BuddhaSasana Home Page
ESSENTIAL THEMES OF BUDDHISTS LECTURES
Venerable Sayadaw Ashin U Thittila
I. Introductory Articles on Buddhism
1. THE BUDDHA
The subject that I have chosen for this evening is The 'Buddha'.
Who is a Buddha? A Buddha is one who has attained bodhi. By bodhi is meant an ideal state of intellectual and ethical perfection which can be attained by man by purely human means. In order to make clear how the Buddha attained bodhi, let me narrate a brief summary of the Buddhas life.
About 623 years before the Christian era, there was born inLumbini Park in the neighbourhood of Kapilavatthu, now known asPadaria in the district of modern Nepal. an Indian Sakyan prince, Siddattha Gotama by name. To mark the spot as the birthplace of the greatest teacher of mankind, and as a token of his reverence for him, the Emperor Asoka in 239 B.C.. erected a pillar bearing the inscription. 'Here was the Enlightened One born'.
Gotama's father was Suddhodana, king of Kapilavatthu. the chief town of the Sakyan clan; and his mother, who died seven days after his birth, was Queen Maya who also belonged to the same clan. Under the care of his maternal aunt, Pajapati Gotami. Siddhattha spent his early years in ease, luxury and culture. At the age of sixteen he was married to his cousin, Yasodhara, the daughter of Suppabuddha, the king of Devadaha, and they had a son named Rahula.
For nearly thirteen years Siddhattha led the life of a luxurious Indian prince, seeing only the beautiful and the pleasant. In his twenty-ninth year, however, the truth gradually dawned upon him, and he realized that all without exception were subject to birth, decay and death and that all worldly pleasures were only a prelude to pain. Comprehending thus the universality of sorrow, he had a strong desire to find the origin of it, and a panacea for this universal sickness of humanity. Accordingly he renounced the world and donned the simple garb of an ascetic.
Wandering as a seeker after peace he placed himself under the spiritual guidance of two renowned brahman teachers, Alara and Uddaka. The former was head of a large number of followers at Vesali and was an adherent of Kapila, the reputed founder of the Sassata system of philosophy, who laid great stress on the belief in atma. the ego. He regarded the disbelief in the existence of a soul as not tending towards religion. Without the belief in an eternal immaterial soul he could not see any way of salvation. Like the wild bird when liberated from its trap, the soul when freed from its material limitations would attain perfect release; when the ego discerned its immaterial nature it would attain true deliverance. This teaching did not satisfy the Bodhisatta, and he quitted Alara and placed himself under the tuition of Uddaka.
The latter also expatiated on the question of 'I'', but laid greater stress on the effects of kamma and the transmigration of the soul. The Bodhisatta saw the truth in the doctrine of kamma, but he could not believe in the existence of a soul or its transmigration; he therefore quitted Uddaka also and went to the priests officiating in temples to see if he could learn from them the way of escape from suffering and sorrow. However, the unnecessarily cruel sacrifices performed on the altars of the gods were revolting to his gentle nature, and Gotama preached to the priests the futility of atoning for evil deeds by the destruction of life, and the impossibility of practising religion by the neglect of the moral life
Wandering from Vesali in search of a better system Siddattha went to many a distinguished teacher of his day, but nobody was competent to give him what he earnestly sought. All the so-called philosophers were groping in the dark, it was a matter of the blind leading the blind, for they were all enmeshed in ignorance. At last Siddattha came to a settlement of five pupils of Uddaka, headed by Kondanna, in the jungle of Uruvela near Gaya in Magadha. There he saw these five keeping their senses in check, subduing their passions and practising austere penance. He admired their zeal and earnestness, and to give a trial to the means used by them he applied himself to mortification, for it was the belief in those days that no salvation could be gained unless one led a life of strict asceticism, so he subjected himself to all forms of practicable austerities. Adding vigil to vigil, and penance to penance, he made a super-human effort for six long years until eventually his body became shrunken like a withered branch. His blood dried up, the skin shrivelled and the veins protruded, but the more he tortured his body the farther his goal receded from him. His strenuous and unsuccessful endeavours taught him one important lesson, though, and that was the utter futility of self-mortification.
Having this valuable experience he finally decided to follow an independent course avoiding the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification, for the former tends to retard one's spiritual progress and the latter to weaken one's intellect. The new path was the Majjhima Patipada, the Middle Path, which subsequently became one of the salient characteristics of his teaching.
Early in the morning on the full moon day of Vesakha. as he was seated in deep meditation under the Bodhi Tree, unaided and unguided by any supernatural agency but solely relying on his own efforts. the consciousness of true insight possessed him. He saw the mistaken ways that all the various faiths maintained, he discerned the sources whence earthly suffering came and the way that leads to its annihilation. He saw that the cause of suffering lay in a selfish cleaving to life, and that the way of escape from suffering lay in treading the Eightfold Path. With discernment of these grand truths and their realization in life, the Bodhisatta eradicated all passions and attained enlightenment - he thus became a Buddha.
Having attained Buddhahood, the supreme state of perfection, he devoted the remainder of his precious life to serving humanity, both by example and precept, without any personal motive whatsoever. In order to deliver his first sermon the Buddha started for Benares, which has been famous for centuries as the centre of religious life and thought. On his way he met one of his former acquaintances. Upaka, a Jain monk, who, being struck by his majestic and joyful appearance, asked, 'Who is the teacher under whose guidance you have renounced the world?' The Buddha replied, 'I have no master, I am the Perfect One, the Buddha. I have attained peace. I have attained Nibbana. To found the Kingdom of Righteousness I am going to Benares: there I shall light the lamp of life for the benefit of those who are enshrouded in the darkness of sin and death.' Upaka then asked. 'Do you profess to be the Jina, the conqueror of the world?' The Buddha replied, ' Jinas are those who have conquered self and the passions of self, and those alone are victors who control their passions and abstain from sin. I have conquered self and overcome all sin, therefore I am the Jina.'
At Benares he met Kondanna and his four companions in the Deer Park, now known as Saranath. When these five saw the Buddha coming towards them they addressed him as Gotama, his family name. Then the Buddha said to them, 'Call me not after my personal name, for it is a rude and careless way of addressing one who has become a Buddha. My mind is undisturbed whether people treat me with respect or disrespect, but it is not courteous for others to call one who looks equally with a kind heart upon all living beings, by his familiar name; Buddhas bring salvation to the world and so they ought to be treated with respect.' Then he preached them his first great sermon, the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, in which he explained the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. They received ordination and formed the first nucleus of the holy brotherhood of disciples known as the Sangha.
During his active life the Buddha made many converts, high and low, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, brahmans and chandalas, ascetics and householders, robbers and cannibals, nobles and peasants, men and women from all classes and conditions became his countless disciples, both ordained and lay. After a supreme ministry of forty-five years the Buddha, in his last preaching tour, came to the town of Kusinara in the eastern part of Nepal, where he passed into Nibbana at the ripe age of eighty. His last words to his disciples were,'All conditioned things are subject to decay; strive with heedfulness'.
The Buddha was, therefore, a human being. As a man he was born, as a man he lived, and as a man his life came to an end. Though a human being he became an extra-ordinary man, acchariya manussa, as he himself says in the Anguttara Nikaya; he does not claim to be an incarnation of Vishnu, as the Hindus believe, nor does he call himself a saviour who saves others by his personal salvation. The Buddha exhorts his disciples to depend on themselves for their salvation, for both purity and defilement depend on oneself. In the Dhammapada he says, 'You yourselves should make the exertion, the Buddhas are only teachers. The thoughtful who enter the Way are freed from the bondage of sin. He who does not rouse himself when it is time to rise, who, though young and strong is full of sloth, whose will and thoughts are weak, that lazy and idle man will never find the way to enlightenment. Strenuousness is the path of immortality, sloth the path of death. Those who are strenuous do not die; those who are slothful are as if dead already.'
Buddhas point out the path, and it is left to us to follow that path to save ourselves. To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself is positive. In exhorting his disciples to be self-dependent the Buddha says in the Parinibbana Sutta, 'Be ye lamps unto yourselves; be ye refuges to yourselves; hold fast to the Dhamma as a lamp; hold fast to the Dhamma as a refuge; seek not for refuge in anyone except yourselves. Whosoever shall be a lamp unto themselves and a refuge unto themselves, it is they among the seekers after bodhi who shall reach the very topmost height.'
Furthermore, the Buddha does not claim the monopoly of Buddhahood which, factually, is not the special prerogative of any specially chosen person. He reached the highest possible state of perfection to which any person could aspire, and he revealed the only straight path that leads thereto. According to the teachings of the Buddha anybody may aspire to that supreme state of perfection if he makes the necessary exertion; thus, instead of disheartening his followers and reserving that exalted state only for himself, the Buddha gave encouragement and inducement to follow his noble example.
The teaching founded by the Buddha is known in English as Buddhism.
2. THE BUDDHA AND HIS MESSAGE
The technique of salvation which is characteristic of Buddhism is very different from that of all other religions. They say, 'Turn to God, pray to him, give yourself utterly to him, become one with him.' Christianity, Hinduism, Islam. Zoroastrianism and Judaism, base their teachings on the idea of God. These religions say that until a man can believe in God he cannot begin to live a truly righteous or useful life.
We know that thousands in these religions do live lives of charity, purity and holiness, but the strange fact is that lives of charity, purity and holiness are also lived by thousands who follow the Buddha who never asked men to worship any god as the first step towards their salvation. The Buddha taught men to rely upon themselves in order to achieve their own salvation, and not to look to any external saviour. He never put himself forward as a mediator between us and our final salvation, but he could tell us what to do because he had done it himself and so knew the way. However, unless we ourselves act, the Buddha cannot take us to our goal.
Though we may 'take refuge in the Buddha', the Buddhist phrase in the simple ceremony of pledging ourselves to live a righteous life, it is not through any blind faith that he can save us. He can point the way, he can tell us of its difficulties and the beauties which we shall find as we tread the way, but he cannot tread it for us, we must tread the way ourselves.
Yet we are not left alone and unaided in this difficult task, for in order to help us to tread the way to our goal, Nibbana. the Buddha has mapped out the moral life which must be lived. Like an engineer who constructs a pathway up a difficult mountain, so the Buddha has constructed a code of morality. First come the panca sila, the five precepts as they are called, namely, not to kill, not to steal, not to commit sexual misconduct, not to lie, and not to take any intoxicating liquor or drug. These are not the Buddha's commandments, the breaking of which entails sin, but they represent the preliminary ideals of a virtuous life which a man is to accept wholeheartedly if he is to call himself a Buddhist. He does not promise to the Buddha not to break the precepts, he gives the promise to himself, for the phrase is, 'Panatipata, etc..', I undertake the precept to refrain from taking life, and so on in respect of the other precepts. Each man, as he repeats the precepts, puts himself upon his own honour to do his best not to break them.
And if he breaks them? Then the only repentance which is constructive is to make the pledge to himself again, indeed, as many times as are necessary, day after day, month after month, year after year, until he wins the struggle against his lower nature. A man must win the goal of purity and nobility by himself; not the Buddha, nor the angels, nor any god can bring a man to salvation.
So you see, the practice of the moral life is the very core and essence of Buddhism; character is the product of daily, hourly actions, daily acts of kindness, charity and unselfishness. By doing just actions we come to be just, and we judge strength by the power of action. In the same way as a musician is not one who merely loves music, but is one who is able to blend and combine sounds in a manner pleasing to the ear, so also it is the quality of our actions that determines our character.
According to Buddhism there is a spark of bodhi (wisdom) in the heart of every sentient being, but in ordinary beings it has not been developed into its power by the weakening of selfish desire, anger and ignorance. Each life is a stage in the pilgrimage from small to great, from less to more, and from ignorance to enlightenment. Everyone is the architect of his own fate. We shall reap in the future, in this life or the next, what we are sowing now. As we had the power in the past to make our present what it is, so we have equal power now to create a happy and useful future. To win the final victory of perfection it is necessary for each one of us to defeat the three great internal enemies, namely, selfish desire, anger and delusion. To defeat these three great enemies it is necessary for each one of us to live a life of charity, to extend his love towards all beings and to develop the spark of wisdom into its fullest power.
It is only when these three great enemies are defeated, and the final victory of salvation is won, that there will be no war, and we shall have real and everlasting peace and happiness.
3. WHAT IS BUDDHISM?
What is Buddhism, is it a philosophy or a religion or an ethical system? Strictly speaking it is not a philosophy, for it does not contain an elaborate system of theories and facts exclusively for cogitation, although it must be admitted that the Buddha has anticipated much modern speculation.
What is known as Buddhism consists of three aspects, the doctrinal (pariyatti), the practical (patipatti) and the realizable (pativedha), which are interdependent and interrelated. The doctrine is preserved in the Tipitaka. This Tipitaka, which contains the word of the Buddha, is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Christian bible. As the word itself implies, it consists of three baskets, namely: the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka) and the Basket of Ultimate Things (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
The Vinaya Pitaka, which is sub-divided into five books, deals with the rules and regulations of the Order of monks and nuns, and gives a detailed account of the life and ministry of the Buddha. The Sutta Pitaka consists of discourses preached by the Buddha. and also, in some instances, by his distinguished disciples such as the Ven. Sariputta, Moggallana, Ananda, etc. Divided into twenty-six books it is rather like a collection of prescriptions, for the sermons were propounded to suit the occasion and the temperament of different individuals. The Abhidhamma Pitaka, however, is the most important and the most interesting because it elaborates the four ultimate things, i.e., consciousness (citta), mental properties (mental concomitants, cetasika), matter (material qualities, rupa) and Nibbana.
Thus we see that Buddhism is concerned with truth and facts, and has nothing to do with theories and philosophies which may be accepted as gospel truth today and may be thrown overboard tomorrow. The Buddha has presented us with no new astounding philosophical theories, nor did he venture to create any new material science, rather did he explain to us what is within and without so far as it concerns our emancipation, and ultimately he laid out a path of deliverance which is unique.
It should be understood that the Buddha did not preach all that he knew. On one occasion while he was passing through a forest the Buddha took a handful of leaves and said to some bhikkhus, 'O bhikkhus, what I have taught is comparable to the leaves in my hand, and what I have not taught is comparable to the amount of leaves in the forest', for he taught us only that which is necessary for our emancipation. Incidentally, though, he has made some statements which are accepted as scientific truths today.
Buddhism is not merely to be preserved in books, nor is it a subject to be studied only from an historical or literary point of view, on the contrary, it is to be learned and put into practice in the course of one's daily life, for without actual practice one cannot appreciate truth. Study and practice come first, but above all it is realization, self-realization, which is its ultimate goal. As such, Buddhism is comparable to a raft which is meant for the sole purpose of escaping from the ocean of samsara; Buddhism, therefore, cannot strictly be called a philosophy.
Is it then a religion? Neither is it a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood, for it is not a system of faith and worship. Buddhism does not demand blind faith from its adherents; here, mere belief is dethroned and replaced by confidence, saddha, as it is known in Pali, based on knowledge of truth. The confidence placed by a follower in the Buddha is like that of a sick man towards the physician, or that of a student towards his teacher. A Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha because it is he who discovered the path of deliverance. A sick man should use the remedy which the physician prescribes in order to be cured, and the pupil should study what his teacher says in order to become learned. In just the same way, a Buddhist who possesses saddha should follow the Buddha's instructions in order to gain deliverance.
The starting point of Buddhism is reasoning, or understanding, or in other words sammaditthi. To seekers after truth the Buddha says, 'Do not believe in anything on mere hearsay; do not believe in anything that is traditional just because it is old and handed down through generations; do not believe in rumours or anything because people talk about it; do not believe simply because the written testimony of some ancient sage is shown to thee; never believe in anything because the custom of many years leads thee to regard it as true; do not believe in anything on the mere authority of thy teacher or priests. According to thine own experience, and after thorough investigation, whatever agrees with thy reason and is conducive to thine own well-being and to that of all other living beings, accept that as truth and live accordingly.'
Is Buddhism, then, an ethical system? It no doubt contains an excellent code of morals which is adaptable to all climes and ages, but it is much more than ordinary morality. The Singala Sutta (Sigalovada Sutta), Mangala Sutta, Metta Sutta, Vasala Sutta, Dhammika Sutta, etc., should be read carefully to understand the high standard of morality; but morality, or sila, is only the A.B.C. of Buddhism.
Buddhism, therefore, is neither a philosophy nor a religion, nor an ordinary ethical code, it is the doctrine of actuality, a means of deliverance: or, as it is called in Pali, the Dhamma.
If a man is to build up a successful, healthy and happy life, a life that will stoutly resist the fiercest storms of adversity, it must be based on sound moral principles such as the five precepts laid down by the Buddha.
Our life is what we make it by our own thoughts and deeds, thus it is through his own thoughts that a man rises or falls. To think habitually of a certain virtue is to become that virtue, and to allow the mind to dwell on thoughts of vice for any length of time is to become guilty of that vice.
There is a common delusion that man's failings and lapses in conduct are due to other people about him, and not to himself, but this delusion arises from the error of believing that others can be responsible for a man's misdeeds and errors. All a man's weaknesses and sins arise within his own mind and heart, he alone is responsible for them, and those who succumb to being induced, persuaded or excited by tempters, become co-operators in sin and vice. Tempters are quite powerless against those who refuse to respond. Any weakness lies in a man's own mind, and if he has given in to others' promptings, the real source of his troubles, his failures and miseries, is his own weakness; he is responsible for his every action.
A common excuse for wrong-doing is that right action would lead to failure, loss and unhappiness: thus immature-minded people concern themselves less with the deed than with the consequences of the deed. The longing to obtain pleasant results is the cause of much mental confusion. making men incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, worthy and unworthy, right and wrong. Right action is very simple, whereas wrong action is inextricably mixed, one falsehood often requiring the concoction of several others to hide it. Just one act of dishonesty, corruption or fraud needs a dozen other wrongs to fortify it, which means the creation of complications that bring trouble and unhappiness to oneself and to others.
The right-minded man concerns himself with the act, and not with the consequences; he considers not what is pleasant or unpleasant, but what is good and right according to the rules of morality. When he does right, and does not seek any result, he is relieved of all the burdens of doubt, fear and perplexity, he never becomes involved in an inextricable tangle or difficulty. His mind is at peace, his conscience serene; these are the requisites for health, happiness and long life.
LIKES AND DISLIKES
One often hears the expression, 'I do not feel like doing it'. Such a man is in bondage to self when he is under the sway of his feelings, habits and inclinations, he is not free from servility in respect of his feelings. Those who wish for freedom in this way must be guided by reason and willpower, bringing calm, deliberate judgment to bear on all things, being mindful at all times that, 'This is a matter of right or wrong, good or bad, it is needful or needless, my feelings have nothing to do with it. It is not how one feels. but what is the proper thing to do'. If our life and conduct are ordered by our likes and dislikes, we are weaklings, puppets and bondslaves, apt to be overwhelmed by indolence and incompetence, ill-health and frustration.
There are two kinds of emotion, (1) negative or destructive, and (2) positive or constructive.
Negative emotion such as ill-will, jealousy, bitterness, malice, anger, spitefulness, hatred, despair, fear, impatience, worries, anxieties, should be guarded against, for they poison the warm current of life and often cause troubles in the heart, brain and blood vessels. They invariably cause weakness, failure, folly, misery or untimely death.
Positive or constructive emotion such as pity, sympathy for others, appreciation of the good, kindness, goodwill and altruistic motives are to be encouraged and cultivated. They react through the mind on the vital glands of the body to build up robust health, happiness, prosperity and long life.
Right mindfulness, right attention, is the seventh step in the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the overcoming of sorrow and to the attainment of moral purity, and it includes: 1. Concentration on the body, 2. concentration on one's feelings, 3. concentration on one's thoughts, and 4. concentration on mental objects. In the Majjhima Nikaya we read of ten great blessings which are assured to the person who practises them. None who desire good health. happiness and wisdom can dispense with meditation in Buddhism; moral culture through meditation is a fundamental step in deliverance from suffering and unhappiness. By means of meditation one learns to reason through every situation, instead of reacting emotionally according to likes and dislikes, according to prejudice, custom or tradition; one learns to rationalize the experience of life. When this lesson is learnt one becomes supreme over every circumstance, happening or event.
Take as an illustration two persons who meet financial disaster. One reacts emotionally and falls into a stormy sea of bitterness, loses all hope and sinks in health, vigour and resolution, or he kills himself to end it all. The other man, who has learnt to think over the problems of life, to meditate, to rationalize, applies every available method to overcome the problem and finds a satisfactory solution, for he has exercised his mind just as the athlete exercises his muscles. He is the master, while the other is a slave. Many disappointments and breakdowns would not exist if people were to live according to the Dhamma.
So you see, Buddhism is a philosophy of hope and of certainty of achievement. It is the gospel of attainment, of deliverance from unhappiness and suffering. The Buddha explained that in every mortal, however humble or lowly he may be, there is a grain of worth, a little of goodness, a spark of wisdom which he can kindle into a flame, which he can develop by conscious human effort. The Buddha encouraged everyone to strive for spiritual development, declaring that every right effort is sure of a reward here and .now, in this life, or in a future one.
The Buddha also proclaimed that every low desire, every longing for ignoble things, every unworthy feeling that we conquer and trample down, and every difficulty we meet heroically and victoriously, with righteousness according to the rules of morality, becomes another rung on the ladder by which we can climb towards a nobler, higher life. This is the law of progressive development, the Buddhist doctrine of evolution, of attainment, of accomplishment.
The Buddha drew for us the picture of progressive existence, a growth from small to great, from less to more, from ignorance to knowledge, of development depending upon inward strength, diligence and effort put forth from life to life. This is the doctrine of human perfection won through altruism, discipline and wisdom.
5. THERAVADA BUDDHISM
The name of the founder of what is known in the West as Buddhism, was Gotama, this being the name of the clan or family to which he belonged. The word 'Buddha' means 'awakened', or 'enlightened one', and is not a name but a title of honour bestowed upon the sage Gotama who attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree at Buddhagaya in India.
Gotama was born as the son of an Indian king on the border of modern Nepal six hundred and twenty-three years before Christ, and to mark the spot as the birthplace of the great teacher of mankind, and as a token of reverence for him, the Emperor Asoka in 239 B.C. erected a pillar bearing the inscription, 'Here was the Enlightened One born'. At the time of his birth the wise men of the kingdom said that the signs showed that he would become either a very great ruler or a very great religious teacher. His father, wanting him to be a very great ruler, kept his son's mind turned towards worldly things instead of the religious life, and tried to arrange that his son should never see anything of an unpleasant nature that might set him thinking seriously about the world and life. In his twenty-ninth year, however, while on his way to the royal park, Gotama for the first time saw an old man, a sick man and a dead man, and he learned that all men without exception were subject to birth, old age and death, and that all worldly pleasures were only a prelude to pain. It was when he saw a monk that he realized that in order to learn the way to overcome man's universal sorrow he must give up worldly pleasures, and accordingly he renounced his kingdom and became an ascetic.
Gotama wandered about the countryside as a seeker after truth and real peace, approaching many a distinguished teacher of his day, but nobody was competent to give him what he earnestly sought. He strenuously practised all forms of severe austerities, and made a superhuman effort for six long years until eventually his delicate body was reduced to almost a skeleton, but the more he tormented his body, the further away he was from his goal. Finally, having realized the utter futility of self-mortification, he decided to follow a different course, avoiding the two extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence. The new path which he discovered was the Middle Way, the Eightfold Path, which subsequently became one of the salient characteristics of his teachings. By following this path his wisdom grew to its fullest power, and he discovered the Four Noble Truths, understood things as they truly are and finally attained full enlightenment.
As a man Prince Gotama, by his own will, effort, wisdom and love, attained Buddhahood, that highest possible state of perfection, and he revealed to mankind the only straight path that leads thereto. A special characteristic of Buddhism is that anybody may aspire even to the state of the Buddha himself if he makes the necessary exertion, it is a sort of evolutionary process and is achieved by' one's own effort.
The Buddha laid stress on human dignity, and taught the worth of the human being. A Buddha in the making is a Bodhisatta, and as a Bodhisatta through countless births he suffered all, sacrificed all, and fulfilled every perfection, so that on some distant day he might achieve this unique goal, the goal of winning - not only for himself, but for all beings - deliverance from the heavy burdens of birth, old age, disease and death. The Buddha himself tells us of his origin, and how it started with an inflexible, aspiring resolve; he tells us of the gradual perfection of the flux that made that aspiration, and how finally he won full enlightenment. In this way, instead of disheartening his followers and reserving that exalted state only for himself, the Buddha encouraged and induced them to follow his noble example.
The word of the Buddha is called Dhamma, which in the Sanskrit form becomes Dharma. It means truth, that which really is; it also means law, the law which exists in a man's own heart and mind. It is the principle of righteousness, therefore the Buddha appeals to man to be noble, pure and charitable, not in order to please any god, but in order to be true to the highest in himself.
Dhamma, this law of righteousness, exists not only in a man's heart and mind, but it exists in the universe also; all the universe is an embodiment or revelation of Dhamma. The laws of nature which modern science has discovered are revelations of Dhamma; if the moon rises and sets, it is because of Dhamma, for Dhamma is that law within the universe which makes matter act in the ways studied in physics, chemistry, zoology, botany and astronomy; Dhamma exists in the universe just as Dhamma exists in the heart and mind of man. If a man will live by Dhamma he will escape misery and come to Nibbana, the final release from suffering.
Thus Buddhism is not a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood, it is not a system of faith or worship, Buddhism begins as a search for truth. It does not begin with unfounded assumptions concerning any god or first cause, and it does not claim to present the whole truth of the absolute beginning and end of mankind's spiritual pilgrimage in the form of a divine revelation. The Buddha himself searched and discovered with direct insight the nature of the cosmos, the cause of its arising and of its passing away, and the real cause of suffering together with the way in which it could be brought to an end, for the sake of all living beings. Having done so, he proclaimed the principles on which he had conducted his research, so that all who wished to do so could follow his system and know the final truth them selves.
The Buddha taught men to rely upon themselves in order to achieve their own deliverance, and not to look to any external saviour. He never puts himself forward as a mediator between us and our final deliverance, but he can tell us what to do because he has done it himself and so knows the way; however, unless we ourselves act, the Buddha cannot take us to our goal. He can point out the way, he can tell us of its difficulties and of the beauties which we shall find as we tread the way, but he cannot tread it for us, we must tread the way ourselves.
The life process of the universe is governed by the natural law of cause and effect. The cause ever becomes the effect, and the effect becomes the cause, and so birth is followed by death, and death on the other hand is followed by birth; birth and death being two phases of the same life process. In this circle of cause and effect, or of birth and death, known in Buddhism as samsara, a first beginning is not discoverable; it is said, 'The origin of phenomena is not discoverable, and the beginning of beings obstructed by ignorance and ensnared by craving is not to be found.' (Samyutta Nikaya II).
According to Buddhism the universe evolved, but it did not evolve out of nothingness, it evolved out of the dispersed matter of a previous universe; and when this universe is dissolved, its dispersed matter, or its residual energy which is continuously renewing itself, will in time give rise to another universe in the same way. The process is therefore cyclic and continuous, and the universe itself is composed of millions of world systems such as that which we know as our own solar system, each with its various planes of existence.
What of the soul? That which we call 'man' is composed of mind and matter. According to Buddhism, apart from mind and matter (nama and rupa) which constitute the so-called man, there is no such thing as an immortal soul,atta, which lies behind them. Matter (rupa) is the visible form of invisible qualities and forces, and there are altogether twenty-eight types of material qualities which constitute the physical body of an animate being. Mind (nama) is the most important part of a being, and consists of the four mental aggregates, namely:
Thus the combination of the five aggregates, or of the material and mental forces, is called a being which may assume as many names as its types, shapes, forms and so on may vary, according to the mode of physical and mental changes. Man is, therefore, a moral being of good and evil tendencies, of qualities and forces. who has unlimited powers physically. mentally and morally; and in the heart of every human being there is a spark of wisdom, but in ordinary mortals it is dormant or crippled by its unenlightened intercourse with selfish desire, hatred and ignorance. As a Buddhist the purpose of a man's life should be to grow from small to great, from less to more, from ignorance to enlightenment and from imperfection to perfection. Man is the architect of his own fate, and he will reap what he sow.
Thus the material and mental forces combine and re-combine with no underlying substance or soul to make them permanent, and this process of becoming, the wheel of life, continues indefinitely until its main cause, craving or selfish desire for existence, is totally annihilated. It is this desire which sets the wheel of life in motion, and it is manifested in action which is in reality volition or will-power. It is called 'kamma' in Pali, but karma' in Sanskrit, and it is this kamma, this volitional action which is responsible for the creation of being..
Kamma means all kinds of intentional actions, whether mental, verbal or physical; that is, all thoughts, words and deeds. Every action produces an effect; it is cause first and effect afterwards. We therefore may say that kamma is 'the law of cause and effect', and that man is the master of his own destiny, child of his past and parent of his future.Kamma, however, is not determinism, nor is it an excuse for fatalism; the past influences the present but does not dominate it. The past is the background against which life goes on from moment to moment, and the past together with the present influences the future; but one should remember that only the present moment exists, and the responsibility for using the present moment for good or ill lies with each individual. Man has a certain amount of free will and can therefore modify his actions and affect his future, so if a man does a good deed or utters a good word or thinks a good thought, the effect upon him will be to increase the tendencies towards goodness in him. The practice of good kamma. when fully developed, will enable man to overcome evil and thus bring him to his goal Nibbana.
At the root of man's trouble is his primal state of ignorance, and from ignorance comes desire which sets the kammic force in motion. The Buddhist ascends to Nibbana through the Middle Way, the path of wisdom, morality and mind-control, or meditation; he ascends through the cycle of rebirths, and perfects himself by conquering his cravings through wisdom and love. The attainment of the perfect type involves the utmost development of all the faculties of man by the persistent effort of one's own reasoning, understanding and right living.
Buddhism teaches that with the practice of meditation and mind culture one can acquire the five supernormal powers, i.e.. celestial eye, celestial ear, memory of past births, reading the thoughts of others and various psychic powers. Not only this, but Buddhism also teaches that with the attainment of Nibbana in this life itself, through enlightenment and wisdom, one can reach the end of this chain of rebirths
Nibbana is not annihilation, neither is it a kind of nothingness, it is the state free from any possibility of the re-arising of conditioned existence, the ultimate peace and happiness. In the Buddhist scriptures it is always described in positive terms such as the highest refuge, safety, emancipation, peace and so on.
Buddhism consists of three aspects: doctrinal, practical and realizable. The doctrinal aspect is preserved in the scriptures called Tipitaka, or 'Three Baskets', the canon which contains the words of the Buddha, and which has been estimated by English translators to be eleven times the size of the Christian Bible.
All the teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one verse:
This verse embodies the three stages on the grand highway that leads to enlightenment, the three stages of morality, concentration and wisdom. Morality regulates word and deed, concentration controls the mind, but it is wisdom, the final stage, that enables the spiritual man to annihilate completely the passions which are ever creating a turmoil within him.
Soon after the attainment of enlightenment the Buddha founded the Order of monks (Sangha) containing both the community of those noble disciples who have reached the ariyan noble stages, of which the last is perfect sainthood (arahat). and also the community of Buddhist monks who are striving to reach the ariyan noble stages. The Order of monks increased, and within the forty- five years of the Buddha's ministry it had spread throughout India and beyond, and the gospel of liberation became known to all whose eyes were but lightly covered with dust. A similar order was established by the Buddha for nuns, with all the same rules and such additional ones as were required for women. The Buddhist Sangha, which historically is the earliest monastic institution to be governed by perfectly democratic principles, continues to the present day.
On the seventh day after the Buddha had passed away Maha Kassapa, who was head of the Sangha, decided to hold a convocation to establish the authoritative teachings of the Buddha. They then held a great council at Rajagaha under the patronage of King Ajatasattu, and the Buddhist canon was collected and recited in chants.
During the first century after the demise of the Buddha, there was only one schism among Buddhists, but at the end of the first century during the reign of King Kalasoka a community of monks attempted to introduce ten new indulgences into the discipline of the Sangha, pronouncing them to be allowable to the Sangha. To suppress this heresy, and for the purpose of securing the permanency of the doctrines of the Buddha, seven hundred leading arahats having Revata for their chief, protected by King Kalasoka, held the Second great council at Vesali in precisely the same manner as the previous one.
The Third great council was held in the third century after the Buddha, under the patronage of the Emperor Asoka. On the advice of Moggaliputta Tissa, who headed the third great council, Emperor Asoka sent messengers of the Dhamma to the various foreign countries known at that time.
The Fourth great council was held in Ceylon early in the sixth century after the Buddha, headed by Maha Agga and supported by King Vattagamini. At that council the Tipitaka, which had been transmitted in Pali by memory from the time of the Buddha, was committed to writing for the first time.
The Fifth great council was held in Mandalay, Burma. early in the twenty-fifth century after the Buddha, headed by Jagara Thera with the support of King Mindon. At that time the whole Tipitaka was inscribed on seven hundred and twenty-nine marble slabs placed at the foot of Mandalay Hill.
The Sixth great council was held in Rangoon, Burma, commencing at the full moon of May, 2498 years after the demise of the Buddha, and ending on the 2500th anniversary (May 1956). At that council the Tipitaka was recited in Pali, and steps were taken toward translating it into some more modern languages.
In modern times there are mainly two schools of Buddhism, i.e., Theravada. which is practised chiefly in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos; andMahayana, which is practised in China, Tibet and Japan.
Theravada, the Way of the Elders, was the original and only tradition from the earliest times to the time of the second great council when the Mahasangika school, a precursor of Mahayana, was formed. Sarvastivada then arose as the second major school which differed from Theravada, although in only minor details at first, after which it divided into several sub-sects, many of which eventually developed intoMahayana.
The main differences between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism are the concepts in regard to the Buddha himself, as well as in regard to the Bodhisatta ideal, the canon of scriptures, the development of doctrine, the celibacy of the monks and the form of ceremony.
The similarities between the two schools of Buddhism are: the Four Noble Truths, which relate human suffering to the attachment of what is only transient and impermanent; the anatta (non-ego) doctrine and the doctrine of the chain of causation, although variously interpreted; the Noble Eightfold Path, as the way of deliverance which involves a moral discipline as well as the practice of meditation; the virtue of metta, loving-kindness, as being fundamental; the acceptance of the Buddhist Teaching as being universal in its application; and the Middle Way of life to the goal of Nibbana, the highest of all happiness.
6. THE MEANING OF BUDDHISM
(Extract from talk of above title)
The Buddhist ascends to Nibbana through many stages of the Middle Way, the path of wisdom, morality, and control. There is not space enough here even to mention these phases or the various aspects of the regimen recommended by the Buddha in his vast scriptures; but it may be taken for granted that the life of the conscientious Buddhist is full and rich. Through the cycle of rebirths he ascends, he perfects himself, he conquers his cravings through wisdom and love. Slowly the kammic force ebbs away, the flame dies down.
At the root of man's trouble is his primal state of ignorance. From ignorance comes desire, which sets the kammic force in motion. Hence the way to Nibbana lies through knowledge, and we come again full circle to Dhamma, the Buddha's teachings. For in Dhamma, as truth, lies release from ignorance and desire and perpetual change. and the Buddha has shown us the way to truth
What, then, is the meaning of Buddhism? Ultimately Buddhism, although not strictly speaking a religion, is a systematic exercise in spirituality, certainly one of the greatest ever conceived. It offers the individual a means by which he may fulfil himself through understanding, reaching eventually the plane of the supraperson on which both the self and self-knowledge are no longer useful. Meister Eckhart, the Great Christian mystic, said: The kingdom of God is for none but the thoroughly dead'. The Buddhist would agree, though he would probably prefer a less grim way of saying it. Nibbana in life, the peace which passeth all understanding', is the conquest of life, the discovery of the permanent in its flux of psychophysical accidents and circumstances. The Buddhist believes that through meditation and good hard thought he can follow the Buddha through the successive stages of enlightenment and achieve at last the perfect wisdom which surmounts all need.
But by no means all Buddhists are monks or adepts. What does Buddhism mean for the ordinary person going about his work in the world? All through the Buddha's teaching, repeated stress is laid on self-reliance and resolution. Buddhism makes man stand on his own feet, it arouses his self-confidence and energy. The Buddha again and again reminded his followers that there is no one, either in a heaven or on earth, who can help them or free them from the results of their past evil deeds. The Buddhist knows that the powers of his own mind and spirit are enough to guide him in the present and shape his future and bring him eventually to the truth. He knows that he possesses a strength which is ultimately unsurpassable.
Moreover, Buddhism points unequivocally to the moral aspect of everyday life. Though Nibbana is amoral, in the sense that final peace transcends the conflict of good and evil, the path to wisdom is definitely a moral path. This follows logically from the doctrine of kamma. Every action must produce an effect, and one's own actions produce an effect in one's own life. Thus the kammic force which carries us inevitably onward can only be a force for good, that is, for our ultimate wisdom, if each action is a good action.
This doctrine finds its highest expression in metta, the Buddhist goal of universal and all-embracing love. Metta means much more than brotherly feeling or kindheartedness, though these are part of it. It is active benevolence, a love which is expressed and fulfilled in active ministry for the uplifting of fellow beings. Metta goes hand in hand with helpfulness and a willingness to forego self- interest in order to promote the welfare and happiness of mankind. It is metta which in Buddhism is the basis for social progress. Metta is, finally, the broadest and intensest conceivable degree of sympathy, expressed in the throes of suffering and change. The true Buddhist does his best to exercise metta toward every living being and identifies himself with all, making no distinctions whatsoever with regard to caste, colour, class or sex.
In addition, of course, the teachings of the Buddha are a prime cultural force in Oriental life, just as the Bible is the ultimate source of much Western art and thought. The Buddhist scriptures are larger and more detailed than the Christian Bible, however, and in translation would fill a dozen volumes. In Pali the language of the scriptures, the Buddha's teachings are called Tipitaka, which means 'The Three Baskets'.
Vinaya Pitaka, 'The Basket of Discipline', consists of five books which expound the rules of monastic life. Sutta Pitaka, 'The Basket of Discourses', is a collection of discussions, stories, poems, and proverbs, written in simple language, imparting all the precepts of practical Buddhism. The third basket, Abhidhamma Pitaka, or 'Basket of Ultimate Things', deals with epistemological, metaphysical and psychological matters and is of interest mainly to trained philosophers.
Thus the Tipitaka offers cohesive guidance at every level of intellectual, ethical and spiritual activity. The Buddha's word is light, a lamp for Burma -- and for everyone.
7. WHAT BUDDHISM MEANS TO A BUDDHIST
(Lecture to the High Court Buddhist Association, Rangoon)
The title of my talk this afternoon is 'What Buddhism means to a Buddhist'. To a Buddhist, Buddhism is not a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood: but to him or to her Buddhism is a practical method of life --- to show how to live rightly thereby, happily and peacefully in spite of the unrest that is prevailing in the world.
Buddhism, we say, is not a religion because it is not a system of faith and worship. The word 'religion' usually means a system of faith and worship but Buddhism is a way of life, and it is also a way of understanding the conditions of life so that a Buddhist may be able to live in harmony with other people and also in harmony with the laws of righteousness.
Buddhism is founded on reason. Therefore it is a scientific explanation of the natural laws of life and not a set of dogmas laid down authoritatively; there are no dogmas in Buddhism. You know what a dogma means, a dogma is a rigid system laid down by authorities as representing the Truth; it is, so to speak, an arrogant declaration of one's own opinion. In Buddhism there are no such dogmas, but there are laid down a set of facts and principles for us to live by --- for us to follow.
Buddhism declares the laws of righteousness, the Universal law, the laws of cause and effect (Dhamma Niyama) proclaiming that man is the master of his own destiny. He can mould his own life according to his ideas as a Buddhist. Buddhism removes that fear of death which haunts every untrained mind. Buddhism is the right way of life which is neither optimistic nor pessimistic.
Many people in the West think that Buddhism is pessimistic. On the contrary, the Buddhist way of life is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Many people in the world, especially the unthinking, carefree sort --- would like to have an optimistic view of life. Whenever such a man becomes depressed he is advised to be optimistic, but according to the Buddhist view this is not correct. Optimism, being an overestimated view of the condition of life, does not take the right view; nor is the pessimist's view, which underestimates the actual condition of life, the right view.
The right view of life is the Middle Way (Majjhima-patipadda) between these two extremes. Both these two extremes are futile for anyone to follow. So to a Buddhist, Buddhism means the right way of life --- a method by which a man can live happily, peacefully and with security for the present and security in the hereafter. In Great Britain people talk of future security but the security they speak of is very temporary. The Buddhist way of security is permanent, eternal and lasting.
The lives of men, and in fact the whole universe of living beings, are governed by unchanging, eternal laws, such as the laws of cause and effect, the laws of the mind or the laws of psychology (Citta-niyama). So the whole universe is governed by these eternal laws and not by any imaginary God.
For instance, sin, according to Buddhism, is not like the original sin mentioned in Christianity. Sin, Buddhism says, is the direct consequence of man's ignorance of these laws of righteous ness, these laws of justice. As you know, sin begets sorrow. These are ancient or eternal laws of life.
To anyone who believes that the world is not governed by the laws of righteousness but by a changing, continually changing, God, it seems one must try to persuade a supreme God to make it better. It means that one does not believe that God's will is always just, for God has wrath which has to be appeased, compassion to be aroused and partiality to be won. But to the Buddhist the laws of nature, the laws of righteousness which govern the universe, are always the same, the same for one and all. Therefore, a man's duty is not to break these rules of nature --- the laws of justice --- not to try to change these laws by means of any prayer and by guarding against them but to know, to understand these eternal, unchanging laws and live in harmony with these laws.
Right through the Teachings of the Buddha stress is laid on such attributes as self-reliance, self-confidence, resolution, energy, work, effort. Buddhism makes a man or woman stand on his or her own feet and be master or mistress of fate. Mindfulness is also emphasized greatly by the Buddha. For instance, in the Dhammapada ( re: Magga Vagga 276 )it is said: You yourself must make an effort; the Buddhas are only teachers. The thoughtful who enter the Way are freed from the bondage of sin.' Again, in the same book, 'Mindfulness is the path of immortality, sloth the path of death. Those who are strenuous do not die; those who are slothful are as if dead already.( re: Appamada Vagga 21 )
By deathlessness, the Buddha means Nibbana. All other conditions, all other lives are full of death --- continual, unending death.
Also the Buddha said, it is in many scriptures either directly or indirectly, that it was through his ceaseless efforts and unshaking perseverance that he attained Buddhahood, the highest state of perfection, that is, supreme enlightenment. Yet, the Buddha does not take a monopoly of his Buddhahood; instead the Buddha encouraged his followers to be as high as possible in the spiritual field, or if they try hard enough, even as high as himself. That is the chief characteristic of Buddhism. The Buddha is like a good father who looks after his son well and likes him to be his equal or even to be his better, if the son can; that is the beauty of Buddhism. And the Buddha shows the way to attain self- enlightenment. He again and again reminded his followers that they will have to rely on themselves, rely on their own efforts and that there is no one anywhere either in heaven or on earth to help them, to save them from the results of their own misdeeds. You will remember also the saying of the Buddha: 'Evil deeds are done only by yourself, not by your parents, friends, relatives or advisers. So you yourself will have to reap the painful results of these misdeeds.' So we are responsible for our own evil deeds. There is no one to save us from the results of these evil deeds.
Understanding that there is no one, no God, no big ceremony that can save us, that can give us spiritual salvation, the true Buddhist feels compelled to rely on himself and on his own efforts, and therefore he has confidence in his power and sense of responsibility. The tendency to rely on any God or any imaginary power outside oneself weakens one's own confidence and affects one's own sense of responsibility. The tendency to trust his own power strengthens his own confidence and sense of responsibility. Moral and mental progress is only possible where there is freedom of thought, without dogmas, without authorities. Where the dogmas come and fetter the mind there can be no spiritual progress; and reliance, trust in any outside authority, leads to spiritual stagnation.
I have lived many years among Christians. Some of my Christian friends, in a joking way perhaps, say their prayers like this: 'O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.'
Now, in any faith freedom of thought is important. In one of the six qualities of the Buddha Dhamma these words, as you all know, are mentioned 'Ehi Passiko' 'Come and see for yourself. The Buddha asked us not to believe in a blind way what is said by him. Of all religions Buddhism makes most demands on mental activity - mindfulness, earnestness, strenuousness etc. When the Buddha gave his famous exhortation to the Kalama Princes in the Kalama Sutta he said: 'Don't accept (views) from hearsay, from what you have been told, because it is mentioned in the scriptures, by reason of logic, in consideration of the reasoning (being plausible), by tolerating the views based on speculation, because of its appearance of possibility and because 'Our monk is venerable'. When you Kalamas realise by yourselves that these qualities are good, faultless, praised by the wise and that they lead to good and happiness when practised and observed, then Kalamas, you should abide in them after acquiring them.'
So the Buddha urged us not to believe what is said merely on authority. Also not to believe in anything because it is the traditional custom -- but at the same time it is better not to denounce such traditions very easily. You must try to experiment with it, examine it thoroughly and after such examination, if it is reasonable and conducive to your happiness and the happiness and welfare of others, then take it, live up to it. This could be said to be a very grand and one of the bravest and boldest declarations ever made by any religious teacher.
To understand the causes and the conditions of life, one of the doctrines taught by the Buddha is the doctrine of Kamma. It is always good to talk a little about the doctrine of Kamma because it helps us to understand Buddhism more and at the same time to understand our daily life better. Kamma is a Pali word meaning 'action'. Literally it means 'good and bad actions'. It covers all actions, be they mental, verbal or physical; in other words, thought, words and deeds. In its ultimate sense Kamma means volition --- mental volition. In the Anguttara Nikaya mental volition is defined. Having mental volition one acts by the mind, by words and by actions.
The doctrine of Kamma is not fatalism nor is it a doctrine of predetermination. Kamma is one of the 24 causes mentioned by the Buddha in the Patthana which govern the whole universe. Kamma is one of the 12 causes which constitute the wheel of life and death taught by the Buddha in the Vibhanga. Kamma is also one of the four causes mentioned in the Abhidhamma and also in the Suttas. Kamma is not of the past only; the past merely influences the present but does not fully dominate it because Kamma is not only the past but also the present. The past forms only a background against which the present life works for the moment. The past combined with the present influences the future which is to come. Only the present moment exists and can be said to be within management, and the responsibility of using this present moment lies with each individual either for good or for evil. Every action produces its effect. It is the action or the cause that comes first and then the effect. Therefore we speak of Kamma as the Universal Law of Cause and Effect.
Let me give you a very common example which has been given many times. For instance, throwing a stone is action, which is a cause. This stone strikes a glass window and breaks the pane. The throwing of a stone is action, a cause, but the stone strikes the window pane and breaks it; that is the effect. The act of throwing a stone at the window is the cause of the breaking of the window and the broken window is the effect. This effect in its turn becomes a cause for further trouble, or effect; for instance, the wasting of money to replace the broken glass. Because you have to replace the window pane and waste your money, the effect on your mind will be disappointment. Then you become irritable. When you are irritable your anger can easily be aroused. Your anger is the result (or effect) but it also becomes a cause again; because of your anger you may say or do something unpleasant; and this something said or done in an unpleasant manner may hurt something or someone and so on.
In Christian terminology because you throw a stone and break the window and you have to pay money to buy a new window pane. the whole series of causes and effects leading to the final result is regarded by them as a punishment of God. In Buddhism there is no room for God who would come and punish you. So, to continue with my example, when you get angry you may say something unpleasant to somebody who may reply by saying something equally unpleasant to you. After that, if you are not careful, this may lead the two of you to a furious quarrel. For two persons this may lead to a fight. Between two nations this sort of thing may lead to a war. All this shows us clearly the existence of the laws of Cause and Effect.
If properly understood, the doctrine of Kamma teaches us to be careful with our thoughts, words and actions in daily life so that, as time goes on, it makes us better human beings, willing to perform better and nobler actions towards all and live more harmoniously with our fellow human beings. This is just one example.
There is a common question asked by people in other countries: 'Sometimes we try to do good, thinking the effect will be good, but in some cases the result or the effect turned out to be just the opposite. The effect is bad. In our locality a cunning, grasping man is called a 'shrewd' person; the more shrewd, the more wicked, the more greedy he is, the more is he praised as a successful hero in society. Again, among the dogs, the strongest and the fiercest dog gets the best bone. So where is the working of your laws of Cause and Effect? Where is the justice of this doctrine of Kamma?'
Well, as for that not only in Australia, for the questioner was an Australian, but in other parts of the world as well, cunning, greedy people are generally praised as if they are the conquering heroes in society. So, you too may ask,' When shall we get good results for the good that we have done or are trying to do? The good we have done seems to be very slow in bearing fruit'. Then, there was another man who told me that while he was engaged in saying his prayers aloud to God - somebody - his neighbor - came and told him that he was making a lot of noise over it. So he said to me. I was trying to perform a good act in good faith but the immediate effect is bad, very bad. So your law of Kamma does not work out well for us.
I said to him: Though you may be worshipping God for a good purpose at that moment, in order to know why the man came and insulted you. you will have to think over what you did or said to him either that morning or the day before or some time in the past. Then, you may be able to find some cause why he came to insult you.' People are apt to forget what they have done to other people. so when the result come, they think it comes suddenly or that they are taken by surprise. It is not always sudden or that they are caught by surprise. It may be that you do not remember what you have done and the cause may be entirely misunderstood.
Therefore whatever comes to us is always just and must be accepted in the right spirit. If something very pleasant happens to us we should not be proud of it. It just shows that our good Kamma has come back to us bearing good fruit. If anything unpleasant occurs to us we should not be angry, depressed or disappointed but we should keep calm realizing that our bad Kamma has come back to us to remind us of our past mistakes. Whenever something comes to upset us let us try to be good, and let us never be worried, excited or angry. Let us make a firm resolve within ourselves to live rightly by trying to understand the working of these Laws of Cause and Effect - called the Law of Kamma in Buddhism.
8. BUDDHISM: THE PATH TO WISDOM
Buddha is one who has attained bodhi; by bodhi is meant wisdom - an ideal state of intellectual and ethical perfection, which can be attained by man through purely human means. The term 'Buddha' literally means 'enlightened one' - 'a knower' - and it is the name of honour bestowed upon the Indian sage Gotama after obtaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree at Buddhagaya in India. Gotama was born as the son of an Indian king on the border of modern Nepal. about 623 years before Christ. To mark the spot as the birthplace of the greatest teacher of mankind and as a token of his reverence for him, theEmperor Asoka erected in 239 B.C., a pillar bearing the inscription., ' Here was the Enlightened One born'. Gotama spent his early years in ease, luxury and culture. His father, the King. tried his best not to let him see anything unpleasant and ugly. In his twenty-ninth year. however. when Gotama went to the royal park, he saw on his way an old man, a sick man and a dead man, and he realized that all, without exception. were subject to birth, old age and death, and that all worldly pleasures were only a prelude to pain. Comprehending thus the universality of sorrow, he had a strong desire to find a remedy for this universal sickness of humanity.
BUDDHA'S SEARCH FOR PEACE
On the night after his return from the park the Prince thought that if he remained as a ruler he would have to spend precious time in kingly duties to maintain his royal position, and not in searching for the remedy whereby to attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana the complete cessation of all sorrow. He accordingly gave up his kingdom and severed all worldly ties. He then lived an ascetic life and wandered as a seeker after real peace. He approached many a distinguished teacher of his day, but nobody was competent to give him what he earnestly sought. He strenuously practised all forms of severe austerities and made a superhuman effort for six long years. Eventually his delicate body was reduced almost to a skeleton. The more he tormented his body the farther he was away from his goal. Having realized the futility of self-mortification, he finally decided to follow a different course, avoiding the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence.
The new path which he discovered was the Middle Way. the Eightfold Path, which subsequently became one of the salient characteristics of his teachings. By following this Path his wisdom grew into its fullest power and he discovered the Four Great Truths, understood things as they truly are, and finally attained full enlightenment. As a man Prince Gotama, by his own will. effort, wisdom and love, attained Buddhahood that highest possible state of perfection - and he revealed to mankind the only straight path that leads thereto. A special characteristic of Buddhism is that anybody may aspire even to the state of the Buddha himself if he makes the necessary exertion. It is a sort of evolutionary process and it is achieved by one's own effort.
The Buddha laid stress on human dignity and taught the worth of the human being. He painted for us the perfect picture of a human being striving and struggling from life to life in the quest for moral perfection - Bodhisatta, man as Buddha in the making. As a Bodhisatta, through countless births he suffered all, sacrificed all and fulfilled every perfection, so that on some distant day he might achieve this unique goal, the goal of winning, not only for himself, but for all beings, deliverance from the heavy burdens of birth, old age, disease and death. The Buddha himself tells us of his origin, and how it started with an inflexible aspiring resolve. He tells us of the gradual perfection of the flux that made that aspiration and how, finally, he won full enlightenment. Instead of disheartening his followers and reserving that exalted state only to himself, the Buddha encourages and induces them to follow his noble example.
Is Buddhism a religion? It is not a religion in the sense in which the word is commonly understood, for it is not a system of faith and worship. Though we may 'take refuge in the Buddha', as runs the Buddhist phrase in the simple ceremony of pledging ourselves to live a religious life, it must not be with any blind faith that he can save us. Here mere belief is dethroned and replaced by confidence based on knowledge of the truth. A Buddhist who has confidence in the Buddha follows the Buddha's instructions to gain deliverance. Because we keep a statue of the Buddha to which we pay respect, we are not in any sense idol worshippers. The image is there to remind us of the perfect personality of the Master, who out of compassion for us left behind his teaching for our benefit. We do not seek our salvation from an image of the Buddha. How can a statue save us? 'Work out your salvation yourself; the Buddhas are only teachers', says the Buddha. Each one is his own refuge and none should expect to be saved by another.
The Buddha can point out the way, and tell us of its difficulties and of the beauties which we shall find as we tread the way, but he cannot tread it for us. We must tread it ourselves. In order to help us to tread the way to our goal. the Buddha has mapped out a practical method of life which has to be lived. It is only by living in accordance with the principles of the teaching that one can realize the true significance of it. The great ideal is Nibbana. the final release from suffering. This is a state to be attained by following the method of life which leads to self-enlightenment. The Buddha's way of life is the middle way which is neither optimistic nor pessimistic. Optimism tends to over-estimate the conditions of life, whereas pessimism tends to under-estimate them. The path is a middle way between the pairs of opposites. and the doctrine of the 'Way' may only be grasped by an understanding of the correlation and interdependence of the two. All extremes beget their opposites and both are alike unprofitable. For all people the middle way of a good life lived in the world is best and safest.
Buddhism consists of three aspects; doctrinal, practical and mystical.( Realizable ). The doctrinal aspect is preserved in the Scriptures called Three Pitakas or baskets of the Canon which contain the words of the Buddha. It has been estimated by English translators of the Pitakas to be eleven times the size of the Christian Bible.
All the teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one verse:
To refrain from all evil,
This verse embodies the three stages of the Grand Highway that leads to enlightenment: morality, concentration and wisdom. Morality regulates word and deed, concentration controls the mind, but it is wisdom, the final stage, that enables the spiritual man to annihilate completely, the passions which are ever creating a turmoil within him.
THE POWER OF WISDOM
Wisdom is the power of seeing what things truly are and how to act rightly when the problems of life come before us. The seeds of wisdom have lain latent in us, and when our hearts are soft and warm with love they grow into their powers. When a man has stilled the raging torrents of greed, anger and delusion, he becomes conscientious, full of sympathy, and he is anxious for the welfare of all living beings. He abstains from stealing and is upright and honest in all his dealings. He abstains from sexual misconduct and is pure, chaste. He abstains from tale-bearing. What he has heard in one place he does not repeat in another so as to cause dissension. He unites those who are divided, and encourages those who are united. He abstains from harsh language. He speaks such words as are gentle. soothing to the ear and which go to the heart. He abstains from vain talk. He speaks what is useful at the right time according to the facts. It is when his mind is pure and his heart is soft by being equipped with this morality that the divine seed, wisdom, grows. Knowledge of the properties of the magnetic needle enables the mariner to see the right direction in the ocean in the darkest night when there are no stars visible. In the same way wisdom enables a man to see things as they truly are, and perceive the right way to peace. It is this wisdom which will enable us to unite with all beings in one immense ocean of tenderness and love.
9. A SHORT HISTORY OF BUDDHISM
On the spot where the Buddha passed away, innumerable princes, brahmans, traders and suddas, as well as devas, assembled to attend the funeral ceremony. There were also seven hundred thousand monks of whom Maha Kassapa was at that time the chief, and under whose direction the funeral obsequies over the body and sacred relics of the Buddha were performed. Having heard of the foolish remarks of the monk Subhadda, who declared that the Buddhas teachings as well as the rules and regulations for the Order of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis were to be observed only in the lifetime of the founder, the head thera had a great desire to perpetuate the doctrines of the supreme teacher. On the seventh day, therefore, after the Buddha had passed away, the head thera for the purpose of holding a convocation on religion arranged to convene five hundred principal theras who had overcome the dominion of the passions, were of great celebrity, perfect in every religious attribute, and who were versed in doctrinal knowledge. They then held a great council at Rajagaha under the patronage of King Ajatasattu, collecting the Buddhist canon and repeating it in chants. This convocation was terminated in seven months.
The Buddhist canon consists of three aspects, the doctrinal (pariyatti), the practical (patipatti) and the realizable (pativedha), all of which are interdependent and interrelated.
The doctrine is preserved in the Tipitaka. This Tipitaka, which contains the word of the Buddha is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Christian bible. It comprises eighty-four thousand discourses, and Professor Rhys Davids estimated the total number of words of the whole text of the Tipitaka to be 1,752,800. As the word itself implies, the Tipitaka consists of three baskets, namely, the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka) and the Basket of Ultimate Things (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
The Vinaya Pitaka, which is divided into five books, deals with the rules and regulations of the Order of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, and gives a detailed account of the life and ministry of the Buddha. The Sutta Pitaka, divided into twenty-six books, consists of discourses preached by the Buddha and, in some cases, his chief disciples. It is rather like a book of prescriptions, for the sermons were propounded to suit the occasion and the temperament of individuals. The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the most important and the most interesting, as it elaborates the four ultimate things: consciousness (citta). mental properties (mental concomitants,cetasika). matter (material qualities, rupa) and Nibbana.
The convocation which was held by the principal theras, having Maha Kassapa for their chief, is called Theriya Safigiti. During the first century after the death of the Buddha, there was only one schism among Buddhists, but at the end of that century during the reign of King Kalasoka a community of monks, resident in the city of Vesali. attempted to introduce ten new indulgences into the discipline of the Buddhist Order, pronouncing them to be allowable to the Order. To suppress this heresy twelve hundred thousand monks, whose leader was Revata, assembled in Vesali. Thereupon their senior, for the purpose of securing the permanency of the doctrines of the supreme teacher, selected seven hundred theras who were gifted with the quality of sanctity and were repositories of the doctrines contained in the three Pitakas. With Revata as their chief, and protected by King Kalasoka. all these theras held the second convocation of religion at Vesali. where the council was conducted in precisely the same manner as the previous one and brought to a close in eight months.
Towards the end of the second century after the death of the Buddha. however, the pupils of those sinful monks, who had been degraded by the theras who held the second convocation, originated the schism called theMahasangika heresy which was gradually sub-divided into various sects. These persons set up a doctrine of their own, although professing it to be the doctrine of the Buddha, and if there was any religious performance they performed it according to their own wishes without reference to the Buddhistic rules. In consequence of numerical preponderance and the schisms of these monks, the good bhikkhus were incapable of regulating their conduct according to the rules of the original faith therefore the bhikkhus in all the Buddhist temples in India were incapable of observing the rites of sanctification (uposatha) for seven years, as none but good bhikkhus could be admitted to these rites.
The Buddha passed away in 543 B.C. 220 years after the Buddha's decease (323 B.C.), Asoka, the emperor of India, became the defender of the Buddhist faith and conferred the royal protection on the Sangha. causing all those heretical monks to be expelled from the Order. The whole of the monks thus degraded numbered sixty thousand, and the Order was then restored to unanimity of communion and upheld the rules of sanctification. For the purpose of holding a further convocation the chief monk at that time,Tissa, selected a thousand monks of sanctified character, perfect in religious knowledge and versed in the Tipitaka. Under the auspices of the Emperor Asoka they held the third council at Patana according to the methods used by Maha Kassapa and Revata, who led the first and second convocations respectively, and that council was brought to a close in nine months.
The Emperor Asoka gave his beloved son, Mahinda, also his daughter.Sanghamitta, to the Order, and sent them to Ceylon to introduce the religion there. His monks taught it throughout the whole of India and carried it to fourteen Indian nations outside its boundaries, also to five Greek kings, his allies, with whom he made treaties to admit his religious preachers. The names of the five kings mentioned in the edicts of the Emperor Asoka, and inscribed by him on stone pillars, are Antiochus of Syria, Ptolemy of Egypt, Antigonus of Macedon, Magas of Cyrene and Alexander of Epirus. Five of Asoka's monks were sent to the five divisions of China in the third century B.C., from whence Buddhism reached Korea in 372 A.D. and Japan in 552 A.D. In the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., it spread to Cochin China, Mongolia and other Asiatic countries, and from Kashmir it spread to Nepal and Tibet. Sona and Uttara, two of Asoka's monks, introduced Buddhism into Burma, and thence gradually it spread to Arakan and Cambodia. In the seventh century, A.D.638, it spread from Ceylon to Siam where it became the state religion, even as it still is today.
Towards the end of the first century of the Christian era, the Buddhists in India were divided into two schools, one of which taught that all the individual had to do was follow out the pure doctrine of the Buddha and seek Nibbana; this was named Hinayana, or the Little Vehicle. Ceylon. Burma. Siam, Cambodia and Laos are said to belong to this school. The other taught special doctrines about the Buddha and some new metaphysical theories; this was styled the Mahayana, or the Great Vehicle. However, the terms Hinayana and Mahayana are not mentioned in the texts, but they have become common among Western writers owing to their usage by Chinese pilgrims. One of the best known philosophers of the Mahayana school wasNagarjuna, who founded and expounded theMadhyamika philosophy. The end and aim of his philosophy was to bring about a compromise, as it were, between the Buddhists and the Brahmins, and to find a mid-point where the adherents of these two could meet and shake hands with one another. Since his time the Brahmins began to regard the Mahayana Buddhists as their brothers in religion, and the Mahayana school had the predominant voice.
In the closing years of the eleventh century, however, India was overrun by the Mohammedans who destroyed the Buddhist monasteries, appropriated the monastic lands for the use of soldiers, massacred monks by the thousand and burned libraries wherever found. Many monks fled across the borders into Tibet and other safe places of refuge, carrying their books with them, and so Hinayana was practically stamped out from India, while Mahayana lingered in nooks and corners for two more centuries before it was lost altogether.
10. THE BASIC PHILOSOPHY OF BUDDHISM
Buddhism is based upon the fact that ignorance is the cause of all worldly misery, and that only self-realization of the truth can combat this ignorance. The Buddha taught that out of ignorance is born evil and iniquity, and that if the human race could see clearly, everyone would do right. So right view is absolutely necessary for intelligent living and true spirituality.
Men in their blind ignorance produce the evil things (sins) and sorrows of the world, therefore the first of the four Noble Truths is the truth of suffering. We can see around us every day the result of people wanting things they cannot have, and the result of their trying to avoid the responsibilities which they should assume. We know that in the majority of cases man's wants and appetites are his undoing. and the Buddha taught that man's sense of possession is his greatest enemy, because the desire for accumulation steals from him his reason and his intelligence. We come, therefore, to the second of the four Noble Truths, namely, the cause of suffering. The great cause of misery is the desire to possess and the desire to preserve things possessed.
To be attached to a thing is to be sad at the loss of it. To despise or hate a thing is to be unhappy at the approach of it. The Buddha taught that selfish desire for a worldly material object results in sacrificing spiritual treasure in order to secure the desired object which is probably of little value. Therefore selfish desire destroys the sense of value, for selfish desire places worldly possessions above wisdom, and personalities above principles.
The third Noble Truth is freedom from suffering, which is attained by the annihilation of all selfish desire.
In line with this we see that attachment is the basis of the fear of death, and that when an individual is not attached to his possessions, their coming and going will leave him unmoved. While he is attached to them he will weep with their passing, and if he hates them he will weep at their approach. While his eyes are capable of tears he is incapable of wisdom. The middle way is the way of the Buddha, and in order to tread the middle way we must understand the Eightfold Path, i.e.. right view, right thought, right speech. right action, right livelihood, right effort. right mindful ness and right concentration: the fourth Noble Truth.
There is a magnificent philosophy underlying all these things which is based upon the four ultimate things, namely, conscious ness, mental properties. matter and Nibbana. But Buddhism is not a subject to be studied only from an historical and literary point of view; on the contrary, it is to be learned and put into practice in the course of one's daily life, for without actual practice one cannot appreciate the truth. Buddhism should be studied, also practised, but above all the Buddha's Teaching should be realized. Self-realization is the ultimate goal, and never have we needed the Buddha's Teaching more than now. It is the way which shows that happiness comes only with wisdom, which alone is the result of right living, and that only.
Source: Nibbana.com, https://www.nibbana.com
to English Index]