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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Poson 2007 is Came..."Is Buddhism against the way of nature?"

Today is Poson Poya. Today marks the 2014th anniversary of Arahat Mahinda introducing
the doctrine of Gauthama Buddha,

Is Buddhism against the way of nature? - Dailymirror

By U.Mapa

According to Buddhist teaching, existence (bhava) is suffering (dukka). As Buddhists, we have learnt that there are 33 planes of existence; some heavenly, while others are woeful states. We have also learnt that existence in certain abodes is in the form of very subtle and refined bodies. But we, in this world, can see existence only in human and animal forms, comprised of mind and body or material and mental factors, which can be separately identified as the five aggregates i.e. form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. However, the Buddha in his very first sermon, Dhamma Chakka Pavattana sutta, has said: ‘In short, the five aggregates (grasping) is suffering’ (sankittena panchupadanakandha dukka).

The journey of a being through these abodes is the ‘sansara’ which we Buddhists believe in. It is a journey of births and deaths in which all worldlings are caught. It is because of the craving for existence. Worldlings are totally and happily immersed in sansaric journey so much so, even if one is born in a woeful state, say as an animal, still it would desire to be in such a state. This urge or the craving for existence seems to be most fundamental to nature. It is in perfect harmony with what Charles Darwin postulated. Yet, according to Buddhist thinking it amounts to suffering –dukka. This is the first Noble Truth. Now, a question might arise: when it is the characteristic of nature for beings to crave for existence rather than strive for annihilation, how would existence be understood as suffering?

The basis for this assertion that existence is suffering is our inability to control situations in the way we would like. In other words, we fall sick, grow old and become feeble, and eventually depart from this world leaving the loved ones; in addition we meet with sorrow and disappointments. But, still one might say these are vicissitudes of life one has to accept and live with, instead of seeing them in a negative way as ‘suffering’. It is indeed so, unless one looks at this situation from the point of view of one’s escape from it as taught by the Buddha. If there was no escape from such a situation, then to consider existence as suffering would be utterly meaningless. And, it is plain logic that if existence is suffering, escape from it would be a state of non-existence.

Kassapa Thera of Matara hittatiya gunarathana Mudalinda Pirivena, Now Residing at Ganga Ramaye in Colombo.Still On TNL's Pirith chanting when open & close times of TNL.

The Buddha found such a state before he declared that existence is suffering. The Buddha said: “There is, monks, an unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned. If, monks, there were no unborn, unbecome, unmade, unconditioned, no escape would be discerned from what is born, become, made, conditioned…..”

Dependent Origination

Buddhism also teaches us that every thing arises due to causes. This is the Law of Dependent Origination (patichcha samuppada). Extension of this principle is: Whatever is in the nature of arising has also the nature of cessation (yan kinchi samudhaya dhammam sabbanthan nirodha dhammam). The validity of this immutable principle is realized initially by the stream winner (sothapanna). It is recorded in Dhammachakkapawattana sutta that Ven. Kondagngna, the first disciple of the Buddha, to have become a stream winner realized this principle of causality. This phenomenon is set out in many suttas as follows: “This being-this comes to be; with the arising of this – this arises. This not being – this does not come to be; with the cessation of this-this ceases” (imasmin sati idam hoti, imassauppada idam uppajjati.imasmim asati idan na hoti, imassa nirodha idam nirujjati) (Bahudhatukasutta -MN).

This is a universal law (paticcasamuppada) which operates in whatever the existence, i.e in all 33 abodes; be it in the human, brahma or the deva world. That is why the stream winner steadily strives towards arahat-hood; for he has seen for himself (paccattan veditabbo), with the arising of the ‘vision of dhamma’ the futility of craving for existence in whatever form. Previously he may have through ignorance (avijja) craved for eternal existence, in the brahmathma or in universal consciousness.

Applying this principle, the Buddha has explained that craving (thanha) is the cause for birth and existence. And, craving is generated due to wrong view, which is caused by delusion. Thus worldlings see an abiding ‘self’ (atta) in non-self (anatta); permanence (nicca) in the impermanent (anicca) and happiness (suka) in suffering (dukka).Due to the projection of an abiding self one would crave to be wrapped up in it which is called ‘Bhava thanha’.And when one is weary of being in a certain situation one would crave to be out of it, which is vibhava thanha. This is brought about due to lack of true understanding or ignorance (avijja). Therefore escape from suffering can only be achieved by getting rid of its cause i.e. ignorance (avijja).

Is it in accordance with nature for one to be ignorant of reality? Yes, it is so. Worldlings are ignorantly drifted in the samsaric flow due to craving for existence. The urge for existence is manifested through one’s attachment to sensual pleasures. To explain the point much quoted example of the honey ant that has fallen into the pot of honey can be cited. The ant would crave to be inside it, blissfully ignorant that soon it would be buried to death in the honey itself, due to its insatiable desire to enjoy the tasty food. Nature would not drive the ant away to save it from its own disaster. And, in certain situations we are not much different from the honey ant either!

In this situation how could we ever escape from suffering? Fortunately, the Buddha has shown us the way. It is the Noble Eightfold Path; no other way. It consists of essential practices an aspirant striving to escape from samsaric suffering must undertake, which can be broadly divided into (a) moral conduct –sila which has to be cultivated and adhered to through out one’s life, (b) concentration –samadhi which has to be developed, and (c) wisdom –pagngna which has to be gained and realized.

Knowledge of Dhamma
On this point I shall refer to an interesting discussion found in Chuladukkhakhanda sutta (MN). It is between the Buddha and Sakyan Mahanama. He tells the Buddha that he has long understood the Dhamma taught by the blessed one. That is greed, hate, and delusion (loba, dosa, moha) as defilements; yet, he confesses, at times greed, hate and delusion ‘invade his mind and remain’. The Buddha explains to him that there is ‘still a state unabandoned by him internally’ owing to which there is attraction for sensual pleasures.

The Buddha then goes on to say: “ Before my enlightenment, while I was only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too clearly saw as it actually is with proper wisdom how sensual pleasures provide little gratification, much suffering and much despair, and how great is the danger in them, but as long as I did not attain to the rapture and pleasure that are apart from sensual pleasures, apart from unwholesome states, or to something more peaceful than that, I recognized that I still could be attracted to sensual pleasures.”

With reference to those who become complacent because they do no harm to any one, even an infant could claim the same. I would cite an instance where the Buddha himself had raised a similar question with the Bhikkus; and asked as to how they would answer it. It is recorded in Maha Malunkya putta sutta (MN): “ Malunkyaputta, ……Would not the wonderers of other sects confute you with the simile of the infant ? For a young tender infant lying prone does not even have the notion ‘personality’, so how could personality view arise in him ?” The Buddha used the same argument relating to ‘doubt’ with regard to the Noble Teachings, ‘adherence to rules and observances’, ‘sensual pleasures’ notion of ‘beings’. The Buddha then went on to explain that even though the young infant does not have such notions, yet the underlying tendency to indulge in them lies within him.

Against the flow

Now, there can also be a question: Isn’t the Bhuddha’s teaching going against the way of nature? In fact the Noble Eightfold Path is said to be against the flow (patisothagami).The sansaric flow is to keep worldlings bound to it by fetters. So the only way to liberate oneself from the sansaric bondage is by breaking the fetters. And the task is similar to swimming against the current. One comes across a sutta in Anguttara Nikaya in which the Buddha has referred to this simile: “These four persons, O monks, are found to be in the world. What four? The person who goes with the stream; he who goes against the stream…. etc.” The reference to the person who ‘goes against the current’ is to the one who treads the Noble Eightfold Path.

Often we hear even Buddhists asking the question: If craving has to be got rid of for deliverance, then the desire for deliverance itself is craving. How can one reconcile this contradictory situation? This is semantics. The word ‘craving’ has to be understood in the proper context. A person might have the ‘craving’ to be in the sansara; and later, he might develop a ‘craving’ to escape from ‘sansaric dukka’ due to wise consideration (yoniso manasikara) which is the gateway to the Path of Dhamma. Venerable Ananda in a discourse given to a bhikkuni has said: “This body has come into being by craving; and based on craving, craving should be abandoned” (AN). His reference was to a monk who, on hearing that another bhikku had become an arahant, craves to become an arahant himself. So, through craving he develops energy and strives towards that end.

To come back to the theme of this article, it can be said that Buddhist Teaching is not out of step with nature; it is indeed the highest vantage point from which the most important phenomenon of nature, i.e. Dependent Origination is seen and understood. To reach this point one has to take the Noble Eightfold Path. This is the Ancient Path which is traversed by every Buddha.

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