Monday, July 25, 2011

The Heart of the Buddhist Teaching

Saudara Pena yg dihormati, Bersama ini saya post ‘A Dhamma talk’(salinan teks asal) oleh Venerable Prof Dr. Phra Dharmakosajar (Prayoon Dhammacitto) yg dibukukan sempena hari pembakaran Venerable Chaukhun Phrathepmongkolayan (Keling Jittapalo). Ketua sami Wat Boonyaram, Padang Sera Kedah pada 1Mei 2011 yang lalu. Di harap dapat membantu tuan Pena KSB mempelbagaikan bahasa penyampaianan Dhamma. Di harap tuan Pena dapat menjadikan satu tajuk article baru. Ikhlas drpd: Phai Chit Chindamanie.

(Terima kasih banyak Khun Phai Chit kerana sudi berkongsi dhamma dengan KSB dan pembaca yang dihormati sekalian: Pena Reformasi)

The Heart of the Buddhist Teaching. (A Dhamma talk on the Ovāda-pātimokkha.) The Ovāda-pātimokkha is considered as the heart of the Buddhist teachings because it present nirvāna (nibbāna) as the highest goal of Buddhism and the three-fold traning, namely moral ethics, concentration and wisdom, as the principal teaching that lead the practitioner to nirvana. 

1. The ideal goal of Buddhism. In the first part of the Ovāda-pātimokkha, the Buddha declared the ideal aspiration of Buddhism in Pali: Khanti paramam tapo titikkhā nibbānam. Paramam vadanti buddhā. Meaning: ”Enduring patience is the highest austere practice. Nirwāna is supreme, the Buddhas say.” The words of the Buddha here in the first part emphasize that Buddhism holds nirvana as the highest ideal aspiration. This differs from that of the main religion in India at time which believed in reunion with Brahma, the creator, as the highest goal. To achieve nirvana, Buddhists have to rely on their own enduring effort as well as patience because there are no savior gods or Brahma who will lead anyone to nirvana. This is why else where the Buddha states: tumhehi kiccam. āappam. akkhātāro tathāgatā “You have to work out your own salvation. The Tatha-gata only show the way.” This theme is well captured in a Dhamma poem: “The way to relieve suffering the buddhas show, The path to true happiness they discover; And, the path beyond the peril of separation and sorrow, That is nirvāna.” Nirvāna is the total extinction of defilements which cause suffering in life. Once the defilements are extinguished, suffering comes also to an end. This is why nirvāna is one and the same with nirodha, meaning the cessation of suffering, which is the third of the four noble truths namely suffering, its cause, its cessation and the path leading to its cessation. The end of suffering itself is the very ultimate aim of the study and practice of the dhamma. This is the reason behind the Buddha’s statement that says: “If the world has no more suffering from birth, ageing and death, there would be no necessity for a Buddha to arise, nor would there be any reason for Him to teach the Dhamma. For the world is still faced with suffering, a Buddha is needed and his teaching needs to shine forth. “The purpose of the Buddha in causing the light of the Dhamma to shine in the world that is overwhelmed by the darkness of ignorance is to lead all being to overcome the cycle of suffering.

Nirvāna or the end of suffering has the same meaning with vimutti, that is freedom from suffering. Sometimes the Buddha said that Buddhism has only one single taste, freedom from suffering, just as the ocean has only salty taste. Freedom from suffering or nirvāna is therefore the ideal or highest goal of Buddhism. 

2.The principles of Buddhism As the goal has to be achieved through human effort, therefore in the second part of the Ovāda-pātimokkha the Buddha taught the principles for the practice so that human effort effectively leads to nirvāna. This can be seen in the summarized stanza beginning with sabba-pāpassa akaranam etc. which I have presented at the start. The meaning of the full verse is: “Avoid doing all evil; Cultivated all that is wholesome, And purify one’s mind. This is the teaching of all the Buddhas.” This part of the Pali verse in the Ovāda-pātimokkha deals with the principles on how human endeavor can lead to the end of suffering, nirvāna. The principal practice in this Ovāda-pātimokkha is divided into three steps as found in the first three lines of the verse, with one leading to another step until the attainment of the highest goal, nirvāna. They are: i)To avoid doing all evil means to follow precepts that require one to abstain from doing evil through physical action such as killing beings as well as through speech such as telling a lie. ii) To cultivate all that is wholesome means meditation practice as well as the practice to enhance wholesome qualities for one’s own and others welfare and well-beings. iii) To purify one’s mind means wisdom that arises from meditation practice aimed at purifying the mind from being defiled by greed, anger and delusion. These three-step principles represent the three-fold training, namely moral ethics (sila), concentration (samādhi) and wisdom (pannyā). They are the heart of the Dhamma practice that leads us step by step to freedom, as stated in the Pali canonical text: sila-paribhāvito Samādhi Mahapphalo hoti mahānisam so… etc.. ”Once moral practice is well established, It is directly fruitful and beneficial to concentration. A well-established concentration is directly fruitful And beneficial to wisdom. Once wisdom is well-developed, the mind is free from All fermented negativities of the mind.” Here freedom is nirvāna.
The inter-connectedness of the three principles is evident in all aspects of the Dhamma practice. When these three principles are separated from one another, the practice of Dhamma will be less fruitful and beneficial. Here the first stage “to avoid doing all evil” is comparable to one taking a bath to clean the body. The second stage “to cultivate good” is likened to dressing up appropriately. The third stage “to purify the mind” can be compared to taking good care of one’s health so that one remains healthy and strong. All these three activities have to have connection with each other. For example, in observing the first precept of refraining from killing beings, one should develop all the three aspects: (i) to refrain from killing being, (ii) to promote welfare and well-being of all beings, and (iii) to purify the mint from hatred, and to instead cultivate harmony and conciliation. As the Buddha said in the Cula-kamma-vibhanga-sutta: “A certain woman or man gives up and Abstains from destroying living beings, Throws away stick and weapon, ashamed Of evil and full of compassion, abides to Serve all living things.” In this statement of the Buddha, to abstain from destroying living being means not doing any evil. To abide to serve all living being is to cultivate what is wholesome. And to be ashamed of evil and full of compassion is about purifying the mind through the practice of loving-kindness and compassion. Therefore in any Dhamma practice, one should make sure of following all the three principles of the practice: not doing any evil; to do what is good, and to purify the mind. This is how to achieve the result and benefit of the Dhamma practice. The third stage, purifying the mind, is closer to freedom from suffering, the ultimate goal of Buddhism. Freedom from suffering is not attainable without purification of the mind, particularly from clinging which is about holding on to things (upādāna). This will enable the experience of freedom possible in daily life. This is in accordance with a philosophy which says: From clinging upon something suffering comes. Freeding on desire, it is enhanced When one chases after something suffering is increased Suffering diminishes when one pauses grasping; And it is dead when one lets it go. Venerable Moggallana was one of the 1,250 disciples who sat in attendance during the Buddha’s delivery of this Ovāda-pātimokkha. The Venerable had recently attained arahantship, after questioning the Buddha as to how freedom from suffering was to be achieved; the Buddha had told him that freedom from suffering is achieved through investigative observation that “sabbe dhammā nalam abhinivessāya” “all phenomena are not to be clung to as me, mine or myself.” The Buddha then on explain to Venerable Moggallana: “When experiencing any sensatation, pleasant, unpleasant or neither pleasant nor unpleasant one, examine it for its impermanence, evolving nature, disappearance and dissolving nature. Once sensation is examined that way, you will no longer be clinging to anything in this world. When no longer clinging to this world, there is no attachment. When no more attachment, one reaches nirvāna by oneself.” May I be allowed to dwell upon this point further. Every human being has to face physical suffering like hunger, pain and illness, very much exactly the way the Buddha has reminded us to reflect continuously as: “byādhi-dhammomhi” I am of the nature of illness. “byādhim anatito” I cannot escape from illness.

The reason that the Buddha has very kindly taught us to examine with skillful reflection meticulously like this is to enable us to have this reflection during our own illness which will consequently limit the pain to only physical state, and not affecting the mind. However, some are not able to use this reflection and cope; when they have to suffer from physical pain they feel as if being hit with an arrow for the first time. When they feel mental anguish thingking to themselves why they have to suffer like that, then that is like being hit with a second arrow. This is similar to adding up the pain on to oneself. The Buddha taught us to let go so that we can confine suffering to the physical body, without it spreading to the mind. This is to say that when being shot with the first arrow of physical pain, we should not make it worse by shooting at ourselves with the second arrow, self-creation of mental pain. So, when anyone with wisdom should encounter physical illness, they should follow the example set by His Majesty, King Rama IV, who, during a serious illness, advised his aide to write the following Dhamma poem in Pali with Thai translation to be given to monks at Wat Ratchapradit: āturasmim pi me kāye cittam na hessatāturam Evam sikkha-mi buddhassa sāsanānugatim. karam “Even though my physical body is in great discomfort, my mind will not be in any distress. This is how I follow the teaching of the Buddha.” Therefore, the practice of purifying the mind will help keep the mind steady even in a confused situation when facing the eight worldly conditions, namely gain and loss, status and disgrace, praise and censure, happiness and pain. This teaching is also found in Dhamma proverb: Happiness and pain are made in the mind. Are they not ? With clinging, pain is born; so is perturbed mind. With letting go, no more pain; so is peaceful mind on the spot. Oh, happiness or pain that we are eager to find !

3. The missionary method for Buddhism The third and last part of the Ovāda-pātimokkha deals with the missionary method of Buddhism. The Buddha pro-mulgated a peaceful way, not a forceful one, in propagating the Dhamma. They is no use of force in making people believe in Buddhism. As to the missionary technique the Buddha pronounced: “annupavādo: do not speak ill for others. “anupaghāto: do not be destructive to others” Even in spreading the Buddhish teaching, there was a rivalry between Buddhism and the clergy from other religions, but the Buddha forbade his disciples from speaking ill of others. Related to this, the Buddha’s saying is recorded in the Dhammika-sutta: “ Anyone, with ill-thought speaking ill of ascetics and clergy from other religions who are free from lust and have a concentrated mind, he accumulate much demerit. Anyone with ill-thought speaking ill of the Buddha’s disciples, who have right view, he accumulates more demerits.” This is why the Budda laid down a peaceful missionary method this way. The history of Buddhism over the past 2,500 years show that there has never been a war to spread Buddhism. A notable example is King Asoka the Great who ascended the thrown in B.E 270. Before his conversion into Buddhism, he waged a few wars to conquer various kingdoms, unifying India for the first time. However, once he became a follower of Buddhism, he renounced his violent conquest which relied on victory through force in favor of a peaceful conquest of hearts and souls through Dhamma, now known as Dhamma-vijaya. On this auspicious occasion og Magha-puja Day, if our Thai Buddhishts are to collectively honour the Budaha by putting the Ovāda-pātimokkha into practice, particularly the qualities of enduring tolerance (khanti), not speaking ill of others (anupavādo) and not being violent towards each others (anupaghāo) , employing them as the foremost practices in our daily life, then Thai society will be one that enjoys peace and happiness. The Ovāda-pātimokkha is the heart of the Buddhist teaching that the Lort Buddha expounded for the first time on full moon day of the third lunar month over 2,500 years ago. It has been of great benefit to Buddhists of all generation who come later so that they all can put the teaching into use and achieve the result of overcoming suffering. The Most Venerable Prof. Dr. Phra Dhamakosajarn At the Uposatha Hall of Wat Prayurawongsawas, Bangkok.
By Anonymous on Komen Pembaca: Phai Chit Chindamanie at 5:35 PM

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