September 22, 2019
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    Worldly matters

    June 17, 2019

    Life is marked by vicissitudes; changes from wealth to poverty, and success to failure. There is a list of eight matters or conditions that arise in one’s secular life. This list consists of four contrasting pairs. These are profit and loss, fame and dishonour, praise and blame and happiness and unhappiness. It is impossible to escape these consequences, and not even the Buddha or any other religious leader or a supreme power can create, nullify or short-circuit the consequences that inevitably follow.

    All these are transient, bound up with suffering, and subject to change. There is no reason to be elated or dejected. Having given up likes and dislikes, one would be emancipated from birth, ageing, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, despair and suffering. Adopting an attitude of equanimity or impartiality, without being emotionally involved is the best approach to face the vicissitudes of life.

    According to Buddhist thought, karma or volitional action determines the nature and quality of circumstances in life. The doctrine of volitional action (karma) states the implications for ethics of the basic universal law of Dharma, one aspect of which is that freely chosen and intended moral acts inevitably entail consequences. In Buddhist thought, there are five laws that govern processes or phenomena. These are principles in natural science and ecology, principles in botany, principles in morality, psychology and religious phenomena. But kamma niyama transcends both space and time unlike the other four as the effects of kamma may become manifest in one’s present life or in another future life situation of becoming (bhava) after physical death.

    Five senses

    There are 547 birth stories in the Buddhist Pali Canon where the inexorability of the law of kamma has been highlighted. Righteous behaviour by body, speech and mind brings happiness and vice versa. Whatever life may be, it is an experience; whatever experience may be, it is a flow through time, a duration, a many-coloured episode between birth and death, it is the stimulation of the five senses that produces these experiences which can be simple or complex.

    How did life begin? Where did life come from? What is the life force? And so on are some questions that burden human beings. The theology of kingship emphasizes the intimate bond between divine and earthly rules. Since, however, the hallmark of cosmic order is its eternal, unchanging character, permanence on earth must have appeared to partake of the numinous, and to make permanent could become a religious act. The Egyptian equivalent of the Christian idea of eternity, or the Hindu ideal of timelessness, was life everlasting. And insofar as life was not merely considered a pleasurable state of being, but a manifestation of the divine, this was more than a childish wish, it was a religious paradox. All living beings are engaged in the struggle for existence, in the unending battle of life, and the more man becomes civilized, the more dreadful is the struggle for existence in search of happiness. After all, what is happiness?

    According to the World Happiness Report 2018, out of 156 countries evaluated the happiest people lived in Finland (the land of 1,000 lakes). Finland is a land with several islands, forests, invigorating climate and is a tourists’ paradise. The six criteria that have been used to evaluate happiness were: income level of the people, their healthy life span, available opportunities for realizing developmental dreams, faith and freedom and merit.

    According to Buddhist thoughts everything is impermanent and even the Buddha had to suffer, become ill and aged, and met with death. Even the Buddha’s beloved disciple Maha Moggallana who has been represented as a transparent being, flying to the sky, being welcomed by the gods, too could not escape the effects of previous evil volition (karma vipaka). In the previous birth, he had brutally murdered his blind parents and during the Buddha’s time, Maha Moggallana was beaten to death by a gang of robbers. The Buddha had several enemies during his active social life and he was blamed and emotionally disturbed on several occasions. For instance, Devadatta and Ajasatta plotted to kill the Buddha.

    Evil doers

    A pretty woman called Cinci Manavika accused him in the presence of his disciples for making her pregnant. Another young woman Sundari who kept on visiting the Buddha’s monastery at odd hours was found dead and buried near the monastery. The Buddha was charged for murdering her. A Braham called Todeiya scolded the Buddha for no reason at all. But the Buddha was not disillusioned or discouraged by abuses, insults and resentments because these were levelled against him by his opponents. The Buddha endured these with patience and extended his great kindness even to the evil doers.

    There was a dwarf like physically small made Buddhist disciple called Lakantha Bhaddiya who was a saint (an Arahant). He was teased by the junior Bhikkhus because of his dwarf-like appearance. But he was intelligent and wise and above board. He never resented. The Buddha came to know about this situation and declared that Lakantha Bhaddiya had been an architect in a previous birth during the days of the Buddha Kasyapa. This architect constructed a simple lowly cremation pyre instead of a tall magnificent one that was desired by the devotees. This karmic sin was the cause of his short stature. But the Buddha declared that Lakantha Bhaddiya’s illustrious character was like a great massive rock that could not be shaken by the breeze.

    The Buddha comforted King Kosala as he was in deep sorrow over the sudden death of his queen Mallika, by declaring five universal truths: everything changes, everyone becomes ill, everyone gets old, everyone dies and everyone loses years. King Kosala, as well as King Bimbisara, had to face tragic deaths. King Bimbisara was a great patron and admirer of the Buddha and donated the Veluvanaramaya for his use. He became a lay follower of the Buddha and was zealous in his religious practice. He was the first king of Magadha and ruled for 52 years (c 465-413 BCE). In later life, he abdicated in favour of his loving son Ajasatra at the instigation of Devadatta, had his father imprisoned and tortured to death.

    Anathapindika, the wealthy financier too was a leading follower of the Buddha. He was renowned for his generosity towards the Buddha and the monks (Sangha). He bought a park near Sravasthi and constructed a famous monastery known as Jeetavanamaya for use by the Buddha and the monks. The Buddha during his active life span resided mostly in this monastery. Anatapindika served meals (dane) daily to the Buddha and 1,000 monks for several years. But he lost all his wealth following a natural disaster and his clients who borrowed money from him did not pay back the loans. However, he continued to serve the Buddha and the monks as before but with very poor tasteless morsel (nivudu hall and kadi hodi) for several years. However, he recovered his wealth through the benevolence of a deva.

    In search of happiness

    In the Nagirati Sutta, the Buddha offered some significant answers to some questions posed by a god or a supernatural being. The Buddha declared that although the physical body form constantly undergoes decay and finally dies; the name and clan would not deteriorate (rupan jeeratimaccanan-nama gottan najeerti). The Buddha stated that craving or strong desire leads the human subject astray and ageing takes place all over the time; day and night. Because of craving and selfishness, the human subject would not be encouraged to perform meritorious acts to others. The Buddha declared that the woman is the greatest source of sexual attachment to the man and vice versa. Finally, the god asked the Buddha what the meaning of the phrase – dry was bathing (bathing without water). The Buddha responded “Practice celibacy with earnestness for emancipation”.

    Prince Siddhartha became dissatisfied with a life of kingship for 13 years that was full of sensual gratification. Gratifying the sensual demands could not offer him happiness. Then He gave up every material comfort, left his palace, queen and child and practised austerities for six long years, thus suffering from starvation in search of happiness. He almost died of gross starvation. Then he gave up that life of austerity and practised a way of life of moderation and practised meditation. Thus Prince Siddhartha became the Enlightened One, the Buddha.

    The Buddha found a unique formula to be happy and content without suffering; which is the Noble Eightfold Path (Middle path) consisting of Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Living, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. In gradual progress this path leads man along, from the mundane to the supermundane; and such a being following this Path becomes a superman compared with the worldling, but its highest perfection has been reached by the Enlightened One. When lust, anger and delusion are eradicated, all mental pain, grief and suffering are destroyed and one reaches everlasting supreme bliss-(Nibbana) by freeing one forever from all evil and suffering by bestowing incomparable ultimate security. Such a person is said to have cooled or quenched the three fires of greed, hatred and delusion.

    There are many verses expressing the highest degree of happiness of the Bhikkhuni Arahants who have freed themselves from the grip of sensual gratification. These are called Theri Gathas. Human life is ephemeral and the Buddhist attitude should be to work with earnestness and diligence constantly keeping in mind that there are five challenges to the life process: impermanence, ageing, effects of karma, symptoms of illness and impending death.

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