed, aversion or hatred and Ignorance or lack of wisdom are root causes of Dhukka.

The third noble truth is the cessation to the causes of suffering which is the enlightenment or Nirvana the extinction of craving, aversion and ignorance which is a peaceful state where there are no unsatisfactory experiences as shown by Buddha.

The fourth noble truth is the truth of the path leading to the end of Dukka, which is a state of happiness - The noble eight fold path. The eight factors of the noble eight-fold path can be divided into three aspects, i.e. Moral conduct, mental development and wisdom. Samma Vaca (perfect speech) Samma Kammantha (perfect action) and Samma Ajeeva (perfect livelihood) can be categorized under moral conduct. Samma Vayama (perfect effort), Samma Sati (perfect mindfulness)and Samma Samadhi (perfect meditation come under mental development) and Samma Ditti (perfect understanding) and Samma Sankappa (perfect thought) can be categorized under the aspect of wisdom. To be perfect lying, tail bearing, harsh speech and idle talk should be avoided. We should praise others when necessary and engage only in constructive criticism. We should spread the truth, use healing words and remain silent when necessary.

The practice of perfect action involves the respect for the life, properly and personal relationships of others. We should also practice self-control, be mindful of the rights of others, and refrain from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. Perfect livelihood is earning one’s living in a way that is not harmful to the others. An occupation should be chosen to enable to serve showing respect for the life and welfare of all beings.

One should avoid trade in deadly weapons, slaves, intoxicants, and poisons. Perfect efforts should be made to cultivate virtues to develop one’s mind. Efforts should also be made to prevent the development of unwholesome thoughts of craving, aversion and ignorance and efforts should be made to develop wholesome thoughts of generosity, loving kindness and other positive qualities.

Perfect mindfulness is an essential quality in one’s daily activities. Mindfulness makes us aware of whether our daily actions correspond to motivation, needs and wants. One must be mindful if ever-lasting happiness is to be attained. Meditation is the process of training the mind, the focus on a single object and remains fixed upon that object without wavering. The constant practice of meditation helps one to develop a calm and concentrated mind and prepares one for the attainment of wisdom and enlightenment ultimately.

Perfect understanding means understanding things as they are rather than what they appear to be. Understanding is the knowledge of things realised by oneself through practice. Analytical attitude is important in acquiring perfect understanding.

Thoughts influence one’s words and actions. If one speaks or acts out of a greed or anger then one will speak or act wrongly and suffer subsequently. In order to improve one’s conduct the thoughts should be purified. Perfect thought is necessary to avoid craving and ill will and to cultivate thoughts of renunciation. A person’s intelligence is developed by practicing Samma Ditti (perfect understanding) and Samma Sankappa (perfect thought).

Samma Vaca (perfect speech) Samma Kammantha (perfect action) and Samma Ajeewa (perfect livelihood) help us to attain self-control. Samma Vayama (perfect effort) Samma Sati (perfect mindfulness) and Samma Samadhi (perfect meditation) help an individual to get the mind developed and prepare the individual for meditation. The four nobel truths and the eight fold path taught by the Buddha more than two thousand five hundred years ago at Isipathana Migadaya (Deer Park) are highly appropriate for the present condition and will be valid in the future when the universe develops spiritually.






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Readings from the Pali Canon

J4.08  The Buddha’s path to Nibbana


He finds the Middle Way

There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: Base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: Painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata- producing vision, producing knowledge - leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding.

And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that - producing vision, producing knowledge - leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: Right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that - producing vision, producing knowledge - leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to unbinding.

He penetrates the Three Knowledges

"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of recollecting my past lives. I recollected my manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two... five, ten... fifty, a hundred, a thousand, a hundred thousand, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction and expansion: 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure & pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus I remembered my manifold past lives in their modes and details.

"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the passing away and reappearance of beings. I saw - by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human - beings passing away and re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior and superior, beautiful and ugly, fortunate and unfortunate in accordance with their kamma: 'These beings - who were endowed with bad conduct of body, speech, & mind, who reviled the noble ones, held wrong views and undertook actions under the influence of wrong views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell.

But these beings - who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech and mind, who did not revile the noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views - with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.' Thus - by means of the divine eye, purified & surpassing the human - I saw beings passing away & re-appearing, and I discerned how they are inferior & superior, beautiful & ugly, fortunate & unfortunate in accordance with their kamma.

After the Awakening…

I have heard that on one occasion, when the Blessed One was newly Awakened- staying at Uruvela by the banks of the Nerañjana River in the shade of the Bodhi tree, the tree of Awakening- he sat in the shade of the Bodhi tree for seven days in one session, sensitive to the bliss of release. At the end of seven days, after emerging from that concentration, in the third watch of the night, he gave close attention to dependent co-arising in forward and reverse order, thus:From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications. From fabrications as a requisite condition comes consciousness. From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-and-form. From name-and-form as a requisite condition come the six sense media. From the six sense media as a requisite condition comes contact. From contact as a requisite condition comes feeling.

From feeling as a requisite condition comes craving. From craving as a requisite condition comes clinging/sustenance. From clinging/sustenance as a requisite condition comes becoming. From becoming as a requisite condition comes birth. From birth as a requisite condition, then old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, and despair come into play. Such is the origination of this entire mass of stress and suffering.

His teachings, always practical, include lessons in basic good manners.

"And how is a monk one with a sense of social gatherings? There is the case where a monk knows his social gathering: 'This is a social gathering of noble warriors; this, a social gathering of priests; this, a social gathering of householders; this, a social gathering of contemplatives; here one should approach them in this way, stand in this way, act in this way, sit in this way, speak in this way, stay silent in this way.'

If he didn't know his social gathering- 'This is a social gathering of noble warriors; this, a social gathering of priests; this, a social gathering of householders; this, a social gathering of contemplatives; here one should approach them in this way, stand in this way, act in this way, sit in this way, speak in this way, stay silent in this way' - he wouldn't be said to be one with a sense of social gatherings. So it's because he does know his social gathering - 'This is a social gathering of noble warriors; this, a social gathering of priests; this, a social gathering of householders; this, a social gathering of contemplatives; here one should approach them in this way, stand in this way, act in this way, sit in this way, speak in this way, stay silent in this way' - that he is said to be one with a sense of social gatherings.

This is one with a sense of Dhamma, a sense of meaning, a sense of himself, a sense of moderation, a sense of time, & a sense of social gatherings.""There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support (mental object). This, just this, is the end of stress (dukkha)."

As he was sitting there, Arahath Moggallana said to Ven. Ananda: "Master Ananda, is there any one monk endowed in each and every way with the qualities with which the Gotama - worthy & rightly self-awakened - was endowed?"

"No, brahmin, there isn't any one monk endowed in each and every way with the qualities with which the Blessed One - worthy and rightly self-awakened - was endowed. For the Blessed One was the arouser of the unarisen path, the begetter of the unbegotten path, the expounder of the unexpounded path, the knower of the path, the expert with regard to the path, adept at the path. And now his disciples follow the path and become endowed with it after him."

Lessons on the Value of Generosity

"And what is the treasure of generosity? There is the case of a disciple of the noble ones, his awareness cleansed of the stain of stinginess, living at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms. This is called the treasure of generosity."

"And what is the treasure of virtue? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking life, abstains from stealing, abstains from illicit sexual conduct, abstains from lying, abstains from taking intoxicants that cause heedlessness. This, monks, is called the treasure of virtue.

...on the fruits of virtuous conduct,With mind rightly directed,

speaking right speech,doing right deeds with the body: a person here of much learning,a doer of merit here in this life so short,at the break-up of the body,discerning,reappears in heaven."

"There is the case where a person, being subject himself to aging, realizing the drawbacks of what is subject to aging, seeks the unaging, unsurpassed rest from the yoke: Unbinding. Being subject himself to illness, realizing the drawbacks of what is subject to illness, he seeks the unailing, unsurpassed rest from the yoke: Unbinding. Being subject himself to death, realizing the drawbacks of what is subject to death, he seeks the undying, unsurpassed rest from the yoke: Unbinding. Being subject himself to defilement, realizing the drawbacks of what is subject to defilement, he seeks the undefiled, unsurpassed rest from the yoke: Unbinding."

"Having seen the drawback of sensual pleasures, I pursued that theme; having understood the reward of renunciation, I familiarized myself with it. My heart leaped up at renunciation, grew confident, steadfast and firm, seeing it as peace. Then, quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation."

"Bhikkhus, it is through not realizing, through not penetrating the Four Noble Truths that this long course of birth and death has been passed through and undergone by me as well as by you. What are these four? They are the noble truth of Dukkha; the noble truth of the origin of Dukkha; the noble truth of the cessation of Dukkha; and the noble truth of the way to the cessation of Dukkha. But now, bhikkhus, that these have been realized and penetrated, cut off is the craving for existence, destroyed is that which leads to renewed becoming, and there is no fresh becoming..."

Courtesy Access to Insight






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J4.09  The Buddha who guided us to inner peace

Ven. Horowpothane Sathindriya Thera

Samadhi Buddhist Meditation Centre, Campbellfield - Victoria, Australia.

VESAK: All over the world people talk about peace. It is a burning issue in our society.

Though most people prefer to live in a peaceful atmosphere and an untroubled environment, some unwise and uncivilized citizens, leaders, politicians and their henchmen create terrible fear and danger within our global society.

Even though innumerable peace efforts have been made forums, conferences, meetings and endless negotiations, there are no signs or gestures to console or comfort ourselves by achieving this so called peace.

Nuclear and Bio chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction and many other sophisticated armaments have become a major topic and an issue globally for several decades. Both openly and secretively, some countries deal with certain other countries and certain groups to destroy human beings.

Due to this, the value of mankind has become worthless, respect for humanity has trivially been disappearing, human inner qualities, ethics and virtues have been dramatically undermining and eroding for money and power in our human society today.

These changes have transformed our society into violence and conflict. The culture of violence catastrophically escalates, multiplies and intensifies while culture of peace pessimistically and hopelessly disappears.

It is disgraceful and contemptible that in the name of peace, hypocritical and insincere members of our human family incite and encourage unacceptable anarchy to achieve their own personal hidden agendas.

Honesty, sincerity and veracity should be present in one's mind to achieve true peace. The Supreme teacher the Buddha, 2551 years ago very precisely emphasized the way and the perfect path to practice to achieve lasting peace in many discourses, during his forty five years ministry.

Once the Buddha said: "Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world; by non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is an eternal Law."

According to these words of the Blessed One, we can understand the key reason and main cause of never ending and irresolvable violence and conflict which have been destroying many innocent lives and shelters for many years.

Negotiations and so called peace talks have not yet contributed any element or ingredient to reduce violence and achieve peace. They have all become lip services. Greed for power and money are the foremost hidden agendas and aspirations in the minds of most envoys, delegates and politicians in our global society, today.

While preaching soothing words for the unwise by paraphrasing the Buddha's and other religious Masters' words, those who claim to be as Buddhists, Christians and so on, the power and money hungry people openly and blatantly violate the basic principles and guidelines, which the Blessed One and foundering fathers of other religions compassionately advised us to follow and practise to achieve peace, harmony and unity in this life.

The Buddha clearly described the advantages of cultivating wholesome qualities and the disadvantages of practising unwholesome qualities.

As a virtuous and righteous person, one should reflect on one's conduct and behaviour to ensure whether it is beneficial for oneself and for others. It is important to note, certain deeds, although may be beneficial for oneself, could be detrimental to others and therefore, should be avoided, if this remarkable advice of the Buddha is followed no one will suffer in the name of violence and conflict.

Lack of sublime qualities such as loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic - joy and equanimity in some humans, have caused cruel activities and violence to worsen and intensify.

Though many religionists boast of their own dogmas and credos the dearth of their spiritual practice along with their followers has resulted in the decline of spiritual advancement. Inability to manage one's anger, incapability to share resources with others, violation of human rights and craving for equal opportunities are visible and ostensible facts which result from lack of sublime qualities.

As a true peacemaker who achieved the incomparable and remarkable innermost peace called Nibbana, The Buddha has tremendously emphasised the way to practise metta (loving kindness) to attain inner peace, as well as creating a fearless environment for others.

The Blessed One has clearly taught us that the paramount cause and the driving force is craving which builds and fosters turmoil and chaos within oneself that could explode verbally and physically.

In the Dhammapada, the Buddha profoundly explains thus:

"Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts, suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox."

Even though these sterling words are more than 2550 years old, they are greatly accepted and followed by the wise and are practical and realistic, even today.

In His profound teachings, the Four Sublime qualities - (Brahma Viharas) are the key factors which one should cultivate and develop within oneself and spread throughout our global society to achieve inner peace and tranquillity.

The Four Sublime qualities (Brahma viharas) are:

Metta - Universal friendliness or loving kindness.

Karuna - Compassion.

Mudita - Sympathetic-joy or rejoicing for others welfare, prosperity, success and progress.

Upekkha - Indiscrimination, equanimity, impartiality and see things as they are with unshaken mind.

If whoever is aware of and accepts the Law of Kamma, he will never allow for any unwholesome thought to implant and perpetrate into words and deeds.

The Blessed One discovered and established an incomparable and unsurpassed path of purification which can be tread, experienced and attained by the wise; those who are able to train and tame their mind by observing and investigating their own hidden tendencies and ulterior motives are called wise.

This is the only way to eradicate violence and to achieve true peace. Once the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Shri Jawaharlal Nehru said: "Peace is not a relationship of nation. It is condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people."

Pandit Shri Jawaharlal Nehru has modestly asserted and proudly stated that the only path to achieve peace is the Buddha's path of purification many times during his tenure as a Prime Minister.

Pandit Shri Jawaharlal Nehru has modestly asserted and proudly stated that the only path to achieve peace is the Buddha's path of purification many times during his tenure as a Prime Minister.

Let me quote the words of Pandit Nehru again.

"If we follow the principles

Enunciated by the Buddha

We will ultimately win

Peace and tranquillity for the world."

It is also commendable that A. T. Ariyaratne, well renowned leader of Sarvodaya Movement, has been guiding and persuading people to approach and achieve peace by cultivating and practising metta - loving kindness.

He is a good living example to everyone who teaches how to achieve real inner peace, not only by preaching but also by cultivating and practising. This is always admired and highly appreciated by the wise.

According to Buddha Dhamma, what you sow you may reap. Every time one gets angry at anyone under any circumstance, that person creates unwholesome kamma and definitely consequences will be dangerous and he will create unhappiness among others too. But, on the other hand, if one concentrates on putting his own mind at peace by cultivating patience he will experience peace then and there and in future too.

This is the only way how we can spread peace. First one has to develop ones own mind and cultivate good deeds and act accordingly and then only we can generate peace and spread peace to the whole world. When you plant the seeds of war, you get war; if you plant the seeds of peace, you get peace.

"He is truly virtuous, wise and righteous, who neither for his own sake nor for the sake of another (does any wrong), who does crave for sons, wealth, or kingdom, and does not desire his own success by unjust means."

(By the Supreme Master - The Buddha)

May all beings be well and happy!

May all beings be free from violence!

May all beings be at peace!

01 05 2007 - Daily News






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J4.10  Daana, principal virtue of a Bodhisatva

Sumana Saparamadu

Daana-giving, charity, Seela-self control and Bhavana-development of the mind, are the three virtues devotees Upaasaka Upaasika try to cultivate on Vesak Day. Daana and Seela are the first two mentioned in the list of 10 paaramita-principal virtues-a Bodhisatva, one aspiring to become a Buddha cultivates.

Daana is giving without any strings attached, expecting nothing in return or as a reward; nor is it giving for the sake of giving to keep-up with others, or giving because one has enough and more, be it money or materials.

The author of Loveda Sangara, a collection of didactic verse has put it so succinctly and simply the thought I have enough I will give away the rest.

Whatever is given must be given in faith daanam dadaathi saddaya, and with altruistic thoughts before, during and after the act of giving is what is expected says the Loveda Sangara. If one is of two minds before giving or if one has regrets after giving, it is not a true daana - a gift in the true sense of the word.

What should be given whether to Bhikkus or laymen? What they need most-the essentials of life. Western scholars consider food, clothing and shelter as the essentials of life. The Buddha added one more-medicaments-to the Sivu Pasa that a bhikkhu needed.

This 'Sivu-Pasa' are the essentials of life for laymen too.

The many dansalas-wayside stalls serving food and drink on Vesak Day and the day after, are a manifestation of the 'common' man's endeavour to cultivate the virtue of daana.

Men and women who have been trading on pavements and in markets, or tending their crops in fields and farms for 50 or 51 weeks of the year will take time off from work and pool their savings, and get contributions from the 'haves' to set up a dansala, serving full meals at mid-day and from sun-down.

Others will serve only tea or coffee, kiri kopi-coffee with milk says the banner near the stall, or a sago porridge near a temple or in rural area a on the route to a temple to which many devotees come on Vesak Day.

A dansala is primarily for the dugee Magee and Yaachaka - the poor, the wayfarer and the beggar, but many on their sight - seeing rounds on Vesak might will drop in at a dansala to have a snack or quench their thirst.

No one will go to sleep on an empty stomach on Vesak night or the next two or three nights. Vesak is not the time for largesse. It is the season when the small time traders and the office aides and farmers will give what they can with altruistic thoughts. "They let the big businessmen set up the pandals and give their mite and work together to feed as many as possible on Vesak Day.

The dansala has a long history. The Mahavamsa records that king Dutu Gemunu set up permanent daana sala in 18 places to provide "medicine and food as prescribed by physicians for the sick." There are records of other kings who set up daana sala. Queen Leelawathi who ruled the country from Polonnaruwa in the 12th century set up a daana sala in Anuradhapura for the benefit of pilgrims.

The daana sala was a feature in India in the time of the Buddha, "In some cities special halls had been built to provide food and other necessaries of life to the poor. At Benares a rich man once built six halls of Bounty. One at each of four gates, one in the middle of the city and infront the palace" (Indian Culture in the Days of the Buddha - A.P. de Zoysa). Some families had established almonries and kept them going for generations (ibid).

Abhaya Daana is another feature of the Vesak celebrations it literally means "giving release from fear" - the fear of death. Cattle consigned for slaughter, for human consumption, are bought from the owners of slaughter houses and set free on lands set apart for this purpose.

The money paid to this slaughter house has been donated by people of the area. The animals will be given away to farmers who need them and are sure to lookafter them.

01 05 2007 - Daily News






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J4.11  The Buddha: Who He was, and what He taught

Ven. Wetara Mahinda Thera

Senior Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, University of Peradeniya

To practise Buddhism is to know oneself; to know oneself is to forget oneself - that is, to mindfully identify and observe feelings and emotions associated with undesirable thoughts and actions, without acting on preconceived judgements and prejudices, and in the light of awakening.

The path is open to everyone who is prepared to realize and follow it - there is no social discrimination among real Buddhists. By being a Buddhist one transforms one's lifestyle with a whole set of ideals established in Buddhism over a very long period of time.

This process needs proper guidance given by a highly suitable teacher or set of teachers. Among the teachers who are qualified to guide us, the Buddha is supreme, but he is no longer with us today. Instead, his Dhamma prevails, which itself is always to be conceptualized with maximum care. Teachers who can guide us are present if we very carefully choose them.

Sukho Buddanam uppado
Sukha Saddhamma desana
Sukha sanghassa samaggi
Samagganam tapo sukho

Happy is the birth of Buddhas. Happy is the teaching of the sublime Dhamma. Happy is the unity of the Sangha. Happy is the discipline of the united ones.

Buddha Vagga - The Dhammapada

Buddha is not a name given by parents, members of the family, friends, companions, relatives, supreme human being who discovered a truth formerly unknown to humankind.

It is the name for the ultimate liberation, enlightenment and perfect wisdom acquired by a supreme human being who represented an entire institution devoted to the liberation of mandkind.

The Buddha is the Enlightened One whose mental cankers are destroyed, and an enlightener who has made a magnificently powerful impact on human civilization by discovering the path to perfect spiritual freedom.

In this context, it is relevant to mention what Buddhists are. There could be three kinds of people who practise Buddhism: those who are born Buddhists and who remain culturally Buddhists; those who are born Buddhists but later transform into enlightened Buddhists by understanding message of the Buddha, and those who are not born into Buddhism but come to the practice later in life.

Thus, there is a difference between those born into Buddhism and those who become Buddhists later in life.

Those born into Buddhism may become real Buddhists after thoroughly understanding the message of the Buddha, but not all can be considered Buddhists in the strict sense of the word. Many of them are generally accustomed to confining themselves to ceremonial or cultural aspects associated with different Buddhist traditions.

He or she who becomes a real and understanding Buddhist treads along the path of the Buddha, which is called Buddhism. To become a real Buddhist, one has to realize what one in, how one's mind functions, how one has to cultivate the mind, and how one can live a contended life here in this life itself.

The Enlightened One, not having been born to a Buddhist family himself, became a Buddha after realization of himself and of the sufferings of and remedies to the mostly mind-made agonies of humankind.

However, even those who try to become Buddhists later in life may go astray and be mistakenly satisfied with some of the mystic elements associated with the Buddhist tradition from which they were inspired.

Also, those who not born Buddhists and traditional Buddhists alike often turn to books in order to learn Buddhist teachings, but become stuck on the dogma in the books and fail to understand the true qualities of Buddhism such as loving-kindness, compassion and equanimity.

Thus, they find fault with others who, in their judgement, do not practise the correct Buddhism without realizing that Buddhism is not in the dogma, but in one's spiritual practice.

Misunderstandings about the real message of the Buddha among both those born Buddhists and those who come to Buddhism later in life are quite natural and, therefore, may be numerous.

To practise Buddhism is to know oneself; to know oneself is to forget oneself - that is, to mindfully identify and observe feelings and emotions associated with undesirable thoughts and actions, without acting on preconceived judgements and prejudices, and in the light of awakening.

The path is open to everyone who is prepared to realize and follow it - there is no social discrimination among real Buddhists. By being a Buddhist one transforms one's lifestyle with a whole set of ideals established in Buddhism over a very long period of time.

This process needs proper guidance given by a highly suitable teacher or set of teachers. Among the teachers who are qualified to guide us, the Buddha is supreme, but he is no longer with us today. Instead, his Dhamma prevails, which itself is always to be conceptualized with maximum care. Teachers who can guide us are present if we very carefully choose them.

The Buddha enumerates clearly the main formula into which the program of deliverance is compressed as follows in the Four Noble Truths:

The noble truth that involves suffering
The noble truth that suffering arises from craving
The noble truth that humans can do away with suffering with the removal of craving
The noble truth that paves the way for ending of suffering.

Here the original term dukkha, generally translated into English as suffering, has a far deeper and wider meaning than the English term implies. It not only means pain and misery, but also the unsatisfactory nature at the very root of human existence, and the inadequacy lying behind all worldly achievements with their unstable, impermanent, and insecure tendencies.

The fourth of the above formula encapsulates the central themes of the entire path prescribed by the Buddha. In our mundane path, normally what we do is represent objects and events as we want them to be. Buddhism is the most natural way of life in which each of our actions - however insignificant they seem - can be integrated into The Path in an extraordinarily modern way.

According to Buddhism, one must find The Path by observing one's inner self mindfully. By getting rid of one's ego, one awakens to one's real identity -an identity that is impartial, unbiased, and unprejudiced.

A real Buddhist lives his or her own life without pre-established patterns of partiality, egocentrism and preconceived notions. Therefore, the unique life patterns of real Buddhists from the same way as the Buddha's path, the Buddhist path.

Life expresses in real Buddhists in an original and unique way. It becomes a tremendously different yet, at the same time, an inexplicably simple and unassumingly noble life. A life on The Path is a life which amalgamates one's existing individual mentality with an originally constructed vision and outlook.

There is creativity in the life, where imitation has no value. There is also freshness, which the outer world can never give. There is complete transformation, which ordinary words cannot express. There is supreme bliss, which an inexperienced individual is unable to perceive.

In other words, the path explained above can be described as a character formation. A character based on principles, which the Buddha himself discovered through personal experience and which gives "vision and knowledge and leads to calm, insight and Enlightenment."

This path, therefore, brings about a growth of one's character by means of an inner transformation. In doctrinal terms, the path is described as The Middle Path, which is referred to as the Noble or the Sublime Eight-fold Path because it is composed of eight categories or divisions, namely:

1. Appropriate perspective
2. Appropriate aspiration
3. Appropriate speech
4. Appropriate action
5. Appropriate lifestyle
6. Appropriate effort
7. Appropriate mindfulness
8. Appropriate concentration

Most of us assume that knowing how we feel is confined to knowing what we plan and what we achieve, etc. But do we really know how we feel? Most of us are lost when it comes to attentively recognizing our own feelings and emotions. Recognizing feelings patiently and, indeed, mindfully, is challenging. Feeling can appear in many ways - as egoistic selfishness, as greed or as deceit. Feelings can change our lives, our institutions and our social spectra for the worse.

For example, if a woman sees her friend's boyfriend or husband buying nice things for his girlfriend or wife, she then feels jealous and envious and makes similar requests of her boyfriend or husband, making him feel helpless. Or if a fellow at work has just received a promotion, we may become upset because we felt we deserved it more.

When we keep these angry feelings to ourselves, they fester and burn within, causing stress, resentment, anger, jealousy and even depression. In short, these feelings can make us more complicated and even ruin our lives, as well as the lives of others that come in contact with us.

Generally, the feelings we are not comfortable with can disguise themselves as emotions we are easily able to cope with. Finally these feelings can transform themselves into judgments, conceit, accusations, attributions about others, as well as guilt, aversion and suicidal trends in ourselves. When we are overcome by these emotions, we become out of control, which only aggravates the situation, and can make life unbearable and miserable.

Emotions resulting from delusion, greed and hatred have nothing to do with our own identity because they cannot be labeled as African, American, Asian, Australian or European etc. We are, however, accustomed to thinking in terms of certain perspectives and are hardly prepared to change our pattern of thinking.

As humans, we cannot rid ourselves of all negative feelings but we can learn to transcend them to the best possible degree. To do this, the first step is to sincerely and introspectively examine our own mind, lifestyle, and behaviour.

Then we can come to understand the sources of unsatisfactory nature of our own life, most of which we ourselves produce. The mind that understands the root causes of unsatisfactory mental processes also teaches us how to disentangle ourselves from the above-mentioned sources.

Only when mindful awareness is there can we clearly pave the way for shedding a negative mentality.

Freedom from ego can be found there, genuine selflessness is there, equanimity is there, the active process of purifying the mind is there, the Path of Enlightenment is there. Among the founders of religions, the Buddha was the only teacher who did not claim to be born other than an ordinary human being, who later, with Enlightenment, became supra ordinary.

On top of that, he did not claim any inspiration from a higher power. He attributed all his realisation, attainments, and achievements solely to human endeavour, human intelligence, and human experience. The position of humans on earth is unique and supreme in the teachings of the Buddha.

Humans are their own masters and there is no external higher being or power that sits in judgment over human destiny, according to the Buddha. The Buddha taught human-kind about self reliance associated with gaining salvation, without leaning on any external authority. He also stressed the necessity of inquiry and investigation even into His teaching itself. He addressed most of the universal problems humankind is eternally facing.

He created an order of monk-followers completely disregarding their distinctions of social class, status, caste, region and gender to be able to bring forth his message for the benefit and welfare of the many.

He set guidelines for true moral principles, separating them from existing communal customs and social norms and above all else, he established a clear path to spiritual perfection and has implanted a firm, magnificent, illuminating image in the minds of the Buddhists all over the world.

The Buddha's own example highlights for us, the Buddhist followers, that we should be ashamed if we are not able to give priority to the quest for our own liberation and enlightenment above a wider range of values to which we attach importance in our lives.

Aspirant Buddha left all his belongings, and his beloved ones. He left the most venerated teachers, left the companions who sought deliverance together with him at different points of his life.

Above all, he gave up, unhesitatingly, the practices, norms, and views adopted by himself on many occasions in his quest for a truth acceptable to him as an investigator, truth-seeker, free thinker, man of vision, and a man of wisdom.

As his followers, why not make even the smallest attempt to give up some of our so-called valuable time, which we set apart for the thousand and one activities in our day to day life, and develop a view to understanding the Middle Path - a path that is so easily accessible, so clearly described, so reasonably comprehensible, so acceptable to inquiry, and so definitely achievable.

(The article has been adapted from a talk originally delivered by the writer on the occasion of Vesak, May 2005, to the congregation of the Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara, Michigan, USA.)

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J4.12  Extinguish the fires of greed; globe will be less warm

Ven Bhikkhu Nyanatusita

"Everything is burning," said the Buddha in one of his first discourses. He continued by explaining that the world of the senses is burning with the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion.

Now, when the effects of global warming are becoming apparent in many parts of the world, this statement of the Buddha may also be taken in a more literal and material sense: the world's atmosphere is rapidly heating up due to greed-driven human activity.

The internal and external reflect each other, so, in one sense, it is not surprising that modern people, burning with inner greed, hatred, and delusion, are heating up the external atmosphere through their actions.

Global warming is a concept that denotes the temperature increase in the earth's atmosphere due to the huge amounts of carbon dioxide emitted by human activity, mostly through the inconsiderate combustion of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal.

Although climate scientists have been warning against the potentially disastrous effects of global warming for four decades, no large-scale counter-measures have been taken so far. Scientists predict that global warming will cause increasingly extreme weather patterns: greater heat, greater cold, stronger wind, more or less rain.

The increasing warmer temperatures are causing the ice caps in the North and South Poles to melt, which results in rising sea levels.

A recent research project that analyzed trapped air in the Antarctic ice core concluded that the present levels of CO2 are the highest in 600,000 years, the furthest they could go back, that the fastest increase during that period was during the last seventeen years, and that a similar hike in CO2 levels has never happened in less than a thousand year period up to now.

One of the researchers involved said that there is nothing in the ice core that gives us any reason for comfort and that changes of CO2 levels in the past have always been accompanied by climate change.

Although sceptics, often financially sponsored by US oil companies such as Exxon, try to cast doubt on the fact that human activity is responsible for global warming, suggesting that it could be a natural occurrence, leading climate scientists and political figures such as Al Gore and Tony Blair connect global warming to the ever increasing combustion of fossil fuels.

The recent UN report on global warming also puts the blame on human activity with great certainty. Global warming is a global problem in the sense that it is caused globally and effects globally. The emission of CO2 in one area of the world will have effects on the climate everywhere.

Thus, even if the emission of CO2 is reduced in Europe, the great increase of CO2 emissions in rapidly developing countries such as India or China will cause this reduction to have no effect.

At the end October, the Prime Minister of Britain, Tony Blair, said that the world was facing "nothing more serious, more urgent, or more demanding of leadership" than climate change. Speaking at the launching of a major economic report commissioned by the British Treasury, Blair said there was "overwhelming scientific evidence" that climate change was taking place and that the consequences of failing to act would be "disastrous."

According to the report, "Our actions over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century."

The former US vice-president Al Gore made the Oscar-award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth on global warming. He convincingly argues that it is ethically unjustifiable to evade this issue any longer, especially if one wishes a future for one's children, and that drastic action needs to be taken now.

A recent UN report, the Global Biodiversity Outlook, states the need for unprecedented effort to slow down the decline in the richness of natural systems throughout the world. More species of animals and plants are becoming extinct now than at any time since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

And this is all due to human activity. Eventually, the misuse of modern technology might cause our natural environment to collapse in such a way it can not support people anymore.

Last year, I had first-hand experience of the effects of global warming when visiting Europe. When I grew up in the Netherlands, it was a cool and drizzly country even in summer.

However, when I was there at the end of June, a tropical heat wave started to envelope the whole of Northern Europe, and in some areas temperatures soared above 35øc. These extreme heat waves were unknown in Northern Europe until a few years ago.

When the heat wave was over, unprecedented tropical rainstorms inundated streets. In Autumn the trees carried their leaves for weeks longer than they normally would have, and the first frost, which would normally already come at night by mid-October, only came late January and then only for a few days. Daffodils and other spring flowers that would normally flower in March, already started to flower in January.

As a consequence of the rising temperatures, plants, animals, fish, insects, and cattle-diseases, which would normally only be found in distant southern European areas with mild winters and warm summers, have started to appear in the Netherlands during the last few years.

Due to the warmer weather, southern creatures find conditions suitable in the north and rapidly move up. Another consequence of the heat waves in Europe was that yields of crops were affected, and consequently the prices of certain foods such as milk and bread went up. With a large part of the Netherlands being land below sea level that is only protected by dykes from the sea, Dutch government organizations are naturally taking global warming seriously.

Serious plans have been made on how to deal with drastically rising sea levels due to the melting ice-caps in the Arctic and Antarctic, and what to do when the large rivers that flow through the Netherlands overflow due to rapidly melting snow in the Alps in spring and heavy rains in summer.

In Switzerland, where I also went to visit a monastery, I was told that the glaciers on the mountains around the monastery are disappearing, and, where there previously was ice and snow on the mountains during the summer, now there is none.

Recent plans for shifting over from fossil fuels to nuclear power would increase the risk of nuclear disasters, and, besides this, the building, maintaining, and especially the decommissioning of nuclear plants and the storage of nuclear waste uses tremendous amounts of energy obtained from fossil fuels.

There is no guarantee that future societies, which might not have the same resources as we have now, will be able to handle nuclear waste left over from us. Moreover, uranium is an even more limited resource than oil, and economically viable extraction might finish within twenty years.

Alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power, are attractive alternatives, but, as these technologies don't create large-scale industries and income for governments and companies, their introduction has been slow.

The ever increasing human over-population of the world is a major contributing factor to global warming. More and more people with ever increasing demands continue to cause more and more strain on limited energy resources, which will lead to increasing political and military conflicts.

There is no need to go into more detail as there are plenty of articles on the effects of global warming in newspapers and magazines. Therefore, the rest of this essay will concentrate on the attitudes of people that are underlying causes for the problem and how the Buddha's teaching could help to resolve this dangerous situation.

Among the family and friends I talked to in the Netherlands there was a general acknowledgement that the climate is changing; however, when one touches upon the causes and results of it, then a visible uneasiness arises, and the topic is changed. For many, it is difficult to accept that human activity can change the climate.

Weather has always been something that has been considered unpredictable and uncontrollable.

In pre-modern times, and still, in traditional cultures, it was supposed that gods who controlled the weather, and the only thing that humans could do was to try to placate such gods by making offerings. With the rise of the scientific technological worldview, the consequent belief in an all-controlling god responsible for the weather vanished.

Statistical research in the Netherlands has shown that when fertilizers and pesticides first started to be used on a large scale in the 1950s, church attendance in farming communities drastically dropped because farmers no longer needed to solicit the help of God for a successful harvest.

Even then, although the weather could be predicted to a fairly accurate degree, it was not believed that humans could influence or control the weather. Now, however, it has become apparent that humans are responsible for the increasingly extreme weather patterns that are appearing in many parts of the world.

A reasonable argument for this possibility is that, if people are responsible for such drastic changes in the natural world as the holes in the ozone layer in the stratosphere, the drying up of the Aral Sea in the former USSR, and the spread of deserts in various parts of the world, then why couldn't people cause the atmosphere to heat up? Even if it dawns on people that the climate is changing, they don't see that it is caused by their lifestyles.

Because they don't seriously take into account the effects it could have on their own lives and on the lives of their children; they don't see the need to change their habits. In Buddhism this would be an aspect of the mental fire of delusion or mental blindness.

Most people don't want to think about the prospect of having to live in a world with increasingly extreme weather conditions combined with increasingly limited natural resources to compensate for the calamities-such as floods, famines, mass refugee movements, and wars-caused by it.

The Buddha, however, encouraged his followers to be realistic. He recommended reflecting on the five future dangers-old age, sickness, famine, war, and schism in the Sangha-as an impetus to put forth effort to attain Nibbana.

He warned that when there are famines and wars, there will be many refugees moving to places where there are no famine and war. These refugees will become crowded, making meditation practice hard. (AN 5:78)

The Buddha taught that all mental and physical actions are accompanied and conditioned by a certain view or attitude, what is called a ditti in Pali. People act in accordance with their views.

According to the Buddha, if one's view is wrong, the consequent actions will be unwholesome; likewise, if one's view is right, the consequent actions will be wholesome. Wholesome action leads to the well-being and happiness of oneself and others, and unwholesome action to the detriment and harm of oneself and others.

It is to be noted that, according to the Buddha, right view needs to be based on a proper understanding of his teachings. The aspect of harmlessness is an important part of right view.

Tyrants like Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, at least initially, may have sincerely believed that they were doing good, but their ideas of goodness were not founded on the qualities of harmlessness and virtue. Therefore, millions of innocent people, who were considered obstacles to the 'utopian' societies that they had in mind, were put in concentration camps and murdered.

Likewise, the creators of the atomic bomb believed that they were doing a good thing.

UNITED STATES : (FILES) 22 September, 2005 file photo shows an oil refinery on Galveston Bay in Texas City, Texas. The world’s leading climate change experts gathered in Bangkok 30 April, 2007 to thrash out a masterplan on limiting the worst impacts of global warming, but amid deep divisions over how to go about it. A report was expected to be released 04 May, 2007 will lay out ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent a climate catastrophe without seriously impacting on the global economy. AFP

Professor Peter Singer has pointed out in his book, How are we to Live?, that beneath the limitless consumerist greed that has enveloped the world, especially in America, there is the view that "greed is good."

This view has its roots in the Protestant doctrine that work is a divine calling and that wealth is a sign of divine grace. This view lies behind the manic work ethic, and the extravagance and grandiosity that characterizes American society. It also lies behind the theory of unlimited economic growth as the way to global prosperity and happiness.

However, what lies at the end of this road of economic growth? The whole of humanity living in mansions and driving Rolls Royces? A study done some years ago suggested that there were enough resources on the earth to supply all its inhabitants a modest, but comfortable, life.

However, due to an excessive and reckless consumption of these resources and their consequent exhaustion, such an ideal might never be realised.

The Calvinistic view got joined to the materialistic, scientific world-view, which, in the minds of many of its adherents, eventually promises a scientific, technological solution for any problem-a "scientific, technological salvation" in other words "a world that's fully under control."

Indeed, technological science has made life much more comfortable for many and has had many benefits, however, it has also produced disastrous inventions such as nuclear weapons. The inventors of technology often don't think about how their inventions might be abused, when limited, short-term financial and economic benefits are put ahead of long-term negative effects.

A good example of the abuse of an apparently beneficial technological invention is the combustion engine, which has led to great short-term benefits, but which is also responsible for great pollution and global warming, which might well lead to even more disastrous consequences than nuclear weapons. So far, the use of nuclear weapons has been limited due to the evident horrendous results.

In the case of global warming, although the effects seem at first unclear and slow, scientists are warning us, there will be no way it can be stopped once it has started. The carbon dioxide and methane now put into the atmosphere will not leave it for decades.

The comfortable and convenient view that technology is eventually going to solve all problems can, from the Buddhist perspective, be considered a wrong view. It is wrong in the sense that is the nature of the world to be uncontrollable.

New problems will always crop up. Due to a wrong, unrestrained use of technology, modern humanity could end up worse-off than its less technologically advanced, but perhaps more sensible and content ancestors.

It is important to reflect on the ancient Jataka story of the immature magician's apprentice who brought a dead tiger to life with a spell he had mastered, at which point the tiger devoured his saviour.

In a similar way, the abuse of technology, due to greed and deluded wrong views, could destroy humanity or a large part of it. Psychological studies have pointed out that people who are living in countries at the bottom of the scale of economic prosperity, such as the Himalayan state of Bhutan and the Pacific island of Vanuatu, are often relatively much happier than those who live in countries that are at the top, such as the USA.

Thus, ironically, it would seem that it is not the people in the richest societies who are happiest, but the ones in less affluent ones.

The main reason for this difference is that most people living in such humble countries don't have the view that happiness lies in the endless accumulation of more wealth, and that, in order to be happy, one needs to have the latest type of car, better, more expensive, and bigger than that of one's neighbours.

The perspective on life that causes such "poor" peoples' relative happiness has naturally evolved out of the need for contentment with the limited natural resources available to them. In any case, whether we want it or not, the impending oil shortages will eventually make us adapt to a simpler, more limited life-style.

The Buddha encouraged contentment and simplicity. His teaching goes against the worldly stream of craving. In contrast to the belief that happiness lies in getting more, the Buddha said, "contentment is the greatest wealth." In Asia, where most Buddhists live, people are thoughtlessly embracing Western consumerist lifestyles.

For example, the rich buy luxurious off-road vehicles. Just as in the West, these SUV vehicles are rarely employed for their actual purpose, and, besides showing off, are mostly used for going shopping and taking children to school. A coalition of Christian and environmental groups in the USA recently launched a campaign to reduce fuel consumption with the motto "What would Jesus drive?"

Buddhist leaders should also encourage their followers to live simple, less environmentally abusive life-styles.

The threat of Christian missionaries is a popular topic among Buddhist leaders in Asia, however, global warming and the widespread destruction and pollution of the environment due to thoughtless consumerism is relatively much more of a threat to Buddhism, and should become a major issue for Buddhist leaders.

It is an irony that conversion to Christian doctrine is paid so much attention to, while the popular adaptation by Buddhists of the destructive, hedonistic, consumerist lifestyle that is a result of Christian doctrine and other wrong views is not criticized.

NEPAL: Nepalese labourers ride in a truck past a smoking brick kiln at Lubu on the outskirts of Kathmandu, 30 April 2007. The world’s leading climate change experts are gathering in Bangkok to thrash out a masterplan on limiting the worst impacts of global warming, but amid deep divisions over how to go about it. At least 400 scientists and experts from about 120 countries are attending the week-long third session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s leading authority on global warming. AFP

The Buddha encouraged a simple, frugal, and contented lifestyle as being conducive to happiness: "One should be ... contented and easy to support, ... having a frugal lifestyle ...'' (Sn 144) The wise King Asoka gave similar advice in his third Rock Edict: "... moderation in expenditure and moderation in possessions are good."

Qualities such as moderation and frugality do not entail the foregoing of all comfort and happiness, but entail the simplification of one's lifestyle, the development of a sense of responsibility, and an awareness about the consequences of one's lifestyle.

Because Buddhist laypeople don't identify themselves with the Buddha in the same way that Christians do with Jesus, it would be difficult to imagine a campaign with the motto, "What would the Buddha drive?" Nevertheless, the timeless teachings of the Buddha are all about the extinguishing of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion.

They are actual and modern in encouraging people to live in a frugal and contented manner in harmony with society and nature.

If people can be convinced that their wrong views towards life are fundamentally destructive to themselves and others and that simplicity and contentment are the greatest wealth, they will accept more responsible, harmless and wholesome ways of life. Hopefully, this will help prevent the climate from changing for the worse.

(The writer was born in the Netherlands in 1967 and became a novice in the forest tradition of Sri Lanka in 1991, receiving the full acceptance into the Sangha in 1993. He has stayed in forest monasteries in Sri Lanka, Australia, England, and Thailand. In 2005 he accepted the position of English editor of the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy.)

01 05 2007 - Daily News






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J4.13  The Buddha's teaching and the origin of life

Daya Sirisena

President, Board of Trustees, Sirisena Dharma Mandiraya, Meditation Centre, Moratuwa

The Gautama Buddha did not give any specific teaching regarding the origin of the universe or of life, the question was said to be unanswerable from the level of ordinary mundane, intelligence.

The Buddha explains "The origin of beings revolving in Samsara (Life Cycle) being cloaked by Avijja (ignorance) is undiscoverable.

At the same time it is laid down as a natural consequence of the law of Dependant Origination, (paticca-samuppada) that in the ceaseless cycle of cause and effect there cannot be any link in the sequence that can be designated a first cause.

Each effect in its turn becomes a cause and beginning is nowhere apparent, it is a closed circle of related conditions, each factor being dependant on the presiding ones.

When it is said the world cycles or world periods known in Buddhism as Kappas are of immeasurable duration, it must be remembered that all time concepts are relative, we measure them from our own stand point in an immeasurably, vaster space context, the time context is correspondingly enlarged, so that events covering millions of years by our calculations can be measurable in terms of seconds.

The brain may reel at the concept of an infinity of space time constructions fitting into impregnating one another endlessly in all directions. But it is not entirely outside the scope of human imagination.

It figures quite largely in Buddhist thought these are infinite number (conventionally expressed as "ten thousand" or "in calculable") of world-systems and thirty one planes of existence having vast differences in time measurement, what is unthinkable is a state of non causality where neither space, time nor events have any existence.

This has to be understood by direct perception, which means bursting the bonds of relativity, and its concepts and processes.

The process is cyclic and continuous. This is why it is said in Buddhist-texts the origin of Phenomena is not discoverable and the beginning of beings obstructed by ignorance and enslave by craving is not to be found.

"Na Hethu deva Brahma va
Samsara Atathikarako
Suddhamma pavanthanthi
Hethu sambhara appaccayati"

"There is no God or Brahma
Who is the Creator of this world
Empty Phenomena roll on all
Subject to causality"

When we understand the truth there could never have been a beginning an origin out of nothingness of the universe or the life process.

It is true that the universe as we know it evolved out of the dispersed matter of previous universe, and when it passes away it remains in the form of active forces will in time give rise to another universe in exactly the same way.

The process is cyclic and continuous. This is why it is said in Buddhist-texts the origin of Phenomena is not discoverable and the beginning of beings obstructed by ignorance and enslave by craving is not to be found.

The same one universe gives rise to another through the residual energy which is continuously renewing itself that is through the principal of the indestructibility of matter.

So the life of a being gives rise to another being which is not the same in identity and without involving an unchanging permanent self that which links them is called in Buddhism "Kamma" or volitioned activity; the continuation of the causal process is called "Samsara" or the cycles of rebirths: the actuality of rebirth and existence without any unchanging principal of identity or self is called "anatta".

"Nasacho Nassa Anno" from the craddle to the grave man's personality changes. Infant, child, young person, old then the death. All link, same but not the same in actual sense, but accumulated tendencies or habit formations continue with the new life and continue, that is why the Buddha explains that the Samsara is long and hazardous.

2551 years ago Gauthama Sammaasambuddha discovered a incomparable doctrine to mankind all who could benefit by his teachings for 45 years from the re-sermon in Migadaya Baranesa to the five ascetic to the last exoration before the parinirvana it is one them, them of liberation to mankind. Today signifies the Birth, Enlightenment, Parinirvana of Gauthama Sammasambuddha.

His voice speaks to us clearly today as ever did 2551 years ago not only through his teachings preserved over centuries, but through the discoveries of Modern Science. May all living beings be happy and content.!

01 05 2007 - Daily News






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J4.14  Buddha's analysis of King Kosala's dreams

King Kosala who had sixteen unusual dreams sought an explanation from the Buddha

Here are a selected few. 

Q: I dreamt of four black bulls coming from four different directions to the royal courtyard preparing for a fight, drawing a crowd who were subsequently disappointed by the quiet departure of the bulls.

Buddha: It will come to pass when kings and their subjects backslide and become perverse and unrighteous. There shall be drought and famine in the land. At the sign of an imminent storm, women folk would rush to carry sun-dried rice and crops indoors and the men will go forth to raise the embankments. Just like the bulls in your dream fought not, there shall be only thunder and lightening but no rain.

Q: I dreamt of men unyoking strong and sturdy oxen and replacing them with young steers unequal to the task, which refused to pull the cart-load and so stood quite still.

Buddha: It will come to pass when unrighteous kings disrespectful of the elderly, wise and learned advisors well experienced in state matters and worldly affairs, appoint young and incompetent fools instead to enforce the rule of law of government. The state's business will get muddled and the fools incapable of shouldering the burden will throw off the office. The elderly and the worldly wise having being ignored become indignant for being passed over, remain aloof and disinterested while the kings face ruin - just like the ox-cart in your dream not moving anywhere.

Q: I dreamtt of a horse with a mouth on either side and eating fodder when fed from both ends.

Buddha: It will come to pass when foolish and unrighteous kings shall appoint greedy judges to preside at judgement. Bribery and corruption shall be the order of the day; just like the horse in your dream eating fodder with two mouths at the same time.

Q: I dreamt of rice boiling in a pot without getting cooked. It was part sodden, part hard and raw and part cooked.

Buddha: It will come to pass when kings become unrighteous all the people including the pious ones around them become likewise. The degeneration will even infect the air and affect the tree spirits, to whom the people make offerings. The ill winds that blow recklessly across the kingdom, will even shake the heavenly abodes and anger the spirits dwelling there. Rain shall not fall. Even if it should fall, it will fall unevenly and at wrong places. Just so the life giving rain is like the pot of unevenly cooked rice in your dream.

Q: I dreamt of a village crow known for its great mischief being escorted by many birds of golden plumage.

Buddha: It will come to pass in the reign of kings who are weak, ignorant, cowardly and afraid of being deposed, that they will appoint henchmen to positions of power and downgrade the nobles to 'yes men' of the upstarts, just like the crow in your dream having royal escorts.

(Maha Supina Jataka)






Personalities History

Articles Index

J4.15  The Buddhist Way of Life

Report of the Sinhala Commission (Part - II) Chapter 8

The Buddhist way of life is based on the Dhamma. The Dhamma takes its stance on a self-evident truth, which any person can see, through direct experiential knowledge. That is, that in this world everything is impermanent. Whether it be material or immaterial, inanimate or animate, from the nucleus of the atom (with its subatomic particles and quarks in the physical universe) to the mighty galaxies in space, everything is subject to change and is in a state of flux. The vegetation and trees and shrubs of this planet and psychophysical complex of living beings are all subject to this law of change. Nothing is permanent.

The human being which is a psycho-physical complex is subject to this natural law of impermanence or change. The Buddhist term for this is Anicca and the process is Sansara. The human being clinging to the wrong belief he has a permanent entity called variously a soul or ego or identity or self or atta, placed in this changing environment and subject to it, finds life unsatisfactory and suffers in consequence. This Truth (unsatisfactoriness or suffering) Dukkha which the Buddha realised, he formulated as a Noble truth, because it can be seen by direct knowledge by anyone so minded. He formulated three other Noble Truths known as the cause of unsatisfactoriness or suffering, that this suffering can be overcome and the means or method adapted to overcome it. We do not intend to go in to all this here. Those interested can do so by studying Buddha's teachings.

"Some prefer to call the teaching of the Buddha a religion, others call it a philosophy, still others think of it as both religion and philosophy. It may, however, be more correct to call it a Righteous way of life leading to Transcendence and ultimate Nirvana. But that does not mean that Buddhism is nothing more than an ethical code. Far from it, it is a way of moral, spiritual and intellectual training leading to complete freedom of mind. The Buddha himself called his teaching 'Dhamma-Vinaya', the Doctrine and the Discipline. But Buddhism in the strictest sense of the word, cannot be called a religion, for if by religion is meant action or conduct indicating belief in, reverence for, and desire to please, a divine ruling power, the exercise or practice of rites or observances implying this recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, as being entitled to obedience, reverence and worship "Buddhism is certainly not such a religion" (1) In the Buddhist way of life there is no place for a divine ruling power to whom obedience or reverence is due.

In Buddhist thought, there is no awareness or conviction of the existence of a Creator of any form who rewards and punishes the good and ill deeds of the creatures of his "creation"

"In Buddhist thought, there is no awareness or conviction of the existence of a Creator of any form who rewards and punishes the good and ill deeds of the creatures of his "creation". A Buddhist takes refuge in the Buddha but not in the hope that he will be saved by the Master. There is no such guarantor. The Buddha is only a teacher who points out the way and guides the followers to their individual deliverance (2)

Buddhism which draws attention to anicca and dukkha (impermanence and suffering- unsatisfactoriness) was not new to the people of India. Great English poets, like Shakespeare and Shelley have drawn attention to impermanence and the unsatisfactory nature of human life. But what baffled Indian thinkers and all Westerners who believe in a unchanging self or soul or ego is the Buddha's doctrine of anatta (No self). They are so steeped in the belief of a self that when Buddha denied it and discoursed against it, it was a real shock to them, and they were up in arms to safeguard the long standing and central conception of their religion and philosophy-Self Atman. Theistic religions refuse to accept the doctrine of Anatta (No Self). To do so would result in a paradigmatic shift in their world view and a collapse of the religious beliefs of their followers. Modern day existential philosophers are in the same predicament and can find no suitable answers to the problem. As Walpola Rahula explains Anatta...."there is no permanent 'I' or 'Mine' in the form of a self or soul in this psycho-physical process. There is a seeing, a feeling, an experiencing but not an unchanging never-ending self or soul behind the scene. That is all". There is no observer only, observation.

"The distinguishing characteristic of Buddhism was that it started a new line, that it looked at the deepest questions men have to solve from an entirely different standpoint. It swept away from the field of its vision the whole of the great Soul-Theory which had so completely filled and dominated the minds of the superstitious and of the thoughtful alike. For the first time in the history of the world, it proclaimed a salvation which each man could gain for himself, and by himself, in this world during this life, without any the least reference to God, or to Gods, either great or small.

"Like the Upanishads, it placed the first importance on knowledge; but it was no longer a knowledge of God, it was a clear perception of the real nature, as they supposed it to be, of men and things. And it added to the necessity of knowledge, the necessity of purity, of courtesy, of uprightness,of peace, and a universal law, far reaching, grown, and beyond measure," Prof. T. W. Rhys David. The Hibbert Lectures 1881 p.28.(3)

What is meant by the Buddhist way of life could not have been expressed better than by Prof. Rhys Davids in this lecture. It is this way of life that has to be fostered and protected by the State under our Constitution-Article 9.

It lays stress, as he says on knowledge leading to a clear perception of the real nature of men and things, and the necessity of purity, courtesy, of uprightness of peace and the universal law.

The Buddhist way is not for Monks only but laymen too

The Buddhist way of life as some (who have read a few books written especially by Westerners) seem to think, is not meant only for monks in monasteries or temples but specially for ordinary men and women living at home with their families. The Noble Eightfold Path, which is the Buddhist way of life, is meant for all, without distinction of any kind.

The vast majority of people in the world cannot turn monk or retire into caves or forests. However, noble and pure Buddhism may be, it would be useless to the masses of mankind if they could not follow it in their daily life in the world of today. But if you understand the spirit of Buddhism correctly (and not only its letter) you can surely follow and practice it while living the life of an ordinary man.

There are no external rites or ceremonies which a Buddhist has to perform. Buddhism is a way of life, and what is essential is following the Noble Eightfold Path.

Those who think that Buddhism is interested only in lofty ideals, high moral and philosophical thought, and that it ignores the social and economic welfare of people, are wrong. The Buddha was interested in the happiness of men. To him happiness was not possible without leading a pure life based on moral and spiritual principles. But he knew that leading such a life was hard in unfavourable material and social conditions.

Buddhism does not consider material welfare as an end in itself: it is only a means to an end - higher and noble end.

But it is a means which is indispensable, indispensable in achieving a higher purpose for man's happiness. So Buddhism recognises the need of certain minimum material conditions favourable to spiritual success".

'Buddhism aims at creating a society where the struggle for power is renounced; where calm and peace prevail away from conquest and defeat; where the persecution of the innocent is vehemently denounced, where one who conquers oneself is more respected than those who conquer millions by military and economic warfare; where hatred is conquered by kindness, and evil by goodness; where enmity, jealousy, ill-will and greed do not infect man's minds; where compassion is the driving force of action; where all including the least of living things, are treated with fairness, consideration and care; where life in peace and harmony in a world of material contentment, is directed towards the highest and noblest aim, the realization of the ultimate truth Nibbana".

This is the kind of society the Buddhist way of life leads to. But those who have adopted this way of life are obstructed by people who have greed and lust for power. It is thus the duty of all Buddhists and the State to neutralize such obstruction and protect the Buddhist Public.

The Need for Right Views

To follow the Buddhist way of life as Rev. Walpola Rahula says is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path. The first and most important step in this path is to have Right Understanding or Right View (Samma Ditti) and not wrong views (Michcha Ditti). All creeds that accept the belief the world and man was created by a God or Creator do not have right views but indeed wrong views. But there could be degrees of wrong views but still they are all wrong views. Buddhism does not accept a first Cause but according to it phenomena are without beginning and arise due to many causes and conditions. Belief in God is a mere belief and a blind unquestioning faith is necessary to accept it. These are wrong views as they cannot be tested or experientially known or realised. But are accepted because some one said so and is now in 'Sacred books'.

'One who seeks the truth is not satisfied with surface knowledge, with a mere external appearance of things, but wants to delve deep and see what is beyond the reach of the naked eye. That is the sort of search encouraged in Buddhism, for it leads to right understanding. The man of analysis starts a thing after resolving it into various qualities, which he puts in proper order, making everything plain. He does not state things unitarily, looking at them as a whole, but divides them up according to their outstanding features so that the conventional and highest truth can be understood unmixed.

It is through right understanding and realisation that one sees cause and effect, the arising and ceasing of all conditioned things. The truth of the Dhamma can only be grasped in that way, and not through blind belief, wrong view, speculation or even by abstract philosophy.

The Buddhist way of life is unique among the religions of the world in that it has no place in it for blind faith or devotion. Such blind faith will only lead one astray and the only beneficiary is the one who wants one to follow such guide. Such guides comein various forms and make use of various blandishments with the wealth in their hands.

Right understanding is of two kinds, mundane and supramundane. That is the ordinary worldling's knowledge and the supramundane knowledge of the wise ones.

Ditthi is view or belief, the attachment to a certain way of thinking. The type of personal gain or power and influence aspired to are decided by ways of thinking. When there is the view that a certain condition is desirable and will provide true happiness, craving for personal gain is biased toward that end.

The direction of society is decided by ditthi. A sense of value of any given thing, either on an individual or social basis, is ditthi. With this ditthi as a basis, there follow the actions to realise the object of desire. Peoples' behaviour will be influenced accordingly. For example, with the belief that happiness is to be found in the abundance of material goods, our action and understandings will tend to this end. This is a wrong view, thus the understandings resulting from it will also be wrong. All attempts at so called progress will be misguided and problem ridden. Material progress thus brings problems in its wake. It is founded on three basically wrong and harmful views.  

1. The object of human life is the pursuit of happiness - vide the U. S. Constitution,

2. That humanity must conquer nature in order to achieve well being and find true happiness,

3. That happiness is dependent on material wealth. These three views are the directors of the modern surge for progress.(10)

Guided by wrong view, everything else will be wrong. With right view, actions are guided in the right direction. This is why the Buddhist way of life stresses the need for right view and rejects wrong view. People have to be educated to find the right view and not be misled by wrong views such as that some external agency or God can be of assistance or help to overcome life's travails. One has to depend solely on oneself.

"Buddhist or non Buddhist, I have examined everyone of the great religious systems of the world, and in none of them have I found anything to surpass in beauty and comprehension, the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha. I am content to shape my life according to that Path." These are the sentiments of Professor T. W. Rhys Davids, a Westerner. We wholeheartedly agree with them. Why should born Buddhists, heirs to a great heritage therefore give up their way of life and spiritual inheritance and accept something spurious, just because it comes from the West?

It is our view, therefore, to sustain and protect the Buddhist way of life modern knowledge must be available to the people at all levels. A knowledgeable and enlightened people will never be misled by obscurantism. The State must make facilities available to the Maha Sangha to encourage its members, especially, its younger members to acquire modern scientific knowledge and ways of thought. They should also be encouraged to study comparative religion and be able to see the difference between Buddhism and the other religions and to be able to explain the difference to their sravakas and followers. We also suggest that as in ancient times and even recently the message of the Buddha be carried abroad by competent monks especially to the West so that some corrective understanding of the Dhamma will also prevail in those countries from which Christian evangelists make forays.

The New Role of the Catholic Church

The Catholic Church which had not engaged officially in conversion in the East during the last century is now poised to resume its mission of conversion that it had embarked upon in the Middle Ages. This is the result of the recent visit of the Pope to India. According to a report appearing in the "Daily News" of 9.11.99, during this visit the Pope called for the conversion of Asia to Christianity during the course of the next millennium. He is reported to have told a public mass:

"Just as the first millennium saw the Cross firmly planted in the soil of Europe, and the second in that of America and Africa, so may the third Christian millennium witness a great harvest of faith on this vast and vital continent."

He is also reported to have "outlined evangelical guidelines that unequivocally laid down conversion as the cornerstone of the Church's future activity in Asia."

While such statements would have been deplorable if made anywhere else in the world we find them particularly obnoxious when made after being welcomed as an honoured guest in an Asian country. For they display a complete disregard of and an insensitivity to the feelings of the vast number of Asians who are followers of three of the world's greatest religions, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.

The Pope has assumed there is a spiritual desert in Asia by this call. On the contrary Asia is a luxuriant spiritual field and has been so over two millennia. Asia has during this period produced great religious leaders like the Buddha, Mahavira, Nagarjuna and Sankaracharya of India and Kungfu Tse (Confucius) and Lao Tse of China. Asians have during these millennia been more than satisfied to be guided by these bright lights to lighten the darkness of ignorance around them. The Pope's call in India to plant another Cross is not to have another light to dispel the darkness of ignorance but to extinguish the prevailing lights and gather another harvest of blind faithful followers and thus increase the secular power of the Church.

These statements and this open call for conversion can only serve to fuel the fires of religious controversy. They are to be particularly deplored at a time in the world's history when what is necessary above all is religious tolerance and not religious aggression.

To openly advocate undermining the faith of adherents of other religions, which is what the Pope has done, is hardly a good augury for the maintenance of religious concord in the new millennium. We had thought that the era of religious wars was long past. Clearly we were mistaken. For what the Pope is proposing is another religious war, this time not with bullets and bayonets but by more insidious and therefore dangerous means.

In this country Buddhists have complained of the unethical conversions of Buddhists to Christianity. We now fear that, with the Pope's open call to his followers to engage in conversions "as the cornerstone of the Church's future activity in Asia," attempts will be made to convert Buddhists in this country to Christianity with increasing vigour since conversion has been declared by the Head of the Catholic Church to be the most important task of the Church in the new millennium. The Catholic Church here will have to decide whether it will attempt to implement the Papal direction and start a confrontation with the adherents of other religions and begin religious wars and conflicts here where there is today religious peace and co-existence. We therefore, call upon the Catholic hierarchy in this country to allay our fears by making a clear and unequivocal declaration that it will not attempt in any way to implement the Papal directive to convert Buddhists to Christianity. It is only in this way that the religious harmony that has so far existed in this country can continue to be maintained and fostered.

We also call upon the Government which has a duty under Article 9 of the Constitution to "protect and foster the Buddha Sasana" to take steps to ensure that Buddhism is not undermined as a result of attempts by the Catholic Church to "garner a great harvest of faith" in this country as directed by the Pope.

We demand that legislation be enacted to prohibit conversions of Buddhists by unethical and improper means like corruption, treating, bribery by offer of money, material things, jobs, educational, health and other facilities with a view to induce conversions. In particular we demand the prohibition of the conversion of any minor (persons below age of 18) or the requirement of their attendance at Church and any alleged unlawful conversion of such a nature must be subjected to an official inquiry to ensure its validity. Being alive to the danger of unethical conversions other Asian countries have already taken steps to make such conversions criminal offences. Examples are Malaysia, Nepal, the Provinces of Bihar, Orissa, Madyapradesh and Gujarat in India. We must follow suit.

The Roman Catholic Church's apology for past wrongs committed during two millennia to Jews and Muslims has been made by the Pope recently.  

The history of various religions, the report in 'The Island' of 9th March 2000, states, is marked by "intolerance, superstition, complicity with unjust powers, and assaults on the dignity and freedom of conscience, and Christians have been no exception and they are aware that all are sinners before God." Buddhism, Hinduism or Taoism are certainly not guilty of this kind of intolerance to force their belief on others.

The Church's mea culpa is it seems confined to wrongs done to Jews through the centuries and upto the holocaust and to Muslims in the Crusades and Inquisition and other Christian sects but excludes wrongs done to Buddhists, Hindus and Confucianists. We have in our Part I of the Report referred to some of the worst cruelties done to Sinhala Buddhists by Portuguese Missionaries and British Anglicans in attempting to convert them to Christianity.

Christians, Jews and Muslims all accept that God created Adam and Eve and as stated in the Old Testament Prophets have appeared on Earth from time to time to chastise and convert human beings when they stray away from God's way and commit sin. But Jews do no accept Jesus as the Son of God or God himself but regard him as a Messiah only. Muslims too do not regard Jesus as the Son of God but only as a Prophet and that Mohamed was the last Prophet. So the intolerance and cruelties committed by Christians against Jews and Muslims are due to the attempts made during these centuries to force Jews and Muslims to accept the Christian belief that Jesus was the Son of God and the Christian way of life. But they have failed to convert Jews and Muslims to their view and in spite of all intolerance never will. Accepting this fact an apology or mea culpa seems, therefore, very much in order in this more enlightened age.

But this apology or mea culpa is not being extended to Asian Non-Christians. They do not believe in a God who created the first man and woman Adam and Eve or Jesus as the Son of God.

In the circumstances, the call by the Pope to plant the Cross in Asia seems to us to be a signal to revive the spiritual aggression of nearly five centuries and once again attempt to forcibly convert Asians to Christianity and make them accept the dogmas of Christianity that Jesus was the son of God or God himself and the Messiah of the Virgin Birth. To keep the Asian masses in ignorance of the Truth makes it easier to exploit them for the benefit of predatory Western exploiters who have become wealthy at their expense. It is duty of the people of Asia and especially we here in this country to be alert and resist the new Evangelism of the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church in whatever form it comes.

We recommend therefore -

(1) that conversions by means other than preaching or expounding the truth of any religion to native born Buddhists be prohibited and banned and visited with criminal penalties.

(2) that facilities be made available in the Dhamma Schools or Pirivenas for pupil monks and lay pupils to be given a modern scientific education and knowledge of comparative religions and the history of this country.

(3) as far as it is possible for the State to encourage the dissemination of the Dhamma abroad, especially in the West.






Personalities History

Articles Index

J4.16  The Real Buddhism

 Bhikkhu Buddhadasa (Thailand)

If we open any recent book on the origins of religion, we find that there is one point on which all authors are in agreement. They agree that religion arose in the world out of fear. Primitive man feared thunder and lightning, darkness and storm, and various things about him that he was unable to understand or control. His method of avoiding the danger he saw in these phenomena was to demonstrate either humility and submission or homage and reverence, depending on which he felt was most appropriate.

Fear of nature

Later, as man's knowledge and understanding developed, this fear of the forces of nature changed into a fear of phenomena more difficult to apprehend. Religions based on deference to objects of fear such as natural phenomena, spirits and celestial beings, came to be looked down upon as unreasonable and ridiculous. And then man's fear became still more refined into a fear of suffering, suffering of the sort that cannot be alleviated by any material means. He came to fear the suffering inherent in birth, aging, pain, and death, the disappointment and hopelessness which arise out of desire, anger, and stupidity, which no amount of power or wealth can relieve. Long ago in India, a country well provided with thinkers and investigators, intelligent people dispensed with all paying of homage to supernatural beings. They started seeking instead the means of conquering birth, aging, pain, and death, the means of eliminating greed, hatred, and delusion. Out of this search arose Buddhism, a higher religion based on insight, a means of conquering birth, aging, pain, and death, a method for destroying the mental defilements. Buddhism has its origins in fear of this last kind, just as do all religions based on intelligence. The Buddha discovered how to conquer absolutely what man fears: He discovered a practical method, now called Buddhism, for eliminating suffering.

"If a man could eliminate suffering by making offerings, paying homage, and praying, there would be no one subject to suffering left in the world, because anyone at all can pay homage and pray."

Teaching of the Enlightened One

"Buddhism" means "the Teaching of the Enlightened One." A Buddha is an enlightened individual, one who knows the truth about all things, one who knows just "what is what," (knows things just as they are) and so is capable of behaving appropriately with respect to all things. Buddhism is a religion based on intelligence, science, and knowledge, whose purpose is the destruction of suffering and the source of suffering. All paying of homage to sacred objects by means of performing rites and rituals, making offerings, or praying is not Buddhism. The Buddha rejected the celestial beings, then considered by certain groups to be the creators of things, and the deities supposed to dwell, one in each star, in the sky.

Thus we find that the Buddha made such statements as these:

"Knowledge, skill, and ability are conducive to success and benefit and are auspicious omens, good in their own right, regardless of the movements of the heavenly bodies. With the benefits gained from these qualities, one will completely outstrip those foolish people who just sit making their astrological calculations." and: "If the water in rivers (such as the Ganges) could really wash away sins and suffering, then the turtles, crabs, fish and shellfish living in those sacred rivers ought by now to be freed of their sins and sufferings too." And:

"If a man could eliminate suffering by making offerings, paying homage, and praying, there would be no one subject to suffering left in the world, because anyone at all can pay homage and pray. But since people are still subject to suffering while in the very act of making obeisances, paying homage and performing rites, this is clearly not the way to gain liberation."

Understand true nature

To attain liberation, we first have to examine things closely in order to come to know and understand their true nature. Then we have to behave in a way appropriate to that true nature. This is the Buddhist teaching; this we must know and bear in mind. Buddhism has nothing to do with prostrating oneself and deferring to awesome things. It sets no store by rites and ceremonies such as making libations of holy water, or any externals whatsoever, spirits and celestial beings included. On the contrary, it depends on reason and insight. Buddhism does not demand conjecture or supposition; it demands that we act in accordance with what our own insight reveals and not take anyone else's word for anything. If someone comes and tells us something, we must not believe him without question. We must listen to his statement and examine it. Then if we find it reasonable, we may accept it provisionally and set about trying to verify it for ourselves. This is a key feature of Buddhism, which distinguishes it sharply from other world religions.

Now a religion is a many sided thing. Seen from one angle it has a certain appearance; seen from another angle, it has another. Many people look at religion from the wrong angle, and Buddhism is no exception. Different individuals looking at Buddhism with different mental attitudes are bound to get different views of it. Because each of us naturally has confidence in his own opinions, the truth for each of us coincides with our own particular understanding and point of view. Consequently, "the Truth' is not quite the same thing for different people. They all penetrate questions to varying depths, by varying methods, and with varying degrees of intelligence. A person does not recognize as true, according to his own ideas of the Truth, anything that lies beyond his own intelligence, knowledge, and understanding. And even though he may outwardly go along with other people's ideas as to what is the truth, he knows in himself that it is not the truth as he himself sees it. Each person's conception of the truth may change and develop with the day by day increase in his degree of intelligence, knowledge, and understanding, until such time as he arrives at the ultimate truth; and each of us has different ways of examining and testing before believing. So if Buddhism is viewed with differing degrees of intelligence, differing pictures of it will be seen, simply because it can be viewed from any aspect.

Practical method to liberate oneself from suffering

As we have said, Buddhism is a practical method for liberating oneself from suffering by means of coming to realize, as did the Buddha himself, the true nature of things. Now any religious text is bound to contain material which later people have found occasion to add to it, and our Tipitaka is no exception. People in later ages have added sections based on then current ideas, either in order to boost people's confidence, or out of excessive religious zeal. Regrettably even the rites and rituals which have developed and become mixed in with the religion are now accepted and recognized as Buddhism proper. Ceremonies, such as setting up trays of sweets and fruit as offerings to the "soul of the Buddha in the same way as alms-food is offered to a monk just do not fit in which Buddhist principles. Yet some groups consider this to be genuine Buddhist practice, teaching it as such and keeping to it very strictly.

Rites and ceremonies of this kind have become so numerous that they now completely obscure the real Buddhism and its original purpose. Take for example the procedure of becoming ordained a monk. There has come into existence the ceremony of making gifts to the newly ordained bhikkhu. Guests are invited to bring food and to watch proceedings, and as a result, there is much drunkenness and noise. Ceremonies are performed both at the temple and in the home. The new bhikkhu leaves the Order only a few days after having been ordained, and may become an even stronger temple hater than he was before. It must be borne in mind that there was none of this at the time of the Buddha.

It is a later development. Ordination at the time of the Buddha meant simply at that some individual, who had obtained his parent's consent, renounced home and family. He was a person who was able to close accounts at home and go off to join the Buddha and the Order of bhikkhus. On some convenient occasion he would go and be ordained, and perhaps not see his parents or family again for the rest of his life. Though some bhikkhus might go back to visit their parents again on suitable occasions, this was rare. There does exist a rule permitting a bhikkhu to go home when there is a good reason for doing so, but at the time of the Buddha this was not observed. Bhikkhus did not receive ordination with their parents in attendance, nor did they celebrate the event as a great occasion, only to leave the Sangha after just a few days, no better off than before, as commonly happens in the present day.

Not Buddhism

All this presenting of gifts to newly ordained bhikkhus, this performing of ceremonies, including all sorts of celebration, these we are foolish enough to call Buddhism! Furthermore we choose to make much of them, thinking nothing of spending all our own money, or other people's on account of them. This "Neo-Buddhism" is so widespread as to be almost universal. The Dhamma, the genuine teaching that once was paramount, has become so overlaid by ceremony that the whole objective of Buddhism has been obscured, falsified and changed. Ordination, for instance, has become a face saving gambit for young men whom people have been pointing at for never having been ordained, or a prerequisite to finding a wife (as having been a monk is considered a sign of maturity), or is done with some other kind of ulterior motive. In some places an ordination is regarded as an opportunity for collecting money, for which job there are always people on hand to help. It is one way of getting rich. Even this they call Buddhism and anyone who goes and criticizes this is considered to be ignorant of Buddhism or opposed to it.

Another example is the presentation of Kathina cloth. The Buddha's original intention was to have cloth for robes given to all the bhikkus simultaneously so that they could sew it together themselves with a minimum loss of time. If there was only one robe, it was allocated to some bhikkhu, not necessarily the most senior one, whom the group considered worthy of using that robe or in need of it, and was presented to him in the name of the entire order. The Buddha's intention was to avoid any bhikkhu having a high opinion to himself. On that day everyone, regardless of Seniority, had to humble himself and be one of the crowd. Everyone had to lend a hand cutting and sewing the cloth, boiling tree pith to make the dye, and doing whatever else was involved in getting the robes ready and finished the same day. Making the cloth into robes was a co-operative effort. That is how the Buddha intended it to be, an event not necessarily involving lay people at all. But nowadays it has become an affair involving ceremony, fun and games, loud laughter and money seeking. It is just a picnic and is devoid of all the desirable results originally intended.

Tumor in Buddhism

This sort of thing is a tumour which has developed in Buddhism and thrived. The tumour takes hundreds of different forms too numerous to name. It is a dangerous, malignant growth which by degrees has completely overlaid and obscured the good material, the real pith of Buddhism and quite disfigured it. One result of this has been the arising of many sects, some large, some insignificant, as offshoots from the original religion. Some sects have even become involved in sensuality. It is essential that we should discriminate in order to recognize what is the real, original Buddhism. We must not foolishly grasp at the outer shell, or become so attached to the various rituals and ceremonies that the real objective becomes quite lost to view. The real practice of Buddhism is based on purification of conduct by way of body and speech, followed by purification of the mind, which in its turn leads to insight and right understanding. Don't go thinking that such and such is Buddhism just because everyone says it is. The tumour has been spreading constantly since the day the Buddha passed away, expanding in all directions right up to the present day, so that it is now quite sizeable. The tumour in Buddhism must not be misidentified as Buddhism itself. It is also a wrong for people of other religions to come and point at these shameful and disgraceful growths as being Buddhism. It is unjust, because these things are not Buddhism at all; they are excrescences. Those of us interested in furthering Buddhism, whether as a foothold for all people, or for our own private well being, must know how to get hold of the true essence of Buddhism and not just grab at some worthless outgrowth.

Now even the genuine Buddhism is many sided, a fact which may lead to a false grasp of true meaning. For instance, if looked at from the point of view of a moral philosopher, Buddhism is seen to be a religion of morality. There is talk of merit and demerit, good and evil, honesty, gratitude, harmony, open-heatedness, and much more besides. The Tripitaka is full of moral teachings. Many newcomers to Buddhism approach it from this angle and are attracted to it on this account.

A more profound aspect is Buddhism as Truth, as the deep hidden truth lying below the surface and invisible to the ordinary man. To see this truth is to know intellectually the emptiness of all things; the transience, unsatisfactoriness, and non-selfhood of all things; to know intellectually the nature of suffering, of the complete elimination of suffering and of the way to attain the complete elimination of suffering; to perceive these in terms of absolute truth, the kind that never changes and which everyone ought to know. This is Buddhism as Truth.

Buddhism as a system of practice

Buddhism as Religion is Buddhism as a system of practice based on morality, concentration, and insight, and culminating in liberating insight; a system which when practised to completion enables one to break free from suffering. This is Buddhism as Religion.

Then there is Buddhism as Psychology, as it is presented to us in the third section of the Tripitaka, where the nature of the mind is described in remarkable detail. Buddhist psychology is a source of interest and astonishment to students of the mind even in the present day. It is far more detailed and profound than present day psychological knowledge.

Another aspect is Buddhism as Philosophy. Philosophical knowledge can be clearly seen by means of reasoned logical proofs but cannot be demonstrated experimentally. It contrasts with science, which is knowledge resulting from seeing something clearly, with our eyes, or through physical experimentation and proof, or even with the "inner eye" of intuition. Profound knowledge such as that of "emptiness" (impermanence) is just philosophy for a person who has not yet penetrated to the truth, and science for another who has done so, such as a fully enlightened individual, or arahant, who has seen it clearly, intuitively. Many aspects of Buddhism, in particular the Four Noble Truths, are scientific in so far as they can be verified by clear experimental proof using introspection. For anyone equipped with awareness and interested in studying and carrying out research, the cause-effect relationships are there just as in science. Buddhism is not just something obscure and vague, not just philosophy, as man made subjects are.

Some look on Buddhism as Culture. Anyone with a high regard for culture finds many aspects of Buddhist practice which are common to all cultures and also many that are characteristically Buddhist and far better and higher than anything in other cultures. 

Of all these various aspects, the one a real Buddhist ought to take most interest in is Buddhism as Religion. We ought to look on Buddhism as a direct practical method for gaining knowledge of the true nature of things, knowledge which makes it possible to give up every form of grasping and clinging, of stupidity and infatuation, and become completely independent of things. To do this is to penetrate to the essence of Buddhism. Buddhism considered in this aspect is far more useful than Buddhism considered as mere morality, or as truth which is simply profound knowledge and not really practical; and more useful than Buddhism considered as philosophy, as something to be enjoyed as an object of speculation and argument, but of no value in the giving up of the mental defilements; and certainly more useful than Buddhism considered simply as culture, as attractive behaviour, noteworthy from the sociological viewpoint.

Buddhism as an art

At the very least, everyone ought to consider Buddhism as Art, as the Art of Living - in other words, as skill and competence in being a human being, living in a way that is exemplary and praiseworthy, which so impresses others that they automatically wish to emulate it. What we have to do is to cultivate the "Three Lustres", firstly developing moral purity, then training the mind to be tranquil and steady and fit to do its job, and finally developing such an abundance of wisdom and clear insight into the nature of all things that those things are no longer able to give rise to suffering. When anyone's life has these Three Lustres, he can be considered to have fully mastered the art of living. Westerners are extremely interested in Buddhism as the Art of Living, and discuss this aspect more than any other. Penetrating so far into the real essence of Buddhism that we are able to take it as our guide to living induces spiritual good cheer and joy, dispersing depression and disillusionment. It also dispels fears, such as the fear that the complete giving up of spiritual defilements would make life dry and dreary and utterly devoid of flavour, or the fear that complete freedom from craving would make all thought and action impossible, whereas in reality a person who organizes his life in accordance with the Buddhist Art of Living is the victor over all the things about him. Regardless of whether these things be animals, people, possessions, or anything else, and regardless of whether they enter that person's consciousness by way of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind, they will enter as losers, unable to becloud, defile, or perturb him. The victory over all these things is genuine bliss.

"Buddha-Dhamma will enrapture a mind that has developed a taste for it. It can be considered an indispensable form of nourishment too. True, a person still controlled by the defilements continues to desire nourishment by way of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body and goes in search of its as suits his nature. But there is another part of him, something deeper, that does not demand that sort of nourishment. It is the free or pure element in his mind. It wishes the joy and delight of spiritual nourishment, starting with the delight that results from moral purity. It is the source of contentment for fully enlightened individuals, who possess such tranquillity of mind that defilements cannot disturb them, who possess clear insight into the true nature of all things and have no ambitions with regard to any of them. They are, so to speak, able to said down without being obliged to run here and there like those people to whom the Buddha applied the simile "smoke by night, fire by day."

"Smoke by night" refers to sleeplessness, restlessness. A sufferer from this complaint lies all night with hand on brow, planning on going after this and that, working out how to get money, how to get rich quickly and get the various things he desires. His mind is full of "smoke." All he can do is lie there until morning, when he can get up and go running off in obedience to the wishes of "smoke" he has been holding back all night. This fervent activity is what the Buddha referred to as "fire by day". These are the symptoms of a mind that has not achieved tranquillity, a mind that has been deprived of spiritual nourishment. It is a pathological hunger and thirst induced by the defilement called craving. All night long the victim represses the smoke and heat, which in the morning becomes fire, and then blazes hot inside him all day. If a person is obliged, throughout his entire life, to suppress the "smoke by night," which then becomes "fire by day", how can he ever find peace and coolness? Just visualize his condition. He endures suffering and torment all his life, from birth up until he is placed in the coffin, simply for lack of the insight that could completely extinguish that fire and smoke. To treat such a complaint one has to make use of the knowledge provided by the Buddha. The smoke and fire diminish in proportion to one's degree of understanding of the true nature of things.

Different aspects

As we have said, Buddhism has a number of different aspects or sides. Just as the same mountain when viewed from a different direction presents a different appearance, so different benefits are derived from Buddhism according to how one looks at it. Even Buddhism has its origins in fear - not the foolish fear of an ignorant person who kneels and makes obeisance to idols or strange phenomena, but a higher kind of fear, the fear of perhaps never attaining liberation from the oppression of birth, aging, pain, and death, from the various forms of suffering we experience. The real Buddhism is not books, not manuals, not word for word repetition from the Tipitaka, nor is it rites and rituals. These are not the real Buddhism. The real Buddhism is the practice by way of body, speech, and mind that will destroy the defilements, in part of completely. One need not have anything to do with books or manuals. One ought not to rely on rites and rituals, nor anything else external, including spirits and celestial beings. Rather one must be directly concerned with bodily action, speech and thought. That is, one must persevere in one's efforts to control and eliminate the defilements so that clear insight can arise. One will then be automatically capable of acting appropriately, and will be free from suffering from that moment right up to the end.

This is the real Buddhism. This is what we have to understand. Let us not go foolishly grasping at the tumour that is obscuring Buddhism, taking it for the real thing.

Daily News - 23 Oct 99 






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J4.17  Buddhism and Marriage

by Nan

Marriage seems to be written about now more frequently and honestly. I suppose a bulk of the world’s literature, in any and all languages is about love and, in the majority, singing hossanas to it, celebrating the devouring emotion that often is more lust than an enobling emotion. From love, writing seems to be moving to marriage.

Eddie Fisher has enraged his two children and his second wife Liz Taylor by publishing his autobiography I Was There.... In it he admits to being a greater lover than an actor or singer since women and what he did with them was more important and mind and time engaging than his singing.

The complete journals of Sylvia Plath are soon to be out; tormented American poet married to Ted Hughes, committing suicide in her 30s in 1963. It was assumed his infidelity drove her to put her head in the oven and turn the gas on, but his final book of poems put paid to the accusations hurled at him which he never attempted to refute. Hughes however, admitted destroying the entries she made in the months before her suicide. Maybe they were too damningly revelatory of her twisted, tortured emotions and unbalanced mind.

Buddhism and Marriage - The panel discussion at the YMBA, Borella, Sri Lanka on Sunday 17 October with Rajah Kuruppu as moderator, was on the subject Buddhism and marriage, with two panelists - a woman and a man.

The woman panelist made it out that Buddhism does play a major role in married life, or rather that it should, and if it played an important role, then a happy, harmonious marriage would result with children growing up in a healthy home environment. Thus the combination of the healthy growing environment and inherited genes would help them develop to good human beings.

She said that though the Buddha had advised on every aspect of a layman’s life, the layman had full autonomy to interpret, accept and implement the Dhamma as he saw fit. What were we expected to do and be at the least? Keep the five precepts and move further from "I will abstain from " to " I will do/be ..."

Keeping the third precept is the bedrock of a sound marriage, eliminating from the marriage all doubt, consuming jealousy, accusations and argument. She threw in the fact that refraining from adultery and indiscriminate indulgence in sex would prevent STDs and HIV AIDS, the scourge that has put paid to a certain extent sexual musical chairs and one night stands.

The fifth precept "I will refrain from mind and behaviour altering alcoholic drinks and drugs" is totally relevant to married life, in Sri Lanka particularly, where the most amount of alcohol drinking takes place. Many a man in this country imbibes too much at ill affordable expense, abuses the wife both physically and emotionally and causes havoc in the lives of the children, often scaring them psychologically for life.

A point of general discussion arose here. Did it mean we are permitted moderate intake of alcoholic drinks? Rajah Kuruppu said it could not be interpreted thus, convenient to most but not to be. The word ‘majja’ refers to an alcoholic drink of the Buddha’s time and in no way could be misused as ‘madyama’. Thus it is teetotalism to Buddhists - no middle way.

The woman panelist, Nanda Wanasundera, pointed out also that if the four Brahma Viharas (noble virtues) that the Buddha advocated are cultivated and are nurtured by both spouses in themselves, then a harmonious, happy marriage would result. Metta - loving kindness; muditha - joy in another’s good fortune; karuna - compassion and upekkha- equanimity; would definitely make for committed marriage partners and children growing up well in the correct atmosphere. Equanimity she said, should not be equated to dulling the senses. Sex, love, passion, even lust play their part admittedly very importantly, in marriage, specially in the early years, but with the cultivation of the four noble qualities, and avoidance of lobha (greed), dhosha (anger, hate) and moha (foolishness, egoism and egocentricity), the fires would die in time giving way to contentment and deep sincere affection, mutual respect and consequent growing old together.

The first precept too is relevant to marriage, since Buddhism advocates mindfulness at all times. Even in the grip of consuming desire, mindfulness would prevent unwanted pregnancy within or without marriage and thus necessitate no abortion.

Divorce was not anti-Buddhistic. The Buddha advocated moving away from the unwise, the unwholesome, the detrimental to one’s progress to the Path. Hence we deduce that incompatibles had best separate. The general looking down on divorce and the divorced is social and cultural.

Even the death of one partner in a Buddhist marriage did not shatter the other to devastation. The realization from childhood that the one certainty in life was death helped, so also the fact that all is impermanent and this life merely one in a long cycle of births and deaths.

Fire vs Cool Balm

Asoka Devendra startled all by juxtaposing marriage and the Dhamma as totally antithetical, as totally opposed to each other. While Dhamma was cool, even ice-cold, marriage was hot with fire. Thus while Buddhism was calming and a balm, marriage was an evil that inflamed one, arousing lust.

He proved his point but his proposition was not accepted by the participants. Devendra somewhat shocked and provoked discussion, achieving the objective he clearly had in mind. He said that since the one opposed the other so strongly - Dhamma and marriage - if one wanted to be a good Buddhist one had to avoid marriage. If one wanted to get to Nibbana, then marriage was taboo since it aroused passion and was a vehicle for going deeper into the kama world, thus prolonging the cycle of samsaric births. General protest had him qualifying his statement. If one wanted to get on the Path, aim wholeheartedly at attaining Nibbana, then marriage had to be avoided since it aroused passion.

In this too there was debunking . What about Visakha of Buddha’s time who lead a lay life and achieved sottapanna status. So also Anatapindika, the money man.

What about procreation of the race, of Buddhist children? Devendre pointed out no child at birth was a Buddhist, it was not a label one damped on an infant at birth.

What about the beauty, sanctity and acceptance of the institution of marriage? What about the growing old together of a man and his wife, the mutual sacrifice and grateful receiving? Passion was short lived, lust even shorter lived.

Anyone for Nibbana here and Now?

The convenor at this point stopped all in their mental tracks by posing the question "Would you accept Nibbana if it were offered you at this momenta?" Many a mundane mind and bundle of human frailty drew back in alarm. "Not now" we seemed to say. "I have so much more to do, to see, to enjoy, even to suffer."

It was decided consensually that if the Buddha Dhamma was abided by, if the advice given by the Buddha was accepted and followed, marriages would, in the majority be happy, fulfilling and produce children who would grow up useful, well balanced persons.

Sunday Island - 24 Oct 99 






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J4.18  How rebirth takes place

D. Weeraratna

How is rebirth possible without something to be reborn, without an ego, or a soul? The word 'rebirth' in this connection, is really not quite correct, but is used as a mere makeshift. What the Buddha teaches is, correctly speaking the Law of Cause and Effect working in the psychical domain. If every physical state is presided by another state as its cause, so also must this present physico-mental life be dependent upon causes anterior to our birth. This, according to Buddhism, the present life-process is the result of the craving for life in a former birth, and the craving for life in this birth is the cause of the life process that continues after death.

But, as there is nothing that persists from one moment of consciousness to the next so also no abiding element in this ever changing life process exists that can pass over from one life to another.

Nothing transmigrates from this moment to the next, nothing from one life to another. This process of continually producing and being produced may best be compared with a wave on the ocean.

Nothing transmigrates from this moment to the next, nothing from one life to another. This process of continually producing and being produced may best be compared with a wave on the ocean. In the case of a wave there is not the smallest quantity of water that actually travels over the surface of the sea. The wave-structure that seems to hasten over the surface of the water though creating the appearance of one and the same mass of water, is in reality nothing but a continued rising and falling of masses of water.


And the rising and falling is produced by the transmission of force originally generated by wind. Just so the Buddha did not teach that it is an Ego-entity, or a soul that hastens through the ocean of rebirth, but that it is really merely a life wave which, according to its nature and activities, appears here as man, there as animal, and elsewhere as an invisible being. According to the Buddha's teaching, our so-called individual existence is in reality nothing but a mere process of physical and mental phenomena, a process which since time immemorial was already going on before one's apparent birth, and which also after death will continue for immemorial periods of time. In the following we shall see that the 5 Khandas, or Groups or existence, in no way constitute any real Ego-entity, or Atta, and that no Ego-entity exists apart from them, and hence that the belief in an Ego-entity is merely an illusion.

That which we call our physical body is merely a name for a combination of manifold component parts, and in reality constitutes no Entity, no personality. This is clear to everyone without argument. Everybody knows that the body is changing from moment to moment, that the old cells are continually breaking down and new ones arising, in brief, that the body will be quite another body after a few years, that nothing will have remained of the former flesh, bones, blood, etc.

Consequently, the body of the babe is not the body of the school boy, and the body of the young man is not the body of the grey-haired old man. Hence, the body is not a persisting something, but rather a continually changing process of arising and passing away, consisting of a perpetual dying out and new arising of cells.


That, however, which we call the mental life of man, is a continually changing process of feeling, perceptions, mental formations and states of consciousness. At this moment a pleasant feeling arises, the next moment a painful feeling; this moment one state of consciousness, the next moment another.

That which we call a being, an individual, a person, does not in itself, as such possess any independent abiding reality. In the absolute sense (paramattha) no individual, no person, is there to be found, but merely perpetually changing combinations of physical states of feelings, volitions and states of consciousness. What we call chariot has no existence apart from an independent of axle, wheels shaft, etc. What we call 'house' is merely a convenient name for brick, cement, wood, iron, etc., put together after a certain fashion, so as to enclose a portion of space, but there is no separate house entity as such in existence.

In exactly the same way, that which we call a 'being' or an 'individual', or 'person' or by the name 'I' or 'He' etc, is nothing but a changing combination of physical and mental phenomena, and has no real existence in itself.

The words 'I' 'You' 'He' etc., are merely terms found useful in conventional or current (vohara) speech, but do not designate realities (paramattha-dhamma). For neither do these physical and mental phenomena constitute a reality, an absolute Ego-entity, nor yet does there exist, outside these phenomena, any Ego-entity, self, or soul, who is the possessor or owner of the same. Thus when Buddhist scriptures speak of persons, or even the rebirth of persons, this is done only for the sake of easier understanding, and is not to be taken in a sense of ultimate truth. This so-called 'being' or 'I' is in the absolute sense nothing but a perpetually changing person.


Therefore, also, to speak of suffering of a 'person', or 'being' is in the absolute sense incorrect. For it is not a 'person' but a physio-mental process that is subject to transiency and suffering.

In the absolute sense there are only numberless processes, countless life-waves, in this vast ever-surging ocean of bodily states, of feelings, perceptions, volitions and states of consciousness. Within these phenomena there exists nothing that is persistent, not even for a brief span of two consecutive moments.

These phenomena have merely momentary duration. They die every moment, and every moment new phenomena are born, a perpetual dying and coming to birth, a ceaseless heaving of waves up and down. All is in a state of perpetual dying and coming to birth, a ceaseless heaving of waves up and down. All is in a state of perpetual flux; 'panta rhei' all things are flowing - says therefore the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. The old forms fall to pieces, and new ones are born. One feeling disappears, another appears in its place.

One state of consciousness exists this moment, another the following moment. Everywhere is found a perpetual change of material and mental phenomena. In this way, moment follows upon moment, day upon day, year upon year, life upon life. And so this ceaselessly changing process goes on for thousands, and aeons of years. An eternally surging sea of feelings, perceptions, volitions and states of consciousness; such is existence, such is Samsara, the world of arising and passing away, of growing and decaying, a world of sorrows, misery lamentation and despair.


Without a real insight into this phenomenality, or egolessness (anatta or Impersonality of all existence) it will be impossible to understand the Four Noble Truths of suffering rightly.

According to Buddhism, there are three factors necessary for the rebirth of a human being, that is, for the formation of the embryo in the mother's womb. They are: the female ovum, the male sperm, and the karma-energy, kamma-vega, which in the Sutta is metaphorically 'gandhabba', i.e. 'ghost', or 'soul'. This karmic-energy is sent forth by a dying individual at the moment of his death. Father and mother only provide the necessary physical material for the formation of the embryonic body.

With regard to the characteristic features, the tendencies and faculties lying latent in the embryo, in the Buddha's teaching may be explained in the following way: The dying individual, with his whole being convulsively clinging to life, at the very moment of his death, sends forth karmic energies which, like a flash of lightning, hit at a new mother's womb ready for conception. Thus, through the impinging of the Karma-energies on ovum and sperm, there arises just as a precipitate, the so-called primary cell.

This process may be compared with the functioning of the so-called air-vibrations produced through speech, which, by the impinging on the acoustic organ of another man, produce a sound, which is purely a subjective sensation. At this occasion no transmigration of a sound-sensation takes place, but simply a transference of energy, called air-vibrations.

The phenomenon of rebirth is analogous to the transmission of sounds and images by radio and television respectively. No sound or image is sent from the broad-casting station to the receiving sets, the broadcasting station by inducing waves of a particular length through the other is able to reproduce the sounds and images in the receiving sets turned to that particular wave length. In a similar way, the karma-energies, sent out by the dying individual, produce from the material furnished by the parents to new embryonal being. But no transmigration of a real being, or a soul-entity takes place at that occasion, but the transmission of karma-energy.


Take for instance the reflection of one's face in the mirror, or with the calling forth of an echo by one's voice. Now just as the image in the mirror or the echo are produced by one's face or voice, without any passing over of face or voice, just so it is with the arising of rebirth-consciousness. Should there exist a full identity or sameness between the former and the later birth, in that case milk never would turn into curd; and should there exist an entire otherness, curd never could be conditioned through milk. Therefore, one should admit neither a full identity, nor an entire otherness of the different stages of existence. Hence na ca so, na ca anno: 'neither it is the same, nor is it another.'

At all times many great thinkers have taught a continuation of life after death. The East has known the law of karma-Rebirth from time immemorial the West accepted it until and for a long time after the birth of Christianity. Greek and Roman, Egypt and Jew, in one form or another knew the law, and chapters of books and books themselves have been written to show its prevalence in the days of Jesus, and the Master's adoption without question of the law in which he had been bred.

On Rebirth Jesus said, when asked about the man born blind, that it was neither he that had sinned nor his parents. Clearly it was he in a previous life. And hence the widely current rumours that John the Baptist was Elias, 'which was for to come again'?

Many writers, in prose and verse, have apparently seen the inevitability of the doctrine. Among them are Shakespeare, Tennyson, Rossetti, Thomas Moore, John Masefield, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato, Plotinus, Pindaros, and Virgil.

Sunday Observer - 31 Oct 99 






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J4.19  A real Buddhist is a Citizen of the World

Bhikkhu Seelananda

Parama Dhamma Cetiya Pirivena, Ratmalana

Buddhism, the Dhamma, breaks all the barriers which separate one another. According to the teachings of the Master, the Buddha, there is no reason to keep aloof from others merely because they belong to another persuasion or another Nationality. The Dhamma is excellent in many ways. It is to be practised in daily life. It is neither a religion nor a philosophy. There is nothing miraculous, mythical, or dogmatic in it. But mere reading the Dhamma does not help one to understand the interdependence of the world or the existence of beings and truth.

The Buddha said, "a man is not versed in Dhamma because he speaks much of the Dhamma. He who, after hearing even a little Dhamma, realizes its truth directly and is not heedless of it, is truly versed in the Dhamma." The base of the Dhamma is morality and wisdom is its apex. There are no divine revelations or prophets in the Dhamma.

Whether Buddhas arise or not this Dhamma exists in the world. The Dhamma is unique. In one sense it is not a philosophy, in another sense it is the philosophy of philosophies. In one sense it is not a religion, in another sense it is the religion of religions. It is neither a metaphysical path nor a ritualistic path. It is neither sceptical nor dogmatic. It is neither self-mortification nor self-indulgence. It is neither pessimism nor optimism. It is neither externalism nor nihilism. It is neither pluralism nor monism. It is neither absolutely this worldly nor other worldly. It is a unique Path of Enlightenment.

The Dhamma helps man to keep a good relationship with his fellow beings and other living forms as well. It is not confined to any country or any particular Nation. It is through the concept of Metta or loving kindness and the teaching of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada), that all beings may be seen to cooperate and intermingle in the world. According to the Discourse on loving kindness (Karaniyametta Sutta), the real Buddhists by suffusing with metta all beings in the world say "may all beings be happy and safe (sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta). When one says "sabbe satta" it means all types of beings in the World. Just to illustrate how these truths are manifest in life, let us take a little poem by an American poet, Mark Van Doren.

"Once there was a fence here

And the grass came and tried,

Leaning from the pasture to get inside

But colt feet trampled it turning it brown

Till the farmer moved and the fence fell down.

Then any bird saw under the wire

The grass growing inward like green fire."

Even that poor life loving grass, lowly weed, struggle to live in a farm in which colt feet trample it brown. Isn't this poet aware of a universal struggle thought he is not a Buddhist. The Dhamma's truths are there in the world and some who have not even heard of metta and the Dhamma see them.

In the Dhammapada it is said, "Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill" (130.vr). This friendly attitude extended towards the environment and all beings certainly provides a fertile ground for peace and unity among all life. This boundless loving kindness is to be radiated towards all beings in the world in the world-above, below, across, and in all the direction - It is to be practised while one is standing, walking, sitting or reclining, even as long as one is awake. If one leads life in this manner it may be called "Noble living" (brahmaviharam idam aahu). In the whole world there will be no enemies for such as him, nor a nearest and nor a dearest as well. Buddhists in this way extend loving kindness even towards the tiniest creature that crawls at one's feet. Noble sentiments expressed by people regularly near plants and fruit-trees are said to produce better yields. As life is precious to all no man has the power or right to destroy the life of another.

Obviously it is a marvellous teaching of the Buddha. In many of his discourses the Buddha has stated how loving kindness may be practised. By eating flesh and meat (carcasses) and harbouring anger and hatred one cannot extend loving kindness. Whatever anger or hatred, there is never appeasement by hatred, but only by loving kindness. It is a universal teaching.

Dependent Origination is the doctrine through which one can easily understand the relationship between one and another and the environment as well. It teaches us how we all are interconnected and interdependent. If one is mindful and wise this reality can be comprehended even through a piece of paper, a grain of rice or a piece of cake. According to this teaching of Dependent Origination one exists because of the other. There are causes and effects. There is nothing, in this world, that happens by blind chance or accident but everything is from a concatenation of causes. We must emphasize that there is never a single cause.

There are cluster of causes and cluster of effects for the arising, existence and perishing of things in the world. The Buddha first realized that there is something called suffering (dukkha). And then he explored the cause of it and then the remedy for the cause. As the result, he enunciated the Eight-fold Path as the path leading to the cessation of suffering, the emancipation, Nibbana. Of course, He referred to one cause for suffering-craving, but though it is stated as a single phenomenon it has a "cluster" of events.

Once the Ven. Ananda said "It is wonderful, Lord, it is marvellous how profound this Dependent Origination is, and how profound it appears! And yet it appears to me as clear as clear!" Then the Buddha said "Do not say that Ananda, do not say that! This Dependent Origination is profound and appears profound. It is through not understanding, not penetrating this doctrine that this generation has become like a tangled ball of string, matted like a bird's nest, tangled like coarse grass, unable to pass beyond states of woe, the ill destiny, ruin and the round of birth-and-death".

According to this teaching everything in the world is dependent on other things. So we all are dependent on things or beings in the world. It means without the assistance of other things and other beings in the world we cannot live in the world. Ecological balance is a very significant fact in the universe for us. As we are interdependent we need each and everyone's help to live in society. Then only can we lead a righteous and a successful life. The real Buddhists never look down upon others. Never harm others.

They treat others as their own brothers and sisters. Ven. Narada in his work "Buddhism in a nutshell" states "To a Buddhist there is no far or near, no enemy or foreigner, no renegade or untouchable, since universal love realized through understanding has established the brotherhood of all living beings. A real Buddhist is a citizen of the world. He regards the whole world as his motherland and all as his brothers and sisters."

May all beings be well an happy!

Daily News - 30 Oct 99 






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J4.20  Trinity of Buddhism

Sripali Vaiamon

Sri Lanka is predominently a Buddhist country. Out of the entire populatioon of 17.8 million, 73 per cent are Buddhists. Most of them who profess Buddhism are familiar with one theory out of the main three theories embodied in the philosophy of Buddhism, or rather Buddha Dhamma as Col. Olcott preferred to address. The main theories of Buddhism are four noble truths, eight fold path and five precepts. These are the Trinity of Buddhism discovered by the Buddha. The significance of the Trinity is more deeper and differ from the original meaning of the English word.

The four fundamental truths with regard to the existence of lives are the four noble truths. The Buddha preached this at the very first sermon, the Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta, delivered to five monks at the Deer Park, in Saranath.

The normal English translation for Dukka is suffering. The late Ven. Walpola Rahula Thera, referring to this translation opined that both translation and interpretation are highly unsatisfactory and misleading.

What are the Four Noble Truths?

The Noble Truth of Dukka

The Noble Truth of the cause of Dukka

The Noble Truth of the end of Dukka

and the path leading to the end of Dukka.

The normal English translation for Dukka is suffering. But this is somewhat controversial. The late Ven. Walpola Rahula Thera, referring to this translation opined that both translation and interpretation are highly unsatisfactory and misleading. It is because of this limited, free and easy translation and its superficial interpretation, that many people have been misled to regard Buddhism as pessimistic.

Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and of the world. It looks at things objectively. It is admitted that the term Dukka as the first Noble Truth contains quite obviously the ordinary meaning of suffering, but in addition it also includes deeper ideas such as ‘imperfection’, ‘impermanence’, ‘emptiness’ and ‘insubstantiality’.

Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda says, even though Dukka is a Noble Truth, it does not mean that there is no happiness, enjoyment and pleasure in life. There is and the Buddha has taught various methods with which we can gain more happiness in our daily life. However, in the final analysis, the fact remains that the pleasure or happiness which we experience in life is impermanent.

The other noble theory that the Buddha has expounded is the Noble Eight Fold Path, namely Right view, Right intention, Right speech, Right action, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness and Right concentration. This is also known as the middle path.

The late Rev. Piyadassi Maha Thera, referring to the Eight Fold Path said, all life’s solutions can be reduced to one problem, that of Dukka unsatisfactoriness and the solution put forward by the Buddha or Enlightened One of all ages is the Noble Eight Fold Path. He quotes, Professor T. W. Rhys Davids who said, Buddhist or no Buddhist, I have examined every one of the great religious systems of the world and in none of them have I found anything to surpass in beauty and comprehensiveness, the Noble Eight Fold Path of the Buddha. I am contend to shape my life according to that path.

These two theories discovered by the Buddha are extremely profound, but an average Buddhist or even a person of lower stratum need not go deep into it, they must endeavour to gain at least a faint knowledge to call oneself a Buddhist.

Five precepts

The third theory is the Five Precepts. Buddhist monks from ancient times have trained all categories of those who profess Buddhism to observe five precepts in every Buddhist religious occasion. We must be thankful to them, but most of them who observe, particularly less knowledgeable people just repeat like parrots and immediately it is over, the whole thing erazed from their mind. It has become just a ritual.

Lay Buddhists should attempt to fully grasph the meaning of it and make a point to practice it. Gurulugomi, our celebrated author of the Amavathura, depicted the adverse effects of five indulgences referring to several Jathaka stories. Killing, Mathaka baktha and Donasava Jathaka;

Stealing in the third and fifth Silavimansa Jathaka; Adultery, in Loha Kumbhi and Maha Narada

Kassapa jathaka; Falsehood in Chetiya and Kakkaru jathaka; Intoxicants in Kumbha and

Bhadragata Jathaka. Some reasons or other Buddha has eliminated the last one in several instances.

Without any intention to denigrate or belittle, the acknowledged beliefs we must openly discuss pros and cons logically to enable an average lay Buddhist to come to an intelligent conclusion how the respected five precepts should be practised. The gravity and the magnitude of each should be argued, so that clergies and lay-intelligentsia who are well conversant with Tri-Pitaka (Tri-Pitakachari) will quote relevant Suttas and elaborate our lay opinion highlighted here. The blessed one has advocated in Kalama Sutta to investigate and accept his exhortations.

In the Sigalowada Sutta, Diganikaya (p. 110) only the first four precepts have been taken. Patama Chtuddamma Samanthagata in the Anguttara Nikaya and Panaghathadi Sutta in the Pariyasohana Vagga (Anguttara Nikaya p. 737) also have deleted fifth precept. Perhaps it could be surmised that alcohol was necessary for the preparation of certain medicines. Asava, Aristha needs it. Even present day doctors advise patients who are subject to cardio vascular diseases to take little whisky. In our daily rice meal, there is a nominal per centage of alcohol. Physicians advocate it is no harm to take little alcohol for the purpose of digestion. Taking limitless, so as to majjapama datthana, create devastating results.

Killing is concerned, if a mosquito who infuses malaria, filaria, dengu, Japanese Encephalitis settle on your body or your healthy baby’s face you may have to destroy it. Killing a mosquito is not same as killing a cow, dog or a peacock. Killing a wicked murderer is not same as killing a righteous person. In this world there is none so great as man and if someone kills him, there is a greater sin according to Buddhism. Human beings are being killed in the North as rats. The most devastational gigantic holocoust in the century was the dropping of inhuman atomic bombs over millions of innocent human beings in Japan. Five decades have elapsed? But so far, Amaricans have not got any tangible retaliation. May be because it was a war.

Jivaka Sutta, in Majjima Nikaya, 1.368-gives in abstract form that meat should not be eaten if it has been seen, heard or suspected that it was intended for the person. Here, suspected is a saline word, where any intelligent person could be suspected if any one offers meat for consumption, it has been obtained by breaking the first precept. Because meat will not fall from the sky. The sin involved, therefore cannot be eleminated.

In Parinirvana Sutta ch. 18-19, it refers to Sukara Maddava, as flesh of wild boar, offered to the Blessed One by the Cunda Kammakara and as it was somewhat poisonous, blessed one does not want others to consume. Sukara Maddava was a kind of mushroom, a truffles, much sought by pigs, so it earns the name according to Mrs. Rhys Davids and Burnof. It gives in a botanical dictionary of Indian origin. It is a fallacy to say Buddha consumed meat.

Adultery is a sin which is a sexual unfaithfulness of a husband or wife. But sexual indulgence in any other form should come under this precept, in the same potency? The essential requirements for bare living as we learnt earlier was food, shelter and clothing but now sex also has been added as a prime requirement in Europe. During Buddha’s time there were famous Nagarasobhinis such as Ambapali, to get fulfilled man’s sexual urge.


In the case of legal profession, to win a case at times, falsehood would be an essential ingredient. Winning an election in our country is not that easy without uttering diabolical lies. It is abundantly available in politicians’ dictionary. A businessman never flourish if he sticks to the truth alone.

If a wicked person chases an innocent hare and he runs and hid in a bush near you. You clearly saw that but if the chaser comes and ask you what would be your answer?

Adinnadana is stealing others’ belongings. It is an unpardonable robbery. Even if a public servant or a public representative of a governing body accept a project or purchase some material for the utility of public and in that process he obtains a commission or santhosam for his individual benefit it comes under Adinnadana. because it belongs to public and he must deposit that in a public ‘fund’ controlled by the government and let the government use it for public benefits.

In Mahanama Sutta, the Buddha described, Panathipatha Pativarato, Adinnadana Pativarato etc. and that a person will become righteous if he adhere to five precepts. Our Tripitakacaris should well elaborate the pros and cons underlined in precepts with examples to enable lay Buddhists to well understand the depth of this theory and then they will intelligently practice it.

Thevijja and Chakkavatti Sihanada Sutta further elaborate, even a country will be developed and flourished if the leaders of a government follow the precepts. They must become righteous enough so that their followers follow them. Kutadanta Sutta describes if governing people are not righteous enough and do not heed for the five precepts the government, country and people all will be deteriorated and face for a disaster.

The Island - 9 Nov 99 


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