Vol.22, No.3 October 1997
-Venerable Acharya Buddharakkhita
There are two kinds of extreme practises in the name of religion. One is torturing the body in the hope of earning religious merits (Punna), to be born in the heavens or enjoy good things of life, the hereafter, in the divine or human world.
And the other is indulging in sensual gratification. That is, feeding the senses and the mind with all kinds of pleasures. It could be the holy food or drink or the holy meat prepared in slaughter houses with religious chanting, meat obtained by animal sacrifices, or in the form of religious festivals , ceremonies and annual events only to enjoy the feast and gratify the senses.
These religious extremes are practised throughout the world. In the time of the Buddha, there were many forms of religious extremes, For instance, there were people who undertook strict naked asceticism. As though being naked in body would purify the mind. Even today there are many such naked ascetics who deceive both themselves and the world. In the western countries many people practise nakedness known as Nudism. This is done in the name of living with nature to cultivate inner purity.
Buddhism rejects all forms of extremes in whatever name they are practised. The reason for rejection is simple: on one hand the extremist suffers from self-deception and on the other gets involved in self-righteousness, both, being serious mental defilements, cause all kinds of psychological and physical ailments.
There is a bizarre account of two self-mortifiers in the sutta (discourse) entitled Kukkuravatika sutta, (Majjhima Nikaya 57). One was Punna who observed the Bullock-penance, and the other was the naked ascetic Seniya who observed the Dog-penance. The Bullock-penance observer looked and behaved like a bullock, fixing two horns on the head and tying four hoofs on to hands and feet. He would go on all the to graze four like a cattle with other village cattle.
The Dog-penance observer barked like a dog, ate food thrown to the ground like a dog, and when sitting, would do so curled like a dog with a loud yelp. Both these bullock and dog penance observers were considered very holy by the people. The extremists had succeeded in cheating themselves and the public as well!
One day, Punna and Seniya approached the Buddha when he visited Haliddivasana, a Koliyan town. After paying homage to the Buddha in their special ways, both ascetics asked the Buddha: "What destiny lies ahead of each ascetic through his form of penance". The Buddha refused to answer saying : "Enough, please do not ask me that question."
Obviously these ascetics had great respect for the Lord. So they asked for a second time and a third time in spite of Buddha's unwillingness to answer. At last the Buddha said: "If some one develops a dog or bullock penance fully and without a brake, for long, to build a dog or bullock mind, supported by a dog or bullock habit and a dog or bullock behavior, then, due to such unwholesome karmic involvement, upon death, the person would be reborn as a dog or bullock.
In addition to this penance, if the person were to hold the wrong view, that he will become a god or deity, through such penance, then, because of that perverse view, he might even be reborn in hell. Hearing the Buddha, both the ascetics cried. The Buddha reminded them that he had refused to answer because he didn't want to make them unhappy.
The ascetics said: "They did not cry for having heard the truth. But they cried because they have been practising for a long time without knowing the consequences and out of blind faith.
They requested the Buddha to teach them the way that will free them from their false beliefs and practises. Which the Buddha did. The Sutta has been translated and printed hereunder.
DOG (AND BULLOCK)-
Translated by Ven. Acharya Buddharakkhita
Thus have I heard: Once the Blessed One was staying among the Koliyans in a (Koliyan) town called Haliddivasana. Then Punna, the Koliyan ascetic, observer of the Bullock-penance, and Seniya, the naked ascetic, observer of the Dog-penance, approached the Lord. Punna, the Koliyan Bullock-penance ascetic, having worshiped the Blessed One, sat down on one side; while Seniya , the naked Dog-penance ascetic, greeted the Lord in courteous words and sat on another side curled like a dog. Now Koliyan Punna said to the Lord: "Venerable Sir, this Seniya, a naked dog-penance ascetic, is observing something hard to observe; he eats the food that is thrown to the ground and he had taken this penance and practised it for long. What is his destiny and his future lot?" "Punna, enough; please stop; do not ask me that question."
For the second time..... And for the third time Punna repeated the same question to the Blessed One, seeking the destiny and future lot of Seniya, the dog-penance ascetic.
So, the Buddha said: "Well, Punna, since I cannot convince you by saying 'Punna, enough; please stop; do not ask me that question'. I will give the answer: Here, Punna, someone develops the dog-penance fully and without a break. He develops the dog-habit fully and without a break. He develops the dog-mind fully and without a break. He develops the dog-behavior fully and without a break. Having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of dogs. But if he holds the view: 'By this Dog-habit or penance or asceticism or religious life, I shall become a god or some deity', that, in this case, is a wrong view."
"Punna, there are two destinies for one holding a wrong view, I say: Hell or animal world. So, Punna, if his Dog-penance is fulfilled , it leads him to the company of dogs. If it is not fulfilled, it leads him (for the wrong view) to hell."
When this was said, Seniya, the naked dog-penance ascetic, cried out loud and burst into tears. Then the Blessed One told the Koliyan Punna, the Bullock-penance ascetic: "Punna, I could not convince you by saying 'Punna, enough; please stop, do not ask me that question'".
(Then Seniya said) "Venerable Sir, I am not crying because the Blessed One has said this about me; but because I have taken up and practised this dog-penance for long. Venerable Sir, this Koliyan Punna, the Bullock-penance ascetic, has taken up and practised the bullock-penance for long. What will be his destiny and his future lot?"
"Seniya, enough; please stop; do not ask me that question."
For the second time.....and for the third time Seniya, the naked dog-penance ascetic, asked the same question to the Blessed One seeking Punna's destiny and his future lot.
Seniya "Since I could not convince you by saying 'Seniya, enough; please stop; do not ask me that question', I shall answer you: "Here, Seniya, someone develops the Bullock-penance fully and without a break. He develops the Bullock habit fully and without a break. He develops the Bullock-mind fully and without a break. He develops the Bullock behavior fully and without a break. Having done so, upon dissolution of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of Bullocks. But if he holds the view: 'By this bullock habit or penance or asceticism or religious life, I shall become a god or some deity, that, in this case, is wrong view.
Seniya, there are tw destinies for one holding a wrong view, I say: Hell or animal world. So, Seniya, if his bullock penance is fulfilled, it leads him to the company of bullocks. If it is not fulfilled, it leads him (for the wrong view) to hell."
When this was said Punna, the Koliyan Bullock-penance ascetic, cried out loud and burst into tears. Then the Blessed One told the naked dog-penance ascetic: "Seniya since I could not convince you by saying: 'Seniya, enough; please stop; do not ask me that question,' I will answer you."
(Then Punna the Koliyan Bullock-penance ascetic said:) "Venerable Sir, I am not crying because what the Blessed One said but because I have taken up and practised this Bullock-penance for long. But, Venerable Sir, I have this faith in the Blessed One: 'The Blessed One is capable of teaching the Dhamma in such a way that I could abandon this bullock-penance and that this Seniya, the naked dog-penance ascetic, could abandon the dog penance'"
To be continued
Describing his ultimate experience of Enlightenment, the Buddha said: "Suffering should be understood, and when I did understand suffering, light arose in me." But this understanding is very deep and very subtle. Those who are engrossed in the pursuit of pleasure of the senses, and delight in that pleasure, find it very difficult to understand what should be understood.
But, if one, imbued with faith, musters will and puts forth effort, understanding would be possible. Such an ardent person, once put this question to the Buddha: "Kim ekam parinneyyam?" 'What is the one thing that should be understood?' The Buddha could have given a one-word reply: "Dukkha". But knowing the temperament of the devotee, he wanted to give a more precise reply. So he said: "Phasso sasavo upadaniyo." This is the very matrix of suffering.
If the Buddha had replied "Dukkha should be understood" it would have been a reply in Sutta language. But, when he says: "Phasso, sasavo upadaniyo is to be understood", it is the same reply, but in abhidhamma terms. Those who are familiar with the principle of paticcasamuppada would straightaway see that passa is vipaka vatta, asava is kilesa vatta, and that upadana leads to kamma vatta.
There are only six doors or avenues by which we can perceive the world. They are the six ayatanas. Take the case of visual perception. What we see is a conditioned thing. Depending on the eye sensitivity and the visible object, there arises eye-consciousness. The convergence of these is called cakkhu-phassa. This means: the mind has contacted the visual object, by way of the eye faculty. This elementary perception is an instinctive reaction and is morally neutral, in the sense that it is neither a good nor a bad thing.
In spite of its ethical neutrality, the rudimentary awareness is a dangerous thing. The object seen is not only dependently originated, but is also conditioning. It has the power to defile the mind. This is the danger.
There are, deep within our mind, dormant cankers (corruptions), called asavas. If you pay unwise attention to the object seen, the dormant cankers will be activated, and consciousness, associated with greed or other defilements, will manifest.
If this defiled consciousness is not checked, then the mind will advert again and again to it, cling to the seen object and refuse to let it go. Such clinging is called upadana. A strong volition is created which prompts one to perform evil deeds by physical or verbal action. These actions create a destiny, and project one into states of suffering. The evil actions, additionally, act as nutrient to the dormant asavas, make them stronger, and perpetuate them.
In this sequence of events, starting from eye-sensitivity and ending up in suffering, it is unwise attention which is the main culprit. Unwise attention is to pay attention cravingly. If, contrarily, wise attention is paid to the seen object, if in the seen there is only the seen, then there will be no upadana and no dukkha. Wise attention is attention with detachment. Detachment itself is cessation of suffering in the sense that it does not permit upadana to arise. Additionally, detachment refrains from feeding the asavas. So, if detachment is maintained continuously, the asavas will become weaker and weaker. Finally they will die of starvation. This is the final freedom from suffering.
Dukkha is the first noble truth. "Whenever an object is seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched or mentally cognized, it is a dangerous situation as long as uneradicated asavas are present latently. The danger is that upadana may be generated." This is called understanding of Dukkha. This is an understanding of moment-to-moment dukkha.
When the first noble Truth is understood, the understanding of the remaining three truths follow automatically. The potential dukkha becomes a manifested dukkha because of craving. This is the second noble truth. If craving is abandoned, dukkha will cease to exist. This is the third noble Truth. Detachment is the method by which craving is abandoned, and so it is the path leading to the cessation of suffering. This is the fourth noble Truth.
It is for these reasons that it is said: Right understanding is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths.
Advice for the meditators
-Tan Acharn Kor Khao-suan-luang
What can we do to see the khandhas-this mass of suffering and stress - clearly in such a way that we can cut attachment for them out of the mind? Why is it that people studying to be doctors can know everything in the body - intestines, liver, kidneys and all - down to the details, and yet don't develop any dispassion or disenchantment for it. Why? Why is it that undertakers can spend their time with countless corpses, and yet not gain any insight at all? This shows that this sort of insight is hard to attain. If there's no mindfulness and discernment which sees things clearly for what they are, knowledge is simply a passing fancy. It doesn't sink in. The mind keeps on latching onto its attachments.
But if the mind can gain true insight to the point where it can relinquish its attachments, it can gain the paths and fruitions leading to Nibbana. This shows that there's a difference in the knowing. Its not that we have to know all the details like modern-day surgeons. All we have to know is that the body is composed of the four physical elements plus the elements of space and consciousness. If we really know just this much, we've reached the paths and their fruitions, while those who know all the details to the point where they can perform surgery don't reach any transcendent attainments at all.
So let's analyze the body into its elements in order to know them thoroughly. If we do, then when there are changes in the body and mind, there won't be too much clinging. If we don't, our attachments will be fixed and strong, and will lead to further states of being and birth in the future.
Now that we have the opportunity, we should contemplate the body and take things apart for a good look so as to get down to the details. Take the five basic meditation objects - hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth, skin - and a look at them carefully one at a time. You don't have to take on all five, you know. Focus on the hair of the head to see that it belongs to the earth element, to see that its roots are soaked in blood and lymph under the skin. It's unattractive in terms of its color, its smell, and where it dwells. If you analyze and contemplate these things, you won't be deluded into regarding them as your hair, your nails, your teeth, your skin. All of these parts are composed of the earth element mixed in with water, wind and fire. If they were purely earth they wouldn't last, because every part of the body has to be composed of all four elements for it to be a body. And then there's a mental phenomenon - the mind - in charge. These are things which follow in line with nature in every way - the arising, changing and disbanding of physical and mental phenomena - but we latch onto them, seeing the body as ours, the mental phenomena as us: It's all us and ours. If we don't contemplate to see these things for what they are, we'll do nothing but cling to them.
This is what meditation is: seeing things clearly for what they are. It's not a matter of switching from topic to topic, for that would simply ensure that you wouldn't know a thing. But our inner character, under the sway of ignorance and delusion, doesn't like examining itself repeatedly. It keeps finding other issues to get in the way, so that we think constantly about other things. This is why we stay so ignorant and foolish.
Then why is it that we can know other things? Because they fall in line with what craving wants. To see things clearly for what they are would be to abandon craving, so it finds ways of keeping things hidden. It keeps changing, bringing in new things all the time, keeping us fooled all the time, so that we study and think about nothing but matters which add to the mind's suffering and stress. That's all that craving wants. As for the kind of study which would end the stress and suffering in the mind, it's always getting in the way.
This is why the mind is always wanting to shift to new things to know, new things to fall for. And this is why it's always becoming attached. So when it doesn't really know itself, you have to make a real effort to see the truth that the things within it aren't you or yours. Don't let the mind stop short of this knowledge: Make this a law within yourself. If the mind doesn't know the truths of inconstancy, stress and not-self within itself, it won't gain release from suffering. Its knowledge will simply be worldly knowledge, it will follow a worldly path. It won't reach the paths and fruitions leading to Nibbana.
So this is where the worldly and the transcendent part ways. If you comprehend inconstancy, stress and not-self to the ultimate degree, that's the transcendent. If you don't get down to their details, you're still on the worldly level.
The Buddha has many teachings, but this is what they all come down to. The important principles of the practice - the four foundations of mindfulness, the Four Noble Truths - all come down to these characteristics of inconstancy, stress and not-self. If you try to learn too many principles, you'll end up not getting any clear knowledge of the truth as it is. If you concentrate on knowing just a little, you'll end up with more true insight than if you try knowing a lot of things. It's through wanting to know a lot of things that we end up deluded. We wander around in our deluded knowledge, thinking and labeling things, but knowledge which is focused and specific, when it really knows, is absolute. It keeps hammering away at one point. There's no need to know a lot of things, for when you really know one thing, everything converges right there.
For many who come to the Buddha's teaching from a modern educated culture, wishing, to be free from materialistic ways of thinking, the word 'merit' can carry different connotations. Yet merit, "Punna", is repeatedly praised in the Buddha's discourses. In the Dhammapada the Buddha states: "Should a person do merit, let him do it again and again. Let him find pleasure therein, for blissful is the accumulation of merit". This arising of happiness indicates how the teaching of the Buddha operates in practice, happiness (sukha) being one of the essential factors of concentration in meditation.
When Visakha was questioned by the Buddha as to what advantages she expected from her generosity, she replied that when she knew she was contributing to the fruits of monkhood of some visiting monks through their partaking of her offerings, great delight leading to joy (piti) would arise in her mind. This would calm her body and give rise to ease (sukha) which helped her mind to concentrate, while promoting the development of spiritual faculties and powers, along with the factors of enlightenment. The Buddha approved Vishakha's comments.
The principle also applies to monastic: "Monks, let no misgiving be there about acts of merit; they are equivalent to happiness" the Buddha advised, "I know very well that for a long time I have experienced desirable, pleasant and agreeable results from meritorious deeds often performed."
Merit applies to the cultivation of the path at all levels. It is a meritorious act even to throw away a water after washing one's plate with the generous thought: "May the particles of food in the washing water be food for the creatures on the ground." How much more so to feed a human being. The sutta then hastens to add that it is more meritorious to feed a virtuous person. Another discourse states that it is not possible to estimate the amount of merit that accrues when an offering is endowed with the following six factors: The donor is happy at the thought of giving prior to the offering, pleased at the time of the offering, satisfied after the offering is made (there are no regrets!) , the recipient should be free from greed, free from hatred and free from delusion, or embarked on a training course to eliminate these. The merit is then said to be as immeasurable as the waters in the ocean.
One should follow the following instructions! "Focus and fill the mind with the joy of giving and from this secure position you will be free of all ill will. In the absence of passions, if you imbue the mind with boundless loving kindness, maintaining constant care and alertness day and night, then metta will spread indefinitely in each direction." The merit also further increases when dedicated to all sentient beings, emphasizing one's parents, teachers, benevolent gods in all realms of existence.
There is the remarkable story of the previous Buddha Kassapa, who on two occasions helped himself to the possessions of his close lay-disciple Ghatikara. Ghatikara experienced continuous joy (piti) for two weeks after each of these demonstrations of trust between them. The Buddha Gotama stated that if beings knew as he knew the results of sharing gifts, they would not enjoy the use without sharing them with others. One should give to those in need "like an overturned pot, holding nothing back", giving according to need, "food, clothes, lamps, transport, shelter and the highest gift - instruction in Dhamma."
It is not necessary to have much in order to practise generosity: offerings given by one of meagre resources are considered especially valuable. "One should first care for one's spouse and children, employees and dependents. There are five timely gifts and these are: to one who has just arrived; to one who is leaving; to the sick; when food is hard to get; and the first fruits of the field and orchard given to the virtuous." Giving only to gain is less profitable than giving in order to enrich the mind; thus giving is a cause for rebirth in a heavenly realm. One should keep future results in mind when giving, with one's own hand, thoughtfully, with reverence, giving things that are good. When giving to the needy special sensitivity is required.
Regarding the gift of virtue: "There are these five gifts, known from ancient times, known for long, known by tradition, not rejected before, not rejected now and will not be rejected in the future; they are unrepudiated by intelligent monks and sages. What are these five gifts? Herein a noble disciple gives up the taking of life and abstains from it; gives up the taking of what is not given and abstains from it; gives up sexual misconduct and abstains from it; gives up wrong speech and abstains from it; and gives up intoxicating drinks and drugs and abstains from them. By abstaining from these, the noble disciple gives to beings immeasurable freedom, freedom from fear, freedom from hostility and oppression. By giving to immeasurable beings freedom from fear, hostility and oppression, one will oneself enjoy immeasurable freedom from fear, hostility and oppression. These are the five great gifts."
-Kee Swee Ann
I was going through the pile of books and booklets that I have collected through the period of my involvement in the practice of Buddhism when I came across the booklet entitled "DANA and the BLESSINGS of Giving" by Egarton C.Baptist.
After going through this booklet again I found that Egarton has given a very good account on the practice of Dana and I thought it would be good to share this knowledge with others. I have also in my own limited capacity touched on the matter of giving of food at the proper time and giving of appropriate food as a guide to those who are new in the practice of this meritorious deed of giving of food.
'DANA' is alms giving in Pali and the act of DANA is the expression of one's generosity which is a noble characteristic of human nature. Both you and I have it but sometimes it lays dormant in the 'heart' and therefore it needs a period of cultivation to be able to open up one's heart to let this noble character out. The practice of 'DANA' is one good way to open the 'heart' to let out this generosity.
In fact "DANA' is the forerunner of the practice of the cultivation of the 10 perfections - Parami. There are 5 types of acts of giving. They are
1. Gifts given with faith
2. Gifts given that are prepared with great care and reverence
3. Gifts given at the proper time
4. Gifts given without greed and attachment
5. Gifts given with no intention of showing how important one is or how miserly the other fellow is.
Again there are 10 kinds of gifts, namely:
* Place of abode
* Means of conveyance
* Scents and ointment
* Bed and bedding
And there are 3 kinds of givers. These are those who are:
1. Servants of charity: that, they keep the best and give the worst;
2. Friends of charity: that is, those who give what they themselves would use;
3. Master of givers: that is, those who give the best.
The results of performing the 'DANA' are:
*A good rebirth.
*Rebirth in the heavenly realms.
* The possession of unimpaired sense organs.
* Those who have undertaken acts of Dana will have a roof over their heads, clothes to wear , sufficient food and have respect and honor.
The giving of food to Monks or Nuns should be at the proper time. That is, it would be appropriate for one to find out the correct time for serving food to the Monks or Nuns so that the food can be served and eaten by the Monks or Nuns without breaking the 'Vinaya' rule relating to the proper time for them to take their meal!
This is important because for more austere practising monks or Nuns, they would have to go hungry for the day should the meal be served after the time stipulated by the 'Vinaya' rule. It is no good undergoing great expense and effort in buying and preparing the food, but then bringing it too late to be able to be served to the Monks or Nuns.
It will be very unfortunate, if the giver of food is the only giver of the day and if he or she is late - the Monks or Nuns will have to go hungry for that day as by traditions or rules, they are not permitted to buy or prepare their own meal.
It is also very important that the giver of food should consider the welfare of the Monks or Nuns and therefore should try to give the appropriate food. By appropriate food I mean the following:
* A well balanced diet
* Vegetarian food or otherwise depending on the practice of the Monks or Nuns
* Of adequate quantity
We all know that the Monks or Nuns need food to nourish their bodies as is the case for us. The givers of food must therefore ensure that the food they serve is a well balanced diet. The Monks or Nuns belonging to the Theravada tradition eat only one main meal a day (some may take some light breakfast whereas other may not) and therefore it is essential that the food they eat sustain them for the day, in order to not only to provide them with energy to carry out their daily duties, but also to upkeep their health so that they can continue to teach the Dhamma.
Courtesy: Buddhist Society of Victoria Newsletter, Vol.6, No.1, June 1994.
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Whereas love is sublime, attachment is not. Rather, attachment, though very difficult to distinguish from love, on most occasion is very worldly. This is why most of the religions extol love and identify attachment as the root of all evil and suffering.
Most of the time, attachment deludes one into falsely believing that his attachments are real manifestations of his love. When one suffers he wonders as to what went wrong and what he did to deserve this. A miser's love for his wealth, a connoisseur's love for his taste, a teacher's love for his pupil, a mother's love for her child, a spouse's love for his/her spouse, love between friends, between brothers, between sisters, between brothers and sisters, the intellectuals' clinging to some beliefs, isms, philosophy and, in some cases, to dogmas and fundamentalism, are illustrations of this kind of delusions.
Real love is built on divine qualities of altruism and self-sacrifice that are generally unperceived. It is free from any expectations or returns. It necessarily is impartial and spreads impartially and universally like the rays of the sun or the air that fills all space.
Love leads to attachment and at times even hatred and anger, when in a very subtle and imperceptible manner, selfishness creeps in. This is when, in relation to the objects of ones love some expectations arise. Suffering is its logical and irreversible consequence. The thumb rule in this respect is, more the expectation more the suffering.
The objects of attachment can be tangible to intangible, gross or subtle, physical or mental, logical or illogical, emotional or intellectual. Such attachments come in masks of divinity, grandeur, self-sacrifice, ideals, philosophy, paradigms, isms and fundamentalism. One is carried by the packaging, the masks, resulting in delusion of having real love. In reality it's all attachment, that is, clinging to objects that are in accord with ones' comforts, beliefs, sentiments, convictions and sensuous gratification which tickle one's sense organs including the mind.
Not a single object in ones life can, at all the times, cater to these selfish demands arising out of one's attachments. There can be no object in this world that can give lasting happiness. Yet how many of us suffer under the delusion of such expectations from innumerable objects? How many a time we have been jolted and experienced traumatic moments!
So its time to seriously introspect our concept of love, our objects of love and see whether these are not really clinging/ attachment in the garb of love, like the wolf in the sheep's skin pouncing upon us unaware and gobbling up all our tranquillity, peace and happiness. Sincere effort in this direction is bound to clear our mind of delusions and make our life more meaningful and happy.
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Translated by E.W.Burlingame
(THE STORY OF VENERABLE SAPPADASA. Dhammapada Verse 112)
THOUGH ONE SHOULD LIVE A HUNDRED YEARS....... This instruction was given by the Teacher while he was in residence at Jetavana with reference to the Elder Sappadasa.
At Savatthi we are told, the son of a good family, after hearing the Teacher teach the Dhamma, went forth and obtained acceptance as a monk. Becoming discontented after a time, he thought to himself, "The life of a layman is not suited to a youth of station like me; but even death would be preferable to remaining a monk." So he went about considering ways of killing himself.
Now one day, very early in the morning, the monks went to the monastery after breakfast, and seeing a snake in the hall where the fire was kept, put it into a jar, closed the jar, and carried it out of the monastery. The discontented monk, after eating his breakfast, drew near, and seeing the monks, asked them, "What's that you've got, friend?" - "A snake, friend." - "What are you going to do with it?" - "Throw it away." The monk
thought to himself, "I will commit suicide by letting the snake bite me." So he said to the monks, "Let me take it; I'll throw it away."
He took the jar from their hands, sat down in a certain place, and tried to make the snake bite him. But the snake refused to bite him. Then he put his hand into the jar, waved it this way and that, opened the snake's mouth and stuck his finger in, but the snake still refused to bite him. So he said to himself, "It's not a poisonous snake, but a house-snake ," threw it away, and returned to the monastery. The monks asked him, "Did you throw away the snake, friend?" - "Friends, that was not a poisonous snake; it was only a house-snake." - "Friend, that was a poisonous snake all the same; it spread its hood wide, hissed at us, and gave us much trouble to catch. Why do you talk thus?" - "Friends, I tried to make it bite me, and even stuck my finger into its mouth, but I couldn't make it bite." When the monks heard this they were silent.
Now the discontented monk acted as barber of the monastery, and one day he went to the monastery with two or three razors, and laying one razor on the floor, cut the hair of the monks with the other. When he removed the razor from the floor, the thought occurred to him, "I will cut my throat with this razor and so put myself out of the way." So he went to a certain tree, leaned his neck against a branch, and applied the blade of the razor to his windpipe. Remaining in this position, he reflected upon his conduct from the time of his acceptance as a monk, and perceived that his conduct was flawless, even as the spotless disk of the moon or a cluster of transparent jewels. As he surveyed his conduct, a thrill of joy suffused his whole body. Subduing the feeling of joy and developing insight, he attained arahantship together with the analytical knowledges. Then he took his razor and entered the monastery enclosure.
The monks asked him, "Where did you go, friend?" - "Friends, I went out thinking to myself, 'I will cut my windpipe with this razor and so put myself out of the way.'" - "How did you escape death?" - "I can no longer commit suicide. For I said to myself, 'With this razor I will sever my windpipe. But instead of so doing, I severed the taints with the razor of knowledge." The monks said to themselves, "This monk speaks falsely, says what is untrue, and reported the matter to the Exalted One. The Exalted One listened to their words and replied, "Monks, those that have rid themselves of the taints are incapable of taking their own life."
"Reverend Sir, you speak of this monk as one who has rid himself of the taints. But how did it come about that this monk, possessed of the faculties requisite for the attainment of arahantship, became discontented? How did he come to possess those faculties? Why didn't that snake bite him?"
"Monks, the simple fact is that snake was his slave in a past life, his third previous existence, and therefore did not dare to bite the body of his own master." Thus briefly did the Teacher explain this cause to them. Thereafter that monk was known as Sappadasa ("having a snake as his slave").
The monks, after hearing the Exalted One explain the matter, asked him a further question: "Reverend Sir, this monk says that he attained arahantship even as he stood with the blade of his razor pressed against his windpipe. Is it possible to gain the path of arahantship in so short a period of time?"
"Yes, monks, a monk who strives with all his might may gain the path of arahantship in raising his foot, in setting his foot on the ground, or even before his foot touches the ground. For it is better for a man who strives with all his might to live but a single instant than for an idle man to live a hundred years." So saying, he pronounced the following stanza:
Though one should live a hundred years
Lazy, of little effort,
Yet better is life for a single day
For one who makes a steady effort.
Courtesy: A Treasury of the Buddhist Stories, Published by the Buddhist Pulbication Society, Sri Lanka.
Ten immoral actions and their effects:-
1. Immoral Kamma is rooted in greed (lobha) anger (Dosa) and delusion (moha).
There are ten immoral actions (kamma) - namely, Killing, Stealing, Unchastity, (these three are caused by deed). Lying, Slandering, Harsh Language, Frivolous talk, (these four are caused by word). Covetousness, Ill-will and False View, (these three are caused by mind).
Of these ten, killing means the destruction of any living being including animals of all kinds. To complete this offence of killing, five conditions are necessary, viz: a being, consciousness that it is a being, intention of killing, effort and consequent death.
The evil effects of killing are: Short life, Diseasefulness, Constant grief caused by the separation from the loved and constant fear.
To complete the offence of stealing five conditions are necessary, viz: Property of other people, consciousness that it is so, intention of stealing, effort and consequent removal. The effects of stealing are: poverty, wretchedness, unfulfilled desires and dependent livelihood.
To complete the offence of unchastity (sensual misconduct) three conditions are necessary, viz: intention to enjoy the forbidden object, efforts and possession of the object. The effect of unchastity are: having many enemies, getting undesirable marriage partners.
To complete the offence of lying four conditions are necessary, viz: untruth, intention to deceive, effort and communication of the matter to others. The effects of lying are: being tormented by abusive speech, being subject to vilification, incredibility and stinking mouth.
To complete the offence of slandering four conditions are necessary, viz: division of persons, intention to separate them, effort and communication. The effect of slandering is the dissolution of friendship without any sufficient cause.
To complete the offence of harsh language three conditions are necessary, viz: someone to be abused, angry thought and using abusive language. The effects of harsh language are: being detested by others although blameless, and harsh voice.
To complete the offence of frivolous talk two conditions are necessary, viz: the inclination towards frivolous talk and its narration. The effects of frivolous talk are: disorderliness of the bodily organs and unacceptable speech.
To complete the offence of covetousness (abhijjha) two conditions are necessary viz: another's property and strong desire for it, saying "would this property be mine". The effect of covetousness is unfulfilment of one's wishes.
To complete the offence of ill-will (vyapada) two conditions are necessary, viz: another being and the intention of doing harm. The effects of ill-will are: ugliness, various diseases and detestable nature.
False view (micchaditthi) means seeing things wrongly without understanding what they truly are. To complete this false view two conditions are necessary, viz: perverted manner in which an object is viewed and effects of false view are: base attachment, lack of wisdom, dull wit, chronic diseases and blameworthy ideas.
II. Good Kamma which produces its effect in the plane of desires
There are ten moral actions - namely, generosity (dana), morality (Sila), meditation (Bhavana), respect (Apacayana), service (Veyyavacca), transference of merit (Pattidana), rejoicing in other's merit (Pattanumodana), hearing the doctrine (Dhammasavana), expounding the doctrine (Dhammadesana), and forming correct views (Ditthijukamma).
"Generosity" yields wealth. "Morality" causes one to be born in noble families in states of happiness "Meditation" helps you to be born in planes of form and formless planes and helps to gain Higher Knowledge and Emancipation.
By giving respect we gain respect. By giving service we gain service. "Transference of merit" enables one to be able to give in abundance in future birth. "Rejoicing in other's merit" is productive of joy wherever one is born. Both hearing and expounding the Doctrine are conducive to wisdom.
III. Good Kamma which produces its effect in the planes of form.
It is of five types which are purely mental, and done in the process of meditation, viz:
(1) The first state of Jhana or ecstasy which has five constituents: initial application, sustained application, rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of the mind.
(2) The second state of Jhana which occurs together with sustained application, rapture, happiness, one-pointedness of the mind.
(3) The third state of Jhana which occurs together with rapture, happiness and one-pointedness of the mind.
(4) The fourth state of Jhana which occurs together with happiness and one-pointedness of the mind.
(5) The fifth state of Jhana which occurs together with equanimity and one-pointedness of the mind.
IV. Good Kamma which produces its effect in the formless planes.
It is of four types which are also purely mental and done in the process of meditation, viz:
(1) Moral consciousness dwelling in the infinity of space.
(2) Moral consciousness dwelling in the infinity of consciousness.
(3) Moral consciousness dwelling on nothingness.
(4) Moral consciousness wherein perception is so extremely subtle that it cannot be said whether it is or is not.
Kamma, as has been stated above, is not fate, is not irrevocable destiny. Nor is one bound to reap all that one has sown in just proportion. The actions (Kamma) of men are not absolutely irrevocable and only a few of them are so. If, for example, one fires a bullet out of a rifle, one cannot call it back or turn it aside from its mark. But, if instead of a lead or iron ball through the air, it is an ivory ball on a smooth green board that one sets moving with billiard cue, one can send after it and at it, another ball in the same way, and change its course. Not only that if one is quick enough, and one has not given it too great an impetus, one might even get round to the other side of the billiard table, and send against it a ball which would meet it straight in the line of its course and bring it to a stop on the spot. With one's later action with the cue, one modifies, or even in favorable circumstances, entirely neutralizes one's earlier action. It is in much the same way that Kamma operates in the broad stream of general life. There too one's action (Kamma) of a later day may modify the effects of one's action (kamma) of a former day. If this were not so, what possibility would there ever be of a man getting free from all Kamma for ever? It would be perpetually self-continuing energy that could never come to an end.
Man has, therefore, a certain amount of free will and there is almost every possibility to mould his life or to modify his actions. Even a most vicious person can by his own free will and effort become the most virtuous person. One may at any moment change for the better or for the worse. But everything in the world including man himself is dependent on conditions and without conditions nothing whatsoever can arise or enter into existence. Man therefore has only a certain amount of free will and not absolute free will. According to Buddhist philosophy, everything, mental or physical, arises in accordance with the laws and conditions. If it were not so, there would reign chaos and blind chance. Such a thing, however, is impossible, and if it would be otherwise, all laws of nature which modern science has discovered would be powerless.
The real, essential nature of action (Kamma) of man is mental. When a given thought has arisen in one's mind a number of times, there is a definite tendency for recurrence of that thought.
When a given act has been performed a number of times, there is a definite tendency to the repetition of the act. Thus each act, mental or physical, tends to constantly produce its like, and be in turn produced. If a man thinks a good thought, speaks a good word, does a good deed, the effect upon him is to increase the tendencies to goodness present in him, to make him a better man. If, on the contrary, he does a bad deed in thought, in speech or in action, he has strengthened in himself his bad tendencies, he has made himself a worse man. Having become a worse man, he will gravitate to the company of worse men in the future, and incur all the unhappiness of varying kinds that attends life in such company. On the other hand, the main part of a character that is continually growing better, will naturally tend to the companionship of the good, and enjoy all the pleasantness and comforts and freedom from the ruder shocks of human life which such society connotes.
In the case of a cultured man even the effect of a greater evil may be minimized while the lesser evil of an uncultured man may produce its effect to the maximum according to the favorable and unfavorable conditions
Lessons Taught by Kamma
The more we understand the law of kamma, the more we see how careful we must be of our acts, words and thoughts, and how responsible we are to our fellow beings. Living in the light of this knowledge, we learn certain lessons from the doctrine of kamma.
Knowing that the Law is our great helper if we live by it, and that no harm can come to us if we work with it, knowing also it blesses us just at the right time, we learn the grand lesson of patience, not to get excited, and that impatience is a check to progress. In suffering, we know that we are paying a debt, and we learn, if we are wise, not to create more suffering for the future. In rejoicing, we are thankful for its sweetness, and learn, if we are wise, to be still better. Patience brings forth peace, success, happiness and security.
The law being just, perfect, it is not possible for an understanding person to be uneasy about it. If we are uneasy and have no confidence, it shows clearly that we have not grasped the reality of the law. We are really quite safe beneath its wings, and there is nothing to fear in all the wide universe except our own misdeeds. The law makes man stand on his own feet and rouses his self-confidence. Confidence strengthens, or rather deepens, our peace and happiness and makes us comfortable, courageous; wherever we go, the Law is our protector.
As we in the past have caused ourselves to be what we now are, so by what we do now will our future be determined. A knowledge of this fact and that the glory of the future is limitless, gives us great self-reliance, and takes away that tendency to appeal for external help, which is really no help at all "Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another" says the Buddha.
Naturally, if we realize that the evil we do will return to strike us, we shall be very careful lest we do or say or think something that is not good, pure and true. Knowledge of Kamma will restrain us from wrong doing for others' sakes as well as for our own.
The more we make the doctrine of Kamma a part of our lives, the more power we gain, not only to direct our future, but to help our fellow beings more effectively. The practice of good kamma, when fully developed, will enable us to overcome evil and limitations, and destroy all the fetters that keep us from our goal, Nibbana.
Courtesy: The Gems of Buddhist Wisdom, Published by the Buddhist Missionary Society, Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia.
-By Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda
Four Types of Men
The Buddha has classified all mankind into four groups.
*Those who work for their own good, but not for the good of others;
* those who work for the good of others, but not for their own good;
* those who work neither for their own good nor for the good of others;
* and those who work for their own good as well as for the good of others.
And who is the person who works for his own good, but not for the good of others? It is he who strives for the abolition of greed, hatred and delusion in himself, but he does not encourage others to abolish greed, hatred and delusion and also does not do anything for the welfare of others.
And who is the person who works for the good of others, but not for his own good? It is he who encourages others to abolish human weaknesses and do some service to them, but does not strive for the abolition of his own weaknesses.
And who is the person who does not work for his own good nor for the good of others? It is he who neither strives for the abolition of his own weaknesses, nor does he encourage others to abolish others weaknesses nor does he do some service to others.
And who is the person who works for his own good as well as for the good of others? It is he who strives for the abolition of evil thoughts from the mind and at the same time help others to be good.
Life is Suffering
If we contemplate deeply we have to agree with the concept that life is suffering. Every moment we are suffering, either physically or mentally. Can we find a single person in this world who is free from physical and mental pain? It is difficult. Even those who have attained sainthood are not free from physical pain so long as they sustain their physical bodies.
If anybody asked, "What is the most uncertain thing in this world?" - the correct answer would be "Life is the most uncertain thing." Everything that we do in this world is to escape from suffering and death. If we neglect this life for even one second, that is more than enough for us to lose it. Most of our daily routine such as working, eating, drinking, taking medicine, sleeping and walking are ways and means adopted by us to avoid suffering and death. Although we occasionally experience some momentary worldly pleasure in satisfying our desires, the very next moment the thing that gave us pleasure might cause suffering. Therefore, the noble treasure of peace and happiness need not be in a rich man's hand but in the man who has renounced worldly things.
Everything pertaining to our life is subject to change and unsatisfactoriness. That is why the Buddha has explained that as long as there is craving for worldly pleasure or desire for existence there is no escape from physical and mental suffering. Desire is important for existence. When existence takes place suffering is unavoidable.
Many contemplate seeking eternal life, and yet, ironically, many seekers of immortality find life so boring that they do not even know how to pass the day! According to the Buddha, this craving for immortality is one of the causes for selfish ideas and fear of death.
"It is easy enough to be pleasant
When life flows along like a song
But the man worthwhile
Is the man who can smile
When life goes dead wrong."
This little happiness is secured amidst many disappointments, failures and defeats. Man cannot find a life where there are no disturbances, problems, calamities, unsatisfactoriness, frustrations, fear, insecurity, loss, misfortunes, blame, sicknesses, old age and thousands of other uncongenial situations. Every day and night man is struggling to get rid of these unfortunate situations. The more he struggles to escape from this unhappy state of affairs in a worldly way, the more he entangles himself with some other problems. When he managed to get rid of one problem, intentionally or unintentionally he would have created for himself some other problems. Where then is the end of these problems.? For our own survival, we have to accept such difficulties and sufferings without complaining as there is no other alternative. Suffering will always be there! Yet suffering and unhappiness are not by any means inevitable. Suffering, says the Buddha, is a disease and it can therefore be cured completely when perfection is attained.
Lao Tze, a well-known Chinese religious teacher, said: "I have suffered because I have a body. If I had no physical body how can I suffer?"
When you look at how people suffer in this would, you can see the real situation of this worldly life. Why should they suffer in this way? And who is responsible for these sufferings? According to the Buddha each and every person is responsible for his own suffering. People are suffering here today because of their strong craving for existence. This is the main cause of suffering. It has taken more than 2500 years for many philosophers and psychologists to understand that what the Buddha had said is true. A poet says:
"To the fire flies the moth
Knows not she will die,
Little fish bites in the hook,
knows not of the danger.
But though knowing well the danger
Of these evil worldly pleasures,
We still cling to them so firmly.
Oh how great is our folly!"
Fleeting Nature of Life
Buddhism points out that the duration of our life span is very short and we should work mindfully, vigilantly and heedfully for our salvation.
"People can never really understand
That we are here but for a little spell,
But they who grasp this truth indeed
Suffer all strife and quarrels to abate."
This is how Davis, a poet looks at the fleeting life.
"What is this life, so full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath boughs
And stare as long as sheep and cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare."
Courtesy: Gems of Buddhist Wisdom, Published by the Buddhist Missionary Society, Malaysia.
DROPS OF WATER
Keep your precepts. At first you'll make mistakes. When you realize it, stop, come back and establish your precepts again. Maybe you'll go astray and make another mistake. When you realize it, reestablish yourself.
If you practise like this, your mindfulness will improve and become more consistent, just like the drops of water falling from kettle. If we tilt the kettle just a little bit, the water drips out slowly - plop!....plop!....plop! If we tilt the kettle a little bit more, the drops fall faster - plop, plop, plop! If we tilt the kettle even further, the water doesn't drip anymore but pours in a steady stream. Where do the plops go? They don't go anywhere. They simply change into a steady stream of water. This is how your increasing mindfulness will be.
However much we want the body to go on living for a long time, it won't do that. Wanting it to do so would be as foolish as wanting a duck to be a chicken. When we see that that's impossible, that a duck has to be a duck, that a chicken has to be a chicken, and that the body has to be the body and get old and die, then we will find strength and energy when we have to face changes of the body.
Some people come and ask me whether a person who's come to realize impermanence, suffering, and nonself would want to give up doing things altogether and become lazy. I tell them that's not so. On the contrary, one becomes more diligent, but does things without attachment, performing only actions that are beneficial.
And then they say, "If everyone practised the Dhamma, nothing could be done in the world, and there'd be no progress. If everyone became enlightened, nobody would have children and humanity would become extinct." But this is like an earthworm worrying that it would run out of dirt, isn't it?
No matter where you go in the world there is suffering. There is no escape from it as long as your mind is in the world. It would be like trying to escape the odor of a big pile of excrement by moving over to a smaller one. In big piles or little ones, the odor of excrement is exactly the same wherever you go.
Suppose we come to possess a very expensive object. The minute it comes into our possession our mind changes: "Now where can I keep it? If I leave it here somebody might steal it." We worry ourselves into a state, trying to find a safe place to keep it. This is suffering. And when did it arise? It arose as soon as we understood that we had obtained something. That's where the suffering lies. When we still had not obtained that object, there was no suffering. It hadn't yet arisen because there was no object yet for the mind to cling to.
The self is the same. If we think in terms of my self then everything around us becomes mine, and confusion follows. If there is no I and my then there is no confusion.
People wonder why they have so many problems when they start cutting down on their desires. They can't figure out why they have to suffer so much. It was easier before, when they satisfied their desires, because then they were at peace with them. But that's just like a man who has an infection inside his body but only treats the sore outside on his skin.
FALLING FROM A TREE
If we divide up the Paticcasamuppada as it is in the scriptures, we say Ignorance gives rise to Volitional Activities, Volitional Activities give rise to Consciousness, Consciousness gives rise to Mind and Matter, Mind and Matter give rise to the six Sense Bases, the Sense Bases give rise to Sense Contact, Sense Contact gives rise to Feeling, Feeling gives rise to Wanting, Wanting gives rise to Clinging, Clinging gives rise to Becoming, Becoming gives rise to Birth, Birth gives rise to Old age, Sickness, Death and all forms of sorrow. But in truth, when we come into contact with something we don't like, there is immediate suffering. The mind passes through the chain of the Paticcasamuppada so rapidly that we can't keep up.
It's like falling from a tree. Before we can realize what's happening - thud! - we've already hit the ground. Actually we pass by many twigs and branches on the way down, but it all happens so fast that we aren't able to see them all nor count them as we fall.
It's the same with the Paticcasamuppada. The immediate suffering that we experience is the result of going through the whole chain of the Paticcasamuppada. This is why the Buddha exhorted his disciples to investigate and know fully their own mind, so that they could catch themselves before they hit the ground.
Our lives are like the breath, like the leaves that grow and fall. When we really understand about growing and falling leaves, we can then sweep the paths every day and have great happiness in our lives on this ever changing earth.
FARMER AND MOTHER
Wherever you are still lacking in your practice, that's where you apply yourself. Place all your attention on that point. While sitting, lying down or walking, watch right there. It's just like a farmer who hasn't yet finished his field. Every year he plants rice, but this year he still hasn't gotten his planting finished, so his mind is always stuck on that. His mind can't rest happily because he knows his work is not yet done. Even when he's with friends, he can't relax. He's all the time nagged by the thought of his unfinished field.
Or it's like a mother who leaves her baby upstairs in the house while she goes to feed the animals below. She's always got her baby on her mind, for fear something might happen to it. Even though she may be doing other things, her baby is never far from her thoughts.
It's just the same for us in our practice. We should always keep it in mind. Even though we may be doing other things, our practice should never be far from our thoughts. It should constantly be with us, day and night. It has to be like this if we're really going to make progress.
Courtesy: A Still Forest Pool, Published by Dhamma Cultivation Publishing House, Taiwan.
DISCREDIT THE BUDDHA
In the 20th year of the Buddha's ministry, two important events took place. The first event was the conversion of the bandit Angulimala. The other event happened at Savatthi where some jealous ascetics tried to discredit Him.
The Buddha and His disciples were famous and respected religious teachers at Savatthi. Large numbers of the citizens there came regularly to listen to their sermons and to offer them alms.
However, not all the people of Savatthi were followers of the Buddha. There were many ascetics who believed that their teachings were superior. They were very jealous to see more and more people going to the Buddha and His disciples to offer them alms and gifts of robes and medicine. Soon, overcome by jealousy, they decided to do something about it.
In Savatthi there was a female wandering ascetic by the name of Sundari. She was young in age and bad in character. The ascetics planned to attack the character and reputation of the Buddha and the monks through this female ascetic.
"Sister, you must try to help us do something about the Buddha," they told her. "He is attracting the supporters away from us."
"What can I do for you?" Sundari asked.
"You can help us by visiting Jeta's Grove regularly, and find out as much as you can about the Buddha. With this information we may try to win the people back to support us."
So Sundari visited the Jeta's Grove regularly to spy on the Buddha. She did not know the real purpose - an evil one - why the ascetics had asked her to go there. When the ascetics knew that many people had seen Sundari going regularly to the Jeta's Grove, they killed her and buried her in a hole dug in a ditch nearby. They then went to King Pasenadi Kosala and reported that after Sundari had gone to listen to the Buddha preaching, she was missing.
"Where do you suspect she is?" Asked the King.
"She may still be in the Jeta's Grove, great king," they replied. "We are worried because she has never been known to remain very long after the Buddha has finished giving his sermon."
The king said, "Then you must go immediately to search for her there."
The ascetics pretended to search for Sundari in the Jeta's Grove. After searching for some time, they went to the spot where they had buried her and dug up her body. Placing the corpse on a stretcher, they carried it back to Savatthi. All the way they shouted angrily at the top of their voices, "See, Lords, see the work of these monks who call themselves holy people. They are shameless and wicked liars. See what they have done. They have committed sexual misconduct with poor Sundari and then they have killed her to hide their crimes."
The Buddha's disciples became frightened by these accusations and did not know what to do, but the Buddha calmly told them to control their fears. There was nothing to be frightened about, since they were innocent of the crime.
The Buddha advised "The people will accuse you and scold you, but you will do nothing except to recite: Those who lie and those who deny what they have done are equal in their evil deeds and will suffer. Just be patient. The people will see how calm you are and they will get tired of scolding you. Within seven days, the shouting and accusations will subside."
The people soon started to ask each other why the Buddha and his disciples were so calm. Then they remembered that the Buddha and His disciples were virtuous and they had never been known to commit any evil crime. Someone else had murdered Sundari. It was impossible that such compassionate religious teachers could have done it. In the end, the shouting stopped and the Buddha used this incident to give some advice to His disciples on how to endure abuse with patience: "When harsh words are spoken to a bhikkhu, let him endure with an unruffled mind."
After some time, the king discovered that the crime was committed by those ascetics. When they were brought before the king, they confessed their crimes in public and they were punished accordingly. After the incident the Buddha and His disciples became more honored and respected in Savatthi.
Courtesy: The Life of the Buddha, Published by the Buddhist Missionary Society, Malaysia.