in a Nutshell
first appeared in 1933. Since then several editions were
published by various philanthropic gentlemen for free distribution.
For a fuller exposition of the subjects dealt with here,
readers are kindly requested to read the revised and enlarged
edition of The Buddha and His Teachings published
Permission may freely be obtained to reprint or to translate
Colombo, Sri Lanka.
7th May 1982.
Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma-Sambuddhassa
the fullmoon day of May, in the year 623 B.C., there was
born in the district of Nepal an Indian Sakya Prince named
Siddhattha Gotama, who was destined to be the greatest religious
teacher in the world. Brought up in the lap of luxury, receiving
an education befitting a prince, he married and had a son.
contemplative nature and boundless compassion did not permit
him to enjoy the fleeting material pleasures of a Royal
household. He knew no woe, but he felt a deep pity for sorrowing
humanity. Amidst comfort and prosperity, he realized the
universality of sorrow. The palace, with all its worldly
amusements, was no longer a congenial place for the compassionate
prince. The time was ripe for him to depart. Realizing the
vanity of sensual enjoyments, in his twenty-ninth year,
he renounced all worldly pleasures and donning the simple
yellow garb of an ascetic, alone, penniless, wandered forth
in search of Truth and Peace.
was an unprecedented historic renunciation; for he renounced
not in his old age but in the prime of manhood, not in poverty
but in plenty. As it was the belief in the ancient days
that no deliverance could be gained unless one leads a life
of strict asceticism, he strenuously practiced all forms
of severe austerities. "Adding vigil after vigil, and penance
after penance," he made a superhuman effort for six long
body was reduced to almost a skeleton. The more he tormented
his body, the farther his goal receded from him. The painful,
unsuccessful austerities which he strenuously practiced
proved absolutely futile. He was now fully convinced, through
personal experience, of the utter futility of self-mortification
which weakened his body and resulted in lassitude of spirit.
by this invaluable experience of his, he finally decided
to follow an independent course, avoiding the two extremes
of self-indulgence and self-mortification. The former retards
one's spiritual progress, and the latter weakens one's intellect.
The new way which he himself discovered was the Middle Path,
Majjhima Patipada, which subsequently became one
of the salient characteristics of his teaching.
happy morning, while He was deeply absorbed in meditation,
unaided and unguided by any supernatural power and solely
relying on His efforts and wisdom, He eradicated all defilements,
purified Himself, and, realizing things as they truly are,
attained Enlightenment (Buddhahood) at the age of 35. He
was not born a Buddha, but
He became a Buddha by His own striving. As the perfect embodiment
of all the virtues He preached, endowed with deep wisdom
commensurate with His boundless compassion. He devoted the
remainder of His precious life to serve humanity both by
example and precept, dominated by no personal motive whatever.
a very successful ministry of 45 long years the Buddha,
as every other human being, succumbed to the inexorable
law of change, and finally passed away in His 80th year,
exhorting His disciples to regard His doctrine as their
Buddha was a human being. As a man He was born, as a man
He lived, and as a man His life came to an end. Though a
human being, He became an extraordinary man (Acchariya
Manussa), but He never arrogated to Himself divinity.
The Buddha laid stress on this important point and left
no room whatever for anyone to fall into the error of thinking
that He was an immortal divine being. Fortunately there
is no deification in the case of the Buddha. It should,
however, be remarked that there was no Teacher, "ever so
godless as the Buddha, yet none so god-like."
Buddha is neither an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu,
as is believed by some, nor is He a savior who freely saves
others by His personal salvation. The Buddha exhorts His
disciples to depend on themselves for their deliverance,
for both purity and defilement depend on oneself. Clarifying
His relationship with His followers and emphasizing the
importance of self-reliance and individual striving, the
Buddha plainly states: "You should exert yourselves, the
Tathagatas are only teachers."
Buddhas point out the path, and it is left for us to follow
that path to obtain our purification.
depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend
on oneself is positive." Dependence on others means a surrender
of one's effort.
exhorting His disciples to be self-dependent the Buddha
says in the Parinibbana Sutta: "Be ye islands unto
yourselves, be ye a refuge unto yourselves, seek not for
refuge in others." These significant words are self-elevating.
They reveal how vital is self-exertion to accomplish one's
object and, how superficial and futile it is to seek redemption
through benignant saviors and to crave for illusory happiness
in an after life through the propitiation of imaginary Gods
or by irresponsive prayers and meaningless sacrifices.
the Buddha does not claim the monopoly of Buddhahood which,
as a matter of fact, is not the prerogative of any specially
graced person. He reached the highest possible state of
perfection any person could aspire to, and without the close-fist
of a teacher he revealed the only straight path that leads
thereto. According to the Teaching of the Buddha anybody
may aspire to that supreme state of perfection if he makes
the necessary exertion. The Buddha does not condemn men
by calling them wretched sinners, but, on the contrary,
He gladdens them by saying that they are pure in heart at
conception. In His opinion the world is not wicked but is
deluded by ignorance. Instead of disheartening His followers
and reserving that exalted state only to Himself, He encourages
and induces them to emulate Him, for Buddhahood is latent
in all. In one sense all are potential Buddhas.
who aspires to become a Buddha is called a Bodhisatta, which,
literally, means a wisdom-being. This Bodhisatta ideal is
the most beautiful and the most refined course of life that
has ever been presented to this ego-centric world, for what
is nobler than a life of service and purity?
a Man He attained Buddhahood and proclaimed to the world
the latent inconceivable possibilities and the creative
power of man. Instead of placing an unseen Almighty God
over man who arbitrarily controls the destinies of mankind,
and making him subservient to a supreme power, He raised
the worth of mankind. It was He who taught that man can
gain his deliverance and purification by his own exertion
without depending on an external God or mediating priests.
It was he who taught the ego-centric world the noble ideal
of selfless service. It was He who revolted against the
degrading caste system and taught equality of mankind and
gave equal opportunities for all to distinguish themselves
in every walk of life.
declared that the gates of success and prosperity were open
to all in every condition of life, high or low, saint or
criminal, who would care to turn a new leaf and aspire to
of caste, color or rank He established for both deserving
men and women a democratically constituted celibate Order.
He did not force His followers to be slaves either to His
Teachings or to Himself but granted complete freedom of
comforted the bereaved by His consoling words. He ministered
to the sick that were deserted. He helped the poor that
were neglected. He ennobled the lives of the deluded, purified
the corrupted lives of criminals. He encouraged the feeble,
united the divided, enlightened the ignorant, clarified
the mystic, guided the benighted, elevated the base, dignified
the noble. Both rich and poor, saints and criminals loved
Him alike. Despotic and righteous kings, famous and obscure
princes and nobles, generous and stingy millionaires, haughty
and humble scholars, destitute paupers, down-trodden scavengers,
wicked murderers, despised courtesans -- all benefited by
His words of wisdom and compassion.
His noble example was a source of inspiration to all. His
serene and peaceful countenance was a soothing sight to
the pious eyes. His message of Peace and Tolerance was welcomed
by all with indescribable joy and was of eternal benefit
to every one who had the fortune to hear and practice it.
Wherever His teachings penetrated it left an indelible impression
upon the character of the respective peoples. The cultural
advancement of all the Buddhist nations was mainly due to
His sublime Teachings. In fact all Buddhist countries like
Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Nepal,
Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, etc., grew up in the
cradle of Buddhism. Though more than 2500 years have elapsed
since the passing away of this greatest Teacher, yet his
unique personality exerts a great influence on all who come
to know Him.
His iron will, profound wisdom, universal love, boundless
compassion, selfless service, historic renunciation, perfect
purity, magnetic personality, exemplary methods employed
to propagate the Teachings, and his final success -- all
these factors have compelled about one-fifth of the population
of the world today to hail the Buddha as their supreme Teacher.
a glowing tribute to the Buddha Sri Radhakrishnan states:
"In Gautama the Buddha we have a master-mind from the East
second to none so far as the influence on the thought and
life of the human race is concerned, and, sacred to all
as the founder of a religious tradition whose hold is hardly
less wide and deep than any other. He belongs to the history
of the world's thought, to the general inheritance of all
cultivated men, for, judged by intellectual integrity, moral
earnestness, and spiritual insight, He is undoubtedly one
of the greatest figures in history.
The Three Greatest Men in History H.G. Wells writes:
"In the Buddha you see clearly a man, simple, devout, lonely,
battling for light -- a vivid human personality, not a myth.
He too gave a message to mankind universal in character.
Many of our best modern ideas are in closest harmony with
it. All the miseries and discontents are due, he taught,
to selfishness. Before a man can become serene he must cease
to live for his senses or himself. Then he merges into a
great being. Buddha in different language called men to
self-forgetfulness 500 years before Christ. In some ways
he is nearer to us and our needs. He was more lucid upon
our individual importance and service than Christ and less
ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality."
Hilaire remarks "The perfect model of all the virtues He
preaches. His life has not a stain upon it."
says -- "The more I know of Him, the more I love Him."
follower of his would say -- "The more I know Him, the more
I love Him; the more I love Him, the more I know Him."
The Dhamma: Is it a Philosophy?
non-aggressive, moral and philosophical system expounded
by the Buddha, which demands no blind faith from its adherents,
expounds no dogmatic creeds, encourages no superstitious
rites and ceremonies, but advocates a golden mean that guides
a disciple through pure living and pure thinking to the
gain of supreme wisdom and deliverance from all evil, is
called the Dhamma and is popularly known as Buddhism.
The all-merciful Buddha has passed away, but the sublime
Dhamma which He unreservedly bequeathed to humanity, still
exists in its pristine purity.
Although the Master has left no written records of His Teachings,
His distinguished disciples preserved them by committing
to memory and transmitting them orally from generation to
Immediately after His demise 500 chief Arahats
versed in the Dhamma and Vinaya,
held a convocation to rehearse the Doctrine as was originally
taught by the Buddha. Venerable Ananda Thera, who enjoyed
the special privilege of hearing all the discourses, recited
the Dhamma, while the Venerable Upali recited the Vinaya.
The Tipitaka was compiled and arranged in its present
form by those Arahats of old.
During the reign of the pious Sinhala King Vattagamani Abhaya,
about 83 B.C., the Tipitaka was, for the first time in the
history of Buddhism, committed to writing on palm leaves
(ola) in Ceylon.
This voluminous Tipitaka, which contains the essence
of the Buddha's Teaching, is estimated to be about eleven
times the size of the Bible. A striking contrast between
the Tipitaka and the Bible is that the former is not a gradual
development like the latter.
As the word itself implies, the Tipitaka consists
of three baskets. They are the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya
Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta Pitaka),
and the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).
Vinaya Pitaka which is regarded as the sheet anchor
to the oldest historic celibate order -- the Sangha -- mainly
deals with rules and regulations which the Buddha promulgated,
as occasion arose, for the future discipline of the Order
of monks (Bhikkhus) and nuns (Bhikkunis).
It described in detail the gradual development of the Sasana
(Dispensation). An account of the life and ministry of the
Buddha is also given. Indirectly it reveals some important
and interesting information about ancient history, Indian
customs, arts, science, etc.
The Vinaya Pitaka consists of the five following books:
1. Parajika Pali -- Major Offenses
2. Pacittiya Pali -- Minor Offenses
3. Mahavagga Pali -- Greater Section
4. Cullavagga Pali -- Shorter Section
5. Parivara Pali -- Epitome of the Vinaya
The Sutta Pitaka consists chiefly of discourses,
delivered by the Buddha himself on various occasions. There
are also a few discourses delivered by some of His distinguished
disciples such as the Venerable Sariputta, Ananda, Moggallana,
etc., included in it. It is like a book of prescriptions,
as the sermons embodied therein were expounded to suit the
different occasions and the temperaments of various persons.
There may be seemingly contradictory statements, but they
should not be misconstrued as they were opportunely uttered
by the Buddha to suit a particular purpose: for instance,
to the self-same question He would maintain silence (when
the inquirer is merely foolishly inquisitive), or give a
detailed reply when He knew the inquirer to be an earnest
seeker. Most of the sermons were intended mainly for the
benefit of Bhikkhus and they deal with the Holy life and
with the expositions of the doctrine. There are also several
other discourses which deal with both the material and moral
progress of His lay followers.
This Pitaka is divided into five Nikayas or collections,
Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses).
2. Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-Length Discourses).
3. Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Kindred Sayings).
4. Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses arranged
in accordance with numbers).
5. Khuddaka Nikaya (Smaller Collection).
The fifth is subdivided into fifteen books:
1. Khuddaka Patha (Shorter texts)
2. Dhammapada (Way of Truth)
3. Udana (Paeans of Joy)
4. Iti Vuttaka ("Thus said" Discourses)
5. Sutta Nipata (Collected Discourses)
6. Vimana Vatthu (Stories of Celestial Mansions)
7. Peta Vatthu (Stories of Petas)
8. Theragatha (Psalms of the Brethren)
9. Therigatha (Psalms of the Sisters)
10. Jataka (Birth Stories)
11. Niddesa (Expositions)
12. Patisambhida Magga (Analytical Knowledge)
13. Apadana (Lives of Arahats)
14. Buddhavamsa (The History of the Buddha)
15. Cariya Pitaka (Modes of Conduct)
The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the most important and the
most interesting of the three, containing as it does the
profound philosophy of the Buddha's Teaching in contrast
to the illuminating and simpler discourses in the Sutta
In the Sutta Pitaka is found the conventional teaching
(vohara desana) while in the Abhidhamma Pitaka
is found the ultimate teaching (paramattha-desana).
the wise, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide; to the spiritually
evolved, an intellectual treat; and to research scholars,
food for thought. Consciousness is defined. Thoughts are
analyzed and classified chiefly from an ethical standpoint.
Mental states are enumerated. The composition of each type
of consciousness is set forth in detail. How thoughts arise,
is minutely described. Irrelevant problems that interest
mankind but having no relation to one's purification, are
deliberately set aside.
is summarily discussed; fundamental units of matter, properties
of matter, sources of matter, relationship between mind
and matter, are explained.
Abhidhamma investigates mind and matter, the two composite
factors of the so-called being, to help the understanding
of things as they truly are, and a philosophy has been developed
on those lines. Based on that philosophy, an ethical system
has been evolved, to realize the ultimate goal, Nibbana.
Abhidhamma Pitaka consists of seven books:
1. Dhammasangani (Classification of Dhammas)
2. Vibhanga (The book of Divisions)
3. Katha-Vatthu (Points of Controversy)
4. Puggala-Paññatti (Descriptions of
5. Dhatu-Katha (Discussion with reference to elements)
6. Yamaka (The Book of Pairs),
7. Patthana (The Book of Relations)
the Tipitaka one finds milk for the babe and meat for the
strong, for the Buddha taught His doctrine both to the masses
and to the intelligentsia. The sublime Dhamma enshrined
in these sacred texts, deals with truths and facts, and
is not concerned with theories and philosophies which may
be accepted as profound truths today only to be thrown overboard
tomorrow. The Buddha has presented us with no new astounding
philosophical theories, nor did He venture to create any
new material science. He explained to us what is within
and without so far as it concerns our emancipation, as ultimately
expounded a path of deliverance, which is unique. Incidentally,
He has, however, forestalled many a modern scientist and
in his "World as Will and Idea" has presented the truth
of suffering and its cause in a Western garb. Spinoza, though
he denies not the existence of a permanent reality, asserts
that all phenomenal existence is transitory. In his opinion
sorrow is conquered "by finding an object of knowledge which
is not transient, not ephemeral, but is immutable, permanent,
everlasting." Berkeley proved that the so-called indivisible
atom is a metaphysical fiction. Hume, after a relentless
analysis of the mind, concluded that consciousness consists
of fleeting mental states. Bergson advocates the doctrine
of change. Prof. James refers to a stream of consciousness.
Buddha expounded these doctrines of Transiency, (Anicca),
Sorrow (Dukkha), and No-Soul (Anatta) some
2500 years ago while He was sojourning in the valley of
should be understood that the Buddha did not preach all
that He knew. On one occasion while the Buddha was passing
through a forest He took a handful of leaves and said: "O
Bhikkhus, what I have taught is comparable to the leaves
in my hand. What I have not taught is comparable to the
amount of leaves in the forest."
taught what He deemed was absolutely essential for one's
purification making no distinction between an esoteric and
exoteric doctrine. He was characteristically silent on questions
irrelevant to His noble mission.
no doubt accords with science, but both should be treated
as parallel teachings, since one deals mainly with material
truths while the other confines itself to moral and spiritual
truths. The subject matter of each is different.
Dhamma He taught is not merely to be preserved in books,
nor is it a subject to be studied from a historical or literary
standpoint. On the contrary it is to be learned and put
into practice in the course of one's daily life, for without
practice one cannot appreciate the truth. The Dhamma is
to be studied, and more to be practiced, and above all to
be realized; immediate realization is its ultimate goal.
As such the Dhamma is compared to a raft which is meant
for the sole purpose of escaping from the ocean of birth
and death (Samsara).
therefore, cannot strictly be called a mere philosophy because
it is not merely the "love of, inducing the search after,
wisdom." Buddhism may approximate a philosophy, but it is
very much more comprehensive.
Philosophy deals mainly with knowledge and is not concerned
with practice; whereas Buddhism lays special emphasis on
practice and realization.
Is it a Religion?
is neither a religion in the sense in which that word is
commonly understood, for it is not "a system of faith and
worship owing any allegiance to a supernatural being."
does not demand blind faith from its adherents. Here mere
belief is dethroned and is substituted by confidence based
on knowledge, which, in Pali, is known as Saddha.
The confidence placed by a follower on the Buddha is like
that of a sick person in a noted physician, or a student
in his teacher. A Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha because
it was He who discovered the Path of Deliverance.
does not seek refuge in the Buddha with the hope that he
will be saved by His personal purification. The Buddha gives
no such guarantee. It is not within the power of a Buddha
to wash away the impurities of others. One could neither
purify nor defile another.
Buddha, as Teacher, instructs us, but we ourselves are directly
responsible for our purification.
a Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha, he does not make
any self-surrender. Nor does a Buddhist sacrifice his freedom
of thought by becoming a follower of the Buddha. He can
exercise his own free will and develop his knowledge even
to the extent of becoming a Buddha himself.
starting point of Buddhism is reasoning or understanding,
or, in other words, Samma-ditthi.
the seekers of truth the Buddha says:
not accept anything on (mere) hearsay -- (i.e., thinking
that thus have we heard it from a long time). Do not accept
anything by mere tradition -- (i.e., thinking that it has
thus been handed down through many generations). Do not
accept anything on account of mere rumors -- (i.e., by believing
what others say without any investigation). Do not accept
anything just because it accords with your scriptures. Do
not accept anything by mere suppositions. Do not accept
anything by mere inference. Do not accept anything by merely
considering the reasons. Do not accept anything merely because
it agrees with your pre-conceived notions. Do not accept
anything merely because it seems acceptable -- (i.e., thinking
that as the speaker seems to be a good person his words
should be accepted). Do not accept anything thinking that
the ascetic is respected by us (therefore it is right to
accept his word).
These inspiring words of the Buddha still retain their original
force and freshness.
when you know for yourselves -- these things are immoral,
these things are blameworthy, these things are censured
by the wise, these things, when performed and undertaken
conduce to ruin and sorrow -- then indeed do you reject
you know for yourselves -- these things are moral, these
things are blameless, these things are praised by the
wise, these things, when performed and undertaken, conduce
to well-being and happiness -- then do you live acting
Though there is no blind faith, one might
argue whether there is no worshiping of images etc., in
Buddhists do not worship an image expecting
worldly or spiritual favors, but pay their reverence to
what it represents.
An understanding Buddhist, in offering
flowers and incense to an image, designedly makes himself
feel that he is in the presence of the living Buddha and
thereby gains inspiration from His noble personality and
breathes deep His boundless compassion. He tries to follow
His noble example.
Bo-tree is also a symbol of Enlightenment. These external
objects of reverence are not absolutely necessary, but they
are useful as they tend to concentrate one's attention.
An intellectual person could dispense with them as he could
easily focus his attention and visualize the Buddha.
For our own good, and out of gratitude, we pay such external
respect but what the Buddha expects from His disciple is
not so much obeisance as the actual observance of His Teachings.
The Buddha says -- "He honors me best who practices my teaching
best." "He who sees the Dhamma sees me."
With regard to images, however, Count Kevserling remarks
-- "I see nothing more grand in this world than the image
of the Buddha. It is an absolutely perfect embodiment of
spirituality in the visible domain."
Furthermore, it must be mentioned that there are not petitional
or intercessory prayers in Buddhism. However much we may
pray to the Buddha we cannot be saved. The Buddha does not
grant favors to those who pray to Him. Instead of petitional
prayers there is meditation that leads to self-control,
purification and enlightenment. Meditation is neither a
silent reverie nor keeping the mind blank. It is an active
striving. It serves as a tonic both to the heart and the
mind. The Buddha not only speaks of the futility of offering
prayers but also disparages a slave mentality. A Buddhist
should not pray to be saved, but should rely on himself
and win his freedom.
take the character of private communications, selfish bargaining
with God. It seeks for objects of earthly ambitions and
inflames the sense of self. Meditation on the other hand
-- Sri Radhakrishnan.
Buddhism there is not, as in most other religions, an Almighty
God to be obeyed and feared. The Buddha does not believe
in a cosmic potentate, omniscient and omnipresent. In Buddhism
there are no divine revelations or divine messengers. A
Buddhist is, therefore, not subservient to any higher supernatural
power which controls his destinies and which arbitrarily
rewards and punishes. Since Buddhists do not believe in
revelations of a divine being Buddhism does not claim the
monopoly of truth and does not condemn any other religion.
But Buddhism recognizes the infinite latent possibilities
of man and teaches that man can gain deliverance from suffering
by his own efforts independent of divine help or mediating
cannot, therefore, strictly be called a religion because
it is neither a system of faith and worship, nor "the outward
act or form by which men indicate their recognition of the
existence of a God or gods having power over their own destiny
to whom obedience, service, and honor are due."
by religion, is meant "a teaching which takes a view of
life that is more than superficial, a teaching which looks
into life and not merely at it, a teaching which furnishes
men with a guide to conduct that is in accord with this
its in-look, a teaching which enables those who give it
heed to face life with fortitude and death with serenity,"
or a system to get rid of the ills of life, then it is certainly
a religion of religions.
Is Buddhism an Ethical System?
no doubt contains an excellent ethical code which is unparalleled
in its perfection and altruistic attitude. It deals with
one way of life for the monks and another for the laity.
But Buddhism is much more than an ordinary moral teaching.
Morality is only the preliminary stage on the Path of Purity,
and is a means to an end, but not an end in itself. Conduct,
though essential, is itself insufficient to gain one's emancipation.
It should be coupled with wisdom or knowledge (pañña).
The base of Buddhism is morality, and wisdom is its apex.
observing the principles of morality a Buddhist should not
only regard his own self but also should have a consideration
for others we well -- animals not excluded. Morality in
Buddhism is not founded on any doubtful revelation nor is
it the ingenious invention of an exceptional mind, but it
is a rational and practical code based on verifiable facts
and individual experience.
should be mentioned that any external supernatural agency
plays no part whatever in the moulding of the character
of a Buddhist. In Buddhism there is no one to reward or
punish. Pain or happiness are the inevitable results of
one's actions. The question of incurring the pleasure or
displeasure of a God does not enter the mind of a Buddhist.
Neither hope of reward nor fear of punishment acts as an
incentive to him to do good or to refrain from evil. A Buddhist
is aware of future consequences, but he refrains from evil
because it retards, does good because it aids progress to
Enlightenment (Bodhi). There are also some who do good because
it is good, refrain from evil because it is bad.
understand the exceptionally high standard of morality the
Buddha expects from His ideal followers, one must carefully
read the Dhammapada, Sigalovada Sutta, Vyaggapajja Sutta,
Mangala Sutta, Karaniya Sutta, Parabhava Sutta, Vasala Sutta,
Dhammika Sutta, etc.
a moral teaching it excels all other ethical systems, but
morality is only the beginning and not the end of Buddhism.
one sense Buddhism is not a philosophy, in another sense
it is the philosophy of philosophies.
one sense Buddhism is not a religion, in another sense it
is the religion of religions.
is neither a metaphysical path nor a ritualistic path.
is neither sceptical nor dogmatic.
is neither self-mortification nor self-indulgence.
It is neither pessimism nor optimism.
It is neither eternalism nor nihilism.
It is neither absolutely this-worldly nor other-worldly.
It is a unique Path of Enlightenment.
The original Pali term for Buddhism is Dhamma, which, literally,
means that which upholds. There is no English equivalent
that exactly conveys the meaning of the Pali term.
The Dhamma is that which really is. It is the Doctrine of
Reality. It is a means of Deliverance from suffering, and
Deliverance itself. Whether the Buddhas arise or not the
Dhamma exists. It lies hidden from the ignorant eyes of
men, till a Buddha, an Enlightened One, realizes and compassionately
reveals it to the world.
This Dhamma is not something apart from oneself, but is
closely associated with oneself. As such the Buddha exhorts:
with oneself as an island, with oneself as a Refuge. Abide
with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a Refuge.
Seek no external refuge."
-- Parinibbana Sutta
Some Salient Features of Buddhism
foundations of Buddhism are the four Noble Truths -- namely,
Suffering (the raison d'etre of Buddhism), its cause
(i.e., Craving), its end (i.e., Nibbana, the Summum Bonum
of Buddhism), and the Middle Way.
is the Noble Truth of Suffering?
is suffering, old age is suffering, disease is suffering,
death is suffering, to be united with the unpleasant is
suffering, to be separated from the pleasant is suffering,
not to receive what one craves for is suffering, in brief
the five Aggregates of Attachment are suffering."
is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering?
is the craving which leads from rebirth to rebirth accompanied
by lust of passion, which delights now here now there; it
is the craving for sensual pleasures (Kamatanha),
for existence (Bhavatanha)
and for annihilation (Vibhavatanha)."
is the Noble Truth of the Annihilation of Suffering?
is the remainderless, total annihilation of this very craving,
the forsaking of it, the breaking loose, fleeing, deliverance
is the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Annihilation
is the Noble Eightfold Path which consists of right understanding,
right thoughts, right speech, right action, right livelihood,
right endeavor, right mindfulness, and right concentration."
the Buddhas arise or not these four Truths exist in the
universe. The Buddhas only reveal these Truths which lay
hidden in the dark abyss of time.
interpreted, the Dhamma may be called the law of cause and
effect. These two embrace the entire body of the Buddha's
first three represent the philosophy of Buddhism; the fourth
represents the ethics of Buddhism, based on that philosophy.
All these four truths are dependent on this body itself.
The Buddha states: "In this very one-fathom long body along
with perceptions and thoughts, do I proclaim the world,
the origin of the world, the end of the world and the path
leading to the end of the world." Here the term world is
applied to suffering.
rests on the pivot of sorrow. But it does not thereby follow
that Buddhism is pessimistic. It is neither totally pessimistic
nor totally optimistic, but, on the contrary, it teaches
a truth that lies midway between them. One would be justified
in calling the Buddha a pessimist if He had only enunciated
the Truth of suffering without suggesting a means to put
an end to it. The Buddha perceived the universality of sorrow
and did prescribe a panacea for this universal sickness
of humanity. The highest conceivable happiness, according
to the Buddha, is Nibbana, which is the total extinction
author of the article on Pessimism in the Encyclopedia Britannica
writes: "Pessimism denotes an attitude of hopelessness towards
life, a vague general opinion that pain and evil predominate
in human affairs. The original doctrine of the Buddha is
in fact as optimistic as any optimism of the West. To call
it pessimism is merely to apply to it a characteristically
Western principle to which happiness is impossible without
personality. The true Buddhist looks forward with enthusiasm
to absorption into eternal bliss."
the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest and only
happiness of the average man. There is no doubt a kind of
momentary happiness in the anticipation, gratification and
retrospection of such fleeting material pleasures, but they
are illusive and temporary. According to the Buddha non-attachment
is a greater bliss.
Buddha does not expect His followers to be constantly pondering
on suffering and lead a miserable unhappy life. He exhorts
them to be always happy and cheerful, for zest (Piti)
is one of the factors of Enlightenment.
happiness is found within, and is not to be defined in terms
of wealth, children, honors or fame. If such possessions
are misdirected, forcibly or unjustly obtained, misappropriated
or even viewed with attachment, they will be a source of
pain and sorrow to the possessors.
of trying to rationalize suffering, Buddhism takes suffering
for granted and seeks the cause to eradicate it. Suffering
exists as long as there is craving. It can only be annihilated
by treading the Noble Eightfold Path and attaining the supreme
bliss of Nibbana.
four Truths can be verified by experience. Hence the Buddha
Dhamma is not based on the fear of the unknown, but is founded
on the bedrock of facts which can be tested by ourselves
and verified by experience. Buddhism is, therefore rational
and intensely practical.
a rational and practical system cannot contain mysteries
or esoteric doctrines. Blind faith, therefore, is foreign
to Buddhism. Where there is no blind faith there cannot
be any coercion or persecution or fanaticism. To the unique
credit of Buddhism it must be said that throughout its peaceful
march of 2500 years no drop of blood was shed in the name
of the Buddha, no mighty monarch wielded his powerful sword
to propagate the Dhamma, and no conversion was made either
by force or by repulsive methods. Yet, the Buddha was the
first and the greatest missionary that lived on earth.
Huxley writes: "Alone of all the great world religions Buddhism
made its way without persecution censorship or inquisition."
Russell remarks: "Of the great religions of history, I prefer
Buddhism, especially in its earliest forms; because it has
had the smallest element of persecution."
the name of Buddhism no altar was reddened with the blood
of a Hypatia, no Bruno was burnt alive.
appeals more to the intellect than to the emotion. It is
concerned more with the character of the devotees than with
their numerical strength.
one occasion Upali, a follower of Nigantha Nataputta, approached
the Buddha and was so pleased with the Buddha's exposition
of the Dhamma that he instantly expressed his desire to
become a follower of the Buddha. But the Buddha cautioned
a verity, O householder, make a thorough investigation.
It is well for a distinguished man like you to make (first)
a thorough investigation."
who was overjoyed at this unexpected remark of the Buddha,
had I been a follower of another religion, its adherents
would have taken me round the streets in a procession proclaiming
that such and such a millionaire had renounced his former
faith and embraced theirs. But, Lord, Your Reverence advises
me to investigate further. The more pleased am I with this
remark of yours. For the second time, Lord, I seek refuge
in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha."
is saturated with this spirit of free enquiry and complete
tolerance. It is the teaching of the open mind and the sympathetic
heart, which, lighting and warming the whole universe with
its twin rays of wisdom and compassion, sheds its genial
glow on every being struggling in the ocean of birth and
Buddha was so tolerant that He did not even exercise His
power to give commandments to His lay followers. Instead
of using the imperative, He said: "It behooves you to do
this -- It behooves you not to do this." He commands not
but does exhort.
tolerance the Buddha extended to men, women and all living
was the Buddha who first attempted to abolish slavery and
vehemently protested against the degrading caste system
which was firmly rooted in the soil of India. In the Word
of the Buddha it is not by mere birth one becomes an outcast
or a noble, but by one's actions. Caste or color does not
preclude one from becoming a Buddhist or from entering the
Order. Fishermen, scavengers, courtesans, together with
warriors and Brahmans, were freely admitted to the Order
and enjoyed equal privileges and were also given positions
of rank. Upali, the barber, for instance, was made in preference
to all other the chief in matters pertaining to Vinaya discipline.
The timid Sunita, the scavenger, who attained Arhatship
was admitted by the Buddha Himself into the Order. Angulimala,
the robber and criminal, was converted to a compassionate
saint. The fierce Alavaka sought refuge in the Buddha and
became a saint. The courtesan Ambapali entered the Order
and attained Arhatship. Such instances could easily be multiplied
from the Tipitaka to show that the portals of Buddhism were
wide open to all, irrespective of caste, color or rank.
was also the Buddha who raised the status of downtrodden
women and not only brought them to a realization of their
importance to society but also founded the first celibate
religious order for women with rules and regulations.
Buddha did not humiliate women, but only regarded them as
feeble by nature. He saw the innate good of both men and
women and assigned to them their due places in His teaching.
Sex is no barrier to attaining Sainthood.
the Pali term used to denote women is Matugama, which
means "mother-folk" or "society of mothers." As a mother,
woman holds an honorable place in Buddhism. Even the wife
is regarded as "best friend" (parama sakha) of the
critics are only making ex parte statements when they reproach
Buddhism with being inimical to women. Although at first
the Buddha refused to admit women into the Order on reasonable
grounds, yet later He yielded to the entreaties of His foster-mother,
Pajapati Gotami, and founded the Bhikkhuni Order. Just as
the Arahats Sariputta and Moggallana were made the two chief
disciples in the Order of monks, even so he appointed Arahats
Khema and Uppalavanna as the two chief female disciples.
Many other female disciples too were named by the Buddha
Himself as His distinguished and pious followers.
one occasion the Buddha said to King Kosala who was displeased
on hearing that a daughter was born to him:
woman child, O Lord of men; may prove
Even a better offspring than a male."
Many women, who otherwise would have fallen into oblivion,
distinguished themselves in various ways, and gained their
emancipation by following the Dhamma and entering the Order.
In this new Order, which later proved to be a great blessing
to many women, queens, princesses, daughters of noble families,
widows, bereaved mothers, destitute women, pitiable courtesans
-- all, despite their caste or rank, met on a common platform,
enjoyed perfect consolation and peace, and breathed that
free atmosphere which is denied to those cloistered in cottages
and palatial mansions.
It was also the Buddha who banned the sacrifice of poor
beasts and admonished His followers to extend their loving
kindness (Metta) to all living beings -- even to
the tiniest creature that crawls at one's feet. No man has
the power or the right to destroy the life of another as
life is precious to all.
A genuine Buddhist would exercise this loving-kindness towards
every living being and identify himself with all, making
no distinction whatsoever with regard to caste, color or
It is this Buddhist Metta that attempts to break all the
barriers which separate one from another. There is no reason
to keep aloof from others merely because they belong to
another persuasion or another nationality. In that noble
Toleration Edict which is based on Culla-Vyuha and
Maha-Vyuha Suttas, Asoka says: "Concourse alone is
best, that is, all should harken willingly to the doctrine
professed by others."
Buddhism is not confined to any country or any particular
nation. It is universal. It is not nationalism which, in
other words, is another form of caste system founded on
a wider basis. Buddhism, if it be permitted to say so, is
a Buddhist there is no far or near, no enemy or foreigner,
no renegade or untouchable, since universal love realized
through understanding has established the brotherhood of
all living beings. A real Buddhist is a citizen of the world.
He regards the whole world as his motherland and all as
his brothers and sisters.
is, therefore, unique, mainly owing to its tolerance, non-aggressiveness,
rationality, practicability, efficacy and universality.
It is the noblest of all unifying influences and the only
lever that can uplift the world.
are some of the salient features of Buddhism, and amongst
some of the fundamental doctrines may be said -- Kamma or
the Law of Moral Causation, the Doctrine of Rebirth, Anatta
Kamma or the Law of Moral Causation
are faced with a totally ill-balanced world. We perceive
the inequalities and manifold destinies of men and the numerous
grades of beings that exist in the universe. We see one
born into a condition of affluence, endowed with fine mental,
moral and physical qualities and another into a condition
of abject poverty and wretchedness. Here is a man virtuous
and holy, but, contrary to his expectation, ill-luck is
ever ready to greet him. The wicked world runs counter to
his ambitions and desires. He is poor and miserable in spite
of his honest dealings and piety. There is another vicious
and foolish, but accounted to be fortune's darling. He is
rewarded with all forms of favors, despite his shortcomings
and evil modes of life.
it may be questioned, should one be an inferior and another
a superior? Why should one be wrested from the hands of
a fond mother when he has scarcely seen a few summers, and
another should perish in the flower or manhood, or at the
ripe age of eighty or hundred? Why should one be sick and
infirm, and another strong and healthy? Why should one be
handsome, and another ugly and hideous, repulsive to all?
Why should one be brought up in the lap of luxury, and another
in absolute poverty, steeped in misery? Why should one be
born a millionaire and another a pauper? Why should one
be born with saintly characteristics, and another with criminal
tendencies? Why should some be linguists, artists, mathematicians
or musicians from the very cradle? Why should some be congenitally
blind, deaf and deformed? Why should some be blessed and
others cursed from their birth?
are some problems that perplex the minds of all thinking
men. How are we to account for all this unevenness of the
world, this inequality of mankind?
it due to the work of blind chance or accident?
is nothing in this world that happens by blind chance or
accident. To say that anything happens by chance, is no
more true than that this book has come here of itself. Strictly
speaking, nothing happens to man that he does not deserve
for some reason or another.
this be the fiat of an irresponsible Creator?
we are to assume that anybody has designedly set this wonderful
universe going, it is perfectly clear to me that he is no
more entirely benevolent and just in any intelligible sense
of the words, than that he is malevolent and unjust."
this being (God) is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including
every human action, every human thought, and every human
feeling and aspiration is also his work; how is it possible
to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and
thoughts before such an Almighty Being.
giving out punishments and rewards, he would to a certain
extent be passing judgment on himself. How can this be
combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed
to the theological principles man is created arbitrarily
and without his desire and at the moment of his creation
is either blessed or damned eternally. Hence man is either
good or evil, fortunate or unfortunate, noble or depraved,
from the first step in the process of his physical creation
to the moment of his last breath, regardless of his individual
desires, hopes, ambitions, struggles or devoted prayers.
Such is theological fatalism."
-- Spencer Lewis
Charles Bradlaugh says:
existence of evil is a terrible stumbling block to the Theist.
Pain, misery, crime, poverty confront the advocate of eternal
goodness and challenge with unanswerable potency his declaration
of Deity as all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful."
the words of Schopenhauer:
regards himself as having become out of nothing must also
think that he will again become nothing; for an eternity
has passed before he was, and then a second eternity had
begun, through which he will never cease to be, is a monstrous
birth is the absolute beginning, then death must be his
absolute end; and the assumption that man is made out
of nothing leads necessarily to the assumption that death
is his absolute end."
on human sufferings and God, Prof. J.B.S. Haldane writes:
suffering is needed to perfect human character, or God is
not Almighty. The former theory is disproved by the fact
that some people who have suffered very little but have
been fortunate in their ancestry and education have very
fine characters. The objection to the second is that it
is only in connection with the universe as a whole that
there is any intellectual gap to be filled by the postulation
of a deity. And a creator could presumably create whatever
he or it wanted."
world, we are told, was created by a God who is both good
and omnipotent. Before He created the world he foresaw all
the pain and misery that it would contain. He is therefore
responsible for all of it. it is useless to argue that the
pain in the world is due to sin. If God knew in advance
the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearly responsible
for all the consequences of those sins when He decided to
"Despair," a poem of his old age, Lord Tennyson thus boldly
attacks God, who, as recorded in Isaiah, says, "I make peace
and create evil." (Isaiah, xiv. 7.)
I should call on that infinite love that has served us so
well? Infinite cruelty, rather that made everlasting hell,
Made us, foreknew us, foredoomed us, and does what he will
with his own. Better our dead brute mother who never has
heard us groan."
"the doctrine that all men are sinners and have the essential
sin of Adam is a challenge to justice, mercy, love and omnipotent
writers of old authoritatively declared that God created
man in his own image. Some modern thinkers state, on the
contrary, that man created God in his own image. With the
growth of civilization man's concept of God also became
more and more refined.
is however, impossible to conceive of such a being either
in or outside the universe.
this variation be due to heredity and environment? One must
admit that all such chemico-physical phenomena revealed
by scientists, are partly instrumental, but they cannot
be solely responsible for the subtle distinctions and vast
differences that exist amongst individuals. Yet why should
identical twins who are physically alike, inheriting like
genes, enjoying the same privilege of upbringing, be very
often temperamentally, morally and intellectually totally
alone cannot account for these vast differences. Strictly
speaking, it accounts more plausibly for their similarities
than for most of the differences. The infinitesimally minute
chemico-physical germ, which is about 30 millionth part
of an inch across, inherited from parents, explains only
a portion of man, his physical foundation. With regard to
the more complex and subtle mental, intellectual and moral
differences we need more enlightenment. The theory of heredity
cannot give a satisfactory explanation for the birth of
a criminal in a long line of honorable ancestors, the birth
of a saint or a noble man in a family of evil repute, for
the arising of infant prodigies, men of genius and great
to Buddhism this variation is due not only to heredity,
environment, "nature and nurture," but also to our own kamma,
or in other words, to the result of our own inherited past
actions and our present deeds. We ourselves are responsible
for our own deeds, happiness and misery. We build our own
hells. We create our own heavens. We are the architects
of our own fate. In short we ourselves are our own kamma.
one occasion a certain young
man named Subha approached the Buddha, and questioned why
and wherefore it was that among human beings there are the
low and high states.
said he, "we find amongst mankind those of brief life and
those of long life, the hale and the ailing, the good looking
and the ill-looking, the powerful and the powerless, the
poor and the rich, the low-born and the high-born, the ignorant
and the intelligent."
Buddha briefly replied: "Every living being has kamma as
its own, its inheritance, its cause, its kinsman, its refuge.
Kamma is that which differentiates all living beings into
low and high states."
He then explained the cause of such differences in accordance
with the law of moral causation.
Thus from a Buddhist standpoint, our present mental, intellectual,
moral and temperamental differences are mainly due to our
own actions and tendencies, both past the present.
Kamma, literally, means action; but, in its ultimate sense,
it means the meritorious and demeritorious volition (Kusala
Akusala Cetana). Kamma constitutes both good and evil.
Good gets good. Evil gets evil. Like attracts like. This
is the law of Kamma.
As some Westerners prefer to say Kamma is "action-influence."
We reap what we have sown. What we sow we reap somewhere
or some when. In one sense we are the result of what we
were; we will be the result of what we are. In another sense,
we are not totally the result of what we were and we will
not absolutely be the result of what we are. For instance,
a criminal today may be a saint tomorrow.
Buddhism attributes this variation to Kamma, but it does
not assert that everything is due to Kamma.
If everything were due to Kamma, a man must ever be bad,
for it is his Kamma to be bad. One need not consult a physician
to be cured of a disease, for if one's Kamma is such one
will be cured.
According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes
(Niyamas) which operate in the physical and mental
i. Kamma Niyama, order of act and result, e.g., desirable
and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad
ii. Utu Niyama, physical (inorganic)
order, e.g., seasonal phenomena of winds and rains.
Bija Niyama, order of germs or seeds (physical
organic order); e.g., rice produced from rice-seed, sugary
taste from sugar cane or honey etc. The scientific theory
of cells and genes and the physical similarity of twins
may be ascribed to this order.
iv. Citta Niyama, order of mind or psychic law,
e.g., processes of consciousness (Citta vithi),
power of mind etc.
v. Dhamma Niyama, order of the norm, e.g., the
natural phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisatta
in his last birth, gravitation, etc.
Every mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by
these all-embracing five orders or processes which are laws
Kamma is, therefore, only one of the five orders that prevail
in the universe. It is a law in itself, but it does not
thereby follow that there should be a law-giver. Ordinary
laws of nature, like gravitation, need no law-giver. It
operates in its own field without the intervention of an
external independent ruling agency.
Nobody, for instance, has decreed that fire should burn.
Nobody has commanded that water should seek its own level.
No scientist has ordered that water should consist of H2O,
and that coldness should be one of its properties. These
are their intrinsic characteristics. Kamma is neither fate
nor predestination imposed upon us by some mysterious unknown
power to which we must helplessly submit ourselves. It is
one's own doing reacting on oneself, and so one has the
possibility to divert the course of Kamma to some extent.
How far one diverts it depends on oneself.
It must also be said that such phraseology as rewards and
punishments should not be allowed to enter into discussions
concerning the problem of Kamma. For Buddhism does not recognize
an Almighty Being who rules His subjects and rewards and
punishes them accordingly. Buddhists, on the contrary, believe
that sorrow and happiness one experiences are the natural
outcome of one's own good and bad actions. It should be
stated that Kamma has both the continuative and the retributive
in Kamma is the potentiality of producing its due effect.
The cause produces the effect; the effect explains the cause.
Seed produces the fruit; the fruit explains the seed as
both are inter-related. Even so Kamma and its effect are
inter-related; "the effect already blooms in the cause."
who is fully convinced of the doctrine of Kamma does not
pray to another to be saved but confidently relies on himself
for his purification because it teaches individual responsibility.
is this doctrine of Kamma that gives him consolation, hope,
self reliance and moral courage. It is this belief in Kamma
"that validates his effort, kindles his enthusiasm," makes
him ever kind, tolerant and considerate. It is also this
firm belief in Kamma that prompts him to refrain from evil,
do good and be good without being frightened of any punishment
or tempted by any reward.
is this doctrine of Kamma that can explain the problem of
suffering, the mystery of so-called fate or predestination
of other religions, and above all the inequality of mankind.
and rebirth are accepted as axiomatic.
long as this Kammic force exists there is re-birth, for
beings are merely the visible manifestation of this invisible
Kammic force. Death is nothing but the temporary end of
this temporary phenomenon. It is not the complete annihilation
of this so-called being. The organic life has ceased, but
the Kammic force which hitherto actuated it has not been
destroyed. As the Kammic force remains entirely undisturbed
by the disintegration of the fleeting body, the passing
away of the present dying thought-moment only conditions
a fresh consciousness in another birth.
is Kamma, rooted in ignorance and craving, that conditions
rebirth. Past Kamma conditions the present birth; and present
Kamma, in combination with past Kamma, conditions the future.
The present is the offspring of the past, and becomes, in
turn, the parent of the future.
we postulate a past, present, and a future life, then we
are at once faced with the alleged mysterious problem --
"What is the ultimate origin of life?"
there must be a beginning or there cannot be a beginning
school, in attempting to solve the problem, postulates a
first cause, God, viewed as a force or as an Almighty Being.
school denies a first cause for, in common experience, the
cause ever becomes the effect and the effect becomes the
cause. In a circle of cause and effect a first cause is
inconceivable. According to the former, life has had a beginning,
according to the latter, it is beginningless.
the scientific standpoint, we are the direct products of
the sperm and ovum cells provided by our parents. As such
life precedes life. With regard to the origin of the first
protoplasm of life, or colloid, scientists plead ignorance.
to Buddhism we are born from the matrix of action (Kammayoni).
Parents merely provide an infinitesimally small cell. As
such being precedes being. At the moment of conception it
is past Kamma that conditions the initial consciousness
that vitalizes the fetus. It is this invisible Kammic energy,
generated from the past birth that produces mental phenomena
and the phenomenon of life in an already extent physical
phenomenon, to complete the trio that constitutes man.
a being to be born here a being must die somewhere. The
birth of a being, which strictly means the arising of the
five aggregates or psycho-physical phenomena in this present
life, corresponds to the death of a being in a past life;
just as, in conventional terms, the rising of the sun in
one place means the setting of the sun in another place.
This enigmatic statement may be better understood by imagining
life as a wave and not as a straight line. Birth and death
are only two phases of the same process. Birth precedes
death, and death, on the other hand, precedes birth. The
constant succession of birth and death in connection with
each individual life flux constitutes what is technically
known as Samsara -- recurrent wandering.
is the ultimate origin of life?
cognizable end is this Samsara. A first beginning of beings,
who, obstructed by ignorance and fettered by craving, wander
and fare on, is not to be perceived."
life-stream flows ad infinitum, as long as it is
fed by the muddy waters of ignorance and craving. When these
two are completely cut off, then only, if one so wishes,
does the stream cease to flow, rebirth ends as in the case
of the Buddhas and Arahats. An ultimate beginning of this
life-stream cannot be determined, as a stage cannot be perceived
when this life-force was not fraught with ignorance and
Buddha has here referred merely to the beginning of the
life-stream of living beings. It is left to scientists to
speculate on the origin and the evolution of the universe.
The Buddha does not attempt to solve all the ethical and
philosophical problems that perplex mankind. Nor does He
deal with theories and speculations that tend neither to
edification nor to enlightenment. Nor does He demand blind
faith from His adherents. He is chiefly concerned with the
problem of suffering and its destruction. With but this
one practical and specific purpose in view, all irrelevant
side issues are completely ignored.
how are we to believe that there is a past existence?
most valuable evidence Buddhists cite in favor of rebirth
is the Buddha, for He developed a knowledge which enabled
Him to read past and future lives.
His instructions, His disciples also developed this knowledge
and were able to read their past lives to a great extent.
some Indian Rishis, before the advent of the Buddha, were
distinguished for such psychic powers as clairaudience,
clairvoyance, thought-reading, remembering past births,
are also some persons, who probably in accordance with the
laws of association, spontaneously develop the memory of
their past birth, and remember fragments of their previous
lives. Such cases are very rare, but those few well-attested,
respectable cases tend to throw some light on the idea of
a past birth. So are the experiences of some modern dependable
psychics and strange cases of alternating and multiple personalities.
hypnotic states some relate experiences of their past lives;
while a few others, read the past lives of others and even
we get strange experiences which cannot be explained but
often do we meet persons whom we have never met, and yet
instinctively feel that they are quite familiar to us? How
often do we visit places, and yet feel impressed that we
are perfectly acquainted with those surroundings?
Buddha tells us:
previous associations or present advantage, that old love
springs up again like the lotus in the water."
of some reliable modern psychics, ghostly phenomena, spirit
communications, strange alternating and multiple personalities
and so on shed some light upon this problem of rebirth.
this world come Perfect Ones like the Buddhas and highly
developed personalities. Do they evolve suddenly? Can they
be the products of a single existence?
are we to account for great characters like Buddhaghosa,
Panini, Kalidasa, Homer and Plato; men of genius like Shakespeare,
infant prodigies like Pascal, Mozart, Beethoven, Raphael,
alone cannot account for them. "Else their ancestry would
disclose it, their posterity, even greater than themselves,
they rise to such lofty heights if they had not lived noble
lives and gained similar experiences in the past? Is it
by mere chance that they are been born or those particular
parents and placed under those favorable circumstances?
few years that we are privileged to spend here or, for the
most five score years, must certainly be an inadequate preparation
one believes in the present and in the future, it is quite
logical to believe in the past. The present is the offspring
of the past, and acts in turn as the parent of the future.
there are reasons to believe that we have existed in the
past, then surely there are no reasons to disbelieve that
we shall continue to exist after our present life has apparently
is indeed a strong argument in favor of past and future
lives that "in this world virtuous persons are very often
unfortunate and vicious persons prosperous."
we believe in a past existence or not, it forms the only
reasonable hypothesis which bridges certain gaps in human
knowledge concerning certain facts of every day life. Our
reason tells us that this idea of past birth and Kamma alone
can explain the degrees of difference that exist between
twins, how men like Shakespeare with a very limited experience
are able to portray with marvelous exactitude the most diverse
types of human character, scenes and so forth of which they
could have no actual knowledge, why the work of the genius
invariably transcends his experience, the existence of infant
precocity, the vast diversity in mind and morals, in brain
and physique, in conditions, circumstances and environment
observable throughout the world, and so forth."
should be stated that this doctrine of rebirth can neither
be proved nor disproved experimentally, but it is accepted
as an evidentially verifiable fact.
cause of this Kamma, continues the Buddha, is avijja
or ignorance of the Four Noble Truths. Ignorance is, therefore,
the cause of birth and death; and its transmutation into
knowingness or vijja is consequently their cessation.
result of this analytical method is summed up in the Paticca
means because of, or dependent upon: Samuppada "arising
or origination." Paticca Samuppada, therefore, literally
means -- "Dependent Arising" or "Dependent Origination."
must be borne in mind that Paticca Samuppada is only
a discourse on the process of birth and death and not a
theory of the ultimate origin of life. It deals with the
cause of rebirth and suffering, but it does not in the least
attempt to show the evolution of the world from primordial
(Avijja) is the first link or cause of the wheel
of life. It clouds all right understanding.
on ignorance of the Four Noble Truths arise activities (Sankhara)
-- both moral and immoral. The activities whether good or
bad rooted in ignorance which must necessarily have their
due effects, only tend to prolong life's wandering. Nevertheless,
good actions are essential to get rid of the ills of life.
on activities arise rebirth-consciousness (Viññana).
This links the past with the present.
with the arising of rebirth-consciousness there come into
being mind and body (Nama-rupa).
six senses (Salayatana) are the inevitable consequences
of mind and body.
of the six senses contact (Phassa) sets in. Contact
leads to feeling (Vedana).
five -- viz., consciousness, mind and matter, six senses,
contact and feeling -- are the effects of past actions and
are called the passive side of life.
on feeling arises craving (Tanha). Craving results
in grasping (Upadana). Grasping is the cause of Kamma
(Bhava) which in its turn, conditions future birth
(Jati). Birth is the inevitable cause of old age
and death (Jara-marana).
on account of cause effect comes to be, then if the cause
ceases, the effect also must cease.
reverse order of the Paticca Samuppada will make
the matter clear.
age and death are possible in and with a psychophysical
organism. Such an organism must be born; therefore it pre-supposes
birth. But birth is the inevitable result of past deeds
or Kamma. Kamma is conditioned by grasping which is due
to craving. Such craving can appear only where feeling exists.
Feeling is the outcome of contact between the senses and
objects. Therefore it presupposes organs of senses which
cannot exist without mind and body. Where there is a mind
there is consciousness. It is the result of past good and
evil. The acquisition of good and evil is due to ignorance
of things as they truly are.
The whole formula may be summed up thus:
Dependent on Ignorance arise Activities (Moral and Immoral)
Thus does the entire aggregate of suffering arise. The first
two of these twelve pertain to the past, the middle eight
to the present, and the last two to the future.
" " Activities arises Consciousness (Re-birth Consciousness)
" " Consciousness arise Mind and Matter
" " Mind and Matter arise the six Spheres of Sense
" " the Six Spheres of Sense arises Contact
" " Contact arises Feeling
" " Feeling arises Craving
" " Craving arises Grasping
" " Grasping arise Actions (Kamma)
" " Actions arises Rebirth
" " Birth arise Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain,
Grief, and Despair.
The complete cessation of Ignorance leads
to the cessation of Activities.
cessation of Activities leads to the cessation of Consciousness.
Thus does the cessation of this entire aggregate of suffering
" " " Consciousness leads to the cessation of mind and matter.
" " " Mind and Matter leads to the cessation of the six
Spheres of Sense. " " " the six Spheres of Sense leads to
the cessation of Contact,
" " " Contact leads to the cessation of Feeling.
" " " Feeling leads to the cessation of Craving.
" " " Craving leads to the cessation of Grasping.
" " " Grasping leads to the cessation of Actions.
" " " Actions leads to the cessation of Re-birth.
" " " Re-birth leads to the cessation of Decay, Death, Sorrow,
Lamentation, Pain, Grief, and Despair.
This process of cause and effect continues
ad infinitum. The beginning of this process cannot be determined
as it is impossible to say whence this life-flux was encompassed
by nescience. But when this nescience is turned into knowledge,
and the life-flux is diverted into Nibbanadhatu,
then the end of the life process of Samsara comes
Anatta or Soul-lessness
Buddhist doctrine of re-birth should be distinguished from
the theory of re-incarnation which implies the transmigration
of a soul and its invariable material rebirth. Buddhism
denies the existence of an unchanging or eternal soul created
by a God or emanating from a Divine Essence (Paramatma).
the immortal soul, which is supposed to be the essence of
man, is eternal, there cannot be either a rise or a fall.
Besides one cannot understand why "different souls are so
variously constituted at the outset."
prove the existence of endless felicity in an eternal heaven
and unending torments in an eternal hell, an immortal soul
is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, what is it that is punished
in hell or rewarded in heaven?
should be said," writes Bertrand Russell, "that the old
distinction between soul and body has evaporated quite as
much because 'matter' has lost its solidity as mind has
lost its spirituality. Psychology is just beginning to be
scientific. In the present state of psychology belief in
immortality can at any rate claim no support from science."
do agree with Russell when he says "there is obviously some
reason in which I am the same person as I was yesterday,
and, to take an even more obvious example if I simultaneously
see a man and hear him speaking, there is some sense in
which the 'I' that sees is the same as the 'I' that hears."
recently scientists believed in an indivisible and indestructible
atom. "For sufficient reasons physicists have reduced this
atom to a series of events. For equally good reasons psychologists
find that mind has not the identity of a single continuing
thing but is a series of occurrences bound together by certain
intimate relations. The question of immortality, therefore,
has become the question whether these intimate relations
exist between occurrences connected with a living body and
other occurrence which take place after that body is dead."
C.E.M. Joad says in "The Meaning of Life," matter has since
disintegrated under our very eyes. It is no longer solid;
it is no longer enduring; it is no longer determined by
compulsive causal laws; and more important than all, it
is no longer known.
so-called atoms, it seems, are both "divisible and destructible."
The electrons and protons that compose atoms "can meet and
annihilate one another while their persistence, such as
it is, is rather that of a wave lacking fixed boundaries,
and in process of continual change both as regards shape
and position than that of a thing."
Berkeley who showed that this so-called atom is a metaphysical
fiction held that there exists a spiritual substance called
for instance, looked into consciousness and perceived hat
there was nothing except fleeting mental states and concluded
that the supposed "permanent ego" is non-existent.
are some philosophers," he says, "who imagine we are every
moment conscious of what we call 'ourself,' that we feel
its existence and its continuance in existence and so we
are certain, both of its perfect identity and simplicity.
For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call
'myself' I always stumble on some particular perception
or other -- of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred,
pain or pleasure. I never catch myself... and never can
observe anything but the perception... nor do I conceive
what is further requisite to make me a perfect non-entity."
says, "All consciousness is time existence; and a conscious
state is not a state that endures without changing. It is
a change without ceasing, when change ceases it ceases;
it is itself nothing but change."
with this question of soul Prof. James says -- "The soul-theory
is a complete superfluity, so far as accounting for the
actually verified facts of conscious experience goes. So
far no one can be compelled to subscribe to it for definite
scientific reasons." In concluding his interesting chapter
on the soul he says: "And in this book the provisional solution
which we have reached must be the final word: the thoughts
themselves are the thinkers."
a distinguished psychologist, states: "No one has ever touched
a soul or has seen one in a test tube or has in any way
come into relationship with it as he has with the other
objects of his daily experience. Nevertheless to doubt its
existence is to become a heretic and once might possibly
even had led to the loss of one's head. Even today a man
holding a public position dare not question it."
Buddha anticipated these facts some 2500 years ago.
to Buddhism mind is nothing but a complex compound of fleeting
mental states. One unit of consciousness consists of three
phases -- arising or genesis (uppada) static or development
(thiti), and cessation or dissolution (bhanga).
Immediately after the cessation stage of a thought moment
there occurs the genesis stage of the subsequent thought-moment.
Each momentary consciousness of this ever-changing life-process,
on passing away, transmits its whole energy, all the indelibly
recorded impressions to its successor. Every fresh consciousness
consists of the potentialities of its predecessors together
with something more. There is therefore, a continuous flow
of consciousness like a stream without any interruption.
The subsequent thought moment is neither absolutely the
same as its predecessor -- since that which goes to make
it up is not identical -- nor entirely another -- being
the same continuity of Kamma energy. Here there is no identical
being but there is an identity in process.
moment there is birth, every moment there is death. The
arising of one thought-moment means the passing away of
another thought-moment and vice versa. In the course of
one life-time there is momentary rebirth without a soul.
must not be understood that a consciousness is chopped up
in bits and joined together like a train or a chain. But,
on the contrary, "it persistently flows on like a river
receiving from the tributary streams of sense constant accretions
to its flood, and ever dispensing to the world without the
thought-stuff it has gathered by the way."
It has birth for its source and death for its mouth. The
rapidity of the flow is such that hardly is there any standard
whereby it can be measured even approximately. However,
it pleases the commentators to say that the time duration
of one thought-moment is even less than one-billionth part
of the time occupied by a flash of lightning.
we find a juxtaposition of such fleeting mental states of
consciousness opposed to a superposition of such states
as some appear to believe. No state once gone ever recurs
nor is identical with what goes before. But we worldlings,
veiled by the web of illusion, mistake this apparent continuity
to be something eternal and go to the extent of introducing
an unchanging soul, an Atta, the supposed doer and receptacle
of all actions to this ever-changing consciousness.
so-called being is like a flash of lightning that is resolved
into a succession of sparks that follow upon one another
with such rapidity that the human retina cannot perceive
them separately, nor can the uninstructed conceive of such
succession of separate sparks."
As the wheel of a cart rests on the ground at one point,
so does the being live only for one thought-moment. It is
always in the present, and is ever slipping into the irrevocable
past. What we shall become is determined by this present
there is no soul, what is it that is reborn, one might ask.
Well, there is nothing to be re-born. When life ceases the
Kammic energy re-materializes itself in another form. As
Bhikkhu Silacara says: "Unseen it passes whithersoever the
conditions appropriate to its visible manifestation are
present. Here showing itself as a tiny gnat or worm, there
making its presence known in the dazzling magnificence of
a Deva or an Archangel's existence. When one mode of its
manifestation ceases it merely passes on, and where suitable
circumstances offer, reveals itself afresh in another name
is the arising of the psycho-physical phenomena. Death is
merely the temporary end of a temporary phenomenon.
as the arising of a physical state is conditioned by a preceding
state as its cause, so the appearance of psycho-physical
phenomena is conditioned by cause anterior to its birth.
As the process of one life-span is possible without a permanent
entity passing from one thought-moment to another, so a
series of life-processes is possible without an immortal
soul to transmigrate from one existence to another.
does not totally deny the existence of a personality in
an empirical sense. It only attempts to show that it does
not exist in an ultimate sense. The Buddhist philosophical
term for an individual is Santana, i.e., a flux or
a continuity. It includes the mental and physical elements
as well. The Kammic force of each individual binds the elements
together. This uninterrupted flux or continuity of psycho-physical
phenomenon, which is conditioned by Kamma, and not limited
only to the present life, but having its source in the beginningless
past and its continuation in the future -- is the Buddhist
substitute for the permanent ego or the immortal soul of
process of birth and death continues ad infinitum
until this flux is transmuted, so to say, to Nibbanadhatu,
the ultimate goal of Buddhists.
Pali word Nibbana is formed of Ni and Vana.
Ni is a negative particle and Vana means lusting
or craving. "It is called Nibbana, in that it is a departure
from the craving which is called Vana, lusting."
Literally, Nibbana means non-attachment.
may also be defined as the extinction of lust, hatred and
ignorance, "The whole world is in flames," says the Buddha.
"By what fire is it kindled? By the fire of lust, hatred
and ignorance, by the fire of birth, old age, death, pain,
lamentation, sorrow, grief and despair it is kindled."
should not be understood that Nibbana is a state of nothingness
or annihilation owing to the fact that we cannot perceive
it with our worldly knowledge. One cannot say that there
exists no light just because the blind man does not see
it. In that well known story, too, the fish arguing with
his friend, the turtle, triumphantly concluded that there
exists no land.
of the Buddhists is neither a mere nothingness nor a state
of annihilation, but what it is no words can adequately
express. Nibbana is a Dhamma which is "unborn, unoriginated,
uncreated and unformed." Hence, it is eternal (Dhuva),
desirable (Subha), and happy (Sukha).
Nibbana nothing is "eternalized," nor is anything "annihilated,"
to the Books references are made to Nibbana as Sopadisesa
and Anupadisesa. These, in fact, are not two kinds
of Nibbana, but the one single Nibbana, receiving its name
according to the way it is experienced before and after
is not situated in any place nor is it a sort of heaven
where a transcendental ego resides. It is a state which
is dependent upon this body itself. It is an attainment
(Dhamma) which is within the reach of all. Nibbana is a
supramundane state attainable even in this present life.
Buddhism does not state that this ultimate goal could be
reached only in a life beyond. Here lies the chief difference
between the Buddhist conception of Nibbana and the non-Buddhist
conception of an eternal heaven attainable only after death
or a union with a God or Divine Essence in an after-life.
When Nibbana is realized in this life with the body remaining,
it is called Sopadisesa Nibbana-dhatu. When an Arahat
attains Parinibbana, after the dissolution of his body,
without any remainder of physical existence it is called
the words of Sir Edwin Arnold:
any teach Nirvana is to cease
Say unto such they lie.
If any teach Nirvana is to love
Say unto such they err."
a metaphysical standpoint Nibbana is deliverance from suffering.
From a psychological standpoint Nibbana is the eradication
of egoism. From an ethical standpoint Nibbana is the destruction
of lust, hatred and ignorance.
the Arahat exist or not after death?
Arahat who has been released from the five aggregates is
deep, immeasurable like the mighty ocean. To say that he
is reborn would not fit the case. To say that he is neither
reborn nor not reborn would not fit the case."
cannot say that an Arahat is reborn as all passions that
condition rebirth are eradicated; nor can one say that the
Arahat is annihilated for there is nothing to annihilate.
Oppenheimer, a scientist, writes:
we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron
remains the same, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether the
electron's position changes with time, we must say 'no';
if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say 'no';
if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say 'no'.
Buddha has given such answers when interrogated as to
the conditions of man's self after death;
but they are not familiar answers from the tradition of
the 17th and 18th century science."
The Path to Nibbana
is Nibbana to be attained?
It is by following the Noble Eight-fold Path which consists
of Right Understanding (Samma-ditthi), Right Thoughts
(samma-sankappa), Right Speech (samma-vaca),
Right Actions (samma-kammanta), Right Livelihood
(samma-ajiva), Right Effort (samma-vayama),
Right Mindfulness (samma-sati), and Right Concentration
1. Right Understanding, which is the key-note of
Buddhism, is explained as the knowledge of the four Noble
Truths. To understand rightly means to understand things
as they really are and not as they appear to be. This refers
primarily to a correct understanding of oneself, because,
as the Rohitassa Sutta states, "Dependent on this one-fathom
long body with its consciousness" are all the four Truths.
In the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Understanding
stands at the beginning as well as at its end. A minimum
degree of Right Understanding is necessary at the very beginning
because it gives the right motivations to the other seven
factors of the Path and gives to them correct direction.
At the culmination of the practice, Right Understanding
has matured into perfect Insight Wisdom (vipassana-pañña),
leading directly to the Stages of Sainthood.
2. Clear vision of right understanding leads to clear thinking.
The second factor of the Noble Eight-fold Path is therefore,
Right Thoughts (samma-sankappa), which serves
the double purpose of eliminating evil thoughts and developing
pure thoughts. Right Thoughts, in this particular connection,
are three fold. They consist of:
i. Nekkhamma -- Renunciation of worldly pleasures
or the virtue of selflessness, which is opposed to attachment,
selfishness, and possessiveness;
ii. Avyapada -- Loving-kindness,
goodwill, or benevolence, which is opposed to hatred,
ill-will, or aversion; and
iii. Avihimsa -- Harmlessness
or compassion, which is opposed to cruelty and callousness.
3. Right Thoughts lead to Right Speech, the third
factor. This includes abstinence from falsehood, slandering,
harsh words, and frivolous talk.
4. Right Speech must be followed by Right Action
which comprises abstinence from killing, stealing and sexual
Purifying his thoughts, words and deeds at the outset, the
spiritual pilgrim tries to purify his livelihood
by refraining from the five kinds of trade which are forbidden
to a lay-disciple. They are trading in arms, human beings,
animals for slaughter, intoxicating drinks and drugs, and
monks, wrong livelihood consists of hypocritical conduct
and wrong means of obtaining the requisites of monk-life.
Right Effort is fourfold, namely:
i. the endeavor to discard evil that has already arisen;
ii. the endeavor to prevent the arising of unarisen
iii. the endeavor to develop unarisen good;
iv. the endeavor to promote the good which has already
Right Mindfulness is constant mindfulness with regard
to body, feelings, thoughts, and mind-objects.
Right Effort and Right Mindfulness lead to Right Concentration.
It is the one-pointedness of mind, culminating in the Jhanas
or meditative absorptions.
these eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path the first
two are grouped under the heading of Wisdom (pañña),
the following three under Morality (sila), and the
last three under Concentration (samadhi). But according
to the order of development the sequence is as follows:
I. Morality (sila)
(sila) is the first stage on this path to Nibbana.
killing or causing injury to any living creature, man should
be kind and compassionate towards all, even to the tiniest
creature that crawls at his feet. Refraining from stealing,
he should be upright and honest in all his dealings. Abstaining
from sexual misconduct which debases the exalted nature
of man, he should be pure. Shunning false speech, he should
be truthful. Avoiding pernicious drinks that promote heedlessness,
he should be sober and diligent.
elementary principles of regulated behavior are essential
to one who treads the path to Nibbana. Violation of them
means the introduction of obstacles on the path which will
obstruct his moral progress. Observance of them means steady
and smooth progress along the path.
spiritual pilgrim, disciplining thus his words and deeds,
may advance a step further and try to control his senses.
he progresses slowly and steadily with regulated word and
deed and restrained senses, the Kammic force of this striving
aspirant may compel him to renounce worldly pleasures and
adopt the ascetic life. To him then comes the idea that,
den of strife is household life,
And filled with toil and need;
But free and high as the open sky
Is the life the homeless lead."
should not be understood that everyone is expected to lead
the life of a Bhikkhu or a celibate life to achieve one's
goal. One's spiritual progress is expedited by being a Bhikkhu
although as a lay follower one can become an Arahat. After
attaining the third state of Sainthood, one leads a life
a firm footing on the ground of morality, the progressing
pilgrim then embarks upon the higher practice of Samadhi,
the control and culture of the mind -- the second stage
on this Path.
-- is the "one-pointedness of the mind." It is the concentration
of the mind on one object to the entire exclusion of all
are different subjects for meditation according to the temperaments
of the individuals. Concentration on respiration is the
easiest to gain the one-pointedness of the mind. Meditation
on loving-kindness is very beneficial as it is conducive
to mental peace and happiness.
of the four sublime states -- loving-kindness (Metta),
compassion (Karuna), sympathetic joy (Mudita),
and equanimity (Upekkha) -- is highly commendable.
giving careful consideration to the subject for contemplation,
he should choose the one most suited to his temperament.
This being satisfactorily settled, he makes a persistent
effort to focus his mind until he becomes so wholly absorbed
and interested in it, that all other thoughts get ipso facto
excluded from the mind. The five hindrances to progress
-- namely, sense-desire, hatred, sloth and torpor, restlessness
and brooding and doubts are then temporarily inhibited.
Eventually he gains ecstatic concentration and, to his indescribable
joy, becomes enwrapt in Jhana, enjoying the calmness and
serenity of a one-pointed mind.
one gains this perfect one-pointedness of the mind it is
possible for one to develop the five Supernormal Powers
(Abhiñña): Divine Eye (Dibbacakkhu),
Divine Ear (Dibhasota), Reminiscence of past births
(Pubbenivasanussati-ñana). Thought Reading
(Paracitta vijañana) and different Psychic
Powers (Iddhividha). It must not be understood that
those supernormal powers are essential for Sainthood.
the mind is now purified there still lies dormant in him
the tendency to give vent to his passions, for by concentration,
passions are lulled to sleep temporarily. They may rise
to the surface at unexpected moments.
Discipline and Concentration are helpful to clear the Path
of its obstacles but it is Insight (Vipassana Pañña)
alone which enables one to see things as they truly are,
and consequently reach the ultimate goal by completely annihilating
the passions inhibited by Samadhi. This is the third and
the final stage on the Path of Nibbana.
his one-pointed mind which now resembles a polished mirror
he looks at the world to get a correct view of life. Wherever
he turns his eyes he sees nought but the Three Characteristics
-- Anicca (transiency), Dukkha (sorrow) and
anatta (soul-lessness) standing out in bold relief.
He comprehends that life is constantly changing and all
conditioned things are transient. Neither in heaven nor
on earth does he find any genuine happiness, for every form
of pleasure is a prelude to pain. What is transient is therefore
painful, and where change and sorrow prevail there cannot
be a permanent immortal soul.
of these three characteristics, he chooses one that appeals
to him most and intently keeps on developing Insight in
that particular direction until that glorious day comes
to him when he would realize Nibbana for the first time
in his life, having destroyed the three Fetters -- self-illusion
(Sakkaya-ditthi), doubts (Vvicikiccha), indulgence
in (wrongful) rites and ceremonies (Silabbataparamasa).
this stage he is called a Sotapanna (Stream-Winner)
-- one who has entered the stream that leads to Nibbana.
As he has not eradicated all Fetters he is reborn seven
times at the most.
up fresh courage, as a result of this glimpse of Nibbana,
the Pilgrim makes rapid progress and cultivating deeper
Insight becomes a Sakadagami (Once Returner) by weakening
two more Fetters -- namely Sense-desire (Kamaraga)
and ill-will (Patigha). He is called a Sakadagami
because he is reborn on earth only once in case he does
not attain Arhatship.
is in the third state of Sainthood -- Anagama (Never-Returner)
that he completely discards the aforesaid two Fetters. Thereafter,
he neither returns to this world nor does he seek birth
in the celestial realms, since he has no more desire for
sensual pleasures. After death he is reborn in the "Pure
Abodes" (Suddhavasa) a congenial Brahma plane, till
he attains Arhatship.
the saintly pilgrim, encouraged by the unprecedented success
of his endeavors, makes his final advance and, destroying
the remaining Fetters -- namely, lust after life in Realms
of Forms (Ruparaga) and Formless Realms (Aruparaga),
conceit (Mana), restlessness (Uddhacca), and
ignorance (Avijja) -- becomes a perfect Saint: an
Arahant, a Worthy One.
he realizes that what was to be accomplished has been done,
that a heavy burden of sorrow has been relinquished, that
all forms of attachment have been totally annihilated, and
that the Path to Nibbana has been trodden. The Worthy One
now stands on heights more than celestial, far removed from
the rebellious passions and defilements of the world, realizing
the unutterable bliss of Nibbana and like many an Arahat
of old, uttering that paean of joy:
and wisdom, mind by method trained,
The highest conduct on good morals based,
This maketh mortals pure, not rank or wealth."
T.H. Huxley states -- "Buddhism is a system which knows
no God in the Western sense, which denies a soul to man,
which counts the belief in immortality a blunder, which
refuses any efficacy to prayer and sacrifice, which bids
men to look to nothing but their own efforts for salvation,
which in its original purity knew nothing of vows of obedience
and never sought the aid of the secular arm: yet spread
over a considerable moiety of the world with marvelous rapidity
-- and is still the dominant creed of a large fraction of
is mindfulness on respiration. Ana means inhalation
and Apana exhalation.
Concentration on the breathing process
leads to one-pointedness of the mind and ultimately to Insight
which enables one to attain Sainthood or Arhatship.
The Buddha also practiced concentration
on respiration before He attained Enlightenment.
This harmless concentration may be practiced
by any person irrespective of religious beliefs.
Adopting a convenient posture, keep the
body erect. Place the right hand over the left hand. Eyes
may be closed or half-closed.
Easterners generally sit cross-legged
with the body erect. They sit placing the right foot on
the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh. This
is the full position. Sometimes they adopt the half position,
that is by simply placing the right foot on the left thigh
or the left foot on the right thigh.
When the triangular position is assumed
the whole body is well-balanced.
Those who find the cross-legged posture
too difficult may sit comfortably in a chair or any other
support sufficiently high to rest the legs on the ground.
It is of no importance which posture one
may adopt provided the position is easy and relaxed.
Head should not be drooping. Neck should
be straightened so that the nose may be in a perpendicular
line with the navel.
Buddhas usually adopt the full lotus position.
They sit with half closed eyes looking not more than a distance
of three and half feet.
Before the practice, bad air from the
lungs should be breathed out slowly through the mouth and
then the mouth should be closed.
inhale through the nostrils normally, without strain, without
force. Mentally count one. Exhale and count two. Inhale
and count three. Count up to ten constantly concentrating
on the breathing process without thinking of anything else.
While doing so one's mind may wander. But one need not be
discouraged. Gradually one may increase the number of series
-- say five series of ten.
Later, one may inhale and pause for a moment, concentrating
merely on inhalation without counting. Exhale and pause
for a moment. Thus inhale and exhale concentrating on respiration.
Some prefer counting as it aide concentration while others
prefer not to count. What is essential is concentration
and not counting, which is secondary.
When one practices this concentration one feels very peaceful,
light in mind and body. After practicing for a certain period
a day might come when one may realize that this so-called
body is supported by mere breath and that body perishes
when breathing ceases. One fully realizes impermanence.
Where there is change there cannot be a permanent entity
or an immortal soul. Insight can then be developed to attain
It is clear that the object of this concentration on respiration
is not merely to gain one-pointedness but also to cultivate
Insight to obtain deliverance from suffering.
In some discourses this simple and harmless method of respiration
is described as follows:
he inhales; mindfully he exhales.
1. When making a long inhalation he
knows: 'I make a long inhalation'; when making a long
exhalation he knows; 'I make a long exhalation'.
2. When making a short inhalation he
knows: ' I make a short inhalation'; when making a short
exhalation he knows: 'I make a short exhalation'.
3. Clearly perceiving the entire breathing
process (i.e., the beginning, middle and end), 'I will
inhale; thus he trains himself; clearly perceiving the
entire breathing process, 'I will exhale'; thus he trains
Calming the respiration, 'I will inhale'; thus he trains
himself; calming the respirations, 'I will exhale'; thus
he trains himself. "
still and peaceful.
three times -- Nammo Buddhaya -- (Honor to the Buddha)
three times -- Araham -- (The Pure One)
saranam gacchami -- (I go to the Buddha for refuge)
saranam gacchami -- (I go to the Dhamma for refuge)
saranam gacchami -- (I go to the Sangha for refuge)
My mind is temporarily pure, free from all impurities; free
from lust, hatred and ignorance; free from all evil thoughts
My mind is pure and clean. Like a polished mirror is
my stainless mind.
a clean and empty vessel is filled with pure water I now
fill my clean heart and pure mind with peaceful and sublime
thoughts of boundless loving-kindness over-flowing compassion,
sympathetic joy and perfect equanimity.
have now washed my mind and heart of anger, ill will,
cruelty, violence, jealousy, envy, passion and aversion.
May I be well and happy!
May I be free from suffering, disease, grief, worry
May I be strong, self-confident, healthy and peaceful!
Now I charge every particle of my system, from head to foot,
with thoughts of boundless loving-kindness and compassion.
I am the embodiment of loving-kindness and compassion. My
whole body is saturated with loving-kindness and compassion.
I am a stronghold, a fortress of loving-kindness and compassion.
I am nothing but loving-kindness and compassion. I have
sublimated myself, elevated myself, ennobled myself.
May I be well and happy!
May I be free from suffering, disease, grief, worry
May I be strong, self-confident, healthy and peaceful!
Mentally I create an aura of loving-kindness around me.
By means of this aura, I cut off all negative thoughts,
hostile vibrations. I am not affected by the evil vibrations
of others. I return good for evil, loving-kindness for anger,
compassion for cruelty, sympathetic joy for jealously. I
am peaceful and well-balanced in mind. Now I am a fortress
of loving- kindness, a stronghold of morality.
I have gained I now give unto others.
of all your near and dear ones at home, individually or
collectively, and fill them with thoughts of loving-kindness
and wish them peace and happiness, repeating May all beings
be well and happy!... Then think of all seen and unseen
beings, living near and far, men, women, animals and all
living beings, in the East, West, North, South, above and
below, and radiate boundless loving-kindness, without any
enmity or obstruction, towards all, irrespective of class,
creed, color or sex.
that all are your brothers and sisters, fellow-beings in
the ocean of life. You identify with all. You are one with
ten times, "May all beings be well and happy," and wish
them all peace and happiness.
the course of your daily life try to translate your thoughts
into action as occasion demands.
May I be generous and helpful! (Dana -- Generosity)
2. May I be well-disciplined and refined
in manners! May I be pure and clean in all my dealings!
May my thoughts, words and deeds be pure! (Sila
3. May I not be selfish and self-possessive
but selfless and disinterested! May I be able to sacrifice
my pleasure for the sake of others! (Nekkhamma
4. May I be wise and be able to see
things as they truly are! May I see the light of Truth
and lead others from darkness to light! May I be enlightened
and be able to enlighten others! May I be able to give
the benefit of my knowledge to others! (Panna --
5. May I be energetic, vigorous and
persevering! May I strive diligently until I achieve my
goal! May I be fearless in facing dangers and courageously
surmount all obstacles! May I be able to serve others
to the best of my ability! (Viriya -- Energy)
6. May I be ever patient! May I be able
to bear and forbear the wrongs of others! May I ever be
tolerant and see the good and beautiful in all! (Khanti
7. May I ever be truthful and honest!
May I not hide the truth to be polite! May I never swerve
from the path of Truth! (Sacca -- Truthfulness)
8. May I be firm and resolute and have
an iron will! May I be soft as a flower and firm as a
rock! May I ever be high-principled! (Adhitthana
9. May I ever be kind, friendly and
compassionate! May I be able to regard all as my brothers
and sisters and be one with all! (Metta -- Loving-kindness)
10. May I ever be calm, serene, unruffled
and peaceful! May I gain a balanced mind! May I have perfect
equanimity! (Upekkha -- Equanimity)
May I serve to be perfect!
May I be perfect to serve!
An Awakened or Enlightened One. [Go back]
Lit., Thus who hath come. [Go back]
Literally, the Worthy Ones. They are the enlightened disciples
who have destroyed all passions. [Go back]
The Teaching. [Go back]
The Discipline. [Go back]
Bhikkhu Silacara [Go back]
Craving associated with "Eternalism" (Sassataditthi)
(Comy) [Go back]
Craving associated with "Nihilism" (Ucchedaditthi)
(Comy) [Go back]
Culakamma Vibhanga Sutta -- Majjhima Nikaya, No.
135. [Go back]
See Many Mansions and The World Within by
Gina Cerminara. [Go back]
C.E.M. Joad, The Meaning of Life [Go
See Compendium of Philosophy, Trans. by Shwe Zan
Aung (Pali Text Society, London) -- Introduction p. 12.
Compare the cinematograph film where the individual photographs
give rise to a notion of movement. [Go back]
Evidently the writer is referring to the state of an Arahat
after death. [Go back]
This introductory part may be omitted by non-Buddhists.
Here the term "I" is used in a conventional sense. [Go
Buddhist Publication Society
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