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Friday, May 8, 2009

Wesak 2009 Special : Buddhism An exposition of reality

Buddhism An exposition of reality

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It would be of benefit to us to dwell on this thrice blessed day on the nature of the Buddha’s teaching and understand what the enlightened one was seeking to mankind in general. For this we have to start at the outset with his first sermon, the Dhammacakkapavattana which was delivered to five ascetics at the Deer Park at Saranath.

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The Buddha commenced by stating that, the extremes of indulgence in sense pleasures and self- mortification should be avoided as futile, and instead the middle path, described as the Noble Eight-fold Path, should be followed which leads to peace, deep knowledge, complete awakening and Nibbana. Thereafter, the Buddha set out the four noble truths Dukkha, Samudaya (arising), Nirodhaya (cessation) and Magga (the path).


The Buddha statue in Mihintale. Picture by Lakshan Maduranga

The Buddha went on to describe, what he characterised as ‘Dukkha’. Though it has been translated as ‘ unsatisfactoriness’, ‘ Conflict’, ‘ suffering’ and more, it is not possible to get an accurate understanding of this truth, by these translations.

In this circumstance, the description given by the Buddha has to be considered to get an understanding of Dukkha. Explaining further, the Buddha says Jati or birth is Dukkha, Jara (ageing) is Dukkha, and so is Vyadhi (sickness), Marana (death) and also being joined to what is not dear and being separated from what is dear is Dukkha.

Furthermore, not to obtain what one deserves is Dukkha. In brief the five aggregates of changing (constituting Mind and Body) are Dukkha. Now, this truth has to be understood as reality, as set out above, in terms of personal experience and not by the mere knowledge of it or by reasoning.

For instance, taking an obvious situation like Jara or Ageing would not be a reference to be forever young and attractive, enjoying the pleasures of youth and vigour.

But, can it be so? Yet, the process of ageing, which is a fact of impermanence, is a natural characteristic of existence and thus the inevitable has to be accepted, whether one likes it or not.

At the same time, if not for the process of Ageing, the helpless baby would not mature into youth. In like manner, the other situations should be seriously, assiduously and clearly contemplated upon, by those who wish to penetrate the truth of Dukkha, which would enable one to get into the path of ultimate liberation and be free of Sansara.

The manner of arising (samudaya ) is set out as craving (tanha) which leads to continuation in existence, which is connected with enjoyment and passion, greatly enjoying this and that as follows.

kama tanha (craving for sense pleasures, that is of pleasant sights, smells, tastes, sounds, bodily feelings and thoughts), Bhava tanha (craving for continuation in existence, whether in human heavenly or any other sphere, which could be considered more pleasant or attractive), Vibbhava tanha (Craving for termination of existence, in other words existencewould continue, so long as there is some sort of craving and clinging and merely by wishing for it or adopting a view about it, would not result in cessation.

Thereafter, the manner of cessation (nirodaya) of Dukkha is set out, as the complete fading away and cessation, without remainder of that craving. Thus, it is only remainder less Extinction of craving, that would ensure the cessation of Dukkha.

The second and third truths, that is arising and ceasing of dukkha, also illustrates the process of dependant arising or Pattichcha Samapadda, which could be set out as follows.

“When this exists that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises.

When this does not exist, that does not come to be, with the cessation of this, that ceases”, (as set out in the Bahudhatuka sutta, Majjhima Nikaya, Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi).

This is a teaching which emanates solely from the Buddha, and is central to Buddha Dhamma, and explains the entire process of the world, without self or soul.

The path which has to be followed to get out of this situation known as dukkha is set out as the Noble Eightfold Path and in the Four Noble Truths. Expounded in the first sermon, that is Samma Ditthi (right view), Samma Sankappa (right thought), Samma Vaca (right speech), Samma Kammanta (right action), Samma Ajivo (right livelihood), Samma Vayamo (right effort), Samma Satti (mindfulness) and Samma Samadhi (right concentration).

These truths are more fully explained in the Saccavibhanga sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya, which was delivered by Arhath Sariputta, and also approved by the enlightened one.

Then the Buddha went on to state. “Only after O monks, my knowledge and insight (Nanadassana) was perfectly well cleansed by the working out the four noble truths, in terms of three-fold generations [ Tiparivattam dvasdaskaram, that is knowing from outside about the truth itself, endeavoring to personalize it in one’s own life and the achievement of that aspiration in one’s own life].”

Thus the Four Noble Truths have to be viewed from three aspects as, the Knowledge of the Truth, the affirmative action concerning the Truth, and the realisation that the necessary action has been accomplished.

Therefore, the Noble Truth of dukkha has to be understood, the Noble Truth of arising has to be abandoned, the Noble Truth of cessation has to be realised.

And the Noble Eightfold Path has to be developed, which would result in panna (wisdom) and vimuktha (liberation).

Thus, the Buddha’s teaching is in essence as exposition of the realities of existence, the practice and the full understanding of which, would result in disenchantment (nibidda) and dispassion (Viraga) towards continued existence.

Fraught with much danger and peril, leading to a liberation from the Samsaric round of Births and deaths which is Nibbana!

Bhikku Anandajothi’s safeguard recitals have also been used in the preparation of this article.

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