BUDDHISM IN A NUTSHELL
by Narada Thera


Contents

1. The Buddha
2. The Dhamma
3. Is it a Religion ?
4. Is Buddhism an Ethical System?
5. Some Salient Features of Buddhism
6. Kamma : The Law of Moral Causation
7. Rebirth
8. Paticca Samuppada : The Law of Dependent Origination
9. Anatta : Soul-lessness
10. Nibbana
11. The Path to Nibbana
 




C H A P T E R     O N E
THE BUDDHA

On the full moon day of May, in the year 623 BC, there was born in the
district of Nepal an Indian Sakya Prince named  Siddhattha Gotama, who was
destined to be the greatest religious teacher in the world. Brought up in
the lap of luxury,  receiving an education befit-ting a prince, he married
and had a son.

His contemplative nature and boundless compassion did not permit him to
enjoy the fleeting material pleasures of a royal  household.  He knew no
woe, but he felt a deep pity for sorrowing humanity.  Amidst comfort and
prosperity, he realized the universality of sorrow. The palace, with all its
worldly amusements, was no longer a congenial place for the compassionate
prince. The time was ripe for him to depart. Realizing the vanity of sensual
enjoyments, in his twenty-ninth year, he renounced all worldly pleasures and
donning the simple yellow garb of an ascetic, alone, penniless, wandered
forth in search of Truth and Peace.

It was an unprecedented historic renunciation; for he renounced not in his
old age but in the prime of manhood, not in poverty but in plenty. As it was
the belief in the ancient days that no deliverance could be gained unless
one leads a life of strict asceticism, he strenuously practiced all forms of
severe austerities. "Adding vigil after vigil, and penance after penance,"
he made a superhuman effort for six long years.

His body was reduced to almost a skeleton. The more he tormented his body,
the farther his goal receded from him. The painful, unsuccessful austerities
which he strenuously practiced proved absolutely futile. He was now fully
convinced, through personal experience, of the utter futility of
self-mortification which weakened his body and resulted in lassitude of spirit.

Benefiting by this invaluable experience of his, he finally decided to
follow an independent course, avoiding the two extremes of self-indulgence
and self-mortification. The former retards one's spiritual progress, and the
latter weakens one's intellect. The new way which he himself discovered was
the Middle Path, Majjhima Patipada, which subsequently became one of the
salient characteristics of his teaching.

One happy morning, while he was deeply absorbed in meditation, unaided and
unguided by any supernatural power and solely relying on his efforts and
wisdom, he eradicated all defilement, purified himself, and, realizing
things as they truly are, attained Enlightenment (Buddhahood) at the age of
35. He was not born a Buddha, but he became a Buddha by his own striving.
As the perfect embodiment of all the virtues he preached, endowed with deep
wisdom commensurate with his boundless compassion, he devoted the remainder
of his precious life to serve humanity both by example and precept,
dominated by no personal motive whatever.
 

After a very successful ministry of 45 long years the Buddha, as every other
human being, succumbed to the inexorable law of change, and finally passed
away in his 80th year, exhorting his disciples to regard his doctrine as
their teacher.

The Buddha was a human being. As a man he was born, as a man he lived, and
as a man his life came to an end. Though a human being, he became an
extraordinary man (acchariya manussa), but he never arrogated to himself
divinity. The Buddha laid stress on this important point and left no room
whatever for anyone to fall into the error of thinking that he was an
immortal divine being. Fortunately, there is no deification in the case of
the Buddha. It should, however, be remarked that there was no Teacher, "ever
so godless as the Buddha, yet none so god-like:'

The Buddha is neither an incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu, as is believed
by some, nor is he a saviour who freely saves others by his personal
salvation. The Buddha exhorts his disciples to depend on themselves for
their deliverance, for both purity and defilement depend on oneself.
Clarifying his relationship with his followers and emphasizing the
importance of self-reliance and individual striving, the Buddha plainly
states: "You should exert yourselves, the Tathagatas are only teachers".

The Buddha point out the path, and it is left for us to follow that path to
obtain our purification.

To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself is
positive. Dependence on others means a surrender of one's effort.

In exhorting his disciples to be self-dependent the Buddha says in the
Parinibbana Sutta: "Be ye islands unto yourselves, be ye a refuge unto
yourselves, seek not for refuge in others:' These significant words are
self-elevating. They reveal how vital is self-exertion to accomplish one's
object and, how superficial and futile it is to seek redemption through
benignant saviours and to crave for illusory happiness in an after-life
through the propitiation of imaginary gods or by irresponsive prayers and
meaningless sacrifices.

Furthermore, the Buddha does not claim the monopoly of Buddhahood which, as
a matter of fact, is not the prerogative of any specially graced person. He
reached the highest possible state of perfect-ion any person could aspire
to, and without the close-fist of a teacher he revealed the only straight
path that leads thereto. According to the Teaching of the Buddha, anybody
may aspire to that supreme state of perfection if he makes the necessary
exertion. The Buddha does not condemn men by calling them wretched sinners
but, on the contrary, he gladdens them by saying that they are pure in heart
at conception.  In his opinion the world is not wicked but is deluded by
ignorance.  Instead of disheartening his followers and reserving that
exalted state only to himself he encourages and induces them to emulate him,
for Buddhahood is latent in all. In one sense all are potential Buddhas.

One who aspires to become a Buddha is called a Bodhisatta which, literally,
means a wisdom-being. This Bodhisatta ideal is the most beautiful and the
most refined course of life that has ever been presented to this egocentric

world, for what is nobler than a life of service and purity.

As a man he attained Buddhahood and proclaimed to the world the latent
inconceivable possibilities and the creative power of man.  Instead of
placing an unseen Almighty God over man who arbitrarily controls the
destinies of mankind; and making him subservient to a supreme power, he
raised the worth of mankind. It was he who taught that man can gain his
deliverance and purification by his own exertion without depending on an
external God or mediating priests. It was he who taught the egocentric world
the noble ideal of selfless service. It was he who revolted against the
degrading caste system and taught equality of mankind and gave equal
opportunities for all to distinguish themselves in every walk of life.

He declared that the gates of success and prosperity were open to all in
every condition of life, high or low, saint or criminal, who would care to
turn a new leaf and aspire to perfection.

Irrespective of caste, colour or rank he established for both de-serving men
and women a democratically constituted celibate Order.  He did not force his
followers to be slaves either to his Teachings or to himself but granted
complete freedom of thought.

He comforted the bereaved by his consoling words. He ministered to the sick
that were deserted. He helped the poor that were neglected. He ennobled the
lives of the deluded, purified the corrupted lives of criminals. He
encouraged the feeble, united the divided, enlightened the ignorant,
clarified the mystic, guided the benighted, elevated the base, dignified the
noble. Both rich and poor, saints and criminals loved him alike. Despotic
and righteous kings, famous and obscure and humble scholars, destitute
paupers, downtrodden scavengers, wicked murderers, despised courtesans-all
benefited by his words of wisdom and compassion.

His noble example was a source of' inspiration to all. His serene and
peaceful countenance was a soothing sight to the pious eyes. His message of
Peace and Tolerance was welcomed by all with indescribable joy and was of
eternal benefit to everyone who had the fortune to hear and practise it.

Wherever his teaching penetrated it left an indelible impression upon the
character of the respective peoples. The cultural advancement of all the
Buddhist nations was mainly due to his sublime Teachings. In fact, all
Buddhist countries like Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos,
Nepal, Tibet, China, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, etc, grew up in the cradle of
Buddhism. Though more than 2500 years have elapsed since the passing away of
this greatest Teacher, yet his unique personality exerts a great influence
on all who come to know him.

His iron will, profound wisdom, universal love, boundless compassion,
selfless service, historic renunciation, perfect purity, magnetic
personality, exemplary methods employed to propagate the Teachings, and his
final success-all these factors have compelled about one-fifth of the
population of the world today to hail the Bud-dha as their supreme religious
Teacher.

Paying a glowing tribute to the Buddha, Sri Radhakrishnan states: "In
Gautama the Buddha we have a mastermind from the East second to none so far
as the influence on the thought and life of the human race is concerned, and
sacred to all as the founder of a religious tradition whose hold is hardly
less wide and deep than any other. He be-longs to the history of the world's
thought, to the general inheritance of all cultivated men, for, judged by
intellectual integrity, moral earnest-ness, and spiritual insight, he is
undoubtedly one of the greatest figures in history."

In The Three Greatest Men in History H. G. Wells writes: "In the Buddha you
see clearly a man, simple, devout-lonely, battling for light-a vivid human
personality, not a myth. He too gave a message to mankind universal in
character. Many of our best modern ideas are in closest harmony with it. All
the miseries and discontents are due, he taught, to selfishness. Before a
man can become serene he must cease to live for his senses or himself. Then
he merges into a great being. Buddha in different language called men to
self forgetfulness 500 year before Christ. In some ways he is nearer to us
and our needs. He was more lucid upon our individual importance and service
than Christ and less ambiguous upon the question of personal immortality:'

St. Hilaire remarks: " The perfect model of all the virtues he preaches ...
his life has not a stain upon it"

Fausboll says: "The more I know him, the more I love him:'

A humble follow of his would say: "The more I know him, the more I love him;
the more I love him, the more I know him:'




C H A P T E R    T W O
THE DHAMMA

Is it a philosophy?

The non-aggressive, moral and philosophical system expounded by the Buddha,
which demands no blind faith from its adherents, expounds no dogmatic
creeds, encourages no superstitious rites and ceremonies, but advocates a
golden mean that guides a disciple through pure living and pure thinking to
the gain of supreme wisdom and deliverance from all evil, is called the
Dhamma and is popularly known as Buddhism.

The all-merciful Buddha has passed away, but the sublime Dhamma which he
unreservedly bequeathed to humanity, still exists in its pristine purity.

Although the Master has left no written records of his Teachings, his
distinguished disciples preserved them by committing to memory and
transmitting them orally from generation to generation.  Immediately after
his demise 500 chief Arahats versed in the Dhamma and Vinaya, held a
convocation to rehearse the Doctrine as was originally taught by the Buddha.
Venerable Ananda Thera, who enjoyed the special privilege of hearing all the
discourses, re-cited the Dhamma, while the Venerable Upali recited the Vinaya.

The Tipitaka was compiled and arranged in its present form by those Arahats of old.

During the reign of the pious Sinhala King Vattagamani Abhaya, about 83 BC,
the Tipitaka was, for the first time in the history of. Buddhism, committed
to writing on palm leaves (ola) in Ceylon.

The voluminous Tipitaka, which contains the essence of the Buddha's
Teaching, is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible. A
striking contrast between the Tipitaka and the Bible is that the former is
not a gradual development like the latter.

As the word itself implies the Tipitaka consists of three baskets.  They are
the Basket of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), the Basket of Discourses (Sutta
Pitaka), and the Basket of Ultimate Doctrine (Abhidhamma Pitaka).

The Vinaya Pitaka which is regarded as the sheet anchor of the oldest
historic celibate order-the Sangha - mainly deals with rules and regulations
which the Buddha promulgated, as occasion arose, for the future discipline
of the Order of monks (Bhikkhus) and nuns (Bhikkhunis). It describes in
detail the gradual development of the Sasana (Dispensation). An account of
the life and ministry of the Buddha is also given. Indirectly, it reveals
some important and interesting information about ancient history, Indian
customs, arts, science, etc.

The Vinaya Pitaka consists of the following five books:

Vibhanga:
  l.   Parajika Pali - Major Offences
  2.  Pacittiya Pali - Minor Offences
Khandaka:
  3.  Mahavagga Pali - Greater Section
  4.  Cullavagga Pali - Shorter Section
  5.  Parivara Pali - Epitome of the Vinaya

The Sutta Pitaka consists chiefly of discourses delivered by the Buddha
himself on various occasions. There are also a few discourses delivered by
some of his distinguished disciples such as the Venerable Sariputta, Ananda,
Moggallana, etc, included in it. It is like a book of prescriptions, as the
sermons embodied therein were expounded to suit the different occasions and
the temperaments of various persons.
 

There may be seemingly contradictory statements, but they should not be
misconstrued as they were opportunely uttered by the Buddha to suit a
particular purpose. For instance, to the self-same question he would
maintain silence (when the inquirer is merely foolishly inquisitive), or
give a detailed reply when he knew the inquirer to be an earnest seeker.

Most of the sermons were in-tended mainly for the benefit of bhikkhus and
they deal with the Holy Life and with the exposition of the doctrine. There
are also several other discourses which deal with both the material and
moral progress of his lay followers.

This Pitaka is divided into five Nikayas or collections, viz:

1.  Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses)
2.  Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Middle-Length Discourses)
3.  Samyutta Nikciya (Collection of Kindred Sayings)
4. Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses arranged in accordance with numbers)
5. Khuddaka Nikaya (Smaller Collection)

The fifth is subdivided into fifteen books:

1. Khuddaka Patha (Shorter texts)
2.  Dhammapada (Way of Truth)
3.  Udana (Paens of Joy)
4.  Iti Vuttaka ("Thus said" Discourses)
5.  Sutta Nipata (Collected Discourses)
6.  Vimana Vatthu (Stories of Celestial Mansions)
7.  Peta Vatthu (Stories of Petas)
8.  Theragatha (Psalms of the Brethren)
9.  Therigatha (Psalms of the Sisters)
10.  Jataka (Birth Stories)
11.  Niddesa (Expositions)
12.  Patisambhida Magga (Analytical Knowledges)
13.  Apadana (Lives of Arahats)
14.  Buddhavamsa (The History of the Buddha)
15. Cariya Pitaka (Modes of Conduct)

The Abhidhamma Pitaka is the most important and the most interesting of the
three, containing as it does the profound philosophy of the Buddha's
Teaching in contrast to the illuminating and simpler discourses in the Sutta Pitaka.
In the Sutta Pitaka is found the conventional teaching (vohara desana) while
in the Abhidhamma Pitaka is found the ultimate teaching (paramattha-desana).

To the wise, Abhidhamma is an indispensable guide; to the spiritually
evolved, an intellectual treat; and to research scholars, food for thought.
Consciousness is defined. Thoughts are analyzed and classified chiefly from
an ethical standpoint. Mental states are enumerated. The composition of each
type of consciousness is set forth in detail. How thoughts arise, is
minutely described. Irrelevant problems that interest mankind but having no
relation to one's purification, are deliberately set aside.

Matter is summarily discussed; fundamental units of matter, properties of
matter, sources of matter, relationship between mind and matter, are explained.

The Abhidhamma investigates mind and matter, the two composite factors of
the so-called being, to help the understanding of things as they truly are,
and a philosophy has been developed on those lines.

Based on that philosophy, an ethical system has been evolved, to realize the
ultimate goal, Nibbana.

The Abhidhamma Pitaka consists of seven books:

l. Dhammasangani (Classification of Dhammas)
2. Vibhanga (The Book of Divisions)
3. Katha-Vathu (Points of Controversy)
4.  Puggala-Pannatti (Description of Individuals)

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

In the Tipitaka, one finds milk for the babe and meat for the strong, for
the Buddha taught his doctrine both to the masses and to the intelligentsia.
The sublime Dhamma enshrined in these sacred texts, deals with truths and
facts, and is not concerned with theories and philosophies which may be
accepted as profound truths today only to be thrown overboard tomorrow. The
Buddha has presented us with no new astounding philosophical theories, nor
did he venture to create any new material science. He explained to us what
is within and without, so far as it concerns our emancipation, and
ultimately expounded a path of deliverance, which is unique. Incidentally,
he has, however, forestalled many a modern scientist and philosopher.

Schopenhauer in his World as Will and Idea has presented the truth of
suffering and its cause in a Western garb. Spinoza, though he denies not the
existence of a permanent reality, asserts that all phenomenal existence is
transitory. In his opinion sorrow is conquered "by finding an object of
knowledge which is not transient, not ephemeral, but is immuta le,
permanent, everlasting." Berkeley proved that the so-called indivisible atom
is a metaphysical fiction.  Hume, after a relentless analysis of the mind,
concluded that consciousness consists of fleeting mental states. Bergson
advocates the doctrine of change. Professor James refers to a stream of
conscious-ness.

The Buddha expounded these doctrines of Transiency (Anicca), Sorrow
(Dukkha), and No-Soul (Anatta) some 2500 years ago while he was sojourning
in the valley of the Ganges.

It should be understood that the Buddha did not preach all that he knew. On
one occasion while the Buddha was passing through a forest, he took a
handful of leaves and said: "0 Bhikkhus, what I have taught is comparable to
the leaves in my hand. What I have not taught is comparable to the amount of
leaves in the forest."

He taught what he deemed was absolutely essential for one's purification
making no distinction between an esoteric and exoteric doctrine. He was
characteristically silent on questions irrelevant to his noble mission.

Buddhism no doubt accords with science, but both should be treated as
parallel teachings, since one deals mainly with material truths while the
other confines itself to moral and spiritual truths.  The subject matter of
each is different.

The Dhamma he taught is not merely to be preserved in books, nor is it a
subject to be studied from an historical or literary stand-point. On the
contrary, it is to be learnt and put into practice in the course of one's
daily life, for without practice one cannot appreciate the truth. The Dhamma
is to be studied, and more to be practiced, and above all to be realized:
immediate realization is its ultimate goal. As such, the Dhamma is compared
to a raft which is meant for the sole purpose of escaping from the ocean of
birth and death (samsara).

Buddhism, therefore, cannot strictly be called a mere philosophy because it
is not merely the "love of, inducing the search after, wisdom" Buddhism may
approximate a philosophy, but it is very much more comprehensive. '

Philosophy deals mainly with knowledge and is not concerned with practice;
whereas Buddhism lays special emphasis on practice and realization.




C H A P T E R   T H R E E
IS IT A RELIGION?
 

It is neither a religion in the sense in which that word is commonly
understood, for it is not "a system of faith and worship owing any
allegiance to a supernatural being:'

Buddhism does not demand blind faith from its adherents. Here, mere belief
is dethroned and is substituted by confidence based on knowledge which, in
Pali, is known as saddha. The confidence placed by a follower on the Buddha
is like that of a sick person in a noted physician, or a student in his
teacher. A Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha because it was he who
discovered the Path of Deliverance.

A Buddhist does not seek refuge in the Buddha with the hope that he will be
saved by the Buddha's personal purification. The Buddha gives no such
guarantee. It is not within the power of a Buddha to wash away the
impurities of others. One could neither purify nor defile another.

The Buddha, as Teacher, instructs us, but we ourselves are directly
responsible for our purification.

Although a Buddhist seeks refuge in the Buddha, he does not make any
self-surrender. Nor does a Buddhist sacrifice his freedom of thought by
becoming a follower of the Buddha. He can exercise his own free will and
develop his knowledge even to the extent of becoming a Buddha himself.

The starting point of Buddhism is reasoning or understanding or, in other
words, samma-ditthi.
        .
To the seekers of truth, the Buddha says:

"Do not accept anything on (mere) hearsay - (i.e. thinking that thus have we
heard it from a long time).
Do not accept anything by mere tradition - (i.e. thinking that it has thus
been handed down through many generations).
Do not accept anything on account of mere rumours - (i.e. by believing what
others say without any investigation).
Do not accept anything just because it accords with your scriptures.
Do not accept anything by mere supposition.
Do not accept anything by mere inference.
Do not accept anything by merely considering the reasons.
Do not accept anything merely because it agrees with your pre-conceived notions.
Do not accept anything merely because it seems acceptable - (i.e.  thinking
that as the speaker seems to be a good person his word should be accepted).
Do not accept anything thinking that the ascetic is respected by us
(therefore, it is right to accept his word).

"But when you know for yourselves - these things are immoral, these things
are blameworthy, these things are censured by the wise, these things, when
performed and undertaken conduce to ruin and sorrow - then indeed do you
reject them.

"When you know for yourselves - these things are moral, these things are
blameless, these things are praised by the wise, these things, when
performed and undertaken, conduce to well-being and happiness then do you
live acting accordingly:'

These inspiring words of the Buddha still retain their original force and
freshness.

Though there is no blind faith, one might argue whether there is no
worshipping of images, etc., in Buddhism.

Buddhists do not worship an image expecting worldly or spiritual favours,
but pay their reverence to what it represents.
 

An understanding Buddhist, in offering flowers and incense to an image,
designedly makes himself feel that he is in the presence of the living
Buddha and thereby gains inspiration from his noble personality and breathes
deep his boundless compassion. He tries to follow the Buddha's noble example.

The Bo-tree is also a symbol of Enlightenment. These external objects of
reverence are not absolutely necessary, but they are useful as they tend to
concentrate one's attention. An intellectual person could dispense with them
as he could easily focus his attention and visualise the Buddha.

For our own good, and out of gratitude, we pay such external respect but
what the Buddha expects from his disciple is not so much obeisance as the
actual observance of his Teachings. The Buddha says-"He honours me best who
practises my teaching best. He who sees the Dhamma sees me."

With regard to images, however, Count Keyserling remarks: "I see nothing
more grand in this world than the image of the Buddha. It is an absolutely
perfect embodiment of spirituality in the visible domain."

Furthermore, it must be mentioned that there are no petitional or
intercessory prayers in Buddhism. However much we may pray to the Buddha, we
cannot be saved. The Buddha does not grant favours to those who pray to him.
Instead of petitional prayers there is meditation that leads to
self-control, purification and enlightenment.  Meditation is neither a
silent reverie nor keeping the mind blank. It is an active striving. It
serves as a tonic both to the heart and the mind.  The Buddha not only
speaks of the futility of offering prayers but also disparages a slave
mentality. A Buddhist should not pray to be saved, but should rely on
himself and win his freedom.

"Prayers take the character of private communications, selfish bargaining
with God. It seeks for objects of earthly ambitions and inflames the sense
of self. Meditation on the other hand is self-change:".

In Buddhism, there is not, as in most other religions, an Almighty God to be
obeyed and feared. The Buddha does not believe in a cosmic potentate,
omniscient and omni-present. In Buddhism there are no divine revelations or
divine messengers. A Buddhist is, therefore, not subservient to any higher
supernatural power which controls his destinies and which arbitrarily
rewards and punishes. Since Buddhists do not believe in revelations of a
divine being, Buddhism does not claim the monopoly of truth and does not
condemn any other religion. But Buddhism recognises the infinite latent
possibilities of man and teaches that man can gain deliverance from
suffering by his own efforts independent of divine help or mediating priests.

Buddhism cannot, therefore, strictly be called a religion because it is
neither a system of faith and worship, nor "the outward act or form by which
men indicate their recognition of the existence of a God or gods having
power over their own destiny to whom obedience, service, and honour are due."

If, by religion, is meant "a teaching which takes a view of life that is
more than superficial, a teaching which looks into life and note merely at
it, a teaching which furnishes men with a guide to conduct that is in accord

with this its in-look, a teaching which enables those who give it heed to
face life with fortitude and death with serenity, "or a system to get ride
of the ills of life, then it is certainly a religion of religions.




C H A P T E R   F O U R
IS BUDDHISM AN ETHICAL SYSTEM?

It no doubt contains an excellent ethical code which is unparalleled in its
perfection and altruistic attitude. It deals with one way of life for the
monks and another for the laity. But Buddhism is much more than an ordinary
moral teaching.

Morality is only the preliminary stage on the Path of Purity, and is a means
to an end, but not an end in itself. Conduct, though essential, is itself
insufficient to gain one's emancipation. It should be coupled with wisdom or
knowledge (panna). The base of Buddhism is morality, and wisdom is its apex.

In observing the principles of morality a Buddhist should not only regard
his own self but also should have a consideration for others as well-animals
not excluded. Morality in Buddhism is not founded on any doubtful revelation
nor is it the ingenious invention of an exceptional mind, but it is a
rational and practical code based on verifiable facts and individual experience.

It should be mentioned that any external supernatural agency plays no part
whatever in the moulding of the character of a Buddhist. In Buddhism there
is no one to reward or punish. Pain or happiness are the inevitable results
of one's actions. The question of incurring the pleasure or displeasure of a
God does not enter the mind of a Buddhist.

Neither hope of reward nor fear of punishment acts as an incentive to him to
do good or to refrain from evil. A Buddhist is aware of future consequences,
but he refrains from evil because it retards, does good because it aids
progress to Enlightenment (Bodhi). There are also some who do good because
it is good, refrain from evil because it is bad.

To understand the exceptionally high standard of morality the Buddha expects
from his ideal followers, one must carefully read the Dhammapada, Sigalovada
Sutta, Vyaggapajja Sutta, Mangala Sutta, Karaniya Metta Sutta, Parabhava
Sutta, Vasala Sutta, Dhammika Sutta, etc.

As a moral teaching, it excels all other ethical systems but morality is
only the beginning and not the end of Buddhism.

In one sense Buddhism is not a philosophy, in another sense it is the
philosophy of philosophies.

In one sense Buddhism is not a religion, in another sense it is the religion
of religions.

Buddhism is neither a metaphysical path nor a ritualistic path.

It is neither sceptical nor dogmatic.

It is neither self-mortification nor self-indulgence.

It is neither pessimism nor optimism.

It is neither eternalism nor nihilism.

It is neither absolutely this-worldly nor other-worldly.

It is a unique Path of Enlightenment.

The original Pali term for Buddhism is Dhamma which, literally, means that
which upholds. There is no English equivalent that exactly conveys the
meaning of the Pali term.  The Dhamma is that which really is. It is the
Doctrine of Reality.

It is a means of Deliverance from suffering, and Deliverance itself.
Whether the Buddhas arise or not the Dhamma exists. It lies hidden from the
ignorant eyes of men, till a Buddha, an Enlightened One, realizes and
compassionately reveals it to the world.
 

This dhamma is not something apart from oneself, but is closely associated
with oneself. As such the Buddha exhorts:  "Abide with oneself as an island,
with oneself as a Refuge. Abide with the Dhamma as an island, with the
Dhamma as a Refuge. Seek no external refuge " (Parinibhana Sutta) .




Chapter 5
SOME SALIENT FEATURES OF BUDDHISM

The foundations of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths, namely: suffering
(the risen d'etre of Buddhism); its cause, i.e. craving; its end, i.e.
Nibbana (the summum bonum of Buddhism); and the Middle Way.

What is the Noble Truth of Suffering?

"Birth is suffering, old age is suffering, disease is suffering, death is
suffering, to be united with the unpleasant is suffering, to be separated
from the pleasant is suffering, not to receive what one craves for is
suffering, in brief the five Aggregates of Attachment are suffering.'

What is the Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering?

"It is the craving which leads from rebirth to rebirth accompanied by lust
and passion, which delights now here now there; it is the craving for
sensual pleasures (kamatanha), for existence (bhavatanha) and for
annihilation (vibhavatanha).

What is the Noble Truth of the Annihilation of Suffering?

"It is the remainderless, total annihilation of this very craving, the
forsaking of it, the breaking loose, fleeing, deliverance from it:'

What is the Noble Truth of the Path leading to the Annihilation of Suffering?

"It is the Noble Eightfold Path which consists of Right Understanding, Right
Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right
Mindfulness, and Right Concentration:' Whether the Buddhas arise or not
these Four Noble Truths exist in the universe. The Buddhas only reveal these
Truths which lay hidden in the dark abyss of time.

Scientifically interpreted, the Dhamma may be called the law of cause and
effect. These two embrace the entire body of the Buddha's Teachings.
The first three represent the philosophy of Buddhism; the fourth represents
the ethics of Buddhism, based on that philosophy.

All these four truths are dependent on this body itself. The Buddha states:
"In this very one-fathom long body along with perceptions and thoughts, do I
proclaim the world, the origin of the world, the end of the world and the
path leading to the end of the world " Here, the term world is applied to
suffering.

Buddhism rests on the pivot of sorrow. But it does not thereby follow that
Buddhism is pessimistic. It is neither totally pessimistic nor totally
optimistic but, on the contrary, it teaches a truth that lies midway between
them. One would be justified in calling the Buddha a pessimist if he had
only enunciated the Truth of suffering without suggesting a means to put an
end to it.

The Buddha perceived the universality of sorrow and did prescribe a panacea
for this universal sickness of humanity. The highest conceivable happiness,
according to the Buddha, is Nibbana, which is the total extinction of suffering.

The author of the article on pessimism in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
writes: "Pessimism denotes an attitude of hopelessness towards life, a vague
general opinion that pain and evil predominate in human affairs. The
original doctrine of the Buddha is in fact as optimistic as any optimism of
the West. To call it pessimism is merely to apply to it a characteristically

Western principle to which happiness is impossible without personality.
The true Buddhist looks forward with enthusiasm to absorption into eternal
bliss "Ordinarily, the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the highest and
only happiness of the average man. There is no doubt a kind of momentary
happiness in the anticipation, gratification and retrospection of such
fleeting material pleasures, but they are illusive and temporary. According
to the Buddha non-attachment is a greater bliss.

The Buddha does not expect his followers to be constantly pondering on
suffering and lead a miserable unhappy life. He exhorts them to be always
happy and cheerful for zest (piti) is one of the factors of Enlightenment.

Real happiness is found within, and is not to be defined in terms of wealth,
children, honour or fame. If such possessions are misdirected, forcibly or
unjustly obtained, misappropriated or even viewed with attachment, they will
be a source of pain and sorrow to the possessors.

Instead of trying to rationalise suffering, Buddhism takes suffering for
granted and seeks the cause to eradicate it. Suffering exists as long as
there is craving. It can only be annihilated by treading the Noble Eightfold
Path and attaining the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

These four Truths can be verified by experience. Hence, the Buddha Dhamma is
not based on the fear of the unknown, but is founded on the bedrock of facts
which can be tested by ourselves and verified by experience. Buddhism is,
therefore, rational and intensely practical.

Such a rational and practical system cannot contain mysteries or esoteric
doctrines. Blind faith, therefore, is foreign to Buddhism.  Where there is
no blind faith there cannot be any coercion or persecution or fanaticism. To
the unique credit of Buddhism it must be said that throughout its peaceful
march of 2500 years no drop of blood was shed in the name of the Buddha, no
mighty monarch wielded his powerful sword to propagate the Dhamma, and no
conversion was made either by force or by repulsive methods. Yet, the Buddha
was the first and the greatest missionary that lived on earth.

Aldous Huxley writes: "Alone of all the great world religions, Buddhism made
its way without persecution, censorship or inquisition "Lord Russell
remarks: "Of the great religions of history, I prefer Buddhism, especially
in its earliest forms; because it has had the smallest element of persecution.

In the name of Buddhism no altar was reddened with the blood of a Hypatia,
no Bruno was burnt alive.

Buddhism appeals more to the intellect than to the emotion. It is concerned
more with the character of the devotees than with their numerical strength.
On one occasion, Upali, a follower of Nigantha Nataputta, approached the
Buddha and was so pleased with the Buddha's exposition of the Dhamma that he
instantly expressed his desire to become a follower of the Buddha. But the
Buddha cautioned him, saying:

"Of a verity, 0 householder, make a thorough investigation. It is well for a
distinguished man like you to make (first) a thorough investigation."
 

Upali, who was overjoyed at this unexpected remark of the Buddha, said:
"Lord, had I been a follower of another religion, its adherents would have
taken me round the streets in a procession proclaiming that such and such a
millionaire had renounced his former faith and embraced theirs. But Lord,
Your Reverence advises me to investigate further. The more pleased am I with
this remark of yours.  For the second time, Lord, I seek refuge in the
Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha".

Buddhism is saturated with this spirit of free enquiry and complete
tolerance. It is the teaching of the open mind and the sympathetic heart
which, lighting and warming the whole universe with its twin rays of wisdom
and compassion, sheds its genial glow on every being struggling in the ocean
of birth and death.

The Buddha was so tolerant that he did not even exercise his power to give
commandments to his lay followers. Instead of using the imperative, he said:
"It behoves you to do this-It behoves you not to do this" he commands not
but does exhort. This tolerance the Buddha extended to men, women and all
living beings.

It was the Buddha who first attempted to abolish slavery and vehemently
protested against the degrading caste system which was firmly rooted in the
soil of India. In the word of the Buddha it is not by mere birth one becomes
an outcast or a noble, but by one's actions.

Caste or colour does not preclude one from becoming a Buddhist or from
entering the Order. Fishermen, scavengers, courtesans, together with
warriors and Brahmins, were freely admitted to the Order and enjoyed equal
privileges and were also given positions of rank.

Upali, the barber for instance, was made in preference to all others the
chief in matters pertaining to Vinaya discipline. The timid Sunita, the
scavenger, who attained Arahatship was admitted by the Buddha himself into
the Order. Angulimala, the robber and criminal, was converted to a
compassionate saint.

The fierce Alavaka sought refuge in the Buddha and became a saint. The
courtesan, Ambapali, entered the Order and attained Arahatship. Such
instances could easily be multiplied from the Tipitaka to show that the
portals of Buddhism were wide open to all, irrespective of caste, colour or
rank.

It was also the Buddha who raised the status of downtrodden women and not
only brought them to a realization of their importance to society but also
founded the first celibate religious order for women with rules and regulations.

The Buddha did not humiliate women, but only regarded them as feeble by
nature. He saw the innate good of both men and women and assigned to them
their due places in his Teaching. Sex is no barrier to attaining sainthood.
Sometimes the Pali term used to denote women is "matugama" which means
mother-fold or society of mothers. As a mother, womanholds an honourable
place in Buddhism.

Even the wife is regarded as "the best friend" (parama sakha) of the
husband.  Hasty critics are only making ex parte statements when they
reproach Buddhism with being inimical to women. Although at first the Buddha
refused to admit women into the Order on reasonable grounds, yet later he
yielded to the entreaties of his foster mother, Pajapati Gotami, and founded
the Bhikkhuni Order.

Just as the Arahats Sariputta and Moggallana were made the two chief
disciples in the Order of Monks, even so the Buddha appointed Arahats Khema
and Uppalavanna as the two chief female disciples. Many other female
disciples too were named by the Buddha himself as his distinguished and
pious followers.

On one occasion, the Buddha said to King Kosala who was displeased on
hearing that a daughter was born to him: "A woman child, 0 Lord of men, may
prove even a better offspring than a male.

"Many women, who otherwise would have fallen into oblivion, distinguished
themselves in various ways, and gained their emancipation by following the
Dhamma and entering the Order. In this new Order, which later proved to be a
great blessing to many women, queens, princesses, daughters of noble
families, widows, bereaved mothers, destitute women, pitiable
courtesans-all, despite their caste or rank, met on a common platform,
enjoyed perfect consolation and peace, and breathed that free atmosphere
which is denied to those cloistered in cottages and palatial mansions.

It was also the Buddha who banned the sacrifice of poor beasts and
admonished his followers to extend their loving kindness (metta) to all
living beings-even to the tiniest creature that crawls at one's feet. No man
has the power or the right to destroy the life of another as life is
precious to all.

A genuine Buddhist would exercise this loving-kindness towards every living
being and identify himself with all, making no distinction whatsoever with
regard to caste, colour or sex.

It is this Buddhist metta that attempts to break all the barriers which
separate one from another. There is no reason to keep aloof from others
merely because they belong to another persuasion or another nationality. In
that noble Toleration Edict which is based on Culla-Vyuha and Maha-Vyuha
Suttas, Asoka says: "Concourse alone is best, that is, all should harken
willingly to the doctrine professed by others.

" Buddhism is not confined to any country or any particular nation.  It is
universal. It is not nationalism which, in other words, is another form of
caste system founded on a wider basis. Buddhism, if it be permitted to say
so, is super-nationalism.

To a Buddhist there is no far or near, no enemy or foreigner, no renegade or
untouchable, since universal love realised through understanding has
established the brotherhood of all living beings. A real Buddhist is a
citizen of the world. He regards the whole world as his motherland and all
as his brothers and sisters.

Buddhism is, therefore, unique, mainly owing to its tolerance,
non-aggressiveness, rationality, practicability, efficacy and universality.
It is the noblest of all unifying influences and the only lever that can
uplift the world.

These are some of the salient features of Buddhism, and amongst some of the
fundamental doctrines may be said-Kamma or the Law of Moral Causation, the
Doctrine of Rebirth, Anatta and Nibbana.




Chapter 6
KAMMA : THE LAW OF MORAL CAUSATION

We are faced with a totally ill-balanced world. We perceive the inequalities
and manifold destinies of men and the numerous grades of beings that exist
in the universe. We see one born into a condition of affluence, endowed with
fine mental, moral and physical qualities and another into a condition of
abject poverty and wretchedness.

Here is a man virtuous and holy but, contrary to his expectation, ill-luck
is ever ready to greet him. The wicked world runs counter to his ambitions
and desires. He is poor and miserable in spite of his honest dealings and
piety. There is another vicious and foolish, but accounted to be fortune's
darling. He is rewarded with all forms of favours, despite his shortcomings
and evil modes of life.

Why, it may be questioned, should one be an inferior and another a superior?
Why should one be wrested from the hands of a fond mother when he has
scarcely seen a few summers, and another should perish in the flower of
manhood, or at the ripe age of eighty or hundred? Why should one be sick and
infirm, and another strong and healthy? Why should one be handsome, and
another ugly and hideous, repulsive to all?

Why should one be brought up in the lap of luxury, and another in absolute
poverty, steeped in misery? Why should one be born a millionaire and another
a pauper? Why should one be a mental prodigy, and another an idiot? Why
should one be born with saintly characteristics, and another with criminal
tendencies? Why should some be linguists, artists, mathematicians or
musicians from the very cradle? Why should some be blessed and others cursed
from their birth?

These are some problems that perplex the minds of all thinking men. How are
we to account for all this unevenness of the world, this inequality of mankind?

Is it due to the work of blind chance or accident?  There is nothing in this
world that happens by blind chance or accident. To say that anything happens
by chance, is no more true than that this book has come here of itself.
Strictly speaking, nothing happens to rnan that he does not deserve for some
reason or other.

Could this be the fiat of an irresponsible Creator?

Huxley writes: "If we are to assume that anybody has designedly set this
wonderful universe going, it is perfectly clear to me that he is no more
entirely benevolent and just in any intelligible sense of the words, than
that he is malevolent and unjust".

According to Einstein: "If this being (God) is omnipotent, then every
occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every
human feeling and aspiration is also his work; how is it possible to think
of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an
Almighty Being?

"In giving out punishments and rewards, he would to a certain extent be
passing judgement on himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and
righteousness ascribed to him?"

"According to the theological principles man is created arbitrarily and
without his desire and at the moment of his creation is either blessed or

damned eternally. Hence, man is either good or evil, fortunate or
unfortunate, noble or depraved, from the first step in the process of his
physical creation to the moment of his last breath, regardless of his
individual desires, hopes, ambitions, struggles or devoted prayers. Such is
theological fatalism:' (Spencer Lewis).

As Charles Bradlaugh says: "The existence of evil is a terrible stumbling
block to the theist. Pain, misery, crime, poverty confront the advocate of
eternal goodness and challenge with unanswerable potency his declaration of
Deity as all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful."

In the words of Schopenhauer: "Whoever regards himself as ha-ving become out
of nothing must also think that he will again be-come nothing; for an
eternity has passed before he was, and then a second eternity had begun,
through which he will never cease to be, is a monstrous thought.

"If birth is the absolute beginning, then death must be his absolute end;
and the assumption that man is made out of nothing leads necessarily to the
assumption that death is his absolute end".
Commenting on human sufferings and God, Prof. J.B.S. Haldane writes: "Either
suffering is needed to perfect human character, or God is not Almighty.

The former theory is disproved by the fact that some people who have
suffered very little but have been fortunate in their ancestry and education
have very fine characters. The objection to the second is that it is only in
connection with the universe as a whole that there is any intellectual gap
to be filled by the postulation of a deity. And a creator could presumably
create whatever he or it wanted".

Lord Russell states: "The world, we are told, was created by a God who is
both good and omnipotent. Before He created the world He foresaw all the
pain and misery that it would contain. He is, therefore, responsible for all
of it. It is useless to argue that the pain in the world is due to sin. If
God knew in advance the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearly
responsible for all the consequence of those sins when He decided to create
man".

In Despair, a poem of his old age, Lord Tennyson thus boldly attacks God
who, as recorded in Isaiah, says, "I make peace and create evil." (Isaiah, xiv.7)

"What!  I should call on that infinite love that has served us so well?
Infinite cruelty, rather, that made everlarsting hell,
Made us, foreknew us, foredoomed us, and does what he will with his own.
Better our dead brute mother who never has heard us groan".

Surely the doctrine that all men are sinners and have the essential sin of
Adam is a challenge to justice, mercy, love and omnipotent fairness.

Some writers of old authoritatively declared that God created man in his own
image. Some modern thinkers state, on the contrary, that man created God in
his own image. With the growth of civilization, man's concept of God also
became more and more refined.

It is, however, impossible to conceive of such a being either in or outside
the universe.

Could this variation be due to heredity and environment? One must admit that
all such chemico-physical phenomena revealed by scientists, are partly

instrumental, but they cannot be solely responsible for the subtle
distinctions and vast differences that exist amongst individuals.

Yet, why should identical twins who are physically alike, inheriting like
genes, enjoying the same privilege of upbringing, be very often
temperamentally, morally and intellectually totally different?

Heredity alone cannot account for these vast differences. Strictly speaking,
it accounts more plausibly for their similarities than for most of the
differences. The infinitesimally minute chemico-physical germ, which is
about 30 millionth part of an inch across, inherited from parents, explains
only a portion of man, his physical foundation. With regard to the more
complex and subtle mental, intellectual and moral differences, we need more
enlightenment.

The theory of heredity cannot give a satisfactory explanation for the birth
of a crimina1 in a long line of honourable ancestors, the birth of a saint
or a noble man in a family of evil repute, for the arising of infant
prodigies, men of genius and great religious teachers.

According to Buddhism, this variation is due not only to heredity,
environment, "nature and nurture", but also to our own kamma, or in other
words, to the result of our own inherited past actions and our present
deeds. We ourselves are responsible for our own deeds, happiness and misery.
We build our own hells. We create our own heavens. We are the architects of
our own fate. In short, we ourselves are our own kamma.

On one occasion a certain young man named Subha approached the Buddha, and
questioned why and wherefore it was that among human beings there are the
low and high states.

"For," said he, "we find amongst mankind those of brief life and those of
long life, the hale and the ailing, the good looking and the ill-looking,
the powerful and the powerless, the poor and the rich, the low-born and the
high-born, the ignorant and the intelligent".

The Buddha briefly replied. Every living being has kamma as its own, its
inheritance, its cause, its kinsman, its refuge. Kamma is that which
differentiates all living beings into low and high states".

He then explained the cause of such differences in accordance with the law
of moral causation.

Thus, from a Buddhist standpoint, our present mental, intellectual, moral
and temperamental differences are mainly due to our own actions and
tendencies, both past and present.

Kamma, literally, means action; but, in its ultimate sense, it means the
meritorious and demeritorious volition (kusala akusala cetana).  Kamma
constitutes both good and evil. Good begets good. Evil begets evil. Like
attracts like. This is the law of Kamma.

As some Westerners prefer to say: Kamma is "action-influence".  We reap what
we have sown. What we sow we reap somewhere or some when. In one sense we
are the result of what we were; we will be the result of what we are.

In another sense, we are not totally the result of what we were; we will not
absolutely be the result of what we are. For instance, a criminal today may
be a saint tomorrow.  Buddhism attributes this variation to kamma, but it
does not assert that everything is due to kamma.
 

If everything is due to kamma, a man must ever be bad, for it is his kamma
to be bad. One need not consult a physician to be cured of a disease, for if
one's kamma is such one will be cured.

According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (niyamas) which
operate in the physical and mental realms:

i. Kamma niyama, order of act and result, e.g. desirable and undesirable
acts produce corresponding good and bad results.

ii. Utu niyama, physical (inorganic) order, e.g. seasonal phenomena of winds
and rains.

iii. Bija niyuma, order of germs or seeds (physical organic order); e.g.
rice produced from rice-seed, sugary taste from sugar cane or honey, etc.
The scientitic theory of cells and genes and the physical similarity of
twins may be ascribed to this order.

iv. Citta niyama, order of mind or psychic law, e.g. processes of
consciousness (eitta vithi), power of mind, etc.

v. Dhamma niyama, order of the norm, e.g. the natural phenomena occurring at
the advent of a Bodhisatta in his last birth, gravitation, etc.

Every mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by these
all-embracing five orders or processes which are laws in themselves.  Kamma
is, therefore, only one of the five orders that prevail in the universe.

It is a law in itself, but it does not thereby follow that there should be a
law-giver. Ordinary laws of nature, like gravitation, need no law-giver. It
operates in its own field without the intervention of an external
independent ruling agency.

Nobody, for instances, has decreed that fire should burn. Nobody has
commanded that water should seek its own level. No scientist has ordered
that water should consist of H20, and that coldness should be one of its
properties. These are their intrinsic characteristics.

Kamma is neither fate nor predestination imposed upon us by some mysterious
unknown power to which we must helplessly submit ourselves.  It is one's own
doing reacting on oneself, and so one has the possibility to divert the
course of kamma to some extent. How far one diverts it depends on oneself.

It must also be said that such phraseology as rewards and punishments should
not be allowed to enter into discussions concerning the problem of kamma.
For Buddhism does not recognise an Almighty Being who rules his subjects and
rewards and punishes them accordingly.

Buddhists, on the contrary, believe that sorrow and happiness one
experiences are the natural outcome of one's own good and bad actions. It
should be stated that Kamma has both the continuative and the retributive
principle.

Inherent in kamma is the potentiality of producing its due effect.  The
cause produces the effect; the effect explains the cause. Seed produces the
fruit; the fruit explains the seed as both are inter-related. Even so kamma
and its effect are inter-related: "the effect already blooms in the cause".

A Buddhist who is fully convinced of the doctrine of kamma does not pray to
another to be saved but confidently relies on himself for his purification
because it teaches individual responsibility.

It is this doctrine of kamma that gives him consolation, hope, self-reliance
and moral courage. It is this belief in kamma that validates his effort,

kindles his enthusiasm, makes him ever kind, tolerant and considerate. It is
also this firm belief in kamma that prompts him to refrain from evil, do
good and be good without being frightened of any punishment or tempted by
any reward.

It is this doctrine of kamma that can explain the problem of suffering, the
mystery of so-called fate or pre-destination of other religions, and above
all the inequality of mankind.

Kamma and rebirth are accepted as axiomatic.




Chapter 7
REBIRTH

As long as this kammic force exists there is rebirth, for beings are merely
the visible manifestation of this invisible kammic force. Death is nothing
but the temporary end of this temporary phenomenon. It is not the complete
annihilation of this so-called being.

The organic life has ceased, but the kammic force which hitherto actuated it
has not been destroyed. As the kammic force remains entirely undisturbed by
the disintegration of the fleeting body, the passing away of the present
dying thought-moment only conditions a fresh consciousness in another birth.

It is kamma, rooted in ignorance and craving, that conditions re-birth. Past
kamma conditions the present birth; and present kamma, in combination with
past kamma, conditions the future. The present is the offspring of the past,
and becomes, in turn, the parent of the future.

If we postulate a past, present, and a future life, then we are at once
faced with the alleged mysterious problem-"What is the ultimate origin of life?"

Either there must be a beginning or there cannot be a beginning for life.

One school, in attempting to solve the problem, postulates a first cause,
God, viewed as a force or as an Almighty Being.

Another school denies a first cause for, in common experience, the cause
ever becomes the effect and the effect becomes the cause.  In a circle of
cause and effect a first cause is inconceivable. According to the former,
life has had a beginning, according to the latter, it is beginningless.

>From the scientific standpoint, we are the direct products of the sperm and
ovum cells provided by our parents. As such life precedes life. With regard
to the origin of the first protoplasm of life, or colloid, scientists plead
ignorance.

According to Buddhism we are born from the matrix of action (kamma-yoni).
Parents merely provide an infinitesimally small cell.  As such, being
precedes being. At the moment of conception, it is past kamma that
conditions the initial consciousness that vitalizes the foetus.

It is this invisible kammic energy, generated from the past birth that
produces mental phenomena and the phenomenon of life in an already extant
physical phenomenon, to complete the trio that constitutes man.

For a being to be born here, a being must die somewhere. The birth of a
being, which strictly means the arising of the five aggregates or
psycho-physical phenomena in this present life, corresponds to the death of
a being in a past life; just as, in conventional terms, the rising of the
sun in one place means the setting of the sun in another place.

This enigmatic statement may be better understood by imagining life as a
wave and not as a straight line. Birth and death are only two phases of the
same process. Birth precedes death, and death, on the other hand, precedes
birth. The constant succession of birth and death in connection with each
individual life flux constitutes what is technically known as
samsara-recurrent wandering.
 

What is the ultimate origin of life?

The Buddha declares: "Inconceivable is the beginning of this samsara. A
first beginning of beings who, obstructed by ignorance and fettered by
craving, wander and fare on, is not to be perceived."

This life-stream flows ad infinitum, as long as it is fed by the muddy
waters of ignorance and craving. When these two are completely cut off, then
only, if one so wishes, does the stream cease to flow, rebirth ends as in
the case of the Buddhas and Arahats. An ulti-mate beginning of this life
stream cannot be determined, as a stage cannot be perceived when this
life-force was not fraught with ignorance and craving.

The Buddha has here referred merely to the beginning of the life stream of
living beings. It is left to scientists to specülate on the origin and the
evolution of the universe. The Buddha does not attempt to solve all the
ethical and philosophical problems that peiplex mankind.

Nor does he deal with theories and speculations that tend neither to
edification nor to enlightenment. Nor does he demand blind faith from his
adherents about a First Cause. He is chiefly concerned with the problem of
suffering and its destruction. With but this one practical and specific
purpose in view, all irrelevant side issues are completely ignored.

But how are we to believe that there is a past existence?

The most valuable evidence Buddhists cite in favour of rebirth is the
Buddha, for he developed a knowledge which enabled him to read past and
future lives.

Following his instructions, his disciples also developed this know-ledge and
were able to read their past lives to a great extent.

Even some Indian Rishis, before the advent of the Buddha, were distinguished
for such psychic powers as clairaudience, clairvoyance, thought-reading,
remembering past births, etc.

There  are also some persons, who probably in accordance with the laws of
association, spontaneously develop the memory of their past birth, and
remember fragments of their previous lives.

Such cases are very rare, but those few well-attested, respectable cases
tend to throw some light on the idea of a past birth. So are the experiences
of some modern dependable psychists and strange cases of alternating and
multiple personalities.

In hypnotic states some relate experiences of their past lives; while a few
others read the past lives of others and even heal diseases. Sometimes we
get strange experiences which cannot be explained but by rebirth.

How often do we meet persons whom we have never met, and yet instinctively
feel that they are quite familiar to us? How often do we visit places, and
yet feel impressed that we are perfectly acquainted with those surroundings?

The Buddha tells us: "Through previous associations or present advantage,
that old love springs up again like the lotus in the water."

Experiences of some reliable modern psychists, ghostly phenomena, spirit
communications, strange alternating and multiple personalities and so on
shed some light upon this problem of rebirth.

Into this world come Perfect Ones like the Buddhas and highly developed
personalities. Do they evolve suddenly? Can they be the products of a single

existence. How are we to account for great characters like Buddhaghosa,
Panini, Kalidasa, Homer and Plato, men of genius like Shakespeare, infant
prodigies like Pascal, Mozart, Beethoven, Raphael, Ramanujan, etc?

Heredity alone cannot account for them. "Else their ancestry would disclose
it, their posterity, even greater than themselves, demonstrate it".

Could they rise to such lofty heights if they had not lived noble lives and
gained similar experiences in the past: Is it by mere chance that they have
been born of those particular parents and placed under those favourable
circumstances?

The few years that we are privileged to spend here or, for the most five
score years, must certainly be an inadequate preparation for eternity.

If one believes in the present and in the future, it is quite logical to
believe in the past. The present is the offspring of the past, and acts in
turn as the parent of the future.

If there are reasons to believe that we have existed in the past, then
surely there are no reasons to disbelieve that we shall continue to exist
after our present life has apparently ceased.  It is indeed a strong
argument in favour of past and future lives that "in this world virtuous
persons are very often unfortunate and vicious persons prosperous."

A Western writer says: "Whether we believe in a past existence or not, it
forms the only reasonable hypothesis which bridges certain gaps in human
knowledge concerning certain facts of every day life.

Our reason tells us that this idea of past birth and kamma alone can
explain the degrees of difference that exist between twins, how men like
Shakespeare with a very limited experience are able to portray with
marvellous exactitude the most diverse types of human character, scenes and
so forth, of which they could have no actual knowledge, why the work of the
genius invariably transcends his experience, the existence of infant
precocity, the vast diversity in mind and morals, in brain and physique, in
conditions, circumstances and environment observable throughout the world,
and so forth".

It should be stated that this doctrine of rebirth can neither be proved nor
disproved experimentally, but it is accepted as an evidentially verifiable
fact. The cause of this kamma, continues the Buddha, is avijja or ignorance
of the Four Noble Truths. Ignorance is, therefore, the cause of birth and
death; and its transmutation into knowingness or vijja is consequently their
cessation.

The result of this analytical method is summed up in the Paticca Samuppada.




Chapter 8
PATICCA SAMUPPADA : THE LAW OF DEPENDENT ORIGINATION

Paticca means because of, or dependent upon; Samuppada "arising or
origination". Paticca Samuppada, therefore, literally means Dependent
Arising or Dependent Origination.

It must be borne in mind that Paticca Samuppada is only a discourse on the
process of birth and death and not a theory of the ultimate origin of life.
It deals with the cause of rebirth and suffering, but it does not, in the
least, attempt to show the evolution of the world from primordial matter.

Ignorance (avijja) is the first link or cause of the wheel of life. It
clouds all right understanding.

Dependent on ignorance of the Four Noble Truths arise activities (sankhara)
- both moral and immoral. The activities whether good or bad rooted in
ignorance which must necessarily have their due effects, only tend to
prolong life's wandering. Nevertheless, good actions are essential to get
rid of the ills of life.

Dependent on activities arises rebirth consciousness (vinnana). This links
the past with the present.

Simultaneous with the arising of rebirth-consciousness there come into being
mind and body (nama-rupa).

The six senses (salayatana) are the inevitable consequences of mind and body.

Because of the six senses, contact (phassa) sets in. Contact leads to
feeling (vedana).

These five, viz., consciousness, mind and matter, six senses, contact and
feeling are the effects of past actions and are called the passive side of life.
Dependent on feeling arises craving (tanha). Craving results in grasping
(upadana). Grasping is the cause of kamma (bhava) which in its turn,
conditions future birth (jati). Birth is the inevitable cause of old age and
death (jara-marana).

If on account of cause etfect comes to be, then if the cause ceases, the
effect also must cease. The reverse order of the Paticca Samuppada will make
the matter clear.

Old age and death are possible in, and with, a psycho-physical organism.
Such an organism must be born; therefore, it pre-supposes birth. But birth
is the inevitable result of past deeds or kamma. Kamma is conditioned by
grasping which is due to craving. Such craving can appear only where feeling
exists.

Feeling is the outcome of contact between the senses and objects. Therefore,
it presupposes organs of senses which cannot exist without mind and body.
Where there is a mind there is consciousness. It is the result of past good
and evil. The acquisition of good and evil is due to ignorance of things as
they truly are. The whole formula may be summed up thus:

Dependent on Ignorance arise Activities (Moral and Immoral).
Dependent on Activities arises Consciousness (Rebirth Consciousness).
Dependent on Consciousness arise Mind and Matter.
Dependent on Mind and Matter arise the Six Spheres of Sense.
Dependent on the Six Spheres of Sense arises Contact.
Dependent on Contact arises Feeling.
Dependent on Feeling arises Craving.
Dependent on Craving arises Grasping.
Dependent on Grasping arise Actions (Kamma).

Dependent on Actions arises Rebirth.
Dependent on Birth arise Decay, Death, Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain,
Grief and Despair.

Thus, does the entire aggregate of suffering arise. The first two of these
twelve pertain to the past, the middle eight to the present, and the last
two to the future.

The complete cessation of Ignorance leads to the cessation of Activities.
The cessation of Activities leads to the cessation of Consciousness.
The cessation of Consciousness leads to the cessation of Mind and Matter.
The cessation of Mind and Matter leads to the cessation of the Six Spheres
of Sense.
The cessation of Six Spheres of Sense leads to the cessation of Contact.
The cessation of Contact leads to the cessation of Feeling.
The cessation of Feeling leads to the cessation of Craving.
The cessation of Craving leads to the cessation of Grasping.
The cessation of Grasping leads to the cessation of Actions.
The cessation of Actions leads to the cessation of Rebirth.
The cessation of Rebirth leads to the cessation of Decay, Death,
Sorrow, Lamentation, Pain, Grief, and Despair.

Thus, does the cessation of this entire aggregate of suffering result. This
process of cause and effect continues ad infinitum. The beginning of this
process cannot be determined as it is impossible to say whence this
life-flux was encompassed by nescience.

But when this nescience is turned into knowledge, and the life-flux is
diverted into Nibbana-dhatu (the Element of Nibbana), then the end of the
life process or samsara comes about.




Chapter 9
ANATTA: SOUL-LESSNESS

The Buddhist doctrine of rebirth should be distinguished from the theory of
reincarnation which implies the transmigration of a soul and its invariable
material rebirth. Buddhism denies the existence of an unchanging or eternal
soul created by a God or emanating from a Divine Essence (paramatma).

If the immortal soul, which is supposed to be the essence of man, is
eternal, there cannot be either a rise or a fall. Besides, one cannot
understand why "different souls are so variously constituted at the outset".

To prove the existence of endless felicity in an eternal heaven and unending
torments in an eternal hell, an immortal soul is absolutely necessary.
Otherwise, what is it that is punished in hell or rewarded in heaven?

"It should be said," writes Bertrand Russell, "that the old distinction
between soul and body has evaporated quite as much because 'matter' has lost
its solidity as mind has lost its spirituality. Psychology is just beginning
to be scientific. In the present state of psychology belief in immortality
can at any rate claim no support from "science.

Buddhists do agree with Russell when he says "there is obviously some reason
in which I am the same person as I was yesterday, and to take an even more
obvious example, if I simultaneously see a man and hear him speaking, there
is some sense in which the 'I' that sees is the same as the 'I' that hears".

Till recently scientists believed in an indivisible and indestructible atom.
"For sufficient reasons, physicists have reduced this atom to a series of
events. For equally good reasons psychologists find that mind has not the
identity of a single continuing thing but is a series of occurrences bound
together by certain intimate relations.

The question of immortality, therefore, has become the question whether
these intimate relations exist between occurrences connected with a living
body and other occurrences which take place after that body is dead".

As C.E.M. Joad says in The Meaning of Life, matter has since disintegrated
under our very eyes. It is no longer solid; it is no longer enduring, it is
no longer determined by compulsive causal laws; and more important than all,
it is no longer known.

The so-called atoms, it seems, are both "divisible and destructible". The
electrons and protons that compose atoms "can meet and annihilate one
another while their persistence, such as it is, is rather that of a wave
lacking fixed boundaries, and in process of continual change both as regards
shape and position than that of a thing".

Bishop Berkeley who showed that this so-called atom is a metaphysical
fiction, however, held that there exists a spiritual substance called the soul.

Hume looked into consciousness and perceived that there was nothing except
fleeting mental states and concluded that the supposed "permanent ego" is
non-existent.

"There are some philosophers," he says, "who imagine we are every moment
conscious of what we call 'our self,' that we feel its existence and its
continuance in existence and so we are certain both of its perfect
identity and simplicity.
 

For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call 'myself', I
always stumble on some particular perception or other-of heat or cold, light
or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never catch myself ... and
never can observe anything but the perception ... nor do I conceive what is
further requisite to make me a perfect non-entity".

Bergson says: "All consciousness is time existence; and a conscious state is
not a state that endures without changing. It is a change without ceasing,
when change ceases it ceases; it is itself nothing but change.

" Dealing with this question of soul, Prof. James says: "The soul-theory is
a complete superfluity, so far as accounting for the actually verified facts
of conscious experience goes.

So far, no one can be compelled to subscribe to it for definite scientific
reasons:' In concluding his interesting chapter on the soul, he says: "And
in this book the provisional solution which we have reached must be the
final word: the thoughts themselves are the thinkers".

Watson, a distinguished psychologist, states: "No one has ever touched a
soul or has seen one in a test tube or has in any way come into relationship
with it as he has with the other objects of his daily experience.
Nevertheless, to doubt its existence is to become a heretic and once might
possibly even had led to the loss of one's head. Even today, a man holding a
public position dare not question it".

The Buddha anticipated these facts some 2500 years ago.

According to Buddhism, mind is nothing but a complex compound of fleeting
mental states. One unit of consciousness consists of three phases - arising
or genesis (uppada), static or development (thiti), and cessation or
dissolution (bhanga). Immediately after the cessation stage of a
thought-moment, there occurs the genesis stage of the subsequent thought-moment.

Each momentary consciousness of this ever-changing life-process, on passing
away, transmits its whole energy, all the indelibly recorded impressions to
its successor. Every fresh consciousness consists of the potentialities of
its predecessors together with something more. There is, therefore, a
continuous flow of consciousness like a stream without any interruption.

The subsequent thought-moment is neither absolutely the same as its
predecessor - since that which goes to make it up is not identical-nor
entire-ly another-being the same continuity of kamma energy. Here, there is
no identical being but there is an identity in process.

Every moment there is birth, every moment there is death. The arising of one
thought-moment means the passing away of another thought-moment and
vice-versa. In the course of one life-time, there is momentary rebirth
without a soul.

It must not be understood that a consciousness is chopped up in bits and
joined together like a train or a chain. But, on the contrary, "it
persistently flows on like a river receiving from the tributary streams of
sense constant accretions to its flood, and ever dispensing to the world
without the thought-stuff it has gathered by the way".
 

It has birth for its source and death for its mouth. The rapidity of the
flow is such that hardly is there any standard whereby it can be measured
even approximately. However, it pleases the commentators to say that the
time duration of one thought-moment is even less than one billionth part of
the time occupied by a flash of lightning.

Here, we find a juxta-position of such fleeting mental states of
consciousness opposed to a super-position of such states as some appear to
believe. No state once gone ever recurs nor is identical with what goes before.

But we worldlings, veiled by the web of illusion, mistake this apparent
continuity to be something eternal and go to the extent of introducing an
unchanging soul, an atta, the supposed doer and receptacle of all actions to
this ever-changing consciousness.

"The so-called being is like a flash of lightning that is resolved into a
succession of sparks that follow upon one another with such rapidity that
the human retina cannot perceived them separately, nor can the uninstructed
conceive of such succession of separate sparks.

As the wheel of a cart rests on the ground at one point, so does the being
live only for one thought-moment. It is always in the present, and is ever
slipping into the irrevocable past. What we shall become is determined by
this present thought-moment.

"If there is no soul, what is it that is reborn?" one might ask. Well, there
is nothing to be reborn. When life ceases, the kammic energy re-materialises
itself in another form. As Bhikkhu Silacara says: "Unseen it passes
whithersoever the conditions appropriate to its visible manifestation are
present.

Here, showing itself as a tiny gnat or worm, there making its presence known
in the dazzling magnificence of a deva or an archangel's existence. When one
mode of its manifestation ceases it merely passes on, and where suitable
circumstances offer, reveals itself afresh in another name or form"

Birth is the arising of the psycho-physical phenomena. Death is merely the
temporary end of a temporary phenomenon. Just as the arising of a physical
state is conditioned by a preceding state as its cause, so the appearance of
psycho-physical phenomena is conditioned by causes anterior to its birth.

As the process of one life-span is possible without a permanent entity
passing from one thought-moment to another, so a series of life-processes is
possible with-out an immortal soul to transmigrate from one existence to
another.

Buddhism does not totally deny the existence of a personality in an
empirical sense. It only attempts to show that it does not exist in an
ultimate sense. The Buddhist philosophical term for an individual is
santana, i.e. a flux or a continuity. It includes the mental and physical
elements as well.

The kammic force of each individual binds the elements together. This
uninterrupted flux or continuity of psycho-physical phenomenon, which is
conditioned by kamma, and not limited only to the present life, but having
its source in the beginningless past and its continuation in the future-is
the Buddhist substitute for the permanent ego or the immortal soul of other religions.
 




CHAPTER  TEN
NIBBANA

This process of birth and death continues ad infinitum until this flux is
transmuted, so to say, to Nibbana-dhatu, the ultimate goal of Buddhists.

The Pali word Nibbana is formed of Ni and Vana. Ni is a negative particle
and Vana means lusting or craving. "It is called Nibbana, in that it is a
departure from the craving which is called Vana, lusting " Literally,
Nibbana means non-attachment.

It may also be defined as the extinction of lust, hatred and ignorance. "The
whole world is in flames," says the Buddha. "By what fire is it kindled? By
the fire of lust, hatred and ignorance, by the fire of birth, old age,
death, pain, lamentation, sorrow, grief and despair it is kindled".

It should not be understood that Nibbana is a state of nothingness or
annihilation owing to the fact that we cannot perceive it with our worldly
knowledge. One cannot say that there exists no light just because the blind
man does not see it. In that well-known story, too, the fish arguing with
his friend, the turtle, triumphantly concluded that there exists no land.

Nibbana of the Buddhists is neither a mere nothingness nor a state of
annihilation, but what it is no words can adequately express. Nibbana is a
Dhamma which is unborn, unoriginated, uncreated, and unformed:' Hence it is
eternal (dhuva), desirable (subha), and happy (sukha).

In Nibbana, nothing is "eternalised", nor is anything "annihilated", besides
suffering.

According to the Books, references are made to Nibbana as Sopadisesa and
Anupadisesa. These, in fact, are not two kinds of Nibbana, but the one
single Nibbana, receiving its name according to the way it is experienced
before and after death.

Nibbana is not situated in any place nor is it a sort of heaven where a
transcendental ego resides. It is a state which is dependent upon this body
itself. It is an attainment (Dhamma) which is within the reach of all.
Nibbana is a supramundane state attainable even in this present life.
Buddhism does not state that this ultimate goal could be reached only in a
life beyond.

Here lies the chief difference between the Buddhist conception of Nibbana
and the non-Buddhist conception of an eternal heaven attainable only after
death or a union with a God or Divine Essence in an after-life. When Nibbana
is realized in this life with the body remaining, it is called Sopadisesa
Nibbana-dhatu. When an Arahat attains Parinibbana, after the disso-lution of
his body, without any remainder of physical existence, it is called
Anupadisesa Nibbana-dhatu.

In the words of Sir Edwin Arnold:
"If any teach Nirvana is to cease
Say unto such they lie.
If any teach Nirvana is to live
Say unto such they err."

From a metaphysical standpoint, Nibbana is deliverance from suffering. From
a psychological standpoint, Nibbana is the eradication of egoism. From an
ethical standpoint, Nibbana is the destruction of lust, hatred and ignorance.

Does the Arahat exist or not after death?

The Buddha replies: "The Arahat who has been released from the five
aggregates is deep, immeasurable like the mighty ocean. To say that he is
reborn would not fit the case. To say that he is neither reborn nor not
reborn would not fit the case " One cannot say that an Arahat is reborn as
all passions that condition rebirth are eradicated; nor can one say that the
Arahat is annihilated for there is nothing to annihilate.

Robert Oppenheimer, a scientist, writes: "If we ask, for instance whether
the position of the electron remains the same, we must say `no', if we ask
whether the electron's position changes with time, we must say 'no'; if we
ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say `no',  if we ask whether it
is in motion, we must say 'no'.

"The Buddha has given such answers when interrogated as to the conditions of
man's self after death;' but they are not familiar answers from the
tradition of the l7th and l8th century science".




C H A P T E R    E L E V E N
THE PATH TO NIBBANA

How is Nibbana to be attained?

It is by following the Noble Eightfold Path which consists of Right
Understanding (samma-ditthi), Right Thought (samma-sankappa), Right Speech
(samma-vaca), Right Action (samma-kammanta), Right Livelihood (samma-ajiva),
Right Effort (samma-vayama), Right Mindfulness (samma-sati), and Right
Concentration (samma-samadhi).

Right Understanding, which is the keynote of Buddhism, is explained as the
knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. To understand rightly means to
understand things as they really are and not as they appear to be. This
refers primarily to a correct understanding of one-self, because, as the
Rohitassa Sutta states "Dependent on this one-fathom long body with its
consciousness" are all the four Truths.

In the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Understanding stands at
the beginning as well as at its end. A minimum degree of Right Understanding
is necessary at the very beginning because it gives the right motivation to
the other seven factors of the Path and gives to them correct direction. At
the culmination of the practice, Right Under-standing has matured into
perfect Insight Wisdom (vipassana-panna), leading directly to the Stages of
Sainthood.

Clear vision or right understanding leads to clear thinking. The second
factor of the Noble Eightfold Path is, therefore, Right Thought
(samma-sankappa), which serves the double purpose of eliminating evil
thoughts and developing pure thoughts. Right Thought, in this particular
connection, is threefold. It consists of:

Nekkhamma - Renunciation of worldly pleasures or the virtue of selfishness,
which is opposed to attachment, selfishness, and possessiveness.

Avyapada-Loving-kindness, goodwill, or benevolence, which is opposed to
hatred, ill-will, or aversion; and

Avihiwitsa - Harmlessness or compassion, which is opposed to cruelty and
callousness.

Right Thought leads to Right Speech, the third factor. This includes
abstinence from falsehood, slandering, harsh words, and frivolous talk.

Right speech must be followed by Right Action which com-prises abstinence
from killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.

Purifying his thoughts, words and deeds at the outset, the spiritual pilgrim
tries to purify his livelihood by refraining from the five kinds of trade
which are forbidden to a lay-disciple They are trading in arms, human
beings, animals for slaughter, intoxicating drinks and drugs, and poisons.

For monks, wrong livelihood consist of hypocritical conduct and wrong means
of obtaining the requisites of monk-life.

Right Effort is fourfold, namely:

the endeavour to discard evil that has already arisen;
the endeavour to prevent the arising of unarisen evil;
the endeavour to develop unarisen good;
iv. the endeavour to promote the good which has already arisen;

Right Mindfulness is constant mindfulness with regard to body, feelings,
thoughts, and mind-objects.
 

Right Eftort and Right Mindfulness lead to Right Concentration. It is the
one-pointedness of mind, culminating in the jhanas or meditative absorption.
 

Of these eight factors of the Noble Eightfold Path the first two are grouped
under the heading of Wisdom (panna), the following three under Morality
(sila), and the last three under Concentration (samadhi). But according to
the order of development, the sequence is as follows:

I. Morality (sila)
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood

II. Concentration (samadhi)
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration

III. Wisdom (panna)
Right Understanding
Right Thought
 

Morality (sila) is the first stage on this path to Nibbana.

Without killing or causing injury to any living creature, man should be kind
and compassionate towards all, even to the tiniest creature that crawls at
his feet. Refraining from stealing, he should be upright and honest in all
his dealings.

Abstaining from sexual misconduct which debases the exalted nature of man,
he should be pure. Shunning false speech, he should be truthful. Avoiding
pernicious drinks that promote heedlessness, he should be sober and diligent.

These elementary principles of regulated behaviour are essential to one who
treads the path to Nibbana. Violation of them means the introduction of
obstacles on the path which will obstruct his moral progress. Observance of
them means steady and smooth progress along the path.

The spiritual pilgrim, disciplining thus his words and deeds, may advance a
step further and try to control his senses.

While he progresses slowly and steadily with regulated word and deed and
restrained senses, the kammic force of this striving aspirant may compel him
to renounce worldly pleasures and adopt the ascetic life. To him then comes
the idea that:

"A den of strife is household life,
And filled with toil and need,
But free and high as the open sky
Is the life the homeless lead."

It should not be understood that everyone is expected to lead the life of a
bhikkhu (monk) or a celibate life to achieve one's goal. One's spiritual
progress is expedited by being a bhikkhu although as a lay follower one can
become an Arahat. After attaining the third stage of Sainthood, one leads a
life of celibacy.

Securing a firm footing on the ground of morality, the progress-ing pilgrim
then embarks upon the higher practice of samadhi, the control and culture of
the mind-the second stage on this Path.

Samadhi is the "one-pointedness of the mind". It is the concentration of the
mind on one object to the entire. exclusion of all irrelevant matter. There
are different subjects for meditation according to the temperaments of the
individuals. Concentration on respiration is the easiest to gain the
one-pointedness of the mind. Meditation on loving-kindness is very
beneficial as it is conducive to mental peace and happiness.

Cultivation of the four sublime states-loving-kindness (metta), compassion
(karuna sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha) is highly
commendable.

After giving careful consideration to the subject for contemplation. he
should choose the one most suited to his temperament. This being
satisfactorily settled, he makes a persistent effort to focus his  mind
until he becomes so wholly absorbed and interested in it, that all other
thoughts get ipso facto excluded from the mind.

The five hindrances to progress, namely: sense desire, hatred, sloth and
torpor, restlessness and brooding, and doubts are then temporarily
inhibited. Eventually, he gains ecstatic concentration and, to his
indescribable joy, becomes enwrapt in jhana, enjoying the calmness and
serenity of a one-pointed mind.

When one gains this perfect one-pointedness of the mind, it is possible for
one to develop the five Supernormal Powers (abhinna)-Divine Eye
(dibbacakkhu), Divine Ear (dibbasota), Reminiscence of past births
(pubbenivasanussati-nana), Thought Reading (paracitta vijanana), and
different psychic powers (iddhividha). It must not be understood that those
supernormal powers are essential for Saint-hood.

Though the mind is now purified there still lies dormant in him the tendency
to give vent to his passions, for by concentration, passions are lulled to
sleep temporarily. They may rise to the surface at unexpected moments.

Both Discipline and Concentration are helpful to clear the Path of its
obstacles but it is Insight (vipassana panna) alone which enables one to see
things as they truly are, and consequently reach the ultimate goal by
completely annihilating the passions inhibited by samadhi. This is the third
and the final stage on the Path to Nibbana.

With his one-pointed mind which now resembles a polished mirror he looks at
the world to get a correct view of life. Wherever he turns his eyes, he sees
nought but the Three Characteristics - anicca (transciency), dukkha (sorrow)
and anatta (soullessness) standing out in bold relief.

He comprehends that life is constantly changing and all conditioned things
are transient. Neither in heaven nor on earth does he find any genuine
happiness, for every form of pleasure is a prelude to pain. What is
transient is, therefore, painful and where change and sorrow prevail, there
cannot be a permanent immortal soul.

Whereupon, of these three characteristics, he chooses one that appeals to
him most and intently keeps on developing Insight in that particular
direction until that glorious day comes to him when he would realize Nibbana
for the first time in his life, having destroyed the three Fetters -
self-illusion (sakkaya-ditthi), doubts (vicikiccha), indulgence in
(wrongful) rites and ceremonies (silabbata-paramasa).

At this stage he is called a Sotapanna (Stream-Winner) - one who has entered
the stream that leads to Nibbana. As he has not eradicated all Fetters he is
reborn seven times at the most.

Summoning up fresh courage, as a result of this glimpse of Nibbana, the
pilgrim makes rapid progress and cultivating deeper Insight becomes a
Sakadagami - (Once-Returner) by weakening two more Fetters-namely,
sense-desire (kamaraga) and ill-will (patigha).  He is called a Sakadagami
because he is reborn on earth only once in case he does not attain Arahatship.

It is in the third stage of sainthood Anagami (Never-Returner) that he
completely discards the aforesaid two Fetters. Thereafter, he neither
returns to this world nor does he seek birth in the celestial realms, since
he has no more desire for sensual pleasures. After death he is reborn in the

Pure Abodes (Suddhavasa), a congenial Brahma plane, till he attains Arahatship.

Now the saintly pilgrim, encouraged by the unprecedented success of his
endeavours, makes his final advance and destroying the remaining Fetters,
namely, lust after life in Realms of Forms (ruparaga) and Formless Realms
(aruparaga), conceit (mana), restlessness (uddhacca), and ignorance
(avijja), becomes a perfect Saint - an Arahat, a Worthy One.

Instantly, he realizes that what was to be accomplished has been ; done,
that a heavy burden of sorrow has been relinquished, that all forms of
attachment have been totally annihilated, and that the Path to Nibbana has
been trodden. The Worthy One now stands on heights more than celestial, far
removed from the rebellious passions and defilements of the world, realizing
the unutterable bliss of Nibbana and like many an Arahat of old, uttering
that paean of joy:

"Goodwill and wisdom, mind by method trained,
The highest conduct on good morals based,
This maketh mortals pure, not rank or wealth."

As T. H. Huxley states: "Buddhism is a system which knows no God in the
western sense, which denies a soul to man, which counts the belief in
immortality a blunder, which refuses any efficacy to prayer and sacrifice,
which bids men look to nothing but their own efforts for salvation, which in
its original purity knew nothing of vows of obedience and never sought the
aid of the secular arm; yet spread over a considerable moiety of the world
with marvellous rapidity- and is still the dominant creed of a large
fraction of mankind".