BuddhaSasana Home Page
ESSENTIAL THEMES OF BUDDHISTS LECTURES
Venerable Sayadaw Ashin U Thittila
II. Talks involving Sila in particular
11. BUDDHISM IN BURMA
In Buddhist Burma the Burmese, who have inherited such a sublime ethical code of compassion and altruism, used to be remarkable for an acute sense of humanity, and therefore they were well known to Westerners as one of the happiest people in the world.
We often hear, however, the complaint that some of them have changed their attitude towards their religion, Buddhism. which has been a great source of their happiness, peace and culture, In Buddhist Burma there are certain sore spots of which the following appear to be the most significant: (1) Lack of metta (loving kindness), (2) neglect of religious principles and (3) change from the spirit of compassion and tenderness, which Buddhism teaches. to that of harshness and selfishness.
In the world as a whole there is enough money and material, and no lack of intellect. But what is it that is lacking? The will to do good, metta, is not strong enough to prevail against the powers of darkness, the world is disturbed and men distrust each other. What can we do to help? To increase metta in the world is the worlds supreme need. The lack of metta is the major cause of war. Apart from military conflicts there are many other conflicts, racial, political, economic and even religious conflicts. The chief cause of nearly all these conflicts is the lack of metta.
Since the end of the first Great War there have been many organizations termed international; many authors have written on this subject of internationalism. Idealistic workers who dream and hope for a better future have started many international movements. We had the League of Nations founded in 1920. but they failed to maintain peace. Why? Because most of them have dealt with mere external and material adjustments. too much attention has been paid to the material and too little to the spiritual side of life. Materialism alone cannot give happiness and peace - which we all desire. It is not materialistic ideology but the Buddhist way of life that is suitable for Burma which is still looked up to by the entire Buddhist world as the home of pure Buddhism. What is needed most in Burma is the practice of the noble principles of Buddhism which teaches the upholding of the laws of morality, fair dealing, honour, truth, right and refinement.
Neglect of religious principles is one of the fundamental causes of war. One of the most important ethical teachings of the Buddha is 'non-killing' or non-violence'.
Aggressiveness, urge to destroy or kill is a natural instinct common to both animal and man, but there is a great difference in the way in which instincts function in men and animals. In the case of animals and primitive men the impulse of violence is no doubt a protective and preservative device both for the individual and for the species. Animal needs are only those which are essential for self-preservation. they are nor to blame for their acts, for they are regulated by nature. But in the case of man it is quite different, he has a larger number of instinctive urges than animals hate. Man by virtue of his possessing higher capacities of memory, imagination, thought, reasoning, self-respect, moral conscience and religious faith, should think of the consequences, immediate as well as remote, of his actions before he performs them, that he may know beforehand how far they are conducive to his personal. social and spiritual security and welfare. His higher and more lasting interests should not be sacrificed on the altar of the momentary gratification of selfish desires.
Man, and not the animal, has often to choose between cruelty and sympathy, which cannot be both exercised at the same time with regard to the same object. Which one shall he choose? It is not difficult to decide that even from the point of view of one's own personal health and happiness, one should follow the path of love and sympathy rather than that of cruelty and violence. For he is more of a human being while walking along the former path than while going along the latter. Moreover, no man, party, community or race can be sure of being equally strong and powerful at all times to live successfully by violence. In order, therefore, to be on the safe side and to safeguard against becoming a future object of wrath of a forthcoming stronger man, party. community or race. he or it should keep his or its violent tendency under control, and set a right and desirable example for the future behaviour of mankind.
It is a truism that he who lives by the sword perishes by the sword. A cruel man, party, community or race is bound to be treated cruelly when he or it becomes weak in course of time and others come into power. It is also true that cruel persons live a miserable life and die a miserable death. A tyrant lives a life of perpetual danger. Aggressive individuals and communities live in perpetual fear of other individuals and communities. The gains and victories of violence, although quickly achieved, are short-lived and are maintained at a heavy cost, therefore, even from a purely selfish point of view, the path of violence is not secure and desirable.
Human society flourishes better when it is based on love, sympathy and co-operation than when based on acts of violence which the Buddha asked us to avoid. Acts of violence are diseases of humanity. Cruel and selfish individuals or communities who trample over and crush the natural rights of others, are like poisonous germs or diseases in the body. A healthy and happy social life demands that all its members should live with others amicably and should help and protect each other.
in the ideal society, the key-note of the stronger members is loving care and renunciation for the weaker ones, and that of the weaker ones is love and co-operation. In this age. when scientific discoveries and inventions have greatly increased the powers of man to do both good and evil, there is a great need for organizing education that is based on rational, just and moral principles for developing a keen social and humanitarian consciousness in every child so that the inhuman, barbarous and violent activities of men threatening the very destruction of humanity itself may not recur. Nobody likes to be harmed, injured or killed by another. if somebody does so. he violates the basic social principle. He is antisocial, and therefore a criminal.
Social solidarity and material gains are not the only objects of human life, the material and spiritual sides of life are interdependent and interrelated, so the importance of both must be realized. Material life is lived not only by human beings but also by animals. Men by virtue of possessing higher capacities should live a higher and nobler life in which peace and goodwill rather than struggle and destruction prevail. As a moral being guided by moral
conscience, man should rise much above an animal. He should become a being of a higher world in which higher values are preferred to mere material life and material gain, in which every human being is regarded as an equal and never as inferior to another, and in which truth, justice. honesty. fellowship and freedom are the intuitively accepted principles of action.
B.B.C. EUROPEAN SERVICE GENERAL NEWS TALK,
The word 'dialogue', used in connection with the ecumenical movement, means conversation or discussion between separated Christian churches in order to pave the way for greater harmony between them. According to his first great letter or encyclical. however, addressed to the bishops. clergy, people of the Catholic Church and 'to all men of goodwill'. the present Pope has considered it on a wider scale than the ecumenical dialogue between Christians. I therefore would like to take the opportunity to contribute to a series of talks on the general theme of the ecumenical movement from a Buddhist point of view.
The teaching founded by the Buddha is known as Buddhism. All the teachings of the Buddha can be summed up in one verse:
'To refrain from all evil,
The evil thoughts are to be eliminated and the virtuous thoughts to be increased. Mere ceasing from evil is not enough. a noble effort is needed to replace evil by good. All this constitutes self culture, and in the course of this culture the individual, through his kind thoughts, words and deeds, helps all his neighbours and makes them happy.
Thus Buddhism is not individualistic, it is not a negative treatment. it is indeed a positive philosophy in which an ethical and moral code is enunciated to a great degree. In fact Buddhism is largely devoted to ethico-moral discipline, and through that discipline one can attain deliverance. As such it can be supplementary to any religion, and in fact it did act as a supplement to other religions. In China and Japan, for example, Buddhism supplemented the local religions; it did not expel local faiths, it merely stimulated people to moral awakening, ethical excellence and philosophical understanding. In this way Buddhism may be said to be a moralizing agent and a civilizing force.
Buddhism being an ethico-moral discipline should have no quarrel with any other religion, no religion worth the name should oppose ethico-moral discipline which is a synonym of Buddhism. It is on this basis that Buddhists will be willing to enter into genuine dialogue with the members of all other religions, in fact the Buddhists of Thailand have already taken the first step towards it.
An inter-religious conference was held in Bangkok under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Thailand on the 26th October 1964. The conference was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Thailand, who said that the circumstances of the world at present were such that no religion could isolate itself from another. It is therefore of great importance that all religious people, no matter to what faith they belong, should come and work together for the security and development of both their religions and their countries. He was convinced of the fact that there is nothing to fear from sincere people of any faith, who are no threat to anybody or anything. What is to be feared, he said, is the kind of people who have intrinsically no religious principle in mind. The Prime Minister requested the co-operation of all religious people, asking them to safeguard their religious members and the people against dangerous political ideologies that seek to destroy all religions.
The religions whose ministers were present at the conference were Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism. Sikhism and Brahmanism. The Director of Religious Affairs there, said that the purpose of the conference was to promote co-operation among the various religions, to promote unity among all people with faith in religion, to build moral strength and to exchange views and opinions on religious matters. The theme of the conference was 'Religion in the Light of Life', in which the representatives of all the religions took part and freely expressed their views and opinions. The conference was such a great success that the Director-General hoped to be able to arrange a second of its kind on a greater scale, if possible international, sometime in 1965.
To have proper moral discipline, to promote co-operation and unity among men. Buddhism emphasizes the importance of metta, universal and all-embracing love. Metta means much more than brotherly feeling or kindheartedness. though these are part of it; it is active benevolence, a love which is expressed and fulfilled in active ministry for the uplifting of fellow beings. The Buddha said.
This is the model of what man should be to man.
Metta goes hand in hand with helpfulness and willingness to forego self-interest in order to promote the welfare and happiness of mankind. It is metta which in Buddhism is the basis for social progress. It is this 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 religion; any religion worth the name is not confined to any one country or any one particular nation. it is universal. Religion is an education of the heart, with a view to refining our nature and elevating us in the scale of human beings. Religion is not merely theory, but practice. and the heart, like the body, becomes healthy and strong by practical exercise. No doctrine merely held in the mind as an intellectual belief has any driving force. no doctrine is of any value unless and until it is applied.
The Buddha said,
Practice of the moral life is the very core and essence of religion. It is action and not speculation. it is practice and not theory that counts in life. The will to do, followed by the doing. is the actual virtue, the will does not count much unless it is fulfilled. To put one's high ideas and concepts into practice is religion in the best sense.
The world has found itself as one body; yet the fact of physical unity and economic interdependence, though of very great value. is not by itself sufficient to create a united family, for this we require a human consciousness of community, a sense of personal interrelationship among men. Science proves that the fundamental structure of the human mind is uniform in all races; what differences there are, are due to historical circumstances and stages of development. Without recognition of the oneness of the world of today in all its aspects. spiritual as well as social, there will never be harmony among religions.
In order to pave the way for harmony among religions, we must realize the oneness of the world and understand that we are one family. Life is a mighty wheel of perpetual motion. This great wheel contains within it numberless small wheels, corresponding to the lives of individual men, each of which has a pattern of its own. The great wheel and the smaller wheels, the whole world and individual men, are intimately and indissolubly linked; the whole human family is so closely knit together that every unit is dependent upon all others for its growth and development.
To bring Out the goodness in us, each one of us has to try to reproduce in his own wheel of life that pattern which is in harmony with the pattern of the great universal wheel. For all the wheels to revolve in harmony the highest good in each must be developed; this is possible by the performance of daily duties with kindness, courtesy and truthfulness. The ideal that is placed before us is that of mutual service and practical brotherhood. In all our thoughts, our emotions, our words and our deeds, we act and react upon one another; in a very real sense each one of us is responsible for the whole community. Men, being in need of each other, should learn to love one another, bearing one another's burdens: mutual service is a perpetual call upon humanity, for we are bound alike by the bonds of humanity.
Wherever there is a good man, a truly upright and noble man, pure in his motives and compassionate in his heart, whatever his faith may be, that man is one whom the Buddhist will revere. At the time of death, whatever may have been his creed. the Buddhist knows that he will receive the just result of his actions in the new birth: not according to his faith or any religious ceremonies he may have performed, but on the merits of thought, word and deed, the good he did to those around him, the integrity with which he acted and reacted. He may have been a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, theist or atheist, it makes no difference.
In the universal Law of Cause and Effect, that man's actions will produce good in the world to himself as well as to others, and in time he also will attain the goal of deliverance - may in fact be nearer to it than many who are mere professed Buddhists. It is on this basis also that the Teaching of the Buddha embraces the members of all other faiths, and the followers of the Buddha are able to extend the hand of brotherhood to all humanity.
13. A BUDDHIST VIEW OF WORLD PEACE
In the world as a whole there is enough money and material and there is no lack of intellect, yet something is missing. What is it? The answer is the spirit of fellowship, and it is this lack of active fellowship which is the major cause of war. Apart from military conflicts, there are of course many other kinds of conflict such as racial, political, economic, even religious conflicts, and the cause of nearly all of them is the lack of the spirit of fellowship.
In a conflict each side has its own conceit. but to hide it both parties have their own nicely written labels such as, 'New World Order', 'Civilizing the Backward Peoples', 'Co-prosperity in East Asia'. etc.. and in almost every conflict each side blames the other, both parties claiming that they are right. They even use the name of religion to justify their actions, and will try to persuade God to take their side, although without seeming to make any attempt to be on God's side. They claim that there is only one God. apparently forgetting that if there is only one God, there must be only one family of men, and they treat one another not just as strangers but as enemies.
Since the end of the first world war there have been many organizations called 'international'. Many authors have written on the subject of internationalism, and idealistic workers hoping for a better future have started many international movements, but all without exception have failed to maintain peace. Why? In the first place they have not, for one reason or another, been able to carry out their plans: secondly. they received insufficient support from the public; and thirdly, most of them have dealt only with the purely external, material adjustments, paying too much attention to the material side of life and too little to the spiritual side. The two sides are interdependent and interrelated, and the importance of both should be recognized.
Then came the second world war, unparalleled in history for destruction. The world is still in a state of chaos, devoid of peace and real happiness, and once again idealistic workers, lecturers and writers are producing books and introducing new international organizations. Will they be successful in maintaining peace? It is possible to predict whether they will be successful or not; they will be successful if the leaders and workers can carry through their plans in a spirit of world fellowship, otherwise they will never be successful, there will be further wars, even more dreadful than the last.
The peace which we all desire, peace in our hearts and in our minds, peace between neighbours and among nations, is not a miracle which it is God's task to perform. it can only come about as a result of a reconstruction of thought. feeling and action by means of the spirit of fellowship, and such is the duty of all mankind.
Taking all nations as one whole there is in the world sufficient wealth and ability to abolish poverty, unemployment, hardship and cruelty of any kind from all countries. It is possible for all men to be able to do what work is necessary, if only they would learn to understand each other better by drawing closer. The discovery of power and energy could be of great service to humanity, and men could be inspired to noble conduct if only all the scientists, poets and artists of all countries would come together. A powerful spiritual influence, helping all men to make the world a happier place. could be given by every religion if all of them were to act together as members of one family.
Buddhism teaches that misery and suffering are not the result of the wrath of a god, or gods, but are the direct consequences of man's ignorance of his own nature and of his surroundings. in attempting to discover a way of appeal on which to base morality. Buddhism teaches that there is no such appeal to any external authority in the form of a deity, but only to the natural desire of the human heart. Therefore. knowing that certain actions such as selfishness, violence and laziness tend to disorganize society, and to cause unhappiness to its members, a man will try to avoid injuring others if he sees clearly that his interests are bound up with those of others.
The real spirit of fellowship which is lacking in the world today can be promoted only through religion. Religion is an education of the heart with a view to refining our nature and elevating us in the scale of human beings; it is not merely theory but practice, and the heart, like the body, becomes healthy and strong by practical exercise. No doctrine merely held in the mind as an intellectual belief has any driving force; no doctrine is of any value unless and until it is applied. The Buddha said, A beautiful thought or word which is not followed by a corresponding action, is like a bright flower that has no scent'. Such will bear no fruit.
Practice of the moral life is the very core and essence of religion, for it is action and not speculation, practice and not theory that counts in life. The will to do, followed by' the doing. is the actual virtue; the will of itself does not count much unless it is fulfilled. Thus to put one's high ideas and concepts into practice is religion in the best sense. Religion is obviously not confined to any one country or to any' particular nation or race. it is universal; and it is certainly not nationalism which, in other words, is merely another form of caste system but founded on a wider basis,
The world has found itself as one body, yet the fact of physical unity and economic interdependence, though of very great value, is not by itself sufficient to create a united family'; for this we require a human consciousness of community', a sense of personal interrelationship among men, the spirit of fellowship. To have this spirit of fellowship we must realize the oneness of all life, and understand that we are one family'.
According to Buddhism life is a mighty wheel of perpetual motion, and this wheel contains within it numberless smaller wheels corresponding to the lives of individual men, each of which has a pattern of its own. The great wheel and the smaller wheels, the whole world and individual men, are intimately and indissolubly linked; the whole human family is so closely knit together that even unit is dependent on the others for its growth and development. In all our thoughts, words and deeds we act and react upon each other, so in a very real sense each one of us is responsible for the whole community. Men, being in need of each other. should learn to love each other and bear one another's burdens. This mutual dependence is a perpetual call on humanity, for we are bound alike by the bonds of humanity.
Science proves that the fundamental structure of the human
mind is uniform in all races; what differences there are, are due to historical circumstances and stages of development. Without recognition of the oneness of the world in all its aspects. spiritual as well as social, economic as well as political, there will never be peace. A genuine spirit of world fellowship is the only logical basis of all true and high civilization, and of world peace.
14. WORLD FELLOWSHIP THROUGH BUDDHISM
We are living today in a world torn between despair and hope. Our despair is due to many causes, the most serious of which is the constant fear of war; for although humanity wills peace, and the desire for peace exists everywhere throughout the world, instead of trying to give effect to that almost universal desire for peace each country has been arming to the limits of its capacity. Already more than half the national incomes of the world are being used for the preparation of war, and the maximum of our energy. ingenuity, finance and organization is being turned in the direction of discovering how we can kill our fellow beings more ruthlessly. To strengthen our military' power is not to guard the blessings of peace, but to run in the armaments race which must inevitably end in war. Many of us still remember the first great European war, and only recently country after country has been the victim of cruel, barbarous and unjustifiable tyranny. What will be the future of humanity if the present tendency of each country is continued?
Nevertheless we are not without hope, for there are at the same time idealistic writers, lecturers and those who work for the general good of mankind and who dream and hope for a better future, and many present day' publications bear the term 'inter national'. The World Congress of Faiths I regard as an important movement, because it deals not just with mere external adjustments in material needs, but with the fundamental spiritual realities of life. It is the aim of this congress to promote world fellowship through religion, and it is now my present task to show how Buddhism can help in achieving this aim.
To refrain from all evil.
In order to understand the above verse we should first understand what is meant by evil, and evil, bad roots; also what is meant by good and good roots.
What, now, is that which is bad?
What are bad roots?
Greed (lobha) is a bad root; hatred (dosa) is a bad root; ignorance (moha) is a bad root; therefore the above ten kinds of bad actions are due to greed, hatred or ignorance. These three roots are like three great currents of force, for they' are sweeping each one of us down along the road to misery, just as the swift current of a river will carry with it all the logs which have fallen into it.
The first mentioned root, that of greed. is desire; desire for sensual pleasures, wealth, rank. etc. This greed is in all of us like a raging thirst. The greedy man always says, 'I want', I must have', I cannot do without'. He may well be heard to say that if he were as rich as some neighbour whom he envies, he would be perfectly satisfied; but give him the particular amount of wealth he has set his mind upon, and he will find some still richer man to envy', and be as discontented as ever. A certain Persian poet has written, 'A small coin of silver makes a beggar contented; Faridun, with his kingdom of Persia. is only half satisfied'.
Our tendency to remain discontented in spite of success and prosperity is due to the insatiable nature of our desires; and we are depressed by the fear of losing our possessions. at the same time being dissatisfied so long as there is someone in the world richer than ourselves. What is beyond our reach seems valuable until we obtain it, but when possessed it loses its value. This, unfortunately, is the character of most men, greed making us selfish so that we think only of our own need for gratification. The selfish man aims at obtaining as much happiness as he can for himself, and does not care whether other people are happy or miserable. In order to acquire his object he tries to appropriate as large a share as possible of the good things of the world, and whenever he has an opportunity of doing so he enjoys himself. even when his enjoyment is obtained at the expense of his fellow men. All over the world we find the selfish taking an unfair share of everything and trying their best to use others as a means of attaining their pleasure.
Greed is like a thick fog such as there is in London sometimes, when we cannot see our way clearly before us; or sometimes at sea on a foggy day when people cannot see what lies ahead and two ships may collide, perhaps both sinking. Men, when blinded by desire, are carried away by a powerful current, not realizing whether they' are going, and where there are many who are blinded by desire for the same things, there is jealousy and rivalry. As they act to satisfy their desires, so they hurt and harm one another with resultant suffering.
The second current which equally leads us to misery is hatred. ill will or anger. It is that tendency within us which resents an action of another which challenges our right to what we desire. Our general tendency' is to try' and dominate others, and we want others to obey' our will while suppressing their own; so when someone opposes his will against our's our action is like that of a dog with a bone when another dog approaches. We are irritated in many ways, and although our irritation may at first be slight, if it is allowed to go on day by day it grows into a deep hatred. When a man is angry he is beside himself, as the saying goes, being swept along by a torrent of hatred, and it is due to this anger that disputes arise between one individual and another, between one nation and another. Such people as are blinded by anger cannot see that hatred ceaseth not by hatred, but by love; they regard war as the only ultimate way of settling national disputes, and the armies of great nations are larger than they were ever before in the history of the world, yet there seems little prospect of the establishment of the reign of universal peace. Although the principle that might is right no longer prevails in the relations between individuals, it is still considered natural to appeal to it when one nation quarrels with another; and although war remains as the greatest relic of barbarism in the midst of modern civilization, the 'progress' of science is every year leading to the discovery of more and more powerful instruments for the destruction of human life and property'
In many countries of the present day conscription prevails, and the younger members of every family are compelled by law to serve a term in the army. Under such circumstances war spreads far wider desolation than when it is waged between a limited number of men who have voluntarily adopted the profession of army life, as a consequence of which a countless number of families in every war are reduced to destitution by the destruction of their property', or by the loss of those on whom they depended for support. All this is the result of hatred.
The third current which carries us to misery is ignorance, delusion. The state of greed as well as that of hatred is always accompanied by ignorance. because ignorance is the primary root of all evil. It is far more subtle than greed and hatred, and when a man is hypnotized by it he cannot distinguish between right and wrong. he can see no good in any noble action; nothing is safe from his scoffing and sneers. neither a sense of duty'. nor filial love, nor sacrifice in any' form can win a word of praise from his lips. On the contrary, he wants to be praised. and he is hurt if he is not properly appreciated. for he thinks much of himself and continually plans to feed his ambitions for personal happiness. The spirit of loving-kindness and charity is absent from him, he is deaf to all prayers and appeals for mercy, he has no sense of duty towards his fellow men. If he helps others he does so in order that he may get them into his power and thereby increase his gains, for under the influence of delusion he is determined to have what he wants, no matter who suffers, and he dislikes all those who hinder him or get ahead of him. He may occasionally gain advantages from those who cannot avoid coming into contact with him and who fear to provoke his resentment, but such advantages are conferred without goodwill, and those who can do so will be inclined to avoid his society. When perhaps the majority' of men turn against him. and the world does not want him any longer, he then blames them, saying. 'What I have done is perfectly right, but people are too ignorant to realize it or too wicked to agree to it'. he does not know that it is the poison in himself which has upset the world.
An old story may serve as an illustration in connection with ignorance which arouses hatred. Once a big bear with her three little cubs was looking for something to eat in the jungle when they saw a beehive in a trough under a tree, from one branch of which a big log was hanging just over the trough. The bears wanted to get at the honey, but as the log was in the way the mother bear pushed it away so that they could all get at it, and they began to eat. Suddenly the log swung out and came back, hitting the mother bear on the head. Growing very angry' she knocked it away violently so that it went out much further than before, and causing it to come back with such force that it struck one of the little cubs, killing it. The mother, now furious, struck at the log with all her might, and swinging out it came back with a great rush striking her again on the head and killing her.
Who killed the bear? Strictly speaking it was her ignorance. her delusion which made her think that the log was her enemy. Through her ignorance hatred arose to make her fight against the log which had hit her, although the log could not hurt her unless she set it in motion, but the poor old bear did not know that. When a man is carried away by the current of ignorance he becomes brutal and barbarous, any sense of a common humanity fades from his mind.
It is due to these raging torrents of greed, hatred and ignorance that nations fight with nations, kings fight with kings. priests with priests; the mother quarrels with the son, the son with the mother, the father with the son, the son with the father; brother quarrels with brother, brother with sister, friend with friends. We talk about peace, yet we create confusion; we long for happiness, yet we obtain unhappiness, why? Because we are like logs carried helplessly along by the currents of greed. hatred and ignorance. If we are to revive the sense of a common humanity and find happiness, we must step outside these torrents. How may this be achieved? The Buddhist technique is to still the raging torrents of greed, hatred and ignorance by a careful self-culture; 'Save thyself by thyself are the words of the Buddha. and he laid down a specific course of practice in mental and physical actions for the successful outcome of this self-culture.
To plan our good actions we should first understand what is meant by good and good roots.
What, now, is that which is good?
What are good roots?
Absence of greed, unselfishness, is a good root; absence of hatred, love, is a good root absence of ignorance, wisdom, is a good root. These three roots are also called the seeds of nobility, seeds within each one of us that with careful, determined cultivation will grow into sublime powers. These powers lie latent in us, but they cannot grow until we discover them and make our hearts soft and warm with love so that they may grow to fulfillment.
ABSENCE OF GREED (Unselfishness)
For this we must forget ourselves and substitute the world for ourselves. There is no evil in wanting universal happiness and peace, the evil arises when our desires are only for ourselves and not for others, or not in the sacred interests of truth. When we desire such things as we can share with others, our desires become wiser and more unselfish. The cultivation of unselfishness includes not only a feeling in the heart, although that internal feeling is essential, but also the performance of those outward actions by which that feeling is manifested: and it also includes the desire to put others perfectly at their ease, to save them from every kind of discomfort and to do all that we can to promote their happiness. The unselfish man puts himself in the position of others and tries to identify himself with all, regretting what he has done wrongly or has omitted to do, having an earnest desire to do better in the future and make amends for the wrong that has been done. He desires not to make himself a burden on his fellow men, but to be a blessing to them by making them happy, so that his unselfish disposition promotes social intercourse and adds to the pleasure of others. He appreciates benefits conferred on him and feels joy at the kindness of his benefactor to whom he has a great desire to return those benefits, or to give something more when possible. By being unselfish we develop in ourselves the sense of sympathy, and we cannot enjoy happiness worthy of the name without being in sympathy with our fellow men. Our happiness soon pails upon us if we have no congenial companions for whom we can feel an affection, for in every case our happiness is rendered more intense and more permanent by being shared with friends. The best way to be happy, therefore, is to make others happy; every kind act is twice blessed. blessing him who gives and him who takes. If we are to promote the spirit of fellowship we should forget our '1' in the service of all, we should do everything we can for the sake of others. In short, whatever deed we do, whatever word we utter and whatever thought we think, should be for the good, peace and happiness not only of ourselves, but others. The result of this is peace, happiness and friendship.
ABSENCE OF HATRED (Love)
To promote the spirit of world fellowship we must make the sublime seeds, the seeds of loving-kindness, grow in our hearts and minds till we are all love. To love one another we should realize that we are all brothers, and brotherhood must be applied with justice, for justice is a natural law. No judge has the right to use his power over a criminal to a greater extent than that permitted by the law of the court, which should be the representative of the natural law of justice.
If we do any harm to someone we shall be paid back in the same coin; rather as when we throw a stone into a pond, causing ripples to spread out over the surface until coming up against the edge of the banks. The water then moves back again until reaching the stone that has disturbed it. In just the same way the effects of our actions come back to us, and if our actions are good we shall have good effects, while bad actions will likewise produce bad effects. To produce good actions love is essential, so we must love everyone, no matter what may be the colour of his skin, whether he is rich or poor, wise or foolish, good or bad; and we should love not only human beings but all beings in the world.
In the Metta Sutta, the discourse on loving-kindness, the Buddha says, 'As a mother, even at the risk of her own life, protects her child, her only child, so let a man cultivate goodwill without measure among all beings. Let him cultivate goodwill without measure towards the whole world, above, below, all around, unstinted, unmixed with any feeling of differing or opposing interests. Let him remain steadfastly in this state of mind all the while he is awake, whether he be standing. walking, sitting or lying down. This state of heart is the best in the world.'
Most of us have not yet learned this lesson, and therefore the sense of a common humanity is absent from our minds, the world is full of pain and cruelty and all wild animals flee from us. There are a few who have learned this lesson, they love everybody and everything, no wild animal flees from them and even a tiger will roll at their feet as a pet cat does at our's. Why do our pet animals love us? Because we love them. If we learn this lesson our enemies will become our friends and wild animals our pets.
Wisdom is the power of seeing things as they truly are, and how to act rightly when the problems of life come before us. The seeds of wisdom lie latent in us, and when our hearts are soft and warm with love they grow into their powers.
When a man has stilled the raging torrents of greed, hatred and ignorance, he becomes conscientious, full of sympathy, and he is anxious for the welfare of all living beings. Thus he abstains from stealing, and is upright and honest in all his dealings; he abstains from sexual misconduct and is pure, chaste; he abstains from tale- bearing. What he has heard in one place he does not repeat in another so as to cause dissension; he unites those who are divided and encourages those who are united. He abstains from harsh language, speaking such words as are gentle, soothing to the ear and which go to the heart. He abstains from vain talk, speaking what is useful at the right time and according to the facts. It is when his mind is pure and his heart is soft by being equipped with this morality and mental development that the sublime seed, wisdom, grows. Knowledge of the properties of the magnetic needle enable the mariner to see the right direction in mid-ocean on the darkest night when no stars are visible. In just the same way wisdom enables a man to see things as they truly are, and to perceive the right way to real peace and happiness, Nibbana.
15. PARAMI: PERFECTIONS
A Bodhisatta is a Buddha in the making, and is thus a being practising over an incalculable period of world cycles to attain to the highest level in ethical, intellectual and spiritual achievement. As a Bodhisatta, in each succeeding birth he practises the ten perfections (ten parami), a prerequisite for Buddhahood.
One need not think that the Bodhisatta ideal is reserved only for supermen; what has been accomplished by one could also be accomplished by another. given the necessary effort and enthusiasm. We should endeavour to work disinterestedly for the good of ourselves and others, having for our object in life the noble ideal of service and perfection.
The ten perfections are:
Generosity, giving, is the first parami. It confers upon the giver the double blessing of inhibiting the immoral thoughts of selfish ness on the one hand, and of developing the pure thoughts of selflessness on the other hand.
The object in giving is to eliminate the craving that lies dormant within oneself; apart from which there are the attendant blessings of generosity such as the joy of service, the ensuing happiness and consolation and the alleviation of suffering.
He makes no distinction in extending his love with supreme generosity, at the same time not forgetting to use his judicious discrimination in doing so. If, for instance, a drunkard were to seek his help, but he was convinced that the drunkard would misuse his gift, the Bodhisatta would not hesitate to refuse him, for such generosity would not constitute parami.
If, however, someone should seek his help for a worthy purpose. he would express his deep obligation for the opportunity offered, and willingly and humbly render him every possible aid. free of the smallest trace of any forced air of dignity or without making any false pretexts.
A Bodhisatta is always ready to oblige others, but he will never stoop to beg a favour for himself. in abundance he gives. irrespective of caste, creed or colour, but selfishly he seeks nothing, for he is neither selfish nor self-possessive. He exercises this virtue of dana to such an extent that he is prepared to give away not only his wealth and other cherished possessions, but also his kingdom, his wife and children, even his limbs. He is ever ready to sacrifice his own life wherever such sacrifice will benefit humanity.
The second parami is morality, the purity of his conduct. If he be living the life of a recluse, he would try his best to observe the sila that pertains thereto; if, however, he leads the household life he would adhere to the five elementary principles of regulated behaviour, even in spite of his interests being at stake.
He would not kill, steal, lie or slander, and he would avoid unchastity, harsh speech. frivolous talk and intoxicants. He would endeavour to observe these elementary principles as strictly as possible, for to transgress one of them means creating fresh troubles and obstacles on the road to enlightenment. However, it must not be understood that a Bodhisatta is wholly infallible and totally free from evil. (see Jataka No. 318). for one who had already attained complete perfection would have reached Buddha- hood.
The third parami is renunciation. It implies both renunciation of worldly life and pleasures by adopting the ascetic life, and practising the cultivation of jhana whereby the temporary inhibition of the hindrances towards progress. (wish for sense pleasure, ill will, sloth/torpor, distraction/remorse, doubt) is achieved. Though he may sit in the lap of luxury. immersed in worldly pleasure, the idea comes to him that household life is like a den of strife, but by comparison the homeless life is like the ever free and open sky. Realizing thus the vanity of worldly life he voluntarily forsakes his earthly possessions, and wearing the simple ascetic dress he tries to lead the holy life in all its purity. Here he practises morality to such a high degree that he becomes practically selfless in all his actions; neither fame nor wealth, honour nor worldly gain being capable of inducing him to do anything contrary to his lofty principles. Sometimes the mere appearance of a grey hair (see Jataka No. 9) is sufficient to compel a Bodhisatta to leave his uncongenial atmosphere in order to lead the independent, solitary life of a hermit, but the practice of renunciation is not as a rule observed by a Bodhisatta. In the Kusa Jataka (No. 531) for instance, the Bodhisatta was subject to much humiliation owing to his unrestrained desire to win the love of the beautiful princess, Pabhavati.
The fourth parami is wisdom. It means right understanding of the real nature of the world, seeing things as they are in reality. The Bodhisatta strives to acquire knowledge from every possible source, although never at any time does he show any desire to display his knowledge, nor is he ever ashamed to plead his ignorance. What he knows is always at the disposal of others, and that he imparts to them unreservedly.
The fifth parami is energy. It does not mean only physical strength as is ordinarily understood, but mental vigour or strength of character, which undoubtedly is far superior to the former and is defined as the relentless effort to work for others both in thought and deed. Firmly established in this virtue he develops self-reliance and makes it one of his prominent characteristics, viewing failures as steps to success; oppression merely' doubling his exertion and danger increasing his courage.
The sixth parami is patience. Patience here means endurance, the highest form of endurance in the face of suffering which may be inflicted upon oneself by others; and it means the forbearance of others' wrongs. A Bodhisatta practises patience to the extent that not even when his hands or feet are cut off will he become provoked.
The seventh parami is truthfulness. By sacca is here meant the keeping of one's promises, and is one of the salient characteristics of a Bodhisatta. According to the Haritaca Jataka (No. 431), no Bodhisatta in the course of his life to life wanderings ever spoke an untruth: although he may at times violate the other precepts, he makes truth his guide and holds to it firmly. He considers well before he makes a promise, but once a promise is made he fulfills it at any cost. In the Mahasutasoma Jataka it is stated that the Bodhisatta even went to the extent of sacrificing his life in order to fulfil a promise.
He is trustworthy, sincere and honest. He speaks as he acts, and as he acts so he speaks. There is perfect harmony in his thoughts. words and deeds, and he never descends to flattery to win the hearts of others; neither does he exalt himself to win admiration.
The eighth parami is determination. It may be interpreted as resolute determination, for this will-power forces all obstructions out of his path, and no matter what may come to him in the form of grief or disaster he never turns his eyes from his goal. He could easily be persuaded to do good, but not so could he be tempted to do anything contrary to his lofty principles. He will be as soft as a flower or as firm as a rock, as occasion demands.
The ninth parami is loving-kindness, in this case loving-kindness is much deeper than goodwill, friendliness or kindness, It is this metta that prompts a Bodhisatta to renounce personal salvation for the sake of others, such is the great regard in which he holds all his fellow beings, irrespective of caste, creed or colour. And since he is the embodiment of universal love he fears none, neither does he instill fear into any; even the wild beasts in lonely jungles are his loving friends, for he ever cherishes in his heart a boundless love for all that live.
The tenth parami is equanimity. This literally means discerning rightly, viewing justly, or looking impartially, i.e.. without attachment or detachment, without favour or disfavour; and here the term is not used in the sense of indifference or neutral feeling. It is the most difficult and the most essential of all the ten parami. especially for the layman who has to move in an ill-balanced world with fluctuating fortunes, where slights and insults are the common lot of humanity. Likewise are praise and blame, loss and gain, but under all such vicissitudes of life a Bodhisatta tries to stand unmoved, like a firm rock, exercising perfect equanimity. In times of happiness and in times of adversity, amidst praise and amidst blame, he is evenly balanced.
Source: Nibbana.com, http://www.nibbana.com
to English Index]