An Introduction to Buddhism

To do no evil; To cultivate good; To purify one's mind: This is the teaching of the Buddhas.
--The Dhammapada--

The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama, a prince of the Sakya tribe of Nepal, in approximately 566 BC. When he was twentynine years old, he left the comforts of his home to seek the meaning of the suffering he saw around him. After six years of arduous yogic training, he abandoned the way of self-mortification and instead sat in mindful meditation beneath a bodhi tree. On the full moon of May, with the rising of the morning star, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha, the enlightened one. The Buddha wandered the plains of northeastern India for 45 years more, teaching the path or Dharma he had realized in that moment. Around him developed a community or Sangha of monks and, later, nuns, drawn from every tribe and caste, devoted to practicing this path. In approximately 486 BC, at the age of 80, the Buddha died. His last words are said to be...

Impermanent are all created things; Strive on with awareness.
What Is Buddhism?

Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who lived about 25 centuries ago in what is now Nepal and northeastern India. He came to be called "the Buddha," which means "awakened one," after he experienced a profound realization of the nature of life, death and existence. In English, the Buddha was said to be enlightened, although in Sanskrit it is bodhi, "awakened."

In the remaining years of his life, the Buddha traveled and taught. However, he didn't teach people what he had realized when he became enlightened. Instead, he taught people how to realize enlightenment for themselves. He taught that awakening comes through one's own direct experience, not through beliefs and dogmas.

In the centuries following the Buddha's life, Buddhism spread throughout Asia to become one of the dominant religions of the continent. Estimates of the number of Buddhists in the world today vary widely, in part because many Asians observe more than one religion, and in part because it is hard to know how many people are practicing Buddhism in Communist nations like China. The most common estimate is 350 million, which makes Buddhism the fourth largest of the world's religions.

How Is Buddhism Distinctive From Other Religions?

Buddhism is so different from other religions that some people question whether it is a religion at all. For example, the central focus of most religions is God, or gods. But Buddhism is non-theistic. The Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment.

Most religions are defined by their beliefs. But in Buddhism, merely believing in doctrines is beside the point. The Buddha said that we should not accept doctrines just because we read them in scripture or are taught them by priests.

Instead of teaching doctrines to be memorized and believed, the Buddha taught how we can realize truth for ourselves. The focus of Buddhism is on practice rather than belief. The major outline of Buddhist practice is the Eightfold Path.

Understand Theravada Buddhism at Access to Insight

Access to Insight provides you with reliable, easy-to-understand readings on Theravada Buddhism. Besides giving you articles, translations and explanations of the Buddha’s teachings, the site also has a list of audio recordings, printed resources, ebooks available to Theravada Buddhists across the web. If you’re interested in more in-depth understanding, you can always refer to the Study Guides available on the site that deal with particular topics or themes and have been compiled by various Theravada Buddhist monks, especially Thanissaro Bhikku.

Essentials of Buddhism

The workings of the mind are examined with great precision in these teachings of the Buddha that originated in India over 2000 years back. However the way to freedom lies not in a scholarly study of these teachings, but instead in practicing meditation and mindfulness. The reality of suffering draws many to Buddha's teachings; the teachings are not about suffering though. Instead they are about ultimate freedom, and the exuberance that this freedom is accessible to all. Strive to be a Buddha, not a Buddhist!

Four Noble Truths
  1. Suffering exists
  2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
  3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
  4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path
Noble Eightfold Path
Three Qualities Eightfold Path
 Wisdom (panna)  Right View
   Right Thought
 Morality (sila)  Right Speech
   Right Action
   Right Livelihood
 Meditation (samadhi)  Right Effort
   Right Mindfulness
   Right Contemplation
Three Characteristics of Existence
  1. Transiency (anicca)
  2. Sorrow (dukkha)
  3. Selflessness (anatta)

Unwholesome mental states that impede progress towards enlightenment.

  • Sensuous lust
  • Aversion and ill will
  • Sloth and torpor
  • Restlessness and worry
  • Sceptical doubt
Factors of Enlightenment
  • Mindfulness
  • Investigation
  • Energy
  • Rapture
  • Tranquillity
  • Concentration
  • Equanimity
Common ground between Theravada & Mahayana Buddhism
  1. Sakayamuni Buddha is the original and historical founder of Buddhism.
  2. The Three Universal Seals, Four Noble Truths, Eight Fold Paths and Twelve Links of Dependent Origination are the basic foundation to all schools of Buddhism including the Tibetan schools of Vajrayana.
  3. Three-fold training of Precepts, Meditation and Wisdom is universal to all schools.
  4. Organisation of the Buddhist teachings / Dharma into three classications (Sutra, Vinaya and Sastra) is practised among the Buddhist Canons of various countries.
  5. Mind over matter concept. Mind as the principal area of taming and control is fundamental to all schools.
The Triple Gem
  1. The Buddha — The self awakened one. The original nature of the Heart
  2. The Dhamma — The Teaching. The nature of reality
  3. The Sangha — a. The Awakened Community. b. Any harmonious assembly. c. All Beings.
The Four Noble Truths
  1. The Noble Truth of Dukkha - stress, unsatisfactoriness, suffering
  2. The Noble Truth of the causal arising of Dukkha, which is grasping, clinging and wanting
  3. The Noble Truth of Nirvana, The ending of Dukkha. Awakening, Enlightenment. "Mind like fire unbound"
  4. The Noble Truth of the Path leading to Nirvana or Awakening.
All Buddhist teachings flow from the Four Noble Truths. Particularly emphasised in the Theravada.
The Four Bodhisattva Vows
  1. I vow to rescue the boundless living beings from suffering.
  2. I vow to put an end to the infinite afflictions of living beings.
  3. I vow to learn the measureless Dharma-doors.
  4. I vow to realise the unsurpassed path of the Buddha.

Foundation of the Mahayana Path, these vows say. 'Whatever the highest perfection of the human heart-mind may I realise it for the benefit of all that lives!'

The Eight Fold-Path

Right, Integral, Complete, Perfected.

  1. Right View, Understanding
  2. Right Attitude, Thought or Emotion
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right Effort, Energy, and Vitality
  7. Right Mindfulness or Awareness
  8. Right Samadhi "concentration", one-pointedness. Integration of, or establishment in, various levels of consciousness.

Alternate meanings are given as the original Pali has shades of meaning not available in one English word.

The Five Precepts

I undertake to:

  1. Abstain from killing living beings
  2. Abstain from taking that which not given
  3. Abstain from sexual misconduct
  4. Abstain from false speech
  5. Abstain from distilled substances that confuse the mind. (Alcohol and Drugs)

The underlying principle is non-exploitation of yourself or others. The precepts are the foundation of all Buddhist training. With a developed ethical base, much of the emotional conflict and stress that we experience is resolved, allowing commitment and more conscious choice. Free choice and intention is important. It is "I undertake" not 'Thou Shalt". Choice, not command.

The Five Precepts in positive terms

I undertake the training precept to:

  1. Act with Loving-kindness
  2. Be open hearted and generous
  3. Practice stillness, simplicity and contentment
  4. Speak with truth, clarity and peace
  5. Live with mindfulness.
The Ten Paramita

Paramita means gone to the other shore, it is the highest development of each of these qualities.

  1. Giving or Generosity
  2. Virtue, Ethics, Morality
  3. Renunciation, letting go, not grasping;
  4. Panna or Prajna "Wisdom" insight into the nature of reality
  5. Energy, vigour, vitality, diligence
  6. Patience or forbearance
  7. Truthfulness
  8. Resolution, determination, intention
  9. Kindness, love, friendliness
  10. Equanimity.

In Mahayana Buddhism, 6 are emphasised, they are, numbers l., 2., 4., 5., 6., Samadhi (see Path) & 4.

The Four Sublime or Uplifted States
  1. Metta — Friendliness, Loving-kindness
  2. Karuna — Compassion
  3. Mudita — Joy, Gladness. Appreciation of good qualities in people
  4. Upekkha — Equanimity, the peaceful unshaken mind.

Full development of these four states develops all of the Ten Paramita.

The Five Powers or Spiritual Faculties
  1. Faith, Confidence
  2. Energy, Effort
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Samadhi
  5. Wisdom
The Five Hindrances
  1. Sense craving
  2. Ill-will
  3. Sloth and Torpor
  4. Restlessness and Worry
  5. Toxic doubt and the ruthless inner critic.
The Four bases or Frames of Reference of Mindfulness
  1. Mindfulness of the Body — breath, postures, parts
  2. Mindfulness of Feelings, Sensations — pleasant, unpleasant and neutral
  3. Mindfulness of States of Consciousness
  4. Mindfulness of all Phenomena or Objects of Consciousness.
The Three Signs of Existence or Universal Properties
  1. Anicca — Impermanent
  2. Dukkha — Unsatisfactory, stress inducing
  3. Anatta — Insubstantial or Not-self.
All compounded and conditioned things, all phenomena are impermanent. Because of this they give rise to Stress and Affliction and because of this they are Not-self What we call "self " is a process not a 'thing".

Dependent Origination (12-links of Dependent Arising)

# Pali (Sanskrit) Usual Translation Other Reference Remarks
1 Avijja (Avidya) Ignorance   Lack of wisdom, which is the root of all evils. Obscuration as to self of persons and self of phenomena.
2 Sankhara (Samskara) Karma formations Compositional action Wholesome or unwholesome thoughts, speech and bodily deeds.
3 Vinnana (Vijnana) Conciousness   Normally 6 consciousnesses but is taken as 8 in the Yogacara School.
4 Nama-rupa Name & form Corporeality & mentality Mental & physical existence. 4 mental aggregates and one physical body.
5 Ayatana (Shadayatana) Six bases Six sense organs/spheres Eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch and mental faculty.
6 Phassa (Sparsha) Sense impression Contact A mental factor and period in which the objects, sense power/organ and conciousness come together, causing one to distinguish an object as pleasurable, painful or neutral.
7 Vedana Feeling Sensation Posited as a mental factor that experiencespleasure, pain and neutral feeling. Pleasure leads to a strong desire for more while pain generates an avoidance desire.
8 Tanha (Trishna) Craving Attachment A mental factor that increases desire but without any satisfaction.
9 Upadana Clinging Grasping A stronger degree of desire. 4 basic varieties: desired objects, views of self, bad system of ethics and conduct; and other bad views.
10 Bhava (Bjava) Process of becoming Existence A period lasting from the time of fully potentialised karma up to the beginning of next lifetime.
11 Jati Rebirth    
12 Jara-marana (Jaramaranam) Ageing & Death Decay & Death  
  • Links 1, 2, 8, 9 and 10 are the five karmic causes of rebirths.
  • Links 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 are the five karmic results in the rounds of rebirths.
  • This doctrine is interpreted in various ways and levels
  • The Theravada tradition uses it to explain the arising of sufferings; that all composite existence is without substantiality. This doctrine is then used the basis for the negation of self.
  • In the Mahayana, condition arising is further interpreted to validate the unreality of existence by reason of its relativity.
  • Madhyamika School equates this doctrine with shunyata (emptiness). Condition arising is taken to show that because of their relativity, appearances have only empirical validity and are ultimately unreal.
  • In the Yogacara view, only true understanding of this doctrine can overcome the error of taking what does not exist for existent and what does exist for nonexistent.
  • The Prajnaparamita Sutras stresses that this doctrine does not refer to a temporal succession but rather to the essential interdependence of all things.
Sources of compilation
  • The Meaning of Life; The Dalai Lama, Wisdom Publications 92
  • The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen; Shambhala Pubn 91
  • Living Dharma; Jack Kornfield, Shambhala Pubn 96
  • Buddhist Dictionary; Nyanatiloka, Singapore Buddhist Meditation Centre 91

We have come to a couple of related ideas which are common in Buddhism and they are the ideas of karma and rebirth. These ideas are closely inter-related, but because the subject is a fairly wide one, we will begin to deal with the idea of karma todayand rebirth in another lecture.

We know that what binds us in samsara are the defilements — desire, ill-will and ignorance. We spoke about this when we talked about the Second Noble Truth — the truth of the cause of suffering. These defilements are something which every living being in samsara shares, whether we speak of human beings or animals or beings who live in the other realms which we do not normally perceive. In this, all living beings are alike and yet amongst all the living beings that we can normally perceive, there are many differences. For instance, some of us are wealthy, some are less wealthy, some are strong and healthy, others are disabled and so forth. There are many differences amongst living beings and even more so there are differences between animals and human beings. These differences are due to karma.

What we all share - desire, ill-will and ignorance - are common to all living beings, but the particular condition in which we find ourselves is the result of our particular karma that conditions the situation in which we find ourselves, the situation in which we may be wealthy, strong and so forth. These circumstances are decided by karma. It is in this sense that karma explains the differences amongst living beings. It explains why some beings are fortunate while others are less fortunate, some are happy while others are less happy. The Buddha has specifically stated that karma explains the differences between living beings. You might also recall that the understanding of how karma affects the birth of living beings in happy or unhappy circumstances — the knowledge of how living beings move from happy circumstances to unhappy circumstances, and vice versa, from unhappy to happy circumstances as a result of their karma - was part of the Buddha’s experience on the night of His enlightenment. It is karma that explains the circumstances that living beings find themselves in.

Having said this much about the function of karma, let us look more closely at what karma is. Let us define karma. Maybe we can define karma best by first deciding what karma is not. It is quite often the case that we find people misunderstanding the idea of karma. This is particularly true in our daily casual use of the term. We find people saying that one cannot change one’s situation because of one’s karma. In this sense, karma becomes a sort of escape. It becomes similar to predestination or fatalism. This is emphatically not the correct understanding of karma. It is possible that this misunderstanding of karma has come about because of the popular idea that we have about luck and fate. It may be for this reason that our idea of karma has become overlaid in popular thought with the notion of predestination. Karma is not fate or predestination.

If karma is not fate or predestination, then what is it? Let us look at the term itself. Karma means action, means "to do". Immediately we have an indication that the real meaning of karma is not fate because karma is action. It is dynamic. But it is more than simply action because it is not mechanical action. It is not unconscious or involuntary action. It is intentional, conscious, deliberate, willful action. How is it that this intentional, will action conditions or determines our situation? It is because every action must have a reaction, an effect. This truth has been expressed in regard to the physical universe by the great physicist Newton who formulated the law which states that every action must have an equal and opposite reaction. In the moral sphere of conscious actions, we have a counterpart to the physical law of action and reaction, the law that every intentional, will action must have its effect. This is why we sometimes speak either of Karma-Vipaka, intentional action and its ripened effect, or we speak of Karma-Phala, intentional action and its fruit. It is when we speak of intentional action together with its effect or fruit that we speak of the Law of Karma.

In its most basic sense, the Law of Karma in the moral sphere teaches that similar actions will lead to similar results. Let us take an example. If we plant a mango seed, the plant that springs up will be a mango tree, and eventually it will bear a mango fruit. Alternatively, if we plant a Pong Pong seed, the tree that will spring up will be a Pong Pong tree and the fruit a Pong Pong. As one sows, so shall one reap. According to one’s action, so shall be the fruit. Similarly, in the Law of Karma, if we do a wholesome action, eventually we will get a wholesome fruit, and if we do an unwholesome action eventually we will get an unwholesome, painful result. This is what we mean when we say that causes bring about effects that are similar to the causes. This we will see very clearly when we come to specific examples of wholesome and unwholesome actions.

We can understand by means of this general introduction that karma can be of two varieties - wholesome karma or good karma and unwholesome karma or bad karma. In order that we should not misunderstand this description of karma, it is useful for us to look at the original term. In this case, it is kushala or akushala karma, karma that is wholesome or unwholesome. In order that we understand how these terms are being used, it is important that we know the real meaning of kushala and akushala. Kushala means intelligent or skilful, whereas akushala means not intelligent, not skilful. This helps us to understand how these terms are being used, not in terms of good and evil but in terms of skilful and unskilful, in terms of intelligent and unintelligent, in terms of wholesome and unwholesome. Now how wholesome and how unwholesome? Wholesome in the sense that those actions which are beneficial to oneself and others, those actions that spring not out of desire, ill-will and ignorance, but out of renunciation, loving-kindness and compassion, and wisdom.

One may ask how does one know whether an action that is wholesome or unwholesome will produce happiness or unhappiness. The answer is time will tell. The Buddha Himself answered the question. He has explained that so long as an unwholesome action does not bear its fruit of suffering, for so long a foolish person will consider that action good. But when that unwholesome action bears its fruit of suffering then he will realize that the action is unwholesome. Similarly, so long as a wholesome action does not bear its fruit of happiness, a good person may consider that action unwholesome. When it bears its fruit of happiness, then he will realize that the action is good. So one needs to judge wholesome and unwholesome action from the point of view of long-term effect. Very simply, wholesome actions result in eventual happiness for oneself and others, while unwholesome actions have the opposite result, they result in suffering for oneself and others.

Specifically, the unwholesome actions which are to be avoided relate to the three doors or means of action, and these are body, speech and mind. There are three unwholesome actions of the body, four of speech and three of mind that are to be avoided. The three unwholesome actions of body that are to be avoided are killing, stealing and sexual misconduct. The four unwholesome actions of speech that are to be avoided are lying, slander, harsh speech and malicious gossip. The three unwholesome actions of mind that are to be avoided are greed, anger and delusion. By avoiding these ten unwholesome actions we will avoid their consequences. The unwholesome actions have suffering as their fruit. The fruit of these unwholesome actions can take various forms. The fully ripened fruit of the unwholesome actions consists of rebirth in the lower realms, in the realms of suffering — hell, hungry ghosts and animals. If these unwholesome actions are not sufficient to result in rebirth in these lower realms, they will result in unhappiness in this life as a human being. Here we can see at work the principle of a cause resulting in a similar effect. For example, habitual killing which is motivated by ill-will and anger and which results in the taking of the life of other beings will result in rebirth in the hells where one’s experience is saturated by anger and ill-will and where one may be repeatedly killed. If killing is not sufficiently habitual or weighty to result in rebirth in the hells, killing will result in shortened life as a human being, separation from loved ones, fear or paranoia. Here too we can see how the effect is similar to the cause. Killing shortens the life of others, deprives others of their loved ones and so forth, and so if we kill we will be liable to experience these effects. Similarly, stealing which is borne of the defilement of desire may lead to rebirth as a hungry ghost where one is totally destitute of desired objects. If it does not result in rebirth as a ghost, it will result in poverty, dependence upon others for one’s livelihood and so forth. Sexual misconduct results in martial distress or unhappy marriages.

While unwholesome actions produce unwholesome results - suffering, wholesome actions produce wholesome results - happiness. One can interpret wholesome actions in two ways. One can simply regard wholesome actions as avoiding the unwholesome actions, avoiding killing, stealing, sexual misconduct and the rest. Or one can speak of wholesome actions in positive terms. Here one can refer to the list of wholesome actions that includes generosity, good conduct, meditation, reverence, service, transference of merits, rejoicing in the merit of others, hearing the Dharma, teaching the Dharma and straightening of one’s own views. Just as unwholesome actions produce suffering, these wholesome actions produce benefits. Again effects here are similar to the actions. For example, generosity results in wealth. Hearing of the Dharma results in wisdom. The wholesome actions have as their consequences similar wholesome effects just as unwholesome actions have similar unwholesome effects.

Karma, be it wholesome or unwholesome, is modified by the conditions under which the actions are performed. In other words, a wholesome or unwholesome action may be more or less strong depending upon the conditions under which it is done. The conditions which determine the weight or strength of karma may be divided into those which refer to the subject — the doer of the action — and those which refer to the object — the being to whom the action is done. So the conditions that determine the weight of karma apply to the subject and object of the action. Specifically, if we take the example of killing, in order for the act of killing to have its complete and unmitigated power, five conditions must be present — a living being, the awareness of the existence of a living being, the intention to kill the living being, the effort or action of killing the living being, and the consequent death of the living being. Here too, we can see the subjective and the objective conditions. The subjective conditions are the awareness of the living being, the intention to kill and the action of killing. The objective conditions are the presence of the living being and the consequent death of the living being.

Similarly, there are five conditions that modify the weight of karma and they are persistent, repeated action; action done with great intention and determination; action done without regret; action done towards those who possess extraordinary qualities; and action done towards those who have benefited one in the past. Here too there are subjective and objective conditions. The subjective conditions are persistent action; action done with intention; and action done without regret. If one does an unwholesome action again and again with great intention and without regret, the weight of the action will be enhanced. The objective conditions are the quality of the object to whom actions are done and the nature of the relationship. In other words, if one does a wholesome or unwholesome action towards living beings who possess extraordinary qualities such as the arhats, or the Buddha, the wholesome or unwholesome action done will have greater weight. Finally the power of wholesome or unwholesome action done towards those who have benefited one in the past, such as one’s parents, teachers and friends, will be greater.

The objective and subjective conditions together determine the weight of karma. This is important because understanding this will help us to understand that karma is not simply a matter of black and white, or good and bad. Karma is moral action and moral responsibility. But the working of the Law of Karma is very finely tuned and balanced so as to match effect with cause, so as to take into account the subjective and objective conditions that determine the nature of an action. This ensures that the effects of actions are equal to and similar to the nature of the causes.

The effects of karma may be evident either in the short term or in the long term. Traditionally we divide karma into three varieties related to the amount of time that is required for the effects of these actions to manifest themselves. Karma can either manifest its effects in this very life or in the next life or only after several lives. When karma manifests its effects in this life, we can see the fruit of karma within a relatively short length of time. This variety of karma is easily verifiable by any of us. For instance, when someone refuses to study, when someone indulges in harmful distractions like alcohol and drugs, when someone begins to steal to support his harmful habits; the effects will be evident within a short time. They will be evident in loss of livelihood and friendship, health and so forth. We cannot see the long-term effect of karma, but the Buddha and His prominent disciples who have developed their minds are able to perceive directly the long-term effects. For instance, when Maudgalyayana was beaten to death by bandits, the Buddha was able to tell that this event was the effect of something Maudgalyayana had done in a previous life when he had taken his aged parents to the forest and having beaten them to death, had then reported that they had been killed by bandits. The effect of this unwholesome action done many lives before was manifested only in his last life. At death we have to leave everything behind — our property and our loved ones, but our karma will accompany us like a shadow. The Buddha has said that nowhere on earth or in heaven can one escape one’s karma. So when the conditions are correct, dependent upon mind and body, the effects of karma will manifest themselves just as dependent on certain conditions a mango will appear on a mango tree. We can see that even in the world of nature certain effects take longer to appear than others. If for instance, we plant the seed of a papaya, we will obtain the fruit in shorter period than if we plant the seed of a durian. Similarly, the effects of karma manifest either in the short term or in the long term.

Besides the two varieties of karma, wholesome and unwholesome karma, we should mention neutral or ineffective karma. Neutral karma is karma that has no moral consequence either because the very nature of the action is such as to have no moral consequence or because it is done involuntarily and unintentionally. For example, sleeping, walking, breathing, eating, handicraft and so forth in themselves have no moral consequence. Similarly, unintentional action is ineffective karma. In other words, if one accidentally steps on an insect, being unconscious of its existence, this also constitutes neutral karma because there is no intention - the intentional element is not there.

The benefits of understanding the Law of Karma are that this understanding discourages one from performing unwholesome actions which have suffering as their fruit. Once we understand that in our own life every action will have a similar and equal reaction, once we understand that we will experience the effect of that action, wholesome or unwholesome, we will refrain from unwholesome behavior, not wanting to experience the effects of these unwholesome actions. And similarly, understanding that wholesome actions have happiness as their fruit, we will cultivate these wholesome actions. Reflecting on the Law of Karma, of action and reaction in the moral sphere encourages us to renounce unwholesome actions and cultivate wholesome actions. We will look more closely at the specific effects of karma in future lives and how karma conditions and determines the nature of rebirth in our lecture next week.

The law of karma

Universal Loving Kindness ( Karaniya Meththa Sutha)

In our daily lives we meet all kinds of people. Some are pleasant and some are ill-disposed. There are also moments of anxiety, moments of stress, and circumstances which are perplexing. On encountering unpleasant people, and in difficult times, a recital or perusal of the Sutta will produce beneficial results. The practice of what is contained in it will induce a tranquil state of mind, give us self-confidence, and help us to overcome difficulties.

This is a Sutta (a Discourse) that was delivered by the Buddha to a set of his disciples who had gone to meditate in a forest close to the Himalayan mountain range. They complained that they were being disturbed by some spirits of the forest. The Buddha exhorted them to follow this course of conduct. They went back to the same abode, and putting the advice into practice, found that they were not disturbed anymore.

Homage to Him, the Worthy One, the Exalted One, the Fully Enlightened One.

  1. I go to the Buddha as my refuge
  2. I go to the Dhamma as my refuge
  3. I go to the Sangha as my refuge

The Five Precepts

  1. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from destroying the life of living beings.
  2. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from taking things not given to me.
  3. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from false speech.
  5. I undertake to observe the precept to abstain from taking intoxicants - foundations of slothfulness.

Karaniya Metta Sutta

Universal Loving Kindness
This must be done to gain the State of Peace.
One must be able, upright and straightforward;

Pleasant in Speech, mild and not proud.
Easily contented and easily supportable;
Not caught up in too many "duties" and frugal in one's wants.
Calm in mind, discriminative and courteous;

Not closely attached to households.
Avoiding any mean deeds blameworthy by the wise.
Thinking always thus: "May all beings be happy and safe,
May they all have tranquil minds.

Whatsoever pulsates with the breath of life -
the frail or strong, without exception -
the long, the large, the medium-sized, the short, the thin or fat.

Those visible, and those invisible, those living far away or nearby;
Beings who are already born and those yet unborn.
May they all be happy!

May no-one deceive another, nor despise him in anyway anywhere.
Let no-one wish another ill, owing to anger or provocation.

Just as a mother would protect her son - her only son - with her life -
even so let him cultivate this boundless love to all living beings.

Radiating with a full heart loving thoughts of kindness towards all the world,
free from anger, malice or anxiety - above, below and in all directions.

And while standing, walking, sitting or reclining - still free from drowsiness -
let him maintain this state of mindfulness - termed the "Highest Living"

And living free from mere views, being virtuous, perfect in insight,
free from the lust of sexual desire,
never again shall he be entangled in the round of rebirth.

Hate is never overcome by hate
By love alone it is quelled.
This is a truth of ancient date.
Today still unexcelled.

Avoidance of evil,
Performance of good deeds,
Purification of one's thoughts.
This is the teaching of the Buddhas.

May all beings be happy hearted!

Economic teachings of the Buddha

The Ten Royal Qualities (Dasa Raja Dharma) - By Mithra Wettimuny

First, let me explain to you why the term 'royal' has been used to denote these qualities. There are two reasons for it. First and foremost it is to emphasise the exalted nature, or the greatness of the qualities. Secondly, it is because these qualities are most relevant and necessary for the exercise of leadership.

Proximate and Root causes

Now in our process of learning through numerous educational institutions, professional institutions and through on-the-job training process we come to acquire certain perceptions and certain skills about leadership and the attainment of objectives. Such learning has its relevance, but it also has its limitation. Being learned is a necessary condition for the fulfilment of objectives for a leader. However, learning is only a proximate cause for the realisation of those objectives. Often we find, in spite of much learning, much training and much effort that results don't match our anticipation. Sometimes the results end up in disaster. This is because whilst great effort and concentration has gone towards the fulfilment of those necessary proximate causes, insufficient attention has been paid to the fulfilment of certain essential root causes.

Learning is a necessary cause, a necessary condition. However, there are certain other essential conditions at root level which must be established, developed and made much of, for the realisation of wholesome aspirations, of wholesome objectives. A leader must acquire, develop and make much of such root conditions. These ten royal qualities of leadership, go to make up, those root conditions. It is the foundation on which he builds up his path. If the foundation is weak, needless to say the results, will not be in accordance with one's anticipations. If however, the foundation is strong, the root causes are well established, those necessary proximate causes also will fall into place with effortless ease and most of all the results of one's effort will be in accordance with one's anticipations. Through that process one can be content that not only has one achieved one's own objectives but it has also been for one's own welfare and most of all for the welfare of others too, because welfare of others must always be foremost in the mind of a leader.

Now I'll briefly outline to you what these ten royal qualities are and thereafter show you how they get developed. There are ten such qualities.

The way to develop the ten Royal Qualities

In order to show how these qualities are developed I can summarize it into three words. Gifting, Restraint and Taming.

Let me briefly expound to you the fruits of gifting. The fruits of gifting are wealth and comforts. Good noble friends, good advisors, good reliable, honest, skilled assistants and workers. Now this is the most valuable fruit for a leader, because a leader always needs good people to work with. Infact that is one of his greatest assets. Another fruit of gifting is good children but most of all the greatest fruit of gifting is that it positively helps in the destruction of greed. If you go from greed to greed these ten qualities will never get developed. If you go from greed to greed you will only go from misery to misery. The restraint of the senses or the practice of austerity goes hand in hand with the control of greed. If you practise this process of gifting continuously, frequently, it acts positively for the abatement and the destruction of greed.

The next is restraint. This means the restraint of the senses. The control and the guarding of the doors of the senses. Practice of austerities and the development of virtue can only get completed, if one is always practising restraint. It is very easy to cater to the pleasures of the senses. Anyone can do that. However, it requires effort to restrain one's senses and it is this development of restraint that goes to fulfil those two qualities that I earlier mentioned as virtue and austerity.

Finally we come to this process of taming. What it means is the taming of the mind. A mind that is tamed means a mind that is calm and serene. A mind that is well collected, well composed and endowed with knowledge and wisdom. This is a most vital process because the mind is the forerunner to all things. Therefore, firm resolve and much effort should be directed to the task of taming the mind. A leader in the process of trying to fulfil his objectives will encounter obstacles. He overcomes those obstacles by wisdom. Unforseen conditions, obstacles, problems are of the nature to arise when one proceeds towards fulfilment of objectives. A leader requires wisdom at that time to surmount them and to carry on with his task.

When these three practices of gifting, restraint and taming are developed and when you make much of it these ten royal qualities blossom out. When these ten royal qualities blossom out a being acquires certain skills which makes one a leader.

The Hall marks of a great Leader

The hall marks of a great leader are five in nature. A great leader knows the law. He knows his people. He knows that which is beneficial. He knows the right measure and he knows the right time. And it is by being armed with these five knowedges that he dispenses his duties and responsibilities, that he shows the way. At all times purity of intention is foremost. It is an absolute necessity. Needless to say one who is well established in these qualities, his intentions will also have that purity. To him always the welfare of his subjects is at heart.

His happiness is derived by seeing his people's happiness. To him altruistic joy or joy at the well being of others is nutrition. Because of such purity of intention and because he is endowed with these qualities firmly sustained by his continuous practice of those qualities he comes to achieve his objectives, fulfils his aspirations not only for his own welfare but for the welfare of others too.

The Hall marks of a great Leader

The hall marks of a great leader are five in nature. A great leader knows the law. He knows his people. He knows that which is beneficial. He knows the right measure and he knows the right time. And it is by being armed with these five knowedges that he dispenses his duties and responsibilities, that he shows the way. At all times purity of intention is foremost. It is an absolute necessity. Needless to say one who is well established in these qualities, his intentions will also have that purity. To him always the welfare of his subjects is at heart.

His happiness is derived by seeing his people's happiness. To him altruistic joy or joy at the well being of others is nutrition. Because of such purity of intention and because he is endowed with these qualities firmly sustained by his continuous practice of those qualities he comes to achieve his objectives, fulfils his aspirations not only for his own welfare but for the welfare of others too.

Economic teachings of the Buddha The Ten Royal Qualities  (Dasa Raja Dharma)
  1. Dana - Gifting
  2. Parithyaga - Sacrifice
  3. Sila - Virtue
  4. Thapasa - Austerity
  5. lrju - Uprightness
  6. Murdu - Soft
  7. Avihimsa - Non-harm
  8. Akrodaya - Non-ill will
  9. Kanthi - Forbearance
  10. Avirodita - Non-conflict

Also its wise to understand The hall marks of a great leader

  1. A great leader knows the law.
  2. He knows his people.
  3. He knows that which is beneficial.
  4. He knows the right measure
  5. and he knows the right time.

And it is by being armed with these five knowedges that he dispenses his duties and responsibilities, that he shows the way. At all times purity of intention is foremost. It is an absolute necessity. Needless to say one who is well established in these qualities, his intentions will also have that purity. To him always the welfare of his subjects is at heart.

Ethics on Buddhism

Essentially, according to Buddhist teachings, the ethical and moral principles are governed by examining whether a certain action, whether connected to body or speech is likely to be harmful to one's self or to others and thereby avoiding any actions which are likely to be harmful. In Buddhism, there is much talk of a skilled mind. A mind that is skilful avoids actions that are likely to cause suffering or remorse.

Moral conduct for Buddhists differs according to whether it applies to the laity or to the Sangha or clergy. A lay Buddhist should cultivate good conduct by training in what are known as the "Five Precepts". These are not like, say, the ten commandments, which, if broken, entail punishment by God. The five precepts are training rules, which, if one were to break any of them, one should be aware of the breech and examine how such a breech may be avoided in the future. The resultant of an action (often referred to as Karma) depends on the intention more than the action itself. It entails less feelings of guilt than its Judeo-Christian counterpart. Buddhism places a great emphasis on 'mind' and it is mental anguish such as remorse, anxiety, guilt etc. which is to be avoided in order to cultivate a calm and peaceful mind. The five precepts are:

  1. To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. 
  2. This precept applies to all living beings not just humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected.

  3. To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given. 
  4. This precept goes further than mere stealing. One should avoid taking anything unless one can be sure that is intended that it is for you.

  5. To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct. 
  6. This precept is often mistranslated or misinterpreted as relating only to sexual misconduct but it covers any overindulgence in any sensual pleasure such as gluttony as well as misconduct of a sexual nature.

  7. To undertake the training to refrain from false speech. 
  8. As well as avoiding lying and deceiving, this precept covers slander as well as speech which is not beneficial to the welfare of others.

  9. To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness.
  10. This precept is in a special category as it does not infer any intrinsic evil in, say, alcohol itself but indulgence in such a substance could be the cause of breaking the other four precepts.

    These are the basic precepts expected as a day to day training of any lay Buddhist. On special holy days, many Buddhists, especially those following the Theravada tradition, would observe three additional precepts with a strengthening of the third precept to be observing strict celibacy. The additional precepts are:

  11. To abstain from taking food at inappropriate times.
  12. This would mean following the tradition of Theravadin monks and not eating from noon one day until sunrise the next.

  13. To abstain from dancing, singing, music and entertainments as well as refraining from the use of perfumes, ornaments and other items used to adorn or beautify the person. 
  14. Again, this and the next rule.

  15. To undertake the training to abstain from using high or luxurious beds
  16. are rules regularly adopted by members of the Sangha and are followed by the layperson on special occasions.

Laypersons following the Mahayana tradition, who have taken a Bodhisattva vow, will also follow a strictly vegetarian diet. This is not so much an additional precept but a strengthening of the first precept; To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. The eating of meat would be considered a contribution to the taking of life, indirect though it may be.

The Buddhist clergy, known as the Sangha, are governed by 227 to 253 rules depending on the school or tradition for males or Bhikkhus and between 290 and 354 rules, depending on the school or tradition for females or Bhikkhunis. These rules, contained in the Vinaya or first collection of the Buddhist scriptures,, are divided into several groups, each entailing a penalty for their breech, depending on the seriousness of that breech. The first four rules for males and the first eight for females, known as Parajika or rules of defeat, entail expulsion from the Order immediately on their breech. The four applying to both sexes are: Sexual intercourse, killing a human being, stealing to the extent that it entails a gaol sentence and claiming miraculous or supernormal powers. Bhikkhunis' additional rules relate to various physical contacts with males with one relating to concealing from the order the defeat or parajika of another. Before his passing, the Buddha instructed that permission was granted for the abandonment or adjustment of minor rules should prevailing conditions demand such a change. These rules apply to all Sangha members irrespective of their Buddhist tradition.

The interpretation of the rules, however differs between the Mahayana and Theravada traditions. The Theravadins, especially those from Thailand, claim to observe these rules to the letter of the law, however, in many cases, the following is more in theory than in actual practice. The Mahayana Sangha interprets the rule not to take food at an inappropriate time as not meaning fasting from noon to sunrise but to refrain from eating between mealtimes. The fasting rule would be inappropriate, from a health angle, for the Sangha living in cold climates such as China, Korea and Japan. When one examines the reason that this rule was instituted initially, the conclusion may be reached that it is currently redundant. It was the practice in the Buddha's time for the monks to go to the village with their bowls to collect food. To avoid disturbing the villagers more than necessary, the Buddha ordered his monks to make this visit once a day, in the early morning. This would allow the villagers to be free to conduct their day to day affairs without being disturbed by the monks requiring food. Today, of course, people bring food to the monasteries or prepare it on the premises so the original reason no longer applies. As many of you would be aware, in some Theravadin countries, the monks still go on their early morning alms round, but this is more a matter of maintaining a tradition than out of necessity. Also, a rule prohibiting the handling of gold and silver, in other words - money, is considered by the Mahayana Sangha a handicap were it to be observed strictly in today's world. They interpret this rule as avoiding the accumulation of riches which leads to greed. Theravadin monks tend to split hairs on this rule as, although most will not touch coins, many carry credit cards and cheque books.

Let me now deal briefly with the Buddhist attitude to violence, war and peace. The Buddha said in the Dhammapada:

  • Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily the peaceful live giving up victory and defeat.(Dp.15,5)
  • and
  • Hatreds never cease by hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law. (Dp.1,5)

The first precept refers to the training to abstain from harming living beings. Although history records conflicts involving the so-called Buddhist nations, these wars have been fought for economic or similar reasons. However, history does not record wars fought in the name of propagating Buddhism. Buddhism and, perhaps, Jainism are unique in this regard. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama has never suggested armed conflict to overcome the persecution and cruelty perpetrated by the Communist Chinese occupation forces. He has always advocated a peaceful and non-violent solution. Venerable Maha Ghosananda, the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia has urged Cambodians to put aside their anger for the genocide of the Khmer Rouge and to unify to re-establish their nation. He has written:

The suffering of Cambodia has been deep. From this suffering comes great compassion. Great compassion makes a peaceful heart. A peaceful heart makes a peaceful person. A peaceful person makes a peaceful family. A peaceful family makes a peaceful community. A peaceful community makes a peaceful nation. A peaceful nation makes a peaceful world.

Going back to the early history of Buddhism, Emperor Asoka, who, after a bloody but successful military campaign, ruled over more than two thirds of the Indian subcontinent, suffered great remorse for the suffering that he had caused, banned the killing of animals and exhorted his subjects to lead kind and tolerant lives. He also promoted tolerance towards all religions which he supported financially. The prevalent religions of that time were the sramanas or wandering ascetics, Brahmins, Ajivakas and Jains. He recommended that all religions desist from self praise and condemnation of others. His pronouncements were written on rocks at the periphery of his kingdom and on pillars along the main roads and where pilgrims gathered. He also established many hospitals for both humans and animals. Some of his important rock edicts stated:

  1. Asoka ordered that banyan trees and mango groves be planted, rest houses built and wells dug every half mile along the main roads.
  2. He ordered the end to killing of any animal for use in the royal kitchens.
  3. He ordered the provision of medical facilities for humans and beasts.
  4. He commanded obedience to parents, generosity to priests and ascetics and frugality in spending.
  5. All officers must work for the welfare of the poor and the aged.
  6. He recorded his intention to promote the welfare of all beings in order to repay his debt to all beings.
  7. He honours men of all faiths.

Not all Buddhists follow the non-violent path, however. A Buddhist monk, Phra Kittiwutthi of the Phra Chittipalwon College in Thailand, is noted for his extreme right-wing views. He said that it was not a breech of the first precept to kill communists. He said that if Thailand were in danger of a communist takeover, he would take up arms to protect Buddhism. Sulak Sivaraksa, a Thai peace activist, reports in his book, "Seeds of Peace" that Phra Kittiwutthi has since modified his stance by declaring "to kill communism or communist ideology is not a sin". Sulak adds that the monk confessed that his nationalist feelings were more important than his Buddhist practice and that he would be willing to abandon his yellow robes to take up arms against communist invaders from Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam. By doing so, he said, he would be preserving the monarchy, the nation and the Buddhist religion. In contrast to the views of Phra Kittiwutthi, Sulak Sivaraksa reports that the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh is of the view that 'preserving Buddhism does not mean that we should sacrifice people's lives in order to safeguard the Buddhist hierarchy, monasteries or rituals. Even if Buddhism as such were extinguished, when human lives are preserved and when human dignity and freedom are cultivated towards peace and loving kindness, Buddhism can be reborn in the hearts of human beings.

In conclusion, I will briefly mention some other issues mentioned in the Syllabus.

The third precept on training in restraint of the senses includes sexuality. A Buddhist should be mindful of the possible effects on themselves and on others of improper sexual activity. This precept would include adultery because this also breeches the precept of not taking what does is not freely given. A relationship with someone who is committed to another is stealing. Similarly in cases of rape and child abuse, one is stealing the dignity and self respect of another. One is also the cause of mental pain, not to mention physical pain so one is causing harm to another living being. Therefore, such behaviour is breaking several precepts.

Marriage is not a sacrament in Buddhism as it is in other religions. Marriage is governed by civil law and a Buddhist is expected to observe the prevailing law in whatever country they live. In the Theravadin tradition, monks are prohibited by their Vinaya rules to encourage or perform a marriage ceremony. The rule states:

Should a Bhikkhu engage to act as a go-between for a man's intentions to a woman or a woman's intentions to a man, whether about marriage or paramourage, even for a temporary arrangement, this entails initial and subsequent meeting of the Sangha.

In many Theravadin countries, the couple will, following their marriage in a civil ceremony, invite the monks to their home to perform a blessing ceremony. They will offer food and other requisites to the monks and invite their family and friends to participate. In the Mahayana tradition the same rule conveys an entirely different meaning. It reads:

Should a Bhikkshu, seek to establish a conducive situation by means of which a man and a woman engage in sexual misconduct, either by himself, by order, or by means of messages, and as a result of his activities the man and woman should meet, he has committed an offence.

This rule does not preclude marriage but, rather, deals with the monk assuming the role of a procurer for immoral purposes. In Western countries, following the Christian precedent, many Mahayana monks become registered marriage celebrants so that, if called upon, a marriage ceremony can be performed in the temple. Generally, in countries where the law allows, Buddhists accept de-facto relationships. Promiscuity would be frowned upon as sexual misconduct but an ongoing relationship between two people, either within or outside of marriage would be considered moral conduct. As one of the essential Buddhist teachings is that everything is impermanent and subject to change, the irrevocable breakdown of a relationship between a couple would be understood in this light, so divorce would not be considered improper.

As far as bioethical questions are concerned, it is mainly a matter of the attitude of the different traditions or schools of Buddhism. This is tied to the concept of rebirth and when it occurs. According to the Theravadin tradition, rebirth occurs immediately upon death. The body of the deceased is no longer considered as a part of the former being, so such things as autopsies, organ transplants etcetera are allowable. In fact, many Theravadins, especially in Malaysia, encourage the donation of human organs as being the highest form of giving. Often, especially at Vesak, the celebration of the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha, blood donations are performed in the temple grounds. The Mahayana, on the other hand, believes that there is an intermediate state between incarnations, known as Antarabhava. Most people following this tradition try to avoid touching or moving the body for, at least eight hours after death. This, of course, means that the organs would by then be useless for transfer to another human being.

The Buddhist work ethic and business and professional ethics would, ideally be closely tied to respect for the environment. It is well described in E.F.Schumacher's book "Small is Beautiful":

"While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is the Middle Way and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well being. The keynote of Buddhist economics is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist's point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern - amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfying results."

Ken Jones in a paper called "Buddhism and Social Action" comments: "Schumacher outlines a 'Buddhist economics' in which production would be based on a middle range of material goods (and no more), and on the other a harmony with the natural environment and its resources.

The above principles suggest some kind of diverse and politically decentralised society, with co-operative management and ownership of productive wealth. It would be conceived on a human scale, whether in terms of size and complexity or organisation or of environmental planning, and would use modern technology selectively rather than being used by it in the service of selfish interests. In Schumacher's words, 'It is a question of finding the right path of development, the Middle Way, between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding Right Livelihood'".

Despite the theory surrounding Buddhist business practice, greed still seems to be the order of the day in many Buddhist countries. In Thailand, a monk in the north, Acharn Ponsektajadhammo, has been leading a campaign against the environmental vandalism of the timber industry. Tree felling in Northern Thailand has caused erosion, flooding and has economically ruined small farmers. For his environmental efforts, Acharn Ponsektajadhammo has had death threats and was recently arrested. In Japan, another country where the majority of the population is Buddhist, the killing of whales and dolphins is still prevalent. Animals seem to find no place in the group culture of Japanese society.

As may be seen from the foregoing, Buddhist ethical principles are very noble and in an ideal world their practice would lead to peace and harmony but, unfortunately, as the Buddha has taught, people are motivated by greed hatred and delusion - even Buddhists.

Numerical Discourses of the Buddha

Numerical Discourses of the Buddha

An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya;
translated and edited by Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi

The Pali Text Society's translations of the four main Nikayas, or divisions of the oldest Buddhist scriptures, began in 1899 with TW Rhys Davids' translation of the Digha Nikaya. These works have performed a great service to Buddhists around the world, but they are now in need of replacement. This began in 1978 with Maurice Walshe's translation of the Digha Nikaya, entitled Thus Have I Heard, and published by Wisdom Publications. Wisdom has continued its excellent work with further translations of the Majjhima Nikaya, or The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, published in 1995, and the Samyutta Nikaya, or The Connected Discourses of the Buddha, published last year.

The key figure in both these recent translations is the American monk, Bhikkhu Bodhi. The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha is Bodhi's extensively revised edition of a hand-written draft translation of the Majjhima Nikaya left behind by the late English monk, Bhikkhu Nanamoli, and includes 198 pages of valuable notes. The Connected Discourses of the Buddha is Bodhi's own translation, an enormous undertaking presented in two fat volumes of 2,074 pages, including 449 pages of extensive notes drawn mainly from the commentaries. For this alone, Bodhi deserves at least 20 aeons in some Brahma heaven!

All that is missing now is a new translation of the Anguttara Nikaya or The Book of Gradual Sayings as it is called in the PTS translation. When I heard there was indeed a new translation of the Anguttara by Bodhi, entitled Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, my response was disbelief. As The Connected Discourses of the Buddha has only just been published, how could anyone complete a translation of the whole Anguttara Nikaya in such a short time? But the subtitle provides the explanation:An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya. This anthology is an edition by Bodhi of translations previously published by his 'personal mentor', the late 'eminent German scholar-monk Venerable Nyanaponika'. These were published by the Buddhist Publication Society in three short volumes from 1970-76.

The original BPS editions contained translations of 153 suttas. Bodhi has deleted five of these and added 60 new translations of his own, making a total of 208 suttas. This may not seem much considering the Anguttara contains some 2,344 suttas, but as 'several topically related suttas have been joined into a single text', what we in fact have is a 'selection [that] includes about a fifth of the whole'. A numbering system is provided that facilitates cross-referencing with the PTS translations, but not directly to their Pali edition. As well as a 30-page two-part introduction, Pali-English Glossary, Index and Bibliography, we are also provided with 41 pages of very useful notes.

Whereas the chapters in the Samyutta Nikaya are divided according to subject matter, for example the 'Uncompounded', or the 'Aggregates', the Anguttara is divided into chapters according to number, from one to eleven. For example, in 'The Chapter of the Ones', we find: 'No other form do I know, O monks, that so persists in obsessing the mind of a man as the form of a woman'. With the Chapter on the Fives we have: 'There are, O monks, these five powers: the power of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom'. If one knows a numbered list, this is the place to look.

Sometimes, however, the notes drawn from the commentaries are far from illuminating. For example, commenting on the phrase 'based on that craving, he abandons craving', the commentary states: 'Based on the present craving (to become an arahant), he gives up the previous craving that was the root-cause of the cycle of rebirth'. But in Nyanaponika's original note, the commentary goes on: 'Now (it may be asked) whether such present craving (for arahantship) is wholesome or unwholesome? - It is unwholesome. - Should it be pursued or not? - It should be pursued. - Does it drag one into rebirth or not? - It does not drag one into rebirth'. That something classed as 'unwholesome' (akusala) is to be pursued, does not lead to rebirth, and ends in arahantship is clearly in more need of an explanation than is the original phrase! Could this be the reason Bodhi edited these comments out?

One of the most frequently quoted and doctrinally problematic statements from the Anguttara is that: 'This mind O monks, is luminous, but is defiled by adventitious defilements'. The note from the commentary states that this luminous mind 'refers to the bhavanga-citta, the 'life-continuum' or underlying stream of consciousness which supervenes whenever active consciousness lapses, most notably in deep sleep'. The bhavanga-citta is a late Theravada Abhidharmic conception, introduced to account for individual continuity - especially karmic continuity - over lifetimes, without any notion of an unchanging 'continuer'. But how this luminous mind is 'illuminated' by a conception of mind akin to the state of deep sleep is indeed a puzzle.

These comments aside, the only worthwhile reward for Bhikkhu Bodhi's efforts to bring the reported word of the historical Buddha to a confused world is for all intelligent persons to rush out and buy a copy of this excellent translation.


The Dhamma

The Dhamma: Is it a philosophy?

The 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 generation.

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).

The 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
  1. Mahavagga Pali -- Greater Section
  2. Cullavagga Pali -- Shorter Section
  3. 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, viz:
  1. 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. Ariya 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 Pitaka.

In the Sutta Pitaka is found the conventional teaching (vohara desana) while in the Abhidhamma Pitaka is found the ultimate teaching (paramattha-desana). To 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. Matter is summarily discussed; fundamental units of matter, properties of matter, sources of matter, relationship between mind and matter, are explained. The 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. Buddhism in a nut shell

The 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 Individuals)
  5. Dhatu-Katha (Discussion with reference to elements)
  6. Yamaka (The Book of Pairs),
  7. Patthana (The Book of Relations)

In 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 philosopher.

Schopenhauer 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.

The 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 the Ganges.

It 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."

He 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.

Buddhism 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.

The Dhamma he taught is not merely to be preserved in books, nor is it a subject to be studied from an historical or literary standpoint. On the contrary it is to be learnt 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).

Buddhism, 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.