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Buddhism in a nutshell
Buddhism in a Nutshell
Ven. Narada, Thera
Web site: www.buddhanet.net
Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.
Buddhism in a Nutshell
Copyright 1982 Buddhist Publication Society
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This edition was transcribed from the print edition in 1995 by Bradford Griffith under the auspices of the
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• Chapter II. The Dhamma: Is it a Philosophy?
• Chapter IV. Is Buddhism an Ethical System?• Chapter V. Some Salient Features of Buddhism
• Chapter VI. Kamma or the Law of Moral Causation
• Chapter VII. Re-birth• Chapter VIII. Paticca Samuppada
• Chapter XI. The Path to Nibbana• Appendix:
• Concentration on Respiration (Anapana Sati)
• Meditation on Loving-kindness (Metta)
• Perfections (Parami)
Buddhism in a Nutshell
first appeared in 1933. Since then several editions were published by various philanthropicgentlemen for free distribution.
For a fuller exposition of the subjects dealt with here, readers are kindly requested to read the revised and enlargededition of The Buddha and His Teachings
published in 1980.
Permission may freely be obtained to reprint or to translate this book.
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma-Sambuddhassa
On the fullmoon day of May, in the year 623 B.C., there was born in the district of Nepal an Indian Sakya Princenamed Siddhattha Gotama, who was destined to be the greatest religious teacher in the world. Brought up in the lapof luxury, receiving an education befitting a prince, he married and had a son.
His contemplative nature and boundless compassion did not permit him to enjoy the fleeting material pleasures of aRoyal household. He knew no woe, but he felt a deep pity for sorrowing humanity. Amidst comfort and prosperity,he realized the universality of sorrow. The palace, with all its worldly amusements, was no longer a congenial placefor the compassionate prince. The time was ripe for him to depart. Realizing the vanity of sensual enjoyments, in histwenty-ninth year, he renounced all worldly pleasures and donning the simple yellow garb of an ascetic, alone,penniless, wandered forth in search of Truth and Peace.
It was an unprecedented historic renunciation; for he renounced not in his old age but in the prime of manhood, notin poverty but in plenty. As it was the belief in the ancient days that no deliverance could be gained unless one leadsa life of strict asceticism, he strenuously practiced all forms of severe austerities. "Adding vigil after vigil, andpenance after penance," he made a superhuman effort for six long years.
His body was reduced to almost a skeleton. The more he tormented his body, the farther his goal receded from him.
The painful, unsuccessful austerities which he strenuously practiced proved absolutely futile. He was now fullyconvinced, through personal experience, of the utter futility of self-mortification which weakened his body andresulted in lassitude of spirit.
Benefiting by this invaluable experience of his, he finally decided to follow an independent course, avoiding the twoextremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. The former retards one's spiritual progress, and the latterweakens one's intellect. The new way which he himself discovered was the Middle Path, Majjhima Patipada,
whichsubsequently became one of the salient characteristics of his teaching.
One happy morning, while He was deeply absorbed in meditation, unaided and unguided by any supernatural powerand solely relying on His efforts and wisdom, He eradicated all defilements, purified Himself, and, realizing thingsas they truly are, attained Enlightenment (Buddhahood) at the age of 35. He was not born a Buddha, but Hebecame a Buddha by His own striving. As the perfect embodiment of all the virtues He preached, endowed withdeep wisdom commensurate with His boundless compassion. He devoted the remainder of His precious life to servehumanity both by example and precept, dominated by no personal motive whatever.
After a very successful ministry of 45 long years the Buddha, as every other human being, succumbed to theinexorable law of change, and finally passed away in His 80th year, exhorting His disciples to regard His doctrine astheir teacher.
The Buddha was a human being. As a man He was born, as a man He lived, and as a man His life came to an end.
Though a human being, He became an extraordinary man (Acchariya Manussa),
but He never arrogated to Himselfdivinity. The Buddha laid stress on this important point and left no room whatever for anyone to fall into the error ofthinking that He was an immortal divine being. Fortunately there is no deification in the case of the Buddha. Itshould, however, be remarked that there was no Teacher, "ever so godless as the Buddha, yet none so god-like."The Buddha is neither an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, as is believed by some, nor is He a savior whofreely saves others by His personal salvation. The Buddha exhorts His disciples to depend on themselves for theirdeliverance, for both purity and defilement depend on oneself. Clarifying His relationship with His followers andemphasizing the importance of self-reliance and individual striving, the Buddha plainly states: "You should exertyourselves, the Tathagatas are only teachers."The Buddhas point out the path, and it is left for us to follow that path to obtain our purification.
"To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself is positive." Dependence on others means asurrender of one's effort.
In exhorting His disciples to be self-dependent the Buddha says in the Parinibbana Sutta:
"Be ye islands untoyourselves, be ye a refuge unto yourselves, seek not for refuge in others." These significant words are self-elevating.
They reveal how vital is self-exertion to accomplish one's object and, how superficial and futile it is to seekredemption through benignant saviors and to crave for illusory happiness in an after life through the propitiation ofimaginary Gods or by irresponsive prayers and meaningless sacrifices.
Furthermore, the Buddha does not claim the monopoly of Buddhahood which, as a matter of fact, is not theprerogative of any specially graced person. He reached the highest possible state of perfection any person couldaspire to, and without the close-fist of a teacher he revealed the only straight path that leads thereto. According tothe Teaching of the Buddha anybody may aspire to that supreme state of perfection if he makes the necessaryexertion. The Buddha does not condemn men by calling they wretched sinners, but, on the contrary, He gladdensthem by saying that they are pure in heart at conception. In His opinion the world is not wicked but is deluded byignorance. Instead of disheartening His followers and reserving that exalted state only to Himself, He encouragesand induces them to emulate Him, for Buddhahood is latent in all. In one sense all are potential Buddhas.
One who aspires to become a Buddha is called a Bodhisatta, which, literally, means a wisdom-being. ThisBodhisatta ideal is the most beautiful and the most refined course of life that has ever been presented to this ego-centric world, for what is nobler than a life of service and purity?As a Man He attained Buddhahood and proclaimed to the world the latent inconceivable possibilities and thecreative power of man. Instead of placing an unseen Almighty God over man who arbitrarily controls the destiniesof mankind, and making him subservient to a supreme power, He raised the worth of mankind. It was He who taughtthat man can gain his deliverance and purification by his own exertion without depending on an external God ormediating priests. It was he who taught the ego-centric world the noble ideal of selfless service. It was He whorevolted against the degrading caste system and taught equality of mankind and gave equal opportunities for all todistinguish themselves in every walk of life.
He declared that the gates of success and prosperity were open to all in every condition of life, high or low, saint orcriminal, who would care to turn a new leaf and aspire to perfection.
Irrespective of caste, color or rank He established for both deserving men and women a democratically constitutedcelibate Order. He did not force His followers to be slaves either to His Teachings or to Himself but grantedcomplete freedom of thought.
He comforted the bereaved by His consoling words. He ministered to the sick that were deserted. He helped the poorthat were neglected. He ennobled the lives of the deluded, purified the corrupted lives of criminals. He encouragedthe feeble, united the divided, enlightened the ignorant, clarified the mystic, guided the benighted, elevated the base,dignified the noble. Both rich and poor, saints and criminals loved Him alike. Despotic and righteous kings, famousand obscure princes and nobles, generous and stingy millionaires, haughty and humble scholars, destitute paupers,down-trodden scavengers, wicked murderers, despised courtesans -- all benefited by His words of wisdom andcompassion.
His noble example was a source of inspiration to all. His serene and peaceful countenance was a soothing sight tothe pious eyes. His message of Peace and Tolerance was welcomed by all with indescribable joy and was of eternalbenefit to every one who had the fortune to hear and practice it.
Wherever His teachings penetrated it left an indelible impression upon the character of the respective peoples. Thecultural advancement of all the Buddhist nations was mainly due to His sublime Teachings. In fact all Buddhistcountries like Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Nepal, Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan,etc., grew up in the cradle of Buddhism. Though more than 2500 years have elapsed since the passing away of thisgreatest Teacher, yet his unique personality exerts a great influence on all who come to know Him.
His iron will, profound wisdom, universal love, boundless compassion, selfless service, historic renunciation, perfectpurity, magnetic personality, exemplary methods employed to propagate the Teachings, and his final success -- allthese factors have compelled about one-fifth of the population of the world today to hail the Buddha as theirsupreme Teacher.
Paying a glowing tribute to the Buddha Sri Radhakrishnan states: "In Gautama the Buddha we have a master-mindfrom the East second to none so far as the influence on the thought and life of the human race is concerned, and,sacred to all as the founder of a religious tradition whose hold is hardly less wide and deep than any other. Hebelongs to the history of the world's thought, to the general inheritance of all cultivated men, for, judged byintellectual integrity, moral earnestness, and spiritual insight, He is undoubtedly one of the greatest figures inhistory.
In The Three Greatest Men in History
H.G. Wells writes: "In the Buddha you see clearly a man, simple, devout,lonely, battling for light -- a vivid human personality, not a myth. He too gave a message to mankind universal incharacter. Many of our best modern ideas are in closest harmony with it. All the miseries and discontents are due, hetaught, to selfishness. Before a man can become serene he must cease to live for his senses or himself. Then hemerges into a great being. Buddha in different language called men to self-forgetfulness 500 years before Christ. Insome ways he is nearer to us and our needs. He was more lucid upon our individual importance and service thanChrist and less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality."
St. Hilaire remarks "The perfect model of all the virtues He preaches. His life has not a stain upon it."Fausboll says -- "The more I know of Him, the more I love Him."A humble follower of his would say -- "The more I know Him, the more I love Him; the more I love Him, the moreI know Him."
The Dhamma: Is it a Philosophy?
The non-aggressive, moral and philosophical system expounded by the Buddha, which demands no blind faith fromits adherents, expounds no dogmatic creeds, encourages no superstitious rites and ceremonies, but advocates agolden mean that guides a disciple through pure living and pure thinking to the gain of supreme wisdom anddeliverance from all evil, is called the Dhamma and is popularly known as Buddhism.
The all-merciful Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Dhamma which He unreservedly bequeathed tohumanity, still exists in its pristine purity.
Although the Master has left no written records of His Teachings, His distinguished disciples preserved them bycommitting to memory and transmitting them orally from generation to generation.
Immediately after His demise 500 chief Arahats versed in the Dhamma and Vinaya, held a convocation torehearse the Doctrine as was originally taught by the Buddha. Venerable Ananda Thera, who enjoyed the specialprivilege of hearing all the discourses, recited the Dhamma, while the Venerable Upali recited the Vinaya.
was compiled and arranged in its present form by those Arahats of old.
During the reign of the pious Sinhala King Vattagamani Abhaya, about 83 B.C., the Tipitaka was, for the first timein the history of Buddhism, committed to writing on palm leaves (ola) in Ceylon.
This voluminous Tipitaka,
which contains the essence of the Buddha's Teaching, is estimated to be about eleventimes the size of the Bible. A striking contrast between the Tipitaka and the Bible is that the former is not a gradualdevelopment like the latter.
As the word itself implies, the Tipitaka
consists of three baskets. They are the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka),
the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka),
and the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
The Vinaya Pitaka
which is regarded as the sheet anchor to the oldest historic celibate order -- the Sangha -- mainlydeals with rules and regulations which the Buddha promulgated, as occasion arose, for the future discipline of theOrder of monks (Bhikkhus)
and nuns (Bhikkunis).
It described in detail the gradual development of the Sasana
(Dispensation). An account of the life and ministry of the Buddha is also given. Indirectly it reveals some importantand interesting information about ancient history, Indian customs, arts, science, etc.
The Vinaya Pitaka consists of the five following books:
Pali -- Major Offenses2. Pacittiya
Pali -- Minor Offenses
Pali -- Greater Section4. Cullavagga
Pali -- Shorter Section5. Parivara
Pali -- Epitome of the Vinaya
The Sutta Pitaka
consists chiefly of discourses, delivered by the Buddha himself on various occasions. There arealso a few discourses delivered by some of His distinguished disciples such as the Venerable Sariputta, Ananda,Moggallana, etc., included in it. It is like a book of prescriptions, as the sermons embodied therein were expoundedto suit the different occasions and the temperaments of various persons. There may be seemingly contradictory
statements, but they should not be misconstrued as they were opportunely uttered by the Buddha to suit a particularpurpose: for instance, to the self-same question He would maintain silence (when the inquirer is merely foolishlyinquisitive), or give a detailed reply when He knew the inquirer to be an earnest seeker. Most of the sermons wereintended mainly for the benefit of Bhikkhus and they deal with the Holy life and with the expositions of the doctrine.
There are also several other discourses which deal with both the material and moral progress of His lay followers.
This Pitaka is divided into five Nikayas or collections, viz:
1. Digha Nikaya
(Collection of Long Discourses).
2. Majjhima Nikaya
(Collection of Middle-Length Discourses).
3. Samyutta Nikaya
(Collection of Kindred Sayings).
4. Anguttara Nikaya
(Collection of Discourses arranged in accordance with numbers).
5. Khuddaka Nikaya
The fifth is subdivided into fifteen books:
1. Khuddaka Patha
(Shorter texts)2. Dhammapada
(Way of Truth)3. Udana
(Paeans of Joy)4. Iti Vuttaka
("Thus said" Discourses)5. Sutta Nipata
(Collected Discourses)6. Vimana Vatthu
(Stories of Celestial Mansions)7. Peta Vatthu
(Stories of Petas)8. Theragatha
(Psalms of the Brethren)9. Therigatha
(Psalms of the Sisters)10. Jataka
(Birth Stories)11. Niddesa
(Expositions)12. Patisambhida Magga
(Analytical Knowledge)13. Apadana
(Lives of Arahats)14. Buddhavamsa
(The History of the Buddha)15. Cariya Pitaka
(Modes of Conduct)
The Abhidhamma Pitaka
is the most important and the most interesting of the three, containing as it does theprofound philosophy of the Buddha's Teaching in contrast to the illuminating and simpler discourses in the SuttaPitaka.
In the Sutta Pitaka
is found the conventional teaching (vohara desana)
while in the Abhidhamma Pitaka
is found theultimate teaching (paramattha-desana).
To the wise, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide; to the spiritually evolved, an intellectual treat; and to researchscholars, food for thought. Consciousness is defined. Thoughts are analyzed and classified chiefly from an ethicalstandpoint. Mental states are enumerated. The composition of each type of consciousness is set forth in detail. Howthoughts arise, is minutely described. Irrelevant problems that interest mankind but having no relation to one'spurification, are deliberately set aside.
Matter is summarily discussed; fundamental units of matter, properties of matter, sources of matter, relationshipbetween mind and matter, are explained.
The Abhidhamma investigates mind and matter, the two composite factors of the so-called being, to help theunderstanding of things as they truly are, and a philosophy has been developed on those lines. Based on thatphilosophy, an ethical system has been evolved, to realize the ultimate goal, Nibbana.
The Abhidhamma Pitaka
consists of seven books:
(Classification of Dhammas)2. Vibhanga
(The book of Divisions)3. Katha-Vatthu
(Points of Controversy)4. Puggala-Paññatti
(Descriptions of Individuals)
(Discussion with reference to elements)6. Yamaka
(The Book of Pairs),7. Patthana
(The Book of Relations)
In the Tipitaka one finds milk for the babe and meat for the strong, for the Buddha taught His doctrine both to themasses and to the intelligentsia. The sublime Dhamma enshrined in these sacred texts, deals with truths and facts,and is not concerned with theories and philosophies which may be accepted as profound truths today only to bethrown overboard tomorrow. The Buddha has presented us with no new astounding philosophical theories, nor didHe venture to create any new material science. He explained to us what is within and without so far as it concernsour emancipation, as ultimately expounded a path of deliverance, which is unique. Incidentally, He has, however,forestalled many a modern scientist and philosopher.
Schopenhauer in his "World as Will and Idea" has presented the truth of suffering and its cause in a Western garb.
Spinoza, though he denies not the existence of a permanent reality, asserts that all phenomenal existence istransitory. In his opinion sorrow is conquered "by finding an object of knowledge which is not transient, notephemeral, but is immutable, permanent, everlasting." Berkeley proved that the so-called indivisible atom is ametaphysical fiction. Hume, after a relentless analysis of the mind, concluded that consciousness consists of fleetingmental states. Bergson advocates the doctrine of change. Prof. James refers to a stream of consciousness.
The Buddha expounded these doctrines of Transiency, (Anicca),
and No-Soul (Anatta)
some 2500years ago while He was sojourning in the valley of the Ganges.
It should be understood that the Buddha did not preach all that He knew. On one occasion while the Buddha waspassing through a forest He took a handful of leaves and said: "O Bhikkhus, what I have taught is comparable to theleaves in my hand. What I have not taught is comparable to the amount of leaves in the forest."He taught what He deemed was absolutely essential for one's purification making no distinction between an esotericand exoteric doctrine. He was characteristically silent on questions irrelevant to His noble mission.
Buddhism no doubt accords with science, but both should be treated as parallel teachings, since one deals mainlywith material truths while the other confines itself to moral and spiritual truths. The subject matter of each isdifferent.
The Dhamma He taught is not merely to be preserved in books, nor is it a subject to be studied from an historical orliterary standpoint. On the contrary it is to be learnt and put into practice in the course of one's daily life, for withoutpractice one cannot appreciate the truth. The Dhamma is to be studied, and more to be practiced, and above all to berealized; immediate realization is its ultimate goal. As such the Dhamma is compared to a raft which is meant for thesole purpose of escaping from the ocean of birth and death (Samsara).
Buddhism, therefore, cannot strictly be called a mere philosophy because it is not merely the "love of, inducing thesearch after, wisdom." Buddhism may approximate a philosophy, but it is very much more comprehensive.
Philosophy deals mainly with knowledge and is not concerned with practice; whereas Buddhism lays specialemphasis on practice and realization.
Is it a Religion?
It is neither a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly understood, for it is not "a system of faith andworship owing any allegiance to a supernatural being."Buddhism does not demand blind faith from its adherents. Here mere belief is dethroned and is substituted byconfidence based on knowledge, which, in Pali, is known as Saddha.
The confidence placed by a follower on theBuddha is like that of a sick person in a noted physician, or a student in his teacher. A Buddhist seeks refuge in theBuddha because it was He who discovered the Path of Deliverance.
A Buddhist does not seek refuge in the Buddha with the hope that he will be saved by His personal purification. TheBuddha gives no such guarantee. It is not within the power of a Buddha to wash away the impurities of others. Onecould neither purify nor defile another.
The Buddha, as Teacher, instructs us, but we ourselves are directly responsible for our purification.
Although a Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha, he does not make any self-surrender. Nor does a Buddhist sacrificehis freedom of thought by becoming a follower of the Buddha. He can exercise his own free will and develop hisknowledge even to the extent of becoming a Buddha himself.
The starting point of Buddhism is reasoning or understanding, or, in other words, Samma-ditthi.
To the seekers of truth the Buddha says:
"Do not accept anything on (mere) hearsay -- (i.e., thinking that thus have we heard itfrom a long time). Do not accept anything by mere tradition -- (i.e., thinking that it hasthus been handed down through many generations). Do not accept anything on account ofmere rumors -- (i.e., by believing what others say without any investigation). Do notaccept anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do not accept anything bymere suppositions. Do not accept anything by mere inference. Do not accept anything bymerely considering the reasons. Do not accept anything merely because it agrees withyour pre-conceived notions. Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable -- (i.e., thinking that as the speaker seems to be a good person his words should beaccepted). Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is respected by us (therefore itis right to accept his word).
"But when you know for yourselves -- these things are immoral, these things areblameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, these things, when performed andundertaken conduce to ruin and sorrow -- then indeed do you reject them.
"When you know for yourselves -- these things are moral, these things are blameless,these things are praised by the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken,conduce to well-being and happiness -- then do you live acting accordingly."
These inspiring words of the Buddha still retain their original force and freshness.
Though there is no blind faith, one might argue whether there is no worshiping of images etc., in Buddhism.
Buddhists do not worship an image expecting worldly or spiritual favors, but pay their reverence to what itrepresents.
An understanding Buddhist, in offering flowers and incense to an image, designedly makes himself feel that he is inthe presence of the living Buddha and thereby gains inspiration from His noble personality and breathes deep Hisboundless compassion. He tries to follow His noble example.
The Bo-tree is also a symbol of Enlightenment. These external objects of reverence are not absolutely necessary, butthey are useful as they tend to concentrate one's attention. An intellectual person could dispense with them as hecould easily focus his attention and visualize the Buddha.
For our own good, and out of gratitude, we pay such external respect but what the Buddha expects from His discipleis not so much obeisance as the actual observance of His Teachings. The Buddha says -- "He honors me best whopractices my teaching best." "He who sees the Dhamma sees me."With regard to images, however, Count Kevserling remarks -- "I see nothing more grand in this world than theimage of the Buddha. It is an absolutely perfect embodiment of spirituality in the visible domain."Furthermore, it must be mentioned that there are not petitional or intercessory prayers in Buddhism. However muchwe may pray to the Buddha we cannot be saved. The Buddha does not grant favors to those who pray to Him.
Instead of petitional prayers there is meditation that leads to self-control, purification and enlightenment. Meditationis neither a silent reverie nor keeping the mind blank. It is an active striving. It serves as a tonic both to the heart andthe mind. The Buddha not only speaks of the futility of offering prayers but also disparages a slave mentality. ABuddhist should not pray to be saved, but should rely on himself and win his freedom.
"Prayers take the character of private communications, selfish bargaining with God. Itseeks for objects of earthly ambitions and inflames the sense of self. Meditation on theother hand is self-change."
In Buddhism there is not, as in most other religions, an Almighty God to be obeyed and feared. The Buddha doesnot believe in a cosmic potentate, omniscient and omnipresent. In Buddhism there are no divine revelations or divinemessengers. A Buddhist is , therefore, not subservient to any higher supernatural power which controls his destiniesand which arbitrarily rewards and punishes. Since Buddhists do not believe in revelations of a divine beingBuddhism does not claim the monopoly of truth and does not condemn any other religion. But Buddhism recognizesthe infinite latent possibilities of man and teaches that man can gain deliverance from suffering by his own effortsindependent of divine help or mediating priests.
Buddhism cannot, therefore, strictly be called a religion because it is neither a system of faith and worship, nor "theoutward act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the existence of a God or gods having power overtheir own destiny to whom obedience, service, and honor are due."If, by religion, is meant "a teaching which takes a view of life that is more than superficial, a teaching which looksinto life and not merely at it, a teaching which furnishes men with a guide to conduct that is in accord with this itsin-look, a teaching which enables those who give it heed to face life with fortitude and death with serenity," or asystem to get rid of the ills of life, then it is certainly a religion of religions.
Is Buddhism an Ethical System?
It no doubt contains an excellent ethical code which is unparalleled in its perfection and altruistic attitude. It dealswith one way of life for the monks and another for the laity. But Buddhism is much more than an ordinary moralteaching. Morality is only the preliminary stage on the Path of Purity, and is a means to an end, but not an end initself. Conduct, though essential, is itself insufficient to gain one's emancipation. It should be coupled with wisdomor knowledge (pañña).
The base of Buddhism is morality, and wisdom is its apex.
In observing the principles of morality a Buddhist should not only regard his own self but also should have aconsideration for others we well -- animals not excluded. Morality in Buddhism is not founded on any doubtfulrevelation nor is it the ingenious invention of an exceptional mind, but it is a rational and practical code based onverifiable facts and individual experience.
It should be mentioned that any external supernatural agency plays no part whatever in the moulding of the characterof a Buddhist. In Buddhism there is no one to reward or punish. Pain or happiness are the inevitable results of one'sactions. The question of incurring the pleasure or displeasure of a God does not enter the mind of a Buddhist.
Neither hope of reward nor fear of punishment acts as an incentive to him to do good or to refrain from evil. ABuddhist is aware of future consequences, but he refrains from evil because it retards, does good because it aidsprogress to Enlightenment (Bodhi). There are also some who do good because it is good, refrain from evil because itis bad.
To understand the exceptionally high standard of morality the Buddha expects from His ideal followers, one mustcarefully read the Dhammapada, Sigalovada Sutta, Vyaggapajja Sutta, Mangala Sutta, Karaniya Sutta, ParabhavaSutta, Vasala Sutta, Dhammika Sutta, etc.
As a moral teaching it excels all other ethical systems, but morality is only the beginning and not the end ofBuddhism.
In one sense Buddhism is not a philosophy, in another sense it is the philosophy of philosophies.
In one sense Buddhism is not a religion, in another sense it is the religion of religions.
Buddhism is neither a metaphysical path nor a ritualistic path.
It is neither sceptical nor dogmatic.
It is neither self-mortification nor self-indulgence.
It is neither pessimism nor optimism.
It is neither eternalism nor nihilism.
It is neither absolutely this-worldly nor other-worldly.
It is a unique Path of Enlightenment.
The original Pali term for Buddhism is Dhamma, which, literally, means that which upholds. There is no Englishequivalent that exactly conveys the meaning of the Pali term.
The Dhamma is that which really is. It is the Doctrine of Reality. It is a means of Deliverance from suffering, andDeliverance itself. Whether the Buddhas arise or not the Dhamma exists. It lies hidden from the ignorant eyes ofmen, till a Buddha, an Enlightened One, realizes and compassionately reveals it to the world.
This Dhamma is not something apart from oneself, but is closely associated with oneself. As such the Buddhaexhorts:
"Abide with oneself as an island, with oneself as a Refuge. Abide with the Dhamma as anisland, with the Dhamma as a Refuge. Seek no external refuge."
Some Salient Features of Buddhism
The foundations of Buddhism are the four Noble Truths -- namely, Suffering (the raison d'etre
of Buddhism), itscause (i.e., Craving), its end (i.e., Nibbana, the Summum Bonum of Buddhism), and the Middle Way.
What is the Noble Truth of Suffering?
"Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, disease is suffering, death is suffering, to beunited with the unpleasant is suffering, to be separated from the pleasant is suffering, notto receive what one craves for is suffering, in brief the five Aggregates of Attachment aresuffering."
What is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering?
"It is the craving which leads from rebirth to rebirth accompanied by lust of passion,which delights now here now there; it is the craving for sensual pleasures (Kamatanha),
for existence (Bhavatanha)
 and for annihilation (Vibhavatanha)."
What is the Noble Truth of the Annihilation of Suffering?
"It is the remainderless, total annihilation of this very craving, the forsaking of it, thebreaking loose, fleeing, deliverance from it."
What is the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Annihilation of Suffering?
"It is the Noble Eightfold Path which consists of right understanding, right thoughts, rightspeech, right action, right livelihood, right endeavor, right mindfulness, and rightconcentration."
Whether the Buddhas arise or not these four Truths exist in the universe. The Buddhas only reveal these Truthswhich lay hidden in the dark abyss of time.
Scientifically interpreted, the Dhamma may be called the law of cause and effect. These two embrace the entirebody of the Buddha's Teachings.
The first three represent the philosophy of Buddhism; the fourth represents the ethics of Buddhism, based on thatphilosophy. All these four truths are dependent on this body itself. The Buddha states: "In this very one-fathom longbody along with perceptions and thoughts, do I proclaim the world, the origin of the world, the end of the world andthe path leading to the end of the world." Here the term world is applied to suffering.
Buddhism rests on the pivot of sorrow. But it does not thereby follow that Buddhism is pessimistic. It is neithertotally pessimistic nor totally optimistic, but, on the contrary, it teaches a truth that lies midway between them. Onewould be justified in calling the Buddha a pessimist if He had only enunciated the Truth of suffering withoutsuggesting a means to put an end to it. The Buddha perceived the universality of sorrow and did prescribe a panaceafor this universal sickness of humanity. The highest conceivable happiness, according to the Buddha, is Nibbana,which is the total extinction of suffering.
The author of the article on Pessimism in the Encyclopedia Britannica writes: "Pessimism denotes an attitude ofhopelessness towards life, a vague general opinion that pain and evil predominate in human affairs. The originaldoctrine of the Buddha is in fact as optimistic as any optimism of the West. To call it pessimism is merely to applyto it a characteristically Western principle to which happiness is impossible without personality. The true Buddhistlooks forward with enthusiasm to absorption into eternal bliss."Ordinarily the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest and only happiness of the average man. There is nodoubt a kind of momentary happiness in the anticipation, gratification and retrospection of such fleeting materialpleasures, but they are illusive and temporary. According to the Buddha non-attachment is a greater bliss.
The Buddha does not expect His followers to be constantly pondering on suffering and lead a miserable unhappylife. He exhorts them to be always happy and cheerful, for zest (Piti)
is one of the factors of Enlightenment.
Real happiness is found within, and is not to be defined in terms of wealth, children, honors or fame. If suchpossessions are misdirected, forcibly or unjustly obtained, misappropriated or even viewed with attachment, theywill be a source of pain and sorrow to the possessors.
Instead of trying to rationalize suffering, Buddhism takes suffering for granted and seeks the cause to eradicate it.
Suffering exists as long as there is craving. It can only be annihilated by treading the Noble Eightfold Path andattaining the supreme bliss of Nibbana.
These four Truths can be verified by experience. Hence the Buddha Dhamma is not based on the fear of theunknown, but is founded on the bedrock of facts which can be tested by ourselves and verified by experience.
Buddhism is, therefore rational and intensely practical.
Such a rational and practical system cannot contain mysteries or esoteric doctrines. Blind faith, therefore, is foreignto Buddhism. Where there is no blind faith there cannot be any coercion or persecution or fanaticism. To the uniquecredit of Buddhism it must be said that throughout its peaceful march of 2500 years no drop of blood was shed in thename of the Buddha, no mighty monarch wielded his powerful sword to propagate the Dhamma, and no conversionwas made either by force or by repulsive methods. Yet, the Buddha was the first and the greatest missionary thatlived on earth.
Aldous Huxley writes: "Alone of all the great world religions Buddhism made its way without persecutioncensorship or inquisition."Lord Russell remarks: "Of the great religions of history, I prefer Buddhism, especially in its earliest forms; becauseit has had the smallest element of persecution."In the name of Buddhism no altar was reddened with the blood of a Hypatia, no Bruno was burnt alive.
Buddhism appeals more to the intellect than to the emotion. It is concerned more with the character of the devoteesthan with their numerical strength.
On one occasion Upali, a follower of Nigantha Nataputta, approached the Buddha and was so pleased with theBuddha's exposition of the Dhamma that he instantly expressed his desire to become a follower of the Buddha. Butthe Buddha cautioned him, saying:
"Of a verity, O householder, make a thorough investigation. It is well for a distinguishedman like you to make (first) a thorough investigation."
Upali, who was overjoyed at this unexpected remark of the Buddha, said:
"Lord, had I been a follower of another religion, its adherents would have taken me roundthe streets in a procession proclaiming that such and such a millionaire had renounced hisformer faith and embraced theirs. But, Lord, Your Reverence advises me to investigatefurther. The more pleased am I with this remark of yours. For the second time, Lord, Iseek refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha."
Buddhism is saturated with this spirit of free enquiry and complete tolerance. It is the teaching of the open mind andthe sympathetic heart, which, lighting and warming the whole universe with its twin rays of wisdom andcompassion, sheds its genial glow on every being struggling in the ocean of birth and death.
The Buddha was so tolerant that He did not even exercise His power to give commandments to His lay followers.
Instead of using the imperative, He said: "It behooves you to do this -- It behooves you not to do this." Hecommands not but does exhort.
This tolerance the Buddha extended to men, women and all living beings.
It was the Buddha who first attempted to abolish slavery and vehemently protested against the degrading castesystem which was firmly rooted in the soil of India. In the Word of the Buddha it is not by mere birth one becomesan outcast or a noble, but by one's actions. Caste or colour does not preclude one from becoming a Buddhist or fromentering the Order. Fishermen, scavengers, courtesans, together with warriors and Brahmins, were freely admitted tothe Order and enjoyed equal privileges and were also given positions of rank. Upali, the barber, for instance, wasmade in preference to all other the chief in matters pertaining to Vinaya discipline. The timid Sunita, the scavenger,who attained Arhatship was admitted by the Buddha Himself into the Order. Angulimala, the robber and criminal,was converted to a compassionate saint. The fierce Alavaka sought refuge in the Buddha and became a saint. Thecourtesan Ambapali entered the Order and attained Arhatship. Such instances could easily be multiplied from theTipitaka to show that the portals of Buddhism were wide open to all, irrespective of caste, colour or rank.
It was also the Buddha who raised the status of downtrodden women and not only brought them to a realization oftheir importance to society but also founded the first celibate religious order for women with rules and regulations.
The Buddha did not humiliate women, but only regarded them as feeble by nature. He saw the innate good of bothmen and women and assigned to them their due places in His teaching. Sex is no barrier to attaining Sainthood.
Sometimes the Pali term used to denote women is Matugama,
which means "mother-folk" or "society of mothers."As a mother, woman holds an honorable place in Buddhism. Even the wife is regarded as "best friend" (paramasakha)
of the husband.
Hasty critics are only making ex parte statements when they reproach Buddhism with being inimical to women.
Although at first the Buddha refused to admit women into the Order on reasonable grounds, yet later He yielded tothe entreaties of His foster-mother, Pajapati Gotami, and founded the Bhikkhuni Order. Just as the Arahats Sariputtaand Moggallana were made the two chief disciples in the Order of monks , even so he appointed Arahats Khema andUppalavanna as the two chief female disciples. Many other female disciples too were named by the Buddha Himselfas His distinguished and pious followers.
On one occasion the Buddha said to King Kosala who was displeased on hearing that a daughter was born to him:
"A woman child, O Lord of men; may proveEven a better offspring than a male."
Many women, who otherwise would have fallen into oblivion, distinguished themselves in various ways, and gainedtheir emancipation by following the Dhamma and entering the Order. In this new Order, which later proved to be agreat blessing to many women, queens, princesses, daughters of noble families, widows, bereaved mothers, destitutewomen, pitiable courtesans -- all, despite their caste or rank, met on a common platform, enjoyed perfect consolationand peace, and breathed that free atmosphere which is denied to those cloistered in cottages and palatial mansions.
It was also the Buddha who banned the sacrifice of poor beasts and admonished His followers to extend their lovingkindness (Metta)
to all living beings -- even to the tiniest creature that crawls at one's feet. No man has the power orthe right to destroy the life of another as life is precious to all.
A genuine Buddhist would exercise this loving-kindness towards every living being and identify himself with all,making no distinction whatsoever with regard to caste, colour or sex.
It is this Buddhist Metta that attempts to break all the barriers which separate one from another. There is no reasonto keep aloof from others merely because they belong to another persuasion or another nationality. In that nobleToleration Edict which is based on Culla-Vyuha
Suttas, Asoka says: "Concourse alone is best, thatis, all should harken willingly to the doctrine professed by others."Buddhism is not confined to any country or any particular nation. It is universal. It is not nationalism which, in otherwords, is another form of caste system founded on a wider basis. Buddhism, if it be permitted to say so, issupernationalism.
To a Buddhist there is no far or near, no enemy or foreigner, no renegade or untouchable, since universal loverealized through understanding has established the brotherhood of all living beings. A real Buddhist is a citizen ofthe world. He regards the whole world as his motherland and all as his brothers and sisters.
Buddhism is, therefore, unique, mainly owing to its tolerance, non-aggressiveness, rationality, practicability,efficacy and universality. It is the noblest of all unifying influences and the only lever that can uplift the world.
These are some of the salient features of Buddhism, and amongst some of the fundamental doctrines may be said --Kamma or the Law of Moral Causation, the Doctrine of Rebirth, Anatta and Nibbana.
Kamma or the Law of Moral Causation
We are faced with a totally ill-balanced world. We perceive the inequalities and manifold destinies of men and thenumerous grades of beings that exist in the universe. We see one born into a condition of affluence, endowed withfine mental, moral and physical qualities and another into a condition of abject poverty and wretchedness. Here is aman virtuous and holy, but, contrary to his expectation, ill-luck is ever ready to greet him. The wicked world runscounter to his ambitions and desires. He is poor and miserable in spite of his honest dealings and piety. There isanother vicious and foolish, but accounted to be fortune's darling. He is rewarded with all forms of favors, despitehis shortcomings and evil modes of life.
Why, it may be questioned, should one be an inferior and another a superior? Why should one be wrested from thehands of a fond mother when he has scarcely seen a few summers, and another should perish in the flower ormanhood, or at the ripe age of eighty or hundred? Why should one be sick and infirm, and another strong andhealthy? Why should one be handsome, and another ugly and hideous, repulsive to all? Why should one be broughtup in the lap of luxury, and another in absolute poverty, steeped in misery? Why should one be born a millionaireand another a pauper? Why should one be born with saintly characteristics, and another with criminal tendencies?Why should some be linguists, artists, mathematicians or musicians from the very cradle? Why should some becongenitally blind, deaf and deformed? Why should some be blessed and others cursed from their birth?These are some problems that perplex the minds of all thinking men. How are we to account for all this unevennessof the world, this inequality of mankind?Is it due to the work of blind chance or accident?There is nothing in this world that happens by blind chance or accident. To say that anything happens by chance, isno more true than that this book has come here of itself. Strictly speaking, nothing happens to man that he does notdeserve for some reason or another.
Could this be the fiat of an irresponsible Creator?Huxley writes:
"If we are to assume that anybody has designedly set this wonderful universe going, it isperfectly clear to me that he is no more entirely benevolent and just in any intelligiblesense of the words, than that he is malevolent and unjust."
"If this being (God) is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action,every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also his work; how is itpossible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such anAlmighty Being.
"In giving out punishments and rewards, he would to a certain extent be passingjudgement on himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousnessascribed to him."
"According to the theological principles man is created arbitrarily and without his desireand at the moment of his creation is either blessed or damned eternally. Hence man iseither good or evil, fortunate or unfortunate, noble or depraved, from the first step in theprocess of his physical creation to the moment of his last breath, regardless of hisindividual desires, hopes, ambitions, struggles or devoted prayers. Such is theologicalfatalism."
"The existence of evil is a terrible stumbling block to the Theist. Pain, misery, crime,poverty confront the advocate of eternal goodness and challenge with unanswerablepotency his declaration of Deity as all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful."
"Whoever regards himself as having become out of nothing must also think that he willagain become nothing; for an eternity has passed before he was, and then a secondeternity had begun, through which he will never cease to be, is a monstrous thought.
"If birth is the absolute beginning, then death must be his absolute end; and theassumption that man is made out of nothing leads necessarily to the assumption that deathis his absolute end."
Commenting on human sufferings and God, Prof. J.B.S. Haldane writes:
"Either suffering is needed to perfect human character, or God is not Almighty. Theformer theory is disproved by the fact that some people who have suffered very little buthave been fortunate in their ancestry and education have very fine characters. Theobjection to the second is that it is only in connection with the universe as a whole thatthere is any intellectual gap to be filled by the postulation of a deity. And a creator couldpresumably create whatever he or it wanted."
"The world, we are told, was created by a God who is both good and omnipotent. BeforeHe created the world he foresaw all the pain and misery that it would contain. He istherefore responsible for all of it. it is useless to argue that the pain in the world is due tosin. If God knew in advance the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearlyresponsible for all the consequences of those sins when He decided to create man."
In "Despair," a poem of his old age, Lord Tennyson thus boldly attacks God, who, as recorded in Isaiah, says, "Imake peace and create evil." (Isaiah, xiv. 7.)
"What! I should call on that infinite love that has served us so well? Infinite cruelty,rather that made everlasting hell, Made us, foreknew us, foredoomed us, and does whathe will with his own. Better our dead brute mother who never has heard us groan."
Surely "the doctrine that all men are sinners and have the essential sin of Adam is a challenge to justice, mercy, loveand omnipotent fairness."Some writers of old authoritatively declared that God created man in his own image. Some modern thinkers state, onthe contrary, that man created God in his own image. With the growth of civilization man's concept of God alsobecame more and more refined.
It is however, impossible to conceive of such a being either in or outside the universe.
Could this variation be due to heredity and environment? One must admit that all such chemico-physical phenomenarevealed by scientists, are partly instrumental, but they cannot be solely responsible for the subtle distinctions andvast differences that exist amongst individuals. Yet why should identical twins who are physically alike, inheritinglike genes, enjoying the same privilege of upbringing, be very often temperamentally, morally and intellectuallytotally different?Heredity alone cannot account for these vast differences. Strictly speaking, it accounts more plausibly for theirsimilarities than for most of the differences. The infinitesimally minute chemico-physical germ, which is about 30millionth part of an inch across, inherited from parents, explains only a portion of man, his physical foundation.
With regard to the more complex and subtle mental, intellectual and moral differences we need more enlightenment.
The theory of heredity cannot give a satisfactory explanation for the birth of a criminal in a long line of honourableancestors, the birth of a saint or a noble man in a family of evil repute, for the arising of infant prodigies, men ofgenius and great religious teachers.
According to Buddhism this variation is due not only to heredity, environment, "nature and nurture," but also to ourown kamma, or in other words, to the result of our own inherited past actions and our present deeds. We ourselvesare responsible for our own deeds, happiness and misery. We build our own hells. We create our own heavens. Weare the architects of our own fate. In short we ourselves are our own kamma.
On one occasion a certain young man named Subha approached the Buddha, and questioned why and whereforeit was that among human beings there are the low and high states.
"For," said he, "we find amongst mankind those of brief life and those of long life, the hale and the ailing, the goodlooking and the ill-looking, the powerful and the powerless, the poor and the rich, the low-born and the high-born,the ignorant and the intelligent."The Buddha briefly replied: "Every living being has kamma as its own, its inheritance, its cause, its kinsman, itsrefuge. Kamma is that which differentiates all living beings into low and high states."He then explained the cause of such differences in accordance with the law of moral causation.
Thus from a Buddhist standpoint, our present mental, intellectual, moral and temperamental differences are mainlydue to our own actions and tendencies, both past the present.
Kamma, literally, means action; but, in its ultimate sense, it means the meritorious and demeritorious volition(Kusala Akusala Cetana).
Kamma constitutes both good and evil. Good gets good. Evil gets evil. Like attracts like.
This is the law of Kamma.
As some Westerners prefer to say Kamma is "action-influence."We reap what we have sown. What we sow we reap somewhere or some when. In one sense we are the result ofwhat we were; we will be the result of what we are. In another sense, we are not totally the result of what we wereand we will not absolutely be the result of what we are. For instance, a criminal today may be a saint tomorrow.
Buddhism attributes this variation to Kamma, but it does not assert that everything is due to Kamma.
If everything were due to Kamma, a man must ever be bad, for it is his Kamma to be bad. One need not consult aphysician to be cured of a disease, for if one's Kamma is such one will be cured.
According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (Niyamas)
which operate in the physical and mentalrealms:
i. Kamma Niyama,
order of act and result, e.g., desirable and undesirable acts producecorresponding good and bad results.
ii. Utu Niyama,
physical (inorganic) order, e.g., seasonal phenomena of winds and rains.
iii. Bija Niyama,
order of germs or seeds (physical organic order); e.g., rice producedfrom rice-seed, sugary taste from sugar cane or honey etc. The scientific theory of cellsand genes and the physical similarity of twins may be ascribed to this order.
iv. Citta Niyama,
order of mind or psychic law, e.g., processes of consciousness (Cittavithi),
power of mind etc.
v. Dhamma Niyama,
order of the norm, e.g., the natural phenomena occurring at theadvent of a Boddhisatta in his last birth, gravitation, etc.
Every mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by these all-embracing five orders or processes which arelaws in themselves.
Kamma is, therefore, only one of the five orders that prevail in the universe. It is a law in itself, but it does notthereby follow that there should be a law-giver. Ordinary laws of nature, like gravitation, need no law-giver. Itoperates in its own field without the intervention of an external independent ruling agency.
Nobody, for instance, has decreed that fire should burn. Nobody has commanded that water should seek its ownlevel. No scientist has ordered that water should consist of H2O, and that coldness should be one of its properties.
These are their intrinsic characteristics. Kamma is neither fate nor predestination imposed upon us by somemysterious unknown power to which we must helplessly submit ourselves. It is one's own doing reacting on oneself,and so one has the possibility to divert the course of Kamma to some extent. How far one diverts it depends ononeself.
It must also be said that such phraseology as rewards and punishments should not be allowed to enter intodiscussions concerning the problem of Kamma. For Buddhism does not recognize an Almighty Being who rules Hissubjects and rewards and punishes them accordingly. Buddhists, on the contrary, believe that sorrow and happinessone experiences are the natural outcome of one's own good and bad actions. It should be stated that Kamma has boththe continuative and the retributive principle.
Inherent in Kamma is the potentiality of producing its due effect. The cause produces the effect; the effect explainsthe cause. Seed produces the fruit; the fruit explains the seed as both are inter-related. Even so Kamma and its effectare inter-related; "the effect already blooms in the cause."A Buddhist who is fully convinced of the doctrine of Kamma does not pray to another to be saved but confidentlyrelies on himself for his purification because it teaches individual responsibility.
It is this doctrine of Kamma that gives him consolation, hope, self reliance and moral courage. It is this belief inKamma "that validates his effort, kindles his enthusiasm," makes him ever kind, tolerant and considerate. It is alsothis firm belief in Kamma that prompts him to refrain from evil, do good and be good without being frightened ofany punishment or tempted by any reward.
It is this doctrine of Kamma that can explain the problem of suffering, the mystery of so-called fate or predestinationof other religions, and above all the inequality of mankind.
Kamma and rebirth are accepted as axiomatic.
As long as this Kammic force exists there is re-birth, for beings are merely the visible manifestation of this invisibleKammic force. Death is nothing but the temporary end of this temporary phenomenon. It is not the completeannihilation of this so-called being. The organic life has ceased, but the Kammic force which hitherto actuated it has
not been destroyed. As the Kammic force remains entirely undisturbed by the disintegration of the fleeting body, thepassing away of the present dying thought-moment only conditions a fresh consciousness in another birth.
It is Kamma, rooted in ignorance and craving, that conditions rebirth. Past Kamma conditions the present birth; andpresent Kamma, in combination with past Kamma, conditions the future. The present is the offspring of the past, andbecomes, in turn, the parent of the future.
If we postulate a past, present, and a future life, then we are at once faced with the alleged mysterious problem --"What is the ultimate origin of life?"Either there must be a beginning or there cannot be a beginning for life.
One school, in attempting to solve the problem, postulates a first cause, God, viewed as a force or as an AlmightyBeing.
Another school denies a first cause for, in common experience, the cause ever becomes the effect and the effectbecomes the cause. In a circle of cause and effect a first cause is inconceivable. According to the former, life has hada beginning, according to the latter, it is beginningless.
From the scientific standpoint, we are the direct products of the sperm and ovum cells provided by our parents. Assuch life precedes life. With regard to the origin of the first protoplasm of life, or colloid, scientists plead ignorance.
According to Buddhism we are born from the matrix of action (Kammayoni). Parents merely provide aninfinitesimally small cell. As such being precedes being. At the moment of conception it is past Kamma thatconditions the initial consciousness that vitalizes the fetus. It is this invisible Kammic energy, generated from thepast birth that produces mental phenomena and the phenomenon of life in an already extent physical phenomenon,to complete the trio that constitutes man.
For a being to be born here a being must die somewhere. The birth of a being, which strictly means the arising of thefive aggregates or psycho-physical phenomena in this present life, corresponds to the death of a being in a past life;just as, in conventional terms, the rising of the sun in one place means the setting of the sun in another place. Thisenigmatic statement may be better understood by imagining life as a wave and not as a straight line. Birth and deathare only two phases of the same process. Birth precedes death, and death, on the other hand, precedes birth. Theconstant succession of birth and death in connection with each individual life flux constitutes what is technicallyknown as Samsara
-- recurrent wandering.
What is the ultimate origin of life?The Buddha declares:
"Without cognizable end is this Samsara. A first beginning of beings, who, obstructed byignorance and fettered by craving, wander and fare on, is not to be perceived."
This life-stream flows ad infinitum,
as long as it is fed by the muddy waters of ignorance and craving. When thesetwo are completely cut off, then only, if one so wishes, does the stream cease to flow, rebirth ends as in the case ofthe Buddhas and Arahats. An ultimate beginning of this life-stream cannot be determined, as a stage cannot beperceived when this life-force was not fraught with ignorance and craving.
The Buddha has here referred merely to the beginning of the life-stream of living beings. It is left to scientists tospeculate on the origin and the evolution of the universe. The Buddha does not attempt to solve all the ethical andphilosophical problems that perplex mankind. Nor does He deal with theories and speculations that tend neither toedification nor to enlightenment. Nor does He demand blind faith from His adherents. He is chiefly concerned withthe problem of suffering and its destruction. With but this one practical and specific purpose in view, all irrelevantside issues are completely ignored.
But how are we to believe that there is a past existence?The most valuable evidence Buddhists cite in favor of rebirth is the Buddha, for He developed a knowledge whichenabled Him to read past and future lives.
Following His instructions, His disciples also developed this knowledge and were able to read their past lives to agreat extent.
Even some Indian Rishis, before the advent of the Buddha, were distinguished for such psychic powers asclairaudience, clairvoyance, thought-reading, remembering past births, etc.
There are also some persons, who probably in accordance with the laws of association, spontaneously develop thememory of their past birth, and remember fragments of their previous lives. Such cases are very rare, but those fewwell-attested, respectable cases tend to throw some light on the idea of a past birth. So are the experiences of somemodern dependable psychics and strange cases of alternating and multiple personalities.
In hypnotic states some relate experiences of their past lives; while a few others, read the past lives of others andeven heal diseases.
Sometimes we get strange experiences which cannot be explained but by rebirth.
How often do we meet persons whom we have never met, and yet instinctively feel that they are quite familiar to us?How often do we visit places, and yet feel impressed that we are perfectly acquainted with those surroundings?The Buddha tells us:
"Through previous associations or present advantage, that old love springs up again likethe lotus in the water."
Experiences of some reliable modern psychics, ghostly phenomena, spirit communications, strange alternating andmultiple personalities and so on shed some light upon this problem of rebirth.
Into this world come Perfect Ones like the Buddhas and highly developed personalities. Do they evolve suddenly?Can they be the products of a single existence?How are we to account for great characters like Buddhaghosa, Panini, Kalidasa, Homer and Plato; men of geniuslike Shakespeare, infant prodigies like Pascal, Mozart, Beethoven, Raphael, Ramanujan, etc.?Heredity alone cannot account for them. "Else their ancestry would disclose it, their posterity, even greater thanthemselves, demonstrate it."Could they rise to such lofty heights if they had not lived noble lives and gained similar experiences in the past? Is itby mere chance that they are been born or those particular parents and placed under those favorable circumstances?The few years that we are privileged to spend here or, for the most five score years, must certainly be an inadequatepreparation for eternity.
If one believes in the present and in the future, it is quite logical to believe in the past. The present is the offspring ofthe past, and acts in turn as the parent of the future.
If there are reasons to believe that we have existed in the past, then surely there are no reasons to disbelieve that weshall continue to exist after our present life has apparently ceased.
It is indeed a strong argument in favor of past and future lives that "in this world virtuous persons are very oftenunfortunate and vicious persons prosperous."A Western writer says:
"Whether we believe in a past existence or not, it forms the only reasonable hypothesiswhich bridges certain gaps in human knowledge concerning certain facts of every daylife. Our reason tells us that this idea of past birth and Kamma alone can explain thedegrees of difference that exist between twins, how men like Shakespeare with a verylimited experience are able to portray with marvelous exactitude the most diverse typesof human character, scenes and so forth of which they could have no actual knowledge,why the work of the genius invariably transcends his experience, the existence of infantprecocity, the vast diversity in mind and morals, in brain and physique, in conditions,circumstances and environment observable throughout the world, and so forth."
It should be stated that this doctrine of rebirth can neither be proved nor disproved experimentally, but it is acceptedas an evidentially verifiable fact.
The cause of this Kamma, continues the Buddha, is avijja
or ignorance of the Four Noble Truths. Ignorance is,therefore, the cause of birth and death; and its transmutation into knowingness or vijja
is consequently theircessation.
The result of this analytical method is summed up in the Paticca Samuppada.
means because of, or dependent upon: Samuppada
"arising or origination." Paticca Samuppada,
therefore,literally means -- "Dependent Arising" or "Dependent Origination."It must be borne in mind that Paticca Samuppada
is only a discourse on the process of birth and death and not atheory of the ultimate origin of life. It deals with the cause of rebirth and suffering, but it does not in the leastattempt to show the evolution of the world from primordial matter.
is the first link or cause of the wheel of life. It clouds all right understanding.
Dependent on ignorance of the Four Noble Truths arise activities (Sankhara)
-- both moral and immoral. Theactivities whether good or bad rooted in ignorance which must necessarily have their due effects, only tend toprolong life's wandering. Nevertheless, good actions are essential to get rid of the ills of life.
Dependent on activities arise rebirth-consciousness (Viññana).
This links the past with the present.
Simultaneous with the arising of rebirth-consciousness there come into being mind and body (Nama-rupa).
The six senses (Salayatana)
are the inevitable consequences of mind and body.
Because of the six senses contact (Phassa)
sets in. Contact leads to feeling (Vedana).
These five -- viz., consciousness, mind and matter, six senses, contact and feeling -- are the effects of past actionsand are called the passive side of life.
Dependent on feeling arises craving (Tanha).
Craving results in grasping (Upadana).
Grasping is the cause ofKamma (Bhava)
which in its turn, conditions future birth (Jati).
Birth is the inevitable cause of old age and death(Jara-marana).
If on account of cause effect comes to be, then if the cause ceases, the effect also must cease.
The reverse order of the Paticca Samuppada
will make the matter clear.
Old age and death are possible in and with a psychophysical organism. Such an organism must be born; therefore itpre-supposes birth. But birth is the inevitable result of past deeds or Kamma. Kamma is conditioned by graspingwhich is due to craving. Such craving can appear only where feeling exists. Feeling is the outcome of contactbetween the senses and objects. Therefore it presupposes organs of senses which cannot exist without mind andbody. Where there is a mind there is consciousness. It is the result of past good and evil. The acquisition of good andevil is due to ignorance of things as they truly are.
The whole formula may be summed up thus:
Dependent on Ignorance arise Activities (Moral and Immoral)" " Activities arises Consciousness (Re-birth Consciousness)" " Consciousness arise Mind and Matter" " Mind and Matter arise the six Spheres of Sense" " the Six Spheres of Sense arises Contact" " Contact arises Feeling" " Feeling arises Craving" " Craving arises Grasping" " Grasping arise Actions (Kamma)" " Actions arises Rebirth" " Birth arise Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief, and Despair.
Thus does the entire aggregate of suffering arise. The first two of these twelve pertain to the past, the middle eight tothe present, and the last two to the future.
The complete cessation of Ignorance leads to the cessation of Activities.
The cessation of Activities leads to the cessation of Consciousness.
" " " Consciousness leads to the cessation of mind and matter.
" " " Mind and Matter leads to the cessation of the six Spheres of Sense. " " " the sixSpheres of Sense leads to the cessation of Contact," " " Contact leads to the cessation of Feeling.
" " " Feeling leads to the cessation of Craving.
" " " Craving leads to the cessation of Grasping.
" " " Grasping leads to the cessation of Actions.
" " " Actions leads to the cessation of Re-birth.
" " " Re-birth leads to the cessation of Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief,and Despair.
Thus does the cessation of this entire aggregate of suffering result.
This process of cause and effect continues ad infinitum. The beginning of this process cannot be determined as it isimpossible to say whence this life-flux was encompassed by nescience. But when this nescience is turned intoknowledge, and the life-flux is diverted into Nibbanadhatu,
then the end of the life process of Samsara
Anatta or Soul-lessness
This Buddhist doctrine of re-birth should be distinguished from the theory of re-incarnation which implies thetransmigration of a soul and its invariable material rebirth. Buddhism denies the existence of an unchanging oreternal soul created by a God or emanating from a Divine Essence (Paramatma).
If the immortal soul, which is supposed to be the essence of man, is eternal, there cannot be either a rise or a fall.
Besides one cannot understand why "different souls are so variously constituted at the outset."To prove the existence of endless felicity in an eternal heaven and unending torments in an eternal hell, an immortalsoul is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, what is it that is punished in hell or rewarded in heaven?"It should be said," writes Bertrand Russell, "that the old distinction between soul and body has evaporated quite asmuch because 'matter' has lost its solidity as mind has lost its spirituality. Psychology is just beginning to bescientific. In the present state of psychology belief in immortality can at any rate claim no support from science."Buddhists do agree with Russell when he says "there is obviously some reason in which I am the same person as Iwas yesterday, and, to take an even more obvious example if I simultaneously see a man and hear him speaking,there is some sense in which the 'I' that sees is the same as the 'I' that hears."Till recently scientists believed in an indivisible and indestructible atom. "For sufficient reasons physicists havereduced this atom to a series of events. For equally good reasons psychologists find that mind has not the identity ofa single continuing thing but is a series of occurrences bound together by certain intimate relations. The question ofimmortality, therefore, has become the question whether these intimate relations exist between occurrencesconnected with a living body and other occurrence which take place after that body is dead."As C.E.M. Joad says in "The Meaning of Life," matter has since disintegrated under our very eyes. It is no longersolid; it is no longer enduring; it is no longer determined by compulsive causal laws; and more important than all, itis no longer known.
The so-called atoms, it seems, are both "divisible and destructible." The electrons and protons that compose atoms"can meet and annihilate one another while their persistence, such as it is, is rather that of a wave lacking fixedboundaries, and in process of continual change both as regards shape and position than that of a thing."
Bishop Berkeley who showed that this so-called atom is a metaphysical fiction held that there exists a spiritualsubstance called the soul.
Hume, for instance, looked into consciousness and perceived hat there was nothing except fleeting mental states andconcluded that the supposed "permanent ego" is non-existent.
"There are some philosophers," he says, "who imagine we are every moment conscious of what we call 'ourself,' thatwe feel its existence and its continuance in existence and so we are certain, both of its perfect identity andsimplicity. For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call 'myself' I always stumble on some particularperception or other -- of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never catch myself. andnever can observe anything but the perception. nor do I conceive what is further requisite to make me a perfectnon-entity."Bergson says, "All consciousness is time existence; and a conscious state is not a state that endures withoutchanging. It is a change without ceasing, when change ceases it ceases; it is itself nothing but change."Dealing with this question of soul Prof. James says -- "The soul-theory is a complete superfluity, so far asaccounting for the actually verified facts of conscious experience goes. So far no one can be compelled to subscribeto it for definite scientific reasons." In concluding his interesting chapter on the soul he says: "And in this book theprovisional solution which we have reached must be the final word: the thoughts themselves are the thinkers."Watson, a distinguished psychologist, states: "No one has ever touched a soul or has seen one in a test tube or has inany way come into relationship with it as he has with the other objects of his daily experience. Nevertheless to doubtits existence is to become a heretic and once might possibly even had led to the loss of one's head. Even today a manholding a public position dare not question it."The Buddha anticipated these facts some 2500 years ago.
According to Buddhism mind is nothing but a complex compound of fleeting mental states. One unit ofconsciousness consists of three phases -- arising or genesis (uppada)
static or development (thiti),
and cessation ordissolution (bhanga).
Immediately after the cessation stage of a thought moment there occurs the genesis stage ofthe subsequent thought-moment. Each momentary consciousness of this ever-changing life-process, on passingaway, transmits its whole energy, all the indelibly recorded impressions to its successor. Every fresh consciousnessconsists of the potentialities of its predecessors together with something more. There is therefore, a continuous flowof consciousness like a stream without any interruption. The subsequent thought moment is neither absolutely thesame as its predecessor -- since that which goes to make it up is not identical -- nor entirely another -- being thesame continuity of Kamma energy. Here there is no identical being but there is an identity in process.
Every moment there is birth, every moment there is death. The arising of one thought-moment means the passingaway of another thought-moment and vice versa. In the course of one life-time there is momentary rebirth without asoul.
It must not be understood that a consciousness is chopped up in bits and joined together like a train or a chain. But,on the contrary, "it persistently flows on like a river receiving from the tributary streams of sense constant accretionsto its flood, and ever dispensing to the world without the thought-stuff it has gathered by the way." It has birthfor its source and death for its mouth. The rapidity of the flow is such that hardly is there any standard whereby itcan be measured even approximately. However, it pleases the commentators to say that the time duration of onethought-moment is even less than one-billionth part of the time occupied by a flash of lightning.
Here we find a juxtaposition of such fleeting mental states of consciousness opposed to a superposition of suchstates as some appear to believe. No state once gone ever recurs nor is identical with what goes before. But weworldlings, veiled by the web of illusion, mistake this apparent continuity to be something eternal and go to theextent of introducing an unchanging soul, an Atta, the supposed doer and receptacle of all actions to this ever-changing consciousness.
"The so-called being is like a flash of lightning that is resolved into a succession of sparks that follow upon oneanother with such rapidity that the human retina cannot perceive them separately, nor can the uninstructed conceiveof such succession of separate sparks." As the wheel of a cart rests on the ground at one point, so does the beinglive only for one thought-moment. It is always in the present, and is ever slipping into the irrevocable past. What weshall become is determined by this present thought-moment.
If there is no soul, what is it that is reborn, one might ask. Well, there is nothing to be re-born. When life ceases theKammic energy re-materializes itself in another form. As Bhikkhu Silacara says: "Unseen it passes whithersoeverthe conditions appropriate to its visible manifestation are present. Here showing itself as a tiny gnat or worm, theremaking its presence known in the dazzling magnificence of a Deva or an Archangel's existence. When one mode ofits manifestation ceases it merely passes on, and where suitable circumstances offer, reveals itself afresh in anothername or form."
Birth is the arising of the psycho-physical phenomena. Death is merely the temporary end of a temporaryphenomenon.
Just as the arising of a physical state is conditioned by a preceding state as its cause, so the appearance of psycho-physical phenomena is conditioned by cause anterior to its birth. As the process of one life-span is possible withouta permanent entity passing from one thought-moment to another, so a series of life-processes is possible without animmortal soul to transmigrate from one existence to another.
Buddhism does not totally deny the existence of a personality in an empirical sense. It only attempts to show that itdoes not exist in an ultimate sense. The Buddhist philosophical term for an individual is Santana,
i.e., a flux or acontinuity. It includes the mental and physical elements as well. The Kammic force of each individual binds theelements together. This uninterrupted flux or continuity of psycho-physical phenomenon, which is conditioned byKamma, and not limited only to the present life, but having its source in the beginningless past and its continuationin the future -- is the Buddhist substitute for the permanent ego or the immortal soul of other religions.
This process of birth and death continues ad infinitum
until this flux is transmuted, so to say, to Nibbanadhatu, theultimate goal of Buddhists.
The Pali word Nibbana is formed of Ni
and Vana. Ni
is a negative particle and Vana
means lusting or craving. "It iscalled Nibbana, in that it is a departure from the craving which is called Vana,
lusting." Literally, Nibbana meansnon-attachment.
It may also be defined as the extinction of lust, hatred and ignorance, "The whole world is in flames," says theBuddha. "By what fire is it kindled? By the fire of lust, hatred and ignorance, by the fire of birth, old age, death,pain, lamentation, sorrow, grief and despair it is kindled."It should not be understood that Nibbana is a state of nothingness or annihilation owing to the fact that we cannotperceive it with our worldly knowledge. One cannot say that there exists no light just because the blind man does notsee it. In that well known story, too, the fish arguing with his friend, the turtle, triumphantly concluded that thereexists no land.
Nibbana of the Buddhists is neither a mere nothingness nor a state of annihilation, but what it is no words canadequately express. Nibbana is a Dhamma which is "unborn, unoriginated, uncreated and unformed." Hence, it iseternal (Dhuva),
and happy (Sukha).
In Nibbana nothing is "eternalized," nor is anything "annihilated," besides suffering.
According to the Books references are made to Nibbana as Sopadisesa
These, in fact, are not twokinds of Nibbana, but the one single Nibbana, receiving its name according to the way it is experienced before andafter death.
Nibbana is not situated in any place nor is it a sort of heaven where a transcendental ego resides. It is a state which isdependent upon this body itself. It is an attainment (Dhamma) which is within the reach of all. Nibbana is asupramundane state attainable even in this present life. Buddhism does not state that this ultimate goal could bereached only in a life beyond. Here lies the chief difference between the Buddhist conception of Nibbana and thenon-Buddhist conception of an eternal heaven attainable only after death or a union with a God or Divine Essence inan after-life. When Nibbana is realized in this life with the body remaining, it is called Sopadisesa Nibbana-dhatu.
When an Arahat attains Parinibbana, after the dissolution of his body, without any remainder of physical existence itis called Anupadisesa Nibbana-dhatu.
In the words of Sir Edwin Arnold:
"If any teach Nirvana is to ceaseSay unto such they lie.
If any teach Nirvana is to loveSay unto such they err."
From a metaphysical standpoint Nibbana is deliverance from suffering. From a psychological standpoint Nibbana isthe eradication of egoism. From an ethical standpoint Nibbana is the destruction of lust, hatred and ignorance.
Does the Arahat exist or not after death?The Buddha replies:
"The Arahat who has been released from the five aggregates is deep, immeasurable likethe mighty ocean. To say that he is reborn would not fit the case. To say that he is neitherreborn nor not reborn would not fit the case."
One cannot say that an Arahat is reborn as all passions that condition rebirth are eradicated; nor can one say that theArahat is annihilated for there is nothing to annihilate.
Robert Oppenheimer, a scientist, writes:
"If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we mustsay 'no'; if we ask whether the electron's position changes with time, we must say 'no'; ifwe ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether it is in motion,we must say 'no'.
"The Buddha has given such answers when interrogated as to the conditions of man's selfafter death; but they are not familiar answers from the tradition of the 17th and 18thcentury science."
The Path to Nibbana
How is Nibbana to be attained?It is by following the Noble Eight-fold Path which consists of Right Understanding (Samma-ditthi),
Right Speech (samma-vaca),
Right Actions (samma-kammanta),
Right Livelihood (samma-ajiva),
Right Effort (samma-vayama),
Right Mindfulness (samma-sati),
and Right Concentration (samma-samadhi).
1. Right Understanding,
which is the key-note of Buddhism, is explained as the knowledge of the four Noble Truths.
To understand rightly means to understand things as they really are and not as they appear to be. This refersprimarily to a correct understanding of oneself, because, as the Rohitassa Sutta states, "Dependent on this one-fathom long body with its consciousness" are all the four Truths. In the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, RightUnderstanding stands at the beginning as well as at its end. A minimum degree of Right Understanding is necessaryat the very beginning because it gives the right motivations to the other seven factors of the Path and gives to themcorrect direction. At the culmination of the practice, Right Understanding has matured into perfect Insight Wisdom(vipassana-pañña),
leading directly to the Stages of Sainthood.
2. Clear vision of right understanding leads to clear thinking. The second factor of the Noble Eight-fold Path istherefore, Right Thoughts (samma-sankappa),
which serves the double purpose of eliminating evil thoughts anddeveloping pure thoughts. Right Thoughts, in this particular connection, are three fold. They consist of:
-- Renunciation of worldly pleasures or the virtue of selflessness, which isopposed to attachment, selfishness, and possessiveness;
-- Loving-kindness, goodwill, or benevolence, which is opposed to hatred,ill-will, or aversion; and
-- Harmlessness or compassion, which is opposed to cruelty andcallousness.
3. Right Thoughts lead to Right Speech,
the third factor. This includes abstinence from falsehood, slandering, harshwords, and frivolous talk.
4. Right Speech must be followed by Right Action
which comprises abstinence from killing, stealing and sexualmisconduct.
5. Purifying his thoughts, words and deeds at the outset, the spiritual pilgrim tries to purify his livelihood
byrefraining from the five kinds of trade which are forbidden to a lay-disciple. They are trading in arms, human beings,animals for slaughter, intoxicating drinks and drugs, and poisons.
For monks, wrong livelihood consists of hypocritical conduct and wrong means of obtaining the requisites of monk-life.
6. Right Effort
is fourfold, namely:
i. the endeavor to discard evil that has already arisen;
ii. the endeavor to prevent the arising of unarisen evil;
iii. the endeavor to develop unarisen good;
iv. the endeavor to promote the good which has already arisen.
7. Right Mindfulness
is constant mindfulness with regard to body, feelings, thoughts, and mind-objects.
8. Right Effort and Right Mindfulness lead to Right Concentration.
It is the one-pointedness of mind, culminating inthe Jhanas or meditative absorptions.
Of these eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path the first two are grouped under the heading of Wisdom (pañña),
the following three under Morality (sila),
and the last three under Concentration (samadhi).
But according to theorder of development the sequence is as follows:
I. Morality (sila)
Right SpeechRight ActionRight Livelihood
II. Concentration (samadhi)
Right EffortRight MindfulnessRight Concentration
III. Wisdom (pañña)
Right UnderstandingRight Thoughts
is the first stage on this path to Nibbana.
Without killing or causing injury to any living creature, man should be kind and compassionate towards all, even tothe tiniest creature that crawls at his feet. Refraining from stealing, he should be upright and honest in all hisdealings. Abstaining from sexual misconduct which debases the exalted nature of man, he should be pure. Shunningfalse speech, he should be truthful. Avoiding pernicious drinks that promote heedlessness, he should be sober anddiligent.
These elementary principles of regulated behavior are essential to one who treads the path to Nibbana. Violation ofthem means the introduction of obstacles on the path which will obstruct his moral progress. Observance of themmeans steady and smooth progress along the path.
The spiritual pilgrim, disciplining thus his words and deeds, may advance a step further and try to control his senses.
While he progresses slowly and steadily with regulated word and deed and restrained senses, the Kammic force ofthis striving aspirant may compel him to renounce worldly pleasures and adopt the ascetic life. To him then comesthe idea that,
"A den of strife is household life,And filled with toil and need;But free and high as the open skyIs the life the homeless lead."
It should not be understood that everyone is expected to lead the life of a Bhikkhu or a celibate life to achieve one'sgoal. One's spiritual progress is expedited by being a Bhikkhu although as a lay follower one can become an Arahat.
After attaining the third state of Sainthood, one leads a life of celibacy.
Securing a firm footing on the ground of morality, the progressing pilgrim then embarks upon the higher practice ofSamadhi, the control and culture of the mind -- the second stage on this Path.
Samadhi -- is the "one-pointedness of the mind." It is the concentration of the mind on one object to the entireexclusion of all irrelevant matter.
There are different subjects for meditation according to the temperaments of the individuals. Concentration onrespiration is the easiest to gain the one-pointedness of the mind. Meditation on loving-kindness is very beneficial asit is conducive to mental peace and happiness.
Cultivation of the four sublime states -- loving-kindness (Metta),
sympathetic joy (Mudita),
and equanimity (Upekkha)
-- is highly commendable.
After giving careful consideration to the subject for contemplation, he should choose the one most suited to histemperament. This being satisfactorily settled, he makes a persistent effort to focus his mind until he becomes sowholly absorbed and interested in it, that all other thoughts get ipso facto excluded from the mind. The fivehindrances to progress -- namely, sense-desire, hatred, sloth and torpor, restlessness and brooding and doubts arethen temporarily inhibited. Eventually he gains ecstatic concentration and, to his indescribable joy, becomes enwraptin Jhana, enjoying the calmness and serenity of a one-pointed mind.
When one gains this perfect one-pointedness of the mind it is possible for one to develop the five SupernormalPowers (Abhiñña):
Divine Eye (Dibbacakkhu),
Divine Ear (Dibhasota),
Reminiscence of past births(Pubbenivasanussati-ñana).
Thought Reading (Paracitta vijañana)
and different Psychic Powers (Iddhividha).
Itmust not be understood that those supernormal powers are essential for Sainthood.
Though the mind is now purified there still lies dormant in him the tendency to give vent to his passions, for byconcentration, passions are lulled to sleep temporarily. They may rise to the surface at unexpected moments.
Both Discipline and Concentration are helpful to clear the Path of its obstacles but it is Insight (Vipassana Pañña)
alone which enables one to see things as they truly are, and consequently reach the ultimate goal by completelyannihilating the passions inhibited by Samadhi. This is the third and the final stage on the Path of Nibbana.
With his one-pointed mind which now resembles a polished mirror he looks at the world to get a correct view of life.
Wherever he turns his eyes he sees nought but the Three Characteristics -- Anicca
(soul-lessness) standing out in bold relief. He comprehends that life is constantly changing and allconditioned things are transient. Neither in heaven nor on earth does he find any genuine happiness, for every formof pleasure is a prelude to pain. What is transient is therefore painful, and where change and sorrow prevail therecannot be a permanent immortal soul.
Whereupon, of these three characteristics, he chooses one that appeals to him most and intently keeps on developingInsight in that particular direction until that glorious day comes to him when he would realize Nibbana for the firsttime in his life, having destroyed the three Fetters -- self-illusion (Sakkaya-ditthi),
indulgencein (wrongful) rites and ceremonies (Silabbataparamasa).
At this stage he is called a Sotapanna
(Stream-Winner) -- one who has entered the stream that leads to Nibbana. Ashe has not eradicated all Fetters he is reborn seven times at the most.
Summoning up fresh courage, as a result of this glimpse of Nibbana, the Pilgrim makes rapid progress andcultivating deeper Insight becomes a Sakadagami
(Once Returner) by weakening two more Fetters -- namely Sense-desire (Kamaraga)
and ill-will (Patigha).
He is called a Sakadagami because he is reborn on earth only once in casehe does not attain Arhatship.
It is in the third state of Sainthood -- Anagama
(Never-Returner) that he completely discards the aforesaid twoFetters. Thereafter, he neither returns to this world nor does he seek birth in the celestial realms, since he has no
more desire for sensual pleasures. After death he is reborn in the "Pure Abodes" (Suddhavasa)
a congenial Brahmaplane, till he attains Arhatship.
Now the saintly pilgrim, encouraged by the unprecedented success of his endeavors, makes his final advance and,destroying the remaining Fetters -- namely, lust after life in Realms of Forms (Ruparaga)
and Formless Realms(Aruparaga),
and ignorance (Avijja)
-- becomes a perfect Saint: anArahant, a Worthy One.
Instantly he realizes that what was to be accomplished has been done, that a heavy burden of sorrow has beenrelinquished, that all forms of attachment have been totally annihilated, and that the Path to Nibbana has beentrodden. The Worthy One now stands on heights more than celestial, far removed from the rebellious passions anddefilements of the world, realizing the unutterable bliss of Nibbana and like many an Arahat of old, uttering thatpaean of joy:
"Goodwill and wisdom, mind by method trained,The highest conduct on good morals based,This maketh mortals pure, not rank or wealth."
As T.H. Huxley states -- "Buddhism is a system which knows no God in the Western sense, which denies a soul toman, which counts the belief in immortality a blunder, which refuses any efficacy to prayer and sacrifice, which bidsmen to look to nothing but their own efforts for salvation, which in its original purity knew nothing of vows ofobedience and never sought the aid of the secular arm: yet spread over a considerable moiety of the world withmarvelous rapidity -- and is still the dominant creed of a large fraction of mankind."
Concentration on Respiration
is mindfulness on respiration. Ana
means inhalation and Apana
Concentration on the breathing process leads to one-pointedness of the mind and ultimately to Insight which enablesone to attain Sainthood or Arhatship.
The Buddha also practiced concentration on respiration before He attained Enlightenment.
This harmless concentration may be practiced by any person irrespective of religious beliefs.
Adopting a convenient posture, keep the body erect. Place the right hand over the left hand. Eyes may be closed orhalf-closed.
Easterners generally sit cross-legged with the body erect. They sit placing the right foot on the left thigh and the leftfoot on the right thigh. This is the full position. Sometimes they adopt the half position, that is by simply placing theright foot on the left thigh or the left foot on the right thigh.
When the triangular position is assumed the whole body is well-balanced.
Those who find the cross-legged posture too difficult may sit comfortably in a chair or any other support sufficientlyhigh to rest the legs on the ground.
It is of no importance which posture one may adopt provided the position is easy and relaxed.
Head should not be drooping. Neck should be straightened so that the nose may be in a perpendicular line with thenavel.
Buddhas usually adopt the full lotus position. They sit with half closed eyes looking not more than a distance ofthree and half feet.
Before the practice, bad air from the lungs should be breathed out slowly through the mouth and then the mouthshould be closed.
Now inhale through the nostrils normally, without strain, without force. Mentally count one. Exhale and count two.
Inhale and count three. Count up to ten constantly concentrating on the breathing process without thinking ofanything else. While doing so one's mind may wander. But one need not be discouraged. Gradually one mayincrease the number of series -- say five series of ten.
Later, one may inhale and pause for a moment, concentrating merely on inhalation without counting. Exhale andpause for a moment. Thus inhale and exhale concentrating on respiration. Some prefer counting as it aideconcentration while others prefer not to count. What is essential is concentration and not counting, which issecondary.
When one practices this concentration one feels very peaceful, light in mind and body. After practicing for a certainperiod a day might come when one may realize that this so-called body is supported by mere breath and that bodyperishes when breathing ceases. One fully realizes impermanence. Where there is change there cannot be apermanent entity or an immortal soul. Insight can then be developed to attain Arhatship.
It is clear that the object of this concentration on respiration is not merely to gain one-pointedness but also tocultivate Insight to obtain deliverance from suffering.
In some discourses this simple and harmless method of respiration is described as follows:
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