SAMADHI

JOURNAL OF THE LONDON BUDDHIST VIHARA
THE FIRST AND THE FOREMOST BUDDHIST VIHARA OF THE WESTERN WORLD
ESTABLISHED IN 1926 BY THE ANAGARIKA DHARMAPALA

 

ISSUE No. 23                                                    JANUARY 2004                                     B. E. 2547                             ISSN 1368-1516

  INSIDE THIS ISSUE


What Can Buddhism Offer the Modern World?
by Most Venerable Dr. Medagama Vajiragnana,
Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain, Head of the London Buddhist Vihara

on the face of it, the modern world is a very different place from the one inhabited by the Buddha 2,500 years ago, and it is right that we should ask what relevance his teachings have for us today. Massive industrialisation has changed the physical appearance of many countries and the lifestyles of many people. Roads, aircraft, radio, television, telephones, computers and many other inventions have had a major impact on the way we live. Scientific discoveries have brought technological inventions undreamed of even a couple of hundred years ago, let alone a couple of thousand. Yet there are similarities between society in India at the time of the Buddha and our own society today. It was a time of rapid social and economic change. There was an increase in the number of people living in cities. Here commerce, rather than agriculture, was the way of life. Merchants were independent-minded people, less inclined to accept traditional values than their rural neighbours. Traditional religion taught respect and worship for natural phenomena such as rivers and trees, but the city-dwellers were increasingly cut off from these. It was a time of uncertainty and insecurity, a time for questioning traditional values and established beliefs. Today, too, there is widespread questioning of our society and what it stands for. Many people are searching for a spiritual path which will give meaning to their lives.

Despite our many technological developments, 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 medical science, but sooner or later man still succumbs to these three inevitable conditions. Suffering (dukkha) is still present in other ways, too. We still have to associate with the unpleasant, and we still have to endure separation from the pleasant. We still do not get what we want.

For many people there have been 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 having desires which are not met. 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 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 poverty-stricken world of the "have-nots" can look with increasing desire at all the material wealth of the "haves" and want at least a share of it for themselves. 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.

So what help can the Buddha’s teachings offer? Ultimately his teachings lead to the complete eradication of all suffering and release from conditioned existence. Speaking to Anuruddha the Buddha said, "I teach just dukkha and the ending of dukkha." This is very clear and very direct, completely relevant to today’s world, but is it sufficient simply to repeat his message in the traditional way? The challenge today is to present the Dhamma in a manner which is comprehensible by and relevant to the particular needs of modern man. 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 out 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 are two aspects of the teachings which can be particularly helpful at the present time, and which can bring direct and immediate benefit to us all. The first is that they encourage us to be realistic in our expectations, not to expect that permanent happiness can be found among impermanent causes. We should try to reduce our cravings, to develop contentment with what we have, not to go chasing endlessly after something else which we mistakenly believe will be the answer to all our problems. Rather than embark on an endless pursuit of more and more exciting forms of sensory stimulation, it would be better to cultivate peace of mind, being satisfied with what one already has. In this way the Buddha’s path leads to the elimination craving and attachment.

Secondly, of all the many wonderful things the Buddha Dhamma can teach modern man, perhaps the teaching which will have the most widespread benefit 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. The Buddha describes a way of life which will bring about personal and interpersonal harmony and wellbeing. Ethical conduct means control of our bodily and verbal actions by the observance of precepts. These are five simple rules of training, which anyone can observe - whether Buddhist or not. Indeed, if only they were adopted by everyone, then most of man’s problems would vanish overnight. Although the precepts 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 towards all sentient beings. Not only should we refrain from taking that which is not freely given, but we should also practise generosity as a means of eliminating attachment. The positive side of sexual restraint is the development of celibacy. Our speech should not only be free from lies and harsh words, but it should also be kind, truthful and beneficial. Lastly, in addition to avoiding substances which intoxicate the mind, we should strive to develop mindfulness at all times.

The beneficial effects of observing these simple precepts are profound. Traditionally, the benefits are said to be as follows:-

Seelena sugatin yanti - Seelena bhoga sampada
Seelena nibbutin yanti - Tasma seelan visodhaye.

With the help of seela, one goes to a happy destiny
With the help of seela, one acquires wealth
With the help of seela, one attains nibbana
Therefore one should keep pure seela.

Venerable Buddhaghosa has amplified these and lists six benefits 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 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)

Committed Buddhists can spread this simple teaching not only by writing and talking about it, but also by ensuring that they set a personal example of the highest morality, which will be a source of inspiration and guidance to other members of the communities in which we live.


CRAVING BEGETS SUFFERING

by Most Venerable Piyadassi Nayaka Thera,

only when suffering comes, as its consequence, and not before, is it that one realises the viciousness of this poisonous creeper of craving which winds itself round all who are not Arahants or perfectly pure ones who have uprooted its tap-root, ignorance. The more we crave, the more we suffer; sorrow is the retribution we have to pay for having craved.

‘From craving grief arises
From craving arises fear,
For him who is free from craving,
There is no grief, then whence comes fear?’

Wherefore, know this craving as your foe here, that guides you to continued and repeated sentient existence, to rebirth, and thus builds the ‘House of Being’!

The Buddha said:

‘Dig up the root of craving (Tanhaya mulam Khanatha)

As a tree with firm, uninjured
Roots, though cut down, grows up again,
So when latent craving is not rooted out
Suffering again and again arises.’

No sensible man will deny the existence of suffering or unsatisfactoriness in this sentient world. Nevertheless it is difficult for him to comprehend how this craving or thirst brings about re-existence. To realise this one must understand two principal teachings of Buddhism: Kamma and rebirth.

If our present birth here is the beginning, and our death is the end of this life, we need not worry and try to understand the problem of suffering. A moral order in the universe, the reality of right and wrong, may not be of any significance to us. To enjoy and avoid suffering at any cost may seem to be the sensible thing to do during this brief span of life. This view, however, does not explain the inequality of mankind, and in general, man is conscious of a moral causation: Hence the need to seek the cause of this ill.

The Pali word kamma (Skt. Karma, from the root kr. To do) means literally ‘action’ or ‘doing’. Not all actions, however, are considered as karma. The growing of hair and nails and the digesting of food for instance, are actions of a sort, but not karma. Reflex actions also are not karma, but activities without moral significance.

Volition
‘Volition, O monks, I declare, is kamma’ (cetanaham bhikkhave kammam vadami) is the Buddha’s definition. Volition is a factor of the mind, a psychological impulse which comes under the group of formations (sankhara). So volition is part and parcel of the five groups of grasping that constitute the ‘individual’. Karma is the action or seed. The effect or fruit is known as karma-vipaka.

Having willed, man acts by deed, word or thought wholesome, unwholesome or neutral according to their results. This endless play of action and reaction, cause and effect, seed and fruit, continues in perpetual motion, and this is becoming, a continually changing process of psycho-physical phenomena of existence (samsara).

It is clear that karma is volition which is will, a force, and this force is classified into three types of craving; Craving for sense pleasure, for existence and for non-existence. Having willed, man acts, through body, speech and mind, and actions bring about reactions. Craving gives rise to deeds, deeds produce results which in turn bring about new desires, new craving.

This process of cause and effect, action and reaction, is a natural law. It is a law in itself, with no need for a law-giver. An external agency, power, or God that punishes the ill and rewards the good deed, has no place in Buddhist thought. Man is always changing either for good or for evil. This changing is unavoidable and depends entirely on his own will, his own action, and on nothing else. This is merely the universal natural law of the conservation of energy extended to the moral domain.

Kamma is not fatalism

Not much science is needed to understand how actions produce reactions, how effects follow causes and bring forth fruit, but how this karmic force, these acts of will, bring fruit in another birth after the dissolution of this body, is hard to grasp. According to Buddhism, there is no life after death or before birth which is independent of karma or acts of will. Karma and rebirth go hand in hand, karma being the corollary of rebirth and vice verse.

Here, however, we must understand that the Buddhist doctrine of karma is not fatalism. It is not the philosophical doctrine that human action is not free but determined by motives which are regarded as an external force acting upon the will or predetermined by God. The Buddha neither subscribed to the theory that all things are unalterably fixed, that they happened by inevitable necessity – that is Strict Determinism (niyati vada), nor did he uphold the theory of Complete Indeterminism (adhicca-samuppanna).

No soul

There is no eternal survival in heaven or hell in Buddhist thought. Birth precedes death, and death also precedes birth, so that the pair follow each other in bewildering succession. Still there is no soul, self, or fixed entity that passes from birth to birth.

Though man comprises a psycho-physical unit of mind and matter, the ‘psyche’ or mind is not a soul or self, in the sense of an enduring entity, something ready-made and permanent. It is a force, a dynamic continuum capable of storing up memories not only of this life, but also of past lives. To the scientist matter is energy in a state of stress, change without real substance. To the psychologist the ‘psyche’ is no more a fixed entity. When the Buddha stressed that the so-called ‘being’ or ‘individual’ is nothing but a combination of physical and mental forces, or energies, a change with continuity, did he not antedate modern science and modern psychology by twenty-five centuries?

This psycho-physical organism undergoes incessant change, creates new psycho-physical processes every instant and thus preserves the potentiality for future organic processes, and leaves no gap between one moment and the next. We live and die every moment of our lives. It is merely a coming into being and passing away, a rise and fall (udaya-vaya) like the waves of the sea.

This change of continuity, the psycho-physical process, which is patent to us, this life, does not cease at death but continues incessantly. It is the dynamic mind-flux that is known as will, thirst, desire or craving which constitutes karmic energy.

This mighty force, this will to live, keeps life going. According to Buddhism, it is not only human life, but the entire sentient world that is drawn by this tremendous force – this mind with its mental factors, good or ill.

The present birth is brought about by the craving and clinging karma volitions (tanha-upadana) of past births, and the craving and clinging acts of will of the present birth bring about future rebirth. According to Buddhism it is this karma-volition that divides beings into high and low.

Beings are heirs of their deeds; bearers of their deeds, and their deeds are the womb out of which they spring, and through their deeds alone they must change for the better, remake themselves, and win liberation from ill. It should, however, be remembered that according to Buddhism, not everything that occurs is due to past actions. During the time of the Buddha, sectarians like the Niganta Nataputta held the view that, whatever the individual experiences, be it pleasant or unpleasant or neither, all come from former actions or past kamma. The Buddha, however, rejected this theory of an exclusive determination by the past (pubbekatahetu) as unreasonable. Many a thing is the result of our own deeds done in this present life, and of external causes.

One with an inquiring mind may ask, if there is no transmigrating Soul or Self to reincarnate, what is it that is reborn? The answer is that there is no permanent substance of the nature of Self or Soul (Atman) that reincarnates or transmigrates. It is impossible to conceive of anything that continues without change.

All is a state of flux. What we call life here is the functioning of the five Aggregates of Grasping, or the functioning of mind and body which are only energies or forces. They are never the same for two consecutive moments, and in the conflux of mind and body we do not see anything permanent. The grown-up man is neither the child nor quite a different person; there is only a relationship of continuity. The conflux of mind and body or mental and physical energies is not lost at death, for no force or energy is ever lost. It undergoes change. It resets, reforms in new conditions. This is called rebirth, re-existence or re-becoming (punabbhava).

Karmic process (Kammabhava) is the energy that out of present life conditions a future life in unending sequence. In this process, there is nothing that passes or transmigrates from one life to another. It is only movement that continues unbroken. The ‘being who passes away here and takes birth elsewhere is neither the same person nor a totally different one’ (na ca so na ca anno).

There is the last moment of consciousness (cuti citta or vinnana) belonging to the immediately previous life; immediately next, upon the cessation of that consciousness, but conditioned by it, there arises the first moment of consciousness of the present birth which is called a re-linking or rebirth consciousness (patisandhi citta or vinnana). Similarly the last thought-moment in this life conditions the first thought-moment in the next. In this way consciousness comes into being and passes away yielding place to new consciousness. Thus this perpetual stream of consciousness goes on until existence ceases. Existence in a way is consciousness – the will to live, to continue.


A FOURFOLD HAPPINESS

by Dr. W. G. Weeraratne

A practising lay Buddhist should be able to experience fourfold happiness constantly throughout his life. If he is unable to experience such a happiness it means that he has not been alert and mindful as a Buddhist, he has not followed the Noble Eightfold Path as a layman, and that he had been lazy and idle (pamado). An energetic and mature layman (atapi, nipako) should be able to feel happy at the thought that he has enough wealth and material goods to make himself and his family comfortable and also to help others in needy circumstances. This is called in the texts: ‘Happiness derived from economic stability’ – atthi sukha. Secondly, he should be able to feel happy at the thought that he is utilising his wealth and material goods in the correct way to make his life happy and comfortable, to make the lives of his kith and kin happy, and also to make the lives of others – the society – happy and at ease. This is called in the texts: ‘Happiness derived from proper utilisation of wealth’ – bhoga sukha. Thirdly, he should be able to feel happy at the thought that he is not in needy circumstances, that he is not in debt to others. This is called in the texts: ‘Happiness born of debtlessness’- anana sukha. Fourthly, he should be able to feel happy at the thought that whatever wealth and material goods he has and enjoys are secured through just and righteous means, without causing any harm or embarrassment to another. This is called in the texts: ‘Happiness derived from righteous living’ – anavajja sukha. Let us now examine how a lay Buddhist can experience this fourfold happiness constantly throughout his life.

A practising Buddhist has to be alert and vigilant (satima) all the time. In his childhood he should learn well and develop as many skills as possible. He should secure the maximum use of the facilities his parents and relations can provide for him. He should attend school punctually and follow lessons intelligently. He should develop healthy relationships with his teachers and fellow students. He should do extra reading to broaden his outlook. For this purpose he should develop the habit of using libraries properly. Whenever possible he should attend lectures and discussions that are profitable. He should observe and understand his environment properly. He should participate in group activities and develop a strong personality. When a person spends his childhood in this manner he will grow up to manhood as one capable of shouldering responsibilities in life with success. When such a person begins to earn his own living he will be able to get a suitable job easily. In whatever field of activity he is expected to work, he will reap good benefits soon, since he is armed with four blessings namely, courage and enthusiasm (utthana sampada), alertness and vigilance to safeguard whatever is earned (arakkha sampada), a well-balanced life (sasmajivitata) and association with worthy friends and companions (kalyanamittata). These are called blessings (sampada) in a man. A person endowed with these four blessings can constantly experience the first of the happinesses, namely, the happiness one derives from economic stability.

A man may be alert and energetic to earn well and safeguard whatever is thus earned. But if he is stingy and miserly and does not utilise that wealth for his own welfare and happiness – to eat well, dress well and live in comfort – if he does not utilise a portion of it to ensure the happiness of his kith and kin, if he does not spend a part of it to help the needy people who come to him for help, a man will not experience the happiness derived from proper use of wealth. A stingy man will not experience the mental happiness or the physical happiness that is experienced by a man who eats properly, dresses properly and lives in comfort. When a man’s kith and kin are not properly cared for and well looked after by him, he will be despised by them, and the kith and kin too will undergo a lot of difficulties. When this happens the entire society will disparage and despise him. On the other hand if a man utilises his wealth for his own comfort as well as to help his kith and kin and other needy people, he will win their love and respect; and they in return will help him and protect him. Thus he will be able to experience the second type of happiness derived from the proper use of wealth. The Buddha has preached to us how a man should plan his expenditure. One portion of a man’s income should be utilised for food and other daily requirements of his as well as of his kith and kin, two portions of it should be invested to get an additional income, and a portion should be kept apart for emergencies.

A person who does not have enough wealth to live comfortably and to look after his kith and kin will very often fall in debt. He will have to borrow money and other things from those who have, on interest. To settle one debt he will have to take another subsequently and likewise this will go on without an end. Such a person will be pestered by money lenders and will have to run away and hide from them. When a person falls into such a situation he will always be tense and suffer mentally, and sometimes be tempted to resort to corrupt practices or commit criminal offences. A man who has wealth and material things and utilises them sagaciously will not get into debt like that and hence he will not have to experience all that agony experienced by a man who is in debt. This is the third type of happiness that can be experienced by a practising Buddhist.

Even if a person may experience the three types of happiness mentioned above, he cannot experience the fourth type of happiness derived from the thought that his wealth is secured through just and righteous means, if his wealth is earned in corrupt and fraudulent ways. A man should not select as his means of livelihood anything by which damage or harm is done to another directly or indirectly. Thus a man should avoid dealing in animals. He should not rear animals for food, or buy and sell such animals. He should not buy and sell poison that might be used to destroy life. He should not produce and sell weapons that could be used to destroy life. A man should not write and sell literature that might do moral and psychological damage to the readers. A man should not cheat people by using false weights and measures, he should not cheat others by selling inferior goods at exorbitant prices. Even regarding salaried jobs a man should do his duty properly for the salary he is paid. There are many people among us who are not at all duty-conscious. Some people come to their work place and offices, sign the attendance register and then vanish away. Some people are habitually late to work and even after coming to work while away the time by reading newspapers and magazines, playing cards or merely engaging in damaging slander or useless gossip. Some resort to bribes even to do a little job for another. Some people are not at all courteous to men who come to them for various things. And also there are some employers who exploit the labour of others by paying them very meagre salaries. Thus in multifarious ways people do a lot of harm and damage to society. They contribute to damage the efficiency of social functions thereby bringing about chaos in society. People who do such things cannot experience the fourth type of happiness derived from righteous living.

Let us examine now the sort of conduct that conduces to the above mentioned fourfold happiness. It is nothing but the vigilant following of the noble eight-fold path in daily life. A man should have right views to start with. He should not be dogmatic or superstitious, but try to be as objective as possible in all his activities. He should try to develop a rational attitude to life. Next, he should harbour thoughts of love and friendship to all and wish for the welfare and happiness of all beings. He should use his words very carefully. Thus he should avoid falsehood and speak the truth only, avoid slander and use speech in a way to bring about unity and amity among those who are divided and at logger-heads; avoid using rough and cruel language and use words that are refined and pleasing to the ear; and avoid gossip and use words that are full of meaning and useful, at the right time. Next he should avoid harming living beings, refrain from theft of any kind and avoid misbehaviour in sense gratification. In selecting a livelihood he should be careful to select a job whereby no damage is done to another in any way, but on the contrary contributes even in a very little way to enhance efficiency and happiness in society. He should also have the right type of initiative and effort to avoid all activities that degrade man and pursue all activities that exalt man. He should be alert and mindful always to do what is described above, and for this purpose practise mindfulness constantly. When the things described above are pursued mindfully a man develops concentration of mind and it in turn will help him to look at things in a more objective way and to act sagaciously in daily life.


FACTS OF LIFE

by  Narada Maha Thera

HAPPYNESS AND SORROW

Happiness and sorrow are the last pair of opposites. They are the most powerful factors that affect mankind. 

What can be borne with ease is sukha (happiness); what is difficult to bear is dukkha (sorrow).

Ordinary happiness is the gratification of a desire. As soon as the thing desired is gained then we desire some other kind of happiness. So insatiate are our selfish desires.

The enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest and only happiness to an average person. There is n doubt a momentary happiness in the anticipation, gratification and recollection of such material pleasures. This kind of happiness is highly prized by the sensualist, but it is illusory and temporary.

Can material possessions give one genuine happiness? If so, millionaires should not feel frustrated with life. In a certain country, which has reached the zenith of material progress, a good number suffer from mental diseases. Why should it be so if material possessions alone can give happiness?

Can dominion over the whole world produce true happiness? Alexander, who triumphantly marched to India, conquering the lands on the way, sighed for not having more pieces of earth to conquer.

Very often the lives of statesmen who would wield power are at stake. The pathetic cases of Mahatma Gandhi and John Kennedy are illustrative examples.

Real happiness is found within, and is not to be defined in terms of wealth, power, honours, or conquests.

If such worldly possessions are forcibly or unjustly obtained, or are misdirected, or even viewed with attachment, they will be a source of pain and sorrow for the possessors.

What is happiness to one may not be happiness for another. What is meat and drink to one may be poison to another.

The Buddha enumerates four kinds of happiness for layman. They are the happiness of possession (atthi sukha) – health, wealth, longevity, beauty, joy, strength, property, children etc.

The second source of happiness is derived by the enjoyment of such possessions (bhoga sukkha).

Ordinary men and women wish to enjoy themselves. The Buddha does not advise all to renounce their worldly pleasures and retire to solitude.

The enjoyment of wealth lies not only in using it for ourselves but also in giving it for the welfare of others. What we eat is only temporary. What we preserve we leave and go. What we give we take with us. We are remembered for ever by the good deeds we have done with our worldly possessions.

Not falling into debt (anna sukha) is another source of happiness. If we are contented with what we have and if we are economical, we need not be in debt to any. Debtors live in mental agony and are under obligation to their creditors. Though poor, when debt free, we feel relieved and are mentally happy.

Leading a blameless life (anavajja sukha) is one of the best sources of happiness for a layman. A blameless person is a blessing to himself and to others. He is admired by all and feels happier, being affected by the peaceful vibrations of others. It should be stated, however, that it is very difficult to get a good name from all. The noble-minded persons are concerned only with a blameless life and are indifferent to external approbation.

The majority in this world delight themselves in enjoying pleasures while some others seek delight in renouncing them. Non-attachment or the transcending material pleasures is happiness to the spiritual. Nibbanic bliss, which is a bliss of relief from suffering is the highest form of happiness.

Ordinary happiness we welcome, but not its opposite – sorrow which is rather difficult to endure.

Sorrow or suffering comes in different guises.

We suffer when we are subject to old age, which is natural. With equanimity we have to bear the sufferings of old age.

More painful then sufferings due to old age are sufferings caused by disease. Even the slightest toothache or headache is sometimes unbearable.

When we are subject to disease, without being worried, we should be able to bear it at any cost. Well, we must console ourselves thinking that we have escaped from a mush more serious disease.

Very often we are separated from our near and dear ones. Such separation causes great pain of mind. We should understand that all association must end with separation. Here is a good opportunity to practise equanimity.

More often than not we are compelled to be united with the unpleasant which we detest. We should be able to bear them. Perhaps we are reaping the effects of our own Kamma, past or present. We should try to accommodate ourselves to the new situation or try to overcome the obstacles by some other means.

Even the Buddha, a perfect being, who had destroyed all defilements, had to endure physical suffering caused by disease and accidents.

The Buddha was constantly subjected to headache. His last illness caused him much physical suffering. As a result of Devadatta’s hurling a rock to kill him, his foot was wounded by a splinter which necessitated an operation. Sometimes he was compelled to starve. Due to the disobedience of his own pupils, he was compelled to retire to a forest for three months. In a forest on a couch of leaves spread on a rough ground, facing piercing cold winds, he maintained perfect equanimity. Amidst pain and happiness he lived with a balanced mind.

Death is the greatest sorrow we are compelled to face in the course of our wanderings in samsara. Sometimes, death comes not singly but in numbers which may be difficult to endure.

Patacara lost her near and dear ones – parents, husband, brother and two children – and she went mad. The Buddha consoled her.

Kisa Gotami lost her only infant and she went in search of a remedy for her dead son. She carried the corpse of her son; she approached the Buddha and asked for a remedy.

"Well, sister, can you bring some mustard seeds?"
"Certainly, lord!"
"But, sister, it would be from a house where no one had died."

Mustard seeds she found, but not a place where death had not visited. She understood the nature of life.

When a mother was questioned why she did not weep over the tragic death of her only son, she replied, "Uninvited he came. Uninvited he went. As he came so he went. Whey should we weep? What avails weeping?"

As fruits fall from a tree – tender, ripe or old – even so we die in our infancy, prime or mankind, or in old age.

The sun rises in the East only to set in the West.

Flowers bloom in the morning to fade in the evening.

Inevitable death which comes to all without exception we have to face with perfect equanimity.

"Just as the earth whatever is thrown
Upon her, whether sweet or foul,
Indifferent is to all alike.
Nor hatred shows, nor amity,
So likewise he is good or ill,
Must even-balanced ever de."

The Buddha says, "When touched by worldly conditions the mind of an Arahant never wavers."

Amidst gain and loss, fame and ill-fame, praise and blame, happiness and sorrow, let us try to maintain a balanced mind.


MOST VEN. DR. VAJIRAGNANA'S FELICITATION CEREMONY

A felicitation ceremony to commemorate the 75th Birth Anniversary of Ven. Dr. M. Vajiragnana Nayaka Maha Thera, the Head of the London Buddhist Vihara, was held at the BMICH, Colombo, Sri Lanka on 12th February this year.

Most Ven. Udugama Sri Buddharakkhita, Mahanayaka Thera of Siyam Nikaya Asgiriya chapter, Most Ven. Bellana Gnanawimala, Mahanayaka Thera of Siyam Nikaya, Kotte chapter, Ven. Dauldena Gnanissara, Mahanayaka Thera of Amarapura Nikaya, Ven. Niyangoda Wijithasiri, Secretary of Siyam Nikaya, Malwatta chapter and a large number of distinguished, venerable monks and lay devotees attended this colourful ceremony.

The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe, , Minister of Buddha Sasana, Mr. W J M Lokubandara, Minister of Samurdhi and Livestock, Mr. S. B. Dissanayaka, and the Secretary of UPFA Mr. Sunil Premajayanta were among the distinguished guests. Representing Buddhists in the U.K. Mr. Paul Seto, the General Secretary of the Buddhist Society in London, delivered the keynote speech and praised the valuable services given by Ven. Dr. Vajiragnana for the propagation of the Buddha Dhamma in the West.

The welcome speech was delivered by Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana. Two felicitation volumes, one in English (Pranamalekha) and one in Sinhala (Vidyasudani), were published to mark this occasion. The Hon. Prime Minister gave a speech and presented the Sinhala-language volume of felicitation to Ven. Dr. Vajiragnana. The English-language edition was presented by Mr. Premajayanta, who also made a speech. This was followed by a talk from Ven. Niyangoda Wijithasiri and Mr. Lokubandara. In response Ven. Dr. Vajiragnana gave a speech of thanks, whilst stressing the need to maintain the highest standards in carrying out Dhammaduta work. Mr. S. B. Dissanayaka helped to organise the ceremony so successfully.


UNKNOWN DESTINATIONS

Mrs. Kamala Perera

On our last journey beyond
Each one of us leaves alone
Once departed they cannot be reached
As their destinations are unknown

No transport is needed, bus, train, boat or air flight
And no bag or heavy baggage needed
As we leave with only
A Puff extremely light

No worldly possessions needed
Kith, kin or our own bodies to carry away
Possessions we leave to our near and dear
And our life-less bodies to decay

Though there are no guarantees
In span health or wealth in life
Each one of us has to contribute
To make the best out of it to lighten this strife

Knowing life we should enjoy living
With all our ups and downs
While doing good deeds but no sins
For our clear conscience until our earthly end.


OBITUARIES 

MR. ERNEST DISSANAYAKE

We record with sadness the demise of a generous supporter of the London Buddhist Vihara. Mr. Ernest Dissanayake Passed away after short illness and his funeral was held at the Mortlake Crematorium amidst a large crowd of mourners on 20th September 03. He is survived by his loving wife Pushpa, and four children, Lux, Upul, Chanda and Mahshi.

May Mr. Ernest Dissanayake attain Nibbana!


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Ven. Tawalama Bandula
2004