ISSUE No. 17                                             JANUARY 2001                                     B. E. 2544                             ISSN 1368-1516



by Most Venerable Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana,
Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain,
Head of the London Buddhist Vihara

Western, industrialised society is very different from the parts of north-eastern India inhabited by the Buddha 2,500 years ago. Physically and climatically there are huge differences, and people’s present lifestyles bear little resemblance to life in Kosala at that time. Motorways, aircraft, radio, television, telephones, computers and many other inventions have had a major impact on the way people live. Scientific discoveries have brought technological inventions undreamed of even a couple of hundred years ago, let alone a couple of thousand.

Yet despite all these changes, some of them beneficial and some of them harmful, man is still subject to old age, sickness and death. True, some of the worst forms of sickness and some of the worst sufferings of old age can be held at bay by the wonders of modern medicine, but sooner or later man still has to succumb to these unavoidable events.

Suffering (dukkha) is still present in other ways, too. For many people there have been huge improvements in the material standard of living, but this has not necessarily brought about increased happiness or peace of mind. In fact the pressures of modern consumerism and advertising stimulate desires to ever-new heights. There is, therefore, ample opportunity to experience the frustration and dissatisfaction of not getting what one wants. Craving, or tanha, is still alive and well and living deep in the minds of all of us. So in terms of suffering (dukkha) and the potential to experience it, the modern world is really no different from the world of 2,500 years ago. The Buddha’s statement, "The world is established on dukkha, is founded on dukkha," (S.i.40) remains very much a fact.

Furthermore, the Buddha’s analysis of the cause of human problems is as penetrating and valid today as it was when he first taught the Four Noble Truths. Craving (tanha) is being stimulated as never before. The affluent world of the "haves" chases after the latest, the newest, the best, the fastest or whatever product the advertisers want to sell. People in the disadvantaged echelons of society, the "have-nots", look with increasing desire at the material wealth of the "haves" and want at least a share of it for themselves. Much of Western society is characterised by extremes of wealth and poverty. It is, of course, human nature to seek after sense pleasures and inventions which we believe will bring us greater happiness, but rampant consumerism, the selfish pursuit of personal power and status, and a prevailing culture of "me first" are sadly failing to deliver increased human happiness and satisfaction. In fact, the endless pursuit of sense gratification seems to be achieving precisely the opposite of lasting pleasure and individual fulfilment.

The Buddha said to Anuruddha, "I teach just dukkha and the ending of dukkha," and the world needs these teachings today perhaps even more strongly than it did then, but is it sufficient simply to repeat them in a traditional way? The challenge we face is to present the Dhamma in a manner which is comprehensible by and relevant to the particular needs of modern man living in the West. The truth of the teachings must be discovered afresh by each generation as a living experience, directly focused on contemporary problems. Buddhism is spreading to many countries beyond its traditional boundaries and there is increasing interest here in the West. Ven. Dr. Rahula pointed that unless it is adapted to Western culture, Buddhism will remain like a tropical plant in a hot-house, not growing freely in the natural soil of the land. There is no doubt that Buddhism can make a real contribution to a reduction in human suffering, and I am not suggesting that we should compromise on the fundamental principles, but they should be presented in a way which is appropriate to the particular time and place.

The Buddha Dhamma can teach Westerners many wonderful things, but perhaps its most useful message for today is its emphasis on ethical conduct. In his Discourse to the Kalamas, the Buddha asks if greed, hatred and delusion appear in a man for his benefit or harm, and if the absence of these three also appear in a man for his benefit or harm. The Kalamas agree that the first three qualities lead to harm and ill, and that their absence leads to benefit and happiness. So the Buddha suggests a way of life which will bring about personal and interpersonal harmony and wellbeing. Rather than embarking on an endless pursuit of more and more exciting forms of sensory stimulation, it would be better to cultivate contentment with what one already has. In this way the Buddha’s path leads to the elimination of craving and attachment. Ethical conduct also means control of our bodily and verbal actions by the observance of precepts. Although these are couched in negative terms, e.g. to refrain from destruction of life, they all have a positive side as well. Not only should we refrain from taking life, but we should also generate a positive attitude of loving-kindness. Not only should we refrain from taking that which is not freely given, but we should also practise generosity. The positive side of sexual restraint is the development of contentment. Our speech should not only be free from lies and harsh words, but it should also be truthful, kind and beneficial. In addition to avoiding substances which intoxicate the mind, we should also strive to develop mindfulness at all times.

The beneficial effects of observing these simple precepts are profound. According to Ven. Buddhaghosa, there are 6 benefits of virtue for the layperson:-

1. Non-remorse.

2. He comes into a large fortune as a result of diligence.

3. A fair name is spread abroad.

4. He can enter any assembly without fear or hesitation.

5. He dies unconfused.

6. He is reborn in a happy destiny.

If we can try to regulate our lives according to these five ethical factors, then we have laid the firm foundations for a peaceful and happy existence - both for ourselves as individuals, and for society as a whole. Furthermore, proper morality is essential for any spiritual development. Sometimes people come to Buddhism wanting to learn only about meditation, but they are not aware that progress in meditation cannot be made unless our actions of speech and body have been brought under control. We cannot hope to discipline the mind unless our speech and bodily activities have been disciplined first. "What is the basis of higher states? Sila (morality) of perfect purity." (Samyutta nikaya, v.143)


by John D. Ireland

The practice of the Buddhist path of spiritual cultivation has as its foundation faith in and devotion to the three highest ideals of Buddhism, the Three Precious Jewels or Tiratana: the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The Enlightened One was first of all the human teacher, Siddhartha Gotama, but now he means for us the ideal, the personification of Enlightenment itself. The Dhamma is the path or way to that ideal, and the Sangha is all those who are treading that way and have realised the aim of Enlightenment.

It does seem that one of the main reasons for failure or falling away from the practice of the spiritual life within Buddhism is the absence of sincere devotion to the Tiratana, and also the wrong understanding of the essentials of the theory behind the practice. Or else, holding to a wrong theory, or mixing it with ideas from outside, from other religions, systems and practices. One must add that this theoretical knowledge is not just a belief in the basic doctrines of Buddhism, but a deep penetration into their implications, into an understanding of the essentials of the Dhamma - not in a scholarly manner but in a way that is strictly practical. It should be realised that the practice of meditation to be successful needs special knowledge, for it is in itself a subtly complex process, as should be evident when one has practised even a little. Hence the value of a teacher, the "Good Friend" (Kalyanamitta) to turn to for advice and help. Further, it should be realised that the practice of the path is not merely something one does for a set period daily, but a continuous, progressive development incorporating all aspects of everyday experience.

When making a beginning in Buddhist meditation people often encounter numerous difficulties. These difficulties are mainly due to a deficiency of internal preparation, although the scapegoat blamed is generally external circumstances and environment. For the great majority external difficulties are easily circumvented with a little thought and attention. If not, they are probably not external at all, although appearing so. Internal preparation is made by laying a foundation of preparatory conditions, such as contemplating deeply on various aspects of the Dhamma to encourage and inspire one's devotion to it. There are a number of traditional subjects, for instance meditating on the rarity of human life, on impermanence, on the results of kamma and the general conditions of suffering in the realms of existence, the round of birth and death in Samsara.

Before embarking upon the practice of meditation proper there are certain other preparations that should be undertaken. These may be listed under four general and interrelated headings:

(a) Going for refuge,

(b) Cultivation of a correct attitude,

(c) Purification of the mind from defilements, and

(d) Accumulation of merit.

By "Going for Refuge" is not meant the mere recitation of the formula, "To the Buddha for refuge I go" etc., but includes the recollection and contemplation of the "Three Precious Ones", their qualities and significance for us, and to arouse faith and devotion towards them. Similarly with the other three headings, they imply the practice of meditation and recollection until the activities of the "three doors" of action, of body, speech and thought, are harmonised and accord with the high standard of conduct and discipline required within the Buddha dhamma.

Going for Refuge for us, unenlightened beings, means an act of faith pure and simple. This is often not generally realised. We are committing ourselves to a belief in something we are not yet in a position to verify. That we accept the Buddha's word he was what he claimed to be, viz., a Fully- Enlightened One, that the Dhamma he taught does lead to the goal of Enlightenment and that we can attain it by following this actual Dhamma teaching without hesitation or doubts, and also that it is worthwhile to do so. The act of Going for Refuge should be accompanied by an attitude of deep devotion, reverence and faith towards the Three Precious Jewels and displayed in our outward bodily behaviour and speech, this is an aspect of mindfulness.

Cultivating a correct attitude is the orientation of the mind towards Enlightenment so that we develop the aspiration and determination to attain it; also the instilling of various qualities helpful to this aim, such as mindfulness and clear awareness and the renunciation of self-interest. Generally speaking, the defilements of excessive greed, envy, anger, conceit and so forth arise from selfishness or self-centredness and (spiritual) immaturity, and by developing faith and a correct attitude this is broken down. The defilements will then diminish of themselves and cease to be a serious hindrance to the further practice of meditation. One's motive for setting out for Enlightenment is most important, and one must reflect very carefully so that the correct attitude is not tainted at the outset. Through our developing understanding of the theory of Dhamma and the nature of Enlightenment we learn that the goal necessitates the letting go of all selfish cravings and graspings, even of "self" itself. Thus Enlightenment is not something to be acquired for oneself in isolation from others. This is the basis for the correct attitude contained in the Mahayana conception of the Bodhisattva Vow: the practice is for the sake of all beings, for the whole of Samsaric existence, and not a personal acquisition, which is, in fact, an impossibility.

This then leads to the fourth heading, the accumulation of merits. In a sense all that has been mentioned so far produces merit, but this last preparatory practice refers especially to positive action within our social environment. To regard our environment and the people who inhabit it as hostile, especially towards our practice of Dhamma, and to seek to shut ourselves off will only result in making it an actual hindrance rather than the opposite. Instead there should be a free movement and exchange with others that is both natural and spontaneous. Thus meritorious acts of generosity and renunciation, patience, kindliness, compassion, helpfulness and tolerance towards others make for a friendly and harmonious environment suitable to the cultivation of spiritual values and meditation.

As these preparatory practices are being strengthened and consolidated the practice of the path develops correctly upon a secure foundation. The mind is then gradually firmly established and unified in meditation. "Being firmly established" and "unification of mind" are the literal meanings of the two terms Samadhi and cittassa ekaggata used for what is rather loosely described as "meditation" in the context of Buddhism. It is when there occurs the ability to use this samadhi and unification, with the accompanying undistorted vision of the events and situations of everyday life as they actually are and their relationship to Dhamma-practice, undistorted by cravings and graspings and emotional instability, that the real practice of meditation for Enlightenment begins. Here the progression of practice may be described again under four headings:

(1) View

(2) Development

(3) Conduct

(4) Culmination

The first means a correct and balanced view of things as they are in actuality based upon direct experience through meditation. Upon this view meditational experience is developed, enlarged and consolidated in various directions. All conduct, all actions by way of body, speech and thought are gradually modified and integrated by this view. The culmination is when this process is completed and all aspects of the individual at all levels are fully integrated with it. And this is termed Enlightenment, Nibbana, unobstructed freedom, the goal of all Buddhist endeavour. Concerning this culmination, this goal of Enlightenment, we should not think of it as being an end in itself or the place where all practice ends. In a sense this is the true beginning of what we may term "living enlightenment" although this must certainly not be interpreted as a mere extension of life as we now understand it. Life for the ordinary unenlightened being derives from an obscure, ill-understood, complex of primitive emotional and unstable forces. But for an enlightened being none of this definition would apply and life for such an one is derived from Bodhi, Enlightenment itself, and is something quite unfathomable from our present standpoints, although we know it somehow exists. However, we may say it is a continuation of this process of progression in meditation and an extension and expansion of it. It is a state of spontaneous creative activity, of infinite compassion and unobstructed knowledge and wisdom.
From Buddhist Quarterly, Vol. 4, No.3 1971-2


by Ven. Dr. Henepola Gunaratana, U.S.A.

he most fertile grounds for nurturing crimes are families. In spite of all the measures taken to decrease crime rates, violent crimes are increasing in many families in modern, technologically advanced societies. More kids from pre-school days become murderers than ever before. Most of them learn to become criminals from the way they are brought up.

In some countries, while adult crime rates have fallen somewhat, crimes committed by youths continue to rise. We learn from the mass media that many children take guns to their schools. Sometimes we hear that very young children, even below the age of five, have shot their siblings or parents. Most of the time, crimes among youths are related to drugs and alcohol, which are easily available for children in some homes. Criminals are not born, but made by misguided and inconsiderate families and by the environment in which they live.

It has become a 20th century fashion among many people to live together without getting married. In some cases, children born into such circumstances suffer from neglect. Quite often these children end up under the care and guidance of one parent, usually the mother. The parent who is more irresponsible leaves the children under the care of the other partner. Women, since they often experience discrimination, have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to provide for themselves and their children. The modern global economy is such that women are more disadvantaged than even underprivileged men. As the entire social structure has taken a completely different route from that of the traditional one, support for the family is also almost nonexistent in many countries. Women often suffer more as a result and their difficulties are reflected in families they try to raise.

Children brought up by single parents often don’t receive enough parental love and care. Psychologically troubled parents cannot give very sound emotional fulfilment to their children. Their baby-sitters sometimes are TV sets or other people who have been brought up the same way as those whom they baby sit. Many a time, baby-sitters are young girls who need money for their own drugs or alcohol. They do not have any training in taking care of babies. While baby-sitting, they themselves may be smoking or taking illegal drugs. Under such circumstances, children do not receive enough necessary care, guidance, love and, most important, basic education. No baby sitter can give the same love and care as mothers do. Children can never relate to baby-sitters as they do to their own parents.

When they grow up, such children may start their own careless and misguided way of life. They don’t receive proper religious education. Nor do they know how to explore religions on their own. To make things worse for them, TV violence becomes their role model. Many movie producers and authors write books promoting violence primarily so they can make a few quick dollars. Children who grow up without proper guidance lay their hands on these books and try to imitate what they watch on TV and what they read in books.

Many parents are also not very careful about their guns and alcohol. Some parents drink and smoke in front of their children. When they lose their own sense of responsibility under the influence of alcohol, their senses are so dulled that they do not remember to put away their bottles, cigarettes and guns in appropriate places or to hide them away from children. They also unmindfully and carelessly keep their loaded guns accessible to children. Children are inadvertently encouraged to satisfy their natural curiosity by using guns, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.

Some parents, who themselves come from broken families, may be without enough education in morality and ethics to restrain their senses and so misbehave in front of their children. Some parents, grandparents, uncles, and brothers even sexually abuse young children. Sexually abused children grow up with unforgivable hatred towards their abusers. Sometimes they themselves can turn to similar crimes as they grow up.

Society often makes matters worse for troubled families and their children. Gun producers are very glad to see more and more people using guns so that their income may grow. Drug users make greater profits by using small children, mostly from broken families, for distributing and using drugs. Children who make money by selling drugs do everything to encourage their peers to use and deal drugs. When their parents are not at home it may be even more of a thrill to get hold of some drugs and alcohol from their own parents’ unlocked repositories.

Divorce has also become the norm of the day in many technologically advanced societies. The ones who suffer most from divorce are children. In their young and tender years, children need all the love and care possible from both parents. That is the age they need compassionate guidance and good role models to follow. That is the age when the mind absorbs everything quickly like a sponge. When their parents are divorced or separated prior to divorce, children become devastated and bewildered. Parents, who are struggling themselves to handle their emotions and to put their own life together, cannot guide children in the right direction, nor can they pay all the necessary attention to children for their healthy growth. If totally neglected by parents, children seek solutions to their problems from friends, many of whom themselves come from broken families. None of them can truly help each other.

Even in homes untroubled by divorce, children may not see enough of their parents. Parents are extremely busy these days making money to provide comfortable lives for themselves and their children. Quite often they are not home because they have more than one job, to make more money. Some are not home because they have to make numerous business-related trips out of town. Some parents who may not be travelling are instead overly engaged in their work at the office.

Some are such workaholics they cannot spend a minute in their waking life without doing something related to their jobs. Or, from very early in the morning they commute to work and cannot return home until late in the evening, bringing home some more work. They might go to bed very late in the evening and continue to think of their next day’s work. They are busy working every waking moment in the day and busy thinking of their next day’s work even while sleeping.

Asked why they are so obsessed with work, such parents might say that they have to earn and save to provide for their family. But since they always live in tension, they are always grouchy and grumpy. Grumbling, they wake up in the morning, and grumbling they go to bed in the evening. Any tiny little thing can irritate them. They don’t have any time for themselves or their children. They believe that if they earn more their children’s future will be assured. But no matter how much they earn it is not enough. And some parents who have more than they need do not have time for their children because they spend more time with their friends than with their families.

When children come home from school, they often do whatever they like because there is nobody at home to supervise them. In some cases, parents pick up their children from schools on their way home from work and yet don’t have time to listen to them. They like children to be seen but not to be heard. Children are afraid to talk to their parents lest they might anger them by telling them their problems. Children’s problems may continue to grow, when they have no time to discuss them with their parents. Their peers are not in a position to give them meaningful advice.

Some parents look forward to having their children grow up and be gone as soon as possible, so they can be free to do what they wish to do. Sadly, their children may look forward to growing up quickly to be free from parents. In extreme cases, some misguided, impatient children even kill their parents to be independent. Parents wish to achieve their independence as quickly as possible. Parents become more and more selfish and children become more and more independent. We know the problems. There is no close loving relationship between parents and children. But what are the solutions?

Of course, both parents and children can be independent and still have good a relationship with one another. Relationships between parents and children have been highly valued by the Buddha. To promote these good relationships, the Buddha has advocated numerous measures. If parents fulfil their duties and responsibilities towards children and if children fulfill their responsibility toward parents, more harmonious and peaceful families can result.

People who equate money with happiness are often at the root of violent crimes. Almost all crimes are committed by people who have not been educated in moral and ethical values. If you invest all your interest, all your energy and time in making money or in sensual pleasure at the cost of your children’s future, how can you expect your children to learn the distinction between good and evil? Or if you teach your children to hate your neighbour because the neighbour is different from you and your values, how can you expect your children to respect anybody? Or if you teach your children to hate others who follow a religion different from yours, how can you expect your children not to be violent? Or, if you teach your children to hate others for speaking a different language which you don’t understand, how can you expect them to reduce crimes in the society?

There is a low number of violent crimes in societies where there is a close relationship between parents and children, a close relationship between relatives and between families. In societies where there is a free exchange of time, wealth, energy, knowledge, love and care, violent crime diminishes.

Blessed are the parents and children who have a loving relationship between them. Blessed is the home where there is friendship and harmony. Parents should make some sacrifices to give all their love and care to their children. Wise parents should invest their time, energy and money to create a healthy home environment where they can bring up their children happily. To take care of their children, some benevolent parents take turns working outside the home. In some cases, it would be advisable for parents to change their work schedules, if both must work to earn sufficient income to support their families. Sometimes, either the father or the mother may decide to stay home to take care of their children if one of them earns enough income to support the family.

Good parents should realize they are role models for their children. To discipline children, parents must be disciplined themselves. If parents are undisciplined, they cannot expect any discipline from their children. When parents do try to discipline their children, sometimes the children may rebel against them. They might even say they hate their parents. Nevertheless, good parents should not pay any attention to children’s comments such as these. When children grow up they will realize their parents disciplined them for their own benefit.

Sometimes, children may have an important topic, related to anxious feelings or learning problems or peer-problems, and may wish to discuss them with their parents. Then, parents must listen to them mindfully, patiently and compassionately. During the discussion, if children use abusive language parents should reprimand them immediately then allow them to continue the discussion. If they show emotion, parents should not play a co-dependent role and also become emotional, but listen mindfully, hoping to help them. In other words, when children are angry parents should listen to them mindfully and patiently without themselves getting angry, so they can be effective in helping children.

Parents and children should have open and friendly discussions regularly. Parents should admit their mistakes and apologize to children. If parents shout or curse to throw their own temper tantrum, they should apologize to children either immediately or later on and explain the reason why they behaved that way. They should determine not to repeat that kind of behaviour in front of children. Children also should be encouraged to admit their mistakes and apologize to parents. Parents should appreciate the good things children do and acknowledge any improvement they have made. Reward and punishment works with everybody.

If there are several children in a family, parents should be equally fair to all of them. In dealing with family problems, parents always should exercise caution to do justice to all of the children. If they should praise one child more than others in front of everybody, their siblings may become jealous of the one that was praised. When parents are full of loving-kindness and compassion, solving any family problem is easy.

Parents should treat children with honour and dignity, as wonderful human beings who are going to take the world’s responsibility into their hands one day. Whenever children do something good, parents should not forget to appreciate and reward them, at least in words. When children do something unethical, immoral and harmful, parents should immediately reprimand them and talk to them directly, having an immediate meeting with them. Parents should know when to reprimand them in private and when to reprimand them in a family meeting, in front of everybody. Also, neither the father nor mother should criticize each other in front of children. They should have their own private meeting to discuss their problems.

Parents should choose the right words, right attitude, right moment and right place to tell the right things to children. In every situation and every moment parents should make sure that they really and sincerely love their children. They must assure their children that they honestly love them. If you humiliate children in front of everybody, children may do many wrong things secretly. They will also learn to be hypocritical. Parents must be very honest with children. If parents are dishonest, children lose respect for them. Parents cannot demand respect if they don’t deserve it. They should learn to earn it by their own behaviour and attitude towards children. And don’t expect to be their teacher all the time. Children, too, are very good teachers to parents. Whenever parents see something they can learn from children, they should learn it from them without any hesitation.

One of the best things parents can do to establish and maintain a friendly and loving relationship with children is to spend some time practising loving-kindness meditation. They should make it a habit to encourage children to join them a few minutes every day practising meditation. In many good Buddhist families, parents and children spend a few minutes reciting some religious verses. They have little home shrines where they gather every day at least for a few minutes. To build up this good habit, parents can meditate with children twice a day, at least five minutes each time        From 'Voice of Buddhism', Vol. 32, No.1 1996


by G. L. W. Beardsley

"One thing only do I teach; dukkha and the cessation of dukkha" (Majjhima Nikaya 1, p.140)

Anyone who has, for any length of time, practised intensive insight meditation will know that there comes a stage in the practice when bodily aches and pains become very prominent. At that time, the meditator will generally experience many and various painful feelings arising in his body. This is the stage where the inclination to quit the practice arises and there are many who have succumbed to this temptation. This is a pity as it is only a transient stage and to quit at this point will leave the meditator at first discouraged and later with a definite feeling of regret for an opportunity missed. It is at this point that the meditator, with the assistance and encouragement of his teacher should rouse up determination and energy. It may help to examine what is the usual and habitual reaction of the ordinary man or woman to dukkha. As Freud has pointed our, we seek pleasure and avoid pain. Thus, in a simple example; if when we are sitting, lying or standing for any length of time in one posture, that posture begins to get uncomfortable (in other words, we begin to see the dukkha inherent in that posture), then quite unmindfully (or even unconsciously) we change that posture for another one. We may even say to ourselves "Ah! That's better". But if we hold the new posture for any length of time then again we begin to see the dukkha in that posture also. We have, therefore, deluded ourselves in that we have failed to 'see the dukkha' in the new posture even before it is taken up and we believe that we can escape dukkha in this way.

This is a slight example but the fact remains that in all circumstances of life we tend, at the first hint of dukkha, to seek to escape it. If the dukkha is mental rather than physical we may read a book; watch television; go out to a show or to dinner; indulge in idle chatter or use a thousand and one other devices to avoid coming face to face with the fact of dukkha. Some of these devices may be relatively harmless but one person might think " I'll have a whisky (or a brandy or a gin-and-it.) and then I'll feel better". This could lead to reliance on such stimulants. Another might resort to drugs and his last state may we worse than his first. In fact we are unwilling or unable to accept what the Buddha says categorically in First Noble Truth, namely that "In brief, the five Groups of Grasping (khandhas) are dukkha".

To seek pleasure and avoid pain is a perfectly valid aspiration. The tragedy is when we do so in the wrong direction to the exclusion of right direction .... and the attempt is foredoomed to failure. In the Satipatthana Sutta the Buddha tells us quite clearly and unequivocally, "This is the direct way for this purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destroying of pain and grief.... namely the four Foundation of Mindfulness."

So, what is happening when we reach that painful stage in the meditation practice? We begin to see dukkha in the body and its postures and we begin to see mental dukkha (which may indeed be so severe that we are literally reduced to tears) and all our usual avenues of escape are blocked! We have no wireless or television; the teacher won't let us read a book; we have no one to talk to and we can't get at the gin or the amphetamines! So we are brought hard up against dukkha... face to face. In this seeming impasse the mind will start to 'turn away' from its reliance and seek another way of escape. But it will not be easily convinced that the methods which it has, during all the lifetime (and probably during previous life times), habitually utilised to "avoid pain" should be abandoned. A mere intellectual assent is not enough and generally the mind has to speak, to have "its nose rubbed in it" again and again before it is ready to do so. However, with patience and persistence in the practice and with determination and energy, this can be achieved and the mind will veer towards and discover the "Path to Liberation".

From Buddhist Quarterly, Vol. 4, No.3 1972-3


by Ven. Walpola Rahula

Let us discuss a question often asked by many people: What is the difference between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism? To see things in their proper perspective, let us turn to the history of Buddhism and trace the emergence and development of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

The Buddha was born in the 6th Century B.C. After attaining Enlightenment at the age of thirty-five until his Mahaparinibbana at the age of eighty, he spent his life preaching and teaching. He was certainly one of the most energetic men who ever lived; for forty-five years he taught and preached day and night, sleeping for only about two-and-a-half hours a day.

The Buddha spoke to all kinds of people: kings and princes, Brahmins, farmers, beggars, learned men and ordinary people. His teachings were tailored to the experiences, levels of understanding and mental capacity of his audience. What he taught was called Buddha Vacana, i.e. Word of the Buddha. There was nothing called Theravada or Mahayana at that time.

After establishing the Order of monks and nuns, the Buddha laid down certain disciplinary rules called the Vinaya for the guidance of the Order. The rest of his teachings were called the Dhamma which included his discourses, sermons to monks, nuns and lay people.

Three months after the Buddha’s Mahaparinibbana, his immediate disciples convened a council at Rajagaha. Maha Kassapa, the most respected and elderly monk, presided at the Council. Two very important personalities who specialised in the two different areas - the Dhamma and the Vinaya - were present. One was Ananda, the closest, constant companion and disciple of the Buddha for 25 years. Endowed with a remarkable memory, Ananda was able to recite what was spoken by the Buddha. The other personality was Upali who remembered all the Vinaya rules.

Only these two sections - the Dhamma and the Vinaya - were recited at the First Council. Though there were no differences of opinion on the Dhamma (no mention of the Abhidhamma), there were some discussions about the Vinaya rules. Before the Buddha’s Parinibbana, he had told Ananda that if the Sangha wished to amend or modify some minor rules, they could do so. But on that occasion Ananda so over-powered with grief because the Buddha was about to die that it did not occur to him to ask the Master what the minor rules were. As the members of the Council were unable to agree as to what constituted the minor rules, Maha Kassapa finally ruled that no disciplinary rule laid down by the Buddha should be changed, and no new ones should be introduced. No intrinsic reason was given. Maha Kassapa did say one thing however: "If we changed the rules, people will say that Venerable Gotama’s disciples changed the rules even before his funeral fire has ceased burning."

At the Council, the Dhamma was divided into various parts and each part was assigned to an Elder and his pupils to commit to memory. The Dhamma was passed on from teacher to pupil orally. The Dhamma was recited daily by groups of people who often cross checked with each other to ensure that no omissions or additions were made. Historians agree that the oral tradition is more reliable than a report written by one person from his memory several years after the event.

One hundred years later, the Second Council was held to discuss some Vinaya rules. There was no need to change the rules three months after the Parinibbana of the Buddha because little or no political, economic or social changes took place during that short interval. But 100 years later, some monks saw the need to change certain minor rules. The orthodox monks said that nothing should be changed while the others insisted on modifying some rules. Finally, a group of monks left the Council and formed the Mahasanghika - the Great Community. Even though it was called the Mahasanghika it was not known as Mahayana. And in the Second Council, only matters pertaining to the Vinaya were discussed and no controversy about the Dhamma was reported.

In the 3rd Century B.C during the time of Emperor Asoka, the Third Council was held to discuss the differences of opinion among the bhikkhus of different sects. At this Council the differences were not confined to the Vinaya but were also connected with the Dhamma. At the end of this Council, the President of the Council, Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled a book called the Kathavatthu refuting the heretical, false views and theories held by some sects. The teaching approved and accepted by this Council was known as Theravada. The Abhidhamma Pitaka was included at this Council.

After the Third Council, Asoka’s son, Ven. Mahinda brought the Tripitaka to Sri Lanka, along with the commentaries that were recited at the Third Council. The texts brought to Sri Lanka were preserved until today without losing a page. The texts were written in Pali which was based on the Magadhi language spoken by the Buddha. There was nothing known as Mahayana at that time.

Between the 1st Century B.C. to the 1st Century A.C. the two terms Mahayana and Hinayana appeared in the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra or the Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law.

About the 2nd Century A.C. the Mahayana became clearly defined. Nagarjuna developed the Mahayana philosophy of Sunyata and proved that everything is Void in a small text called Madhymika-karika. About the 4th Century, there were Asanga and Vasubandhu who wrote enormous amount of works on Mahayana. After the first century A.C. the Mahayanists took a definite stand and only then the terms Mahayana and Hinayana were introduced.

We must not confuse Hinayana with Theravada because the terms are not synonymous. Theravada Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the third century B.C. when there was no Mahayana at all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had a separate existence from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today there is no Hinayana sect in existence anywhere in the world. Therefore, in 1950 the World Fellowship of Buddhists inaugurated in Colombo unanimously decided that the term Hinayana should be dropped when referring to Buddhism existing today in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, etc. This is the brief history of Theravada, Mahayana and Hinayana.

Now, what is the difference between Mahayana and Theravada?

I have studied Mahayana for many years and the more I study it, the more I find there is hardly any difference between Theravada and Mahayana with regard to the fundamental teachings.

1. Both accept Sakyamuni Buddha as the Teacher

2. The Four Noble Truths are ex actly the same in both schools.

3. The Eightfold Path is exactly the same in both the schools

4. The Paticca-samuppada or the Dependent Origination is the same in both schools.

5. Both rejected the idea of a su preme being who created and governed this world.

6. Both accepted Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta and Sila, Samadhi, Panna without any difference.

These are the most important teachings of the Buddha and they are all accepted by both schools without question.

There are also some points where they differ. An obvious one is the Bodhisatva ideal. Many people say that Mahayana is for the Bodhisatva-hood which leads to Buddhahood while Theravada is for Arahantship. I must point out that the Buddha was also an Arahant, Pacceka Buddha is also an Arahant. A disciple can also be an Arahant. The Mahayana texts never use the Arahant-yana Arahant Vehicle. They used three terms: Bodhisatvayana, Pratyeka-Buddhayana and Sravakayana. In the Theravada tradition these three are called Bodhis.

Some people imagine that Theravada is selfish because it teaches that people should seek their own salvation. But how can a selfish person gain Enlightenment? Both schools accept the three Yanas or Bodhis but consider the Bodhisatva ideal as the highest. The Mahayana has created many mystical Bodhisatvas, while the Theravada considers a Bodhisatva as a man amongst us who devotes his entire life for the attainment of perfection, ultimately becoming fully Enlightened Buddha for the welfare of the world, for the happiness of the world.

There are three types of Buddhahood: the Samma Sambuddha who gains full Enlightenment by his own effort, the Pacceka Buddha who has lesser qualities than the Samma Sambuddha, and the Savaka Buddha who is an Arahant disciple. The attainment of Nibbana between the three types of Buddhahood is exactly the same. The only difference is that the Samma Sambuddha has many more qualities and capacities than the other two.

Some people think that Voidness or Sunyata discussed by Nagarjuna is purely a Mahayana teaching. It is based on the idea of Anatta or non-self, on the Paticcasamuppada or the Dependent Origination, found in the original Theravada Pali texts. Once Ananda asked the Buddha, "People say the word Sunya. What is ‘Sunya?" The Buddha replied, "Ananda, there is no self, nor anything pertaining to self in this world. Therefore, the world is empty." This idea was taken by Nagarjuna when he wrote his remarkable book, "Madhyamika Karika". Besides the idea of Sunyata is the concept of the store-consciousness in Mahayana Buddhism which has its seed in the Theravada texts. The Mahayanists have developed it into a deep psychology and philosophy.



Ven. Dr. Mapalagama Wipulasara Mahathera, the chief Incumbent of the Parama Dhamma Chetiya Pirivena, Rathmalana, Sri Lanka and Secretary General, Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma Maha Sangha Sabha of Siyam Nikaya passed away at the Sri Jayawardanapura Hospital on 29th October after a brief illness at the age of 76.

Coming from a devoted Buddhist family he was ordained in 1940 and educated in Vidyodaya Pirivena. He also completed a course in Sculpture and Painting at Sri Lanka College of Fine Arts. Ven. Wipulasara was well-known throughout the Buddhist world. He was an accomplished painter and sculptor. He did many paintings and sculptures at numerous Buddhist temples and Buddhist institutions in Sri Lanka and abroad. The Buddha statues at the London Buddhist Vihara, Commonwealth Institute, London, Dharma Vijaya Vihara Los Angeles, New York Buddhist Vihara and Buddhist Centres in Canada, Japan, India, Hong Kong and China were among his creations. He was awarded the Kalasuri Award by the Sri Lanka Government, an honorary Doctorate, a Humanities Award by the University of Thailand. These were some of the many awards and honours received by the Wipulasara Thera.

Ven. Wipulasara held several distinguished posts in different organisations and institutions. He was the founder President of the Sri Lanka Buddhist Congress and Secretary General of the World Buddhist Sangha Council. He was also the Joint General Secretary of the World Buddhist Supreme Tathagata Followers. In 1985 he became the General Secretary of the Maha Bodhi Society of India and later he became the President of the same society. While he was at the office following the path of Anagarika Dharmapala, he did great service for the propagation of Buddha Dhamma in India and to protect and preserve Buddhist shrines in India. He was a very active Dharmaduta worker and travelled all over the world. His services for the promotion of Buddhism were greatly appreciated by the Buddhist world.

He was a father figure for most of the dhammaduta bhikkus abroad. His death is an irreparable loss. Through his sincerity, generosity, simplicity, and friendliness Ven. Wipulasara won the hearts of all. His name will echo through all the temples for many years to come. The funeral was held on 2nd November at Rathmalana and Ven. Dr. Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera attended.

The devotees of London Buddhist Vihara organised a special service in memory of Ven. Dr. Wipulasara on 5th November.

With heavy hearts and deep sorrow we announce the passing away of the following devotees:-

MR. TUDOR NANAYAKKARA - Mr. Nanayakkara was a devoted Buddhist and a very good friend of the Vihara. He passed away on 8th October at Milton Keynes General Hospital at the age of 75. He rendered service to the Vihara as a co-ordinator. He was a frequent visitor to the Vihara and other Buddhist centres in England.

He and his wife would not miss a single religious occasion and he played a prominent role in all the activities at the Vihara. He was always on hand to welcome visitors and was ever willing to help his friends and others. His death is an irreparable loss.

The cremation was held at Milton Keynes Crematorium on 12th October. It was attended by many of his friends and devotees of the Vihara. He is survived by his wife Irene, son Sanath and daughter Nayana. A special puja was organised by the devotees of the Vihara in order to transmit merit for his future well-being.

MR. DON RICHARD WITHANA - Mr. Withana passed away peacefully on 16th July 2000 at the age of 87. He was a devoted Buddhist, a well respected figure in the community and loved by all.  The funeral was held at Enfield crematorium in the presence of a large crowd on 21st July. He is survived by two daughters Chitra, Sujatha and son Nandalal.

MRS. JOAN HAMZE - Mrs. Joan Hamze was an unassuming Buddhist who was connected with the Vihara for a long time. She passed away peacefully on 10th September. Mrs. Hamze was a frequent visitor, a devoted supporter, and a co-ordinator of the London Buddhist Vihara. The funeral was held at Putney Vale Crematorium on 17th September.

MRS. CISILIA WARNAKULASURIYA - Mrs. Warnakulasuriya was a frequent visitor, devoted Buddhist and a very good friend of the London Buddhist Vihara. She passed away peaceful at the St. Georges Hospital on 6th July. Mrs. Warnakulasuriya came from a distinguished Sri Lankan Buddhist family. She attended regularly the religious ceremonies held at the Vihara and her family played an active role in all the activities of the Vihara. She was well respected in the community. The cremation was held on 15th July in the presence of a large crowd. She is survived by 2 sons and 3 daughters.

MR. N. A. DHARMADASA - Mr. Dharmadasa passed away peacefully after a brief illness on 7th November. He hailed from a devoted Buddhist family, and was a social worker, businessman and politician in Sri Lanka. The cremation was held at Workingham crematorium on 9th November. He is survived by his wife Niranthi, two sons Kushan, Ashok and daughter Prashani.

MR. TILAK ARTHANAYAKE - Mr. Arthanayake passed away peacefully on 6th June after a brief illness. He was a regular contributor to the London Buddhist Vihara. The cremation was held on 16th June at Harlow Crematorium in the presence of a large gathering. He is survived by his wife Rohini and two loving sons.

MR. SIRISENA RANASINGHE - The loving brother of Dr. (Mrs.) Seeta Siriwardena passed away after a brief illness. The funeral was held at the New Southgate crematorium on 10th September.


Ven. Tawalama Bandula