Ven. Professor Dhammavihari

  Venerable Dhammavihari was better known in the world of Buddhist scholarship as Professor Jotiya Dhirasekera until his ordination as a member of the Buddhist Sangha on 18th May 1990. Starting his career as a teacher of Pali and Buddhism at the University of Ceylon, Colombo in 1946 he was attached to the University of Peradeniya till 1969. Thereafter he was appointed Professor of Pali and Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto in Canada. Returning to Sri Lanka in 1972 he taught at the Universities of Sri Jayewardenepura and Kelaniya at postgraduate level. As Editor - in - Chief of the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, he introduced many vibrant changes (See Vol. IV Fascicle 1). Appointed Director of the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya, he completely re-established the institute both in terms of its physical structure and its academic content. He moved it from Kelaniya to its metropolitan setting and threw open its doors to students of all disciplines, arts, science, medicine, engineering and law, teaching all courses in both media of English and Sinhala. It was his delight to see Buddhist and non-Buddhist students, both clergy and laity, seriously engaged in research, with a rare relish, in the field of Buddhism. Confident of its future success, he retired in 1987 at the age of sixty six.

His magnum opus is Buddhist Monastic Discipline, published in the Ministry of Higher Education Research Publication Series, Sri Lanka, 1982.

A Correct Vision & A Life Sublime



Ven. Dhammavihari

Vajirarama Aranya,


Kandy, Sri Lanka.



First Print December 1990,

Printed at Lanka Printing & Packaging Company (Pvt) Ltd,


Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa

Adoration to my Buddha, The Glorious, The Worthy, The Fully Enlightened One



To the cherished memory of Athandra Deepanie - a dear daughter and a loving sister

this little gift of the dhamma is offered for the futhherance of her pursuit of the goal of Nibbana


Released on the occasion of the upasampada of Venerable Dhammavihari on 21.12.1990



W.K.Premaratna, Matilda Premaratna

and Anuja Premaratna

father, mother and brother

and Priyanka Jayawardhana




(1) From Samsara to Nibbana : The goal of religion in Buddhism


  (2) Nature : The cradle of human culture


  (3) In Harmony


  (4) Happy Wayfarer


  (5) To be good is to be great


  (6) Wisdom for the world - Buddhism's contribution


  (7) Welcoming the New Year or the new century ?




This little booklet consists of a selection of talks on Buddhism given by me over the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and a few articles published in journals here and abroad, spreading over a period of nearly twenty years. Most of them have been rearranged and considerably enlarged, keeping in mind the needs of the day. It has been my endeavour all my life to present Buddhism as a living reality which enriches human life to an unimaginable degree. This is what Buddhism really is. It is this enrichment aspect of Buddhism, namely bhàvanà or the culture and nurture of the human mortal through the multiple process of sikkhà, viz: moral rectitude[sãla], acquisition of purity of mind and thereby power over it [ samàdhi ] and consequent gaining of wisdom with regard to the real nature of the world we live in [ pa¤¤à ] which gives every down-to-earth human being or lokiya puthujjana his own right of transcendence over all that is earthly, good and bad, to become lokuttara or supra-mundane or supremely above the mundane.

It is to be understood and appreciated whether we speak in terms of progress, culture or achievements, the Buddhists cannot, without thoroughly deluding themselves, look for anything divorced from these or anything which contradicts these. Such a perfection of man acquired through this threefold culture of tisso sikkhà is truly an achievement greater than the conquest of space. For it is this very process of the journey which every Buddhist has to undertake which makes the world around us a better place to live in. It is well worth a trial.

Thus as every space shuttle, whether to the moon or to Mars or Jupiter, has first to get off the launching pad, it would be noted that these essays have a singleness of purpose, and earnest endeavour to get the correctness of direction and the ideal conditions prior to the launching. Let us know what exactly we have to do, religion wise as Buddhists, and let us also ask ourselves whether we are all ready for it. Everybody knows how work goes on at NASA and the discipline behind it. If a job of work has to be done, one must get down to it, no matter what it costs in terms of money, time or labour, not to talk of name and fame and pomp.

The essays in this collection are not meant to be read like chapters in a thesis, with a continuity from one to the other. Read each one, as it were independent of the other, gaining total vision through each one. Then a point of convergence will emerge and you cannot miss it. It is earnestly hoped that our readers would make an honest attempt to familiarise themselves, sooner or later, with Buddhist texts, closer to the originals as far as possible. Their balmy freshness is to be felt. Incorporation of Pali quotations in their original form has been at times unavoidable for this reason. They alone can provide that vitality and vibrancy to the word of the Buddha. This is really delivering the Buddhavacana in Caesarean style and therefore without any contamination and consequent lowering of quality in the process of delivering through translations.

Let me conclude expressing my deep sense of gratitude to Mr. W. K. Premaratna who sponsors the publication, Mr. D.C. Ranatunga and Mr. B. N. Jayawardhana, who helped me at all stages in the preparation of the manuscript for the printer, all of whom I have known since their days at the University in Peradeniya in the early fifties. These are the enduring joys of a guru who has been able to look upon his pupils with paternal affection.

With a firm conviction I wish to add that Mr. Ariya Wickrama and the staff of Lanka Printing and Packaging Co. Pvt. Ltd., the printers, deserve a special word of thanks for the keenness and devotion with which this manual of the dhamma has been so excellently brought out.

Dhammavihari. / 5th November 1990
Vajirarama Aranya , Bowalawatta , Kandy.

  Table of Contents

(1) From Samsàra to Nibbàna

- The goal of religion in Buddhism


  First of all, let us identify the goal of Buddhism as a religion. There is no mistaking about it. It is undeniably the termination at the earliest opportunity of the process of rolling on in saüsàra [... ettàvatà vaññaü vaññati itthatthaü pa¤¤àpanàya ... D.11.63f. ].This in turn is called vaññåpaccheda [ A.11.34 ] or termination of the rolling on of the wheel of life where the incessant interplay of name and form [ nàma-råpa and vi¤¤àõa ] ceases. [ For further details see the above two references.] Every effort at religious or spiritual growth in Buddhism must be geared to this.

It has also to be admitted that this striving for release from saüsàra must be operated from the human plane. This is why the slipping off of an individual from the human state into a lower degenerate existence is always referred to as niraya, apàya, vinipàta etc. They all mean slip off from, degenerate and deteriorate. These are states in which one is expected to purge oneself of the defilements [ pañisaüvedeti ] which one has gathered round oneself in the incorrect process of living in the world. We hear of beings in such states said to be always praying to be born as humans and promising to lead a good life on their return there.

They say:

So hi nåna ito gantvà yoniü laddhàna mànusiü
vada¤¤å sãlasaüpanno kàhàmi kusalaü bahauü.
[Pv. v. 805 ]

This is a poignant reference to the value of human life as a launching pad from which to commence one¡s spiritual ascent. It may be stated with 100% accuracy that whatever one does towards the attainment of one's salvation, they are invariably tied up with human existence and the life process in the world. While the normal run of the life process leads to prolongation of saüsàra, a correct and regulated life process leads to its reduction and termination. Life in the world and religious aspirations have thus to be integrated into a harmonious whole. What one attempts to do in the name of religion towards the attainment of the goal of salvation cannot be apart from our process of living. It has to be a part of it. This is why we would choose to call the statement "the lonely road to Nirvana", often made by uniformed and uninitiated persons, a wild generalisation. It is much worse when somebody says of the Buddhists that "They can no longer exclude the social dimension from their system."

These misconceptions regarding the social concern of Buddhism as a religion have well and truly originated from an ignorance of the religion as a whole both by Buddhists and non-Buddhists. For the critics come from both quarters. This is why we have the need today, more than ever before, to re-read our Buddhist texts, understand the full import of the religion and re-regulate our religious life in a meaningful way.

Life of man in the world, if he is also heedful of his religion, can be brought under three broad categories, namely social, economic and religious. Man's position in the world in relation to other human beings, both immediately connected and remotely connected, is one that needs to be carefully determined, to ensure that the human complex works without friction and with perfect ease and efficiency. Human nature being what it is, the ego tends to dominate at every turn and self interest can work to the detriment of those around. Likes and dislikes in life, attraction and repulsion are the outcome of this. When these get beyond manageable limits there is violence, crime and unrest in society. This, nobody likes. This is a universal truth: Sukhakàmà dukkhapañikkålà . Whether it is pain of mind or pain of body, nobody ever likes it [ See M.I.341 ].

This in Buddhism is the basis of its social philosophy .When this is pushed to its transcendental heights it is also the basis of its religious philosophy. For nibbàna is happiness or sukha supreme - nibbànaü paramaü sukham. With these preliminary remarks in mind, now let us turn to a sutta like the Parabhava. The word paràbhava means decline, degeneration or deterioration. When we analyse the sutta carefully we discover that the decline discussed in this sutta pertains mainly to the social and economic spheres of life of the man in the world. The opposite of this idea of decline, namely development, is expressed in the sutta by the term bhavaü. The idea of development and growth implied in bhavaü is seen reaching as far as bhàvanà. For bhàvanà is essentially growth of character, morally and intellectually.

This same interest for the social and economic development of man in society is witnessed throughout Buddhist texts. Vasala Sutta is another very good example of this. In an honest attempt to foster such growth, the Parabhava Sutta carefully highlights the areas of decline and attempts to arrest such decay. We have time and again stressed that Buddhist ethics are set up on the bed-rock of respect for life and respect for property of others. This is because, as far as we are concerned, this is what we also would like others to respect. We take ourselves as an example and behave towards others on that principle. This is the principle of self-example or attåpamàya [atta : self + upamà : example].

As a basic universally extensive ethic, the pa¤ca-sãla is upheld by the Buddhists for this reason. Regional barriers and political boundaries are disregarded in the promulgation of the pa¤ca-sãla by the Cakkavatti King in Buddhism. Man must be man, and full of humanitarian considerations, whatever his politics be. Moral reorganising and not political restructuring is the Buddhist theme. This is why the Cakkavatti begins with the pa¤ca-sãla : pàõo na hantabbo etc. and ends up by telling his vassals "to carry on as before: yathà bhutta¤ ca bhu¤jatha" in the aministration of the kingdom.[ See D.III.62 ].

From this universal ethic we see what might also be called a regional Buddhist ethic emerging. It is certainly no narrowing process leading to exclusion, but one of being specific for better enforcement. The general principle of respect for life is seen developing in a new direction, bringing within its fold a principle of respect for persons in view of their social position. This one of interpersonal relationship accepts the principle of leadership and seniority [ vuddhàpacàyana ] in the human community. Thus the respect for religious men, parents and elders in the family by the rest of the membership did not appear offensive to the Indian mind.

A primus inter pares was accepted. It was the fulfilment of a social contract. This we should be able to see in the Parabhava, Vasala and Mangala suttras of the Sutta Nipata [Sn. vv: 91-114, 116-142, 258-269 respectively ] and also in the satta aparihàniyà dhammà [ or virtues that arrest social decay ] of the Vajjis [ See D.II.73f. ]. The perfect development of this attitude, made highly domestic, is seen in the idea of saluting the six directions as admonished by the Buddha to young Sigala as a home-dweller [ kule gihã ] in the Sigala Sutta [D.111.191f. ].

This virtue of respecting clan-elders [ kule jeññhàpacàyana ], each within its own clan grouping, looms large in the Buddhist horizon [ See D.III.72-74 for further details of this. See also M.III.179 ]. The Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta, in this context, refers to epochs in human history when this virtue waxes and wanes, and associates it with periods of human development and degeneracy in general. The Mahaparinibbana Sutta, while enunciating the seven factors which arrest socio-political decay [ i.e. satta aparihàniyà dhammà of the Vajjis ] specifically stresses the respect for the elders of the community, adding that due attention be paid to the counsel they can offer : Yàvakãva¤ ca ânanda Vajjã ye te Vajjãnaü Vajjimahallakà te sakkarissanti garukarissanti mànessanti påjessanti tesa¤ ca sotabbaü ma¤¤nissanti vuddhi yeva ânanda Vajjãnaü pàñikaïkà no parihàni [D.11.74 ].

While this forms the broader base of the pyramid of ethical culture in this specific area, the Sigala Sutta picks it up at the narrower end of the single family unit and talks in terms of parents and children [D.III.189]. With a reciprocal responsibility the Sutta states five conditions each for both groups and insists on their fulfilment for the healthy growth of community life. Feeling as it were that this mild and persuasive didacticism of the Sigala Sutta is unequal to the task, the Vasala and Parabhava Suttas take up this cause and address the miscreants who neglect their duty by their parents in terms which would be called both caustic [Vasala ] and incisive [ Parabhava ]. In no uncertain terms, the Vasala Sutta [Sn.v.124 ] calls such a defaulter an outcast while the Parabhava Sutta [ Sn.v.98 ] strikes the warning that such behaviour definitely leads to one's decline and deterioration.

Likewise the respect for others' property is seen developing, not only in relation to material possessions, but also in relation to the personal composition of the family, like the wife and the husband and the children in relation to one another. Thus there emerge very specific injunctions with regard to conjugal fidelity, pre-marital sex relations etc. Here too, one discovers a collective attempt made in the Buddhist texts to consolidate these virtues in society. Picking up this virtue of conjugal fidelity as the basis of domestic solidarity, the Vasala Sutta [ Sn.v.123 ] assails its violation very comprehensively, ruling out both compulsion and connivance [ sahasà sampiyena và ] as grounds for its commission. Parabhava Sutta [ Sn v.. 103 ] frowns upon looseness of sexual behaviour on grounds of incontinence and insatiability [ Sehi dàrehi asantuññho ].

It should now be clear from what has been indicated so far under the caption ' From Samsara to Nibbana ' that the goal of Buddhism as a religion is unquestionably a transcendental one. Admittedly it is so in all religions. But Buddhism has its uniqueness here on two specific grounds. To the Buddhist, this life from birth to death is only a single frame in an infinitely long film strip. Therefore the correction and improvement in the first is of primary importance for those that follow, the second and the third etc. The risk of error and breakdown is minimal if the correction is made here and now, while one is alive. The second consideration is that this correction is solely and entirely the burden of the individual. It is his judgement, it is his will and it is his endeavour [ diññhi chanda viriya ].

It is his personal responsibility [ attanà ' va kataü pàpaü or attanà akataü pàpaü as the Dhammapada precisely puts it at Dhp. v. 165 ] that gains him his purity for his transcendence, for his attainment of the religious goal. Our endeavour was to show that the Buddhist has to live the life into which he is born, well and truly in the Buddhist way, to transcend it. This process of religions living makes this life immensely richer by whatever sensible yardstick one measures and makes it considerably useful for the peace and prosperity of the world around him. This concept of true Nibbanic aspiration and its correct method of achievement, one must not lose sight of.

Thus, in the first stage of the journey to nibbàna, sãla or good ethical living appears to be the most reliable carrier.

  Table of Contents

(2) Nature

-- The cradle of human culture

 Today let us talk about the Buddhist attitude to nature. By nature I mean here the natural environment of man, including fauna and flora as well as the rivers, lakes, forests and mountains. We in the east have a special way of feeling about nature. This .is particularly so of the Buddhists. The Buddhists, in their escalation up the ladder of religious accomplishment, finally have to meet at a stage of not differentiating materially between man and the world around him. Bring to mind here the aspiration of Thera Talaputa who expresses this idea as follows.

Kadà nu kaññhe ca tiõe latà ca khandhe ime'ham amite ca hamme
Ajjhattikàn ' eva ca bàhiràni samaü tuleyyaü tadidaü kadà me.

Thag. 1101

'This is Thera Talaputa's wish, living in the jungle as he did, to see no difference between the composition of his own being and the material things of the world like grass, dry wood and creepers. One thus gets naturally merged in the world in which one exists. There could then be no over-inflation of an ego which expands and spreads forcibly over every other thing around.

We will do well now to begin by quoting a revered Japanese Buddhist scholar, the late Professor D.T. Suzuki, on this subject. He says:

' First of all, Basho was a nature poet, as most of the Oriental poets are. They love nature so much that they feel one with nature. They feel every pulse beating through the veins of nature. Most Westerners are apt to alienate themselves from nature. They think man and nature have nothing in common except in some desirable aspects, and that nature exists only to be utilised by man. But to Eastern people nature is very close.' Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. p.2

But today it is lamentable to note that through the ruthless inroads of industrialization and mechanisation, and the disastrous scientific appendages that come along with them, this very virtue of the Eastern world is rapidly getting eroded and denuded.

Let me begin with the Buddhist attitude to the forest as an integral part of the world we live in. It does not exist as a region unknown by man and avoided by him. It is no doubt spatially away from the town, the normal habitat of man. But what it can offer materially and offer for the benefit of the mind, are all too well known to man. Thus in this setting, man was appreciating the benefits he was constantly deriving from nature around him. So he deemed it his duty and responsibility not to damage it or deplete it of its richness. It is treacherous, says Buddhist thinking, to break the branches of a tree under whose shade one sits or sleeps. The ethics of this injunction appears to have been widely accepted in the Indian society of the day. In the Buddhist Jataka collection this verse appears in six different places, independent of one another [ Jataka Pali vv. 1503, 2129, 3478, 4329, 5713, 5851 ]. We find this idea picked up again in the Petavatthu and the verse is uttered as an ethical injunction, forbidding treachery towards a person who is one's friend [ Pv. v. 259 ].

Yassa rukkhassa chàyàya nisãdeyya sayeyya và
Na tassa sàkhà bha¤jeyya mittadubbho hi pàpako.

This affinity of man to the forest and the warmth of his relationship to it is clearly evident from the records in Buddhist texts of planted man-made forests [ ropita-vana ] in the vicinity of Rajagaha which had on one side it's own natural forest [ jàta-vana ] belt coming down from the Himalayan range. Apparently forest-culture was part and parcel of Indian culture of the day. They had realised the iridispensability the forest for the enrichment of human culture. Therefore the culture or growing and grooming of forests [vana-ropa ]was listed high among the good deeds of men which entitle them to a much-wished-for birth in the heavenly worlds [ àràma-ropà vana-ropa ..... te janà saggagàmino S.1.33 ]. It's attractions are often the envy of the town dweller, particularly of those who are sensitively conscious of the corroding effects, both physical and mental, of urban culture.

The practice and growth of religious life in Buddhism, mainly its aspect of mind culture, is very intimately and closely tied up with residence in the forest. ' Gone to the forest or gone to the foot of a tree - ara¤¤a-gato và rukkhamåla-gato và - is a recurrent statement in Buddhist texts which deal with admonitions to monks who are intent on mind culture. The Girimananda Sutta [ A.V.108ff ] is one of the finest examples of this. Six out of the ten items of mind culture or dasa-sa¤¤à here refer to the forest dwelling monks. It is also extremely refreshing to note that some of the loveliest rendezvous in Buddhist sàsana history between the Buddha and some of his disciples or between some of the most outstanding disciples of the sàsana have taken place in sylvan retreats. Sàsana history wise, the staggering meeting between the Venerable Sariputta and the Venerable Punna Mantaniputta took place in the depths of the forest called Andhavana in the vicinity of Savatthi. For the sheer love of meeting two noble personalities of rare distinction one must read this account of the dialogue in the Rathavinita Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya [ M.I. 146-151 ].

Equally touching is the story of the Buddha's endeavour which enabled his young son Rahula to attain arahanthood. It is said that the Buddha, knowing the spiritual maturity and the readiness of young Rahula to attain arahanthood [ paripakkhà kho Rahulassa vimutti-paripàcanãyà dhammà M. II 77 and S. IV. 105 ], after concluding his alms-round at Savatthi, invited Rahula to join him to spend the rest of the day in the Andhavana forest. It is at this meeting, in the serenity of this forest grove, that the Buddha led his son to the attainment of the goal of Nibbana, through a gradual process of instructions through questioning [ ãmasmiü kho pana veyyàkaraõasmim bha¤¤amàne àyasmato Ràhulassa anupàdàya àsavehi cittaü vimucci ].

It is repeatedly stated that the Buddha held the forest as a charming, attractive place. 'Let me alone to the forest resort, the place much praised by the Buddha' , says Thera Ekavihariya [ Handa eko gamissàmi ara¤¤aü buddha-vaõõitaü. Thag. 537 ]. It's solitude is obviously its main attraction : phàsuü ekavihàrissa. This, of course, is a positive virtue of a negative quality. But the more one tries to adjust oneself to the environment, one is drawn closer to the forest by its virtues. Wild life in the jungle is something that thrills the man of cultivated taste. He does not need to level down everything around him in order to get himself into harmony with his environment. Instead, he integrates himself sensibly with the rest of his environment, giving each its own place. Thus the infuriated free-roaming elephant of the wild is legitimately a source of delight: yogipãtikararü rammaü matta-ku¤jara-sevitaü [ Thag. 539 ]. It is said to delight the mind of the yogin, the ardent pursuer of the religious way.

There being the possibility of utilising every aspect of the natural environment as a source of joy and inspiration, we see the forest-dwelling sage commenting on the flora as well. He sees the beauty of the forest in bloom, he senses the cooling power of mountain streams in the forest and he notes with joy and satisfaction the aroma in the refreshing breeze: màlute upavàyante sãte surabhigandhake. This often appears to be the appropriate atmosphere most conducive to spiritual uplift. For this same Thera Ekavihariya whose favourable reactions to his environment we have noticed so far, tells us that perched on a mountain top there he would finally tear asunder the veil of ignorance which keeps him out of reach of the spiritual goal : avijjaü dàlayissàmi nisinno nagamuddhani [ Thag. 544 ].

Another Thera by the name of Sankicca, showing us the charm of the forest, says:

Crags where clear waters lie, a rocky world,
Haunted by black-faced apes and timid deer,
Where cloaked in watery moss the rocks stand
Those are the highlands of my heart's delight.
I ' ve dwelt in forests and in mountain caves
In rocky gorges and haunts remote,
And where the creatures of the wild do roam.

Ps B. vv. 601-602

What is revealed here by Thera Sankicca [ who we are told was young in years at this stage ], with regard to the psychology of the forest-dwelling monk is extremely interesting. The forest-dweller is constantly in the midst of wild and ferocious beasts [vàëamiga-nisevita ] who strike fear into the heart. But the monk's reaction is not one of aggressive challenge. As Thera Sankicca says, it is an attempt to adjust and accommodate oneself to the real situation. In such an atmosphere, hostility is the last thing to show itself up. It is indeed looked upon as vulgar [ anariya ].He says '1 do not recollect any such evil wishes as ' may these beings perish, may they be destroyed or may they suffer pain and anguish '.

ãme ha¤¤antu vajjhantu dukkhaü pappontu pàõino
Saïkappaü nàbhijànàmi anariyaü dukkhasamhitaü.
Thag. 603

It is astonishing to note here the circumstances which set in motion the line of thinking which prompted this young Thera to be thus awakened and pursue his argument in this manner. It is the ill-omened black raven of the charnel-ground who signalled to him the grim reminder about death and the triviality of life which led him to a true spirit of detachment [Thag. 599]. And this in turn led him to infer that detachment leads to a delightful state of ease and happiness [ Thag. 600 ]. Pursue here a young mind like that of Thera Sankicca acquiring such dignified detachment to leave behind, without batting an eye lid, a world in which one has been accustomed to live. Here are Sankicca's own words in their original.

Ya¤ ca a¤¤e na rakkhanti yo ca a¤¤e na rakkhati
Sa ' ve bhikkhu sukhaü seti kàmesu anapekkhavà.
Ibid. 600

Here we correct the Psalms of the Brethren [ v. 600 ] and offer this new translation.

He whom others do not guard,
And he too who hath none other to guard,
Such a bhikkhu dwells in happy ease.
For on gratifying his senses,
He's not set his heart.

It is elsewhere indicated that the beauty of the forest does not always come within the grasp of the average person [ Ramanãyàni ara¤¤àni yattha na ramati jano. Thag. 992 = Delightful indeed are the forests which do not please the man at large]. It requires a cultivated outlook to behold the beauty therein : vãtaràgà ramissanti na te kàmagavesino [loc.cit ]. For they are not seekers after lustful pleasures. The engrossment in the raw worldly pleasures screens its beauty away from the worldling. Here are vivid examples of the new realms of beauty which can be viewed only through new vantage points. The upland glades through which the trumpeting of elephants reverberates holds out a special attraction to Thera Maha Kassapa: Ku¤jaràbhirudà rammà te selà ramayanti maü [Thag. 1062 ]. This is in the same refrain of Thera Ekavihariya quoted above[ Thag. 539 ].

Among the attractions which please him and of which he eloquently speaks are

Rocky heights with hue of dark blue clouds
Where lies embosomed many a shining tarn
Of crystal-clear cool waters, and whose slopes
The herds of Indra cover and bedeck. Ps. B. 1063

He is equally sensitive to the

Fair uplands, rain refreshed and resonant
With crested creatures' cries antiphonal,
Lone heights where silent Rishis oft resort. Ps. B. 1065

An aesthetic sensitivity as well as an artistic temperament can equally well respond to the call of these which appear to be remotely beautiful things. It is no mean artist who describes a mountain in the following style.

Clad with the azure bloom of flax, blue-flecked
As sky in autumn; quick with crowds
Of all their varied winged populace:
Such are the braes wherein my soul delights. Ps. B. 1068

To one who has acquired the capacity to look upon his environment with this new richness, life in the forest, with its unique solitude [ anàkiõõà gahaññhehi ] is far from distressing [ Te selà ramayanti maü Thag. 1069 = Those rocks give me great delight. ]. Such a one longs for it. Thera Maha Kassapa's is a telescopic view of the world, seeing rnany things of beauty which an average naked eye could never see. It is then not surprising when he says that his new penetrative vision of the dhamma [ sammà dhammaü vipassato ] gives him far greater joy than does the music of the best orchestration in the land [Na pa¤caïgikena turiyena rati me hoti tàdisã. Thag. 1071 ]. To the common man of the world [ puthujjana ] such a stage is an unrealised reality of a world which does truly exist.

In a similar strain, Thera Talaputa is seen here reaching out for it.

When shall I come to dwell in mountain caves
Now here, now there, unmated [with desire]
And with the vision gained
Into impermanence. Ps .B. 1069

The new vision which he is longing here for is àniccato sabbabhavaü vipassaü which the Commentary exhaustively explains as ' the ability to view all forms of existence, i.e. kàma , råpa and aråpabhavas in terms of anicca , dukkha and anatta.' In such a life there are new thrills and new adventures.

 O when will [ break above my head ]
The purple storm-cloud of the rains,
And with fresh torrents drench my raiment in the woods,
Yea, when shall this thing come to be ? Ps. B. 1102

The secret of this miracle is that a true disciple, instead of being enslaved by the mind, brings the mind under his own command. The key to this success is his spirit of contentment. Thus Thera Talaputa sings with an admirable depth of conviction.

Thus will I do even as a master should.
What ever is got, be it enough for me.
I¡ll lead thee in my power by force of will,
Like a fierce elephant by skilled mahout. Ps. B. 1139

There is undeniably something unusual in this approach to happiness. But this non-conformity in itself has no stigma. It can indeed have a therapeutic effect. Watch this same Thera Talaputa picking up the cry of the peacock in the woods and using it as a clarion call which summons him to spiritual mustering. His own words are as follows:

O when shall I, hearing the call adown the woods
Of crested, twice-born peacock [as I lie
At rest] within the bosom of the hill,
Arise and summon thought and will
To win the' Ambrosial --
Yea, when shall this come to be? Ps. B. 1103

It is also evident from the words of Thera Talaputa that this kind of forest-dwelling , or rather shall we say forest loving person acquires the skill to charge with new life and meaning even the commonplace and neglected things in nature. It is an artistic ingenuity of re-integration and re-interpretation. See the poet, artist and philosopher in Talaputa from what he says below:

On fastness of the crag
Bright-plumaged passengers of air,
Greeting great Indra's thunder with their cries,
Do give him joy who ponders in the wood. Ps. B. 1108

Is it not an inspiring alliance that is suggested here, between the animate and the inanimate, between peals of thunder and the re-echoing cries of the birds of the forest. This magnanimous and sympathetic understanding of the world we live in and the contents thereof must become the core of Buddhist life.

It is as though the Buddhist cannot and cannot afford to look at life differently. Note the recurrence of this idea in a slightly different form in the following.

Fair-plumed, fair-crested passengers of air
With deep and many hued wing,
Give greeting to the muttering thunder cloud
With cries melodious, manifold; 'tis they
Will give thee joy whilst thou art musing there. Ps. B. 1136

Exploring the depths of the forest, the man of vision finds that joy is not far to seek. It is perhaps for this reason that many countries in the world which can boast of a high level of culture have thought it fit to have forests or semblance of a forest within the reach of their city life. Parks and sanctuaries in miniature [ bois and woods ] provide these. More and more home gardens now come to be laid with this end in view. With a reassuring tone a Buddhist disciple tells us:

O [ Thou will love the life ], be it on crest
Of caverned cliffs, where herd boar and gazelle,
Or in fair open glade, or in the depths
Of forest freshened by new rain - 'tis there
Lies joy for thee to cavern-cottage gone. Ps. B. 1135

Finally, in the patronage offered by the forest by its fauna and flora, not only in their mild form, but even by the fierce and the wild, one begins to find great comfort and confidence. Such is the triumph of bhàvanà which is none other than the culture of human attitudes in the direction of successful self-correction. Thera Talaputa is once again full of conviction when he says:

There in the jungle ringing with the cries
Of peacock and of heron wilt thou dwell
By panthers and tigers owned as chief. Ps. B. 1113

To live like this, to live with this orientation, is a training that one goes through in the process. It appears totally rigorous and ascetic, but it is a training that suitably and subtly qualifies one for flights into spiritual heights. Talaputa was confident of what one could attain through such training and he fittingly concludes his stanza by adding

And for thy body cast off care;
Miss not thine hour, thine aim ! Ps. B. 1113

Kàye apekkhaü jaha mà viràdhaye. Thag. 1113

Compare this line with the Buddha's succinct admonition to the aged Thera Pingiya who was anxiously looking out for the conquest of ills of life, of birth and decay [ jàti-jaràya idha vippahànaü at Sn. v. 1120ff. ].

Discard thy body [ i.e. the attachment to the body ]
In order that
You may not be
Born again and again.

To be able to do this is undeniably to the Buddhists the peak of cultural accomplishment which is attainable by the humans.

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(3) In Harmony

 To be in harmony with the world around us, both with the animate and the inanimate, is one of the principles advocated in Buddhism, in order that man may attain his fullest development within himself and also secure for himself the maximum degree of success and happiness in life in the world outside. And this latter, Buddhism insists, without violence to anyone or anything, and at the same time fostering peace on earth and goodwill among men. This literally requires man to live within the framework of dharma [or the ethic of living ], such living being called dhammacariyà and samacariyà [ i.e. harmonious living ]. Those who practice such a way are called dhammaññhà or dhamma-dwellers. This principle primarily derives its authority from the recognition of the philosophy of mutual interdependence in the universe, i.e. the recognition of the diverse relations that exist both in the physical as well as the psychical world. This relates to the origin and to the peaceful and harmonious continuance of what we conventionally regard as life, states or things.

Thus life on earth, taking into consideration even the wide concept of the universe, has to be a co-operative process, based on the principle of inter-relatedness, not only of mutual assistance but also of mutual non-interruption and non-interference, in order that serious imbalances and consequent destruction might not be brought about. The scientists of the world today emphatically announce the disastrous movement of man, unwittingly though, in the direction of destroying the biota of the world we live in. Note :

" The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats. This is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us.

Although oft cited and reported, the scale of the unfolding catastrophic loss of many and varied ecosystems through human activity is still only dimly perceived, for the link between the degradation of the biota and the diminishment of the human prospect is poorly understood."

[ The Biophelia Hypothesis Edited by Stephen R.Kellart and Edward O. Wilson, Island Press, 1993 , p.4 ]

This philosophy of amity or friendship [i.e. maitrã ] which is fully enunciated in the Metta Sutta of the Buddhists [Sn. vv.143-152 and Khp. p.8f. ], brings within its fold all grades of life, man and bird and beast, no matter how large or small they are. Seen or unseen, near or far, all life is encompassed within thoughts of loving kindness. In displeasure or in ill-will, one shall not long for or pray for the destruction of another With more or less maternal affection, one is called upon to look at life in the universe. This attitude is expected to pervade all areas of Buddhist life, both religious and secular.

To begin with, it is worth noting that in terms of life in society as against that of the monk in the cloister, the Buddhist ruler is called upon to provide peace and security, free from threats of assault or destruction, to men and animals in his kingdom. It is his responsibility not only to provide for the security of his people but also assure safe living for the birds and beasts of the land [ A. 109 f. ]. Considerations both social and religious called for such an attitude. It was the obligation of a righteous ruler which has been honoured and upheld as an ideal for over two thousand years in the history of our land. Out of such a philosophy which had the premier sanction of the state was born a deep-seated love for the environment, not only to include the birds and the beasts but also to tend the vegetation and foster growth of trees and plants.

People had already learnt to derive aesthetic delight and spiritual solace from them. It was already present in the spirit of the religion and the first lessons in this wise were taught by the great stalwarts of the sasana like the Venerable Sariputta and Maha Kassapa. Their appraisal of the forest and all that is therein, including the birds and the beasts, must turn out to a recurrent theme on which our elders in the homes talk with a fair frequency and therefore come to be well known to and appreciated by our younger generation. Let it ring through the ear of every good Buddhist as the Venerable Sariputta sings of the richness of the forest in this manner. We even conceive the possibility of these words being set to music in a manner that would certainly be spiritually edifying. Dwell upon the depth of the idea contained in this utterance. A musically creative mind, enriched with a religious sanctity and sensitivity, could even create a whole symphony out of it.

Ramaõãyàni ara¤¤àni yattha na ramati jano
Vãtaràgà ramissanti na te kàmagavesino
. Thag. 992

Delightful are the forests, where no crowd [i.e. common worldlings]
Doth come to take its pleasure; there will they
Who are released from passions find their joy.
Not seekers they for sense - satiety.
Psalms of the Brethren 992


Here the Venerable Sariputta keenly observes at the same time that the untutored and therefore uncultured worldlings are insensitive to these. The true Buddhist disciples are very much in this line of thinking for, like Thera Ekavihariya, they know that the Lord himself led the way in this direction. Ekavihariya Thera says:


Handa eko gamissàmi ara¤¤aü buddhavaõõitaü. Thag. 537

Let me alone to the forest resort, the place
Much praised by the Buddha.


Thera Maha Kassapa finds the enchantment of the forest enhanced as the trumpeting of the wild elephants reverberates through the upland glades.

 Ku¤jaràbhirudà rammà te selà ramayanti maü Thag. 1062

As the impact of Buddhism came to be felt more and more on the life of Emperor Asoka of India, we see him increasingly practice this love towards animals. Not only the provision of sanctuaries for animals but even a reduction in the slaughter of animals for the royal kitchen is witnessed. Almost on the day Asoka's missionaries arrived in Sri Lanka, the ruler of the land, Devanampiyatissa was out on the royal hunt. It was obviously an expression of a traditional elitist snobbery. It was undoubtedly much less prompted by the desire for venison. Note how perverse social values like these, of the rulers or the ruled, can send those around scaling up slippery walls, to result in disastrous falls to death and destruction.

 But it did not take long in Sri Lanka for the turn of this tide. Kings began to show consideration even for the life of animals. Ban on the slaughter of animals came to be imposed from time to time. Kings of Sri Lanka like Amandagamini, Silakala, Aggabodhi IV and Mahinda III, following this tradition of just kingship, ordered from time to time that no animals should be slaughtered [ Màghàtaü kàrayi dãpe sabbesaü yeva pàõinam . Mhv 41 .v.30 ], and set up veterinary hospitals for the treatment of sick animals. That even fishes, birds and beasts [ [macchànaü migapakkhãnaü Ibid. 48. v. 97 ] carne under the loving care [ kattabbaü sabbaü acarii. Ibid ] of a king like Sena I is undoubtedly owing to the benevolent influence of Buddhism. Sanctuaries for animals, including 'safe pools' for fish in rivers and lakes became a common sight in the land. This is more to be viewed as a magnanimous change of heart and a desirable change in the value systems of the land. It seems to make much less sense to view this as a total imposition of vegetarianism or as leading, on the other hand, to malnutrition or economic disaster.

In fact, one of the kings is supposed to have popularised the eating of fruits as against the 'easy way ' of meat eating and himself undertaken the growing of various types of fruit in the land. Obviously they knew what they were doing and had commendably long-range vision. They also seem to have held the view that it was too presumptuous to believe that man had exclusive rights over the land in which he lived to the exclusion of fauna and flora. On the other hand, they believed that the fauna and flora not only had a right of their own but also contributed in no small measure to the total harmonious growth of the land. This ecological sensitivity and the respect man has for it, is the main stay which in the long run saves him from extinction.

The protagonists of the idea of biophelia hypothesis whom we have already quoted above are laudably moving today in the same direction. But they cannot emphasise it any more than what their Sri Lankan predecessors have implicitly done more than a thousand years ago. The contemporary stress on this kind of thinking, namely that the desire for the survival of man must go closely hand in hand with an equal degree of respect for the survival and well-being of the animal world is boldly reflected in the writings of today's philosopher-thinkers like Peter Singer [ Professor of Philosophy at Monash University, Australia.]. One must co-operatively read his Animal Liberation [ 1975, 1990 ] and his Save the Animals [ co-authored with Barbara Dover and Ingrid Newkirk [ 1990,1991 ] to comprehend the total dimension of this line of thinking and meaningfully relate it to the Buddhist concept of love or universal loving kindness [ Pali mettà and Skt. maitrã ].

In a beautiful brief FOREWORD to the small book Save the Animals referred to above, Linda McCartney writes the following with a remarkably disarming candour.

 ' A long time ago we realised that anyone who cares about the Earth -- really cares -- must stop eating animals. The more we read about deforestation, water pollution, and topsoil erosion, the stronger that realization becomes. Of course, anyone who cares about animals must stop eating animals. Just the thought of what happens in a slaughter house is enough. We stopped eating meat the day we happened to look out of our window during Sunday lunch and saw our young lambs playing happily, as kittens do, in the fields. Eating bits of them suddenly made no sense. In fact, it was revolting. If you want to live a longer and healthier life, the conclusion is exactly the same, naturally.'

This spirit of concern for the world we live in and the total content thereof, both animate and inanimate, is reflected in many parts of the thinking world. Here is Frances Moore Lappe expressing a very candid opinion on this subject in her Diet for a Small Planet [Twentieth Anniversary Edition: November 1991 / Ballantine Books, New York ].

' The change you and I witness in a lifetime now exceeds what in previous centuries transpired over many generations. And we who were born after World War II are the first to know that our choices count : They count on a global scale. They matter in evolutionary time. In our species' fantastic rush toward "modernization" we obliterate millions of other species, transfigure the earth's surface, and create climate-changing disruption of the upper atmosphere, all powerfully altering the path of evolution.

More personally, I feel the quickening of time in realizing that what was heresy, what was "fringe," when I wrote Diet for a Small Planet just twenty years ago is now common knowledge.

Then, the notion that human beings could do well without meat was heretical. Today, the medical establishment acknowledges the numerous benefits of eating low on the food chain.

Then, anyone who questioned the American diet's reliance on beef -- since cattle are the most wasteful converters of grain to meat -- was perceived as challenging the American way of life (especially , when that someone came from Fort Worth, Texas -- "Cowtown, USA"). Today, the expanding herds of cattle world-wide are not only recognized as poor plant-to-meat converters but are documented contributors to global climate change. They're responsible for releasing enormous quantities of methane into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

Then, anyone who questioned industrial agriculture -- fossil fuel and chemically dependent -- was seen as naive " back to the lander." To challenge industrial agriculture was to question efficiency itself and to wish us all back into the fields at hard labor. Today, the National Academy of Sciences acknowledges the threat of agricultural chemicals and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the small family farm is at least as efficient as the superfarms undermining America's rural communities. ' [ Ibid. p. xv f.]

Having put forward what might be termed a Buddhist point of view with regard to love and care of nature and environment, it is well worth illustrating this in actual operation in Buddhist life. It is best we begin with the Buddha himself. A beautiful story in the Buddhist books [ DA.11.p.675 ]describes the Buddha's going to the region of Kunala Lake on holiday with a large number of monks who are said to have been afflicted with anxiety and consequent stress. The very idea of the Buddha's decision to take these monks to the lake district to relieve them of their boredom is fascinating and illuminating. On arrival there, he started the season as it were by inviting the monks to inquire from him about the names of the diverse species of fish in that lake which they could not identify. They did as requested and the Buddha was able to help them with the identification of the various species of fish that attracted their attention.

The intimacy with which he had known his environment and his absorbing interest in them is revealed as the text further says that his knowledge of the environment extended beyond the fish in the lake to the trees on the mountain slopes, and to the birds and beasts [Na kevala¤ ca macchànaü yeva. Tasmiü vanasaõóe rukkhànaü pi pabbatapàde dipada-catuppada-sakunànaü pi nàmàni pucchàpetvà kathesi. loc.cit.]. On inquiry, he was able to help his companions with the identification of each one of them. This diversion and diversification of interest in and into areas which are inoffensive to monastic aspirations and are non-corrosive, seems an ingenious exercise in psychotherapy, even in the more complex and sophisticated society of today.

This rapport which one is capable of developing with the environment, including everything both animate and inanimate, through the teaching of Buddhism, concerns itself not only with the pleasant and the beautiful, but also with what is even regarded as fierce, weird and grotesque. To the spiritually oriented and those who are mature on the Buddhist path, these discriminating differences of ugly and beautiful, pleasant and fierce are both relative and arbitrary reckonings which are by no means insurmountable through the cultivation of a new outlook. Thus it becomes an attainable reality that man shall not be in conflict, and hence be hostile to man or to the environment. Once the idea of functional intergratedness of man and nature is properly grasped, it would not be possible for man to lay his hands on nature in a way that would damage or destroy it. The outcome of this philosophy is eloquently and authentically manifest in the Japanese arts of flower arrangement and landscape gardening. And it is admitted and they make no secret of it that they owe these to Buddhist inspiration which they inherited nearly fifteen centiries ago.

If one carefully scans the ecstacies of the early disciples of the Buddha, expressed in works like the Theragatha, one discovers the sources which inspired this austerity in art, and this love of the weird and the grotesque. It is the goal of a man seeking peace and tranquility, of development within and without, to be harmoniously blended with nature. Adequate proof of it may be given from the very words of Buddha's own disciples. Animals that are stigmatised as a threat to man or are believed to stand in his way, when viewed from this magnanimous angle are seen to be never so hostile. Far from it, they can be integrated into a harmonious community, adequately respecting both their right to be in it and the valuable part they can play towards its uplift. It may be a Nirvana-oriented disciple we see when we meet Thera Talaputa, who can with honesty and sincerity say the following.

There in the jungle ringing with the cries
Of peacock and of heron wilt thou dwell
By panthers and by tigers owned as chief.
And for the body cast off care;
Miss not thine hour, thine aim! Ps.B. v. 1113.

Or hear in the words of Kassapa the Great a similar ring.
Those upland glades delightful to the soul,
Where the Kareri spreads its wildering wreaths,
Where sound the trumpet-calls of elephants;
Those are the braes wherein my soul delights. Ibid. v. 1062

The charms of lakes and mountains were well known and wisely appreciated by the poet-disciples of the Buddhist community, inheriting this legacy as it were, from the Master himself to whose love nature we have already referred. Hear same elder Kassapa, waxing eloquent on them:

Those rocky heights with hue of dark blue clouds,
Where lies embosomed many a shining tarn
Of crystal-clear, cool waters, and whose slopes
The 'herds of Indra' cover and bedeck:
Those are the braes wherein my soul delights.
Like serried battlements of blue-black cloud
Like pinnacle on stately castle built
Re-echoing to the cries of jungle folk:
Those are the braes wherin my soul delights.
Fair uplands rain-refreshed, and resonant
With crested creatures' cries antiphonal,
Lone heights where silent Rishis oft resort:
Those are the braes wherein my soul delights. Ibid. vv. 1063-65


Yet another finds joyous company with birds and beasts.
O (thou wilt love the life), be't on the crest
Of caverned cliffs, where herd boar and gazelle,
Or in fair open glade, or in the depths
Of forest freshened by new rain - 'tis there
Lies joy for thee to cavern-cottage gone.
Fair-plumed, fair-crested passengers of air
With deep blue throats and many-hued of wing,
Give greeting to the muttering thundercloud
With cries melodious, manifold; 'tis they
Will give thee joy whilst thou art musing there. Ibid. vv. 1135-36


Through this philosophy is achieved a transcendence, a release from the rigidity of the workaday life:

And when the god rains on the four-inch grass,
And on the cloud-like crests of budding woods,
Within the mountain's heart I'll seated be
Immobile as a lopped off bough, and soft
s cotton down my rocky couch shall seem. Ibid.v. 1137

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(4) Happy Wayfarer

The word wayfarer or maggànuga is used in Buddhist texts to denote the disciple who is intent on treading the path to release from suffering as announced and indicated by the Master. As the venerable Ananda puts it to the Brahmin Gopaka-Moggallana, in reply to a question about the relationship between the Master and his disciples, the Buddha is the propounder of the hitherto unknown way [ anakkhàtassa maggassa akkhàtà ], the knower of the way [ magga¤¤å maggavidå ] and the one who is skilled in the way [ maggakovido ]. The disciples thereafter [ pacchà-samannàgatà ] tread the way [ maggànugà ca pana etarahi sàvakà viharanti pacchà samannàgatà ti. M.111.8 ].

Let us now talk about the life of the true Buddhist disciple who with a deep conviction accepts the teaching of the Buddha as the only way to release from dukkha or the sufferings of life. We are thus immediately brought face to face with the two concepts of dukkha and nirodha in Buddhism, nirodha being the total cessation or the ceasing to be of the unsatisfactory continuation of the process of living which is called bhava. It is this cessation and none other that we refer to as nibbàna [ bhava-nirodho nibbànaü . S. II. 117 ]. By whatever other name one calls it, the net result in nibbàna is this and no other. This is also the final goal of our religious striving, our endeavour to achieve concentration of mind and beyond it perfect development of wisdom.

The message of Buddhism primarily focusses attention on this predicament [or the unpleasant situation ] in which man finds himself. At this stage, it is good for us to be immediately reminded of the vocabulary which the Bodhisattva himself uses as he reflects on this problem: Kicchaü vatà ' yam loko àpanno jàyati ca jãyati ca mãyati ca cavati ca uppajjati ca. [ S.I1.104 ]. His observation is that ' the world indeed is plunged in a very distressing situation.' It is distressing because of the concomitants of life such as the painful changes in the process of growth and maturity called jarà which also brings in its wake vyàdhi or disease, terminating in death or maraõa. It is the reality of these which invariably led many among the mortals to speculate on the absence of these failings like decay, disease and death, in their unpleasantly manifest gross form, in the life in the heavenly worlds.[ In the heavenly worlds known to the Buddhists, none of those failings of decay, disease and death are grossly manifest.] It is for this same reason that in more recent times, well-motivated men were driven to look for their solution in such remedial measures like organ transplant. It is an adventure as thoroughly visualised as the plan to grow vegetables on the moon to meet world shortages on this planet. This, we know, was announced in the western world, in a credibly serious mood, in the sixties and seventies of this century. But this is not to see the problem in its totality.

In the Buddhist texts we are reliably informed that this plight of man stretches infinitely through time and space. But we note with regret the hyper-intellectual slant today to view the human problem as presented in Buddhism to be a matter of one life time, contained within a single frame of birth to death. It is here that our saddhà or reliance [ or trusting in, of course, in the Buddha and his teaching ] comes in, for without it we would reject both concepts of dukkha and nirodha which are the basics [ numbers one and three ] of the four noble truths [ i.e. cattàri ariya-saccàni ] which deliver to the world the message of Buddhism. [ See Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta at S. V. 421f. and Vin. I. 10 ]. It is this third dimension of life, namely the saüsàric one, which we have to seriously bear in mind. While Buddhist texts repeatedly speak of it as ' anamataggà ' yaü bhikkhave saüsàro pubbà koñi na pa¤¤àyati [ at S. 11. 178 and S.V. 226 ] which means 'Infinite is this life process of man and its first beginning is not discernible,' yet there are people even within the Buddhist fold who would have us believe that both the problem of man and its solution are matters only of one life time.

This life process of man which we come to take note of from his present conceivable existence, it must remembered, descends into our midst from the past and stretches across into the incalculable future, again beyond our ken. If this were not true, the Bodhisattva during his observations quoted above [ S. 11.104 ], would not go on to continue his remarks as mãyati ca cavati ca uppajjati ca : dies, passes away from one existence to another, and is born [ again ]. And also talking of final release, the Buddha speaks of it as the absence of a regeneration of all this in a new life beyond the present. This result is equated to the absence of all that which were described as the ills of life [ Yattha natthi àyatiü punabbhavàbhinibbatti tattha natthi àyaiü jàti-jarà-maraõaü. S.11.65f. & 103f. ]. It is the totality of this process, found to be here as well as hereafter [ idha loke patiññhitaü paraloke patiññhitaü ] which is referred to in Buddhism as saüsàra.

As we give further thought to what has been discussed so far and consider from the Buddhist angle the contributory factors which sustain this saüsàric process, we discover ignorance or avijjà and craving or taõhà as what underlie this [avijjà-nãvaraõànaü sattànaü taõhàsaüyojanànaü sandhàvataü saüsarataü. op.cit.178 ]. On further investigation we discover that saüsàra also implies existence both in the human plane and in several others above and below it. This is what we discover as we proceed from the known and the seen, i.e. life here and now, in the direction of the unknown and the unseen, i.e. of what is beyond this life, beyond death. This journeying into a life beyond or gati is said to be fivefold : Pa¤ca kho imà Sàriputta gatayo. Katamà pa¤ca. Nirayo tiracchàna-yoni pitti-visayo manussà devà. [ M.I. 73 ]. In a superior state above man stands deva, and immediately below devas is the human. There are three inferior states below the human, viz. hells of torture [ niraya ], animal world [ tiracchàna-yoni ] and the realm of famishing ghosts [ preta = pitti-visaya ].

Here it is well to remember that true humility with regard to limitations of our knowledge and our ability to know can be extremely rewarding. Let us profit by knowing that there are limits to our cocksureness even in this space age of high-class scientific achievement and that failures are possible even with the surest of calculations. This did happen even with very sophisticated space-ships [ fired through the NASA ] like the Mars Observer [unmanned ] which ended up in disaster after eleven months of very successful travel in outer space, and the German sponsored research-shuttle Discovery [ with a team of scientists within ] which generated repeated engine trouble before its final take-off.

Now bring to mind what you know or have heard before about sugati and duggati, i.e. better or worse states of existence over to which we go after death, in terms of our moral and immoral conduct or sucarita and duccarita [...kàyena...vàcàya...manasà sucaritaü caritvà kàyassa bhedà parammaraõà sugatiü saggaü lokaü upapajjati and ...duccaritaü caritvà apàyaü duggatim vinipàtaü nirayaü upapajjati. A.111.385 ]. This self-operative law of moral equity is also referred to in Buddhist texts as 'journeying from light to darkness and darkness to light' and vice versa, thus indicating four clear types: 1. tamo tamaparàyano, 2. tamo jotiparàyano, 3. jotitamaparàyano, 4. joti jotiparàyano. [A.11.85f.].This is essentially part of Buddhist belief and all our ethics and patterns of good religious living are tied up with this.

The more spiritually developed disciples recount with convincing vividness their sojourning in saüsàra. You and I both must meet these disciples, for they alone can deepen our convictions and give us greater stability in our path of spiritual progress [ not by cutting and filing and putting in the fire the words of the Buddha]. In our opinion it is more than a stupid venture either to ask for or attempt to provide laboratory proof for these elements in religion.

Let me also now tell you that you cannot be a reasonably good Buddhist, worthy of your brand name in the market, without knowing enough of Buddhist thought and enough of the story of Buddhism. I shall now open out for you the Thera- and Theri- gàthà and present to you Thera Gotama [Thag. 258-260] from among the Theras and Theri Sisupacala [Thig. 196-203) and Theri Sumedha (Thig. 448-522) from the Theris for real serious study. If these names do not mean much to you as you hear them, I presume you know more about the dramatic miracles of Thera Moggallana and the harrowing versions of the Patacara story [ which in truth is the story of Kisagotami. See Therigatha vv. 213-223 ]

Thera Gotama whom we referred to above, impresses on us the reality of saüsàra, i.e. the wide range of existence or gati which is painful and perilous and subject to laws of change in which we are liable to find ourselves. He also knows of the heavenly worlds and the råpa and aråpa bhavas , some of these existences being of reduced corporeality and limited psychic activity. Sooner or later, one has to acquire the necessary sense and sanity to reject them all outright, even though at times these apparently higher planes are made to look attractive and consequently turn out to be misleading. This sense of good judgement in rejecting the apparitional enchantment of the heavenly worlds is clearly evident in a cryptic verse in the Samyutta Nikaya [ S.I. 33 ] which runs as follows.

That forest resounding with
The voices of the celestial nymphs
Is to me verily a haunt of goblins.
It drives anyone crazy.
How does one finds one's way out of it?

Accharà-gaõa-saüghuññhaü pisàca-gaõa-sevitaü
Vanaü taü mohanaü nàma kathaü yàtrà bhavissati.

 The commentator identifies this as an allusion to Sakka's pleasure park named Nandana and places these remarks in the mouth of an ariyan disciple who is disgusted on discovering that he is accidentally born in the midst of celestial nymphs as a reward for his spiritual endeavours.

Thus it becomes clear why Buddhist biographies must be meaningfully utilised to stimulate followers to make a genuine attempt to accord with the Buddhist way of thinking. Let us now meet Theri Sisupacala who, vividly recollecting her life in the planes of heavenly existence sees it opportune now, through her own honest personal experience, to reject any desire for them. Devas in all planes of existence such as Tavatimsa, Yama, Tusita, Nimmanarati and Vasavatti, she argues, are preoccupied with a notion of selfhood [sakkàyasmiü purakkhatà ] and are therefore subject to the ills of birth and death [jàtimaraõa-sàrino ]. The only way to happiness and freedom from stress and strain is through the transcendence of this known world of existence or bhava , in the attainment of nibbàna. Anything short of it is fraught with danger. The most convincing exposition on this subject is by Theri Sumedha [ Thig.453-457 ]. No Buddhist can afford to be ignorant of these if he is to imbibe true Buddhist values for the salvation of his own self.

Faced with the crisis situation in life of having to opt between two things of extremely divergent attraction she makes a choice with remarkable ease, backed by the depth of a conviction and the firmness of belief in her own value system. Few are seen to be capable of such action but it should be the endeavour of every one to acquire such stature. A royal princess, she rejects her parents' proposal to marry her to a reigning monarch, and makes this incisive remark that it is the ignorance of the truths as taught by the Buddha which make people choose or opt for birth in the heavenly worlds. For the heavenly worlds are still part of the saüsàric tangle [bhavagataü ].

Bàlà te duppa¤¤à acetanà
Desente ajànantà
Na bujjhare ariyasaccàni
Saccàni amma buddhavara-desitàni
Te bahutarà ajànantà
Ye abhinandanti bhavagataü

Pihenti devesu upapattiü. Thig. 453-4

She further clarifies her own position with these remarks. Note how remarkably resonant they are with the injunctions of the Dhammapada verse no.290 which emphasizes the need in the life of a man to make choices and decisions with courage and wisdom in order to acquire maximum happiness in the process of living. The rejection of what is trifling for the sake of what is great and noble is a sacrifice which every right thinking man has to do for the enhancement of his happiness. In the Pali, it strikes us as a delightfully candid cameo. Here it is.

Mattà sukhapariccàgà passe ce vipulaü sukhaü.
Caje mattàsukhaü dhãro saüpassaü vipulaü sukhaü.

If in the rejection of minor sources of happiness,
One does behold happiness much more intense.
The wise do reject the minor, on seeing
Happiness which is immensely great.

In the case of Theri Sumedha, we find here an illustrious example of how a general instruction of the dhamma comes to be specifically applied in the life of a person. Thus she remarks.

Mà appakassa hetu kàmasukhassa vipulaü jahi sukhaü
Mà puthulomo ' va balisaü gilitvà pacchà viha¤¤asi.
Thig. 508

For the sake of the joys of trivial sensualities
Reject not happiness which exceeds them by far.
Like a fish that has swallowed a baited hook
Let no man provide an occasion for torments afterwards.

With a vastness of vision acquired, she makes these enlightening observations, scoffing even at the pleasures of the so-called sugati states of deva and manussa.

Both in the pleasurable worlds of gods and men,
And in the realms of animals and the Titans [ asura ],
Among the hungry ghosts [ peta ] and the burning hells,
Afflictions are seen to exist in countless number. Thig. 475

What we said so far makes it clear that a true wayfarer in Buddhism is one who accepts the unsatifactoriness of life in saüsàra, i.e. the Buddhist exposition of the truth of dukkha and resolves to bring about a cessation of the life process in saüsàra in which, well and truly, lies the genesis of dukkha. This amounts to the truth of nirodha. These and these alone which every Buddhist must know form the subject of the Buddha's teaching. While on this subject, let me refer you something I had written as far back as 1964.

Thus it is clear that the fact of dukkha was the starting point of the Buddha's journey of discovery of the causative links. As Buddha, he makes this point crystal clear in more than one place. Thus he tells the Venerable Anuradha. ' One thing do I teach suffering and the deliverance from suffering '[ Sàdhu sàdhu Anuràdha. Pubbe cà ' haü Anuràdha etarahi ca dukkha¤ c' eva pa¤¤àpemi dukkhassa ca nirodhan ' ti. S.IV. 284. See also M.I.140 ]. Nothing could have been a more realistic approach to moksa or deliverance than an awareness of the presence of suffering and a desire to terminate it. Even in his first sermon to the Pancavaggiya monks [ Vin.I. 10], the Buddha discourses on dukkha and the escape therefrom. This is so fundamentally the dominant theme of Buddhism that even the philosophical expositions of nibbàna savour of this. They describe nibbàna as being the termination of dukkha : es ' ev' anto dukkhassa [Atthi bhikkhave tadàyatanaü yattha n'eva pañhavã na àpo....es'ev'anto dukkhassà ti. Ud. 80 f. ].


 Such a one who has this knowledge and this conviction is swimming against the current of saüsàra or is pañisotagàmã and is not carried down stream by the current as it chooses. He is just not flotsam and jetsam in the ocean of saüsàra. He is a pilot with the vision and vigour to guide his vessel to safety. Being educated as a Buddhist, i.e possessing sammàdiññhi and being aware of the significance of tilakkhaõa : anicca dukkha anatta, he knows that in piloting his way to nibbàna, he should avoid the danger zones, not run into storms, nor run aground. This adequate schooling in the art of navigation, of being able to ferry oneself out of saüsàra as is implied in the question ' How does one cross over this vast flood ?' [ kathaü su tarati oghaü at S.1. 214 ], every Buddhist must acquire by himself.

It should be clear by now to both you and me why it is said that Buddhism is a religion for the wise [...pa¤¤avato ayaü dhammo nàyaü dhammo duppa¤¤assà ' ti. A.1V.229 ]. It is for those who are willing to acquire the necessary wisdom to transcend all that is painful and mundane [... pa¤¤àya c ' assa disvà àsavà parikkhãõà honti. M.I.160 ]. It is the diligent entry into the religion which paves the way for this wisdom. When we say diligent entry into religion what we mean is that there must be a practical measure of sammà diñthi or correct [ or corrected ] vision, i.e. in other words a basis for choosing to live as a Buddhist. There must be a revision or reconstitution of one's outlook on life. Till one is aware of this and has come to terms with it, there would be no real grounding in sãla. No need would be felt for the basic establishment in moral rectitude which is an invariable pre-requisite of Buddhist religious life. Correct vision or sammàdiñthi of the Buddhist is the conformity in ones belief to the teaching of the four Noble Truths or saccànulomikatà ¤àõa. This is what makes the vision specifically Buddhist. Besides this there would also be the belief in the efficacy of karma [kammassakatà ¤àõa ]which is conceded in the Buddhist texts even to those outside the pale of Buddhism [ See the relevant portion of the Commentary to the Sammaditthi Sutta at MA. I. 177 ].

This awareness gives life a new sense of direction, a new ease and comfort. The danger of life in saüsàra has to be felt to a greater or lesser degree. In Buddhism, it is this which draws one nearer to religiousness. Theri Sumedha whom we have already quoted above says very emphatically that the absence of this fear turns men into fools: Na ca santasanti bàlà punappunaü jàyitabbassa = Fools dread not the fact of being born again and again. [Thig. 455 ]. It is at this stage that analytical wisdom begins to grow in the Buddhist. He begins to realise that all activity prompted by greed, hatred and delusion [lobha dosa moha ], spiralling out of the basic error of selfhood or egoism contributes to the building up of saüsàra. Consequently, it must dawn on him that a basic Buddhist need is a gradual but definite and determined withdrawal from ahaükàra and mamiükàra or notions of I and mine. That process of individuation leading to differentiation as I and the other and the consequent attraction to and repulsion from persons and things in one's day to day life, not only makes life painful but also makes the life process painfully longer. One has to acquire the skill to detect these two vicious tendencies of greed and hostility at work in life. Religious culture, the Buddha tells his own son Rahula in the Maharahulovada Sutta [ M.I. 420-426 ], means the effort to reduce and eliminate these. The word used by the Buddha for this process of culture is bhàvanà. It is a process of culture or induced growth to free the mind of man from such evil traits like malevolence or vyàpàda, or harming will or vihesà. Here it is the cultivation of mettà and karunà followed by the other brahmavihàra, namely mudità or appreciative joy and upekkhà or equanimity. Mettà is friendliness between and among persons. It is the attitude of being a friend of every other person, or the state of being free of a feeling of hostility. Its basic assumption is the absence of a state of enmity. Its injunction is ' love every one as you love yourself '. Most people apparently do not know what they should really be doing when they assume they are developing mettà. It cannot stop at being a mere wish or prayer on behalf of another. It is the correction and culturing of one's own attitude towards the rest of the world. This idea is richly expressed in a four-line verse in the Sutta Nipata.


Metta¤ ca sabba-lokasmiü mànasaü bhàvaye aparimàõaü
Uddhaü adho ca tiriya¤ ca asaübàdhaü averaü asapattam .

Sn. v.150

You would more readily pick it up if you were told that it occurs in the Metta Sutta of the Paritta collection. From wherever it be, if you know it at all, its message should run as follows.

' One should develop and nurture [ the verb used here is bhàvaye = 'one should develop or nurture', this being the basic idea of any form of bhàvanà in Buddhism ] towards the entire world a mind full of love and friendliness which is infinite and unhindered as well as untainted by feelings of enmity, stretching in every direction, above, below and across.' Note also the following statements from Buddhist texts and attempt to understand the true Buddhist concept of mettà.

Since you love yourself, hurt not another.

Tasmà na hiüse paraü attakàmo. S. I. 75

If you put yourself in the position of the other, then you
could cause no danger to life or limb of another.

Attànaü upamaü katvà na haneyya na ghàtaye. Dhp.v. 129

As you develop mettà or friendliness, hostility ceases.

Mettaü hi te Rahula bhàvayato yo vyàpàdo so pahãyati. M.I. 424

Karuõà which is next in the list of Brahmavihàra is compassion or the desire to reduce and eliminate the pain of another, its injunction being ' you shall not delight in the pain of another or remain unmoved '. The Pali Commentators offer two beautiful definitions to this term.

1. Aho vata imamhà dukkhà vimucceyan ' ti àdinà nayena ahita-dukkhàpanayana-kàmatà karuõà [SnA.1.128 on Sn. v.73 ]. Karuõà is the desire to eliminate pain and sorrow of others saying ' May they be released from this misery.'

2. Para-dukkhe sati sàdhånaü hadaya-kampanaü karotã ti karuõà. [ Vism. 318 ]. Karuõà causes the heart of good people to tremble on seeing the suffering of others. Mudità is the rejoicing in the happiness and success of another. It should certainly be translated as 'appreciative joy'. We regret it being translated as sympathetic joy. Its injunction is 'Be not envious or jealous.' The commentator amplifies this concept by adding that mudità also implies the wish that people be not torn off their happiness and comfort [... hita-sukhàvippayoga-kàmatà mudità. SnA.1.128 ]. Cultivation of mudità would thus be remedial in effect in that it would necessarily displace envy and jealousy [ issà and macchariya ] as viciously active and anti-social evil states of mind. The commentary explains issà as the intolerance of the success and prosperity of others [ paresaü sakkàràdãni khãyamànà ] and macchariya as the unwillingness to see others prosper as much as one does [attano sampattiyà parehi sàdhàraõabhàvam asahamànaü macchariyaü. Both at MA.I.168 ]. Mudità also appears to have another therapeutic value in removing apathy or psychopathic disinterestedness referred to in Pali as arati [commented on as pantasenàsanesu c'eva adhikusalesu dhammesu ukkhanñhitatà. MA. III. 96 ].In its place is substituted a spirit of constructive or creative dynamism, referred to in Buddhist texts as àrabbha-dhàtu or initiative. A. III 338 ]. Upekkhà which is the last item in the list of Brahmavihàra connotes a very significant stage in the process of mind culture in Buddhism, both in the jhànas and elsewhere. Upekkhà means the avoidance of emotional imbalances, of neither being elated nor depressed by way of reaction. It is the ability to look at pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness with perfect equipoise. Therefore it is not surprising that both in the jhànas and in the Brahmavihàras, upekkhà occupies almost the highest position as a state of mental development.

Thus we see the ordinary worldling moving from the world of mundane existence into a new arena, to a world of modified thinking. Mark these words ' new world of modified thinking ' where while the physical world stands exactly as it did before, the Buddhist wayfarer finds greater comfort and greater ease of movement on account of his own self adjustment. To the ordinary layman, the degree of renunciation implied here might be bewildering. But to the wayfarer, it is only a higher plane of true happiness.

One of the finest examples of such a wayfarer, reflecting new dimensions in thinking which are truly Buddhist, is Thera Talaputa of the Theragatha [ Thag, 1091-1145 ].No matter what the commentarial tradition says of him, he is seen visibly moving towards the goal of Nibbàna. Here are a few examples of his new attitudes and new aspirations. In the ultimate philosophical sense which is Buddhistic, he does not want to see a difference between himself and the world around him. He is adequately apprehensive of the notion of conceit that would ensue. So he says:

Whether they be grass and sticks in the world outside,
Or be the aggregates that constitute my being,
When will I be able to see them as yet, not being
Different, one from the other ?


Kadà nu kaññhe ca tiõe latà ca khandhe ime'ham amite ca dhamme
Ajjhattikàn'eva ca bàhiràni samaü tuleyyaü tadidaü kadà me.
Thag. 1101

Thus a true Buddhist disciple is in no way in conflict with the world around him, whether it be inclement weather or the fury of the beasts of the wild. Our Thera Talaputa, treading his sylvan path on which his sage predecessors have gone before him, would love to be drenched in a rain storm [ Thag. 1102 ]. He further says:

Dwelling in the forest which is resounding
With the cries of the peacock and the pond heron,
And watched closely by the tigers and the leopards,
Give up thy attachment to the physical self.
Fail not in thy mission.

Mayåra-ko¤càbhirudamhi kàõane dãpãhi byaggehi purakkhato vasam
Kàye apekkhaü jaha mà viràdhaye itssu maü citta pure niyu¤jasi.

Thag. 1113

It is heartening and reassuring to find many other monks in the Theragatha express similar sentiments. Hear what Thera Bhuta has to say.

When at midnight in the lonely forest
Rain patters and wild beasts roar,
The monk meditates deep in the rocky glen.
No greater joy he gains than that.

Yadà nisãthe rahitamhi kànane deve galantamhi nadanti dàñhino
Bhikku ca pabbhàra-gato ' va jhàyati tato ratiü paramataraü na vindati.

Thag. 524

Being a true wayfarer, this is the goal our Thera Talaputa soon wants to reach. Elsewhere he says:

As I recline in the mountain cave
Like a tree which is fallen down, the comfort of my stony-bed
Is not different from that of soft cotton.

Nagantare viñapi-samo sayissaü
Taü me mudu hohiti tåla-sannibhaü.
Thag. 1137

In a similar vein do speak other true wayfarers as well. There is a resonance in their voice. Meet Theras Vakkali [Thag. 350-354 ], Nhatakamuni [Thag. 435-440 ] who are forest-dwellers. They are both afflicted with gout or vàta-roga and it is normally believed that austere living in the wet and damp forest could hardly be comfortable. But they both claim that being geared to a goal, they have endless joy in their hearts and by charging their bodies with it, they can overcome all pain. Austerity then means nothing to them. This is how they both put it in their utterances.

Pãtisukhena vipulena pharamàno samussayaü
Låkaü ' pi abhisambhonto viharissàmi kàõane.
Thag. 351 & 436

These experiences of those who have gone before us on this path, all subscribe to the view of 'a new vision, a new aspiration and a new strength for the pursuit of the chosen goal '.

Furthermore, in the new world of theirs, the Buddhist wayfarers discover a new richness which the clay-footed worldlings could hardly sense. The Theragatha has an axiomatic utterance on it which no true Buddhist with any Buddhist values in him could afford not to know or to miss.

Ramanãyàni ara¤¤àni yattha na ramati jano
Vãta-ràgà ramissanti na te kàma-gavesino. Thag. 992

Delightful are those forest groves
Wherein common folk never delight.
Those gone beyond their lustful needs,
They indeed do rejoice there.
For they seek not after sensual pleasures.

Fauna and flora have a new meaning to them, not only in their form and appearance but also in their moods and temperament. A flock of white cranes flying away in fear of an oncoming rain storm [ Thag. 307-8 ], an array of Jambu trees laden with fruit along a river-bank [ Thag. 309 ] or a pool-full of frogs singing in glee as they are freed from menacing water-snakes, carried away down stream by a raging flood [Thag. 3l0 ], they all have their specific moods. Our wayfarers [ my Thera Sappaka and many others ] pick them up correctly and use them to propel themselves to greater heights.

Yadà balàkà sucipaõóaracchadà kàlassa meghassa bhayena tajjità
palehiti àlayaü àlayesinã tadà nadã ajakaraõã rameti maü.

Thag. 307

Kan nu tattha na ramenti jambuyo ubhato tahiü
Sobhenti àpagà-kålam mama lenassa pacchato.

Ibid. 309

Tàmatamadasaïgasuppahãnà bhekà mandavatã panàdayanti
Nàjja girinadãhi vippavàsa-samayo. Khemà Ajakaraõã sivà surammà.

Ibid. 310

What is very characteristic about the Buddhist wayfarer is his total awareness of the goal he has opted and of the need to follow a specific path for its attainment. As we have already indicated, not only the theras but also the theris feature prominently as successful wayfarers. Younger ones in particular, like Rohini [ Thig. 271-290 ], Punnika [ Thig. 236-251] and Subha of Jivaka's Mango Grove [ Thig. 366-398 ] show remarkable depth of conviction and sincerity of purpose. They resist temptations with fortitude and stand up to challenges with wisdom as Subha and Soma did [ Thig. 60-62 ], dwarfing as it were the stature of theras and theris much older in years. We shall meet them elsewhere.

Thus our Buddhist wayfarers are the true sràvaka-saïgha or community of disciples of the Buddha and it is in recognition of what they have been in the history of the Sàsana that they are constantly adored by us with the words supañipanno bhagavato sàvaka-saïgho,as we pay our homage to them. They are on the correct track as they have proved from their own lives. We see them all unmistakably reach their goal. They are exemplary in character and are a worthy group to be in our midst, even in our memory. We are hopeful that we would benefit from their presence. Hence we finally say of them, of those who have gone ahead of us on the path, anuttaraü pu¤¤akkhettaü lokassà ti. They are an unexcelled field of merit for the world.

Theirs is undeniably a correct vision and a life sublime.

  Table of Contents


(5) To be good is to be great

- A Religio-Social Analysis

The concept of goodness in Buddhism has both an individual and social dimension. It can also be viewed as being related to two different planes, the mundane and the transcendental. This dichotomy or duality does not imply sharply divided categories, standing strictly apart all the time. To grasp this position thoroughly one has to comprehend some of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism even at a basic level. The first of these, we would almost say, is the rejection of an all pervading other-power besides man himself, who provides succour to him materially and spiritually and presides over his destinies [ attàõo loko anabhissaro. ]. This position is very clearly indicated in the Ratthapala Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya [ M.11.54 -74 ].It is one of four dhammuddesà or basic doctrinal positions, the awareness and understanding of which gives every Buddhist his distinct poise and dignity in life. Without a serious grasp and acceptance these specific doctrines, one could hardly claim to be a Buddhist, and much less claim to lead a Buddhist life.

Erring disciples like Arittha and Sati in early Buddhist history have been severely chastised by the Buddha for such lapses. They have been told that they have not had even a warming up in the religious life : na usmãkato ' pi imasmiü dhammavinaye. They turn out to be substandard rejects [ M.I. 132 and 258 ]. The basic value of this doctrine of not accepting an all-pervading other power as one's guide is to be thoroughly understood. It gives a distinct character to the whole way of Buddhist living. Self-reliance [without kneeling down before a wide variety of divinities and praying for an equally wide and wild variety of gifts and favours ] and a total grasp of the Buddhist teachings therefore turn out to be the basic ingredients of Buddhist life.

This is the total implication of the relentless position taken in the Buddhist texts that this teaching is for the wise and not for the unwise: pa¤¤avat ' àyaü dhammo nàyaü dhammo duppa¤¤assa. [ A.IV.229 ]. Buddhism wishes us to realize the basic position that all sense stimuli of the world make man move all the time in either of two primary directions of attraction and repulsion. Herein an attainable position of neutrality, attainable through a self-acquired culture of being neither attracted nor repelled is contemplated. Both these processes of mental stirring up or agitation [ See anurodha and virodha at M.1. 266 ] underlie the genesis of the life process which is referred to as bhava. In the absence of such activity of the mind [ anurodha + virodha + vippahãno M.1.270 ] man acquires no momentum for the regeneration [ from one life span to yet another ] of the life process [M.1.65 & 109 ]. All religio-spiritual endeavours are undertaken to bring about this position of neutrality, of reacting without being attracted to or repelled by the sensory stimuli of the world. This is the one and only basis of release in Buddhism [ anupàda parinibbàna - M.I.148; II.265 ]. This ceaseless process of dual agitation to surrender and succumb [anunaya ] on the one hand, and to resist and assail [ pañigha ] on the other is a subject of recurrent admonition.

  1. Yo imesu pa¤casu upàdànakkhandhesu chando àlayo anunayo ajjhosànaü so dukkha-samudayo. [ M.I 191 ].
  2. Yato-nidànaü bhikkhu purisaü papa¤ca-sa¤¤à- saïkhà samudàcaranti ettha ce natthi abhinanditabbaü abhivaditabbaü ajjhositabbaü es ' evanto ràgànusayànaü es ' evanto pañighànusayànaü es ' evanto diññhànusayànaü...Etth ' ete pàpakà akusalà dhammà aparisesà nirujjhanti. [M.I.110 ].
  3. Ananuruddha- appañiviruddhass ' àvuso sà niñthà na sà niñthà anuruddha- pañiviruddhassà ' ti. M.I. 65 ].

This is why the Buddha stated in no uncertain terms about self-reliance [ Tasmàt' ihànanda atta-dãpà viharatha atta-saraõa ana¤¤asaraõà. D.II. 100 ]. The word dãpa in this context means an island or place of security which gives one a firm foot-hold. It means a safe, reliable position. It certainly does not mean a lamp as has often been mistranslated and misunderstood and too loudly uttered [ See Dialogues of the Buddha II.108 ]. It means that each man must acquire for himself this unassailable position and be not mislead to seek it in another. And certainly not in those mortals who come from the midst of men, claiming that they have received a divine mandate. Any one who knows the Buddhist way of thinking and is familiar with Buddhist texts cannot possibly miss this allusion to dãpa as an island. This is how the Dhammapada, the indispensable hand book of the Buddhists re-affirms this idea.

Uññhànenappamàdena saüyamena damena ca
Dãpaü kayiràtha medhàvã yaü ogho nàbhkãrati.
Dhp. v. 25

The wise man by stirring himself to activity,
And by his vigilance, restraint and self-control,
Should make for himself an island
Which no flood can shatter.

In the development of the spiritual life of the Buddhist, the complement to this idea of self-reliance is reliance on the dhamma. It cannot be reliance on any other idea or ideas, picked up at random from elsewhere : dhamma-dãpà dhamma-saraõà ana¤¤asaraõà. [D.II.100]. It would be quite clear to any serious-minded Buddhist that a truly Buddhist religious life is not built up by piecing together fragments collected, particularly in moments of severe stress and strain in one's life, from diverse quarters during one's sojourning, east or west, north or south. If there occurs any idea of being religiously good, that goodness must necessarily be tied up with the Buddhist concept of salvation or release from the ills of saüsàra. In other words, perfection of goodness in Buddhism is the attainment of Nibbana. There can be no meaningful concept of goodness besides it. In fact this goodness which is nibbàna oriented, it would soon be realised, is what would be most desirable for the world. For it necessarily shows up all that is evil or akusala in man which is the outcome of what is believed to be the normal process of life in the world.

The Buddhist philosophical position is that unguarded human nature as we encounter in the world moves in certain directions which are damaging both to the individual and society. What we call the process of life in the world consists of fulfilment of basic needs like food, clothing and shelter on the physical plane, very knowingly referred to in Buddhist texts as ghàsachàdana-paramatà [ D.I.60 and M.I.360 ], as well as the gratification of emotional needs like sex, etc. With these are closely tied up our reactions to sense stimuli which come from the living world through the eye and the ear etc., all of which are accepted as normal in the day to day run of life. But it is little realised that humans invariably exceed the approvable limits in their gratification, approvable to the extent of not damaging the interests either of oneself or of others. One could ill afford here not to be aware of the comprehensive sermon of the Buddha, given to his son Rahula, in the Ambalatthikarahulovada Sutta of the Majjhimanikaya [ M.I. 414-420 ] which spells out this in great detail. Thus it runs.

This deed of mine which I now intend doing, says the Buddha to Rahula, giving it as a yardstick of measurement, if it turns out to be harmful to me as well as to others, then it is indeed an unwholesome deed, generating unhappiness and bringing evil consequences in its wake [...akusalaü idaü kàya-kammaü dukkhudrayaü dukkha-vipàkan'ti. op.cit.416 ]. And he concludes, this indeed is not to be done [ Evaråpaü te Ràhula kàyena kammaü sasakkaü na karaõãyam. op.cit. 415 ]. This is what is most characteristic of the three basic roots of evil, viz. greed, hatred and delusion. All action and conduct which damage both the nature of man and his well-being in life are rooted in these. Therefore it is their opposites which are constructive and conduce to peace and prosperity among men. That is what is conducive in the ultimate analysis to the emancipation of every man from the total round of ills of saüsàric existence [Alobho kusalamålaü adoso kusalamålaü amoho kusalamulaü. Idaü vuccat ' àvuso kusalamålaü....diññh 'eva dhamme dukkhassantakaro hoti. [ M.I.47 ].

Such a process of change which man himself has to initiate is looked upon in Buddhism as bhàvanà, i.e. progressive culture or development : kusalaü bhàveti = nurtures what is wholesome. A good disciple of the Buddha, i.e. an ariya-sàvaka who is endowed with saddhà is said to be on the correct track of rejecting or keeping away from what is evil and unwholesome and nurturing their opposites : akusalaü pajahati kusalam bhàveti. This gives him purity and wholesomeness of character: suddhaü attànaü pariharati [ A. IV.109]. The Samanamandika Sutta more specifically says that a bhikkhu regulates and cultures his activities through thought, word and deed : Idha Thapati bhikkhu kàya-duccaritaü pahàya kàya - sucaritaü bhàveti vacã-duccaritaü pahàya vacã-sucaritaü bhàveti mano-duccaritaü pahàya mano-sucaritaü bhàveti [ M.II. 26 ]. It is also looked upon as sikkhà, i.e. discipline or training. If one is able to well and truly understand that greed and hatred are the outcome of our misdirected responses to the stimuli we get from the world outside, then it is not that difficult to understand that salvation of man or his release from these failings of life cannot be attained through prayer or supplication, i.e. through the assistance of an external agency. It has necessarily to be a personal process of correct judgement and consequent action which means self-correction and self-development.

Now let us ask ourselves as to where or in what fields this development has to be undertaken. Seeing the postulate of the presence in man of a cosmic or divine counterpart, i.e. soul or àtman as untenable, Buddhism renders the complex process of human life, not as one existence from birth to death, with the possibility or not of its return to divinity, but as a vast and complex continuity of existence or saüsàra which means 'a continuous rolling on'. Or more precisely, samsàra implies the existence of infinite chains of existence of each and every one. See how vividly and precisely the Samyutta Nikaya presents this idea as Anamataggo ' yaü bhikkhave saüsàro pubbà koñi na pa¤¤àyati avijjà-nãvaraõànam sattànaü taõhà-saüyojanànaü sandhàvataü saüsarataü [ S.III.149,151]. This means : Infinitely long is this life processes of beings whose vision is obscured by ignorance and who are fettered with craving and are consequently rolling on, with each one gathering his or her own momentum in saüsàra. Its first beginning is hardly discernible.

Life, either sorted out as one single facet from birth to death or as the continuously endless chain, is the result of the mutual interplay of body and mind : kàya and citta [ or mano or vi¤¤àõa ]. In the long-range vision of saüsàra, it is referred to as the interplay of nàma-råpa and vi¤¤àõa. In our opinion, the theory of Pañiccasamuppàda is basically the explanation of this vital Buddhist concept of samsàra. To any and every form of Buddhist thinking, saüsàra with its unmistaken reality of life after death, was a vital concept. One has to concede it at least to the thinking of the Buddha and see it in the basic teachings which are held undoutably as Buddha's own.

Otherwise what sense do these usages in Buddhism mean : 1. dukkhà jàti punappunam [= Being born again and again is painful. ], 2. ayam antimà jàti [ = This is my last birth.], 3. anekajàti-saüsàraü [ = This saüsàra with its numerous births ], 4. khãõà jàti [ = Being born is ended.], 5. natthi ' dàni punabbhavo [ = Now there is no more being born again.} 6. nàparaü itthattàyà ' ti pajànàti [ = Knows that there is no more going to another state like this.] 7. saüsaraü hi nirayaü agacchisaü [ = In my journeying in this life process, I 've been to the suffering states of niraya.] 8. So anekavihitaü pubbenivàsaü anussarati seyyathãdaü ekaü ' pi jàtiü dve ' pi jàtiyo...[ = He recollects diverse former states of existence. ]. In a truly Buddhist theory of Pañiccasamuppàda or Causal Genesis which undeniably has its relevance to saüsàra, see the beautiful interplay of nàmaråpa on vi¤¤àõa and vi¤¤àõa on nàmaråpa: Seyyathàpi àvuso dve naëakalàpiyo a¤¤am a¤¤aü nissàya tiññheyyuü evaü eva kho àvuso nàmaråpapaccayà vi¤¤àõaü vi¤¤àõapaccayà nàmaråpaü. [ S.II.114 = Just as O monk, two bundles of reeds stand leaning on each other, dependent on each other, in same way vi¤¤àõa results from nàmaråpa and nàmaråpa results from vi¤¤àõa.].

This compete and comprehensive Buddhist thesis is enunciated with incredible clarity and lucidity in the Mahanidana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya [ D.II 63f ]. It is our considered opinion that the translation of this in the Dialogues of the Buddha [ Vol. II. 61 ] is misleadingly blurred. Therefore we attempt here a fresh translation of the relevant portion of the Pali text.

"O Ananda, thus far there is birth, decay and death, and passing away from this existence, and being born in another; thus far an appellation or reference to by name, thus far an allusion to a doer or a doing, thus far conventional reckoning of persons, thus far is the range of activity of wisdom; thus far does the rolling on of the wheel of life go for the postulation of a life like the present one. It is only so far as name and form [ nàma-råpa ] co-exists with consciousness" [ i.e.vi¤¤àõa of the Pañiccasamuppàda which implies in our opinion saüsàric consciousness or vi¤¤àõa-sota. See D.III. 105 ].

While there is this unquestionable interplay of body and mind, both towards the prolongation of a being's continuance in saüsàra [ as paccaya ]or towards its termination or [nirodha ], the Buddhists for the most part appear to be concentrating only on the mind [citta ] when they speak of bhàvanà. This perhaps has been further aided by the general use in common parlance of the word meditation [ which stands for the exercise of the mind ] as the equivalent for the Buddhist concept of bhàvanà. This, we venture to call an error of judgement. There can be no development, culture or discipline in Buddhism except in terms of both body and mind [ kàya-bhàvanà and citta-bhàvanà ], a concept which is thoroughly discussed in the Mahasaccaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya [ M.I. 237-251 ] by the Buddha himself.

Kàya-bhàvanà would amount to the culturing, training, or educating of the body, i.e. the sense organs of the eye, ear, etc. in terms of anicca dukkha and anatta. Thus responses to the external stimuli of the world, guided by the awareness of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and soullessness would bring about restraint of the sense organs or indriyasaüvara. This is also called indriyesu gutta-dvàratà or keeping one's sense faculties under watch and vigil. This would be a great step in the direction of kàya-bhàvanà which reduces the emotional imbalances to which our unguarded worldling can be subject, causing great stress and pain of mind. This is what is referred to as the mind being overwhelmed: cittaü pariyàdàta ñiññhati.

This being so, according to the Buddha, a wise disciple [ sutavà ariya-sàvako ] does not allow a pleasurable sensation to generate within him an intense attachment to that pleasure.[...sutavato ariyasàvakassa uppajjati sukhà vedanà. So sukhàya vedanàya phuñtho samàno no sukha-sàràgã hoti na sukha-sàràgitaü àpajjati. M.1. 239 ]. The result is the pleasurable feeling which is experienced does not overpower his mind because his body is already adequately cultured [ Tassa kho esà Aggivessana uppannàpi sukhà vedanà na cittaü pariyàdàya tiññhati bhàvitattà kàyassa. Ibid. ].Thus what is basically implied here is a regulation and control of the process of bodily reaction. Here one sees in this Buddhist explanation a physical origin and a physical cure for a possibly resultant mental stress.

On the other hand, the ability to withstand the assaults of painful mental situations would be the reward of mind culture or citta-bhàvanà. It is these two together, i.e. kàyabhàvanà and citta-bhàvanà, culture of the body and culture of the mind, which gives poise in life to the man in society. They produce a man with stability of character. For this total Buddhist goodness is the product of a process of self-culture, a culture not only of the five external sense organs, but also of the mind internally [ as the sixth.]. At the completion of this total process of culture, the disciple is said to enjoy uncontaminated inward bliss. [So iminà ariyena indriya-saüvarena samannàgato ajjhattaü abyàseka-sukhaü pañisaüvedeti. M.1. 181]. What truly would be called goodness in Buddhism would be achieved at this stage. For the real Buddhist judgement of the things of the world in terms of anicca dukkha and anatta makes of the Buddhist disciple a man of virtue. It could not be otherwise.

There is yet another process of development through which a good Buddhist disciple, monk or layman, attains the perfection of his character. It is a much larger and much more extensive and comprehensive one. It is the system of three sikkhà. As a system [ sikkhattaya ] it is more specific and its constituents [ tisso sikkhà ] imply direct involvement in the process of development [ sikkhà ]. This is the most comprehensive disciplinary machinery of Buddhism. The interesting reference in the Anguttara Nikaya to the Vajjiputtaka monk who expressed to the Buddha his inability to guard himself in terms of every rule of the Patimokkha [ A.1.230 ] tells us of the Buddha's advice to that monk to discipline himself in the alternative, in terms of the three sikkhà [Tasmàt ' iha tvaü bhikkhu tãsu sikkhàsu sikkhassu adhisãla-sikkhàya adhicitta-sikkhàya adipa¤¤à-sikhàya. Ibid.]. In this same context it is made abundantly clear that the threefold culture through sikkhà contains all the refinement and development envisaged under the regulations [ sikkhàpada ] of the Patimokkha [ Sàdhikaü idaü bhikkhave diyaóóha-sikkhàpada-sataü anvaddha-màsaü uddesaü àgacchati yattha atthakàmà kulaputtà sikkhanti. Tisso imà bhikkhave sikkhà yatth' etaü sabbaü samodhànaü gacchati. op.cit. 231 ].

These three items of sãla samàdhi pa¤¤à, let it be noted clearly at the very outset, constitute a three tiered development, one succeeding the other. They are really spiralling upward, because each succeeding one is an ascent over the former. The Buddhist texts are very definite about this. That alone, we believe, makes sense. The Anguttara Nikaya [ A.III. 15 ] says that there never is a possibility that one who does not perfect his sãla or moral rectitude would perfect his samàdhi or composure of mind. First things first. Thus without a perfection of samàdhi there would likewise be no perfection of pa¤¤à or wisdom. They imply successive stages of a spiritual ascent. To speak of a concurrent or parallel development of these would be not to know the full implications of these in Buddhism. It is no secret that concepts like bhàvanà, sãla, samàdhi and pa¤¤à are some of the most misused and misunderstood in the later history of the religion, in the hands of uninitiated and uninstructed persons [ assutavà puthujjano ]. It is considerably damaging when such persons assume the role of teachers and instructors.

We note with regret that there is considerable confusion regarding these three stages of religious culture. It is a confusion, inherited from where or when, we do not know. What is indeed amazing here is that we are in fact forewarned about this to some extent in one of the very renowned suttas of the Majjhima Nikaya, viz. the Cullavedalla [ M.I. 299-305 ]. This sutta is delivered by one of the most distinguished ladies in Buddhist history. She is none other than Theri Dhammadinna. She tells us via her admonition to her erstwhile husband Visakha that while the three sikkhà contain within them the Noble Eightfold Way, the Noble Eightfold Way does not contain the three sikkhà, the term khandha being used in the sutta for these three divisions [ Na kho àvuso Visàkha ariyena aññhaïgikena maggena tayo khandhà saïgahità. Tãhi ca kho àvuso Visàkha khandhehi ariyo aññhaïgiko maggo saügahito. op.cit. 301 ].

It is all well known that the Noble Eightfold Way as the magga begins with sammà-diññhi and ends with sammà-samàdhi. It does not contain within itself any reference to the category known as pa¤¤à. Then it is obvious that the magga as the carrier only goes up to a specific point and no more. But the way is set for further journeying, journeying on the spiritual track, with no fear of a loss of way. About the path to Nibbana and the infallible attainment of that goal, the Buddhist texts are specific and definite when they say niyato sambodhi-paràyano [ M.III.277 and S.V. 343 ] which means ' definitely ending up in enlightenment.' Therefore one has not to make a frantic search for pa¤¤à of the tisso skkhà within the magga. The Cullavedalla Sutta, sensibly studied, precludes us from doing this. So does the Mahacattarisaka Sutta [ M.III 71-78 ] which dwells on same theme. It tells us that sammà-samàdhi generates sammà-ïaõa and that sammà-ïaõa is followed by sammà-vimutti [ sammà-samàdhissa sammà-ïàõaü pahoti sammà-ïàõassa sammà-vimutti pahoti. ]. The sutta adds these two to the magga and consequently we have the disciple who is released, through ten stages, namely the arahant [ Iti kho bhikkave aññhaïga-samannàgato sekho pañipado dasaïga-samannàgato arahà hoti. op.cit.76 ].

Thus the magga within the tisso sikkhà is part within the whole. Correct vision or sammà-diñthi, on the other hand, is a prerequisite which together with sammà-saïkappa precedes and heralds the sãla category of the magga which consists of sammà-vàcà sammà-kammanto sammà-àjãvo. While correct vision or sammà-diñthi shares of the nature of wisdom [ yà ca sammà-diñthi yo ca sammà-saïkappo ime dhammà pa¤¤à-kkhandhe saïgahãtà' ti. M.I. 301 ], no sensible Buddhist, or any serious student of Buddhism, could so much surrender sanity as to identify pa¤¤à of the tisso sikkhà with sammà-diñthi of Eightfold Way. [ It makes little sense to say that pa¤¤à is a higher developed stage of sammà-diñthi. ]. Pa¤¤à here is a completely superior Buddhist wisdom, wisdom which finally liberates a saüsàric being from the àsava or defilements which bind him to the ills of life in saüsàra.. This is why final liberation in Buddhism is always referred to as àsavànaü khayà anàsavaü ceto-vimuttiü pa¤¤à-vimuttim diññh' eva dhamme sayam abhi¤¤à sacchikatvà upasampajja viharati. [ M.I. 71, 289, 367 ]. It is the liberation of the mind of àsava through wisdom or pa¤¤à. It can arise only in a samàhita citta, in the perfection of sammà-samàdhi. This again is the outcome of the grooming in sãla through sammà-vàcà sammà-kammanto and sammà-àjãvo.

One of the finest presentations of the goodness which a true Buddhist disciple is required to develop in himself is witnessed in the Anguttara Nikaya Lonaphala Vagga [ A.I. 249 ]. Here the Buddha himself is seen saying that in the case of a particular type of person, even a small misdeed done by him [ [appamattakam' pi pàpaü kammaü kataü ] would lead him to niraya or painful states of degeneration. On the other hand, yet another type of person would be able to wear out in this very life time the effects of the same type of deed without even the slightest residue [ diñthdhamma-vedaniyaü hoti nanu' pi khàyati kiü bahud'eva ]. The explanation offered for this difference in the operation the karmic law is the difference in the development of the character of the two persons concerned.

Seven different words are used as attributes to refer to the character of these persons, the same set of words used for one being negated in the case of the other. Four of these words interestingly carry the word bhàvita- with them, implying possession of culture or development. We have already had the occasion to discuss them in terms of bhàvita-kàya and bhàvita-citta. In their gradual order they are 1. culture of personality on the basis of physical restraint or bhàvita-kàya. 2. culture of moral rectitude or bhàvita-sãla. 3. culture of the composure of the mind or bhàvita-citta and 4. culture of wisdom or correct understanding and judgement, i.e. bhàvta-pa¤¤à. The other three refer to magnanimity, and elimination of pettiness and delimitation in one's character, in one's thinking and acting. They all converge on the concept of philanthropy and large-heartedness. The words used are 5. aparitto or not delimited or circumscribed, 6. mahattà [ Skt. mahàtmam and in Sinhala mahatmaya or mahattaya ] or lofty in character and gentlemanly [ and gentlewomanly ], 7. appamàna-vihàri or extensively philanthropic. This implies triumph over delimiting or circumscribing human weaknesses like greed and hatred [pamàõa-karaõànaü ràgàdãnam abhàvena. AA. SHB.I. 450 ].

We followed this line of argument centered on goodness and greatness through the process of spiritual development of the Buddhist to show that goodness in Buddhism is a personal development and a personal achievement. This development proceeds with equal validity through both corrective processes of sãla and samàdhi in Buddhism. One should here be adequately sensitive to the reference to sãla and samàdhi as corrective processes of personal development. It is correction of oneself to be in total harmony with the world we live in, with no conflict whatsoever on account of likes or dislikes [ anurodha-virodha ]. The likes and dislikes or greed and hatred conflict of man is witnessed and reckoned with from the first beginnings of religious culture in Buddhism. At the level of sãla, the first two injunctions of the pa¤ca-sãla, i.e. pàõàtipàtà veramaõã and adinnàdànà veramaõã are indicative of this. They refer to destruction of life and dispossessing others of what rightly belongs to them. Such actions are prompted through likes and dislikes or greed and hatred, depending on the intensity of feeling at the particular time of action. Coming up to the level of samàdhi or the level of jhànas, the pre-jhànic purge of the mind which one is required to possess in the elimination of the five nãvaranas again reveals this 'likes-dislikes conflict' in the area of abhijjhà and vyàpàda. The Khaggavisana Sutta of the Sutta Nipata [Sn . v. 42 ] expresses this idea beautifully when it says : ' Completely at ease in all the four directions of the world, one runs not into conflict with another [ càtuddiso appñigho ca hoti.].

One is completely satisfied with whatever comes one's way to serve the daily needs [santussamàno itarãtarena ]. He faces all perils with manliness, whether they are from within or without [ parissayànaü sahità achambhã ]. This results in man's attainment of an unassailable stature of greatness. This is what enables the Buddhist to make the challenging claim [ sãhanàda or lion's roar ] that he who attains the religious goal in Buddhism [ niñthà ] is well and truly not torn between likes and dislikes [ Ananuruddha-appañiviruddhass' àvuso sà niññhà na sà niññhà anuruddha-pañiviruddhassà ' ti. M.I.65 ]. It is attained by the man who is primarily virtuous, then composed in body and mind and consequently wise. That man of the world, in his accomplishment, transcends the world.

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(6) Wisdom for the world

--- Buddhism's Contribution


The spectacular achievement in the teaching of the Buddha is the verifiably correct identification and the diagnosis of the ills of the humans as well as the prescription by him of a way of life to them for their eradication. And placing this triumph in philosophical analysis in the context of world history, this was at least half millennium before the appearance of the major surviving religions of the world today. It is also to be remembered that according to Buddhism, this total process of salvation of mankind is personally effected by each one [ men and women themselves ], without the intermediary of an external agency who dwells outside their pale of existence. Nevertheless, the eradication of the ills of life and the consequent salvation of the humans imply a process of transcendence. This is the contrast which the Buddhists have to constantly keep in mind, the contrast between the lokiya and lokuttara or the mundane and the supramundane. This is a realistic and down to earth differentiation and requires no assistance of any profound theology. This is a fact which would be established and proved here and now, in this very life [ diññh ' eva dhamme ] as the Buddha himself demonstrated through his own life.

This places before the Buddhist two realities, the reality of life in the world and the reality of the state in which it is superseded. To the Buddhist, both these are real existing states. Hence they are truths or saccas, the first and the third of the four Noble Truths [cattài ariyasaccani ], viz. dukkha and nirodha. To the Buddhist, the life in the world is not fiction [ màyà or illusion ] as against a REALITY [ paramattha ] beyond this. It is, more or less, his inherited lot as a saüsàric being to suffer in living it, to suffer physically on account of disease, old age and death. And also suffer mentally the stresses and strains on account of self-acquired likes and dislikes of the humans as well as partialities and prejudices in which they find themselves desperately plunged in. Buddhism sensitizes man to these and in the process teach him the need to eliminate them by transcending the very process of living.

It would profit us to take note here of the fact that early Buddhism seems to uphold the wisdom of the ancient psycho-ethical concept of man in the definition : Poràõà pana bhaõanti manassa ussannatàya manussà = Ancients say the humans are called maussa on account of the elevated or lofty nature of their minds [VvA. 18 and KhA. 123 ] as against the more legendary one of presenting man as the offspring of the First Man or Manu : Manuno apaccà ' ti manussà. [ Kh A. 123 ]. Man, by this sublimity of his mind or power of reasoning [ manassa ussannatàya ] is gifted with the capacity to choose or to reject the one in preference to the other, choose what is wholesome and contributory to his well-being [ i.e. kusala ] and reject what is unwholesome or detrimental [ i.e. akusala ]. This is the normal run of religious culture in Buddhism, which insulates him against moral and spiritual disaster [ akaraõãyo màrassa akaraõãyo pàpimato. A. IV.109 ].

The Anguttara Nikaya enumerates seven factors as the bases of this culture: Ariya-sàvako akusalaü pajahati kusalaü bhàveti sàvajjaü pajahati anavajjaü bhàveti suddhaü atànaü pariharati ... etc. [ A. IV 109-111].. The Samyutta Nikaya [ S.III. 8-9 ] describes the situation very vividly and in a very convincing manner, saying that the adoption of evil ways [...akusale dhamme upasampajja viharato ], leads to misery in life [ dukkho vihàro], to anguish and tribulation [ savighàto saupàyàso sapariëàho ], and entailing painful consequences in the life beyond [ duggati pàñikankhà ]. For this reason the Buddha is present as praising the rejection of evil and the adoption of virtue: Tasmà bhagavà akusalànaü dhammànaü pahànaü vaõõeti... kusalànaü dhammànaü upasampadaü vaõõeti. S.III.8 ].

Thus correctness of choice as the basis of action turns out to be the burden of Buddhist thinking.Whether it be the oft-quoted lines sabba-pàpassa akaranaü kusalassa upasampadà [ Dhp. v. 183 ] or it be the inquiry of a Cakkavatti king on the collapse of his empire, wisely worded as Kiü bhante kusalaü kiü akusalaü kiü sàvajjaü kiü anavajjaü kiü sevitabbaü kiü na sevitabbaü kiü me kayiramànaü dãgharattaü ahitàya dukkhàya assa kim và pana me kayiramànam dãgharattaü hitàya sukhàya assà'ti. [ D.III. 61], it implies a direction of policy, a reorganization of the pattern of living, moving over from the mundane to the more sublime or transcendental. There could be no other way thinking or acting. This indeed is the only passage from saüsàra to nibbàna.

In one of the loveliest contexts in Buddhist history, the Buddha expresses these wise and kind words of counsel in the Suttanipata [ Sn.vv. 1120-23 ]. A very aged monk of Brahamanic origin who was Pingiya by name, [ said to be a hundred and twenty years in age according to the Commentary ] and had joined the Buddhist ranks late in his years, comes to the Buddha and reveals his true position both with regard to his age and decrepitude. Bemoaning the inadequacy of his spiritual attainments up to that point, he wishes to obtain from the Buddha an answer to his problem of transcending the ills of life here and now [jàti-jaràya idha vippahànaü. ]. He expresses his present plight with such vividness and with such veracity that one could hardly remain unmoved : ' My vision is not clear and my hearing is not efficient. Not comprehending your message, let not my life at death be an empty one. Do tell me Sir, how I may transcend birth and decay in this very life.' The Buddha's message to him in brief is this: ' Reject form, i.e. the physical body, if you choose to eliminate birth : Jahassu råpaü apunabbhavàya ' [ Sn. v. 1121 ].

It is followed by the request to give up taõhà or craving. The prompting for the abandonment of craving comes from the awareness and conviction which results from a closer look [pekkhamàno ] at life wherein one sees that those immersed in greed and attachment [ taõhàdhipannà ] are victims of anguish [ santàpa-jàte ] due to maladjustment on the psychical plane of existence. At the same time, a Buddhist has to become aware of the fact that the process of saüsàric existence where ills of life like decay, disease and death prevail, is perpetuated by the force of craving or taõhà. Therefore on the physical plane one must necessarily recognize the presence of physical bodily deterioration, of which Pingiya has already admitted that he is a victim, as a bye-product of taõhà [ taõhàdhipanne jarasà paretet ]. For the transcendence of ills on both these planes, the Buddha advises Pingiya to give up taõhà. Indeed that alone transcends birth : jahassu taõhaü apunabbhavàya. Towards the attainment of this goal, a great deal of self-adjustment is needed : an adjustment of values, of attitudes and a great surrender of customary ways. This is in fact what the Buddha meant when he said that his teaching as a way of life requires an up-stream movement, a movement against thecurrent: pañisotagàmiü [ See M. I. 168 Ariyapariyesana Sutta ].

Consequently in Buddhism, man's salvation depends on adjustment to the world in which he lives. He has to regulate his reactions to the stimuli of the world of senses which keep bombarding him all the time, from birth to death. 'Seeing a form with his eye or hearing a sound with his ear...' say the Buddhist texts [cakkhunà råpaü disvà ...sotena saddam sutvà... M. I.180 ], a diligent disciple grasps them not. The world which we live in is the launching pad from which the take off to the transcendental realms is effected. Or putting it differently, ' On the journey to nibbàna one does traverse the highways of society.' An intelligent analysis of the Noble Eightfold Path would convince one of the truth of this. At the core of Buddhist ethics obviously lies the correction of man's attitude to man, for his actions and reactions are primarily in relation to those around him, even inanimate things of the world having some kind of relationship to persons and vice versa.

This ethical correction of man applies to both primary evils of greed and hatred [ lobha and dosa or abhijjhà and vyàpàda ]. The threefold incorrect bodily action, the fourfold incorrect verbal action and the threefold processes of thought of the ten akusala-kamma or evil conduct also imply this concern for correct inter-personal relationships. The Ambalatthika Rahulovada Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya [ M.I. 414-420 ] discusses this at a level which reminds one of transcendental values. All the same, these considerations are not unrelated to down-to-earth realities. All evil traits verging on ill-will, i.e. vyàpàda, vihiüsà and paigha are shown to have their origin in man's maladjustment to man. Self-correction by man in this sphere safeguards for man this primary need, viz. the security of person. That is the right of every man to live. Founded on the basic awareness that one's own life is dear to everyone more than any other [ Evaü piyo puthu attà paresaü. S.I.75 ], one is called upon to respect the right of every other to safeguard his or her own life [Tasmà na hiüse paraü attakàmo. ibid. ].

The process of living also carries with it the accessories of life, viz. property. We are impressed by the Saleyyaka Sutta's reference to them with remarkable insight as vittåpakaraõa, i.e. possessions and means, or possessions as means of livelihood [ M.I.285 ff. ]. The respect for another's property or the willingness to regard it as the basis of his sustenance, prevents one who is endowed with an ethical consciousness from dispossessing another of his legitimate belongings. We should note here how the Commentary to the above referred sutta describes property with even greater insight as the source of his joy : tuññhi-jananaü parikkhàra-bhaõóaü. These two items of fundamental human rights relating to life and to property, with their universal extensiveness, form the core of Buddhist lay ethics. Speaking in terms of religious culture, they are potent enough to assail the primary roots of evil in man, viz. greed and hatred [ lobha and dosa ]. Thus they also take their place as items 1 and 2 of the Buddhist pa¤ca-sãla or layman's code of basic ethics. Suttas like the Saleyyaka and Veranjaka [ M.I. 285 ff.] show that these ethics in the breach constitute vicious behaviour or evil conduct [ visama-cariyà or adhamma-cariyà ] in society, leading to degeneracy of human life, here and hereafter.

It is this universality of pa¤ca-sãla which makes the Buddhists recommend it to all mankind, irrespective of the differences in social and political ideologies. The non-fulfilment of the ethics contained therein leads to corrosion of life in this very existence or as the Dhammapada puts it ' digs up his roots here itself ' [ idh' ev' eso lokasmim målaü khaõati attano. Dhp. v. 247 ]. The Cakkavatti king of Buddhist tradition insists on their observance when he says to all those who come under his domain that 'Life should not be destroyed [ Pàõo na hantabbo ] etc., irrespective of the political creed they uphold, whatever it be [ yathà-bhutta¤ca bhu¤jatha. D.II.173; III. 62 ]. Obviously, brand names like democracy or communism which loom large in our minds today mattered very little to the Buddhists whose total vision of human goodness overrode those petty divisions born of egoistic arrogance, both at individual and national levels. This is clearly seen in suttas like the Mahasudassana and Cakkavattisihanada which deal with the religio-political organization of the Cakkavatti king [ See D.II. l96-199 and D.III. 58-79 ]..

In Buddhism what would be called the essentially religious life, not the mere acceptance of or conversion to the faith which is referred to as pàõ'upetaü saraõaü gato [M.II 145, 213 ], begins thereafter with the taking upon oneself of the ethical injunctions of the pa¤ca-sãla in their true spirit. The Mahasakuludayi Sutta speaks of Buddhist disciples who giving up their higher life as monks return to lay life as taking upon themselves and living in accordance with the pa¤casãla. In doing so, they remain in the status of àràmika and upàsaka, by which are meant the more earnest and dedicated lay disciples [...te àràmika-bhåtà và upàsaka-bhåtà và pa¤casu sikkhàpadesu samàdàya vattanti.. [ M. 11. 5 ]. Many references in the Therigatha call upon those in lay life who wish to avert the displeasures and discomforts of life to choose to be guided by the Buddha, the dhamma and the saïgha and take upon themselves the moral precepts, i.e. saraõàgamana and sãlasamàdàna.

Sace bhàyasi dukkhassa sace te dukkhaü appiyam
upehi saranam buddhaü dhammam saïgha¤ ca tàdinaü
samàdiyàhi sãlàni taü te atthàya hehiti.
Thig. 249 & 288

For peace and harmony and social well-being in the world these basic rights of life and property [ more specifically referred to today as fundamental human rights ] have to be universally respected. The disrespect for these by any single individual or any single group sets in motion a series of events. Obviously they are action taken to safeguard the first or the second or both together. Manifestations of this type of defensive action, relative to the degree of disregard for the above discussed basic human rights, can certainly appear offensive and threatening to those very rights which are being championed. This is why universally extensive honest acceptance of the pa¤casãla, or basic human rights in other words, is needed for international and inter-religious peace. Not the demand to wage holy wars in defence of fanciful action and behaviuor of sectarian groups, religious or otherwise.Thiscall for unity in the name of religion, in support of internationally undefend-able or humanistically insupportable lines of action, would [ and should ] look blatantly unacceptable in the eyes of the divine, who must necessarily be above board in his patronage of humanity.

Two millennia and a half have passed since Buddhism offered this charter to mankind for its healthy growth and progressive march, for mankind as a whole and not for its petty and militarily [ or industrially or economically ] glorious encampments as superpowers. Should man's insatiable desire for supremacy to bring mankind under the banner one single religion or one political ideology lead to an insane rape of man ? In both these areas one often sees frantic attempts at welding together of even unrelated fragments, merely for the love of an impressive array. But these attempts at unification are also seen blowing up in volcanic explosions under the slightest provocation. On the hand, should not the wisdom of man, if he is believed to have any at all, be diverted first to the establishment of a kingdom of man earth, where man is worthy to rule man, decentralised to any desirable extent, on account of his primary virtue of mutual respect.

This is what the Buddhists would offer to the world as mettà or maitrã, universal loving kindness for practice among themselves, one and all, in a universally extensive manner.

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(7) Welcoming the New Year or the New Century ?

A people with an identity of their own do invariably reflect that distinctness in their thought and action. There is every possibility of this being pursued with offence to none, group or individual, by whatever yardstick one measures such a line of action. This depends of course, entirely on the sanity of the philosophy on which this distinctness of a people or country is based. Aggression, arrogance and avarice certainly have to be ruled out of such a universally benevolent system of thinking. People of Sri Lanka whose culture is deeply rooted in Buddhism should certainly rank very high in this category. Observations of outsiders who show no traces whatsoever of vested interest, made with perfect detachment from very ancient times to the modern, amply corroborate this. Professor John Lindsay Opie, writing in Roloff Beny's Island Ceylon, as late as 1972 says:

' The unity as well as the continuity of the old life produced by a handful of simple principles. A superior religion, Buddhism, in its Theravada expression of well-nigh Grecian restraint and purity, which conferred effective meaning on every department of life. Theocratic kingship clarified by the Buddhist notion of the Cakravartin, righteous and pacific monarch. A modified system of caste with social but not religious sanction. And a closed agricultural economy based on an astonishingly complex system of irrigation, of canals , enormous reservoirs and artificial water-works of every kind. Together, these axioms and their deductions led to a level of rich prosperity and to long unbroken tracts of peace, inspite of the frequent skirmishes and palace squabbles which explain the reputation of Lanka, even among the disabused Chinese travellers of the past, as the very 'land without sorrow.' [ p.25 ]

Therefore as an year draws to a close and we set our thoughts on the advent of another, let our remarks and observations on it resound and reverberate with Buddhist values which are vitally the back-bone of our people and our coutry. The world at large, with its evident sanity and inellectual honesty, does not seem to lose sight of the fact that Buddhist culture with its vastness both across time and space, over almost the whole of Asia for more than twenty-five centuries, is not only something to reckon with but is also something which should be hopefully retrieved. The contribution which Buddhism made to countries like Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq well before the advent of Christianity, as recorded by the Islamic historian Abu'l - Rayhan Muhammad al- Biruni more than a thousand years ago [ For more details see Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, Vol. IV. Fasc.I. p.21ff.], and substantiated by archaelogical evidence even today, should serve as a model for the functioning of any culture, any where. That makes a live phenomenon of culture, guiding and directing our lives as humans as we live it.

Looking at the process of the passage of man through time the Buddhists make this very interesting observation which comes to us from the Samyutta Nikaya.

The hours pass by. Nights drive us ever on.
Stages of life in turn abandon us. K.S. I. p.4

Accenti kàlà tarayanti rattiyo
vayo-guõà anupubbaü jahanti.
S.I. p.3

What this means is that our lives which we choose to call our own and the world we live in are both incessant processes which are at work We cannot call a halt to the nature or the functions of the world. In order to avoid conflict in our lives we have primarily to make the changes ourselves, and within ourselves. And this we must do, here and now, while we come to grips with life. The antithesis of a here and a hereafter [ Sinh. melova paralova ] is not truly Buddhist. My emphasis here is deliberate. But it must be remembered the denial is of the antithesis, i .e. the apparent assumption as though there were only two worlds or states to reckon with. There is absolutely no question about the idea of a life after or paralova. It is an incalculable string of lives one has to face, all linked together. What is to be emphasised is the multiplicity of such states of existence, using the plural of the word paralova. Paralova implies a whole chain in the likeness of the present one, propelled by it and cast in its mould.

That this restructuring and correcting of life must be done with urgency and maximum efficiency is hinted at in the line 'Stages of life in turn abandon us. ' To the Buddhist, if reckoning of time in this context [ accenti kàlà tarayanti rattiyo ] has any meaning or significance, it is on account of this urgency to fulfil a mission with minimum delay. Delay and neglect, according to Buddhist philosophy, or better we say according to the Buddhist way of thinking, are virtual death. We have either died almost in our cradles or are not truly born at all. If we have not learned this from the Dhammapada when it says ye pamattà yathà matà [ Dhp.v. 21 ] = ' The heedless are like unto the dead ', and have not put ourselves on the right gear so that we drive our carriage of life to maximum benefit, then we have to lament that we have heard all our sermons in vain.

Let us now focus attention on another Buddhist theme which has a relevance to the present discussion. Talking very briefly of the past, present and future, the Buddha says:

They make no lamentation o'er the past,
They yearn not after that which is not come,
By what now is do they maintain themselves:
Hence comes it that they look serene of hue. K.S.I. p.8

Atãtaü nànusocanti nappajappanti nàgataü
Paccuppannena yàpenti tena vaõõo pasãdati.
S.1.p. 5

The negative of this is put even more effectively saying that the fools wither away, pining over the dead yesterdays and unborn tomorrows, withering away like the bamboo, cut down green.

Anàgatapajappàya atãtassànusocanà
Etena bàlà sussanti nalo ' va harito luto.
S.1.p. 5

These statements with regard to the validity of time reckoning have in fact, when examined more closely, a third-dimensional religio-ethical significance. They really constitute the Buddha's reply to a question as to how the forest-dwelling monks living in tranquillity fare so well, subsisting on one meal a day [ S.I.p.5 quoted above ]. The bare truth of this is that the strain of time is on account of its stored up bulk and weight. Time must be allowed and given the freedom to wear itself out. It is in the sensible severance of the linkage [ the real meaning of viveka in both Pali and Sinhala being this ] of the present with its menacing partners, the past and the future.

While advocating a very practical and sensible approach to the immediate problems of day to day life, these words also seem to lay down a policy for a more stable philosophy which would elevate the quality of life both materially as well as in terms of extra-material values. To begin with, the reality and supremacy of the present moment is here emphatically announced. This immediately ties itself with the question of urgency which we discussed earlier. Moments, fruitlessly and unproductively allowed to drift away become the property or stock-in-trade of the lamentable past. Here are recurrent inspiring refrains from the Buddhist books which stress the need for this alertness. ' Let no moment be wasted. = Khaõo ve mà upaccagà.' [ Dhp.v.315 ]. Highlighting the painful consequences of its neglect, it is said : Those who have wasted their precious moments or opportunities lament when they face the reality of their own decline. = Khaõatãtà hi socanti nirayamhi samappità. [ Ibid. ]

This should make it clear to us that when the Buddha says ' They make no lamentation over the past ' there is absolutely no attempt to smuggle in any idea of being reconciled to the lot of one's past, or using a less meaningful phrase, one's fate. There is no surrendering here to a fatalistic theory of karma, or accepting without a tear in one's eye, what one is 'destined to suffer.' An unquestionably honest attempt should be made to harness the present moment profitably in every sense, so that when it passes over to a point instant which would be reckoned as past, its results would yield both profit and pleasure. That is the Buddhist norm in terms of which action would be declared good and bad. Here, I quote to you from the Dhammapada.

That deed is well done, when after having done it
One repents not. And when, with joy and pleasure
One reaps the fruit thereof.

Ta¤ ca kammaü kataü sàdhu yaü katvà nànutappati
Yassa patãto sumano vipàkaü pañisevati.
Dhp. v. 68

With equal emphasis verse 67 of the same text supplements this idea by defining what would be termed bad action.

The wisdom of the Buddha's instruction about not lamenting over the past comes out more poignantly when we take the following into consideration. Not ignoring the oft-argued impact of society on the individual one has also to logically trace the behaviour pattern of society to the behaviour of guided or misguided individuals who constitute that society, reckoning at the same time the accelerating power of their numerical strength. Thus, through pressure or persuasion, if it were possible to get individuals to be conscientiously responsible in their behaviour, there would be little need to grieve over the past. There should be the genuine consolation that whatever lapses there are either in the life of the society or of the individual, they are unavoidable sins of omission than of commission. There would also be the genuine consolation that inspite of the accelerated speed at which the society is moving, an endeavour would be made, benefiting. from the experience already gained to avoid repeating in the present the mistakes of the past.

So, at any stage in the history of a people, if resolves and aspirations are to be made, it should be to plan and determine the activities of the present in such a way as to leave no room for regrets or remorse of the unborn tomorrow. Basic ingredients for this are correct and right action. That is why the Buddhist upholds that no correct or justifiable way of living will ever commence without correct views or judgement. Thought and action follow this. Now it should be clear why the Noble Eightfold Way, the one and the only way to release or nirodha, i.e. the Ariya aññhaïgika magga begins with sammà diñthi and leads thereafter to sammà saükappa.

In Sri Lanka where we are ranked among the developing nations of the third world, many drastic changes are necessarily taking place every day. The world is reaching a stage of consciousness when, in the interest of humans, nature and environment have to be treated with great respect, because in polluting it man is polluting himself. According to Buddhism, this is true not only physically and materially but also psychically or spiritually or by whatever other name you choose to call this less recognised area of human life. The Buddhist would look upon this as the psychical corrosion that comes through greed and hatred, the unwillingness to share, and unwillingness to tolerate. This is a serious crime against society, the crime of polluting the social environment with drastic consequences. This also causes serious imbalance in the world society and its disastrous consequences are being witnessed every day. The world can well afford to put into the pool a great deal more of love and generosity and redistribute it among those who urgently need to benefit from it.

The Sri Lankans, to whatever reforms they subscribe, reforms initiated from within or without, would do well to remember this. Old world monstrosities in the realm of thinking like affluence, power, aristocracy, leadership, supremacy and monopoly which lead to social discrimination and exploitation, internationally or within nations, have to be relent-lessly rejected before we welcome another year or the twenty-first century. For victory breeds hatred [ jayaü veraü pasavati and the vanquished lies dejected: dukkhaü seti paràjito. Dhp. v. 201]. In a truly Buddhist atmosphere one can steer clear of these. Only one should not be fooled by Utopian schemes which neither correctly analyse nor assess true human nature, its strength and its failings. For the efficacy of the remedy, i.e. contemplated reforms will seriously depend on the diagnosis of the disease and the competence of the reformists to handle it.

This is what prompted the late Dr. Raphaelo M. Salas, the U.N.Expert on Population, to declare at the University of Colombo - Special Convocation at the BMICH in August 1979 that Sri Lanka should give to the world as its message for the twenty-first century this utterance of the wise old sage of India, uttered over two thousand five hundred years ago. It reads as follows:

Yo ce taü sahate jammiü taõham loke duraccayaü
Sokà tamhà papatanti udabindå ' va pokkharà.
Dhp. v.336

Whoso in the world overcomes this base and unruly craving,
From him sorrows fall away like water-drops from a lotus leaf.

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with Abbreviations


A. Anguttara Nikaya PTS [ Translation : Gradual Sayings PTS ]

AA. Anguttara Nikaya Commentary - Manorathapurani SHB

D. Digha Nikaya PTS [ Translation : Dialogues of the Buddha PTS ]

DA. Digha Nikaya Commentary - Sumangalavilasini SHB

Dhp. Dhammapada ed. Narada Thera

DhpA. Dhammapadatthakatha PTS

Kh. Khuddakapatha PTS

KhA. Khuddakapatha Commentary PTS

K.S. Kindred Sayings - Samyutta Nikaya Translation PTS

M. Majjhima Nikaya PTS [ Translation : Middle Length Sayings P'TS ]

MA. Majjhima Nikaya Commentary - Papancasudani SHB

Mhv. Mahavamsa PTS

PsB. Psalms of the Brethren - Theragatha Translation by Mrs. Rhys Davids PTS

PsS. Psalms of the Sisters - Therigatha Translation by Mrs. Rhys Davids PTS

Pv. Petavatthu PTS

S. Samyutta Nikaya PTS [ Translation : Kindred Sayings PTS ]

SA. Samyutta Nikaya Commentary - Saratthappakasini SHB

SHB. Simon Hewavitarana Bequest Series [ Sinhala script edition. ]

Sn. Sutta Nipata PTS

SnA. Sutta Nipata Commentary SHB

Thag. Theragatha PTS

Thig. Therigatha PTS

VvA. Vimanavatthu Commentary PTS

Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis - Eric Fromm, D.T.Zuzuki, Richard de Martino



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