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Monday, July 26, 2010

Esala – the Month of religious festivals

Esala – the Month of religious festivals

By Gamini Jayasinghe

Esala festival had been celebrated in ancient India –Dambadiva- even before the time of Gautama Buddha. Mention is made in Buddhist literature about a festival called “Giragga Samajja” which relates to Hinduism and Jainism, a sect that denies supremacy of Hindu gods, the authority of Vedas and the distinction of castes.

In Buddhist literature mention is made about this festival in connection with the conception of the Bodhisattva in the womb of queen Mahamaya. According to what is mentioned in the history of Buddhist literature in the year 623 B.C., exactly ten months before the birth of Bodhisattva – prince Siddhartha queen Mahamaya having observed sil to engage in religious duties according to the religious observances of the day had gone to bed.

At night she had dreamt of a white baby elephant with a white lotus in his trunk was conceived in her womb from the right side after pomenading three rounds around her bed. When consulted in the morning of the following day King Suddhodhana’s sooth Sayers declared that it was the conception of a blessed son. This incident took place on an Esala full moon poya day.

Prince Siddhartha was brought up in absolute luxury in King Suddhodhana’s palace. He was well educated and being a scion of the warrior race he must have been specially trained in the art of warfare. At the age of sixteen he married his beautiful cousin princess Yasodhara who was equal in age. After his happy marriage he led a luxurious life, blissfully unaware of the vicissitudes of life outside the palace gates. However, with the march of time truth gradually dawn upon him.

Realizing the worthlessness of sensual pleasures highly prized by ordinary men and the value of renunciation in which the wise seek delight he decided to leave the world in search of the Truth and Peace. On the Esala Full Moon Poya day at the age of twenty nine years and two months he renounced the world in spite of the news brought to him that his son was born.

Normally an ordinary father would have welcomed the joyful tidings but prince Siddhartha, the extra ordinary father exclaimed “An impediment”- Rahu has been born. The infant son was accordingly named Rahula by his grandfather, king Suddhodhana. He only cast a glance on the wife and the child and left the palace and rode away from the kingdom on the back of his horse, Kanthaka with his companion, Channa. After crossing river, Anoma and at the bank of the river he ordained himself. He gave all his possessions to Channa to be handed over to King Suddhodhana. From then onwards he had no permanent abode and had only robes just sufficient to cover his body and a bowl to collect whatever was offered to him by the people when he went on begging.

He strived hard with some religious teachers such as Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputra but he found that nobody was competent to teach him what he sought.

Six years of suffering

Accordingly for six long years he made a super human struggle practicing all forms of severe austerity, as a result of which his delicate body was reduced almost to a skeleton. The more he tormented his body, the farther his goal receded from him. Thus, strict asterity did not pave way for his goal, Nibbana. He was now fully convinced, through personal experience of the utter futility of self mortification and adopted an independent course- Majjima Patipada- the Middle Path. There are two extremes (Antha) which should be avoided by a recluse.

The constant attachment to sensual pleasures- Kamasukhallukanuyogaya- and constant addiction to self mortification – Attakilamathanuyogaya he recalled how when his father was engaged in ploughing, he sat in the cool shade of the rose apple tree, having attained to the first Ecstasy.

He thought – well, this is the Path to Enlightenment. He realized that Enlightenment could not be gained with an exhausted body. So he decided to take some food. The five ascetics who attended on him, disappointed at this unexpected change of method, deserted him and went to Isipathana, saying that the ascetic Gotama had become indulgent, had ceased from striving and had returned to a life of comfort. At a crucial time when help would have been most welcome, his only companions left him but he was not discouraged.

Ascetic Gauthama’s

After a substantial meal offered by Sujatha, a generous lady, he made a firm resolve not to rise from his seat until he attained Buddhahood. At night on a Vesak full moon poya day as he was seated under the famous Pippala tree at Buddha Gaya with mind tranquilized and purified, in the first watch he developed that supernormal knowledge which enabled him to remember his past lives Pubbenivasanussati Nana – Reminiscence of Past Births. In the middle watch dealing with the death and rebirth of beings Catupapata Nana- perception of the Disappearing and Reappearing of Beings. In the last watch of the night he developed the supernormal knowledge with regard to the destruction of passions.

Seven weeks after attaining Buddha hood the Enlightened One was on the lookout for some one who could understand the Truth.

His earlier teachers, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta came to His mind but they were already dead and gone. Then it occurred to Him that His previous associates- the Five Brahmin ascetics” “Pasvagamahana”, Kondanna, Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji would realize the profound Dharma. Kondanna was the youngest of the eight Brahmins who were invited for the naming ceremony of Prince Siddhartha and who alone foretold that the prince would definitely become the Buddha.

When the Buddha went, the five Brahmin ascetics were reluctant to pay respect to Him as they had been disappointed when He gave up fasting and penance. However, when they came to know that the Thathagatha had been enlightened they paid respect and listened to the Buddha. He expounded Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta which the Tathagata had discovered on His own by avoiding the two extremes, the Middle path -Majjima patipada which promotes sight, knowledge, peace- Vupasama, Higher wisdom- Abhinnaya, Enlightenment – Sambodhaya and Nibbana. This excellent Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta which could not be expounded by any other ascetic, priest, god, Mara or Brahma was expounded by Gauthama Buddha on the first Esala Full Moon poya day, two months after His Enlightenment.

Preaching of Abhidharma in

Tavatisma Heaven

Seven days after the birth of the Bodhisattva his mother queen Mahamaya died and was born as a Deva in the Tavatisma heaven. This is because a second child should not be conceived in the womb of a mother who has given birth to a Bodhisattva in his last birth. During the rainy season –Wassana Kala of the seventh year after the Enlightenment Guthama Buddha preached the Abhidharma to the Devas of this celestial place headed by his mother Deva. Present Abhidharma Pitaka is supposed to be this detailed exposition. It is stated that on hearing these philosophical discourses the mother god had attained Sowan –the first of the four stages to Nibbana.

Sojourn during the rainy season by Buddhist monks- “ Pera Vas”

Another ritual observed on the Esala Full Moon Poya day is the commencement of the rainy season sojourn by Buddhist monks. The rainy season in Dambadiva commences during the month of Esala and monks were allowed to sojourn for the rainy season during the three months of Wassana Kala from Esala Full Moon Poya day.

– rainy season- which commenced on the Esala Full Moon Poya day.

The Greatest Breakthrough in Religious thought:The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

The Greatest Breakthrough in Religious thought:The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
Esala Full Moon Poya Day falls tomorrow

By Prof. K. N. O. Dharmadasa

Those who have listened to night long Pirith chantings would have noticed that some suttas are chanted in a rhythm different from the rest. Prominent among those chanted differently and thus marked out is the Dhammacakkappavattna Sutta, whose chanting occurs normally by about midnight. There is something unique with regard to the chanting of this Sutta. During the last part of the chanting there are pauses and each pause is marked by a vigorous sabda puja by the beating of drums., and devotees would utter loudly the devotional words "Sadhu!Sadhu1". There are 22 such pauses and each pause is signified by drum beats and the uttering of "Sadhu!Sadhu! " Obviously the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta is unique as no other sermon chanted in the night long ceremony receives this kind of special attention. Why is that?

Obviously the ancients who devised the Pirith chanting ceremony were aware of the great significance of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta and thus used these devices to draw the unflinching attention of the devotees when listening to the night long ceremony. Dhammacakkappavattana means "the setting rolling the wheel of Truth". It was the very first sermon delivered by the Buddha after attaining enlightenment. The date was the Full Moon day of the month of Aesala, i.e. the second month after the attaining of Enlightenment. Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha - to - be, had gone forth from the luxuries of lay life searching for a solution to the unsatisfactory nature of human existence. The first teacher he met was Alara Kalama and following the instructions given by him Siddhartha was able to attain the spiritual plane of Akincayatana ( formlessness) which was the highest attainment the teacher himself had achieved. Alara Kalama was so much impressed by the commitment of the young man that he invited him to stay and be a co-teacher to other seekers after spiritual attainments. But Siddhartha was not satisfied as he had not found with this teacher the truth he was looking for. Searching further, he met Uddaka Ramaputta another teacher staying with whom he attained the plane of Nevasannanasannayatana (neither consciousness nor unconsciousness). Again the highly impressed teacher invited Siddhartha to stay and be a co-teacher which he refused again and went on his search for the supreme bliss of sublime peace.

It needs be mentioned here that these biographical details of the Buddha- to- be are given by the Buddha himself after the attainment of Enlightenment Several discourses addressed by him sometimes to his disciples, sometimes to others, contain these details in a realistic narration, starkly naturalistic, very much in keeping with the spirit of his teaching characterized by a non-esoteric and open-book quality. After leaving Uddaka Ramaputta Siddhartha arrived in Uruvela, by the river Neranajana, which appeared to him as a fit place to practice his spiritual strivings by himself. There he was met by a group of five young men who were similar spiritually minded seekers after truth. They were Kondanna,Bhaddiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji. These ascetics waited upon Siddhartha, whose spiritual attainments prompted them to feel that he would one day attain the higher bliss they were searching for and help them to attain the same.Recalling the austerities he practiced during the next six years the Buddha had this to say to Ven. Sariputta, one of his chief disciples (the following passage is an abridged version of that found in The Life of the Buddha by the Venerables Kassapa and Siridhamma):

Practising Austerities

"Rigorous have I been, Sariputta, in my ascetic discipline, rigorous beyond all others. Horrible have been my ascetic practices, horrible beyond measure. Scrupulous have been my ascetic practice, to the height of scrupulousness….I have partaken of nourishment but once daily, abstaining sometimes from food for as long as fourteen days… I have fed my body on mosses, grasses, cow-dung…I have worn garments of hemp and hair, foul clothes from charnel houses…I have wrapped myself from animal hides…I was also a plucker out of hair and beard…I have taken the vow always to stand, never to sit or lie down…After this fashion have I lived in the in the strict observance of manifold bodily penances, bodily pains and torments…I have lived on a single cola fruit a day, upon a single bean a a day, upon a single grain of rice a day…Because of this daily rigor in daily nourishment my body became lean beyond measure…and as in a dilapidated house the roof-tree rafters show all aslope, so sloping showed the ribs of my body…and when I would feel my backbone, my hand encountered the skin of my belly.So cleaved the skin of my belly to the backbone.And when I would go to attend to the necessities of nature, there I would topple over for very weakness…." Practising those austerities Siddhartha tried to attain perfect enlightnment which was his goal :" With teeth clemched and tongue pressed to palate, I deliberately and of set purpose crush and force and master my mind into subjection.And as I did so the perspiration streamed from my arm-pits….When at last I had fallen and collapsed as a result of my extreme fasting…then I thought 'Of all the sharp piercing , painful sensations endured by ascetics and recluses , these must be the crown, none can have surpassed these, and yet, with all these bitter austerities, I do not reach aught beyond the human, do not attain to any sufficing pre-eminence of exalted knowledge and insight. Might there be some other way to Full Enlightenment?"

At this juncture he recalled how once during his childhood, when his father and retinue were engaged in a ploughing ceremony, how he, seated in the cool shade of a rose apple tree, secluded from sensual pleasures and from unwholesome states, entered and dwelled in the state of First Jhana. "Could this be the path to follow for attaining enlightenment" he thought . He realized however, that engaging in such a practice was not possible with a body so excessively weak and frail. Realizing this he started partaking food in order to build up enough strength for the practicing of meditation in order to reach the goal he was looking for. When the five fellow ascetics observed that Siddhartha had changed his ascetic practices, they misunderstood his intentions and left the place in disgust complaining "The ascetic Siddhartha has reverted to a life of luxury and given up his strivings"

Attaining Buddhahood

Having regained his strength the Bodhisatva went one evening to the foot of a majestic tree and sat down facing the east with a firm determination to achieve his goal. He reached the four Jhanas, one by one. With thoughts thus steadied and purified, he applied his mind to the recollection of previous births (Pubbenivasanussati Nana) and then the Dibbacakku and Catupapata Nana (the Divine Eye and disappearing and reappearing of beings) Recalling his experience of the attainment of enlightenment the Buddhha states

"When my mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright,

unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the destruction of the taints (Asavakkhaya Nana) I directly knew as it actually is :'This is suffering. This is the origin of suffering. This is the cessation of suffering. This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.'" Thus realizing what the taints are and their origin, their cessation, and the way leading to the cessation of taints, his mind was liberated from the taints of sensual desire, from the taint of existence, and from the taint of ignorance. The Buddha recalled, "This was the true knowledge attained by me in the last watch of the night, ignorance was banished and true knowledge arose, darkness was banished and light arose as happens in one who dwells diligent, ardent and resolute"

The Decision to Teach

That was the morning of the full-moon day of the month of Vaisakha. Seated under the majestic tree which gave him shelter on the day he attained Buddhahood he pondered: "This Dhamma which I have won is profound, only to be understood by the wise. But mankind seeks only for pleasure and they will find it difficult to comprehend this profound doctrine." Reading his thoughts, the divine being Brahma Sahampathi was greatly perturbed "The world will perish if the Accomplished One, the Exalted One were not to teach the Dhamma" and he, descending from his heavenly abode, appeared before the Buddha and appealed that since there are persons with the potential to realize the Dhamma that it is best that the Blessed one were to teach the Dhamma. The Buddha surveyed the world and found the veracity of Brahma's observation and decided to teach the Dhamma accordingly. This incident, we notice, takes a different form from the realistic mode so far followed in the of narration. Bhikkhu Bodhi describing these events has an explanation as to how a naturalistic narration is suddenly taking a supra-mundane mode at this juncture. "Should this scene be interpreted literally or as a symbolic enactment of an internal drama taking place in the Buddha's mind? It is hard to give a definitive answer… Perhaps the scene could be understood as occurring at both levels at once."(In the Buddha's Words, p.47)

The Buddha knew seven persons who were in a position to understand the Dhamma he was to preach. When he surveyed the world with his Divine Eye he found that the two teachers with developed minds he had met earlier, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta had passed away. But the five ascetic friends who had been with him at Uruvela were there, now staying in Baranasi in the Deer Park at Isipatana. This is how the Buddha narrates in the Ariyaparivesana Sutta the meeting of these five ascetics:

At the Deer Park in Isipatana

"Then monks, wandering by stages I eventually came to Baranasi, to the Deer Park at Isipatana, and I approached the monks of the group of five. The monks saw me coming in the distance and they agreed among themselves, 'friends here comes the Ascetic Gotama who lives luxuriously, who gave up his striving and reverted to luxury. We should not pay homage to himor rise up for him or receive his bowl and outer robe. But a seat may be prepared for him. If he likes he may sit down' However, as I approached, those monks found themselves unable to keep their pact. One came to meet me and took my bowl and outer robe, another prepared a seat, and another set out water for my feet, however they addressed me by name and as friend"(In The Buddha's Words, p.74)

The fact that the five ascetics could not help themselves paying due respects to the Buddha. His supreme spiritual attainment would have compelled them to do so. But as they were unaware of that they continued to address him by name and as "Friend". Then the Buddha spoke to them : "Monks, do not address the Tathagata by name and as 'friend'. The Tathagata is an Arahant, a Perfectly Enlightened One. Listen monks, the Deathless has been attained.I shall instruct you, I shall teach you the Dhamma. Practicing as you are instructed, by realizing it for yourselves, here and now, through direct knowledge, you will soon enter and dwell in that supreme goal…"

Yet the group of five were not prepared to believe what the Buddha said. "Friend Gotama, by the conduct , the practice and the performance of austerities that you undertook, you did not achieve any superhuman distinction. Since you now live in luxury, how could you have achieved any superhuman distinction?" they asked. Then the Buddha told them that the Tathagata does not live luxuriously, nor has he given up his strivings and reverted to luxury. But the Tathagata has achieved Deathlessness and is an Arahant". The group of five repeated their doubts for the second time too. Then the Buddha asked them "Monks, have you ever known me to speak like this before? They replied in the negative and again the Buddha said "The Tathagata is an Arahant, a Perfectly Enlightened One.Listen monks, the Deathless has been reached. I shall instruct you…" Having convinced them by these means, the Buddha proceeded to preach the Dhamma he had realized by his own effort, to set rolling the wheel of Truth.

Narration by Ven. Ananada

We now have before us the narration by the Venerable Ananada, who was personal attendant of the Buddha for many long years and who knew by memory most of the discourses of the Buddha and was able to recite them to be preserved for posterity when the First Council of the Buddha's disciples met at Rajagaha immediately after His demise. "Thus have I heard," states Venerable Ananada, beginning the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta,

"…the Blessed One addressed the monks of the group of five thus: 'Monks, these two extremes should not be followed by one who has gone forth into homelessness. What two? The pursuit of sensual happiness, which is low,vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble,unbeneficial; and the pursuit of self-mortification which is painful, ignoble, unbeneficial.Without veering toward either of these extremes, the Tathagata has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge,and leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana." ( ITBW p.75)

We should notice here that the Buddha comes direct to the point which has been bothering the minds of the five ascetics. The five ascetics had initially refused to acknowledge the Buddha's claim to enlightenment, and spurned him as one who had betrayed the higher calling to revert to a life of luxury.Thus He had to first assure them that far from reverting to a life of self-indulgence, He had discovered a new approach to the timeless quest for enlightenment ((ITBW,p.48). It is this new approach which while remaining faithful to the spirit of renunciation of sensual pleasures, eschews also the unprofitable practices of self-mortification, that presents a practical guide which would lead to the light of wisdom, culminating in the eradication of all bondages, the attainment of Nibbana.

"And what , monks, is that middle way awakened by the Tathagata? It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. This monks, is that Middle Way, awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, and leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana."

By that clear statement the Buddha was able to clear the minds of the five ascetics of their misgivings. Now it was opportune to teach them of the Four Noble Truths he had discovered on the full moon day of Vaisakha.. Not only that. The Middle Way was part and parcel of the Truths he had discovered.

The Four Noble Truths

"Now this O Bhikkhus!," continued the Buddha, " is the Noble Truth concerning suffering. Birth is painful, decay is painful, disease is painful, death is painful, union with the unpleasant is painful, painful is separation from the pleasant and any craving that is unsatisfied, that too is painful. In brief, the five groups which spring from attachment are painful."

"And this, O Bhikkhus! is the Noble Truth concerning the Origin of Suffering. - verily it is that thirst, causing the renewal of existence, accompanied by sensual delight, seeking satisfaction, now here and now there, - that is the craving for gratification of the passions, the craving for continued life, and the craving for pleasure here and now."

" And this , O Bhikkhus! is the Noble Truth concerning the Destruction of Suffering - verily it is the destruction, in which no passion remains, of this very Thirst; the laying aside of, the getting rid of, the being free from, the harbouring no longer of this Thirst"

"And this, O Bhikkhus!, is the Noble Truth concerning the Way which leads to the destruction of Sorrow. Verily, it is the Noble Eightfold Path of Right Views,Right Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration."

"As soon as O Bhikkhus, my knowledge and insight were quite clear concerning each of these Four Noble Truths - then did I become certain that I had attained to the full insight of that Wisdom which is unsurpassed in the heavens or on earth, among the whole race of Samanas and Brahamins or of gods or men." ( Abridged from the original Sutta -The Life of the Buddha by Venerables.Kassapa and Siridhamma,pp. 34-35)

Cosmic Significance

The discourse whish was so far in the naturalistic-realistic mode now changes dramatically. There is a long passage illuminating the cosmic significance of this event. As the Buddha stated, with the realization of the Four Noble Truths "the vision, knowledge wisdom, penetration and light arose in him of a Dhamma unknown and unheard of before in this whole cosmic system of Devas, Mara, Brahma, in this population with ascetics and Brahamins and all other beings". It was the greatest breakthrough in the history of humankind. Signifying that the whole universe was to rejoice. The Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta proceeds to state that when the Buddha ended his discourse the earth-dwelling Devas raised the cry "At Baranasi in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the unsurpassed Wheel of Dhammahas been set in motion by the Blessed One, which cannot be stopped by any ascetic or Brahamin or Deva or Mara or Brahma or anyone else".Hearing that cry the next level of celestial beings, the Devas of the realm Four Great Kings, and after them the Tavatimsa Devas, the Yama Devas,the Tusita Devas, the Devas of each upper realm in succession and finally the Devas of the Brahma world raised the cry "In Baranasi…the unsurpassed Wheel of the Dhamma had been set in motion…which cannot be stopped by…anyone else" The ten thousand -fold world system shook, quaked, and trembled and an immeasurable great radiance encompassed the whole universe.Finally, the narration reverts again to the realistic mode. For, it was noticed by the Buddha that Venerable Kondanna, seated before him, understood the Dhamma as promulgated by him at that moment.and uttered in admiration "Kodanna has indeed understood, Kondanna has indeed understood." And the narration ends with the words, "thereafter Venerable Kondanna came to be referred to as Anna Kondanna 'Kondanna who has come to know'.

The impotance of middle path summed up in the Dhammachakkanapavattana sutra

The impotance of middle path summed up in the Dhammachakkanapavattana sutra

By Premasara Epasinghe

This year’s, Esala Full Moon Poya Day falls on Sunday 25. A number of very significant events in the life of Bodhisatva and Gautama Buddha, the compassionate one will take place on this day. Of this, the most important event, the delivery or chanting of the "Dhammachakka pavatvana" - the Great Discourse of the wheel of Dhamma, at Deer Park, Isipathanaramaya in Benares. As in all, "Suttas", a date of delivery of the Discourse is mentioned as "Once" or "At a time" - "Ekan Samayan". The Blessed One was hesitant about delivering his doctrine, Maha Brahma seeing the state of mind of the Blessed One, with all due respect requested to deliver his philosophy. Sir Edwin Arnold describes this in the following manner. Oh! Supreme let thy Great Law be uttered, whereupon, Buddha cast his vision.

The wheel of Dhamma or "Dhammachakkapatvana Sutta", embodied the essence of the Buddha Dhamma. The "Tripitaka" or Buddhist Canon consists of the Vinaya, Sutta and Abidhamma Pitakas. All the teachings in the Tripitaka are implied in this discourse. For example, if all suttas of the Blessed One is compared to the foot prints of all animals that inhabit the forest, the Wheel of Dhamma is very much similar to a huge footprint of an Elephant, in which all these animals footprints could be embodied. This clearly shows, the importance of the Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta.

There are 18 stanzas in the Dhammachakka pavattana sutta. The first verse or stanza reads thus:

Avam me suttan ekan samayan bhagava barawasiyan viharathi isipatane migadaye tattra who bhagava pancharaggiya bhikku amantesi - (Kondanna, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama, Assaji, the five asceties or Bhikkus were known as Panchavaggiya Bhikkus). Buddha delivered his first sermon to these five disciples.

This discourse delivered on Esala Full Moon Poya Day provides an indepth study of the Buddhist philosophy. In addressing the Group of Bhikkus numbering five, the Enlightened One stated the two extremes that should not be followed. Kamasukallikanu yogo (enjoying of extreme sensual pleasure) and Attakila-matanu yogo (self-mortification or self-torture) - Dve me bhikkave anta pabba jinena na sevitabba.

The Buddha after realising that self-mortification and indulgence in sensual pleasures will not help an individual to achieve Emancipation, announced that to gain enlightenment you should follow the Majjimapratipada or Middle Path. According to Dhammachakkanapavattana sutta, middle path is the right path that you should follow. The benefits you accrue from the middle path are summed up in the Dhammachakkanapavattana as follows:-

"Ete kho, Bhikkave, ubho ante Anupagamma Majjima Patipada, Thathagatena Abhisambuddha - Chakkukaran, Nankarani Upasamaya, Abhinnaya, Sambodhiya, Nibbanaya Samvatti."

Bhikkhus, by avoiding these two extremes. - (Kamasukallikanu and Attakilamatanu yogas).

The Enlightened One, has gained the penetrative knowledge of middle path, which produces vision and foremost knowledge and tends to calm, to higher knowledge, penetrative insight and realisation of Supreme Bliss of Nibbana).

Whoever practices middle path, the Noble Eightfold path (Samma-ditti - (right view), Sammasankappa – (right thought), Samma Vacci – (right speech), Samma Kammanta (right bodily action), Samma Ajiva – (right livelihood), Samma Vayama – (right effort), Samma Sati – (right mindfulness), Samma Samadhi – (right concentration) in him, vision and knowledge is produced. If you carefully analyse, the eightfold path - "Aariya Astangikka Magga", once developed the true nature of matter and mind is discerned as it is seen by the eyes. Further, the middle path expounded in the wheel of Dhamma also leads to calm the Klesas - defilements (Lobha - Dosa - Moha - Mana Ditti - Vicikillha, Tina, Uddacca)....

In the stanzas in the Dhammachakka Sutta from 8 to 11. Buddha repeatedly uttered thus:- Chakkum Udapadi, Vijja Udapadi, Ganan udapadi, Panna udapadi, "Vijja udapadi, Aloko udapadi. This clearly shows Buddhism gives top priority to wisdom and the mind.

Buddhism is not only a religion, its a philosophy and a way of life. Esala fullmoon is very important as the Blessed One delivered the philosophical discourse on wheel of "Dhamma. In short, it can be considered the day Buddhism was officially introduced to the world.

It was on an Esala full moon day, Queen Mahamaya conceived the Gautama Buddha.

On the day, Rahula was born (Esala full moon day), Prince Siddharta renounced the world and went in search of the bliss of Nibbana.

"Thirthakas" (Hermits or Ascetics) were a proud group who believed they were superior and can dominate the lesser mortals. To bring them to the ground, Gautama "Buddha performed the "Twin Miracle" (Yamama-Pelahara) at the foot of the Gandhamba Tree.

The Gautama Buddha’s beloved mother, Mahamaya, was born in the Tautisa Heaven and she was known as Majjrudevi. After Buddha spending the seventh "Rainy Retreat" (Vas) in the heavenly abode of "Tusitha" the blessed one delivered a sermon for the benefit of his mother Mahamaya. This occurred on a Esala Full Moon Poya Day.

Three months after the demise of the Enlightened One, there took place the first council for the sangha. It was led by Arahat Maha Kassapa and took place during the reign of king Ajasatta. This was known as the first congregation of the first "Sangayanawa". This was necessary to formulate rules and regulations for the conduct of Buddhist Monks in line with the principles followed by Thatagatha Buddha.

The advent of Buddhism to Sri Lanka took place on Poson Full Moon Poya Day, during the reign of Devanampiyatissa. The ordination of Prince Avitta with a retinue of 55 members also took place on a Esala full moon poya day.

It was also on a Esala full moon poya day, that 68 rock caves around Kantaka Chaitya, Mihintale, was donated to the maha sangha.

The laying of the foundation stone to construct the Swarnamalimahaseya - was laid on a Esala full moon poya day.

Further, it was on an Esala poya day, during the reign of the 55th king of Sri Lanka-Kithsiri Mevan, the tooth relic was brought to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantta.

The greatest cultural pageant of Sri Lanka, annual Kandy perahera, was held for the first time, on a Esala full moon poya day. Taking the cue presently there are Esala processions held at Sri Jayawardanapura, Aluthnuwara, Nawagamuwa, Ratnapura, Devundara and Kataragama during the month of Esala.

The "Upasampada ceremony" or the Higher Ordination in Sri Lanka took place for the first time during the reign of Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe. The Siamese Monks, Upali, Ariya-Muni arrived at Puspharama, Malwatta, Kandy. This event also took place on an Esala poya full moon day.

May the Triple Gem Bless You!

Friday, July 16, 2010

What the Buddha cultivated !

What the Buddha cultivated !

Buddha’s dialogue with the farmer

By Dr. B G D Bujawansa

In Buddha’s time ploughing a paddy field was conducted in a ceremonial manner. In fact ploughing the field is the basic preparation of the land in the process of cultivation. Kasi Bharadvaja was a successful farmer and a contemporary of Buddha. He was no exception in conducting a ceremony before ploughing his paddy field. He had collected five hundred workmen and the cattle were ready for a customary ceremonial breakfast near the paddy field before commencing the big task. Kasi Bharadvaja was about to partake in the ceremonial meal surrounded by the five hundred workmen, when Lord Buddha who was on his alms round arrived there with the begging bowl. One does not need much imagination to picture the annoyance in Kasi Bharadvaja.

“Why can’t you cultivate like me and find your own food without begging?” asked Kasi Bharadvaja. “In fact Kasi Bharadvaja I do cultivate,” was Buddha’s calm response. It was typical of Buddha to make apparently absurd statements to provoke thinking when he confronts an intelligent person because his statements have latent and deeply profound messages. “Where is your land? Where are your cattle? Where are your utensils?” A barrage of queries came out from Kasi Bharadvaja. What transpired between Buddha and Kasi Bharadvaja has been recorded as a discourse known as ‘Kasi Bhardvaja Sutta’ and is frequently quoted by scholars in the Buddhist doctrine.

At this stage of course Buddha owed an explanation to the farmer. “I cultivate a seed called ‘saddha’,” said Buddha. “The irrigation of the land is the ascetic life style; wisdom is my plough; a cultured mind is the rope tying the bull to the plough; mindfulness is the blade of the plough; my mind and body are well disciplined; I use much restrain in my speech; I partake of food only to get rid of my hunger; I get rid of all pests known as fallacies; my courage is my cattle and I am on a journey to end all suffering.

Buddha in this situation drew a remarkable analogue between a farmer’s cultivation activities and his super mundane activities. This has been a typical technique Buddha used to make people comprehend the profound doctrine he had discovered. He always used to draw analogues between facts in the Buddhist doctrine and events in a person’s daily life.

However, an important difference exists between Buddha’s super mundane “cultivation” and Kasi Bharadvaja’s cultivation. Buddha has to “cultivate” only once whereas Kasi Bharadvaja has to cultivate repeatedly because what he harvests gets depleted. Buddha has drawn analogues to cultivation in many situations. He has said “kamma” is the plot of land and it is irrigated by craving and that a plant called “vinnana” (cognition) props up yielding a harvest called “suffering”. All of us engaged in mundane activities are in fact doing this kind of cultivation. We do not identify the harvest as “suffering” due to “avidya”(ignorance).The cultivation process never ends. Buddha calls upon us to engage in the type “cultivation” he and his disciples did. This was his exercise from the day he attained Buddha hood until his “parinibbana”.

Kasi Bharadvaja forgot about his ceremonial proceedings and calmly listened to Buddha after which he remarked that he has transformed a confusing state of mind to a lucid state and offered alms to Buddha. From that day he became a great follower of Buddha.

At the time of “parinibbana” Buddha remarked that after his demise his doctrine should serve as a teacher. His teaching fortunately has been preserved for us by the Maha Sangha sometimes at a cost of their lives. We are in an era of availability of facilities to disseminate information and have access to information as it was never before. We must find access to Buddha’s teachings and at the same time disseminate his teachings for the benefit of everybody. We must make an attempt to put a stop to this never ending cultivation which yields a harvest of suffering.

What Is Happiness?

What Is Happiness?

Happiness is commonly defined as a state of mind marked by such pleasant feelings as satisfaction, contentment, freedom from anxiety, mental tranquillity, and other similar positive moods. The Chambers Thesaurus (Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd., 2004) lists twenty-four synonyms for the word "happiness" including joy, gladness, cheerfulness, contentment, pleasure, delight, gaiety, life, merriment, light-heartedness, exuberance, high spirits, elation, ecstasy, and euphoria. The list suggests the wide range and variety of feelings covered by the term happiness. No wonder the concept of happiness is sometimes described as a little too vague for precise definition.

Although we may not be able to say exactly what happiness is we know that "happy" is what we always want to be. Living and loving are two experiences we rarely ask questions about; we take them for granted. In the same way we don’t normally bother about what happiness is, or ask why we want to be happy. This may be because happiness is desired for its own sake, not as a means to an end.

In normal circumstances, there are other things that we set our minds on, such as knowledge, power, reputation, riches, and sound health. One might pursue these for their own sake, but they are still subject to the question "What for?"; and the ultimate answer may be something like "For self-fulfilment", or "For a sense of well-being", or "For the pleasure of gratifying sensual desires", for which we may substitute one word "Happiness". We follow many different goals in life; but all these are ancillary to the goal of personal happiness.

For thousands of years religions have recognized the general unsatisfactoriness of earthly existence, and have each advocated a specific course of religious conduct in order to escape from it and attain to a state of everlasting happiness after death. They also teach how people can achieve mundane as well as spiritual happiness here and now through prayer, practice of virtue, penance, pilgrimage, and fasting, etc. At any age for most people this kind of happiness is a distant ideal. For the average person, happiness consists in the pleasures of the body and mind.

Aristotle (384-322 BCE), the great Greek philosopher, explained what he considered the popular view of happiness thus: "What is the highest good achievable by action? … both the ordinary people and people of education and good judgement say it is happiness". In all cultures in the world even today people share the same attitude towards happiness. A great tribute paid to happiness in modern times was its mention at the opening of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence adopted by Congress on behalf of the Thirteen United States of America on July 4, 1776: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Buddhism, which inspires the majority of Sri Lankans, teaches its followers what is claimed to be the true nature of existence - its unsatisfactoriness, and the way of emancipation from that state of suffering. "Craving" is identified as the agent that perpetuates suffering by a process whereby a person comes into being again and again. The elimination of craving by the individual through the practice of the specific spiritual conduct suggested by the Master is shown to be the way to the realization of the supreme bliss of nibbana (freedom from the defilement of desire or craving). Buddhism also teaches how to live a happy life in this world in a way that is compatible with the practice of virtue. References to "sukha" (happiness) are as frequent as references to "dukkha" (suffering); on the whole, a follower of the teaching of the Buddha should always be happy, calm and confident amidst the vicissitudes of mundane existence. (The remarkable resilience that our people have demonstrated in the face of disastrous experiences such as the December 2004 tsunami and the recently concluded terrorist scourge may be attributed to the effect of this positive frame of mind inculcated in them by Buddhist teachings.) Contentment (santhutti) – a feeling of quiet happiness and satisfaction with one’s own lot acquired through wisdom – is praised as the supreme asset that one could possess. The Greek philosopher Socrates (469-399 BCE) echoes a similar view: "Good food and rich clothes, all possible luxuries, are what you call happiness, but I believe that a state of being where one wishes for nothing is the greatest of all bliss. To be able to approach the greatest happiness one must get used to being satisfied with little". Religions which are based on other world-views too teach their adherents the way to liberate themselves from the imperfections of worldly existence, and attain to a state of everlasting happiness. All religious systems teach us how to achieve this ultimate liberation from the unsatisfactoriness of earthly life .

Generally, the ultimate happiness that each faith teaches as its summum bonum is achievable only after the extinction of an individual’s life on earth. However, the highest form of happiness that one can realize before death is that which results from a life of contemplation according to the traditions of religious and philosophical thinking both of the East and the West. Aristotle spoke about three kinds of happiness: the first is the happiness experienced by "ordinary" people (who, in contemporary terms, we may think of as those of the working class who are rightly or wrongly considered to equate happiness with immediate pleasures such as drinking, watching a play or a cricket match, etc); the second is the happiness of people of "superior refinement", that is, the educated, sophisticated, and the materially better off who rely on achieving long-term goals such as career or business success to be happy; and the third, which Aristotle identified as the highest form of happiness, is the happiness produced by a contemplative life.

However valuable or exalted the happiness derived from a tranquil life of meditation may be, not everyone can pursue such happiness except perhaps occasionally; it will appeal to only a handful of individuals as we implied before. It is not suitable for ordinary people who want to raise a family, follow a profession, and fulfil obligations towards others, in short for people for whom "renunciation" is still not an option. Therefore let us focus on the temporal sort of happiness that is relevant to us all.

I mean the kind of less ethereal happiness that certain seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophers such as John Locke (1632-1704) and Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) defined. They argued that happiness correlates to the number of pleasures in one’s life. University of London psychology teacher Michael W. Eysenck, the author of HAPPINESS – Facts and Myths (1990), says that this attitude corresponds more closely to contemporary thought and that it manages to rid views of happiness from what he calls "moralistic overtones": "… pleasure enhances happiness regardless of whether our pleasure derives from disreputable and reprehensible activities or from noble self-sacrifice". As I understand it, the author means that according to contemporary thinking happiness is amoral (non-ethical, morally neutral like the gods in ancient Greek mythology). But perhaps, this is not what he actually means, for one of the philosophers Eysenck refers to approvingly, Bentham, holds that all actions are right that promote "the happiness of the greatest number". Will "disreputable and reprehensible activities" promote the happiness of the greatest number?

Where there’s a society there must be common ethical standards of behaviour that ensure its survival and the freedom of the individuals within it to enjoy all the benefits of living in such a community; individuals cannot conduct themselves in ways that obstruct the others’ freedom to do the same. Can a person indulge in an activity that brings them pleasure, but simultaneously wrecks the happiness of others (like rape for instance), and still be described as happy? However, there may be societies, or societies within societies, that hold a different view.

I think that, except in a totally selfish materialistic society, a pre-requisite for happiness is relative freedom from the idea of self. Reaching out to others is essential for personal happiness. Long time Oxford University social psychology professor Michael Argyle (1925-2002) who was fondly called the "Professor of Happiness" on obituaries on his death at 77 in September 2002 after a swimming accident from which he never recovered believed that good relationships are one of the factors that account for an individual’s happiness. His book "The Psychology of Happiness" (1987, 2nd edition 2001) contains a discussion of his empirical findings. One of these findings is that happiness is certainly enhanced by relationships, sex, eating, exercise, music, success, etc, but probably not by wealth. He, together with his colleague at Oxford University Peter Hills, developed the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (containing twenty-nine items) with simple instructions for computing an individual’s Happiness Score. I am reproducing below some sample questions (with their serial numbers) from this questionnaire:

1) I don’t feel particularly pleased with the way I am.

2) I am interested in other people.

15) I am very happy.

28) I don’t feel particularly healthy.

29) I don’t have particularly happy memories of the past.

In a later comment, Professor Argyle said that an averagely happy person gets a score of 4 (in terms of the scoring method that is explained, which I have not given here).

Positive psychology researchers like Michael Argyle describe three kinds of happiness (not very different from the three types identified by Aristotle): pleasure, engagement, and meaning. According to him, happiness consists not only of positive emotions, but positive activities as well. Argyle believed that dancing is the happiest activity that one can participate in. Professor Argyle himself had a passionate love of Scottish country dancing.

We know when we are genuinely happy, because we feel happy when we are happy. But it is not so easy to say if someone else is truly happy or not unless we see evidence of the same in their verbal and non-verbal communication. This is because people try to hide negative feelings from others; they consider it improper or unseemly to betray such feelings to those around, something that psychologists call "social desirability bias". British philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) claimed that "the most universal and distinctive mark of the happy man" is zest. However, a person could still be pretending to be happy, unless their happiness is borne out by other signs as well.

Lateral Commentaries
By Rohana R.Wasala

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dhammapada videos now in videos with Sinhala and English meanings

Dhammapada now on Youtube

as videos..

මම ඔයාලට ඔන්න තවත් අළුත් දෙයක් දෙන්න හැදුවා. ඒ තමයි "සිංහල ධම්මපදය" English අදහසත් සමඟ වීඩියෝවක් ලෙසින් ලබාදීම. මේ සඳහා වීඩියෝ 423 ක් සකස් කිරීමට සිදුවෙනවා. නමුත් මුල් කොටස් කීපයක් දැන් ඔබට දකින්න පුළුවන්. එහි පලමු වීඩියෝව මම මෙහි ලින්ක් කරනවා. ඉතිරිවා ඔබට මේමත ක්ලික් කිරීමෙන් ලබාගන්න පුළුවන්නේ.

මට යම් කාලයක් දෙන්න. ඉතිරි වීඩියෝ සියල්ල අප්ලෝඩ් කරන්න. මේ වැඩේට සතු‍ටුවෙන සියළුදෙනාටම පිං සිදුවේවා කියල මම ප්‍රාර්ථනා කරනවා.

Here is Dhammapada in Sinhala and English meanings. These videos include 423 videos. I’m going to make all other videos with your wishes. Now I’ve made the 1st videos and here is the 1st one . Clicking on this video you can watch other videos too visiting Youtube.

Thanks for reading my post.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Opening and beginning instructions for meditation


Opening and beginning instructions for meditation

By Dr.Bokanoruwe Dewananda Thera,
Florida Buddhist Vihara ,

Traditionally a, meditator observes the five precepts having taken the three refuges in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, prior to the beginning of meditation. Taking refuge in the Buddha is meant as an initiation of planting the seed of Enlightenment (nibbana). Buddhists do not take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha blindly and it is not just image worshipping. Actually, there is something beyond that which is regarded as a meaningful way of discipline on the path of purification. To take refuge in the Dhamma very honestly and sincerely means taking a right understanding to live in society, paying due respect to law and order and others’ lives. Administering (observing) five or very appropriate precepts is a very essential and indispensable custom for cultivation of meditation. Basically, the meditator takes necessary precepts in order to maintain essential discipline and purity of body. speech and mind. The five precepts, which should he administered by the meditator conventionally, are: I take the precept to abstain from knowingly killing or destroying living beings. Various organizations that have been formed for human rights, talk about how to protect and achieve basic human rights by holding annual seminars and conferences worldwide where innocent animals are killed and consumed for their grand parties. They are very selfish. They do not think of animal rights. If the whole world honestly practices the five precepts, there is no room for demonstrations and conferences agains the violation of human rights . It will come naturally. Taking the five precepts means granting human rights and a peaceful environment to society. These are the basic commands, which develop citizens’ moral behaviour, discipline and righteous living style that can influence the entirety of living beings’ rights. According to the real sense of the first precept, the preceptor is not allowed to even swat a mosquito, to step over ants, knowingly. And one must think twice before embarking on any business that can cause harm to living beings. Make sure that you practice patience (tolerance) during meditation practice by not even killing a mosquito!
The second precept is “I take the precept to abstain from knowingly taking anything which is not given to me”. Everybody in society likes safety for his or her own things. They want to protect their things from being stolen. The Buddha said that when poverty prevails in society, stealing would arise. No one can deny this. So, there is no peace, harmony and safety in society when stealing prevails. Everyone is living in uncertainty, fear and danger. If people practice this noble injunction, everyone in modem society will be happy and safe. We are responsible for social justice.No one can escape that responsibility. You earn righteously and enjoy in the same way. Stealing is an easy way to earn what you need, but it is not the correct way to earn. One is ‘happy making use of stolen items, but this not true happiness . Restraining from theft is giving the right to others in society to lead their lives peacefully and fearlessly. This is one advantage that you add to your life by administrating the five precepts before meditation.
The third precept is “I take the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct (adultery). Breaking of this precept causes much damage to social justice and harmony. On the other hand, it separates beautiful families in one second, destroying everyone. There is no room for separation of a husband and wife in any family, where they maintain right understanding and mutual relationship. Adultery is a dangerous monster that comes between families in the guise of a ‘friend’ in order to ruin the whole family. Therefore, let’s build social co-existence and a happy and peaceful family life, by avoiding adultery . When you are concerned about a meditation retreat, you may lead a life of celibacy throughout the whole retreat.
The fourth precept is “ I take the precept to abstain from telling lies. The term “musavada” of this precept apparently denotes telling lies, yet it is holding other indications behind it, that is, to abstain from malicious speech (slanderous speech), tale-carrying, harsh words and foolish babble. Verbal indiscipline is a parasite, which destroys the whole of society. Restraining from verbal indiscipline has been promoted as right speech of the eight-fold path. That is mentioned under it’s third factor. Some people tell lies as a habit.People are different; so they may tell lies with many different purposes and doing so they enjoy. They are not bothered about t he destruction it causes to society. The fifth precept is “I take the precept to abstain from taking intoxicants”. Drinking of alcoholic drinks or beverages makes one’s mind mainly unconscious. One who takes intoxicants loses his or her pure consciousness. The Singalovada Sutta has pointed this out.
The discipline and composure earned by following the five precepts may grant a firm and strong base and foundation for the development of mindfulness, and makes the growth of insight possible.
May all beings be well and happy!

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