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Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Alagakkonaras

The Alagakkonaras
This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa,’ the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history
By Halaliye Karunathilake Edited and translated by Kamala Silva Illustrated by Saman Kalubowila

1. Ibn Batuta had to land in the northern coast of Sri Lanka in 1344 AD, when he was caught in a storm. It is believed that it was to the Jaffna ford that he came. Whatever that may be, the ruler there was Aryachakravarti. According to the travel records of Ibn Batuta, Aryachakravarti was treated as the Sultan of Lanka. This Sultan had given a warm welcome to the traveller, Ibn Batuta.

2. He had even made all arrangements for the traveller to visit 'Sri Pada' (Adam's Peak). These records mention that Arychakravarti got involved in the pearl business too. He had been an independent ruler.

There is mention of a place named 'Konakar,' where a ruler named Alkonar was ruling. Ibn Batuta had visited this place on his trip to Adam's Peak. This Alkonar would have been Alagakkonara.

3. Many believe that 'Konar' was Kurunegala. Others say it cannot be and according to them, 'Konar' is either Ratnapura itself or a place close to it.

According to Ibn Batuta, Alagakkonara's area of rule is named a kingdom. He says that Alagakkonara had a white elephant and that would have been the regal symbol of his kingdom.

4. However, going by these reports, it is clear that Alagakkonara was not a ruler under either the Gampola or the Dadigama kings. During the period that Ibn Batuta was in this island, he would have been chased out of power. In later years, this ruler had been blinded by his area followers. Later on, his son had been made the ruler, according to the records of Ibn Batuta.

5. Alagakkonara had a Malayali connection. Therefore it can be, that the Sinhala officers secretly opposed him and conspired against him. They would have wished to put an end to him and make a Sinhala prince the ruler.

Hence this plan to make Alagakkonara's sister's son the king. The sister was Padmavathie. The prince's father had been an Attanayake. Some scholars point out that this one may be the prince whom Ibn Batuta says was Alagakkonara's son.

6. One aim of this revolt however, was to avoid the rightful heir becoming king of Raigama and make the king of Gampola more powerful.

The people of Gampola too would have supported this move. Venerable Vilgammula Sangharaja Thera, who received support and maintained friendly relations with Alagakkonara came to Dadigama and took ups residence there.

7. When he came to Dadigama, the king there was Parakramabahu V and it was about 1344 AD. A nephew and a student of Vilgammula there, who was a monk has written a book of Pali verses, praising King ParakramabahuV.

The king of Gampola at this time was Buwanekabahu IV and his Prime Minister was Senadhilankara. This prime minister was a devout Buddhist.

8. He was instrumental in getting the king to bring about a reformation of the 'Sasana.'

It was he, who got the Lankatillake and the Gadalani temples in Gampola built. It is said that he got temples built even in Dondra and Weligama, which belonged to the Kingdom of Raigama. A poet who lived during this time, has written in praise of this prime minister, Senadhilankara.

------------- The Sunday Times

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dondra, Devinuwara Sri Vishnu Devala Festive Season Has Begun for the year 2008

Dondra (Devinuwara in Matara, Southern Region of Sri Lanka), Festival season has begun on 16th of August 2008. The season usually begins with a PERAHERA on “The Nikini Poya” Day (Full moon poyaday in August ). In the festive season, hundred thousands people gather to worship the God, named “Sri Vishnu”( Upulwan Devindu), has been predicted for one time a “Lord Buddha”, after thousand of coming years. Until then he has to fulfill some more “Pin” (Good minded things to do for the wellbeing of the people and entire life being) . Many people believe (Including Me) , God Vishnu alias “UpulWan Devindu”,has powerful ability to fulfill some people’s wish, and their dream to make come true in short period.




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One day in our house,(Last Year) about 15 people in the second floor, and about twenty , in the first floor. To organize a trip to Dondra (Devinuwara), I’ve asked who wants to come in a van , to worship the Lord Buddha, in Dondra, with God Upulwan Devindu. In the first floor all the people agreed without any comments to do that without get so long in the day after that day. In the Second floor, without one person, all others didn’t like to go there on that day. Then I gave them a lesson, saying a God can’t do every thing only we can do that like driving, but some unexpected events we can’t resist. Only God know. While the speech, a smell like we smell in Dondra, came to our room, every one felt that. Then I said “If this is God’s power wnen I going to change the topic, this coming smell must be stopped.” As I said , It has vanished with my topic changed. Nothing smelt.

After that I came downstairs and asked others did you feel some thing like that sort of smell. Everyone said NO. Then I realized, It was only for the 2nd floor, near this floor. This is one of my many experiences regarding the God Vishnu in a short period of time. In my early years I didn’t want to believe, Gods like Vishnu and I trusted myself These stories are false. After My A/L ( In Maths Subjects) in school times I’ve done many experiments regarding Gods and many Un-Seen subjects. ( I can’t write down every thing here). My experiences , you will be able to know in the future if you are with me in my blogs and the site , named “StarLankaOnline.Com”.



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Again to the topic, now the festive season has begun and you’ll be able to worship the Lord Buddha, and God there. If you really want to get bless from the site, Don’t visit there getting Meat, Fish or Beer, Arrack or having drunk. The God really help you if you can do that. As long as you keep the things going on, your ill or sick health going to be vanished forever and the development of in your life will be done.

Here are some Photos in 2008 season.( In this time, Main, Basnayaka Nilame , The Highest Position of the programme, is Mahinda Wijesekara’s Son,)


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All The Photos has been taken by me, Priyantha De Silva, Using my NOKIA, Camera Phone.
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In their religious observances the Sri Lankan Buddhists have adopted from Indian tradition the use of the lunar calendar. The four phases of the moon are the pre-new-moon day, when the moon is totally invisible, the half-moon of the waxing fortnight, the full moon, and the half-moon of the waning fortnight. Owing to the moon's fullness of size as well as its effulgence, the full-moon day is treated as the most auspicious of the four phases. Hence the most important religious observances are held on full-moon days and the lesser ones in conjunction with the other phases. In the Buddhist calendar, the full moon, as the acme of the waxing process, is regarded as the culmination of the month and accordingly the period between two full moons is one lunar month.[10]

The religious observance days are called poya days. The Sinhala term poya is derived from the Pali and Sanskrit form uposatha (from upa + vas: to fast) primarily signifying "fast day." Fasting on this day was a pre-Buddhist practice among the religious sects of ancient India. While the monks use the monthly moonless day (called amavaka in Sinhala) and the full-moon day for their confessional ritual and communal recitation of the code of discipline (Patimokkha), the lay devotees observe the day by visiting temples for worship and also by taking upon themselves the observance of the Eight Precepts.

A practicing Buddhist observes the poya day by visiting a temple for the rituals of worship and, often, by undertaking the Eight Precepts. The Eight Precepts include the Five Precepts (see above, pp.5-6), with the third changed to abstinence from unchastity, and the following three additional rules: (6) to abstain from solid food after mid-day;

(7) to abstain from dancing, singing, music, and improper shows, and from ornamenting the body with garlands, scents, unguents, etc.;

(8) to abstain from the use of high and luxurious beds and seats. If one decides to observe the Eight Precepts, one would wake up early, bathe and clad oneself in clean white garments, and go to the nearest temple. The incumbent monk administers the precepts to the entire group assembled for the purpose. Thereafter they would spend the day according to a set timetable which would include sermons, pujas, periods of meditation, and Dhamma discussions. At meditation centers there will be more periods of meditation and fewer sermons and pujas.

The observance of the Eight Precepts is a ritualistic practice of moral discipline quite popular among the Sinhala Buddhists. While the Five Precepts serve as the moral base for ordinary people, the Eight Precepts point to a higher level of training aimed at advancement along the path of liberation. The popular practice is to observe them on full-moon days, and, among a few devout lay Buddhists, on the other phases of the moon as well.

The poya observance, which is as old as Buddhism itself, has been followed by the Sinhala Buddhists up to the present day, even after the Christian calendar came to be used for secular matters. Owing to its significance in the religious life of the local Buddhists, all the full-moon days have been declared public holidays by the government. Another noteworthy fact about this day is that every full-moon poya has assumed some ritualistic significance in one way or other.

The first and the foremost of the poya holy days is the full-moon day of Vesak (May), commemorating the birth, Enlightenment, and passing away of the Buddha. The significance of Vesak is further heightened for the Sinhala Buddhists, as Sri Lankan tradition holds that it was on the Vesak Poya Day, in the eighth year after his Enlightenment, that the Buddha paid his third visit to Sri Lanka, journeying to Kelaniya on the invitation of the Naga King Maniakkhika (Mhv. i,72ff.). Consequently, Kelaniya has become a very popular place of worship and pilgrimage, the center of worship there being the celebrated dagaba, enshrining the gem-set throne offered to the Buddha by the Nagas (dragons). An annual procession is held there to commemorate the event.

Both in importance and in temporal sequence, the next significant poya is the full-moon of Poson (June), which is specially noteworthy to the Sri Lankan Buddhists as the day on which Emperor Asoka's son, the arahant Mahinda, officially introduced Buddhism to the island in the 3rd century B.C. Accordingly, in addition to the normal ritualistic observances undertaken on a poya day, on Poson day devotees flock to Anuradhapura, the ancient capital city of the country, for it was there that arahant Mahinda converted the then ruler, King Devanampiya Tissa, and his court to Buddhism, thereby setting in motion a series of events that finally made Sri Lanka the home of Theravada Buddhism. Even today, on Poson Poya, Anuradhapura becomes the center of Buddhist activity. Mihintale, the spot where the momentous encounter between the Elder and the King took place, accordingly receives the reverential attention of the devotees. The two rituals of pilgrimage and the observance of the Eight Precepts are combined here. Processions commemorative of the event, referred to as Mihundu Peraheras, are held in various parts of the country.

The next poya is Esala (July), which commemorates several significant events in the history of Buddhism. The most prominent of these is the Buddha's preaching of his First Sermon, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, to the five ascetics at the Deer Park, near Benares, thereby inaugurating his public ministry. The other noteworthy events connected with this day include the conception of the Bodhisatta in the womb of Queen Maya, his Great Renunciation, the performance of the Twin Miracle (yamaka-patihariya), and his preaching the Abhidhamma for the first time in the Tavatimsa heaven. An additional factor that enhances the value of this poya to Sri Lanka is the first local ordination of a Sri Lankan, when Prince Arittha, the nephew of the king, entered the Order at Anuradhapura, under arahant Mahinda, following the introduction of Buddhism. On this day there also took place the laying of the foundation for the celebrated dagaba, the Mahathupa or the Ruwanvelisaya and also its enshrinement of relics by King Dutugemunu. It is owing to the combination of all these events that the Sinhala Buddhists fittingly observe the day ceremonially by holding Esala festivals throughout the island, giving pride of place to the internationally famous Kandy Esala Perahera.


* * *
The term perahera, primarily meaning "procession," signifies a popular Buddhist ceremony replete with many rituals, commencing and culminating respectively with the kap-planting and the water-cutting ceremonies. These two ceremonies are respectively the introductory and the concluding rites of the annual Esala festivals, held in July and August in various parts of the island. They are essentially connected with the Buddhist deities, either to invite their blessings or to give thanks to them for favors received. During this period every year, such religious festivals are held in almost all the religious centers of Sri Lanka where there are abodes dedicated to various Buddhist deities. However, the festival par excellence of this category is the Kandy Esala Perahera, which is connected with the Temple of the Tooth and the abodes (devalayas) of the four Buddhist deities, Vishnu, Kataragama, Natha, and the Goddess Pattini. The main feature of all these festivals held during this period is the elaborate procession held on the lines of the Kandy Esala Perahera.

Both the kap-planting and water-cutting ceremonies are performed by the lay officiating priests (kapuralas) of the devalaya concerned, who are traditionally the experts regarding the details of their performance. These details are generally regarded as secret and are not divulged to the profane public.

The preliminary rite of kap-planting consists of planting a shaft, usually fashioned from a felled young jak tree, which must have borne no fruit. When cut, this tree exudes a white sap which is regarded as a symbol of prosperity. Even felling the tree is done with several attendant rituals at an auspicious time: the trunk is divided into four, one for each of the devalayas, where it is carried with drums and attendance. On the day of the new moon, at an auspicious hour (nakata), the "kaps" thus prepared are set up in the ground in a special place decorated with leaves, flowers, and fruits. For five nights small processions are conducted within the devalaya precincts around the consecrated kaps. Sometimes benedictory stanzas are chanted by monks.

This rite of kap is a kind of vow that the Esala festival, consisting mainly of the perahera, will be held; it is also an invitation to the deities to be present during the festival, providing the necessary protection for its successful performance. In this sense it is this ritual that inaugurates the festival.

The water-cutting ceremony (diya-kapum-mangalyaya), which is the concluding ritual of the Esala festival, is performed in the early hours of the day following the final perahera. The officiating lay-priest (kapurala) proceeds on a caparisoned elephant to a selected place along a river bank. He would either go to a selected spot in the river by boat or wade through the water to a particular spot and after drawing a magic circle on the water with the sword he carries, he "cuts" the water and fills the vessel he carried there with water from that spot. Before doing so he empties the water that he took in this same manner the previous year. He then returns to the devalaya, and the vessel of water is kept there until the following year. The ritual is repeated annually in an identical manner. This is believed to be a rain-making ceremony of sympathetic magic, which type of ritual is quite common in agrarian societies the world over. The Buddhists seem to have adopted this to suit their purposes.


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The annual Esala Perahera in Kandy, held in honor of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha, is the most colorful traditional procession in the country. It is the prototype of the other peraheras held elsewhere in the island in such places as Kataragama,[11] Aluthnuwara, Lankatilaka, Bellanwila, Devinuwara, etc. The Kandy Perahera is itself the latest expression of the annual festival in honor of the Tooth Relic that has been held with state patronage from the time the relic was brought to Sri Lanka from India in the 4th century A.C. Although periodically there have been intermittent breaks due to unsettled political conditions, the festival was never neglected intentionally. This had been so even during colonial times. Respected as the palladium of Sinhala royalty, the Relic had been accommodated in different parts of the country, depending on the change of the capital city. Ultimately it came to stay in Kandy, which was the last royal seat of the Sinhala people.

Esala Poya assumes prominence for yet another ritual of the Sri Lankan Buddhists. This is the annual rains retreat of the monks, Vassa, which commences on the day following the Esala full moon (discussed in Chap. 8). On the next poya day, Nikini (August), those monks who failed to commence the normal Vassa on the day following Esala Poya, are allowed to enter the "late Vassa."

The poya that follows Nikini is Binara (September), which assumes solemnity as marking the inauguration of the Order of Bhikkhunis (nuns) with the ordination of Queen Mahapajapati and her retinue. Next follows the Vap Poya (October), which concludes the final month of the three-month rains retreat. During the following month kathina robes are offered to the monks who have duly completed the Vassa. The high esteem in which this ritual is held by the Sinhala Buddhists may be gauged from the fact that the month is popularly referred to as the "month of robes" (see Chap. 8). The November full moon, called Il, signifies the terminal point for the kathina ritual. It is also the day for commemorating such events as the despatch of the first sixty disciples by the Buddha on missionary work, the prospective Buddha Metteyya being declared a sure Buddha-to-be by Gotama Buddha, and the passing away of the arahant Sariputta, the Buddha's foremost disciple.

The Unduwap Poya that follows in December is of great moment to Sri Lanka as commemorating two memorable events connected with the visit of Theri Sanghamitta, sister of arahant Mahinda, from India in the third century B.C. (Mhv.iv,18-19). The first of these events was the arrival at Anuradhapura of a sapling of the sacred Bodhi-tree at Buddhagaya, brought to Sri Lanka by Sanghamitta. The planting of this tree is the origin of the Bodhi-puja in the country (see Chap. 4).

The other memorable event commemorated by this poya is the establishment of the Order of Nuns (bhikkhuni-sasana) in Sri Lanka by the Theri Sanghamitta when she ordained Queen Anula and her entourage of 500 women at Anuradhapura. Records indicate that the Bhikkhuni Sangha thus established flourished during the Anuradhapura period (third century B.C. to eleventh century A.C.), but disappeared after the decline of that kingdom. Historical records are silent as to the reasons for its extinction, but they do report how the Sinhala Bhikkhuni Sangha helped in the establishment of the Order of Nuns in China.[12] In the 5th century a group of Sinhala nuns headed by the Bhikkhuni Devasara went to China to confer higher ordination there and the Bhikkhuni Sangha thus established survives there to this day. The Sinhala Buddhists commemorate this poya day with peraheras, observance of the Eight Precepts, and meetings. The day is designated Sanghamitta Day. Nowadays the dasasil matas (ten-precept nuns) take an active part in initiating these commemorative functions.

Next follows the Durutu Poya (January) when the Sinhala Buddhists commemorate the first visit of the Buddha to the island. According to the Mahavamsa, nine months after his Enlightenment, the Buddha visited present Mahiyangana in the Badulla District, where stands the dagaba by that name enshrining the Buddha's hair relics and the collar bone (Mhv.i,197). The Buddhists remember the event by holding an annual perahera. This much-venerated dagaba is also of consequence as the first edifice of this type to be constructed here, originating the ritual of dagaba worship in Sri Lanka.

The poya that follows, Navam Poya (February), celebrates the Buddha's appointment of the two arahants, Sariputta and Moggallana, as his two chief disciples. It also marks the Buddha's decision to attain Parinibbana in three months' time. The Medin Poya in March is hallowed by the Buddha's first visit to his parental home after his Enlightenment, during which he ordained the princes Rahula, Nanda, and many others as monks. The month that follows is called Bak (pronounced like "buck"), which corresponds to April. In this month it is not the full-moon day but the new-moon day that invites attention as signalizing the Buddha's second visit to Sri Lanka, when he visited Nagadipa[13] on the day preceding the new-moon day (amavaka: Mhv.i,47) in the fifth year after his Enlightenment.

The above brief account of the twelve poya days demonstrates how the poya day has become intimately connected with the life of the Buddha and consequently with the principal events of early Buddhist history. The Sri Lankan Buddhists, quite accustomed as they are to commemorate such events with rituals and ceremonies in full measure, have maintained these traditions up to the present.

Extract from Buddhist Ceremonies and Rituals of Sri Lanka
1995
A.G.S. Kariyawasam
Buddhist Publication Society

Who is the Buddha?

BUDDHIST SPECTRUM

Who is the Buddha?

The philosophy and the history of the spiritual leader:

In general, ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awakened One’, someone who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and sees things as they really are. A Buddha is a person completely free from all faults and mental obstructions.

There are many people who have become Buddhas in the past, and many people will become Buddhas in the future. There is nothing that Buddha does not know.

Because he has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and has removed all obstructions from his mind, he knows everything of the past, present, and future, directly and simultaneously. Moreover, Buddha has great compassion which is completely impartial, embracing all living beings without discrimination.

He benefits all living beings without exception by emanating various forms throughout the universe, and by bestowing his blessings on their minds. Through receiving Buddha’s blessings, all being, even the lowliest animals, sometimes develop peaceful and virtuous states of mind.

Eventually, through meeting an emanation of Buddha in the form of a Spiritual Guide, everyone will have the opportunity to enter the path to liberation and enlightenment. As the great Indian Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna said, there is no one who has not received help from the Buddha.

Buddha’s Good Qualities

It is impossible to describe all the good qualities of a Buddha. A Buddha’s compassion, wisdom, and power are completely beyond conception. With nothing left to obscure his mind, he sees all phenomena throughout the universe as clearly as he sees a jewel held in the palm of his hand.

Through the force of his or her compassion, a Buddha spontaneously does whatever is appropriate to benefit others. He has no need to think about what is the best way to help living beings - he naturally and effortlessly acts in the most beneficial way.

Just as the sun does not need to motivate itself to radiate light and heat but does so simply because light and heat are its very nature, so a Buddha does not need to motivate himself to benefit others but does so simply because being beneficial is his very nature.

Emanations of Buddha

Like the reflections of the moon that effortlessly appear in any body of still water, a Buddha’s emanations spontaneously appear wherever living beings’ minds are capable of perceiving them. Buddhas can emanate in any form whatsoever to help living beings. Sometimes they manifest as Buddhists and sometimes as non-Buddhists.

They can manifest as women or men, monarchs or tramps, law-abiding citizens or criminals. They can even manifest as animals, as wind or rain, or as mountains or islands. Unless you are a Buddha, we cannot possibly say who or what is an emanation of a Buddha.

The Supreme Emanation

Of all the ways in which a Buddha helps living beings, the supreme way is by emanation as a Spiritual Guide. Through his or her teachings and immaculate example, an authentic Spiritual Guide leads his or her disciples along the spiritual path to liberation and enlightenment.

If we meet a qualified Mahayana Spiritual Guide and put into practice everything he or she teaches, we shall definitely attain full enlightenment and become a Conqueror Buddha. We shall then be in a position to repay the kindness of all living beings by liberating them from the sufferings of samsara and leading them to the supreme bliss of Buddhahood.

The history of the Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama is the last Buddha’s lay name. He is generally recognised as the Supreme Buddha (Sammasambuddha) of our age.

The time of his birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th century historians date his lifetime from about 563 BCE; more recently, however, at a specialist symposium on this question, the majority of those scholars who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha’s death, with others supporting earlier or later dates.

Gautama, also known as Sakyamuni or Shakyamuni (“sage of the Shakyas”), is the key figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules were said to have been summarised after his death and memorised by the monk community.

Passed down by oral tradition, the Tripitaka, the collection of teachings attributed to Gautama by the Theravada, was committed to writing about 400 years later. “Scholars are increasingly reluctant to make unqualified claims about the historical facts of the Buddha’s life and teachings.”


Celibacy

The Buddhist way:

Celibacy is deliberate refraining from sexual activity usually in connection with a religious role or practice. It has existed in some form in most religious and may indicate a person’s ritual purity or may be adopted to facilitate spiritual advancement. In Hinduism, “holy men” (or women) who have left ordinary secular life to seek final liberation are celibate.

Islam has no institutional celibacy, though individuals can embrace it for personal spiritual advancement. Judaism has prescribed periods of abstinence, but long-term celibacy has not played a large role.

The early Christian Church regarded celibacy superior to marriage. It has been the role for Roman Catholic Clergy, though clerical celibacy was never adopted by Protestantism since 12th century .

Did Buddha advocate celibacy?

Buddhism is not against sex; it is natural sensual pleasure and very much a part of the worldly life. Why then did the Buddha advocate celibacy as a precept? Is it not unfair and against Nature?

Observance of celibacy for spiritual development was not a new religious precept at the Buddha’s time. All the other existing religions in India during the time of the Buddha also had introduced this practice. Even today some Hindus and Catholics do observe this as a vow.

Buddhists who have renounced the worldly life voluntarily as in case of Bhikkus and Bhikkunis and some “Upasikas” observe this precept because they are fully aware of the commitments and disturbances which come along if one commits oneself to the life of a family person.

It is common knowledge that married life can affect or curtail spiritual development when craving for sex and attachment occupies the mind and temptation eclipses peace and purity of the mind.

Significance of celibacy in Buddhism

People tend to ask, “If the Buddha did not preach against married life, why then did He advocate celibacy as one of the important precepts to be observed and why did He advise people to avoid sex and renounce worldly life?”

Quite notedly renunciation is not compulsory in Buddhism. It is not obligatory to renounce the worldly life totally to practise Buddhism. You can develop your religions principles according to the needs of a laylife.

However, when you have progressed and attained greater wisdom and realise that the layman’s way of life is not conducive for the ultimate development of the purification of the Mind, you may choose to renounce the wordly life and concentrate more on spiritual development.

The Buddha recommended celibacy because sex and marriage are not conductive to ultimate peace and purity of the mind and renunciation is necessary if one wishes to gain spiritual development and perfection at the highest level. But this renunciation should come naturally and must never be forced.

Celibacy and responsibility

The Buddha experienced his worldly life as a prince, husband and a father before his renunciation and he knew what married life entailed. Some non-Buddhists sometimes say that Prince Siddhartha was selfish and cruel and that it was not fair for him to desert his wife and child. In actual fact, Prince Siddhartha did not desert his family without a sense of responsibility.

He never had any misunderstanding with his wife. He had same love and attachment towards his wife and child as any normal person would have, perhaps even greater.

The difference was that his love was not mere physical and selfish love, he had the courage and understanding to detach that emotional and selfish love for a good cause. His sacrifice is considered more noble because he set aside his personal needs and desires to serve the mankind for all time.

The main aim of his renunciation was not only for his own happiness, peace or salvation but for the sake of mankind.

Had he remained in the royal palace, his service would have been confined to only his family or his kingdom and that is why he decided to renounce everything to gain enlightenment and then to enlighten others who were suffering in ignorance.

Thus one of Buddha’s earliest tasks after achieving Enlightenment was to return to his palace to enlighten the members of his family including his wife and son. Buddha served his family and paved the way for their salvation, peace and happiness.

Therefore no one can say that Buddha was a cruel or selfish father. With his high degree of spiritual development, the Buddha knew that marriage was a temporary phase while Enlightenment was eternal and for the good of all mankind.

The Buddha knew that his wife and son would not starve in his absence and that other members of his family would willingly look after his dependents. When He gained Enlightenment he was able to give them something no other father could give - the freedom from slavery to attachment.


Get to know Abhidhamama :

Introduction to Abhidhamma

Mind is a phenomenon highly explored in Buddhism. Mano phubban gama dhamma, which means “mind is the forerunner”, is a highly heard verse from “Dhamma Padaya”.

The ultimate objective in Buddhism is attained by purifying and improving mind. However, understanding what mind is a quite complicated act for any person. This is a barrier for someone interested in learning Buddhism deep.

One of the teachings in Buddhism that provides a comprehensive analysis on mind is Abhidhamma.

The Buddhist philosophy is categorised into three - which is known to anyone - as Thripitaka: Sutra Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. Vinaya Pitaka consists of rules of conduct for Sangha and Sutra Pitaka consists of Suttas containing the central teaching of Buddhism. Sutra Pitaka is mostly on “Conventional Teachings” (Sammuthi Dheshana) of Buddhism.

Abhidhamma Pitaka provides a theoretical framework for the doctrine principles in Suthra Pitaka which could be used to describe “Mind and Matter”. Hence, Abhidhamma embraces the “Ultimate Teachings” (Paramaththa Dheshana) in Buddhism.

Abhidhamma Pitaka consists of seven treatises;

1. Dhammasangani

2. Vibhanga

3. Dhatukatha

4. Puggalapannatti

5. Kathavatthu

6. Yamaka

7. Pattthana

The term “Abhidhamma” simply means “Higher Doctrine”. It is an in-depth investigation to mind and matter. It answers many intricate points of Dhamma. It analyses complex machinery of human, world, mind, thoughts, thought-process, mental formations and so on.

Therefore it is indeed a complex doctrine to understand. However, there are many interested in learning this beautiful branch of doctrine. Among them there are plenty of non-Buddhists as well. This effort is to present this doctrine in an “Easy to Understand” manner.

Apparent Reality and Ultimate Reality

To elaborate, conventional teaching (sammuthi dheshana) consists of “Apparent Reality” (Sammuthi Sachcha) of things. The “Ultimate Reality” (Paramaththa Sachcha) is the abstract truth of apparent reality focused in Abhidhamma.

Consider a human for example. Every human is given a name and is equipped with a head, arms, legs, eyes, ears and so on. In conventional terms we call that entity “a human” and that is the apparent reality.

But if this entity called human is dismantled into arms, legs, eyes and so on, could it be called as a human? If those parts are further divided then it would end up with bones and flesh.

This division could proceed until such that nothing could be seen remaining, where one is not given any clue to be called it as “a human”. This is how the ultimate reality is explained. In ultimate reality a human is described in terms of “Five Aggregates” (Panchakkhandha).

What is visible and described above is just one out of them called “Materiality” (Rupakkandha) and the rest are “Sensation/Feeling, Perception, Mental formations/states & Consciousness” (Vedhanakkhandha, Sannakkhandha, Sankharakkhandha and Vinnanakkhandha). Likewise in paramaththa sachcha or in ultimate reality in Abhidhamma, things would be expressed in a more analytical method.

Four Paramarththas

Falling under abstract or ultimate reality, Abhidhamma consists of paramaththas. “paramo uththamo aviparitho aththa paramaththa” which means “the most noble and immutable thing is paramaththa”. There are four paramaththas, namely the reality of:

1. Consciousness - Chittha Paramaththa

2. Mental States - Chetasika Paramaththa

3. Matter - Rupa Paramaththa

4. Nibbana - Nirwana Paramaththa

It is important to understand what it really means to be immutable of paramaththa. The equipments we call as table or chair subject to change in various ways and means.

A table could be dismantled and made a chair or any other furniture. With time this furniture would perish to dust.

Therefore they are not paramatththa. But analysis of matter (rupa paramaththa) would identify the fundamental materials of both table and chair are same and how they are subject to change. This particular truth doesn’t change and in that sense reality of matter or rupa paramaththa is said to be immutable. So do the other paramaththas.

First two realities together denote “Nama”. The third reality that is “Rupa” denotes fundamental units of matter and material changes. The realities of consciousness, mental states, and matter (with few exceptions to be dealt with later) are “Mundane” (Lokiya). The reality of Nibbana is “Supramundane” (Lokuttara) which is the absolute reality of all realities.

Reference

A Manual of Abhidhamma by Ven. Narada Maha Thera

Are Peraheras only of Elephants?

Are Peraheras only of Elephants?

There seems to be a belief among the general populace that a perahera is judged by the number of elephants therein. One of the first questions that is asked when one says one has viewed a perahera is: "How many elephants?" A large number is greeted with an appropriate response and a small number is invariably greeted with derision and an insinuation that one has wasted one’s time at that perahera !

Contrary to popular belief and the belief of certain uneducated custodians of temples and organisers of pereheras, a perahera is judged by four main criteria :

(a) The quality of caprasioning (decorating and dressing) of the elephants and dancers.

(b) Adequate lighting and deployment of chulu lanterns.

(c) The quality of the dancing and drumming.

(d) The correct deployment of drum and dance troops in accordance with the traditions of that particular pageant.

Most of the above were completely ignored during the recently concluded Kandy perahera with only one or two of the devales (with lay custodians who know and respect the traditions) having pereheras that would have passed muster in the days of our kings. Bringing elephants from all over the country and putting them together results in unrest among the animals, using animals that are either too old or are carrying sore limbs and wounds or those that are temperamentally unsuited for pereheras and have to be heavily restrained are all caused by the need to impress with a large head count of elephants. This not only constitutes a danger to the viewing public but also causes untold hardship to the animals concerned.

The current system of elections that allow any ambitious social climber to secure the post of a temple trustee by "buying " votes from greedy Divisional Secretaries and despicable monks should be changed. A person wishing to be a temple trustee should be vatted by a board of knowledgeable people and have to have either a paper qualification or experience of managing a large organisation. For the true function of a lay trustee is to manage the affairs of the temple from the lands and sources of income to the labour and the "rajakariya" workers to the disbursement of additional income.

What happens now is very similar to what happens in politics. One spends so much money securing the post that the entire term of office is used to try and recover the expenses and a "small" profit is also welcome. Why have treasures disappeared from temples and even elephants donated to temples vanished into thin air?

A corrupt political system has ruined our culture but what this existing system of appointing temples trustees threatens to do is ruin the last vestiges of the heritage of this thrice blessed land.

Island.lk

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Buddha describes the four kinds of monks

The Sutta-Nipata

5. CUNDA SUTTA

Cunda the Smith

The Buddha describes the four kinds of monks
1 Cunda: I ask the sage Buddha of great wisdom, Lord of Dhamma, who is free from craving, the noblest of guides; how many kinds of monks are there in the world? Please tell me.

2 The Buddha: Cunda, there are four kinds of monks, not a fifth. I shall elucidate them to you, since you ask me: (i) one kind has won the Path, (ii) one expounds the Path, (iii) one lives on the Path, and (iv) one defiles the Path.
3 Cunda: Whom does the Buddha describe as one who has won the Path?

4 The Buddha: One who overcomes uncertainty, is freed from sorrow, delights in Nibbana, is detached, a guide of men and gods - such a person is said by the Buddha to be one who has won the Path.

5 Here, one knows Nibbana as the noblest (state) and expounds and explains the Dhamma; that sage who destroys uncertainly, is desireless - this second monk is called the one who expounds the Path.

6 One who has controlled himself mindfully, lives well on the Path according to the words of Dhamma well expounded; one who practices correct principles - this third of monk is called the one who lives on the Path.
7 One who disguises himself by wearing the robes of the well-conducted ones, travels for gain, disgraces families, is impudent, deceitful, unrestrained, a gossip and waffler pretending to be a real monk - he is one who defiles the Path.
8 Having comprehended these (four) he who is well-versed, house-holder, who is a noble, wise disciple and who has understood that ‘all of them are not alike’; seeing thus, he does not diminish his confidence. How could the defiled one and the undefiled one, the pure and the impure one, be considered as equals?

A happy married life the Buddhist way

A happy married life the Buddhist way

Venerable K Sri Dhammananda

There are no short-cuts to happiness in marriage. No two human beings can possibly live together in an intimate emotional relationship for a long period of time without having some misunderstanding or friction from time to time. Understanding and tolerance are required to overcome any feelings of jealousy, anger, and suspicion. To think that one does not need to adopt a give-and-take attitude is to presume that love in marriage is just there for the asking without any sacrifice.

Building a successful marriage

Success in marriage is based on compatibility rather than just finding the right partner. Both partners must try to be the right person by acting out of mutual respect, love and concern for each other. Love is an inner feeling and a fulfillment arising from mutual healthy growth with and for the other person. In a successful marriage, a partner must not always try to get things his or her own way. This brings to mind a humorous saying - “Man has his will but woman has her way”. There is only one path to be trodden by both, it may be uneven, bumpy and sometimes difficult, but it is always a “mutual path”.
A happy marriage is not one in which we exist with eyes closed. We see faults as well as virtues, and we should accept the fact that no one is perfect. A husband and wife must learn to share the happiness and the pain in their daily lives. Mutual understanding is the secret formula of a happy marriage. Marriage is a blessing, but unfortunately, many people treat it otherwise due to a lack of correct communication and understanding.
Most marital troubles which arise are normally due to an unwillingness of one partner to compromise and be patient with the other. The golden rule to avoid a minor misunderstanding from being blown out of proportion is to be patient, tolerant and understanding. Human beings are emotional and get into angry arguments easily. Husbands and wives should do their utmost to make sure that both of them are not angry at the same time. This is the golden rule for a happy married life. If both parties are not angry at the same time problems can be easily resolved by adopting the noble spirit of patience, tolerance and understanding.
The husband should treat his wife with respect, understanding and consideration and not as a servant, nor as a doll in his hands. Although he maybe the breadwinner of the family, it is also his duty to help his wife with household work whenever he is free. The wife on the other hand, should not always nag or grumble at her husband over trivial matters. If he really has certain shortcomings, she should try to talk with him and point out his mistakes. A spouse should try to tolerate and handle problems without bothering the partner, including those related to his or her career.
If one is inclined towards jealousy, one must try to restrain suspicions over the partner’s movements since they may not be at all justifiable. In Buddhism, mutual respect and trust are of paramount importance in a happy union.
There is a story of a hot-tempered woman, who would always scold her husband for minor mistakes by saying, “You are a stupid idiot.” The husband was very tolerant and kept quiet when he was scolded. However, one day, when the wife shouted, “You are a stupid idiot,” the husband said: “I think you are right. If I am not a stupid idiot, do you think I would have ever married a woman like you?” From that day onwards she never uttered such words.

Sex in marriage

Sex should be given its due place in a marriage. Like fire, sex is a good servant but can be a bad master. It should neither be unhealthily repressed nor morbidly exaggerated. The desire for sex, like any other desire, must be regulated by reason. Although it is an important element in the happiness of most married couples, it is necessary to understand that one can be happy without giving sex a paramount role. On the other hand, one can have a good sex life and still be unhappy. Real love is not just physical, it is a spiritual communion, a meeting of minds. Sex is much more than physical gratification. It is the basis for an intimate life-long companionship. Down through the ages, love and mutual respect have been shown to be the basis for close intimacy between the sexes. Dr Helen Kaplan of Cornell Medical Centre says that without intimacy there can be no real love. Her definition of intimacy is the sharing of feelings, not information. Couples who are not intimate will tend to talk of frivolous subjects like the weather, the latest TV shows or what to eat for dinner. They never make it a point to find out how their partner really feels.
The married couple should make every effort to cultivate the timeless virtues of love, fidelity and decency. Real growth only comes through the development of these virtues. None can repeal the cosmic moral law of cause and effect. The hope of personal growth and harmony in society lies in the recognition of this basic law, rather than surrendering oneself to base and coarse animal instincts which only bring suffering to those we dearly love.

Having a good marriage

The Buddha says that a marriage between a bad husband and a bad wife is like a vampire existing with another. Marriage between a bad man and a good woman is like a vampire existing with an angel. Married life between a good man and bad woman is like an angel living with a vampire. Married life between a good man and good woman is like an angel living with another angel. Montaigne jokes about married life by saying: “A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband”.
In some religions, a man may marry more than one wife, while others insist on monogamy. In Buddhism, a marriage is a matter of personal choice which is subject to the laws of the country. But, in places where polygamy is permissible, there is enough evidence to show that a man having more than one wife only invites more worries and burdens into his life. As most of us already have enough problems in life, why go looking for more? There was once an elderly man who was not satisfied with the only wife to whom he had been married for some years. He decided to take on a second wife who was charming and beautiful. Now, this second wife felt rather embarrassed to be seen with such an old man. So in order to make him look young, she spent a lot of time plucking out all the grey hairs that had appeared on his head. When his first wife noticed this, she began to pull out his black hairs one by one, hoping to make him appear older. This contest between the two of them went on and in the end the man became completely bald, with neither a single grey hair nor black hair on his head.
When one partner attaches a lot of importance to birthdays and anniversaries the other partner should be mindful to remember these important days. Such little acts of attention show the person you love that you are thinking of them and that their happiness and welfare are very near and dear to your heart. Such little thoughts will keep the home fires burning and contribute towards marital happiness.
Married couples today can regulate the size of their family through proper family planning. Wise couples should plan their families according to their incomes and capabilities. There is no reason for Buddhists to oppose contraception and the practice of birth control which prevent the fertilisation of the ovum. However, once the embryo is formed, it must be allowed to take its full course during the pregnancy. Buddhism does not support or condone abortion which constitutes an act of killing.

Parent-children relations in modern society

Parent-children relations in modern society

Ven.Paanakave Pemarathana Nayaka Thera, Deputy Sangha Nayaka of the Nawa Thotamune of the Colombo Nawa Koralaya and Parivenadhipathi of Sri Dheerananda Vidyayathanaya, Thembiligasmulla, Makola.

By Shakthika Sathkumara

Q. What are the observations made by the Buddha as far as parents are concerned?

A. The Buddha equates parents to the Easterly Direction. According to Buddhist teachings the mother is the most venerable individual. The Buddha took steps to build up a matriarchal society. In most places, the Buddha spoke of the mother as the first and foremost, placing the father in second. The idea behind is not to underestimate the value of the father but because the mother’s attachment to her offspring is much more than the father. For example, the instances such as matha pithu upattanan, mata petti haran chanthu, brahmani mata pitaro, mata pita disa pubba, samanan mata pita and yo mataranva pitaranva can be cited. Furthermore, the Buddha referred to the parents in different names. Some of these terms are ahuneiya, prajanukampaka maha brahma, pubbachariya, and pubbadeva.
The Buddha equalled the mother and the father to the Maha Brahma. The reason for that is that the Buddha considered the mother and the father to possess the four main attributes - mettha, karuna, muditha, upekkha - inherent in Brahma. He referred to the parents as “Pubbacharya” because they are the first teachers. He described parents as “Pubba Deva” or the first deities. That is how the common saying “gedera budun amma” came into being. All of us from our childhood are familiar with the story of “Maathuposaka Jathakaya”. It depicts the greatness of treating parents. According to the “Magha” jathaka story, the youth “Magha” was reborn as the “Sakra,” the lord of deities, because he treated his parents well. In the mangala sutta, looking after parents is treated as one of the auspicious factors. The “vasala sutta” says that one who ill-treats the parents is a man of untouchable caste. Children must keep in mind that parents love their children sincerely from the bottom of their hearts and look after their welfare and therefore they are their gods.

Q. What are your reflections about parent-children relations in modern society?

A. I can say that there is no close relationship between parents and their offspring nowadays. Parents are looked down upon in general. Children do not regard their parents. This is why homes for the elders are mushrooming day by day. Sometimes old parents are hidden in old store rooms in fear of visitors who might see them lying amidst their own excretions.
Sometimes children put their parents out of the house when they are run into financial embarrassment. Some mothers undergo untold misery by being confined to houses. Their children don’t take the time to take them to a temple even on a poya day. A few days ago on the Vesak poya day an old mother was dumped near a bo-tree in the Bandaragama area.
Sometimes, it maybe that parents are at fault. Sometimes children go astray due to the faults of the parents. Such parents are unable to advise their children. Sometimes parents come by death at the hands of their own children. This sad state of affairs takes place because the parents have failed to play their role well. Sometimes parents quarrel and use abusive words in the presence of their children. Often their children follow this bad example.

Q.Could you please explain as to how this state of affairs could be changed for the better?

A. First of all, parents as well as children should properly identify the role appropriate to them in this field. In the sigalovada sutta, the parents are equated to the easterly direction and five duties are laid down as their duties by their offspring. Similarly five duties are laid down as the duties of the children towards their parents who have fulfilled the parental duties towards the children.
On the part of parents they should make their children refrain from misdeeds. They must induce them to do meritorious deeds. They must give them a sound knowledge of the arts and crafts. They must enter their children into matrimony at a suitable age. Parents must transfer their wealth and property to their children at a suitable age.
On the part of children, when the parents perform their duties towards their children as mentioned above, the children in turn have the following five duties by their parents: They must foster their parents, they must attend to their parents’ needs, they must respect and observe the customs and traditions passed down from their ancestors, they must protect the wealth and property of their parents and after the parents’ demise they must do meritorious deeds and bestow merits on their parents who have passed away.
If parents and children take the trouble to do their duties by each other as stated above, the collapse of the relationship between parents and their children would not have arisen in such huge proportion as found in modern society. Parents have to face various obstacles to bring up their offspring. The mother and father sacrifice their entire welfare to feed, foster and protect their offspring. They are also concerned with their children’s education. Children must always remember to be thankful to their parents for what they are today. Parents, when they become old, long to hug and cuddle their grandchildren. It is a bounden duty on the part of children to give their parents this joyful opportunity at their dying age.

What is the purpose of life? Living a Buddhist lifestyle

Living a Buddhist lifestyle

By: Ven. Dr. K.Sri Dhammananda
Maha Nayaka Thero
(PhD. D Lit.)
Chief Prelate of Malaysia,
Singapore.

What is the purpose of life? Man is the highest fruit on the tree of evolution. It is for man to realise his position in nature and understand the true meaning of life.
To know the purpose of life, you will first have to study the subject through your experience and insight. Then, you will discover for yourself the true meaning of life. Guidelines can be given, but you must create the necessary conditions for the realisation, yourself.
There are several prerequisites to discover the purpose of life. First, you must understand the nature of man and the nature of life. Next, you keep your mind calm and peaceful through the adoption of a religion. When these conditions are fulfilled, the answer you seek will come like a gentle rain from the sky.

Understanding the nature of man

Man may be clever enough to land on the moon and discover wondrous things in the universe, but he has yet to delve into the inner workings of his own mind. He has yet to learn how his mind can be developed to its fullest potential so that its true nature can be realised.
As yet, man is still wrapped in ignorance. He does not know who he really is or what is expected of him. As a result, he misinterprets everything and acts on that misinterpretation. Is it not conceivable that our entire civilisation is built on this misinterpretation? The failure to understand his existence leads him to assume a false identity of a bloated, self-seeking and egoistic perception and to pretend to be what he is not or is unable to be.
Man must make an effort to overcome ignorance to arrive at realisation and attain enlightenment. All great men are born as normal human beings but they worked their way up to greatness. Realisation and enlightenment cannot be poured into the human heart like water into a tank. Even the Buddha had to cultivate his mind to realise the real nature of man.
Man can be enlightened - a Buddha - if he wakes up from the ‘dream’ that is created by his own ignorant mind, and becomes fully awakened. He must realise that what he is today is the result of untold numbers of repetitions in thoughts and actions. He is not ready-made: he is continually in the process of becoming, always changing. And it is in this characteristic of change that his future lies, because it means that it is possible for him to mould his character and destiny through the choice of his actions, speech and thoughts. Indeed, he becomes the thoughts and actions that he chooses to perform. Man is the highest fruit on the tree of evolution. It is for man to realise his position in nature and to understand the true meaning of his life.

Understanding the nature of life

Most people dislike facing the true facts of life and prefer to lull themselves into a false sense of security by dreaming and imagining. They mistake the shadow for the substance. They fail to realise that life is uncertain, but that death is certain. One way of understanding life is to face and understand death which is nothing more than a temporary end to a temporary existence. But many people do not like to even hear of the word ‘ death’. They forget that death will come, whether they like it or not. Recollections on death with the right mental attitude can give a person courage and calmness as well as an insight into the nature of existence.
Besides understanding death, we need a better understanding of our life. We are living a life that does not always proceed as smoothly as we would like it to. Very often, we face problems and difficulties. We should not be afraid of them because the penetration into the very nature of these problems and difficulties can provide us with a deeper insight into life. The worldly happiness in wealth, luxury and respectable positions in life which most people seek is an illusion. The fact that the sale of sleeping pills and tranquillizers, admissions to mental hospitals and high rate of suicide rates in relation to material progress is enough testimony that we have to go beyond worldly, material pleasure to seek real happiness.

The need for a religion

To understand the real purpose of life, it is advisable for a person to choose and follow an ethical-moral system that restrains a person from evil deeds, encourages him to do good, and enables him to purify his mind. For simplicity, we shall call this system ‘religion’
Religion is the expression of the striving man: it is his greatest power, leading him onwards to self-realisation. It has the power to transform one with negative characteristics into someone with positive qualities. It turns the ignoble to noble the selfish to unselfish; the proud to humble; the haughty to forbearing; the greedy to benevolent; the cruel to kind; the subjective to objective. Every religion represents, however imperfectly, a reaching upwards to a higher level of being. From the earliest times, religion has been the source of man’s artistic and cultural inspiration. Although many forms of religion had come into being in the course of history, only to pass away and be forgotten, each one in its time had contributed something towards the sum of human progress. Christianity helped to civilise the west, and the weakening of its influence has marked a downward trend of the Occidental spirit. Buddhism, which civilised the greater part of the east long before, is still a vital force, and in this age of scientific knowledge is likely to extend and to strengthen its influence. It does not, at any point, come into conflict with modern knowledge, but embraces and transcends all of it in a way that no other system of thought has ever done before or is ever likely to do in future.Western man seeks to conquer the universe for material ends. Buddhism and eastern philosophy strive to attain harmony with nature or spiritual satisfaction.
Religion teaches a person how to calm down the senses and make the heart and mind peaceful. The secret of calming down the senses is to eliminate desire which is the root of our disturbances. It is very important for us to have contentment. The more people crave for material possession the more they have to suffer. Property does not give happiness to man. Most of the rich people in the world today are suffering from numerous physical and mental problems. With all the money they have, they cannot buy a solution to their problems. Yet, the poorest man who has learnt to be content may enjoy his life far more than the richest person. As the rhyme goes:
“Some have too much and yet do crave I have little and seek no more; They are but poor though much more they have and I am rich with little store. They poor, I rich: they beg, I give: They lack, I have, they pine, I live.”

Searching for a purpose in life

The aim in life varies among individuals. An artist may aim to paint masterpieces that will live long after he is gone. A scientist may want to discover some laws, formulate a new theory, or invent a new machine. A politician may wish to become prime minister or the president. A young executive may aim to be a managing director of a multinational company. However, when you ask the artist, the scientist, the politician and the young executive why he aims such, he will reply that the achievement will give him fulfilment in life. Everyone aims for happiness in life, yet experience shows that it is elusive.

Realisation

Once we realise the nature of life (characterised by dissatisfaction, change, and egolessness) as well as the nature of man’s greed and the means of getting them satisfied, we can then understand the reason why the happiness that is so desperately sought by many people is so elusive like catching a moonbeam in their hands. They try to gain happiness through accumulation. When they are not successful in accumulating wealth, gaining position, power and honour, and deriving pleasure from sensual deeds, they pine and suffer, envying others who are successful in life. However, even if they are ‘successful’ in getting these things, they suffer as well because they now fear losing what they have gained, or their desires have now increased for more wealth, higher position, more power, and greater pleasure. Their desires can never seem to be completely satiated. This is why an understanding of life is important so that we do not waste too much time doing the impossible.
It is here that the adoption of a religion becomes important, since it encourages contentment and urges a person to look beyond the demands of his flesh and ego. In a religion like Buddhism, a person is reminded that he is the heir of his karma and the master of his destiny. In order to gain greater happiness, he must be prepared to forego momentary pleasure. If a person does not believe in life after death, even then it is enough for him to lead a good, noble life on earth, enjoying a life of peace and happiness here and now, as well as performing actions which are for the benefit and happiness of others. Leading such a positive and wholesome life on earth and creating happiness for oneself and others is much better than a selfish life of trying to satisfy one’s ego and greed.
If, however, a person believes in life after death, then according to the Law of Karma, rebirth will take place according to the quality of his deeds. A person who has done many good deeds may be born in favourable conditions where he enjoys wealth and success, beauty and strength, good health, and meets good spiritual friends and teachers. Wholesome deeds can also lead to rebirth in the heavens and other sublime states, while unwholesome deeds lead to rebirth in suffering states. When a person understands the Law of Karma, he will then make the effort to refrain from performing bad actions, and to try to cultivate the good. By so acting, he gains benefits not only in this life, but in many other lives to come.
When a person understands the nature of man, then some important realisations arise. He realises that unlike a rock or stone, a human being possesses the innate potential to grow in wisdom, compassion, and awareness and be transformed by this self-development and growth. He also understands that it is not easy to be born as a human being, especially one who has the chance to listen to the Dhamma. In addition, he is fully aware that his life is impermanent, and he should, therefore, strive to practise the Dhamma while he is still in a position to do so. He realises that the practice of Dhamma is a life-long educative process which enables him to release his true potentials trapped within his mind by ignorance and greed.
Based on these realisations and understanding, he will then try to be more aware of what and how he thinks, speaks and acts. He will consider if his thoughts, speech and actions are beneficial, done out of compassion and have good effects for himself as well as others. He will realise the true value of walking the road that leads to complete self transformation, which is known to Buddhists as the Noble Eightfold Path. This path can help a person to develop his moral strength (sila) through the restraint of negative actions and the cultivation of positive qualities conducive for personal, mental and spiritual growth. In addition, it contains many techniques which a person can apply to purify his thoughts, expand the possibilities of the mind, and bring about a complete change towards a wholesome personality. This practice of mental culture (bhavana) can widen and deepen the mind towards all human experience. In short, this leads to the cultivation of wisdom (panna). As his wisdom grows, so will his love, compassion, kindness, and joy. He will have greater awareness to all forms of life and better understanding of his own thoughts, feelings, and motivations.
In the process of self-transformation, a person will no longer aspire for a divine birth as his ultimate goal in life. He will then set his goal much higher, and model himself after the Buddha who has reached the summit of human perfection and attained the ineffable state we call Enlightenment or Nibbana. It is here that a man develops a deep confidence in the Triple Gem and adopts the Buddha as his spiritual ideal. He will strive to eradicate greed, develop wisdom and compassion, and to be completely liberated from the bounds of Samsara.

Buddhism and evolution

Buddhism and evolution

While Buddha didn’t have much to say about the origins of life and the universe I find the Dharma to be very open to evolution. Evolution says that we evolved from other life forms and are therefore just new models of previous models of life which means that we must have genes and DNA that are similar and we do.
We humans share some 96 per cent of genetic material with chimpanzees which affirms my Buddhist belief that we are irrecoverably interconnected and dependent upon other life forms. We are merely different branches on a larger tree. The tree of evolved sentient life on earth.
As Buddhists we believe in rebirth which in my mind is a form of evolution which is both based upon cause and effect. In Buddhism we know that the consequences of our actions and certain events will stay within our “spiritual DNA” and determine what form “we” will evolve into after this current stage that we find ourselves within. And in corroboration, physics tells us that “matter is neither destroyed or created. It can only be transformed from one form to another”. Which backs up the Buddhist evolutionary teaching of rebirth.
And as a Buddhist I believe that when we die our bodies will blend back into the larger plane of existence and live on in other forms of life such as food for flowers and trees via our ashes or nutrient rich bodies decomposing in the fertile earth. This enables other forms of life to have the best chance at thriving and continuing the evolution of life on earth. We come from stardust and will return to stardust as the universe expands outward, reaches a stabilising point, and then reverts its motion back toward a central point resulting in its destruction, (James: the big crunch) this process again to be repeated infinitely. All forms of life depend upon each other for success and evolution. I liken it to a track and field relay event. One runner starts the race and hands a baton off to another runner once he runs his distance and then that runner goes until he goes the distance and passes the baton on to another runner, etc.

Concept of impermanence

Then there is the Buddhist concept of impermanence where nothing lasts forever. We know that 90-99 per cent of all life on Earth that ever lived has gone extinct which upholds my relay race example. A certain species of life might exist for a while (dinosaurs) and then as other beings and events evolve they are eclipsed and a new life form emerges to take their place. So while in Buddhism we believe that humans have the best chance at liberation from suffering we are still nothing more than a link in the long chain of evolving species and forms of life and I take comfort in being nothing greater and nothing less than any other sentient being.

Notions of evolution

While researching this post, however, I found the following counterpoint: While Cooper certainly makes a valid point in stating that Buddhism has never had the problems with Darwinism that monotheism has, it does not thereby follow that one can easily harmonise the two. Buddhism certainly does talk about evolution, but never at the level of populations. Buddhist notions of evolution involve the movement of an individual karmic stream through samsara, taking on different bodies in different environments according to regular laws of cause and conditioning. The process carries no certainty of progress from lower to higher or from simple to complex, and the overall context of this is the idea of rebirth, a topic that Cooper leaves out of an otherwise fairly complete account of basic Buddhist theory and practice.
James: While I do recognise that the scientific communities understanding of evolution and the Buddhist understanding are not exactly on the same page, I think in general they are in agreement. It is not entirely accurate in my view to say (as the counterpoint postulates) Buddhist evolution is only about the individual karmic stream as Buddhism teaches that there is no such thing really as an individual. As well as teaching that there is such a concept as collective karma.
Buddhism’s teaching of interconnection and interdependence do harmonise with evolution of populations. I would argue that we (as “individuals”) are slightly different, (depending on karma) single cell populations of a larger “being” that is evolving both on the micro level (individuals/sentient beings/populations) but also at the macro level (existence itself). It is difficult from my point of view to separate one sentient being from another, therefore I believe that it can be argued that in a way, all life evolves together. The counterpoint goes on to say that the Buddhist idea of evolution carries no certainty of progress from simple to complex.

Enlightenment

Yet I beg to differ as in Buddhism, beings go through “lower” stages of consciousness in births (animals for example) until we secure a human birth which is the vehicle to evolve into an enlightened being. There is regression yes, as a human might act in a way that would see him reborn as, oh I don’t know, a slug or something. So, yes this process may seem haphazard but I think most Buddhists would be in agreement that eventually all beings will realise liberation from suffering and realise enlightenment. Thus, in the end it is basically a process of going from “lower” to “higher” to use such blunt, dualistic terms. Besides, there is no certainty of progress in purely science based evolution either. Suppose a massive comet hits earth and destroys not only all life but our atmosphere and all water, not much life could progress from that point. The same goes for the day when our galaxy collides with the Andromeda Galaxy, not much will survive that disruption of sentient evolution!
True, there is not a linear advancement so to speak but the science only view of evolution isn’t pure linear advancement either. It is more like a tree where a branch will grow out from the trunk of the tree in a spin off of the tree but might die out eventually. The main form of the tree (the trunk), however, keeps growing and evolving. It’s not simply a matter of going from point A to point B. It’s more like A branches off into A1 and A2 where A1 might die off but A2 survives to reach point B where it branches off again into B1, B2 and maybe a B3. And so forth and so on.
I think I’ll stop here. I’ve probably confused you all but if I you try reading it again, maybe it will make sense the second time. If it never makes sense then no worries, it’s just another branch dying out and something else will come along later that does make sense.

Courtesy The Buddhist

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dalada; revered national treasure

Dalada; revered national treasure

Daily Mirror
By S.B. Karalliyadda
http://www.etriptips.com/wiki/images/thumb/7/79/Dalada_maligawa.jpg/350px-Dalada_maligawa.jpg

Esala Perahera the cultural pageant of Sinhale which has been held continuously for thousands of years will be held in Senkadagala this year too. From the reign of Devananpiyatissa the Bowl Relic of Lord Buddha and from the reign of Kithsirimevan (AD 303-335) the Tooth Relic of the Buddha has been venerated and considered as national treasures by the Sinhalese. Whoever who rules the country was considered as the custodian of these treasures and the ruler was compelled to protect these treasures. A ruler who did not possess the relics was not accepted as their king as it was the king who had to safeguard the relics. It was for this reason that the relics were removed from place to place when the king moved them for his safety and the relics were temporarily kept in several temples other than the Temple of the Tooth.

Maha Parakrama Bahu (1153-1186) who became the king in Polonnaruwa had to wage a war to recover the Tooth Relic from the ruler of Rohana. When Queen Sugala removed the relics, the king had to go to war with her and finally the relics were recovered from Etimale, a village in the present Moneragala District near the now Dombagahawela town. The king had a second coronation ceremony in Polonnaruwa after he took over the possession of the Tooth Relic. During the Anuradhapura period it was the tradition for the Dalada Perahera to commence from the Anuradhapura town and parade the streets and reach Abhayagiri Vihara, where there was as exposition of relics. After the establishment of the Uttarapola monastery in Anuradhapura the king entrusted the custody of the relics to Rev. Uttaramoola the head of the Uttarapola monastery.

The first ever enemy invasion to acquire the relics was recorded during the period of Mahinda V (982-1029) when the Cholas removed even the eyes of the king and murdered him and took away the relics to Ruhuna. When the kingdoms changed from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa and Kurunegala the relics were deposited in these capitals in Dalada temples built for the purpose. When the Kalinga prince Nissankamalla (1187-1196) succeeded to the throne in Polonnaruwa it is recorded hat he built a temple for the Tooth Relic within a period of sixty hours. This was to establish his rights to the throne. Buvanekabahu V (1372-1408) removed the relics from Kurunegala to Kotte. There is no reliable evidence to know where the relics were kept in the Dedigama and Gampola periods.

Dalada was brought to Senkadagala from its hiding place in the Denagamu Vihara in Sabaragamuwa. During the Senkadagala period the relics were shifted for safety to Medamahanuwara, Keulgama, Kitu Hanguranketha etc. Parakramabahu V1 (1412-1467) has built a three storeyed temple for the relic in Kotte according to Selalihini Sandesaya–‘Vadu Daladahimi themahal pahaya redi.’

Foreign invasions and security

During the third regime of Queen Leelawathie (1211-1212) Rev. Kotmale Vachissara removed the relics to Pussuipitiya during Maga invasions for twenty one years from 1215-1236. It was Bodiraja from Galahitiyawa in the present Uda Dumbara who defeated Maga and inaugurated the Dambadeniya Kingdom from 1236 to 1305. He built the Temple of the Tooth in Dambadeniya and ruled as Vijayabahu III. His son, Pandit Parakramabahu 11(1236-1270) also known as Kalikala Sahitya Sarwatgna Pandita improved the temple built by his father to a three storeyed temple.

His son Vijayabahu IV (1270-1272) removed the Dalada for protection and deposited in the Atadage at Polonnaruwa. It was Buwanekabahu I (1272-84) who once again brought back the Dalada from Polonnaruwa and deposited in the Sundaragiri Vihara in Dambadeniya.

At this time a Chola king Ariyachakravarti took the Dalada to India. Parakramabahu 111 (1287-1293) made acquaintances with king Kulasekara and brought back the relics without any confrontation. It was taken back to Polonnaruwa and later brought to Yapahuwa temple.

Buwanekabahu 11(1294-1302) was the king who took the relics to the Dalada Maligawa in Kurunegala. Parakramabahu IV (1302-1326) built the Kurunegala Dalada Maligawa into a three storeyed palace.

He wrote a book containing thirty eight treaties in the worship of Dalada. The nephew of Parakramabahu 11, Prince Weerabahu was another who defended the relics. When Jawak troops attempted to take the Relics by force he chased these troops upto Jawakkotte in Jaffna which is known as Chavakacheri today. It was Wickramabahu 111 (1351-1371) alias Pandit Wickramabahu who built the first Dalada Maligawa in Senkadagala.

The Dalada hidden under a grinding stone during the Kotte regime was brought to Senkadagala during the reign of Wimaladarmasuriya I, who built a three storeyed temple for the Tooth in 1587. During a Portugese invasion, King Senarath removed the relics to Medamahanuwara and the king hid in Mahiyangana.

Rajasinghe 11(1634-84), son of Senarath brought back the relics to Senkadagala. In the rebellion of 1818, Wariyapola Sumangala Thera removed the Relics to a place in Maturata but on November 25, a British soldier identified the relics and Col. Kelly was responsible for escorting the Relics ceremonially back to Kandy. Since then, the relics were placed under the care of the Government Agent.

On the May 29, 1817 the first public exposition of the relics under the British was held. On July 29 and August 11, 1847 the Governor Torrington held two discussions with the priests of Asgiriya and Malwatta and the Kandyan chiefs and finally on the October 1, and October 2, two more discussions were held and finally the relics were handed over to the High Priests of Malwatta and Asgiriya with Dullewa considered as the lay custodian.

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