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a) E-Social Engineering in Practice
I have read that you are a Buddhist. How does your Buddhist philosophy impact your work with executives?
Let me give you one example of how I have tried to use Buddha’s
teaching in my work. Buddha suggested that his followers only do what
he taught if it worked in the context of their own lives. He encouraged
people to listen to his ideas, think about his suggestions, try out
what made sense – keep doing what worked – and to just “let go” of what
did not work.
Similarly, I teach my clients to ask their key stakeholders for
suggestions on they can become more effective leaders then listen to
these ideas, think about the suggestions, try out what makes sense –
keep doing what works – and let go of what does not.
When our stakeholders give us suggestions on how we can become more
effective, we can look at these suggestions as gifts – and treat our
stakeholders as gift-givers. When someone gives you a gift you wouldn’t
say, “Stinky gift!” “Bad gift!” or “I already have this stupid gift!”
You would say, “Thank you.”
If you can use the gift – use it. If you don’t want to use the gift, put it in the closet and “let it go.”
You would not insult the person who is trying to be nice by giving you
a gift. In the same way, when our stakeholders give us ideas, we don’t
want to insult them or their ideas. We can just learn to say, “Thank
We cannot promise to do everything that people suggest we should do.
We can promise to listen to our key stakeholders, think about their
ideas, and do what we can. This is all that we can promise – and this
is all that they expect.
My good friend, Chris Cappy, is a world expert on large-scale
change, has a great philosophy on getting ideas. He always says, “I
won’t learn less.” When we get ideas and suggestions, we may learn more
– but we won’t learn less. Get in the habit of asking the important
people in your life, “How can I be a better…?”
This works at work – in your efforts to become a better leader, team member, or co-worker.
This works at home – in your efforts to become a better friend or family member.
Who do you need to ask, “How can I become a better…?” How do you
typically respond to suggestions? Do you treat them as gifts – or do
you critique them and the person making them?
As always your comments and ideas are welcome – I will try to look at any of your suggestions for our readers as gifts!
Buoyed by the party’s
performance in recent Assembly polls in four North Indian states, BSP
supremo Mayawati has now shifted her focus to the South for the Lok Sabha
polls. She is making a whirlwind tour of Mysore, Chennai and Kottayam,
addressing rallies and expanding the party organisation ahead of parliamentary
elections so as to strengthen her support base.
After a two-day meeting in Lucknow, the BSP has decided to take its social
engineering ‘Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, That is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath-Brahmin formula’ to Southern states where
the party has yet to open its account. In an effort to move beyond its
Uttar Pradesh stronghold, the BSP is looking to shed its image of a North
Indian party and grab seats in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra
Pradesh, while increasing its tally in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The BSP has created a Southern Zone and has named General Secretary Prof
Suresh Mane as the person in charge of the Zone. Rajya Sabha member Ambeth
Rajan has been given the responsibility to strengthen the party Tamil
The party organisation has been reshuffled and state coordinators have
been appointed in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat,
Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab and
Haryana, Rajasthan, and Delhi.
State Coordinator for Maharashtra and Gujarat Veer Singh told TEHELKA
that after the BSP’s success in the recent assembly polls held in
the four northern states, the party’s main target is to share power
at the Centre. “This can be achieved only when the BSP performs
well beyond Uttar Pradesh,” he admits.
Accordingly, he claims, the party has chalked out a pan-India strategy.
“We have identified about 50 Lok Sabha seats outside Uttar Pradesh
where the party has a fair chance of winning. We have already strengthened
our party organisation in these states and are now doing the ground work
to expand our support base,” claims Singh.
Singh, who has been working in Maharashtra, says that all state units
have been activated and directed to hold “Brahmin Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, That is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath bhaichara
(amity)’ meetings at the district and grassroots levels to replicate
the success in UP during the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Mayawati will launch the party campaign by addressing rallies in Mysore
on December 21, Chennai on December 22 and Kottayam on December 23. During
her visit to these states, she is likely to stretch the BSP’s reach
to places which were hitherto not on the party’s political map.
A detailed programme of her nationwide tour is being finalised and in
January and February she will be undertaking a whirlwind tour to states
other than Uttar Pradesh. A senior party leader confides that Mayawati
has set a target of 20 Lok Sabha seats outside Uttar Pradesh in the upcoming
elections for the party to hold the ‘balance of power’ in
a hung parliament.
“We are launching an all-out effort to win enough seats in the Lok
Sabha to have our share of power at the Centre. If all goes as planned,
then the day is not far off when behenji will be at the helm of affairs
in Delhi as well,” he claims.
The BSP strategy is to win more than 60 plus Lok Sabha seats, giving it
a good bargaining position so as to grab a share of power. It will also
strive to replicate the strategy Chandrasekhar used to form a government
in case both the UPA and the NDA fail to cobble together a majority.
Senior BSP leader Dr Shahid Siddiqui told TEHELKA that the BSP was not
in favour of any electoral alliance with any political party in any state
but broadly hinted at ‘friendly’ contests with like-minded
parties in order to cross the Uttar Pradesh boundaries. “The BSP
has always avoided electoral alliance but may now consider issue-based
alliances,” he said.
Political observers, however, feel that the BSP’s expansion in states
other than Uttar Pradesh is doubtful for the simple reason that the party
is still in the process of creating and strengthening its organisation
and expanding its support base in the South and in other states. “The
party will have to show some patience and wait for few more years before
its efforts start translating into seats,” stated Prof A.K. Verma,
Department Head of Political Science at Christ Church College, Kanpur.
Rejecting JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda’s overtures for forging a tie-up in the forth coming Lok Sabha polls, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and BSP Chief Mayawati has decided to go it alone in Karnataka.
“It is not
correct to say we have dumped JD(S) because neither Behenji nor any other BSP
leader had talked of any alliance ,” BSP national general secretary Prof
Dr Suresh Mane, who is the party in-charge for all southern states, said while
confirming that Gowda had extended his support along with other left parties in
opposing Congressled UPA regime’s N-deal .
directed all southern state units not to have any kind of alliance or
understanding with any political party for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls as
well as for assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh,” he said making it clear
that BSP has never committed to joining or leading the third front.
Prof Mane said the BSP had notched significant gains in the just
concluded assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh
both in terms of winning the number of seats and votes polled.
Delhi and Rajasthan , BSP has proved its capability to damage the prospects of
not just Congress but even BJP, he said pointing out that the party was
determined to improve its performance and open in its account in the south.
He said the BSP did not want to waste its energies and resources in
the ensuing by-elections to eight assembly constituencies in the state as its
target was winning Lok Sabha polls. The party has built a considerable base in
all southern states in the last few years, as is evident from the pressures felt
by other political parties, he said claiming that BSP was confident of emerging
as a force to be reckoned with.
Pointing out that the party was
seriously engaged in making necessary preparations for the parliamentary polls,
he said Mayawati will be addressing Sarvajan Samaj Brotherhood Maharallies at
Mysore, Chennai and Kerala on December 21, 22 and 23 respectively. The date of
the proposed rally in Andhra Pradesh has been postponed, he added.
News4u-News Desk,Kottayam, Bahujan Samaj Party will contest all the
20 seats in Kerala on its own in the coming Lok Sabha elections,
party’s general secretary Suresh Mane said today.
The party will will not have any alliance with any political party
in the coming elections, Mane, co-ordinator of South India consisting
of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Pondicherry, told
BSP president Mayawati will be in South India from December 21 to 23
addressing meetings in Mysore, Chennai and Kottayam, Mane said.
Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) After making her presence felt beyond Uttar
Pradesh in north India, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is now
eyeing south Indian states.
The Uttar Pradesh chief minister will tour
Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala beginning Dec 21. During the three-day
tour, she will address public rallies in Mysore, Kottayam and Chennai,
K. Ramasubramanium, spokesman of BSP’s Tamil Nadu unit, said in a
During these public meetings, the BSP president will announce the
list of official candidates who will contest the upcoming general
elections in these states early next year.
If you wanted to bring down someone, you must first stand tall in
morality and character, as well as honesty, if you do not have these
then you have no chance to even survive such a force like Mayawati who
can be our next Indian Prime Minister. One of the recent event happened
in BSP party’s souther Indian state’s affair is the joining of an IAS
officer, Shivagami, a most respected and senior female IAS officer from
Chennai. This could be the beginning of changing face of Tamil Nadu
Politics, no matter what the pundits and Indian Political Thugs like
Ram Vilas Paswan and Thirumavalvan does, they are destined to be washed
out of this storm of Mayawati’s recent moves.
Here is some new news about Tamil Nadu’s BSP story:The Elephant’s March Into Dravidian Land
The BSP wants Brahmins and Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath together in Tamil Nadu
PC VINOJ KUMAR
P Sivakami, one of the senior most IAS officers in Tamil Nadu is formally inducted into the BSP
Mounting a direct assault on the ethos of the century-old Dravidian
Movement, an electoral experiment is being attempted in Tamil Nadu
under the auspices of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Emulating
the Uttar Pradesh model, the BSP is trying to unite the Dalits and the
Brahmins as a political force in the State. Supporters of this alliance
argue that Periyar’s anti–Brahmin movement benefited only the backward
classes and failed to uplift the Dalits. They argue, a strategic
alliance between the Aboriginal Inhabitants of Jambudvipa, that is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath and Brahmins can change the political
contours of the State. The Dalits, comprising the sub-castes of
Parayar, Pallar, and Arunthathiyar, constitute about 19 percent of the
State population. Brahmins, though accounting for a mere 3 percent,
hold tremendous money and media clout in the State, and are a key
factor in any election.
For the last one month, the BSP is on an overdrive. It has appointed
new leaders and poached cadres from other parties. The party’s state
unit has acquired a new look. The makeover began on November 11, when K
Selvaperunthagai, a Dalit MLA from Viduthalai Chiruthaigal (VC),
resigned from his membership in the State assembly and joined the BSP
as its state president. (As a fall-out of his defection, the BSP and
the VC led by firebrand Dalit leader Thirumavalavan are at loggerheads
with each other.) Before the excitement of Selva’s joining the BSP
could subside, the party sprang another surprise. It convinced senior
IAS officer and Aboriginal Inhabitant of Jambudvipa, that is, the Great Prabuddha Bharath activist, P Sivakami to quit government service
and join the party. Sivakami was rewarded with the post of state
general secretary. The Vanniyar leader Dheeran, a former PMK member,
was roped in as the party’s vice president on December 2. Currently on
a political high, the party is preparing to hold a rally in Chennai on
December 22, in which Mayawati is slated to take part.
International Federation for Freedom of Aboriginal Inhabitants and
And Economical Emancipation!
Testing the efficacy of social engineering!
Mighty Great Mind Training!
aspiration in life is to see entire people triumph over the suppressive
forces of ignorance, un-satisfactoriness, hatred, anger, jealousy,
delusion, superstition (false religious teaching) and tyranny.
Therefore, we have sworn to confront these influences wherever they
arise. Being spellbound for thousands of years is long enough! In our
age, the battles for freedom and supremacy are being waged on the
mental planes. In order to fulfill prophecy and emerge victorious, we
must be armed with an over standing of our origins, history and the
machinations of those who conspire against us. Any part that we can
play in such a revolution of consciousness is our willing service to a
resurgent Pure Land.
Life Purpose Report for
Numerology is a complimentary divination method that provides a good starting point for
astrology. It confirms and enhances the natal chart and gives a structure on which to
The Destiny number is the birth date, the given talent and
the lesson to learn.
8Th April 563 BC 8 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 3 = 26/8
826 is a very physical number. It is impulsive and learns self control, and it’s a number
that needs to prove inner strength and physical strength through experience.
Astrologicaly number 8
relates to the planet Saturn, which is considered to be the most malefic planet in the solar system. In
astrology, Saturn deals with the dark side of human nature, teaching the native to overcome fear and tread
into the light. When Saturn is well placed in a chart, it brings wisdom, awareness of right and wrong,
sincerity, honesty, love of justice, non-attachment, long life, fame, authority, leadership and
Negatively, Saturn can show a person to be greedy, morbid and gloomy, who
continuously suffers from losses and psychosomatic problems caused by disturbance to their body
chemistry. Interestingly, Buddha’s natal chart shows Saturn to be the least powerful planet there, but with
Capricorn as ruler of the seventh house of “others”.
Buddha’s talent and destiny, and area of learning is all
about other people and his interaction with them. Eventually he comes to an understanding, as the
seventh house rules over diplomacy, it’s about treaties and alliances, wars and disputes and on a more
personal manner, compromise.
He was learning how to create a win-win situation for both parties.
is the planet of confinement; its teaching methods bring obstruction, delay, humiliation, enmity, lawsuits
and prison. People become lonely, pessimistic, and afraid; subject to premature aging and suicidal
tendencies if the natal chart concludes.
As Saturn is weak in power in the natal chart, with a horary value
of -3, it can be concluded that he was exposed to hypocrisy, gossip, cowardice, hurtful words and jealousy;
or in a less extreme way he enjoyed a lack of responsibility, and living a self-centered vain and wasteful
life. He possibly wore gaudy clothes too, before his enlightenment.
With a destiny 8, a person is likely to
experience delays and obstacles, perhaps even humiliation from an unknown source, which makes life
rather unpredictable. Those with a psychic number 8 also, create conditions for their own failure, by
losing faith in the virtuous life, and act destructively. His story reinforces this.
8’s attract unwanted
opposition and enmity without cause. There can also be financial losses and theft. 8’s have accidents, face
lawsuits and can prematurely age.
Saturn teaches wisdom through sad experiences and opposition, which
eventually leads 8’s to excel under such difficulties; in fact the more difficulties the better– they
Through great adversity, 8’s achieve fame and organizational abilities, hold high posts and become
wealthier in the latter part of life. If interested in politics, they reach the top. In spiritual and occult
sciences they will become leaders of their groups. You could say he became leader of his spiritual group
on a world wide scale.
Problems exist for 8’s, whether real or imaginary; they endure humiliations, and
like solitude as it gives a relief from the outside world, and as a result may suffer with loneliness.
8’s are susceptible to drug addiction and alcohol. Sex scandals can give 8’s a bad name.
Love is not
generally a successful area. They do not live married lives for long periods and may fear rejection or
separation or divorce, although this can be good for their spiritual lives.
8’s philosophical ideas can take
them away from pleasure seeking and then they are found directing their energies to fight the suffering of
fellow men. Buddha left his wife.
Many 8’s are destined to make their mark on history as innovators,
scientific researchers, social reformers or in opposition groups. 8’s develop endurance, tend not to suffer from
stresses or strains and adjust to shocks quickly.
They have no time for social amusements. A destiny 8 does
not know how to play.
Women often inherit property and usually save money for their old age, preferring
to be alone due to their earlier experiences.
Life partners are difficult to find, but 8’s are dedicated to their
families; they have patience, spiritual inclinations and faith. Destiny 8 men do not usually respect their
8’s unusually have to go through a lawsuit at least once in their life. Pythagoras called the 8,
“light and darkness”, the money maker and the spiritually minded who offer light to the dark.
of spirit and matter gives the destiny 8 inspiration, even genius. 44 (4 + 4 = is the number of mastermind, prosper,
unlimited. This is my destiny number too and I’d like to add more, which Buddha may have concluded also,
but I have not seen written.
In listening to words from another, consideration is not given to what is being
said, but to where our own personal response will lead the interaction. This eventually gives a highly
discriminating set of values as to the worth of the exchange, and an insight to the other person’s pain.
Unconsciously people throw their own pains at others, as if to get rid of them. Such exchanges are really
about the other person’s fears and insecurities.
But in real negotiation there is compromise. So Buddha
learns compromise, by walking the middle way and the insight into other’s pains. He learns about the
effects of Saturn.
Notes on Name number [the tool used in life]
Buddha = 40/4
Number 4 relates to
Uranus and the South node. To the average person this is a sign of being impulsive, rebellious and
secretive; negatively, short tempered.
Uranus rules the 8th and 9th houses and is placed in the twelfth
house. With the ruler of the 8th in the 12th, Buddha seeks enlightenment by spending a long time in seclusion.
He is abused, rejected, and experiencing sore foot problems. He seeks spiritual enlightenment, and travels.
He is drawn to charitable and humanitarian efforts. He experiences a strained relationship with his
Prince Siddhartha = 157/13/4
The names Buddha and Prince Siddhartha both total the name number
4, which is considered an unlucky number as it makes a person alone, without a circle of trustworthy
friends. It’s not a number that is successful in business either.
Along with the 8 destiny number it makes for
a hard life. He would have endured secret enemies, although he was a peace-loving person. Both the 4 and
8 together are lawbreakers, unconventional and rebellious, but both numbers are also helpers of the poor
and suffering. It suggests that he may have broken the law at some time, particularly as destiny 8 suggests
The number 4 is considered to eventually take on the responsibility of others who depend on them
for their support. There is likely to be problems with relatives and limitations in life.
Notes on the Psychic number, the day of birth
People born on the 8th of a month are usually considered
materialistic and capable in business matters. They are ambitious and successful as organisers,
administrators or as an executive.
8 is the number of confidence and determination. The people who
have it as their psychic number often remain as a bit of a mystery to even their closest friends.
hardworking and accept challenges readily, and turn lemons into lemonade. 8’s are introverted, patient,
reflective, calm, serious, deep, reserved and outwardly well balanced. 8’s are sincere in group situations
like communities or families, or social organizations and can devote their lives to them.
8’s go it alone;
they do everything themselves and gain no help from others; even those employed to help them, fall away
and leave them to get on with it.
They have a strong presence and a distinctive personality. Their strong
willpower and serious nature give them strength to handle all kinds of projects successfully.
It’s usual for
8’s to meet obstacles, delays, failures, and challenges, and it’s only their persistence which lead them to
complete their tasks; and this is how they make their names in history.
They have a great sense of faith in
life and are born to serve a cause usually. Their life is one big struggle, which leaves them able to cope
with huge upheavals and cataclysmic destruction.
8’s are greatly motivated to serve and sacrifice their lives
for the benefit of the poor and downtrodden.
8’s are solitary in nature and do not appreciate humour, and
they do not tolerate jokes. They are asocial, with few real friends. Inside they are gentle and tender, very
caring and devoted; gentle people who face all kinds of losses and hardships and they do their best to
protect the interests of their friends, but to the outside world they present a stiff exterior.
When a psychic 8
becomes angry, they disturb the whole of the environment, leaving others quaking in their boots. 8’s can
keep enmity in there hearts their whole life. They may accept defeat with a smile, and then change their
8’s aspire to great success and full honour. They worship work and aim at doing big things.
hate hypocrisy and deceit and they have a high standard of morals themselves, making them honest,
practical and clever. Their assessment of others is usually correct.
8’s are capable of going against the law
and social norms, if it serves their purpose. Some 8’s will do anything to make money, then give every
penny away to others without expecting anything in return.
8’s cannot spend money on themselves, and
often this will include those in the family circle–they give it away.
After age 35 and a few financial crises,
8’s can hold money in their bank.
Religion doesn’t interest a psychic eight, but they are able to gain the
deepest states of meditation. [As Buddha did]
Using the natal chart rectified by John Milton
Taber, to 11.20 AM.
Buddha’s life path was ruled by Cancer with the Moon and Neptune as rulers. Cancer
rules the first house, the Ascendant, indicating this life was for his personal development, the emergence
of the soul, the expression of the soul purpose and activities of the soul.
The Moon is in the second house
of Values, spiritual values, spiritual resources, and finally giving expression to his spiritual values; and
with Neptune in the twelfth house of sacrifice and selfless service to humanity. These were the tools for
bringing it about.
Prince Siddhartha’s life path was a desire to establish some Universal truth, a vision
which initially was only for himself to believe in.
By purging the following of old traditions, he was to set
out on a search for a new expression of truth. All that he had experienced before this moment in life had
been incinerated, at least in his mind, if not in actual material terms.
He walked away from all his cultural
customs. In a fit of passion and heat of the moment, he was to set out on this quest, in a highly emotional
aroused state of temperament, in a brutal search for fundamental principles, which eventually he finds
All external ideas were considered false at that moment in time. He desired to evolve a new
view of the world, and out of his own intensity of feeling and despite every attempt at self- restraint, he set
This emotional passion had created a sterile mental world in which he felt he could no longer live, but
accepted it as part of his own creation, and with this vision of a new reality in his mind, he severed his
emotional bonds at the time, withdrawing from family, employment, and any conventional institution.
departed on his own. He has to be true to himself at this stage of development. This life path in fact tells the
reasoning behind the well known story of Prince Siddhartha’s departure from the palace into the outside
As the 8 destiny number shows, he was subject to outside humiliation,
to leaving his wife, to non-attachment and eventual deep states of
meditation and realization.
Regarding Prince Siddhartha’s
identity–Sun at 11 degrees 18 Aries, ruler of 2nd and 3rd houses, therefore covering the areas of ideas and
basic concepts of personal value systems.
Prince Siddhartha’s identity was given expression through his
ideal concept of spiritual values in communicating. Prince Siddhartha was born on the day of conscience,
where he was bound to manifest strong feelings for his fellow human beings. This day is associated with
humanitarian and altruistic tendencies.
The welfare of others is of the highest importance to them, even
greater than their own. He would have been somewhat shy and in his own private world, but subject to
public groups in an intimate way.
He would have been cool under pressure and in crises, and calm and
supportive during difficult periods. He was born to espouse the cause of the disadvantaged. He would not
have considered himself a social reformer, just one that believes in everyone being given an equal
He could be very critical and outspoken with those who exert power over others. It would have been
hard for others to touch him emotionally.
He would have appeared to be suffering in private over a hurt
that nobody would understand. [his life path desire for truth] He would not have cared if others
understood him or not.
It would have been exceedingly difficult for him to accept anything from anyone,
particularly psychological help.
He wanted to promote his values to the highest possible level. His strengths
were in his high ethics, his great ability to give and in feeling socially responsible to what he found. He
was also self-sacrificing, extreme in his thoughts, and emotionally closed to others.
the Moon and Prince Siddhartha’s emotions and instincts–the Moon at 22 degrees 30 Leo in his second
house. The Moon ruled his Ascendant, therefore it shows his self absorption, and personal projection on
He would emotionally stand aloof from life, appearing detached and cool, disinterested in mundane
affairs and preoccupied with his own self-involved thoughts, taken with the interest he had in life.
making money and material possessions, he felt the need to lead or direct those around him. He was an
intense personality focused on his goals. He liked to be left alone in search of his own goals and projects
most of the time.
He demanded personal autonomy, and had a live and let live attitude.
He had a knack for
discovering how human emotions worked. He was able to focus his mental powers in the area that
involved him so. His concern was with spiritual values.
He would rarely back down from a
confrontation. His emotional strength was his intensity, his poised manner and technical ideas.
he appeared self-involved, emotionally detached and emotionally blocked towards others.
Siddhartha’s mentality–Mercury 29 degrees 22 Aries in the 10th house. Showing him to be an independent thinker
with flashes of intuition, and his career implies he uses his thoughts and meditation.
Mercury rules the
12th and the 4th houses, showing that his mind was withdrawn to his inner worlds in meditation, seeking
right at the foundation what reflects the stability of human relations regarding communications.
Siddhartha’s mentality and attitude to communication was that of self-sufficiency. He was happiest,
undisturbed and tucked away in a safe place where he could give his all to his private endeavours in
He could manifest a strong presence in human affairs without being physically present; he had
great projective powers of thoughts, and never felt lonely.
He felt he knew best in the areas that concerned
him, building on established knowledge formed previously. He just had a great desire to be alone and a
need for privacy.
In a nutshell, he was mentally self-sufficient, dedicated to his mental thoughts or
meditation and completely centered; to others he appeared withdrawn, over-serious and possibly
Regarding Prince Siddhartha’s values–Venus 25 degrees 23 Taurus in the 11th house, ruling the
intercepted 4th and 11th houses. He took on the peace keeper role in society, with his family and friends at
He had a dynamic physical presence; when he walked into the room everyone knew it. His ideas
were as much standpoints of attitudes. He was not interested in idle talk, he liked action.
He was quite
blunt, but retained a sophisticated attraction to others. When he left his home it would have been like a
great gaping hole left in the very fabric of his families’ life. He therefore even had a powerful presence
even in his absence.
Although not seeking confrontation, he would not back down from a
confrontation. His ideas had to work. He put his “career” above his family and friends. He was vigorous,
steadfast and dynamic in his passions, and also unaccepting in love, unforgiving and
Regarding Prince Siddhartha’s drives–Mars 16 degrees 54 Pisces, in the 9th house ruling the 10th
house. This shows Siddhartha’s abandonment of the material for the spiritual growth, and causing concern
to his father.
He was oriented towards healing of the spirit, and success in religion. Mars ruled Prince
Siddhartha’s intercepted tenth house, where his pioneering ideas and ambitions were to find an expression
He saw himself purely through understanding his relationship with others. It has all to do with
relativity, and shows that he was open to many approaches and points of view. His changing thoughts
would be a specialty.
He was after obtaining a special set of principles for a lifetime, where he would be
open to modifying them if he saw fit. He would consider many different actions simultaneously,
emotionally, physically and spiritually. He was concerned with the here and now of the personal world and
the universal world, and their unchanging eternal principles.
He may have felt like he struggled a whole
lifetime with this aspect, just to define where he stood. He recognised even the simplest fact could simply
be down to how you look at it. He tried to reconcile varying points of view from different approaches.
breakthrough came when he could appreciate the merits of everything and there was no need for
comparison. He recognised the sameness and the difference in all living things.
Regarding wisdom, vision,
convictions and space–Jupiter 15 degrees 37 Aries, ruler of the 6th house in the 10th. He struggled to find a
purpose to life. He wanted to be free from impurities and achieve a high standard of expression.
also rules his MC, Pisces, it can also be said that he would become famous for his life’s work, that he was
highly respected and was likely to eventually lead a large organization.
He always had his antennae out
sensing what was going on, although he never related socially with individuals, but tried to understand
and redefine their conduct in society. He became an expert in social etiquette. His success was in becoming
socially aware, articulate in speech and diplomatic in response.
Regarding challenge and
concentration–Saturn 25 degrees 24 Aries ruler of the 7th house in the 10th house. It shows that Siddhartha’s wife
had a great deal to do with his impetus to understand relationship. This is very interesting, because Saturn
rules the seventh house of diplomacy and relates to the Buddha’s destiny in numerology.
Usually a person’s
social skills determine just how successful they are in solving relationship problems or disputes. The
destiny number 8 shows he may have disrespected his wife, but also it shows that he was subject to many
disputes and tried to see past them.
He wanted to solve the issues on how to relate with another. Prince
Siddhartha would not rest until he had established himself as part of a powerful organisation. It would be
usual with this aspect for a person to be a kind of “patron” recommending them to others and opening
The idea of this position would be to establish an organization [or clientele if it were a business].
He would want to express himself as an individual within that professional sphere. He would never be
outspoken or lose the support of the group that he involved himself with.
So Saturn in Prince
Siddhartha’s natal chart indicates that he would eventually be set up as “head” of an organisation, which
we now know has lead to a religious organisation called “Buddhism”. It can also be said that Buddhism
has its roots in relating to each other. Its aims are in purifying the self so that basic truths reveal
Regarding originality and revolutionary ideas–Uranus 7 degrees 02 Cancer, rules the 8th and 9th
houses and is positioned in the 12th. Buddha was very spiritual; he sought out transcendental wisdom for
enlightenment, spending long times in seclusion.
This he did while he traveled; traveling and seclusion
were contributing factors in his spiritual enlightenment. His enlightenment was also about showing his
inner vision to others so as they may look at them and scrutinize them too. It’s about sharing his
revelations, his inner visions and feelings.
He had the ability to understand the twists and turns of the
human mind. Prince Siddhartha simplified his revelations for others to grasp too. In fact others may have
seen him as a dreamer and somewhat unrealistic, but he would have come into his own being the driving
force in an organization.
He had highly demanding subconscious drives. The strengths of this position are
the ability to be creative, truthful and imaginative. His revelations were both healing and educational for
Regarding transcendence, spirituality and suffering–Neptune 10 degrees 27 Gemini, ruler of the 10th house
in the 12th house. His career led him to liberating unconscious aspects of the mind, revealed to him during
meditation. His work was both educational and spiritual and voluntary. He was totally focused on
This is about being passive in some areas of life and strongly determined in others; his
passivity in the area of emotion, but strongly determined and forceful in his meditations and search for
A strong duality is at work within the same structure. In one way he is outspoken, strong minded
and logical in his work; then in comparison he may have been emotionally immature, inconsistent and
not integrated into society. He had no interest in developing areas which did not further his
Regarding transformation and personal power–Pluto 23 degrees 21
Taurus, ruler of the 5th in the 11th. The 5th is about self-expression
and identity, the 11th social affinities. This is about his powerful
self-expression and transformation through spiritual practices, leading
to social graces and success with his family.
Pluto gave Siddhartha the energy to keep going in his epic feat, constantly recreating his mind’s
models to reconstruct, again and again. It was an obsessive-compulsive action to which he sought the
answer. He just wouldn’t let go of his project.
The strength of this position is its persistence, its huge
energy to continue, which results in a productive result. Others looking on may label this as compulsive,
obsessive behaviour of an unrealistic nature.
Buddha’s destiny, group involvement and future
potential–Node 23 degrees 54 Pisces. The node aligned with the day of the vernal equinox, the time of equal day
and night–the influence often makes a person misunderstood by others, with an inability to fit into
ordinary social interaction.
This position brings equal quantities of dreaming and practicality. It bestows a
genius for setting up organizations and structures that usually last.
People with this aspect do not find it
necessary to justify themselves to others. If others don’t appreciate what they have to give, then it is just
too bad. There is a tendency to be non-verbal, expecting others to sense their thoughts and feelings without
This is a leadership aspect, and strangely, wishes are expressed with very few
words. Siddhartha would have courageously stuck to his beliefs, and his anger like a volcano erupting over
This position is known to have a spiritual association with it, in conventional religion, devotion
and service, esoteric and mystical pursuits. It is also associated with a high state of consciousness.
overall impression is of a person who can be highly inspiring to others and have an aura of extreme
purity. This nodal position really does sum up Buddha’s nature. He was courageous, self-expressive and
direct, while also being misunderstood and antisocial.
I find Buddha’s chart so fascinating, even today, 1400
years on, I could spend hours upon hours working on it, but as can be seen from his natal chart, although
he was a privileged man by birth, he was born with a very anti-social attitude and a great desire to nurture
humanity; he was a humanitarian at heart.
His life path was hard; he received verbal abuse and
humiliation while taking that spiritual journey inwards until he found his solution. Perhaps little is made
of the humiliation in Prince Siddhartha’s story; today he would have suffered lawsuits and more, but
eventually he understood what caused the suffering of men and why they treated each other so.
Buddha’s teachings had more to say on receiving an upset, or action from others. His teachings [9th] or healing
[8th] represented by Uranus in the 12th house has aspects of seeking solution [Uranus
semi-square Moon] to emotional tensions, [Uranus square Sun] contradiction and impatience to upset, [Uranus
semi-square Pluto] impatience, violence and destruction, [Uranus conjunct Ascendant] unrest, haste, sudden
changes to the environment.
He would have realized that his only control of a situation was by his
response. His actions or lack of actions precipitated the other person’s response. He would have seen that a
person’s reaction came about from their own issues; people would respond differently to innocent remarks,
depending on their state of mind and the pain they were suffering inside.
Emotional upsets and inner pain and suffering led to outer violence and
antisocial behaviour; that anyone can push another’s button at anytime
without realizing it. Everyone has inner pain and suffering, due to
simply living on Earth; it is the human condition.
Buddha was undoubtedly the first relationship psychologist, promoting compassion and
sympathetic attitude to others. He would also have taught compromise, and understood that relating
to another is about making the other feel good about themselves; that relating is not just about stating our
needs, but satisfying other’s needs, on a socially equal standing.
Popularity is about making others feel good, not showing how good we
are to others. We all want to be around others who make us feel good.
c) E-Economic Emancipation in Practice
Buddhism in Modern Life
as it stands has several parts to it: What is modern life? What is Buddhism?
And what role has Buddhism to play in modem life? Modem life in itself is very
difficult to define. One might say that modem life is characterized by the fact
that the world is getting smaller; that people are having greater access to
each other; that communication barriers are fast disappearing; that it is
possible for one to know what happens everywhere in the world within a short
time, and thereby pen-nits participation in the life of a larger cross-section
of the world than one could have ever imagined. That would be one aspect of
modern life. Related to that would be modern life understood in terms of
science and technology. Man in his attempt to conquer nature, disease, natural
barriers, has performed certain feats of a technological complexity which are
quite mind boggling. That is another aspect of modem life. A third, perhaps a
more disturbing aspect of modern life, is that with the world getting closer,
communication barriers breaking away, and scientific and technological advance
becoming so rapid, we have come face to face with several problems in terms of
economic and political rivalry, pollution, population explosion, scarcity of
resources and the indiscriminate use of resources that might not be replaced.
With these come a host of other issues which can be plainly labelled as
Modem Civilization Survive?
this one may add also a moral dimension - an ethical question - and ask:
“To what extent, in the process of modernization and conquering nature,
have we deviated from the ability to conquer ourselves? Has the struggle for
survival meant that the modem man has become a slave to selfishness, bound by
his own desires and his whims? Have we lost all the things of very special
value to human beings such as inter-personal relations, the anxiety to look
after the well-being of others, the spirit of being of selfless service to
others? Have we lost these?”
when one thinks of modern life one can think in terms of a great degree of
optimism and, at the same time, an equal degree of pessimism. One can be so
pleased that we live today at a time when there seems to be nothing that man
cannot conquer. Maybe, there are still some diseases that challenge him. Maybe,
there are still certain places in the universe where man would like to be, and
still he has not developed his technology to be there. But it appears as if all
these are within reach of man. With this optimism about man’s capacity, comes
the pessimistic aspect that we have, in the process, lost something. Let us
keep both of these in mind.
let us look at what Buddhism is. What do we understand by Buddhism? It can mean
many things to many people. To someone it can be only life of the Buddha; the
example that the Buddha and his immediate disciples set -that glorious feat of
a man, who stood before men as a man and declared a path of deliverance. This
is one kind of Buddhism. To another, Buddhism would mean the massive doctrine
as recorded in the Buddhist literature, which indeed is voluminous and contains
several thousand pages recording the words of the Buddha. And in it is
described a very lofty, abstruse, complex and learned philosophy of life. Then
based on whatever the Buddha taught, whatever the practices current at the time
of the Buddha, there has grown a very rich culture, a culture which has
extended to all ‘ parts of Asia for over 2500 years, and to which people from
various walks of life with various backgrounds from all these countries have
made a lasting contribution. A large number of sects or schools or
philosophical systems have evolved and all of them, quite rightly, go under the
name of Buddhism. Then comes another definition of Buddhism and that is the
kind of ritual that has grown around the doctrine of the Buddha as a result of
his teachings and the way of life preached by him, becoming a religion. Whether
the Buddha intended it or not, his teachings became a religion, a religion to
which people were prepared to hold allegiance and which has its own ritual,
organization, and ways or criteria for deciding what is properly done or what
is improperly done. Now that is another kind of Buddhism. If one were to take
each of these aspects separately, and try to examine the impact of what he
would call Buddhism on modern life, it would certainly be an enormous task.
Buddhism is all these. It is the Buddha and his life, the doctrine, the culture
that evolves around it, and the ritual that is connected with it. Once we take
this to be one large body of human experiences, distilled in the finest form
and presented to us in such a manner that each one of us could select that part
which appeals to us, we begin to see the remarkable uniqueness of Buddhism.
During the days of the Buddha himself he used to emphasize this point. One need
not be a scholar and learn everything. Buddhism is not like studying a subject
like mathematics where you have to learn all your theorems and different
methods of working out the various types of problems. If you know the
fundamentals, the basis, a scholarly detailed study is not an important
precursor to practice. So out of this vast Buddhist culture, religion, or
literature, or the vast body of experiences that come to us as Buddhism, each
one of us would find that which is relevant to our life, to our type of
often wondered how Buddhism came to be called ‘Akalika” which means
“timeless” - that it exists for all time. The more I see the changes
that have taken place in Buddhist culture or religion, the more I see how it
keeps on adjusting to the needs of different eras, populations, individuals,
the more I see that it has been possible for the Buddha to evolve a message
that would remain eternally fresh. So if Buddhism has an application today and
if Buddhism has a place in modem fife, it is because of that timeless
relevance, emanating from a set of eternal values. To talk of a characteristic
of being eternal is a very paradoxical way of presenting or describing a
religion which has the principle doctrine of impermanence at the bottom of it.
the characteristic of timelessness comes from the fact that it had understood
that everything continues, but continues in a flux, in a process of continuing
change and evolution. Thus Buddhism was able to adjust to different times and
civilizations. We can therefore without any hesitation approach any aspect of
Buddhism as something relevant and applicable to us today.
are these elements that make Buddhism timeless? Let me take just a few of them.
First of these would be the recognition of the responsibility of the
individual. the Buddha is one of the most remarkable religious teachers who
emancipated man from all bonds - bonds of supernatural ties, a Godhead, a
creation, sin Of- any other characteristic inherited from anyone else (rather
than what you yourself have done). So when the Buddha says that each person is
his own master, he promulgates a principle whose applicability becomes stronger
as man begins to get more and more confidence in the control of himself and the
environment. So if, today, with scientific and technological development, man
feels that he has come to a point where his own intellect makes him superior to
anybody else or allows him able to solve any problem that he has, whether
physical or ethical or political or whatever, would not the principle that man
is the master of himself - that he has to be responsible to himself because
whatever he does he inherits - become one of the most important ways of looking
this fundamental approach to making man free from all bondages, spiritual and
otherwise, is one of those very important doctrines of Buddhism that have contributed
to its timelessness. As we advance, as greater progress is made by man, there
will be the greater need for him to assert that he is the master of himself.
The more he asserts himself to be the master of himself, the more is he
reiterating the Buddha’s own statement: ‘Atta hi attano natho.”
comes another equally important doctrine. The doctrine of open-mindedness - the
liberty of thinking. Buddhism not only frees us from a Godhead or super natural
tie but also liberates mankind from dogma. Let us visualize the time when the
Buddha was preaching. It was a time when various religious teachings were in a
of the 6th century B. C. was one of the most interesting places to be.
Religious teachers propounding various types of doctrines were vying with each
other to have more and more converts. Besides these new teachings, there were
religious systems that were deep rooted. In all these religious systems, the
theory was: “We have found a way.” This is the correct path.”
“You come, you will be saved.” Into their midst comes the Buddha who
says: “Do not believe what your book says. Do not believe what your
teachers would say. Do not believe what your tradition says. Do not take
anything merely because it comes to you with the authority of somebody else.
Make it a personal experience. Think for yourself. Be convinced. And once you
are convinced act accordingly.” Now this was a very refreshing manner in
which man was given one of the greatest freedoms that he is fighting for, the
freedom to think for himself. If under feudalism, before the present advances
were made, we were not able to assert so much of our light to think for
ourselves, as these advances take place we will be asserting that right more
and more. We will be wanting to feel that we are convinced, after our own
investigations, after we have been able to go through the principles, the
facts, the pros and cons. This we consider an inviolable right This is the
second doctrine, whose applicability to modern times, and future times, would
comes the most important question - apart from supporting what man will want to
assert for himself today and in the future, has Buddhism a corrective role to
play? With this question comes the most important aspect to which all of us
should pay a fair amount of attention today. While man is making all these
advances, we also find that the pressure of modern life - the rivalry for
survival, the rivalry for doing better than the other, the desire to live a
life of competition economically, politically, culturally, or in whatever form
- has brought tensions. In order to relieve these tensions man has evolved more
and more recreations and relaxations. They apparently result in slight
relaxation of the tensions but seem to take people more and more into a vicious
circle. Because of the tensions one engages oneself in a variety of escapist
activities, and because these escapist activities take too much time, one has
to catch up with the process of survival, only to oneself in a worse period of
tremendous tension. The greater the economic progress, the greater the
political enlightenment, the more the people need sedatives and tranquilizers
to keep themselves doing their normal duties. You have to take one pill to keep
awake, one pill to sleep, one pill to relax and so on. This kind of
modernization that has come in, wherein man’s tensions have mounted to a point
where he finds that all that he has gained is of no use, is a very serious
situation. In addition to these tensions comes another facet wherein, with the
greater amount of leisure that man gets today as a result of freedom from work
drudgery, he has another problem to cope with - that is, boredom. So with
tension on one side, boredom on the other, comes a variety of other
complications which make many people really unhappy. Today one may ask the
question: Are we in a situation where people are really happy or are we in a
situation where people at last have realized that in spite of all that they
could gain, they have lost something in the form of some fundamental aspects of
life? Who is to be blamed? Are we to blame science? Are we to blame technology?
Are we to blame the political systems? Are we to blame the economic system that
we have inherited or we have developed? Or are we to blame ourselves?
are your own Master
back to the Buddha’s own way of looking at the problem you will say, you hold
the reins of life in your hands. Because whatever has gone wrong you are
responsible, you are your own master. You have let it go - allowed it away out
of your hands. It is easy to blame a person, saying “You have let an
opportunity pass. It has slipped away from your hands!” But does that
help? The greatness of Buddhism lies in the fact that it does not stop after
placing the responsibility on you, it does not say “Now that is it. We
have now found the culprit.” It proceeds to the next stage of saying:
“Here are a few things that could be done.”
were to go around looking at the various types of religious, psychiatric,
psychological measures that have been evolved in order to save man or to cure
man from tension on one side and boredom on the other side, you would find that
there are many but not one as inexpensive and as practical as some of the very
simple directions that Buddhism offers. One would ask the question - does this
mean that once you become a Buddhist you would be freed from the tension and
boredom of modern life? To answer that question is very difficult because no
one becomes a Buddhist. There is no one who is to be labelled as a Buddhist.
Because Buddhism is not one of those philosophies or ways of life or religions
- I use the word religion because there is no other classification to which it
can be put squarely - wherein there is a need to have a label. During the days
of the Buddha, people went to him, listened to him and if they were pleased
with him they would say, I take refuge in you, I take refuge in your teachings,
I take refuge in the Sangha, the community, the disciples who are following
this way of life.” Even today that is all that is needed for anybody to
call himself a Buddhist. Having been convinced that what the Buddha has taught
has some relevance to one’s life problems, one feels that it is a way of life
that could be followed with profit, by taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma
and the Sangha. With this inner conviction he becomes a Buddhist with
absolutely no ceremony, no ritual of any kind, no registration, no other legal
requirements. It is what F.L. Woodword, one of the finest translators of the
words of Buddha, calls “a do-it-yourself religion.”
is very significant today is that there may be thousands of people who have
never gone into a Buddhist temple, never got into the ritualistic set-up which
has evolved in the Buddhist countries, but who in their own heart have seen the
validity of the message of the Buddha and who are leading a life according to
the tenets of Buddhism. In fact, we are finding that a vast majority of the
world’s population hold allegiance to the Buddha for one reason or another.
This is one of the most remarkable things that one would regard as almost a
way of life the Buddha preached was very simple. To the layman it consisted of
just five simple precepts: do not kill, do not steal, do not engage in sexual
pleasures through wrong means, do not lie, do not take intoxicants - a very
simple set of precepts indeed. But the Buddhist way of life, the way the Buddha
described does not end with this kind of precepts. Simplified in a manner that
anyone could understand, there are three things that each person is expected to
do, namely (using the Pali words because most of you are familiar with them) Dana,
Sila and Bhavana. Dana would mean liberality, generosity - the act
of giving. It is very important that Buddhism begins with Dana as the
first virtuous act which one should engage in, in order to put himself on the
correct path, because giving is an act of sacrifice. To be able to give
something is to prepare your mind fully to give up something that you have,
something you treasure, something to which you are attached. Thereby you
counter one of the biggest causes of all the problems which, again in Pali, is
called Lobha or desire or greed. It is very interesting to see how the
way of life is presented to us in a manner that in following it step by step we
get rid of some of the human weaknesses and characteristics that cause tension,
and the boredom that is bothering most of us today. Liberality is to counteract
desires, the greediness, the clinging nature.
is adherence to certain precepts, or ethical or moral conduct. Buddha was
fully aware of the fact that one could not set rules and regulations for
everybody in the same manner. So there are a few rules for the lay people.
There are a few more for those who want to enter into a committed religious
life, and still more for monks, who have committed themselves to adhere to a
very strict path of discipline and purification. So the Sila is a
graduated thing, so that each person picks up that which he is able to follow
for the present.
or moral conduct or the ethical teachings of the Buddha, we come back to
this original doctrine: they are not commandments, they are not prescribed from
above, they are not prescribed by the Buddha as commandments to obey. Each one
of the precepts, which we, as Buddhists, take, is a promise unto ourselves of
our own freewill. And the way they are worded is I take upon myself the
discipline of not killing”, I take upon myself the discipline of not
stealing” and so on, because I am the master of my own destiny and it is I
who should decide which kind of life I should lead. The Buddha as a guide had
shown certain fundamental weaknesses, or faults, that one should try to avoid.
The second cause of most of the problems we have is our animosity, or hatred to
others. In Pali we say Dosa. Sila is one of those antidotes for this
second cause of all our weaknesses. When we follow Sila we control, or
rather we completely eliminate the cause of hatred. The Buddha was one of those
who were very conscious of the many effects of hatred. He had seen people
ruining themselves as a result of hatred. That is what made it possible for him
to state very categorically that hatred never ceases by hatred, that the more
you hate, the worse it becomes. You hate me, I hate you: I hate you more, you
hate me more and the hatred keeps on increasing to a point where both you and I
burn ourselves in our mutual hatred, and to the Buddha the only way to solve it
is that one party must stop. Because without one party, or better still both
parties, trying to conquer hatred with friendship, hatred with non-hatred, this
sequence of hatred would never cease. One way of dealing with it is based on
the entire doctrine of the virtuous life of Buddhism. Because a virtuous life
is attacking the second cause of our weaknesses, namely hatred, we have in
Buddhism a most interesting, and again a timeless doctrine, of loving kindness.
Loving kindness, which is the cornerstone of Buddhism, (the foundation on which
the Buddhist doctrine is built) has not been taken by the Buddha as merely a
simple ethical principle. He had analysed the principle of loving kindness into
comes Karuna - compassion. Compassion is more easily generated. You see
somebody in trouble, you see somebody who needs your help, your heart moves
towards that person and you rush to help him. That quality of rushing to
somebody’s help ~ feeling sorry for the other who is suffering, that is another
aspect of loving kindness.
comes a third aspect of it which is more difficult to practise, and that
requires tremendous love and pains, that is called Mudita that is, to
share in others’ happiness - to wipe out from your mind all traces of jealousy
and envy, so that you enjoy the well-being of the other person, your neighbour,
even your enemy.
of all comes the fourth aspect of loving kindness and that is total equanimity,
Upekkha. You have no friends, no enemies, no one higher, no one lower.
You have absolutely no distinctions between one person and another, and you are
totally merged in a kind of unity with all beings, all things, all situations.
So once you are able to live a life in which all these four characteristics
govern your actions, there is no place for hatred, there is no place for
rivalry, there is no place for competition. So this second principle of Sila
looks after this set of troubles that we would have.
of all comes the most significant, and the one to which you will be preparing
to proceed immediately after this, that is Bhavana - meditation. Bhavana
means the training of the mind. The word itself etymologically means
development - a further development of the mind. The Buddha believed, and he is
one of the earliest to state it in that manner, that everything emanates from
the man’s mind. The organization that I represent has as the preamble to its
Constitution “As wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men
that the defences of peace must be constructed.” And that reflects the
first line of the first verse of the Dhammapada. A pure mind, a trained
mind, a well-developed mind, a mind that can be controlled at will, a mind that
does not go on to subjects that are conducive to tension and boredom, but keeps
alert, keeps on developing itself, discovering itself and within itself the
secret of life, the problems of life and the reality of life, is man’s greatest
not surprised today that there is almost a craze, in the highly technologically
developed part of the world, for all types of meditation. It makes no
difference who preaches what, or what philosophy or technique is adopted. But
the fact remains that the people are beginning to realize that a moment of
quiet contemplation, a moment of deep penetrative thinking, a moment of
well-directed properly controlled functioning of the mind, is an essential
thing for the well-being of
thousand five hundred years ago the Buddha taught exactly the same way. And if
there is nothing else that the man of today needs, he needs peace of mind. He
wants to get away from his tensions and battle against boredom. And I see the
answer in Buddhism, particularly in the three-fold path of Dana, Sila,
at the Buddha’s own principle as the basis or beginning of his religious life.
We hear of so many people who go from rags to riches but here was the case of a
man who went from riches to rags, in search of, we may say, peace of mind -
that greatest of blessings. As a result, he saw for himself, then taught to
others, that the great handicap, the source of all trouble, is attachment.
somebody were to come today and say: I can take you straight to Nibbana this
very minute,” I think most of us will have lots of excuses to give.
Someone will say, can’t I wait till my daughter gets married?” Another
might say, can’t I wait till this World Fellowship of Buddhists General
Conference is over?” can’t I wait till I have finished my assignment in
our own preferred times when it comes to the ultimate goal.
be our decision as to reaching this goal, there is a point at which we have no
escape. We cannot deny the fact that all modern developments have nothing to
offer but insecurity and competitiveness as well as tensions and boredom
associated with them. Buddhism offers a few very simple and very efficacious
methods to combat that. And with this I feel that Buddhism has a role to play
in our life and a role in which we, from the Buddhist countries, have an
important part to play. It is our responsibility to share our thinking, our
knowledge, and our experience, with as many as possible, so that ultimately we
all see that the message of the Buddha, which is meant for the good of mankind,
continues to reach mankind in every nook and corner of the world.
37.1 The Background of the First Council
37.2 The Council in the Cave
37.3 The Council “outside the cave”
37.4 Sthavira and Mahasanghika
e)E- Vinaya Pitaka in Practice
One of the most notable features of Venerable Ajahn Chah’s teaching
was the emphasis he gave to the Sangha, the monastic order, and its use
as a vehicle for Dhamma practice. This is not to deny his unique gift
for teaching lay people, which enabled him to communicate brilliantly
with people from all walks of life, be they simple farmers or
University professors. But the results he obtained with teaching and
creating solid Sangha communities are plainly visible in the many
monasteries which grew up around him, both within Thailand and, later,
in England, Australia, Europe and elsewhere. Ajahn Chah foresaw the
necessity of establishing the Sangha in the West if long-term results
were to be realized.
This book is a collection of talks he gave to the monastic
communities in Thailand. They are exhortations given to the communities
of bhikkhus, or Buddhist monks, at his own monastery, Wat Ba
Pong, and some of its branches. This fact should be born in mind by the
lay reader. These talks are not intended to, and indeed cannot, serve
as an introduction to Buddhism and meditation practice. They are
monastic teachings, addressed primarily to the lifestyle and problems
particular to that situation. A knowledge of the basics of Buddhism on
the part of the listener was assumed. Many of the talks will thus seem
strange and even daunting to the lay reader, with their emphasis on
conformity and renunciation.
For the lay reader, then, it is essential to bear in mind the
environment within which these talks were given — the rugged, austere,
poverty-stricken North-East corner of Thailand, birth place of most of
Thailand’s great meditation teachers and almost its entire forest
monastic tradition. The people of the North-East are honed by this
environment to a rugged simplicity and gentle patience which make them
ideal candidates for the forest monk’s lifestyle. Within this
environment, in small halls dimly lit by paraffin lamps, surrounded by
the assembly of monks, Ajahn Chah gave his teachings.
Exhortations by the master occurred typically at the end of the
fortnightly recitation of the Patimokkha, the monks’ code of
discipline. Their content would be decided by the current situation —
slackness in the practice, confusion about the rules, or just plain
“unenlightenment.” In a lifestyle characterized by simplicity and
contentment with little, complacency is an ongoing tendency, so that
talks for arousing diligent effort were a regular occurrence.
The talks themselves are spontaneous reflections and exhortations
rather than systematic teachings as most Westerners would know them.
The listener was required to give full attention in the present moment
and to reflect back on his own practice accordingly, rather than to
memorize the teachings by rote or analyze them in terms of logic. In
this way he could become aware of his own shortcomings and learn how to
best put into effect the skillful means offered by the teacher.
Although meant primarily for a monastic resident — be one a monk,
nun or novice — the interested lay reader will no doubt obtain many
insights into Buddhist practice from this book. At the very least there
are the numerous anecdotes of the Venerable Ajahn’s own practice which
abound throughout the book; these can be read simply as biographical
material or as instruction for mind training.
From the contents of this book, it will be seen that the training of
the mind is not, as many believe, simply a matter of sitting with the
eyes closed or perfecting a meditation technique, but is, as Ajahn Chah
would say, a great renunciation.
Fight greed, fight aversion, fight delusion… these are the enemy.
In the practice of Buddhism, the path of the Buddha, we fight with
Dhamma, using patient endurance. We fight by resisting our countless
Dhamma and the world are inter-related. Where there is Dhamma there
is the world, where there is the world there is Dhamma. Where there are
defilements there are those who conquer defilements, who do battle with
them. This is called fighting inwardly. To fight outwardly people take
hold of bombs and guns to throw and to shoot; they conquer and are
conquered. Conquering others is the way of the world. In the practice
of Dhamma we don’t have to fight others, but instead conquer our own
minds, patiently enduring and resisting all our moods.
When it comes to Dhamma practice we don’t harbor resentment and
enmity amongst ourselves, but instead let go of all forms of ill-will
in our own actions and thoughts, freeing ourselves from jealousy,
aversion and resentment. Hatred can only be overcome by not harboring
resentment and bearing grudges.
Hurtful actions and reprisals are different but closely related.
Actions once done are finished with, there’s no need to answer with
revenge and hostility. This is called “action” (kamma). “Reprisal” (vera)
means to continue that action further with thoughts of “you did it to
me so I’m going to get you back.” There’s no end to this. It brings
about the continual seeking of revenge, and so hatred is never
abandoned. As long as we behave like this the chain remains unbroken,
there’s no end to it. No matter where we go, the feuding continues.
The Supreme Teacher 1
taught the world, he had compassion for all worldly beings. But the
world nevertheless goes on like this. The wise should look into this
and select those things which are of true value. The Buddha had trained
in the various arts of warfare as a prince, but he saw that they
weren’t really useful, they are limited to the world with its fighting
Therefore, in training ourselves as those who have left the world,
we must learn to give up all forms of evil, giving up all those things
which are the cause for enmity. We conquer ourselves, we don’t try to
conquer others. We fight, but we fight only the defilements; if there
is greed, we fight that; if there is aversion, we fight that; if there
is delusion, we strive to give it up.
This is called “Dhamma fighting.” This warfare of the heart is
really difficult, in fact it’s the most difficult thing of all. We
become monks in order to contemplate this, to learn the art of fighting
greed, aversion and delusion. This is our prime responsibility.
This is the inner battle, fighting with defilements. But there are
very few people who fight like this. Most people fight with other
things, they rarely fight defilements. They rarely even see them.
The Buddha taught us to give up all forms of evil and cultivate
virtue. This is the right path. Teaching in this way is like the Buddha
picking us up and placing us at the beginning of the path. Having
reached the path, whether we walk along it or not is up to us. The
Buddha’s job is finished right there. He shows the way, that which is
right and that which is not right. This much is enough, the rest is up
Now, having reached the path we still don’t know anything, we still
haven’t seen anything, so we must learn. To learn we must be prepared
to endure some hardship, just like students in the world. It’s
difficult enough to obtain the knowledge and learning necessary for
them to pursue their careers. They have to endure. When they think
wrongly or feel averse or lazy they must force themselves before they
can graduate and get a job. The practice for a monk is similar. If we
determine to practice and contemplate, then we will surely see the way.
Ditthimana is a harmful thing. Ditthi means “view” or “opinion.” All forms of view are called ditthi:
seeing good as evil, seeing evil as good… any way whatsoever that we
see things. This is not the problem. The problem lies with the clinging
to those views, called mana; holding on to those views as if
they were the truth. This leads us to spin around from birth to death,
never reaching completion, just because of that clinging. So the Buddha
urged us to let go of views.
If many people live together, as we do here, they can still practice
comfortably if their views are in harmony. But even two or three monks
would have difficulty if their views were not good or harmonious. When
we humble ourselves and let go of our views, even if there are many of
us, we come together at the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. 2
It’s not true to say that there will be disharmony just because
there are many of us. Just look at a millipede. A millipede has many
legs, doesn’t it? Just looking at it you’d think it would have
difficulty walking, but actually it doesn’t. It has its own order and
rhythm. In our practice it’s the same. If we practice as the Noble Sangha of the Buddha practiced, then it’s easy. That is, supatipanno — those who practice well; ujupatipanno — those who practice straightly; ñanapatipanno — those who practice to transcend suffering, and samicipatipanno — those who practice properly. These four qualities, established within us, will make us true members of Sangha.
Even if we number in the hundreds or thousands, no matter how many we
are, we all travel the same path. We come from different backgrounds,
but we are the same. Even though our views may differ, if we practice
correctly there will be no friction. Just like all the rivers and
streams which flow to the sea… once they enter the sea they all have
the same taste and color. It’s the same with people. When they enter
the stream of Dhamma, it’s the one Dhamma. Even though they come from
different places, they harmonize, they merge.
But the thinking which causes all the disputes and conflict is ditthi-mana. Therefore the Buddha taught us to let go of views. Don’t allow mana to cling to those views beyond their relevance.
The Buddha taught the value of constant sati, 3
recollection. Whether we are standing, walking, sitting or reclining,
wherever we are, we should have this power of recollection. When we
have sati we see ourselves, we see our own minds. We see the “body within the body,” “the mind within the mind.” If we don’t have sati we don’t know anything, we aren’t aware of what is happening.
So sati is very important. With constant sati we will
listen to the Dhamma of the Buddha at all times. This is because “eye
seeing forms” is Dhamma; “ear hearing sounds” is Dhamma; “nose smelling
odors” is Dhamma; “tongue tasting flavors” is Dhamma; “body feeling
sensations” is Dhamma; when impressions arise in the mind, that is
Dhamma also. Therefore one who has constant sati always hears the Buddha’s teaching. The Dhamma is always there. Why? Because of sati, because we are aware.
Sati is recollection, sampajañña is self-awareness. This awareness is the actual Buddho, the Buddha. When there is sati-sampajañña,
understanding will follow. We know what is going on. When the eye sees
forms: is this proper or improper? When the ear hears sound: is this
the appropriate or inappropriate? Is it harmful? Is it wrong, is it
right? And so on like this with everything. If we understand we hear
the Dhamma all the time.
So let us all understand that right now we are learning in the midst
of Dhamma. Whether we go forward or step back, we meet the Dhamma —
it’s all Dhamma if we have sati? Even seeing the animals
running around in the forest we can reflect, seeing that all animals
are the same as us. They run away from suffering and chase after
happiness, just as people do. Whatever they don’t like they avoid; they
are afraid of dying, just like people. If we reflect on this, we see
that all beings in the world, people as well, are the same in their
various instincts. Thinking like this is called “bhavana,” 4
seeing according to the truth, that all beings are companions in birth,
old age, sickness and death. Animals are the same as human beings and
human beings are the same as animals. If we really see things the way
they are our mind will give up attachment to them.
Therefore it is said we must have sati. If we have sati we will see the state of our own mind. Whatever we are thinking or feeling we must know it. This knowing is called Buddho,
the Buddha, the one who knows… who knows thoroughly, who knows
clearly and completely. When the mind knows completely we find the
So the straight way to practice is to have mindfulness, sati. If you are without sati for five minutes you are crazy for five minutes, heedless for five minutes. whenever you are lacking in sati you are crazy. Sati is essential. To have sati
is to know yourself, to know the condition of your mind and your life.
This is to have understanding and discernment, to listen to the Dhamma
at all times. After leaving the teacher’s discourse, you still hear the
Dhamma, because the Dhamma is everywhere.
So therefore, all of you, be sure to practice every day. Whether
lazy or diligent, practice just the same. Practice of the Dhamma is not
done by following your moods. If you practice following your moods then
it’s not Dhamma. Don’t discriminate between day and night, whether the
mind is peaceful or not… just practice.
It’s like a child who is learning to write. At first he doesn’t
write nicely — big, long loops and squiggles — he writes like a child.
After a while the writing improves through practice. Practicing the
Dhamma is like this. At first you are awkward… sometimes calm,
sometimes not, you don’t really know what’s what. Some people get
discouraged. Don’t slacken off! You must persevere with the practice.
Live with effort, just like the schoolboy: as he gets older he writes
better and better. From writing badly he grows to write beautifully,
all because of the practice from childhood.
Our practice is like this. Try to have recollection at all times:
standing, walking, sitting or reclining. When we perform our various
duties smoothly and well, we feel peace of mind. When there is peace of
mind in our work it’s easy to have peaceful meditation, they go hand in
hand. So make an effort. You should all make an effort to follow the
practice. This is training.
This practice of ours is not easy. We may know some things but there
is still much that we don’t know. For example, when we hear teachings
such as “know the body, then know the mind within the body”; or “know
the mind, then know the mind within the mind.” If we haven’t yet
practiced these things, then we hear them we may feel baffled. The Vinaya 5 is like this. In the past I used to be a teacher, 6 but I was only a “small teacher,” not a big one. Why do I say a “small teacher”? Because I didn’t practice. I taught the Vinaya
but I didn’t practice it. This I call a small teacher, an inferior
teacher. I say an “inferior teacher” because when it came to the
practice I was deficient. For the most part my practice was a long way
off the theory, just as if I hadn’t learned the Vinaya at all.
However, I would like to state that in practical terms it’s impossible to know the Vinaya
completely, because some things, whether we know them or not, are still
offenses. This is tricky. And yet it is stressed that if we do not yet
understand any particular training rule or teaching, we must study that
rule with enthusiasm and respect. If we don’t know, then we should make
an effort to learn. If we don’t make an effort, that is in itself an
For example, if you doubt… suppose there is a woman and, not knowing whether she is a woman or a man, you touch her. 7
You’re not sure, but still go ahead and touch… that’s still wrong. I
used to wonder why that should be wrong, but when I considered the
practice, I realized that a meditator must have sati, he must
be circumspect. Whether talking, touching or holding things, he must
first thoroughly consider. The error in this case is that there is no sati, or insufficient sati, or a lack of concern at that time.
Take another example: it’s only eleven o’clock in the morning but at
the time the sky is cloudy, we can’t see the sun, and we have no clock.
Now suppose we estimate that it’s probably afternoon… we really feel
that it’s afternoon… and yet we proceed to eat something. We start
eating and then the clouds part and we see from the position of the sun
that it’s only just past eleven. This is still an offense. 8 I used to wonder, “Eh? It’s not yet past mid-day, why is this an offense?”
An offense is incurred here because of negligence, carelessness, we
don’t thoroughly consider. There is a lack of restraint. If there is
doubt and we act on the doubt, there is a dukkata 9
offense just for acting in the face of the doubt. We think that it is
afternoon when in fact it isn’t. The act of eating is not wrong in
itself, but there is an offense here because we are careless and
negligent. If it really is afternoon but we think it isn’t, then it’s
the heavier pacittiya offense. If we act with doubt, whether
the action is wrong or not, we still incur an offense. If the action is
not wrong in itself it is the lesser offense; if it is wrong then the
heavier offense is incurred. Therefore the Vinaya can get quite bewildering.
At one time I went to see Venerable Ajahn Mun. 10 At that time I had just begun to practice. I had read the Pubbasikkha 11 and could understand that fairly well. Then I went on to read the Visuddhimagga, where the author writes of the Silanidesa (Book of Precepts), Samadhinidesa (Book of Mind-Training) and Paññanidesa
(Book of Understanding)… I felt my head was going to burst! After
reading that, I felt that it was beyond the ability of a human being to
practice. But then I reflected that the Buddha would not teach
something that is impossible to practice. He wouldn’t teach it and he
wouldn’t declare it, because those things would be useful neither to
himself nor to others. The Silanidesa is extremely meticulous, the Samadhinidesa more so, and the Paññanidesa even more so! I sat and thought, “Well, I can’t go any further. There’s no way ahead.” It was as if I’d reached a dead-end.
At this stage I was struggling with my practice… I was stuck. It
so happened that I had a chance to go and see Venerable Ajahn Mun, so I
asked him: “Venerable Ajahn, what am I to do? I’ve just begun to
practice but I still don’t know the right way. I have so many doubts I
can’t find any foundation at all in the practice.”
He asked, “What’s the problem?”
“In the course of my practice I picked up the Visuddhimagga and read it, but it seems impossible to put into practice. The contents of the Silanidesa, Samadhinidesa and Paññanidesa
seem to be completely impractical. I don’t think there is anybody in
the world who could do it, it’s so detailed and meticulous. To memorize
every single rule would be impossible, it’s beyond me.”
He said to me: “Venerable… there’s a lot, it’s true, but it’s
really only a little. If we were to take account of every training rule
in the Silanidesa that would be difficult… true… But actually, what we call the Silanidesa
has evolved from the human mind. If we train this mind to have a sense
of shame and a fear of wrong-doing, we will then be restrained, we will
“This will condition us to be content with little, with few wishes,
because we can’t possibly look after a lot. When this happens our sati becomes stronger. We will be able to maintain sati at all times. Wherever we are we will make the effort to maintain thorough sati.
Caution will be developed. Whatever you doubt don’t say it, don’t act
on it. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask the teacher.
Trying to practice every single training rule would indeed be
burdensome, but we should examine whether we are prepared to admit our
faults or not. Do we accept them?”
This teaching is very important. It’s not so much that we must know
every single training rule, if we know how to train our own minds.
“All that stuff that you’ve been reading arises from the mind. If
you still haven’t trained your mind to have sensitivity and clarity you
will be doubting all the time. You should try to bring the teachings of
the Buddha into your mind. Be composed in mind. Whatever arises that
you doubt, just give it up. If you don’t really know for sure then
don’t say it or do it. For instance, if you wonder, “Is this wrong or
not?” — that is, you’re not really sure — then don’t say it, don’t act
on it, don’t discard your restraint.”
As I sat and listened, I reflected that this teaching conformed with
the eight ways for measuring the true teaching of the Buddha: Any
teaching that speaks of the diminishing of defilements; which leads out
of suffering; which speaks of renunciation (of sensual pleasures); of
contentment with little; of humility and disinterest in rank and
status; of aloofness and seclusion; of diligent effort; of being easy
to maintain… these eight qualities are characteristics of the true Dhamma-vinaya, the teaching of the Buddha. anything in contradiction to these is not.
“If we are genuinely sincere we will have a sense of shame and a
fear of wrongdoing. We will know that if there is doubt in our mind we
will not act on it nor speak on it. The Silanidesa is only words. For example, hiri-ottappa 12 in the books is one thing, but in our minds it is another.”
Studying the Vinaya with Venerable Ajahn Mun I learned many things. As I sat and listened, understanding arose.
So, when it comes to the Vinaya I’ve studied considerably.
Some days during the Rains Retreat I would study from six o’clock in
the evening through till dawn. I understand it sufficiently. All the
factors of apatti 13 which are covered in the Pubbasikkha
I wrote down in a notebook and kept in my bag. I really put effort into
it, but in later times I gradually let go. It was too much. I didn’t
know which was the essence and which was the trimming, I had just taken
all of it. When I understood more fully I let it drop off because it
was too heavy. I just put my attention into my own mind and gradually
did away with the texts.
However, when I teach the monks here I still take the Pubbasikkha
as my standard. For many years here at Wat Ba Pong it was I myself who
read it to the assembly. In those days I would ascend the Dhamma-seat
and go on until at least eleven o’clock or midnight, some days even one
or two o’clock in the morning. We were interested. And we trained.
After listening to the Vinaya reading we would go and consider what we’d heard. You can’t really understand the Vinaya just by listening to it. Having listened to it you must examine it and delve into it further.
Even though I studied these things for many years my knowledge was
still not complete, because there were so many ambiguities in the
texts. Now that it’s been such a long time since I looked at the books,
my memory of the various training rules has faded somewhat, but within
my mind there is no deficiency. There is a standard there. There is no
doubt, there is understanding. I put away the books and concentrated on
developing my own mind. I don’t have doubts about any of the training
rules. The mind has an appreciation of virtue, it won’t dare do
anything wrong, whether in public or in private. I do not kill animals,
even small ones. If someone were to ask me to intentionally kill an ant
or a termite, to squash one with my hand, for instance, I couldn’t do
it, even if they were to offer me thousands of baht to do so. Even one ant or termite! The ant’s life would have greater value to me.
However, it may be that I may cause one to die, such as when
something crawls up my leg and I brush it off. Maybe it dies, but when
I look into my mind there is no feeling of guilt. There is no wavering
or doubt. Why? Because there was no intention. Silam vadami bhikkhave cetanaham:
“Intention is the essence of moral training.” Looking at it in this way
I see that there was no intentional killing. Sometimes while walking I
may step on an insect and kill it. In the past, before I really
understood, I would really suffer over things like that. I would think
I had committed an offense.
“What? There was no intention.” “There was no intention, but I
wasn’t being careful enough!” I would go on like this, fretting and
So this Vinaya is something which can be disturb
practitioners of Dhamma, but it also has its value, in keeping with
what the teachers say — “Whatever training rules you don’t yet know you
should learn. If you don’t know you should question those who do.” They
really stress this.
Now if we don’t know the training rules, we won’t be aware of our
transgressions against them. Take, for example, a Venerable Thera of
the past, Ajahn Pow of Wat Kow Wong Got in Lopburi Province. One day a
certain Maha, 14 a disciple of his, was sitting with him, when some women came up and asked,
“Luang Por! We want to invite you to go with us on an excursion, will you go?”
Luang Por Pow didn’t answer. The Maha sitting near him thought that Venerable Ajahn Pow hadn’t heard, so he said,
“Luang Por, Luang Por! Did you hear? These women invited you to go for a trip.”
He said, “I heard.”
The women asked again, “Luang Por, are you going or not?”
He just sat there without answering, and so nothing came of the invitation. When they had gone, the Maha said,
“Luang Por, why didn’t you answer those women?”
He said, “Oh, Maha, don’t you know this rule? Those people
who were here just now were all women. If women invite you to travel
with them you should not consent. If they make the arrangements
themselves that’s fine. If I want to go I can, because I didn’t take
part in making the arrangements.”
“The Maha sat and thought, “Oh, I’ve really made a fool of myself.”
The Vinaya states that to make an arrangement, and then travel together with, women, even though it isn’t as a couple, is a pacittiya offense.
Take another case. Lay people would bring money to offer Venerable Ajahn Pow on a tray. He would extend his receiving cloth, 15
holding it at one end. But when they brought the tray forward to lay it
on the cloth he would retract his hand from the cloth. Then he would
simply abandon the money where it lay. He knew it was there, but he
would take no interest in it, just get up and walk away, because in the
Vinaya it is said that if one doesn’t consent to the money it
isn’t necessary to forbid laypeople from offering it. If he had desire
for it, he would have to say, “Householder, this is not allowable for a
monk.” He would have to tell them. If you have desire for it, you must
forbid them from offering that which is unallowable. However, if you
really have no desire for it, it isn’t necessary. You just leave it
there and go.
Although the Ajahn and his disciples lived together for many years,
still some of his disciples didn’t understand Ajahn Pow’s practice.
This is a poor state of affairs. As for myself, I looked into and
contemplated many of Venerable Ajahn Pow’s subtler points of practice.
The Vinaya can even cause some people to disrobe. When they
study it all the doubts come up. It goes right back into the past…
“my ordination, was it proper? 16 Was my preceptor pure? None of the monks who sat in on my ordination knew anything about the Vinaya,
were they sitting at the proper distance? Was the chanting correct?”
The doubts come rolling on… “The hall I ordained in, was it proper?
It was so small…” They doubt everything and fall into hell.
So until you know how to ground your mind it’s really difficult. You
have to be very cool, you can’t just jump into things. But to be so
cool that you don’t bother to look into things is wrong also. I was so
confused I almost disrobed because I saw so many faults within my own
practice and that of some of my teachers. I was on fire and couldn’t
sleep because of those doubts.
The more I doubted, the more I meditated, the more I practiced.
Wherever doubt arose I practiced right at that point. Wisdom arose.
Things began to change. It’s hard to describe the change that took
place. The mind changed until there was no more doubt. I don’t know how
it changed, if I were to tell someone they probably wouldn’t understand.
So I reflected on the teaching Paccattam veditabbo viññuhi — the wise must know for themselves. It must be a knowing that arises through direct experience. Studying the Dhamma-vinaya
is certainly correct but if it’s just the study it’s still lacking. If
you really get down to the practice you begin to doubt everything.
Before I started to practice I wasn’t interested in the minor offenses,
but when I started practicing, even the dukkata offenses became as important as the parajika offenses. Before, the dukkata
offenses seemed like nothing, just a trifle. That’s how I saw them. In
the evening you could confess them and they would be done with. Then
you could transgress them again. This sort of confession is impure,
because you don’t stop, you don’t decide to change. There is no
restraint, you simply do it again and again. There is no perception of
the truth, no letting go.
Actually, in terms of ultimate truth, it’s not necessary to go
through the routine of confessing offenses. If we see that our mind is
pure and there is no trace of doubt, then those offenses drop off right
there. That we are not yet pure is because we still doubt, we still
waver. We are not really pure so we can’t let go. We don’t see
ourselves, this is the point. This Vinaya of ours is like a fence to guard us from making mistakes, so it’s something we need to be scrupulous with.
If you don’t see the true value of the Vinaya for yourself
it’s difficult. Many years before I came to Wat Ba Pong I decided I
would give up money. For the greater part of a Rains Retreat I had
thought about it. In the end I grabbed my wallet and walked over to a
certain Maha who was living with me at the time, setting the wallet down in front of him.
“Here, Maha, take this money. From today onwards, as long as I’m a monk, I will not receive or hold money. You can be my witness.”
“You keep it, Venerable, you may need it for your studies”… The Venerable Maha wasn’t keen to take the money, he was embarrassed…
“Why do you want to throw away all this money?”
“You don’t have to worry about me. I’ve made my decision. I decided last night.”
From the day he took that money it was as if a gap had opened
between us. We could no longer understand each other. He’s still my
witness to this very day. Ever since that day I haven’t used money or
engaged in any buying or selling. I’ve been restrained in every way
with money. I was constantly wary of wrongdoing, even though I hadn’t
done anything wrong. Inwardly I maintained the meditation practice. I
no longer needed wealth, I saw it as a poison. Whether you give poison
to a human being, a dog or anything else, it invariably causes death or
suffering. If we see clearly like this we will be constantly on our
guard not to take that “poison.” When we clearly see the harm in it,
it’s not difficult to give up.
Regarding food and meals brought as offerings, if I doubted them I
wouldn’t accept them. No matter how delicious or refined the food might
be, I wouldn’t eat it. Take a simple example, like raw pickled fish.
Suppose you are living in a forest and you go on almsround and receive
only rice and some pickled fish wrapped in leaves. When you return to
your dwelling and open the packet you find that it’s raw pickled
fish… just throw it away! 17
Eating plain rice is better than transgressing the precepts. It has to
be like this before you can say you really understand, then the Vinaya becomes simpler.
If other monks wanted to give me requisites, such as bowl, razor or
whatever, I wouldn’t accept, unless I knew them as fellow practitioners
with a similar standard of Vinaya. Why not? How can you trust
someone who is unrestrained? They can do all sorts of things.
Unrestrained monks don’t see the value of the Vinaya, so it’s possible that they could have obtained those things in improper ways. I was as scrupulous as this.
As a result, some of my fellow monks would look askance at me…”He
doesn’t socialize, he won’t mix…” I was unmoved: “Sure, we can mix
when we die. When it comes to death we are all in the same boat,” I
thought. I lived with endurance. I was one who spoke little. If others
criticized my practice I was unmoved. Why? Because even if I explained
to them they wouldn’t understand. They knew nothing about practice.
Like those times when I would be invited to a funeral ceremony and
somebody would say, “…Don’t listen to him! Just put the money in his
bag and don’t say anything about it… don’t let him know.” 18
I would say, “Hey, do you think I’m dead or something? Just because one
calls alcohol perfume doesn’t make it become perfume, you know. But you
people, when you want to drink alcohol you call it perfume, then go
ahead and drink. You must be crazy!”.
The Vinaya, then, can be difficult. You have to be content
with little, aloof. You must see, and see right. Once, when I was
traveling through Saraburi, my group went to stay in a village temple
for a while. The Abbot there had about the same seniority as myself. In
the morning, we would all go on almsround together, then come back to
the monastery and put down our bowls. Presently the laypeople would
bring dishes of food into the hall and set them down. Then the monks
would go and pick them up, open them and lay them in a line to be
formally offered. One monk would put his hand on the dish at the other
end. And that was it! With that the monks would bring them over and
distribute them to be eaten.
About five monks were traveling with me at the time, but not one of
us would touch that food. On almsround all we received was plain rice,
so we sat with them and ate plain rice, none of us would dare eat the
food from those dishes.
This went on for quite a few days, until I began to sense that the
Abbot was disturbed by our behavior. One of his monks had probably gone
to him and said, “Those visiting monks won’t eat any of the food. I
don’t know what they’re up to.”
I had to stay there for a few days more, so I went to the Abbot to explain.
I said, “Venerable Sir, may I have a moment please? At this time I
have some business which means I must call on your hospitality for some
days, but in doing so I’m afraid there may be one or two things which
you and your fellow monks find puzzling: namely, concerning our not
eating the food which has been offered by the laypeople. I’d like to
clarify this with you, sir. It’s really nothing, it’s just that I’ve
learned to practice like this… that is, the receiving of the
offerings, sir. When the lay people lay the food down and then the
monks go and open the dishes, sort them out and then have them formally
offered… this is wrong. It’s a dukkata offense. Specifically,
to handle or touch food which hasn’t yet been formally offered into a
monk’s hands, “ruins” that food. According to the Vinaya, any monk who eats that food incurs an offense.
“It’s simply this one point, sir. It’s not that I’m criticizing
anybody, or that I’m trying to force you or your monks to stop
practicing like this… not at all. I just wanted to let you know of my
good intentions, because it will be necessary for me to stay here for a
few more days.
He lifted his hands in añjali, 19 “Sadhu!
Excellent! I’ve never yet seen a monk who keeps the minor rules in
Saraburi. there aren’t any to be found these days. If there still are
such monks they must live outside of Saraburi. May I commend you. I
have no objections at all, that’s very good.”
The next morning when we came back from almsround not one of the
monks would go near those dishes. The laypeople themselves sorted them
out and offered them, because they were afraid the monks wouldn’t eat.
From that day onwards the monks and novices there seemed really on
edge, so I tried to explain things to them, to put their minds at rest.
I think they were afraid of us, they just went into their rooms and
closed themselves in in silence.
For two or three days I tried to make them feel at ease because they
were so ashamed, I really had nothing against them. I didn’t say things
like “There’s not enough food,” or “bring ‘this’ or ‘that’ food.” Why
not? Because I had fasted before, sometimes for seven or eight days.
Here I had plain rice, I knew I wouldn’t die. Where I got my strength
from was the practice, from having studied and practiced accordingly.
I took the Buddha as my example. Wherever I went, whatever others
did, I wouldn’t involve myself. I devoted myself solely to the
practice, because I cared for myself, I cared for the practice.
Those who don’t keep the Vinaya or practice meditation and
those who do practice can’t live together, they must go separate ways.
I didn’t understand this myself in the past. As a teacher I taught
others but I didn’t practice. This is really bad. When I looked deeply
into it, my practice and my knowledge were as far apart as earth and
Therefore, those who want to go and set up meditation centers in the
forest… don’t do it. If you don’t yet really know, don’t bother
trying, you’ll only make a mess of it. Some monks think that going to
live in the forest they will find peace, but they still don’t
understand the essentials of practice. They cut grass for themselves, 20
do everything themselves… Those who really know the practice aren’t
interested in places like this, they won’t prosper. Doing it like that
won’t lead to progress. No matter how peaceful the forest may be you
can’t progress if you do it wrong.
They see the forest monks living in the forest and go to live in the
forest like them, but it’s not the same. The robes are not the same,
eating habits are not the same, everything is different. Namely, they
don’t train themselves, they don’t practice. The place is wasted, it
doesn’t really work. If it does work, it does so only as a venue for
showing off or publicizing, just like a medicine show. It goes no
further than that. Those who have only practiced a little and then go
to teach others are not yet ripe, they don’t really understand. In a
short time they give up and it falls apart. It just brings trouble.
So we must study somewhat, look at the Navakovada, 21
what does it say? Study it, memorize it, until you understand. From
time to time ask your teacher concerning the finer points, he will
explain them. Study like this until you really understand the Vinaya.
The nucleus of the present book is a medieval compendium of Buddhist philosophy entitled the Abhidhammattha Sangaha.
This work is ascribed to Acariya Anuruddha, a Buddhist savant about
whom so little is known that even his country of origin and the exact
century in which he lived remain in question. Nevertheless, despite the
personal obscurity that surrounds the author, his little manual has
become one of the most important and influential textbooks of Theravada
Buddhism. In nine short chapters occupying about fifty pages in print,
the author provides a masterly summary of that abstruse body of
Buddhist doctrine called the Abhidhamma. Such is his skill in capturing
the essentials of that system, and in arranging them in a format
suitable for easy comprehension, that his work has become the standard
primer for Abhidhamma studies throughout the Theravada Buddhist
countries of South and Southeast Asia. In these countries, particularly
in Burma where the study of Abhidhamma is pursued most assiduously, the
Abhidhammattha Sangaha is regarded as the indispensable key to unlock this great treasure-store of Buddhist wisdom.
At the heart of the Abhidhamma philosophy is the Abhidhamma Pitaka,
one of the divisions of the Pali canon recognized by Theravada Buddhism
as the authoritative recension of the Buddha’s teachings. This canon
was compiled at the three great Buddhist councils held in India in the
early centuries following the Buddha’s demise: the first, at Rajagaha,
convened three months after the Buddha’s Parinibbana by five hundred
senior monks under the leadership of the Elder Mahakassapa; the second,
at Vesali, a hundred years later; and the third, at Pataliputta, two
hundred years later. The canon that emerged from these councils,
preserved in the Middle Indian language now called Pali, is known as
the Tipitaka, the three “baskets” or collections of the teachings. The
first collection, the Vinaya Pitaka, is the book of discipline,
containing the rules of conduct for the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis — the
monks and nuns — and the regulations governing the Sangha, the monastic
order. The Sutta Pitaka, the second collection, brings together the
Buddha’s discourses spoken by him on various occasions during his
active ministry of forty-five years. And the third collection is the
Abhidhamma Pitaka, the “basket” of the Buddha’s “higher” or “special”
This third great division of the Pali canon bears a distinctly
different character from the other two divisions. Whereas the Suttas
and Vinaya serve an obvious practical purpose, namely, to proclaim a
clear-cut message of deliverance and to lay down a method of personal
training, the Abhidhamma Pitaka presents the appearance of an abstract
and highly technical systemization of the doctrine. The collection
consists of seven books: the Dhammasangani, the Vibhanga, the Dhatukatha, the Puggalapaññatti, the Kathavatthu, the Yamaka, and the Patthana.
Unlike the Suttas, these are not records of discourses and discussions
occurring in real-life settings; they are, rather, full-blown treatises
in which the principles of the doctrine have been methodically
organized, minutely defined, and meticulously tabulated and classified.
Though they were no doubt originally composed and transmitted orally
and only written down later, with the rest of the canon in the first
century B.C., they exhibit the qualities of structured thought and
rigorous consistency more typical of written documents.
In the Theravada tradition the Abhidhamma Pitaka is held in the
highest esteem, revered as the crown jewel of the Buddhist scriptures.
As examples of this high regard, in Sri Lanka King Kassapa V (tenth
century A.C.) had the whole Abhidhamma Pitaka inscribed on gold plates
and the first book set in gems, while another king, Vijayabahu
(eleventh century) used to study the Dhammasangani each morning
before taking up his royal duties and composed a translation of it into
Sinhala. On a cursory reading, however, this veneration given to the
Abhidhamma seems difficult to understand. The texts appear to be merely
a scholastic exercise in manipulating sets of doctrinal terms,
ponderous and tediously repetitive.
The reason the Abhidhamma Pitaka is so deeply revered only becomes
clear as a result of thorough study and profound reflection, undertaken
in the conviction that these ancient books have something significant
to communicate. When one approaches the Abhidhamma treatises in such a
spirit and gains some insight into their wide implications and organic
unity, one will find that they are attempting nothing less than to
articulate a comprehensive vision of the totality of experienced
reality, a vision marked by extensiveness of range, systematic
completeness, and analytical precision. From the standpoint of
Theravada orthodoxy the system that they expound is not a figment of
speculative thought, not a mosaic put together out of metaphysical
hypotheses, but a disclosure of the true nature of existence as
apprehended by a mind that has penetrated the totality of things both
in depth and in the finest detail. Because it bears this character, the
Theravada tradition regards the Abhidhamma as the most perfect
expression possible of the Buddha’s unimpeded omniscient knowledge (sabbaññuta-ñana).
It is his statement of the way things appear to the mind of a Fully
Enlightened One, ordered in accordance with the two poles of his
teaching: suffering and the cessation of suffering.
The system that the Abhidhamma Pitaka articulates is simultaneously
a philosophy, a psychology, and an ethics, all integrated into the
framework of a program for liberation. The Abhidhamma may be described
as a philosophy because it proposes an ontology, a perspective on the
nature of the real. This perspective has been designated the “dhamma
theory” (dhammavada). Briefly, the dhamma theory maintains that ultimate reality consists of a multiplicity of elementary constituents called dhammas.
The dhammas are not noumena hidden behind phenomena, not “things in
themselves” as opposed to “mere appearances,” but the fundamental
components of actuality. The dhammas fall into two broad classes: the
unconditioned dhamma, which is solely Nibbana, and the conditioned
dhammas, which are the momentary mental and material phenomena that
constitute the process of experience. The familiar world of substantial
objects and enduring persons is, according to the dhamma theory, a
conceptual construct fashioned by the mind out of the raw data provided
by the dhammas. The entities of our everyday frame of reference possess
merely a consensual reality derivative upon the foundational stratum of
the dhammas. It is the dhammas alone that possess ultimate reality:
determinate existence “from their own side” (sarupato) independent of the mind’s conceptual processing of the data.
Such a conception of the nature of the real seems to be already
implicit in the Sutta Pitaka, particularly in the Buddha’s
disquisitions on the aggregates, sense bases, elements, dependent
arising, etc., but it remains there tacitly in the background as the
underpinning to the more pragmatically formulated teachings of the
Suttas. Even in the Abhidhamma Pitaka itself the dhamma theory is not
yet expressed as an explicit philosophical tenet; this comes only
later, in the Commentaries. Nevertheless, though as yet implicit, the
theory still comes into focus in its role as the regulating principle
behind the Abhidhamma’s more evident task, the project of systemization.
This project starts from the premise that to attain the wisdom that
knows things “as they really are,” a sharp wedge must be driven between
those types of entities that possess ontological ultimacy, that is, the
dhammas, and those types of entities that exist only as conceptual
constructs but are mistakenly grasped as ultimately real. Proceeding
from this distinction, the Abhidhamma posits a fixed number of dhammas
as the building blocks of actuality, most of which are drawn from the
Suttas. It then sets out to define all the doctrinal terms used in the
Suttas in ways that reveal their identity with the ontological
ultimates recognized by the system. On the basis of these definitions,
it exhaustively classifies the dhammas into a net of pre-determined
categories and modes of relatedness which highlight their place within
the system’s structure. And since the system is held to be a true
reflection of actuality, this means that the classification pinpoints
the place of each dhamma within the overall structure of actuality.
The Abhidhamma’s attempt to comprehend the nature of reality,
contrary to that of classical science in the West, does not proceed
from the standpoint of a neutral observer looking outwards towards the
external world. The primary concern of the Abhidhamma is to understand
the nature of experience, and thus the reality on which it focuses is
conscious reality, the world as given in experience, comprising both
knowledge and the known in the widest sense. For this reason the
philosophical enterprise of the Abhidhamma shades off into a
phenomenological psychology. To facilitate the understanding of
experienced reality, the Abhidhamma embarks upon an elaborate analysis
of the mind as it presents itself to introspective meditation. It
classifies consciousness into a variety of types, specifies the factors
and functions of each type, correlates them with their objects and
physiological bases, and shows how the different types of consciousness
link up with each other and with material phenomena to constitute the
ongoing process of experience.
This analysis of mind is not motivated by theoretical curiosity but
by the overriding practical aim of the Buddha’s teaching, the
attainment of deliverance from suffering. Since the Buddha traces
suffering to our tainted attitudes — a mental orientation rooted in
greed, hatred, and delusion — the Abhidhamma’s phenomenological
psychology also takes on the character of a psychological ethics,
understanding the term “ethics” not in the narrow sense of a code of
morality but as a complete guide to noble living and mental
purification. Accordingly we find that the Abhidhamma distinguishes
states of mind principally on the basis of ethical criteria: the
wholesome and the unwholesome, the beautiful factors and the
defilements. Its schematization of consciousness follows a hierarchical
plan that corresponds to the successive stages of purity to which the
Buddhist disciple attains by practice of the Buddha’s path. This plan
traces the refinement of the mind through the progression of meditative
absorptions, the fine-material-sphere and immaterial-sphere jhanas,
then through the stages of insight and the wisdom of the supramundane
paths and fruits. Finally, it shows the whole scale of ethical
development to culminate in the perfection of purity attained with the
mind’s irreversible emancipation from all defilements.
All three dimensions of the Abhidhamma — the philosophical, the
psychological, and the ethical — derive their final justification from
the cornerstone of the Buddha’s teaching, the program of liberation
announced by the Four Noble Truths. The ontological survey of dhammas
stems from the Buddha’s injunction that the noble truth of suffering,
identified with the world of conditioned phenomena as a whole, must be
fully understood (pariññeyya). The prominence of mental
defilements and requisites of enlightenment in its schemes of
categories, indicative of its psychological and ethical concerns,
connects the Abhidhamma to the second and fourth noble truths, the
origin of suffering and the way leading to its end. And the entire
taxonomy of dhammas elaborated by the system reaches its consummation
in the “unconditioned element” (asankhata dhatu), which is Nibbana, the third noble truth, that of the cessation of suffering.
The essence of the Buddha’s teaching can be summed up in two
principles: the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The
first covers the side of doctrine, and the primary response it elicits
is understanding; the second covers the side of discipline, in the
broadest sense of that word, and the primary response it calls for is
practice. In the structure of the teaching these two principles lock
together into an indivisible unity called the dhamma-vinaya,
the doctrine-and-discipline, or, in brief, the Dhamma. The internal
unity of the Dhamma is guaranteed by the fact that the last of the Four
Noble Truths, the truth of the way, is the Noble Eightfold Path, while
the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, right view, is the
understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Thus the two principles
penetrate and include one another, the formula of the Four Noble Truths
containing the Eightfold Path and the Noble Eightfold Path containing
the Four Truths.
Given this integral unity, it would be pointless to pose the
question which of the two aspects of the Dhamma has greater value, the
doctrine or the path. But if we did risk the pointless by asking that
question, the answer would have to be the path. The path claims primacy
because it is precisely this that brings the teaching to life. The path
translates the Dhamma from a collection of abstract formulas into a
continually unfolding disclosure of truth. It gives an outlet from the
problem of suffering with which the teaching starts. And it makes the
teaching’s goal, liberation from suffering, accessible to us in our own
experience, where alone it takes on authentic meaning.
To follow the Noble Eightfold Path is a matter of practice rather
than intellectual knowledge, but to apply the path correctly it has to
be properly understood. In fact, right understanding of the path is
itself a part of the practice. It is a facet of right view, the first
path factor, the forerunner and guide for the rest of the path. Thus,
though initial enthusiasm might suggest that the task of intellectual
comprehension may be shelved as a bothersome distraction, mature
consideration reveals it to be quite essential to ultimate success in
The present book aims at contributing towards a proper understanding
of the Noble Eightfold Path by investigating its eight factors and
their components to determine exactly what they involve. I have
attempted to be concise, using as the framework for exposition the
Buddha’s own words in explanation of the path factors, as found in the
Sutta Pitaka of the Pali canon. To assist the reader with limited
access to primary sources even in translation, I have tried to confine
my selection of quotations as much as possible (but not completely) to
those found in Venerable Nyanatiloka’s classic anthology, The Word of the Buddha.
In some cases passages taken from that work have been slightly
modified, to accord with my own preferred renderings. For further
amplification of meaning I have sometimes drawn upon the commentaries;
especially in my accounts of concentration and wisdom (Chapters VII and
VIII) I have relied heavily on the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification),
a vast encyclopedic work which systematizes the practice of the path in
a detailed and comprehensive manner. Limitations of space prevent an
exhaustive treatment of each factor. To compensate for this deficiency
I have included a list of recommended readings at the end, which the
reader may consult for more detailed explanations of individual path
factors. For full commitment to the practice of the path, however,
especially in its advanced stages of concentration and insight, it will
be extremely helpful to have contact with a properly qualified teacher.
Textual references have been abbreviated as follows:
DN …. Digha Nikaya (number of sutta)
MN …. Majjhima Nikaya (number of sutta)
SN …. Samyutta Nikaya (chapter and number of sutta)
AN …. Anguttara Nikaya (numerical collection and number of sutta)
Dhp …. Dhammapada (verse)
Vism …. Visuddhimagga
References to Vism. are to the chapter and section number of the translation by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli, The Path of Purification (BPS ed. 1975, 1991)
The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does
not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain,
disappointment, and confusion. However, for suffering to give birth to
a genuine spiritual search, it must amount to more than something
passively received from without. It has to trigger an inner
realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency
of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity
perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only
momentarily, it can precipitate a profound personal crisis. It
overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine
preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.
At first such changes generally are not welcome. We try to deny our
vision and to smother our doubts; we struggle to drive away the
discontent with new pursuits. But the flame of inquiry, once lit,
continues to burn, and if we do not let ourselves be swept away by
superficial readjustments or slouch back into a patched up version of
our natural optimism, eventually the original glimmering of insight
will again flare up, again confront us with our essential plight. It is
precisely at that point, with all escape routes blocked, that we are
ready to seek a way to bring our disquietude to an end. No longer can
we continue to drift complacently through life, driven blindly by our
hunger for sense pleasures and by the pressure of prevailing social
norms. A deeper reality beckons us; we have heard the call of a more
stable, more authentic happiness, and until we arrive at our
destination we cannot rest content.
But it is just then that we find ourselves facing a new difficulty.
Once we come to recognize the need for a spiritual path we discover
that spiritual teachings are by no means homogeneous and mutually
compatible. When we browse through the shelves of humanity’s spiritual
heritage, both ancient and contemporary, we do not find a single tidy
volume but a veritable bazaar of spiritual systems and disciplines each
offering themselves to us as the highest, the fastest, the most
powerful, or the most profound solution to our quest for the Ultimate.
Confronted with this melange, we fall into confusion trying to size
them up — to decide which is truly liberative, a real solution to our
needs, and which is a sidetrack beset with hidden flaws.
One approach to resolving this problem that is popular today is the
eclectic one: to pick and choose from the various traditions whatever
seems amenable to our needs, welding together different practices and
techniques into a synthetic whole that is personally satisfying. Thus
one may combine Buddhist mindfulness meditation with sessions of Hindu
mantra recitation, Christian prayer with Sufi dancing, Jewish Kabbala
with Tibetan visualization exercises. Eclecticism, however, though
sometimes helpful in making a transition from a predominantly worldly
and materialistic way of life to one that takes on a spiritual hue,
eventually wears thin. While it makes a comfortable halfway house, it
is not comfortable as a final vehicle.
There are two interrelated flaws in eclecticism that account for its
ultimate inadequacy. One is that eclecticism compromises the very
traditions it draws upon. The great spiritual traditions themselves do
not propose their disciplines as independent techniques that may be
excised from their setting and freely recombined to enhance the felt
quality of our lives. They present them, rather, as parts of an
integral whole, of a coherent vision regarding the fundamental nature
of reality and the final goal of the spiritual quest. A spiritual
tradition is not a shallow stream in which one can wet one’s feet and
then beat a quick retreat to the shore. It is a mighty, tumultuous
river which would rush through the entire landscape of one’s life, and
if one truly wishes to travel on it, one must be courageous enough to
launch one’s boat and head out for the depths.
The second defect in eclecticism follows from the first. As
spiritual practices are built upon visions regarding the nature of
reality and the final good, these visions are not mutually compatible.
When we honestly examine the teachings of these traditions, we will
find that major differences in perspective reveal themselves to our
sight, differences which cannot be easily dismissed as alternative ways
of saying the same thing. Rather, they point to very different
experiences constituting the supreme goal and the path that must be
trodden to reach that goal.
Hence, because of the differences in perspectives and practices that
the different spiritual traditions propose, once we decide that we have
outgrown eclecticism and feel that we are ready to make a serious
commitment to one particular path, we find ourselves confronted with
the challenge of choosing a path that will lead us to true
enlightenment and liberation. One cue to resolving this dilemma is to
clarify to ourselves our fundamental aim, to determine what we seek in
a genuinely liberative path. If we reflect carefully, it will become
clear that the prime requirement is a way to the end of suffering. All
problems ultimately can be reduced to the problem of suffering; thus
what we need is a way that will end this problem finally and
completely. Both these qualifying words are important. The path has to
lead to a complete end of suffering, to an end of suffering in all its forms, and to a final end of suffering, to bring suffering to an irreversible stop.
But here we run up against another question. How are we to find such
a path — a path which has the capacity to lead us to the full and final
end of suffering? Until we actually follow a path to its goal we cannot
know with certainty where it leads, and in order to follow a path to
its goal we must place complete trust in the efficacy of the path. The
pursuit of a spiritual path is not like selecting a new suit of
clothes. To select a new suit one need only try on a number of suits,
inspect oneself in the mirror, and select the suit in which one appears
most attractive. The choice of a spiritual path is closer to marriage:
one wants a partner for life, one whose companionship will prove as
trustworthy and durable as the pole star in the night sky.
Faced with this new dilemma, we may think that we have reached a
dead end and conclude that we have nothing to guide us but personal
inclination, if not a flip of the coin. However, our selection need not
be as blind and uninformed as we imagine, for we do have a guideline to
help us. Since spiritual paths are generally presented in the framework
of a total teaching, we can evaluate the effectiveness of any
particular path by investigating the teaching which expounds it.
In making this investigation we can look to three criteria as standards for evaluation:
(1) First, the teaching has to give a full and accurate
picture of the range of suffering. If the picture of suffering it gives
is incomplete or defective, then the path it sets forth will most
likely be flawed, unable to yield a satisfactory solution. Just as an
ailing patient needs a doctor who can make a full and correct diagnosis
of his illness, so in seeking release from suffering we need a teaching
that presents a reliable account of our condition.
(2) The second criterion calls for a correct analysis of the
causes giving rise to suffering. The teaching cannot stop with a survey
of the outward symptoms. It has to penetrate beneath the symptoms to
the level of causes, and to describe those causes accurately. If a
teaching makes a faulty causal analysis, there is little likelihood
that its treatment will succeed.
(3) The third criterion pertains directly to the path itself.
It stipulates that the path which the teaching offers has to remove
suffering at its source. This means it must provide a method to cut off
suffering by eradicating its causes. If it fails to bring about this
root-level solution, its value is ultimately nil. The path it
prescribes might help to remove symptoms and make us feel that all is
well; but one afflicted with a fatal disease cannot afford to settle
for cosmetic surgery when below the surface the cause of his malady
continues to thrive.
To sum up, we find three requirements for a teaching proposing to
offer a true path to the end of suffering: first, it has to set forth a
full and accurate picture of the range of suffering; second, it must
present a correct analysis of the causes of suffering; and third, it
must give us the means to eradicate the causes of suffering.
This is not the place to evaluate the various spiritual disciplines
in terms of these criteria. Our concern is only with the Dhamma, the
teaching of the Buddha, and with the solution this teaching offers to
the problem of suffering. That the teaching should be relevant to this
problem is evident from its very nature; for it is formulated, not as a
set of doctrines about the origin and end of things commanding belief,
but as a message of deliverance from suffering claiming to be
verifiable in our own experience. Along with that message there comes a
method of practice, a way leading to the end of suffering. This way is
the Noble Eightfold Path (ariya atthangika magga). The
Eightfold Path stands at the very heart of the Buddha’s teaching. It
was the discovery of the path that gave the Buddha’s own enlightenment
a universal significance and elevated him from the status of a wise and
benevolent sage to that of a world teacher. To his own disciples he was
pre-eminently “the arouser of the path unarisen before, the producer of
the path not produced before, the declarer of the path not declared
before, the knower of the path, the seer of the path, the guide along
the path” (MN 108). And he himself invites the seeker with the promise
and challenge: “You yourselves must strive. The Buddhas are only
teachers. The meditative ones who practice the path are released from
the bonds of evil” (Dhp. v. 276).
To see the Noble Eightfold Path as a viable vehicle to liberation,
we have to check it out against our three criteria: to look at the
Buddha’s account of the range of suffering, his analysis of its causes,
and the programme he offers as a remedy.
The Buddha does not merely touch the problem of suffering
tangentially; he makes it, rather, the very cornerstone of his
teaching. He starts the Four Noble Truths that sum up his message with
the announcement that life is inseparably tied to something he calls dukkha.
The Pali word is often translated as suffering, but it means something
deeper than pain and misery. It refers to a basic unsatisfactoriness
running through our lives, the lives of all but the enlightened.
Sometimes this unsatisfactoriness erupts into the open as sorrow,
grief, disappointment, or despair; but usually it hovers at the edge of
our awareness as a vague unlocalized sense that things are never quite
perfect, never fully adequate to our expectations of what they should
be. This fact of dukkha, the Buddha says, is the only real
spiritual problem. The other problems — the theological and
metaphysical questions that have taunted religious thinkers through the
centuries — he gently waves aside as “matters not tending to
liberation.” What he teaches, he says, is just suffering and the ending
of suffering, dukkha and its cessation.
The Buddha does not stop with generalities. He goes on to expose the different forms that dukkha
takes, both the evident and the subtle. He starts with what is close at
hand, with the suffering inherent in the physical process of life
itself. Here dukkha shows up in the events of birth, aging, and
death, in our susceptibility to sickness, accidents, and injuries, even
in hunger and thirst. It appears again in our inner reactions to
disagreeable situations and events: in the sorrow, anger, frustration,
and fear aroused by painful separations, by unpleasant encounters, by
the failure to get what we want. Even our pleasures, the Buddha says,
are not immune from dukkha. They give us happiness while they
last, but they do not last forever; eventually they must pass away, and
when they go the loss leaves us feeling deprived. Our lives, for the
most part, are strung out between the thirst for pleasure and the fear
of pain. We pass our days running after the one and running away from
the other, seldom enjoying the peace of contentment; real satisfaction
seems somehow always out of reach, just beyond the next horizon. Then
in the end we have to die: to give up the identity we spent our whole
life building, to leave behind everything and everyone we love.
But even death, the Buddha teaches, does not bring us to the end of dukkha,
for the life process does not stop with death. When life ends in one
place, with one body, the “mental continuum,” the individual stream of
consciousness, springs up again elsewhere with a new body as its
physical support. Thus the cycle goes on over and over — birth, aging,
and death — driven by the thirst for more existence. The Buddha
declares that this round of rebirths — called samsara, “the
wandering” — has been turning through beginningless time. It is without
a first point, without temporal origin. No matter how far back in time
we go we always find living beings — ourselves in previous lives —
wandering from one state of existence to another. The Buddha describes
various realms where rebirth can take place: realms of torment, the
animal realm, the human realm, realms of celestial bliss. But none of
these realms can offer a final refuge. Life in any plane must come to
an end. It is impermanent and thus marked with that insecurity which is
the deepest meaning of dukkha. For this reason one aspiring to the complete end of dukkha cannot rest content with any mundane achievement, with any status, but must win emancipation from the entire unstable whirl.
A teaching proposing to lead to the end of suffering must, as we
said, give a reliable account of its causal origination. For if we want
to put a stop to suffering, we have to stop it where it begins, with
its causes. To stop the causes requires a thorough knowledge of what
they are and how they work; thus the Buddha devotes a sizeable section
of his teaching to laying bare “the truth of the origin of dukkha.”
The origin he locates within ourselves, in a fundamental malady that
permeates our being, causing disorder in our own minds and vitiating
our relationships with others and with the world. The sign of this
malady can be seen in our proclivity to certain unwholesome mental
states called in Pali kilesas, usually translated “defilements.” The most basic defilements are the triad of greed, aversion, and delusion. Greed (lobha)
is self-centered desire: the desire for pleasure and possessions, the
drive for survival, the urge to bolster the sense of ego with power,
status, and prestige. Aversion (dosa) signifies the response of
negation, expressed as rejection, irritation, condemnation, hatred,
enmity, anger, and violence. Delusion (moha) means mental darkness: the thick coat of insensitivity which blocks out clear understanding.
From these three roots emerge the various other defilements —
conceit, jealousy, ambition, lethargy, arrogance, and the rest — and
from all these defilements together, the roots and the branches, comes dukkha
in its diverse forms: as pain and sorrow, as fear and discontent, as
the aimless drifting through the round of birth and death. To gain
freedom from suffering, therefore, we have to eliminate the
defilements. But the work of removing the defilements has to proceed in
a methodical way. It cannot be accomplished simply by an act of will,
by wanting them to go away. The work must be guided by investigation.
We have to find out what the defilements depend upon and then see how
it lies within our power to remove their support.
The Buddha teaches that there is one defilement which gives rise to
all the others, one root which holds them all in place. This root is
Ignorance is not mere absence of knowledge, a lack of knowing
particular pieces of information. Ignorance can co-exist with a vast
accumulation of itemized knowledge, and in its own way it can be
tremendously shrewd and resourceful. As the basic root of dukkha,
ignorance is a fundamental darkness shrouding the mind. Sometimes this
ignorance operates in a passive manner, merely obscuring correct
understanding. At other times it takes on an active role: it becomes
the great deceiver, conjuring up a mass of distorted perceptions and
conceptions which the mind grasps as attributes of the world, unaware
that they are its own deluded constructs.
In these erroneous perceptions and ideas we find the soil that
nurtures the defilements. The mind catches sight of some possibility of
pleasure, accepts it at face value, and the result is greed. Our hunger
for gratification is thwarted, obstacles appear, and up spring anger
and aversion. Or we struggle over ambiguities, our sight clouds, and we
become lost in delusion. With this we discover the breeding ground of dukkha:
ignorance issuing in the defilements, the defilements issuing in
suffering. As long as this causal matrix stands we are not yet beyond
danger. We might still find pleasure and enjoyment — sense pleasures,
social pleasures, pleasures of the mind and heart. But no matter how
much pleasure we might experience, no matter how successful we might be
at dodging pain, the basic problem remains at the core of our being and
we continue to move within the bounds of dukkha.
To free ourselves from suffering fully and finally we have to
eliminate it by the root, and that means to eliminate ignorance. But
how does one go about eliminating ignorance? The answer follows clearly
from the nature of the adversary. Since ignorance is a state of not
knowing things as they really are, what is needed is knowledge of
things as they really are. Not merely conceptual knowledge, knowledge
as idea, but perceptual knowledge, a knowing which is also a seeing.
This kind of knowing is called wisdom (pañña). Wisdom helps to
correct the distorting work of ignorance. It enables us to grasp things
as they are in actuality, directly and immediately, free from the
screen of ideas, views, and assumptions our minds ordinarily set up
between themselves and the real.
To eliminate ignorance we need wisdom, but how is wisdom to be
acquired? As indubitable knowledge of the ultimate nature of things,
wisdom cannot be gained by mere learning, by gathering and accumulating
a battery of facts. However, the Buddha says, wisdom can be cultivated.
It comes into being through a set of conditions, conditions which we
have the power to develop. These conditions are actually mental
factors, components of consciousness, which fit together into a
systematic structure that can be called a path in the word’s essential
meaning: a courseway for movement leading to a goal. The goal here is
the end of suffering, and the path leading to it is the Noble Eightfold
Path with its eight factors: right view, right intention, right speech,
right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and
The Buddha calls this path the middle way (majjhima patipada).
It is the middle way because it steers clear of two extremes, two
misguided attempts to gain release from suffering. One is the extreme
of indulgence in sense pleasures, the attempt to extinguish
dissatisfaction by gratifying desire. This approach gives pleasure, but
the enjoyment won is gross, transitory, and devoid of deep contentment.
The Buddha recognized that sensual desire can exercise a tight grip
over the minds of human beings, and he was keenly aware of how ardently
attached people become to the pleasures of the senses. But he also knew
that this pleasure is far inferior to the happiness that arises from
renunciation, and therefore he repeatedly taught that the way to the
Ultimate eventually requires the relinquishment of sensual desire. Thus
the Buddha describes the indulgence in sense pleasures as “low, common,
worldly, ignoble, not leading to the goal.”
The other extreme is the practice of self-mortification, the attempt
to gain liberation by afflicting the body. This approach may stem from
a genuine aspiration for deliverance, but it works within the compass
of a wrong assumption that renders the energy expended barren of
results. The error is taking the body to be the cause of bondage, when
the real source of trouble lies in the mind — the mind obsessed by
greed, aversion, and delusion. To rid the mind of these defilements the
affliction of the body is not only useless but self-defeating, for it
is the impairment of a necessary instrument. Thus the Buddha describes
this second extreme as “painful, ignoble, not leading to the goal.”2
Aloof from these two extreme approaches is the Noble Eightfold Path,
called the middle way, not in the sense that it effects a compromise
between the extremes, but in the sense that it transcends them both by
avoiding the errors that each involves. The path avoids the extreme of
sense indulgence by its recognition of the futility of desire and its
stress on renunciation. Desire and sensuality, far from being means to
happiness, are springs of suffering to be abandoned as the requisite of
deliverance. But the practice of renunciation does not entail the
tormenting of the body. It consists in mental training, and for this
the body must be fit, a sturdy support for the inward work. Thus the
body is to be looked after well, kept in good health, while the mental
faculties are trained to generate the liberating wisdom. That is the
middle way, the Noble Eightfold Path, which “gives rise to vision,
gives rise to knowledge, and leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to
enlightenment, to Nibbana.”3
PTS = Pali Text Society edition
BBS = Burmese Buddhasasana Samiti edition
A. …. Anguttara Nikaya (PTS)
D. …. Digha Nikaya (PTS)
Dhs. …. Dhammasangani (BBS)
Dhs.A. …. Dhammasangani Atthakatha = Atthasalini (BBS)
M. …. Majjhima Nikaya (PTS)
M.A. …. Majjhima Nikaya Atthakatha (BBS)
Miln. …. Milindapanha (PTS)
PP. …. Path of Purification (translation of Visuddhimagga, by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli; Kandy: BPS, 1975)
S. …. Samyutta Nikaya (PTS)
SA. …. Samyutta Nikaya Atthakatha (BBS)
ST. …. Samyutta Nikaya Tika (BBS)
Vbh. …. Vibhanga (PTS)
Vin.A. …. Vinaya Atthakatha (BBS)
Vism. …. Visuddhimagga (PTS)
Vism.T. …. Visuddhimagga Tika (BBS)
The Buddha says that just as in the great ocean there is but one
taste, the taste of salt, so in his doctrine and discipline there is
but one taste, the taste of freedom. The taste of freedom that pervades
the Buddha’s teaching is the taste of spiritual freedom, which from the
Buddhist perspective means freedom from suffering. In the process
leading to deliverance from suffering, meditation is the means of
generating the inner awakening required for liberation. The methods of
meditation taught in the Theravada Buddhist tradition are based on the
Buddha’s own experience, forged by him in the course of his own quest
for enlightenment. They are designed to re-create in the disciple who
practices them the same essential enlightenment that the Buddha himself
attained when he sat beneath the Bodhi tree, the awakening to the Four
The various subjects and methods of meditation expounded in the
Theravada Buddhist scriptures — the Pali canon and its commentaries —
divide into two inter-related systems. One is called the development of
serenity (samathabhavana), the other the development of insight (vipassanabhavana). The former also goes under the name of development of concentration (samadhibhavana), the latter the development of wisdom (paññabhavana).
The practice of serenity meditation aims at developing a calm,
concentrated, unified mind as a means of experiencing inner peace and
as a basis for wisdom. The practice of insight meditation aims at
gaining a direct understanding of the real nature of phenomena. Of the
two, the development of insight is regarded by Buddhism as the
essential key to liberation, the direct antidote to the ignorance
underlying bondage and suffering. Whereas serenity meditation is
recognized as common to both Buddhist and non-Buddhist contemplative
disciplines, insight meditation is held to be the unique discovery of
the Buddha and an unparalleled feature of his path. However, because
the growth of insight presupposes a certain degree of concentration,
and serenity meditation helps to achieve this, the development of
serenity also claims an incontestable place in the Buddhist meditative
process. Together the two types of meditation work to make the mind a
fit instrument for enlightenment. With his mind unified by means of the
development of serenity, made sharp and bright by the development of
insight, the meditator can proceed unobstructed to reach the end of
Pivotal to both systems of meditation, though belonging inherently
to the side of serenity, is a set of meditative attainments called the jhanas.
Though translators have offered various renderings of this word,
ranging from the feeble “musing” to the misleading “trance” and the
ambiguous “meditation,” we prefer to leave the word untranslated and to
let its meaning emerge from its contextual usages. From these it is
clear that the jhanas are states of deep mental unification which
result from the centering of the mind upon a single object with such
power of attention that a total immersion in the object takes place.
The early suttas speak of four jhanas, named simply after their
numerical position in the series: the first jhana, the second jhana,
the third jhana and the forth jhana. In the suttas the four repeatedly
appear each described by a standard formula which we will examine later
The importance of the jhanas in the Buddhist path can readily be
gauged from the frequency with which they are mentioned throughout the
suttas. The jhanas figure prominently both in the Buddha’s own
experience and in his exhortation to disciples. In his childhood, while
attending an annual plowing festival, the future Buddha spontaneously
entered the first jhana. It was the memory of this childhood incident,
many years later after his futile pursuit of austerities, that revealed
to him the way to enlightenment during his period of deepest
despondency (M.i, 246-47). After taking his seat beneath the Bodhi
tree, the Buddha entered the four jhanas immediately before direction
his mind to the threefold knowledge that issued in his enlightenment
(M.i.247-49). Throughout his active career the four jhanas remained
“his heavenly dwelling” (D.iii,220) to which he resorted in order to
live happily here and now. His understanding of the corruption,
purification and emergence in the jhanas and other meditative
attainments is one of the Tathagata’s ten powers which enable him to
turn the matchless wheel of the Dhamma (M.i,70). Just before his
passing away the Buddha entered the jhanas in direct and reverse order,
and the passing away itself took place directly from the fourth jhana
The Buddha is constantly seen in the suttas encouraging his
disciples to develop jhana. The four jhanas are invariably included in
the complete course of training laid down for disciples.1 They figure in the training as the discipline of higher consciousness (adhicittasikkha), right concentration (sammasamadhi) of the Noble Eightfold Path, and the faculty and power of concentration (samadhindriya, samadhibala).
Though a vehicle of dry insight can be found, indications are that this
path is not an easy one, lacking the aid of the powerful serenity
available to the practitioner of jhana. The way of the jhana attainer
seems by comparison smoother and more pleasurable (A.ii,150-52). The
Buddha even refers to the four jhanas figuratively as a kind of
Nibbana: he calls them immediately visible Nibbana, factorial Nibbana,
Nibbana here and now (A.iv,453-54).
To attain the jhanas, the meditator must begin by eliminating the
unwholesome mental states obstructing inner collectedness, generally
grouped together as the five hindrances (pañcanivarana): sensual desire, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry and doubt.2
The mind’s absorption on its object is brought about by five opposing
mental states — applied thought, sustained thought, rapture, happiness
and one pointedness3 — called the jhana factors (jhanangani) because they lift the mind to the level of the first jhana and remain there as its defining components.
After reaching the first jhana the ardent meditator can go on to
reach the higher jhanas, which is done by eliminating the coarser
factors in each jhana. Beyond the four jhanas lies another fourfold set
of higher meditative states which deepen still further the element of
serenity. These attainments (aruppa), are the base of boundless
space, the base of boundless consciousness, the base of nothingness,
and the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception.4 In the Pali commentaries these come to be called the four immaterial jhanas (arupajhana), the four preceding states being renamed for the sake of clarity, the four fine-material jhanas (rupajhana). Often the two sets are joined together under the collective title of the eight jhanas or the eight attainments (atthasamapattiyo).
The four jhanas and the four immaterial attainments appear initially
as mundane states of deep serenity pertaining to the preliminary stage
of the Buddhist path, and on this level they help provide the base of
concentration needed for wisdom to arise. But the four jhanas again
reappear in a later stage in the development of the path, in direct
association with liberating wisdom, and they are then designated the supramundane (lokuttara) jhanas.
These supramundane jhanas are the levels of concentration pertaining to
the four degrees of enlightenment experience called the supramundane
paths (magga) and the stages of liberation resulting from them, the four fruits (phala).
Finally, even after full liberation is achieved, the mundane jhanas
can still remain as attainments available to the fully liberated
person, part of his untrammeled contemplative experience.