October 29, 2023, is a full moon day in Ashwin. We have gathered at DMC to celebrate Pravarana. Finding ways for communities to come together for harmonious gatherings is vital to cultural humility and building human connections. One of the traditional practices in Theravada tradition that fosters this connection is the Pravarana. As the moon has entered a complete orbit around the Earth, which signifies accomplishment, similarly, Bhikkhu Sangha completed their three-month retreat on this full moon day. Thereby, this day marks the accomplishment of the three months of rainy retreat (Vassa) observed by the members of the Bhikkhu Sangha worldwide, where they abide by the Sasana (noble teachings) of the Enlightened One.
On this day, the noble Sangha assemble before the Enlightened One and confess the blemishes they may have committed consciously or unconsciously during the retreat. Suppose only one Bhikkhu observes Vassa in a Vihara. In that case, he recites the Bhikkhu Patimokkhsa (the code of principles for Bhikkhus) by himself, concentrates and reflects on his spiritual duties and sets himself into the codes of disciplines. Thus, he maintains the purity of his holy life.
On this occasion, devotees come to the Vihara with the noble intention of offering robes to the resident Bhikkhus, who observe the Vassa retreat. The devotees organize a special robe-offering ceremony and perform meritorious deeds such as generosity, meditation and listening to Dhamma talk. And thereby, they receive blessings of the noble triple gems and accumulate many merits by engaging in a series of meritorious deeds. Thus, the Pravarana full moon day becomes significant and impactful to their personal lives, which allows them to bring the light of love and happiness to their family and friends. In this context, the Pravarana celebration becomes a source of spiritual awakening.
We are grateful to be able to celebrate this auspicious occasion at DMC and extend many thanks to all participants, devotees and friends for their contributions. We are excited to continue supporting your spiritual growth and development. We look forward to seeing you again on New Year's Day.
By Bhante Debongshi
This article is based upon my experience of spiritual care at the Regina General Hospital for Mrs. Khampheng Vongphit.
As I entered the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) room on December 31, I saw Mrs. Vongphit lying down on a bed with huge robotic machines surrounding her and fastened with different tubes and canals. The family members were in the room waiting in a sad and sorrowful mode. At first glance, it deeply disturbed me, and I wondered why they put her in this situation. A common mistake people make when they don’t think through decisions. Then I realized, it was their choice. But they made the wrong choice. In terms of support, they placed machines to hold her tight, which, like a criminal, unable to move as iron chains behaving as royal guards were preventing any movement or communication. Under that circumstance, she was totally powerless. I said to myself, “certainly this is not the way of dying.” Life should not be tortured like this at the final exit.
I felt like it was an act of cruelty. I wanted to tell them to let her be free from this trap and let her leave peacefully and naturally. But I also knew that my suggestion would not work because it was the choice they made. I realized that they would never understand the nature of life the way it is. The situation was already dreadful, and to top it off, they were so sad and emotional. You can instantly feel within the ICU room a negative energy. Without delay, I performed my spiritual duty with compassion. I offered my sincere advice to be strong, compassionate and keep the mind free of sorrow, so that at least within this environment a positive energy can surface, and the rest would be left for the doctors. Sadly, after I left the hospital Mrs. Vongphit died In that traumatic condition; her life was over. As you can tell, the choice was made, but it was a hopeless choice. Similarly, most people make the wrong choice when they come to the final stage of life.
Natural way of dying
Nature is our source of life. It provides us with everything we need. In the natural selection process, there is freedom of choice, such as the way of living and the way of dying. In order to make you understand this fact let me ask a question: Suppose the creator appears before you and says, I will give you two options. You must select one of these two options. This is entirely your choice. Do you want bondage, or do you want freedom? What is your choice? Of course freedom would be the ultimate choice. If that is so, is it not true that life deserves freedom, and this should be the highest wish for all beings at all times? If you look closely, you will understand this fact at the last stage. Life should follow through in a natural process without any disturbances. Freedom should always be the highest regard in life at all times regardless of the situation. Especially when one reaches the finishing line. Importantly one’s mind should stay free, undisturbed, stable and conscious. Therefore, I say, the natural process is the best way to die without any outside disturbance. Before it is too late, consider acquiring the power to make a conscious choice that would change the course of your life.
Final moment of death
Upon death, the last consciousness is the forebear of the next life. Whatsoever qualities, the content in the last consciousness is the kind of life that will be brought back to the next existence. Like a seed which bears fruit of its kind. In fact, it is the last stage of consciousness that gives birth to a new being. Therefore, the final moment is the most important moment for a dying person. The key requirements is to stay still, fearless and peaceful. The end the natural path is the most noble path to follow. For it is within that moment, one can conceive a higher consciousness as the better possibility yet to come.
The world we experience
According to the custom, I was invited to provide spiritual care for the grieving family, relatives and friends of Mrs. Vongphit for seven days. This was a right time for them to listen to the Dhamma. On the last day, I spoke about the nature of the world we experience. I asked them to be conscious and reflect upon the universal law of nature that belongs within a true beneficial system, holding a combination of simplicity and strength. It is at this point, I said, “knowing requires the full extent of attention and engagement while listening’. They fully participated in listening.
As Vongphit’s life situation illustrates the human condition: likewise, the entire world is burning with aging, disease and death. The nature of the world is like being on fire of desire, craving, greed and hatred. The nature of the world is like a haze of smokey ignorance. Whoever is longing to this world order experiences sorrow and pain. This is the impartial justice of nature. But when the intelligence is hijacked by ignorance, it is difficult for one to see and know the reality. Just as a man that does not see upon waking up, no matter what he sees in a dream. In the same way, the ignorant do not see and know the true nature of things the way it is. In fact, the longings for possessions continue in that person and suffering follow like the wheels that follow the oxcart. The wise, therefore, do not incline to devote their time and energy to insanity and possesses nothing. One who possesses nothing, certainly they see nothing as mine. They are simply filled with strength to the fullest extent. The Buddha called this appamada or conscientious. This means being ever conscious in doing the right and making the right choice. By doing so one can reach the point of deathlessness, in the language of Buddha, that stage called as Nibbana.
The life energy is limited but time is limitless. Within the framework of limitless time, life is brief. Even if one lives to a hundred years, still, one is subjected to die from old age or illness. Generally, people grieve for what they have possessed and see the possession as mine, as a result of that they suffer greatly. By realizing this and fully perceiving the truth, the wise live a conscious life diligently, engaging in doing the right thing. This enhances the tranquility and wisdom so that they may realize the limitless possibilities that are unlocked when they connect with deathlessness or Nibbana. In this context, life, death and liberation are all about the choices made.
By Bhante Debongshi
I have at times been asked the following question: Is it possible for an Arahat to live in a household? The same question was asked by Sandhya Uduwawala a Dhamma devotee from Scarborough last week. I hope this article answers that question.
‘Arahat’ is a Pali word. The etymological definition of this word is as follows: ‘Ari’ means ‘the enemy’, which refers to defilements (kilesas), while ‘hata’ means ‘to kill’ or ‘to destroy’, which refers to the destruction of ignorance. Therefore, the combination of these words becomes ‘Arahat’ or ‘one who has destroyed ignorance’.
In addition, one who has absolutely overcome ignorance or mental corruption is known as an Arahat or Enlightened One, the seer and knower of the truth and awakened. When one has reached this stage, he or she is above and beyond the limitations, conditions and identities of everyday life. In other words, that person is not bound not by ordinary sanctions; therefore, he or she is free and boundless.
For this reason, the word ‘family’ does not apply to an Arahat. In terms of dwelling, the place at which an Arahat dwells is called vihāra or ‘a pure abode’. Thus, imasmim vihāre means ‘in this pure abode.’ Vihara also means ‘the proper way of living’; therefore, viharami anasavo means: ‘I live a faultless life.’ As such, the term vihāra applies only to those who are liberated and to the seekers of liberation. In this context, the residence of an Arahat does not imply familial relations.
Khuddaka Nikaya is one of the texts in the Tipitaka. In this text, a story was told about an old brahmin who claimed to be the Buddha’s father. It proceeds as follows: On a certain day, the Buddha went to the city named Saketa for alms. There, an old brahmin came before the Buddha and affectionately addressed him as his son; he then warmheartedly invited the Buddha and his disciples to his home. The Brahmin was very excited by the Buddha’s presence, and he lovingly introduced his wife as the Buddha’s mother and the children as his siblings. The Buddha taught them the Dhamma for three months. Upon hearing the Dhamma during that time, the brahmin and his wife realized the truth. While living in the same household, they ardently followed the teaching.
Thus, they devoted the rest of their lives to the path of liberation until they reached Nibbana. In this regard, the Buddha stated in Dhammapada: Yattha arahanto viharanti, tam bhumi ramaneyyakam, or: “Wherever an Arahat dwells, that place is blissful and pleasant.” When the disciples asked the Buddha the reason for having been referred to as the son of the brahmin, the Buddha revealed the truth. He had been born as their son in many past existences – in fact, over one thousand five hundred lifetimes. Even in the present life, they carried a vivid memory of their past existence and therefore recognized the Buddha as their son.
This example clarifies the fact that liberation does not distinguish between the stations of life. Both the householder and the Bhikkhu have an equal opportunity to experience the joy of liberation if they are in-charge of their mind, body, energy, thoughts, words and actions. This is the most important fact to realize about enlightenment – that is, it is available to all sentient beings, regardless of the position that they occupy in this life.
The true sense of living in an abode is not in having possessions, whether that be person, place or thing, but in creating a blissful ambiance for oneself in order to bring about an expression of life in the fullest sense of the word. Therefore, I invite all sentient beings to explore the inner meaning of life on earth. May the New Year bring you blessings and fruitfulness in your search for the true meaning of life.
By Bhante Debongshi
The end of the year reminds us to prepare for the new year on the last day of December. This is known as old year’s day or new year’s eve. There is actually no such thing as a day, month or year. It is only for conventional reasons that we use time units which were created by humanity. This fabrication of time is consistent, and according to its construct, every day has the same time period – that is, twenty-four hours. Therefore, day and night, as well the pursuant light and darkness, alternate on a regular basis; in keeping with this system, people record their ages according to the number of years that they have been alive. However, aging is not caused by time; instead, it is the natural process of growing older regardless of the measurement of time.
According to the Buddha, age is not determined by the number of years that one has lived; in fact, this hypothesis is based on ignorance. An enlightened disciple, the Venerable Kaccayana, stated that even if one were a hundred years old but lacked wisdom and participated in sensual thoughts or acts, that person would be seen as a fool and not an elder.
On the other hand, if one is only seven or ten years old and yet is endowed with pure wisdom, and therefore does not partake in sensual entertainments, then that person is known as a wise elder. It is within this context of understanding that wisdom comes with integrity and is not merely a product of age.
Last Saturday Peter invited me to the commemoration day of his father’s death. After having finished the ritual chants, the devotees talked about the end of the year. They asked to give them some advice on the aging process.
The honourable advice given was as follows: Conventional wisdom is only partially true. As was mentioned above, the measurement of time in months and years does not actually exist. It is only for conventional reasons that we use a system of time that has been created by humanity. However, one does not age through time but through the natural process of life and the choices we make.
Therefore reflect on this: If you calculate your age in terms of the number of years that you have been alive, one can say that you are getting older and closer to death – that is, your illusory self is reaching the end of its life. In one way, this is a benefit to mortality, since through this process, death is replaced by a new life supported by karmic energy. Therefore, one should live joyfully, gratefully and gracefully grow old and die so as to have a new life. On the other hand, if you calculate the years of your life in reverse – that is, from 100 to 1, you will see that you are getting younger every day. That concept will create more joy in your life.
However, the reality is this: In whichever way you may look at the aging process, you must have joy in your life. Because either way you will continue to live, and there will be an opportunity to accrue merits through becoming enlightened while you are still alive. That is why it is important to live consciously to increase mental alertness so that you embrace your life with joy as a new dawn of living every day. If you celebrate every day in your heart as if it were the best day of the year and live everyday as if it were the last, you will not waste even a single moment of life. As a result, you will find the sacred meaning of life. This is all you need to do. The ones who heard this advice said, “Excellent! Venerable sir, We thank you! We wish that everyone could hear this message.”
By Bhante Debongshi
The Source of Creation
A student asked the following question in meditation class: “How can we create a life of fulfillment in such a chaotic world?” I answered the question in this way: “The world has always been in a chaotic state. Firstly, you must know the source of creation and then work towards it. If you have the right thought, words and actions along with wisdom, then creating a life of fulfillment is not difficult.” In regard to the source of creation, the Buddha said: Atta hi attano natho, atta hi attano gati – that is, “You are your own maker, and you make your own destiny. Now you know that the source of creation is within you.”
Just as a skillful artist can create an image with his or her skills, you can create your own destiny with your intellect. There is nothing more fulfilling in this world than knowing that you are the source of your own creation. There are people who look good on the outside, but within themselves, they are miserable. They do not know that the source of creation for their lives is within their own being. Without knowing the source of happiness, there can be no joy or prosperity. For this reason, most people do not feel fulfilled in their lives.
Tendency toward pleasure
There is a tendency to find pleasure in every effort that is made. That being said, the goal of an action is to find joy and to elevate one’s self-esteem. Consequently, people search for pleasure without pain. The mistake that most people make is in trying to elevate their self-esteem through the accumulation of mental and physical attributes in order to find fulfillment in life. This article will provide an answer to the question: “Can one continue to make progress on the path to absolute fulfillment?”
The Dhammapada is one of the great texts of the Buddha’s teachings in the Pali Tipitaka. It states that one who lives a conscious life that is energetic and pure in action, acts with care and attention, restrains his or her senses and conducts oneself in a diligent and dutiful manner will have continuing prosperity and fulfillment in his or her life. Therefore, living life to the fullest is a natural tendency that is very important.
By nature, humankind is fundamentally self-centric. That is why consciousness and integrity should be the fundamental qualities of living, and yet humanity suffers greatly from the lack of consciousness and integrity. There is no self-consciousness without integrity and no integrity without self-consciousness. One who has both self-consciousness and integrity lives consciously with strength and courage. Indeed, the lack of consciousness is the main shortcoming of humanity. Consciousness is a sense of self-awareness; therefore, in losing self-awareness, one loses the sense of life.
Sensitivity to Life
If you are not sensitive to life, you will distance yourself from being alive. Therefore, the state of living is one of either self-abandonment or self-imprisonment. In this condition, you will never have the sense of free will and will live like a victim of accidental circumstances. For a life of true fulfilment, it is so important to bring sensitivity to the psychophysical system which allows one not only to explore the mechanism of life but also to skillfully transcend the limitation of the six senses.
The Buddha’s Guidelines
There were two practices that were prescribed by the Buddha in order to have fulfillment in life.
Firstly, giving up unskillfulness: He pointed out that it is possible to give up that which is unskillful. If it were not possible to give up unskillfulness, he said, “I would not tell you to give up that which is unskillful. But because it is possible to give up unskillfulness, I have therefore told you to give up that which is unskillful. If giving up that which is unskillful would cause no benefit, I would not tell you to give up unskillfulness. But because giving up unskillfulness is beneficial for liberation, therefore, I have told you to give up that which is unskillful.”
Secondly, cultivating skillfulness: Buddha knew that it was possible to develop that which is skillful. If it were not possible to develop skillfulness, he said, “I would not tell you to develop that which is skillful. But because it is possible to develop skillfulness, I have told you to develop that which is skillful.' If making progress in skillfulness would cause no benefit, I would not tell you to develop that which is skillful, but because making progress in skillfulness is beneficial to liberation, therefore, I have told you to develop that which is skillful.”
A virtuous person rises above unskillfulness and brings skillfulness into his life and is pure in his conduct, sorrowless and free from the corruption of mental defilement. When unskillful means have been given up and skillfulness has been developed, that person will inevitably have fulfillment in his or her life. The virtues of courage and strength will have been developed and will lead to liberation in the present life.
By Bhante Debongshi
On a warm sunny day the Regina North East Community Center was filled with a vibrant celebration. DMC hosted its 3rd Annual Kathina Ceremony on October 13th, 2019. Noble Sangha, lay Devotees, families and friends came to celebrate and engage in collective happiness. The Buddha pointed out Sukha sanghassa samaggi, samagganam tapo sukho which translated means: Happy is to be united. Happy is to practice unity. The presence of diversity and deep joy filled the hearts of the people as they experienced the generosity that the ceremony promotes.
Sabba danam dadantena Asimim Pruthuvi Mandale; Sanghassa dinnam Katinam, aggam Buddhena vannitam. The Supreme Buddha highly praised the offering of a Katina robe to the Noble Sangha as being one of the noblest and highest meritorious deeds among all offerings made on this Earth. Every year this unique day is celebrated around the world.
This year, DMC celebrated its 3rd Kathina Robe Ceremony in Regina and it was unlike any other event celebrated before. The credit goes to our generous devotees and volunteers who dedicate their time and energies to make events like this one successful.
As compassionate and proud Canadians, we are very happy to experience Canada as one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world. The Kathina Robe Ceremony day is about experiencing this multi-cultural inclusiveness with a deep sense of freely sharing our humanity, regardless of diverse backgrounds. This event brings an awareness and emphasis of a connectedness within a diverse community. It signifies the many spiritual values such as generosity, compassion and loving-kindness that defines what is important to us and allows attendees to experience this for themselves. We seek to integrate and embody these values in our daily life and in everything we do and ceremonies like Kathina provide this opportunity.
The last three-month period was an opportunity for the Bhikkhu Sangha to devote their efforts to the observance of rains retreat (Vassa) and maintaining a close relationship with the devotees by guiding them in the right path and assisting them to live a disciplined life. The result is that devotees learn about the importance of spiritual well-being within this period of rains retreat. At the end of the rains retreat, with warm gratitude, a Kathina robe is offered to the Noble Sangha by devotees. Following this traditional custom, the Kathina Robe ceremony is performed with pure altruistic joy, willingness, devotion, which results in an infinite amount of accrued merits and happiness on behalf the participants ( givers).
In the Nidhikanda Sutta discourse on treasure; the Buddha spoke about the significance of this offering to the noble Sangha and thus spoke: Manusika ca sampatti deva loke ca ya rati; Ya ca Nibbana sampatti sabba metena labbati. (Translation) The highest happiness in human life, any delight of the divine, the attainment of liberation: all that is gained by this merit. These are the benefits of offering the Kathina Robe to the noble Sangha.
DMC Awards Certificates of Recognition
We have a wide range of activities at DMC. The certificate of recognition program is one example. This program acknowledges the joyful action of its members who’s dedication, commitment and proactive involvement aid in DMC’s vision. It benefits not only the individual, but also brings social and spiritual wellbeing beyond our borders. Eight of our dedicated individuals received a “Certificate of Recognition” award which graciously acknowledged their time, service and contributions.
DMC is funded solely by donations from generous devotees within the community. It is run solely by its Volunteers. We extend a heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to all volunteers for the many services and supports that they’ve provided over the years. Their efforts have assisted DMC’s visions of offering various programs, facilities and techniques for many who choose to enable themselves in reaching their highest potential in life and to realize their possibility for self-awakening within the teachings of Dhamma. Within our services, we value knowledge and empowerment in life-transformation, compassion in service to others, and integrity and respect in our conduct.
I want to thank the Kathina 2019 sponsors for their incredible dedication in supporting our communities. I wish you good health, prosperity and happiness!
by Bhante Debongshi
The conception of life is the result of past karmic energy that has evolved into consciousness through the organism of a sentient being. By nature, consciousness is pure. It is like grass in its purest form which is and radiant and bright. However, weeds grow up through the grass and choke out the original state the grass once had. In this way the weeds grow up through the grass are likened to the corruption of mental defilements in the field of consciousness. Therefore, the Buddha said: Pabhassaramidam bhikkhave cittam – Oh, Bhikkhus! By nature, consciousness is pure. Tanca kho akantukehi uppakkilesehi uppakkilittham – But it becomes polluted by outside defilements. Since consciousness precedes all other phenomena, it is the main source of awareness, and everything is perceived through consciousness. The source of creation, whatever it may be – whether it is joy or sorrow, light or darkness, pain or pleasure - appears in the field of consciousness.
The nature of consciousness in the language of the Buddha is called Pabhassara citta, meaning pure consciousness. As such, it is boundless, untainted and perfectly pure. It is conditioned only by external defilements. Thus, this phenomenon provokes ideas which are often misinterpreted or misunderstood by those who lack insight into its true nature. Therefore, due to the lack of inner clarity, the unwise cannot see the radiance of consciousness in its present form but search for it in the past and the future, and thus miss clear insight into its nature. As a result, there is no mental evolution for the person who does not have insight, and therefore lives in suffering and misery.
On the contrary, the person with insight knows that consciousness is boundless, bright and perfectly pure; therefore, he or she does not allow it to be conditioned or to have its radiance ruined by external defilements. Further, he or she does not wander elsewhere in the search for pleasure outside of self-realization; since the integrity of pure consciousness is always within the present moment. They are conscious of the reality in the here and now. As a result, this person will experience mental evolution and will allow themselves to lead the world with a pure consciousness in order to help to escape misery. Being free of external bondages, these persons will thereby always have joy in this life and the next.
(THE LIFE STORY OF MOGGALIPUTTA TISSA)
by Bhante Debongshi
The life of the Venerable Moggaliputta Tissa has been an inspiration to the history of enlightenment throughout the ages. His given name was Manabak Tissa. He was born into a Brahmin family by the name of Moggali in a town called Pataliputta in north eastern India. However, after his ordination he was known by the name of Moggaliputta Tissa. At a young age, his father had sent him to a famous teacher for higher studies. When he was sixteen, he had become a great scholar in the Tri-Vedas.
The Greatness of Manabak Tissa is Foreseen
Before Tissa was born, an enlightened Bhikkhu named Siggabha Thera had foreseen his great potential. Thera therefore followed the Brahmin Moggali by going to his house daily for alms. Not to receive alms, but for the sake of his wellbeing, considering the resulting benefits for his future son and for the world. He wanted to offer spiritual support and to show the light of Dhamma to the family of the future enlightened one.
On the day that Tissa was born, Siggabha Thera stood in front of the house to collect alms but pretended like they did not notice him. Despite this setback, he continued to visit the Brahmin household for alms for the following seven years. Even though he did not receive even a single spoon of rice nor a kind word from the Brahmin until he had realized the essence of joy in giving. Without losing his patience, Thera persisted on his prolonged journey in order to accommodate the salvific destiny of Tissa.
Seven Years Later
Venerable Siggabha Thera had been waiting for an opportunity to meet with Tissa. He knew that when the time was right, everything would happen as it was mean to be. One day he arrived at the house earlier than usual and stood in front of the door of the Brahmin. As he was standing there, the servants said to him: 'Mendicant, go away from here'. After seven years of his constant visit to their house this was the first time, he had received a response from them. On that day, the Brahmin Moggali had gone out to perform his duties. On his return to the house, he met the Venerable Thera. In a discouraging manner, he asked: “Hey Pabbajita (mendicant), did you go to our house?” Thera calmly replied, “Yes”. “Did you receive something”? asked the Brahmin. Thera replied, “Yes, Brahmin. I received something”.
Brahmin Moggali’s Aversion Toward Siggabha Thera
Upon arriving home, Moggali asked whether anyone had given something to the Pabbajita (mendicant) and was told that nothing had been given to him. Moggali was then furious with Thera’s words. He waited for Thera to come again so that he could accuse him of being a liar. The next day, Thera came and stood in front of the house as he had every day for seven years. As soon as the Brahmin saw Thera, he began to shout at him. "Pabbajita" (Mendicant), though you had received nothing from our house yesterday, you said that you had. Is this not a lie”? asked the Brahmin accusingly.
Siggabha Thera’s Answer
“Oh, Brahmin! I have been coming to your house for over seven years without getting acknowledgement or receiving anything except being told to go away from here. But yesterday, I was moved by these words: “Go away from here.” This was the first time that I had ever received a response from you, and I am gratified by that. Therefore, I said that I had received something.”
Offering a Meal to Venerable Thera
Upon hearing Thera’s words, the Brahmin thought to himself: 'It is amazing! Even just hearing such vague words, a Bhikkhu considers this as receiving. If he had actually received something, such as a meal, I wonder how much he would have appreciated that. With these thoughts in mind, the Brahmin himself prepared a meal for the Venerable Thera. From the prepared foods, he offered a small spoon of rice and a small bowl of soup, just to examine how he might have joy from giving, and he told the Thera, “from now on you will be served only this much food every time you come.” The Venerable Siggabha Thera warmly and joyfully accepted this offering, said a few words of dhamma and left. The Brahmin was immediately moved by this gesture.
Brahmin Moggali’s Invitation
The next day when Brahmin Moggali saw the Venerable Thera, he felt a deep sense of respect for him and invited him into the house for daily alms. The Venerable Thera gratefully accepted his invitation. From then on, he went on to the Brahmins’ household for alms every day. After the meal, he would deliver a short Dhamma discourse and leave.
Manabak Tissa, the Man of Pride
The son of the Brahmin was named Manabak Tissa. At a young age, he was sent to a famous teacher for higher studies. By the age of sixteen, he had become a great scholar of the Tri-Vedas. As a son of the Brahmin, he was an arrogant man, authoritarian and demanding in nature. One of his habits was to have a special seat at home on which no other person was allowed to sit. The seat was covered with a white cloth when he went out and uncovered when he returned to the house.
Venerable Siggabha Thera's Plan for Interaction with Manabak Tissa
The venerable Siggabha Thera knew that the opportunity had arisen for Manabak Tissa to enter the noble Order. 'Although I have been coming to this house for a long time, I have never had a chance to meet Tissa,' thought the venerable Thera. Therefore, he decided to interact with Tissa by using his special seat. That day, the venerable Thera came for alms early and entered the house. Seeing that no seat had been prepared for him, he stood beside the special seat. Out of respect, the members of the household asked him to sit on it and served him the alms-food.
Manabak Tissa's Arrival at the House
While Thera was eating the alms-food on Tissa’s special seat, Tissa arrived at the house and saw Thera seated on his seat. When he saw this, he became deeply resentful towards the Thera. With a harsh voice, Manabak Tissa asked, “Who allowed to this shaven head Samana to sit on my chair?”
Dialogs Between the venerable Siggabha Thera and Manabak Tissa
Realizing Tissa’s disrespectful attitude toward him, the venerable Thera questioned whether he had learned any sacred words from his teacher. Tissa became even more hostile and boasted about his insight and skills.” And you, Pabbajita (mendicant), do you know any sacred words?” he asked in return. “You may ask about anything that you would like to know?” Thera replied.
Then Manabak Tissa asked many difficult questions of Siggabha Thera from the Tri-Vedas, and in return, Thera skillfully expounded on all of them. Since he had already mastered the Tri-Vedas before entering the Order and was a fully enlightened being, it was effortless for Thera to answer the questions.
Siggabha Thera’s Question to Manabak Tissa
Oh, Tissa! You’ve asked me so many questions. Now I’ll ask you only one question. Will you answer this question for me”? Venerable Thera asked.
“Yes, I’ll answer. Ask me whatever would like”, Tissa replied. Then Thera asked a question about the state of mind from the Abhidhamma Pitaka, Chapter of Cittayamaka. The question was as follows:
Yassa cittāṃ uppajjati na nirujjati, tassa cittāṃ nirujjissati na uppajjissati.
Yassa vā pana cittāṃ nirujjissati na uppajjissati, tassa cittāṃ uppajjati na nirujjati.
'For one whose mind arises and does not fall, his mind shall fall and not arise again. On the contrary, for one whose mind shall fall and does not arise, his mind shall arise again and not fall. Whose mind is it’?
Tissa could not answer the question. Instead, he became confused and infuriated. “What kind of sacred words are those?” he said. Thera replied, “These are the Buddha's sacred words”. In response Tissa said, “You should pass it on me. I want to possess this sacred knowledge!”
Manabak Tissa Entered the Order (Moggaliputta Tissa)
Siggabha Thera said to Manabak Tissa, “These sacred words of the Buddha can be passed on only to those who enter the order, but not to the ordinary laymen”. After hearing these words, Tissa insisted firmly to study the sacred words of the Buddha. In fact, with the permission of his parents, Manabak Tissa entered the order as a samanera (novice) under the guidance of Siggabha Thera in order to learn the Buddha's sacred teachings. His ordination name was given Moggaliputta Tissa, Putta meaning 'son', since Manabak Tissa was the son of Moggali. Therefore, after the ordination his name was given as Moggaliputta Tissa. As a novice, Moggaliputta Tissa was given a meditation subject on the transient nature of the body. He diligently followed the instructions of his teacher. Soon he reached the first state of sainthood (that is, as a first stream winner).
Moggaliputta Tissa's Higher Ordination
Afterward, he was sent to another enlightened Bhikkhu named Chandavajji Thera, from whom he received a higher ordination as a Bhikkhu, learning an advanced meditation technique and the Tripitaka. Through diligently following the guidelines of his teachers, he had a breakthrough experience and moved toward personal transformation.
At this point, he gave up the longing to learn the sacred words and instead sought the path to liberation. Finally, he became fully enlightened. After his teachers attained Parinibbana, he was entitled as the father of the Sangha and a successor to the noble Sasana (the enlightened teaching of Buddha).
The Third Sangha Council
Moggaliputta Tissa brought back the Buddha’s pristine teachings by leading the third Sangha council in the presence of one thousand elderly members of the noble Sangha under the patronage of Emperor Ashoka. The original form of these teachings have been preserved during the council and details of reformation was recorded in the Kathavattu of Abhidhamma.
The life story of Moggaliputta Tissa has been venerated by the wisest throughout the history of enlightenment, and his contributions to the world will not be forgotten.
If you do the right thing even for the wrong reason, the right thing will happen anyway. If you do the wrong thing even for the right reason, the right thing will never happen. That is exactly what happened to Tissa. He entered the noble order for a wrong reason, merely for the sake of learning the sacred words of the Buddha, but he did the right thing in devoting his time and energy to the process of liberation. After some time, he realized that he had done the right thing. His willpower and openness allowed him to bring the ultimate growth to his being, and he became fully liberated and enlightened.
by Bhante Debongshi
All plant life begins as a seed. In order for it to grow it requires nutrients (support) like fertile-soil and water to help it sprout to become a plant. With the support of these life’s fibers the seed first grows roots. Then the roots produce energy, which produces a shoot, a small plant which then comes through the soil. This is likened to the natural process of what takes place within human growth. Let’s take a closer look at what’s happening within this growth process.
Our life begins as a seed of consciousness like plant. Sensuality is the fiber for consciousness which supports life for growth. When consciousness finds ground with form, it’s protected and preserved by form, settled on it and with the support of sensual pleasure it begins to manifest like the plant which sprouts. Wherever consciousness finds a ground, either with form, feeling, perception, or with any mental content, it engages and involves with it and with support of sensual pleasure it continues to advance into existence. The provision is that if there is a sensual entertainment, there is a tendency of longing for life to rejuvenate. The consciousness itself is like a survival package. It contains the karmic fibers for its need while growing energies and forming into life.
Once pleasure and passion as fiber of support have given up, the longing for life eventually will disappear, in fact, consciousness will find no ground. It can not get settled anywhere in any given time. As it disengages with sensual entertainments, ultimately the function of its rejuvenation will come to end. Here the liberation takes place as an effect. It gets stabilized and remains undisturbed by anything or by any means. At this point, the experience of inclusiveness occurs within. In perfect understanding there is nothing which is unknown, unseen and unrealized in the world. Then you know that the life’s seed is removed, the round of repeated birth-death cycle is ended, life is fulfilled and task is done.
In this one experiences boundless joy born of liberation right here and now in this very life. In the language of Buddha - soupadisesa-nibbana means one who experiences this final nectar of liberation while still living.
Dr. Aditya Dewan
Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University and Humanities Department
Dawson College, Montreal
This paper discusses the following: (1) Distinction between ethics and self-discipline; (2) Philosophical ethics; (3) Self-discipline withthe Buddha’s Teaching: 4) Western philosophical ethics and Self-discipline in relation to the Buddha’s Teaching.
Ethics and Self-Discipline:
At the outset, it is important to distinguish between ethics and self-discipline. The simplest way to understand ethics and self-discipline is to relate them to right and wrong conduct. Although sometimes used interchangeably, ethics and self-discipline are different. Many use these terms interchangeably when talking about personal beliefs, actions or principles. Ethics refers to rules provided by an external source, i.e. codes of conduct in workplaces or principles in religions. Self-discipline refers to an individual’s own principles regarding right and wrong. Self-discipline are prevailing standards of behaviour that enable people to live harmoniously in a community. It also refers to what societies sanction as right and acceptable. In the following, an attempt has been made to deal with ethics only.
Ethics is ideas about right and wrong. Our ideas about right and wrong conduct have been part of our life since infancy. Parents, teachers, preachers, friends and relatives shaped our conduct and beliefs. Ethics is evaluation of human actions. However, ethics is not the only enterprise which evaluate human actions; law, religion, psychiatry and medicine also evaluate human actions. Laws evaluate actions into legal and illegal. Violators of law go to jail, pay fine or lose privilege. Religion advises us to please God for eternal happiness in heaven in order to avoid the fires of Hell. Psychiatry evaluates a person’s behaviour as normal, neurotic and psychotic. Medicine tells whether a person is healthy or not healthy. But ethics also are different from common ideas and beliefs, traditions, feelings and emotions. Ethics (or moral philosophy)is a branch of philosophy that dates back 2000 years to Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher who spent much of his time in the Athenian marketplace challenging people to think about how they lived. Socrates believed that his mission was to ask his fellow citizens, “Are you not ashamed of your eagerness to posses as much wealth, reputation, and honours as possible, while you do not care for nor give thought to wisdom and truth, or, the best possible state of your mind?” To him “the most important thing is not life, but the good life. He challenged people how they lived. Socrates investigated human behaviour, and that’s what ethics does”(White 1988, pp. 7-10).
The Original meaning of ethics and self-discipline is: the actions people do and how they do it. Ethics and self-discipline come from two ancient Latin and Pali words ethos and Sila, both means character. The common aim of ethics is to evaluate what we do. People label actions when making ethical judgments. The most common are: Right-wrong, good-bad, moral-immoral, ethical-unethical, morally-justifiable, morally-unjustifiable, just-unjust (virtues), fair-unfair, righteous-sinful (religious), sacred-profane, good-evil, positive-negative (White 1988, p.8).
“Ethics is a part of philosophy and like any other part of philosophy, it uses reason, logic, concepts and philosophical explanations to analyze its problems and find answers. Philosophical questions are abstract or conceptual, so the most common tool to use is your mind. In ethics, what counts most is what you think. There are two ways to understand the last sentence: What counts most is what you think and what counts most is how you think” (White 1988, p.9).
In sum, “Ethics is a branch of philosophy concerned with evaluating how right or wrong actions are; ethics works through making intellectual judgments on the basis of rational explanation and public discussion; the aim of ethical argument is to get someone else to freely agree with you for good reasons; neither your emotions nor the authority of an individual’s opinion, the laws, religious teachings, or another person count as much as in philosophical ethics as what you think” (White 1988, pp.16-17).
THE SELF-DISCIPLINE IN RELATION TO BUDDHA’S TEACHINGS or SILA:
THE FOURTEEN VIRTUES OFSELF-DISCIPLINE OR SILA
Tachibana (1992) discussed Fourteen Virtues of right behavior which are the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. The following discussions are based on Tachibana 1992 and Waxman (2019).
Control of our six sense-organs: eye (vision), ear (hearing), nose (smell), tongue (taste), body (touch) and mind. It is the control of mind, speech and bodily conduct. It is also control over one’s own actions such as impulse or desire. Its aim is to achieve right concentration of mind through our six sense organs: “If this is not attained, knowledge and insight which see things as they really are will not be attained” (Tachibana 1992 in Waxman 2019). Lack of self-restraint will cause vanity and attachments to human passions and desire.
Abstinence and Temperance:
Buddha has rejected sensual pleasures, but asceticism also denounced. Temperance be observed in eating, feasting and drinking alcohol. Excessive drinking may lead to drunkenness and harmfulness to individuals and society. With regard to the satisfaction of appetite, the Buddha advises us to eat moderately. On many occasions he mentions ‘moderation in eating’ as commendable, or he praises ‘one who is moderate in taking food and filling his stomach. …. Moderation in eating therefore is recommended by all teachers, and monastics (Tachibana 1992, p.114).Bhikkhus moderate not only food but also number of meals. They refrain from taking solid food between noon and sunrise. “The Buddha does not forbid his disciples, whether lay or monastic, to take meat. The Bhikkhus may receive alms consisting of animal food, if this is free from three conditions: if the Bhikkhus do not see, hear, or suspect that the meat which is offered to them is cooked for special purpose of being offered to them, they may receive and eat it. It raises question as to the Buddha’s Teachings allowing eating meat which teaches absolute abstinence from taking life? According to the Buddha the disciples are allowed to receive any food offered to them, and not to prefer one sort to another, animal or vegetable. Preference means lack of self-control on the part of the receiver. Buddha prohibited eating the flesh of human, horse, dogs, serpent, elephants, tiger, lion, panther, bear or hyaena for several reasons. In the case of other animal, they are free to eat their meat if they are sure that is not purposely prepared for them. Animal food being allowed, it may feared that the food will excite passions. As for drinking of alcohol the devotees are absolutely forbidden to take them, whether monastic or lay” (Tachibana 1992, pp.116-117).
It“Is the self-discipline condition of a person who is satisfied with what he possesses or obtains, or with the position with he finds himself. It is a state of happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment; a feeling of satisfaction with one’s quality of life, possessions, and occupations. Laymen and devotees should feel pleasure in living either in poverty and luxury. A person is a rich person who is content with a little.
Self-control is an important part of Self-discipline or Sila. “We have to persevere not only for the attainment of noble objects … but even in our daily life we have so much to endure pain, physical or mental, difficulty, poverty, sickness, various sorts of obstacles, must be borne with unfaltering firmness of mind. “Endurance in the face of hardship, mental suffering or bodily pain, or perseverance in pursuit of a certain aim and end, should be regarded as a highly valuable virtue” (Tachibana 1992 in Waxman 2019).
Celibacy or chastity:
Celibacy is compulsory only for those who have voluntarily joined the noble order. As to the other sects or lay people, they are not obliged to observe celibacy, except when they keep the eight precepts on the Uposatta days which come two or three times every lunar month or on some other special occasions.” (Tachibana 1992). “Chastity is a virtue included in the five precepts which are incumbent upon all lay followers of the Buddha to keep. The contingency of married is considered as important as the single life of unmarried. The unchaste life of the married man is absolutely repudiated as unbecoming for a follower of the Buddha” (Tachibana 1992. p.151).
Means freedom from adulteration or pollution. Spiritual purification of mind, body, thought, speech, and deed is an essential part of Self-discipline or Sila. “disciples of Buddha ideas of purity and purification are entirely spiritual, and naturally richer in ethical character. Purity, perfect purity, is the final end of Buddha’s way of life, and purification is nothing but the process necessary to reach this goal. The Buddha’s way of life is a series of purification in thought, speech, and deed, and when it is complete, the end has been attained” (Tachibana 1992, p.166). Thus Spiritual purification shows the path to nirvana and also leads to “goodness, justice, worthiness, completeness, and holiness” (Tachibana 1992, pp.166-171). According to Waxman (2019), “disciples of the Buddha will study and meditate to learn “noble discipline, concentration of mind, and wisdom. To understand the nature of self-discipline, the devotee must come to know the three universal objects: 1) the Buddha (the awakened one), 2) the Dhamma (or Dharma; natural duty or natural law), and 3) the Sangha (the community of Noble Order) Acquiring self-discipline is an essential part of the purification process, and attaining nirvana is the ultimate form of purity” (Waxman 2019.
“Pride or arrogance, which is usually expressed by the word Mana, and its derivatives, is one of the most abominable vices from the perspective of self-discipline of Buddha’s Teachings, and it is though these expressions that we understand that the Buddha’s Teaching regards humility as a high virtue. Abandon anger and pride. Do not be controlled by anger and pride. Anger and pride are twin vices, detestable in everybody’s eye. (Tachibana 1992,P.179). A person becomes selfish and ambitious when he fails to attain humility. His intention is always concentrated on himself, and his efforts are always to bring himself into prominence; he is selfish and ambitious; and he does not mind if others suffers on that account (Tachibana 1992,P.180). They do not feel responsible if others suffer as a result of their actions. If aspirants are absorbed in themselves, they cannot attain peace of mind or enlightenment. Consequently, they must work harder and longer to free themselves from karma. There are five aggregates associated with karma: 1) form (rupa), 2) feeling (vedana), 3) perception (sanna), 4) predispositions (sankhara), and 5) consciousness (vinnana). The aggregates cling to the false self. However, by learning humility and the other virtues, the aggregates are purified. As anger and pride are released, a natural outpouring of gentleness, patience, tolerance, love, modesty, and humility will follow” (Waxman 2019).
Benevolence is another virtue within Self-discipline of Buddha’s teachings) which includes: “love, kindness, friendship, sympathy, mercy, pity, and other kindred virtuous feelings and actions” (Tachibana, 1992 p.184 in Waxman 2019). Order of the noble Sangha or Bhikkhus extend their hearts to all living beings and experience oneness with the world. According to The Dhammapada: “Let us live happily then, not hating those who hate us! Among men who hate us, let us dwell free from hatred” (Tachibana 1992). Once devotees overcome negative feelings, the mindset of equality comes naturally. Followers of the Buddha’s path come to realize they are one with “the other.” (Waxman 2019).
Liberality is an extension of benevolence. “Benevolence is a charitable action or disposition to do good to others and liberality is concerned with charitable action, or practical exertion put forth to promote the happiness of others by giving them chiefly food, drink, and other requisites of life” (Waxman 2019). The application of liberality is contingent upon acquiring benevolence. The heart must be filled with benevolence before liberality is set into motion. Thus, benevolence is the cause of a kind action, and liberality is the effect (Waxman 2019). The follower of noble path who attains liberality, renounces attachments to material possessions. According to the Buddha:
You should be, O Bhikkhus, heirs of spiritual things, but not of material things . . . There are, O Bhikkhus, two gifts. What are the two? Material gifts and spiritual gifts. Of these two gifts the spiritual are pre-eminent. (Tachibana, 1992, p.209 in Waxman 2019)
It is not enough to feel benevolence in one’s heart. Daily actions expressing liberality are necessary.
Who and what are worthy of receiving reverence? Devotional reverence paid to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha and respect toward others and sacred objects; and the other towards parents, elders, wise men, teachers, benefactors. In the family and social life of laymen or in the spiritual life of Bhikkhus reverence is always regarded as a prominent virtue.” (Waxman 2019). When acting with reverence, the devotee feels gratitude which is an aspect of benevolence. In early Buddha’s Teaching, reverence toward the community was of primary importance. Also, reverence toward elders and cultural traditions are a priority. Mutual respect among members of the community brings harmony and balance into daily life. Parents sacrifice for their children and receive a special form of reverence. Children are indebted to their parents for patience, tolerance and guidance. They revere their parents for giving them love and affection. Everything they own belongs to the parents.
It’s a feeling of indebtedness toward one another; a feeling of gratitude toward friends, family, and community. Expression of gratitude is a way of life in our society. Each person is grateful for their position in life such as laymen’s expression of gratitude and thanks to noble Sangha, obligation of noble Sangha to laymen (Tachibana 1992, p.227).
“The Buddha himself was a person wonderfully tolerant in nature; be tolerant to others; forgive the indolence or offences of other people; but be strict in controlling yourself. This is the gist of the Buddha’s perspective of self-discipline). The Buddha’s Teachings we dare to say, is among the most tolerant of all faiths and is “the freest from prejudice or exclusiveness or even from bigotry” (Tachibana 1992, p.237). Buddha did not use harsh language when speaking to the disciples about their offensive behavior. He displayed tolerance and patience in the same way a concerned parent treats a child (Tachibana 1992).
Truth-seeking is an essential part of Buddha’s Self-discipline. Followers of the Buddha are taught to avoid lying within the disciples of Buddha sense, this means speaking the truth with sincerity. Devotees attend classes in childhood to specifically avoid lying (Tachibana 1992). In The Buddha’s teachings, lying is one of the most common types of unethical behavior. The Buddha classifies lying as “hypocrisy, treachery, dishonesty, double-tongues, false testimony . . . and he believed it was the root of every consequence of bad kamma” (Tachibana 1992 in Waxman 2019 ). Speaking the truth is a virtue, and the Buddha’s teachings is a purification of truth. Understanding and knowing the truth are supreme goals in the Buddha’s teachings. Living one’s truth leads to salvation. The first words Buddha spoke after experiencing enlightenment were: “The true nature of things have been revealed to me” (Tachibana 1992 in Waxman 2019). Truth is the highest virtue in daily life.
is the order in life, nature, and cosmos. Nature moves in cycles, and an orderly transition unfolds. Human consciousness evolves, and morality unfolds. This correspondence of sequential unfolding in nature and morality is defined by Dhamma. However, Dhamma has a broader meaning relating to duty and allegiance to the community. An aspirant living with Dhamma is “a person who is just or upright in action and living respectfully” (Tachibana 1992 in Waxman 2019). For instance, Buddha said: “I am the genuine son . . . One who makes righteousness his body . . . One who is identical with righteousness” (Tachibana 1992 in Waxman 2019). By understanding that righteousness is the path to perfection, the devotee lives in accordance with the Buddha’s Self-discipline. Living a good life leads to an awakening.
In addition to the Fourteen Virtues, there are Five Precepts, Four Noble Truths and then Eightfold path in Buddha’s teachings.
“The simplest compendium of Buddha’s Self-discipline is the five precepts: (1) Do not kill, (2) Do not steal, (3) Do not commit adultery, (4) Do not tell a lie, and 5) Do not take intoxicating liquors.” Tachibana 1992, p.58. Thus the five precepts means refraining from harming living things and abstinence from destruction of life; abstinence from taking what is not given; abstinence from fornication or sexual misconduct; abstinence from speaking falsely, lying or gossiping; abstinence from drinking spirituous, strong and maddening liquors, which is the cause of sloth (Tachibana 1992). The Five Precepts are universal ideals which are an outgrowth of community living.
The Four Noble Truth:Suffering, cause of suffering, ending suffering and path leads to suffering.
The Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right efforts, right mindfulness, right Samadhi (meditative absorption or union.
In Buddha’s teachings the Fourteen Virtues are studied and practiced as self-discipline and ethical frameworks. These teachings are also found in: The Five Precepts, The Four Noble Truths, and The Eightfold Path. “By assimilating the Virtues into one’s being, the path to perfection comes naturally. Devotees do not need to live in a particular community to practice virtue. A follower of the Buddha can live anywhere and still achieve the nirvanic state. However, those in a community recognize their natural duty to help others. Although the Buddha’s teaching is a spiritual way of discipline life the importance of family, friends, and relationships are of paramount importance” (Waxman 2019).
Self-discipline within the Buddha’s Teachings and Western philosophical ethics:
“Socrates in the latter half of the fifth century (468-400 B.C) taught the oneness of knowledge and virtue. It was not, until Socrates appeared that Greek Philosophy was fully concerned with human interests, especially with ethical problems. He was the founder of Greek moral philosophy. The doctrine of the identification of knowledge and virtue which he taught made an epoch in the history of Greek philosophy. The Buddha’s noble discipline resembles that of Socrates in three ways. “First Buddha and Socrates fixed the object of their efforts mainly upon human interests. Socrates engaged himself in the questions concerning human affairs. His famous admonition, ‘know thyself’, the doctrine of the identification of knowledge and virtue, the assertion of the usefulness of knowledge for practical life, and the purpose of teaching his countrymen how to live as good citizen; all these have a direct spiritual impact with a man’s actual life, especially within disciplinary aspect. The Buddha on his part, repudiating spiritual actions and way of practice, taught a new method of a characteristically self-disciplined nature through the practice of Eightfold Path. Secondly, common to both is the pursuit of knowledge as of high importance to human life. Acquisition of knowledge was necessary to every man. As a citizen, as a professor, as an artisan, in public or private life, what a man primarily needs is knowledge. Knowledge makes a man good; a wise man is always a good man. Lastly, both of them posses an unique and charming personality and in consequence the more valuable as founders of the path to awakening and a self-discipline-spiritual system”(Tachibana 1992 pp.7-8). Greek Philosopher “Aristotle also defines Temperance as ‘moderation or observance of the mean with regard to pleasures’, so the Buddha advises us to avoid the two extremes and to follow the middle way. This is the only virtue. … The Greek philosopher thinks that that virtue always lies between the two extremes, too much and too little, courage between cowardice and foolhardiness, and liberality between prodigality and illiberality, so also the Buddha finds virtue in the middle way”(Tachibana 1992, p.112-13).
Thus ethics and Self-discipline is an evaluation of human conduct or human behavior. It evaluates human conduct as right-wrong, just-unjust, acceptable and unacceptable, and so on. There are striking similarities between Western philosophical ethics and the Buddha’s noble Discipline. Both of them evaluate human conduct and teach us how to act and consequences of our actions.
Tachibana, S. (1992). Ethics of Buddhism. New Jersey: Reprinted in 1992 by Curzon Press Ltd.
Waxman, Robert (2019). Fourteen Virtues of Buddhism. Retrieved in March 2019 from https://www.academia.edu/38350064/Fourteen_virtues_of_Buddhism
White, Thomas, I.(1988) Right and Wrong: A Practical Introduction to Ethics. First Edition. Prentice-Hall Inc, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Is Illusion True Or Just An Imagination?
by Bhante Debongshi
Ignorance is a force of mental-darkness. It distorts one’s perception of reality. So it is the natural fact of the ignorant to believe that which is not true. Within this fact, in the language of the Buddha (Pali), “saññavipallâsa” means illusion or a distorted perception of reality. The Buddha, also known as “Lokovidu” (knower of the worlds), knew well the true nature of existence. He pointed out that the illusory world is bound by ignorance and beings are traveling in it through the path of repeated birth and death cycles - satta gacchanti samsaram jatimaranagamino. In order to overcome this life-death cycle it is not enough to just reveal the truth; it is also essential to expose and denounce illusion.
Recently, we had a 2-days Vipassana retreat at Chan Buddhist Center in Toronto. In the last session one of the meditators asked, “What is illusion Bhante. Is illusion true or just an imagination?” At that moment I remembered a professor who joined a weekly evening meditation class at the DMC who asked me the same question. I said to him, “what do you think, is your question an idea or an imagination?” “It can be both, but I’m not sure”, he replied. I then commented, “You’re clearly saying that “illusion” is an idea or belief that’s not true. Once you see this the way it is, you’ll know only illusion is true. This is the beauty of the secret of existence.
To make it simple, please reflect on this; whatever you’ve gathered in all your life up to today, are those accumulations accompanying you right now? No! So you see that things outside of you are not in your experience. That means nothing is living through you. Yes? Anything that’s not in your experience is not a living reality for you. Right? The only idea you hold true out of which illusion is born is that “you” yourself are an illusion. This is not in your experience, you can either believe it as true or see the fact the way it is. These are the only choices you have. Whereas nothing that is living through you that cannot be true for sure, as is an “idea” which beholds itself in ignorant belief within your imagination. Now you can understand that “you” yourself are an illusion.
You have a bundle of memories from the past and a huge imagination for the future. When these memories and imaginations arise into the surface of the mind they bring impressions into the thought process and form ideas. You certainly know that an idea is an illusion that believes itself to be true which is not true, but you believe in your idea to be real in the place of ignorance which is good, because that’s the only way you can define the border of yourself. By perceiving the realization of illusion one can become a realized being, because illusion is the only real. The truth can only be experienced, seen, known and realized in every moment within the presence of awareness. It can neither be in the past, nor in the future. When you think about truth as defined in being what you believe, instead of truth having it’s base in ignorance you’ll see then that everything in existence is within illusion and holds your belief back in defining truth. That’s the secret of the grace of life, because that’s the only way you can define your existence. In the wake of ignorance one has to perceive the realization of illusion in order to find liberation, because illusion is the only real and consciousness is the central point for that.
Please consciously reflect on this, before us a countless number of people have lived on earth. They all died on earth and became piece of the earth. Everyday vast numbers of people are dying and becoming a piece of earth. One day you and I and whatever number of people living on earth will also leave and become a piece of earth. If you do not know it now, you’ll know someday for sure. In the reality of natural selection what would you call it? Is it true or is it illusion? If you perceive the realization of illusion right now and know “you’re a witness yourself, illusion becomes the only truth. Then you will see this is the straight path that leads to awakening.
The Buddha was the light of all mankind. He has blossomed into a full-fledged human being on the full moon day of Vesak in May. In fact, “Vesak” is called Buddha Purnima that brings friends, family and community together every year in the month of May to celebrate happy moments of life and the beauty of diversity. We would like to express our sincere thanks to all participants for coming to celebrate “Vesak 2019” and “DMC’s 5TH Anniversary” with us. Our annual Anjali Newsmagazine was a perfect gift for all participants for reading of Dhamma news. This noble gathering of communal inclusivity on this auspicious day of May 19, shows the solidarity of DMC. We look forward to continuing the enhancement of social harmony together in the years to come. May all be well and happy!
Gain and Loss to Liberation
By Bhante Debongshi
Nature is the life force behind everything, but it is not always kind. At some point it provides us with everything we need but then the time comes for it to collect every single atom of life. DMC’s regular activities were suspended last week due to a one-week memorial service for Mrs. Chanthochone. A large crowd gathered for the final day of rite. The separation from a loved one is a sad occasion for the relatives and friends who were close to the deceased person. It was a heart-rendering moment, but the participants listened to the discourse with undivided attention. The gift of dhamma allowed them to appease their saddened minds. During this difficult time, they learned to let go of their grief, which was caused by attachment instead of liberation from pain. In this discourse, I talked about life and death.
The Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta says: “Yaṁ kiñci samudaya dhammaṁ, sabbaṁ tam nirodhā dhammaṁ" - "Whatever has the nature of arising has the nature of vanishing." This is an eternal law. If this law were understood properly, one would no longer feel the absence of a departed being.
As you read this article, reflect on it in a conscious manner. If you can be simultaneously aware of life and death, you will know your existence entirely, since both of these processes occur at the same time. The combination of these two facets makes up your being. As you live and breathe, you are dying at the same time. These are not two different entities. Time is changing your life in every moment, and you are getting closer to the grave. This is the reality of life. Life and death are a constant process in your existence. At a certain stage, death will be completed. It is just a matter of time. When one’s life energy is over, time has come for death of that sentient being. Then it becomes clear that life is a combination of time and energy. This is the way in which the life form comes into being. If this were completely understood, one could turn away from the misery of death.
Life and death are like two sides of the same coin since they occur at the same time. Likewise, you are a combination of these two aspects of being. If you are not aware of this, you will know only one side of your existence. That means that you will live only one part of life and miss the other part of who you are as a sentient being. Living only a half life is an incomplete existence, which always brings misery. Please take a moment to contemplate the fact that death springs from life and that the karmic energy of a new life comes into being after death. Life is arranged in this way by nature. The Dhamma explains the law of nature. Everything that has the nature of arising has the nature of vanishing. This is an eternal law. The Buddha is the being who realized this eternal law - He, who transcended the borders of life and death and became a realized being who was free of attachment.
Generally, people grieve over the death of a loved one, but they are not grieving because the person is gone. Instead, they are grieving, because they feel they have lost an attachment to which they possessed. Naturally, when beings are separated, they feel the loss of this attachment and not of the being him or herself.
In the same way, the separation from a loved one - such as your mother, father, sibling, relatives, friends, objects or ideas - feels like a loss. Therefore, loss of any possession will bring enormous pain and fear. Whatever you hold close will bring suffering in the end. The Buddha uttered that: Piyehi vippayogo dukkho. Separation from endearment brings suffering. Therefore, the solution for this problem is in the letting go of attachment or possession. This is the path that leads to liberation from pain and fear, since it is in the endearment that brings grief and fear. One who has no endearment has no grief or fear and is ultimately free.
The Way to wellbeing
by Bhante Debongshi
There are many ways to create happiness and wellbeing. The best way to create inner-wellbeing is to enhance self-consciousness and to diminish Avijja by turning inward. In the quest for cosmic knowledge, people seek wellbeing in the external world. However, true wellness and intelligence lies within; therefore, the inner-world remains unknown and exotic. In the Avijjasutta, the Buddha pointed out that “there is one single thing that is “a-vijja”, with whose ending the entire mass of misery can be ended and the knowledge of inner-wellbeing can be perfected.”
What is “avijja”?
The prefix “a” refers to “no or not”, and vijja refers to self-consciousness or insight. Thus, avijja literally means the lack of self-consciousness, in other words, “ignorance” in terms of the mental darkness.
In general, there is a constant longing, which is caused by an intense desire to live a glorified life. Because of this longing, one loses the ability to enhance the inner-wellbeing. It is impossible for one to have the insight of liberation when the mind is full of darkness, which is caused by a-vijja. This is not an ethical or moral issue of good or bad, right or wrong; it is simply a fact that has immense possibility, since it is the beginning of higher realization.
How does one know that a-vijja is ended and that the knowledge of inner-wellbeing has arisen? Suppose that one has heard the truth about the worthlessness of longing for worldly things but does not agree with what he has heard. As a result, he focuses on reasons instead of blind conditioning. However, upon careful examination, he sees clearly with insight. It therefore becomes clear to him that everything has its unique way of being. By engaging reason, he gains direct knowledge and knows from experience what has been heard.
“In the meditation technique called indriya bhavana (meditation on the faculties), the meditator examines and explores the faculties. He looks at one of the faculties, the eye, eye-contact and eye-consciousness as different entities, which are separated from each other. Based on eye contact, there appear to be objects that cause pleasure, pain and neither pleasure nor pain. He sees them as separate entity as well. Likewise, the meditator perceives the other sense faculties, including the intellect, and their role. With an attentive mind, he notices that the darkness of ignorance is gradually disappearing with the arising of self-consciousness and clarity of insight (ñanadassana-visuddhi). Then he goes above and beyond the fields of the sense faculties (that is, the psycho-physical level) and enters a transcendental state. In this state, he experiences akasa-viññana (the infinity of cosmic consciousness).” In this process, the meditator does not differentiate between the feelings of pain and pleasure; rather, he sees feelings as feelings and knows that there is a deep craving for feelings. Realizing it’s lack of benefit, he naturally gives up the intensity of longing for feelings and thus releases the mind.
The meditator notices that with pleasant feelings, there is an intense longing or desire (lobha) for pleasure; however, he makes a conscious choice to give up the rudimentary desire for pleasurable feelings and thereby releases the mind. On the other hand, there is an intensity of longing for hatred or aversion (dosa) toward painful feelings. Therefore, he makes a conscious choice to give up the intense longing for hatred toward these feelings. Similarly, in the case of neutral feelings, there is a deep intensity of longing for ignorance (moha) toward negligence or idleness. Again, he makes a conscious choice to give up the intensity of longing for ignorance toward idleness.
Once the intensity of longing for desire toward pleasant feelings, the intensity of longing for hatred or resentment toward painful feelings and the intensity of longing for ignorance toward idleness have been removed by right-effort, these unconstructed mental states disappear from the mind of the meditator. His mind is released from these short-sighted reactions and conditions through insight, and the chains of future becoming are removed. In this way, he brings an end to misery and suffering, and he creates a long-lasting inner-wellbeing in this very life and in the next.
Is there a destiny we all are heading towards?
by Bhante Debongshi
Nature takes care of its properties and arranges itself to become the basis for all beings on Earth. In terms of life evolution, a natural selection of transformative karmic energy plays a significant role. The magic of life is that it has a natural creative ability of its own by which it depends and evolves. In fact, all life forms on earth are unique in nature.
People often ask about life and reality, the idea of self or no-self. Is there any destiny we all are heading towards? On one occasion a car mechanic asked me these questions. I asked him, “What do you do?” He said, “I am a car mechanic.” “So, being a car mechanic, you know very well that a car is a complex mechanism and is made up of different components. Isn’t it? As an expert, you also know that there are different components in the body of car, such as doors, windows, mirrors, wheels, etc. Yes?”
Suppose you had to repair an old car and you were asked to pull out and replace everything. As a mechanic you want to make money and you provide your expertise by repairing it. While replacing the parts, you broke apart the car and separated all components part by part, piece by piece. After disassembling piece by piece and putting them aside, I ask, do you still call it a car? No! Why? Because when all the parts are dismantled, they become separate pieces from the whole system of the vehicle. Since it is fragmented from a systematic order, it no longer can be called a car. Right? It is only when the components are constructed an orderly manner that we call that assembled condition “a car”. There is no form of the car otherwise.
Similarly, when the five aggregates (body, consciousness, perception, feelings and mental contents) are integrated for conventional reasons we called this arrangement “a person”. When they are disassembled, there is no “person”, no “I”, and no “me”. Let’s examine together and do this practice! Put everything aside that’s not you. The glasses you wear, the watch, shoes and clothes that you wear. Are these things considered “you”. No! If not put them aside. Whatever the parts you refer to as your body, head, ears, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, bones, are they you? No! Anything you define as “yourself” put them aside. And whatever remains there, “that’s you”. Your awareness. Consciously, do this practice every day. One day you will know the answer to your question “who am I?”
The fact is, your body and mind can never be you, and they can never be “your life”. You can claim these as accumulations, but they can never be you. These things that you put aside are but mere accessories. Life by definition is not in the having of these accessories. It’s a natural phenomenon that nature has arranged and manifested in each and every individual being uniquely. Therefore, “life itself is you” and “you are life.”
If you are diligent in Vipassana practice, your life sensitivity will grow. It’ll allow you to go beyond your limitations and cross all boundaries. This will then enable you to experience life itself. Once you’re sensitive enough to touch the inner dimension of “who you are”, you will naturally stop thinking about life.
You see, when you came into this world, you came with nothing but life. Isn’t it? That means, life itself is you, and you are life for sure. To know this fully you need to turn inward in order to get the answer from within. By turning inward, you become a conscious being: able to directly see how your life-sensory system is working. Take a moment and contemplate this, there is no other individual “like you” in the worlds. There is only one of you in the entire cosmos. Please contemplate for a moment…. there are no other beings in this entire cosmos “like you.” There is only one of “you”! You are, who you are.
So, in nature every life is unique like that. None of us is like another person. There is only one individual being “that’s you”, unlike any other. In the survival process, physically and mentally we are completely different, but in terms of truth, all beings are alike. As an insect has life, also humans have life. This life-sense is an undivided natural phenomenon.
In term of physical and mental entities, there is one only being in this world like you, that’s “you.” You cannot be like others, and others cannot be like you. No one in this world can be like another. Let’s understand this for sure. Once you realize this and touch the dimension of your true-existence, you’ll naturally feel it unnecessary to look around for something outside of you. You are “who you are.”
You did not know this fact while you were child, that’s reasonable. As a mature person, you become conscious enough to know about your own existential being. When you are still doubtful about yourself, certainly, your inner dimension is yet to be explored. This is the time for you to turn inward and explore what has been hidden within.
Contemplate and perceive with wisdom the end of life, then compare this to a burning oil lamp that’s held in a windy place. Those who once had great luxury and success will die, and those who are enjoying great luxury and success will also one day die. Death is rolling over all beings including myself. This is the truth that must be realized by the wise.
Since you didn’t carry anything with you when you came to this world similarly you will leave without anything. I am asking, why do you need destiny? Why do you need a purpose in life? Your life is your making (atta-hi attano natho). There is no destiny in life. No need for a purpose. It is just “life”. A natural phenomenon without borders, and you are a living-reality. If there is a goal in life, then “realization” is the highest goal.
However, there are limitations you can create which arise out of desire. It is a choice, that means your mind is the creator of destiny (cittena niyati loko). Based on your desires, you can create thoughts in your mind, then your thoughts become your words, your words project into action. It is through action you build up your habits, and by compulsive habits you create your character that leads you to that direction which you call your destiny. In this way, you create your own destiny. There is no destiny in life otherwise. If you want to create anything out of your desire that is your choice. You can create any purpose in life the way you want. Here is the risk, by creating a purpose of life, you create a wall around life. Limitations. Later, you as a piece of life strives to break down these walls again. Your life is 100% of your control. I am asking again, why do you search for a destiny? It is wise to enhance sensitivity in life which allows consciousness to grow and to know and see things as they truly are.
In fact, instead of creating something which is not sensible to life, at least create pleasant thoughts that can assist you to take pleasant actions which can bring pleasantness to life. It is wise to avoid actions that works against life, so do something that works for life. I invite you to look at “life” as it is and realize yourself “who you are.” This is the end of misery.
A warm Spring evening brought together people from diverse backgrounds in celebration of Dhammanjali Meditation Centre’s 4th Anniversary, along with a launch of their 2nd Annual News Magazine and Buddha’s Enlightenment Day in Regina on May 25th. The event was set in a quiet building located in the lovely Rotary Park in the heart of Regina. The weather was spectacular and the audience of 70 listened attentively as the program was set in full swing which promptly began at 7:00 pm. The entertainment performed by the Dhamma School children added a taste of the many activities that takes place at DMC. The moderator, Anwesha, kept the event running smoothly by introducing a line up of speakers which included local politicians, members of the Sangha and lay communities. Privileged were all that heard Bimal Bhikkhu from India speak about the wisdom of Buddha teachings and it’s relevance up to present day. Alongside, one of DMC’s patron donators, Dr. Talukdar, spoke about the beauty of having DMC present in the Regina community and the resources it has to sustain a conducive space for people to gather for traditional Buddhist celebrations and meditation to name a few. One local politician, Mr. Speaker Mark Docherty, also shared a short message conveying a sense of gratefulness for DMC existing as a spiritual Center for “all people’s” and the numerous programs it has to offer for those “in need”. The evening was highlighted with a led group meditation guided by our very own founder of DMC, Bhante Debongshi. His insightful meditation included techniques that offered the meditator a joyful path to travel inward and find the true love of light within. Thank you Bhante for your generous gift through that guided meditation. A homage to the Buddha in form of a group chant in the Pali language was enjoyed and offered up as a form of gratitude and respect. This was followed by an English translation by Warren Schenk, a DMC devoted meditator. To end the evening, another devoted meditator, Brandon Bertram, gave a lively, clear and personal message about his journey with meditation and the impact it has had on his life. All were captivated as the evening drew to a close.
With “a calm”- abiding in the atmosphere, all willing were called to gather for a group photo and a closing refreshment. It was truly a celebration which recognized the conscious action displayed through joyful efforts from members and devotees and visitors. A community based, non-profit organization that for four years now, stands strong in its vision and commitment. This commitment, as seen through the second annual publication of DMC’s Newsmagazine, offers a glimpse both through illustrations and delightful stories of that vision. A true celebration which was gratefully launched in the eye of Buddha’s Enlightenment Day. What a beautiful way to spend warm spring evening. An applause goes out to all who attended in making this event one to be remembered.
Namo Tassa Bhagavato, Arahato, Samma Sambuddhassa.
~By Monica Antonowitsch
SILENT MEDITATION RETREAT